Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sunday morning music


Here are some pieces to drive the sleep from your eyes and wake you up properly this Sunday morning.  They're bagpipe renditions (with frequent collaboration from other instruments) of well-known tunes, plus one that's new to me.  A "pop bagpiper" calling herself The Snake Charmer, an Indian lady who taught herself to play the pipes, has an extensive collection of them on her YouTube channel.  She says of herself:

My name is Archy J, i play the Bagpipes, im from India.

Awarded by the President of India as  "India's First Professional Female Bagpiper". I am a self taught musician and hence do not play by any rules ;)

Everything you did not know or see a Bagpipe could do, is here on my channel. I make unique versions of popular songs, movie themes, anime openings, metal songs on the Bagpipes. I play an electronic Bagpipe to be able to transcend over different genres of music & has much less limitations.

Being self taught was one of the toughest thing to do for me, as i didnt have a teacher here but my determination and passion for this instrument sailed me through the impossible.

This is the only "JOB" i do, and i rely on music for my income. So if you'd like to support me please try to buy my songs from iTunes, Google play or Stream it on Spotify.

If you want to get a little more personal with my career, please support me on Patreon -

First, here's a medley of "Shipping Up To Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys, and "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.

Next, on bagpipe and cello, one of the theme songs from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.

Here's the 1980's dystopian hit, "The Final Countdown".

And, to conclude, here's a real foot-tapper:  a blend of Irish and Punjabi music, with a little rap thrown in.  Weird, but fun!

You'll find plenty more on The Snake Charmer's YouTube channel.  Her music is also available on Amazon, or through the channels she mentions above.


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Saturday Snippet: Tactically correct love in a combat zone!


My wife's latest novel, "Blood, Oil and Love", has just been published.

It's the second in a trilogy that began last year with "Going Ballistic", and will conclude with the publication next month of the third and final book.

I'm really proud of her.  Her first two books, "Scaling the Rim" and "Shattered Under Midnight", were a little tentative:  not bad at all, but short, feeling her way into expressing herself in fiction (rather as I did in my first two books, "Take The Star Road" and "Ride The Rising Tide".  Her third novel, "Going Ballistic", really took off.  It's got plenty of excellent reviews, proving that she can write with broad appeal.  I expect this new book, and the one next month, will be just as successful.

Dorothy writes either in a genre she appears to have invented herself, or has found a niche in an established genre that few others appear to be filling.  I'd call it "tactically correct romances".  Don't let the "romance" fool you:  she's writing about what happens when the right woman meets the right man in a combat situation.  They're hard-edged and very realistic, rather than the usual soppy romance novels one encounters.  Put it this way - we have a number of combat veterans (including yours truly) in our informal North Texas Writers, Shooters and Pilots Association.  All of us enjoy Dorothy's books, and find nothing unmanly or un-combat-veteranly in enjoying a "tactical romance".  They're a lot of fun.

I've enjoyed Dorothy's creative writing process, because she treats me as her first-line subject matter expert when it comes to the nitty-gritty.  (I can't imagine why.)  We also have other experts like Lawdog, Old NFO and others, who've all "been there and done that" on more than one occasion.  When she writes an action sequence and distributes it for comment, boy, does she get comments!  Everyone who's ever done anything vaguely resembling the action in question chimes in with suggestions, advice, "No s*** - there I was" stories, and all the rest.  She enjoys it, and incorporates our responses into her own storyline.  I think the result is outstandingly realistic.

Without further ado, let me throw at you one of the action scenes from "Blood, Love and Oil".  Enjoy!

The Fed plane felt like a hawk about to stoop, circling noisily overhead as they ran like flushed prey beneath it. The sound of its engines hit Lizzes right between the shoulder blades, and she fought not to hunch over so much it affected her speed, nor to look up at it instead of where she needed to keep her attention focused, on where next to put each foot. They’d crossed two creeks, and were working their way out of the trees into the grassland when Mikey fell back next to her.

“What is he waiting for?” She didn’t have to point skyward to explain the question.

“He’s guiding troop transports in.” Mikey paced alongside her, providing a steady, solid presence at her right shoulder. If she could somehow ignore the screaming noise above and the burning exhaustion and chemical energy warring in muscle and bone, she could almost pretend this was one of Twitch’s too-early morning runs at some random crazy place he’d found.

But this wasn’t the empire, and Mikey wasn’t the man she desperately wanted here instead. And the end of this run wasn’t going to be a picnic lunch over the lake or a tiny hole-in-the-wall noodle joint, it was going to be… something bad, but her imagination failed her. Memory only came up with chilling silences in conversation, significant looks that were never explained, and the gory scenes in horror sensies that nobody believed were true. “And when they get here?” she asked.

“If our rendezvous gets here first, no factor. If not, when they get here, we’re going to be in a firefight. This time, don’t stop to shoot back. You need to get off the X, to zig-zag so you’re a harder target to hit. Just keep running. Don’t stop.” His voice dropped, and got harder, commanding. “No matter what else happens, don’t stop.”

“Don’t stop. Don’t stop.” She nodded, and he picked up his pace and moved forward again. The words were the opening lyrics to a song Twitch loved to play, and the beat matched the pace of her feet hitting the earth, making a pounding rhythm to the earworm echoing inside her skull. If Twitch were here, he’d be singing it aloud, and the more she objected, the more deliberately outrageous and off-key he’d get, bouncing around just out of reach and daring her to put on a burst of speed to smack him.

Thinking of him hurt more than her lungs or her legs did. She wanted desperately to believe they had a plan and would survive this, but this wasn’t the way Mikey had been heading before, and she couldn’t see a way out. The ache in her heart made the world blur with tears, and Lizzes put her head down and concentrated on following the feet in front of her, hoping they wouldn’t notice.

As they made it out into the grasslands, the heat of the late afternoon hit like a hammer, and the sun’s glare off waves of dead grasses bleached bone-white beneath the open, cloudless skies above made her eyes ache. The salt pans ahead were blindingly pure white. Even with the sun behind them, the pans ahead were so bright her sunshades couldn’t totally overcome the glare. The land was far less flat than it looked; the rippling waves of grass blended together and hid rises and dips deep enough to lose sight of the trailbreaker in front. It wasn’t all grass, either; they were running through playas with rings of different vegetation by the lingering levels of rainwater. What seemed a straight-line distance turned into a much longer run, and she could have sworn they were on rising terrain. Which made sense; the same brine-laced water from subterranean salt deposits that fed the Saline river had to flow the other way on the far side of the grasslands, to evaporate and trap the salt at the surface in the pans.

She wondered what it’d be like to be caught out on the pan in a storm, and for a moment, thought she could almost hear the thunder. No, it was more engines inbound – two planes still small by distance, but she recognized the bulkier cargo-style, flying together toward them. For a moment, she wondered if they were the rescue Mikey was running for… and then the swearing around her crushed that hope. She’d never felt as alone as she was now, found by the Feds and left with nowhere to go, and no way out.

Penn finished a truly anatomically impossible string of swears with, “Here they come.”

“Run!” Mikey barked. “Get to the salt flats now!”

The command in his voice got her legs pumping before her brain could catch up. It didn’t make sense; they’d be completely open and exposed. Why weren’t they stopping in the grass where at least they had some concealment? Lizzes concentrated on breathing for maximum oxygen without hyperventilating, and opened up her stride as they started downhill, letting her legs fly. Why didn’t matter; like the Landing Day Ball, all that mattered was she had to trust them, and stay as close as she could, and run. And if she had boots instead of running shoes, well, at least it wasn’t fashionable heels this time.

As they hit the shores of the ancient lake, the grass dwindled to little clumps scattered among cracked earth by loose rocks limned with salt. The troop transports grew larger and louder, screaming toward them. Lizzes wondered if the salt sea was still too muddy under a crust of salt for the Feds to land safely, but when they ran out on it, the dirty salt was firm and hard as concrete underfoot. The strange, acrid tang to the dust kicked up ahead of her burned at her nose and coated her mouth and skin as they continued to run across the dead remains of a sea.

“Think they’ll airdrop ’em?” AJ spoke up, and she realized she hadn’t heard them communicating by tacnet.

Ryan replied. “Saltpan like this? Probably just land ’em. But if not, you’re welcome to take ’em out on the way down. Just remember you’re fighting gravity with ballistic arc and bullet drop; it’s not like micro-g.”

“I’ll leave that to you. I’m used to close quarters combat, or very long-range shots. Midrange with winds in a gravity well… No point wasting ammo.” His lips were pulled back in a grin, for all he was sucking wind to keep up.

Miguel spoke up, and she could hear his own black humor. “It’s all right. They’ll get on the surface sooner or later, and then there’ll be enough for everybody.”

“If you don’t want to leave any for me, I’m okay with that. Really.” She gasped out, and Ryan laughed.

The troop transports roared overhead, and she instinctively cringed. “Where are they going?”

“Setting up for a landing.” She looked over, and found that AJ had switched from having his gun slung over his back, out of the way, to holding it with the barrel pointed out and low, away from her or Ryan. The others, too, had gotten ready. Her stomach was cramping in fear, as her own hands felt all too empty.

As the transport planes turned around to face the team, their engine’s scream seemed curiously doubled, and she saw the pale flash of a face as Penn looked back above her and burst out, “Oh, thank God!”

“What?” Lizzes looked back, and saw another plane coming in, seeming to barely crawl over the mountains and approach at a snail’s pace. As it slowly, ever so slowly got closer, she could make out the much sleeker shape of a Fed ballistic, all out of place. She’d seen them in sensies and once at the airport, all glossy white curves and looking like they were going a million miles an hour even when parked, but a ticket to the exotic destinations all over the globe had always been far outside of a grad student’s budget.

A hand yanked at her upper arm, and she looked over to find AJ pulling her along, his face flushed red with heat and exertion. “Stop looking back! Slows you down!”

“Why is it flying so slowly? They’re going to get us before it gets here.” She panted, words broken as she tried to match his pace.

AJ still had enough breath for a bark of laughter.”Not slow. It’s that big. Go!”

The surveillance plane stopped circling, blasting them with a deafening roar as it started clawing for altitude, trying to go almost straight up, popping bright points of light in a waterfall of smoke like a tail of some strange fireworks strewn out below and behind. The Fed transports were pulling up sharply, too, from where they’d been coming in to land. Mikey stumbled to a halt, breathing raggedly, and she swung around to see what he was staring at. The ballistic’s wings had changed shape, almost like something had fallen off. Before she could ask, she saw flickering lights under each wing.

There was something there… but she couldn’t track it. Two smoke trails streaked across the sky like lightning, too fast for her to see the source, and she’d barely turned her head when there was a… two slams, like when she’d seen a large lorry barreling full speed into a commuter car that had ignored the lights, sudden and shocking at the violence of it. Only this wasn’t a wreck; these were explosions, and the surveillance plane disintegrated in a fireball and billow of smoke. One moment it was there, and the next the only things left were smoke and fire and metal rain showering down.

The transport was less fireball and more… almost comical. An entire wing had come off and was fluttering, gently drifting down like an autumn leaf. As for the rest of the plane, it was spinning like a pencil being sharpened, while tumbling end over end and flopping in the most amazing way. The nose and tail were bending at the break from the missile, almost folding, and things were falling out of the break. She squinted, and recognized, suddenly, the shapes. The knowledge hit her, freezing her in horror. “Oh, God, those are people!”

She didn’t realize she’d said it out loud, but AJ spun and pulled her into a rough hug, turning her away from the sight as the rest of the team formed up around them. Softly, in a voice so guttural she almost didn’t recognize it, he said, “Sooner them than us.”

The third transport had peeled away, running flat out for the hills and safety far away from the ballistic that passed overhead and came back, pitching up, way too far up compared to what she expected, and landed far enough away it was small enough to cover with her thumb. She wondered why they’d have to walk so far, when she realized it was still slowing down, dust cloud billowing up behind it like a farmer’s flatbed on a dirt road, only so much, much bigger. The closer it came, the larger it got, until it was passing close enough she realized each wheel rolling along dwarfed Twitch’s oversized truck. It passed them and started to turn. Her world disappeared in a dust storm whipping at her clothes as she heard the engines get even louder, vibrating her body and bones and compressing her chest even as she coughed and choked on dust.

There was a bruisingly strong grip on her arm, hauling her forward again, and she looked over through squinting, teary eyes to barely make out AJ, ducking and running. Her brain caught up with their feet, realizing their ride was here, and she needed to get the hell on board before the Feds came back. She ran for all she was worth, but her legs were toast. Her quads were burning, quivering, and she felt like she was tangled in that damned ballroom dress again. Worse, like that dress was soaking wet, making each step start with the intention of a running stride and come out as a shuffling stagger.

Strong hands caught her up, then, and she was upended, lifted and slung over a broad set of shoulders. At first she thought it was AJ, but he was next to her, running head down against the wind and dust. And then the feel of their footfalls thudding into salted dirt changed to metallic slam, as they were running up a loading ramp, into the darkness of the airplane’s cargo bay. She couldn’t hear herself think over the roar of the engines, much less anyone else, and wished again she had a tacnet so she could find out what the hell was going on.

I'll stop at that point, so as not to reveal one of the plot's major turning points.  Suffice it to say that it's a tightly written action novel with a twist, that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages.  Highly recommended.

(Yes, of course I'm a biased reviewer.  I'm her husband, dammit!  What did you expect?)


Friday, September 17, 2021

What Afghanistan means for the US: "massive trickle-down implications"


Tucker Carlson recently interviewed Erik Prince about the Afghanistan debacle and what it portends for the United States.  His answers were very interesting.  I've transcribed a few of his more important comments, and embedded the video interview below that.

This will destroy what's left of NATO, because the US has been so unilateral, and so clueless ... we have shattered the confidence of our European allies, and every other ally around the world ... it will definitely figure into people's thinking how quickly America abandoned its friends in Afghanistan and left in such a horribly chaotic and clumsy manner, and so there are going to be permutations in so many sides that we haven't even thought of yet, that come from this.

The dollar is the world's reserve currency.  Why?  Because it's underpinned by the notion of US military strength.  And what we're seeing unfold in Afghanistan over the last twenty years, and over the last few weeks and the next two weeks, really does not show well.

. . .

As the Pax Americana goes away, and [other nations] don't have the confidence in the dollar, that has massive trickle-down implications to our economy and to our way of life ... So now we have to live within our means ... The abolition of the welfare state ... massive, massive changes.  Far greater convulsions than the Great Depression or any other civil unrest we've had in America.

. . .

I don't care how much surveillance you have.  What does it do to the reality of the people on the ground?

. . .

I find it amazing how worried everyone in America is about COVID, that the Taliban managed to conquer the entire country without wearing masks, and COVID didn't seem to slow them down too much ... Let's worry about the big threats.

The video excerpt below is less than five minutes long, and expands on the excerpts above.  I highly recommend watching it in full, if you have the time.  If the embedded version won't play, you'll find it here.

Thought-provoking and incisive.


Doofus Of The Day #1,083


Today's award goes to the US State Department for this mind-boggling piece of bureaucratic stupidity.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

My reader who is trying to get his company’s former employees out of Afghanistan offers another update, and another illustration of the Kafkaesque process for getting an Afghan ally authorization to leave the country.

. . .

My reader says the State Department hotline operator’s advice was to leave Afghanistan, contact any of the neighboring country U.S. embassies, travel to that embassy, finish the interview process, get the visas, and then buy tickets and fly to the United States.

My reader replied that that step one is impossible without first having a visa, “and that the Taliban have made it clear that no Afghans like his former employee’s wife and children are allowed to leave, and that the northern border is closed to Afghan refugees. She had no answer.” ... The plight of these Afghans is now a catch-22; they can’t leave without a visa, and without a functioning embassy in the country, the U.S. government cannot issue them visas.

My reader continued, “after a long pause, she suggested I call the nearest local embassy in the area and see what they recommend. Get that? The U.S. Department of State ... is telling me that in order for him to leave Afghanistan, he must leave Afghanistan. He must cross a border where one side won’t let you leave and the other side won’t let you in, and that we should call the U.S. embassies in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan and see what they recommend.  She gave me the numbers, told me there is nothing more she could do, and thanked me for calling.”

There's more at the link.

It's like a bureaucratic version of a Kafka Trap:  no matter what you want to do, it's not going to work, and is going to trap you in a web of circular logic that has no outcome at all except to leave you as helpless as you were when you started.

Congratulations, State Department.  I daresay you've just demonstrated peak bureaucratic inertia, and peak lack of interest or caring in the very people you're supposed to be helping and serving.  Just why do we continue to pay you people, anyway?


"The most terrifying map in the world"


That's what Sovereign Man calls this depiction of international trade flows.  It looks at how much trade the world did with the USA or with China, the first map reflecting the year 2000, the second twenty years later.  Click the image for a larger view.

If there ever was a time when you could see a trend solidly in motion, now is it.

That the Western, previously civilized world is in decline has been known to anyone with an ounce of curiosity and little analysis of data points.

There's more at the link, mainly concerned with technology companies and progress in both nations.  The meat of the article, as far as I'm concerned, is the map above.

The real issue is the geopolitical reality these maps display.  In 2000, the USA could use its dominant position in trade and international commerce to exert influence, even pressure, on other nations.  If they did not act as the USA wished them to act, commercial pressures could be applied to help change their minds.

Today, that's no longer the case.  Any attempt to exercise such pressure on the part of this country can and will be countered by China exerting greater pressure, through its dominance of international trade, or simply by bribing other nations with loans, grants and other favorable gestures.  Chinese loans often carry a sting in the tail, too:  if the recipient nation fails to keep up the payments, China will specify certain national infrastructure that it gets to take over in lieu of payment.  That's how Sri Lanka lost control of its port of Hambantota;  how Djibouti ceded control of much of its harbor to China;  how Montenegro is currently facing having to give state-owned land to China in payment for its "highway to nowhere";  and is the underlying reason why Tajikistan ceded land to China along their disputed border.

A great deal of China's investments in support of its so-called "Belt and Road Initiative" are more or less bribes to those in power in the nations concerned.  Their people may not derive much - if any - benefit from them, but the rulers will get money in their pockets, and China will hold the whip hand over their economies from then onward.  China has proved ruthless in advancing its interests in that way.  However, one can't really criticize them for that - the USA did exactly the same thing when it held the economic upper hand.  It did so for over a century, including treating China itself like a poor relation and forcing concessions from it in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  China has never forgotten the stigma of the "Century of Humiliation" and the "Unequal Treaties".  Its relations with other countries are probably motivated as much by revenge for those slights as by economic considerations.

If ever there was proof of the old saying that "what goes around, comes around", it's there.  China is basically out to dominate - and, if possible, humiliate - any nation that won't dance to its tune.  That includes the United States.  The map above shows that, on balance, China is doing just that.  Its commercial and industrial influence now exceeds that of the USA on the world scene.

The worst thing of all, from an American perspective, is that our business leaders - our oligarchs, for want of a better word - deliberately worked towards this.  They're the ones who moved manufacturing offshore, seeking greater profits by making goods in markets with lower wage and transport costs.  They built the factories that China is using today to extend its influence, basically handing to the Chinese the commercial hegemony they now exploit.  America is now left holding the short stick, because we no longer have the industrial and commercial might that was the foundation for our influence abroad.  We handed that to China on a plate, and the Chinese have taken full advantage.  Don't blame them for that, either - we would have done exactly the same thing if our positions were reversed.

So, when you look at the problems we're currently encountering with a very screwed-up supply chain, consider them in the light of that map.  That's why we're experiencing them - because three-quarters of our supply chain is out of our control, and very much in China's control.  To paraphrase President Obama, "we built that".  It's our fault, on a national scale, for allowing our barons of commerce and industry to sell our economic prosperity out from under us for a mess of pottage.  However, you'll never get our politicians to admit that, or accept any responsibility for it.  Being the finest politicians money can buy, many of them were long since bought by Chinese "contributions".  There's plenty of evidence of that;  I'll leave you to look it up for yourselves.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Another last-minute "Hail Mary" pass seals another game


I'm not much of a football fan, at least not in America.  I played English-style rugby, where the object is to play the ball.  As far as I can tell, in American football the object is to fold, spindle and mutilate everyone on the field except the guy with the ball!  Yeah, I know, that's not accurate - but it still looks that way to the rest of the world.

Be that as it may, I do enjoy some of the come-from-behind, underdog-beats-top-dog moments that one sees from time to time.  The most recent was last weekend, in the college football match between Jacksonville State University and Florida State University.  It was won after the clock had counted down to zero, by a "Hail Mary" pass from Jacksonville's quarterback.  (For the benefit of overseas readers, in American football, the game isn't over when the clock reaches zero, but when the play in progress at that moment is complete and the ball goes "dead".  Only then will the game end.)

(If the video below won't play, see its page on YouTube.)

That play reminded me of the famous "Miracle in Miami" in 2019, when the Miami Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots with a "Hail Mary" pass, also in the dying moments of the game.  (Video link here if it doesn't play.)

Full marks to Jacksonville last weekend, and to the Dolphins in 2019.  It's plays like those that make the game memorable.  Sadly, the NFL has become so politicized that many (including myself) no longer watch its games;  but college football is still focused on sport rather than politics, and is gaining many viewers as a result.


I suspect a former fighter pilot was flying that bird!

Courtesy of The Drive, we find this video of a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 freighter aircraft taking off from Lynden Pindling International Airport at Nassau, capital of the Bahamas.  I think the pilot must have been a former fighter jockey who missed the fun and games of his younger days!

If there had been any passengers on board, I bet they would have enjoyed the ride.

I was aboard a South African Airways flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta many years ago.  The plane encountered severe headwinds on its transatlantic journey, and had to land at Palm Beach to take on additional fuel.  It didn't need much, and the plane (a Boeing 747-400) was lightly loaded;  so, on takeoff, the pilot treated us to a similar steep climb.  (Yes, he was a former South African Air Force fighter pilot.)  It was a lot of fun.  Some airliners have a lot more power than one would suspect.


Civil rights during a crackdown? What civil rights?


I've had conversations with a number of readers during the past few days.  It started with their being unhappy that I won't acknowledge or go into detail about 9/11 conspiracy theories.  (Turns out that those who believe in such theories - and it is almost a religious belief, because they won't listen to, or read, or investigate, or give even the time of day to fact-based analyses like the exhaustive investigations published by Popular Mechanics - aren't very tolerant of those who don't, particularly when the latter - including me - dismiss such theories as irrelevant.)  From there, the discussion segued into what's going to happen when the Biden administration inevitably overreaches itself, and provokes active resistance.  (Let's be blunt - their perspective is "when it provokes a civil war".  I'm still hoping and praying that can be averted.)

There are many dimensions to that problem, but I'd like to point out that the administration will deploy every force, trick and tactic at its disposal to squash such rebellion the moment it starts.  They'll reason that if they very publicly destroy such resistance, the rest of the country will be cowed into submission.  I think it'll go something like this with the first, or the first few, incidents of rebellion.

  • The resistance will turn violent, possibly lethal, and some government officers and bureaucrats will be prevented from doing their job.  Some may be hurt or killed.
  • The powers that be will flood that location with uniformed police, informants, left-wing fellow travelers (think BLM and Antifa), and anyone else they can use to intimidate those who dare stand against them.  The press - as always, eager allies of the Biden administration - will cover the response in admiring, boot-licking terms.
  • The protections offered by our constitution to individual civil rights will be comprehensively ignored.  Premises will be searched without warrant, drivers will be stopped without probable cause, individuals will be detained for questioning - possibly for days, perhaps even weeks or months - without access to lawyers, etc.  (See the response to the Boston bombing for evidence of that in action.  Civil rights were effectively disregarded - and many citizens actually approved, and went along with it.)
  • These measures will be publicly justified as a response to "right-wing extremism" or "domestic terrorism", and any disagreement with them will be ruthlessly steamrollered.  It's possible that voicing such disquiet may be treated as evidence that you're a terrorist too, and therefore you should be treated as such.
  • Those responsible for the disruption will be given "show trials", with as many charges as possible levied against them, and will be given consecutive prison sentences on each of them, to ensure they stay locked up for a good long time.
  • The area will then be declared "pacified".  The media will wrap up everything in nice, congratulatory ribbons and bows, and the government will assure citizens that it was "justified" in disregarding the Constitution, thanks to the immediate, clear and present danger posed by resistance to its decrees.

If you think something different will happen, I urge you to consider the following evidence to the contrary.

  • Law enforcement agencies and officers are already militarized to an appalling extent, including armored vehicles being essentially given free of charge to agencies that request them.  Give such people toys, and they'll want to play with them - otherwise, what's the point?
  • There's a strong movement on the progressive left to neuter or abolish local law enforcement agencies, and instead federalize the police to form a national force.  Such a force will operate under federal mandates, not local;  and that means local laws and protections for citizens under State constitutions may not be followed.  (See the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005:  I wrote about that very problem in the third and fourth of my after-action reports.)
  • News media coverage of such problems is going to be overwhelmingly pro-progressive-left individuals and talking points, and virulently opposed to anything and anyone else.  (It is already, so why would it be any different in an emergency?  The media would simply be motivated to greater efforts.)
  • Any opposition would be treated as active resistance, and intimidated or punished out of existence.  If in doubt, refer to how members of our armed services who object to forced vaccination are currently being treated, threatened, discouraged or even dismissed.  "Get with the program, or else!"

No, open rebellion will be ruthlessly, even viciously suppressed at first, in an attempt to scare anybody else even thinking about it into "running scared".

However, open rebellion isn't the best way to begin such opposition.  Aesop at Raconteur Report has a nasty sense of humor in his discussion of the possibilities, to which I'll refer you without further comment.  Of course, it goes without saying that his ideas are nothing but rampant speculation, and he isn't suggesting for a moment that you, or I, or anyone should do anything illegal.  Perish the thought!  (Although I did laugh out loud at the suggestion of one of his commenters:  "Be the cork in the asshole of progressivism!")

Also, make it your business to keep a record of every progressive sympathizer, activist, legislator, bureaucrat, business owner or manager, etc. in your area.  Note their names, and anything and everything else about them that might be relevant one day.  They're spreading poison, and sooner or later we're going to have to lance that poisonous boil, squeeze out the corruption, and bring healing to the infection it's caused in our body politic.  Whether that's done peacefully or not, it will have to be done - so, in the words of the Four Rules of firearms safety promulgated by the late, great Jeff Cooper, "be sure of your target and what is beyond it":  in this case, the latter includes the network of supporters and sympathizers who propagate the leftist gospel.  Even if you don't actively assist with that, those undertaking the work will be able to use your information.

We are currently governed by progressive leftists who are doing their very best to ignore or snuff out all of our constitutional protections, all of our civil rights, and all of our liberties that conflict with their totalitarian vision.  We're going to have to fight them and their vision - but let's not do it on their terms, where our actions play into their hands and give them the pretext(s) they need to crush opposition.  Work smarter, not harder!

That includes being extraordinarily careful with one's activism.  Some potential options:

  • Keep one set of devices for "everyday", and a second (and/or third, and/or more) set for confidential use.  Never, ever allow one to be used in the other context.  The second set should never be powered up and/or used at home, or even be allowed to contact the Internet, in case location tracking should link them to you in some way (including their proximity to your "everyday" devices).
  • Work through a phone or phones not registered to you, in locations where you're not usually present.  Don't even put in the batteries or turn the phones on until you're in those areas.
  • Never take your own vehicles to and from such areas, and never carry your "everyday" cellphone or other electronics on such occasions, to prevent one cellphone being linked to another by location.
  • When not in use, "secure" devices should be stored in Faraday cages (which can be bags or boxes), if possible with their batteries removed.  If they can't be activated or "pinged", they can't be used against you.
  • When you talk about anything even remotely confidential, make sure all electronic devices - and I do mean ALL - are outside the room, where remote activation of their microphones can't overhear your conversation or allow it to be recorded.
  • Use encryption on communications, and also for e-mail through completely separate, anonymous accounts that again are not linked to you at all.  (However, don't trust encryption alone - what one human can encrypt or encode, another, particularly with computer assistance, can decrypt or decode.)  Change such accounts frequently, and also any devices such as cellphones.  Throw away a burner phone after a few uses and replace it.  Don't buy the replacement yourself - use "cut-outs" who can't identify you as the user.  (One agency used to have one person buy a few burner phones, then hand them over to a courier who took them to another city and delivered them to a third person.  He/she activated the phones in several locations, using different numbers, then gave them to another courier for delivery to more than one distant location.  Someone there would receive them, then distribute them to those who would use them.  Complex and expensive?  Yes, but also pretty secure.)
  • Use Virtual Private Networks (VPN's) for secure internet communications.  They're not foolproof - court orders can be obtained to force VPN's to monitor, record and hand over your traffic - but they prevent casual eavesdropping.  I know some people use two VPN's, layering one over the other, making interception even more difficult.

Everything I've said above is currently legal.  There are other techniques and methods as well - anyone who's had "fieldcraft" training in TLA's (see one US list here) or the military will know what I mean - but I won't go into those here.

As we've said many, many times before in these pages:  "Be the gray man".  Subtlety is better than in-your-face violence . . . until the time comes that the latter may be inevitable.  Sadly, sometimes it is.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Yes, this is just like dealing with my health insurance provider!


Stephan Pastis does it again.

Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the "Pearls Before Swine" Web page.


The California recall election: what did I tell you?


I warned last Monday that yesterday's California gubernatorial recall election would probably not be free or fair.  Considering the lopsided result in Governor Newsom's favor in the light of opinion polls across the political spectrum over recent months that showed him in deep disfavor, I'd say my forecast was spot on.  Nobody in his right mind can believe that so dramatic a "swing" in voter sentiment was real.

There were those who thought I was nuts to expect electoral fraud on that scale, as comments to that previous article showed.  There are a lot of people out there who seem to believe that last November's election was free and fair as well.  I'll let American Thinker answer them.

If you or someone you know is still totally satisfied with the result of the 2020 presidential election (and may in fact believe it to have been the "most secure in American history"), it may finally be time to ask — and answer honestly — three "What if" questions:

1. WHAT IF on Election Night 2020 you went to bed at 11 P.M. and Joe Biden was comfortably ahead of Donald Trump in the polls across the country?  And you knew that when you woke up the next morning that Joe Biden would be the president-elect, to be sworn into office on January 20, 2021.  But what would you have thought when you turned on the TV the very next morning and learned that ballot-counting in six swing states had stopped completely?

Would you have found that odd?  And would you have expected the media to also find that odd?

2. And WHAT IF over the next three days, the counting of ballots resumed, and every hour, more votes kept streaming in from who-knows-where in each of those swing states?  And an unprecedented percentage of those votes were for Donald Trump?

Would you have found that odd?  And would you have expected the media to also find that odd?

3. And then, WHAT IF, once the New York Times declared Donald Trump the victor over Joe Biden, you questioned the results because you found the whole event downright odd?

Would you have expected the media to call you a "conspiracy theorist" and claim that there was "no evidence of fraud" and that you should shut up and go away because Donald Trump won the election fair and square?


Before we move on to believe in fair and honest elections in states across the nation, maybe it's high time everyone in America honestly answered the questions posed with these three "What If" scenarios.

I couldn't agree more.  The evidence of electoral fraud in last November's elections is overwhelming.  I covered it in detail at the time, including (but not limited to) these articles:

Electoral fraud becomes more obvious almost by the hour

And the evidence keeps mounting...

About electoral fraud in Pennsylvania...

Sadly, the powers that be ensured (using procedural and other means) that allegations of electoral fraud were never adequately tested in court.  The result is that the fraud succeeded, and we now have an illegitimate, fraudulent Administration in office.

On the balance of probabilities, and the way in which the Democrat-controlled legislature in California changed the rules and regulations governing such elections as soon as it looked likely to occur, and voters finding out that "they'd already voted" when in fact they hadn't, and the "ballot harvesting" that's entirely legal in California (although regarded as a dangerous avenue for electoral fraud in almost the entire rest of the world) . . . yeah.  I don't believe the announced results of yesterday's election in California for a skinny minute.  American Thinker feels likewise:  "California: A legit recall result, yes, but plenty of evidence of fraud".

Those of you who think that our vote in November 2022, or 2024, or whenever, will be fully free and fair, are living in cloud cuckoo land.  The fraudulent masters of our body politic are going to make sure, by hook or (mostly) by crook, that they remain in power.  Getting them out of power, and restoring free and fair elections, is going to take a lot more than just the ballot box.


More about supply chain shortages


Following my lengthy article yesterday about how problems with the supply chain are affecting US businesses and consumers, I had a number of e-mails from people sharing how they're experiencing the problem (or, in one case, not).  I also found, or was referred to, a few other articles discussing the issue.

First, from Michigan, reader B. N. writes (I've shortened and tightened up his lengthy comment, and removed a few profanities):

Part of the problem is that same-company stores in different areas get different selections for their customers.  Poor neighborhood = smaller quantities, fewer selections, and they often run out of essentials.  Richer neighborhood = larger quantities, better selection, and they seldom run out.  (Their prices are often higher, too.)  It's like consumer apartheid.  Your supply chain in your area depends on the color of your and your neighbors' wallets - the greener (and fatter), the better.

That's probably an accurate comment.  Not surprising, either.  Companies will "follow the money" with their products.  They'll put more effort into areas where they can make more money, and vice versa.  Customers with less money are less important to their bottom line.  Capitalism, baby!

Divemedic has a couple of interesting posts.  In the first, he notes:

[The in-laws] went shopping for a new refrigerator, and there were not many to be had. It turns out that there is no supply coming from overseas, where most of them are made. The ones that ARE getting through are not enough to meet demand. There are lengthy backorders.

Yet another sign that the economy is grinding to a halt is coming from the auto industry. GM and Ford have suspended the production of pickup trucks because of the shortage in computer chips ... If this is a disaster for Ford, it is also a disaster for the US economy. Ford is the 21st largest company in the USA, and GM is the 22nd.

We are seeing shortages in all sorts of things: supplies are hard to find. Chicken, lumber, microchips, gas, steel, metals, chlorine, and ketchup packets are all in short supply. We shut down the world’s economy, and it is not wanting to restart. We can’t even get people to return to work.

“Experts” can argue about it for months, but no matter the cause, the result is the same. This slowdown of the economy is going to continue for months, perhaps several years. How many businesses will fail as a result is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure, though. The economy is going to get much, much worse. Inflation is going to increase markedly as the law of supply and demand begins to take hold. Once Suzy Soccermom figures out that there is a problem, expect panic buying and even more shortages as she begins to panic shop for things.

The things that begin to skyrocket in price and see scarcity will probably not make sense. Remember the toilet paper shortage of last year? Like that, but with more products being involved.

Significantly, he concludes (and I can't say I blame him):

I am getting completely out of the stock market. We began a complete sell off last week. As soon as funds are released, we are moving into other investments, things that are not based in the US dollar.

There's more at the link.

In a follow-up post, Divemedic adds:

There are shortages, but they are being stealthy about it. My local grocery store isn’t doing anything so obvious as to leave shelves bare. A great example:

The canned soup section was most of one side of an entire aisle just before COVID began. Now the selection is much smaller, and the soup section has shrunk down to less than half the size that it was. The produce doesn’t look as good as it used to - more blemishes, more wilting on the leafy greens, that sort of thing.

He added this video, containing a price warning from Canadian Prepper.  It's worth watching.  I've blocked out a 2¼-minute segment containing the meat of the matter, so it won't take you long to listen and learn.  If you'd like to watch the whole thing, follow the YouTube link at the bottom of the picture.

Atomic Fungus has similar observations to mine.

There isn't enough spare shipping capacity to make up for the backlog, either. "Just in time" has been wrecked; there's enough shipping capacity to keep the stuff flowing as long as nothing interrupts the cycle--but because of the Coof shutdowns, now there's a backlog, and the ships cannot carry more cargo lest they sink, and they can't move any faster.

And all those people who load and unload ships are union babies. You do the math on that one.

So let's revisit "For want of a nail":

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Now, when "just in time" is working, that nail gets to the blacksmith just in time for him to shoe the horse so the rider can carry the message etc. But right now? Nails aren't being delivered just in time.

I've been out of docking stations for laptop computers since May. They were ordered at least that long ago. About six weeks ago, the customer service person at the near grocery store said they weren't getting any diet Mountain Dew even though they'd repeatedly ordered it. Getting my wife's favorite water-flavored water is hit-or-miss. KFC doesn't have chicken wings. Can't buy pre-packaged Jell-o.

So? Ford can't get chips so they can't build trucks. Guys who need trucks to accomplish tasks can't get trucks so they can't get things done. The people who need those tasks done can't get them done at any price, which makes their productivity fall. And on, and on, and on--

Again, more at the link.

Let me provide a few more personal perspectives.  I was browsing online, and noted that the house air-conditioning filters we use had gone up in price from the mid-$20's per pack to double that in some stores.  (Needless to say, they're made in China.)  That galvanized me to run down to Sams Club, which usually offers them at lower prices:  but even there, they're now in the $10-per-filter range.  That's horrifying, considering that it was only a couple of months ago that I bought them for less than two-thirds of that.  I bought a couple more packs, to ensure we have enough for the next year.

I also decided to look for the synthetic oil we use in our vehicles, and some spare oil filters.  The filters weren't available at all from our usual source, and the 5-quart container of oil was 60% higher in price than the last time I bought it.  Again, Sams Club to the rescue:  they had a different variant of synthetic oil from the same manufacturer, of the same viscosity, packed in quarts rather than larger containers.  A 6-pack was only about 10% more (on a quantity comparison) than I paid last time.  Guess what got added to my cart, instanter?  I may just go back and get a couple more today!

As for vehicle tires . . . that's a conundrum.  If you buy a spare set of tires to fit your vehicle, while they're available at present, but you won't need them for a couple of years, they'll deteriorate while sitting in your garage (the rubber compound perishes over time).  On the other hand, they may not be available when you do need them.  I'm going to have to mull over that question.

Another question is vehicle replacement.  After our mechanic's comments yesterday, I spoke to a friend who sells cars at a local dealership.  He said bluntly that used car prices are now "stupid".  Cars up to 3-4 years old, with less than 50,000 miles on the clock, now cost almost as much - in some cases, more - than brand-new vehicles.  To get any sort of bargain today, you're looking at buying something 6-8 years old, with 80,000-100,000 miles on the odometer.  Unless you're prepared to live with that, his suggestion is to put your name on a waiting list for a new vehicle (making sure that if you don't take it, you won't lose your deposit - some dealers will be flexible with that, others won't).

However, not all countries are experiencing the supply chain crunch as badly as we are.  From Thailand, Larry C. e-mails:

Outside the USA and other “Western” countries, its not like that.  Not yet, anyway.  I live in Bangkok, Thailand;  American business owner, now retired.  I read Peter’s column every day from over here.

Food and supplies here in good supply.  Not great.  Not every color or flavor, but still plenty to buy.  Supermarkets have abundance of rib-eye steaks and home-style sausages.  Convenience stores (eg. 7-Eleven) plenty of Lay’s potato chips and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.  And many stores deliver free, with plenty of workers available to do that.

Many small shops – like mobile phone repair shops – have closed due to lack of business, but some, enough, are still open.  My old computer printer died last week.  At nearby mall, first two computer shops I went into were sold out of the model I wanted.  Third shop had exactly that model.  At exactly list price, no gouging.

In this part of the world, people don’t “prep”, because they can always retreat to the family farm.  But from what I see here so far, plenty of rice and fish and vegetables in every market.  I like Saba fish.  Imported, frozen.  Two years ago, order today, delivered tomorrow.  Now, sometimes out of stock.  So, I make do with other fish like Pacific Cod or Barramundi.  Not a problem.

Am I stocking up?  Not at all.  Even essential drinking water.  Order today and the water company delivers tomorrow.  Delivery is free for order over $15.00.  And plenty of workers to handle deliveries.

Will this horn of plenty dry up?  Maybe, but I don’t see any signs of it happening.  I’m thinking, instead of paying thousands to rebuild the engine on an old truck, why not buy a plane ticket to some other country.  Thailand is difficult because of the language gap, but Mexico might be a worthwhile option.  Web blog “Jim Stone Freelance” reports no shortages of anything where he lives in central Mexico.  Even high quality air guns are plentiful.

I escaped from America 20 years ago, and, now, reading comments here, very pleased that I took the risk to get out.

Thanks for writing, Larry.  It's good to get an external perspective.

I emphasize once again, the supply chain crunch in the USA is a reality that cannot be changed in the short term.  Like it or not, we're stuck with it:  and, like it or not, we're stuck with the economic problems and hard times it'll bring with it.  There's no undoing that now.  It's inevitable.  The best we can do is to prepare for it as best we can, by stocking up on essential items right now, before they vanish from our shelves, and then by being super-careful and vigilant every single day.  It may boil down to searching online every day for something we need, and rushing in with our credit card to buy it as soon as we find it, irrespective of price, before someone else gets in ahead of us.

That's not a pleasant thought.