Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pedophilia does "no lasting harm"??? Yeah, right!


Richard Dawkins, well known for his militant atheism, has really put his foot in it this time.

In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

. . .

Child welfare experts responded to Dawkins’ remarks with outrage — and concern over their effect on survivors of abuse.

There's more at the link.

All I can say is, as a pastor and clinical counselor, I've had a great deal of experience trying to help the victims of pedophiles. Many went on to become pedophiles themselves - a cycle that carries on down the centuries, if you go back far enough.  Others have had their confidence in themselves destroyed, their ability to love and be love corroded, and their lives ruined.

I'm a strong believer in the rule of law.  I've worked inside the criminal justice system to help promote the rule of law.  Nevertheless, if there's any one sin or crime that cries out to Almighty God for vengeance, it's pedophilia.  In the words of Jesus himself:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

You can debate, if you wish, whether those words were meant to include pedophilia, or merely other types of offence.  Personally, I have little doubt.  No, scratch that - I have no doubt.  If a pedophile were caught in flagrante delicto, I would have few or no moral qualms if the parents of the child concerned executed him on the spot.  I think there'd be little or no sin in that;  in fact, I could make a strong case for it being the justice of an outraged God.

Pedophiles can't be cured.  Time after time that's been tried, and failed miserably.  They can only be prevented from committing their crimes, either by incarcerating them where they can't get at children, or by executing them.  Harsh?  Yes, it is harsh.  Having seen too many children's innocence destroyed by pedophiles, my feelings towards the latter are very harsh indeed!  Right now, I'm not feeling particularly charitable towards Mr. Dawkins, either . . .

Peter

Fixing the State Department - and the left-wing spin


It looks like the Augean Stables at the State Department are, at long, long last, being cleaned out . . . but you'd never know it from the mainstream media.  For example, here's how CBS News reported it.

Much of [the] seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told today that their services were no longer needed.

These staffers in particular are often the conduit between the secretary’s office to the country bureaus, where the regional expertise is centered. Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy.

There are clear signals being sent that many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats.

. . .

... State Department officials ... hope that Mr. Tillerson - who had a long career as Exxon Mobil’s CEO -  will bring his worldly experience and management to a building that has been demoralized by the Trump administration’s antipathy toward multilateralism and cavalier approach to diplomacy.

. . .

While positions are often reshuffled during transitions and those perceived as politically-oriented are moved aside, the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability.

. . .

“It is irresponsible to let qualified, nonpartisan, experienced people go before you have any idea of their replacement. You can’t do foreign policy by sitting in the White House, just out of your back pocket,” explains Tom Countryman, Former Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation who was let go earlier this month. Countryman worries that the White House is displaying an intent [to] not rely on the State Department for foreign policy in that no one will be in place to challenge the edicts drawn up in the Oval Office.

There's more at the link.

Wow, just look at all the negativity!  This is clearly a disaster for US foreign relations . . . or is it?  Let's pick a few comments and respond to them.

"... some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making ...".  It's certainly a purge - and it's long overdue!  It was senior State Department officials who referred to themselves as a 'shadow government', when, in fact, they are (constitutionally and legally) nothing of the sort.  I've heard many military officers refer to the State Department in (to put it as politely as possible) disparaging terms.  Their view may be summed up as, "We went there to win, they went there to make sure the other side won".  I've heard that perspective on Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear deal, and a lot more.  I daresay some of my readers have more direct experience in that regard.  As for 'expertise', that's debatable.  I've worked in many countries in Africa where I've had contact with representatives from US embassies, consulates and other official bodies.  I can't say I've been particularly impressed by their expertise about those countries or regions . . . in fact, I often got the impression they believed all that was necessary was to improve hygiene, bring in US-style democracy, and promote abortions!

"... many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats."  How is this a problem?  The professional diplomats have screwed up rather spectacularly in the past (they've also had some successes, admittedly).  Who's to say that the White House, using its own carefully selected team, can't do as well?  I don't see any reason.  The current Secretary of State has no diplomatic background whatsoever, but a great deal of international business experience.  Does that mean he'll be less effective in that role than a 'professional diplomat' would?  (The same question might be asked about the previous Secretary of State as well.)

"... the Trump administration’s antipathy toward multilateralism and cavalier approach to diplomacy."  Blinkered perspective, anyone?  Who says the current Administration has a 'cavalier approach to diplomacy'?  That's an accusation, not a news report!  Anti-Trump bias at work again . . .

"... the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability."  Ooh!  Panic stations!  Except . . . what difference would it make if those positions weren't vacant?  Would it make the globe any less unstable?  No?  Then why is it a problem?  Instability is a fact of life in diplomacy.  Some countries, and some people, handle it better than others.  Based on the State Department's track record, I venture to guess that it's not among them, whether or not all its bureaucratic positions are filled.

As for Mr. Countryman's comments, he was appointed to his Cabinet-level position by President Obama.  As a political appointee, of course he'd be let go, and replaced by someone chosen by the current Administration, just as is normal whenever the Presidency changes hands.  He might even be expected to resent losing his job and the status it provided, and he might possibly be expected to express that resentment through the content and tone of his comments about the Administration that removed him.  However, you don't see CBS News telling us any of that, do you?  Furthermore, Mr. Countryman was appointed to his position precisely in order to ensure that 'edicts drawn up in the Oval Office' (by President Obama) were implemented in and by the State Department.  If that was in order for the previous President, why isn't it in order for the current President to do likewise?

This is yet another example of the relentless drumbeat of criticism directed by the 'establishment' (which includes most of the news media) against President Trump.  When you deconstruct most of the negative articles like this, it's amazing how much bias and subjective vitriol emerges.

I suggest that reports in the mainstream media about anything to do with the current Administration should be regarded as unreliable until proven otherwise.




Peter

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A sample from my second Western novel


I'm hard at work on the second book in the Ames Archives, my Western series.  I won't give away the plot, but it's a lot more involved than the first book, 'Brings The Lightning'.  That was basically the story of how my protagonist, Walter Ames, made it from Tennessee to Colorado after the Civil War.  In this volume, he runs into a lot of trouble with a stock theft syndicate.  There's robbery, arson, murder and mayhem galore.

I've just finished the first half of the book, which culminates in a tragic gunfight, setting the stage for vengeance in the second half.  To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from midway through the first half.  It's set in a mining town high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

    Walt looked around the cantina as he mopped up the last of the savory, spicy enchilada sauce with a piece of tortilla, and popped it into his mouth. The room wasn’t large. Its four tables were all occupied with eager diners. Other men stood at the bar, glasses of beer and tequila in front of them. Several young and not-so-young women circulated, bearing trays and glasses. A hubbub of conversation in Spanish filled the smoky air. He and Isom were the only non-Mexicans there.
    Walt chewed slowly, swallowed, then sighed with repletion. “Man, this is only the second day we’ve eaten here, but I already feel like I’m gettin’ fat! If I could figure out how to hire Rosa’s cook away from her, I swear I would. This is the best Mex food I’ve tasted in years.”
    “It’s pretty good,” Isom mumbled through a mouthful of burrito. “Trouble is, Rosa would probably shoot you if you tried.”
    “I certainly would, señor,” a woman’s voice said behind them. Walt looked up to see Rosa standing there, a slight smile on her face. “I value my cook.”
    “Rosa, you must have ears as sharp as an eagle’s eyes, to hear what we were sayin’ over the noise in here!” Walt waved his hand around the cantina.
    “It is my business to hear things of interest to me, señor. However, if you want a good Mexican cook, I can find you one. You hire him for your house?”
    “I’m goin’ to be settin’ up a horse ranch near Pueblo. I reckon on buyin’ breedin’ stock in Mexico, an’ also hirin’ some of their mesteñeros to catch wild horses, then break and train them. I reckon they’ll prefer their own kind o’ food. The rest of us will, too, if it’s as good as yours.”
    “You sound like a man of importance, señor.”
    “I dunno ’bout that. I’m just tryin’ to build my business, that’s all. I did well in Denver, an’ now I’m investin’ the proceeds.”
    “You must have done well, to talk so freely about buying horses south of the border. Good breeding stock is expensive. So is hiring your own team of mesteñeros. Such skills don’t come cheap.”
    “I did all right.”
    “He owns a freight company, too,” Isom told her. “He’s a good man to work for.”
    “Indeed? Well, señor, when your horse ranch is ready, send word to me. I shall find a good cook for you – for a small fee, of course.”
    “I never mind paying for good service, or for other things I need. I can be real generous.” Walt laid a gold double eagle on the table. “That’s for starters.”
    Her eyebrows rose as she picked up the twenty-dollar coin, hefting it in her hand. “We do not often see one of these in here, señor.”
    “You get me what I need – not just a cook – and you’ll see more of them.”
    “Indeed? What else are you needing, señor?”
    “Information. I –”
    Walt was interrupted as the batwing doors slammed back, and a big, burly man stalked through them. His gait was unsteady, as if he’d already had more than a few drinks and was feeling their effects. He was dark-haired, with a big, bushy beard. His grubby, stained checkered shirt was tucked into black trousers that fell to mud-stained boots. A revolver was holstered at his right side, balanced by a long-bladed knife on his left. He was followed by what looked like a younger version of himself, dressed and armed in the same style, also not very steady on his feet.
    Rosa hissed in anger, and started forward. The men at the bar looked around, then backed hurriedly away from the new arrivals as the bartender lowered his hands out of sight behind it.
    Walt pushed back his chair, and murmured to Isom, “Stand by for trouble.”
    “Got it.” Isom gently moved his chair back as well, to give himself room to move.
    Rosa stepped in front of the burly man, arms akimbo, fists clenched. “I told you not to come back here, Señor Furlong!”
    “Aw, shaddup, Rosa!” the man slurred, trying to focus his drink-sodden eyes on her. “I gotta wait here in town for a reply to a telegraph message, an’ I want someone to keep me warm ’till then. Here – I’ll pay.” He fumbled in his pocket.
    Rosa exploded with rage. “You hurt my girl last time! She couldn’t work for two weeks! No more of them for you! You get out of here, and take your son with you!”
    “Aw, you’re cute when you’re angry. Maybe I’ll take you tonight instead!” Bart’s hand shot out and grabbed her right breast, squeezing. Rosa’s eyes bugged out and she yelled in pain, pulling back, trying to free herself.
    The bartender lifted his hands above the bar. They were holding a sawn-off double-barreled shotgun. He began to swing it into line, but Walt was faster. He threw himself forward, drawing his right-hand revolver, lifting it, then chopping down with vicious force, clubbing Bart over the head with the butt of the gun. The man collapsed as if he’d been pole-axed.
    Isom was right behind him. As the younger man staggered unsteadily, reaching for his holstered revolver, the teamster grabbed his shoulder, spun him around, and launched a haymaker that came around with all the weight of his body behind it. It landed on the side of the man’s jaw with an audible crunching sound. His victim flew sideways, crashing into the wall with an impact that shook the room. He hung there limply for a moment, then toppled forward to land face-down on the floor.
    “Thank you, señor,” Rosa said, rubbing her breast absently, her eyes on the revolver in Walt’s hand. “You are very fast with that.”
    “I get by,” Walt said shortly, holstering the gun and looking round at Isom. “I heard something break – not your hand, I hope?”
    “Naw,” the other replied, massaging his knuckles with his left hand. “I think it was his jaw.”
    Walt bent over and rolled the younger man onto his back. Sure enough, his jaw was bent sideways. “Yeah, you got him good. He won’t be eatin’ steak for a while.”
    He straightened up and looked around. All the customers in the cantina were on their feet, eyes wide, staring in stunned silence at the scene. Walt said, “You don’t want trouble with this man when he wakes up. None of you were here tonight. You saw nothing, you heard nothing, you know nothing. Understand?”
    Everyone nodded solemnly.
    “Right. On your way.”
    The onlookers hurried out. Most stepped over or around the recumbent men, but a few trod on them, very deliberately. One spat in Bart Furlong’s face.
    Walt waited until all the customers had left, then looked at Rosa. “I don’t want them to remember anything about us, or even how they got hurt tonight. Can you fix that?”
    She gazed at him expressionlessly. “I don’t know what you mean, señor.”
    “Oh, come on, Rosa! I’m sure you’ve had to deal with rowdy drunks before. Don’t tell me someone in your line of work doesn’t have a bottle of chloral hydrate stashed behind the bar!”
    She nodded slowly. “Yes, I have.”
    “Then put a good dose of it in two glasses of tequila – not too much, mind; we don’t want to kill them – an’ make ’em drink it. Hold their noses until their mouths open, then pour it into them, bit by bit. Make sure they swallow it. That’ll knock ’em out for the rest of the night. Once they’ve drunk it, dump ’em down by the creek. It’s warm enough that they should be all right there overnight. They won’t remember much when they wake up in the morning.”
    “I would rather dump them in the creek, señor – face down. I would prefer that they don’t wake up at all.”
    Walt shook his head. “Too risky. Even if your customers don’t talk, someone may have seen them come in here.”
    “I suppose you are right,” she sighed.
    “I am. Besides,” and he grinned nastily, “I’d like them to live a while longer, to savor the misfortune that befell them tonight.”
    “You mean, being knocked out like this?”
    “No, I mean the fire that burned their place to the ground.”
    “What fire – oh!” Her eyes sparkled with sudden, savage glee.
    “That’s right. If this is Bart Furlong an’ his son, a bunch of his boys stole some of my horses the other night, an’ killed one of my men. They didn’t know who I was, or they wouldn’t have done that. They won’t be doing it again. I came up here to find out who gave the orders. I reckon he needs to be taught a lesson, and I know just how to drive it home.”
    “What if he finds out who you are, señor? He is a bad enemy.”
    “So am I, Rosa. I can be the best friend you’ll ever have, or your worst nightmare. Take your pick. Furlong’s already made his choice, by what he did.”
    “You know… I think I believe you, señor,” she murmured, staring at him intently.
    “Keep an eye on him. If he finds out who I am, or he’s fixin’ to try to get even with me, warn me. Send a letter or a rider if you have time; if you don’t, send a telegraph message sayin’ that Pedro is comin’ down the mountain to see me. I’ll know what it means.”
    “I will do that, señor, and I will ask others to tell me if they hear anything.”
    Walt took out his notebook, scribbled a few lines, tore out the page, and handed it to Rosa. “You can reach me there.” He took a coin purse from his pocket, extracted five double eagles, and laid them on the bar counter. The bartender’s eyes, and those of the four women waiting on tables, bugged out at the sight of the gold. “This is to make up for the trade you lost tonight, and for your trouble. Keep me informed of anything I need to know, and there’ll be more where that came from.”
    She scooped up the money. “You are very generous, señor.” Her eyes and voice turned coy. “Will you come back tonight? We have reason to be grateful to you; and for a man who pays so well, many pleasures can be arranged – for his friend, too.” She glanced at Isom.
    He laughed. “No, we’ll head out after we pay a visit to Mr. Furlong’s place. How do I get there?” Rosa gave rapid directions. “Thanks. Look after those two for me – and don’t hurt ’em more than they are already. You don’t want ’em lookin’ for evens with you, too.”
    “We will be careful, señor. Thank you.”
    “Thank you, Rosa. If you need anything shipped up from Pueblo, remember, my freight business will haul it for you at good rates.”
    “I will use your services, señor, and tell others about them. It will be a good way to get regular messages to you.”
    “Yes, it will.” Walt turned to Isom. “Come on, let’s get our gear and collect the horses.”

That's very much a first draft, unedited and unimproved.  I'm sure it'll be polished under the guidance of Castalia House before publication.

I'm having a lot of fun writing this book.  I hope you'll enjoy it too.

Peter

Top-down versus bottom-up - how President Trump won the election


An article in the Daily Beast gave me pause for thought.

It is difficult to overstate just how enraged state Democratic activists and leaders are with Organizing for Action (OFA), the political and community-organizing army that grew out of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

The nonprofit, which functions as a sort of parallel-Democratic National Committee, was founded to mobilize Democratic voters and supporters in defense of President Obama’s, and the Democratic Party’s, agenda. Instead, the organization has drawn the intense ire, both public and private, of grassroots organizers and state parties that are convinced that OFA inadvertently helped decimate Democrats at the state and local level, while Republicans cemented historic levels of power and Donald J. Trump actually became leader of the free world.

These intra-party tensions aren’t going away, especially now that OFA “relaunched” itself last week to protect the Affordable Care Act, boost turnout at congressional townhalls, and train grassroots organizers gearing up for the Trump era.

“This is some GRADE A Bullshit right here,” Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, wrote in a private Democratic-listserv email obtained by The Daily Beast.

. . .

The decimation of the Democratic Party during, and leading up to, the Age of Trump is not, however, any single organization’s fault. The DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign raised many times more money than OFA for the 2016 cycle, and that didn’t stop President Trump, either.

To the defeated and angry liberal activists and operatives, OFA is just one of several “devils”—one that is emblematic of large-scale institutional problems.

“We’ve seen over the last eight-plus years a deterioration of permanent state infrastructure,” one red-state Democratic operative, who requested anonymity, said. “And OFA built an alternative infrastructure that was very top-down. OFA’s actions were wasteful, duplicative, and it made no sense… There were these tensions on the ground that we saw that all over the country. Local officials felt tossed aside. A lot of these red states were abandoned. The OFA model was never a 50-state strategy—it was about the president’s agenda.”

. . .

“I don’t know what the mission is with the new OFA, what the purpose is supposed to be,” Jaime Harrison told The Daily Beast. “There are a lot of these various [outside] groups… and if having all these other groups means diminishing the impact of state parties, that’s where I have a problem. We need to figure out the best path forward. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean a world without OFA, but… we have to focus on rebuilding the party across the board, not just focusing on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

There's more at the link.

When you think about it, that's the opposite of how President Trump won the 2016 elections.  He didn't have a top-down structure at all - in fact, he defeated every candidate put up by the Republican Party's top-down structure.  He mobilized the grass-roots, the 'forgotten people' that both political parties ignored.  He's still doing that.  If you look at the opinion polls, for all that the press and the 'establishment' fulminate against him, try to undermine him, and seek to put obstacles in his path at every turn, he maintains a better-than-50% approval rating.  That's because the grass-roots know that he came out of their ranks, with their votes;  and he's cemented their loyalty by doing, in his first few weeks in office, precisely what he promised them he'd do.

Indeed, the efforts by the 'establishment' to stop the President's program in its tracks, and overturn his executive actions, are merely confirming to the grass-roots why they voted for him.  He's doing what they want.  The 'establishment' is trying to stop it.  Therefore, the 'establishment' is against the grass-roots, and must be destroyed.  That's their mood right now, and that's why they're not being turned off by the deluge of negative propaganda in which the 'establishment' is seeking to drown President Trump.

If the Democratic Party wants to regain the White House - much less the House and Senate - it had better wake up and smell the grass-roots coffee.  It's already lost a lot of support from union households, a foundational element of its constituency.  As Mark McDermott (himself a Democrat) put it, 'The Democratic Party is losing the working class'.  If that takes root, it'll be out of power for generations.

Top-down just won't cut it with the grass-roots or the working class.  It has to be bottom-up . . . or you'll forfeit their support.  OFA - a top-down organization if ever there was one - hasn't figured that out yet.

Peter

Friday, February 17, 2017

Gigglesnort!


A tip o' the hat to SayUncle for finding this gem.





Boys and their toys, indeed!




Peter

Doofus Of The Day #950


Today's award goes to the members of the House of Clergy of the Church of England.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link.

THE Church of England’s crucial vote on gay marriage has been thrown into chaos after some clergy claimed they “got confused” and “pressed the wrong button”.

The Church’s legislative body voted last night against a report that calls for continued opposition to same-sex marriage.

. . .

Now some clergy have come forward saying they made a mistake when using their voting machines, and that they actually supported their colleagues’ report.

. . .

Other members said that they had voted the wrong way because they thought they were voting on a point of procedure.

There's more at the link.

I tend to take such excuses with a grain (or, in this case, a whole damn shaker) of salt.  I think they voted because they're liberals at heart, and now they're trying to appease the more conservative members of the Church.

Regardless, the House of Clergy just voted against the traditional, Biblical perspective on marriage.  If that can be taken as representative, methinks the Church of England is well on its way to becoming just another reflection of secular society, which doesn't seem to believe in anything except "If it feels good, do it!"

Peter

Twitter is becoming an 'Orwellian nightmare'


Forbes has a worthwhile analysis of Twitter's latest moves towards open, outright censorship of its users.

Earlier this morning social media and the tech press lit up with reports of users across Twitter receiving half day suspensions en masse as the platform abruptly rolled out its decade-overdue  hate speech filter to its platform. The company has refused to provide details on specifically how the new system works, but using a combination of behavioral and keyword indicators, the filter flags posts it deems to be violations of Twitter’s acceptable speech policy and issues users suspensions of half a day during which they cannot post new tweets and their existing tweets are visible only to followers. From the platform that once called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” these new tools mark an incredible turn of events for the company that just two years ago famously wrote Congress to say it would do everything in its power to uphold the right of terrorists to post freely to its platform. What does Twitter’s new interest in hate speech tell us about the future of free speech online?

. . .

The question of censoring speech versus ideas is not an idle one ... the mere possibility ... is absolutely frightening from the standpoint of freedom of expression in the United States. Here in the US it has been a long-standing tradition that any citizen may criticize their elected officials even in strong terms without the risk of being silenced. Even legal concepts like libel make special accommodation for accusations against public figures like politicians that bear on their official duties. However, in some countries criticism of the government is actually illegal and can result in harsh prison sentences even for a first offense.

If Twitter really did suspend a user for criticizing a politician and exercising his free speech rights to argue that he believes that that politician broke the law, that presents a truly frightening dystopian 1984 world in which criticism of the state could be simply wiped from existence. Imagine anyone who posted any comments critical of an elected official being suspended from Twitter and potentially banned outright with all their posts deleted. It is not hard to imagine governments throughout the world exploring how they, too, could force Twitter to eliminate critical speech and given that Twitter now has a production deployed tool, it can no longer argue that adding such filters would pose insurmountable technical challenges.

In short, while better than previous efforts, the way in which Twitter has rolled out this new system and the potential for its abuse by governments, companies and others to stifle legitimate criticism has opened Pandora’s box and moved us a giant leap towards the end of free speech just when we need it more than ever.

There's more at the link.

I note that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, is the same individual who spoke of observing, among his company's users, "A lot of the same patterns we’ve seen during the Iranian Green Revolution and the Arab Spring".  He's an out-and-out opponent of President Trump and anything other than progressive, far-left-wing political causes.  Last year he appointed a 'Trust and Safety Council', almost exclusively made up of progressive fellow-travelers, to help "ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter".  The actions of that council have done nothing to inspire confidence that free speech is their goal.  Indeed, one critic has gone so far as to call it an 'Orwellian nightmare'.

What's striking isn't just that there may be a political bias in those decisions. The more serious problems are a lack of due process and explanation, and a striking imbalance between what happens to semi-prominent Twitter personalities and the countless run-of-the-mill Twitter trolls who are still at large ... The Trust and Safety Council can't actually protect users from abuse; its only power is stop controversial users from issuing controversial opinions on Twitter.

It appears Twitter supports free speech from only the left side of the political, social and cultural aisle.  Centrists are, at best, tolerated.  Those to the right are 'throttled', 'shadowbanned', censored, or kicked off Twitter altogether.  One report claimed:

Twitter maintains a ‘whitelist’ of favoured Twitter accounts and a ‘blacklist’ of unfavoured accounts. Accounts on the whitelist are prioritised in search results, even if they’re not the most popular among users. Meanwhile, accounts on the blacklist have their posts hidden from both search results and other users’ timelines.

Our source was backed up by a senior editor at a major digital publisher, who told Breitbart that Twitter told him it deliberately whitelists and blacklists users. He added that he was afraid of the site’s power, noting that his tweets could disappear from users’ timelines if he got on the wrong side of the company.

Again, more at the link.

Twitter may claim that it isn't bound by the First Amendment, because it's a private corporation, not a government entity.  In that it is, of course, quite correct.  Nevertheless, its actions demonstrate that it is not only not bound by the First Amendment, but that it holds it in contempt.  It openly boasts about its efforts to stifle free speech under the guise of taking action against 'abuse and harassment'.  Those efforts are clearly and visibly applied, for all the world to see, against only one side of the political spectrum.  As far as Twitter is concerned, it appears that abuse and harassment, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder - namely, the company itself.  Truth and objectivity are irrelevant.

That's why I won't use Twitter.  I regard the company as completely untrustworthy.  I've switched to the new startup Gab instead, which emphasizes free speech at all costs, eschewing censorship as a corporation and leaving it up to individual users to self-censor what they would, or would not, like to see.  Furthermore, the company openly undertakes to never censor any speech except "illegal activity, spam and abuse", which are clearly and openly defined for all the world to see.  There are no 'secret clauses' or gotchas.  That's the way it should be, IMHO.

Peter

(P.S.:  If you're on Gab, follow me at @PeterG.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Am I a prophet, or what?


A few weeks ago, I observed:
I'm forced to wonder whether the progressive left in this country are under the impression that if enough of them scream at the top of their voices against President Trump, for long enough, they can provoke an 'Arab Spring'-type uprising here, and topple him from power.

Am I a prophet, or what?
While the social media company appears to be treading water after a rough past few months, which includes a number of high-level staff departures and a relatively sinking stock price, Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey sees his platform’s influence in society remaining largely the same, if not growing.

“A lot of the same patterns we’ve seen during the Iranian Green Revolution and the Arab Spring,” Dorsey said Wednesday at a tech conference hosted by Goldman Sachs, according to Fortune. “It was stunning to see how Twitter was being used to have a conversation about the government, with the government.”

There's more at the link.

Daft, demented and deluded . . . but they're out there.

I can only remind Mr. Dorsey about what happened to the Arab Spring.  I have little doubt that the same thing will happen to any  "Progressive Spring" over here, if moonbats like Mr. Dorsey try to make that a reality.

Peter

The Peninsular War meets The Lord of the Rings


Here's a bit of visual and musical whimsy for you.  Actor Sean Bean played Richard Sharpe in the made-for-TV movies of Bernard Cornwell's well-known series of novels.  He also played Boromir in the film adaptation of Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'.

Someone has taken footage of Boromir from the latter movie, and combined it with the iconic song from the Sharpe series, 'Over the Hills and Far Away'.  It's fun to see - and hear - the juxtaposition.





Peter

"Punching Nazis isn’t as good an idea as one might think"


That's the opinion of Chris Hernandez, who writes:

Since I don’t care much for Nazis, it might seem surprising that I don’t think they should be punched. To be more precise, I don’t mind punching actual Nazis; the problem is, the people getting punched lately aren’t Nazis. Richard Spencer is in fact a white nationalist, but he doesn’t actually do anything except talk. Milo Yiannapolous is a gay Jew with an affinity for black men, which would have gotten him killed three times over in Nazi Germany. The people who went to his event at Berkeley weren’t Nazis at all, they were just regular people who wanted to hear a dissenting opinion. One was just a young girl who didn’t agree with the mob. She wasn’t punched, she got pepper sprayed for it.

And therein lies the problem. When we cheer a violent rioter because “he punched a Nazi!”, without having any actual evidence the victim was a Nazi, what we’re really saying is, “It’s okay to use violence on people because I think I know their opinions, and I’ve decided some opinions aren’t allowed.”

But hey, Nazi opinions shouldn’t be allowed. Right?

Yes, they should. Nazis suck, and Nazi opinions suck, but we live in America. ANY opinion is allowed; not every opinion is valid, not every opinion is respectable, not every opinion is or should be safe from well-deserved ridicule. But an opinion – ANY opinion – is harmless. In America, we don’t beat people up for their opinions.

. . .

Mob violence against people for having forbidden opinions is great fun and all, until your forbidden opinion is the one facing the angry mob.

There's more at the link.

The problem with the accusation that someone's a Nazi is that almost everyone throwing it around has no idea whatsoever what being a Nazi really means.  I do.  I've literally exchanged gunfire with real Nazis - those who actively, knowingly, violently support and propagate Hitler's racial and cultural philosophy.  I wrote about it some time ago.  Believe me, there are so few real Nazis in America today that I doubt most of us will ever come within a hundred miles of one.

Another problem:  violence begets counter-violence.  If you beat up Nazis - or those you allege to be Nazis - don't be surprised if next time, they come out in force to beat you up in return.  It's reality - and it has nothing to do with democracy.  Do you believe in your democratic right to protest, or gather for political meetings, or vote for whom you please?  Then don't deny that right to others . . . or they may deny it to you.

It seems many on the progressive left in the USA have forgotten that lesson.  If they carry on like this, I fear they may be reminded of it anew.  Violently.

Peter

A populist, authoritarian President may be the solution - or the next crisis


The Z-man thinks it'll be the solution.

The game has been rigged to make reforming the system within the rules an impossibility. When a majority of the people favor a policy that the managerial class opposes, the policy gets hamstrung by the rules of the game. All of a sudden, the process is sacred. When the managerial class wants something for their masters, they change the rules so it either flies through or simply happens without anyone noticing. The process is not all that important.

All the blather about America being a nation of laws is just cover for the fact that ours is a lawless nation ruled by lawless men. An obvious example is the Ninth Circuit judges, who have fabricated a legal justification for throwing sand in the gears of a wildly popular executive order issued by President Trump. These are not men enforcing the law or respecting the laws. These are men who hold the law in contempt. All that matters to them is obedience to the weird secular cult we have come to call Progressivism.

If what it takes to break the stranglehold this cult has on society is a dictator willing to toss a few judges from a helicopter, then sign me up for dictatorship.

. . .

Totalitarians attempt to change the world and human nature, by controlling all aspects of society, including the granular aspects of the political system. It’s what makes reform impossible as we are quickly seeing with the opposition to Trump’s policies. It’s not that they object, on policy grounds, to the very mild reforms that are being proposed. What is at issue is the very concept of the all encompassing world state. To permit reform is to permit questioning and that can never be tolerated.

The only way to break the totalitarian stranglehold may be with an authoritarian willing to bust down doors and crack some heads.

There's more at the link.

I'm of two minds about this.  I entirely agree with the Z-man's contention that the 'managerial class' are doing everything they can to frustrate President Trump's agenda.  They see it (correctly, IMHO) as a clash between popular will and the so-called 'Deep State', the bureaucrats and politicians who regard the state as superior to, and in authority over, the popular will.  That's the antithesis of what our Founding Fathers intended, of course.

However, populism is a two-edged sword.  The will of the people first cried "Hosanna!", then turned around and crucified Christ.  The will of the people elected Hitler and Mussolini.  Too many people are willing to abdicate personal responsibility to someone who says, "Let me handle that for you!  I can take care of it!"  Too many are willing to let emotions and feelings sway their judgment, rather than rely on facts and logic.  That can be very dangerous indeed.  It may even destroy the democracy that's supposed to embody and empower the will of the people in the first place.

As Robert Heinlein famously observed:

'Bread and Circuses' is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader – the barbarians enter Rome.

Mine was a lovely world – until the parasites took over.

In a very real sense, it's the 'parasites' who've voted themselves more and more government benefits - by voting for representatives eager to gain power by promising them those benefits - who've thereby put the 'managerial class' in their present position of power.  Those parasites are the reason that Republicans are now dithering about 'reforming' or 'fixing' Obamacare, instead of doing what the electorate has overwhelmingly demanded and getting rid of it.  They fear what the parasites will do to them, electorally speaking, if deprived of a benefit on which they've come to rely.

The 'managerial class' are past masters at exploiting the parasites.  Illegal aliens, welfare queens, those who make a living by decrying racial or sexual or any other form of discrimination (whether or not it truly exists) . . . all of them are the bread and butter of those who seek to rule us.  They're also the antithesis of what it means to be a free and independent person, in a free and independent nation.

President Trump is the catalyst who has brought this conflict into public view.  He's facing a full-on revolt by those who fear losing power to the populist revolution he embodies.  He may succeed in 'draining the swamp', as he promised before the election - but the swamp is full of 'managerial class' crocodiles, all fighting back as hard as they can.  There's no guarantee who's going to win.  He may have to break the 'managerial class' in order to do so . . . and therein may lie the seeds of the destruction of the republic envisaged by the Founding Fathers.

It's a hell of a dilemma.  For America's sake, I hope President Trump wins - but I hope he can do so while preserving 'liberty and justice for all'.  That's not guaranteed.

Peter

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A house made from Coca-Cola crates?


David the Good, over at his blog The Survival Gardener, brings us news of an interesting house he's found in Central America.

The entire structure, with the exception of the roof, was constructed from discarded Coca-Cola crates.

“I live humble,” the farmer told me.



I was impressed by his ingenuity. The indented portion to the left is his kitchen, the rest of it is his bedroom/living area. The door is just a stack of crates which he pulls in or out.

The kitchen has just enough space to walk into, with crates up to just over waist height as counters. To the back of the room is a gas double burner where he cooks.

Normally I wouldn’t put people’s houses on the internet, but he said “David, take a photo! Put it on Facebook if you like!”

I laughed. The man is proud of his work, as he should be.

I asked where in the world he got the crates. He told me that a local bottling plant lost their contract with Coca-Cola and were discarding piles of them, so he was able to help himself.

There's more at the link, including more details of the construction.

Thinking about it, that's a temperate climate where it never gets particularly cold, so the open structure of Coca-Cola crates wouldn't matter too much - insulation isn't a priority.  As for rain, it mostly comes straight down in those parts, and the roof is wide enough to provide shelter from that.

Ingenious!

Peter

When the hangover cure is worse than the disease . . .


I've been alternately giggling and feeling nauseated at some ancient cures for a hangover.  Examples:

  • Raw Pickled Herring Wrapped Around Pieces of Gherkin and Onion (Germany)
  • Picked Sheep Eyes in Tomato Juice (Mongolia)
  • A Glass of Warm Milk with a Teaspoon of Soot (the 1800s)
  • Raw Owl’s Eggs and Deep-Fried Canary (Ancient Rome)
  • Sheep Lungs, Owl Eggs and Boiled Cabbage (Ancient Greece)

There are more at the link, including all the gory (?) details.

Inevitably, Japan has its own unique selection of cures.  Don't they always?




Peter

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A fellow South African-American blogger needs help


I'm sure many of my readers know of Kim du Toit.  He's an immigrant from South Africa, like me;  and, also like me, he married an American lady.  His blog, 'The Other Side of Kim', was a regular destination for me for many years.  He stopped active blogging some time ago, but I understand he has a presence on Facebook; and he's also published several novels.

Sadly, Kim's wife Connie recently died of cancer.  He's been left with the burden of her medical bills, which he needs to clear before he can get on with his life.  He's set up a GoFundMe crowd-funding project for the purpose.  He says:

We were together for twenty years; twenty years where we were seldom more than ten feet apart from each other. For twenty years we worked in the same office, sat on the same couch, slept in the same bed, and in the end, when Connie was dying of Stage 4 cancer, I slept on the couch next to her recliner where she was confined  -- and when Connie finally died, my face was six inches from hers as I whispered my love for her.

Now my beloved Connie is gone, and I have to restart my life. This means clearing the debt, leaving the house where we lived together, and learning how to live without the woman who made my life possible. I'm a writer, and I have to write again, because it's all I know. So I'll be finishing those long-neglected novels, and yes -- I will start blogging again. I just need the funds to make that possible.

Please help me.

I'm going to contribute, of course:  and I'd be very grateful if those of you who also used to read Kim's blog, or who follow him on Facebook, would also do so.  He's had a very tough row to hoe these past few years.  He's helped a lot of people himself, and now it's his turn to ask for assistance.  I think it's merited.

Thanks.

Peter

John Wick - animal edition


Those of you who've watched the movie 'John Wick' will know that his dog gets killed, and he takes his revenge.  Here's the alternate version.





Never mind cruelty to animals . . . this is cruelty by animals!

Peter

Headline of the week


This one takes the cake (almost literally):




From the article:

For 30 years, Donald Lau has been the “Chief Fortune Writer” at Wonton Foods, a manufacturer that touts itself to be one of the world’s largest producers of fortune cookies.

But now, Lau is leaving his position following a long bout of writer’s block.

“I used to write 100 a year, but I’ve only written two or three a month over the past year,” Lau recently explained to Time.

Lau has been with the New York City-based company– which operates out of Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, since the 1980s but a new push to produce inspiring sayings that promote wellness and serenity has Lau coming up blank.

Instead, James Wong, a nephew of the company’s founder, will now handle the writing position. He’s already being trained by Lau.

There's more at the link.

Riddle me this:  is a Chinese fortune cookie fortune writer with writer's block equivalent to an astrologer suffering from soothsayer's cramps?




Peter

Monday, February 13, 2017

So bad, it's hysterical


Here's another Bollywood fight scene for you, this one from the movie Welcome Back (which does classify itself as an action comedy, so perhaps some of the over-the-top special effects were actually intended that way).





How do you say, "Oy!" in Hindi?




Peter

"Shun the unbeliever!", politically correct edition


I don't know the work of SF author Jon del Arroz, but after seeing how disgracefully he's been treated by the politically correct SF 'establishment', I'm going to remedy that.

Mr. del Arroz recently published a very well received SF novel, 'Rescue Run'.




However, because he supports the current President of the United States, he's found himself ostracized and pilloried by the science fiction 'establishment' in his native California.  He describes it on his blog.

I’ve spoken, between Baycon [the Bay Area Science Fiction Convention] ... and sister convention Con-Volution, at Bay Area Sci-Fi programming every year since 2012, which culminated in getting me stints at San Diego Comic-Con to present on panels for back to back years ...

. . .

But the convention, despite their namesake, has changed so it’s no longer about Bay Area authors. It’s not about Science Fiction either. One only has to go back to their last few years of programming to see what matters to the powers that be who have taken it over: it’s a place where politics transcend everything.

. . .

The reason I was disinvited was because it is well known that I support the President of the United States, duly elected and all, and that I’m happy about the way the country is being run.

. . .

Baycon and its sister convention Con-Volution have been headed down this path for years, and I have heard stories about how local cons across the nation are facing similar problems. When conventions stop being about fun, and start being about grievance and hate, less and less people attend. They’ve been seeing this trend go on for years without a clear solution, as local comic-cons, anime cons, gaming cons and the like have skyrocketed in membership. Each year I keep seeing the same people ask why, and the answer is right in front of their faces. Each year, they double down with hyper-charged political programming, presenting only one side.

When you turn something that is fun, something that people pay good money to come connect and enjoy into something, only to be faced with a browbeating, angry, and exclusive situation, you lose people.

There's more at the link.

I've experienced such rejection at first hand.  A couple of years ago, I found myself threatened with ostracism after I objected to a senior editor at Tor Books characterizing sympathizers of the Sad Puppies campaign as 'neo-Nazis'.  Those threats didn't bother me in the least, because I was willing to bet no-one from the 'politically correct' side of SF had ever bought my books anyway!  I'm angry that such ostracism is still going on.  From my own experience, Mr. del Arroz has my sympathy.

I suggest to you, dear readers, that the best way we can show our contempt for and rejection of such partisan political poison in the literary world, is by supporting those against whom it's directed.  I haven't yet read Mr. del Arroz' book, but on that basis, I recommend it to your attention.  (It's free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, and only $4.99 to purchase in e-book format, so it's a bargain.)

Peter

Let's take an immigration policy lesson from the Clintons!


This Clinton, to be precise - in 1995.





So, is anything President Trump doing today to deal with illegal aliens different from what President Clinton was proposing more than two decades ago?

(A tip o' the hat to Pawpaw for finding the video.)

Peter

The Californian Confederacy?


The inimitable Victor Davis Hanson sees many parallels between California today and the antebellum South.

In December 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union in furor over the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln did not receive 50 percent of the popular vote. He espoused values the state insisted did not reflect its own.

In eerie irony, liberal California is now mirror-imaging the arguments of reactionary South Carolina and other Southern states that vowed to go it alone in 1860 and 1861.

. . .

Of course, this is 2017, not 1860, and California is super-liberal, not an antebellum slave-owning society.

Nonetheless, what is driving California’s current efforts to nullify federal law and the state’s vows to secede from the U.S. are some deeper — and creepy — similarities to the arrogant and blinkered Old South.

. . .

California is becoming a reactionary two-tier state of masters and serfs whose culture is as peculiar and out of step with the rest of the country as was the antebellum South’s. The California elite, wishing to keep the natural environment unchanged, opposes internal improvements and sues to stop pipelines, aqueducts, reservoirs, freeways, and affordable housing for the coastal poor.

California’s crumbling roads and bridges sometimes resemble those of the old rural South. The state’s public schools remain among the nation’s poorest. Private academies are booming for the offspring of the coastal privileged, just as they did among the plantation class of the South.

California, for all its braggadocio, cannot leave the U.S. or continue its states’-rights violations of federal law. It will eventually see that the new president is not its sickness, nor are secession and nullification its cures.

Instead, California is becoming a reactionary two-tier state of masters and serfs whose culture is as peculiar and out of step with the rest of the country as was the antebellum South’s. No wonder the state lashes out at the rest of the nation with threatened updated versions of the Old Confederacy’s secession and nullification.

But such reactionary Confederate obstructionism is still quite an irony given California’s self-righteous liberal preening.

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

I think Mr. Hanson is right.  The current frothing-at-the-mouth hysteria in California over President Trump's policies reminds me of George Wallace's inaugural address as Governor of Alabama on January 14th, 1963.





  • Insistence on doing things as Alabama wants them?  Check.
  • Refusal to kowtow to federal authority?  Check.
  • Warning Washington that the next President would be determined by voters who shared Wallace's and Alabama's views?  Check.

Well, guess who won that fight?  (Hint:  see the outcome at Appomattox.  Wash, rinse, repeat.)

California might want to think about that . . .

Peter

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A sad, yet ultimately healing encounter


Courtesy of Pitchpull, here's a sad but heartening tale of loss and hope.





Dang room's getting dusty again . . .

Peter

More panic-mongering "fake news" about Fukushima


Either some journalists are mathematically challenged, or they're deliberately trying to scare people into going along with the environmentalist agenda.  Last week it was reported that radiation levels at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant were at "unimaginable levels".  However, PJ Media reports:

... Most commercial nuclear reactors have what's called the "primary containment" around the reactor: a sealed steel or reinforced concrete shell around the actual reactor. Outside that is the "secondary containment," another sealed building surrounding the primary containment. The unexpectedly high radiation levels -- and 530 Sieverts is way high, no question -- were detected inside the containment, the area marked by "1."

This is important, because everyone in Japan is in the area marked by "2", technically called outside the containment. This is a Good Thing. What's even better is that we now know the radiation exposure in area 2 was only about 15 percent of what was originally thought.

So, the tl;dr here is: "Don't panic. The high radiation is only inside the reactor." I will say, though, that I wouldn't recommend anyone going into the containment vessel.

. . .

TEPCO and the Japanese government carefully measure the radioactivity in the water being released [from the damaged reactor into the sea], and report it regularly. Their February 1 report records only one significant radionuclide in the water: tritium, the third hydrogen isotope. The radioactivity level is between 780 and 820 Bq per liter of water.

What does this mean? Well, the U.S. EPA safety standard for tritium in drinking water sets an upper limit of 740 Bq/liter. Basically, you wouldn't want to drink it, right there at the outflow into the Pacific, for any extended length of time -- although it probably wouldn't hurt you.

You could swim in it, though.

There's more at the link.

Do we have to fact-check everything the mainstream media reports?  I'm beginning to fear that the answer is "Yes" . . .




Peter

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wedding photography in the style of Monty Python


I think John Cleese and company would feel right at home here.








Peter

The voice of the enemy


Here's one of the principal organizers of the riots at Berkeley last weekend.  She lies in her teeth repeatedly, and absolutely refuses to acknowledge the rule of law or civilized behavior.  Listen to her carefully.  This is the voice of an avowed enemy of freedom, liberty, and justice.





Anyone who's this dogmatically and ideologically fixated should be regarded in the same light as a cancer invading someone's body.  It needs to be dealt with before it kills that body entirely.  That can happen through the law and the courts.  In many places, it will.  The problem is, in a place like Berkeley (or Washington state, from where this woman hails), that's unlikely, because the authorities in those places are often themselves left-wing progressives.

If the rule of law breaks down to the extent that the authorities will not stop people like this (as is apparently the case in Berkeley), be aware that their violent demonstrations are likely to put at least your health, if not your life, and the health and lives of your loved ones, at risk.  Therefore, if you should encounter such a demonstration and are forced to defend yourself, bear in mind who and what you're dealing with.  These people know no logic, no reason, and no mercy.  I submit that a legal, proportional and appropriate response to that threat will not be out of place.  If anyone should question that . . . show them this video clip.

Peter

"Scaling the Rim"


I'm delighted to announce that my wife's first book, 'Scaling the Rim', has just become available on Amazon.com.  It's a novella, or short novel.




'Scaling the Rim' is presently available in e-book format, and will be joined by a paperback edition within a week or two.  We're finalizing the cover details right now, and will have it up as soon as possible.

The blurb reads:

When Annika Danilova arrived at the edge of the colony's crater to install a weather station, she knew the mission had been sabotaged from the start. The powers that be sent the wrong people, underequipped, and antagonized their supporting sometimes-allies. The mission was already slated for unmarked graves and an excuse for war...

But they hadn't counted on Annika allying with the support staff, or the sheer determination of their leader, Captain Restin, to accomplish the mission. Together, they will overcome killing weather above and traitors within to fight for the control of the planet itself.

As the blurb illustrates, 'Scaling the Rim' is a blend of science fiction, adventure, and romance.  The developing relationship between the two main protagonists is important, but it's never over-stated, and it occurs within the context of a group fighting for their lives against the forces of nature, in a science fiction colonization environment.  The adventure and SF components shape and form the relationship, and lend it added depth.  It's by no means your typical boy-meets-girl story, or the standard variations thereof.  Suffice it to say that I neither enjoy nor choose to read romance novels - but I enjoyed the heck out of this one.

To me, the book carries a personal touch.  One of the things I love about my wife is her sense of adventure - very down-to-earth, very understated, but very much present.  After all, how many ladies do you know who, for their engagement, would request a very low-cost ring, plus a set of spruce spars for the wings of the pre-World War II aircraft they were rebuilding?  And how many young wives do you know who would, shortly after their marriage, disappear for several months to finish rebuilding the aircraft, then fly it alone almost 4,000 miles from Alaska, all the way down the historic Northwest Staging Route at an agonizingly slow pre-World War II flight speed, to rejoin her husband?  I find that same sense of adventure in how she writes, and in the character of her female protagonist in this novel.  (Yes, I'm biased.  I love the lady.  What did you expect?)

This being Dorothy's first book, I'd be very grateful if you, my faithful readers, would please try it out, and leave reviews on Amazon.com to let her know how you found it.  'Scaling the Rim' is free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, and only $2.99 to purchase, which I reckon is a real bargain.

Peter

Friday, February 10, 2017

So ridiculous, they're funny


Is this not the most over-the-top description of shoes that you've ever read?

A new fashion exhibition focusing on conceptual, artistic, and extreme footwear, aims to reevaluate the occult power and mystery of shoes ... these innovative and radical designs aim to defy space, anatomy, and gravity, pivoting around sculptural methods and blending traditional craft and nontraditional materials ... this exhibition creates a meandering journey between the ephemeral and the perennial, the beautiful and the painful, the mythology and reality of some of the most charged and coveted objects in fashion history.

Ridiculous!  And they look even worse than the description.





If shoes have 'occult power', surely they can heel what ails you? And is a shoe still a shoe if it can't be worn without serious risk of injury?




Peter

An interesting perspective on what may be a new American Revolution


Over at Medium.com, Jordan Greenhall has penned (typed?) a thought-provoking article that he calls "Situational Assessment 2017: Trump Edition".  Here's how it begins.

In 2015, I took a swing at assessing the shape and state of our global challenges. Looking back, that essay is still well worth a read, but it is high time for an update.

While many things have changed in the world in the past two years, 2016 saw what looks like a phase transition in the political domain. While the overall phenomenon is global in scale and includes Brexit and other movements throughout Europe, I want to focus specifically on the victory of the “Trump Insurgency” and drill down into detail on how this state change will play out.

I use John Robb’s term “Trump Insurgency” here to highlight the fact that the election of 2016 was not an example of “ordinary politics”. Anyone who fails to understand this is going to be making significant errors. For example, the 2016 election is not comparable to the 2000 election (e.g., merely a “close” election) nor to the 1980 election (e.g., an “ideological transition” election). While it is tempting to compare it to 1860, I’m not sure that is a good match either.

In fact, as I go back and try to do pattern matching, the only real pattern I can find is the 1776 “election” (AKA the American Revolution). In other words, while 2016 still formally looked like politics, what is really going on here is a revolutionary war. For now this is war using memes rather than bullets, but war is much more than a metaphor.

This war is about much more than ideology, money or power. Even the participants likely do not fully understand the stakes. At a deep level, we are right in the middle of an existential conflict between two entirely different and incompatible ways of forming “collective intelligence”. This is a deep point and will likely be confusing. So I’m going to take it slow and below will walk through a series of “fronts” of the war that I see playing out over the next several years.

There's much more at the link.

Mr. Greenhall examines the current situation under several headings:
  • Front One: Communications Infrastructure
  • Front Two: The Deep State
  • Front Three: Globalism
  • Front Four: The New Culture War
  • The War for Collective Intelligence

Under the last heading, he notes:

The conflict of the 21st Century is about forming a Collective Intelligence that can outwit and out innovate all of its competitors. The central challenge is to innovate a way of collaborating and cohering individuals that maximally deploys their individual perspectives, capabilities, understandings and insights with each-other. Right now, the Insurgency has the edge. It has discovered some key ways to tap into the power of decentralized collective intelligence and this is its principal advantage. While it is definitely not a mature version of a decentralized collective intelligence, it is substantially more so than any collective intelligence with which it is competing and unless and until a more effective decentralized collective intelligence enters the field, this advantage is enough.

It's a sometimes rambling essay that wanders off into the intellectual bushes on occasion, IMHO, but nevertheless pulls together several very interesting perspectives on the present sociopolitical and cultural situation in the USA and around the world.  Thought-provoking reading.

Peter

Breaking through mental barriers - a writer's view


Following a couple of interesting posts at Mad Genius Cub, the writers blog, by a couple of my fellow authors there, I decided to put up my own approach to dealing with writer's block and other mental barriers.  You'll find it over there.  Here's a brief excerpt.

This morning I’d like to offer my own approach to the problem – which is pretty straightforward.  I take the literary equivalent of a roto-rooter to the blockage, and bore my way through it by brute force.  If one avenue of approach is blocked, I abandon it and take a completely different one, then turn back from that road and bore my way into the problem from another angle.  That’s worked twice for me so far, and looks set fair to work a third time later this year.  Let me explain.

I’m a combination of plotter and pantser when it comes to preparing to write a novel.  I work out the initial plot and structure in my mind, and frequently set it out in point form in a document.  However, this is never set in stone.  Those blasted characters turn out to have minds of their own (often of fiendish deviousness), and can head off in different directions almost before I’ve realized that they’ve left the straight and narrow path I’ve worked out for them.  I then have to go haring after them, screaming “Come back!  You’re my creation, dammit!  Where the hell do you think you’re going?”  Sometimes, they listen.  More often than not, they don’t…  (Sigh)

Sometimes I just plain get bogged down.  I can’t make the plot or the characters go where I want them to be, and all my efforts feel flat, uninspired, and frankly boring.  A couple of weeks of this, and I’ll be climbing the walls in frustration.  I’ve learned, in such situations, to make that frustration into a spur for renewed creativity.  I simply shelve what I’m working on and tackle something completely different.

There's more at the link.

I think the basic approach - redirect your energies to something else, then come back and tackle the problem with a renewed and refreshed mind - applies to almost any sort of activity.  Go read, and see what you think.

Peter

That'll cost a pretty penny


There were some interesting aviation developments earlier this month in the remote Arctic region of Canada, some of them captured on video.  USA Today reports:

Swiss Flight 40 was headed from Zurich to Los Angeles, flying near Canada’s far north when it suffered a problem to one of its engines and diverted to Iqaluit.

“The real issue was they only had one engine, but despite that it was a smooth landing,” Iqaluit airport director John Hawkins said to the National Post of Toronto.

The temperature upon landing around 3 p.m. local time was -6F (-21C) before dropping into the -20s (-30C) during the overnight hours.

There's more at the link.

To make matters even more interesting, according to Aviation Herald, the Boeing 777 was too large to use the smaller taxiways at Iqaluit, and too big to turn around at the end of the runway.  It had to wait almost an hour for a ground tug to make its way out to the aircraft, push it back to a main taxiway, then tow it to the terminal.  (Indeed, I was surprised to learn that tiny Iqaluit had an airport capable of handling a 777, but on investigation, it turns out to have been built as a diversion airport for transpolar flights.  That means it has to be able to handle the largest and heaviest aircraft in emergency.)

The fun started with the single-engine approach and landing of the big 777.  It was captured on video by a local planespotter.





Next came the problem of how to get a spare engine to Iqaluit.  The 777's General Electric GE90 engines are massive, requiring a very wide bodied freight aircraft to accommodate their girth.





In this case, Swiss International Air Lines chartered an Antonov An-124 freighter to carry a spare engine, tools and technicians from Zurich, Switzerland, to the Arctic.  This report shows its arrival at Iqaluit, and the fitting of the new engine.





The Antonov remained on the ground with the 777 for four days (at a pretty substantial daily charter rate, I'm sure) while the new engine was unloaded, fitted to the 777 and tested, and the damaged engine loaded aboard the freighter.  According to the Aviation Herald, both aircraft finally departed on February 8th, the 777 back to Zurich and the Antonov to the UK, presumably to take the damaged engine to a repair center.

A GE90 engine costs between $30 and $40 million, according to different sources, so this one will almost certainly be repaired rather than replaced.  The costs of doing so, for such a complex piece of engineering, are likely to be at least a few million dollars.  Add to that the other costs involved - chartering the Antonov for several days, plus the expense of flying it from Europe to the Canadian Arctic and back;  sending another aircraft to collect the passengers from the original flight and get them to their destination, Los Angeles;  repairs and local fees in Iqaluit;  the return flight to Zurich;  the loss of revenue while the 777 was out of service;  and other incidentals - and the total bill for this little problem might be as high as $30 to $40 million in the long term.  Of course, most of that should be covered by insurance, but it's still a pretty penny.  I daresay Swiss's accountants are still adding up the numbers, with doleful looks on their joint and several faces.

Peter

Thursday, February 9, 2017

She's never heard of the Evil Overlord lists???


I recently corresponded with a blog reader who's dipping her toe into the waters of fiction writing.  During our discussion, she mentioned something that triggered a memory, and I referred her to the Evil Overlord lists.  To my utter astonishment, she'd never heard of them!

Clearly, this was intolerable, and I hastened to send her the links to the original list, the second part, and the third part.  I also noted that there were other, similar lists out there, most of them copying the originals, but some of them had worthwhile additions.

It occurred to me that other readers might perhaps have missed out on the fun and games;  so I've included the links above for your reading enjoyment.  Here, selected at random, are a few examples of "The Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord".

1.  My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.

19.  I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.

46.  If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.

65.  If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.

83.  If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.

92.  If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)

109.  I will see to it that plucky young lads/lasses in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander shall REGULARLY climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc. That way, the citizens will be jaded in case the real thing ever comes along.

121.  If I come into possession of an artifact which can only be used by the pure of heart, I will not attempt to use it regardless.

136.  If I build a bomb, I will simply remember which wire to cut if it has to be deactivated and make every wire red.

148.  Before ridiculing my enemies for wasting time on a device to stop me that couldn't possibly work, I will first acquire a copy of the schematics and make sure that in fact it couldn't possibly work.

174.  If I am dangling over a precipice and the hero reaches his hand down to me, I will not attempt to pull him down with me. I will allow him to rescue me, thank him properly, then return to the safety of my fortress and order his execution.

192.  If I appoint someone as my consort, I will not subsequently inform her that she is being replaced by a younger, more attractive woman.

198.  I will remember that any vulnerabilities I have are to be revealed strictly on a need-to-know basis. I will also remember that no one needs to know.

225.  I will explain to my guards that most people have their eyes in the front of their heads and thus while searching for someone it makes little sense to draw a weapon and slowly back down the hallway.

There are many more at the links above.  Go read, go forth, and conquer!

Peter

That figures


From the Pew Research Center:


20 metro areas are home to six-in-ten unauthorized immigrants in U.S.






Uh-huh.

And if you compare those 20 metropolitan areas to the list of so-called 'sanctuary cities' in the USA, where illegal aliens are sheltered by city authorities against deportation . . . what do you think you'll find?

Uh-huh.  Again.

Congratulations, Pew Research Center.  I think you've just identified 20 target-rich environments for President Trump.  Pass the popcorn, somebody, please . . .

Peter