Saturday, August 31, 2013
Bankrate.com has produced a very handy table illustrating the cost of ownership of a typical car in each of the 50 US states. I understand that the same vehicle, covering the same mileage, is used as the basis for the table, so as to compare apples to apples (or should that be Acuras to Zundapps?).
The gap between the most expensive state (Georgia, at $4,223 per annum) and the cheapest (Oregon - $2,204) is much bigger than I expected, with the former no less than 91.6% more expensive than the latter. The average across all 50 states is $3,201 - 45.2% more expensive than the cheapest state, but 24.2% cheaper than the most expensive state.
Go read the whole table for yourself. It's very informative. There are a couple of more detailed reports at the foot, if you're interested.
Roberta X has penned a magnificent satire on religion and humanity over at her blog. She's framed it as a science-fiction story titled 'Scene In An Alien Barracks'. I think it's brilliant!
Although I'm a man of faith, I have no problem at all acknowledging the absurdities of religion, and how it's frequently produced rather more heat than light among us. I think that there are far too many believers of any and all faiths who lack the ability to laugh at themselves. If we learned that, we'd be a whole lot better off as human beings - and a lot more convincing about what we believe, too! (I reckon anyone who could name two of his more rambunctious followers the 'Sons of Thunder', and remorselessly skewer the proud and the pompous, had a sense of humor that's worthy of emulation.)
I think Roberta's done an excellent job of highlighting some of the absurdities of religion. Go read, and decide for yourself.
The students and interns at NASA's Johnson Space Center have made several videos with the above title, some serious, some showing the lighter side of the campus. This one tickled my funnybone.
As my buddy Lawdog would say, "Gigglesnort!"
Friday, August 30, 2013
It seems original footage from the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 has been colorized and combined into a film about the uprising. Although it's been set in the framework of a fictional narrative, the images are absolutely real and authentic. These are the rebels who took on the might of Nazi Germany, and who were slaughtered when Stalin refused to allow the Red Army to attack Warsaw to save them.
The Daily Mail reports:
Black and white silent footage taken during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis have been turned into a mesmerising feature movie with sound and colour.
The film is a riveting account of the fierce house-to-house fighting against the German army that began on August 1 and ended 63 days later with the insurgents surrendering, following the deaths of some 200,000 rebels and residents.
Titled Warsaw Rising, the film shows the crews that the Polish resistance Home Army sent fanning through the city to chronicle the uprising.
The only purely fictional elements are voiceovers presenting an imagined narrative that stitches together the footage: Two brothers scour the streets of the Polish city tasked with filming the 1944 rebellion of Warsaw residents against their Nazi occupiers, commenting on what they witness, from soup kitchens to scenes of destruction.
Cinematographers hired by the Warsaw Rising Museum added colouration and sound that give a real-life feel, while modern editing techniques provide a polished, fast-paced narrative.
The museum released the trailer of the film last month as part of the observances of the anniversary of the launch of the doomed struggle.
The film will be released in cinemas - in Poland and abroad - next year, before the uprising's 70th anniversary.
There's more at the link, including many photographs.
Here's a preview of the movie. Warning: some of the scenes will be disturbing to those who haven't seen war at first hand. These aren't Hollywood fakery; they're real. The men and women you see in them mostly died during the fighting. Very few survived.
Say a prayer with me, if you would, for the souls of all who died in that ghastly conflict. Proportionately to its land area and population, Poland probably suffered more than any other country during the Second World War. The main Nazi extermination camps were also located there. There's still a miasma of sorrow over the whole nation.
A few months ago I reported that an historic Howell torpedo had been found off the California coast. Now it's been reported that the origin of the torpedo has been determined. The US Navy reports:
Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) Underwater Archeology Branch (UAB) dove into the history of a recently-discovered late-19th century No. 24 Howell Torpedo, Aug. 9, and they scored a direct hit.
"We started looking through SECNAV (Secretary of the Navy) reports and narrowed it down to eight ships which had been outfitted with Howell Torpedoes," said Mikala Pyrch, a George Washington University intern with UAB who discovered where the torpedo's origin. "From there we figured which ships had gone through the Pacific Fleet or spent any time in California along the coast. That narrowed it down the USS Marblehead and the USS Iowa. We went to the National Archives and looked in the deck logs. I saw that in December of 1899 Iowa had been doing target practice with the torpedoes and had lost... Howell No. 24."
USS Iowa (BB-4) (image courtesy of US Navy)
The logs indicated that Iowa had been anchored off San Diego from Dec. 18, 1899 through Jan. 15, 1900 conducting training exercises. On Dec. 20, 1899, under miscellaneous events, the log entry noted, "Lost H. Mark 1, No. 24 torpedo." This was the sole reference to the loss.
When used in training exercises, Howell torpedoes were fitted with a practice warhead that was attached to the midsection by four pins and a single screw. UAB scientists believe during the exercise, the practice warhead may have detached, providing a possible explanation for why only the mid- and tail-sections of the torpedo were found.
. . .
USS Iowa (BB-4) was constructed between 1893 and 1896 and participated in the Spanish-American War, most notably in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba July 2, 1898. Iowa was assigned to the Pacific Fleet from 1899 to 1902 to conduct training cruises, drills, and target practice.
The Howell torpedo, named for Lt. Cmdr. John A. Howell, the primary contributor, was developed between 1870 and 1889. The Howell, the first propelled torpedo, was 11-feet long, made of brass and It had a range of 400 yards, a speed of 25 knots, and a warhead filled with 100 pounds of explosive.
There's more at the link.
It's fascinating to recover a relic of the first type of torpedo that really worked, fired from a battleship that participated in the Spanish-American War. History indeed!
A British farmer took this video clip of a dust-devil (or whatever the British call such things - a dust dumpling, perhaps?) sucking up new-mown hay from a field on his farm. I found it interesting because the wisps of hay perfectly illustrate the central high-speed vortex from time to time, while the wider bands of revolving air lift the hay more gently.
It's a good illustration of how a tornado works, even though the latter's much more powerful.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Coming from Africa, I'm used to reports of predatory wildlife targeting humans. Thousands of Africans die every year in such attacks, most of them unreported and unknown outside their immediate area. It's not the sort of thing one expects in the USA . . . but they happen here, too.
You can read more about the incident here.
I know there are very few documented, verified wolf attacks on humans - but if the wildlife authorities continue to reintroduce them into the wild, when that same wild is a lot less wild and more cramped by pressure of human population, there are going to be more.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Readers may not be aware of the difference between a 'cold launch' and a 'hot launch' when it comes to vertically-launched missiles.
A 'cold launch' is when a missile is pushed out of its firing tube or silo by a burst of compressed gas, or an electric mass driver, or some such system other than its own rocket motor. Its motor ignites only after the missile is clear of the tube, sending it on its way to its target. This system has the advantage that no special (and often bulky) exhaust system is needed to guide the rocket exhaust clear of other missiles or components. Russian vertical-launch systems typically use cold launch technology.
A 'hot launch' is when the missile's own rocket motor fires while the missile is still inside its firing tube, launching it and propelling it towards its target. This requires special ducts to direct the rocket exhaust away from other missiles or components, but also removes the need for special gas systems or other technology to launch the missile - it's essentially self-contained. The US Mk. 41 vertical-launch system uses this technology, which may be viewed in this video clip.
Of course, if the 'cold launch' works, but the missile's rocket motor doesn't fire, this leaves a missile hanging in mid-air directly above its firing tube - and the vehicle carrying that tube. This can have . . . disconcerting consequences, as the crew of this Russian S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile system found out the hard way.
Regular readers will know that I've been angry about the F-35 Lightning II program for several years. It appears to be a poster child for mismanagement, sticker shock, price overruns and mission bloat. I believe it'll bankrupt the US armed forces if it's not canceled, or at least dramatically scaled back.
Now comes evidence that at least one version - the US Marines' F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant - has come under critical scrutiny for several years, but this criticism has failed to produce action or results. David Axe has produced two excellent articles summing up what a test pilot had to say about the F-35B:
Test Pilot Tried to Warn Navy About Troubled Stealth Jet
Marines’ Stealth Fighter Repeating Navy Jet’s Embarrassing History
Marines’ Stealth Fighter Repeating Navy Jet’s Embarrassing History
Here's a blistering excerpt from the first article.
The Marines readily concede that the F-35B suffers from reduced range, endurance and payload compared to the Air Force’s F-35A and Navy’s F-35C — and even compared to the Corps’ current FA-18s and old Air Force F-16s, for that matter.
But the Marines insist they don’t need all of the range, endurance and payload because they will operate ashore in austere conditions, with short mission ranges and cycle times. Regardless, the laws of physics mean a STOVL jet will never have the same capacity as conventional jets, because the airplane jump jet design dedicates space and weight to the vertical lift system.
Why STOVL at all? Why not just have a good short-field capability, allowing the USMC to abandon the fancy stuff that provides vertical lift?
If the Marines conceded that point, the rationale for their very own jet would evaporate and they would be forced to abandon their little STOVL fast-mover air force, or else buy Navy or Air Force airplanes. And if that happened one would rationally ask why the Corps needs any fast-movers at all? Why can’t the Navy and Air Force do that job?
The answers to these questions are unacceptable to the Marines who want their own unique jet, even though those answers might be eminently logical and reasonable for national defense.
. . .
The F-35B is technically a great little machine that provides a lot of ego-massaging and heart-thumping flight capabilities for air shows, although tactically it has more sex appeal than real muscle. The problem is that it provides nothing for the mission it was designed to do that can’t be done better by other resources that are already available to us today.
We have wasted too much money chasing an airplane that is dead on arrival, perhaps worse than useless because it is more of a burden than an asset in combat operations. It is a nice air-show airplane, but it does nothing to advance the amphibious assault mission or the art of war for which it was allegedly designed.
There's more at the link, and in the second article. Recommended reading.
Meanwhile, Boeing has just flown inert versions of conformal fuel tanks and a low-drag weapons pod on its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike aircraft, currently in service with the US Navy. Flight Global reports:
The prototype tanks fitted to the test aircraft, which Boeing is leasing from the US Navy, are aerodynamically representative, but are non-functional. The production version will weigh 395kg and carry 1,588kg (3,500lb) of fuel, Summers says, boosting range by 260nm (481km).
Like the conformal tanks, the prototype weapons pod is also an aerodynamically representative shape, but is non-functional. Boeing has performed windtunnel tests with the pod's doors open up to speeds of M1.6, it says.
An operational version of the weapons pod is expected to weigh roughly 408kg and hold 1,134kg of munitions. But despite its large payload, it will have roughly the same drag profile as a centerline drop tank, Summers says.
The modified Super Hornet boasts a 50% improvement in its low-observable signature. While not an all-aspect stealth aircraft, Gibbons says the enhancements will greatly improve the Super Hornet's already low frontal radar cross-section.
While it will not equate to a dedicated stealth fighter, it will be "good enough" for most of the navy's future missions in contested airspace, he says.
Summers says the prototype-equipped fighter has flown 15 flights, accumulating 25h. Nine additional flights are planned, which are anticipated to amass a further 14h.
Efforts are also under way to integrate an internal infrared search and track system on to the Super Hornet and to boost engine power on the jet's General Electric F414s by 20%.
Again, more at the link.
So, tell me . . . given that the Navy's existing Super Hornets can be upgraded to have greater range than the F-35, and already have superior dogfighting performance (which will be further enhanced if more powerful engines are fitted), and can be made almost as stealthy as the F-35 . . . why are we still spending almost three times as much for each copy of the latter as we will on the former? And why are we prepared to tolerate operating costs for the F-35 that are at least 50% higher than for the F/A-18E/F? And why, in an operating environment where unmanned strike aircraft are already dominating in many areas and are likely to dominate many more in future, are we still devoting over a trillion dollars to an as-yet-not-ready-for-service manned strike aircraft program?
Boondoggle. There's no other word for it.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The Ocean Geographic Pictures of the Year competition for 2013 is now over, and the winners have been announced. The Howard Hall Award for Outstanding Achievement went to Erick Higuera for his short film 'Baja'.
Here it is. I really don't like the music soundtrack, so I prefer to watch it with the volume muted. Your mileage may vary. I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.
Popular Mechanics has put up two very useful short articles about what causes tires to blow out, and how to deal with the situation when they do. You'll find them at these links:
Dealing with a blowout is NOT intuitive, and the technique isn't what you'd expect. Highly recommended reading for all drivers.
I've long been aware that hand-gestures mean different things in different cultures. For example, in many Southern African tribal contexts, to see two male friends walking hand-in-hand is absolutely normal as a gesture of friendship and unity; but in the USA, it's usually found only among gay couples. In the USA, to 'give someone the finger' involves a single digit; but the equivalent gesture in the UK uses two, in a reversal of Churchill's famous palm-outward 'V-for-Victory' sign.
Now the Telegraph brings us a photo gallery of hand gestures that may seem innocuous to us, but mean nasty things in other cultures. For example:
Meaning: Are you an idiot?
Used in: Brazil
A South American gesture indicating stupidity, this requires improv skills and an actorly flair. To perform, put your fist to your forehead while making a comical overbite. The gesture is most effective when accented with multiple grunts. When executed correctly, you will be rewarded with appreciative laughs, though not, perhaps, from your subject.
Meaning: You're stingy
Used in: Mexico, South America
Just as the heart is associated with love, so, in many Latin American countries, is the elbow with stinginess. In Mexico the two are so closely linked that a miser is described as "muy codo" (very elbow), the idea being that he rarely straightens it to pay the check. If your compadre makes a habit of failing to pick up the check, you may wish to correct his behaviour with this sharp gesture. For extra emphasis, bang your elbow on the table.
Note: In Austria and Germany the same gesture means “You’re an idiot,” suggesting that the elbow is where the subject keeps his brain.
There are more at the link. Useful information for travelers, and entertaining for the rest of us!
I was intrigued to read that the state of one's intestines may have a lot to do with the state of one's mind. The Verge reports:
For decades, researchers have known of the connection between the brain and the gut. Anxiety often causes nausea and diarrhea, and depression can change appetite. The connection may have been established, but scientists thought communication was one way: it traveled from the brain to the gut, and not the other way around.
But now, a new understanding of the trillions of microbes living in our guts reveals that this communication process is more like a multi-lane superhighway than a one-way street. By showing that changing bacteria in the gut can change behavior, this new research might one day transform the way we understand — and treat — a variety of mental health disorders.
. . .
For Greenblatt, this radical treatment protocol has actually been decades in the making. Even during his psychiatric residency at George Washington University, he was perplexed by the way mental disorders were treated. It was as if, he said, the brain was totally separate from the body. More than 20 years of work treating eating disorders emphasized Greenblatt’s hunch: that the connection between body and mind was more important than conventional psychiatry assumed. “Each year, I get more and more impressed at how important the GI tract is for healthy mood and the controlling of behavior,” Greenblatt said. Among eating disorder patients, Greenblatt found that more than half of psychiatric complaints were associated with problems in the gut — and in some patients, he says he has remedied both using solely high-dose probiotics, along with normalizing eating.
. . .
Yogurts like Dannon’s Activia have been marketed with much success as a panacea for all of our intestinal ills. Other probiotic supplements have claimed to support immune health. Probiotics’ potential to treat human behavior is increasingly apparent, but will manufacturers one day toss an anxiety-fighting blend into their probiotic brews?
It’s a distinct possibility: in one 2013 proof-of-concept study, researchers at UCLA showed that healthy women who consumed a drink with four added probiotic strains twice daily for four weeks showed significantly altered brain functioning on an fMRI brain scan. The women’s brains were scanned while they looked at photos of angry or sad faces, and then asked to match those with other faces showing similar emotions.
Those who had consumed the probiotic drink showed significantly lower brain activity in the neural networks that help drive responses to sensory and emotional behavior. The research is “groundbreaking,” Cryan said, because it’s the first trial to show that probiotics could affect the functioning of the human brain.
There's more at the link.
I daresay the article provides plenty of 'food for thought' - as long as it doesn't produce mental indigestion! Interesting stuff.
Christina LMT, who blogs at 'Lucrative Pain', has three lovely
Christina's put out her first-ever blog appeal for help for her daughter. I know them both (Christina's one of our Blogorado crowd), and Miss D. and I have already kicked in our contribution. May I appeal to you, dear readers, to help as well? Silver's worth it, IMHO.
Many thanks in advance.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Early in my military service I was introduced to the concept of 'completed staff work'. Wikipedia has a useful definition of the term.
Completed Staff Work is a principle of management which states that subordinates are responsible for submitting written recommendations to superiors in such a manner that the superior need do nothing further in the process than review the submitted document and indicate approval or disapproval.
In Completed Staff Work, the subordinate is responsible for identifying the problem or issue requiring decision by some higher authority. In written form such as a memorandum, the subordinate documents the research done, the facts gathered, and analysis made of alternative courses of action. The memo concludes with a specific recommendation for action by the superior.
The most useful summary I've found of the concept and what's involved is a military memo issued during the Second World War. It's short, concise and to the point. I recommend reading the whole thing - it's worth it.
The way it was taught to me in the South African military was that any memo to one's superior officer(s) should be no more than one page in length (plus supporting documentation if necessary, but only if absolutely necessary). That one page should include:
- a statement of the problem;
- possibly (but not necessarily) a list of potential solutions;
- a recommended solution; and -
- the reason(s) for recommending it.
If one couldn't fit all of that onto a single page, one went back and edited for conciseness until one could. If the material was simply too much to fit into one page, one broke the problem down into sub-problems, each of which could be expressed on one page, complete with recommended solution(s).
The one-page limit was critical. More than once I was accused of 'sloppy thinking' when handing in more verbose submissions, which were usually tossed back at me unread. It was an invaluable education in how to be accurate, concise and to the point, cutting out all extraneous concepts and verbiage and sticking closely to the issue at hand. To this day, when preparing important analyses prior to making a decision, I try to do the same thing. Sure, I'll have long in-depth analyses of issues when needed, but those don't belong in the decision-making stage. They're background material, to be consulted if and when the need arises. The core structure is always problem - possible solutions - recommendation - why it's recommended, and always concise.
I fear the concept of 'completed staff work' is honored far more in the breach than in the observance today. Many people can't write to save their lives, and resort to Powerpoint as an alternative to the typewriter or word processor. (There's a reason they speak of 'Death by Powerpoint'.) Others waffle around all over the place without ever getting to the point, or make recommendations without specifying why they propose the selected alternative, so that one has no idea why it's superior to other possibilities. All too often they leave out supporting documentation, or include it selectively, so that it's impossible to gain an overall, unbiased impression of the field so as to make an informed decision.
Am I missing something? Is 'completed staff work' no longer taught or used today? And if not, how do we bring it back?
My series of articles on the bond market a few weeks ago attracted little overt reader interest. Indeed, I had a few people e-mail with a sort of 'Meh!' response. They really didn't understand why the bond market was so important, even though I tried to explain it. I probably didn't do so well enough . . .
Now the bond chickens are coming home to roost. The inimitable Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explains.
The $9 trillion accumulation of foreign bonds by the rising powers of Asia, Latin America and the emerging world risks going into reverse as one country after another is forced to liquidate holdings to shore up its currency, threatening to inflict a credit shock on the global economy.
India’s rupee and Turkey’s lira both crashed to record lows on Thursday following the US Federal Reserve releasing minutes which signalled a wind-down of quantitative easing as soon as next month.
Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, held an emergency meeting on Thursday with her top economic officials to halt the real’s slide after it hit a five-year low against the dollar. The central bank chief, Alexandre Tombini, cancelled his trip to the Fed’s Jackson Hole conclave in order “to monitor market activity” amid reports Brazil is preparing direct intervention to stem capital flight.
. . .
A string of countries have been burning foreign reserves to defend exchange rates, with holdings down 8pc in Ecuador, 6pc in Kazakhstan and Kuwait, and 5.5pc in Indonesia in July alone. Turkey’s reserves have dropped 15pc this year.
“Emerging markets are in the eye of the storm,” said Stephen Jen at SLJ Macro Partners. “Their currencies are in grave danger. These things always overshoot.”
It was Fed tightening and a rising dollar that set off Latin America’s crisis in the early 1980s and East Asia’s crisis in the mid-1990s. Both episodes were contained, though not easily.
Emerging markets have stronger shock absorbers today and largely borrow in their own currencies, making them less vulnerable to a dollar squeeze. However, they now make up half the world economy and are big enough to set off a crisis in the West.
Fears of Fed tightening have pushed borrowing costs worldwide to levels that could threaten global recovery. Yields on 10-year bonds jumped 47 basis points to 12.29pc in Brazil on Thursday, 33 points to 9.72pc in Turkey, and 12 points to 8.4pc in South Africa.
There had been hopes that the Fed might delay its tapering of bond purchases, chastened by the jump in long-term rates in the US itself. Ten-year US yields – the world’s benchmark price of money – have soared from 1.6pc to 2.9pc since early May.
Hans Redeker from Morgan Stanley said a “negative feedback loop” is taking hold as emerging markets are forced to impose austerity and sell reserves to shore up their currencies, the exact opposite of what happened over the past decade as they built up a vast war chest of US and European bonds.
The effect of the reserve build-up by China and others was to compress global bond yields, leading to property bubbles and equity booms in the West. The reversal of this process could be painful.
There's more at the link.
Remember what I said about interest rates and bond prices? The higher one goes, the lower the other goes, and vice versa. It's an inverse relationship. All those countries who bought bonds at high prices are now holding overpriced assets that they can't sell for what they paid for them. Many nations that relied on sovereign bonds as part of their foreign reserves are nevertheless having to sell them right now, in order to raise cash to defend their own national currencies. That means they have no choice but to take that loss - it's become unavoidable.
That's precisely the same risk that the Fed is taking. It currently owns about $2 trillion (!!!) of US bonds. If it needs to sell some in a hurry to finance other measures to support the dollar, at the current lower bond prices, it'll take a heavy loss on its investments. It might even end up technically insolvent.
This is where the interconnectedness and interdependence of world financial markets collides headlong with reality. The US Federal Reserve cannot take decisions solely in the best interests of the USA, because they will simultaneously affect international markets in a way that may be in the worst interests of at least some other countries. It's no good to say, "Well, that doesn't matter - they must look to themselves." They can retaliate in ways that hurt us badly, too - witness the massive sell-off by foreign nations of US bonds that appears to be under way at present.
There are so many factors poised on a knife-edge right now. Any one of them could trigger a global economic tsunami. The Syrian civil war . . . Iran's nuclear program, and a possible Israeli counterstrike . . . Japan's conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands . . . Pakistan's internal battle with Islamic fundamentalism . . . the US economy's ongoing woes . . . any or all of these could interact in such a way as to precipitate panic in the financial markets. When people panic, who knows when, or where, or how it'll end?
I'm worried. Seriously.
A Tumblr photoblog called 'Bass Dogs' is putting up a hilarious series of photographs of musicians playing their instruments - except that the latter have been replaced by Photoshopped images of animals, usually (but not always) dogs. Here are a few examples.
There are many more at the link. Too funny!
Sunday, August 25, 2013
If you need a brush-up on your defensive-only hand-to-hand skills, try eating a chicken-based pasta dish while balancing a laptop on your knees, all in the same room with a Siamese kitten.
I had to laugh at this report about a program and associated device called MooMonitor.
Eight million people in the UK now sport wearable technology, but animals wear it as well.
One such technology is something called MooMonitor, a necklace worn by cows that monitors cows’ health and fertility. Its owners describe it as ‘dairy SatNav’ and say that the MooMonitor’s technology is replicated in rockets and torpedoes.
. . .
The MooMonitor necklace connects to The Cloud and its consequent data ensures the correct allocation of energy and minerals within the animal’s feed and this results in fewer health issues for the dairy herd and improved milk yields.
Its Technical Director, Dr Edmond Harty, joined the family business in 1998 and probably knows more about mik than anybody else in Europe. Not only does he know about milk, he was also named the international Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 and describes MooMonitor as ‘measuring friskiness’.
“The challenge was how to monitor the behaviour of every cow in a herd day and night. The solution was wearable technology. What we figured out was that it would be possible to include accelerometers, mobile and WIFI components, a decent bit of computing power and the software to run on it and could result in a single piece of technology that each cow could wear, that’s the MooMonitor. What it does from a practical point of view is measure friskiness.
“More precisely, it measures how and how much a cow moves, the single best indicator of whether a cow is ready to get pregnant. This is vital because regular pregnancies are what keep dairy cows producing milk. Each time a farmer misses out on such an opportunity it costs him or her €250. Dairymaster is all about applying the latest gizmos and technology to make a real difference in dairy farming,” he says.
. . .
So, that pint of milk on the doorstep is more than just a pint of milk. It is a technological piece of genius produced by great minds via animals that get recurrently pregnant and wear a necklace. Now you know.
There's more at the link.
So a high-technology computerized necklace can tell when its wearer is ready to get pregnant. I can see possibilities here . . . but no, on second thoughts, let's not go there. This might get udderly ridiculous!
I'm continuing to work my trousers and fingertips to the bone. I set myself a target of publishing four books over a seven-month period this year, but if I'd known how much work was involved, I'd never have considered it! Sure, I'd written three of them to within final draft level already, but the amount of work remaining is still . . . impressive.
Still, I can't complain. Thanks to all of you and your support, I'm doing really well for a newbie independently-published author. By the end of August, I'll have sold approximately 10,500 copies of my first two novels. That's in just 3½ months on the market, which is very satisfying. If I can do as well with the next two books, and continue the progress next year, I'll be very happy indeed!
The prison ministry memoir is better than 90% complete. All that remains is to update some of the statistics (I wrote the first draft back in 2007, so I need to make sure that the numbers I cite are more recent than that). I've asked Lawdog, whom I'm sure many of you read as well, to write a Foreword and cover blurb for the book, which he should send shortly. Then I've got to update and hot-link all the end-notes for Kindle, produce a hot-linked Table of Contents, and prepare a second edition formatted for print via CreateSpace. That'll take a couple of weeks. I'd hoped to have everything ready for publication on September 15th, but it may slip to September 20th or so. I'll do my best.
The third novel in the Steve Maxwell series is well under way. I'd written a couple of earlier drafts, but neither was anything like ready for publication. I'm busy with the final version now, and have almost completed the third out of seven sections. This one will be longer than the first two, and more complex. It's a lot of fun, because Steve's career has now reached the point where he can begin taking on some real responsibility. He also meets a rather interesting young lady . . . but I'll let you read about her for yourself! His pirate nemesis returns, as well. There are a lot of elements to bring together into a cohesive whole. It's quite a challenge.
I plan to get the first three sections of Maxwell 3 out to a couple of alpha readers by mid-week, freeing me to concentrate on publishing the prison chaplaincy memoir. As soon as that's out, I return to Maxwell 3, hopefully incorporating feedback from my alpha readers. I'm going to Blogorado in October, which will eat into my writing time, but I hope to have the final draft finished by late that month. It'll go to alpha/beta readers for a quick pass while I prepare the templates for the published versions. I'd like to be ready to publish by November 15th, but with so much still to do, it may slip until the beginning of December. I don't want to publish later than that, because I need to catch the Christmas shopping season. Then it's on to Maxwell Volume 4 . . .
Only problem is, my eyes are getting rectangular with all this staring at a computer screen! I'm having to use lubricant ointment in them every day to prevent serious dryness problems. I'm sure those of you who do a lot of computer work know exactly what I mean. I'll have to take care of them. In this line of business, they're primary tools of the trade!
The NSA's unconstitutional violation of our privacy has been much discussed in recent weeks. I'm particularly irritated by the insistence from its defenders that what it did was 'legal'. That doesn't matter a row of beans. If I have sufficient 'pull' in Congress, I can arrange to pass a law tomorrow declaring that the sky is green. From then on, the sky will indeed be 'legally' green - but that won't affect the fact that it remains blue. What is legal often bears little (sometimes no) relationship to what is right, or just, or ethical, or moral. What the NSA has done to us is none of those things - and it's a prima facie violation of the Fourth Amendment to boot.
I'm profoundly disturbed by the laid-back, "So what?" or "Who cares?" reaction to this scandal by many Americans. To me it strikes at the root of our democracy. If government agencies can abuse their powers to spy on us, determine our tax status on the basis of the philosophies or beliefs we espouse, and dole out benefits based on whether or not they earn support for the powers that be rather than treat everyone equally and objectively, never being called to account - much less punished - for these transgressions, we've completely lost sight of the Founding Fathers' vision for this country.
This is very much the attitude in Europe. They get it, far more than most Americans do. Here are three reactions with which I wholeheartedly agree.
First, Der Spiegel in Germany says that 'Europe must protect itself from America'.
The problem is not the violation of certain laws. Rather, in the US the laws themselves are the problem. The NSA, in fact, didn't even overreach its own authority when it sucked up 97 billion pieces of data in one single 30-day period last March. Rather, it was acting on the orders of the entire US government, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches, the Democrats, the Republicans, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Supreme Court. They are all in favor. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, merely shrugged her shoulders and said: "It's legal."
What, exactly, is the purpose of the National Security Agency? Security, as its name might suggest? No matter in what system or to what purpose: A monitored human being is not a free human being. And every state that systematically contravenes human rights, even in the alleged service of security, is acting criminally.
Those who believed that drone attacks in Pakistan or the camp at Guantanamo were merely regrettable events at the end of the world should stop to reflect. Those who still believed that the torture at Abu Ghraib or that the waterboarding in CIA prisons had nothing to do with them, are now changing their views. Those who thought that we are on the good side and that it is others who are stomping all over human rights are now opening their eyes. A regime is ruling in the United States today that acts in totalitarian ways when it comes to its claim to total control. Soft totalitarianism is still totalitarianism.
There's more at the link. Bold underlined text is my emphasis.
Next, the German government has issued a formal warning about unannounced 'back doors' into the Windows 8 operating system that it fears may result in not only the NSA, but also Microsoft and others, being able to monitor user activity - even take over their computer.
According to leaked internal documents from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) that Die Zeit obtained, IT experts figured out that Windows 8, the touch-screen enabled, super-duper, but sales-challenged Microsoft operating system is outright dangerous for data security. It allows Microsoft to control the computer remotely through a built-in backdoor. Keys to that backdoor are likely accessible to the NSA – and in an unintended ironic twist, perhaps even to the Chinese.
The backdoor is called “Trusted Computing,” developed and promoted by the Trusted Computing Group, founded a decade ago by the all-American tech companies AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Wave Systems. Its core element is a chip, the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and an operating system designed for it, such as Windows 8. Trusted Computing Group has developed the specifications of how the chip and operating systems work together.
. . .
Now there is a new set of specifications out, creatively dubbed TPM 2.0. While TPM allowed users to opt in and out, TPM 2.0 is activated by default when the computer boots up. The user cannot turn it off. Microsoft decides what software can run on the computer, and the user cannot influence it in any way. Windows governs TPM 2.0. And what Microsoft does remotely is not visible to the user. In short, users of Windows 8 with TPM 2.0 surrender control over their machines the moment they turn it on for the first time.
It would be easy for Microsoft or chip manufacturers to pass the backdoor keys to the NSA and allow it to control those computers. NO, Microsoft would never do that, we protest. Alas, Microsoft, as we have learned from the constant flow of revelations, informs the US government of security holes in its products well before it issues fixes so that government agencies can take advantage of the holes and get what they’re looking for.
Experts at the BSI, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Federal Administration warned unequivocally against using computers with Windows 8 and TPM 2.0. One of the documents from early 2012 lamented, “Due to the loss of full sovereignty over the information technology, the security objectives of ‘confidentiality’ and ‘integrity’ can no longer be guaranteed.”
Again, more at the link; and again, bold underlined text is my emphasis.
Think about the dangers inherent in this capability. We've already learned of blatant, overt attempts to inveigle some conservative public figures to open child pornography on their computers, thereby laying themselves open to criminal charges. What if a rogue agency of the present Administration - yes, NSA, I'm talking about you, among others! - were to gain the ability to manipulate your computer without your knowledge, using the Windows 8 'back door', to plant incriminating stuff like that on your hard drive, or in your 'cloud computing' storage? When it was oh-so-conveniently 'discovered' during a search, do you really think a jury of your peers would believe your claims that it must have been planted there? They hear that excuse all day, every day from criminals in all walks of life . . . and they send them to prison. They'll do it to you, too, without so much as a second thought.
Finally, the Telegraph points out that this scandal has exposed 'a gross abuse of power by a secret policing agency'.
What the NSA was (is) doing is strictly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that the citizen shall be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” without probable cause. That is why the 2008 anti-terrorism law, which allows warrantless surveillance on domestic networks, specifies that this must be targeted at non-citizens abroad.
In reality, this programme now involves the indiscriminate mass monitoring of innocent communications on a scale that is unprecedented in history. What we should be concerned about are not the personal quirks of Mr Snowden or his opportunistic embrace by Vladimir Putin, but the significance of what he revealed with the help of some journalists.
. . .
And this is the justification of it all: that the dangerousness of the times means that we must temporarily suspend our basic freedoms and even our concept of private life. So let me make this clear. I recognise the unfathomable danger of a deranged, nihilistic enemy. If anything, the threat to civilian life seems greater now than during the Cold War, when both sides were quietly dealing all the time.
But where are we going with this? How much are we prepared to compromise with our idea of a life worth living in order to pursue the chimera of perfect safety?
An awful lot of people are saying that they don’t mind if their emails, Skype calls and mobile phone records are being collected. If that helps the state to protect them and their families, it’s OK.
Well, suppose we park a security officer at the door of every household to monitor who enters and leaves, who visits whom and how many hours they stay? The security men won’t actually enter the house, of course, unless they have reason to believe that there might be some activity taking place inside that could facilitate or incite terrorism – but they will keep records of all the comings and goings from every address. Will that be OK too?
. . .
An editor of the US National Review wrote last week of those “who steadfastly refuse to express anxiety unless they can actually hear jackboots”. Note: once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late.
More at the link.
I don't know how we can stop agencies like the NSA from overreaching themselves and abusing their powers. Such bureaucracies take on an institutional life of their own, and develop real expertise in manipulating public opinion, 'managing' politicians, and getting their own way regardless of legal and/or constitutional obstacles. (Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy admirably sums up and expresses this reality.)
I submit that if we can't stop the agencies as organizations, we can and must hold individuals accountable within those agencies, both judicially and socially. Judicially, we need to prosecute all who overstep the mark, and punish them (up to and including salutary prison terms) for their misdeeds. Socially, we need to take careful note of - and publicize and circulate - the names and addresses of bureaucrats and petty functionaries who violate Constitutional norms and legitimate standards, and who make the lives of others a misery for no good reason. Let them be shunned. Cut them off from civilized society. Refuse to serve them in stores. Refuse to speak to them or acknowledge them in any way. Withdraw all co-operation from them and their agency(ies). Make sure they understand that they're pariahs, and unwanted in the company of any and all decent people.
If they persist in their ways, even stronger measures may be required; but one hopes it won't come to that . . . because if it does, our republic will by then have ceased to exist.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
On Monday I pointed out that the hype in the mainstream media about the recovery of the US housing market was not only incorrect, but a deliberate lie. I demonstrated that the fundamentals of that sector, as calculated by the US Federal Reserve, were anything but healthy.
What do we read today?
Friday, the Commerce Department released another startling and unexpected statistic: New home sales collapsed in July by a full 13.4%. According to the AP this is a 9-month low.
A rise in interest rates has also resulted in a decrease in mortgage applications.
. . .
There was good news in July. Existing home sales rose to their highest level since 2009. Unfortunately, no one is put to work building, landscaping, selling and manufacturing materials for a home that already exists.
There's more at the link. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
So much for the naysayers, and those who would mislead US consumers. The numbers don't lie . . . and they're lousy. I continue to have little or no confidence in the short- to medium-term well-being of the US economy.
I remember seeing something like this in the late 1990's, but this version is far more complete. From the latest Casey Daily Dispatch newsletter:
In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dorothy. And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.
And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"
And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddlebags short of a camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?"
And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."
Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.
To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures—Hebrew To The People (HTTP).
And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.
And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drumheads and drumsticks.
And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others."
And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known.
He said, "We need a name that reflects what we are."
And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."
"YAHOO," said Abraham.
And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.
Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside.
It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).
That is how it all began. And that's the truth.
I was impressed by this video clip of a Portuguese helicopter pilot on fire-fighting duty two days ago. He was tackling a brush fire on a hillside, and spotted a swimming-pool no more than a few yards away. Instead of going back to a dam or the sea to get more water, he shuttled back and forth to the swimming-pool and filled his bucket there, probably saving several minutes flying time each way. The camera operator got a very close view of proceedings.
I have only one question. Who pays the water bill to refill the pool?
I refrained from posting on the murder in Oklahoma last week of an Australian baseball player until more facts were available. First reports stated that the killers had acted because they were 'bored', but subsequent reports indicate a gang connection - possibly an initiation ritual.
Let me say at once that if the accused are guilty as charged, they're nothing more than a waste of oxygen. They appear to have become so steeped in evil and indifference to others that I think there's virtually no chance they'll ever reform. (One of them apparently [at least initially] regarded the whole thing, even his arrest, as inconsequential - even amusing! He's openly admitted to 'hating white people'.) I hope the Oklahoma judicial system will lock them up and throw away the key . . . but I fear that may not happen. Their youth may yet allow at least some of them to get away with minimal punishment for their crimes.
The problem is, these three offenders are not alone in this. There are many like them, some already out on the streets after committing violent crimes, because the judicial system fails us by not keeping them locked up. The 'revolving door' justice system is a problem nationwide, and internationally too. (If you follow the links in the preceding sentence, watch your blood pressure!) Furthermore, they're going back to a 'ghetto culture' in which a false, misleading Black history has been made up out of whole cloth. (This has been going on for a long time: for an early example, see the utterly ridiculous 'Moorish myth' - link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format). Whites are blamed for everything, while (largely Black) gangsters and thugs are held up as role models to be admired and emulated. (Just look at the whole 'gangsta rap' scene to see what I mean. From my experience as a prison chaplain, I can assure you that 'gangsta rap' is endemic behind bars - and the three alleged murderers are even more immersed in that culture right now, because they're behind bars with other criminals.)
Fellow blogger DiveMedic puts it bluntly: "many American blacks have decided to declare a race war against whites in this country". Based on my prison chaplaincy experience and extensive exposure to inner-city racial ghettoes, I agree with him. He offers these suggestions for how we should conduct ourselves:
- Don't travel on foot in areas of town where minorities congregate.
- Keep your head on a swivel. If it looks hinky, get out of there.
- Staying in a crowded area may not help you, as the crowd itself may be targeting you.
- Be armed at all times.
- Have an escape plan.
- Putting a video recorder in your car wouldn't be a bad idea.
There's more at the link. Recommended reading.
I've already written about the changing urban self-defense environment. This latest incident merely reinforces what I said there, and makes it more urgent. If you live in, or travel through, or visit, an area in or near which such gang activities are prevalent, or that's near a racial ghetto, be aware of the danger, and act accordingly. Your life may quite literally depend on it.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
A few weeks ago I put up footage of a Russian water-bombing aircraft extinguishing a house fire (and the fire brigade along with it!). It seems that on July 30th, a Canadian water-bomber did a similar job. CBCNews reports that "A water bomber was called to help put out a fire that erupted when a grader and a tractor trailer collided on the Trans-Labrador Highway Monday." Here's the video.
Nice flying. The driver of the truck will be OK.
Someone here – I think it was Rick – had asked me to write about the controversy over a living wage. I’ve avoided it because every time I state economic facts (remember, there’s a reason they call economics the dismal science) some lefty blogger links me saying I want poor people to die or some similar excreta. For instance, the post called “If you don’t work you die” – which applies to society as a whole, i.e. a society that doesn’t produce enough to support itself will die out – got some left chickie (might have been male, I didn’t check. Was still a chickie.) ranting how I should have been a Nazi prison guard.
But this article finally got me to tackling the whole “living wage” controversy, because the article itself and the interviews with the people are so full of unmitigated fail that… well…
Let’s start by stating my goal: I would like everyone to make a living wage working at whatever they want to or are best at. I’d like it to start with me, frankly, because thought I’m doing all right, if you parse out my hours weekends and evenings and all I’m making far less than that. But of course, I have a hope of escape, or at least a hope of supporting myself from all this hard work in my old age, when work slows down. (I have no illusions I’ll ever be able to retire.) And I do realize fast-food and low level retail workers can’t. And I wish they could from the bottom of my heart. But—
But economics is a science, which means it’s something that studies nature to discover its laws. This means our laws cannot change nature. You can’t legislate economics, any more than you can legislate the weather. For instance, I would love it for it to rain only at night because then when we go anywhere during the day it would always be sunny. Also, could we get snow to melt after a few hours of looking scenic? I hate walking in subzero weather. And so many elderly die from extremes in weather. We should make the temperature 62 degrees year around. Think how much we’d save on fuel, too. Why wouldn’t you do that? What do you have against the elderly and the poor.
Because it doesn’t work. Because the government in DC can pass all the laws it wants, but the weather still will do exactly what it will do.
Now imagine that the government could affect the weather in a limited way. Say, shave off the hardest cold and the worst heat. Wouldn’t that be great?
No. Pray they never do. Why? Because while it might produce the “desired” result in a limited way, in a limited area, over time it will cause much more damage in other places. Because the weather system is interconnected, dependent on myriad factors some of which we don’t know yet, and if you push one way to make it the way you want, you’re going to cause disaster elsewhere. And if you’re callous enough not to care what happens elsewhere, yet the disaster will eventually come around to you, too.
And that’s sort of what the living wage is like.
There's more at the link. The comments from her readers are also excellent in many cases. Thanks, Sarah!
What are you waiting for? Go read.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I hadn't, until I came across this article.
It is nearly sunset on November 5th in the idyllic Devon town of Ottery St Mary. A seven-year-old boy is charging towards me, carrying a fiery wooden barrel belching flames. On his head. Welcome to the annual Ottery Tar Barrels Festival.
The town’s residents are proud and protective of their festival, the exact origins of which are unknown. Some say it started after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605; others that it was a way of fumigating cottages. It has also been seen as something that served as a warning of the approach of the Spanish Armada.
What is certain is that the festival, held every November, gives Ottery St Mary an indelible sense of identity. Many of the so-called “barrel rollers” are heirs to a family tradition which has been passed down countless generations. Sons and daughters of Ottery return from the world over to attend the festival. It is one of the few remaining tar barrel fire festivals in the country – not surprisingly given the fact they that they fly in the face of the heath-and-safety culture in the country – and it is by far the most extraordinary to witness.
. . .
I manage to place myself right in the centre of the crowd for the lighting of “The Midnight”. As it turns out, this is not the most sensible idea as the giant barrel bursts with flames of eyebrow-singeing intensity. As it is rolled round to allow the air to get to the tar, the barrel rollers – grown men now in their forties and fifties – shield their faces with their hessian mitts. The crowd sways this way and that as the fire scorches those nearest the barrel, and when the colossus is finally lifted, the cheer is deafening. It is a team effort, the fruit of a lifetime of practice for the men who are carrying it.
There's more at the link, and at the Festival's Web site. Here's a video report about last year's festival.
Looks like there sure was 'a hot time in the old town' that night! I must admit, if I'm ever in England in early November, I'd like to see that . . .
American Thinker has the answer.
Those of us in the healthcare field have seen up close what government programs like Medicaid mean in terms of a "right" to medical care. Our emergency room happens to be in a major southern urban area. If any one of the 20-somethings who voted for Obama would be willing to volunteer for at least a month at our facility, I can almost guarantee these same hoodwinked young people would be singing the praises of capitalism, warts and all.
Just ask Samantha (name changed to protect identity). With so many college graduates looking for work, we recently hired the 24-year old at our registration desk. Samantha is a die-hard liberal, but it just so happens her boyfriend is a 28-year-old conservative-minded accountant. When first hired about three months ago, she talked a great deal about their political differences.
Samantha was very sympathetic to the plight of the poor and their need for assistance. Moreover, she felt her boyfriend didn't understand the situation with this segment of the population which would be unable to survive without help from the government.
After one month of doing her job registering 45 ER Medicaid patients daily for various reasons like STD's, painkillers, child abuse, infected fingernails from having their nails done, old gunshot wounds, and pregnancy tests for as young as 12 years old, Samantha was visibly on the verge of a breakdown or a breakthrough, I couldn't tell which.
By the end of 90 days, Samantha told me what really affected her was the cold reality that most of the Medicaid patients treated her like dirt.
. . .
My father said there are two kinds of education -- the kind you get between the ears and the kind you get between a rock and a hard place. Both are valuable. Samantha's getting the second kind now. Unfortunately, she says, the first kind didn't prepare her for this job, or the fact that she's helping to subsidize the kind of craziness she sees every day. She says the DC politicians that have made her complicit in this madness sometimes make her angrier than the patients do.
Since she's open to real conversation, I'm trying to fill in the historical blanks for Samantha. I tell her, for example, that when a progressive/Democrat/so-called liberal says the word "right" they are not talking about the kind of rights our founding fathers had in mind. It's the pursuit of happiness we have a right to, not happiness.
All the free cell phones, subsidized housing, phony mortgage loans, education programs, ADC payments and trillion dollar healthcare plans have made most people more broke and miserable, not happier. She now agrees.
There's more at the link.
I learned the same lessons working with prison inmates and their families. The level of 'entitlement culture' was and is absolutely staggering, even after incarceration. It's mind-boggling to hear a man convicted of multiple murders, rapes, assaults and other heinous crimes complaining bitterly that he's been 'disrespected' by a prison guard, or isn't 'getting his rights', and he's going to sue us for every cent we've got to make up for the suffering (physical, mental, spiritual and cultural) that these slights have caused him.
As an instructor at FLETC said to me one day, "In his first year the Correctional Officer can't do enough for the inmate. In his second year, he can't do enough to the inmate. In his third and subsequent years, he just doesn't give a damn any more." Faced with this caliber of 'customer' - the same that the author of the above article encounters every day in his ER - can one blame him?
Looks like Aberdeen Proving Grounds is disposing of a large airliner. You didn't know they had one? Think again.
The Army notes that the aircraft was used for “Government testing” and as the result of the testing, it “is not a functional plane”. They’re not kidding.
The A300 ... was most likely used in “least-risk bomb location” (LRBL) testing which is used to determine where onboard an aircraft a crew would want to place an explosive if found.
By FAA regulations finalized in 2008, commercial aircraft holding more than 60 passengers or weighing more than 100,000 lb. must have a designated LRBL, a location “where a bomb or other explosive device could be placed to best protect flight-critical structures or systems from damage in case of detonation”.
There's more at the link.
Well, considering the many other uses to which older (even very dilapidated) aircraft have been put, I guess someone might find a use for this old bird too - or parts of it, at least! (Follow those four links for some fun photographs.)
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
From the Adaptive Curmudgeon, speaking about county fairs:
Horse people (mostly kids I think) have a whole lot of gear per horse. Also, it’s flashy enough to suit Liberace. There must be an innate urge to outfit a horse with the equivalent of chrome mudflaps and ground effects lighting.
Having been to more than a few county fairs in Louisiana and one in Tennessee, I can only wince in optically agonized agreement . . .
Remember the three articles I wrote earlier this month about the risk of serious disruptions in the bond market?
From an e-mail received today from Mauldin Economics:
Ben Bernanke started the bond sell-off in May when he introduced "tapering" to the Wall Street vocabulary and warned that the Fed could start reducing its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases at one of its "next few meetings."
One group of investors who paid great heed to that warning was foreign investors.
In June, foreign investors dumped $5.2 billion of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae bonds, $5 billion in corporate bonds, and $40.8 billion in US Treasury bonds-all part of the $66.9 billion in sales of other long-term US securities.
That is the biggest monthly dumping of Treasuries by foreign creditors since 1977!
So which of our country's creditors are doing the most selling? None other than our two biggest creditors, China and Japan.
China and Japan sold a combined $40 billion of US debt last month, but that's a drop in the bucket. China and Japan hold $1.27 trillion and $1.08 trillion of US debt respectively, and more selling will lead to even more bond losses.
Want to know why the Fed is having to buy so many new Treasury securities (bonds) itself? It's because foreign investors will no longer do so. They no longer see our Treasuries as worth buying - in fact, they're selling. In their shoes, I'd be doing the same . . . just a lot faster, trying to get rid of as many US bonds as possible before the inevitable crash.
I wonder what July and August's figures will look like? (If you think they'll be better from a US perspective, I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills. Look at it like this - it can't possibly be a more speculative investment than US bonds right now!)