Saturday, June 30, 2012

Laughter and the love of friends


"From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There's nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends."
'Dedicatory Ode', Hilaire Belloc

That's a good summary of the day.  I was up at 3 a.m., my much-abused back locking up and refusing to let me sleep on.  Barkley was overjoyed to have company at so small an hour, and insisted on being taken for a walk to do his business;  then he observed me as I worked on my book manuscript for a couple of hours, until my back decided it had punished me enough and let me get a couple more hours sleep.

Miss D., Brigid and I were all up and about again in time to visit a couple of the local specialist emporia - Penzeys for spices, Artisanos for oils and Good Earth for hippie bits and pieces natural foods.  We met Tamara and Roberta for lunch at Brugge Brasserie, which was extremely tasty.  The sight of Miss D. wading (almost literally) through a 2-pound cauldron of steamed mussels was . . . impressive!

Supper tonight, courtesy of Brigid's wonderful cooking skills, was pork loin with salad and biscuits, accompanied by one of the meads Miss D. and I bought on the way here.  (I had thought - silly me! - that the three one-liter bottles of assorted meads would be 'safe' until we got them home.  We're already making plans to refill them on the way out of Indianapolis tomorrow . . . )

Tomorrow morning the five of us (from lunch today) will meet at Eagle Creek for some trigger time, then have a late brunch before Miss D. and I get under way for home.  It's been an all too short visit, but a whole lot of fun.  We'll definitely have to come back soon!

More tomorrow night after I get home.  Meanwhile, y'all enjoy yourselves.

Peter

Don't let life get you down!


Ever since my semi-disabling injury in 2004, I've had to learn to live with pain. It's not fun, but one can cope if one tries (with the help of medication from time to time). If one allows the dark things to so cloud one's outlook that one stops looking for the sun, one's life will be lived in a state of perpetual twilight - and that's no fun for anyone, particularly those who care about us.

I found this video clip to be a good reminder of that truth. It's of a kitten who was born without a pelvis or rear legs. Since Anakin never knew what he was missing, he's adapted quite well to life with only two front legs. He's as happy playing with his toys as any 'normal' kitten.




There's a lesson there for all of us . . .

Peter


Was the Obamacare decision a poison pill for the Administration?


I haven't had time to examine the SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare in any detail (I've been traveling, as you know), but Whitehouse12 has a very interesting perspective on it.  If correct, it may be the silver lining in the cloud of the Supreme Court's approval of this disastrous legislation.  Go read.

Now it's up to us to elect Representatives and Senators who'll overturn the whole damn thing . . .

Peter

Friday, June 29, 2012

Well fed up and agreeably drunk . . .


. . . to quote the late, great Gerard Hoffnung.

Miss D. and I have arrived safely at Brigid's place, after a leisurely run from the Mammoth Caves area today and a detour through a local meadery, from which we emerged bearing bottles for later consumption.  (At least, I thought it was supposed to be 'later' . . . I guess that depends on one's definition of the term!  Miss D. and Brigid are definitely merrier now than they were a little earlier!)  Barkley is doing his best to persuade everyone in turn that he's a hard-done-by Labrador who really, really needs people food to put all right with his world once again.  I swear, if people lived in hope as much as he does, the world would be a seething cauldron of anticipation!

Nothing more to add tonight, except laughter and the love of friends.  I'll try to post at greater length tomorrow.

G'night, y'all.

Peter

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Deep thoughts from a deep place


Miss D. and I are spending the night near Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  We got away shortly after lunchtime after a busy morning tying off loose ends, dotting the I's and crossing the T's of life.  It was a very, repeat, VERY hot run to Kentucky - the thermometer was supposed to hit the low hundreds today, and it felt every bit of it!  Temperatures are forecast into the hundred-and-teens in some places over the weekend, so I'm glad we'll be a bit further north and out of the worst of it.

We visited Mammoth Caves this afternoon, and took one of the easier tours of some of its attractions, including a sort of natural subterranean chamber called 'Grand Central Station' and the well-known 'Frozen Niagara' formation.  The latter is pretty spectacular, reminding me a lot of some rock formations in the Cango Caves in South Africa, which I visited several times during my many years in that country.

We've found a hotel for the night, and are about to wash the sweat from our bodies and fall into bed.  We're tired puppies!  Tomorrow we head for Indianapolis, probably stopping to visit a bourbon distillery or some other interesting attraction on the way.  (I'm trying to figure out how to include a visit to the Maker's Mark distillery, to pick up some of their sinfully delicious chocolates with liquid bourbon centers.  To say they're mouthwatering is both true, and the understatement of the year!  Also, for bourbon lovers, if you haven't yet tried Maker's Mark's new '46' blend, you have a treat in store.)

More posts tomorrow evening.  Stay cool, y'all.

Peter

Obamacare delenda est!


Marcus Portius Cato, also known as Cato the Elder, was a Roman citizen who lived from 234-149 BC, during the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage.  He's widely credited with stirring up the Third Punic War, which led to the utter and permanent destruction of Carthage.  Among his many efforts in that regard was the phrase 'Carthago delenda est!' ('Carthage must be destroyed!'), which he repeated at the end of every one of his speeches, whether or not it had anything to do with Carthage.  So effective was his advocacy (and that of others) that in the end, his advice was acted upon.  Carthage was, indeed, destroyed.

That's the sort of attitude we must adopt, today and henceforth, now that the Supreme Court has upheld the abomination that is Obamacare.  I find it an absolute outrage that the Federal Government should assume, or be granted by court fiat, the power to order any individual to buy a commercial product that he/she does not wish to purchase for themselves.  Furthermore, Obamacare imposes one of the largest tax increases in US history.  The full impact won't be felt for several years yet, but we're all going to take it in the pocketbook from this disastrous legislation.  It's also filled with crony capitalism, corruption and bureaucratic obfuscation that make it almost impossible for the average layman to decipher it.

This law must be overturned in its entirety.  It can't be reformed, it can't be amended - all that would do is make it even more complex and incomprehensible.  Obamacare must be destroyed.

From now on, as far as I'm concerned, that's the single most important criterion by which to judge any person seeking elected office - will they vote for, or will they work towards, the repeal of Obamacare?  If they will, they're worth supporting.  If they won't, or if they promise to do so then renege on that commitment, they're worthless and should be discarded.


Obamacare delenda est!


Peter

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dragon races!


The annual dragon boat festival is in full swing in Hong Kong once again.  The Telegraph provides a report on proceedings, along with this video clip.  It's worth watching in full-screen mode.




I'd love to see that in the flesh someday!

Peter

Blogging from the road


Miss D. and I will be hitting the road tomorrow for a brief excursion to Indiana.  We hope to spend a couple of days with Brigid and Barkley, and perhaps meet a few of the Indianapolis gang while we're up there.  They're forecasting triple-digit temperatures over the weekend, so I hope we don't melt!

I'll put up some blog posts from the road, but they may not be as many as usual, or posted at the same time as normal.  Please keep us in your prayers for traveling safety.  I'll be back on Sunday evening, all being well, so normal service should be resumed the following day.

Y'all have a great Fourth of July weekend yourselves!

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #612


Today's winner is from Massachusetts, but he won his award in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

A man was gored by a bull bison near the Norris campground on Saturday in Yellowstone National Park.

. . .

The man let the bull approach within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away.

This resulted in the animal tossing the man nearly 10 feet in the air and being pinned to the ground. The park visitor broke his collarbone, shoulder blade and ribs. He also suffered a groin injury.

. . .

“Park visitors are reminded that wildlife in Yellowstone is, in fact, wild,” the park said in a news release Monday.

There's more at the link.

The only response I can make to the last sentence quoted above is, "No s***, Sherlock!"  Being an African boy, I was raised to give way (rapidly!) to anything larger and heavier than I was, and particularly to anything with more feet, more horns or sharper teeth than myself.  How is it that people blithely ignore clearly-spelled-out warnings about the need to do so?  Do they're think they're immune?

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .

Peter

Politics. Corruption. But I repeat myself . . .


I don't think I could find a more perfect metaphor to illustrate how corrupt and self-serving US politicians have become than a recent development in Murphysboro, Illinois.  It seems that an election board there (staffed by Democratic Party operatives) has disqualified four Republicans from the ballot in November.  Their reason?  Because the candidates used paper clips instead of staples when they submitted their filings to the board.

This may be politics on a very small local scale, but such imbecility is symptomatic of what's wrong with our entire political setup.  I don't think I've ever heard a more farcical, stupid rationale for disqualifying candidates from an election.  I should be outraged . . . but this is Illinois, after all, home of the 'Chicago Machine'.  Nor am I overly upset that the perpetrators of this farce are Democrats - after all, Illinois Republicans have been just as guilty of political malfeasance whenever they thought they could get away with it.  (I'd ask former Republican Governor George Ryan to confirm that, but I doubt he'll be able to read these words in the prison cell he's occupied since 2007 after being convicted on corruption charges.)

Remember in November.  If you aren't sure how to vote, vote against the incumbent.  I daresay you won't go far wrong by following that principle.





Peter

A fascinating glimpse of ancient trade routes


A recent archaeological discovery in Germany has sparked great interest and scholarly debate.  Der Spiegel reports:

Archeologists in Germany have an unlikely new hero: former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. They have nothing but praise for the cigar-smoking veteran Social Democratic politician.

Why? Because it was Schröder who, together with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, pushed through a plan to pump Russian natural gas to Western Europe. For that purpose, an embankment 440 kilometers (275 miles) long and up to 30 meters (100 feet) wide had to be created from Lubmin, a coastal resort town in northeastern Germany, to Rehden in Lower Saxony near the northwestern city of Bremen.

The result has been a veritable cornucopia of ancient discoveries. The most beautiful find was made in the Gessel district of Lower Saxony, where 117 pieces of gold were found stacked tightly together in a rotten linen cloth. The hidden treasure is about 3,300 years old.





When Johanna Wanka, the Lower Saxony science minister, unveiled the treasure to the press in February, the story became even more surprising. She explained that testing done at the University of Hanover had revealed that the gold had come from a mine in Central Asia.

"Using a mass spectrometer, we examined more than 20 trace elements, allowing us to determine the fingerprint of the metal," explains chemist Robert Lehmann. "The gold vein must have been created deep in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan or Uzbekistan over a period of millions of years."

Lower Saxony can now consider itself the owner of what Wanka calls the "find of the century." Merchants trading in luxury goods used to travel across the entire continent, says state archeologist Henning Hassmann. "Trips of 10,000 kilometers [about 6,200 miles] were nothing to them."

He suspects that the gold found in Gessel was initially brought in caravans from the mountains to the nearby Indus Valley, where a giant riparian culture flourished until about 1,800 B.C. From there, says Hassmann, the merchandise was sent by ship to Mesopotamia and, after that, somehow reached the northern flatlands.

. . .

As audacious as the Asia connection seems, it could be true. There is plenty of evidence that human greed led to globalized trade more than 3,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians' folding-chair designs reached Sweden, and magnificent Spondylus shells from the Mediterranean have been found as far away as Bavaria.

Valuable metals such as tin, copper, gold and silver were a favorite among long-distance traders, who dragged them across the continent in rucksacks or on oxcarts. Ötzi the Iceman, a natural mummy found in the Ötztal Alps, probably traded in gold and flint, and was murdered in the process.

But did the merchants' extensive trading networks reach as far as the remote mines in Central Asia as long ago as the 2nd century B.C.? It certainly would have been worthwhile. A massive gold-and-tin belt extends from the Altai Mountains to the Aral Sea. A prehistoric gold mine, the largest in the central Caucasus region, was also recently discovered in Armenia.

This could explain the origins of the myth of the Argonauts, who in the story sail through the Black Sea to steal the Golden Fleece.

There's more at the link, plus several photographs of the loot gold.

I find it fascinating to think of that gold being grubbed from the ground at great peril to its miners (who were probably slaves or prisoners).  They had no modern mining equipment, instead working with picks and shovels - perhaps with fire to heat the rock before quenching it with water, causing it to split, revealing the vein of gold or the ore that held it.  After all the laborious effort needed to extract it the gold would have to be refined, then taken on foot or by horse or camel to where it could be traded for the necessities of life.  At every turn there would be those trying to steal it, if necessary by murdering its bearers.  Who knows how much blood was shed for and over those gold rings?

At long last, certainly years, perhaps decades, possibly even centuries after it had been mined, the gold arrived in what is today Germany.  Who brought it there?  How had it come into their hands, and how many times had it changed hands on the way to its penultimate resting-place?  Who buried it, and why?  Was he fearful of a sudden attack by a rival tribe or group?  Did he try desperately to safeguard his wealth before the enemy arrived?  Were the gold rings too dangerous to carry, attracting unwelcome attention from those less well off?  Did they take up too much space that was instead needed by children, or for food, during the flight from danger?

All speculation, of course, and we'll never know the answers . . . but fascinating nonetheless.

Peter

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The old-fashioned way of shopping?


Having just sounded off against a technological innovation in e-commerce that I personally regard as unethical (see the post below), I suppose I should revisit an advertisement for eToro that we've seen here before.  It depicts trading in a simpler era . . . and since I've just been complaining about shoppers not being treated like human beings, what happens when the payment is a human being?







Peter

You're only a wallet to them, not a person


I was angry - but not surprised - to read about what I regard as a greedy, self-serving and dehumanizing business practice.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Orbitz ... has found that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.

The Orbitz effort, which is in its early stages, demonstrates how tracking people's online activities can use even seemingly innocuous information — in this case, the fact that customers are visiting Orbitz.com from a Mac—to start predicting their tastes and spending habits.

. . .

Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site's average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.

"We had the intuition, and we were able to confirm it based on the data," Orbitz Chief Technology Officer Roger Liew said.

. . .

The effort underscores how retailers are becoming bigger users of so-called predictive analytics, crunching reams of data to guess the future shopping habits of customers. The goal is to tailor offerings to people believed to have the highest "lifetime value" to the retailer.

There's more at the link, including more specific demographic information that distinguishes Mac from PC users.

It's easy enough to find out what operating system visitors to a Web site are running on their computers.  This is what my most recent visitors used:




(The 'Win NT' label refers to Windows Vista and Windows 7 users - both of those operating systems utilize the NT kernel.)

My biggest complaint about such methods is that they appear (to my eyes, at least) to completely dehumanize our contact with corporations.  We're no longer 'Peter' or 'Mary' - we're an operating system, or a credit card number, or a purchaser of object X who might therefore be a suitable target market for object Y.  For heaven's sake, what happened to treating people like human beings?  For that matter, isn't it basic honesty to show the same choices to all inquirers, and let users sort them into ascending or descending sequence of cost, etc., rather than try to deliberately manipulate them into buying a more expensive option without showing them the others?  To my mind, and according to my code of ethics, this particular business practice certainly qualifies as dishonest.

I know, I know . . . I guess I'm a throwback to an earlier, less technological era . . .


*Sigh*


Peter

Who will lift the lifters?


I was highly amused by this photograph of cranes lifting each other in series.




The stunt was arranged at a Liebherr open day in Ehingen, Germany.

Liebherr unveiled three new cranes at its ‘2012 Customer Days’ event at Ehingen manufacturing facility in Germany.

. . .

The highlight of the machine demonstrations was the LR 13000 lifting the three smaller cranes. This particularly tricky lift was the brain-child of Hans-Dieter Willim, Liebherr’s chief crane designer.

. . .

... the LR 13000, fitted with a 108 metre Power (P) boom lifted all three cranes - with a combined weight of 1,430 tonnes, at a radius of 30 metres. The crane has a capacity of 1,521 tonnes at that radius and was therefore at 94 percent of its capacity.

. . .

The centres of gravity and weights of all the cranes had to be calculated very accurately as any deviation would immediately have affected the working radius of the crane lifting triggering a chain reaction.

. . .

The LR13000 was then able to slew the load smoothly as both the counterweight and three crane load were in balance. To end the demonstration, the LR 13000 then tracked – very slowly - with its 5,000 tonne applying a ground pressure of only 70 tonnes per square metre. Additional mats could be used to reduce this to 30 tonnes a square metre.

There's more at the link, including more photographs and technical details.

I'm just glad they didn't try that in a cross-wind . . .





Peter

UPDATED: Spite, vote-pandering, or both?


(EDITED TO ADD:  See the update at the foot of the article.)


I note that yesterday, after the Supreme Court upheld a core component of Arizona's anti-illegal-immigrant legislation (while striking down most of it), the Obama administration appeared to retaliate against the state.

The Obama administration said Monday it is suspending existing agreements with Arizona police over enforcement of federal immigration laws, and said it has issued a directive telling federal authorities to decline many of the calls reporting illegal immigrants that the Homeland Security Department may get from Arizona police.

Administration officials, speaking on condition they not be named, told reporters they expect to see an increase in the number of calls they get from Arizona police — but that won’t change President Obama’s decision to limit whom the government actually tries to detain and deport.

“We will not be issuing detainers on individuals unless they clearly meet our defined priorities,” one official said in a telephone briefing.

. . .

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Arizona may not impose its own penalties for immigration violations, but it said state and local police could check the legal status of those they have reasonable suspicion to believe are in the country illegally.

That means police statewide can immediately begin calling to check immigration status — but federal officials are likely to reject most of those calls.

Federal officials said they’ll still perform the checks as required by law but will respond only when someone has a felony conviction on his or her record. Absent that, ICE will tell the local police to release the person.

There's more at the link.

This is merely the latest expression of contempt by the Obama administration for the rule of law.  Don't like a Supreme Court decision?  Withhold the Federal law enforcement assistance needed to implement it.  Don't like an entirely legitimate Congressional inquiry into a program that's caused the death of at least two federal law enforcement officers and over three hundred people in Mexico?  Slap an 'executive privilege' stamp on critical documents and refuse to hand them over.  Need votes?  Appease part of the electorate by implementing a de facto amnesty for certain illegal immigrants by instructing a Federal law enforcement agency not to apply certain laws that affect them.  Want to please your union backers?  Award the unions almost everything they ask for whilst victimizing other stakeholders in a massive bailout program.

I'm beginning to wonder how to distinguish the Obama administration from a gang of white-collar criminals.  The RICO statute certainly appears relevant to both organizations!  On the other hand, the same could be said for many other administrations from both parties.  I fear neither Democrats nor Republican occupants of the White House can be trusted to always put the nation's interests ahead of their own partisan political positions.  Unfortunately, that means we all lose.

Peter

EDITED TO ADD:  Jim March added a very interesting comment to this post.  I've known Jim online for many years.  He's a solid citizen, and has a long track record of fighting for voting rights and against electoral manipulation.  He's provided a completely different perspective on the Arizona issue, which is new to me (and, I'm sure, to many outside Arizona).  I honestly don't know if he's right, particularly because his perspective hasn't been documented by many of the sources I trust and respect:  but I do trust and respect Jim.  If he says this, I'm willing to listen.  Here's a sample of what he has to say (I've added links to the names for more information).

There is a major trend towards anti-Latino racism in Arizona law enforcement. It comes from the top - meaning Joe Arpaio (aka "the waddling civil rights violation"), AG Tom Horne (previously banned from the stock market for life) and former top legislator (Senate Majority Leader) Russell Pearce.

Pearce is...extra special, even by AZ standards. He was recently recalled and fired from the legislature by popular vote. Why? He was Mormon and represented a strongly Mormon area (Mesa, a very right-leaning suburb of Phoenix). Pierce brought his best friend into the Mormon church, a guy name of JT Ready. He then got Ready promoted to Elder. And then the Mormon leadership in that area found out Ready was a full-on Nazi - I mean complete with wearing swastikas, stiff-armed salutes, the whole nine yards. So the Mormons abandoned Pierce and sided with the "lefties" doing the recall drive...weirdest political alliance EVER.

There's much more in Jim's comment.  Go read, and judge for yourself.  If other AZ residents or those knowledgable about it will please add their views in Comments, I'll be grateful for your input.

Thanks, Jim!

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #611


Sometimes doofidity takes on dimensions so excruciatingly embarrassing, so absolutely laden with 'suck and fail', that one can only look on with awe as mistakes lead their perpetrators epically astray. Such an incident has just overtaken a TV news reporter in China.

WARNING:  Contents at the linked page are emphatically not safe for work!!!

The Shanghaiist reports:

Xi'an Up Close, an investigative journalism programme ... has become a national laughing stock after airing a report on June 17 on a "mystery mushroom" which was discovered by villagers in a rural part of the city.

Residents of the Liucunbu village on the outskirts of the capital of the Shaanxi province say they came across a strange fungi-like object as they hit bedrock while drilling a new well. The perplexed villagers decided to call up their local TV station for help, which sent intrepid reporter Ye Yunfeng to their sleepy little hamlet to get down to the bottom of things.

. . .

Reporter Ye then begins to describe the curious object as the camera pans in on it. "As we can all see, this looks like a type of fungus, on both ends of which you'll find mushroom heads."

"On this side, you can see what looks like a pair of lips," she adds. "And on that side, there is a tiny hole which extends all the way back to this side. The object looks very shiny, and it feels really fleshy and meaty too."

"I've done my own research on the internet," says the afore-mentioned villager. "It's a type of lingzhi mushroom, called the taisui." [Editor's note: Taisui refers to 60 celestial generals named in the Chinese zodiac.]

Without skipping a beat, reporter Ye chimes in with her own research, saying this type of lingzhi is generally found in the Shaanxi region deep underground and is hence rarely seen. "When the Emperor Qin Shi Huang was on the hunt for the secret to longevity," she elucidates, "it is said he discovered this lingzhi was the answer."

Eagle-eyed viewers who saw the report on Sunday immediately identified the mystery mushroom as a double-headed masturbation toy ...

There's more at the link, including photographs and a video clip.  For obvious reasons I'm not going to embed them here!  Bold print is my emphasis.

How on earth is she ever going to live down a mistake like that?  Any report she broadcasts in future will immediately attract a barrage of catcalls (the nature of which I leave to your imagination).  I suspect her career in broadcast journalism hasn't just come to a screeching halt - it's gone into reverse . . .





Peter

Monday, June 25, 2012

A new Simon's Cat!


I was delighted to see a new Simon's Cat video posted on YouTube.  This one appears to be sponsored by Disney, which I don't like because I prefer to support 'indie' authors and producers;  but I guess they can provide more money to the author than he can make from other sources, so it's understandable.  At least the humor is the same!  (See here for more Simon's Cat videos.)






Peter

Doofus Of The Day #610


Today's winner is from Australia.  (A tip o' the hat to reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link to the article.)

AN INTOXICATED John Hendry tried to hail a police car because he though it was a taxi, the Rockhampton Magistrate's Court was told on Monday.

Police prosecutor Acting Sgt Paige Barrow told the court police stopped to speak to Hendry on George St about 1am on June 3 after another vehicle was forced to brake heavily to avoid hitting him.

She said when officers began to question Hendry he requested a free ride home, and when officers refused Hendry became abusive and swore at the officer.

Defence lawyer Brian McGowran said Hendry ... simply mistook the police vehicle for a Rockhampton taxi.

There's more at the link.

I guess police are only too happy when their 'customers' mistake them for taxis!  It makes giving them a ride - to the cop shop - a whole lot easier . . .





Peter

How the banksters ripped off America


There's a fascinating article in Rolling Stone describing how America's banks rigged the municipal bond market, making billions of dollars in illicit profits whilst impoverishing cities and investors.  Here's an excerpt.

The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.

In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business. What's more, in the manner of old mob trials, Wall Street's secret machinations were revealed during the Carollo trial through crackling wiretap recordings and the lurid testimony of cooperating witnesses, who came into court with bowed heads, pointing fingers at their accomplices. The new-age gangsters even invented an elaborate code to hide their crimes. Like Elizabethan highway robbers who spoke in thieves' cant, or Italian mobsters who talked about "getting a button man to clip the capo," on tape after tape these Wall Street crooks coughed up phrases like "pull a nickel out" or "get to the right level" or "you're hanging out there" – all code words used to manipulate the interest rates on municipal bonds. The only thing that made this trial different from a typical mob trial was the scale of the crime.

. . .

USA v. Carollo marks the first time we actually got incontrovertible evidence that Wall Street has moved into this cartel-type brand of criminality. It also offered a disgusting glimpse into the enabling and grossly cynical role played by politicians, who took Super Bowl tickets and bribe-stuffed envelopes to look the other way while gangsters raided the public kitty. And though the punishments that were ultimately handed down in the trial – minor convictions of three bit players – felt deeply unsatisfying, it was still a watershed moment in the ongoing story of America's gradual awakening to the realities of financial corruption. In a post-crash era where Wall Street trials almost never make it into court, and even the harshest settlements end with the evidence buried by the government and the offending banks permitted to escape with no admission of wrongdoing, this case finally dragged the whole ugly truth of American finance out into the open – and it was a hell of a show.

There's much more at the link.  Bold print is my emphasis.  The entire article makes very interesting reading - and it illustrates perfectly why none of your money should be in accounts at any of the banks involved!





Peter

Ants as 'contract killers'?


That's what the headline of this report calls them.

Although male ants of all species compete to breed with a queen, most do so peacefully.

But researchers ... in Austria have found that one species is sneakier than others when it comes to bumping off potential rivals, wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on Friday.

Dominant wingless male members of the tropical Cardiocondyla obscurior ant constantly patrol the colony in search of young queens to breed with and potential male rivals to attack.



Cardiocondyla obscurior (image courtesy of Antweb)


Researchers found the older aggressors chemically “tag” newborn males with a pheromone which enrages worker ants and “contracts” them to kill the young hatchling upstarts.

Vulnerable newborn wingless males which have not yet developed a hard exoskeleton are defenceless against the gangs of marauding worker ants, according to the newspaper report.

Young winged males, generally less aggressive than their wingless counterparts, protect themselves from attack by secreting a scent similar to that given off by young queens - which often results in them receiving misguided sexual advances from older male ants, wrote the paper.

There's more at the link.

Mother Nature never ceases to astonish me.  Young males pretending to be queens, and 'receiving misguided sexual advances' as a result?  Oh, wait - this species must be from a well-known district in San Francisco . . .





Peter

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The huge advantage of a safe following distance . . .


. . . is that you don't get caught up in this sort of carnage!




Remind me not to go driving in Russia anytime soon, will you?





Peter

Human-powered cranes


While doing an Internet search for information, my imagination was captured by a 2010 article in Low-Tech Magazine titled 'The sky is the limit: human powered cranes and lifting devices'.  Here's an excerpt.

The most common tower crane used in construction today has a lifting capacity of some 12 to 20 tonnes. For quite a few construction projects in ancient history, this type of crane would be completely inadequate.

The majority of stones that make up the almost 140 discovered Egyptian pyramids have a weight of "only" 2 to 3 tonnes each, but all of these structures (built between 2750 and 1500 BC) also hold stone blocks weighing 50 tonnes, sometimes more. The temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak contains a labyrinth of 134 columns, standing 23 metres (75 feet) tall and supporting crossbeams weighing 60 to 70 tonnes each. The 18 capital blocks of Trajan's column in Rome weigh more than 53 tonnes and they were lifted to a height of 34 metres (111 feet). The Roman Jupiter temple in Baalbek contains stone blocks weighing over 100 tonnes, raised to a height of 19 metres (62 feet).

. . .

... one wonders how our forefathers were able to lift such impressive weights without the help of sophisticated machinery. The fact is, they had advanced machinery at their disposal. The only difference with contemporary cranes is that these machines were powered by humans instead of fossil fuels.





Basically, there is no limit to the weight that humans can lift by sheer muscle power. Nor is there a limit to the height to which this weight can be lifted. The only advantage that fossil fuelled powered cranes have brought us, is a higher lifting speed. Of course, this does not mean that one man can lift anything to any height, or that we can lift anything to any height if we just bring enough people together. But, starting more than 5,000 years ago, engineers designed a collection of machines that greatly enhanced the lifting power of an individual or a group of people. Lifting devices were mainly used for construction projects, but (later) also for the loading and unloading of goods, for hoisting sails on ships, and for mining purposes.





Initially, the lifting speed of lifting machines was extremely low, while the amount of man power required to operate them remained very high. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, just before steam power took over, human powered lifting devices became so elaborate that one man could lift a 15 tonne truck in no time, using only one hand.

There's more at the link.

It's fascinating to see the article's many illustrations of ancient lifting techniques and cranes.  Speaking as a Geek First Class, I can't help but wonder who first thought of them all.  It just goes to show that necessity really is the mother of invention!

Peter

Trashy pictures indeed!


I was interested - and amused - to read about the photographic efforts of some garbage collectors in Hamburg, Germany.  Der Spiegel reports:

Roland Wilhelm, 61, empties trash cans for a living. He's been doing the same job for 36 years, come rain, sleet or snow. The work is best described as honest manual labor. When Wilhelm, wearing his orange uniform, drags dumpsters on wheels around the streets of Hamburg, some people say a friendly hello to him, while others make uncharitable remarks. Most people just ignore him.

His employer, the Hamburg sanitation department, wondered if there was a way to make the job more satisfying. They commissioned the well-known German advertising agency Scholz & Friends to come up with a public relations campaign -- with surprisingly successful results. It turned the lowly garbage collector into something of a star.

Along with 10 of his colleagues, Wilhelm photographed his favorite places in Hamburg using a dumpster converted into a pinhole camera, dubbed the "trashcam." The results are spectacular black-and-white images which quickly became an Internet and media sensation.





They also impressed the jury at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, which runs until Saturday: The campaign was awarded the Silver Lion earlier this week. The Lions awards are the most coveted accolades in the international advertising industry.

Wilhelm has been featured in both the German and international press and is now regularly approached by passersby during his daily rounds. "It's really something unique," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Nobody expected it to be so successful." Wilhelm says the response so far has been entirely positive. But what's more important to him, he says, is that it has raised awareness of garbage collectors' work. "Now even more people see what we do."





The dumpster camera is based on the centuries-old principle of pinhole photography. The light enters the front of the dumpster through an 8-millimeter (0.3-inch) pinhole and is projected onto an 80-centimeter by 1 meter (31 inches by 39 inches) piece of photographic paper inside the container. There is no shutter. Instead, the exposure begins when Wilhelm and his colleagues lift the small flap over the pinhole.





Exposing a photo in the 1,100-liter (290-gallon) bin takes between five and 70 minutes. The sanitation workers calculate the exact time with the help of a light meter. They don't know whether the photograph has been successful until they develop it in the lab that evening.

There's more at the link, as well as a gallery of 'trashcam' photographs (from which those embedded above were drawn).  Interesting reading and viewing for photography enthusiasts.

Peter

Primitive superstition is alive and well in South Africa


I've written several times before about the problem of alleged witchcraft and other superstitions in Africa.  Two recent incidents in South Africa demonstrate that there's been no improvement.

TWO cousins who brutally murdered their 86-year-old grandmother because they believed she was a witch will each spend at least a decade behind bars.

THE Tzaneen municipality in Limpopo is frantically trying to locate two families who allegedly fled from a temporary shelter after being accused of practising witchcraft.

You can read all the sordid details at the links above.  In the second case, I'm wondering whether the families 'fled', or whether they were abducted and murdered by locals who didn't want them to get away.  We may never find out . . .

Peter

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A day in the life of an airline pilot


An anonymous reader forwarded me the link to a blog called 'Adventures of Cap'n Aux'.  It's written by an airline pilot and former bush pilot in Alaska.  He's produced this 'video blog' titled 'A day in the life of an airline pilot'.




Interesting stuff for aircraft and flight enthusiasts, and his blog is also worth reading.

Peter

LOLcats on my mind . . .


It's been a while since I posted some of the LOLcat pictures that catch my eye now and again over at I Can Has Cheezburger?  Here are a few to give you a Sunday smile.  Click each image to be taken to its home page at ICHC?














Peter

Farewell to an historic aircraft


One of the last Lockheed MC-130E Combat Talon I gunships was flown from Florida to New Mexico last week, where it will go on permanent display.  The Northwest Florida Daily News reports:

“Even though there is historical significance, we use them (aircraft) until their end of life,” said Col. Anthony J. Comtois, commander of the 919th SOW. “This particular aircraft has almost 24,000 flight hours and has been through a number of pretty significant missions.”

The aircraft was flown for 47 years and arrived at Duke Field in 1995, he said.





The aircraft is best known for leading the air commando assault on the Son Tay prison camp in 1970 during the Vietnam War to try to rescue American POWs.

Although the prisoners had been moved before the raid, the mission has been considered a success based on its execution and use of military assets.

“It’s bittersweet as we celebrate the end of the legacy,” said Col. Buck Elton with the 8th Special Operations Wing at Cannon. “It’s also exciting because there are new aircraft coming behind it.”

. . .

After the MC-130 arrives at Cannon, Lt. Col. Leon Franklin, the pilot during the Son Tay raid, will help turn it off for the last time.

There's more at the link, along with a gallery of photographs of the departure ceremonies.

That's a remarkably historic aircraft to be still flying after 47 years!  It was flying combat missions while I was still in middle school.  If the airframe could talk, I wonder what stories it could tell?

Peter

Around the blogs


Once again, there's a bumper crop of good reading from other corners of the blogosphere.  Here goes!


# # # # #


JayG asks a shooter's existential question:

Imagine this: You're at a friend's house for a summertime BBQ, perhaps a small gathering of friends for a nice summer's evening. Attracted by the large number of cars parked on the street, a couple neighborhood thugs decide to crash the party, flash a gun, score a bunch of wallets and watches. It brings up a fundamental question that should be addressed among friends beforehand in case the situation ever arises:

Do the visitors get first shot at the goblins, since they're the guests, or do manners dictate that the homeowner get first shot?

In another post, JayG addresses New York's proposed prohibition on supersized soft drinks:

I know it's all the rage these days, but you can't legislate common sense. You can't litigate someone into self-control. You can't force people to do something they don't want to do - hell, we can't stop people from using drugs that are not only illegal to use, they're illegal to posses and illegal to bring into the country. And you're going to stop them from drinking Coke?

The man speaks sense.  Go read both posts.


# # # # #


Via Miss D. I came across a fanfic Harry Potter novel that seems to be a cut or three above the usual run of such things.  If you enjoyed J. K. Rowling's books about the child wizard, take a look at 'Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality'.


# # # # #


The Gormogons enlighten us as to the true meanings of the numbers and letters on your vehicle registration plate.  Here are some examples.

A = You are inclined to brake unnecessarily, then signal a right turn.

B = Maryland driver, who will speed right up to about an inch from your rear bumper before leaping violently to the next, largely open lane.

C = You think that you can be absolved of idiotic and dangerous driving by waving a peace sign with your fingers toward your rear view mirror seconds after hearing someone blast their horn at you.

There's much more at the link.  Good fun!


# # # # #


Blunt Object references Eugene Volokh in asking whether churches that discriminate between individuals on the grounds of their religious beliefs should be entitled to tax relief.  It's an interesting subject, and both articles are worth your attention.  It's a debate that I'm sure will attract more and more attention in the near future.


# # # # #


Snarkybytes reminds us that 'attending a shooting course' is not the same thing as 'training'.  What we learn in the former has to be practiced regularly and thoroughly during the latter if it's to have any lasting value.  He speaks truth - and the principle applies to a great many areas, not just shooting.


# # # # #


The inimitable Al Fin has two excellent articles on the latest stupidities of the climate change alarmists:

$100 Billion And All I Got Was This Lousy Climate Model?!?

A Few Ways in Which Climate Models Fail to Account for What is Happening in the Real World

Both are well worth the time and trouble to read them and follow the links they contain.


# # # # #


Firehand links to a comment about an article on the blog 'This Ain't Hell, But You Can See It From Here'.  Referring to a professor getting her knickers in a twist over the possibility that young soldiers might have to decide how to use lethal firepower on the battlefield (Gasp!  Shock!  Horror!), commenter NHSparky opines:

Let’s do a little bit of comparison, shall we, boys and girls?

21-year old college student: Life and death decision consists of which professor to take for easiest “gentleman’s C” grade in Underwater Basket Weaving. Has at hand hundreds of dollars from latest student loan to spend on cheap booze which will be thrown up on random couch in random sorority house.

21-year old infantry buck sergeant: Calling in air support, coordinating movement with higher authority and other units, keeping squad in one piece while undetermined number of bad guys are trying to turn you into DEAD infantry buck sergeant. Has at hand millions of dollars of equipment he can be held personally responsible for.

Word.


# # # # #


Continuing the military theme, Cdr. Salamander asks 'What is more important - to have technology match your national strategy - or to have a national strategy to match the technology you want?'  It's a good question - and he has some answers for our consideration.


# # # # #


Borepatch links to an excellent article at Zero Hedge titled 'The Master Narrative Nobody Dares Admit: Centralization Has Failed'.  Here's an excerpt.

What's the key driver of this master narrative? Technology, specifically, the Internet. Gatekeepers and centralized authority are no match for decentralized knowledge and decision-making. Once a people don't need to rely on a centralized authority to tell them what to do, the centralized authority becomes a costly impediment, a tax on the entire society and economy.

In a cost-benefit analysis, centralization once paid significant dividends. Now it is a drag that only inhibits growth and progress.

There's more at the link.  Interesting and thought-provoking reading.


# # # # #


The lovely Phlegm Fatale informs us about the latest must-have fashion accessory.




Where has this thing been all my life?


# # # # #


Dr. Whitecoat links to a powerful, profound and moving post about a young lady on the brink of death, and the lessons about life she taught her doctor.  Very highly recommended.


# # # # #


A young lady writing at One Page At A Time has some strong words for her 'gimme' generation.  Here's an excerpt.

Now, to the under-30s: What is wrong with you?! $500,000 for a degree that is not related to the medical field? Are you kidding me? Even $100,000 for a degree that isn't a stepping stone towards employment (like medicine, engineering, etc) is ridiculous, especially if you're relying on loans to get it. I know, teachers and parents all told you a degree, any degree (even one in basket weaving) was necessary to succeed in life. But just because someone tells you something does not mean you should believe it with your whole heart, without any critical thought whatsoever.

First, not all degrees are equal. Really, had you studied basket weaving instead of (insert minority) studies, you might have actually learned a skill. Also, if your chief cause in (insert minority) studies is that your particular ethnicity/faith/gender isn't represented in STEM fields or the business world...maybe, I don't know, major in a STEM degree or business?

More at the link.  Go read.


# # # # #


Labrat of the Atomic Nerds opines on the open use of the name for an intimate portion of female anatomy, while Uncle Jay reminds himself to 'Stay Out Of Sketchy Bars'.  Both posts are probably not safe for work, but they're highly entertaining!


# # # # #


John Carey reminds us of 'Vietnam 1965: The Day It Became the Longest War'.  I'd always regarded the late President Johnson as incompetent, corrupt and foolish;  now it appears he was a bully and a liar as well.  I can't say I was surprised to read this account - it squares with what I already knew of the man - but I wish it had become public knowledge at the time.  It might have saved the lives of tens of thousands of young Americans and Vietnamese . . .


# # # # #


Continuing the military theme (again), Tam links to a picture from the sandbox showing the 'Best MRE Combination Ever'.  I think it would absolutely ruin my diet . . . !  Also, an old post from The Sandgram describes one of the most hilarious aircraft check rides I've ever heard of.  If you aren't laughing out loud by the time you finish it, your sense of humor urgently needs adjusting!  (BTW, The Sandman now blogs over here, if you'd like to continue reading his latest work.)


# # # # #


The Smallest Minority links to 'The Underground History Of American Education' by John Taylor Gatto.  I've read several chapters so far, and it's fascinating stuff.  It certainly describes in excruciating detail the decline of the American classroom, and explains much about our current education crisis.  Very highly recommended.


# # # # #


Finally, Dustbury links to an article at The Truth About Cars titled 'How To Save $1.9 Billion In Taxes, The Volkswagen Way'.  Trust the Germans to figure out so elegant a solution to tax evasion!


# # # # #


That's all from the blogosphere for this week.  More soon!

Peter

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another very low pass


Reader A. M. recently came across my post from November last year showing an extremely low pass by a Harvard training aircraft over a group of Army trainees along South Africa's western coast.  She e-mailed me to ask whether I knew anything about a very low pass by a Portuguese airliner during an air show in that country.  She'd heard of it, but wanted to know whether it had really happened.

It most certainly did happen!  An Airbus A310 of Portuguese national airline TAP performed several dangerously low passes at the 2007 Evora air show.  Here are two video clips of the incident.







I don't know if they fired the pilot for that bit of insanity . . . but if he'd done that in the USA I imagine the FAA would have yanked his license at once, if not sooner!





Peter

A new twist to an old tragedy


I take no pleasure whatsoever in this news from Philadelphia.

A Philadelphia priest was convicted Friday of one count of child endangerment, becoming the first cleric in the Catholic Church’s long-running clergy abuse scandal to be tried and found guilty of shielding molesters.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment charge after a three-month trial that had seemed on the verge of a hung jury two days earlier.

. . .

Lynn was the first church official to be tried for what many see as an unaddressed crime in the decades-long tally of abuse throughout the church: no U.S. bishops or officials who covered up and enabled the abuse has ever been held accountable in criminal court. Both prosecutors and victims advocates claimed victory.

. . .

During the trial, jurors and the public heard graphic testimony form nearly 20 victims of abuse at the hands of priests in the five-county archdiocese, which includes about 1.5 million Catholics. They also saw thousands of church records about clergy abuse that had been hidden away by Lynn and others, mainly during the tenure of former Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Lynn’s defense team argued that he was ordered by Bevilacqua not to say anything about the abuse and had no authority to removed priests from the ministry.

“I did my best with what I could do,” Lynn testified in his defense. His lawyers said they will appeal.

Prosecutors argued that did not prevent him from reporting the assaults to authorities, and they said his consistent efforts to downplay abuse claims and thwart inquiries was criminal.

Bevilacqua, who was archbishop from 1988 to his retirement in 2003, died in January on the eve of the trial, and many saw Lynn as something of a stand-in for the man prosecutors wanted to charge but could not.

. . .

In New York, meanwhile, charges that the Orthodox Jewish community is routinely covering up child sexual abuse are making headlines.

And in Missouri, Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is scheduled to go on trial in September on charges that he failed to report suspicions that one of his priests might be an abuser. The priest is facing child pornography charges, but if Finn is convicted, he would be the first bishop ever found guilty in the abuse scandal.

There's more at the link.

This verdict won't undo the harm done to countless thousands of victims of this criminal tragedy . . . but perhaps, at last, some of those ultimately responsible for its cover-up and decades-long continuance may be brought to book.  That, in itself, is progress.

Peter

Politicians making cuts - the hard way!


We've spoken of the need for politicians to cut expenditure . . . but in one country at least, they're making cuts of an altogether more radical nature!  The BBC reports:

At least 10 Zimbabwean MP's have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and Aids cases.

A small makeshift clinic for carrying out the procedures was erected in Parliament House in the capital Harare.

Blessing Chebundo, chairman of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against Aids, said his main objective was to inspire other citizens to follow suit.

Research by the UN has suggested male circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV and Aids.

There's more at the link.

I don't know about persuading US politicians to undergo a similar procedure to reduce HIV/Aids infections . . . but perhaps we could use it to persuade them to cut spending instead?  For every ten billion dollars reduction in spending, they get to keep an additional millimeter of their fifth column.  If they cut spending enough, they get to keep the whole thing!  How about it, pols?





Peter

Crime statistics - less than trustworthy?


There's a very interesting article over at PoliceOne discussing how, in many jurisdictions, crimes are under-reported, wrongly recorded, and generally 'fudged' for political reasons.  Here's an excerpt.

Crime data collection, analysis, and pinpointed response help law enforcement agencies fight crime. CompStat is one of the best known such tools for police.

First implemented in New York City in the 1990s, it was intended to map crime and identify problems. NYPD execs would meet with local precinct commanders to discuss the problems and devise strategies and tactics to reduce crime in their assigned area. Resources were then deployed as planned. The regular meetings guaranteed fierce follow-up.

In an effort to demonstrate greater accountability to the citizens CompStat was adopted by many police agencies (although sometimes under a different name, such as ComStat, Citistat, StateStat, Powertrac, FastTrack) ... by the year 2000, more than a third of agencies with 100 or more swern officers reported implementing a “CompStat-like” program.

What CompStat didn’t anticipate is what Robert Zink, Recording Secretary for NYPD’s police union, called the ‘fudge factor’ — the manipulation of Compstat data to make it falsely appear that crime rates have been reduced. Here’s just a sampling:

  1. In 1996, there was a concerted effort to conceal the magnitude of crime in Atlanta during the Summer Olympics selection process. An audit in 2003 revealed that 22,000 crimes were left out of reports for the previous year.
  2. In 1998, Philadelphia PD was the subject of a DOJ investigation into under-reporting crime. The practice endured, top commanders said, because favorable statistics made higher-ups happy and helped careers.
  3. In April 2000 U.S. News and World Report stated that “facing political heat to cut crime in the city, investigators in the [Philadelphia] PD Sex Crime Unit sat on (thousands of) reports of rapes and other sexual assaults.” ...
  4. In 2003, four New Orleans officers and a district commander were fired for downgrading hundreds of serious crimes to “miscellaneous incidents.” ...
  5. In 2004, the NYPD police unions publicly charged that the department had cooked the books to lower crime stats and called on its members to share evidence of crimes being downgraded. ...
  6. In 2005, four Broward County Deputy Sheriffs were fired for fudging crime stats. Denying any knowledge, the Sheriff used the false stats to convince municipalities to scrap their own police departments and contract with the BSO. He also used the stats in his political rise. ...
  7. In 2010, more than half of 309 retired NYPD officers admitted to fudging crime stats ... They reported heavy pressure from higher-ups to reduce felonies to misdemeanors or to not report crimes at all to make the numbers look prettier.


There's more at the link.

I highly recommend clicking over to PoliceOne and reading the entire report.  It provides very important insight into a problem that directly and immediately affects your own securityIf you don't know the true dimensions and nature of the crime problem in your area, how will you know whether or not to take additional precautions, or be prepared to deal with specific types of crime?

Food for thought . . .

Peter

What a weird critter!


I came across this weird-looking blob at I Can Has Cheezburger? this evening.




It's apparently a Jewel Caterpillar, of which I'd never heard before.  Intrigued, I did a quick Internet search and found that someone had uploaded several pictures of another variety of the critter to Project Noah.  Here's one of them to whet your appetite.




Scientific American has capitalized on the interest aroused by the pictures by publishing an article about them.  Geekologie has republished the photographs, along with this one of the Acraga Coa moth into which they will grow.




Weird-looking beasties, aren't they?

Peter

Thursday, June 21, 2012

That was a hell of a landing!


Some amazing video footage has emerged of a very hard landing by an All Nippon Airways Boeing 767 in Japan yesterday.  It bounced so hard that it wrinkled the fuselage, as close-up shots reveal.




I don't know what it felt like to be a passenger on that flight, but I bet the bang when it touched down was enough to loosen more than just the airframe!  I suspect repairs are going to take a long time, too.  They may have to remove the skin and straighten the entire front fuselage, which will take months and cost millions!  It may even be cheaper to scrap the aircraft.





Peter

When the State dictates to religions - and spouses


As readers are no doubt aware, the Danish government has just decided that it can issue orders to the Evangelical Lutheran Church - namely, that the church must permit same-sex couples to marry in its buildings, with clergy officiating.  Individual clergy may decline to participate, but in that case a bishop must arrange a replacement.

In England, the government has also moved towards passing legislation that would have a similar effect.  The Telegraph reports:

The Church's formal response to the Coalition's same-sex marriage plans dismisses them as “divisive”, “legally flawed” and “essentially ideological”.

The Church of England has suggested that priests could be forced to marry homosexual couples in churches by the European Court of Human Rights despite assurances that they will be exempt.

The warnings came as the Church released its own legal analysis as part of its formal response to the consultation on Coalition’s plans to redefine marriage.

Dr Sharon James, a spokesperson from the Coalition for Marriage, said that they were "concerned that if same-sex marriage is introduced then courts could use equalities legislation to force religious premises and ministers to conduct same-sex marriages."

There's more at the link.

That's what happens when you allow a government to regulate who may marry whom.  That's also what happens when you have State-approved and/or -supported churches (as are both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark and the Church of England in that country).  State support for anything ultimately boils down to State control of that thing, be it what you eat, what you drive, what you wear, who you marry, or what you believe.

As I've said before, I think the answer is to for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether (and out of the religion business too!).  Let people decide for themselves what they want to believe, and who they want to marry, and how they want to do both.  Who needs politicians and bureaucrats making those decisions for us, anyway?

Peter

Is President Obama an accessory to the crime of murder?


Readers will be familiar with 'Operation Fast And Furious', the gunrunning scandal which we've covered in these pages on several previous occasions.  The evidence thus far made available suggests that the ATF and possibly other Federal law enforcement agencies (certainly including senior figures in the Department of Justice, up to and including Attorney General Eric Holder) were fully familiar with this scheme.

I was therefore astonished when President Obama yesterday asserted executive privilege to help Mr. Holder avoid having to provide a number of potentially incriminating documents to Congressional investigators looking into the scandal.  This is explosive stuff, because we're talking about an operation that has demonstrably and provably contributed to the deaths of two US Federal law enforcement officers and several hundred Mexican nationals.  This isn't just burglary, or cheating, or corruption:  it's wholesale murder!

Executive privilege has historically only been asserted for documents and information directly relating to presidential briefings and decision-making.  Therefore, if President Obama is asserting it in this case, it can only be legal if he was briefed about and/or made executive decisions concerning Operation Fast And Furious and/or related issues.  If that is the case, it would directly implicate the office of the President - and President Obama himself - in the murders that resulted from this scandal.  On the other hand, if it's not the case and President Obama was neither briefed about nor made decisions concerning this operation, then he can't assert executive privilege over the documents concerned.  It's as clear-cut as that.

I can't understand why the mainstream media are so silent about a scandal that might make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison!  (Larry Correia describes its implications very well on his blog.  Go read.)  Any and all right-thinking Americans, of any and all political persuasions, should be profoundly concerned about this.  It's not about Republicans or Democrats, but about the rule of law and the murder of US law enforcement officers.  Surely that should rise above political disagreement?  Those who are trying to portray it as mere political dissent are showing themselves to be contemptuous of both the law and their own oaths of office (not to mention the [lack of] intelligence with which they credit the electorate).

I can only hope that the truth will come out, and swiftly.  If this scandal reaches into the Oval Office (which is not yet proven), we need to know in good time before the November elections.  We daren't elect someone who could so casually approve an operation that would kill so many innocent people.

Peter