Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quote of the day

From The Gunslinger:

For those who haven't heard, Washington State just passed both laws - gay marriage and legalized marijuana.

The fact that gay marriage and marijuana were legalized on the same day makes perfect biblical sense because Leviticus 20:13 says, "If a man lies with another man they should be stoned."

We just hadn't interpreted it correctly before!

I imagine untold numbers of fundamentalist preachers across the Bible Belt just had simultaneous, massive heart attacks over that interpretation of Scripture . . .


Watching seven men die . . .

A National Airlines Boeing 747-400 cargo aircraft crashed on takeoff from Bagram airfield in Afghanistan yesterday.  All seven souls on board were killed.  It's reported by some sources, but not yet confirmed, that the crew radioed that the cargo had shifted aft, making the aircraft tail-heavy and uncontrollable.  This video, shot by a passing vehicle, appears to lend credence to that, in the form of aircraft attitude and control response.  (Thanks to reader M. J. for sending me the link.)

Say a prayer for those on board as you watch this.  You're watching them die.

May their sins be forgiven them, and their souls rest in peace.


Perhaps we should import her?

I can't help but goggle at the famous nude portrait of Alejandra Benitez, the Olympic fencer who's just become Venezuela's new Sports Minister.  (In order to keep this blog family-friendly, I've cropped the smaller image below.  For a larger one, uncropped, click here.)

Being a Venezuelan cabinet minister, we already know she's a left-wing politician:  but that simply means she'd fit into the Obama administration without major ideological difficulties.  With looks like that, don't you think we'd prefer seeing her there, compared to some of the women already in it?  (I won't name names, but you can check out candidates for yourself here.)  Come to that, I'd prefer her looks to those of any of the men in the Administration!

Talk about the cut and thrust of politics . . .


So much for Internet security!

It seems that Internet security often isn't.  MIT's Technology Review reports:

You probably haven’t heard of HD Moore, but up to a few weeks ago every Internet device in the world, perhaps including some in your own home, was contacted roughly three times a day by a stack of computers that sit overheating his spare room. “I have a lot of cooling equipment to make sure my house doesn’t catch on fire,” says Moore, who leads research at computer security company Rapid7. In February last year he decided to carry out a personal census of every device on the Internet as a hobby. “This is not my day job; it’s what I do for fun,” he says.

Moore has now put that fun on hold. “[It] drew quite a lot of complaints, hate mail, and calls from law enforcement,” he says. But the data collected has revealed some serious security problems, and exposed some vulnerable business and industrial systems of a kind used to control everything from traffic lights to power infrastructure.

. . .

Over 114,000 of those control connections were logged as being on the Internet with known security flaws. Many could be accessed using default passwords and 13,000 offered direct access through a command prompt without a password at all.

Those vulnerable accounts offer attackers significant opportunities, says Moore, including rebooting company servers and IT systems, accessing medical device logs and customer data, and even gaining access to industrial control systems at factories or power infrastructure.

. . .

Moore believes the security industry is overlooking some rather serious, and basic, security problems by focusing mostly on the computers used by company employees. “It became obvious to me that we’ve got some much bigger issues,” says Moore. “There [are] some fundamental problems with how we use the Internet today.” He wants to get more people working to patch up the backdoors that are putting companies at risk.

There's more at the link.

It's almost unbelievable to think that so many of the control mechanisms for networks society takes for granted - including power grids, water circulation, sewage disposal, railway control units, traffic control centers, and so on - use completely unsecured systems that anyone can access in this way.  Why terrorists haven't yet taken advantage of so elementary an error, I really don't know . . . but I'm profoundly grateful!

I think this might be a very good 'litmus test' to assess those in charge of our security establishment.  Never mind their (usually self-proclaimed) 'successes' in combating terrorism, or seizing drugs, or what have you - what have they done, and what are they doing, to secure the basic infrastructure on which our society depends?  If the answer's not satisfactory, then neither are they - and they should be replaced, at once if not sooner.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Israel bombing Syrian chemical weapons plants?

And if so, is it doing so with the permission and encouragement of allies both old and new, both familiar and very strange indeed?  There seems to be a whole lot of smoke and mirrors at work in the Middle East right now.  Consider:

I can't help wondering whether, in the convoluted maze of Middle Eastern politics, alliances and skullduggery, Israel isn't effectively acting as Washington's 'point man' by intervening in Syria.  It's very much to Israel's advantage to neutralize stocks of chemical weapons in that country, which might otherwise be used against it;  and to do so is entirely in keeping with its previous actions in this conflict.  Furthermore, it's even to President Assad's advantage to see his own stocks of chemical weapons destroyed, rather than allow them to fall into the hands of his internal enemies.  It might just be that there's collusion at the moment between some very strange bedfellows indeed . . .

Makes you think, doesn't it?


What an amazing photograph!

This extraordinary photograph comes from the Telegraph's latest 'Pictures of the Day' gallery.  It shows a whale shark rising vertically, mouth wide open, to engulf a net full of fish next to a small fishing boat in Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia.  I've reduced the image size to fit this blog - see the original at the link for a larger view.

I've never seen a whale shark from that perspective.  It's got a honking great mouth, hasn't it?  It's comforting to see the absence of teeth - whale sharks feed on plankton, krill and small fish, and are no threat to humans.

There are many more pictures at the link.  Recommended viewing.


21 years ago today, Los Angeles burned

Twenty-one years ago today, the verdict in the Rodney King case sparked six days of murder, mayhem, rioting and looting in Los Angeles.  53 people died and over 2,000 were injured.  Property damage ran into the billions of dollars.

At first the police went into self-protection mode, refusing to enter the most risky areas.  Residents of those zones were left to their own devices.  Hundreds, if not thousands, who were unable to protect themselves or their property became victims.

Others, better prepared and equipped, did not.  As the Los Angeles Times reported:

In the shadow of a flaming mini-mall near the corner of 5th and Western, behind a barricade of luxury sedans and battered grocery trucks, they built Firebase Koreatown.

Richard Rhee, owner of the supermarket on the corner, had watched as roving bands of looters ransacked and burned Korean-owned businesses on virtually every block.

But here, it would be different.

"Burn this down after 33 years?" asked Rhee, a survivor of the Korean War, the Watts riots and three decades of business in Los Angeles. "They don't know how hard I've worked. This is my market and I'm going to protect it."

From the rooftop of his supermarket, a group of Koreans armed with shotguns and automatic weapons peered onto the smoky streets. Scores of others, carrying steel pipes, pistols and automatic rifles, paced through the darkened parking lot in anticipation of an assault by looters.

"It's just like war," Rhee said, surveying his makeshift command. "I'll shoot and worry about the law later."

From tiny liquor stores in South-Central Los Angeles to the upscale boutiques in Mid-Wilshire, Korean store owners have turned their pastel-colored mini-malls into fortresses against the looter's tide.

. . .

Korean shop owners and their supporters have lashed out at police, saying they have begged for protection from vandals, who have left a swath of Koreatown in ashes. Now, many have decided to fight for themselves.

"Where are the police? Where are the soldiers?" asked John Chu, who was vacationing in Los Angeles when the riots broke out and rushed to help Rhee defend the California Market. "We are not going to lose again. We have no choice but to defend ourselves."

. . .

Jay Rhee estimated that he and others fired 500 shots into the ground and air. "We have lost our faith in the police," he said. "Where were you when we needed you."

There's more at the link.  Furthermore, if you believe all those 500 shots went 'into the ground and air', I have a bridge in New York City to sell you - the casualties among rioters and looters in that area were reportedly heavy.  Here are the Koreans at work.

Today, with the rise (and rise, and rise) of the FSA, the 'entitlement mentality' is even worse in inner-city areas throughout the nation than it was twenty-one years ago.  If benefit payments are cut, or the government runs out of money, or some grievance arises that's similar in its impact to the Rodney King case, expect to see the Los Angeles riots repeated, both there and in other cities.  Now as then, if you aren't prepared and equipped to defend yourself, your loved ones and your property, you're going to be neck-deep in the proverbial brown substance.

This is one reason why those on the left are so adamant that 'civilians' (meaning ordinary citizens and legal residents like those Koreans) should not have access to what they call 'assault weapons'.  The simple fact is that military-style rifles are far better suited to 'repelling boarders' in a civil unrest or riot situation than are sporting rifles.  Riot shotguns are easier to manipulate (particularly in confined spaces) and carry more ammunition than sporting versions.  Standard-capacity handgun magazines allow one to carry a larger number of rounds in one's gun, ready for use, than one could in the neutered, reduced-capacity magazines that gun-grabbers want to foist upon us.  If they succeed in their misguided efforts to remove all such weapons from our hands, they'll render us helpless in the face of mobs like these.  It's up to us, the law-abiding gun-owners of America, to frustrate their efforts . . . and to put a stop to the next Los Angeles-type riots, if necessary.

Be prepared.  That's the lesson of Los Angeles in 1992.  Far too few have heeded it.


Teh cuteness!

It's irresistible!  From Holland, here are two ragdoll kittens loving on a visiting man.

All together, now:  Awwwww!!!


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tank combat in World War II: a different view

I recently came across a two-part BBC documentary about five men of the Fifth Royal Tank Regiment during World War II.  The unit saw action during the fall of France, fought through the Western Desert campaign, then came back to Britain in time to take part in the Normandy invasion and battle its way across Europe to Germany and final victory.

This is something different for American viewers.  British tanks were generally inferior to those of both its allies and its enemies during the Second World War, only Japan's being worse.  British tactics were also abysmally poor during the early years of the war.  They literally 'learned the hard way', by having several of their tank formations smashed by German forces.  Once they'd learned better tactics, and received (marginally) better equipment - British Churchill and Cromwell tanks, and US Shermans - their performance improved.  You'll see the last-mentioned three tanks in action in this documentary, as well as several of their predecessors.

These two episodes are a very interesting look at an 'underdog' combat arm, one that paid its dues in blood to learn its trade.  It rose to competence, but never to greatness.  I've embedded both of them below.  Each is almost an hour in length, so plan on watching them when you have time to spare.  I recommend watching them in full-screen mode.

All in all, a very interesting look at some long-ignored aspects of armored conflict in World War II.

(Historical note:  By the end of the war, British tank design had 'caught up' with the rest of the world, producing the Comet medium tank [approximately equal in capability to the Soviet T-34 or later versions of the German Panzer Mk. IV].  It saw service during the closing days of the conflict, and was followed by the world-famous Centurion, which went on to become one of the world's workhorses during the third quarter of last century.  I served alongside updated versions of them in southern Africa during the 1980's - not inside them, please note:  I was too big to be comfortable in a tank!)



Received via e-mail, origin unknown:


Doofus Of The Day #698

Courtesy of links provided by multiple correspondents, today's winner comes from Florida.

A sworn complaint was filed against William Daniel Lloyd, 31, for discharging a firearm in public and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, Officer Ben Tobias stated in a press item.

Officer Diana Mattern responded to a medical emergency call at 600 SE 12th Terrace and learned that Lloyd had taped the cartridge to the end of a BB gun to shoot a squirrel, Tobias said.

Lloyd fired the BB gun, causing the BB to strike the cartridge’s primer. The cartridge discharged and fragmented, striking Lloyd in the upper arm and lower leg.

He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the hapless felon.

Clearly, Mr. Lloyd had never bothered to do a little research on what happens when a cartridge is ignited outside the chamber of a weapon.  He doesn't need to do it now . . . he found out the hard way!


Will the banksters finally be brought to justice?

I wouldn't bet on it . . . but that won't be because Matt Taibbi hasn't done his best to bring it about.  In a hard-hitting article for Rolling Stone, he exposes what he calls 'The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever'.  Here's an excerpt.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets."

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world's largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

. . .

Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

. . .

All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation's GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it's increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system.

If true, that would leave us living in an era of undisguised, real-world conspiracy, in which the prices of currencies, commodities like gold and silver, even interest rates and the value of money itself, can be and may already have been dictated from above. And those who are doing it can get away with it. Forget the Illuminati – this is the real thing, and it's no secret. You can stare right at it, anytime you want.

There's much more at the link.  Essential reading for insight into the banking crisis of 2007/08 and what brought it to pass.

Here's something to think about.  This isn't Mr. Taibbi's first, or even his second, exposĂ© of corruption in financial circles:  but the coverage of all of them in the mainstream media (excluding specialty financial and investment publications) has amounted to a deafening silence.  Why is that, do you think?  Might it have anything to do with the banksters buying the silence of the media, either with money or with threats?  You tell me . . .

It also occurs to me that if the ill-gotten gains of the banksters were to be forcibly retrieved by governments, the sums involved would probably be enough to substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the national debt that currently burdens many nations.  That won't happen, of course, because the banksters are in bed with the politicians.  Each side covers for the other, and each enriches itself at the expense of the taxpayer.  It's a vicious, utterly immoral circle.  It's long gone time it was broken . . . but the political parties on either side of the aisle, in this or any other country, are all involved.  None of them have clean hands, and none of them wants to interrupt the flow of all that lovely bankster money into their joint and several coffers.

Personally, I'd say it's time to break out the tar, feathers and rope.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Long day

It's been a long day, and I'm very tired.  I've been working on the issues surrounding getting my book ready for publication, and there are plenty of them - cover art, formatting, questions about ISBN's, and so on.  To make matters worse, we're under a flash flood warning here, and the rain is bucketing down.  As always, my fused spine and damaged sciatic nerve are an infallible barometer, so they're really not happy right now - and when they're not happy, I'm not happy.

As a result, there's not much blog fodder tonight.  To keep you amused until I post more tomorrow, here's a performance of 'MacPherson's Rant' by Scottish folk group Old Blind Dogs.  (Lyrics are here, if you find the Scottish accent hard to understand.)  Love the jam session from about 3m. 47sec. onwards!

I always enjoy music more when the musicians themselves are clearly having a lot of fun playing it.

Check back for more blog fodder tomorrow morning.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Shooting in days of yore

("Days of yore?"  "Yeah - days of yore fathers!")

Seriously, though, this video clip is from the late 1930's.  It shows the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Exhibition Pistol Team at work and play.  The techniques demonstrated are mostly very dated, and some are downright dangerous - enough to give OSHA a fit!  Still, back then, this was considered normal.  Enjoy!

They must have had great trust in one another to stand downrange, serving as living target frames and mounts like that . . . darned if I'd have done so!


Mythical creatures

I recently came across a very interesting Web site called 'Mythical Creatures List'.  It lists thousands of creatures from myth and legend, organized by culture, attribute or type.  Clicking on any entry brings up a sub-list of qualifying creatures, and clicking on the name of any of them provides more details about it.

I looked up some mythical beasties I knew, such as the Norse Ratatosk and the African Lightning Bird.  Sure enough, both were listed, along with brief information about them - not enough, I think, but I guess the site can't be a full encyclopedia!  The brief descriptions are enough to give most people a general idea about the critter concerned, and they can do an Internet search for more information if they need it.

Mythical Creatures List is an interesting site to wander around for an hour or two, discovering weird and wonderful beasties you'd never heard of before, that make the average zombie or werewolf seem tame by comparison.  (Try the Dan Ayido Hwedo for size!)


Doofus Of The Day #697

Courtesy of a tip from Australian reader Snoggeramus, today's winner comes from that continent.  The winning deed happened almost two decades ago, but has only just come to light.  The award goes, not to him, but to the official idiots who made it possible!

Daniel Heiss escaped from Berrimah jail in 1995, sparking a 12-day manhunt around Darwin.

His girlfriend Carolyn Wilkinson has just published his biography - Blood On The Wire.

In the book she claims Heiss escaped by memorising the detail of the key after studying it hanging from a prison officer's belt.

But the former prison officer who spoke to the NT News said authorities made the task much easier for Heiss.

"When I read that I thought 'What a load of bullshit', - it was much, much easier than that," he said.

"The prisoners' information handbook had a pair of crossed keys on the front of it.

"Those keys were a dead-set copy of the keys that we had. The key he copied was in the shape of a figure E, which was the master key."

The officer said it was Heiss's fellow inmate - fellow murderer Shane Baker - who made the key. He said Baker was a jeweller who had jewellery-making equipment in his cell, and used this to work on the key.

"Heiss was in a cell where he could reach his arm through the window and reach the lock," the prison officer said. "(Baker) was in a cell where he couldn't reach the lock.

"He used to give the key to Heiss and he would put it in the lock, then give it back and say 'I think it needs a bit more off here or there'."

Baker eventually designed a key that fitted the lock. Heiss let himself out of his cell before opening Baker's cell door. They got out of the complex by scaling three razor-wire perimeter fences.

Baker was recaptured within a few days but Heiss was on the run for 12 days.

There's more at the link.

During my days as a prison chaplain, I can remember the extreme care we took to make sure that no inmate ever got an unobstructed look at one of the security keys for critical doors.  They were all fitted with swinging metal shields that blocked their "business ends" from view.  The shield had to be swung out of the way to use the key, then replaced before we hung it from our belt once more.  You can bet we'd never have put an image of even a similar key (let alone one that fit any of our doors) on inmate literature!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Resurrecting (part of) the Saturn V

Ars Technica has a fascinating article about how NASA engineers are studying an F1 engine from the first stage of the gigantic 1960's-vintage Saturn V rocket, digitizing it in CAD programs and trying to design an updated successor.  Here's a brief excerpt.

SLS' design parameters called for a Saturn V-scale vehicle, capable of lifting 150 metric tons into low Earth orbit. No one working at MSFC had any real experience with gigantic LOX/RP-1 engines; nothing in the world-wide inventory of launch vehicles still operates at that scale today. So how do you make yourself an expert in tech no one fully understands?

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Nick Case and Erin Betts, two liquid engine systems engineers working for Williams, found a way. Although no launch vehicles that used F-1 engines are still around, actual F-1s do exist. Fifteen examples sit attached to the three Saturn V stacks on display at NASA facilities, including MSFC; dozens more are scattered around the country on display or in storage. Williams' team inspected the available engines and soon found their target: a flight-ready F-1 which had been swapped out from the launch vehicle destined for the to-be-canceled Apollo 19 mission and instead held in storage for decades. It was in excellent condition.

(Image courtesy of Ars Technica)

Case and Betts spearheaded the paperwork-intensive effort to requisition the F-1 from storage and get it into their workshop. They were aided by R.H. Coates, a more senior member of Williams' team and lead propulsion engineer for the SLS Advanced Development Office. Williams offered encouragement and assistance from the management side, but the team was otherwise given free rein on how to proceed. After some study, they came to Williams with a request that was pure engineer: "Why don't we just go ahead and take this thing apart and see what makes it work?"

Williams said yes. "It allowed some of our young engineers to get some hands-on experience with the hardware," he told me, "what we would term the 'dirty hands' approach to learning, just like you did when you took apart your bicycle when you were a kid, or your dad's lawnmower or his radio. One of the best ways to learn as an engineer, or in anything, is to take it apart, study it, ask questions."

And then, hopefully, build a better one.

There's more at the link.  Giddy stuff for geeks!

I remember watching film of the Apollo launches with bated breath, and the recordings of those years still bring instant nostalgia.  For those who missed them, here's a video (one of many on YouTube) showing the launch of Apollo 8, with commentary from the astronauts who flew that mission.  Do yourself a favor and watch it in full-screen mode.

Oh, yeah . . .


More about the US monetary base and money supply

A couple of days ago I asked 'What's the US money supply up to?'  I gave my own response to that question.  Now Karl Denninger adds some very pertinent comments.

The monetary base of circulating funds is not simply "money" -- it is money and credit.  We all know this; most of us, in fact, nearly all, walk around with over ten if not over 100 times as much available credit in our wallet as we have dead Presidents.

. . .

I could walk into a car dealer and buy a car with the plastic in my wallet.  Not one penny of that is actual "money", it is all a promise to earn money tomorrow.  Yet I never walk around with 20 large+ in my wallet in dead presidents -- that is, economic surplus that I have already earned.

This is why hyperinflation hasn't happened and won't.  It is also, however, why "money printing" and "QE" haven't worked and won't.  As I pointed out quite early on and wrote about in Leverage when you look at where all the "QE" games have gone it has all gone into replacing the financial industry credit that went "poof" during the 2008 crisis, and that credit was built during the previous period on nothing more than hot air.

In other words there was nothing behind any of those promises; they were simple acts of pulling out the credit card and saying "Charge It!"

That's a fabulous idea except that there are two, and only two, outcomes that must eventually result from such an action:

1. You must forego spending in the future to pay down the debt.

2. You must destroy someone's purchasing power by diluting the currency to cover the debt.

. . .

PS: Arithmetic is not political and could care less about whether you tell the truth; it is, in fact, truth -- whether that happens to be inconvenient or not.

More at the link.  Worth reading.  I'm not sure I agree with him that hyperinflation won't happen - other authorities have a different perspective on that.  Nevertheless, I agree with his other points.


Gun control, skewered

Kevin at The Smallest Minority brings us one of the best and most exhaustively documented articles I've ever read on why the latest gun control measures failed to gain traction, and wouldn't have worked in any case.  It's far too long for me to provide excerpts here, because it really needs to be read as a whole.  Every gun owner should study it, as it provides very useful 'ammunition' for us to defend our position.

Go read the whole thing, and bookmark it for future reference.  I've gone further - I've saved a copy to my hard disk.  It's that good.


More on boycotting GE

Yesterday I mentioned that in the light of its anti-gun stance, I wouldn't be buying any more GE products.  Today Karl Denninger weighed in on the subject.

GE Capital has the absolute right to choose not to do business with gun dealers and their customers.

We the people have the absolute right to not do business with GE Capital and by doing business with those who are funded by GE Capital or who offer credit through it you are choosing to do business with them.

Who's on this list?  Oh my oh my.  Sporting goods companies, automotive parts and service centers, health care providers and more.

In essentially every case there are competitors who do not use or accept GE Capital Credit, and you can take 30 seconds before choosing to buy -- and choose a firm NOT affiliated.

So folks, head on over to the conveniently public list of companies and co-branded offers the next time you need to buy something, especially something expensive.  As Santa Claus says "make your list and check it twice" -- and make sure you tell the losing bidders why you're picking their competition.

There's more at the link.  It's good stuff.  Go read.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A jump rope queen indeed!

I've never seen anything like this - and I'm still not sure I can believe my eyes!

The young lady is Adrienn Banhegyi.  She appears with Cirque du Soleil.  Here's a video of one of her live performances.

All right, I'm going to crawl into a corner and feel very inadequate for a while . . .


Looks like I've bought my last GE product

It seems General Electric - or rather its capital and banking arm - has decided that guns are icky, nasty things, and wants nothing more to do with them.  MarketWatch reports:

General Electric Co. is quietly cutting off lending to gun shops, as the company rethinks its relationship to firearms amid the fallout from the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

This month, Glenn Duncan, owner of Duncan’s Outdoor Store in Bay City, Mich., said he received a letter from GE Capital Retail Bank in which the lender said it had made “the difficult decision” to stop providing financing services to his store. Other gun dealers have received similar notices.

There's more at the link.

GE is, of course, free to do business with whomever it chooses.  So am I.  However, if GE is going to disassociate itself from firearms-related businesses - businesses with whom it had been happy to associate in the past - I take that as evidence of the company's indirect opposition to the Second Amendment.  I further note that GE's Chairman of the Board and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, is closely aligned with the Obama administration.  I presume he's fully in step with the latter's anti-firearm and anti-Second-Amendment agenda.

I'll therefore be disassociating myself from GE products and services.  I invite my readers to consider doing likewise.


Fascinating insights into our economic handbasket

Courtesy of Casey Research, we can read online two chapters from David Stockman's new book 'The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America'.  They provide an enormous amount of background information as to why our economy is in such a mess, and show how it got that way.  After reading them, you may rest assured I've ordered the book!

Go read them for yourself, and learn.  It's worth your time.


Doofus Of The Day #696

Today's winner, courtesy of a link at Lagniappe's Lair, comes from New York.

Trent Patterson, 47, had initially been arrested for allegedly burglarizing the trendy Ted Baker clothing boutique in the Meatpacking District at around 5:50 a.m. Friday, along with four other suspects.

. . .

Then, as Patterson was in a holding cell at the Sixth Precinct station house, a 27-year-old man whose iPhone had been swiped used an app to track the device, according to the sources.

The victim, who was at the station house to report the theft, called his phone — and heard the ring coming from Patterson in a nearby cell.

When an officer confronted Patterson, the career criminal admitted that he’d hidden the phone up his butt and retrieved it, the sources said.

There's more at the link.

That's a pretty hefty thing to stick up there - and after learning where it had been, if I were the owner, I certainly wouldn't want it back!  On the other hand, I suppose this could be cited as a case of anus-ty being the best policy . . .


Tennessee's pain medication laws are insane!

Following a recurrence of problems with the disabling injury I suffered some years ago, I've been in and out of doctor's offices and hospital facilities over the past few days.  In the process, I've run headlong into what are undoubtedly the most iniquitous pain medication laws and regulations I've ever encountered.  It seems that in the state of Tennessee, if you ask for medication to control serious pain, you're immediately regarded as a potential drug abuser.  It's the most heavy-handed, distrustful, in-your-face 'Big Brother' approach I've ever seen, and it's infuriating!

The first sign of trouble came when my physician flatly refused to even consider prescribing any painkiller stronger than 'Ranger candy'.  He wouldn't go into detail, just said that if I wanted the good stuff, I'd have to see a pain management specialist.  This annoyed me, because back in Louisiana (where I suffered my injury) pain medication was a matter of a quick prescription from any doctor for whatever they considered appropriate.  In fact, I'd once had to ask for a reduction in the strength of my pain medication, as it was so potent it was making me come over all Biblical!  At one point I had a monthly prescription for Ultracet, plus a bottle of 100 Percocet prescribed on an annual basis "for when the Ultracet isn't strong enough".  I never abused the latter - in fact, I usually ended the year with 50 or 60 tablets remaining!  That didn't faze the doctor concerned, who would happily write out another prescription for the coming year.  He knew me, after all, and knew I wasn't abusing them or letting others have them.  There was a relationship of trust between us.

I had another inkling that things were different in Tennessee when I received a fat packet of documentation in the mail, all of which I had to fill in and sign ad nauseam.  Turns out that the physician's office, under Tennessee law, can (and must) call me at irregular intervals and require me to show up at their office (or the nearest pharmacy) within 24 hours, complete with my pill bottle, so that the remaining pills can be counted.  It's apparently an offense to hold back some of the pills if you haven't used them all.  I can be summoned for a urine test at random, and may have to provide one during my 'pill count' too - in fact, I had to provide a urine sample before they'd even see me today!  Furthermore, there were all sorts of dire warnings that my personal information would be shared with the authorities for investigative purposes, and I had to sign a waiver permitting my prescription and other information to be released to them.  Finally, they wouldn't give me a prescription for a few months' supply at a time, or a renewable prescription.  No, I got only 30 days worth, plus two more appointments at 30-day intervals (for which I have to come up with a co-payment every time, thank you very much!).  "After that, we'll see."  The fact that my injury has been well-documented since 2004, with abundant prescriptions for pain medication from pain management specialists in another state, apparently counted for nothing at all.

I was so angry at this invasive, overly officious, bureaucratic intrusion into my privacy that I protested vigorously to the nurses at the office.  They apologized, but said that the abuse of prescription drugs was a big problem in Tennessee.  This is how the legislature had chosen to address the issue.  The state was deliberately trying to make it as difficult as possible to get pain medication in order to combat the abuse.  The fact that this means treating legitimate patients as criminals-in-waiting clearly doesn't bother the authorities at all.  They've done the same for anti-allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, which can be abused as a precursor chemical for the manufacture of methamphetamines.  One has to jump through hoops to get those as well.  (They're still available without a prescription, but some politicians are making noises about changing that, too!)

What happened to the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven?  It looks like Tennessee's controlled substances laws and regulations assume you're intending to abuse prescription drugs unless and until you can prove you're not - and even then, the powers that be will look upon you with dire suspicion!  It's no wonder my physician didn't want anything to do with prescribing pain medication.  If I found the process burdensome and irritating as a patient, what must it be like for medical practitioners to deal with all the administrative overhead and bureaucratic obfuscation involved?  It must be mind-bogglingly frustrating!

What about your states, readers?  How many of you have to put up with this sort of 'Big Brother' intrusiveness when you need pain or allergy medication?  I'd be interested to see how widespread this is.  Certainly, Louisiana was a libertarian nirvana by comparison!  Furthermore, are there any groups fighting this sort of nonsense?  I'm more than willing to contribute to their cause now!  Meanwhile, I'm going to look into ways and means to obtain the medication I need without jumping through all these hoops.  I'm no criminal:  but if Tennessee wants to pass stupid laws, the state needn't be surprised if people decide that obeying them is equally stupid!


"Let the wookie win!"

Or, in this case, the shark . . .

Details here.  For those who've forgotten the 'wookie' reference, see here.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wringing out water - in space!

This is weird, yet fascinating.

I can't help but wonder whether showering in weightlessness would be like that - a sheet of water clinging to one's skin, never letting go!


An arms purchase that doesn't add up

I can't help wondering what's behind the announcement that Israel will buy an as-yet-undecided number of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transports from the USA.

Israel is the first foreign nation to purchase the Osprey.  What I can't figure out is why it did so.  Its Air Force operates Sikorsky CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and is known to be strongly in favor of buying the new CH-53K version as soon as it's ready.  The Osprey can carry only a small fraction of the payload of the CH-53K, albeit at a considerably higher speed.  I don't see how a relatively small air force like Israel's will be able to afford the division of manpower, and demand on its finite supply of pilots, involved in flying both types.  It'll be an added maintenance and supply headache, too.

I suspect a certain amount of pressure was applied by the USA - "If you want weapons X and Y, you have to take Z too, otherwise you can't have any of them".  Certainly, the V-22's manufacturers (Bell and Boeing) have been working very hard to promote foreign sales, so far without success.  The aircraft is very expensive (approximately $70 million a pop, two to three times more expensive than helicopters with comparable payloads and carrying capacities).  It's also maintenance-intensive, costing over $9,000 per flight hour, and as of last year had a 'mission capable rate' of only 68%.  Those aren't costs and availability rates that smaller air forces can absorb with impunity.  However, if the USA - and the V-22's manufacturers - can say, "Israel's using them!", that lends credibility to the program, as the Israeli air force is internationally recognized as one of the most combat-effective in the world.  That might be a positive influence on other prospective purchasers.

One area where I can see a useful purpose for the V-22 in Israeli service is to fly troops and rapid response teams out to that country's newly-developed natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, to reinforce them and/or to beat off terrorist attacks against platforms.  The Osprey's high speed will be very useful in that role.  However, whether or not that high speed alone can justify using an Osprey instead of a slower but larger helicopter, capable of lifting many more troops or much more equipment, is an open question.  I suspect in terms of cost-effectiveness, the Osprey will be 'iffy' for Israel.


What's the US money supply up to?

The Federal Reserve has more than tripled the US monetary base since 2008, leading to widespread fears (shared by this writer) that severe inflation (possibly even hyperinflation) is a distinct possibility.  However, in John Mauldin's latest 'Outside The Box' newsletter (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), he provides a different perspective from Hoisington Investment Management.  The latter company believes that the monetary base must be distinguished from the money supply.  Here's an excerpt from their report.

“The Federal Reserve is printing money”. No statement could be less truthful. The Federal Reserve (Fed) is not, and has not been, “printing money” as defined as an acceleration in M2 or money supply. Just check the facts. For the first quarter of 2013 the Fed purchased $277.5 billion in securities (net) as their security portfolio expanded from $2.660 trillion to $2.937 trillion. A review of post-war economic history would lead to a logical assumption that the money supply (M2) would respond upward to this massive infusion of reserves into the banking system. The reality is just the opposite. The last week of December, 2012 showed M2 at $10.505 trillion, but at the end of March, 2013 it totaled only $10.450 trillion which was an unexpected decline of $55 billion. Printing money? No.

This broad misconception of the Fed’s ability to print money has been widely embraced since the Fed began its massive balance sheet expansion near the end of 2008. It was then that the Fed expanded the monetary base from $840 billion to $1.7 trillion in a matter of months. Further, from the initiation of this misguided program to the end of March 2013, the Fed has expanded the monetary base from $840 billion to $2.93 trillion. The money supply indeed went up (35%) but not in proportion to the increase in the monetary base (249%). Presently, the year-over-year expansion of M2 is only 6.8%, which is nearly identical to its year-over-year growth rate in March of 2008 before the Fed decided to “help out the economy”. In other words, there is no evidence that the massive security purchases by the Fed have resulted in a sustained acceleration in monetary growth; nor is there evidence that economic conditions have improved.

. . .


Our present economic situation is nearly unparalleled in American history. An examination of the real economic growth rate of each decade in the United States from 1790 to 2012 [see chart below] reveals the unprecedented sluggishness of our present economic environment. The 1.8% average rise in the thirteen years of this century is less than half of the 3.8% growth rate since 1790. The only decade that witnessed worse economic conditions was, of course, the 1930s.

Debt Constrains Growth

Bad things happen when government debt exceeds 100% of GDP. Four studies published in just the past three years document this conclusion. These studies are highly relevant since OECD figures indicate that gross government debt exceeds 100% in the U.S., Europe, Japan as well as in other OECD member countries.

. . .

When private debt to GDP rises above 160% to 175% of GDP, growth is also stunted. This argument is also operative since private debt to GDP in the U.S. was 260% of GDP as of the fourth quarter of 2012. The point on private debt is a serious matter since it strikes at one of the core purposes of central banking – to promote private credit growth. But this is only valid for normal considerations and not when private debt is excessively high. When private debt is excessive, efforts to promote more private debt are counterproductive, thus the Fed is destabilizing rather than facilitating economic growth.

There's more at the link.  The bold underlined text of the last sentence is my emphasis.  The whole article makes very interesting (albeit economically technical) reading, and is highly recommended.

Trouble is, there are two points that Hoisington and other commenters are not making:

  1. The Fed's pumping up of the monetary base is reducing the value of the US dollar on international markets, as can be readily seen by a comparison of exchange rates over the period in question.  As its value decreases, creditor nations are less willing to trust the dollar to maintain an acceptable value over the longer term.  If the international market for Treasuries blows up or collapses, the Fed will have to purchase all of them as the buyer of last resort.  It's already perilously close to that position.  This amounts to one organ of the state writing a check to another organ, which then deposits it with the first organ.  Such incestuous fiscal finaglery (is there such a word?) is nothing more than a sham, a fake and a public lie.
  2. At present, much of the increase in monetary base has not filtered through into general circulation.  (To see where it's gone, look no further than the stock market - its recovery and recent rise are almost exclusively the fruit of the Fed's 'quantitative easing'.)  However, there's no guarantee that the stock market will remain at its present irrational heights.  Economic warning signs are everywhere, as we've discussed here on many previous occasions.  If there's a collapse in investor confidence, all that money will flood out of the stock market, and back into circulation - and what that will do to inflation is anyone's guess.

I'm not convinced that a deflationary trend is imminent.  I tend to agree with analysts such as Prof. Laurence Kotlikoff and John Williams, whose grim warnings we discussed in February.  I see nothing in the Hoisington report to persuade me that their forecasts are in error - only additional material that might expose yet more problems to take into consideration.

We can argue about whether the forthcoming fiscal and economic calamity will involve inflation or deflation, currency collapse, or whatever;  but whatever it may involve, I have no doubt that it's coming.


"World's most exclusive chocolate bar"?

That's the headline of this report in the Telegraph.

Hotel Chocolat, the grower, manufacturer and retailer of desirable cocoa-based confections, is about to launch what is pitched as the most exclusive bar of chocolate in the world.

Their Rabot Estate Marcial 70 per cent dark comes not just from a single estate - their own plot in St Lucia - but from one area or "cote" of that estate. The label also specifies not only the year of harvest, the temperature and time of roasting and the duration of the refining process, but also the name of the chocolatier in charge - Olivier Nicod, if you wish to make a note.

This is the most extreme example yet of chocolate specialisation, which has seen manufacturers calling ever-greater attention to the origin, strength and other credentials of their product.

. . .

The aim is to take premium chocolate in the same direction as fine wine, to encourage consumers to develop greater knowledge so that they will be prepared to spend more money on the best examples. Such exclusive items often produce healthy profit margins.

There's more at the link.

I've never considered chocolate to be equivalent to wine in terms of vintage or area of origin.  I'm not sure whether I want to see this sort of marketing push succeed . . . if it does, it'll add a whole new smorgasbord of snobbery to already-ghastly gastronomes!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Of mines and landslides

News of a landslide at the Bingham Canyon copper mine, one of the world's largest open-cast mines, comes as a blow to those of us affected by the current shortage of ammunition.  Since cartridge cases and many bullets use copper in their manufacture, this is going to put a further crimp in supplies.

According to BoingBoing, the mine "supplies about 17 percent of U.S. copper consumption and 1 percent of the world’s. When a cog that big loses its teeth, the whole global economic machine goes clunk."

Be that as it may, the report reminded me of another, even more spectacular landslide at the Third Beach open-cast tin mine, near Pantai Remis in Malaysia, in 1993.  It was captured on video by a local resident.  The footage has been called the most spectacular ever filmed of such an incident, despite its relatively poor quality.  Watch as the seaward 'wall' of the open-cast mine gradually collapses, letting in the water (which eventually filled the entire mine, forming a new half-mile-wide and -deep bay in the coastline).  It's worth watching in full-screen mode, if you can stand the out-of-focus image.

Note how the dry land flows like water, even before the sea comes roaring in.  I wouldn't have liked to be standing anywhere near that lot . . .


How they found the Boston bombers

The Washington Post has an excellent and very informative article detailing how law enforcement authorities analyzed evidence after the Boston bombing, identified the attackers, and closed the net around them.  I won't excerpt it here, because you really need to read the whole thing to get the full picture.  It's pretty impressive, looking at how fast they pulled all the pieces together and found the guilty parties.

Go read.


Someone needs to use a clue-by-four on this idiot!

I hope my readers in North Carolina have taken note of the unconscionably dictatorial attitude expressed by State Senator Tommy Tucker.  The Huffington Post reports:

A State and Local Government Committee of the state Senate held a meeting on legislation to allow county and municipal governments to publish public notices only on their websites became heated when a local newspaper publisher sought a recorded vote on the bill, the Raleigh News and Observer reported. Hal Tanner, publisher of the Goldsboro News-Argus, had argued that a voice vote showed the bill failing by one vote, while committee co-chairman Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Waxhaw) said the bill had passed and the rules did not allow for a recorded vote. During the dispute with Tanner, Tucker proceeded to tell the publisher that it was not his place to comment.

"I am the senator, you are the citizen. You need to be quiet," Tucker said.

The Charlotte Observer reported that three other people in the room had confirmed Tucker's statement; but Tucker told the News and Observer that was not his remark and that Tanner had slighted the committee's integrity, and he had taken it "personally." Tucker said that he told Tanner, "I'm the senator here, let me finish."

Earlier this month, an opponent of legislation to require drug testing of public benefit recipients was told by Tucker to "sit down" during a committee hearing, WRAL reported on its website.

"You're okay with (drug users) getting federal dollars if they've had a doobie and get the munchies and need more food stamps?" Tucker said during the April 9 meeting. "Sit down."

There's more at the link.  Bold print is my emphasis.

I hope readers will contact Senator Tucker to remind him that he's a servant of the people, not their master;  and that his status as a Senator is dependent on the will (and goodwill) of the electorate.  One hopes they'll exercise better judgment at the next election, and replace him.


A worthwhile perspective on Chechen terrorism

A blog I follow from time to time, 'In From The Cold', has an interesting perspective on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in Chechnya, and what the Boston bombing implies for US security.  It's worth reading, as are background details on the two best-known Chechen terrorism incidents:  the Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002 and the Beslan school hostage crisis of 2004.

Forewarned is forearmed.  It doesn't mean we won't be killed by terrorists;  but it does mean that those who find themselves confronted by terrorism know what's at stake, and know the consequences of surrender.


Secretary Hagel: Credit where credit is due

I must admit, I had little or no confidence that Chuck Hagel would make a worthwhile Secretary of Defense.  I regarded him as completely unqualified for the position, a political hack appointed to provide some allegedly bipartisan 'cover' to the Obama administration, yet be a dispensable 'useful idiot', someone who could be dropped like a hot potato if political blame had to be apportioned.

I may have to eat my words.  Secretary Hagel's done two things (so far) that are absolutely the right thing.  First, he killed the 'drone medal', that contemptible chair-warmers' chest tinsel that by its very existence demeaned and degraded actual combat awards.  Now he's warning the defense establishment that it must face up to reality - or else.  Military Times reports:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has launched a sweeping review of the military's personnel structure, including the ratio of officers to enlisted, the balance between active and reserve components and the mix of troops to civilian support staffs.

In his first major speech since taking office in February, Hagel signaled a shift in the Pentagon's approach to this year's budget crunch and for the first time publicly outlined his priorities for the changes that are likely to occur under his watch.

. . .

“We cannot simply wish or hope our way to carrying out a responsible national security strategy and its implementation. The department must understand the challenges and uncertainties, plan for the risks, and, yes, recognize the opportunities inherent in budget constraints and more efficient and effective restructuring.”

. . .

“Left unchecked, spiraling costs to sustain existing structures and institutions, provide benefits to personnel, and develop replacements for aging weapons platforms will eventually crowd out spending on procurement, operations and readiness — the budget categories that enable the military to be and stay prepared,” Hagel said.

Hagel suggested that the number of troops in the force is not the only personnel question on the table. “The size and shape of the force needs to be constantly re-assessed, to include the balance between active and reserve, the mix of conventional and unconventional capabilities, general purpose and special operations units, and the appropriate balance between forward stationed, rotationally deployed, and home-based forces,” Hagel said.

He noted that the officer corps has grown steadily in proportion to the military's overall size.

“Today the operational forces of the military — measured in battalions, ships, and aircraft wings — have shrunk dramatically since the Cold War era. Yet the three- and four-star command and support structures sitting atop these smaller fighting forces have stayed intact, with minor exceptions, and in some cases they are actually increasing in size and rank,” Hagel said.

There's more at the link.  Bold print is my emphasis.

I've long been concerned about 'bloat' in senior military ranks.  It's amazing how 'jobs for the boys' has become an unwritten, unspoken mantra for General and Flag officers in all services.  To cite just one particularly egregious example, most Wings in the US Air Force used to be headed by Colonels.  That changed a couple of decades ago.  Most now appear to be commanded by Brigadier-Generals.  These organizations generally haven't been given additional personnel, or aircraft, or responsibilities - so why do they need a more senior officer to lead them?  The simple answer, of course, is that they don't.  This change was made to open up more positions - and hence opportunities for promotion - for general officers.  There's no reason whatsoever why the job can't revert to Colonels . . . except that a large number of Brigadier-Generals would lose their posts as a result.  Can't have that, you know!

I support Secretary Hagel 100% in his proposal to review the upper-level leadership structures of the US armed forces.  They're bloated, inefficient, and far too concerned with political rather than operational matters.  I hope he'll also take steps to curb the 'revolving door' policy whereby most senior officers retire from the military, only to take up very lucrative 'consulting' or 'advisory' or lobbying positions in (or on behalf of) the defense industry.  President Eisenhower's warning about the 'military-industrial complex' is as true today as it's ever been, and these officers are perpetuating the problem.  I hope Secretary Hagel can find some way to restrict such practices.

At the same time, I hope the Secretary will take a sharp, heavy axe to the armed services' procurement policies, practices and institutions.  There's far too much waste, an appalling amount of inefficiency, and downright sloppiness in force planning and structure and the purchase of equipment.  The US Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program is an excellent case in point, as is the US Air Force's F-35 and the US Army's Ground Combat Vehicle.  With so many problems, and so much mismanagement, why not scrap the whole procurement structure and start over?  Also, why not buy a heck of a lot more from our allies?  They've already developed perfectly workable solutions to many of the USA's military requirements.  Why are we wasting billions of dollars reinventing the wheel?

I don't yet know whether Secretary Hagel will prove to be a good man at the top of the Department of Defense . . . but I have to admit, in two cases at least, he's making the right noises.  Here's hoping!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

How much food can $5 buy around the world?

This video clip provides some very interesting answers.

Lends a new insight to the so-called 'cost of living', doesn't it?  Ethiopia seems like a great place to live, if you like cheap bananas . . . but there are other drawbacks!


Opium - wars, treaties, paraphernalia, and addiction

An article in Collectors Weekly prompted many memories of studies in past years.  The article is titled 'How Collecting Opium Antiques Turned Me Into an Opium Addict'.  Here's how it begins.

Recently, Steven Martin—no relation to the actor—came by the Collectors Weekly office and told me all about his harrowing journey from collecting to substance abuse. He started out collecting innocuous things; at first, it was seashells and stones, then it was currency and Asian antiques like textiles. Eventually the Navy veteran found his way to Bangkok, Thailand, where he worked as a journalist and travel writer, covering Southeast Asia.

There, he also discovered the beauty of antique opium pipes, bowls, and lamps, as well as opium trays and the hundreds of little implements that went with the ritual.

Opium paraphernalia (Image courtesy of Collectors Weekly)

Because opium smoking had been so thoroughly eradicated around the globe in the early 20th century, Martin realized very little had been written about these objects. After years of intense research, he produced the first opium-smoking antiques guide, The Art of Opium Antiques, in 2007.

Martin’s research wasn’t limited to mining Victorian medical books or hunting down authentic pieces on eBay. As he came across various pipes and tools, he sought out the last of the Laotian opium dens to learn how these accoutrements were used and, yes, to try them himself. Before long, he and a friend had created their own private opium den in rural Southeast Asia, but when another of Martin’s smoking buddies, a top Asian ceramics expert, died in 2008, possibly from withdrawal symptoms, Martin knew he had to quit before it was too late for him, too. This summer, Random House published his latest book, Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction, in which Martin details how his obsessive collectors’ bug led to his opium addiction.

There's much more at the link.  It's very interesting reading.  Recommended.

The memories this article brought back for me are of the years I spent studying colonial history.  Britain fought two Opium Wars with China, designed to force the latter nation to allow British merchants in India to export opium to China as trade goods.  They led to the first of the so-called 'unequal treaties', which ultimately fostered the rise of Chinese nationalism and led to the Communist takeover there after World War II.  Much of modern China's distrust of foreigners and insistence on its status as a superpower can be directly traced to lingering resentment and xenophobia caused by this period of colonial history.  Personally, I can't blame them.  In their shoes, I'd be equally resentful!  (It's also no surprise that many people in the Far East regard it as poetic justice that illicit narcotics from their part of the world - see, for example, the Golden Triangle - are now a major source of problems in Western nations.)

The enormous influx of opium into China during the mid-19th century led to massive addiction problems, which rapidly spread to Chinese expatriate communities overseas.  So-called 'opium dens' soon sprang up in most major European and US cities, and became a blight on civic consciences as details began to emerge of both Chinese and local addicts dying in squalor.  The development of opium pipes, lamps and other specialized paraphernalia is inextricably linked to these 'dens',

I hadn't realized how much of this paraphernalia had survived into modern times. There are many pictures of it in the Collectors Weekly article, and more at Steven Martin's Web site.  It's a fascinating insight into a profoundly shameful period of human history - one deliberately fostered and encouraged by many of our ancestors for commercial gain.