Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"What will you get when you #AbolishICE?"

Miguel, over at Gun Free Zone, asks that question - and responds with graphic images of the cartel violence in that country.


That said, if you want to see the reality of what might be coming our way unless we secure our borders, click over to GFZ and view them for yourself.  Miguel is right.  That could all too easily come to US cities as well, unless we get control of our borders.


Trump, Putin, Helsinki - and reality

All the fuss and bother over President Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is giving me a delicious case of schadenfreude.  The Deep State and its minions in the news media were so sure that they'd set things up in such a way that President Trump could not help but be embarrassed, or come a cropper in some way . . . and he outsmarted them all.  The current screaming and carryings-on are so over the top as to be obvious to anyone with half a working brain cell.  Let's examine things in the cold, hard light of reality, shall we?

First off, President Trump does not trust the US national security apparatus - and, in his shoes, neither would I.  It's the same people who allowed former President Obama and his administration to co-opt security organs, processes and agencies for partisan political purposes, including trying to derail President Trump's election campaign and ensure victory for Hillary Clinton.  It almost worked.  If it had worked, you can bet your boots we'd never have heard a word about all that's come out since the election.  It would all have been covered up, conveniently expunged from the record.  As it is, that was no longer an option;  so the only alternative for the security and intelligence establishments has been to pin all their hopes on a distraction - the "Russia! Russia!" campaign.

What's more, all the protestations about Russian interference in the US 2016 elections are so much hooey when compared to previous US interference in Russian elections.  Remember TIME magazine's cover and report of July 15th, 1996?

Both the USA and the former Soviet Union - and now Russia - have intervened in elections around the world for decades.  The Guardian points out that "Americans can spot election meddling because they’ve been doing it for years".

According to research by political scientist Dov Levin, the US and the USSR/Russia together intervened no less than 117 times in foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, or “one out of every nine competitive, national-level executive elections”.

Indeed, one cannot understand US-Russian relations today without acknowledging America’s role in the internal affairs of its defeated cold war foe.

. . .

Yeltsin relied on US political strategists – including a former aide to Bill Clinton – who had a direct line back to the White House. When Yeltsin eventually won, the cover of Time magazine was “Yanks to the rescue: The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win”.

Without the chaos and deprivations of the US-backed Yeltsin era, Putinism would surely not have established itself. But it’s not just Russia by any means, for the record of US intervention in the internal affairs of foreign democracies is extensive.

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading, to see just how bad both sides have been.  For further reading on US activities in that area (including the Obama administration) see (among other sources):

So, when the US intelligence and security communities scream about Russian interference, why should President Trump give any particular credence to their allegations?  They're experts in the field, after all, because they've done it themselves - probably more times than they can count!  The "Deep State" has been using the "Russia! Russia!" brouhaha as a lever, trying to exert pressure on President Trump.  That's been obvious for months.  Why should anyone believe those agencies and sources any longer, when they've effectively discredited themselves?

To cite just one example of how untrustworthy the critics are, let's consider John Brennan, former CIA director, who yesterday opined that "Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous."  This is the same John Brennan who lied to Congress, producing headlines such as these:
Those are the same sources that are now reporting - and lauding - Brennan's accusations against President Trump.  What a difference a few years makes - not to mention a change of Administrations!

I think President Trump went to Helsinki prepared to face reality.  That reality is that both the USA and Russia have been guilty - equally guilty - of interfering in each other's internal and external affairs in the past.  Neither side can win by doing so;  but both sides can stir up - and have stirred up - immense problems for the other.  Instead of continuing in the same old way, why not try to "reset" the relationship between these two nations in accordance with reality?  That reality has to embrace realpolitik:  the reality, not the wishful thinking, of global relationships.

One has to start realpolitik by acknowledging facts as they are, not as one wishes they were.  I daresay both Presidents did so, at least implicitly, when they met yesterday - and that truth is not what's being peddled by the US security and intelligence apparatuses and their spokespersons.  I have no idea where things will go from this point onward, but I've learned not to judge President Trump by his words.  Rather, watch what he does.  That, and the fruits it bears, will be the ultimate judge of whether or not the Helsinki summit was a success.

Oh - and ignore the chattering classes.  They're irrelevant to reality.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't try to rob this restaurant . . .

. . . because the employees don't like it!

You can read more about the robbery attempt (in Tucson, Arizona) here.  Well done, those people!


"Big Pharma and the Rise of Gangster Capitalism"

That's the title of Charles Hugh Smith's latest article.

Thanks to decades of gangster films, we all know how gangster capitalism works: the cost of "protection" goes up whenever the gangster wants to increase revenues, any competition is snuffed out, and "customer demand" is jacked up by any means available-- addiction, for example.

This perfectly describes the pharmaceutical industry and every other cartel in America. You might have read about the price increase in Acthar gel, a medication to treat Infantile Spasms. (via J.F., M.D., who alerted me to the repricing of this medication from $40 in 2001 to the current price of $38,892.)

The compound first received approval in 1950, and various branded versions have been approved in recent years. Let's be clear: this medication did not require billions of dollars in research and development, or decades of testing to obtain FDA approval; it's been approved for use for the past 68 years.

Yes, you read that correctly: a medication that's been in use for 68 years went from $40 a dose in 2001 to $38,892 today. Don't you love the pricing? Not a round 38 grand, but $38,892. You gotta love these gangsters!

There's another related term to describe this form of capitalism: racketeering.That's what mobsters do--operate rackets.

. . .

Gangster capitalism is the new model of "growth" in America, the model used by every cartel from higher education to Pentagon contractors. Eliminate actual competition, raise prices in lockstep with other cartel members, lobby the government to pay your extortionist prices, and threaten any resisters with severe consequences.

There's more at the link.

I highly recommend that you click over to Mr. Smith's blog and read the whole thing.  He's got a graph representing the rise in prescription drug expenditure in the USA over the past couple of decades.  It's grim viewing - and almost all the increase is because of corporate greed such as the case he highlights above.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?  Are we simply going to throw up our hands and give up, or will we demand that our elected representatives do something about such naked profiteering?  The RICO Act is there for a reason.  Why aren't we using it?


A final reminder about the Dragon Awards

As I mentioned some days ago, a reader contacted me to ask about nominating one of my books for this year's Dragon Awards.  That was a pleasant surprise, and I invited him to go ahead, on the understanding that there are many good books out there, and I don't think I'm likely to be in the running this year.

Be that as it may, the deadline for nominations is July 20th.  Therefore, if you think the book is good enough, please use the DragonCon nomination form to nominate "An Airless Storm" for this year's awards, in the category "Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel".

Please don't nominate any other of my books, because that would divide the nomination votes across multiple titles.  As a result, none of them would be likely to make the slate.



I laughed out loud

This tickled the cockles of my writer's heart - particularly because I've experienced that!

Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web site.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday morning music

Here's something different for your listening pleasure.  Faun is a German group, self-described as "pagan folk".  They're in the tradition of many other modern groups who interpret old folk music styles (and occasionally original songs and tunes, as well as their own compositions) in modern rhythms and settings.  The group's name is derived from the German Faunus, the name of the mythical ancient Roman horned god of the forest, plains and fields, analogous to the ancient Greek god Pan.

Here are three songs from Faun to whet your appetite.  The first is "Hörst du die Trommeln" ("Do you hear the drums?"), the band's entry in the German preliminary round of the 2015 Eurovision song contest.  It wasn't selected to represent Germany in the finals, but is still a rousing piece in its own right.  I've chosen to leave the video in its full form, including the introduction and comments in German, to set the scene for those of you who speak the language.  The lyrics, including an English translation, may be found here.

Next, here's "Sonnenreigen" ("Sun Dance"), a song for the ancient festival of Lughnasad, which marked the beginning of the harvest season and was traditionally held on August 1st.  Lyrics may be found here.

Finally, here's "Federkleid" ("Feather Dress"), a song in praise of birds and the urge to fly like them.  Lyrics may be found here.

I find their music relaxing and entertaining, and I hope you did too.  You'll find many of their songs at the group's YouTube channel, and more information at their Web site.  Much of their music is available on Amazon.com.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Some more spectacular rally crashes for you

The video title refers to them as Finnish rallies (or is that Finnish rally drivers?), but some at least were filmed in other countries.  One can only admire the way the drivers hurl themselves at natural obstacles, seemingly intent on beating them into submission.  Of course, it usually ends up the other way round . . .


Friday, July 13, 2018

Doofus Of The Day #1,017

The expression "Hoist with his own petard" comes from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, and describes something not uncommon in medieval and Renaissance Europe.  A petard was an explosive device, usually a wooden keg or metal container packed with gunpowder.  A soldier, probably escorted by a raiding party, ran up to a castle door or drawbridge, placed the petard against it, and lit the fuse;  then he and his escort ran like hell before the device exploded, hopefully demolishing the door or drawbridge and opening the way for an assault.  Of course, medieval gunpowder and fuses weren't always the most reliable.  Sometimes the petard exploded before its bearer could get clear - hence the phrase, "He was hoist (i.e. blown up) with his own petard".

It's a lovely expression, and has been used ever since to describe someone who's caught out by his own cleverness or plans.  Three Democrat congressional representatives have just learned, yet again, how true it is.

Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York introduced the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement Act earlier Thursday, which would abolish ICE within one year of enactment, and also assemble a commission tasked with setting up a new immigration enforcement agency.

Hours later, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced he planned to bring the proposed “Abolish ICE” bill to the floor, reported The Hill.

The three congressmen promptly released a joint statement accusing Ryan of not taking their bill seriously, and as an act of protest, they will vote down their own legislation and instead use the opportunity to discuss Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy and ICE.

There's more at the link.

Uh . . . yeah.  Introduce a politically controversial bill in an effort to pander to the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party - only to have the Republicans jump gleefully on your bandwagon, and schedule a vote on your bill.  Way to paint yourself, and your party, into an extremist corner for all the rest of the US electorate to see!  No wonder the bill's sponsors hastily reversed course.  I daresay they were being bombarded with messages from the Democrat leadership in the House, all saying, in so many words (probably rude ones), "You got us into this mess - now get us out of it, quick, or else!"

Full marks for political opportunism to the Republicans in the House, who have clearly learned from Napoleon Bonaparte's maxim, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake".  Not only did they not interrupt, they promptly tried to help the Democrats make an even bigger one!  I'm almost sorry they didn't succeed.  I'd have loved to hear those three try to explain their bill and justify it to the vast majority of Americans, who not only don't want ICE abolished - they want it strengthened and expanded instead!

Today's Doofus award is hereby jointly conferred upon Messrs. Pocan, Jayapal and Espaillat.  Way to go, guys!  Political theater at its most entertaining!


Lessons learned from my latest trilogy

Over at Mad Genius Club, I've written a fairly long article outlining some of the lessons learned (so far) from the publication of my latest trilogy, "Cochrane's Company", at approximately 30-day intervals.

The article is oriented towards writers more than readers, but if the subject interests you, click over there to get a feel for the state of the independent author market today.

While on the subject of the trilogy, may I once again ask those of you who've read it to please leave a review of each book on Amazon.com?  Reviews are the life-blood of independent authors, as we don't have the marketing and advertising resources of big publishers.  We rely on word of mouth to help sell our books.  I'll be very grateful if you'll please take a few minutes to leave reviews of the three books.



California's public sector unions, money, and politics

The California Political Review calculates the money taken in every year by public sector unions in that state, and shows how it gives those unions a powerful say in the running of the state.

In the wake of the Janus ruling, it is useful to estimate just how much money California’s government unions collect and spend each year. Because government unions publicly disclose less than what the law requires of public corporations or private sector unions, only estimates are possible.

. . .

In summary, subject to the limitations in the available data and what appear to be reasonable assumptions, California’s public education employee unions, the CTA, the CFT, and the CSEA, altogether are probably collecting around $589 million per year ... California’s public safety unions, the CPOA, the CPF, and the CCPOA, along with their local affiliates, altogether are probably collecting around $135 million per year ... [and] California’s other major public sector unions, AFSCME, the CSEA including SEIU Local 1000, and the CNA (est. public sector portion at 25%), along with their local affiliates, altogether are probably collecting around $135 million per year.

Based primarily on publicly disclosed 2016 form 990s along with information obtained from their individual websites, in aggregate, California’s major public sector unions are estimated to be collecting over $900 million per year.

. . .

It would go beyond the scope of this analysis to speculate as to what impact the recent Janus ruling will have on government union membership and revenues, or to ponder the degree and kind of political influence of the three major blocks of unions; teachers, public safety, and public service.

It is relevant, however, to emphasize that the reach of these unions, because almost all of them are highly decentralized, extends to the finest details of public administration, into the smallest local jurisdictions. When recognizing the profound statewide impact of public sector union political agenda, it is easy to forget that fact, and the implications it carries for virtually every city, county, special district, or school district in California.

There's more at the link.

California's public sector unions have used their financial and political muscle to feather their members' nests.  As the Los Angeles Times pointed out in 2015:

California is among the few states where public employees make as much as 20% more in total compensation than comparable private sector employees.

To a substantial extent, these compensation premiums are driven by the rising costs of public employee pensions and healthcare. In Los Angeles, pension costs have risen to nearly 20% of the city's budget from 3% in 2000. Statewide pension liabilities are increasing at a rate of $17 billion a year, which make the state's current cash surplus a mirage.

As the city and state pay more for public services they've already consumed, there are fewer resources left for other public priorities. Government ends up spending more but doing less, which is a governing formula that pleases neither liberals nor conservatives.

Again, more at the link.

City Journal called California the "beholden state".

The camera focuses on an official of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California’s largest public-employee union, sitting in a legislative chamber and speaking into a microphone. “We helped to get you into office, and we got a good memory,” she says matter-of-factly to the elected officials outside the shot. “Come November, if you don’t back our program, we’ll get you out of office.’

More at the link.

Public sector unions in many other states wield as much financial - and hence political - clout as they do in California, showing how they've achieved regulatory capture to an alarming extent.  This also illustrates why and how public sector unions in Illinois have succeeded in getting such a sweetheart pension deal for themselves, at taxpayer expense - so much so that it's bankrupting the state as a whole.

I hope the Janus decision will help to rein in the public sector unions' ability to fund their self-serving, antithetical-to-democracy activities . . . but I'm sure it won't go far enough.  Further reform is probably needed.