Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I bet that got dust up his intakes . . .

An Algerian Mig-29 made an extraordinarily low pass over Mecheria airfield a few days ago.  If he'd towed a lawnmower behind him, I reckon he'd have got a full bag of grass cuttings in no time at all . . .

The heavy smoke from the engines is a hallmark of the Mig-29, just as it was for the F-4 Phantom II. The later development of the MiG-29, the MiG-35, is better in that respect, but the smoke is still visible.


Crime, reform, and partisan politics

It looks like the administration in Seattle is doing a terrible job of controlling crime in that city.  Two reports by local business associations highlight the problems they're facing as a result. I'm obliged to the good people at Bearing Arms for putting together this summary of the situation. I'll quote it at length, because it deserves attention - and it's symptomatic of the situation in so many of our larger cities at present.

In fact, in Seattle, crimes like rape, homicide, and aggravated assaults are the highest recorded in over a decade ... A new report commissioned by business associations in Seattle reveals that the criminal justice system is suffering from a systemic failure that’s leading to tens of thousands of wasted hours by law enforcement and a city attorney’s office that is dismissing a staggering number of cases. The report is called “System Failure 2: Declines, Delays, and Dismissals”, and builds off of an earlier report issued in February of this year that documented the staggering number of criminal cases stemming from the actions of just a few prolific offenders. As the new report claims, one of the reasons why some of these offenders are so prolific is that they so infrequently face any real consequences.

In 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available), the City Attorney’s Office filed only 54 percent of all non-traffic criminal cases referred by police. According to data from the City Attorney’s Office, the rate at which misdemeanor prosecutors declined cases increased dramatically over the past decade from 17 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2017. Most of that change is driven by the City Attorney’s Office not filing 65 percent of out-of-custody cases (when the suspect is not in jail) that Seattle police refer for prosecution.

Almost half of all misdemeanor charges are dismissed outright by the City Attorney’s office? Why should the police bother to make an arrest if half the time the City Attorney’s office isn’t even going to bother to prosecute? As the report notes, this means that literally tens of thousands of hours of on-the-clock policing is taken up by engaging in an utterly futile exercise.

... data from Seattle’s misdemeanor criminal justice system shows that there is a significant disconnect between the City Attorney and other criminal justice system actors on how Seattle’s laws should be enforced. The result is that Seattle police churn thousands of misdemeanor case referrals every year, only to see them declined, delayed or dismissed. Prolific offenders know they are unlikely to be held accountable, even when arrested. Police know that most of their hard work is discarded. And repeat victims understand that there is little relief in sight for the daily grind of crime.

The report also notes something very important; as residents and business owners become aware that nothing of consequence will happen if they report a crime, they stop reporting crimes. That means that Seattle’s crime problem may be even worse than the official statistics suggest, as KOMO-TV recently reported.

The case of Seattle’s Uwajimaya on 5th Avenue South is a representative example of what is, and isn’t happening within a broken system.

In 2018 the supermarket stopped reporting any theft cases, that’s in spite of the fact that they continue to be decimated by theft.

“I would say thousands a week, tens of thousands every month, every few months,” said Uwajimaya CEO, Denise Moriguchi.

. . .

From January to September of 2018, before they stopped reporting, Uwajimaya reported 261 theft cases. These are cases in which they actually caught the shoplifter red-handed or had video of the theft.

Of those 261 cases, 166 of them, 63%, were held by the Seattle Police Department. In other words, nothing happened.

The reason the cases were held, the amount that was stolen didn’t reach the $25 threshold set by the city attorney’s office. They weren’t worth dealing with.

Of the remaining 95 cases referred to the city attorney’s office, 44 of them were declined. Or, simply never filed. So nothing happened.

Another 28 cases are pending with bench warrants outstanding. In other words, nothing happened.

It’s not just non-violent crimes like shoplifting. The report found that it’s taking the City Attorney’s office almost seven months, on average, to file charges in assault cases, and in the meantime many of these suspects will be arrested again on similar charges.

There's more at the link.

The scary thing is, many larger cities are now following the same policies, resulting in the same law enforcement failures.  To cite only a few examples (click the links for more information):
And therein lies the problem.  If, as the Seattle report suggests, the number of crimes being reported has dropped because victims have no confidence that the judicial system will solve them or protect the victims of crime, that does not mean that the actual crime rate has dropped.  It's simply being under-reported.

We should also understand that these measures are part of a deliberate effort to change the US justice system at the local level, after attempts to do so at federal and state government level had largely failed.  Progressive, left-wing money is funding the election campaigns of many of these DA's, and their policies reflect that.  This isn't so much a new judicial approach as a partisan political perspective on society as a whole, and an attempt to re-shape that society in accordance with the views of the sponsors of these elected officials.

That's scary . . . and because so few voters pay much attention to local politics, it appears to be succeeding.  It may also be an attempt to undermine the influence of more traditional/conservative judges.  If a case never reaches their court, they can't rule on it, can they?


Doofus Of The Day #1,056

Today's award goes to the member of Congressional representative Brian Mast's staff who posted this tribute on Twitter to the US Navy.  (I presume it wasn't composed by Mr. Mast himself - he's a combat veteran, and, given that background, hopefully knows enough about the navies of world powers not to make this mistake.  Even so, it went out under his name, so he owns it.)

Sadly, the tribute was misplaced.  That picture shows the Russian battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy, not a US Navy ship.  The original tweet has since been corrected, and now shows a US Navy carrier task force.  Still, it was fun while it lasted, and attracted more than a few negative remarks from other denizens of Twitter.  I daresay some hapless communications intern or assistant has since received counseling as to his or her choice of images!


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Flying through the water - literally

Here's a fascinating video taken earlier this month of thousands of Mobula rays in the sea off Baja California.  They look like birds flying, but they're swimming, using a flying motion.

You can read more about the event here.  I'd love to see that in the flesh.


Propaganda versus fact

As an exercise in judging the torrent of political propaganda that's spewed at us from all sides in these tenuously United States, here are two articles covering the same subject;  President Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from the area of Syria near the Turkish border, to avoid getting involved in a shooting war with the Turks over the Kurds.  (We've spoken of his decision before, here and here.  Basically, I think it was correct.)  They offer very different perspectives.

The New York Times thinks the President got it disastrously wrong, and has endangered US prestige, policies and security as a result.

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the generous description of a senior American diplomat — probably will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

. . .

Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on Washington and signing up with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a man the United States has called a war criminal for gassing his own people ... And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials. Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages.

There's more at the link.

It's worth noting that the NYT classifies its own article as "News Analysis" rather than a news report.  An analysis can bring in extraneous opinion, and isn't limited to the facts - something useful to propagandists, who know that readers may not find it easy - or may not even bother - to distinguish between the two categories.

Also, I find it curious that the NYT article mentions the nuclear weapons based in Turkey.  They're assigned to NATO, so to a certain extent, the US can't act independently in moving them;  we have to consult with our treaty partners.  They've been a question-mark in NATO's relationship with Turkey for some time, but so far no-one has suggested that they're a political trump card (you should pardon the expression) for either side.  I don't think they are.  It's too easy to disable them by removing key components;  in fact, I'll be very surprised if they're stored in a ready-for-use configuration.  I'm willing to bet some critical components have been removed, and may already be out of the country.  What's more, there's nothing about those weapons that is new or top-secret.  They're all decades-old designs, well-known to friend and foe alike.  I think that the NYT mentioning them is nothing more or less than a red herring, designed to provoke a knee-jerk reaction to President Trump's policies from the anti-nuclear-weapons crowd.

Be that as it may, The Last Refuge, generally a pro-Trump source, has a very different perspective on his policies toward Turkey.

President Trump has played this out perfectly.  By isolating Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and effectively leaving him naked to an alliance of his enemies, Erdogan is now urgently asking for the U.S. to mediate peace negotiations with Kurdish forces.

This request happens immediately after President Trump signed an executive order [See Here] triggering the sanction authority of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  Erdogan called the White House requesting an urgent phone call with President Trump.

After President Trump talked to Kurdish General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, President Trump then discussed the options available to President Erdogan.  As a result of that conversation, Erdogan requested the U.S. mediate negotiations.  Vice-President Mike Pence announces he will be traveling to the region with National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to lead that effort.

Again, more at the link.

Who to believe?  Who's got it right?  Who's telling the truth about President Trump's policies in Syria and towards the Kurds, and who's lying?

The answer is, of course, that neither article has it completely correct.  A great deal of the information coming out of the Middle East is suspect, heavily influenced by partisan perspectives there and here.  However, there are three important elements to watch for when trying to determine what's propaganda, and what's fact.

  1. What's the pattern?  Has a source been consistently reliable, accurate and truthful in its reporting about a person or subject, or has its coverage been generally biased and one-sided?  If the latter, its trustworthiness takes a knock.
  2. Does the source's reporting match what's happening on the ground?  This can be difficult to determine in real time, so it may be necessary to look at past reports and analyze whether they matched the facts as they emerged.  Again, if a pattern of accurate reporting takes shape, that's good.  If it doesn't, that's bad.  In general, one should suspend judgment until the facts are clear.  In this case, the facts on the ground are murky, to say the least, and are not helped in the least by deliberately false reports in local and international news media.  (ABC News, take a bow.  If that report was "mistaken" or "inaccurate", I'll eat my hat.  No, it was deliberate propaganda, and you were caught red-handed.  You even edited out from the video people holding cellphones, so it would look more realistic!  You deserve the egg on your face.)
  3. Is the language objective, or subjective?  Is the way in which the incident(s) and/or person(s) is/are described factual, unbiased and neutral, or is it designed to evoke a particular emotion, attitude or reaction?  What descriptive words and phrases are used, and what is the author's and/or editor's intention in using them?  That, in itself, tells us a lot.

Obviously, in the two examples above, both have elements of propaganda in them.  However, when analyzed according to the three principles above, it's clear that one is more propaganda than reporting, while the other is more factual.  There's also a consistent pattern of that in both outlets' reporting, where one prefers to offer opinions without specific references to prove them, while the other backs up its opinions with references whenever possible.  I don't fully trust either outlet, but I certainly trust one more than the other, based upon that evidence.  Nevertheless, I'll double-check both, just to be sure.

We simply can't trust the mainstream media, and much of the alternative media, to be completely honest and trustworthy any longer.  It's up to us to be far more discerning in accepting the "news" and "facts" with which we're bombarded, and reserve judgment until we have enough of a factual foundation to make one.

(BTW, for another, somewhat contrarian perspective on what's going on in Syria and the results of the US withdrawal, see here.  It's interesting - and again proves my point about judging carefully.)


Blogorado 2019, Day 5

Yesterday (Monday) saw the end of our gathering for this year.  Some folks had to leave on Sunday, due to work commitments, but the rest of us gathered for a final breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference before heading out in all directions.  I tackled their Western Omelet, which was as delicious as everything else on their menu.  Their breakfasts are a highlight of our get-togethers, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone complain about their quantity or quality.

Miss D. and I headed south to Amarillo, where we met up with Alma Boykin and Old NFO for lunch.  As always, it was a pleasure to see Alma again.  She's good people.  After the meal, we continued south, through heavier traffic than we're used to on US Highway 287;  perhaps the Columbus Day long weekend had proved more popular than usual for a last pre-winter vacation.

We were followed southward by Ambulance Driver, who stayed at Blogorado for a few hours longer to get in some more testing on a firearm he's reviewing.  He's now on his way home to Louisiana, and occupying our guest room for the night.  The cats are overjoyed to have us home again, but not sure about this stranger who arrived shortly after we did.  One can almost see their minds working - are we planning to go away again, leaving them at the mercy of yet another temporary daddy or mommy?  They'll get over it.

Normal blogging will resume today.  Thanks for your patience while I was on the road.  It was good to see old friends and recharge my batteries.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 4

Another fine, sunny day, with temperatures in the 70's, much nicer than when we arrived!  We gathered for our usual breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference.  (To explain its name:  the restaurant isn't actually called that, of course, but has a cow-related name.  Early in our Blogorado history, someone remarked that it was like an obligatory cow reference in a town that was, after all, founded towards the end of the great cattle drive period of Old West history.  The name stuck.)  I treated myself to their breakfast tacos and a short stack of flapjacks, which I couldn't finish - they were very large flapjacks indeed!

One of the reasons I like coming to Blogorado is that one is surrounded by bloggers of every ilk, most with a shared interest in firearms.  It's a great place to share views, exchange ideas, help with publicity for each other's books, and so on.  I found that again yesterday, when I was struck by an idea for a new Walt Ames western novel.  I've already got the next three plotted out in some detail, but this idea will probably change the next two, one in minor ways, the other very much.  I'll noodle on it over the next few months.  Anyway, the idea was sufficiently interesting for me to leave the others to have fun on the shooting range, while I headed back to the hotel to make notes for future reference.

Much fun was had bringing down the ramshackle old barn before which the happy couple had exchanged vows yesterday.  It's been derelict and falling down for years, and FarmDad decided that since he had all these muscular strong geriatric old men around, we might as well help him get rid of it.  A chain was duly wrapped around a couple of uprights and fastened to a pickup truck, which slowly reversed until they snapped.  It took several tries to remove enough supports, but eventually the old barn collapsed sideways with lots of creaking and groaning.  FarmDad will set fire to the remains as soon as there's been enough rain and/or snow to make it safe to burn, without creating a larger fire hazard.

Yesterday evening was our last supper together for a while.  Jeff made a very tasty chili, while a local lady produced three large pans of oven-baked enchiladas.  We stuffed ourselves, as usual.  Miss D. and I are afraid of what our bathroom scale will reveal when we weigh ourselves back home.  If we've put on less than five pounds apiece, I'll be very surprised!

This morning (Monday) we'll gather for a final breakfast, then go our separate ways.  Miss D. and I hope to be home by late afternoon.  Regular blogging should resume tomorrow.  Please say a prayer for us for safe travels.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 3

We kicked off Saturday, as usual, with breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference.  I renewed my acquaintance with their chicken-fried steak, topped with a generous helping of their spicy chili verde.  Accompanied by cottage fries and a couple of eggs, it was delicious.

We headed out to the farm, where a couple of hours was spent preparing for the wedding celebration that afternoon.  Two of our long-term associates have decided to tie the knot, using another of our members to officiate.  FarmDad has welded together an entrance arch for the bride out of wheels from antique farm implements (which are apparently worth quite a lot of money to collectors, but he refuses to sell them, because he has "projects" in mind).  That done, the group headed to the shooting range, where much fun was had by all concerned.

The wedding took place in late afternoon, and was lovely.  The bride and groom are of the less conventional sort, so they made up their own wedding vows, which were original, moving, and sometimes very entertaining.  The ceremony over, lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we adjourned to the barn, where the grills were fired up.  Every year we all contribute to buy an entire cow, which is traditionally named "Sir Loin".  T-bone steaks of enormous size were duly grilled, while FarmMom deployed pans of her famous garlic mashed potatoes.  We struggled to eat our way through the food, but we're a motivated bunch, so we eventually triumphed.

One of the fascinating things about belonging to such an eclectic group is the number of conversations on various and sundry topics that can be overheard by just wandering around.  Yesterday evening, as an example, there was a discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of a particular firearm;  the raising and breeding of cattle;  prospects for farmers in this part of the world after a pretty miserable growing season and a very poor harvest;  the political situation in the USA;  the trials and tribulations of emergency medical responders and fire departments (complete with "it happened to me!" real-life stories, some hair-raising, others funny);  and a conversation about books and copyright law, and dealing with plagiarism.

We were both pretty tired, so we left mid-evening to return to our hotel room and get to bed.  Tomorrow should be more of the same, God willing.

Some thought-provoking reading for you, gleaned from surfing the Web in the small hours of the morning when my back would let me sleep no longer:


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 2

The cold snap left very cold temperatures in its wake.  When I got up yesterday (Friday) morning, the thermometer read a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit!  Needless to say, with that sort of cold, nobody did anything too strenuous on Friday.  We waited for the warmth to return.  We spent the day at the FarmFamily residence, eating, drinking and batting the breeze.

Two of our number are getting married at this year's Blogorado.  Farmdad has assembled a triumphal arch for them, with the aid of a number of old steel wagon wheels and his trusty welding torch.  It was moved into place next to an old, tumbledown barn yesterday, and other preparations were made.  Later this afternoon the Big Moment will be celebrated by all of us.  Farmdad's also laid in a few antique weapons (a double-barreled shotgun, a Winchester rifle, and a Springfield rifle, all 19th-century) to serve as props;  and he has a white-painted Mossberg shotgun, so we can officially designate it as the "wedding shotgun" for a shotgun wedding!

The abundance of German food we provided was devoured with gusto yesterday evening.  It was the right meal for a chilly evening;  German sausage, potato salad and sauerkraut have a very warming effect.  We'll have to do that again, one of these years.

Today's going to be warmer, so after our usual communal breakfast at the local hostelry known, by Blogorado tradition, as the Obligatory Cow Reference, we're going to head out to the shooting range on Farmdad's property and convert a large number of dollars into spent brass, loud noises and muzzle smoke.  It should be a lot of fun.