Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day





- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Memorial Day is our Nation's solemn reminder that freedom is never free.  It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our Nation.  On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.

This year, we commemorate the centennial anniversary of America's entry into World War I.  More than 4.7 million Americans served during The Great War, representing more than 25 percent of the American male population between the ages of 18 and 31 at the time.  We remember the more than 100,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives during "The War to End All Wars," and who left behind countless family members and loved ones.  We pause again to pray for the souls of those heroes who, one century ago, never returned home after helping to restore peace in Europe.

On Memorial Day we honor the final resting places of the more than one million men and women who sacrificed their lives for our Nation, by decorating their graves with the stars and stripes, as generations have done since 1868.  We also proudly fly America's beautiful flag at our homes, businesses, and in our community parades to honor their memory.  In doing so, we pledge our Nation's allegiance to the great cause of freedom for which they fought and ultimately died.

In honor and recognition of all of our fallen service members, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.  The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time when people might unite in prayer.  I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I further ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.
I also request the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control.  I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

DONALD J. TRUMP

That says it better than I could.  Pray today for those who died, so that all of us might remain free.  Let us remember their example, and ensure that we and our children don't lose the freedom they defended for us at the cost of their lives.

Peter

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday morning music


I thought I'd remember a friend this morning, with a piece of music he and I both loved very much.  It's the 'Fantasia para un Gentilhombre' (Fantasia for a Gentleman) by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo, who may be the most well-known composer for that instrument in classical music history.

This 1996 recording features Pepe Romero, a member of the world-famous classical guitar family.  He's playing with the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM, a Mexican orchestra, conducted by Manuel Godolf.  The video quality isn't very good, but the sound is better.  I chose this recording because it shows Pepe Romero's notable guitar technique very well.





I still miss Inyati.  This music brings back his memory every time I hear it.

Peter

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fred on journalists


The iconoclastic Fred Reed lays it out.

Do you wonder why the legacy media are such puzzled otherworldly twits? Why, for example, they had no idea what was happening in the recent election? Why they seem to know so very little about America or much of anything else?

Some thoughts from a guy who spent a career in the racket:

Ask journalists when they were last in a truck stop on an Interstate, last in Boone, North Carolina or Barstow, California or any of thousands of such towns across the country. Ask whether they were in the military, whether they have ever talked to a cop or an ambulance crewman or a fireman. Ask whether they have a Mexican friend, when they last ate in a restaurant where a majority of the customers were black.  Whether they know an enlisted man, or anyone in the armed services. Whether they have hitchhiked overnight, baited a hook, hunted, or fired a rifle. Whether they have ever worked washing dishes, harvesting crops, driving a delivery truck. Whether they have a blue-collar friend. Know what the Texas Two-Step is, have been in a biker bar.

Now do you see why Trump surprised them?

Next, ask how many went to fancy schools like Oberlin, Swarthmore, Amherst, the Ivies, Bard. Ask how many even know someone who graduated from a land-grant school. Ask whether they know an engineer.

Now look at how much they write about each other for each other. Look at the endless coverage of what Maddow said about what Hannity thought about O’Reilly’s harassment of soft-porn star Megyn  and how much she might make at CNN. Ask how much time they spend comparing ratings. They are fascinated by themselves.

Ask them how many have ever worried about paying the electric bill, had to choose between a new winter coat or paying the cable, or known anyone who did.

They don’t know America, and they don’t much like it.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

As a corollary to what Fred is saying, see also this report, where Dylan Byers of CNN admits that "most reporters are stuck telling the story of the progressive future as envisioned by Obama and Hillary".  He does so on camera, too - there's a video clip at the link.  I don't know whether or not his fellow talking heads agreed with him, but it made sense to me.  Mr. Byers and the journalists he describes, like the overwhelming majority of mainstream news media staff, come from the circles Fred Reed outlines so well.  They have no idea how out-of-touch with most of America they really are.

The same applies to many on the left-wing, progressive side of US politics, of course.  They just don't get it.  They're so far out of step with 'traditional' American values that they can't understand the rejection they foment when they try to force their non-traditional values on us.  Consider the congressional election in Montana last week.  Many commentators simply couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that the Republican candidate not only won, but raised over $100,000 the day after he body-slammed a left-leaning reporter.  It was because his supporters would probably like to have done the same thing to the reporter, if not worse - but reporters can't admit that, because if they did, they'd also have to admit that they've made themselves the enemy of 'traditional America'.

That's nothing new, of course.  Consider attempts by the left to demonize Chick-Fil-A, or Memories Pizza in Indiana.  They also failed miserably - and they will continue to fail across America, because the left just doesn't get it.  Most of us don't buy into their agenda, and we won't in future, either.  Unfortunately, the reporters who are pushing that agenda don't get that reality, either - or, if they do, they refuse to report it.

Peter

Friday, May 26, 2017

Now put a rider on his back!


Courtesy of Mr. B., here's a horse with a new toy.





I want to see it do that while there's a rider on its back.  That would make the miles pass quickly, all right - NOT!




Peter

Quite so . . .


Received via e-mail, source unknown (I've done a search using Google and Tineye, but haven't been able to find the original cartoon):




Yep.  The mainstream media is falling over themselves to avoid mentioning Manchester in particular, and radical Muslim terrorism in general, in the same breath (or sentence, or paragraph, or whatever) as Islam.

It won't work, of course.

Peter

Manchester: the escalation continues


Mark Steyn has some trenchant thoughts about the Manchester terror attack.  Here's an excerpt.

A few months ago, I was in Toulouse, where Jewish life has vanished from public visibility and is conducted only behind the prison-like walls of a fortress schoolhouse and a centralized synagogue that requires 24/7 protection by French soldiers; I went to Amsterdam, which is markedly less gay than it used to be; I walked through Molenbeek after dark, where unaccompanied women dare not go. You can carry on, you can stagger on, but life is not exactly as it was before. Inch by inch, it's smaller and more constrained.

And so it will prove for cafe life, and shopping malls, and pop concerts. Maybe Ariana Grande will be back in the UK - or maybe she will decide that discretion is the better part of a Dangerous Woman's valor. But there will be fewer young girls in the audience - because no mum or dad wants to live for the rest of their lives with the great gaping hole in your heart opening up for dozens of English parents this grim morning. And one day the jihad will get lucky and the bomb will take with it one of these filthy infidel "shameless" pop whores cavorting on stage in her underwear. You can carry on exactly as before, but in a decade or two, just as there are fewer gay bars in Amsterdam and no more Jewish shops on the Chaussée de Gand, there will be less music in the air in western cities. Even the buskers, like the one in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens today serenading a shattered city with "All You Need Is Love", will have moved on, having learned that it's a bit more complicated than that.

. . .

Poland and Hungary and Slovakia do not have Islamic terrorism because they have very little Islam. France and Germany and Belgium admit more and more Islam, and thus more and more terrorism. Yet the subject of immigration has been all but entirely absent from the current UK election campaign. Thirty years ago, in the interests of stopping IRA terrorism, the British state was not above preventing the internal movement within its borders of unconvicted, uncharged, unarrested Republican sympathizers seeking to take a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool. Today it declares it can do nothing to prevent the movement of large numbers of the Muslim world from thousands of miles away to the heart of the United Kingdom. It's just a fact of life - like being blown up when you go to a pop concert.

All of us have gotten things wrong since 9/11. But few of us have gotten things as disastrously wrong as May and Merkel and Hollande and an entire generation of European political leaders who insist that remorseless incremental Islamization is both unstoppable and manageable. It is neither - and, for the sake of the dead of last night's carnage and for those of the next one, it is necessary to face that honestly. Theresa May's statement in Downing Street is said by my old friends at The Spectator to be "defiant", but what she is defying is not terrorism but reality.

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

I want to disagree with Mr. Steyn, but I can't.  I disagree profoundly that Islam as a whole is the source of our terrorism problem;  but the fact that the terrorists are overwhelmingly fundamentalist Muslims undermines my argument, because it's almost impossible to tell them apart from Muslims who are not terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.  If you can't distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, you're left with only one alternative to ensure your safety.  You have to regard all of them as dangerous until proven otherwise.

This is a tragedy of monumental proportions - and it's one that until recently simply was not a factor.  I was discussing this with Lawdog last night.  He and I can recall many encounters with Muslims in Africa back in the 1970's and 1980's, he in the west of that continent, I in the south and east.  Almost universally, the Muslims we knew then were not radicalized, were perfectly happy to coexist in peace with their neighbors, and were not interested in terrorism as a tool to promote their beliefs.

If there was a single, seminal event that changed everything, it was the war against Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.  So-called 'mujahideen' flocked there from every corner of the world to resist the invaders - and the survivors took back home with them the newly radicalized Islam they had learned there.  Now, in the aftermath of Afghanistan, things are radically different in Africa, to the point where Lawdog and I can no longer recognize the socio-political-cultural landscape we once knew.  From Boko Haram in West Africa to Al-Shabaab in East Africa, from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in North Africa to Qibla and PAGAD in South Africa, radicals attempted (with varying degrees of success) to subvert and take over more moderate Muslim organizations and activities.  Their efforts have been beaten back, but continue to this day.  The same is true all over the world.

After the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, I wrote:

When one simply can't tell whether or not an individual Muslim is also a terrorist fundamentalist, the only safety lies in treating all of them as if they presented that danger. That's what the French people are going to do now. That's what ordinary people all across Europe are going to do now, irrespective of whatever their politicians tell them. Their politicians are protected in secure premises by armed guards. They aren't. Their survival is of more immediate concern; so they're doing to do whatever they have to do to improve the odds in their favor. If that means ostracizing Muslims, ghettoizing them, even using preemptive violence against them to force them off the streets . . . they're going to do it.

I've written before about how blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is disingenuous and inexcusable. I still believe that . . . but events have overtaken rationality. People are going to start relating to 'Muslims' rather than to 'human beings', just as the extremists label all non-Muslims as 'kaffirs' or 'kufars' - unbelievers - rather than as human beings. For the average man in a European street, a Muslim will no longer be a 'person'. He's simply a Muslim, a label, a 'thing'. He's no longer French, or American, or British, no matter what his passport says. He's an 'other'. He's 'one of them' . . . and because of that, he's no longer 'one of us'. He's automatically defined - no, let's rather say (because it's easier to blame him) that he's defined himself - as a potential threat, merely by the religion he espouses. He may have been born into it, and raised in a family and society and culture so saturated with it as to make it literally impossible, inconceivable, for him to be anything else . . . but that doesn't matter. It's his choice to be Muslim, therefore he must take the consequences. We're going to treat him with the same suspicion and exaggerated caution that we would a live, possibly armed hand-grenade. He's asked for it, so we're going to give it to him.

That's the bitter fruit that extremism always produces. It's done so throughout history. There are innumerable examples of how enemies have become 'things'. It's Crusaders versus Saracens, Cavaliers versus Roundheads, Yankees versus Rebels, doughboys versus Krauts . . . us versus them, for varying values of 'us' and 'them'.

. . .

And in the end, the bodies lying in the ruins, and the blood dripping onto our streets, and the weeping of those who've lost loved ones . . . they'll all be the same. History is full of them. When it comes to the crunch, there are no labels that can disguise human anguish. People will suffer in every land, in every community, in every faith . . . and they'll turn to what they believe in to make sense of their suffering . . . and most of them will raise up the next generation to hate those whom they identify as the cause of their suffering . . . and the cycle will go on, for ever and ever, until the world ends.

Again, more at the link.

The Manchester attack has merely added fuel to the fire, perpetuated the cycle . . . and that's precisely what the extremists want.  Their brand of radicalism can only flourish in a climate of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and perceived racism and/or xenophobia.  Manchester will add to that climate, enhance it, make it more widespread.  Sooner or later, at least some of the people of Britain will rise up and react of their own accord, rather than wait for their leaders to do something about it.  When that day comes, Muslim immigrants to and residents of that country will bear the brunt of it - and since most of them are not involved in terrorism, they'll respond with anger, outrage, and a reaction that grows increasingly more radicalized and violent.  In response, Christian churches are likely to grow less tolerant, more radicalized, in their turn.  I fear the Crusades were - and are - not merely an historical anachronism.

"To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."  Newton said it about physics.  Radicalization demonstrates it in religion - and terrorism demonstrates it in our society's response to terror.  If anyone in today's world thinks that terrorism won't affect them, they're living in a fool's paradise.  All of us are vulnerable, and all of us are already victims, even if only peripherally.  (Want to know why your right to privacy is systematically and deliberately being raped by our organs of government?  It's all in the name of the War on Terror.  Yes, you're affected, all right.)

Manchester was the latest episode.  Stand by for many more to come . . . and be prepared for the consequences.

Peter

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Quote of the day


From Karissa Watson on Gab:







Peter

Yet again, a post-Olympic Games hangover for the host city


It seems that, yet again, hosting the Olympic Games has turned into a financial nightmare after the event was over.

There were 27 world records set at the Rio Olympics last year – from swimming to weightlifting, archery to cycling. These were as thrilling as they were expected. “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” is the Olympic model after all – Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

Now comes perhaps the most enduring world record of the Games: Just seven months after the torch was doused, the host country is already acknowledging the entire operation was a terrible, perhaps criminal idea. It has left them debt-ridden and without a clue what to do with already decaying facilities.

Never faster has been the condemnation for hosting. Never higher has been the local outrage. And, maybe, never stronger is the lesson for the rest of the world to avoid ever getting into business with the International Olympic Committee.

“There was no planning,” Leandro Mitidieri, a federal prosecutor in Brazil, said this week at a public hearing about the Olympic disaster, according to the Associated Press. “There was no planning when they put out the bid to host the Games. No planning.”

And what of the majority of the facilities the country built to appease the IOC, a major part of the $12 billion cost of hosting the Games?

“They are white elephants today,” Mitidieri said.

Seven months. That’s all it took and, actually, it didn’t even really take that long. Mitidieri began looking into corruption involving the host last year, before the Olympics even happened. That he found a dumpster fire is of little surprise to anyone who cared to pay attention or attend the Games.

There's more at the link.

Considering the history of most cities that have hosted the Olympic Games over the past few decades, one wonders why no-one in Brazil drew the obvious conclusions, and withdrew their bid before it was too late.  Now they're stuck with the bills . . .

Peter

The Force has been with us for 40 years now


For the few readers who haven't already heard, today is the 40th anniversary of the release of the original 'Star Wars'.




A long time ago, somewhere in southern California, a bearded young man had a dream of turning old samurai films, Eastern philosophies, and something like Flash Gordon into an operatic adventure set in space. That dream was eventually realized as the seminal science fiction film Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas, and released on May 25, 1977—40 years ago today.

The original $11 million put into filming Star Wars (eventually renamed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope years later) is arguably the best investment ever made in Hollywood. Even when adjusted for inflation, the film would’ve only cost about $45 million in today’s dollars ... The original Star Wars film is the third-highest-grossing film of all time, raking in close to $2 billion when adjusted for inflation. That alone would’ve made the original investment a spectacular one.

. . .

In making Star Wars, Lucas pioneered new camera technology, new filming styles, new sound design techniques, and, most importantly, a new way of thinking about science fiction. Unlike the generically clean, shiny, and metallic futurist alien worlds in other sci-fi films at the time like Logan’s Run, Lucas’s Star Wars universe was lived-in, dusty, and creaking—a lot like our own world. The expanse and detail of Star Wars made Logan’s Run look corny and dated by comparison.

Star Wars stands as a testament not only to Lucas’s filmmaking abilities, but also to his film industry innovation. The film itself set the tone for arguably every science-fiction action film that followed (and even prompted Paramount Pictures to cancel plans for a new Star Trek series to pursue a feature-length film). The technical success of Star Wars gave rise to other Lucas creations, including the audio company THX, the visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic (which has done effects on every Star Wars film and hundreds of other films), and the animation giant Pixar—all of which were originally parts of Lucasfilm, the production company Lucas founded to help him realize his artistic vision.

There's more at the link.

I can recall seeing Star Wars for the first time, in a somewhat tatty, run-down movie theater in Cape Town, South Africa.  I had a weekend pass from the military, and decided to take it in to see what all the fuss was about.  When I emerged a couple of hours later, it seemed almost strange to be in familiar surroundings.  The film had taken me completely out of myself, and I sat rapt through the whole thing.

I wonder what happened to that rapt young man?  He went away somewhere during the intervening years . . . but the movie is still with us.

Peter


Stealth camouflage?


I was interested to read that the US Army is testing what its manufacturer calls a stealth camouflage system.  Strategy Page reports:

The U.S. Army is testing MCS (Mobile Camouflage System) that uses a new type of camouflage material for vehicles that provides an unprecedented degree of concealment and stealth. That’s because this new multi-spectral camouflage netting is fitted to a particular type of vehicle like a second skin and providing protection while moving, even in combat. The army has obtained (at manufacturer expense) several sets of this netting fitted for Stryker wheeled armored vehicles and is conducting field tests in Europe using four Strykers. If the U.S. military places a large enough order manufacturer Saab will set up an MCS manufacturing facility in the United States.

This new generation of camouflage material has been evolving for several decades as a way to protect vehicles and mobile bases from aerial reconnaissance that increasingly used infrared (heat) sensors ... A Swedish firm (Saab) took this a step further and developed MCS, which proved capable of providing a degree of stealth as well as rendering aerial or ground based sensors (and infrared based weapon sights) less effective. That can be a major advantage in combat where getting off the first accurate shot can be decisive. MCS can be provided in various camouflage patterns and colors so vehicles can quickly “change their skin” to cope with a new climate or season.

. . .

Camouflage is an ancient technique but technology caught up with camouflage in the 20th century ... Now MCS and the netting it uses have degraded many of the recent advances in sensors.

There's more at the link.

The system's manufacturer provides this promotional video.





I can recall, back in the 1970's and 1980's, the physical agony (and it often was agony, at the end of a long, very hot, exhausting day of bundu-bashing, being pounded unmercifully in our vehicles as they traversed the African terrain) of spreading heavy, unwieldy camouflage nets over vehicles in the African bush, to prevent enemy MiG fighter-bombers from locating and targeting our vehicles.  They worked to a certain extent, providing visual camouflage, but didn't offer any protection against infrared (i.e. heat-seeking) or radar sensors.  This new camouflage looks like a game-changer in that respect . . . at least, until sensor technology improves still further.

The progression never ends, of course.  Detection technology will improve;  then camouflage technology will leapfrog over current-generation sensors;  then new-generation sensors will be developed to 'see through' the new camouflage, and necessitate the development of something more effective.  That's why armies dare not keep existing technology for too long.  Sooner or later, it'll be outclassed, and a better-equipped enemy will make mincemeat of old-fashioned opponents.

Peter

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ashbutt helps us unpack


Inevitably, after we got home this morning, Ashbutt decided it was his duty to help us unpack.






He enjoyed himself, even if we found his 'assistance' a little overwhelming!




Peter

Dishing the dirt on Comey?


Jerry Pournelle had a very - very! - interesting angle on the firing of James Comey on his blog yesterday morning.  Here's a very brief excerpt.

James Comey is a poisonous snake of the highest order… a deep-water Swamp Denizen who has been highly paid to deliberately provide cover for high-level corruption by the Clintons and Obama.  He is has been central to trying to destroy the Trump campaign and then the Trump administration from the start. He is as dirty as they come in DC.  He had highest-level cover (the FBI no less) and was deep into an effort to eliminate Trump.  Trump had to move hard, fast, and at exactly the right time to cut the head off the snake without getting bitten by the snake or being finished by the other swamp denizens.

Begin by noticing how the President fired Comey when Comey was 3,000 miles away from his office, that Comey had no inkling he was being cut, that all his files, computers, and everything in his office were seized by his boss Sessions and the justice department.  This was not a violation of protocol, it was tactical. Notice how Prez Trump compartmentalized the strike and did not inform any of his White House “staff” to prevent leaks.  Notice how he emasculated Comey and the swamp denizens by letting them know in a tweet that the Attorney General got information (surveillance “tapes” from the seizure of Comey’s office) to let Comey and his handlers know that Trump’s DOJ has the goods on them.  This was a brilliant, strategic and totally imperative move at exactly the right time against horrible, evil and corrupt powers infesting our government.

The swamp is on notice that the President is on to them, they are sweating bullets because their criminal games of corruption are being pursued and they know it.  They are screaming and ranting because they are desperate denizens of the swamp who are beginning to realize they are roadkill.

There's much more at the link.  I think it's a must-read.

If this is true, then the fireworks are just beginning - and they promise to be spectacular . . .

Peter

Almost home


Miss D. and I had a pleasant day yesterday.  We spent the morning visiting the Kansas City Zoo, which is one of the best of its kind either of us have seen.  (The Red River Hogs were fat and lazy - perfect grilling material, as far as I'm concerned!  I suppose it's a good thing Lawdog wasn't with us.  He and I would probably have driven other visitors nuts with our shared appreciation of how barbecue-ready many of the African animals were!  The kudu, eland, springbok and others looked well-fed and fit, ripe and ready for serving.  What can I say?  I'm an African boy.  I've eaten enough of all of them in my time to make me hungry for more!)  Miss D. was in ecstasies over the irresistibly cute sand cat.  I have a feeling that, given half a chance, we'd have one in our hotel room right now, on its way to join our brood at home.

We left Kansas City early in the afternoon, and made it as far as Edmond, OK before we felt too tired to continue.  We contacted Jennifer and Evyl Robot, and shared supper with them and their son at Haigets, an Ethiopian restaurant.  The food was delicious, even more so to me because I'm familiar with East African recipes, so it brought back many memories.  We've made a mental note to bring our friends up here from northern Texas for an extended supper sometime, even if it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive.  The food's worth it!  (I bought a couple of dozen meat and vegetable samosas to take home with us.  I have a real weakness for them, and these were good enough to be irresistible.)

We're about two and a half hours from home, so we'll head out at our leisure this morning, and hopefully be there by lunchtime.  We expect to be drooled on, shed upon and generally fussed over by our cats, who'll be alternately ecstatic that we're home, and annoyed with us for going away in the first place!  Clearly, it'll be all our fault, whatever happens.

I'll try to put up another blog post this evening.  God willing, normal blogging schedule will resume tomorrow.

Peter

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Autonomous vehicles - blessing, curse, or something in between?


Increasingly, it's looking like autonomous vehicles are going to dominate our roads in just a few years.  What's more, if you own a current-technology or earlier vehicle, you may not be allowed to drive it, thanks to advances in vehicle automation and autonomous control.  Mish Shedlock comments:

Capitalism is precisely why driverless is coming. Corporations are betting their money and resources. The government is not resisting. The trucking industry will save hundreds of millions of dollars. People who believe driverless is not coming are the ones who do not understand capitalism!

Fully autonomous vehicles are not some pie in the sky prediction by Al Gore. Real companies (hundreds of them) all working on driverless. A bet against them is a foolish bet against capitalism.

Comparing current carpooling with what’s going to happen is like comparing ancient stone huts to modern houses. Carpooling requires a number of people to get together, on the same route, for rides at the same time every day.

On-demand scheduling, point-to-point, is needed, and in the works. I rather doubt that fuel-based cars disappear by 2024, but widespread (not total) disappearance of privately owned vehicles by 2030 seems reasonable.

. . .

Some point to how few autonomous cars are on the roads. It all starts somewhere. In 1900, in New York City, there was not a car on the road. By 1920, there was not a horse in sight.

Others say they will never accept the technology. Perhaps they will when their insurance costs go through the roof.

There's more at the link.  There's also valuable information in these reports:


Both are worth reading.

I find these reports both interesting, and deeply troubling.  There are certainly many positive results that may come out of this, if the technological and legal problems involved can be solved.  Can autonomous vehicles be made 'hacker-proof'?  Who's legally responsible if autonomous vehicles are involved in an accident?  There are many questions like those that can't be answered at present.

However, I'm also deeply concerned at the reduction in personal freedom and autonomy that this technological evolution represents.  Consider:

  • If I want to drive anywhere right now, I can get in my vehicle and go.  What if a government edict says I can't?  Consider a scenario such as evacuating in the face of a hurricane or other national disaster.  If roads are blocked by too much traffic, it would be child's play for some bureaucrat to digitally signal all vehicles in a large area, to allow only those within a given range of transponder ID's to move at any one time.  An hour later, those ID's could be blocked, and a new range allowed to move, and so on.  For that matter, the same technology could be employed to reduce rush-hour traffic jams every day.  From a bureaucrat's perspective, this is a wonderful idea - controlling mass movements of people to prevent 'disorder' or 'chaos' . . . but what if they get it wrong?  What if their plans are overtaken by events such as natural disasters?  Besides, who gave them the authority to stop me going where I want to, when I want to?  You can bet we won't be given a say in the matter!
  • What if I don't want an autonomous vehicle?  What if I want to retain my existing, driver-controlled vehicle?  That may become impossible, partly because insurers will refuse to cover my old-fashioned, non-autonomous vehicle, and partly because manufacturers will no longer produce them, so that when mine wears out, I have no choice but to replace it with an autonomous model (if, that is, I can afford to - or am allowed to - replace it at all).  What's more, cities may (and probably will) pass local laws to the effect that if you want to drive on their streets, you have to be in a vehicle that can be controlled by their traffic management systems, so as to prevent 'disorder' or 'disruptions' caused by 'outdated technology'.  Present private vehicles may become automotive dinosaurs (not to mention their drivers!).
  • What if government decides to use vehicle autonomy as an extension of law enforcement?  In theory at least, any vehicle controlled by a traffic management system can be ordered to pull over to the side of the road and stop.  If there's (say) a bank robbery, local cops could tell every vehicle within ten blocks to stop until they can check them all - whether or not they were involved.  If an agency wants to conduct a 'safety check' (whether or not that's the real reason to stop vehicles), it can conceivably tell every car on the road to pull over at a designated point for inspection.  Drivers would no longer be in command - they'd be passengers, with no choice but to obey orders.  Some may argue that's no real problem in a democratic country, but what if the checkpoint was in a totalitarian nation, looking for 'enemies of the state' (real or imagined)?  What if it were in a religiously fundamentalist nation, looking for those who profess other faiths, or who are classified as 'heretics' or 'apostates' by the powers that be?  Vehicle autonomy might become a tool of oppression rather than freedom, under such circumstances.

I'm not blind to the many advantages of autonomous vehicles.  As I get older, and become more infirm, it may be that an autonomous vehicle will allow me many more years of independence than I could have by relying on my own faculties.  This is a good thing.  I just hate the thought that autonomy will both increase our mobility, and decrease our individual freedom.  Is there no way to reconcile those conflicting values?

Peter

On the road homeward


Miss D. and I overnighted on the outskirts of Kansas City, MO last night, after attending the funeral of her relative in central Iowa.  It was a difficult gathering, as all such events are.  The loss of a loved one isn't a good reason for a family reunion . . . but at least the survivors can (hopefully) comfort one another.

We're going to take it easy heading home.  My fused spine and damaged sciatic nerve are bad enough, but when kidney stone problems are added on top of them, things become ouchy.  Miss D. has injury issues of her own, so both of us are feeling the pain of several days sitting for hours in a car, or sitting yesterday during church services, then a long car ride to the cemetery in another town.  By the time we got to our hotel last night, both of us were pretty much wiped out.  We went straight to bed.

Today we'll probably visit a local tourist attraction, perhaps the Kansas City zoo - both of us come from areas where wildlife is plentiful and popular, so we like to see how various zoos portray it and educate local citizens about it.  (I still exhibit some typical African traits, though . . . I think of African animals in terms of how they taste, to Miss D.'s amusement!)  After that, we'll head south again, probably overnighting in Wichita, as we did on the way up (or somewhere close to it).  We'll tackle the rest of the journey in leisurely fashion on Wednesday, hopefully getting in towards evening.

Thanks again to all of you keeping us in your prayers.  Hopefully, it's all downhill from here!

Peter

Terror strikes Manchester


I don't suppose there's anything new to say about the suicide bomb attack in Manchester, England.  Nevertheless, it bears repeating a few truths that we've shared in these pages on such occasions in the past.

  1. There are certain places where it's simply less safe to be than it was in years past.  That includes any mass gathering.  Even if the gathering itself has good security (as appears to have been the case in Manchester, according to initial reports), there are other places that can be targeted, such as mass transit facilities used by those attending it, or 'choke points' such as entrances and exits.  The terrorist(s) don't have to get into the actual venue to cause mass casualties.  There is no possible defense that can encompass and make safe every single point of potential danger.
  2. You have to make a cold, hard, rational assessment of your and your family's priorities.  If you know that certain gatherings, such as concerts, are preferred targets for terrorists, and if you live in a large city where there is more likely to be a concentration of potential terrorists, you need to take that knowledge into account when planning whether or not to attend mass entertainment events like the concert in Manchester.  It's no good saying that not to attend means that the terrorists have won.  Not to attend is one possible response to a clear and present danger.  To attend regardless is your right and your privilege.  So is living with (or dying from) the potential consequences.
  3. It's no good relying on the security services to safeguard such venues - or blaming them when something evil happens.  They're doubtless doing the best that they can;  but their hands are tied by the very political, social, economic, religious and cultural structures that we, the people, have insisted our politicians erect and maintain.  We're the ones who demand that certain values be implemented and safeguarded in our society.  When those same values open the way for extremists to operate, we have to make a choice.  Do we want to maintain those values no matter what?  Or are we prepared to give up some of them, or modify them, in order to have greater security?  My response will always be to maintain values in the face of threats against them.  Others, more reliant (or willing to be more reliant) on government, will argue the alternative.  This is a debate that will be ongoing.  If we're not careful, it may reshape our society in ways that make Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' and 'Animal Farm' seem like light comedy.

Meanwhile, let me point you to some of my earlier articles pertaining to our society's response to, and our personal security in, this sort of environment.  I provided a list back in March, when writing about the then-latest terror attack.  I recommend it to your attention.

May those killed in the Manchester terror attack rest in peace.  May those who mourn them receive what comfort they may.  May all of us who reflect on that attack, make wise decisions going forward about how to avoid becoming victims ourselves, and how to prevent such violence from devouring our rights and freedoms in the name of national security.

Peter

Monday, May 22, 2017

Oh, good grief! Rambo goes to Bollywood!


It seems the iconic Rambo character is to be revived in an 'official' Bollywood remake.  The Telegraph reports:

News that the 1980s classic is to be adapted into a Bollywood blockbuster has prompted an incredulous response from fans of the original, and a somewhat startled reaction from Rambo star, Sylvester Stallone, himself.

“I read recently they are remaking Rambo in India!!...Great character…hope they don’t wreck it,” he wrote on his Instagram account, next to a movie still of a fierce-looking John Rambo, the troubled Vietnam War veteran who the franchise is based on.

. . .

Fans, particularly Indians, among Stallone’s 3.3million Instagram followers, have been a touch more cynical.

“Low budget 3rd class acting and dramatic emotional scenes for no reasons,” lamented one Indian fan.

“Trust me sir they will make your movie cartoon I am an Indian and I know our directors it will be hell of a wreck,” said another.

“Dance numbers and a happy ending what can go wrong?” asked an Instagram user.

There's more at the link.

Here's an Indian report about the announcement of the remake.





After seeing many of Bollywood's action scenes here over the past few months, I have my doubts about this remake . . .




Peter

Was the entire 2016 Democratic primary a sham, a fake, and a public lie?


I'm amazed by the sheer chutzpah of lawyers for the Democratic National Committee.  They've just argued openly in court, with a straight face, that the entire primary process for that party's Presidential nomination is nothing more than smoke and mirrors - and rightfully so.

There's a lawsuit in progress in Florida, where DNC contributors who supported Bernie Sanders' candidacy in 2016 are suing that organization.  A left-wing (not conservative) observer reports (bold, underlined text is my emphasis):

Without any pretense the Democratic primary nominating process should be expected to be conducted fairly, lawyers for the Democratic Party tell Judge Zloch the lawsuit should be thrown out because the Party has the freedom to determine its nominees by “internal rule”, not voter interests, and thus the party “could have favored a candidate”.

Lawyers for the Democratic Party suggest the lawsuit “can’t be resolved” by the Court because it is based on an internal rule that “cannot be enforced”. This statement by lawyers for the Democrats to a Federal judge is a damning indictment the Party may never recover from: the party views itself in no way beholden to voters’ interest whatsoever.

This will play out in further remarks, but in taking this position, the Democrats present themselves as perfectly comfortable with the American public and Court knowing they view the nominating process to be the Party’s choice, and they can and do operate under no legal obligation whatsoever to be representative of the interest of American citizens participating in Party activities and nominating contests.

The DNC’s Charter clearly articulates it is the responsibility of the party and specifically, its Chairperson, to guarantee a fair Presidential primary process and that all DNC staff conduct business evenhandedly to ultimately assure this. Judge Zloch’s correction of the DNC lawyer’s language demonstrates the Judge’s clear understanding that this element of the Charter’s language is central to determining the merits of the DNC’s argument, and shows the Judge did not allow the DNC’s lawyers to obscure the specificity of this guarantee in the Party’s charter.

Despite the implications of this position, lawyers for the DNC repeatedly denied that the terms “impartial” and “evenhanded” can be defined to the point that a ruling can be issued on what obligations these words carry as they appear in the DNC’s Charter.

There's more at the link.  Copies of submissions to the court and other materials are provided as evidence to support the observer's report.  Highly recommended reading.

This is absolutely mind-blowing stuff.  The Democratic Party's National Committee is openly arguing, in court, for all the world to see, that it's entitled to rig the primary election process, disregard the democratically-expressed views of its party's members, and decide for itself who gets to be the party nominee for the Presidency.  It doesn't see itself as accountable to its members, and can even decide to violate with impunity its own clearly-expressed and (formerly) presumably binding policies and principles.  After its machinations were exposed, it's now arguing that no court has any jurisdiction over its internal processes and procedures.  Effectively, the DNC is putting itself above the law and above its own party members.  It can do whatever it likes, and no-one else is allowed to comment, complain or intervene.

I would ask why the mainstream media hasn't bothered to report on this case in much more detail . . . but we all know why, don't we?  Can't have awkward things like facts affecting the narrative du jour, now!

If I were a Bernie Sanders supporter, I'd be absolutely mind-boggled at these revelations.  I'd be asking myself, very sincerely, how I could ever trust the Democratic Party to take me and/or my views seriously in future.




Peter

On the ground with the extended family


Miss D. and I are in Iowa, where her family has gathered for the funeral.  There was a get-together at a local restaurant yesterday evening, at which I met a large number of relatives-by-marriage who were new to me, and vice versa.  There were several visibly emotional reunions of people who hadn't seen each other in ten to fifteen years.  In that sense, even though the reason for coming here is a sad one, at least it's also got its positive side.

The funeral service will be on Monday morning, followed by a rather long drive to where the deceased will be interred next to his late wife.  It'll take most of the day to get there and back.  I'm not yet sure whether we'll depart for home on Monday afternoon, planning to overnight somewhere near Kansas City, KS, or whether we'll return to the small-town gone-to-seed motel where we're staying at present, to spend another night there before heading for home.  I guess it'll depend how long the proceedings take, and how tired we are.

Thanks to all of you who've kept us in mind as we traveled.  So far, so good.

Peter


Sunday, May 21, 2017

So far, so good . . .


We're in Wichita, Kansas at present.  We got here late yesterday afternoon, after a late start from home.  Since we were both tired, we decided to break our journey here, rather than push on.  It'll mean only a few hours' drive to our destination on Sunday, but that's OK.  We can take our time and enjoy the scenery.

We're enjoying our rented vehicle.  My work truck is 12 years old, and Miss D.'s small SUV is 11 years old, and neither is as comfortable (or reliable) as more modern vehicles.  In particular, my back complains about the narrower seats in Miss D.'s vehicle - I'm a big guy.  In order to make the journey more bearable, we splurged on renting a Toyota Camry, which is proving very comfortable.  (We're trying to rent a different make and model of car each time we do this, so as to get an idea what's out there.  In due course, when we come to replace our existing vehicles, we'll know what suits us, and we'll look for a reasonably-priced used example we can buy for cash.)

I don't know most of Miss D.'s extended family, having met only a few of them.  It looks like this funeral will also serve as an impromptu family reunion, so I guess I'm going to make up for lost time!  I'll let you know if I survive the experience.  I'll try to put up a few more blog posts during the course of our journey.  Regular posting will probably resume around mid-week.

Peter

Saturday, May 20, 2017

On the road for a few days


Miss D. and I will be traveling for a few days, and not often within reach of Internet access.  There's been a death in her family, and we're on our way to the funeral.

Blog posting will be light and intermittent, depending on when I can find time to write a post and when I can get Internet access to put it up.  Regular service should resume around the middle of next week.  Until then, please amuse yourselves with the blogs listed in my sidebar.  There are good writers there, too!

Thanks.  Those of you who are thus inclined, please say a prayer for our traveling safety - and that my kidney stone doesn't become too painful.  I'm kinda worried about that, but we don't exactly have a choice in the matter.

Peter

The anti-Trump knives are drawing blood from this entire nation


We're seeing a wholesale campaign of insurrection by the progressive left wing of US politics, fueled and aided by the so-called 'Deep State', against President Trump.  As a matter of fact, he's only the figurehead of their attack.  What they're really after is the political voting bloc that elected him - those they view as 'deplorables'.  They want to knock them out of politics as well, to prevent any further roadblocks on their path to domination of the USA.

Four articles make this point very convincingly.  First, here's the Federalist.

It’s nearly incontrovertible that a slow-motion coup d’etat is now taking place. Since November 9, 2016, forces within the U.S. government, media, and partisan opposition have aligned to overthrow the Electoral College winner, Donald Trump.

To achieve this they have undermined the institutions of the Fourth Estate, the bureaucratic apparatus of the U.S. government, and the very nature of a contentious yet affable two-party political system. Unlike the coup d’etat that sees a military or popular figure lead a minority resistance or majority force into power over the legitimate government, this coup d’etat is leaderless and exposes some of the deepest fissures in our system of government. This coup d’etat represents not the rule of one man or even many, but by the multitude of our elites.

. . .

With the aid of the media and the Democratic Party, the institutions of the republic are crippled, the levers of power having been seized not by the elected but by the unelected bureaucratic state — from ideologues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the partisans and paranoid who inhabit our intelligence community.

. . .

Complicit with the authoritarian nature of the administrative state is factions within the United States intelligence community both inside and outside the White House. They have engaged in a campaign of selective leaks and plots to undermine the president of the United States and weave a media narrative of Russian influence, conspiracy, and now obstruction of justice. With their media allies, they have leaked information and intelligence that — while lacking any actual criminal element — has allowed a narrative to arise that casts a dark shadow over the White House and those who live and work in it.

. . .

In all of this, the media has abandoned their role as watchdogs with a healthy dose of skepticism and become the propaganda arm of the unelected administrative state, complicit in and even cheering on the actions that have superseded the will of the people. A cursory glance at the social media feeds of most Washington DC-based press more than illustrates this.

Bolstered by their partisan allies, the media has acted as a beachhead for the assault on the Trump administration. Partisan organizations like Media Matters for America have helped to provide ammunition to the media and pour fuel on the fires of resistance among partisan activists.

. . .

The attack on Trump from within and without is coordinated and purposefully geared to make a lack of evidence seem like a mountain of evidence and be as damning as possible, although what it truly amounts to is a paper tiger. With the administrative state leaking and the partisans giving context, the media gins up a plot that declares Trump guilty of crimes of which there is no concrete evidence he committed. This is how you build the consensus behind a coup d’etat.

. . .

Whereas some continue to try and enforce republican values and norms, a large swath of what administers the government of our nation has chosen to embody the Roman dictator Sulla — in the form of a multitude of bureaucrats and careerists; a dictatorial court without an emperor to bring them to heel.

We may already be past the point of no return. Some in the White House made it a point to seek dismantling the administrative state, but it appears the administrative state is more than capable of fighting back and seizing additional power through leaks, obstinacy, and partisan rancor — ensuring its survival and propelling what can only be described as a coup d’etat.

There's more at the link.

That article is pretty damning.  Evidence for its claims is abundant.  For example, when it comes to what's behind the very visible media partisanship, consider this.

Shareblue’s online “army” of paid shills is not a jarring new discovery. They’ve made themselves publically known for months now, attempting to “fight back” against the massive grassroots wave of patriotic Trump supporters on Twitter and other social platforms.

What is a new development for Shareblue is their leaked “Strategic Plan for Action” that plans to fight “fake news” and “develop technologies to serve as an early warning system” against it.

. . .

This playbook seems to line up directly with the recent move towards online censorship by Silicon Valley. It could not be more clear that Silicon Valley is in the back pocket of the Democratic party. Their actions align perfectly with that of this Democracy Matters coalition, which should come as no surprise being that they openly admit to working with them.

. . .

This unified attack on liberty and free expression online can only mean one thing: the global elite and far-left are in all out panic mode over the rise of populism. It’s incredible to think that in the ten years since social media’s rise, not once before the rise of populism has “fake news” been an issue. Silicon Valley and the global media elite have realized that The People are rising up and using their own tools against them to expose the truth and to fight for freedom, sovereignty, and national identity among other things.

Below is an overview of the Democracy Matters “Strategic Plan for Action” as well as some examples of this plan unfolding specifically on Reddit.

Again, more at the link.

Scott Adams sees the present situation as 'the slow assassination of President Trump'.

I saw this quote on CNN.com today: “The episode is the latest woe for Trump, whose administration is engulfed in a series of scandals linked to Russia.”

A “series of scandals linked to Russia”? Would it be equally accurate to characterize it as a series of stories manufactured by the media, none of which have been confirmed to be a big deal?

. . .

I also think we are seeing with the recent leaks the first phase of Mutually Assured Destruction of our government. The leaks will destroy Trump if they continue. But if that happens, no Democrat and no anti-Trump Republican will ever be able to govern in the future. Payback is guaranteed. The next President to sit in the White House will be leaked to the point of ineffectiveness. And that’s how the Republic dies.

. . .

If you can sit passively while watching the Opposition Media turn “hope” into “asked Comey to end the investigation,” you are part of the slow assassination of President Trump. And you are also part of the slow assassination of the next president, and the next. If Trump goes down from leaks, Mutually Assured Destruction kicks in automatically.

On the plus side, the public has the power and the moral authority to strip the Opposition Media of its power and take control of the government via the weight of public opinion. But that probably won’t happen because of our old friend confirmation bias. Confirmation bias makes the innocent word “hope” look like “Asked him to end the investigation.” Trump’s critics will see it that way. And if they do, your next president might be Elizabeth Warren.

She should last about two years.

More at the link.

The frightening thing in all this is that the Trump administration seems unable to find a way to effectively respond to, and to fight back against, the tidal wave of criticism and opposition that's pouring over it.  President Trump isn't helping matters with his off-the-cuff, unplanned remarks that merely add fuel to the fire.  There isn't a coherent, consistent message from this administration - and how are its members and supporters supposed to 'stay on message' when there isn't one?

I don't know how this will work out, but it can't possibly be good for the USA in the future.  If we, the people, allow the will of the people - expressed through a constitutionally valid election - to be thwarted by the 'deep state' and political forces operating outside the constitution, then the rule of law will have ceased to exist in this country.  Perhaps that's what some forces actually want . . . but, as Ace of Spades points out, that's a two-edged sword.

The "Elites" of #TheResistance are winning in their bid for a coup, and Trump hasn't been able to thwart them. I realize this is something that causes a lot of controversy to say, but it's true.

. . .

I don't believe they've planned out the aftermath of a coup.

It will be... messy.

Once you've formally announced to the public that their decisions simply do not matter, and that a niche subculture of the country gets to exercise an extra-constitutional veto on any decision they don't approve of -- once you've made it plain that America is a government with a nation, not a nation with a government -- what exactly is it that binds the people to a government that cannot in any way be described as "their" government?

The old bromide was that we have to respect the will of the people when we lose, if for no other reason that we count on others respecting the will of the people when they lose.

But now that that social contract has been entirely disavowed by a large minority of the country -- now that they've made it plain that they will have no government except one they control at the expense of their enemies -- what possible reason could they suggest to citizens why they must respect the next president, or the one after that?

#Resistance is a two-way street, fellers.

More at the link.

If this continues for much longer, this nation will bleed itself to death.  What will replace our constitutional republic?  Will we remain a single political entity?  Will the USA become balkanized, as some have predicted?  Who knows?

Whatever happens, I suspect it's going to be no fun at all . . .

Peter

Friday, May 19, 2017

Wild night


We had a pretty wild night here in northern Texas, and the weather outside is still very unsettled.  We've been warned to expect more storms throughout the day and into tonight.

Yesterday evening, when I headed for Old NFO's place for our regular Thursday night get-together, there were five big green garbage bins (the wheeled sort, supplied by the trash collecting company) strewn in the road between our house and the nearest intersection, tossed there by the wind as if they were mere child's toys.  I came back home and put our bins in the garage before setting out again, because I could see we were likely to lose them if I didn't.  The gathering broke up early, too, what with weather warnings blaring from our cellphones, and everyone went home to batten down the hatches.

Just a couple of months ago, we had new gutters installed, and improved the drainage system down one side of the house to better handle heavy rain.  Well, last night's storm was so heavy that it broke the new gutters, which are hanging from their brackets at one joint, allowing water to pour out.  The new drainage grate has been literally ripped out of the ground and upended by the force of the water, and the pipe leading from it to the bottom of our property has been lifted out of the trench dug for it for at least half its length.  I knew flood water had a great deal of power, but I must admit, I'd never expected runoff down the side of our house to get that strong.  The contractor will be here in an hour or so to inspect the damage, and see about fixing it.

To make matters worse, Miss D. learned yesterday afternoon that a relative has died.  We're going to have to spend a couple of days on the road, driving up for the funeral, and the same coming back home again.  We'll do our best to have things as ship-shape as possible before we depart, but serious repairs will have to wait until we get back.

Those of you in the storm-threatened areas of northern Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas today . . . take care, will you?  This storm system is nothing to fool with.

Peter

Security warning for users of HP laptops


If you use a HP laptop computer, or if friends and family use them, you or they may be affected by a security issue that's recently cropped up.  Sky News reports:

Security researchers have discovered that a feature installed in a number of HP laptops is recording all of the keystrokes that the laptop users make.

In capturing everything users press on their keyboards the software is recording sensitive information, and by saving that information in an easily accessible file the researchers claim that it is potentially exposing users' passwords to attackers.

According to the Swiss cybersecurity group behind the research, Modzero, the feature wasn't designed to spy on users - but it was implemented in such a way that it records everything users type.

This means that from the moment a user logs into Windows on affected HP laptops, every key they press, including to enter passphrases for online banking and email accounts, is recorded and stored.

. . .

HP told Sky News: "Our supplier partner developed software to test audio functionality prior to product launch and it should not have been included in the final shipped version. Fixes will be available shortly via HP.com."

There's more at the link.

I checked my own laptop last night, and sure enough, the keylogger files were there.  I deleted the files, then used Windows' Device Manager to update the driver to HP's new version.  That appears to have fixed the problem.

You'll find details of how to check your own computer here.  I used it to check mine, and its methods worked.  ZDNet has more technical details of the problem and its fix here.

Please check your own computer as soon as possible, and please pass the word to your family and friends to check theirs.  I guarantee you, hackers are even now trying to figure out how to access the key log file on your system (if it exists), and copy it to their own servers, where they can analyze it to see whether key financial information, passwords, etc. was recorded.  If they find it, you may wake up one morning to find your e-mail compromised, or your bank account accessed, or any of a number of other nasty outcomes.

Peter

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hard at work


I achieved something of a milestone today in our settling into our new home in Texas, even though it's taken me more than fifteen months since we got here!  I've finally finished opening every single box that we brought down and stored in the garage.  I've been discarding everything we don't need (as a rule of thumb, if we haven't needed it since we got here, out it goes, headed to the local thrift store).  Things we do need, or things of which we have multiples (how the heck did I end up with five - five!!! - corded drills?), have been sorted into larger boxes and stacked to one side.

(Yes, I know many of you would rather I was busy writing.  Sorry about that, but with my current kidney stone problems not yet dealt with, I'm popping more painkillers than usual, and I find my creative muse takes flight while they're in my system.  Not long now, I hope.)

So far I've emptied (permanently) more than 30 totes, which are all stacked to one side, and no less than 67 cardboard moving boxes, all of which have been flattened and tossed out with the garbage. Some of the empty totes will be used to receive the things we need as I sort them out from the larger boxes, and stored on shelves.  A few of the rest will be stored against future need, while the remainder will go to friends or the thrift store in due course.

Because of the semi-itinerant way we've lived since getting married, I've had boxes I packed in Louisiana for our move to Tennessee, and never opened since.  Doing so now has been a real eye-opener.  For example, I've just finished sorting through all the flip-top ammo boxes I've accumulated over the years.  Apart from those actually in use, I had almost a hundred empty ones!  I've filled a small tote with a reserve of a few boxes for each of my major cartridges, and tossed all the rest into a larger tote.  I'll let our friends pick them over for anything they need, and probably take the rest to Blogorado in October.  I'm sure our shooting buddies there will help dispose of them in short order.

As a matter of fact, I might have to pack a couple of totes with 'door prizes' for everyone at Blogorado.  I've got far more than I need in the way of flashlights, knives, holsters, ammo boxes, magazines, and so on.  (When and where did I pick up a dozen or so early-model straight-sided 20-round M16 magazines, and why?)  If I can free up thirty or forty good items, I'll take them all up with me in October. We can have a "Pick one as your name is pulled out of the hat" sort of event one evening (followed, I daresay, by heavy bargaining and swapping, which is half the fun!).

Peter

Captain Capitalism tells it like it is


I'm sure many of my readers know the blog 'Captain Capitalism'.  It's written by Aaron Clarey, who has a somewhat cynical, iconoclastic view of life, the universe and everything.  I don't agree with everything he says, but I think his views of the present state of the economy are pretty accurate - even though I'd prefer to think the future is potentially better.

At any rate, Mr. Clarey has just released his latest book.  It's called 'Poor Richard's Retirement:  Retirement for Everyday Americans'.




The title is clearly a play on Benjamin Franklin's 'Poor Richard's Almanack', as the cover illustration makes clear.  If you're familiar with Mr. Clarey's oft-espoused views on how to live in today's economy, there won't be much new material here for you.  However, even though I know his views well, I still found it valuable to have this condensed summary of them at my fingertips.  Furthermore, although the book is written with the American economic situation in mind, many of its principles apply equally well to other countries.

The blurb reads:

Don’t have enough money saved up for retirement? No problem. Never started a 401k or IRA? Don’t worry. And are you so far behind in your personal finances you’re worried you’ll never be able to retire? It’s all good. Because whether you know it or not, the entire US retirement system is horribly flawed and was doomed to fail anyway. And that’s why every American needs to read “Poor Richard’s Retirement.”

“Poor Richard’s Retirement” is a revolutionary retirement system because, unlike today’s conventional retirement planning, it works. It puts retirement easily within the reach of your everyday man. Whether you have student loans, a mortgage, are behind in your retirement planning, or have no retirement savings at all, “Poor Richard’s Retirement” bypasses it all by showing you how little you truly need to retire. And it does so through the simple truth that happiness is not found in $400 yoga pants, luxury SUV’s, McMansions, or whatever lies they’re selling you on TV, but through love of family, friends, and your fellow man. All of which are free.

It's a very short book, but pithy.  Some may find his economic views and proposals simplistic, but I'm here to tell you, they work.  Miss D. and I have been trying to live that way since long before we learned of Mr. Clarey's existence.  It's brought us relative peace of mind, when many of our friends were struggling in a financial trap that was, all too often, self-made.

If you're worried about preparing for retirement (or even if you're already retired), and aren't sure how you're going to afford to live for the rest of your life, I highly recommend this book.  Adjusting to its recipe for success may be difficult for you, but I promise you, it's more likely to work than any other prescription from so-called financial 'experts', who (all too often) want to use your money to continue to prop up their status quo.  Even better, 'Poor Richard's Retirement' is inexpensive.  It's worth its purchase price, IMHO.

(No, I'm not getting any compensation or kickback for recommending it.  I've bought my own copy, with my own money.  I bring it to your attention because I like to share good ideas with my readers - and this book has a number of them.)

Peter

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How wake turbulence nearly killed a planeload of people


Back in March I reported on the case of a Challenger business jet that was caught in the wake vortex of a mammoth Airbus A380 over the Indian Ocean.  The bizjet was so badly damaged that it had to be written off after an emergency landing, and everyone on board was injured, some of them seriously.

More details have now emerged of the damage caused to the smaller aircraft, including this picture of the interior.




That's some pretty spectacular damage.  Note the bloodstains, too.

Flight Global reports:

... the Challenger's captain, who had been flying, told the German-led inquiry that the aircraft had "shook briefly" before rolling heavily to the left. Its autopilot disengaged and the crew had manually attempted to stop the roll with right-bank input.

"But the [aircraft] had continued to roll to the left, thereby completing several rotations," says German investigation authority BFU.

. . .

The flight attendant told the investigation that she had been standing in the cabin before the upset, and four of the six passengers were also not seated.

"In her recollection the [Challenger] had turned three times around its longitudinal axis, during which the occupants had been thrown against the ceiling and the seats," says BFU. "Several of the passengers suffered injuries, some of which were bleeding. She herself suffered minor injuries."

Inspection of the aircraft after it landed at Muscat showed damage to the seats and panelling, and "traces of blood", the inquiry adds. Armrests on four seats were deformed or fractured and two oxygen masks had fallen from their housing.

One passenger suffered head injuries and a broken rib, while another had fractured a vertebra. Two other passengers and the attendant had injuries including bruising and a fractured nose.

There's more at the link.  It makes interesting reading for aircraft buffs.

The Challenger exceeded its structural limitations during its fall after the incident, and was so badly overstressed that it had to be scrapped after it landed.  Those aboard were very, very lucky to get back on the ground in one piece . . .




Peter

Yay! - and thank you all very much for your support!


A few weeks ago I mentioned that, thanks to your support in their reader poll, I'd won the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance's award for the Book of the Year for 2017.  It was awarded for my first Western novel, 'Brings the Lightning'.




Today, this showed up at my door.




Yay! Thank you all very much for voting for my book.

I'm going to follow Larry Correia's example (he won the first CLFA Book of the Year award, last year). He won't enter future competitions, because he believes that others should get their chance at the title. I agree with him, so I'll also leave the field clear for others next year.

Nevertheless, I'll savor this year's award - my first as an author. It's a nice feeling.

Peter

Do we have a government, or a gaggle of pants-wetting hysterical kids?


I'm getting more and more angry at politicians grandstanding to and for their electorate, and seriously damaging the USA and its institutions in the process.  This applies to both sides of the political aisle, and to everyone from the President, to Senators and Congressional representatives, to State and local governments, to (it seems) temporary acting unpaid deputy second assistant dog-catchers.  The rot seems to have spread throughout our body politic.

If adults are supposed to be mature people, I venture to suggest that almost every politician we've got, Republican or Democrat, is not mature, and should be sent back to political and social kindergarten until they've learned how to behave.  We expect kids to throw temper tantrums if their wishes and desires are thwarted.  Witness children in the supermarket.

"Mommy, I want that chocolate bar!"

"No, you can't have it.  You'll spoil your supper."

"WAAAAAHHH!"

Witness kids in a car.

"Mommy, Johnny touched me!"

"Johnny, stop that."

"But Jenny touched me first!"

"I don't care who touched who first - both of you, stop that!"

(Both kids, simultaneously) "WAAAAAHHH!"

Isn't that precisely what we're seeing from our politicians in Washington D.C. right now?  "Impeach (name of politician)!"  "No, charge (name of politician) with (the crime of the accuser's choice)!"  "Investigate this bureaucrat!"  "No, investigate the people who hired/tolerated/fired him!"  Some politicians want this, or that, or the other thing, and threaten to hold other legislation or government business to ransom unless and until they get it.  Others demand that the heads of their political opponents must roll, ignoring the fact that their own politicians are just as guilty, just as venal, just as corrupt, as those on the other side.  It looks like nothing more than a pack of kids demanding to play with the American people's ball on their turf according to their rules, and denouncing as "Unfair!" anyone else's desire to do the same thing.

I don't know what the answer is.  I suppose this may be the ultimate proof of Joseph de Maistre's maxim that "Every nation gets the government it deserves."  (All I can say is, we must have done something awful bad to deserve the government we've got now!)  I also suspect this proves H. L. Mencken was right when he said, "Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other's speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in."  We've certainly got a prime gang of rascals in Washington right now - and that applies on both sides of the aisle.  If the position of the Democratic and Republican parties were reversed tomorrow, in terms of who controls what elected body, I suspect we wouldn't see much practical difference at all.

One of the real tragedies of this situation is that good men and women increasingly avoid elected service to the people.  I can't blame them.  When they know that announcing their candidacy will instantly result in their being put under the partisan political microscope;  their every thought, word and deed since birth will be analyzed to a fare-thee-well in the hunt for evidence about their views and positions;  and their family life, personal privacy, and other assets will evaporate under the glare of the political spotlight - it's no wonder so many good, upright people won't even consider serving their country as legislators.  What's more, the few good ones who are elected often become disillusioned or burned out, and quit rather than carry on trying to keep their heads above the fetid waters of the swamp.  Those who don't quit, often become part of the problem as they abandon their principles and efforts to find a solution to it.

I begin to think that a constitutional convention might be the only way forward in terms of getting anything done in this country.  Trouble is, that's a two-edged sword.  There are principles like a balanced budget, term limits, and restrictions on the powers of government and their scope (in particular the shameless corrupting of the 'Commerce Clause' that both major parties have aided and abetted for decades) that I'd support in a heartbeat.  Indeed, those principles appear to enjoy widespread support in this country from people of many political persuasions.  However, activists on both sides would doubtless try to hijack the convention for their own purposes, to support or reject their favorite cause du jour.  That would turn the convention into a circus to rival Congress or the Senate.  Why . . . it might even give rise to the suspicion that our elected representatives, whoever and wherever they might be, are actually behaving in the same fractured, schizophrenic, irrational fashion as the people who elected them!  If that's the case, a constitutional convention would be useless.  It would only produce more of the same old, same old . . .

Somehow I envision Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and several other early Presidents looking down from on high at our present mess, shaking their heads, and calling loudly for more beer (or whatever their heavenly tipple might be).  Perhaps strong drink is the only response left to us.




Peter