Monday, August 19, 2019

So much for carbon dioxide and global warming!

I'm obliged to for putting up this Australian video debunking the alleged role of carbon dioxide in global warming.  It illustrates, as nothing else does, the insanity - and outright lies - of those pushing this fraud.  It's very short, and well worth watching.

Next time someone wants to impose a "carbon tax", show them that, and demand that they explain themselves.


I'll see your backed-up toilet, and raise you . . .

. . . an exploding maritime convenience!

Paul, Dammit!, who blogs over at Hawsepiper, tells the gruelling tale of cleaning up after the ship's head (or toilet, for those who don't speak nautical) exploded over the weekend.  Go read all the gory details for yourself.

When cleanup involves a Tyvek isolation suit, a respirator, a hose, and bleach by the gallon, I think we can safely say it's rather worse than the average backed-up domestic toilet!


Everywhere is a potential danger zone - so prepare accordingly

After the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, one thing should have become clear to every American:  there are no "safe spaces" in which shootings will not occur.  Anywhere can be chosen by some deranged maniac or warped, twisted deviant to express his feelings by shooting a few (or a few dozen) people.

That being the case, the question arises of personal preparedness for such events.  I've addressed personal safety concerns in a previous blog post.  This morning I'd like to address the need to be armed and ready to defend ourselves and our loved ones.  This article is directed primarily at those readers who haven't previously considered this, or who haven't had enough exposure to handguns to be familiar with the field.

During the heat of summer, it's not likely that many of us will be dressed in such a way that we can conceal a full-size handgun easily.  The concealment aspect is very important, as noted previously, because if there's a "man with a gun" call, and you're visibly armed, you may find yourself targeted without a second thought.  You need to carry your gun in such a way that it's not visible unless and until it has to be, to defend yourself.  That means carrying something smaller and more concealable than a full-size handgun.  It may mean carrying, not just a compact, but a sub-compact firearm.  What's the difference?

A polymer (plastic) framed, sub-compact firearm may be so small and so light that it's very difficult to aim and fire it accurately and effectively.  If you train often and long enough, you can overcome that problem, of course:  but it takes hard work.  I see a great many people carrying tiny firearms like the Ruger LCP or LCP II, or the Kel-Tec P32 or P3AT, who have never fired their guns.  They find their mere possession comforting.  Little do they know!  I've owned all those models, and still own and carry the LCP, so I speak from experience when I say that even as a trained, experienced shooter, I find them very hard to use compared to larger, more ergonomic guns.  The recoil is magnified, control is hard due to a minuscule grip surface, and the trigger pull isn't easily mastered if you have big hands.  In particular, given my older eyes, I find their tiny sights almost impossible to use accurately.  In fact, I won't carry any of those four models unless it's equipped with a laser sight, and I've confirmed on the range that it's sighted in for accuracy with the ammunition in the gun.  To my mind, such tiny firearms should be regarded as backup guns rather than primary weapons.  YMMV, of course.

The same applies, to a lesser extent, to small snubnose revolvers.  They're larger than the ultra-miniature pistols listed above, but still small and light compared to their larger brethren.  They can fire any type of bullet available in their cartridge and caliber range, offering greater flexibility, and they're combat-proven in performance.  I sometimes carry a .38 Special snubnose revolver, usually loaded with Buffalo Bore's full wadcutter rounds, and I'm confident it'll do the job if necessary.  However, their sights are still rudimentary compared to those on larger firearms, and their recoil is harder to control given their small size and light weight.  Regular practice is necessary if one's to make the most of them.  A laser sight is a valuable accessory.

It's increasingly common to encounter sub-compact single-stack semi-auto pistols specially designed for concealed carry.  Examples include the Glock 424343X and 48, the Springfield Armory XD-S, Ruger's LC9S and (very affordable) EC9S, Smith & Wesson's Shield, and others.  I'd consider these the minimum serious concealed carry weapons out there.  Even though I'm no longer actively involved in training disabled shooters, I have examples of most of the above models, and I train often enough to be able to use them effectively.  They offer better sights than smaller weapons, plus in most cases the opportunity to fit better aftermarket sights if so desired.  (Trijicon's HD XR range are a good example of the latter, and I like them very much.  I find them clear and sharp, even if my eyes aren't!)  Extended magazines are sometimes available if required, although the quality of some aftermarket offerings isn't always good enough to rely on for serious work.

I respectfully suggest that a firearm similar to those mentioned in the preceding paragraph should be the minimum we carry nowadays.  If it's possible to conceal a larger firearm, with more rounds in the magazine, so much the better;  but that's not always the case.  I highly recommend trying as many of the above models as possible, choosing the one that best fits your hand, and training with it until you're satisfied you can put your rounds where they'll do the most good at ranges out to 15-20 yards, rapidly and effectively.  (Most defensive encounters will be at much shorter ranges than that, but one can't rule out the need for a longer-range shot.)  Remember, you'll be held legally accountable for every shot you fire.  If you use your defensive firearm and hit an innocent bystander, it may go hard for you if it turns out you were never trained, or not trained adequately, in its use, and never practiced with it.

There's also the question of how and where to carry your gun.  This is a vast subject in its own right, and I can't possibly do it justice in a short article like this.  I strongly recommend on-body carry rather than off-body (e.g. in a purse or handbag), because it's too easy for a thief to rip a bag out of your hands and run off with it.  A good holster is also essential, for your own protection as much as anything else.  Greg Ellifritz had a good article about that recently;  I strongly suggest you read it in full, and take note.

What's my personal choice?  Until recently, when it came to pocket or deep-concealment carry, I used Springfield's XD-S.  However, having been introduced to Glock's Model 48 and 43X pistols (the latter using the former's frame, but the half-inch-shorter slide and barrel of the Model 43), I'm beginning to make the switch to the 43X.  Based on the firearms I've personally handled and used, I think it's the best compromise between concealment, controllability and magazine capacity currently on the market.  However, others may hold different opinions, and that's OK.  I'd certainly trust any of the other sub-compact models mentioned above to protect my life if need be.

Whatever you carry, practice with it, and make sure you know how to use it effectively if the need arises.  Nowadays, there are no safe spaces - so be prepared, every time you enter the unsafe world out there.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday morning music

I'm not a big fan of jazz music.  I'll listen to a little, and tolerate a little more, but it soon palls on me, and I'll go looking for something more tuneful and melodious.

Nevertheless, I had to do a double-take when my wife sent me a link to jazz artist Gunhild Carling performing live, with bagpipes.  Bagpipes as a jazz instrument?  This I had to hear!

She's also noted for playing up to three trumpets simultaneously.

For those who enjoy jazz more than I do, here's a complete performance with her own band and the Harlem Hotshots.

Hope you enjoyed it, jazz fans!


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Oh, all right! I know when I'm beaten . . .

I'd initially planned my latest fantasy novel, "Taghri's Prize", to be a stand-alone work, without sequels.  However, a large proportion of the reviews on have hinted, suggested, or plain outright demanded that I write more in Taghri's universe.  I know when I'm beaten!  If I want to be a successful writer, earning a living, I have to give my readers what they want - and you clearly want more Taghri.

I've begun working out a plot for Taghri 2.  It's going to involve theft, plots against a King, skullduggery on the high seas, and city-states competing against each other for power and influence.  I'm already laughing as I envisage the complications that may ensue.

The third Ames Archives Western novel, "Gold on the Hoof", is preparing for publication right now.  I'm busy writing the third and final volume of the Laredo War trilogy.  Next will be the sixth volume in the Maxwell Saga.  Coming soon, possibly even before Laredo 3, will be the first Maxwell Omnibus:  the first 3 Maxwell books, plus a new short story set in that universe, to give people an incentive to read it.  I'm also working on a joint novel with another author, and a short story with a short-term deadline for another anthology.  That'll keep me busy for the rest of 2019 and into early 2020.

When most of that is out of the way, look for Taghri 2, Ames 4, a preparedness handbook (which we discussed in these pages earlier this year), and at least one science fiction novel in 2020.

They do say there's no peace for the wicked!


When an old codger's about to lose his temper . . .

. . . you might hear something like this.

Of course, I may resemble that remark . . .

(Shamelessly stolen from Wirecutter.)


There's no fuel like an oil fuel . . .

. . . or so the petroleum industry used to say, back in the 1970's.  That's proving true in the maritime shipping industry right now, as major change looms next year.  We don't think much about an industry that's "out of sight, out of mind" for most of us, but it has a huge impact on global pollution, and changing that is going to require major changes to the way we fuel the ships that fuel the world's economy.  Forbes reports:

A United Nations mandate on the shipping industry to remove up to 85% of the sulfur content from its fuel to cut 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions could throw the industry into massive disruption.

Some analysts argue it could lead to fuel supply and demand imbalances and arbitrage opportunities that could extend crude oil price volatility.

. . .

In 2016, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) gave the global shipping industry four years to make sure the 90,000 vessels at sea burn 85% less sulfur by Jan. 1, 2020.

The IMO standard requires ships to produce a maximum of 0.5% in sulfur emissions rather than the present 3.5% limit.

“Implications go beyond shipping and refining. Changes will be felt in the entire commodity landscape, including petrochemicals, road fuels, and airlines,” said Aftab Saleem, KPMG’s director of its risk analytics advisory, which helps a large swath of the global shipping industry comply with the standard. “Costs are going to go up. This has huge, huge implications across the supply chain, all the way back to producers.”

. . .

Oceana says if global shipping were a country, only the U.S., China, Russia, India and Japan would emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the global shipping industry.

KPMG Global says 15 of the biggest ships emit more sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide than all of the world’s cars combined, and one million cars emit as much particulate matter as one cruise ship produces.

There's more at the link.

If you're interested in global economics, it's worth reading the Forbes article in full.  Consider that well over 80% of global trade moves by sea, and you'll get some idea of the impact of the current changes.  They have to be paid for, so freight rates will have to be adjusted, and that in turn will influence the price of goods and services worldwide.

What's more, a major part of the world's merchant fleet (particularly that concentrated in the Third World) won't have completed the necessary mechanical and engineering changes in time for the implementation of the new standards.  What's going to happen?  In theory, at least, they'll be barred from most, if not all, First World ports - but there won't be enough carrying capacity for world trade without them.  Pollution control is going to run headlong into economic practicality, as far as many ships are concerned.

The cost of installing fuel scrubbers is plus-or-minus $1 million per ship - and many older merchant vessels aren't worth that much.  Will they be scrapped?  The cost of replacing them will be far greater than the cost of a scrubber.  And what about open-loop scrubbers, which take the pollution out of the funnel smoke, only to discharge it into the sea?  Are we to replace air pollution with sea pollution?  Many First World ports have banned open-loop scrubbers for that reason . . . but many ships are nevertheless going to be equipped with them, as the only available option in the short term.  If the regulations are strictly applied, will there be enough "clean" ships to meet the new requirements?  I suspect not, for at least the first few years.

This is going to get very interesting and very complicated.  It'll be worth paying attention, because we're all going to feel the after-effects in our wallets.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Doofus Of The Day #1,052

Today's award goes to the author of an academic paper on - of all things - the sexual exploitation of dairy cows.

A paper currently being promoted by a New York university calls on society to consider the rampant “sexual exploitation” of dairy cows by the milk industry in order to “fully fight gendered oppression.”

Specifically, the author compares cattle insemination to "rape" and the milking of cows to "sexual abuse."

Titled “Readying the Rape Rack: Feminism and the Exploitation of Non-Human Reproductive Systems,” the paper was published Friday in a journal called Dissenting Voices, which is published and edited by the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the College at Brockport State University of New York.

The published piece aims at discussing the “sexual exploitation of non-human bodies, specifically dairy cows.” The author notes that “as a vegan and animal rights activist,” she feels compelled to reveal the “feminist aspects of animal agriculture,” a topic she says is unfortunately “under-researched,” but is nonetheless important because “the same way women’s health has been at  stake for years, a dairy cow’s reproductive system has been poked and prodded.”

According to the publication, “the dairy industry is a host for sex-based discrimination,” and a “site where sexual assault and objectification based on biological makeup are highly prevalent but ignored as we choose to neglect non- humans with whom we share a planet.”

The paper argues that “in order to fully fight gendered oppression,” society must also address the plight of dairy cows, which it asserts are “still subjects to sex-based discrimination and violence,” despite their voices being “not always lifted or comprehensible.”

There's more at the link.

Have you ever read so much bull**** masquerading as academic discussion in all your life?  I think the last line says it all:  "despite their voices being 'not always lifted or comprehensible'."  Translation:  Moo!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make another cup of tea, infused with cow's milk.  I doubt it'll turn me into a bovine sexual abuser.


Ebola: new drugs show promise, but we're not out of the woods yet

I'm encouraged to hear that two new drugs to treat Ebola are showing promise, but the process of testing them has been fraught with difficulty - and bloodshed.  Nature reports:

The race to develop treatments for Ebola has accelerated since the largest epidemic in history devastated West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Scientists responding to the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have enrolled more than 500 participants in an unprecedented study of experimental drugs, vaccinated nearly 170,000 people, and sequenced the genomes of more than 270 Ebola samples collected from the sick.

. . .

Working in a conflict zone has forced researchers to adapt and persevere to an extraordinary degree. They have learnt how to conduct rigorous studies in areas where killings, abductions and arson are commonplace, and where Ebola responders have come under repeated attack.

. . .

Every aspect of the outbreak is affected by the area’s long history of conflict and trauma. Residents have endured more than two decades of terror from armed groups, along with resource exploitation, political instability and neglect from the world at large. That has bred distrust of authorities — including foreign health workers — and conspiracy theories about why Ebola is thriving. One popular rumour alleges that Ebola responders inject people with deadly substances at treatment centres and vaccination sites.

These false ideas have fostered nearly 200 attacks on Ebola responders and treatment centres so far this year, according to the WHO. Seven people have been killed and 58 injured.

To adapt to the conflict, clinical researchers at an Ebola centre in Beni operated by the French medical charity ALIMA give mobile phones to patients who check out of the clinic. This allows them to stay in touch about lingering symptoms, even if violence makes it impossible to keep follow-up appointments. Many people use the service as an emergency helpline, says Émilie Gaudin, a support officer at ALIMA. “Sometimes a patient calls us and says, ‘People want to kill me,’ or ‘I want to kill myself.’”

Despite this difficult environment, the drug trial is nearing completion. Researchers are 14 people shy of their goal of enrolling 545 participants, a threshold that should allow them to draw strong conclusions about the drugs’ efficacy. But there are already hints that the treatments are working. The mortality rate at Ebola treatment centres, where all patients receive one of the experimental drugs, is 35–40% — compared with 67% overall in this outbreak. The latter figure reflects the large number of people who have died at home or in facilities that aren’t equipped to treat Ebola.

Violence has also hampered vaccination efforts. A few months ago, Diallo Abdourahamane, the WHO’s Ebola vaccine coordinator, heard about a man in the town of Katwa who his team had immunized with an experimental Ebola vaccine made by the pharmaceutical company Merck. The man had told sceptical onlookers that the vaccine would protect against the disease. “But after the team left,” Abdourahamane says, “the neighbours came and surrounded him at night. They said ‘You are the one helping to bring Ebola to our area’ — and they killed him.”

There's more at the link.

Two new drugs have shown promise in the trials, provided they're administered as soon as possible after infection.  That, in itself, is a problem, as many Congolese are deathly afraid of being identified as Ebola carriers.  They'd rather wait at home, hoping against hope that they have flu or something simple, rather than the deadlier disease;  so by the time they're brought to a treatment center and diagnosed, it may be too late for the new drugs to have their desired effect.  Even so, the results hold out hope.

The survival rate for people who received either drug shortly after infection, when levels of the virus in their blood were low, was 90%.

. . .

One of the drugs, REGN-EB3, is a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies against Ebola made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals of Tarrytown, New York. The second, mAB114, is derived from a single antibody recovered from the blood of a person who survived Ebola in the DRC in 1995 , and was developed by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Both drugs outperformed two other experimental treatments in the unprecedented multi-drug clinical trial in the DRC, the World Health Organization, INRB and NIAID said in a joint statement on 12 August. Preliminary data from the first 499 people enrolled in the study show that 29% of people given REGN-EB3 died, compared with 34% of those who received mAb114.

Again, more at the link.

I'll be holding thumbs that further tests, and possibly further refinement of the two drugs, will lead to an even greater reduction in the death rate.  If an effective treatment for Ebola becomes available, it'll be a huge relief to countries like ours, that up until now have been faced with the possibility of an untreatable, almost invariably fatal disease showing up without warning in our major urban centers.  We've had no answer to that before now.  Here's hoping the new drugs will provide one.


Beware of making commitments you can't afford

I'm talking back and forth with a couple I've known for some years, who recently found their lives turned upside down by one of their children's study loans.  They had signed as guarantors of the loans, because the university's financial advisor had assured them that it was "just a formality", that "everybody does it", and that if they didn't step up to their plate, their child "would not get the high-quality education she deserves".

How many of you have endured the same pitches from your kids' universities and colleges?  Sound familiar?

Well, in this case, reality bit.  Hard.  Their daughter was involved in a car accident, resulting in permanent partial disability.  She's only halfway through her studies, but will never be able to complete them.  She's no longer capable of working in her chosen field, and the permanent effects of her injuries will restrict the number of alternatives available to her (and her future income, too).  She may be dependent on her parents for at least a roof over her head, if not physical assistance with the daily necessities of living (like taking a bath, or getting dressed) for the foreseeable future.

Her parents are good people.  They're more than willing to step up to the plate and help meet their daughter's needs.  However, just as they began to pick up the pieces of her former life, along came the bills from her student loan providers.  She's on the hook - or, rather, since she's no longer earning, her parents are on the hook - for over $60,000, and repayments start at once.  Putting all her needs together, they'll need to find at least an extra $1,000 per month - but they don't have it.  They've asked her siblings to help, but both of them are just starting out in life, not earning great salaries, and they have their own needs - including their own student loans.  They probably won't be able to come up with much.

I'm very sorry for all those involved, but they basically brought this upon themselves.  The daughter wanted an education she could only afford by taking out student loans.  That was the first bad choice.  If she'd chosen a more affordable field of study, or worked to save enough money for the field she wanted before entering that program, she wouldn't be hurting financially right now.  If her parents hadn't guaranteed her student loans, they wouldn't be on the hook for her debts now.  All three of them are stuck with the consequences of their unwise decisions.

Moral of the story:  be very cautious about standing surety for anyone else's financial liabilities.  No matter how remote the possibility, there's always the chance you might find yourself on the hook for them.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Understanding the stress on law enforcement officers

We recently learned of the ninth suicide among the ranks of the New York Police Department this year.  That's a tragic loss, and an unacceptably high number;  but it reflects the stress and tension of the job that police officers do every day.  As City Journal points out:

In 2013, researchers published a study in the International Journal of Stress Management, examining the relationship between “critical incidents” and the mental health of police officers. It found that such episodes are associated both with alcohol use and PTSD symptoms. “Critical incidents” include a range of experiences that police officers—among other first responders—might encounter, including “badly beaten child,” “decaying corpse,” “making a death notification,” and personal harm or injury.

According to a study published by The Ruderman Family Foundation, “one survey of 193 police officers from small and midsize police departments” found that the “average number of events witnessed by officers was 188” throughout their careers. Another study found that approximately 80 percent of police-officer participants “reported seeing dead bodies and severely assaulted victims in the past year,” while 63 percent had seen abused children. More than 64 percent reported seeing victims of a serious traffic accident. Almost 40 percent had seen someone die in front of them in the previous year.

Do the public and media appreciate the reality of police work? Police don’t seem to think so: according to a 2016 Pew survey of American cops, only 13 percent believe “that the public understands the risks and challenges that law enforcement officers face on the job.” More than 75 percent of officers believe that the media treats police unfairly. Instances of police misconduct exist, of course, and they justifiably lead to public scrutiny and condemnation; but we should resist the tendency to allow those events to shape how we view police more broadly.

There's more at the link.

I've been exposed to that stress while serving as a prison chaplain.  The stress on staff behind bars is, in many ways, even worse than that experienced by police officers on the streets, because prison staff can't just walk away from it, or go and have a beer to unwind.  They're stuck in the middle of it for hours on end - and they may be dangerous hours, too.  In my memoir of prison chaplaincy, I wrote:

Working in such an environment has an inevitable effect on the staff — not just the Correctional Officers, but all of us. It’s very hard to maintain a cool, professional approach when you know that many of the inmates are out to get you in any way they can. After a while, the constant lies, evasions, attempts at manipulation, lack of co-operation, and just plain nastiness start to wear you down. Stress levels among prison staff are understandably very high, with inevitable negative consequences for their domestic life. The incidence of divorce and suicide amongst all peace officers is considerably above average, and corrections staff aren’t exempt. It’s very hard to leave your work behind at the gates of the prison...

This is very troubling from three perspectives. The first is that of inmates who genuinely want to change, to reform, and seek help in doing so. Their approach will be automatically regarded with suspicion by prison staff. We’ve all been ‘conned’ so many times that it’s all too easy to regard any such approach as more of the same. The inmates, hurt and frustrated, then blame the staff for being unfeeling and inhuman. In a sense, of course, they’re right — but they refuse to acknowledge the inevitability of such a reaction, given the staff’s constant exposure to less-well-motivated inmates. As a result, some convicts who really are sincere, and should receive extra help, aren’t given what they need. Some of them will turn away, frustrated and angry, and decide that if the system is going to treat them like dirt then they’re going to behave that way, just like everybody else behind bars. Others will sink into apathy and disillusionment, perhaps giving up hope of any meaningful life behind bars. Some of them may turn to drugs: others may become suicidal.

The second perspective is that of the staff themselves. They can very easily become hardened to anything any inmate says, and discount even reasonable excuses or explanations. I’ve known cases where a minor infraction by an inmate new to the system (probably committed through ignorance of regulations), has resulted in extremely heavy punishment, most likely because the officer or manager concerned was tired and frustrated from dealing with far too many similar cases, and wasn’t in the mood to make allowances or cut a new inmate some slack. It’s all too easy to say to oneself, “If they’re going to treat me like dirt, then I’m going to dish out dirt to them. Let’s see how they like it!” When I trained at FLETC, an instructor commented to me in private conversation, “During his first year in the BOP, a new officer can’t do enough for the inmate. During his second year, he can’t do enough to the inmate. The third and subsequent years, he just doesn’t give a damn any more.” Sadly, I’ve seen this cynical observation borne out in practice many times — although there are honorable exceptions, thank heaven.

The third perspective is that of the families of prison staff. It’s hard to maintain a normal home environment when one’s spouse is bringing home so much stress and tension. Children feel it too. A disproportionately large percentage of ‘corrections marriages’ fail, and the effects on spouse and children are long-lasting. Second and subsequent marriages often go the same way. It’s extremely difficult for those who haven’t personally experienced the stress of the corrections environment to understand its effect on those who live in it every day. It’s even harder for those who come home from it to share it with their spouses, who consequently feel ‘shut out’ of their partner’s work life. After all, what can a Correctional Officer tell his wife about the reality of his job? If he says, “Honey, today I charged down a man with a knife, while armed only with my bare hands,” her instant (and understandable) reaction will probably be to scream at him for being a fool by exposing himself to such danger. She might understand intellectually that he did something heroic and praiseworthy, but all she can see in her mind’s eye is herself and her children at his funeral.

The prison environment has another unfortunate effect on staff and their families. The staff member is surrounded, all day, every day, by those he cannot and dare not trust. Every time they approach him, he has to wonder about their ulterior motives and hidden purposes, suspecting a trap or an attempt to deceive. When he gets home, it’s sometimes very hard not to let this perspective affect his attitudes towards his loved ones. What might be normal behavior in a child (lies, evasions, excuses, etc.) may attract a much stronger reaction than normal parental disapproval and correction, because he’s too used to exercising discipline (sometimes very physically) over real evildoers who do the same things. This leads to a great deal of stress and tension in families.

Stress like that takes its toll.  Street cops have it just as bad, with the sole exception that they can walk away from it, sometimes, in some circumstances.  That doesn't always help, of course, because they know that'll just mean another officer has to take the stress in their place.

Stress took the ultimate toll on Officer Robert Echeverría, NYPD, last week.  He leaves behind a wife and two children, 11 and 18 years old.  May Officer Echeverría find peace and forgiveness, and may his family receive what comfort they may in so terrible a situation.

For the rest of us . . . may we have a deeper appreciation for the burdens our law enforcement officers and agencies carry for the rest of us.  We may complain about law enforcement overreach from time to time (I certainly do), but we'd complain a lot harder if they weren't around at all.


Good news - follow-ups from two previous posts

I thought readers might appreciate follow-up news concerning two previous blog posts.

First, Oleg Volk's beloved cat Gremlin didn't make it after being injured some months ago.  His death left Oleg bereft - they were like two halves of the same coin, they were so close.  (I knew Gremlin very well, having met him almost as soon as he'd adopted Oleg, and taught him [not that he needed much teaching] to chase toes under bedclothes - something for which Oleg graciously forgave me!)  His death left a gaping hole in Oleg's life.  I had a suspicion that those of his friends living closer to him than Miss D. and I would try to fill it for him.  They did.

Meet Chapa, Oleg's new companion.  He's still very young, but has apparently wormed his way into Oleg's (and everyone else's) heart without wasting any time.  You can read more about him, and see lots more photographs, at Oleg's blog.  Miss D. and I look forward to meeting him as early as we can manage it.

The other piece of good news concerns a Canadian transgender person who's made all sorts of trouble for a lot of people, including filing multiple lawsuits against beauticians who refused to wax his/her/its nether regions (for which there are abundant and very real medical reasons, but which he/she/it chose to view as discrimination).  I mentioned this person in passing in an article concerning overall moral trends and issues.  I didn't go into details, but provided a link where those interested could find out more.  It's nasty, to put it mildly.

Now we learn that said Canadian individual finally appears to have gone too far, even in a nation so blighted by political correctness.  Follow the links provided in that article for more information.  Personally, I think it couldn't happen to a more appropriate person!

They do say that "what goes around, comes around".  It's generally been my experience that if you try to do good, and spread it around, it will come back to you - as Oleg is now experiencing with Chapa.  In the same way, if you spread evil around, it will in turn find its way back to you, as "Jessica" is now finding out the hard way.  I trust that, in both cases, the lesson will be reinforced.

(I must admit, I had a fit of the giggles while trying to imagine "Jessica" making his/her/its usual demands on a typical north Texas beautician.  I suspect the response would be a good deal more forceful, and a great deal less politically correct, than might be expected in Canada.  I also expect that "Jessica" would not enjoy it at all!  As for filing a lawsuit, imagining a typical north Texas jury hearing the case . . . oh, dear.)


...and I bet none of these guns will ever hurt anybody

Amid all the leftist hoopla about how nasty and scary and deadly guns are, and how we should restrict the living daylights out of them, it's nice to be reminded that in very large parts of this country, they're regarded with nonchalance as a routine part of everyday life.  They're seldom used to harm anyone - they're much more likely to be used to put food on the table.

(Of course, if the need should arise to protect others from harm, they'll do that job, too.  As an illustration, a carload of gang-bangers from a big city some hours away decided to rob a small town's independent pharmacy of all the "good stuff" they could find.  As they pushed their way in, waving handguns, one of the staff slid out the back and called, not the local police department, but her father.  He grabbed his trusty old Winchester .30-30 and headed for the pharmacy, while both she and he called others.  Within minutes, 20 to 30 fine, upstanding local citizens had surrounded the place, all carrying deer rifles or shotguns, itching to get at the thieves.  The entire local PD, and a couple of sheriff's deputies, were stretched to the limit persuading the locals to please, pretty please, let them handle this one?  Once the bad guys saw what was waiting for them, they couldn't give up fast enough - a very wise decision, IMHO.  Small town America looks after its own.  Yes, I know that particular small town, and I know some of those involved in this incident.  They still bitch and moan about the PD and the Sheriff's Department "keepin' all the fun to themselves!")

When I was an active small-town pastor, I used to raffle off a hunting rifle or shotgun every year, near the beginning of hunting season, to help raise money for the church's needs.  There was never even a murmur of dissent from the congregation, who enthusiastically sold tickets all over town;  and I never heard that the annual winner ever used his new gun for anything except its designed purpose.  With that background, I was therefore happy to come across this fund-raising raffle from a small town in northern Texas.  Click the image for a larger view.

It's an annual event, and I understand it's well supported.  They sell only 300 tickets, at $100 each, and you have 30 chances to win a gun with each ticket - pretty decent odds, when you think about it.  (If you're interested, contact the IPVFD at the Facebook page listed on the flyer.)

This sort of raffle is common in much of small town America, and I think that's precisely as it should be.  Volunteer fire departments - the only kind there are in much of rural America;  more than two-thirds of US firefighters are VFD members - have to raise their own funds to a large extent, so they use whatever methods have a proven track record of success.  Winners have to pass all the usual legal requirements to collect their gun(s), including a background check, so it's not as if criminals will be able to pick up the tools of their trade through such competitions.

I think such events help to de-mystify guns, taking away the "Eeeewwww!  Nasty!" or "Ooooh!  Scary!" connotations so many people seem to associate with them.  To my mind, that's a good thing.  They're just another tool in the toolbox, like a hammer or a drill;  or they're a sporting implement, like a baseball bat or a fishing rod.  Raffles like this put things in proper perspective.