Sunday, June 30, 2013

OK, that made me smile!

It hadn't occurred to me that underwater bubbles could do this sort of thing, but I have to admit, it made me smile.


An appeal for help

Brigid has posted an appeal for help for another blogger, Kat M., whose abusive husband has left her in a pretty pickle.  She's put up an appeal for contributions on the Indiegogo fundraising platform, to help convert her farm into a viable self-sustaining proposition.  It seems to me to be an entirely worthy cause, so Miss D. and I will be contributing to it.

I've had a lot of exposure to domestic violence issues (I wrote about one such case back in 2008).  It's one of the few sins I regard as almost unforgivable.  For any man to abuse the woman he's promised to love and honor . . . it's just sickening.  Summary execution doesn't seem out of place in some of the cases of which I've learned.  I don't know whether this one is that bad, but it sounds more than bad enough!

Friends, may I appeal to you to please read Brigid's post, then read Kat's post (plus updates she's provided on her blog since then - scroll down to find them), then go and look at the Indiegogo fundraiser?  If you can spare a few dollars, I'd be personally very grateful if you'd help out.  In difficult times like these, made much more difficult by unworthy partners such as Kat's, it behooves all of us to do what we can to help, no matter how little we can spare.  We might need help ourselves one day . . . and it's been my experience that 'what goes around, comes around'.  This seems like a good time to 'do unto others'.



Safely home

Miss D. and I arrived home safely early this afternoon after a wonderful long (very long!) weekend at LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN.  We collapsed into bed and caught up on a few hours of missed sleep before surfacing to eat, drink, shower and start washing our laundry.

We had a wonderful time.  It was great to meet old and new friends, as mentioned in a couple of earlier posts about the Con.  Mike Williamson, Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia (whom I met for the first time in meatspace, after a close online friendship that's already lasted for a decade and a half!), their spouses and (in some cases) children, and many other attendees made for joyful and highly vocal company.  The panels during the day were very interesting, with a great deal of useful information being imparted to newbie writers like myself, and the more social evening gatherings were even more fun.  (The Spades tournament is worth an article in itself.  With a motto like 'THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!', what else could one expect?)

I was particularly interested to see a demonstration of sword- and knife-fighting techniques by students of the art (the so-called 'Legacy Team' of the late Hank Reinhardt), and also be able to examine swords and knives offered for sale by Mike Williamson (who operates a business called 'Sharp Pointy Things').  I took the opportunity to increase Miss D.'s and my collections of the latter.  Having seen combat with edged weapons on far too many occasions for comfort in Africa, where the assegai (particularly the shorter iklwa stabbing version of the Zulu tribe), machete and bush knife are all too frequently used to settle disputes quickly and violently, it was very interesting to compare the demonstrators' techniques with 'real-world' applications.  I came away with the impression that, whilst they were very good at performing their arts in a non-threatening environment, the sheer speed and savagery of a knock-down-and-drag-out, to-the-death knife fight might be an altogether different proposition for the demonstrators.  (My primary answer to such affairs was to remain as far away from them as possible.  When that didn't work, my secondary response was to carry something that could 'reach out and touch someone', as hard and as often as possible, before they got into knife range.  That's one reason I'm still here today - but Miss D. was still taken aback by some of the scars on my body.)

Of course, our sleep suffered.  I tried hard to make sure I got sufficient rest - my fused spine and damaged sciatic nerve make it impossible for me to sleep more than a few hours at a time, so I rest in the afternoons as well as during the small hours of the night - but Miss D., being younger and more used to conventions like this, remained active all through the day, and well into the night, too.  She's paying for it now, though, in a state of utter exhaustion!  I've packed her off to bed already, to recharge her batteries before returning to work tomorrow.

I'm going to be applying the 'lessons learned' at the con for weeks and months to come.  Most important, which I need to do right away, is find a good tax accountant and intellectual property lawyer in Nashville, TN.  If any reader can recommend people in those fields - preferably those with extensive experience in the publishing and/or entertainment industries - I'd be grateful if you'd please advise me of their names and contact information.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Unloading the easy Russian way

The driver of this truck found a novel way to unload the bulldozer in the back.

Only in Russia, I guess . . . although I can think of a couple of good ol' boys in the deep South who might have come up with a similar idea!


In Chattanooga

Miss D. and I arrived safely in Chattanooga on Thursday, only for me to discover that I'd left my CPAP machine at home!  Yours truly had to drive all the way back home, then back here, an additional 5 hours on the road.  I didn't make Miss D. come with me, though - she enjoyed meeting old friends and having supper with them.  Since the mistake was my fault, that was only fair.

Today began with a bang - lots of bangs.  The LibertyCon shoot took place at a range provided by a local nature reserve.  It was much more popular than usual, too:  apparently during the past few conventions, 15-25 shooters would show up, whereas today over 50 thronged the range.  A good time seems to have been had by all.

This evening the convention kicked off officially.  I'll be attending various panels over the next couple of days, and Miss D. will be at others, before we head home on Sunday afternoon.  Blogging will continue to be very light until Sunday evening, although I'll try to look in again tomorrow evening if possible.

Take care, y'all.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

'A Gentlemen's Duel', redux

Larry mentioned GIANT STEAM POWERED FIGHTING ROBOTS! in his latest blog post.  I couldn't resist posting the link to 'A Gentleman's Duel' in his Comments, as one of the funniest short films on steam powered fighting robots I've ever seen.  I've put it up here before, but it's so good I reckon it won't hurt to do so again - so here it is.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

Yes, it's still as funny as ever . . .


When bloggers and writers meet

Miss D. and I have had a fun evening with Mike Z. Williamson and his daughter, who're overnighting with us on their way down to LibertyCon in Chattanooga this weekend.  We'll be attending too, so we all got a head start tonight on the blogger reunions that are going to occur from tomorrow onwards.  We all have stories to share from our varied and interesting pasts, causing much laughter and attempts to top each tale as it's told.  Fun!

Blogging will be light from tomorrow onward, as we travel down to Chattanooga and settle into the convention routine.  I'm looking forward to meeting Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia and other blogging and writing friends of long standing.  I'll keep you posted on developments, and try to put up a blog post now and again as time allows.


What viper venom does to human blood

Reader Phssthpok left a comment on yesterday's post about the German snake-charmer killed by a French Aspic viper.  He provided the link to this short video clip, showing what adder venom does to human blood.  I found it fascinating.  I can't embed it here, thanks to YouTube's age restrictions, so you'll have to go to the link to watch it.  Recommended.

Thanks, Phssthpok!  Very useful information.  (BTW, did anyone ever tell you your screen name might sound a bit like an angry viper hissing, then taking a bite?  Just listen:  Phssth . . . POK!)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Technology for Tactics" - a vision for 2050

The US Army's Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) has produced this video, designed to stimulate new thinking as to what sort of army aviation technology might be needed by 2050.

AMRDEC is asking for feedback, which you can provide here if you're both qualified and interested.


Clearly, the snake wasn't charmed

A German snake-charmer found out the hard way last week that at least one French snake found him . . . er . . . shall we say, less than charming?

53 year-old Dieter Zorn died from a heart attack on Tuesday evening, just minutes after being bitten by an Aspic viper, during his ‘Reptile Show’ in Faugères, southern France.

He had been touring villages in the Hérault area of France, teaching the public to overcome their fear of snakes and other reptiles.

Zorn was bitten several times by the viper, but was able to put the creature back into a secure container, to prevent it from attacking members of the audience, which included children, according to regional daily Midi Libre.

Emergency services arrived on the scene and administered a blood-thinner to Zorn, but were unable to save him after he went into cardiac arrest.

His colleague Uschi Kallus, who ran the 'Reptile Show' along with Zorn, told The Local he had suffered an "extremely rare allergic reaction" to the bite, and emphasized that Zorn would not have wanted the viper to be blamed for his death.

"His ambition and his objective in life was to help people to conquer their fears about snakes and reptiles," she added, noting that the incident was "exceptionally uncommon."

There's more at the link.

I'm sorry the man's dead . . . but a German handling a French snake?  Clearly, the snake had a long memory!  Was its name 'Maginot', or perhaps 'Maquis'?


That's one way to fix a rear-view mirror!

Received via e-mail, source unknown:


It seems the neighborhood's going downhill

I ordered some business cards to take to Libertycon, which Miss D. and I will be attending this weekend.  To my intense displeasure (euphemism!), the package was shown by the courier service as having been delivered, but I hadn't received it.  Inquiries proved fruitless.  This evening Miss D. and I went for a short walk, and found the package ripped open at the side of the road and my business cards thrown into the nearest storm-water drain.  Clearly, someone had hoped to find something valuable inside, and tossed the contents when they proved worthless to him.

Miss D. was able to get at the cards at the bottom of the storm-water drain, with the help of my reacher (I keep it on hand due to being partly disabled and unable to bend easily).   She was able to retrieve about fifty of the cards in slightly damp but usable condition - we're drying them out at present - but most of the cards were already wet and stained.  The few we've salvaged will work out to have cost over a dollar apiece, by the time we've averaged all the expenses of the order across them!

This sort of thing hasn't been a problem here before, but we've had some folks moving in over the past year or two that may be more prone to this sort of behavior.  I'm going to have to keep my eyes open, and alert the neighbors to do the same.


More about Cambodian railways

Reader Capt. Craig commented on my earlier video clip of Cambodian home-grown railways, linking to this video, which he says is better than the one I put up.  I had to agree - so here it is.  The 'home-grown' action begins at about 1m. 48sec.

I still wonder about the tigers in the Cambodian bush . . . they were there as recently as the Vietnam war era, and I doubt they've all moved elsewhere. I'd have thought that the sight of slowly moving edible targets aboard such an unprotected platform would attract their interest!


Monday, June 24, 2013

The secret 'war' in cyberspace

Wired online magazine has a very interesting article about the National Security Agency and its shadowy world.  If the information it provides is correct, it looks as if the widely reported fears about Chinese cyber-espionage and cyber-offensive capability are matched, if not exceeded, by what this country's been doing for years.  Here's an excerpt.

(General Keith) Alexander runs the nation’s cyberwar efforts, an empire he has built over the past eight years by insisting that the US’s inherent vulnerability to digital attacks requires him to amass more and more authority over the data zipping around the globe. In his telling, the threat is so mind-bogglingly huge that the nation has little option but to eventually put the entire civilian Internet under his protection, requiring tweets and emails to pass through his filters, and putting the kill switch under the government’s forefinger. “What we see is an increasing level of activity on the networks,” he said at a recent security conference in Canada. “I am concerned that this is going to break a threshold where the private sector can no longer handle it and the government is going to have to step in.”

In its tightly controlled public relations, the NSA has focused attention on the threat of cyberattack against the US—the vulnerability of critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems, the susceptibility of the military’s command and control structure, the dependence of the economy on the Internet’s smooth functioning. Defense against these threats was the paramount mission trumpeted by NSA brass at congressional hearings and hashed over at security conferences.

But there is a flip side to this equation that is rarely mentioned: The military has for years been developing offensive capabilities, giving it the power not just to defend the US but to assail its foes. Using so-called cyber-kinetic attacks, Alexander and his forces now have the capability to physically destroy an adversary’s equipment and infrastructure, and potentially even to kill. Alexander—who declined to be interviewed for this article—has concluded that such cyberweapons are as crucial to 21st-century warfare as nuclear arms were in the 20th.

And he and his cyberwarriors have already launched their first attack. The cyberweapon that came to be known as Stuxnet was created and built by the NSA in partnership with the CIA and Israeli intelligence in the mid-2000s. The first known piece of malware designed to destroy physical equipment, Stuxnet was aimed at Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz. By surreptitiously taking control of an industrial control link known as a Scada (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system, the sophisticated worm was able to damage about a thousand centrifuges used to enrich nuclear material.

The success of this sabotage came to light only in June 2010, when the malware spread to outside computers. It was spotted by independent security researchers, who identified telltale signs that the worm was the work of thousands of hours of professional development. Despite headlines around the globe, officials in Washington have never openly acknowledged that the US was behind the attack. It wasn’t until 2012 that anonymous sources within the Obama administration took credit for it in interviews with The New York Times.

But Stuxnet is only the beginning. Alexander’s agency has recruited thousands of computer experts, hackers, and engineering PhDs to expand US offensive capabilities in the digital realm. The Pentagon has requested $4.7 billion for “cyberspace operations,” even as the budget of the CIA and other intelligence agencies could fall by $4.4 billion. It is pouring millions into cyberdefense contractors. And more attacks may be planned.

There's much more at the link.  Interesting and somewhat scary reading, because I don't trust the NSA - or any government, or any government agency - with that level of power.  I believe recent disclosures have proved me correct.  I'd shut the whole lot down tomorrow, if I could . . . but now that this particular cat is out of the bag, I suspect that's no longer possible, even if a new Administration were to order it.  Once forces such as these entrench themselves, they're almost impossible to dislodge.

I pray we may never find them ruling over us.  With their tentacles so deeply into every electronic aspect of our lives, that's far from impossible.


The economic death spiral worsens

Two very powerful articles have just nailed down the points I've been making for years about government deficit spending and the Fed's disastrous QE (quantitative easing) program, which is the only thing that's allowed the US government to borrow endlessly to fund its deficits.

First, Reuters reports that the Bank for International Settlements has restated the orthodox perspective on debt, and pointed out how urgently governments need to get their financial house in order.  Since central banks make up the BIS to begin with, this is a stinging rebuke to the Fed and the Eurozone financial institutions in particular.

The Basel-based BIS lambasted firms and households as well as the public sector for not making good use of the time bought by ultra-loose monetary policy, which it said had ended up creating new financial strains and delaying rather than encouraging necessary economic adjustments.

The BIS, a grouping of central banks, was one of the few organisations to foresee the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008.

Since then, government bond yields have sunk as investors seek a traditionally safe place to park funds, regulators tell banks to hold more bonds and central banks buy bonds as a means of pumping money into vulnerable economies.

The BIS said in its annual report that a rise in bond yields of 3 percentage points across the maturity spectrum would inflict losses on U.S. bond investors - excluding the Federal Reserve - of more than $1 trillion, or 8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

. . .

Brushing aside the contention that austerity is counterproductive, the BIS said countries must redouble their efforts to make their debt manageable because growth alone will not do the job.

"Over indebtedness is one of the major barriers on the path to growth after a financial crisis. Borrowing more year after year is not the cure," the report said.

The fiscal adjustments required in rich countries are especially sizeable when projected increases in age-related spending are taken into account. Indeed, the adjustments are so large that governments are likely instead to water down entitlements such as pensions, the report said.

There's more at the link.

Karl Denninger says of this report:

I have said since 2007 that the path of "bailout and lowering rates" in all of its forms could not possibly work.  It cannot work because a person who has too much debt cannot make themselves financially healthy by borrowing more money any more than you can drink yourself sober.

. . .

Lowering interest rates and injecting more and more credit into the system simply makes each unit of it worth less.  But since you cannot print "money", that is, economic surplus -- you can only print credit -- you have no capacity to actually generate economic growth by expanding credit directly.

Your only hope is that by making borrowing cheaper you will entice people to take those loans and produce with them.  They must produce more than the loan costs, principal and interest. If those loans are instead consumed or used to pay entitlement handouts then you are further distorting both credit and cash markets by sending false signals as to actual demand that does not in fact exist.

. . .

We are now collectively in worse shape than we were in 2008 because we have issued trillions of additional credit into the system for which there is no matching production.

Exponents are a bitch.  The longer you wait to deal with any problem that has a compound factor (that is, "X% per year") the worse it gets and the damage increase is not linear it becomes exponentially worse over time.  A 10% fiscal deficit that is "counteracted" with something like QE (which is what we've run, more or less, since 2007) doubles in 7 years -- not 10 -- and then it doubles again in another 7.  In 21 years it is not three times the original problem's size it's eight times larger!

We've already doubled down -- and doubled -- the pain we needed to take in 2007.  It will be four times as bad, and we will not survive it as a nation or society, if we let this go on for another seven years.

Again, more at the link.

Second, Grant Williams analyzes the disastrous effects of several years of quantitative easing on world markets, and comes to a sobering conclusion.

There is one reason and one reason only why the world's major equity markets are, for the most part, floating around their all-time highs: QE.


It has absolutely nothing to do with the strength of the underlying economy and everything to do with the corruption of traditional price signals that central banks have, in their desperation wisdom felt happy to allow in pursuit of rainbows and unicorns for everybody.

Now ... the Fed finds itself confronting the realities of market confidence.

As they have striven to generate confidence in a moribund economy by continually talking in the most optimistic language they can feasibly muster, markets have been blithely ignoring the jawboning and focusing solely on the free money being handed out by a generous but thoroughly misguided Fed.

Now, however, the Fed is going to have to face reality in the world it has created, and it will not be pretty.

Their choice is a stark one:

Pull back on the monetary lever as they continue to threaten to do (and watch as markets crumble in front of their eyes) or be forced into continuing (perhaps even expanding) the purchase of both treasuries and mortgage-backed securities in order to avert disaster.

Already, as they overplay their hand and people genuinely begin to fear that they will be as good as their word and begin "tapering" as soon as this fall, wheels are coming off the clown car all over the place.

. . .

Which brings us to the $64,000 question:

When push comes to shove and instability slithers across multiple asset classes, will the Fed actually go ahead and taper? Can it afford to?

A complex question, but fortunately one with a simple answer:


More at the link.  It's well worth your time to go and read his whole article.

I believe Mr. Williams is correct.  By issuing trillions upon trillions of dollars of fiat currency (with nothing backing or supporting it) through its quantitative easing policies, the Fed has bamboozled the markets for five years.  As soon as it mentions even the possibility of cutting back on this cornucopia of 'free money', the markets panic, threatening to bring down global economies with them.  Ergo, the Fed has painted itself into a corner.  It has no choice but to go on funding deficit spending by government, in direct contradiction to everything the BIS has just said, because if it doesn't the panic that will result will cripple that same government's ability to cope.  On the other hand, if it does that, the resultant inevitable rise in bond interest rates will eventually cripple the US economy too.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  With clowns like the present Administration in charge of the nation, and Ben Bernanke and his ilk in control of the US economy . . . we're screwed.


A bamboo train???

I've ridden the rails in much of Africa, and I thought I'd seen just about the worst, most ramshackle, most unstable rails, rail cars and locomotives one could imagine.

I was wrong!

How do they stop the local animals (particularly hungry ones) from joining them? That was frequently a problem in Africa!


Charities - or corrupt enterprises?

The Tampa Bay Times, in collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting, has published a list of what it calls 'America's Worst Charities'.  Overall, these organizations collected $1,350.9 million last year (yes, that's $1.35 billion, if you want to put it that way).  Of that astonishing sum, no less than $970.6 million (almost a billion dollars, or almost 72% of the total amount raised) was paid to professional fundraisers as commission.  Only $380.3 million (fractionally more than 28% of the total amount raised) was paid to the 50 charities involved;  and of that, a mere $49.1 million (less than 4% - yes, that's less than four cents out of every dollar raised) was paid to beneficiaries.

The whole list is worth reading, as are the articles listed in the sidebar:

  1. America's 50 worst charities rake in nearly $1 billion for corporate fundraisers
  2. Lack of regulation and meager penalties allow worst charities to thrive
  3. Intricate family connections bind several of America's worst charities
  4. How we identified America's 50 worst charities

There are other articles linked at each one above.  As an example, I found this .PDF analysis of the Cancer Fund of America charity network, run by members of the Reynolds family, particularly enlightening.  To quote from the analysis:

James T. Reynolds Sr. and his family turned Cancer Fund of America into a charity empire.  At least a dozen family members work at one of five cancer charities.  Those charities have raised nearly $250 million over the past decade and spent an average of $400,000 a year on direct cash aid to patients.  Tax filings show the family has made as much as $1 million a year in salaries.

One of the charities in the network, The Breast Cancer Society of Mesa, Arizona, is annotated as follows:

Since 2008, this charity has given nearly $1.3 million in cash assistance to about 1,900 breast cancer patients, according to its financial filings.  But that is only about 2 percent of the $54.8 million raised through direct mail and professional telemarketers.  About 86 cents of every dollar raised has been kept by the charity's for-profit solicitors.  Breast Cancer Society told the IRS it shipped $36 million worth of medical supplies overseas in 2011.  But the two companies named as suppliers of the donated goods said they have no record of dealing with Breast Cancer Society.

I've long been aware that many so-called 'charities' are often nothing more than scam artists operating under false pretenses.  (This includes the majority of those who've tried to solicit donations from me over the telephone or by mail marketing.  Yes, I checked.)  Congratulations and a heartfelt 'Thank you!' to the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting for uncovering the scale of the problem, and naming and shaming at least some of those involved.  Anyone who donates to any of the 50 charities they identify needs his or her head read!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Boys and their (explosive) toys

What happens when a youngster 'drops 750 bucks' on fireworks to entertain his brothers?



Remember that wrecked PBY Catalina?

In November last year I wrote about the shot-up wreck of a PBY Catalina flying-boat on the shores of Saudi Arabia, and how it got there.  I had to piece the story together from a number of different sources.

Now, in a very long and picture-heavy article, the good people at Vintage Wings of Canada have given the 'backstory' of the development of the 'flying yacht' version of the PBY, and what happened to the wrecked example in Saudi Arabia.

They've amassed a great deal more information than I was able to find.  It's a great story, and highly recommended reading for aviation buffs.


Immigration reform - yet another crony-capitalist, progressive boondoggle

Let's be quite clear what's really at the root of the current push for 'immigration reform'.  There are two reasons.  First, it's a handout to big business, which wants more and cheaper labor.  Second, it's an attempt to create yet another group of reliably liberal/progressive/Democratic Party voters.  There are no other valid reasons for it to be pushed so hard right now.

You want evidence of that?  There's plenty.  Let's start with the Congressional Budget Office's assessment of the so-called 'Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013'.

CBO reports that S. 744 would have only a marginal impact in reducing future illegal immigration. According to CBO, S.744 would reduce the future inflow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. over the next two decades by only 25 percent. CBO estimates that by 2033, 7.5 million new illegal immigrants will have entered the U.S. and taken up residence.

. . .

The CBO estimate is in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of the bill’s sponsors, who have said the bill “contains the toughest border immigration enforcement measures in U.S. history.”

So much for the 'border security' aspect of the proposed legislation.  An attempt was made to mollify those opposing the bill on these grounds by incorporating the so-called 'Hoeven-Corker amendment', but this has turned out to be a 'smoke-and-mirrors' political deception, as Senator Rand Paul has noted.  Furthermore, the amendment incorporates major changes in the proposed legislation, so much so that it's 1,190 pages in length - far too long for Senators to read (let alone understand) it before they'll be asked to vote on it tomorrow.  Remember Nancy Pelosi's infamous words about  Obamacare?  Same old, same old . . .

As for 'economic opportunity', the West Virginia Gazette notes:

The assurances of the bill's proponents that the bill will somehow help the economy obscure copious evidence that the bill will wreak enormous damage to the employment prospects of American workers who have already seen their wages and employment rates plummet over the last several years.

. . .

Not only will the bill grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, it will act as a magnet for future illegal immigration and substantially increase the number of legal immigrants ... The bill is structured so that most of the immigrants will be low-skilled. These immigrants will compete with Americans in the low-skilled labor markets.

. . .

Recent history shows that a grant of legal status to illegal immigrants results in a further influx of illegal immigrants who will crowd out low-skilled workers from the workforce. Contrary to the mythology promoted by some supporters of the bill, this isn't because low-skill Americans -- regardless of race -- are unwilling to work. It's because they're unwilling to work at the cut-rate wages (and often substandard conditions) offered to illegal immigrants -- a cohort highly unlikely to complain to the EEOC, OSHA or the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. This inexorably increases the number of low-skill Americans depending upon the government for subsistence, swells the ranks of the unemployed and reduces the wages of those that do have a job.

There's more at the link. Worthwhile reading.

Since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, there have been numerous attempts - most of them successful - to liberalize and 'water down' US immigration law.  Many of these attempts have provided amnesties for illegal immigrants.  They include (but are not limited to):

  • Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens.
  • Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens.
  • Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994.
  • Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America.
  • Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti.
  • Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens.
  • LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens.

Again, more at the link.  During the same period, enforcement of penalties under the law against illegal immigrants has progressively declined.  Indeed, it appears the Obama administration is determined not to act against or deport illegal immigrants unless forced to do so.  In response, in April this year a judge ruled that the Administration is violating US law by ignoring it.  This ruling, too, appears to have been willfully ignored and/or disregarded by the Administration.

Some Republicans argue that unless they embrace immigration reform, their party will continue to lose at the polls.  Ann Coulter puts her finger on the fallacy in this argument.

... the Hispanic vote terrifying Republicans isn't that big. It actually declined in 2012. The Census Bureau finally released the real voter turnout numbers from the last election, and the Hispanic vote came in at only 8.4 percent of the electorate -- not the 10 percent claimed by the pro-amnesty crowd.

. . .

In raw numbers, nearly twice as many blacks voted as Hispanics, and nine times as many whites voted as Hispanics. (Ninety-eight million whites, 18 million blacks and 11 million Hispanics.)

So, naturally, the Republican Party's entire battle plan going forward is to win slightly more votes from 8.4 percent of the electorate by giving them something they don't want.

. . .

Who convinced Republicans that Hispanic wages aren't low enough and what they really need is an influx of low-wage workers competing for their jobs?

. . .

Big Republican donors -- and their campaign consultants -- just want to make money. They don't care about Hispanics, and they certainly don't care what happens to the country. If the country is hurt, I don't care, as long as I am doing better! This is the very definition of treason.

Hispanic voters are a small portion of the electorate. They don't want amnesty, and they're hopeless Democrats. So Republicans have decided the path to victory is to flood the country with lots more of them!

It's as if Republicans convinced Democrats to fixate on banning birth control to win more pro-life voters. This would be great for Republicans because Democrats will never win a majority of pro-life voters, and about as many pro-lifers care about birth control as Hispanics care about amnesty.

. . .

Listening to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus burble a few weeks ago on "Fox News Sunday" about how amnesty is going to push the Republicans to new electoral heights, one is reminded of Democratic pollster Pat Caddell's reason for refusing to become a Republican: No matter how enraged he gets at Democratic corruption, he says he can't bear to join such a stupid party as the GOP.

Quite so!

I'm an immigrant - a legal one.  I came here on a work visa, and upgraded it (at my own expense, not my employer's) to legal permanent resident status on the way to eventual citizenship.  I had to jump through all the legal, administrative and bureaucratic hoops, get medically examined on more than one occasion to be sure I wasn't carrying any strange disease that might threaten Americans' health, and get a security background check.  I also had to pay out a lot of money for the privilege of legally living here.  Why would I support amnesty for those who've done none of those things, and who are, by definition, already criminals, thanks to their illegal presence here?  What does that current reality say about the likelihood of their future presence among us being law-abiding?

I hope and pray this legislation will be defeated, hopefully in the Senate, but if not there, in the House.  If it passes, I predict it'll produce a demographic disaster in the long run.


EDITED TO ADD:  Sarah Hoyt (also an immigrant) offers her own perspective on the immigration amnesty.  It's well worth reading.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Doofus Of The Day #710

Today's award goes to the director of a Nike commercial starring Tiger Woods.  You don't give instructions like that to someone like him!

The incident dates from 2006, but I only just came across the footage.  Still, better late than never!


Greedy governments . . . and a potential cure?

Janet Daley writes in the Telegraph about the rise of greedy governments.

David Cameron said something last week that was the precise opposite of the truth – by which I do not mean, obviously, that he told a deliberate falsehood. What he did was simply relay the perversely inverted logic that has become conventional wisdom. What the Prime Minister said was: “If you want a low-tax economy, you have to collect the taxes that are owed.” When what he should have said, of course, was: “If you want to collect the taxes that are owed, you have to have a low-tax economy.”

. . .

If people regard levels of tax as fair (in the true sense of the word, not the Left-wing sense, which actually means “vindictive”), they will not go to expensive and dangerous lengths to escape from paying. The more punitive and discouraging of wealth-creation taxes are, the more they are avoided by stealth or geographical relocation – or by the even more economically disastrous measure of people being disinclined to increase their own productivity. Ah yes, but isn’t this the problem that those heads of government are determined to address? Rather than lowering taxes to levels that those who are taxed find acceptable, they will simply close off all the avenues of escape. There is to be no more possibility, by international agreement (which is to say, the coercion of smaller, less rich countries), of geographical movement for tax advantage. It will not be acceptable any longer for large corporations, or even private individuals whose profits or income are global, to lodge themselves in places that charge low business or personal taxes. These wicked places, known as “tax havens”, are the criminal “fences” of the international financial world: accepting, and sometimes agreeing to hide, the wealth that rightly belongs to other governments.

. . .

What is at the heart of all this is the growth of governments: the treasuries of the world are becoming needier and greedier. And the most powerful countries are going to see to it that no little upstart island or remote corner of the earth can sit on a penny that they might decide is rightfully theirs – even if it resides in those outlying places perfectly legally. We are approaching a defining moment in the relationship between private property and the democratic state. Underlying almost all political debate on this matter now is the unspoken assumption that privately owned wealth is inherently evil, and that its only moral justification is to provide revenue that governments can redistribute.

. . .

To speak of rich individuals or corporations contributing their fair share to the cost of government services sounds reasonable enough but it raises the question of how much government should be spending . . .

There's more at the link.

Heaven knows, we've got more than our fair share of government greed in this country.  Sarah Palin came up with one potential solution to it that I really like.

On Saturday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said that the IRS–and much of the federal bureaucracy–needs to be abolished ... suggesting that it would undercut much of the cronyism rampant in Washington.

She said the tax code needs to be simplified with the adoption of a flat tax. "That way we can abolish the bureaucracy that is so burdensome and expensive, and it would allow some sledgehammering of the crony capitalism and the corruption within [government]," Palin said.

Again, more at the link.

I wish Ms. Palin would run for the forthcoming Senate elections in Alaska.  I think she'd have every prospect of winning, and we could use her brand of upstart politics in the Senate to upset all the stuffed shirts there!


Slices of ammo?

Photographer Sabine Pearlman has taken a series of images of 900 rounds of sectioned ammunition in a bunker in Switzerland.

I presume the rounds were sectioned by Swiss armament technicians, investigating their construction and components.

She writes:  "I was originally intrigued by the ambiguous nature of the subject matter.  The cross-sections reveal a hidden complexity and beauty of form, which stands in vast contrast to the destructive purpose of the object.  It's a representation of the evil and the beautiful, a reflection of the human condition."

There are more images at the link, and at Ms. Pearlman's Web site.  Interesting viewing.


EDITED TO ADD:  An interesting technical detail is that these pictures illustrate the difference between Berdan priming (used in most non-US military ammunition, and illustrated in the top picture above) and Boxer priming (illustrated in the bottom two pictures).  Note the different primer anvil and flash hole configurations.

Hello, vertigo . . .

Dassault mounted fore- and aft-facing cameras in their Rafale strike fighter jet for its display flight at the Paris Air Show last week.  The resulting footage gives a very different perspective on the usual airshow antics of such high-performance aircraft.  Embedding is disabled, but you can watch the video here.

I don't know how many g's he was pulling, but that's certainly vertigo-inducing to a novice like me!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Vietnam - gunfire in the night

In April 1970 James Hensinger took a series of photographs showing US troops engaging snipers on a hillside near Phu Tai in Vietnam at night.  He took them with a Nikon camera, resting it on the sandbags around his guard tower and using time-exposures, triggering the shutter with a cable release.  He sent the unprocessed film home, and didn't know what he'd managed to capture until he got home after his tour of duty and developed it.

The Guardian has now published a series of his photographs.  They're remarkably clear, lit by the gunfire and flames of the engagement.  Here's the first, to whet your appetite.  I've reduced it in size to fit this blog.

There are more images at the link.  Recommended viewing.

By the way, what's the tank in the foreground of that picture?  I presume it's an M48 Patton, because only bridge and engineer versions of the later M60 were deployed to Vietnam.  Can anyone confirm?  You'll probably have to consult the larger versions of his pictures at the link to be sure.


EDITED TO ADD:  Thanks to commenter Lance R. Peak for pointing out that there are larger versions of these pictures, and a couple of additional images, at the Daily Mail.  The Mail identifies the tank as an M42 Duster, fitted with twin 40mm. Bofors cannon.

Upward mobility and the Nanny State

George Will has penned a remarkable opinion piece in the Washington Post, in which he postulates (in so many words) that the diminishing opportunities for upward mobility in US society are also diminishing the possibilities for limited government.  In other words, the less potential for upward mobility in society, the greater the demands for 'Big Brother' to redistribute rewards downwards in society.  Here are a few excerpts.

...expanding equality of opportunity increases inequality because some people are simply better able than others to exploit opportunities.

. . .

Lindsey cited research showing that “by the time they reach age 3, children of professional parents have heard some 45 million words addressed to them — as opposed to only 26 million words for working-class kids, and a mere 13 million words in the case of kids on welfare.” So, class distinctions in vocabularies are already large among toddlers. Parental choice of neighborhoods and schools mean that children of college-educated parents hang out together. Such peer associations may have as much effect on a child’s development as do parents. These factors, Lindsey said, explain why “people raised in the upper middle class are far more likely to stay there than move down, while people raised in the working class are far more likely to stay there than move up.”

. . .

Today, the dominant distinction defining socioeconomic class is between those with and without college degrees ... Soon the crucial distinction will be between those with meaningful college degrees and those with worthless ones.

. . .

“Most American kids,” Lindsey concluded, “are now raised in an environment that is arguably less favorable for developing human capital than that in which their parents were raised.” America’s limited-government project is at risk because the nation’s foundational faith in individualism cannot survive unless upward mobility is a fact.

There's more at the link.

I think George Will has struck gold here.  I highly recommend reading his column very carefully, and more than once.  There's a lot hidden between the lines . . . and it's bound to make those of conservative and/or libertarian persuasions very unhappy indeed.


NeverWet is here at last!

Back in November 2011 I reported on a new hydrophobic treatment called NeverWet, designed to not just waterproof anything, but make it actually repel water and moisture.  It's about to hit the market at last.  Here's a promotional video.  (No, they're not paying me to post it - I just think this is a darned good idea!)

I particularly liked the cardboard box beer cooler.  I'm going to be standing in line to buy this stuff.  If it works as well as advertised, it'll be a smash hit!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

In praise of Ka-Bar knives

I've used blades in the military and as a civilian in Africa for many years.  Since coming to this country I've not needed to use them as hard or treat them as badly as I did in Africa, but a good blade still forms part of my everyday carry gear.  One that I learned to respect was the US Marine Corps fighting knife known universally as the Ka-Bar.  I saw my first one in 1976, in the South African armed forces, in the hands of a former US Marine who'd come to that country after serving in Vietnam because he couldn't settle down in what he called the 'peacenik' USA, and wanted to go on 'killing Commies'.  (He had plenty of opportunities open to him.)

I was intrigued to come across this promotional video for the company, describing its origins and its most famous product.  Yes, it's basically an advertisement for them, but their blades are iconic to American fighting men, so I don't mind giving them a bit of free blog airtime.

I'm glad to see they're keeping the old traditions alive.  The USMC somehow wouldn't be the same without the Ka-Bar fighting knife.  (Yes, I own one myself.  Why do you ask?)


Misogyny in the US Armed Forces

There have been far too many reported incidents of misogyny, discrimination and outright abuse of women in the US armed forces.  The most recent, reported yesterday, involves three midshipmen at the US Naval Academy.

In that light, I can only urge the top brass to follow the example of Lieutenant-General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army.  He pulled no punches in a recent televised message to everyone under his command.  As Salon reported:

In a video released Wednesday, a clenched-jawed, simmeringly furious Morrison says, “Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have NO place in this army … Female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian army … If that does not suit you, then get out … The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others … The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Holeeee. Efffing. Crap. It’s brilliant.

The words are powerful. But the utterly credible fury is what nails it. It is a validation of the frustration and anger a whole lot of people who have been on the receiving end of that “toughness” have been enduring for a very long time. And it says, yeah, you’re right. This is goddamn outrageous.

. . .

In the U.S. and Australia and around the world, the plague of abuse needs to be openly addressed and firmly dealt with. And in a culture of rampant aggression, it needs more leaders like Morrison, who are willing to express their contempt for offenders. Leaders who are willing to demand, of “every one of you,” to “Show moral courage and take a stand.”

There's more at the link.  I don't usually agree with Salon's point of view, but I'll gladly make an exception for this article.  Recommended reading.

Here's General Morrison's address.  It's worth your time to listen to it in full.

OK, US military leaders - how about following his example?


Doofus Of The Day #709

Today's award goes to a bakery worker in Zionsville, Indiana.

A Zionsville mom wanted a local bakery to draw a graduation cap on the picture of her daughter on the cake, but the worker taking the order heard something different.

. . .

When Gambrel picked up the cake for her Indiana University graduate daughter Laura, instead of a mortarboard style cap, they had iced in a cat.

Gambrel says the Marsh bakery offered to fix the mistake, and even gave her a plastic cap to cover the cat. It turns out everyone liked the cat picture better anyway.

There's more at the link.

I bet she - and her family - will remember that graduation cake for the rest of their lives!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Of mice and Star Wars

I'm sure most readers have heard that Disney acquired Lucasfilm last year, and plans to make a sequel trilogy of 'Star Wars' films.  One of my readers sent me this cartoon today, which made me laugh out loud.

I don't know who drew it, or where it was first published;  but I thoroughly enjoyed it!


A hair-raising invention?

I'm hugely amused at the brouhaha over 'hairy stockings'.  They were first revealed by a Chinese Web site, and have attracted horrified, sardonic and sarcastic comment all over the world.

I particularly enjoyed the Telegraph's perspective.  Here's an excerpt.

Perhaps their primary function is to put off the more unenlightened members of the male sex, who will be so repulsed by the sight of a nubile young girl with gorilla pins that they will forget to assault her, but maybe the truth is more subtle than that.

In fact what will happen is that all those nice, feminist men who pride themselves on being above their own cultural conditioning will be buying the drinks, and the old misogynists will leave the ladies alone – the successful suitors will be a pleasantly self-selecting group of males who are intellectual, lentil-eating, gentle and good at listening. The sex will be awful, of course, but it will be ever so respectful.

. . .

Let’s just admit what we are – great apes in cotton dresses – and live accordingly. It would all be so much more relaxing, and perhaps without the attendant neuroses and maintenance that we ladies have to endure for the summer months, men and women would get along much better – if you are covered in hair, you have nothing to hide.

The more I think about it, the more I think these hairy stockings could solve a lot of problems. Relationships will be more honest; flirtation truer to our animal instincts; al fresco sex will be … warmer. My only question is, where can I get a whole bodysuit?

There's more at the link.

On the other hand, they're sure to amuse Miss D.  She informs me that in Alaska, many women don't bother to shave their legs, because the weather is seldom warm enough to warrant wearing anything other than trousers, sometimes complete with long underwear.  She refers to such women as having "Skin like porcelain, legs like Chewbacca" . . . but I'm delighted to report that description doesn't apply to her!


Mercury as you've never seen it before!

The MESSENGER mission to Mercury has released this fascinating false-color image of the planet.  I've reduced it in size to fit here, but the full-size image makes great wallpaper for your computer screen (I'm using it for that purpose right now).

The mission's Web site reports:

This colorful view of Mercury was produced by using images from the color base map imaging campaign during MESSENGER's primary mission. These colors are not what Mercury would look like to the human eye, but rather the colors enhance the chemical, mineralogical, and physical differences between the rocks that make up Mercury's surface.

Young crater rays, extending radially from fresh impact craters, appear light blue or white. Medium- and dark-blue areas are a geologic unit of Mercury's crust known as the "low-reflectance material", thought to be rich in a dark, opaque mineral. Tan areas are plains formed by eruption of highly fluid lavas. The giant Caloris basin is the large circular tan feature located just to the upper right of center of the image.

There's more at the link.  The other side of the planet may be seen here, or there's this brief YouTube video animating the planet as a whole.  Try it in full-screen mode for a very impressive view.

Ain't science fun?


The frustrations of book setup . . .

If any of you are thinking of publishing a book in print format, be aware that instructions from companies like CreateSpace aren't always what they seem, and you may need to read between the lines to understand them.

Oleg's done a great job of producing a print cover for my first novel.  Last night Miss D. and I sat with him as he fitted it into CreateSpace's cover template, and made sure that everything was working as required.  Unfortunately, when I uploaded the cover, CreateSpace e-mailed back to say that it wasn't correct.  They want text and important images to be inside a 0.5" margin from the edge;  but we'd used a 0.5" margin from the outside edge of the paper, including the 'bleed zone' where trimming might take place.  They wanted a 0.5" margin inside the bleed zone, to allow for any over-trimming and make sure that everything remained readable.  That wasn't clear from their instructions.

I've just had to ask Oleg to put in even more work to modify the cover image, which really scrolls my nurkle.  He's worked hard on this at the expense of his own projects, and I hate to put him to any extra trouble.  Fortunately, he's a great guy to work with, and agreed to fix things at once - thanks, Oleg!

So, if any of you are planning a book project like this, bear in mind that there'll be a learning curve involved, and some of the instructions may be less clear than they seem . . .


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Of whistleblowers and bullies

In the light of the fuss and bother over the NSA eavesdropping scandal, and the role of whistleblower Edward Snowden in its exposure, I found it instructive to read about the experience of State Department whistleblower Aurelia Fedenisn.  Here's an excerpt.

Fedenisn's life changed dramatically last Monday after she handed over documents and statements to CBS News alleging that senior State Department officials "influenced, manipulated, or simply called off" several investigations into misconduct. The suppression of investigations was noted in an early draft of an Inspector General report, but softened in the final version.

. . .

After the CBS News made inquiries to the State Department about the charges, Schulman says investigators from the State Department's Inspector General promptly arrived at Fedenisn's door. "They talked to both kids and never identified themselves," he said. "First the older brother and then younger daughter, a minor, asking for their mom's place of work and cell phone number ... They camped out for four to five hours."

Schulman says the purpose of the visit was to get Fedenisn to sign a document admitting that she stole State Department materials, such as the memos leaked to CBS. Schulman says it was crucial that she didn't sign the document because her separation agreement with the State Department includes a provision allowing disclosures of misconduct. Furthermore, none of the materials were classified.

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

Here's the bottom line.  If any individual or organization makes threats and tries heavy-handed intimidation instead of handing over the entire affair to law enforcement right from the start, they know their case is weak and/or unsustainable.  They're trying to achieve by intimidation what they think they won't be able to achieve by due process of law.  Therefore . . . tell 'em to take a running poke at a rolling donut.


Endearing images

Oleg sent me a link to a series of photographs of a Japanese grandmother, Misao, and her adopted cat, Fukumaru.  They're part of a series (recently published in book form) by her granddaughter Miyoko Ihara.  I found them both cute and charming.  Here are a few examples, reduced in size to fit this blog

There are more (and larger) images at the link, and many more in the book.  Endearing viewing.  I think I'm going to have to add that book to my library.


Rube Goldberg meets the pinball machine!

I've never played with K'nex construction toys - they came on the market long after my youth - but I'm astonished to find this fully operational pinball machine constructed entirely of the little connectors.

Apparently it took almost four months to build.  Talk about dedication!  I think Rube Goldberg would have been proud of the builders.  All it needs is a bit of brass and steam, and it'd be steampunk!


Book plans - an update

As most of you probably know, I've been working on a print edition of 'Take The Star Road'.  It was delayed for a few days by computer problems, but I hope to receive the proof copy of the book from CreateSpace by the end of this week.  If it's acceptable, it'll be released for sale next week.

Book 2 of the Maxwell Saga, 'Ride The Rising Tide', is still on track for release in mid-July.  The print edition may be delayed a week or two, but the e-book should be out on July 15th.  I hope to release both of them simultaneously, if I can get all my ducks in a row by then.  Unfortunately, when one's doing everything oneself - writing, editing, changing, formatting, cover image selection, working with Oleg to finalize the cover, go through Amazon's Kindle and CreateSpace procedures to upload everything and prepare the final editions, and all that - it's pretty time-consuming.  I'll do my best.

Probably in mid-September, I'll be releasing a non-fiction book about my experience of prison chaplaincy.  I wrote it some years ago, and left it on the back burner until I felt confident enough in my writing to upgrade it and release it for publication.  The time has now come, I think, so I'm busy revising it.  Very few people today understand what really goes on behind the walls of a high-security penitentiary.  They get their information from Hollywood (The Longest Yard, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) or television (Oz, Prison Break), none of which are particularly authentic or realistic.  I think there's room for an accurate, unvarnished, factual presentation of life behind bars, and what it means to try to help those who find themselves incarcerated there.  I'm going to do my best to provide it.

While all these other projects are on the go, I'm trying to devote time to Book 3 of the Maxwell Saga, which is so far unnamed.  I hope to have it ready for publication by November 15th, but that may slip into early December, with everything else I've got on my plate.

So, if all goes well and I don't collapse, by Christmas I hope to have three novels and a non-fiction memoir available for sale.  I hope you enjoy them!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Watch China's economy very carefully

In recent days I've highlighted warning signs coming from Japan and Europe.  It looks like they're present in China as well.  The Telegraph reports:

China's shadow banking system is out of control and under mounting stress as borrowers struggle to roll over short-term debts, Fitch Ratings has warned.

The agency said the scale of credit was so extreme that the country would find it very hard to grow its way out of the excesses as in past episodes, implying tougher times ahead.

"The credit-driven growth model is clearly falling apart. This could feed into a massive over-capacity problem, and potentially into a Japanese-style deflation," said Charlene Chu, the agency's senior director in Beijing.

"There is no transparency in the shadow banking system, and systemic risk is rising. We have no idea who the borrowers are, who the lenders are, and what the quality of assets is, and this undermines signalling," she told The Daily Telegraph.

While the non-performing loan rate of the banks may look benign at just 1pc, this has become irrelevant as trusts, wealth-management funds, offshore vehicles and other forms of irregular lending make up over half of all new credit. "It means nothing if you can off-load any bad asset you want. A lot of the banking exposure to property is not booked as property," she said.

. . .

Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a "hidden second balance sheet" for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses.

This niche is the epicentre of risk.

. . .

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. "They have replicated the entire US commercial banking system in five years," she said.

The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. "This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don't know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial," she said.

. . .

Wei Yao from Societe Generale says the debt service ratio of Chinese companies has reached 30pc of GDP – the typical threshold for financial crises -- and many will not be able to pay interest or repay principal. She warned that the country could be on the verge of a "Minsky Moment", when the debt pyramid collapses under its own weight.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

That's precisely the problem.  In Japan, China and Europe - and, as we saw last week, here in the USA as well - we're dealing with numbers the like of which have never before been seen in human history.  The headline to that Telegraph article claimed that China's indebtedness was 'unprecedented in modern world history'.  It sure is!  Global indebtedness and worldwide financial shell games are so over-extended that no-one knows for sure what's going to happen next.  However, I'd hazard a guess that when the financial pigeons come home to roost, we're all going to find out . . . and it's looking more and more likely that they're on their way right now, or will be very soon.