Friday, October 31, 2014

Not your average security job . . .


I had to laugh at this tale of a prison guard in Austria.

After a panel decision, a prison guard in Vienna has lost her job working as security for a local brothel.

. . .

Rather than serving customers directly ... the guard was responsible for the security of the brothel, as well as undertaking collection tasks - presumably if customers got into arrears.

. . .

The woman had followed procedure by reporting that she had a source of secondary income in a local business, but wasn't specific as to the nature of the business.

There's more at the link.

I want to know how the customers 'got into arrears'.  I mean, isn't a brothel a sort of pay-as-you-go proposition?




Peter

In honor of Halloween


The Telegraph has published a picture gallery of strange and interesting graves.  Here are a few selections.



Here lies Fernand Arbelot, a musician and actor who died in 1942.  He wished to gaze into his wife's eyes even after death.



This remarkable grave is located in the Dutch town of Roermond. One one side of the wall lies JWC van Gorkum, a 19th century Catholic woman of nobility, on the other her husband, a Protestant. When he died, he was buried in the lot reserved for Protestants. Eight years later she passed away too, leaving directions for this monument - with the pair holding hands over the wall that divides the Catholic and Protestant cemeteries - to be built.



Another striking grave in Paris is that belonging to Charles Pigeon and his family at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. It features Charles, propped up in bed with his wife and overlooked by an angel.


There are many more images at the link.  Interesting - albeit slightly creepy - viewing.

Next, I had no idea that so many people, places and institutions had held underwater pumpkin carving contests!  See this selection of videos at YouTube.

Lastly, Les Jones shares 'The Worst-Tasting Thing – a Delicious Tale of Halloween Horror'.  It's not safe for work, but it made me laugh, so I thought you'd enjoy it too.

No tricks here - just treats!

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #798


Today's award goes to the inventor of a dubious typeface.

Peeing in public: Many have witnessed it, many more have done the dirty deed. And now there's a bold design tribute to the dishonorable act—a drippy font modeled after urine stains on a wall.

"The Art of Peeing" was created by 23-year-old Aravindan Thirunavukarasu using photos of real micturition dribbles. "Those pictures on my website are real pictures which I took after I peed on the wall," emails the New Yorker. "My source of the pee was to drink a lot of gallons of water and I was on a liquid diet for the whole project. I got dehydrated after the project, though. I cleaned up after."
(Art of Peeing)

. . .

The typography is available for free (much like pee) and comes in True Type and Open Type formats. It should make a nice present to those who wish to send repellent correspondence to nemeses.

There's more at the link, including illustrations of the letters urinated onto walls and links to the fonts (although why anyone would want them is beyond me).  I'm not going to embed any of that stuff here.  The font creator has made a video about it, but I was put off by its seemingly disjointed storyline and a casual f-bomb early in proceedings (I stopped watching it at that point).

I think this is yet another illustration of how modern youngsters may be tech-savvy, but many of them have never learned manners and have no class or standards at all.  Frankly, if I'd tried to do this as a young man, my Dad would have thrashed me soundly (regardless of my age, size or anything else).  If I'd had a son who'd done this, I'd have been sorely tempted to ignore modern political correctness and do likewise . . .

Ewwww!

Peter

Quote of the day: Ebola edition


I belong to an e-mail list of very well-trained and -experienced shooters.  One of them, a doctor by profession, described some research he'd been doing into the Ebola virus.  He concluded:

There has been some research into this, and it is suspected that the Ebola, rabies, and influenza virus can mix.  This resultant Virus From Hell is thought to be the cause of PMS.  Consider yourselves warned.

Even Miss D. had to cackle at that one . . .




Peter

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Amazing video of surfers in extreme slow motion


Chris Bryan has compiled this fascinating video showing surfers in extreme slow motion (1,000 frames per second).  I highly recommend watching it in full-screen mode.





Some great photography there.  I wonder how close the cameramen got to the surfers?  With telephoto lenses, it's hard to tell.

Peter

In Memoriam: Colonel Jack Broughton


Colonel Jacksel M. Broughton, one of the most famous and controversial airmen of the Vietnam War, has died.  In its obituary, the New York Times wrote:

Col. Jack Broughton flew more than 200 jet-fighter missions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and received the Air Force Cross, his service’s highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor. He led the Air Force’s Thunderbirds in acrobatics that thrilled air show spectators in the mid-1950s and piloted nearly 50 types of military aircraft.

But in June 1967, he faced a possible prison term when the Air Force accused him of covering up the strafing of a Soviet freighter in the North Vietnamese port of Cam Pha by a pilot under his command.

Colonel Broughton and two of his pilots were court-martialed. All were acquitted of the most serious charges, conspiracy to violate Air Force rules of engagement that forbade such an attack. But Colonel Broughton’s career was destroyed in the fallout from one of the most contentious issues of the Vietnam War: the restrictions Washington placed on bomber pilots out of fear that the Soviet Union or China could be drawn into the conflict.

There's more at the link.

Colonel Broughton wrote several excellent books about his life and air warfare.  Perhaps the most famous is 'Thud Ridge', about his experiences leading a wing in combat over North Vietnam.  However, my personal favorite (and part of my permanent library) is 'Rupert Red Two: A Fighter Pilot's Life From Thunderbolts to Thunderchiefs', in which he describes his entire US Air Force career from flying P-47 Thunderbolts over Germany immediately after World War II, to his resignation after his court-martial conviction was set aside on appeal.  It includes his decision to ground his squadron of F-106 Delta Dart fighters after their ejection seats proved lethally dangerous to pilots.  This brought him into conflict with his superiors, but he stood firm, and the necessary changes were made.

Colonel Broughton was, as the old adage would put it, "a fighter pilot's fighter pilot".  He set one hell of an example as a fighting man, but was betrayed by his superior officers as the result of political pressure.  He overcame his justifiable anger and bitterness, and went on to build a new career in civilian life.

We are diminished by his passing.  May he rest in peace.

Peter

Ammo SCORE!


I see that, slowly but surely, .22 Long Rifle ammo is making its way back to the market in sufficient quantities to satisfy demand.  It's still hard to find the good stuff, but yesterday at my local dealer I walked in just in time for his delivery.  Reese got in 20 boxes (2,000 rounds) of CCI MiniMag, and sold me the lot at a very reasonable price - only a dollar per box higher than I was paying before the ammo drought began.  I didn't argue;  in fact, I told him that if he can find more at that price, I'll buy it.  He says he'll do his best for me.

Reese also had a case (10 50-round boxes) of Hornady's excellent .22 Magnum 45gr. FTX Critical Defense load.  This stuff rivals .380 ACP performance out of a handgun, and is far superior to it out of a rifle.  I bought the entire case for Miss D., who relies on her Keltec PMR-30 pistol and forthcoming CMR-30 carbine for defensive use.  30 rounds of that stuff should be enough to discourage almost anyone, if push comes to shove.  (I recently bought her a second PMR-30 - also from Reese - on the grounds that "two is one and one is none", and all that sort of thing.  We'll be taking it to the range over the next few days to break it in.  Shooty fun times ahead!)

If you live in or near Nashville, I have to give a shout-out to Reese and The Gun Crew.  His prices are good to excellent compared to other local dealers, he usually has stocks of most guns and ammunition in popular demand (or can get them quickly), and he's willing to try to get almost anything out of the ordinary, given time.  I like and recommend the man and his store (and his dog, who's decided I give good scritchings and now demands them whenever I walk in).  And no, he's not giving me any free ammo or other favors for recommending him - I'm doing it on principle.

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #797


Today's award goes to two idiots in New Zealand.

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but a team of West Aucklanders who used ingenuity over common sense to shift a fridge now have the police on their trail.

The group were spotted driving in Titirangi towards Glen Eden on Friday afternoon. A large fridge was perched on the roof of a two-door Nissan and to keep it in place, one man stood on the boot [for US readers, 'boot' = trunk] holding it down as another drove.


The bizarre move was captured on camera by a passenger in a vehicle behind the Nissan and posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Police are now keen to speak to the "brains" behind the operation.

There's more at the link.

The newspaper went further, publishing a picture gallery of weird and wonderful (not to mention dangerous) ways used by New Zealand motorists to move furniture.  My favorite is this one.




Again, more at the link.

Talk about an accident looking for a place to happen . . .




Peter

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"What I hate about hotel rooms"


That's the title of a very funny article in the Telegraph.  Here's an excerpt.

The do’s and don’ts of my perfect hotel room would be as follows. Perhaps you’d let us know yours, and then the hotel trade would surely take notice.

DON’T add further cushions. It already takes me 20 minutes to move them all off the bed on to the armchairs before I retire. Any more, and they’re going out the window.

DO install room lighting systems comprehensible to, say, the average university graduate. This means a switch by the door to work a central light, plus switches on either side of the bed that will work both this central light and the bedside lights. And that’s enough. Trying to turn off all the lights, only to find that this operation turns on two standard lamps fashioned like swordfish over by the desk… well, thus do grown men weep. Life gets even worse when turning off the swordfish lamps brings all the other ones back on again.

DON’T overestimate the appeal of domotics. Many hotel clients, including myself, are of a generation trained to turn on heating by hand. We’re also skilled at opening curtains manually. We don’t need to do it by smartphone from the other side of the Atlantic. And if we did need to, we couldn’t, because we don’t understand how the b‑‑‑‑‑ thing works. And every time we try, we get details of traffic jams in Strasbourg. Just stop it, please. And, while you’re about it, simplify the television remote control. I want to watch the late night soccer or, you know, a nature documentary on the termites of Namibia; what I don’t want is to have to tangle with three different satellite dishes, 47 (forty-seven) buttons, bursts of Uzbek folk dancing and hard-core porn before bumping yet again into CNN and its sheet-metal-voiced female presenters who never sleep.

DO put electrical sockets in places where normally constituted humans might reach them without injury. Behind the desk and up the wall beyond the reach of a baby giraffe are not those places.

There's more at the link.  Any seasoned traveler (and many less seasoned ones) will have to laugh at it.

I had to nod and smile at some of the author's points, particularly room lighting switches and how hard it is to figure them out.  US hotels are better than most at this, but if you travel in Europe or the Far East it can be an eye-opener.  I guess Old NFO travels more than most of us - perhaps he could chime in with a few pet hates of his own?

Peter

Back from the dead - and a lot more deadly


Regular readers may remember that back in 2012, I put up a post about a new Indonesian trimaran patrol craft.  The first in class was launched, then burned to the waterline only a few weeks later.  There's video of the fire in my earlier article.

It seems the manufacturers haven't been mourning during the intervening years - they've been hard at work.  Today Ares published a very interesting article about where the design has been going.  Here's an excerpt.

In the competition for the most futuristic looking vessel at the Euronaval show being held this week in Paris I would put the clear front runner as the Fast Attack Craft (FAC) on the Saab stand.


Designed for naval patrol, anti-piracy and surveillance missions in peace time the ship would be a missile ship to launch Saab's RBS15 Mk3 anti-ship missiles in war time. And for added interest the vessel has a fascinating design history.

The FAC is not entirely new. Based on a design by New Zealand's LOMOcean, the KRI Klewang for the Indonesian Navy was launched on Aug. 31, 2012. And was then completely destroyed by fire four weeks later on Sept. 29.

. . .

Some time after the fire, Lundin was having lunch with Saab and talk turned to combat systems. He apparently learnt more about them in an hour than he had from the Chinese in over a year. This convinced him that the next version of the vessel should be equipped with a Swedish combat system.

So Saab, LOMOcean and North Sea Boats worked together to redesign the top part of the vessel (everything above the trimaran hulls) around Saab's 9-LV combat system.

. . .

The FAC is equipped not only with anti-ship missiles but also the BAe Systems Bofors 40Mk4 naval gun.

There's more at the link.

Military and naval buffs will find this thought-provoking.  The new version of this patrol craft weighs only 245 tons, made entirely of composites.  It has a maximum speed of 28 knots.  It's far more powerfully armed and equipped, with a much more capable threat detection and assessment and weapons control system, than the US Littoral Combat Ships (of more than 10 times the displacement) that may operate alongside it (or, God forbid, oppose it) in the operating environment for which it's designed.  (Its missiles could sink the LCS from far beyond the horizon before the latter knew it was there - and the US vessel couldn't respond even if it detected it, because it has no long-range anti-ship missiles of its own.)  It's a stealthy design, making it hard to detect on radar;  look at the radar mast's non-reflective features, and the careful shaping of the superstructure (including a retractable cover over the gun turret). It's probably much better optimized than the LCS to protect littoral waters - and it probably costs only a small fraction of the US ships' price as well.

Makes you think, doesn't it?  Some good skull sweat went into this design.  I'd like to see it in the water soon.  It'd be nice to know that the Klewang didn't burn in vain.

Peter

A different way to advertise a car's safety features


I'm not sure how effective this advertisement is.  It's for the latest model of the Nissan Note (more commonly known as the Versa Note in the USA).  To advertise the car's safety features, they put it in the middle of a supersize Zorb and rolled it down a hill.





Personally, I'd have offered a bonus to any volunteers among the advertising crew who were willing to go down the hill inside the car . . . it would have made the ad that much more interesting!

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #796


This illustration comes to us courtesy of Wirecutter.  The lady in question wins today's award for lack of attention to detail.




Oops . . .




Peter

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ebola news coverage and the Atlantic divide


This made me laugh out loud - particularly the rant about Ebola's impact on some people's sex lives.








Peter

Oops!


Courtesy of Reason, we learn of a major, major correction to an article in Slate.  To wit:

Correction, Oct. 24, 2014: Due to a production error, this piece was missing a map and therefore misrepresented a map showing where Americans believe that burning the flag should be illegal as a map showing gay porn downloads across the country. The missing map has been added.

Gay porn downloads instead of opposition to flag-burning?  Wishful thinking on the part of Slate, perhaps?  Or merely a slip of the finger on the keyboard?  Your guess is as good as mine . . . but I know what my guess is!

Peter

It's hard being a mother . . .








Peter

The snarkiest review I've read in a long time


Jason Cordova is a fellow author, editor, blogger and all-round good guy.  He's also one of the reviewers at 'Shiny Book Review', where he's just reviewed the novel 'Empress Theresa' in terms that can only be described as profane and incendiary - and gave me a fit of the giggles in doing so.  Here are some examples.




Very rarely do I come across a book that literally stops me in my tracks and forces me to ask the age-old question, “What the unholy ****?” Norman Boutin’s self-acclaimed literary classic Empress Theresa is just such a book.

. . .

... [Theresa's] story begins with the sighting of a red fox. In broad daylight. Weird, since the only time a fox is out in broad daylight is because they’re rabid, but Theresa doesn’t fear this in any way and watches as the fox walks up her back porch, sits down and stares at her. Then suddenly, a bright ball of light leaps from the fox and slams into Theresa’s stomach. She screams and runs inside, locks the door and... calmly watches the fox disappear.

Okay, think about this for a moment. No 10 year old girl would be rational at this point, no matter how normal and boring they are. 10 year old boys and girls flip out over the weirdest stuff, and a glowing white ball leaping out of a fox and hitting you is pretty ****ing weird. Hell, I’m the most rational person I know (I should get out more, I agree) and I would have freaked out. Of course, I also probably would have grabbed the .22 and disposed of the fox because I don’t need rabid animals on the farm.

But I digress. This is starting to make my head hurt, and I really wish I had more booze on hand.

I really can’t get over how poorly the first two pages are written, by the way. It takes real effort to be this bad and, for a moment, I had a sneaking suspicion that the author was trolling everyone who had read the book. I looked him up and, well, he’s a real author and takes himself very, very seriously.

He is not going to like this review, I can guarantee that much.

. . .

I really can’t describe how horrid this is. Putrid, fetid stink emanating from an old urinal cake that was forced through a septic system is the closest thing I can think of, and the argument could be made that I was insulting the urinal cake. By the way, if someone sends me something like this again, I will find you, and I will do things to you that would make even Liam Neeson shudder in horror.

. . .

Grade – is “Ebola” a low enough grade? Did I go too far? Did I go far enough?

There's more at the link.

Jason, if you go on like this, Larry Correia will have to look to his laurels as the 'fisking-est author' we know!




Peter

Doofus Of The Day #795


There must be something in the water in Fresno, CA.  Today's award is shared by two alleged gang-bangers there.

The first winner is Edgar Navarro-Chavoya.

Navarro-Chavoya started drinking beer while sitting in front of his apartment complex, still holding the revolver. He accidentally shot himself in the leg, causing non-life threatening injuries. The victim later identified him as being the person who pointed a gun at him.

There's more at the link.

The second winner is Randy McBride.
Fresno police say a reputed gang member shot himself with his own gun — the second such shooting in as many days ... Sgt. Tony Bustos says it appears that Mcbride was in a home when he heard gunshots, put a sawed-off shotgun in his pants and went outside to investigate. Bustos says when Mcbride tried to draw the gun, he pulled the trigger and shot himself.

Again, more at the link.

Y'know, I can think of many things I've put in my trousers over the years . . . but I've never once had the ambition to stick a sawed-off shotgun down there!  What's next - a bazooka?

(On the other hand, I'm sure the local cops are happy to find their regular clients and repeat customers are now shooting themselves, then waiting for pickup.  Saves them a lot of hard work . . . )

Peter

Monday, October 27, 2014

Feel like some really old-time bread?


I came across a Web site for re-enactors of the Roman Legions, which is quite interesting to military history buffs.  Among the articles it contains is this one on the bread made by the legionaries - and how to make it yourself today.

Although known since the 5th millennium BC, there are evidence that bread start to become a very popular form of food in Rome only at the end of the Second Punic War. It is indeed in quite a short period of 25 years, between -200 and -175 that the first public bakeries (fifty) make their appearance in Rome. At the same time Cato the elder, who has also participated in a victorious military campaign in Spain, explains how to bake bread under a "clibanus"(pottery in the shape of a bell). Moreover, we find evidence proving that at that time both Romans and Carthaginians used clibanus as portable ovens like the type described by Cato. Etruscan models dated back to the 5th century BC show that this type of portable oven was already used in Italy for a long time. Ideally suited for baking military bread, it is also very easy to transport and use. The clibanus is thus the ideal instrument to cook bread in campaign.

There's more at the link, including lots of photographs illustrating legionary grinding-stones, the 'clibanus', and how the soldiers prepared their bread.  This is what the finished product looks like.




It looks very similar to what we called 'camp bread' in Africa, cooking it over fire-heated stones.  I'm on a low-carb diet at the moment, so I can't try that right away:  but soon . . .

Peter

Ebola, quarantine, and medical staffing


I find it interesting (not to mention depressing) that the most accurate, insightful and helpful comments on the current situation w.r.t. Ebola come from individual doctors and medical professionals, not from the CDC or hospitals or politicians or anyone else involved in supposedly "managing" the crisis.

There's an excellent and insightful commentary on the quarantine question by a veterinary surgeon.  Here's an excerpt.

The United States (and virtually all other countries) require a myriad of tests and often quarantine prior to bringing in a foreign animal.

I can’t legally cross state lines in the United States with a horse or cow without a health certificate signed by a USDA accredited veterinarian stating that the animal has been inspected and found free of infectious disease. In most cases blood tests are also required.

. . .

If I am a resident of Liberia incubating Ebola, to enter the United States all I need to do is present a valid visa, and lie when asked if I have been exposed to Ebola. Within hours (no quarantine required) I can be walking the streets of any city in the United States.

I feel very fortunate to live in a country that values our animals so highly.

There's more at the link.  Go read it all - then ask yourself why the authorities are willing to make animal owners jump through such regulatory hoops, but not potential carriers of Ebola.  Makes you think, doesn't it?

Then there's the question of whether or not medical staff are willing to put their lives on the line to care for Ebola patients if things get out of hand.  That's a serious question.  Dr. Louis M. Profeta is an emergency room (ER) physician in Indianapolis, and author of the book 'The Patient in Room Nine Says He's God' (which I highly recommend).  Here's what he had to say about that recently.

If an investigator for Joint Commissions or some other oversight agency, a member of the press or a committee trying to ensure CDC compliance were to pull me aside to spot check my Ebola acumen, they’d be satisfied with my answers and I’d leave them feeling like they had done due diligence as an administrator.

“Dr. Profeta, do we have enough protective stuff and does everyone know how to use it?”
“Yup.”
“Are the screening plans in place?”
“Yeah, ya betcha.”
“Is the staff versed in transmission and spread of Ebola?”
“Darn tooten.”
“Has everyone read all the CDC and hospital communiqués regarding Ebola?”
“Sure have.”
“Have you practiced the drills in the ER in case we have someone show up with a possible exposure?”
“More times than Lois Lerner has hit her hard drive with a hammer.”

But if they were to ask me if there are any other issues they should be aware of, I’ll just stare with round blank eyes and keep my mouth shut until the right question is asked; the question they will pretend does not exist.

“Dr. Profeta, will they – the staff, you, your partners – show up? “
“That, I don’t know.”

. . .

Simply put, some of us in the trenches in damn near every ER in America will almost certainly die. It could be me, it could be any one of my partners, colleagues and co-workers and it could be one of our children or a spouse who gets infected when one of us comes home thinking the headache and fatigue they are feeling is simply exhaustion from the workload of the day. Can you picture it?

Now imagine that huge numbers of hospital staff – from doctors to housekeepers, from food services to registration, from security and parking to transportation will decide not show up. They will call in sick or simply just say: “No, I’m not coming to work today.” In just a few days, human waste, debris, soiled linens, the sick, the dying and the bodies will pile up. We will be overwhelmed and unable to offer much in the way of assistance because the labor-intensive protocols that allow us to safely care for even one patient are just too exhausting. These procedures are barely repeatable more than once or twice of day, and fraught with so many steps and potential for mistake that it becomes too physically and emotionally taxing for the staff to do … so they simply wont show up.

And I am not sure I will, either.

I love emergency medicine. I love helping people and saving lives and I think I’m pretty good at it, but I am also a person and I have a wife and three children that I love and want to see grow up.

Again, more at the link, and well worth your time to read in full.

Aesop, author of the Raconteur Report and Shepherd of the Gurneys blogs (whom we've met in these pages before), has already taken extended leave of absence from his job in the ER in a Texas hospital.  I don't blame him.  Today he crunched the numbers on the Ebola situation, and also discussed the lack of quarantine and the medical staffing situation if Ebola gets out of hand.  He shares Dr. Profeta's perspective (albeit somewhat more profanely).

... if we keep juggling the lit road flares while standing in the gasoline-filled wading pool, we're going to get another imported Index Patient here who infects 10 or 20 people, and quietly expires in his flophouse without running to the ER, because he can't, or won't. And those people are going to float around thinking they have the flu, because flu season, and they won't be African, or have made any recent African journeys, and they'll get the Duncan Protocol.

So when, two-eight days later they come back in, bleeding out of everywhere from their eyes to their asses, all the shit-eating grins at CDC, the White House, and the hairdo news programs won't help them, or you, or anyone else. There won't be any BL4 beds for 10 or 20 people, because we don't have them. There won't be any isolation at the local hospital.

And the smart people who work there will GTFO, because they're not all the same dumbshits as Doctor Ebolawalker Spencer, or Nurse Typhoid Mary Hickox. So they'll clock out, and the people left behind will be the least bright, not the most bright. Every occupation has that ten percent at the bottom of the gene pool, including healthcare. Just ask a malpractice attorney.

The administrators and spokesholes who've lied to everyone about "handling this problem" won't have anything to point to that explains how they can take care of people when their clinical staff elects to say "Hell no" and heads for the employee parking lot. (And if you think there's going to be loyalty to those institutions after the last few years of belt-tightening and having ObamaCare shoved down their throats, let me offer you a dose of reality: they're going to trample people on the way to their cars, and with smiles on their faces.)

More at the link.

Color me unhappy.  Extremely.

Peter

When your airplane (r)ejects you . . .


It seems the Indian Air Force recently experienced a very puzzling accident involving one of its Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft when the ejection seats launched the two-man crew into thin air without so much as a "By your leave".

India has grounded its entire Sukhoi-30 fleet after a recent crash because it doesn’t want to put its pilots in harm’s way.

. . .

With the IAF operating close to 200 twin-engine Su-30s, the grounded planes represent almost a third of the country’s fighter fleet. India is due to get 72 more of these planes, each worth over Rs. 200 crore [more than US $40 million].


An IAF official said safety checks with “special focus on ejection seats” were being conducted and flight operations would resume only after each plane was cleared. A highly-placed source said the pilots of the plane that crashed on October 14 near Pune had reported “automatic seat ejection.” One of the two pilots was involved in a previous Su-30 crash too.

Five Su-30 fighters have crashed during the last five years, setting off alarm bells in the IAF. The Su-30 fleet has been grounded at least twice in the past.

Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Major told HT, “A fleet is grounded when you have no clue as to what brought the plane down. It’s serious.”

There's more at the link.  The aircraft doesn't look very badly damaged in the picture - it was on final approach, so it didn't have much time to go further out of control - but looking at the ruptured fuselage below the cockpit area, I have to doubt whether it'll fly again.

There are a number of puzzling elements here.  How and why did the ejection seats fire uncommanded?  Their circuits are very carefully designed to avoid that, even if they sustain battle damage.  Also, I have to assume they were on a joint circuit, so that if one seat fired the other would automatically do so as well.  If not, why did both fire rather than just one?  Finally, why did they fire on final approach, when the aircraft's (presumably) not involved in high-speed, high-g maneuvers that stress the airframe and systems?

I can't imagine what it must have been like for the aircrew.  One moment they're flying along, preparing to land, hands on the controls, busy with their checklists . . . and next moment they're in mid-air, wondering what the hell happened and how they got there!




Peter

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gutsy!


This video report of how the Sergeant-at-Arms of Canada's House of Commons ended the shooting incident there a few days ago caught my attention.





In case you were wondering what makes the clanking noise as the Sergeant-at-Arms moves down the House of Commons aisle . . . now you know.  Kudos to Mr. Vickers for an outstanding job, very well done.

Peter

Moving gun safes - a few lessons learned


Some years ago I wrote an article about the safe storage of firearms, where I discussed so-called 'gun safes' (which are really classified as 'Residential Security Containers' or RSC's rather than true 'safes', the latter being by definition much stronger, tougher and heavier than the former).  I haven't changed anything I recommended in that article, but recently I've moved house, and had to move several gun safes around.  I've learned (and re-learned) a few lessons by doing so.

First is the usefulness of a so-called appliance dolly or hand truck.  I bought this model some years ago.  It's designed specifically to move heavy, unwieldy items, with an 800-pound weight capacity, and comes with added features like a ratcheting strap and stair-climbing treads at the base.  Those features meant it wasn't cheap, but it's proved to be worth every penny I paid for it.  It's served me well through three relocations (so far) and a great deal of heavy lifting for friends as well, and is still going strong with no signs of weakness or imminent failure.




Over the past couple of months it's been used to move three safes and several other heavy objects, earning its keep and then some.  The big advantage of a dolly like this is that once one gets the weight of the item balanced above the wheels, it's relatively easy for one or two people to keep it in equilibrium while another pulls or pushes the dolly. When you're talking about several hundred pounds of gun safe, that makes all the difference.

However, when something's big and heavy even a dolly doesn't mean it's simple to move around.  We took my old gun safe from my former residence to the house of a friend today.  It weighs about 450 pounds unloaded, according to factory specifications.  It took four of us - three adults and a teenager - to maneuver it out of one house, hoist it into the load bed of a pickup truck, unload it at the other end, and then get it up several steps and through the front door to its new home.  A few tight corners and narrow doorways made life interesting.  All of us were well and truly knackered by the time we finished.

On the other hand, due to my partial disability (incurred after I'd bought my previous gun safe), and given the fact that I expect to move at least once more (and possibly several times) during the next few years, I decided I was going to replace my large (Liberty) gun safe (capacity 24 long guns) with two smaller (Cannon) units, each rated to hold about half that number.  The wisdom of this decision showed in the ease with which the new units were moved into our new home.  Being so much smaller and lighter than the full-size safe I had before, one person could handle wheeling them around on the appliance dolly, and only two were needed to hoist them into and out of a pickup truck's load bed.  That made life much easier.

There's also a security benefit to having two smaller safes.  I've put them in different rooms, concealing them inside clothing closets.  That way, if a thief finds one, he may spend all his time trying to open it rather than look further for a second unit (at least, I hope so).  I've secured both safes to the floor, so it won't be easy for an 'opportunist burglar' to get into them.  (Remember, if you own tools that might be useful to a burglar trying to break into your safe, secure those tools as well!  You don't want to make his job any easier, after all.)

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #794


Today's award goes to Hillary Clinton for this example of ideological idiocy.





Businesses don't create jobs, indeed!  Who the hell does she think creates them?  Government can't "create" a single thing, let alone a single job - only positions that leech off taxpayers, and produce no net economic benefit by growing gross domestic product.  Those who believe government can create anything are living in a liberal and/or progressive cloud cuckoo land.  Government, by definition, is a consumer rather than a producer.

I should think every Republican and/or libertarian and/or conservative candidate and campaign manager planning for the 2016 elections must be frantically filing copies of that speech, and giving thanks to the political gods that be for such a negative advertising bonanza.  This error is going to come back to haunt Mrs. Clinton, big time . . .

Peter

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bling to the max!


I note with a sort of dumbfounded fascination that Patek Philippe has chosen to celebrate its 175th anniversary by releasing the most complicated wristwatch ever created.  It has two faces, swiveling on its band to display the one selected by the user.  Only seven will be made.  One will go into the company's museum;  the other six will be sold for a cool 2.5 million Swiss francs apiece (approximately US $2.626 million at the time of writing).




You can read all about the watch in this article, or at Patek Philippe's Web site.  The company has released this video of the watch's assembly.  It apparently took 7 years to design and 2 years to build.  Looking at its complexity, I can believe it!  I recommend watching the video in full-screen mode.





I'd never pay that sort of money for a timepiece, even if I could afford it;  but I have to admit, that's world-beating craftsmanship right there.

Peter

"Into the valley of Death, Rode the Six Hundred"


One hundred and sixty years ago today the Light Brigade of British cavalry charged the Russian guns during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.  It suffered 278 casualties (killed, wounded and missing) out of approximately 670 troopers and officers who took part in the Charge, a casualty rate of over 41%.  335 of the Brigade's horses were killed in action, or so badly hurt that they had to be put down afterwards.




The Charge was, of course, a colossal mistake that should never have happened.  It was the result of confusion caused by badly worded orders, their confusing delivery, and different perspectives visible to the various officers concerned on different parts of the battlefield.  The war correspondent of the Times, William Russell, opined, "Our Light Brigade was annihilated by their own rashness, and by the brutality of a ferocious enemy."  Controversy over the Charge began almost as soon as it was over, and has continued ever since.

The Charge became legendary through the poem written about it by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  If ever a unit was immortalized in words, it was the Light Brigade.

Peter

Looks like I was right about Amazon's Fire Phone


Back in June I was dubious about the prospects for Amazon's Fire Phone.

Amazon could have chosen to be genuinely competitive on price, but instead elected to position its smart phone in line with the high end of the market.  Personally, I think that was a serious mistake.  It's just another 'gee-whiz' device in a market filled with them - or, at least, the promise of them (many don't live up to the hype).

. . .

I find this launch more puzzling than exciting.  Why did Amazon choose to go this route instead of a more consumer-friendly option?  That's not what I expected from the company, and I'm not sure they made the right decision.  I'm a pretty loyal Amazon customer, spending thousands of dollars a year there, but this is one product I won't be buying in its present form or at its present price.

There's more at the link.

It seems I was right about the market response.  The Digital Reader reports:

Amazon Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak disclosed on Thursday that Amazon had taken a $170 million write down in the third quarter largely related to their unsold stockpile of Fire smartphones as well as supplier commitment costs. The retailer is sitting on $83 million in unsold Fire Phone stock, which means that it is actually possible that Amazon is sitting on more unsold units than they have managed  to sell in the past 4 months.

Again, more at the link.

That writedown comprises over a third of Amazon's loss for the last quarter.  I fear the Fire Phone was an expensive miscalculation.  Now, if the company has the sense to relaunch it as something more consumer-friendly, to compete price-wise with prepaid cellphone networks (see this PC Magazine article for more information), I think it might have a winner on its hands.  However, it'll have to absorb the loss for its high-end phone product, so I'm not sure it'll want to take a second gamble in that market.  I guess we'll see . . .

Peter

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bangbangbangbangbang . . . giggle!


I had to laugh at this video of a US airstrike against a group of ISIS terrorists on a hill outside Kobani in Syria.  The militants have been fighting to take over the town for weeks, and its Kurdish inhabitants have been resisting for all they're worth.  US air strikes have been helping them.  In this case the terrorists were apparently standing in the open, looking down on the town, clearly about to charge down the hill in another assault.  Unfortunately for them, someone (whether on the ground or in the air isn't known) saw them standing there and called in an air strike from a nearby US Air Force B-1 bomber, which unloaded half a dozen JDAM's on them (probably 2,000lb. Mk 84's with guidance kits, judging by the size of the explosions). I recommend watching the result in full-screen mode - but turn your volume down a bit.

What I particularly enjoyed was the giggle from a female voice after the bombs had gone off.  Listen carefully and you'll hear it in the background.  That's a giggle that says "You're not coming down that hill to attack us any more - you've got your own problems now, haven't you?"





I've heard a similar-sounding giggle from tribeswomen in the Angolan bush when we called in an artillery strike to stop an impending attack by Angolan government forces.  It's a giggle that says "Not today you don't, Charlie!" as they watch the destruction of those who intended to kill them.  There's a certain triumphalism involved . . .

(Note, too, the black-clad figure on the hill who starts running like hell when the first bombs go off.  I reckon he left a brown trail behind him, and probably hasn't stopped running yet!)

That brought back lots of memories.

Peter

I think he's done that a few times before . . .


This cat has clearly figured out - and used more than once - a sneak entryway into a building.





I wonder how long it took for the cat to figure that out?

Peter

Happy birthday to nylons!


Seventy-five years ago today, on October 24th, 1939, the first nylon stockings went on sale.  The Telegraph reports as part of a picture essay:

Although stockings have been around for centuries - and were usually worn by men - the invention of a new synthetic material in 1935, patented by the chemical company DuPont two years later, changed the game for hosiery. According to lore, in-house scientists at DuPont had been calling the material “Duparon”, which stood for “DuPont pulls a rabbit out of nitrogen”. The company planned to market the product as “nuron” - which is “no run” backwards - but due to trademarking issues settled on “nylon”. DuPont made a conscious decision not to trademark the name in the hope that it would come to be seen as synonymous with “stockings”. When the first test sale took place at the company's Wilmington, Delaware, headquarters on 24 October 1939 -- 75 years ago today -- 4,000 pairs sold out within three hours.

DuPont’s vice president, Charles Stine, unveiled the world’s first synthetic fibre at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 in front of thousands of women. He said: “Though wholly fabricated from such common raw materials as coal, water, and air, nylon can be fashioned into filaments as strong as steel, as fine as a spider's web, yet more elastic than any of the common natural fibers." The women burst into applause in the belief that these stockings wouldn’t run, unlike the silk stockings they wore at the time.

It wasn’t until May 1940 that nylon stockings became available in stores. On sale for about $1.15 a pair - that’s about $20 in today’s money - the nylon stockings were more expensive than their silk alternatives, but were more resilient and lasted longer. Hundreds of thousands of brown nylons sold out almost immediately, and DuPont sold 64m pairs that year. DuPont sold $9m worth of nylon yarn in 1940 and $25m the following year.


When the US entered the Second World War in 1941, manufacturing of nylon stockings stopped so nylon could be used to make parachutes, ropes, tents and other materials for the war effort. Women who couldn’t get nylon stockings on the black market drew seams on the back of their legs so it would look like they were wearing stockings. Cosmetic companies also started selling “paint-on stockings”.

The return of nylon stockings to the high street in 1945, when rations were eased after the war, led to queues that ran out the doors and down the block -- leading to “nylon riots” in some places. Some 40,000 women lined up outside a store in Pittsburgh that had 13,000 stockings, while a shop in San Francisco had to stop selling stockings after it was mobbed by 10,000 people. Demand stayed so high throughout the 1940s that DuPont demanded payment in advance for all purchases, even from the most reputable of accounts.

There's more at the link, including more images.

My mother used to reminisce about what she called the 'pulling power' of nylon stockings in Britain during World War II.  She complained that any 'Yank' serviceman could have almost any woman he wanted just by announcing that he had nylons from America, so great was the demand for them.  She was married by then and didn't succumb to temptation, but she can recall drawing a line down the back of each leg to make it appear, in the dim light of a restaurant or movie theater, that she was wearing nylons.  That was apparently a common thing at the time.

Peter

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Advice to a Missouri correspondent


Yesterday I posted a query received from a reader in Missouri.  I invited you to make your own suggestions to her in Comments, and many of you did so (for which thank you very much).  Blogging buddy Zercool turned his response into a blog post of his own, which is worth reading.

Here's my advice to her.  See what you think.


1.  Don't settle for selling enough to raise $2,000:  try to double or triple that sum.  Be ruthless with yourself and your family.  Give everyone a 'personal allowance' of, say, two or three suitcases or duffel bags or other storage containers.  Everything they want to keep - clothing, toys, books, etc. - has to fit into those containers;  all the rest is to be sold.  Go through every room, keeping essential furniture and listing the rest for disposal.  Do the same in the kitchen, the garage, the workshop (yes, your husband will hate to part with his tools, but in your present situation you can't afford to be soppy and sentimental.  If it's not in regular use or essential for a critical need, it goes.)  Even the family's collection of DVD's or CD's isn't sacred.  If you watch or listen to something regularly, keep it.  If you used it only once and then dumped it in a cupboard or drawer where it's sat for the past year, sell it.  Hold a yard sale or two (perhaps in co-operation with neighbors), use Craigslist and other advertising venues, and don't get discouraged.  It'll take hard work, but it's necessary.

I think you'll be surprised how much stuff you can free up to be sold, or swapped with other families for things you really need.


2.  If there are no jobs available in your area, it's time to take stock of where you live and why.  Missouri isn't one of the 11 'death spiral states' recently identified by Forbes, but it's not doing real well either.  There are lists of states and cities where jobs are more freely available, but Missouri and its cities aren't on them.  You may have to move somewhere else - even if it means moving far away from family and friends - if your husband and children need jobs.  For example, North Dakota may have viciously cold winters, but even entry-level shelf-stackers at Walmart are presently earning in the $12-$15 per hour range because the state's so short of workers.  You may have to put up with bad weather and sub-standard housing in order to earn a living.  It's as simple as that.

This assumes, of course, that you can sell your home.  If you can't, it's an anchor holding you back rather than an asset.  If you're 'underwater' on your mortgage, this may make it difficult to sell.  I'm of two minds here.  If Missouri is one of the states whose laws make the home itself the only security for the mortgage, so that you aren't on the hook for any losses remaining after the bank forecloses and sells it, that may allow you to walk away from it.  If not, you may be liable for the remaining balance on the mortgage after foreclosure and sale - a very unhealthy position to be in.  (Either way, your credit rating will take a major hit for several years.  This isn't a step to take lightly.)  On the other hand, if you can break even or make a small profit, it might be best to sell it right away before another downturn in the housing market (which I've been predicting for some time).

Of course, moving is expensive.  That's another reason to cut down on your possessions (see point 1 above) and sell them to raise more money.  Not only will this give you cash to pay for a move and start afresh when you get to your destination, but you'll have much less stuff to take with you.  This may be the difference between success and failure.


3.  If you can't move in the short term, your family will have to look for work where you are.  This is difficult at present, I know.  With so many people unemployed in so many areas, there's immense competition for the few available jobs.  I've seen it where I live, and I know most cities have the same problem.  If you have friends or contacts who can help to open doors for you, that's one thing;  otherwise you're competing with thousands, even tens of thousands of people in your area who are trying to do the same as you.  That makes it tough to succeed.

I think it'll do your kids a world of good to realize how seriously your situation has affected the family's finances.  Encourage them to try to find part-time work like babysitting, snow-shoveling, car-washing, etc. and put the money into a 'family food fund'.  That'll help them feel that they're part of the solution.  In addition, make it clear to them that if the family has to move for employment reasons, they'll have to be willing to move too, even if that means leaving their friends and schools behind.  It'll be tough for them, but that's life.  They're old enough to cope.


4.  Economize wherever possible.  I agree with my readers that your kids should be getting their clothes only from thrift stores (e.g. Goodwill) or the cheapest stuff at Walmart;  that probably applies to you and your husband as well.  Shop for food at Aldi (the cheapest store I've found almost anywhere - and their quality's at least on a par with Walmart or other supermarkets, so you won't lose out by shopping there).  Use the Internet to get ideas for cheap food that's nutritious and tasty (try this search for starters).


5.  What to do with the money you raise.  If you raise the $2,000 you're hoping for (plus, hopefully, at least a little more, as I mentioned in point 1 above), here's how I'd use it if I were in your shoes.

(a)  A 'rainy day fund' sufficient to pay essential bills for a month.  Winter's coming;  that means electricity, fuel for heating, water, etc. are critical.  I'm assuming that $1,000 will cover those bills plus your monthly mortgage payment.  Put it aside and don't touch it!  It's there for emergencies.  (Of course, if one of you needs urgent medical treatment, that counts as an emergency too.)

(b)  Invest up to $500 in building up reserve food supplies.  Readers have made helpful suggestions in that regard.  Personally, I'd put $100 into tinned vegetables;  that'll buy you up to 150 cans at Aldi of things like corn, beans (several varieties), carrots, peas, diced tomatoes, etc.  Get two dozen cans of each of (say) five or six staples and put them in your pantry.  (If you have a bit more to spare, buy tins of tuna as well - they're about 75c apiece at Aldi, and a couple of cans of tuna is good solid protein to add to a meal.)  Invest another $100 in dry foods that will keep;  rice, pasta, beans, etc.  Another $100 goes to bulk foods that you'll use over time;  sugar, salt, herbs and spices, cooking oil, flour, etc.  Buy only what you already use, and the essentials rather than a wide variety of stuff.  A fourth $100 goes to bulk purchases of toilet paper, paper towels, plastic bags (Ziploc-type bags for food storage [quart and gallon sizes], garbage bags, etc.).  A fifth $100 goes towards cleaning materials;  dish-washing soap, hand and bath soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene essentials, laundry detergent, bleach, floor cleaning materials, etc.  This $500 total expenditure will give you enough stocks for two to three months if they're used carefully.  That's your reserve.  As you take items from the reserve, add them to your regular shopping list and replace them, putting the newest stuff in the rear and using the oldest stuff first.  This means that if you should lose your job, you'll at least have food to eat and be able to keep yourselves and your home clean for a few months.

(c)  Spend a couple of hundred on making sure everyone's got adequate warm clothing for the coming winter.  It's likely to be a cold one.  If you turn down the thermostat on your furnace, you can save a lot of money that way;  but you'll have to have something warm to wear if you're to be comfortable.  Hit thrift stores like Goodwill to look for jackets;  buy the cheap fleecy throws that places like Walmart sell for less than $5;  perhaps replace older, worn comforters with heavier ones, again from thrift stores or supermarkets rather than more expensive specialty stores.  Don't throw the old ones away;  layer them (two old, thin comforters on a bed can be as warm as a new, thick one).  You might even sew the edges of an old comforter together to make a sort of sleeping-bag, into which your kids can climb and pull blankets over themselves.  We used to do that with old blankets and quilts in Africa.  It was a cheap way to stay warm compared to the cost of new stuff.

(d)  Home security:  this is important, particularly if crime is getting worse in your area, but first things first.  You've got to eat and stay warm.  After that, if you've got a few hundred dollars left over, my suggestion is to look for a used pump-action shotgun (available from many pawnbrokers or gun stores for well under $200).  Get one with a shorter barrel if possible to make it easier to maneuver indoors.  If you don't know much about them, ask friends who do, or read up about them online.  (I don't think you'll go far wrong with a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 or a derivative of those models).  Plan on buying a couple of hundred rounds of cheap birdshot to familiarize the whole family with its operation, plus a couple of boxes of buckshot for defensive use - Walmart will probably have ammo cheaper than most places, or look in sporting goods stores like Academy Sports, Bass Pro, Gander Mountain, etc.  Your total expenditure, including gun, ammo, a cleaning kit, etc., shouldn't have to exceed $300, and you might be able to keep it below $250 if you're lucky.  I'd love to recommend a handgun, too, but a good one will cost too much for your budget right now, and it's much harder to learn to use a handgun effectively than a shotgun.  We've got to be realistic here.

(e)  Celebrate!  You'll probably have a little left over after the purchases I outlined above.  I strongly suggest using some of it to have a low-key family celebration.  After all, you're alive, you're well, and you have enough to eat.  There are many people who aren't so fortunate.  Invest a little in some 'comfort food' and sodas, rent a video and have a family evening together.  I also highly recommend donating a little to help those less fortunate than yourselves.  The Salvation Army's always a good place to start.  If you find you can't sell some of your excess goods, donate them to the Sallies as well.  They'll send them to their thrift stores.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you":  in other words, if you hope to receive help from others when you need it, help others in your turn.


Those are my ideas.  Thanks to all my readers who contributed other suggestions.  I've already e-mailed my correspondent and advised her to read what everyone had to say, then make up her own mind.  Ultimately, it's her responsibility.

Peter

This made me laugh out loud


Shamelessly stolen borrowed from The Lonely Libertarian:




I swear the dragon figurehead on the boat has a disapproving expression on its face . . .




Peter

California's drought bites harder


I came across this video clip today.  It's a sobering reflection on what the drought in California is doing to the 'little people', those below the radar of the major news media, and the way their lives are being disrupted.  Highly recommended viewing, preferably in full-screen mode.





(If you have problems viewing the video, you'll find the original here.)

Makes you think, doesn't it?  What happens if the entire farming sector in California goes under?  That's more than 10% of US agricultural output, and the source of the majority of our fresh fruits and vegetables . . .

Peter

Best airline safety video EVAR!


Air New Zealand has produced a number of Tolkien-themed safety videos, advertisements, and even paint schemes for their planes, based on Peter Jackson's two trilogies.  (You'll find them on the airline's YouTube channel.)  Now they've come up with another Hobbit-themed safety video to mark the forthcoming release of the third and final film in the trilogy of that name.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.





Full marks for creativity!

Peter

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A blind darts team???


From England comes this news.

CORNWALL'S first blind darts team is preparing for its inaugural game at a Grampound pub – for charity.

. . .

Mr Pryor, 68, said: "While we were down the pub the other day, Joe, the landlord, mentioned that Rotary had organised for pubs to take part in a Fast Darts competition.

"He asked if we wanted to put in a blind darts team. After three pints I am up for anything and we said yes."

The team will be aided by a piece of string attached to the bull's eye which they will use with one hand as a tactile means to establish their aim.

. . .

Mr Pryor, a social worker, added: "No one has been injured yet, although there has been quite a bit of damage to the door and around the board ... However, on the night people might want to stand back a little bit as I don't think we get any points for hitting the spectators."

. . .

Landlord Joe Fryer said it will be about having fun and raising money, although the door to the room where the competition takes place will be closed "just in case" a dart strays off course.

There's more at the link . . . and here's the team.





I'd want to watch that match from behind a dart-proof plexiglass screen, thank you very much!




Peter

The ultimate Ponzi scheme behind the Fed's monetary policy


David Stockman and Michael Snyder, both of whom we've met in these pages several times before, uncover the real problem with our present low interest rates and the catastrophe that would ensue if they were allowed to rise.  They also show why present and future levels of US government expenditure are completely irrational and cannot continue.

When discussing the national debt, most people tend to only focus on the amount that it increases each 12 months.  And as I wrote about recently, the U.S. national debt has increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014.

But that does not count the huge amounts of U.S. Treasury securities that the federal government must redeem each year.  When these debt instruments hit their maturity date, the U.S. government must pay them off.  This is done by borrowing more money to pay off the previous debts.  In fiscal year 2013, redemptions of U.S. Treasury securities totaled $7,546,726,000,000 and new debt totaling $8,323,949,000,000 was issued.  The final numbers for fiscal year 2014 are likely to be significantly higher than that.

So why does so much government debt come due each year?

Well, in recent years government officials figured out that they could save a lot of money on interest payments by borrowing over shorter time frames.  For example, it costs the government far more to borrow money for 10 years than it does for 1 year.  So a strategy was hatched to borrow money for very short periods of time and to keep “rolling it over” again and again and again.

This strategy has indeed saved the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments, but it has also created a situation where the federal government must borrow about 8 trillion dollars a year just to keep up with the game.

. . .

The only way that this game can continue is if the U.S. government can continue to borrow gigantic piles of money at ridiculously low interest rates.

And our current standard of living greatly depends on the continuation of this game.

If something comes along and rattles this Ponzi scheme, life in America could change radically almost overnight.

In the United States today, we have a heavily socialized system that hands out checks to nearly half the population.  In fact, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that gets direct monetary benefits from the federal government each month according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  And it is hard to believe, but Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.  At this point, the primary function of the federal government is taking money from some people and giving it to others.  In fact, more than 70 percent of all federal spending goes to “dependence-creating programs”, and the government runs approximately 80 different “means-tested welfare programs” right now.  But the big problem is that the government is giving out far more money than it is taking in, so it has to borrow the difference.  As long as we can continue to borrow at super low interest rates, the status quo can continue.

But a Ponzi scheme like this can only last for so long.

It has been said that when the checks stop coming in, chaos will begin in the streets of America.

. . .

As the Baby Boomers continue to retire, the amount of money that the federal government is handing out each year is projected to absolutely skyrocket.  Just consider the following numbers…

  • Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, more than 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
  • When Medicare was first established, we were told that it would cost about $12 billion a year by the time 1990 rolled around.  Instead, the federal government ended up spending $110 billion on the program in 1990, and the federal government spent approximately $600 billion on the program in 2013.
  • It is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
  • At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for every single household in the United States.
  • In 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.  Today, that number has fallen to 2.5 workers, and if you eliminate all government workers, that leaves only 1.6 private sector workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.
  • ight now, there are approximately 63 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits.  By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.
  • Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
  • The U.S. government is facing a total of 222 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities during the years ahead.  Social Security and Medicare make up the bulk of that.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.  It's worth it.

Peter

How would you prepare under these circumstances?


Thanks to everyone who responded to my question (yesterday) about battery-operated chainsaws.  Lots of good information was provided, and my correspondent is currently considering her options.

That brings me to another question from a reader.  It looks very much as if the world economy is on the brink of a precipice right now.  Consider just a few headlines from the past week:

  • CNN:  Opinion: Brace yourselves for another financial crash
  • Simon Black:  Forget about Ebola – here’s why US banks (and your savings) are now EXTREMELY vulnerable
  • David Stockman:  Kudos To Herr Weidmann For Uttering Three Truths In One Speech
  • Michael Snyder:  19 Very Surprising Facts About The Messed Up State Of The U.S. Economy
  • Casey Research:  The Many Roads to Currency Ruination

I've been writing about these and similar problems for years, as have many other people.  I hope most of us have taken what steps we can afford to prepare ourselves for another financial and economic crisis, which I believe is as certain as the dawn.

Now a reader e-mails to ask for advice.  I've condensed her query as follows:

I'm stuck with an unemployed partner and teenage kids who can't earn their own living.  We haven't been able to afford reserve supplies for an emergency, yet it's clear that even harder times are on the way.  I want to build up reserves for my family to help cope with them, so I'm selling a bunch of our stuff at garage sales and through Craigslist.  By mid-November I hope to have $2,000 to spend.  What's the best way for me to use that money?

A bit of background:  she lives with her husband and two kids, a boy of 15 and a girl of 17, in a small suburban home in a Missouri city.  The local crime situation wasn't bad until recently, but it's getting worse as economic hard times bite deeper.  The family owns one older car free and clear - they sold a second, newer vehicle when they couldn't afford the monthly payments.  The mortgage on their home runs about $650 per month, which isn't too bad if both of them are earning, but for the past year her husband hasn't been able to find work.  Her income isn't enough to cover all the bills.

I have some ideas of my own, which I'll address tomorrow;  but I thought I'd throw open my reader's question to the rest of my audience.  If you were in her shoes, and had made almost no emergency preparations, and could raise $2,000 for the purpose, how would you spend it?  Please let us know your suggestions (concisely, of course - point form is fine) in Comments, and we'll see what the range of replies covers. 

Peter