Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday morning music

Regular readers will know that I've been a lifelong fan of the music of Jethro Tull and its leader, Ian Anderson.  He's far more than just a rock or pop musician.  He's composed in genres ranging from pop, to disco, to folk, to hard rock, and any number of combinations thereof.  He's also transcribed many of his compositions for orchestra (and a number of classical orchestral works into rock songs, too!).

I thought you might be interested to see how his orchestral adaptations have worked.  Here's just one example from 'The Orchestral Jethro Tull', which is one of my favorite Tull/Anderson albums.

First, from the legendary 1971 album 'Aqualung', in the 40th anniversary remastered edition issued in 2011, here's 'Mother Goose'.

Now, here's the orchestral version, featuring a much older band, with lots more musicians.

I find it a whimsical, light-hearted and interesting variation on the original rock version.  You might like to check out the other orchestral renditions on the album (you can listen to samples at the link, and if you subscribe to the Amazon Unlimited music streaming service, the full album's available there at no additional charge).


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #966

Today's award goes to a biologically clueless pet owner in Britain.

An unsuspecting pet owner had the shock of his life when he thought caring for his two new little female guinea pigs would be a breeze.

It turned out that he couldn't have been more wrong. He'd accidentally bought a male and a female, which began multiplying "faster than he could react".

Before he knew it, the babies had mated with one another, and he had 160 little guinea pigs running around in his garden in Gosport, Hampshire.

There's more at the link.

I'd have thought that when the first litter of guinea-piglets appeared, that would have been what the professionals call A Clue . . . but to wait until he had 160 of them before figuring it out?  Verily, the mind doth boggle!


Is there a maritime jobs crisis in the USA?

I'm asking because two fellow bloggers have complained about the situation for US merchant seamen and officers in recent weeks.

First, Captain Jill is having a very hard time finding work.

I spent most of every day this week still trying to find work. Filling out online applications (again), for all the same places that I’ve already filled them out for. Calling everyone I could find to call. Still getting the same results...

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So, I broke down and went to Houston on Wednesday to see about joining the SIU. The unlicensed seamans union. I’ve been an applicant with the AMO (licensed officers union) since at least December and have had 1 (yes only 1) possible job. That job was gone before I could even return the phone call! Since then, they don’t answer the phone, they don’t return calls, I’ve pretty much lost hope that they actually have any work.

Of course I would rather use the license I’ve spent 30+ years and $50,000+++ to earn! But if I have to sail as a deckhand, I’m perfectly willing to do that too. Anything out at sea is better than working at McDonalds or Domino’s, which seem to be the only jobs open to me on the beach.

S***! 2 college degrees and 30 years of experience to earn the highest license there is out there, and what does it get me? NOTHING! Not a damn thing!

Yeah, I’ve had it pretty good up until the last couple of years. I was able to save a few bucks. I was able to travel and enjoy life. I did really love a few of my jobs. Never really hated any of them. But after almost 2 years of unemployment and unable to find ANY work that will even come close to paying the bills, I have to say I am getting more than a little bit pissed off.

Yes. Pissed off! Frustrated. Angry. Depressed. Un-motivated. I could go on...

There's more at the link.

Then, Paul, Dammit! informs us that the fuel sector of the US maritime industry is in a bad way.

There's a serious morale issue throughout the ports of NY/NJ fuel barge crew. My company is not immune there. Oh, we're doing fine compared to the poor bastards down in the Gulf of Mexico, where even master mariners are working as able seamen and thankful when there's even that for work. While you're not seeing massive savings at the pump anymore thanks to the suits in the futures markets who're really cashing in, efficiencies have led to companies being able to get oil out of the ground cheaper on land, which is competitive with offshore oil, even given the disparities of distribution costs. Jobs have shifted for now, and both shale oil and offshore oil have plenty of wells just waiting for the price index to rise enough to be worth kicking the drills in gear. In the meanwhile, while the low-hanging fruit is being brought to market, there's lots of hungry bellies.

Morale is pretty low in the US maritime fuel transport sector, at least in many parts. It seems like medium-parcel movements are down, too, but not to the extent that I've seen in the small boats.

Unfortunately, I lack the ability to read crystal balls, and I don't have enough chatty friends in the marketing sector for fuel transport to really put together a more complete, coherent synopsis for what's going on, but I can say that the coconut telegraph among friends and shipmates and acquaintances online, there's an awful lot of this time is different in terms of riding out the slowdown.

Well, we'll see.

Again, more at the link.

Does anyone know whether these problems extend throughout the US merchant shipping industry?  Are they on both the East and the West Coasts?  What are the reasons for the downturn?  How bad is it here compared to elsewhere in the world, where I note that some articles complain about a skills shortage?

I'd like to know more.  If anyone can provide further information, or post links to relevant articles, I'd be grateful.  Thanks.


Friday, July 21, 2017

The REAL housewives of ISIS . . .

. . . according to the BBC - with tongue firmly in cheek!


More rally thrills, spills and chills

Here's another great video of things that can - and, all too often, do - go wrong in rallying.

After watching that, there's no way any rally team could pay me enough to drive a Smart Fortwo, or something equally tiny, in such events.  There's not nearly enough metal, crumple zones and space around the driver to be safe!


Robert Stacy McCain brings the smackdown to LGBTBBQWTF

Following my essay on gender and sex last Wednesday, I was intrigued - and felt vindicated - to find that Robert Stacy McCain has his own views on the subject, very similar to mine.

In January 2014, when I first wrote about the controversy between radical feminists and transgender activists, it seemed to me a bad joke. “The Competitive Victimhood Derby,” I called it — two rival tribes of left-wing nutjobs vying for the coveted Most Oppressed Award. Subsequent research, however, convinced me that the radical feminist nutjobs were actually right on the basic issue — being male or female is a fact of science, not subject to politically motivated revision — and transgender activists were wrongly seeking to hijack “gender identity” (and feminism, along with it) in a way that amounts to Female Erasure, to quote the title of a recent radical feminist anthology on the subject. “Facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams said, and there is something fundamentally dishonest about the ideology of the transgender cult.

Young people are becoming seriously confused by the transgender cult. Or perhaps the causation works the other way, and confused young people are magnetically attracted to the cult belief that, with the “treatment” of synthetic hormones and surgery, they can escape their adolescent woes by “transitioning” into the opposite sex. Feminists have identified the factor of social contagion in what they call “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.” Through the influence of peers, and also through online recruitment by transgender cultists, many teenagers are quite suddenly convinced that they were “born in the wrong body.” In a matter of months or even a few weeks, an otherwise healthy teenage will develop an obsession with “gender transition” and demand that parents not only accept their new transgender identity, but often threaten suicide unless parents support them in seeking hormone “treatment” immediately. This kind of emotional blackmail is part of the transgender cult’s ideology, as activists claim that anyone who opposes them is effectively sentencing teenagers to death by denying them acceptance and “health care.”

. . .

Identity politics produces a demand for government programs, and universities are training the future bureaucrats who will run LGBT programs and who, of course, will be employed at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile, there are career opportunities in “journalism” and “political activism” (insofar as these are still separate fields of endeavor, e.g., the editors of Teen Vogue promoting anal sex). If “the personal is political,” as feminists declare, then politics turns into nothing but a constant stream of demands for an ever-increasing number of government programs to provide “solutions” to an ever-increasing number of personal problems, based on the assumption that taxpayers will pay the bills.

. . .

We don’t have enough lunatic asylums in America to house all these weirdos and nutjobs, and there’s not enough money in the world to pay for all the outpatient treatment they’ll need. The next time you’re debating health care, remember this: Crazy is a pre-existing condition.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading, because he analyzes what the 'other side' is up to in their attempt(s) to force us to pay for their phobias, complexes and delusions.


We've got to do something - even though it'll never work!

I see politicians are up to their usual shenanigans again.  This time it's in formerly great Britain.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "We are announcing new measures to combat knife crime and the devastating impact it has on families, individuals and communities.

"We are going to be consulting on new legislation so that people can't buy knives online without having their identity checked.

"At the moment you have to do it by the click of a button. What we are proposing is that if you want to buy a knife online it has to be collected from a place where you have to show your ID.

"We have evidence that young people have been able to buy knives without verifying their ID and I want to stop that."

. . .

The new drive will also aim to close off a loophole that means police can be powerless to act if they discover knives in someone's home.

A ban on the possession of outlawed weapons such as zombie knives and knuckledusters on private property would mean officers can seize them and make arrests.

Any restrictions will be drawn up so that those who keep weapons for a legitimate purpose, such as cultural items or antiques, are not penalised.

There's more at the link.

I've written about this utterly worthless approach on several occasions, particularly as it relates to firearms.  Back in 2009 I pointed out:

You can't stop criminal actions by banning things. You can only stop them by stopping the people who commit them. The tools used are basically irrelevant.

. . .

Cars don't cause accidents: they're caused by road conditions, or mechanical failure, or flawed driving technique, or an impaired driver, or a combination of these factors. Aircraft don't cause plane crashes: they're caused by weather conditions, or mechanical failure, or pilot error, or an impaired pilot, or a combination of these factors. Guns don't cause massacres: those are caused by human beings deciding to commit murder. Whether they do so with a gun, or a bomb, or a fire, or an axe, or a knife, is basically irrelevant. In every case, the driver, or pilot, or murderer, may be sane or insane, impaired or unimpaired, rational or irrational: but there's always a human involved. The car, or plane, or gun, is simply a tool in their hands.

. . .

Again and again and again, the instrument is not the cause of the problem; the instrument is not guilty of the problem; and banning the instrument won't solve the problem!

Again, more at the link.

Politicians realize that to be re-elected, they have to make people feel that they're in control, and the country is safe in their hands;  so they act, and react, and posture, as soon as a problem reaches the public eye.  The fact that the measures they propose will do absolutely nothing to solve the real problem - human nature - is neither here nor there.

If criminals can't get their hands on one tool, they'll find another.  Witness the recent spate of acid attacks in the UK - a crime that was vanishingly rare until very recently.  I'm willing to bet a large part of it can be laid at the door of 'knife control'.  Denied access to their former tool of choice, some criminals simply turned to acid instead.  Ban or control acid?  They'll turn to gasoline, tossing a cupful of it at a passerby, followed by a lighted match.  Ban or control gasoline?  Good luck driving your vehicle!

Prisons are one of the most rigidly controlled environments in human society, an authoritarian's wet dream;  but even there, knife regulations, even total bans, don't work.  I've worked in prisons, and recovered so-called 'shanks' from inmates and their cells.  They make their knives out of toothbrush handles, bits of wire, stolen air-conditioning vent covers . . . anything they can find.  We had to order feeding trays and drinking 'glasses' for the inmates made out of a specially brittle plastic, that would break up rather than take an edge if you tried to sharpen it.  I've seen a very deadly shank, used in a prison murder, that was made out of an eight-inch length of rebar.  The convict stole the metal from a work site within the prison, then spent close to a year rubbing it furtively against concrete, bricks, and other masonry every opportunity he got - except in his cell, of course, where the damage might have led to a search.  After a lot of hard work, his rusty bit of scrap steel had a deadly sharp point on it . . . as one of his prison enemies found out to his (terminal) cost.

Controlling a thing cannot and will not work.  Those with evil intent will always find another thing, another way.  The Home Secretary must surely know that . . . but she doesn't care.  She's a politician.  She knows she has to be seen to be doing something - no matter how useless she knows it will be.  The latter is the least of her concerns.

Why anyone votes for conniving, lying grifters like these, irrespective of party or policy, I just don't know . . .


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Good Lord, this makes me feel old . . .

The Feral Irishman has posted a long series of photographs of "old-time" goods, equipment, and technology.  Here are just a few examples.

A hard-boiled egg slicer.  I used those as a kid to help Mom in the kitchen . . . and sliced my thumb on the sharp wires more than once!  (Hint:  shell the egg first.  What's more, if you slip a regular egg in among the hard-boiled ones, and your sister tries to shell it, and gets egg all over herself and the counter, your mother will not be amused . . . and your backside will smart!)

Liquid glue for school projects.  The rubber caps seldom stayed intact.  They got brittle with age, and cracked, letting the contents leak all over the place (unless you managed to pry one loose first, in which case the glue turned up in all sorts of . . . interesting places!

My second car - a 1971 Chevrolet Firenza, bought used in the early 1980's - had two keys that looked exactly like those;  one for the door, one for the ignition.  Why they couldn't have made them use the same lock, I'll never know . . .

Oh, heck, yes!  Mom used to wrap our sandwiches in wax paper if their filling was sufficiently gooey that it might leak all over the other things in our school lunch boxes.  I must have used up miles of the stuff.

My mom's washing machine was the spitting image of this beast when I was a young child.  Every week, the outside "laundry room" would reek of steam and Sunlight green laundry soap, shaved into it from great big bars.  (Believe it or not, even in an age of modern detergents, you can still buy Sunlight laundry bars in South Africa.  Old habits die hard, I guess!)  The tub would be filled from a hose attached to a nearby hot-water tap.  Clothes would be agitated in the soapy water, then fed through the mangle rollers above the tub to press out as much liquid as possible.  The tub would be drained (pumping out its contents through an exhaust hose into a sink), then refilled with cold water.  The laundry was tumbled in the fresh water, to rinse it, and re-mangled:  then it was hung on a series of drying lines tied across the back yard.  You could play wonderful games, stalking each other up and down the lines of laundry . . . provided you didn't get them dirty in the process.  If you did, your backside smarted!

Candy cigarettes!  I wish I had a dollar for every one of those things I "smoked" . . . I could retire!

Lots and lots of memories in those photographs.  Click over to Irish's place and look at the rest for yourself.  I recognized each and every one of them.  Am I an old fart, or what?


The oldest aircraft design meets the newest aircraft technology

I'm fascinated to learn that a carbon fiber version of the 70-year-old Antonov An-2 biplane has been developed in Russia.  It made its first flight just last week, and is now being exhibited in Moscow.

The Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SibNIA) plans to certificate the new model ... within two years, then promote the aircraft to passenger and cargo operators, says Oleg Parfentyev, adviser to the chairman of SibNIA for aviation projects ... Parfentyev describes how Russian carriers now fly four-engined Antonov An-12s from Moscow to Novosibirsk, where the payload is redistributed to smaller cities. A fleet of TVS-2DTS aircraft would allow the same operators to fly direct to the secondary cities, bypassing the hub stop at Novosibirsk, he says.

In addition to newly-composite structure, the TVS-2DTS features Honeywell TPE331-12 turboprop engines and new interiors.

There's more at the link.

The original An-2 first flew in 1947.  It used the forward fuselage of a Douglas C-47 transport (license-built in the Soviet Union as the Lisunov Li-2), shortened, with a single radial engine in the nose, and biplane wings covered in cloth.  It could carry up to 12 passengers, or up to about 2¼ tons of payload.

A turboprop version was developed in the 1980's as the Antonov An-3, but didn't attract much customer interest.  Hundreds, possibly thousands, of the original An-2 model are still flying in Russia and China, particularly in regions with rough-and-ready airstrips (or no airfields at all).  It's a quintessential "bush aircraft".  North Korean special forces use it as a raiding platform, because its wood and canvas construction doesn't show up very well on modern radar, and it flies so slowly (cruising speed is about 100 mph) that modern fighter aircraft can't fly slow enough to keep station on it, and shoot it down.

SibNIA began developing its 'Westernized' version of the An-2 a few years ago.  In 2012 it flew an aircraft with a Honeywell turboprop engine and a 5-bladed modern propeller.  This proved successful in flight tests, and the Institute decided to modernize it further, in the hope of attracting interest from the owners of hundreds of An-2's still operating.  They first developed a fully composite wing, made of carbon fiber, which they flew attached to an original fuselage fitted with the Honeywell engine and new propeller.  Here's a 2015 video showing it in flight.

The latest version, now on display in Moscow, adds a carbon fiber fuselage to the wing, meaning that the entire aircraft is now of composite construction.

Whether or not this ultra-modern edition of a 70-year-old biplane can achieve commercial success remains to be seen.  Nevertheless, I have a feeling that, somewhere up there, the shade of Oleg Antonov is smiling.


Revenge rears its ugly head in Mosul

Strategy Page notes that we can expect a wave of revenge attacks in Mosul, Iraq, recently liberated from ISIL control.

Many families from Mosul, both those who fled and those who stayed to the end, are demanding that the families of Iraqis who joined ISIL or worked for them must be punished. This is a tricky situation because most of the suspects are Iraqi Sunni Arabs, many from prominent Mosul families and clans. Because some 900,000 people (nearly have the Mosul population) stayed in the city there are plenty of witnesses to the many locals who, because of belief, greed or fear, worked for ISIL. Many of the survivors know that well-connected (from prominent families) and wealthy (often from doing business with or for ISIL) will be able to bribe their way out of any prosecution and punishment. So there will be a lot of murders and disappearances (because of murder or slipping away into exile) in the next month or so.

The list of avengers is long and includes many non-Moslems (Christians, Yazidis and others) and non-Moslems (Kurds, Turks, Assyrians and so on). Many members of the army and commandos who liberated Mosul had lost family (and now soldiers) and not all of them were able to refrain from instant vengeance on captured ISIL men. Since this sort of thing has happened so many times in the past there is a certain informal protocol that is observed. For a brief period the incoming security forces will ignore the revenge killings but after a few months the vengeance will be drifting away from punishment towards extortion and other gangster motivation. So by the end of the year Mosul will settle down to its usual simmer of angry religious, ethnic, tribal and political feuds.

This will be a time when many secrets can be revealed because of the chaos and desperation. Experienced intel operatives, both foreign and local, know this. The American Special Forces specializes in making the most of situations like this. It’s like a brief flash of light in a dark cave of secrets. Yet few of the secrets will be particularly shocking because this routine has played out in this area so many times over the last few thousand years. This time the difference is the impact of mass media and the movement of so many foreign volunteers to ISIL and the dispersal of ISIL survivors back to their homelands. Groups like ISIL have been a feature of local life for over a thousand years but exporting that form of madness to the non-Moslem world is a new angle. Another novel feature is the large number of landmines and explosive devices rigged to explode when disturbed that have been left behind. ISIL hid away lots of weapons, ammo and explosives. All this stuff will keep the death toll from the Battle of Mosul increasing for years to come.

There's more at the link.

I'm informed by some friends over in that part of the world that the Yazidis in general, and Yazidi women in particular, are particularly ruthless and vengeful in their attitude.  After all, ISIL tried to exterminate the Yazidis root and branch, massacring their men and children, and forcing their women into sex slavery.  Many of the women escaped from their captors, and have formed their own armed units to fight back against ISIL (including an entire battalion fighting alongside Kurdish forces).  One contact tells me that when Yazidi women find an ISIL fighter, the results are, as he puts it, "usually long-drawn-out and messy" for the latter unfortunate.  One is inevitably reminded of Kipling's famous dictum . . .

Austin Bay also points out that there are valuable urban warfare lessons to be learned from the fight to liberate Mosul.

"Mega-cities" -- think Tokyo, Seoul, Los Angeles, Berlin, Lagos, Cairo, Mumbai -- are 21st century political, economic and infrastructure realities. Urban combat in a mega-city will occur.

Mosul has some of the features found in mega-cities. The U.S. and its allies should conduct thorough and candid after action assessments of Iraqi and coalition operations in the liberation of Mosul.

Food for thought, indeed.


Lawdog Volume 2 is on the way!

Following the smashing success of the first volume of The Lawdog Files, Castalia House is responding to overwhelming public demand (as expressed in the reviews) and accelerating the publication of Volume 2:  'The Lawdog Files - African Adventures'.

Click the image above to be taken to the book's pre-order page on Amazon.  It's already (as I write these words) ranked at 3,095 in the Kindle Store (out of well over 5 million items for sale there), and it's still almost three weeks before publication!  I predict another runaway best-seller for the Dawg.

We might also see a Volume 3 of The Lawdog Files before long, depending on how many readers keep on screaming for more.  Castalia's very good like that - they're small enough to 'turn on a dime', so to speak, and interrupt their existing schedule to respond in a hurry to reader demand, yet also big enough to have all the staff and skills needed to get a new book published very quickly.

Stand by for loud cackles of laughter from all sides on August 10th!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gender, schmender. The chromosomes have it.

I see the gender-fluid brigade is at it again.

The issue with gender-reveal parties in particular is: Aren't they potentially damaging to said tiny humans?

For starters, gender-reveal parties don't actually reveal gender—they reveal anatomy. Gender is a wholly different thing, inextricably tied to the social constructs around it ... A gender reveal conflates the two.

. . .

Projecting gender perceptions onto a fetus becomes especially thorny when you take into consideration that, globally, one in every 1000 to 1500 children is born with a visible form of Difference of Sex Development (DSD), which means being neither entirely male nor female, since the chromosomal/genital makeup falls somewhere in between—an enlarged clitoris capable of erections, for instance. (Broader definitions of DSD put this number closer to 1 in 100 children.) Then there are the millions of kids assigned a sex at birth with which they don't align: 150,000 American teenagers identify as transgender. In a ritual that celebrates only a binary way of thinking about identity, we're leaving a cross-section of the population out, adding to a culture of trans and intersex shame.

There's more at the link (although why anyone in his or her right mind would want to read it, I can't say).

I disagree emphatically that gender, as a concept, is distinct from sex.  That's a modern construct that was never, repeat, NEVER a major issue until the rise of the feminist and LGBTBBQWTF brigades.  In order to be precise, let's look at a dictionary definition (the Free Dictionary, in this case) of the term 'gender'.  (Click the image for a larger view.  See, in particular, the 'Usage Note' provided.)

Contrast that with the Free Dictionary's definition of 'sex'.

On the basis of those definitions, about the only thing I have against gender-reveal parties is that they should more accurately be called sex-reveal parties . . . but I can understand the potential confusion that might engender (you should pardon the expression).

The author tries to assert, in the excerpt shown above, that the condition known as intersex is more common than scientifically accepted.  It's a real condition, and I have the greatest sympathy for those born with that handicap;  but it's vanishingly rare - less than one-tenth of one per cent of the human race, according to every authentic, objective, medical-evidence-based, non-politically-correct study of which I'm aware.  Intersex can't be used as an excuse by those who have some sort of psychological or psychiatric hangup about their sexuality (as distinct from the reality of their physical sex), and want to project that onto the rest of us, and force us to play-act accordingly.  The overwhelming majority of them are not intersex.

As far as I'm aware, from the perspective of medical science, with the sole exception of those afflicted with one or other form of intersex syndrome, one's sex is determined by one's chromosomes.  If you're XX, you're female.  If you're XY, you're male.  That's it.  You may feel you're a different gender, such as a man trapped in a woman's body, or vice versa;  you may believe that you're not what your sex organs say you are;  you may want to identify as any one (or more) of the 58 gender options offered by Facebook;  but you are, inescapably, a man or a woman, according to your chromosomes.  End of story.

So-called 'gender reassignment' treatment, even including lifelong medication, can't change that fundamental reality.  Stop taking the medication and, hey presto!  Your natural chromosomes will reassert themselves.  (Of course, if you've undergone surgery as part of gender reassignment treatment, that's pretty much irreversible, so your chromosomes will be S.O.L.)

For gender-reveal parties to operate on the basis of medical and scientific reality, rather than wishful thinking, seems to me to be no more than a recognition of the real facts of life.


Thrills, chills and spills - rally edition

Here's a great compilation of recent rally racing crashes, near-crashes and exciting antics.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

In my younger days, I used to enjoy rallying, driving a slightly souped-up second-generation Ford Escort in South Africa.  However, it was highly unusual for us to hit more than 70-80 mph on the farm and country roads we used.  Today's highly specialized rally cars seem to hit double that as a matter of course, and even faster on occasion.  I doubt I'd ever have been a good enough driver to handle them.


The great Cottingley Fairies hoax, one hundred years ago

An article in the Telegraph reminded me of the great Cottingley Fairies hoax of 1917.  It fooled a great many people.  Here's an excerpt.

... the house in Main Street was occupied by Arthur and Polly Wright and their only daughter, Elsie. Arthur was an electrical engineer and keen amateur photographer, the proud owner of a Midg quarter-plate camera, an expensive piece of kit for the time. Also living with them, temporarily, were Polly’s sister Annie Griffiths and her daughter Frances, who had made the perilous wartime sea journey from South Africa.

By 1917, Elsie was 15 and Frances nine. The girls became firm friends and played together in the dell, often coming home soaking wet and covered in mud.

It was Elsie who first started blaming fairies for their dishevelled appearance, and an amused Arthur indulged them with the loan of his precious camera to allow them to “prove” the Little Folk were real.

The girls duly obliged and returned the Midg with two glass plates ready for developing in the darkroom Arthur had built for himself in the cellar. He was somewhat taken aback to see the images slowly emerging of Frances, wearing a string of flowers in her hair, watching a quartet of dancing, winged fairies on a tree stump in front of her, and another showing Elsie sitting in the grass, greeting what the girls said was a gnome.

Arthur’s Midg camera resides in the National Science and Media Museum in nearby Bradford. The museum’s head of collections, Michael Terwey, reverently holds it up, explaining how it held a magazine of glass plates covered with photographic emulsion.

“People wanted to believe in the photographs,” says Terwey. “The very idea that these beings had apparently been captured by a camera gave an air of scientific credibility. There were constant references made to the trustworthiness of the family, the fact they hadn’t done it for money, so why would they make it up?”

Looking at the photographs now, with a sophisticated 21st-century eye, it seems incredible that anyone was taken in. It’s obvious the fairies are what they were indeed later revealed to be: drawings by Elsie cut out and stuck in the ground with hatpins.

But perhaps the horrors of the First World War meant people were desperate to embrace something more positive, more spiritual. Terwey says “spirit photography”, and the belief that cameras could capture what the human eye could not see, experienced a great boom in the years surrounding the end of the Great War, as desperate families clung on to some slim hope that those they had lost in the conflict could be contacted on “the other side”.

Still, the first two photographs weren’t taken wholly seriously by the Wrights and might have remained a family joke but for Elsie’s mother, Polly, who attended a meeting in Bradford of the Theosophical Society, the organisation set up in the 19th century to discuss and debate matters spiritual, religious and unexplained.

The talk was on fairies, and Polly showed the speaker the photographs Elsie and Frances had taken. The Theosophical Society was instantly captivated, and displayed the pictures some months later at the society’s annual meeting.

From there, to use modern parlance, they went viral, earning the clear stamp of approval from photography experts who declared them genuine, and eventually coming to the attention of Conan Doyle, who had been commissioned to write a feature on fairy lore for The Strand magazine.

Conan Doyle secured permission from the Wrights to use the two photographs, and made a gift to the girls of a Kodak Cameo camera to obtain further “evidence”, which they duly did, producing three more images of Frances smiling at a leaping fairy, a fairy offering a posy of harebells to Elsie, and another captioned “The Fairies and Their Sun-Bath”, all of which were published in 1920.

There's more at the link.  You can read more about the hoax here.

It's an amusing tale.  One would hope we wouldn't be taken in by it if it happened today;  yet, given today's weird fascination with UFO's, a non-existent "Planet Nibiru" and its threatened apocalyptic disaster, and so on, it looks like we're just as credulous now as the experts were a century ago!


The American people aren't deaf, dumb and blind - but the mainstream media doesn't believe that

The Daily Wire explains why the American mainstream news media is now hoist on its own petard.

The very same media that shrugged when Hillary Clinton set up a secret server, deleted 33,000 government emails, BleachBit'd whatever remained and then literally took a hammer to the devices — the media that set that precedent now wants us to get all worked up over Trump's tweets?

The very same media that buried Bill Clinton's perjury and his numerous victims of sexual abuse — the media that set those precedents now wants us to consider an Access Hollywood video a disqualifier for the presidency? Now wants us to freak out over an awkward handshake?

. . .

The very same media that covered up the fact that Democrats and Team Hillary worked with the foreign government of Ukraine in the hopes of digging up dirt on Trump, the media that itself has used opposition research from the Russian government (the Golden Showers dossier) in the hopes of destroying Trump — the media that set those precedents now want us to turn on Trump because his son hoped for the same?

There's much more at the link - and all worth reading.

The mainstream media gave President Obama a pass through the eight years of his two administrations, never questioning the most questionable actions, tactics and decisions, always a sycophant, never a watchdog.  They failed miserably to safeguard the democracy they proclaim so loudly.  However, as soon as President Trump came along, he could do no right.  They've spent almost every moment of his administration complaining, carping, denouncing, objecting and obfuscating.

The so-called "credibility" of the mainstream news media isn't even a joke any more.  It's an obscenity - and it's clearly visible to anyone with half a working brain cell.  One would think, to judge by their behavior, that the mainstream media really believes it can get away with its partisanship and bias.  However, I think a large slice of the American people have seen through it.  If they haven't, there's so much evidence of it, emerging on a daily basis, that it'll get through, sooner or later.

When the Washington Post proudly airs its new slogan that "Democracy dies in darkness", it fails to mention that the Washington Post itself has been the source and the cause of a great deal of that darkness over the past decade or so.  By selectively reporting what it considers to be "news", and downgrading, bad-mouthing or just plain ignoring anything that doesn't fit its partisan political agenda, it has made itself part of the problem, rather than helping to solve it.  The WaPo is hardly alone in that - offenders are legion.  It's merely one of the most visible, and the most in contempt of its own much-ballyhooed slogan.

As I said right through the election campaign last year, I was not and am not a Trump disciple or acolyte.  I didn't vote for him.  Nevertheless, things have reached such a pitch that, when the mainstream media launches yet another attack on him, or "finds" yet another scandal to throw at him in the hope that some dirt will stick, my reaction is to yawn.  For that matter, if he can make so many lying newshounds froth at the mouth so often, maybe he's doing something right!  It sure seems that way to me, and, I think, to many others.  Why else would there be so much news media "sound and fury, signifying nothing"?

For all their scandal-mongering, the news media have utterly failed to uncover one single shred of real evidence that the Trump administration, and/or any members of the Trump family, have broken even one of the laws of the United States.  Sure, some of what they've done appears to have been distasteful and/or unethical and/or morally questionable.  Sadly, one has come to expect that of almost all politicians, of every party, in this day and age.  However, one does not (or, rather, in the past, did not) expect that the self-appointed guardians of democracy, the mainstream media, should be equally (or more) distasteful, unethical and morally questionable in their actions.

Watergate was a wonderful example of the mainstream media reporting the facts, exposing a genuine scandal, and safeguarding our democracy.  Trumpgate (whichever one is the flavor du jour) is merely a temper tantrum by news media who can't accept that, by their own actions and choices, they've lost all credibility.  They've gone so far down the rabbit-hole of innuendo, suggestion and smears that I sincerely doubt they can find their way out again.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

And to think people have to breathe that!

Courtesy of Daily Timewaster, here's a fascinating video clip showing passing steam trains setting fire to coal dust in the air as they pass a coal mine in China.  The last couple of trains, in the deepest darkness, produce the most spectacular effects.  I highly recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

It's unnerving to think that anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people - workers at the coal mine, those passing on the railway line, and families living in the area - actually breathe that dust every day, just by being nearby.  I wonder what their lungs look like?

(On the other hand, perhaps it's best not to know!)


An "anti-pervert flamethrower"? Oh, this could be fun . . .

I'm amazed to learn that Chinese companies are selling "anti-pervert flamethrowers".

A flame-thrower that can hurl a stream of fire half a metre [almost 20"] long is being marketed in China to help women fend off unwanted advances.

The device is being billed on shopping websites as a must-have "anti-pervert weapon" that can be discreetly carried in a ladies’ handbag.

Some are shaped like a cigarette lighter and emit small flames, while others hurl fire for 50cm with temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Celsius (3,300 Fahrenheit).

The flame-throwers sell from about £10 to over £30 [US $13 to over $40] on e-commerce sites, and one vendor boasted to local media how they can "scald or even disfigure an attacker.”

. . .

There is concern that the flame-throwers could become the latest dangerous gadget to become popular in China, following a fad among some children for tiny crossbows which can shoot toothpicks or needles.

Concerns have also been raised that the devices can cause injury to the person carrying them, as the switch can be accidentally turned on while it is in a handbag.

There's more at the link.

I can think of so many ways that would be useful . . .
  • Assailed by a gangsta thug with his trousers already halfway down?  Talk about an inviting target, right there!
  • Jumped at a traffic light by someone trying to stick his hand through your partly-open car window?  Those fingers are very vulnerable to a well-placed flame.
  • I wouldn't use it for home defense, though.  Too much risk of setting your house on fire . . . and you just know your kids are going to get hold of it, somehow, and have all sorts of dangerous fun with it.

As for accidentally lighting it in your handbag or pocket . . . well, you won't make that mistake twice, will you?


This isn't just an injustice, it's a moral obscenity

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions apparently doesn't understand the meaning of "innocent until proven guilty".

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal govenment's use of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.

. . .

Asset forfeiture became a prized hammer in law enforcement's tool chest in the 1980s, when the government was struggling to combat organized drug cartels. Law enforcement groups say the laws allow them to disrupt drug trafficking operations by targeting their proceeds—cars, cash, and guns.

However, the practice has exploded since then, and civil liberties groups and political advocacy organizations, both liberal and conservative, say the perverse profit incentives and lack of due process for property owners lead to far more average citizens having their property seized than cartel bosses.

The Justice Department plays a huge role in asset forfeiture through its Equitable Sharing Program, which allows state and local police to have their forfeiture cases "adopted" by the federal government. The feds take over the case, and the seized money is put into the equitable sharing pool. In return, the department gets up to 80 percent of those funds back. The equitable sharing program distributes hundreds of millions of dollars a year to police departments around the country.

. . .

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a consistent Republican advocate for reforming asset forfeiture laws, said in a statement to Reason Monday: "As Justice Thomas has previously said, there are serious constitutional concerns regarding modern civil asset forfeiture practices. The Department has an obligation to consider due process constraints in crafting its civil asset forfeiture policies."

Lee was referring to conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' notable dissent in an asset forfeiture case this June. Thomas wrote that forfeiture operations "frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings."

. . .

A 2014 Washington Post investigative series found that warrantless police seizures of cash through the equitable sharing program have boomed since 9/11, hauling in $2.5 billion. Also in 2014, for the first time ever, the U.S. government seized more property from Americans than burglars did.

There's more at the link.

The whole problem with civil asset forfeiture is that it requires the citizen to prove a negative - i.e. to prove that the asset(s) in question are not the result of criminal activity.  Trouble is, in courts of law, the normal standard is that the prosecution has to prove its claims.  It's not up to the defendant to disprove them - rather, the defendant has only to show that the prosecution's claims are impossible, or untrue, or unprovable due to alternative explanations of fact.  The prosecution can't simply claim, "You're a thief/murderer/whatever", and expect the defendant to prove them wrong.  However, that's precisely the logic behind civil asset forfeiture.  The State makes the claim, and then - without having to prove it - proceeds to confiscate the asset(s) that it alleges were financed through the claimed illegal activity.  Their owner must then prove that the State is wrong before he or she can reclaim the asset(s) - at his or her expense.  Many can't afford that expense.

This is immoral on a fundamental level.  It removes the burden of proof from the authorities, and places it on the individual.  It's not justice - it's the antithesis of justice.  If the asset(s) are confiscated after the defendant has been found guilty of a crime by a jury of his or her peers, that's one thing.  To just take them, without any legal justification whatsoever, is as much a crime as the misdeeds of which their owner may be suspected or accused.

I hope and pray enough of us will make enough of a fuss to get rid of civil asset forfeiture once and for all.


What a spectacular start!

'The Lawdog Files', officially launched just yesterday, has shattered all expectations.

There was a great deal of publicity around it, of course, from his long-term friends.  I mentioned it here;  Larry Correia did a 'book bomb' on his blog;  Vox pitched it to his blog readers and those who've joined Castalia House's mailing list;  and a number of other bloggers told their readers about it, too.  Even so, I think all of us were surprised by how well it did.  Here's the sales rank as of 9.30 p.m. (Central time) last night (click the image for a larger view).

#92 out of (at the time of writing) 5,532,719 items listed in the entire Kindle Store!  That's amazing - and no less amazing is three #1 rankings in different genres/categories.  Lawdog's friends had faith he would do very well, but I think all of us (not least the man himself) were astonished at how well he really did.

I'm delighted to report that, as a result of this spectacularly good performance, the second volume of The Lawdog Files (dealing with his childhood in Africa) is going to be greatly speeded up.  I'll tell you more about that as soon as I'm allowed, but you can expect it soon.  There'll probably also be a third volume of stories (the man has more than enough material for it, including some stories he's never published before - we've enjoyed listening to them during our regular get-togethers).

Congratulations to Lawdog on the best, most successful book launch of which I've ever been a part.  If this is how well his first published effort does, I predict a stellar writing career for him.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Quote of the day

From Paul, Dammit!, speaking about education, science degrees, and librarians:

"Politics and social studies are to science what Taco Bell is to Spain."



Your feel-good story of the day

This is heart-warming, to say the least.

All together, now:  Aaawwwwww!


The war on cash is now being subsidized . . .

. . . by - who else? - credit card companies, who stand to make enormous sums of money if the tactic succeeds.

Just four months after the Supreme Court ruled that small businesses had the right to advertise lower prices for customers who pay cash, Visa is hawking a “cashless society” contest that gives small businesses $10,000 — if they stop accepting paper altogether.

Visa, like all card companies, likes the idea of a cashless society because it gets a cut from a business every time a customer swipes.

There's more at the link.

A cashless society may be a great idea for Visa or Mastercard, but it's a lousy one for the rest of us.  What happens when the card payment network goes down?  We saw an inkling of it when the EBT network was disrupted, a few years ago.  Another example was the evacuation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which saw electronic communications with many banks disrupted for weeks, and refugees finding their cards and checks refused by shops outside the disaster area (see point 11 in the first post here).  Without cash, anyone in those or similar positions would be S.O.L.

What's more, I (and many others) very strongly recommend keeping at least a month's spending money in cash, at home, in case of emergency.  It's not just a matter of 'bugging out' from natural or other disaster;  if you find your bank account frozen because of your bank closing its doors (temporarily or permanently), or being investigated by the IRS or SEC, or whatever, you'll still need to buy essentials.  Cash remains king under such circumstances.  I've got no intention of allowing Visa to stop me spending it - and any business refusing cash can do without my consumer dollars, thank you very much.


Lawdog is published at last!

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that my buddy Lawdog's first book, titled simply 'The Lawdog Files', has been published.

It's currently available in e-book format from  A print edition will follow within a few weeks, almost certainly by mid-August.

The blurb reads:

LawDog had the honor of representing law and order in the Texas town of Bugscuffle as a Sheriff's Deputy, where he became notorious for, among other things, the famous Case of the Pink Gorilla Suit. In THE LAWDOG FILES, he chronicles his official encounters with everything from naked bikers, combative eco-warriors, suicidal drunks, respectful methheads, prison tattoo artists, and creepy children to six-foot chickens and lethal chihuahuas.

THE LAWDOG FILES range from the bittersweet to the explosively hilarious, as LawDog relates his unforgettable experiences in a laconic, self-deprecating manner that is funny in its own right. The book is more than mere entertainment, it is an education in two English dialects, Police and Texas Country. And underlying the humor is an unmistakable sympathy for society's less fortunate - and in most cases, significantly less intelligent - whose encounters with the law are an all-too-frequent affair.

Those of you familiar with Lawdog's blog will have read many of the stories, although they've been revised for this volume; and there's some fresh material as well, that will be new to you.  He's already hard at work on a second volume, which will describe his childhood in Africa.  Well-known and beloved tales from that continent, such as Squeaks the mongoose, Brigadier-Captain Azikiwe and the ratel, and many more (including new material), will be included.  (I might add that Lawdog probably has more than enough material for a third book of stories.  His arm is being heavily twisted about that right now!)

Lawdog has also been trying his hand at an urban fantasy novel.  I've been able to read some of his rough chapter drafts, and I'm here to tell you, it's good.  The man can tell a tale.  I think it may be in the same league as Jim Butcher and Larry Correia, which says a great deal, right there.  If all goes well, I hope we can look forward to it sometime next year.

I can't recommend 'The Lawdog Files' too highly.  Miss D. and I have been part of the friends-and-editors process in bringing it to life, and we've found ourselves howling with mirth at frequent intervals while reading excerpts.  Be careful where you read it.  As many early reviewers have pointed out, explosive bursts of laughter are guaranteed!


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday morning music

My irreverent muse was inspired by Borepatch this week, when he posted this video clip.  It's completely inaccurate, of course - Lizzie Borden was found not guilty - but it's nevertheless very funny.

So much for history!

Now that my muse had been properly motivated, I went digging through my memories for more funny songs.  I found several.  First up, Lonnie Donegan, the famous skiffle singer, had a major hit in Britain in 1960 with his "My Old Man's a Dustman".  The original recording is well known, but in a later live performance, Donegan changed several of the verses to ones I'd never heard before - so here it is.  (The classic version may be heard here.)

Staying on that side of the Atlantic Ocean, here's Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in one of the songs from their 1960 collaborative album, "Peter and Sophia".  This one's "Bangers and Mash".  I can recall giggling at my father singing this song, while Mom served up the eponymous dish at our home in South Africa.

Still in England, and approximately the same vintage (or a little earlier), here's well-known comedy duo Flanders and Swann poking fun at the architectural and fine living establishment with their song "Design for Living".

Finally, let's cross the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy Canadian duo Bowser and Blue taking the starch out of the medical profession, as they sing of the Colorectal Surgeon.  Yes, I know I've put this one on my blog before, but it's so much fun I'm going to do it again!

(Their perspective on vascectomies is also a hoot.)

Well . . . so much for Sunday Morning Music this week!


Saturday, July 15, 2017

One person's economic disaster is another person's opportunity

Adventures in Capitalism has two articles (and possibly more to come) on the changing face of shopping malls around the USA.  They shed sobering light on the issue of debt and how it's affecting US business and commerce, as we discussed yesterday.

To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from the second article.

In the past, retail was retail, warehouse was warehouse and office was office—the same for all other CRE [commercial real estate] classes. There was some cross-over, but the main commercial real estate components stayed segmented for the most part. Now, with big box stores, the lowest hanging fruit for online shopping to knock off, going to dodo-land, there will be hundreds of millions of feet of well-located space suddenly becoming available. People act as if there are enough Ultra Beauty and Dick’s Sporting Goods to go around. However, you cannot fill all of this space with the few big box retail concepts still expanding—especially as many stalwarts are themselves shrinking.

As a result, a huge game of musical chairs is about to take place. Why pay $20/ft for mid-rise office space, if you can now move into an abandoned Sports Authority for $5/ft. Sure, it doesn’t come with windows, but employees like open plan space and there’s plenty of parking. Besides, with the rental savings, you can offer your staff an in-house fitness facility and cafeteria for free. Does your mega-church need a larger space? There’s probably a former Sears or Kmart that perfectly accommodates you at $3/ft. Have an assisted living facility with an expiring lease? Why not move it to an abandoned JC Penney—the geriatrics will feel right at home, as they’re the only ones still shopping there.

Go onto any real estate website and you will find out that huge plan space is nearly free. No one knows what the hell to do with it and the waves of bankruptcy in big box are just starting. As online evolves, these waves will engulf other segments of retail as well.

There's more at the link, and also in the first article in the series.  Recommended reading.


Typical blithering idiot liberal response

It seems London is experiencing a wave of random acid attacks by 'youths' (further identification is unspecified).  So, what's the instinctive, automatic, knee-jerk response?

Ministers are coming under pressure to tighten the laws on the sale and possession of acid and other corrosive substances amid growing fears they have become the “weapon of choice” of teenagers.

Calls for changes to the law followed a spate of five acid attacks in the space of a little over an hour that left one victim with “life-changing” injuries.

. . .

Scotland Yard figures show the number of attacks using corrosive substances rose to 458, more than double the figure in 2014.

The Home Office said on Friday evening it was urgently working on an action plan to curb the use of acid, including restricting its sale to under-18s.

Campaigners told The Telegraph that crime gangs were switching to acid and ammonia because laws had been tightened on possession of knives.

Sulphuric acid at 91 per cent strength can be bought cheaply over the counter in shops and DIY stores as a drain unblocker. There is no age restriction for those buying it. Ammonia is similarly available.

. . .

Stephen Timms, a former Labour minister, called for tougher sentences, a new offence of carrying concentrated acid to be introduced and the licensing of its purchase.

Mr Timms, who will lead a debate in the Commons on Monday on the issue, said: “Carrying acid should in itself be an offence. Carrying a knife wouldn’t have been an offence some years ago. I think there’s been a pretty effective change – the same change should be made for acid.”

Mr Timms said that the law could be changed so as not to punish those buying the substances for legitimate use, such as drain cleaner, in the same way that people are not automatically criminalised for buying kitchen knives.

There's more at the link.

Of all the dumbass, stupid, unworkable responses, I suspect changing the law is close to the top!  The attackers are already breaking the law.  What makes anyone think that another law, or two, or three, or even a few dozen, will make them stop?

The stupidity on display is mind-boggling.
  • Restrict the sale of acid to under-18's?  Suuuuure . . . but when it's freely available at home (drain-cleaner), from professional plumbers and other businesses, and so on, that's not likely to pose much of an obstacle at all.  Besides, all they have to do is have one older person buy a few pints (or gallons!) for the rest of the gang.  For a bottle of booze, a hobo will likely oblige.
  • "The law could be changed so as not to punish those buying the substances for legitimate use"?  And just how can you prove their intentions are legitimate?  A mind-reading machine, perhaps?
  • Britain criminalized the carrying of knives some time ago - and inconvenienced everyone who used to carry a pocket-knife for perfectly legitimate purposes.  As for not "automatically criminalizing those who buy kitchen knives" . . . let me assure you, given a typical 6" to 8" low-cost chef's knife, any moderately competent knife fighter can carve up something (or someone) almost faster than it takes to say it!  Besides, what, precisely, will you do to stop people carrying acid?  Stop everyone carrying a water bottle, and insist on checking its contents?  Good luck with that!

I know a very good deterrent to such attacks.  If convicted, those responsible should be sentenced to being doused with acid from head to toe, in public, and left to scream in agony for about five minutes before they're hosed down or receive medical treatment.  I reckon that would stop this nonsense in no time at all - but they won't do that, because it'll be regarded as "inhumane".  Really?  Oh, well, then . . . if Britain won't take effective action, and impose effective punishments, it's going to go on enjoying these attacks.  It's a simple enough equation - one the criminals understand very well.


Friday, July 14, 2017


Courtesy of KarenW on Gab:


Debt is killing us

I've written often enough about the problem of debt in the past.  Now Charles Hugh Smith reminds us of the grim reality of this burden that overhangs each and every one of us as individuals, and our society as a whole.

We are now totally, completely dependent on expanding debt for the maintenance of our society and economy. Every sector of the economy--households, businesses and government--all borrow vast sums just to maintain the status quo for another year.

. . .

Borrowing more money from the future is easy, painless and requires no trade-offs, sacrifices or accountability--until the debt-addicted economy collapses under its own weight of debt service and insolvency. People keep repeating various versions of the story that "debt doesn't matter" because "future growth" will outgrow the skyrocketing debt, or inflation will make it all manageable, or that central banks will do whatever it takes to make sure everyone has enough money to service their debt burdens: negative interest rates, helicopter money, etc. etc. etc.

We want to believe in financial magic because we want things to remain easy.Borrowing from the future is easy, making sacrifices and being accountable is hard.

But eventually the cost of servicing even low interest-rate debt squeezes spending, eventually capital tires of chasing negative interest-rate bonds, eventually lenders realize that leverage has skyrocketed along with the debt and risk is piled up like dry tinder in a drought-weakened forest.

. . .

If you believe that going from a total debt burden (government and personal debt) per household being 79% of median household income to debt per household being 584% of median household income doesn't matter and will have no consequences, you believe in magic. Unfortunately, thinking something will be easy forever and have no consequences is not the same as the real world of skyrocketing debt and leverage having no consequences ... Believing that debt has no consequence, that the status quo is permanent, that all the promises based on soaring debt can be paid--it's all an appealing fantasy, magical thinking at its most enchanting. Believe these fantasies at your own risk.

There's more at the link.  Essential reading, IMHO, and highly recommended.

Debt is the single most important, and most critical, financial issue facing our nation at this time - and it's getting worse every day.  The so-called 'fiscally responsible' Republicans, who now control the House, the Senate and the Presidency, have ignored all their promises by jacking up government spending to a record $400 billion plus every month (much of it funded by new borrowing).  The tapped-out, debt-burdened US shopper is spending less and less, thereby imperiling our consumer-based economy.  New car sales, a key area of US industry, are dropping, and bank loans to finance vehicle purchases are doing likewise.  The signs are everywhere:  debt is crippling our ability to continue on our present path, as individuals, as states, as a nation, and as a society.

The problem is not limited to the USA.  The International Monetary Fund warned last year:

Global debt has hit a record high of $152 trillion, weighing down economic growth and adding to risks that recovery could turn into stagnation or even recession, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

. . .

“At 225pc of world GDP, the global debt... is currently at an all-time high. Two-thirds, amounting to about $100 trillion, consists of liabilities of the private sector which can carry great risks when they reach excessive levels,” the IMF said in its fiscal monitor.

“The sheer size of debt could set the stage for an unprecedented private deleveraging process that could thwart the fragile economic recovery.”

This debt burden is mounting at a time when slow growth means inflation and interest rates will remain low, making it hard for companies, individuals and governments to earn their way out of debt.

A combination of low growth, high debt and weak banks could push the world in a dangerous financial and political direction, the IMF said.

Again, more at the link.

Folks, I can't emphasize too strongly that each and every one of us needs to do the following:
  1. Pay off existing debt as soon as possible.
  2. Refuse to enter into new debt for short- to medium-term needs (e.g. vehicles, furniture, etc.)  Pay cash or do without, unless it's absolutely, critically necessary.
  3. Enter into debt for long-term needs (e.g. housing) only when absolutely necessary, and in such cases, buy within one's means - certainly less than the banks (who are looking after their own interests, not yours) will lend you.  I'd suggest an absolute maximum of 25% of your household's net income (i.e. after taxes and other deductions at source) should be allocated to such debt;  if you can get it below 20%, so much the better.
  4. Enter into debt for the shortest period you can afford (e.g. monthly payments on a 15-year housing note will be more expensive than a 30-year note, but you'll be debt-free much faster with the former than with the latter).
  5. Build up a reserve of at least six months expenditure, and if possible a year's worth.  It will be invaluable if hard times come around.

These are not just financially prudent measures;  they're security measures.  If our economy goes haywire, only those who have reserves, and are not over-burdened with debt, will likely keep their heads above water.


Stephan Pastis is having waaaay too much fun . . .

. . . at his cartoon strip, 'Pearls Before Swine', with recent airline passenger-handling and public relations issues, particularly United.  Click each cartoon for a larger version at its home page.


Just three days and a wake-up!

My buddy Lawdog's first book will be published on Monday.  He's kinda hyperventilating at the prospect, but those of you who know his writing from his blog will understand the interest and excitement that's built up among his fans while waiting for this.  The man's a born raconteur, who tells a tale better than most.

The publication also marks another stage in the development of Castalia House (who also publish some of my work).  It'll be the first law-enforcement-related book they put out, and they're watching with keen interest to see how the buying public responds.  If there's enough interest in the field, they may put out more books along the same lines, as well as fiction in the genre.  (Lawdog's asked his readers about that, to gauge interest.  If you'd like to read more in that field, please click over to his blog and let him know.)

I'm confident that the book edition of The Lawdog Files will do very well.  There'll be another volume of his African stories soon, and he's got enough material (including previously unpublished work) to produce a third volume in the series in due course.  He's also working on an urban fantasy novel, with heavy law enforcement and Texas overtones.  I've had the privilege of reading some of it, and I can tell you, it's not only exciting, it's also very funny indeed in parts.  I hope we see it in print soon.