Monday, February 29, 2016

Heh


In my copious spare time (!), I'm reading the late Willard Bascom's autobiography 'The Crest Of The Wave'.  He was one of the pioneering scientists in the field of oceanography, and had many interesting and amusing anecdotes from the early years of that discipline.

One of them involved a Royal Navy study group during World War II with the grandiloquent name 'Operations Research Group for Anti-Submarine Measures'.  Inevitably, the acronym for the group became ORGASM.  Apparently its reports were awaited with eager anticipation by those who knew of the acronym, but not what it meant (officially, that is).

I have to wonder whether the naval officers concerned actually planned the name of the group in order to fit the acronym - putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.  Considering the sense of humor of some Naval officers I have known (*cough*Old NFO*cough*), I think that's more than likely!




Peter

Looks like an "interesting" place to land


It's Tegucigalpa Airport in Honduras.  According to the History Channel, it's the second most dangerous airport in the world.  Here's an outside view of a Boeing 757 making the steep final diving turn to land on the (rather short, uphill) runway.





And here's the approach, filmed from the cockpit of a Boeing 737.





I'm glad that airport's not on my normal travel route!

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #887


Today's award goes to an irresponsible idiot in Wisconsin.

Lisa Kroll went to feed her horses this summer and found a grease-spotted bowling ball on the floor of her barn and a hole in the ceiling. Out in her pasture she found her 5-month-old horse dead with a lump on its head.

Now, a man from Spring Valley, Wis., faces charges of unsafe use of a homemade cannon and endangering Kroll in the incident. There was not enough evidence to show that the cannon killed the horse.

. . .

Neighbors admitted they had fired eight to 10 bowling balls out of the cannon, as well as eight bowling pins. Kroll said she found three bowling balls and three pins on her property.

When questioned by authorities Thorne apologized, saying he didn’t expect anything fired from it to land on anyone else’s property or to hit anyone’s buildings.

There's more at the link.

One struggles to find words for such stupidity.  The charges seem very mild in comparison to the damage done.  For a start, why wasn't there 'enough evidence to show that the cannon killed the horse'?  What else could have done it?

I've seen several bowling ball cannon in operation (most recently at the Blogorado gathering last year).  In every case, they were fired from a position that was at least several hundred yards from any other property or buildings.  I'd love to know how far the cannon in this case was sited from the neighbor's property . . . and how much powder they were using in it.

Peter

Sunday, February 28, 2016

If McDonald's advertised like Apple


This is very well done.








Peter

The real political "establishment" in America is wealth


We hear a great deal these days about the political "establishment".  Some opine that the "establishment" will try to prevent Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders from becoming Presidential candidates for their respective parties.  Others claim that the popularity of those individuals is precisely the result of a rebellion against the "establishment" . . . but what, precisely, is the "establishment"?

It's not career politicians, that's for sure.  They're nothing more than servants of and flunkeys for the real establishment - which is wealth and those who hold it.

I'm no socialist;  I absolutely believe that your money is yours, and you should be free to use it as you see fit, without a government trying to redistribute it or make better use of it than you would.  (For a start, what, precisely, qualifies 'government' to be a better steward of your resources than you are?)  Nevertheless, I think there is a real problem with the concentration of wealth in the USA at the moment.

That problem has been largely created by the wealthy themselves, and if they don't solve it, the people of this country will act to solve it for them - one way or another.  That may be by forcing redistribution in socialist style, which is what Bernie Sanders represents.  It may be by depriving the wealthy and their corporate interests of cheap (illegal) labor, and adjusting taxes to a realistic level in relation to their income and assets (something they've been working against for decades, as I'll show).  It may be by simple confiscation, which would be the progressive/Communist approach.  However, one way or another, it will happen.  That's inevitable, as any student of history will acknowledge.  When economic inequality becomes too great, something will happen to restore balance.  It always does.  The pendulum swings one way, then it swings back.  The cycle is never-ending.

Let's take a look at a few indicators.  I suggest you read the linked articles for yourself, then make up your own mind about their present and future implications, both political and social as well as economic.

Robert Reich is a left-wing commentator who sees the present political conflict in economic terms.  His article is, I believe, a realistic assessment of what's going on.

Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability.

It’s a rebellion against the establishment.

The question is why the establishment has been so slow to see this.

. . .

Economic indicators may be up but they don’t reflect the economic insecurity most Americans still feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience.

Nor do the major indicators show the linkages Americans see between wealth and power, crony capitalism, declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and a billionaire class that’s turning our democracy into an oligarchy.

Median family income lower now than it was sixteen years ago, adjusted for inflation.

Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to top.

These gains have translated into political power to rig the system with bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, trade deals, and increasing market power – all of which have further pushed down wages [and] pulled up profits.

Those at the very top of the top have rigged the system even more thoroughly. Since 1995, the average income tax rate for the 400 top-earning Americans has plummeted from 30 percent to 17 percent.

Wealth, power, and crony capitalism fit together. So far in the 2016 election, the richest 400 Americans have accounted for over a third of all campaign contributions.

Americans know a takeover has occurred and they blame the establishment for it.

There’s no official definition of the “establishment” but it presumably includes all of the people and institutions that have wielded significant power over the American political economy, and are therefore deemed complicit.

At its core are the major corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; the billionaires who invest directly in politics; and the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers.

. . .

The establishment doesn’t get that most Americans couldn’t care less about economic growth because for years they’ve got few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens in the forms of lost jobs and lower wages.

Most people are more concerned about economic security and a fair chance to make it.

. . .

Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.

There's more at the link.  I urge you to read the whole thing, and follow the links he provides.

I'd also strongly suggest that you read as many as possible of the following articles, particularly the last one.  You'll note that they come from all sides of the political spectrum.  Most tend to support Mr. Reich's thesis, directly or indirectly.  They provide much food for thought.

  1. The Forbes 400
  2. The Sunday Times Rich List (for a European equivalent to the Forbes 400)
  3. What the Forbes 400 List Says about American Wealth
  4. Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us
  5. The Gains From the Economic Recovery Are Still Limited to the Top One Percent
  6. The Biggest, Most Influential Political Donors On The 2015 Forbes 400
  7. Forbes 400 Contribute Record Amount To Presidential Campaigns, Super PACs
  8. Nearly 60 donors give one-third of all 2016 campaign cash
  9. Wealth Inequality
  10. Weimar America (Victor Davis Hanson at his best)

Those articles effectively outline and illustrate who is the "establishment" in the USA today.  They are the people who have controlled, and now control, and intend to continue to control, our economic and political and social destiny.  They aren't interested in what the 'little people' (i.e. we) want;  they're interested in perpetuating their privilege and power in society . . . and they're not about to give that up without a fight.  Want more evidence of that?

  1. Bombshell: Insider Leaks Koch Bros, Rubio Plan to Stop Trump
  2. Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump
  3. Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton: The Democratic Party’s existential choice
  4. 'Establishment' pick Clinton draws in early endorsements

The "establishment" on both sides of the political aisle is basically the property of the wealthy who bankroll them.  Both establishments have made their choices (or had their choices dictated to them) over who will best represent their (and their backers') interests.  They're doing their best to shut out the others.  Trump gives the Republican establishment nightmares, because he's not beholden to them for political or financial support.  He's rich enough to run on his own if necessary.  Sanders is fiercely socialist and populist - the opposite of the Democratic establishment, which in its own way is just as oligarchical and elitist as the Republican.

Furthermore, no matter who wins the election, the "establishment" will ensure that Republicans and Democrats work together to further its interest, despite any differences in party political platforms.  Just look at how Republicans have spinelessly caved in to Democratic pressure on taxation and expenditure since they regained the majority in Congress.  Their "conservative" credentials have largely been demonstrated to be meaningless.  Money talks . . . and they listen.  It's precisely the same on the other side of the aisle, of course.

Another example is how the "establishment" influences the organs of government to make rulings, produce statistics, and enact policies and regulations that favor their interests over those of "the people".  We discussed GDP earlier this morning.  Why do you think politicians have interfered so blatantly in the calculation of inflation, GDP and other economic statistics?  It's because doing so allows the wealthy to become wealthier, by manipulating economic policy in accordance with the flawed statistics.  Want more?  Just look at the Federal Reserve, and the 'revolving door' between the Fed and the commercial banking sector.  Many commentators have opined that the latter effectively runs the Fed in its own interest, and it's hard to gainsay them.  It's logical that such interest is dictated, not by domestic political considerations, but by those of the banks' owners and investors - i.e. the wealthy.

I think the evidence is clear.  Above any and all other qualifications or distinctions, the "establishment" is wealth.  That buys, influences and controls all the other "establishments", political, social and economic, that support the interests of the wealthy.

Food for thought indeed . . .

Peter

GDP: more lies, damned lies, and statistics


I was angered (yet again) to read a headline claiming that 'U.S. Has Record 10th Straight Year Without 3% Growth in GDP'.  Here's an excerpt from the article.

The BEA has calculated GDP for each year going back to 1929 and it has calculated the inflation-adjusted annual change in GDP (in constant 2009 dollars) from 1930 forward.


(Click the chart for a larger view)

In the 85 years for which BEA has calculated the annual change in real GDP there is only one ten-year stretch—2006 through 2015—when the annual growth in real GDP never hit 3 percent. During the last ten years, real annual growth in GDP peaked in 2006 at 2.7 percent. It has never been that high again, according to the BEA.

There's more at the link.

What made me angry was that the figures provided (courtesy of the US government's Bureau of Economic Analysis) are questionable from beginning to end.  They're made up on the basis of deliberate under-estimates of inflation, the use of questionable (some, including myself, would say deliberately fraudulent) 'fudge factors' and qualifications, and a healthy dollop of political correctness.  Let's examine the truth.  (I might add that while I'm not an economist, I do hold a Masters degree in management and was a company director before a change of career path took me into ordained ministry.  I have a pretty good basic understanding of the subject.)

John Williams has run the Shadow Government Statistics (SGS) subscription newsletter and the Shadowstats.com Web site for many years.  His message is simple:

"... the quality of government reporting has deteriorated sharply in the last couple of decades. Reporting problems have included methodological changes to economic reporting that have pushed headline economic and inflation results out of the realm of real-world or common experience."

In a 2004 analysis of Gross Domestic Product calculations (which you should read in full to see how the figures are and have been manipulated), Mr. Williams highlighted erroneous (if not outright fraudulent) assumptions and valuations, described blatant political interference in the process, and concluded:  "With reported growth moving up and away from economic reality, the primary significance of GDP reporting now is as a political propaganda tool and as a cheerleading prop for Pollyanna-ish analysts on Wall Street."

The impact of the real inflation rate (as opposed to the rate claimed by the government) is significant.  Mr. Williams estimates real inflation, measured in an unbiased fashion and not changed to reflect 'political correctness', to be close to 10% - effectively, more than five times higher than the 'official' rate.



(Chart courtesy of Shadowstats.com)


This discrepancy in the calculation of the inflation rate is confirmed by other sources such as the Chapwood Index, which we've mentioned in these pages before.  Chapwood points out:

... the government has been artificially deflating the [Consumer Price Index] to keep figures as low as possible. The readings you see published today no longer represent the real out of pocket expenditures incurred by most Americans.

The government’s baseline CPI measure excludes items such as taxes, energy, and food; which are not only necessities, but also often a majority of our daily expenditures.

The CPI increase from 2008-2012 was a total of 10.2%, but our research has found that for many cities, the cost of living increase was more than that in 2012 alone.


These discrepancies carry over directly into the calculation of Gross Domestic Product, which must of necessity account for inflation.



(Chart courtesy of Shadowstats.com)

As can readily be seen, if the real rate of inflation is taken into account, we've been without 3% growth in GDP for much longer than government statistics would reveal.  In fact, real GDP's been negative (that is to say, the economy's been contracting) for most years during the past two decades.

Do you want to know why almost 100 million people in this country are considered 'not in the labor force'?  See the above charts, and wonder no longer.  The economy's too crippled to provide jobs for them.  Furthermore, when mainstream media commentators pontificate about how the economy's doing just fine, look at those charts again and realize that they're spouting the politically correct line.  The economy's not doing just fine, and sooner or later the economic fairy-tales that are being told to us are going to be revealed as just that.  Reality's going to bite . . . and it's going to be painful.

It already is painful for people trying to make ends meet on incomes that buy less and less every month, as inflation bites harder.  They can tell you about economic reality far better than economists and statisticians calculating spreadsheets and issuing bulletins from their comfortable offices in Washington DC.

Peter

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Recompense, but not justice


Readers will remember the tragic case of 19-month-old Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh, who was critically injured in 2014 when a SWAT team tossed a flash-bang device into his crib.  I wrote about it at the time, and in a follow-up article six months later.

Now comes news that financial recompense will be made, even though the guilty parties have not been (and probably will not be) punished.

A federal judge has approved settlements totaling $3.6 million to the parents of a toddler who was severely injured when a flash grenade detonated in his playpen during a raid.

The settlements were announced Friday by Mawuli Mel Davis, attorney for Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh.

. . .

"We have worked diligently with our co-counsel to obtain the best possible result for Baby Bou Bou and his family," Davis said in a statement. "What we achieved will not fix what happened or take away the nightmares, but we hope it helps them move forward as a family."

. . .

"Since no one will be held criminally liable, the monetary victories will have to be used as a way to somewhat offset this unfortunate preventable tragedy," said Marcus Coleman, activist and president of the Save OurSelves Organization. "Considering that this family was still held responsible for the medical bills is itself a travesty."

There's more at the link.

It's sad to think that up to 40% of the settlement is likely to be absorbed by legal fees, leaving a lot less to pay for the child's medical expenses.  I hope it'll be enough, although it can never compensate for or fully resolve the mental and emotional trauma caused to him and his parents.

Only one officer faced charges as a result of this incident, and she was acquitted.  None of those who planned, authorized or supervised the raid has faced charges - which I find utterly inexplicable and a travesty of justice.  I continue to believe that every single person involved, from the top to the bottom, needs to be fired, and permanently disbarred from ever working in a law enforcement function or capacity again.

That applies particularly to Haversham County Sheriff Joey Terrell, who infamously stated, "Our team went by the book. Given the same scenario, we'll do the same thing again. I stand behind what our team did."  That being the case, I can only suggest that parents keep their toddlers out of Haversham County, for fear that Sheriff Terrell and those who follow his leadership and example might come across them . . .




Peter

The creative juices are flowing again


After several months' hiatus due to health issues, followed by the disruption of moving from one state to another, I'm back at work writing for my living.  I'm pleased to report that things are beginning to pick up speed once more.  I've just finished the first draft of a 10,000 word short story, which will go off to the editor of an anthology next week.  It still needs polishing, of course, and 'tweaking' to fit in with the other contributions, but that will be done as and when required.  Initial feedback from Old NFO and Lawdog has been positive.

Maxwell Volume 5 is coming along as well.




I'm about 30% through it, and have the high points of the remainder of the plot worked out in my mind.  Now that the short story is done (it was a rush priority project) I can settle down and work on the book.  My fantasy novel is about 50% complete, but will be on the back burner for a few weeks while I get the next Maxwell book out of the way;  then I'll pick it up again, as I simultaneously get to work on the third and last volume of the Laredo Trilogy.

I'm also working on a space detective novel, set in the Maxwell universe.  It may be stand-alone, or the start of a trilogy similar to the Laredo one.  It's about 30% complete so far.  I have ideas for several such books and short series spinning off from the adventures of Steve Maxwell.  The variations keep me alert and interested, instead of having to churn out the 'same old, same old' every book;  and I hope that you, my readers, enjoy the variety too.

By the end of this year I hope to have published at least three more books and a short story, with at least one (if not two) books awaiting publication.  One or two may be with other publishers, rather than me bringing them out myself.  We'll see whether they're suitable or not.  At any rate, I'll be working hard this year to get back in the writing groove and rebuild my reader base after being forced to neglect it for the past few months.  Kidney stones are bad enough, but the very strong pain medication they necessitate is even worse for killing one's creative spark!  I'm glad those problems seem to be behind me, at least for now.

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #886


Today's award goes to an overly sentimental bird lover in Florida.

According to Suncoast Animal League, an animal shelter in Palm Harbor, Florida, [a] man encountered an injured kestrel earlier this month and decided to take it home. The bird had no apparent signs of trauma besides some light swelling and a bruised eye—typical of hitting a vehicle—and appeared to be relatively tame, so the man decided to keep it as a pet.

Possession of wild animals without the proper permits is illegal. Further, despite the fact that kestrels are the most abundant raptors in North America, they are protected by law.

“The man was informed that the bird was a protected species and must be turned in to the proper authorities,” Suncoast Animal League wrote ... “He still maintained that he wanted the Kestrel as a pet but finally agreed to give it up after much dialogue. But before he turned it over, he decided a goodbye kiss was in order.

“The Kestrel had other ideas and took a big, giant chunk out of the lip service that was provided.”

Perhaps the bird thought it was a worm.

There's more at the link.

Kissing a kestrel?  I've heard of someone having a 'hawk-like visage', but never so literally!  I bet he won't do that again in a hurry . . .




Peter

Friday, February 26, 2016

PTSD: it's not all it's cracked up to be


I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with the acronym PTSD.  It stands for 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder', and is commonly bandied about concerning combat veterans, those in high-risk, high-stress jobs like law enforcement, emergency medical services and firefighting, and the like.

It's also perhaps one of the most misunderstood and fraudulently applied diagnoses in the USA.  Chris Hernandez has just written an excellent analysis of the situation.  Here's an excerpt.

It’s fair to say most of us combat veterans have suspicions about PTSD claims. We’ve been frustrated by stories of horrible, disabling PTSD from people we know were never in combat. We’ve heard of troops coming home from deployments to peaceful countries, never hearing a shot fired, but immediately claiming PTSD. We know that in the War on Terror only a small percentage of troops actually faced an enemy, and many of those relished the experience. We have the nagging feeling most PTSD claims are more about free money than healing and recovery. Some of us have become so skeptical, we automatically throw a mental BS flag when we hear someone talk about having PTSD.

. . .

If our suspicions were confirmed, that would be pretty depressing. Know what would be even more depressing? Being told by two VA psychologists that the system is even more corrupt and full of liars, scammers and thieves than we thought.

There's more at the link.  It's well worth reading.

I understand PTSD at first hand.  After eighteen years of military and civilian involvement in South Africa's internal struggle to get rid of apartheid, I was pretty much burned out.  I just wasn't coping.  However, I knew darned well what the problem was, and I knew that it could be dealt with.  I took the first step by getting away from the situation that had caused my burnout - I immigrated to the USA.  I'll always be grateful to this country for giving me a fresh beginning.  Next, I looked for a counselor who had himself been in combat - intensive combat - and who could thus be expected to understand what it involved, how it affected those involved, and how to overcome those stresses.  After a little searching, I found one.

In less than six months of regular sessions, we dealt with the major problems.  He was able to show me new perspectives, new ways to handle the bad memories, and how to look forward to my new life rather than look back upon the old one.  I continued to see him on a less regular basis for a couple more years, more for companionship than anything else.  We got to the point where each of us would freely discuss our memories.  I suspect it was more like joint therapy for both of us rather than a traditional therapist-patient relationship.  When he finally said that any more visits would be a waste of my money, we visited as friends, after hours.  He's no longer with us, but I remember him with respect and affection.

The point is, it didn't take all that long to deal with the nasty memories.  Once I had an opportunity to talk them out with someone who understood them - and understood them innately, from personal experience, not just out of a textbook - they largely went away.  Oh, sure, I still have the occasional nightmare about the past.  That's inevitable, and part of being human.  However, they no longer hang over me.  They don't control me.  I control them.  When I wake up from one, I'm able to remind myself immediately, "It's OK.  That's past and gone and done with.  It's not real.  It can't hurt me any longer."  Within a few moments, I've regained my balance.

I can't honestly believe that PTSD is something that can or should hang over one for years, even decades.  If it does, I suspect one or more of three things is involved.

  1. The victim hasn't been willing to look inside himself and deal with it.  Instead, he flinches away from it.  It's like he's pulling the scab off a wound, never giving it time to heal.  He's perpetuating the problem by not dealing with it.
  2. He's under treatment by counselors and therapists who don't understand the problem - or who do understand it, but prefer to keep him dependent on them, because his repeated visits mean that they have job security and a guaranteed income, all at his expense.
  3. He's a fraud, milking the problem for psychological and/or emotional and/or financial benefits, making it out to be much worse than it is.

I think that (1) above is relatively rare.  On the other hand, I suspect both (2) and (3) are far more common than most PTSD 'victims' and those treating them would care to admit.  Chris Hernandez, who also understands the situation from personal experience, appears to agree.

Let me close by pointing out a very current example of how to deal with PTSD.  During the past couple of years the Yazidi people of Iraq have been savagely attacked by ISIL, which has kidnapped many of their women into sex slavery.  Thousands have been 'sold' to its fighters or others, raped repeatedly, even murdered.  If anyone in the world has the right to claim PTSD, they do . . . but the survivors, when they escape, aren't doing that.  Instead, they're getting over their PTSD in the best possible way, by arming and training themselves to deal with those who enslaved and raped and degraded them.  There's now an entire battalion of former Yazidi sex slaves in the Kurdish armed forces.  They'll take out their stresses by killing those who caused them.  Well done, those ladies!  I've already donated something to their support;  and frankly, if it were possible (and legal) to donate weapons and ammunition to them, I'd do that, too.

Peter

The changing face of anti-submarine warfare


I recently learned with interest of Elbit Systems' Seagull unmanned surface vehicle (USV).  It's designed to hunt both underwater mines and submarines, operating at sea in the same way that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operates in the air.




According to initial reports, a Seagull system consists of two vessels and a control station, which can be either ashore or on another ship.  The USV's are about 40' long, can cruise at up to 30 knots, and can operate for four days at ranges of up to 62 miles from the control station.  Each can be tailored to carry whatever systems a client needs, whether anti-mine or anti-submarine.  Payloads can include, for example, the Katfish towed sonar platform from Canada (shown below), which allows high-resolution seabed mapping (essential to locate mines on the sea floor) among other functions.




A complete Seagull system (both vessels and the control station) is said to cost about $30 million, but in littoral waters can do the job of a naval vessel such as a minesweeper, corvette or frigate that would cost many times more to buy and much more to operate (including a crew at least several dozen strong).  Here's an Elbit promotional video showing the system in operation in an anti-mine scenario.





This development isn't unique, of course - it's merely the latest to be announced in the field.  However, such developments indicate how fast the anti-submarine and anti-mine-warfare fields are developing.  Until relatively recently, such operations required large, dedicated warships, such as the US Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates or the newer (and seemingly much less capable) Littoral Combat Ship program, or Britain's Sandown class minehunters, or equivalents in many navies.  Each ship would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and require large crews.

In littoral waters at least, the cost of one such ship will buy up to ten Seagull systems (i.e. up to twenty USV's and ten control stations).  The latter will be able to patrol a much wider area, much more frequently, at a vastly reduced running cost compared to conventional vessels;  and if one is lost to enemy action, no highly trained crew members are endangered.  Their higher-technology sensors (and, presumably, weapons such as lightweight missiles like the US Hellfire, stabilized light cannon and machine-gun platforms like Israel's Typhoon, and lightweight torpedoes like the European LCAW, none of which require a crew to operate them) will render minelaying or submarine operations in such waters much more hazardous, and may deny access to them altogether.

Even relatively poor countries that can't afford the expense of a 'proper' navy may be able to afford multiple Seagull systems or their equivalents, thereby protecting themselves against underwater intruders at a much more reasonable cost.  This can (and probably will) affect submarine operations by the major powers, who will no longer be almost sure to have freedom of movement in parts of the world where no major anti-submarine warfare capability has existed before.  This applies particularly in shallower waters, affecting activities such as recent intrusions into Sweden's territorial waters or the US Navy's famous Operation Ivy Bells in the Sea of Okhotsk during the Cold War.  A series of Seagull-type units guarding such waters, backed up by a few more conventional warships, might have made such operations impossible.

I think we can expect to see anti-mine and anti-submarine operations become much cheaper, much more effective, and much more widespread in littoral waters.  That, in turn, is likely to force a complete re-evaluation of many tasks currently allocated to or carried out by submarines.  What will take on those roles in future, and what new equipment and tactics will evolve to deal with such new threats?

Peter

This one's for shooting enthusiasts


Those of us who've used firearms as day-to-day 'tools of the trade' (for various values of 'trade'), and who've had many years' experience with and exposure to them, all have horror stories of firearms owners and users who make us cringe.  Some are just plain ignorant.  Some are full of movie lore about guns that has little or no foundation in fact - but they won't be corrected.  "If Clint / Sylvester / Arnold did it, it must be right!"  Others have picked up just enough real knowledge to be dangerous.

In the past week, thanks to e-mail correspondents, I've come across two amusing looks at the wrong kind of firearms owners.  First, Chris Knox answers the question 'What are the basic types of gun owner?'  Here's an example.

The Tacticool (ooda orbus fictus)
Recognizable by his 5.11 tactical pants and shirt, and his IDPA "shoot me first" vest. Peppers his vocabulary with terms from Tacti-tard Trainer Buzzword Bingo.  His warrior mindset is completely wrapped up in his OODA loop. From his Oakley shades to his desert boots, this sheepdog is a genuine tier-one operator. A cynic might wonder if he might not move faster if he were to shed about fifty pounds.  See also Mall Ninja.

Statistics (Approximate)
Murders committed: 0
Robberies committed: 0
Assaults committed: 0

There's more at the link.

Next, a Slovenian YouTube channel named Polenar Tactical brings us this over-the-top video of types of shooters you see at the range.





I wish the video were all a joke.  Sadly, it's not.  I've run into most of those characters at the range from time to time . . .

Peter

Thursday, February 25, 2016

We have a winner - and what a prize!


I'm finding it hard to stop laughing at this report.

A schoolboy in Russia has won a month living with a porn star as a prize in an online competition.

Ruslan Schedrin, 16, was told he qualifies to spend a month in a Moscow hotel with the voluptuous Ekaterina Makarova.

He appears delighted about the prize, saying the X-rated actress has 'good sizes' and he is 'boiling inside' - but his mother and sister have reacted furiously.

. . .

'I have told my mother and she has taken it badly, but I think we'll sort it out. When I meet the girl, I'll say: "Hi, I am that very boy, I've won you."'

There's more at the link.  Here's what the winner and his prize look like:




I should think that every sixteen-year-old boy in Russia has a raging case of envy right now.  However, the best part (to my mind) was this footnote:

Under the rules of the competition, he can pass on the prize to his 'official representative', for example, his father. But the mother is against this too.

'No, absolutely not,' she said.

I wonder if her Russian really translated as 'No, absolutely not', or as something a little more emphatic?  And I can't help but wonder if his father shares his mother's reaction . . .




Peter

Another great big clanging warning bell about the economy


David Stockman reports that federal tax revenues are plummeting.

Based on the common sense proposition that the nation’s 16 million employers send payroll tax withholding monies to the IRS based on actual labor hours utilized—-and without any regard for phantom jobs embedded in such BLS fantasies as birth/death adjustments and seasonal adjustments——my colleague Lee Adler reports that inflation-adjusted collections have dropped by 7-8% from prior year in the most recent four-week rolling average.


(Click to enlarge)

As Lee noted in his Wall Street Examiner:
The annual rate of change in withholding taxes for collections through Thursday, February 18, approached a level which signals not just recession but is within a couple of percent of indicating a full fledged economic depression. As of February 18, 2016, the annual rate of change was -5.6% in nominal terms versus the corresponding period a year ago. That’s down from -3.7% a week before, +0.6% a month before, +5.8% three months ago, and down from a peak of +8.7% in early February 2015…….Adjusted for the nominal growth rate of employee compensation, the implied annual real rate of change is now roughly –7.5 to -8% year over year.

There's more at the link.

Federal withholding tax revenues are a direct and immediate indicator of how many people are employed in jobs well-paid enough to deduct income tax at source.  If those revenues are declining, it means one or both of two things:

  1. Less people are employed;  AND/OR -
  2. The jobs available are less well paid, resulting in less tax being withheld.

My money's on both factors being correct.  We've spoken many times here about the unreliability of the government's unemployment figures;  and we know that many of the high-paying jobs that were lost during the 2008 recession were replaced by lower-paying service positions.  That's still the case.

Either way . . . that's a very bad sign.

Peter

You don't say!


Almost as if to echo my perspective last night on Hillary Clinton, Camille Paglia gives her - and the Democratic Party establishment - both barrels.

A vote for the scandal-plagued Hillary is a resounding ratification of business as usual – the corrupt marriage of big money and machine politics, practiced by the Clintons with the zest of Boss Tweed, the gluttonous czar of New York’s ruthless Tammany Hall in the 1870s.  What you also get with Hillary is a confused hawkish interventionism that has already dangerously destabilized North Africa and the Mideast.  This is someone who declared her candidacy on April 12, 2015 via an email and slick video and then dragged her feet on making a formal statement of her presidential policies and goals until her pollsters had slapped together a crib list of what would push the right buttons.  This isn’t leadership; it’s pandering.

. . .

A vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote against the machine, the obscenely money-mad and soulless juggernaut that the Democratic Party has become.  Perhaps there was a time, during the Hubert Humphrey era, when Democrats could claim to be populists, alive to the needs and concerns of working-class people.  But the party has become the playground of white, upper-middle-class professionals with elite-school degrees and me-first values.  These liberal poseurs mouth racial and ethnic platitudes, acquired like trophy kills at their p.c. campuses, but every word rings hollow, because it is based on condescension, a patronizing projection of victimhood onto those outside their privileged circle.  There is no better example of this arrogant class bias than Wellesley grad Hillary Clinton lapsing into her mush-mouthed, Southern-fried dialect when addressing African-American audiences.

There's more at the link.

Ms. Paglia is a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, as her article makes clear.  I'm not sure whether he'd be any better than Hillary Clinton as President, and I certainly wouldn't vote for him, but I'll say this for him:  he's honest.  He says what he believes, he doesn't waffle, and he sticks to his message.  That's more than most Republican candidates have done this election cycle - never mind Hillary!

Peter

Vertigo, anyone?


Courtesy of an embed at Daily Timewaster, here's drone footage of a technician climbing 1,500 feet to do maintenance on an antenna tower near Salem, South Dakota.  Watch it in full-screen mode to get the best results.





You couldn't pay me enough to get me to do that . . .

Peter

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Federalist has lost its everlovin' mind


I was absolutely dumbfounded to read this article.

Star-struck, low-information celebrity cultists will vote for Trump under any circumstances because they do not know any better and do not care. For them, Trump is whatever they want him to be, and they will never change their minds. The rest of us, however, have a much more difficult choice to make. Will we really oppose Trump to the point of accepting any alternative, including Hillary Clinton?

The answer, at least for me, is: Yes. If forced into a choice between Clinton and Trump, I will prefer Hillary Clinton. The future of the entire conservative movement is at stake, and a Clinton victory over Trump might be the only hope of saving it.

There's more at the link.

Seriously?  The author would allow - he'd vote for - Hillary to be able to nominate to the Supreme Court justices like by-then-former President Obama or her husband?  He'd allow her to take over a federal government already politicized and turned into a witch-hunt machine par excellence by the Obama administration, and further refine it into a pack of Clinton attack dogs?  He'd ignore her repeated public lies, evasions and dissimulations over decades in the political arena - the 'sniper fire' claim, Whitewater, Hillarycare, Travelgate, Filegate, her impossibly profitable cattle futures investment, her role in the Benghazi tragedy, the e-mail controversy, and many more scandals?

I don't know how bad Mr. Trump may prove to be as President if he's elected.  He may, indeed, be as bad as the author of that article fears.  All I know is, he can't possibly be a worse candidate (or, if it comes to that, President) than any of the current 'mainstream' candidates on both the Left and the Right of US politics.  He'll probably be significantly better than at least some of them.  Under those circumstances, the obvious choice is to vote for the lesser of the available evils - and that ain't Hillary Clinton.

Based on the hard facts and historical evidence available to us, if the author of this article seriously considers Hillary to be a better choice for President, from a conservative/libertarian perspective, than Donald Trump, he must be either deluded or insane.  I can't see any other possibility.




Peter

So much for wind power reducing air pollution


Uh-huh . . .





Peter

The welfare state begets dependency. Imagine that!


A British researcher has published a book 'revealing' what many (including yours truly) have believed for years - that welfare itself increases the number of those who actually resist going to work, preferring to remain on benefits indefinitely.  Now the proponents of the 'nanny state' are trying to deny him a platform to disseminate his views.  The Telegraph reports:

... the welfare state is eroding the economic and social prospects of the nation by increasing the proportion of individuals in the population who possess the employment-resistant personality profile. As the book explains, this proliferation of employment-resistant personality characteristics occurs due to the damaging effect on personality development of exposure to childhood disadvantage. Hence a welfare state which sets up perverse incentives that increase the number of children who are born into disadvantaged households (as happened in the UK circa 1999) will increase the number of individuals in the population who suffer personality mis-development due to exposure to disadvantage during childhood.

. . .

It is a separate moral question as whether the welfare state should encourage the birth of any children into disadvantaged households, given that they tend to suffer neglect and, as illustrated by the Troubled Families Programme, place a significantly higher than average per-capita burden on the public purse (approximately £19,000 for each member of a troubled family versus £1,900 for the average person). And this doesn’t even take into account the logical incoherence of setting up a welfare state to alleviate disadvantage but that has become a means of increasing the number of children who are born into disadvantage. Lord Beveridge must be turning in his grave.

. . .

Anyhow, there wasn’t much public reaction to my book until the run-up to my lecture at the London School of Economics on Tuesday 9th February. As has been publicised, some threats of disruption caused the organisers to postpone my lecture. I understood their decision but am still perplexed by the attitude of the no-platforming activists, not only because they ended up providing extra publicity for my book but also because there are no downsides to discussing scientific research. If it is good science then the discussion will benefit society by helping it get adopted quicker and if it is bad science then the discussion will benefit society help it get debunked quicker.

There's more at the link.

It sounds entirely logical to me.  If welfare removes any incentive to actually have to earn a living, a proportion of those on welfare will develop a mindset that says they shouldn't be required to earn a living - that instead, they're owed a living by society.  That's one element of the so-called 'welfare trap'.  Unfortunately, since it's politically incorrect to identify such elements, it's no wonder that those who live or die by political, rather than scientific, correctness are trying to deny Dr. Perkins a platform from which to do so.  Moonbattery at its finest!




Peter

So much for Cecil


Remember the fuss over Cecil the lion, killed by a hunter in Zimbabwe last year?  The moonbats went ape over it.  Hunting was roundly condemned, the hunter concerned was called a murderer (and many worse things), and one would have thought the Antichrist had been responsible.  (The fact that tens of thousands of Zimbabweans were ill from preventable diseases, and starving to death, never seems to have entered the moonbats' consciences.  Typical, that.  A lion's more important to them than human life.)

Well, the moonbats' efforts to ban trophy hunting have now had a side effect they didn't foresee, but which all of us who know Africa saw coming decades ago.

The outcry over Walter Palmer’s killing of Cecil drove other big-game hunters away from Zimbabwe, fearful they too would attract the ire of the public.

But in what is being described as a side effect of the affair, Zimbabwe’s largest wildlife area says it now finds itself suffering from an overpopulation of lions.

Bubye Valley Conservancy has more than 500 lions, the largest number in Zimbabwe’s diminishing wildlife areas.

It has warned that its lion population has become unsustainable and that it may even have to cull around 200 as a result of what is being called “the Cecil effect.”

. . .

Conservationists estimate about half of Zimbabwe’s wildlife has disappeared since President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned land began in 2000, but Bubye has held on by attracting wealthy hunters whose fees support its wildlife work.

But last year’s shooting of Cecil, in a conservancy bordering Hwange National Park, sparked a huge backlash against big-game hunting, and bolstered a U.S. plan to ban trophy hunting imports.

There's more at the link.

Let's leave ideology, emotion and feelings out of the equation and look at the cold, hard facts.  Today, in almost every Third World country, economic utility (a variation on utilitarianism) is the only value placed on a resource of any kind.  If it has economic value, it'll be preserved, used and exploited.  If it doesn't, it'll be allowed to wither, decay and die, and something else, with greater economic utility, will take its place.

That most certainly applies to game management.  Game has two economic utilities:  as food, or as a source of income.  Tourists won't come to a place like Zimbabwe when it's so mismanaged, when resources they prize (such as comfort, luxury and ease of access) are unavailable or very expensive, and when there are so many better-managed, better-priced, easier-to-reach alternatives.  Unlike a great herd of antelope, there aren't enough lions to feed a population if you slaughter them - and besides, the slaughter process tends to be a bit more complicated than it is with cattle, because the lions fight back!  Furthermore, once the game's been slaughtered, it's gone.  No, the only economic utility lions have, in the absence of tourists, is that they attract trophy hunters, who will pay large fees (in the tens of thousands of dollars per animal) to hunt them.  Those fees are what's kept game conservation alive in many African nations, far more so than tourist money.  They make it worthwhile to protect lion populations, allow them to breed, and 'harvest' them sustainably so that there are always more lions to hunt and the license fees keep rolling in.

Now that trophy hunters have been discouraged from going to Zimbabwe by the furor over Cecil's death, that source of income has been removed from lion conservation efforts in that country.  There is no other.  The moonbats who screamed blue murder over Cecil certainly haven't dipped into their own pockets to make up the funding lost because of their efforts.  They won't.  They need to spend that money on lattes at the local coffee shop, over which they'll continue to loudly, shrilly condemn everyone who don't see the world through their narrow-minded blinkers - particularly those evil hunters, whose license and trophy fees were all that gave economic utility to Cecil and his fellow lions in the first place.

If you eliminate trophy hunting, sooner or later you'll eliminate the trophy animals.  If they can't generate enough income through other means to pay for their upkeep and the land and resources they need, they'll go to the wall.  That's the way it is.  If the moonbats haven't grasped that, it's yet more evidence that they're living in cloud cuckoo land.

Peter

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Do you use MeWe as an alternative to Twitter/Facebook/Google+?


Following Twitter's betrayal of trust, I'm looking at possible alternatives, both current and future.  I'm aware that something very interesting is in the air, which will doubtless become clear in a few months' time;  but right now, there are not too many alternatives out there.  One of them appears to be MeWe.  It claims, in rather high-sounding terms:

MeWe began in 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a vision hatched over a forgettable dinner between good friends who had previously been early founders of social media, Mark Weinstein and Jonathan Wolfe. With Facebook all the rage, Mark and Jonathan felt something was getting lost: the spirit of our democracy and the backbone of our privacy. The big technology companies, you know who they are, had reverted to treating us as commodities. They somehow mistook people signing up to use their service as a welcome invitation to mine, spy, and sell our information to advertisers. All in all, it felt pretty creepy.

Mark and Jonathan dreamed of the next generation in online communications, a network, that would advance the best of social media with privacy built into the design, where members would feel safe and respected while sharing their lives. Mark relocated to Mountain View, California, in the backyard of technology’s established Goliaths, and together with Jonathan, built a team of worldwide visionary individuals, and generally nice people determined to succeed in changing the Internet.

MeWe is the visionary culmination of three years of determined efforts, research, and development to provide people around the world with a communication network they love and trust.

You can find out more about MeWe at its home page, and in this Wikipedia article, and in this overview.

I'd like to hear from readers who've used MeWe and can report on it from personal experience.  Is it as good as it sounds?  Is it worth recommending to others?  I'm aware it's far smaller than its better-known competition, but that's not necessarily a drawback.

If you've used MeWe, please leave us your views in Comments.  Thanks.

Peter

Quote of the day


First, a little background.  I'm hard at work writing the fifth volume of the Maxwell Saga, a short story for an anthology to which I've been invited to contribute, a fantasy novel that may or may not see the light of day (I have to find out whether it's good enough first), and the third and final volume of the Laredo Trilogy.  The first two are taking most of my time right now, but the other two can't be ignored.

As part of this, and planning future books, I'm looking at technology and how it evolves, how it can change the military equation, and so on.  I can't help but remember the old adage that "Generals always fight the last war".  It's so hackneyed that it's become a cliché, but it's been true often enough that it's stood the test of time.

In that light, considering the evolution of naval technology, I couldn't help but smile as I recalled one of the more (in)famous quotes from the decline of the Age of Sail and the dawn of the Age of Steam.

In 1828 Mr. Hay, of the Colonial Department, had asked that a steamer might carry the mails from Malta to Corfu. To this, Lord Melville, replying in a minute written by himself,

"regretted the inability of my Lords Commissioners to comply with the request of the Colonial Department, as they felt it their bounden duty, upon national and professional grounds, to discourage, to the utmost of their ability, the employment of steam vessels, as they considered that the introduction of steam was calculated to strike a fatal blow to the naval supremacy of the Empire..."

(From p. 27 of 'A Short History of Naval and Marine Engineering' by Engineer Captain Edgar C. Smith, OBE, RN, published by Cambridge University Press in 1938.)

That opinion didn't last long.  The first steam-powered Royal Navy mail ship was dispatched to the Mediterranean in 1830.

Peter

Non-citizens and voting rights: a conundrum


I was initially angry to read an article in the New York Post titled 'New bill could give illegal aliens voting rights in New York City'.  Here's an excerpt.

New legislation is being pushed that would give illegal aliens the right to vote in New York City’s 2017 elections for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and City Council, The Post has learned.

The proposal — which is winning support from the city’s black and Hispanic activists — was recently discussed at a Black and Latino Legislative Caucus event in Albany.

There's more at the link.

This seems ridiculous to me.  After all, illegal aliens are, by definition, criminals.  Their very presence in New York City is a crime;  so why would anyone trust, or want, a criminal to vote for the office-holders that would influence his or her arrest and/or trial and/or punishment for their crime?

However, on further research, it turns out that voting rights are a murky area in US history.  For example, according to Wikipedia, the last state to ban non-citizens from voting (Arkansas) did so as late as 1926.  Prior to that, there are numerous examples where non-citizens were admitted to the franchise, some local, some state-wide, some even in national elections.  Furthermore, the Atlantic has an in-depth examination of the Constitutional issues surrounding voting, and comes to some interesting conclusions.  For example:

... courts and citizens remain oddly ambivalent about it; it is common to regard voting as a "privilege," an incident of citizenship granted to some but not all. The "privilege" over the years has been made dependent on literacy, or long residency in a community, or ability to prove identity, or lack of a criminal past. None of these conditions would be allowed to restrict free speech, or freedom from "unreasonable" searches, or the right to counsel, even though each of those rights is mentioned once in the Constitution. The right to vote of citizens of the United States remains a kind of stepchild in the family of American rights, perhaps because it is not listed in the Bill of Rights, and perhaps because Americans still retain the Framers' ambivalence about democracy.

Again, more at the link.

I find the argument frustrating, because I don't want to agree with it:  but I'm forced to admit on a purely logical basis that if the right to vote can be and has been taken away from US citizens on various grounds, why should it not be extended to others - even non-citizens - on other grounds?  If that's done by legal means, passed by those elected to express the 'will of the people' . . . where do we stand?

Perhaps this is an issue best pursued as an amendment to the Constitution.  Perhaps it's time to finally nail down precisely who is eligible to vote in the USA, so that efforts such as that in New York City can be scuppered before they start.  Why not agree on a common standard - and why did the Founding Fathers not do so at the beginning of our Republic?  Please let us know your thoughts in Comments.

Peter

The sinister side of Twitter's new policies


I'm sure many readers know by now that Twitter has instituted what it calls a 'Trust and Safety Council' to monitor 'abuse' and 'ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter'.  However, one can't help but note that almost all the members of that Council are from left-wing and so-called 'progressive' organizations - including feminist Anita Sarkesian, who famously called for Internet censorship before the United Nations.

That ties in with the way Twitter appears to be censoring major conservative and libertarian voices on its system.  (To be fair, it's apparently not the only social media platform doing that.)  Recent 'casualties' include Milo Yiannopoulos, high-profile supporters of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain.  Actor Adam Baldwin has quit the platform in protest at such censorship, and fellow blogger, author and friend Larry Correia is doing likewise.

Of course, Twitter is a private company, so it can do as it pleases - it's not subject to the First Amendment or any other guarantee of free speech.  However, it wields enormous influence over many people, particularly the younger generation.  This looks to me very much as if the company is trying to set itself up as a way for left-wing and progressive propaganda to influence not only social and cultural issues, but perhaps even this year's elections.  If it can minimize one side of the debate and maximize the other, it has a real chance to skew voting and affect our government for at least the next few years.  I can't help but regard that as a very dangerous development indeed.

I'm not an active Twitter user.  If I was, I suspect that my account might be among those facing censorship.  Nevertheless, I'm sorry to see Adam Baldwin, Larry Correia and others whom I like and respect quit the platform.  I'm sorry because their many fans will now be deprived of this avenue of communication with them;  I'm sorry because their voices will no longer be able to contribute to important debates in our society through this channel;  and I'm sorry that a company like Twitter is becoming so nakedly and unashamedly partisan that it's driving away a very large part of its potential user base.  I can't see any good coming out of this at all, but potentially a great deal of negativity for all concerned.

Meanwhile, if you're a Twitter user, please keep in mind that the company is actively and deliberately censoring voices with which its leadership disagrees.  Therefore, any news or information you get via that channel is likely to be increasingly biased and untrustworthy.  I can only suggest that you judge its input accordingly.

Peter

EDITED TO ADD: For more information and additional perspectives, see these links:
  1. Twitter Trust and Safety Council is Anything But
  2. Twitter Takes a Side in the Culture Wars – Lies About It

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gigglesnort! - gun control edition


Click over to Recce Room to read this Facebook exchange between a gun-grabber and a gun-owner.  Make sure you read to the end.  Gigglesnort! indeed . . .




Peter

Nice recovery . . .


. . . but I bet some of the spectators had to change their underwear!  This is Stéphane Lefevbre during the Monte Carlo Rally last month.





Peter

Iran versus the Saudis in the Middle East


StrategyPage analyzes the conflict in Yemen and comes up with some very interesting points about the wider struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and how it's affecting the Middle East in general.  I've highlighted some points in bold, underlined text.

The Saudis and the other Gulf Arab states are mainly concerned with Iranian aggression. Iran has made it very clear that they believe they should control the Moslem holy places in Saudi Arabia and be the dominant military and political power in the region. That means having a veto over Arab diplomatic moves and generally returning to their ancient role of regional superpower. The Gulf Arabs are very hostile to this sort of thing but reluctant to go to war over it because the Iranians have an impressive history of battlefield victories.

In response the Sunni Arab states tried to use Islamic terrorist groups as a weapon against the "Shia threat". Thus Yemeni Shia rebels blame the Sunni Gulf Arabs of supporting al Qaeda in Yemen. This Islamic terrorist group has always been very hostile towards Shia and the growth of al Qaeda in Yemen was a primary reason for the Yemeni Shia rebelling in the first place. There is some truth to the Yemeni Shia accusations as many Sunni Gulf Arabs do support al Qaeda and have long provided cash donations and recruits. This terrorist support is not government policy with these Gulf States although some Gulf Arab states, like Qatar, have actively supported Islamic terrorist rebels in Libya and Syria.

There is a lot of popular support for Islamic terrorism among Sunni and Shia as it is common to believe that the non-Moslem world is always actively at war with the Islam and Islamic terrorists are the only effective weapon to strike back with. This sounds absurd to non-Moslems, especially Westerners. Arab diplomats insist that there is no such terrorist support in Moslem nations. But anyone perusing Arab language media immediately sees this support and some of it even shows up in English language versions of Arab media. That despite the fact that the Arab editors of the English language news outlets know that the Arab support for Islamic terrorism is not acceptable to Western audiences and try to remove it from the English language sites. The Iranians understand all this, as do other non-Moslems (like Indians) who have lived next to Moslems for a long time. So when the Yemeni Shia complain of Gulf Arab Sunni support for al Qaeda in Yemen it has a different meaning to other Moslems (who take it as fact) and Westerners (who dismiss it as a paranoid delusion).

Iran understands that Yemen is far more important to the Gulf Arabs than to Iran. Moreover the Yemeni Shia have never been dependent on Iran like those in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Iraq or Syria. Control (or substantial influence) in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon give Iran a land route to their declared main foe; Israel. The Saudi royals and Arabs in general are secondary to the Iranian official hatred of Israel. The Iranian threat to the Arab states in the region, especially those with oil, is of more immediate concern for the Arabs and the main reason why Arabs have openly become allies with Israel against Iran.

This complex web of opportunities and capabilities means Yemen is basically a sideshow where winning is not the highest priority for Iran or Arabs. Both the Arabs and Iran have an interest in shutting down the Sunni Islamic terrorists in Yemen because these cutthroats see both Arab rulers and Shia in general as prime candidates for elimination.

There's more at the link.

If you're interested in military and geostrategic affairs, and you're not already following StrategyPage, you might like to consider it.  It's a very useful and well-informed resource.

Peter

Ye Gods and little fishes!


I'm almost at a loss for words over this video.  Imagine a group of Englishmen . . . performing Irish dancing . . . to the music of a classical German composer (Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) . . . complete with disco trimmings and a beat box.





Whose idea was this, anyway? Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .




Peter

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Verdun


One hundred years ago today, on February 21st, 1916, the Battle of Verdun began.  It would continue until 20th December that year, and was one of the largest battles of the First World War.  German forces tried to inflict so much damage on the French Army that they would knock France out of the war.  They did not succeed, but both sides lost hundreds of thousands of men.

Anthony Peregrine reflects on the battle, and the newly renovated Museum on the site.

It was a German soldier who, in 1916, wrote home thus: “Mum, why did you give birth to me? Why must I see this?”

He was writing from the battlefield of Verdun, where, as a contemporary noted, “in some areas the ground was composed more of human flesh and bone than of earth and vegetation”. One of history’s longest and bloodiest battles, Germany against France, started in the snowy early morning of February 21 1916. On the mild heights above Verdun, the Germans unleashed the most astounding artillery barrage ever experienced: around a million shells along an eight-mile front.

The intention was to blast the French to smithereens. The resultant conflict has left the word “Verdun” tolling through French history, a byword for valour and industrial slaughter.

. . .

Exactly how filthy, appalling and complex the whole 10-month conflict turned out to be is made clear at the Mémorial de Verdun. After a £9 million makeover, the museum reopens this weekend, a hundred years to the day since Verdun began wiping out young French and German men.

. . .

The coverage, individual through global, is sharp, complete and shattering. Beyond, 34,000 acres of battle zone undulate with shell-blast pockmarks. Farming and development are banned in this zone rouge, not least because about 80,000 bodies are still to be unearthed. Time has softened the scars. Woodland now laps the defence works, underground fortresses (Douaumont, Vaux), annihilated villages and the vast Douaumont Ossuary. There is a still, heavy weight upon this landscape enhanced by the tranquillity of trees. It’s essential to an understanding of the First World War – and perhaps also of the French.

There's more at the link.

This is how the battlefield at Verdun looks today.  The uneven ground is due to the remains of craters left by artillery bombardments during the battle.  Click the image for a larger view.



(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)


The casualty lists on both sides were enormous.  Wikipedia reports:

An estimate in 2000, found a total of 714,231 casualties, 377,231 French and 337,000 German, an average of 70,000 casualties for each month of the battle; other recent estimates increase the number of casualties to 976,000, with 1,250,000 suffered at Verdun from 1914 to 1918. The Battle of Verdun lasted for 303 days and became the longest and one of the most costly battles in human history.

Here's a documentary describing the battle.  It makes chilling viewing.





At the end of the battle, both sides were in approximately the same places as they were when it started . . . so all those casualties were in vain.  Hundreds of thousands of men or were maimed died for no good reason.

Peter

One of my mother's favorite comedies


I was delighted this morning to find on YouTube a copy of 'The Ghost Goes West', a 1935 black-and-white movie starring Robert Donat.  It was one of my late mother's favorite comedies.  Wikipedia summarizes the plot as follows:

Peggy Martin, the daughter of a rich American businessman, persuades him to purchase a Scottish castle from Donald Glourie (Robert Donat), dismantle it and move it to Florida. Along with the castle goes its ghost.

Murdoch Glourie (also played by Donat) haunts the castle after dying a coward’s death in the 18th century. To find rest, he must get a descendant of the enemy Clan MacClaggan to admit that one Glourie is worth fifty MacClaggans.

There's more at the link.

Mom saw this film when it first came out (she was 15 at the time).  She introduced me to it when I was about twice that age.  I enjoy its whimsical fancy, and the complete absence of modern cinema elements like a laugh track, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.  The entire movie depends on the ability of the actors, which is considerable, and the use of scene and situation to provide the amusement.  It's light-hearted fare, but most enjoyable, IMHO.

For the benefit of those who've never been exposed to pre-World War II movie comedy, particularly the British variety, here it is. It's an hour and twenty minutes long.  I suggest watching it in full-screen mode.





Enjoy!

Peter