Saturday, April 10, 2021

Saturday Snippet: A different world, with tongue firmly in cheek

 

The late Barry Hughart started what he wanted to be a series of seven novels, but didn't get beyond the first three.  Wikipedia says of him:


During Hughart's military service [in Korea] he began to develop his lifelong interest in China that led him to plan a series set in "an Ancient China that never was". His connection to China continued after his military service, as he worked with TechTop, a military surplus company that was based in Asia, from 1960 to 1965.

. . .

Barry Hughart's writing career started with his novel Bridge of Birds, published in 1984, which won the 1985 World Fantasy Award for best novel and also won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1986 ... He intended to write seven novels about the adventures of Li Kao and Number Ten Ox, but his writing career was cut short due to issues with his publishers.

. . .

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox is a series of three books about Li Kao, an ancient sage and scholar with "a slight flaw in his character", and his client, later assistant, the immensely strong peasant Number Ten Ox, who narrates the story. The series blends Chinese mythology—authentic and imagined, from several eras—with detective fiction and a gentle, ironic humour. The first book Bridge of Birds was published in 1984, the title derived from "The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl" myth. It was followed in 1988 by The Story of the Stone and in 1990 by Eight Skilled Gentlemen. No further books followed, although Hughart had planned a series of seven novels. In the last of these, Li Kao and Number Ten Ox would die facing the Great White Serpent (a conflict alluded to in Bridge of Birds). They would then become minor celestial deities who would continue to cause problems for the August Personage of Jade. An omnibus edition, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox was first published in 1998.


There's more at the link.



I have the omnibus edition.  I like all three books very much, and found it difficult to choose just one chapter to introduce you to them.  In the end, I gave up and decided to use the first chapter of the first book in the trilogy.


The Village of Ku-fu

I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.

My surname is Lu and my personal name is Yu, but I am not to be confused with the eminent author of The Classic of Tea. My family is quite undistinguished, and since I am the tenth of my father’s sons and rather strong I am usually referred to as Number Ten Ox. My father died when I was eight. A year later my mother followed him to the Yellow Springs Beneath the Earth, and since then I have lived with Uncle Nung and Auntie Hua in the village of Ku-fu in the valley of Cho. We take great pride in our landmarks. Until recently we also took great pride in two gentlemen who were such perfect specimens that people used to come from miles around just to stare at them, so perhaps I should begin a description of my village with a couple of classics.

When Pawnbroker Fang approached Ma the Grub with the idea of joining forces he opened negotiations by presenting Ma’s wife with the picture of a small fish drawn on a piece of cheap paper. Ma’s wife accepted the magnificent gift, and in return she extended her right hand and made a circle with the thumb and forefinger. At that point, the door crashed open and Ma the Grub charged inside and screamed: “Woman, would you ruin me? Half of a pie would have been enough!”

That may not be literally true, but the abbot of our monastery always said that fable has strong shoulders that carry far more truth than fact can.

Pawnbroker Fang’s ability to guess the lowest possible amount that person would accept for a pawned item was so unerring that I had concluded it was supernatural, but then the abbot took me aside and explained that Fang wasn’t guessing at all. There was always some smooth shiny object lying on top of his desk in the front room of Ma the Grub’s warehouse, and it was used as a mirror that would reflect the eyes of the victim.

“Cheap, very cheap,” Fang would sneer, turning the object in his hands. “No more than two hundred cash.”

His eyes would drop to the shiny object and if the pupils of the reflected eyes constricted too sharply he would try again.

“Well, the workmanship isn’t too bad, in a crude peasant fashion. Make it two-fifty.”

The reflected pupils would dilate, but perhaps not quite far enough.

“It is the anniversary of my poor wife’s untimely demise, the thought of which always destroys my business judgment,” Fang would whimper, in a voice clotted with tears. “Three hundred cash, but not one penny more!”

Actually, no money would change hands because ours is a barter economy. The victim would take a credit slip through the door to the warehouse, and Ma the Grub would stare at it in disbelief and scream out to Fang. “Madman! Your lunatic generosity will drive us into bankruptcy! Who will feed your starving brats when we are reduced to tattered cloaks and begging bowls?” Then he would honor the credit slip with goods that had been marked up by 600 percent.

Pawnbroker Fang was a widower with two children, a pretty little daughter we called Fang’s Fawn and a younger son that we called Fang’s Flea. Ma the Grub was childless, and when his wife ran off with a rug peddler his household expenses were cut in half and his happiness was doubled. The happiest time of all for the team of Ma and Fang was our annual silk harvest, because silkworm eggs could only be purchased with money and they had all the money. Ma the Grub would buy the eggs and hand them out to each family in exchange for IOUs that were to be redeemed with silk, and since Pawnbroker Fang was the only qualified appraiser of silk for miles around they were able to take two-thirds of our crop to Peking and return with bulging bags of coins, which they buried in their gardens on moonless midnights.

The abbot used to say that the emotional health of a village depended upon having a man whom everyone loved to hate, and Heaven had blessed us with two of them.

Our landmarks are our lake and our wall, and both of them are the result of the superstition and mythology of ancient times. When our ancestors arrived in the valley of Cho they examined the terrain with the greatest of care, and we honestly believe that no village in the world has been better planned than the village of Ku-fu. Our ancestors laid it out so that it would be sheltered from the Black Tortoise, a beast of the very worst character, whose direction is north and whose element is water and whose season is winter. It is open to the Red Bird of the south and the element of fire and the season of summer. And the eastern hills where the Blue Dragon lives, with the element of wood and the hopeful season of spring, are stronger than the hills to the west, which is the home of the White Tiger, metal and the melancholy season of autumn.

Considerable thought was given to the shape of the village, on the grounds that a man who built a village like a fish while a neighboring village was built like a hook was begging for disaster. The finished shape was the outline of a unicorn, a gentle and law-abiding creature with no natural enemies whatsoever. But it appeared that something had gone wrong because one day there was a low snorting sort of a noise and the earth heaved, and several cottages collapsed and a great crack appeared the soil. Our ancestors examined their village from every possible angle, and the flaw was discovered when one of them climbed to the top of the tallest tree on the eastern hills and gazed down. By a foolish oversight the last five rice paddies had been arranged so that they formed the wings and body of a huge hungry horsefly that had settled upon the tender flank of the unicorn, so of course the unicorn had kicked up its heels. The paddies were altered into the shape of a bandage, and Ku-fu was never again disturbed by upheavals.

They made sure that there would be no straight roads or rivers that might draw good influences away, and as a further precaution they dammed up the end of a narrow little valley and channeled rivulets down the sides of the hills, and thus produced a small lake that would capture and hold good influences that might otherwise trickle away to other villages. They had no aesthetic intent whatsoever. The beauty of our lake was an accident of superstition, but the result was such that when the great poet Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju passed through on a walking trip five hundred years ago he paused at the little lake and was inspired to write to a friend:

The waters are loud with fish and turtles,
A multitude of living things.
Wild geese and swans, graylags, bustards,
Cranes and mallards,
Loons and spoonbills,
Flock and settle on the waters,
Drifting lightly over the surface,
Buffeted by the wind,
Bobbing and dipping with the waves,
Sporting among the weedy banks,
Gobbling the reeds and duckweed,
Pecking at water chestnuts and lotuses.

It is like that today, and Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju was not there in the season to see the masses of wildflowers, or the tiny dappled deer that come to drink and then vanish like puffs of smoke.

Our wall landmark is far more famous. It is only fair to point out that there are many different stories concerning the origin of Dragon’s Pillow, but we in Ku-fu like to think that our version is the only correct one.

Many centuries ago there was a general who was ordered to build one of the defensive walls that were to be linked into the Great Wall, and one night he dreamed that he had been summoned to Heaven to present his plan for the wall to the August Personage of Jade. At his subsequent trial for treason he gave a vivid account of the trip.

He had dreamed that he had been inside a giant lotus, and the leaves had slowly opened to form a doorway, and he had stepped out upon the emerald grass of Heaven. The sky was sapphire, and a path made from pearls lay near his feet. A willow tree lifted a branch and pointed it like a finger, and the general followed the path to the River of Flowers, which was cascading down the Cliff of the Great Awakening. The concubines of the Emperor of Heaven were bathing in the Pool of Blissful Fragrances, laughing and splashing in a rainbow of rose petals, and they were so beautiful that the general found it hard to tear himself away. But duty called, so he followed the path as it climbed seven terraces where the leaves on the trees were made from precious stones, which rang musically when the breeze touched them, and where birds of bright plumage sang with divine voices of the Five Virtues and Excellent Doctrines. The path continued around the lush orchards where the Queen Mother Wang grew the Peaches of Immortality, and when the general made the last turn around the orchards he found himself directly in front of the palace of the Emperor of Heaven.

Flunkies were waiting for him. They ushered him into the audience chamber, and after the three obeisances and nine kowtows he was allowed to rise and approach the throne. The August Personage of Jade was seated with his hands crossed upon the Imperial Book of Etiquette, which lay upon his lap. He wore a flat hat rather like a board, from which dangled thirteen pendants of colored pearls upon red strings, and his black silk robe rippled with red and yellow dragons. The general bowed and humbly presented his plan for the wall.

Behind the throne stood T’ien-kou, the Celestial Dog, whose teeth had chewed mountains in half, and beside the Celestial Dog stood Ehr-lang, who is unquestionably the greatest of all warriors because he had been able to battle the stupendous Stone Monkey to a standstill. (The Monkey symbolizes intellect.) The two bodyguards appeared to be glaring at the general. He hastily lowered his eyes, and he saw that the symbol of the emperor’s predecessor, the Heavenly Master of the First Origin, was stamped upon the left arm of the throne, and on the right arm was the symbol for the emperor’s eventual successor, the Heavenly Master of the Dawn of Jade of the Golden Door. The general was so overcome by a dizzying sense of timelessness in which there was no means of measurement and comparison that he felt quite sick to his stomach. He was afraid that he was going to disgrace himself by throwing up, but in the nick of time he saw that his plan, neatly rolled back into a scroll and retied, was extended before his lowered eyes. He took it and dropped to his knees and awaited divine censure or praise, but none was forthcoming. The August Personage of Jade silently signaled the end of the interview. The general crawled backward, banging his head against the floor, and at the doorway he was seized by the flunkies, who marched him outside and across a couple of miles of meadow. Then they picked him up and dumped him into the Great River of Stars.

Oddly enough, the general testified, he had not been frightened at all. It was the rainy season in Heaven, and billions of brilliant stars were bouncing over raging waves that roared like a trillion tigers, but the general sank quite peacefully into the water. He drifted down farther and farther, and then he fell right through the bottom, and the glittering light of the Great River receded rapidly in the distance as he plunged head over heels toward earth. He landed smack in the middle of his bed, just as his servant entered to wake him for breakfast.

It was some time before he could gather enough courage to open his plan, and when he did he discovered that the Emperor of Heaven—or somebody—had moved the wall 122 miles to the south, which placed it in the middle of the valley of Cho, where it could serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

What was he to do? He could not possibly defy the mandate of Heaven, so he ordered his men to build a wall that led nowhere and connected to nothing, and that was why the general was arrested and brought before the Emperor of China on the charge of treason. When he told his tale the charge of treason was tossed out of court. Instead the general was sentenced to death for being drunk on duty, and desperation produced one of the loveliest excuses in history. That wall, the general said firmly, had been perfectly placed, but one night a dragon leaned against it and fell asleep, and in the morning it was discovered that the bulk of the beast had shoved the wall into its current ludicrous position.

Word of Dragon’s Pillow swept through the delighted court, where the general had clever and unscrupulous friends. They began their campaign to save his neck by bribing the emperor’s favorite soothsayer.

“O Son of Heaven,” the fellow screeched, “I have consulted the Trigrams, and for reasons known only to the August Personage of Jade that strange stretch of wall is the most important of all fortifications! So important it is that it cannot be guarded by mortal men, but only by the spirits of ten thousand soldiers who must be buried alive in the foundations!”

The emperor was quite humane, as emperors go, and he begged the soothsayer to try again and see if there might not have been some mistake. After pocketing another bribe the soothsayer came up with a different interpretation.

“O Son of Heaven, the Trigrams clearly state that wan must be buried alive in the foundations, but while wan can mean ten thousand, it is also a common family name!” he bellowed. “The solution is obvious, for what is the life of one insignificant insignificant soldier compared to the most important wall in China?”

The emperor still didn’t like it, but he didn’t appear to have much of choice, so he ordered his guards to go out and lay hands on the first common soldier named Wan. All accounts agree that Wan behaved with dignity. His family was provided with a pension, and he was told that heaven had honored him above all others and he was given a trumpet with which to sound the alarm should China be threatened, and then a hole was cut in the base of the wall and Wan marched dutifully inside. The hole was bricked up again, and a watchtower—the Eye of the Dragon—was placed upon the highest point of Dragon’s Pillow where Wan’s ghost could maintain lonely vigil.

The emperor was so sick of the whole affair that he refused to allow that cursed stretch of wall, or anyone connected with it, to be mentioned in his presence. Of course that is what the clever fellows had been planning all along, and their friend the general was quietly set free to write his memoirs.

For nearly a century Dragon’s Pillow was a favorite of sightseers. A small number of soldiers was detached to maintain the wall, but since it served no purpose except as a watchtower for a ghost it was eventually allowed to fall into decay. Even the sightseers lost interest in it, and weeds grew and rocks crumbled. It was a paradise for children, however, and for a few centuries it was the favorite playpen of the children of my village, but then something happened that left Dragon’s Pillow abandoned even by children.

One evening the children of Ku-fu were beginning one of the games that had originated somewhere back toward the beginning of time, and suddenly they stopped short. A hollow, bodiless voice—one boy later said that it might have been echoing through two hundred miles of bamboo pipe—drifted down to them from the Eye of the Dragon. So strange were the words that every one of the children remembered them perfectly, even though they took to their heels as soon as their hearts resumed beating.

Was it possible that poor Wan, the most important of all sentinels on the most important of all watchtowers was sending a message to China through the children of the humble village of Ku-fu? If so, it was a very strange message indeed, and sages and scholars struggled for centuries to wrest some meaning from it.

If my illustrious readers would care to take a crack at it, I will wish them the very best of luck.

Jade plate,
Six, eight.
Fire that burns hot,
Night that is not.
Fire that burns cold,
First silver, then gold.


I'll leave it to you to read more of the book for yourself.  If you enjoy gentle, whimsical humor (with occasional side-splitting elements of slapstick) and a fantasy world to match, I recommend it.

Peter


Friday, April 9, 2021

Quote of the day

 

Watching the chaos being unleashed on this country by the Biden administration, it's hard to keep one's cool.  Consider:

  • Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are being not just admitted to this country willy-nilly, but actively encouraged to cross our borders.
  • The Federal Reserve is creating trillions of dollars out of thin air with no economic reality underpinning them, a sure recipe for inflation.
  • Billions upon billions of dollars, ostensibly intended for "stimulus" or "infrastructure", are being wasted on pet projects and political cronyism.
  • Assaults on constitutional rights like the Second Amendment (despite the President's denial) are increasing.
  • A biased justice system seems determined to punish conservatives while letting progressives get away (sometimes literally) with murder.
  • A visibly senile, incompetent President is attracting the scorn of the rest of the world, and provoking threatening actions by other powers who seem confident that the USA is no longer capable of responding effectively under his leadership.

We're not just sliding, but accelerating down the slope to disaster, and nobody in authority seems to care.  Add to that the threats of progressive activists, and our future looks worse by the day.  When leaders like this get elected to run some of America's largest cities, promising to overturn the old order while offering nothing worth having in the new, what else can we expect?

In that light, I found Larry Correia's latest quip on MeWe to be grimly relevant:


I used to think America was heading for a Bosnia style civil war. But that was me being too optimistic. Now I suspect we will wake up one day and it’ll be Rwanda.


I saw what happened in Rwanda.  God forbid I should ever see that again . . . but in a fractured, tormented nation, even in the First World, it's not impossible.

Keep your powder dry, friends.  We may yet need it.

Peter


Why work, when unemployment pays better and is more fun?

 

I had to stop myself gritting my teeth in frustration when reading this article.


Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, Melissa Anderson laid off all three full-time employees of her jewelry-making company, Silver Chest Creations in Burkesville, Ky. She tried to rehire one of them in September and another in January as business recovered, but they refused to come back, she says. “They’re not looking for work.”

Sierra Pacific Industries, which manufactures doors, windows, and millwork, is so desperate to fill openings that it’s offering hiring bonuses of up to $1,500 at its factories in California, Washington, and Wisconsin. In rural Northern California, the Red Bluff Job Training Center is trying to lure young people with extra-large pizzas in the hope that some who stop by can be persuaded to fill out a job application. “We’re trying to get inside their head and help them find employment. Businesses would be so eager to train them,” says Kathy Garcia, the business services and marketing manager. “There are absolutely no job seekers.”

. . .

There’s some evidence for the conservative argument that generous unemployment benefits discourage people from seeking work. Anderson, the jewelry maker, says her ex-employees told her they preferred to stay unemployed—even though you’re not supposed to collect jobless benefits if you’re turning down work. The American Rescue Plan that Congress approved last month provides an extra $300 a week in jobless benefits through Sept. 6. “There still will be some people who say, ‘I’m glad to take my $300 to $400 a week and stay home, rather than go out and work and earn $500 a week,’” BTIG LLC analyst Peter Saleh, who covers the restaurant industry, told Bloomberg in March.

. . .

Plus, some would-be workers may have lost their gumption. “I’m worried that after all this time that’s gone by, it’s going to be very hard for a lot of people to come back full time. It’s just asking an energy level that people haven’t had in a while,” says Garcia, the job counselor in California. She says a full-time job “used to be the gold standard,” but now employers are parceling out the work into part-time jobs to lure applicants.

Alienation from work is most common among the young. A Pew Research Center survey in October found that 53% of those ages 18 to 29 who are working remotely because of Covid said it was difficult for them to feel motivated to perform their duties. Only 20% of those 50 and older said the same.

On the social network Reddit, which skews young, a forum called r/antiwork has 264,000 members. It’s filled with comments such as: “You’re telling me I have to enslave myself to all these applications for hours on end, competing with my fellow man and woman, giving up my dignity just for a chance to enslave myself further so I don’t literally die? I’m not having it.” One Redditor posted a video of a home computer’s mouse that’s connected to a swiveling fan so it slides back and forth, making it appear the person is working.


There's more at the link.

Dare I say that the problem is, people today aren't raised with a work ethic?  My father started us young.  From the age that we were able to understand money and basic math, we had to earn our pocket money every week.  He "paid" us five cents for every year of our age (which, back then, was actually worth something).  Each of us had domestic chores to accomplish - mine were things like washing the dog, mowing the lawn (after removing canine land-mines), washing the car, and so on.  I could earn extra by doing extra chores.  Every time one of my chores wasn't done, or done satisfactorily, Dad would deduct a "fine" from my pocket-money.  It didn't take long for me to figure out that if I wanted money, I had to earn it!

The same went for my higher education.  My parents retired soon after I entered military service.  Dad and Mom made it clear that while they would help where they could, they couldn't afford to pay my way through full-time university studies.  No problem - I completed my university qualifications through correspondence studies, and paid for them out of my earnings.  It took me ten years to complete my first degree (I was being called up periodically to fight a war, as well as working in the civilian world and dealing with major civil unrest, all of which were more than a little disrupting to my studies), but I got it in the end, followed by three more part-time and correspondence university qualifications.  I daresay my lack of full-time college experience didn't do me any harm, and saved me a heck of a lot of money.  I also learned the value of time management and hard work.  If I didn't get them right, I didn't pass my assignments or exams.  Failure can be a salutary lesson!

Thus, when I read comments like those above from unemployed people who don't want to go back to work, or Redditors who don't want to "[give] up my dignity just for a chance to enslave myself further" . . . I find them infuriating.  How is it possible that these people have never learned the reality of employment?  The Biblical standard is and remains, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food", and "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat".  What makes these entitled idiots think that anything's changed?  When their benefits run out, and employers who've tried (and failed) to get them to come back to work find them applying for jobs once more, why should they take them back when they've already demonstrated their contempt for the work ethic?

I don't know.  Maybe I'm just out of touch with the modern generation . . . but I suspect I'm rather more in touch than they are with cold, hard economic reality.

Peter


Er . . . oops?

 

I don't know whether to laugh or grimace.  Found on MeWe:



(Click the image for a larger view)


Could one call this "uncanny canning"?  Or is it an amphibious pickle?  Did the frog take the place of a shirkin' gherkin, perhaps?  Either way, it's des-pickle-able . . .



Peter


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ancient Rome, summarized for a modern generation

 

George Santayana famously said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Sadly, many today know very little about history, and how so many of our institutions - including the US constitution - are based on historical lessons and realities.

Courtesy of The Burning Platform, I came across this 20-minute video summarizing the history of Ancient Rome.  It's very informative, even though it skips most of the important details in favor of a high-speed pass through an empire that lasted for over one and a half millennia.  In particular, note the parallels between Roman history and our own.  They're striking.



I hope the producers of that video go on to make more along the same lines, summarizing other great civilizations of history.  We're starved of good modern material about them, particularly in "bite-size" chunks that can be easily digested by a post-literate society that gets most of its information from TV.

Peter


Yet again, they're blaming "the Jews"

 

I'm getting awful tired of those who blame the Jews for any and every evil that afflicts us.  Anti-semitism is an age-old shibboleth, something brought out of the closet whenever activists for whatever cause need a scapegoat to explain away their particular obsession.  Adolf Hitler is the best-known example, but he was only one in a long, long line of anti-semites who've infested history with their poison.

Now comes Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, blaming Jewish pressure in part for the drive to reopen schools (which she and the AFT oppose).  She's nominally Jewish herself, but like many progressive extremists, she disregards that minor anomaly.


Union leader Randi Weingarten criticized Jews as "part of the ownership class" dedicated to denying opportunities to others in an interview released on Friday.

Weingarten—who is herself Jewish and draws a six-figure salary as head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—took aim at American Jews in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. When asked about parents critical of the AFT's resistance to school reopening, Weingarten took aim squarely at Jewish critics.

"American Jews are now part of the ownership class," Weingarten said. "Jews were immigrants from somewhere else. And they needed the right to have public education. And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done."

"What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it," she said.


There's more at the link.

The AFT is a thoroughly progressive-infiltrated organization.  It joins many others in expressing anti-semitic ideas and tendencies.  The mainstream news media have ignored Black Lives Matter's anti-Semitic tendencies, shown in brutal harshness during riots in Los Angeles, threats in New York City and encounters in Philadelphia, among others.  One wonders whether the media are refusing to cover such incidents because of political correctness, or because they agree with the sentiments expressed?  It's a good question.

Basically, when I hear or see anyone blaming "the Jews" for anything, simply because they're Jews and with no other evidence, I instantly write off the speaker(s) and their organization(s) as utterly lacking in credibility and unworthy of respect.  They're merely repeating the tired old prejudices of many generations before them.  They have no originality, no foundation for their prejudices - just resentment that's looking for a target on which to focus.

I guess we can add the AFT and Ms. Weingarten to the list of those lacking credibility and unworthy of respect.

Peter


"Woke" companies may become worse than the Biden administration

 

We've all seen how "woke" companies and corporations have bent the knee to progressive left-wing ideologies, and are actively working to promote them.  The antics of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies before and after last November's election are too well-known to require comment.  Last week saw Coca-Cola and other big companies bend the knee to progressive pressure and condemn a new Georgia voting law that is more genuinely democratic and pro-free-election than many others in this country.  However, the corporations didn't care about that - only about the politically correct talking points they were spoon-fed by their political masters.

Now, as Phil at Bustednuckles notes, it looks like private companies may be fiercer promoters and adopters of COVID-19 "vaccine passports" than the government itself.  He quotes a news article.


The White House said Tuesday that the Biden administration will not support a system requiring Americans to carry so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

. . .

“Let me be very clear on this. I know there’s been lots of questions,” Psaki said during the press briefing Tuesday. “The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.”

Psaki went on to say that “there will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

“As these tools are being considered by the private and non-private sectors, our interest is very simple from the federal government,” Psaki continued.

. . .

“I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who also serves as President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told the Politico Dispatch podcast on Monday.


There's more at the link.

This is yet another example of a Chinese-style "social credit system" being introduced willy-nilly in the USA.  The government won't have to formally build such a system if its private sector lackeys are prepared to do so on its behalf.  If you're noted as refusing a COVID-19 vaccination - or owning a gun, or smoking, or expressing the "wrong" political opinions, or whatever - you'll get a black mark against you in one or more databases.  The government can (and does) buy access to those databases on a commercial basis.  It doesn't have to spy on us - it simply uses our lack of digital privacy against us.  What's more, it won't have to exert unconstitutional or illegal pressures against dissenters if its corporate allies are willing to do so on its behalf.  Matt Bracken goes so far as to call this a "digital gulag".  Go read his article for yourself.  If you value your constitutional rights, it's chilling.

If your opinions and actions make you ineligible for a home mortgage, or vehicle finance, or travel on an airline . . . what are you going to do about it?  You can't sue the government for violating your rights, because it isn't doing so;  and you can't sue a private corporation for violating your constitutional rights, because those rights bind the government, not private entities.  It'll be the same with a COVID-19 "vaccine passport".  If you can't fly, or take the train, without one, and if hotels won't allow you to stay without one, you're effectively being coerced into getting one whether you like it or not.

Naomi Wolf points out:


Vaccine passports sound like a fine thing if you don’t know what those platforms can do. I’m CEO of a tech company, I understand what this platform does. It’s not about the vaccine, it’s not about the virus, it’s about data. And once this rolls out you don’t have a choice about being part of the system. What people have to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.

They’re trying to roll it out around the world. It is so much more than a vaccine pass. I can’t stress this enough. It has the power to turn off your life. Or turn on your life. To let you engage in civil society or be marginalized. It’s catastrophic. It cannot be allowed to continue.

And what that means is it can be merged with your PayPal account, with your digital currency. Microsoft is already talking about merging it with payment plans. Your networks can be sucked up. It geo locates you everywhere you go. Your credit history can be included. All of your medical history can be included.


Again, more at the link.

I'm not anti-vaccine.  If I know for sure that a vaccine is safe and effective, I'll be first in line to get it.  However, in the case of COVID-19 vaccines (which aren't vaccines at all, as far as I can tell, but gene therapies) they are not yet fully tested and have produced some nasty side-effects, including fatal ones.  I don't yet trust them - and their manufacturers can't be sued if anything goes wrong, because they've been granted immunity against such lawsuits.  The entire responsibility for the consequences has been dumped on our shoulders.

Take note.  Big Brother now has lots of smaller private sector siblings, and they're all ganging up on us.  Talk about a dysfunctional family!

Peter


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Lessons learned from a recent war

 

Last year I wrote about the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabak enclave.  At the time, I said:


The startling thing, to me, is the graphic evidence of how the modern battlefield has changed.  In my days in uniform, sure, we were under constant threat from Soviet-supplied aircraft of the Angolan air force;  but they weren't well flown, and missed most of the time.  Smart weapons weren't usually encountered until the latter days of the Border War.  As long as we camouflaged our positions well, and took basic precautions such as digging foxholes and slit trenches, we were more likely than not to emerge unscathed from Angolan air raids.  Indeed, South African artillery operated for months well inside the Angolan air umbrella, and didn't lose a single gun or crew to air attack.

Nowadays, things are very different.  Here's a video clip provided by Azerbaijan, showing how its Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles and the missiles they carry can interdict any group of Armenian soldiers they can see.  It's literally the truth for Armenia's troops that to gather in a group, even in the protection of a slit trench or under other cover, is basically a death sentence.  No matter what they do, they can be seen;  and if sensors can detect them, they can be killed.  There's no longer any place to hide.  Even camouflage won't conceal them from modern sensors that can see through or around it.


There's more at the link, including the embedded video.

Now comes an article in Small Wars Journal titled "What the United States Military Can Learn from the Nagorno-Karabakh War".  The authors make the same point, along with several others.  Here's an excerpt.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.


This latest war lasted 44 days and left Azerbaijan in control of nearly one-third of the territory in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Unlike previous skirmishes and cease-fire violations, the warfare that erupted in September 2020 included post-modern characteristics and multi-domain combat operations. At only six days into the conflict, Azerbaijan already claimed to have destroyed 250 armored vehicles, a similar number of artillery pieces, and 39 air-defense systems, including a Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system. Armenian forces faced a persistent threat of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that could attrite traditional defenses and minimize their overall defensive capability.

. . .

Systems Employed

Azerbaijan leveraged [its] economic windfall to field several different types of UAS in the conflict. Among the deadliest and most effective was the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 which carries four MAM (Smart Micro Munition) laser-guided missiles. The Azeris developed an imposing UAS arsenal composed of Israeli loitering munitions, also known as “suicide” or “kamikaze” drones that included the Harop and SkyStriker. They also deployed a locally-made version of the Israeli Orbiter-1K small kamikaze drone and converted a number of their old Russian AN-2 biplanes into ISR or suicide UAS. By contrast, Armenia’s UAS fleet consisted of smaller, indigenous systems focused on reconnaissance missions and is generally recognized as less capable than Azerbaijan’s fleet of foreign UAS.

Tactics

The armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia highlighted the continued use and effectiveness of unmanned platforms in low-intensity conflict and its ability to transform smaller, less-funded militaries into more lethal warfighting organizations. The use of UAS, particularly by Azerbaijan, included a range of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, as well as unmanned aerial attack operations involving a variety of different platforms and munitions. The resounding success of UAS in the Nagorno-Karabakh War marks what many consider to be a turning point in modern warfare. For the first time in recorded history, nearly all battle damage was inflicted by unmanned platforms. The attrition of forces and equipment by UAS led to a decisive Azeri victory.

Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD)

At the onset of the conflict, Azerbaijan leveraged Soviet-era AN-2 biplanes to deceive and expose Armenian air defenses. Though decades old and intended to serve as traditional manned aircraft, the biplanes’ conversion to unmanned decoys allowed Azerbaijan to conduct low altitude flights into the highly contested environment—and more importantly—into the weapons engagement zone (WEZ) of Armenian air defenses. These improvised UAS were repurposed as decoys and flown to the front lines to force air defenses to give away their location and enable targeting by TB2s. When the Armenian air defenses targeted, engaged, and destroyed the perceived threats, they inadvertently broadcasted their positions to Azeri unmanned aerial attack platforms that flew at higher altitudes—enabling the Bayraktar TB2 and kamikaze drones to destroy higher-payoff targets like the Armenian air defense systems.

These tactics are reminiscent of Vietnam-era “Wild Weasel” or “Hunter-Killer” concepts, where a bait aircraft would fly at low altitude in an attempt to gain enemy contact or draw fire, and a separate trail aircraft maintained enough lateral and/or vertical separation to immediately engage enemy forces that exposed themselves. By leveraging these tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) with an unmanned fleet, Azerbaijan was able to destroy the vast majority of Armenian air and missile defense equipment and establish tactical air superiority with minimal risk to force or mission. It is worth noting that traditional rotary wing assets were not used during these attacks. The high density of ADA systems across the battlefield presented too great a risk for more expensive manned aviation assets.

. . .

In addition to the apparent lack of Armenian counter-UAS (C-UAS) capability, the strikes clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of more advanced air defense systems when faced with an overwhelming UAS threat.

Fire and Maneuver

A number of reports indicate that Azeri special operations teams, also referred to as “saboteur groups” by both Baku and Yerevan, infiltrated Armenian territory and occupied vacant houses days before combat operations began. Ethnic Armenians in the local area verified these reports and highlighted that “strange men, not Armenians” had established a presence in the town. After initial UAS strikes decimated Armenian positions and opened gaps in defensive lines, the small groups of Azeri operators were able to seize key terrain with minimal resistance. With the use of UAS, the Azeri saboteur groups were then able to call-for-fire, directing accurate rocket, artillery, and air-to-ground fire onto designated targets. It is currently unknown whether these saboteur groups leveraged any type of manned-unmanned-teaming platform (i.e., a One System Remote Video Terminal equivalent) to receive live video, identify targets, or conduct battle damage assessments. These tactics demonstrated a variety of similarities to NATO operations in Afghanistan, where U.S. Special Operations Forces use unmanned platforms and laser range finder/designators to direct laser-guided and precision munitions onto targets, or sparkle targets to aid in directing unguided munitions onto target.

In the highly mountainous terrain of Nagorno-Karabakh, where movement by dismounted troops is slow, cumbersome, and restrictive for large military equipment like tanks, UAS serve as an equalizer that limits the advantage provided by elevated terrain and the cover and concealment it offers. The inhospitality of the terrain is amplified when small areas of low ground within the rising terrain provide little vegetation for concealment. Outposts and fighting positions in mountainous terrain can be identified and destroyed by UAS outfitted with modern sensor payloads and organic weapons. This is particularly applicable to fighting positions without appropriate passive defense measures (i.e., camouflaging, target hardening, etc.). When UAS do not have organic munitions and another UAS or manned platform is unable to support a remote engagement, UAS can transmit highly accurate grid coordinates to artillery or multiple launch rocket systems, enabling immediate “fire-for-effect” capability that yields accuracy to within ten meters of the intended point of impact.


There's more at the link, including a useful analysis of lessons learned.

Once again, I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to military tactics, techniques and technology.  Our war in southern Africa was a whole lot less sophisticated (although no less deadly) than the modern battlefield has become.  Effectively, the era of massed troops is over on the high-tech battlefield.  Large numbers of troops have become nothing more than large numbers of targets to an enemy equipped with the latest technology.

The USA has always relied on its technological edge to give it operational superiority over opponents.  The Nagorno-Karabak conflict demonstrates that even a minor power can now buy off-the-shelf systems and weapons that can match US capabilities, and render the result on the battlefield a lot less certain than it used to be.  Imagine if Iraq had had such systems when we invaded there in 2003 . . . we'd have paid a much higher price in blood than we did, even if we eventually won.  Whether or not modern American people would stand for that is questionable.  We've grown a lot softer as a nation since our grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought World War II.

Peter


We may be standing on part of another planet

 

I was a bit mind-boggled to read this article.


Scientists seeking to explain a series of seemingly inexplicable formations deep within the Earth’s surface may have found an explanation: They came from outer space.

Researchers with Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration said in a recently published paper that the “continent-sized Large Low Shear Velocity provinces” identified in Earth’s mantle—essentially giant formations of rock the origins of which scientists have struggled for decades to explain—may have been formed by Theia, the proto-planet thought to have slammed into the ancient Earth billions of years ago. 

The collision between Earth and Theia is hypothesized to have ejected a significant portion of Earth into outer space; those fragments would have eventually coalesced under Earth’s gravity to form the Moon.


There's more at the link.

I'm no geologist, but given the temperatures in and beneath the earth's mantle, I'd assumed that any bits and pieces of another planet would long since have melted and combined with Earth's own planetary material in an unidentifiable slag.  Looks like I was wrong.

The thought that we may be standing (at a few miles' remove, of course) on the remains of another planet, one that formed our Moon out of the ejecta caused by its collision with Earth, is . . . somehow surreal.

Peter


A perfect illustration of why official inflation figures are simply not believable

 

I (and many others) have been saying for years that official inflation statistics are meaningless, bearing little or no resemblance to what you and I see every time we go shopping.  There are many reasons, but one of the contributing factors is that bureaucrats presume that consumers will substitute cheaper goods for more expensive ones if some prices rise.  (This may not always be possible, of course, but they don't care about that.  Their priorities are to portray the economy as their masters wish them to, not as it really is.)  They also use weasel techniques such as "chain pricing" to hide the reality of actual price increases.  According to Wisegeek:


A chain price index is a specific method of measuring changes in prices over time. It does not use a fixed reference point to express each figure as a percentage. Instead each period is expressed as a comparison to the previous period. A chain price index for easier at-a-glance reference and also allows for changes to the method used to calculate the prices.

. . .

Under this system, the price figure for each period is expressed as a percentage of the price figure from the previous period. In the $200/250/320 USD example, the first two year's index figures would remain as 100 and 125 but the third year would now be based on the second year, changing the index to 128. This makes it easy to see that the change from the second to third year is proportionally only very slightly above the change from the first to second year. The name chain price index comes from the fact that each comparison between consecutive periods can be chained together to make a consistent and comparable series of index figures.


There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading if you've never encountered the concept before.  It's how the government pulls the wool over our eyes by not revealing the actual rate of inflation, as we'll see in just a moment.

In particular, a chain price index does not show actual price changes, but only proportional price changes.  It doesn't reflect the amount that comes out of your and my pockets when we buy something, but shows that as a proportion of what we paid the year before, or the decade before.  It's a neat way to hide actual dollars and cents.

Twitter user "Rudy Havenstein" points out (click any image to be taken to the Twitter thread):







The two Federal Reserve graphs shown in miniature above are reproduced below.  Click each one to be taken to its Web page.





That's the reality of "official" inflation figures.  As you and I know full well (from buying them), light truck and other vehicle prices have increased many times more than the Fed's graphs show . . . but they'll claim, with a straight face, that their graphs show reality better than our pocket-books, because they're "more accurately calculated" (or some such bull).

That's how the authorities are deceiving us, and that's why official figures about the economy are simply not trustworthy.




Peter


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Looks like I was right about the housing market

 

Just last week, I wrote an article titled "Is the housing market poised for a massive correction?"  In it, I said:


If there is a wave of forced selling, I expect major investment firms to take advantage of it to increase their property holdings, as happened after the last housing crisis.  That doesn't bode well for private home ownership, as such firms don't want families to own their own homes.  They want families to rent from them instead, giving them a permanent income stream with less risk than investing in stocks and bonds.


It looks like I was spot-on in that forecast.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.


A bidding war broke out this winter at a new subdivision north of Houston. But the prize this time was the entire subdivision, not just a single suburban house, illustrating the rise of big investors as a potent new force in the U.S. housing market ... The country's most prolific home builder booked roughly twice what it typically makes selling houses to the middle class -- an encouraging debut in the business of selling entire neighborhoods to investors.

. . .

From individuals with smartphones and a few thousand dollars to pensions and private-equity firms with billions, yield-chasing investors are snapping up single-family houses to rent out or flip. They are competing for houses with ordinary Americans, who are armed with the cheapest mortgage financing ever, and driving up home prices.

"You now have permanent capital competing with a young couple trying to buy a house," said John Burns, whose eponymous real estate consulting firm estimates that in many of the nation's top markets, roughly one in every five houses sold is bought by someone who never moves in. "That's going to make U.S. housing permanently more expensive," he said.

. . .

"Limited housing supply, low rates, a global reach for yield, and what we're calling the institutionalization of real-estate investors has set the stage for another speculative investor-driven home price bubble," the firm concluded.

The bubble has room to grow before it bursts, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. But it is inflating fast. The firm expects home prices to climb 12% this year -- on top of last year's 11% rise -- and increase at least 6% in 2022, a period of appreciation reminiscent of 2004 and 2005.

. . .

Financiers stepped in starting in 2011 and gobbled up foreclosed homes at steep discounts. They dispatched buyers to courthouse auctions with duffel bags of cash. Smartphones and tablet computers -- new then -- enabled them to orchestrate the land grab and manage tens of thousands of far-flung properties thereafter.

They dominated the market for a few years, accounting for about a third of sales in some markets and setting a floor for falling prices. There wasn't much competition. Stung by losses, banks made it harder for regular home buyers to get a mortgage. Millions of Americans were underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth, and unable to move.

Home-rental firms, including Invitation Homes Inc. and American Homes 4 Rent, thrived. Renting suburban homes proved so profitable that landlords hit the open market and added properties at full price once foreclosures dried up. Many now build houses explicitly to rent.


There's more at the link.

This has very serious implications for anyone buying, selling or renting a home in the foreseeable future.

  • If you're selling your present home with the expectation of buying a replacement, you may not find many houses available to purchase - or, if there are, you might be competing with a company to buy them, one with deeper pockets than yours.  It might be prudent to check the state of the market before selling, so that you don't find yourself forced to rent something expensive because nothing is available (or affordable) to buy.
  • If you're a renter, you may find your landlord is an anonymous big-business conglomerate in another city, not an individual or local company.  That means, if something goes wrong that needs landlord attention, you'll find yourself dependent on a local building manager who may or may not be willing and/or able to help.  After all, he answers to bean-counters and administrators who are more interested in their company's bottom line than your home's comfort and suitability for purpose.
  • Investors - individuals or companies - own things because they expect to make a decent return on them.  When one avenue of investment - e.g. the stock market - offers excessive competition, higher risk and lesser returns, they'll look for other avenues to invest.  Housing has become a hot market in the US as a result.  Once they own properties, investors are unlikely to sell them as long as they can make a decent return on them.  That means the long-term supply of houses on the purchase market will be permanently restricted, because people are not selling them when they move out - they're just returning the keys to the landlord, who'll quickly rent it out to someone else.  Housing turnover will be greatly reduced.


Put all those factors together, and it's a difficult time to be a home buyer.

Peter


Watch out for food price inflation - it may get much worse this year

 

Rabobank has some interesting - and worrying - forecasts about what may happen to world agricultural prices this year.  It's a long, detailed analysis, but it repays the effort needed to read through it and absorb what they predict.  If they're right, we - consumers - are likely to face significant increases in our food costs, both this year and for the foreseeable future.  For those on tight budgets, this is not good news.

Text in italics is my emphasis.


Today’s elevated [food] price trajectories shows nobody had the foresight, fortitude or financial power to stockpile in the years of plenty, but there are many more factors at play. Rabobank’s recent report already covered the key drivers of the agri bull market. We will quickly reprise them as follows:

#1 Seven years of plenty ironically leave global agri commodity stocks low. Before the recent run-up, the S&P GS Agri Commodities Market Index had fallen over the last seven years as the price shock of 2010-12 incentivized diversified supplies and a shift from high cost to low cost producers/exporters. This was good news for importers, but bad for the high-cost US, who saw its stocks steadily increase through 2019. The US-China trade war and Covid-19 also saw US farmers adjust acreage lower in response.

When demand then surged in mid-2020, higher cost exporters, especially the US, sold both their production and stores. In short, the US --the global food reserve bank-- has seen its grain and oilseed stockpiles slip nearly 30% y/y (see Figure 3), primarily in corn and soybeans. Moreover, we forecast only a slight increase in 2021 as our base case.

#2 China is driving demand. It is aggressively bidding for supplies to fill shortfalls and pad inventories (see Figure 4). Convalescence from dual pandemics --African Swine Fever and Covid-19-- has led to a surge in agri import demand, and hence global prices. The most remarkable increases have been in feed grain, the energy source for animal protein and ethanol: China’s imports of these have risen almost three-fold in a year to address a structural supply gap that cannot be addressed by domestic production. Indeed, China is so stretched for feed it is resorting to using old domestic wheat reserves for livestock -- 35m metric tonnes this year alone, equivalent to Canada’s production-- in addition to vegetable oil, and even pig lard.

China’s moves are singlehandedly testing supply chains to their limits. The saving grace for global markets has been that world demand across many of China’s favoured imports was absent or squeezed until now; when it returns, global supplies could be stretched further.

#3 Supplies are on a tight-rope. Coming months will see a scramble by farmers to plant and harvest. With many products facing scarcity, competition for limited arable land will limit the potential resupply. The US, for example, can only increase its summer plantings by about 5%; any production on top needs to come from yield improvement.

#4 Everything depends on the weather, where key exporters face an uphill battle. Large swathes of South America are too dry or too wet; meanwhile, much of the spring planting area in the US faces significant dryness.

#5 There is a heightened risk of protectionist policies. Many critical agri exporters are already putting up tariffs or export quotas, threatening free trade and curtailing local farm prices and domestic production to keep prices affordable. Rather than fulfilling their critical global role, such exporters are increasingly insulating themselves from global markets: Russia, the world’s largest exporter of wheat, has implemented grain export taxes; Ukraine export quotas; and Argentina, the largest exporter of protein feed, has dabbled in export quotas too.

#6 Logistics are tight. If a rising tide lifts all boats, a lack of boats lifts prices. ASF, Covid, and weather events all drive demand shifts that suppliers have been unable to anticipate or react to easily. Freight prices have jumped to a record for containers: bulk (measured by the Baltic Dry Index) has also seen large increase, and this has delayed and displaced shipments: naturally, these higher prices fall heavily on importers.

#7 Speculators. Wall Street funds already hold in-the-money positions in soy and corn – by far their largest net long position. Financial market investors currently hold contracts of grains, oilseeds and livestock worth almost 50bn USD net length or 35% of the value of all US agricultural exports in 2020. (see Figure 5.)

. . .

In short, global supply chains appear bereft of the underlying geopolitical stability assured until recently ... A further ‘political’ catalyst is biofuels, beneficial for farmers and the environment, but which exacerbate agri commodity supply stresses by shifting production from food towards renewable energies made from agri commodities: namely biodiesel and ethanol ... In short, in the short term -- where politics happens -- the Green transition could mean higher food prices.

. . .

China is the single biggest swing factor besides weather/production. It has the potential to disrupt global agri balance sheets for years to come ... China is expected to import 35-45 million metric tonnes of feed grains per year for the coming years - much more if rosy production expectations are unfulfilled. If China’s domestic output disappoints, it would exacerbate a structural deficit requiring yet higher imports of grains and oilseeds --by as much as 15m metric tonnes-- and raise global prices of corn and soy by additional 30%.

. . .

In short, if we were to see bad weather; and protectionism/sustainability-related regulations; and further heavy buying from China; and a surge in Wall Street speculation then it is hard to say just how high prices could reach before demand destruction kicked in.


There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading for all who follow commodity markets, and everyone involved in food production and processing.

The trouble is, official inflation figures don't fully take into account any potential increase in food prices.  They assume that if one food becomes too expensive, consumers will substitute another, cheaper food for it, and that therefore their food bills overall won't be too badly affected.  However, what happens when all foods become more expensive?  Suddenly there's no more "wiggle room".  Suddenly one's budget takes severe strain, and one's overall cost of living goes up substantially - but that still won't be reflected in official government statistics, because the bureaucrats who calculate them go by their artificial price theories, not by reality on the street.

That means cost-of-living increases in entitlements, welfare, etc. (which are based on the official rate of inflation) simply won't keep pace with food costs.  In turn, that offers the potential for increased social unrest as people struggle to cope.  It also makes a direct and immediate contribution to the crime rate, as poorer people turn to shoplifting and other crimes to make ends meet.  That, in turn, can lead to food vendors and suppliers abandoning the areas in which crime increases, because it costs them too much money to be there;  and that's one way we get the infamous "food deserts", often ascribed to racism, but in reality an economic necessity for vendors.

The advent of the Biden administration is also bad news for food prices, thanks to its support for the so-called "Green New Deal".  Among other things, this de-emphasizes domestic oil production in favor of the use of fuel additives such as ethanol, made from corn.  That means farmers will sell their corn - and plant more in order to sell more - for the higher prices offered by fuel processors, rather than the lower prices obtainable from food suppliers.  Hey presto!  There's less corn for us to eat, and to feed to cattle so that we have meat to eat, and to export to others who need to eat.  (That's one reason why eco-nazis keep demanding that we eat less meat.  It means more corn and feed will be available to make "green" fuels.)

So, you see, food prices aren't just a matter affecting your wallet.  They have dramatic ripple effects across the society in which we live.  That's why it's worthwhile to keep an eye on national and international trends in food supply.  What shows up on the "macro", big-picture level is bound to affect our "micro", local level in due course.

Peter


Caution - evil genius at work!

 

Oh, the fun we could have with this suggestion . . .


AntiFa patches and black bloc merch can be found online at Etsy...

and Amazon of all places...

Couple of bux, and a set of all black BDUs and voila!  Instant Blac-Bloc.

They do False Flags.

We can too.

Jes' Sayin'.


Now there's an idea . . . one that's clearly occurred to some of the reviewers on Amazon, too.





However, I suggest we don't try such tactics in Texas.  Cops here have a somewhat spirited response to Antifa and their ilk, unlike more politically correct authorities in some blue states.  On the other hand, we can enjoy the view while they deal with them . . .


Peter