The idle musings of a former military man, former computer geek, medically retired pastor and now full-time writer. Contents guaranteed to offend the politically correct and anal-retentive from time to time. My approach to life is that it should be taken with a large helping of laughter, and sufficient firepower to keep it tamed!
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
From the Vulgar Curmudgeon:
Is Twitter out to deceive us - again?
It seems that Twitter, not content with silencing voices with which it disagrees, is now actively trying to deceive the centrist and right wing of US politics among its subscribers. The Ralph Retort reveals:
Over the last couple weeks I’ve noticed something a little fishy every time I browse the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. Every time I looked, the hashtag would be absolutely overrun with tweets critical of BLM — tweets that could generally be described as ‘alt-rightish’ in nature.
What’s weird about the BLM hashtag completely overrun by alt-right tweets, you might be wondering? First off, although we may be legion, we aren’t that legion. Furthermore, I’ve witnessed Twitter censoring the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag manually, by hand, for months. In the past, Twitter worked furiously to delete any tweets that were negative of BLM from reaching public visibility. Now, anti-BLM tweets are all that I’m seeing. So what gives?
Opening the hashtag in a private browser session — which disables all previous cookies and doesn’t log one in to any of their accounts — confirmed my suspicions: Twitter is attempting to isolate the alt-right by quarantining us into containment zones, using an advanced form of selective shadow-banning and selective promotion. Let me explain.
When browsing the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in a private session and without being logged in, all of a sudden the fountain of alt-right tweets had mysteriously dried up. In their place, were tweets that were almost 100% in support of BLM. And more curiously, the alt-right tweets that were showing when I was logged in were not from users which I was even following. I mean, Twitter has always used their algorithm to place relevant tweets from people that you follow higher up in the hashtag results, but this was something different all together. And it wasn’t a side effect from the “quality filter” either, as I had it turned off. But even with it turned on, the alt-right tweets reign supreme when viewing the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.
The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that Twitter is using internal data to — most likely through automated means — place users into ideological camps. And then once users are sorted, the true digital segregation begins.
. . .
... this sort of ideological shadowban is even more dangerous than the normal sort, because a user can’t tell from his impressions and interactions that anything is abnormal. Even worse, it actually makes the platform even more appealing to alt-right users, because it provides us a nice spoon fed hug box of exactly what type of content we want to be reading, anyway. The only problem is that in providing us a tempting circle-jerk, they’ve largely taken away our ability to get the message out to normies and lefties.
None of this is even remotely surprising, as the true intentions of Twitter’s path to censorship was laid bare in the report I had published by Capital Research Center. As their previous methods fail, expect them to roll out more and more ways to f*** with us.
There's more at the link. You should also read the linked report about how censorship of social media is a direct, immediate and very urgent objective of the progressive left.
I no longer trust any news feed from Facebook, Twitter or any other left-leaning social media outlet. They're all doing the same thing - trying to brainwash the electorate, either directly by feeding them propaganda, or indirectly by making them think their perspective is dominant (when in fact it's not), so that they won't 'waste their time' trying to propagate their views to others.
Sneaky, aren't they? (Not to mention dishonest - but that goes without saying . . . )
I want one!
And when I get this T-shirt, I'm going to wear it to every SJW, hag-ridden, left-wing, liberal, progressive function or establishment I can. Just because! So there!
(A tip o' the hat to Chief Nose Wetter for the original.)
Law enforcement: the impossible conundrum
It's become more and more clear over the past couple of years that law enforcement agencies and officers across the USA are increasingly caught in a no-win situation.
Undoubtedly, some of this is their own fault. The number of 'bad cops' does seem to have increased, and the number of agencies and officers with an attitude towards the general public is worryingly high - dangerously so, IMHO. I've discussed several aspects of the problem in previous blog posts.
Nevertheless, the profession of peace officer (a term I prefer to 'law enforcement officer': it's more philosophical, explicitly referencing 'keeping the peace' as opposed to enforcing laws that may, or may not, be legitimate or justifiable) is under attack as never before from the left-wing, progressive side of society. Facts are being ignored in favor of feelings. Reality is being submerged in a tide of perceptions.
Consider, for example, that the NYPD's own statistics demonstrate conclusively that people of color commit far more crimes per capita than do whites: 89% of all crime in New York City in 2015, to be precise, including over 90% of all shootings, robberies, murders, rapes and juvenile crimes. Therefore, to focus on people of color during ordinary policing activities would appear to be no more than a logical, rational reaction to this factual, incontrovertible reality - but that's not what protestors want to hear. They decry such a fact-based approach as 'racism'. They can't (or won't) see beyond skin color to the reality of crime.
New York City isn't alone in that. Chicago has a problem at least as bad.
We turn our attention once again to the city of Chicago, where, as of this writing, 2,858 people have been shot and 487 have been killed so far this year (both numbers will surely be higher by the time you read this).
. . .
Despite these grim numbers, there persists among many the notion that it is the city’s police officers who bear the greatest share of blame for all that ails Chicago. Propagating this myth most recently is [the] Chicago Tribune, which on Friday published a story about the 435 police shootings that occurred in Chicago between 2010 and 2015.
The story begins by noting that over the six years examined, a Chicago police officer fired at someone every five days, killing 92 people and wounding 170. “While a few of those incidents captured widespread attention,” says the Tribune, “they occurred with such brutal regularity — and with scant information provided by police — that most have escaped public scrutiny.”
Given the statistics cited in the opening paragraph above, it would seem it is not the police who are shooting people with “such brutal regularity.” Indeed, many of the Tribune’s readers, aware that they live in a city where someone is shot every hour and a half and murdered every eight, might not be all that disturbed – and might even welcome it – when the police manage to shoot at some evil-doer every five days.
But of course it is not merely the number of police shootings that so discomfits the enlightened ones at the Chicago Tribune, it is the skin color of those who are shot. In the second of a series of bullet points near the top of the story, we are informed that “about four out of every five people shot [by police] were African-American males.”
. . .
... if the Chicago Tribune feels the demographics of those shot by the police are somehow out of kilter, perhaps they should consider this: according to the U.S. census, the population of Chicago is 32.9 percent black, yet blacks make up 78.6 percent of the city’s murder victims. In Chicago and elsewhere, almost all murders are intra-racial, so we may safely conclude that blacks are similarly over-represented among Chicago’s killers. The fact that four out of five people shot by Chicago police officers seems far less startling now, doesn’t it?
So do Chicago police officers really shoot too many people? One could make the case that they shoot too few...
There's more at the link.
Such perceptions and misreporting have led to a massive disconnect between both sides in the law enforcement debate. The Washington Post recently highlighted what this has meant in Baltimore.
They’d come to the same church on the same night to confront the same quandary facing this city’s beleaguered police department. But what they wanted from the police couldn’t have been more different.
Eight days had passed since the Justice Department issued a scathing review of the Baltimore Police Department, detailing years of racial discrimination in its law enforcement practices.
Yet the 40 or so longtime residents who gathered in a West Baltimore church basement on this August night — many of whom were older black women afraid to walk to the store or leave their homes at night — had come to urge police to clear their corners of miscreants and restore order to their crime-plagued community.
“Please, help me,” pleaded gas station owner Chaudhry Masood, whose parking lot has been overrun by loiterers and where a 17-year-old was recently shot and killed.
At the same time, in an adjacent church hall, Justice Department civil rights attorneys were discussing how to overhaul the police department with another group of residents intent on curbing the abusive behavior of corner-clearing cops. Those attending included black youths long targeted by police.
The organizers of each gathering didn’t know the other was taking place. As people showed up Aug. 18, a priest from St. Peter Claver Catholic Church hurriedly attached paper signs to metal railings to direct the flow. The meeting with the police community relations council to the right, the meeting with Justice Department lawyers to the left.
The disconnect between those focused on crime and those focused on police reform looms large...
Again, more at the link.
That 'disconnect' is precisely the problem. It's grown so large, so deep, so unbridgeable, that I honestly don't see a way forward unless something really big happens to sweep all the pieces off the table and start a whole new game. I'm thinking something like another 9/11. If we get a major terrorist attack inside the USA, or a series of them, I think enforcement will come to dominate public thinking, and political correctness will (at least temporarily) take a back seat . . . but I can't think of anything else that might deal with the current logjam of perceptions versus reality. Certainly, no-one with any sense at all wants to see that sort of development!
This is one of the factors that led Miss D. and I to relocate, earlier this year. We've seen for ourselves how political correctness is hampering honest law enforcement in many cities, at the same time that over-zealous and overbearing law enforcement is hampering honest citizens in those cities. The area where we now live is much more self-reliant, with ordinary citizens not only expecting to have to be their own first line of defense against crime, but comfortable with that reality. Local agencies and officers are supportive of that, and have no problem with it. Sanity generally prevails here . . . unlike in cities like Baltimore, or New York, or Chicago.
The next major problem that I think is going to come to the forefront of law enforcement issues is race relations between Hispanic and black communities. This is a lot worse than many people are prepared to concede. I've seen it for years as a pastor and prison chaplain, and there's been no improvement - rather the opposite, IMHO. So far, political correctness has blocked any meaningful attempt to address it, but that can't hold the line much longer. David Cole noted recently:
In what’s described as “one of the largest civil rights indictments in L.A. history,” an old-school Mexican gang—one of the original Mexi gangs that date back to the pre–World War II era—ran a ruthless campaign to keep “niggers” out of its neighborhood. The Big Hazard gang (also known as Hazard Grande) runs the streets in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East L.A. As of 2010, Boyle Heights was about 94% Latino, owing in no small part to the fact that Big Hazard had an unwritten rule about not tolerating black residents. In recent years, however, blacks had slowly been making inroads into the community, so Big Hazard decided to put a little fire and brimstone behind its unwritten rule.
Well, fire mainly. The gang embarked on a campaign of hurling Molotov cocktails at the homes of black residents who didn’t get the message that they weren’t welcome.
Hence the federal indictment.
Now, when I say the story has been “underreported,” I don’t mean there’s been a blackout (pardon the term). The story has received obligatory coverage in all the usual fish rags, from the Times of L.A. to the one in New York. But what’s missing is the outrage. Big Hazard’s activities were tolerated (to say the least) by the local Latino population. Was there perhaps some fear of speaking up against the gang? Sure, but still, it’s a local gang, made up of local boys. Where are the calls for the neighborhood to undergo “racial sensitivity training”? Where are the black leaders locking arms and marching through the streets in defiance? Where are the garment-rending op-eds and monologues from leftist journalists, hosts, and pundits?
. . .
Outright racism by Latinos against blacks gets little coverage in the liberal press and no outrage from SJWs, and black “civil rights leaders” are scared shitless to confront it with the same merciless, take-no-prisoners attitude they reserve for every perceived “microaggression” from whites.
We all know this.
What I’d prefer to concentrate on is the fact that the Big Hazard story, and the (non)reaction to it from the usual suspects, slightly, just slightly, lays bare one of L.A.’s dirtiest little secrets: Most nonblack Angelenos are probably rooting for what the gang is doing (the goal if not the methods).
More at the link.
Until recently, black and Hispanic gangs, whilst generally antagonistic towards each other, would often suppress their inter-gang conflicts in the interests of confronting what they saw as a greater enemy - the authorities. It was a case of "standing together against the Man". That's changing. What's more, I have little doubt that some law enforcement officers and agencies are encouraging the change, subtly or otherwise. After all, put yourselves in their position. When Black Lives Matter is threatening cops' safety, when police are being ambushed and killed by BLM sympathizers, it's all too easy for the law to whisper in receptive Hispanic gangbangers' ears, "Listen, these idiots are going to make life difficult for everyone on the streets, not just their own. When we come down on you, hard, remember, it's not because we don't like you - it's because they're making us do it. If you want peace and quiet to do your own thing, don't you think it might be a good idea to get them to stop making life difficult for you as well as us?"
I guarantee you - guarantee you - that, or something like it, is happening right now. I may no longer be working in active, daily association with law enforcement, but I still have many of my old contacts and friends. I know the reality on the street . . . and I suspect BLM is going to find itself with enemies on more than one front in the not very distant future. I wouldn't be in the least surprised to find cops turning a blind eye to Hispanic gang activities, provided that those gangs help them against black criminal activities. In fact, I'll be very surprised if that's not already happening.
Trouble is, that'll bring out the forces of political correctness in full cry once more. They'll scream about "divide-and-rule tactics", and accuse cops of manipulating one segment of society against another. They'll be right - but that won't stop it happening. Sooner or later, the cop on the beat is going to ignore his wishy-washy, waffling, unreliable superiors and start talking directly to potential allies on the street. His own life will depend on it - and he's not stupid.
I fear what may develop when that happens. If BLM had any sense, they'd fear it much more than I do . . . but sense is one attribute that seems conspicuous by its absence in their considerations.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
This is a disgrace
I was very angry to read that helmets made for the US armed forces by Federal Prison Industries have been shown to be defective and far below acceptable standards.
FPI is a government-owned company established by an executive order in the 1930s, and whose aim it is to provide prisoners with jobs that can help make them marketable after they’ve served their time.
FPI was awarded a $23,019,629 government contract in 2008 to build Lightweight Marine Corps Helmets, or LMCHs. The Beaumont, Texas-based FPI produced about 23,000 helmets, selling and delivering only 3,000 to the DOD, though the DOD never paid because all 3,000 were defective. In fact, at the end of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General, all 23,000 LMCHs were quarantined.
But FPI had also worked as a subcontractor for Ohio-based company ArmorSource, which was one of four companies contracted to manufacture Advanced Combat Helmets, or ACHs. The two companies made 126,052 helmets from 2006 to 2009, for which ArmorSource made a total of $30,336,461.04.
The investigations found that both FPI’s LMCH helmets and the ACH helmets it produced for ArmorSource were riddled with manufacturing defects.
. . .
These helmets are a big deal for soldiers’ safety, and the DOJ report makes that abundantly clear. It says says the defects found in the investigation could “likely cause serious injury or death to the wearer,” due in part to reduced ballistic and impact protection.
The good news is that the investigation says it doesn’t have any information indicating that defective ACH helmets resulted in injuries or deaths of soldiers, and luckily the LMCHs were quarantined before they ever got out.
There's more at the link.
I'm particularly angry because I can't understand how FPI's standards were allowed to slip so badly. When I worked as a chaplain in the federal prison system, the standards at the prison factories were relatively high, and goods produced by them were equivalent in standard to anything produced by private industry. How could such slipshod work (and work practices) creep into what was, at least during my time in service, a very professional corporation? What happened? Who was responsible - and why have no charges, criminal or civil, resulted from the investigation?
Our military service personnel deserve better than this. Heads need to roll.
Doofus Of The Day #923
Today's award goes to Microsoft's Bing Maps. The Register reports:
Microsoft has misplaced Melbourne, the four-million-inhabitant capital of the Australian State of Victoria.
A search on Bing Maps for “Melbourne, Victoria, Australia” says the city is at 37.813610, 144.963100 which we've screen-captured above.
The co-ordinates are right save for one important detail: Melbourne is at 37.8136° South. Bing's therefore put it in the wrong hemisphere.
There's more at the link.
Oh, well . . . what's a few thousand miles - and a hemisphere - between friends? Watch that GPS, though, as you navigate around Australian roads looking for Melbourne. The Pacific Ocean's a bit deeper than a local puddle!
So much for the "cashless society"
There's been lots of talk lately about doing away with bigger banknotes and moving towards a so-called "cashless society". To name just a few recent articles:
- The War on Cash
- Stores to customers: "Cash not welcome here"
- A Cashless Society
- Singapore Wants to Be Asia’s Sweden in Push for Cashless Payment
However, when banks start charging you for the privilege of keeping your money in their vaults, that changes the picture. The Wall Street Journal reports:
For years, Germans kept socking money away in savings accounts despite plunging interest rates. Savers deemed the accounts secure, and they still offered easy cash access. But recently, many have lost faith.
“It doesn’t pay to keep money in the bank, and on top of that you’re being taxed on it,” said Uwe Wiese, an 82-year-old pensioner who recently bought a home safe to stash roughly €53,000 ($59,344), including part of his company pension that he took as a payout.
Interest rates’ plunge into negative territory is now accelerating demand for impregnable metal boxes.
Burg-Waechter KG, Germany’s biggest safe manufacturer, posted a 25% jump in sales of home safes in the first half of this year compared with the year earlier, said sales chief Dietmar Schake, citing “significantly higher demand for safes by private individuals, mainly in Germany.”
. . .
Germany’s love of cash is driven largely by its anonymity. One legacy of the Nazis and East Germany’s Stasi secret police is a fear of government snooping, and many Germans are spooked by proposals of banning cash transactions that exceed €5,000. Many Germans think the ECB’s plan to phase out the €500 bill is only the beginning of getting rid of cash altogether.
There's more at the link.
We've already seen calls to eliminate the $100 bill in the USA, and high-denomination bills elsewhere. They're never made out of concern for our interests - always to benefit Big Brother or the banks. Every time I hear such calls, I check, double-check and re-check my cash reserves (and expand them, if possible).
The anonymity factor is certainly important to many people, including yours truly. In an era when certain purchases (e.g. firearms, ammunition, etc.) are 'politically incorrect', I much prefer making private purchases whenever possible, paying cash instead of using credit cards or checks. (For that matter, some vendors such as PayPal and Square specifically forbid using their systems to buy such items, limiting one's options.) Also, if electronic payment and/or processing systems should go down for any reason (such as the infamous EBT 'outage' a couple of years ago), cash will instantly be king once more - so it pays (literally) to have some on hand.
I repeat my earlier recommendation. Try to keep at least one months' expenditure on hand, in cash - preferably in smaller bills such as twenties. If you can stretch that to two or three months' worth, it's not a bad idea to do so. You never know when that cash might come in very handy indeed.
A very lucky dog indeed!
Bolivia staged its annual Rally de Santa Cruz a few days ago, and a local pooch became the luckiest critter in the country. Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.
Cats may have nine lives, according to fable; but I reckon that pup used up at least that many, right there, all in one go!
Monday, August 29, 2016
In memoriam: Gene Wilder
I was sorry to learn that Gene Wilder, who in my opinion was one of the best comedic actors of his generation, has died. His movies gave me hours of pleasure, and his sometimes whimsical yet always well-grounded interpretations made me think. Not many actors have done that, over the years.
There are many films for which he'll be remembered. My favorite is 'The Frisco Kid', a comedy in which he plays a rabbi making his way through the Wild West to San Francisco (with Harrison Ford as a reluctant and less-than-honest sidekick). Perhaps it's because I'm a pastor that it appeals so much to my sense of humor.
Rest in peace, Mr. Wilder, sir. Thanks for the memories.
EDITED TO ADD: Perhaps the best comment I've seen on Mr. Wilder's passing, from the Telegraph, which compared him to "a latter-day Chaplin":
"Wilder's characters were less loose cannons than untethered hosepipes, that could uncoil at any given moment, flail neurotically and spritz everyone in sight. That he seldom actually did this was the best part of the joke, and the cause of much ecstatically tense laughter throughout his career."
Mad dogs and Englishmen (or Welshmen, at any rate!)
This weekend saw the 31st World Bog Snorkeling Championships, both for swimmers and for underwater bicyclists.
While most people were out enjoying their long weekend and trying to catch the fleeting sun, a group of cycling enthusiasts were racing through a boggy trench in Powys, Wales.
They were competing in the World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwrtyd Wells, where competitors have to ride a mountain bike as fast as they can along the bottom of Waen Rhydd bog – a two-metre-deep water-filled trench.
The bikes are specially prepared with a lead filled frame and riders wear lead weight belts to avoid floating off the bikes.
The tyres are filled with water to ensure grip on the bottom of the trench, and divers are on hand for safety purposes.
Oliver McKenna, a 36-year-old mountain biker from Brighton, was crowned champion in a close-run contest in which he trailed behind David Williams in the opening run, but claimed victory with a time of 1 minute 04.94 seconds in his second attempt.
The competition, which took place on Saturday, is run alongside the World Bog Snorkelling Championships, where swimmers have to complete two laps of a 55 metre (180ft) long bog.
And for those who can't decide between bog snorkelling and biking, there is even a bog snorkelling triathlon.
There's more at the link, and at this picture gallery.
Here are the swimmers at work:
And here are the mountain bikers:
Sooner them than me!
"The US position is untenable"
That's the view of commentator Karsten Riise in an article hosted on the Web site of highly respected military historian and strategic analyst Martin van Creveld.
A vicious circle threatens the US economy.
When and how it may start, we don’t know.
The biggest driver of the US Federal debt is the aging of the US population. Today 15% of Americans are aged 65+. This percentage will increase by two thirds, so that by 2060 about 24% of the US population will be 65+. Until now, the USA has benefited from a young population. The strain on medicare and social spending of an aging population, even with the still limited entitlements in the USA, will be enormous.
The CBO has calculated, that just to keep the Federal debt at its present level, the balance between tax revenues and federal expenditures must be improved by 1.7% of GDP—every year the next 30 years. In other words, tax revenue must increase and government expenditures must be curtailed.
The US economy is becoming less and less competitive. One reason for this is because the USA has some of the worst 3rd world-like public infrastructure in the western world. Roads, bridges and railways in the USA are a sham. High-speed trains are non-existent. Not only is China building far more kilometers of inter-state high-ways than the US, but it is also one of the world’s leading countries in the field of high-speed trains; in fact, China may become the main supplier of America’s first high-speed railway line.
Furthermore, American public schools, hampered as they are by violence and other problems. are not exactly the best in the world, The US level of education is going down, as pointed out by the economic guru Michael Porter, who also points out, that the level of bureaucracy and red-tape hindrances to business are enormous in the USA. The middle class is disappearing in the USA, with now barely 50% of the population perceiving themselves as middle class. Median incomes have barely improved or even gone down the past 40 years, significantly reducing the middle-section of the tax base, which is normally the most reliable. The American Dream is a nightmare for most Americans. The Laffer curve, stating that heavy tax burdens on the rich will incur less total tax revenues, still applies for the top section of the US tax base. Any attempts to heavily taxate (fiscate) the upper 10% (or 0.1% !) of the US tax base will lead to US dollar capital flight, and acute economic crisis.
There's more at the link, including a sobering military assessment.
When you add up all the indicators that Mr. Riise puts together, it's a gloomy picture indeed. It needn't be . . . but only if we shed the crippling burdens of entitlements, welfare, and social spending, and focus our economy and our resources on what's essential rather than what's politically correct.
I'm not sure whether either of the main candidates for the Presidency this year have wrapped their heads - or their policies - around that reality.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
How many of you remember 'Undercover Blues'?
It's a relatively light-hearted, fun movie about a family of secret agents. One of the peripheral characters is a New Orleans street thug calling himself 'Muerte', who keeps ending up on the losing side of his encounters with the hero and heroine (and sundry others who get in the way).
Here's a collected clip of Muerte's finest (?) moments. Watch in full-screen mode for best results.
Fred Reed on race and reality in America
The iconoclastic Fred Reed is one of the most reliably sane voices examining American society. He doesn't pull his punches and doesn't sugar-coat the pill. He states matters as they appear to him, without cloaking them in political correctness or any other anodyne.
Here's some of what he has to say about race relations in America today.
The underlying problem that will not go away is that blacks as a race have not shown themselves able to function in a modern society. Degrees and exceptions yes, but the central fact remains. One is not supposed to say this, and would that it were not true, but it is.
In particular they have lagged far behind academically. Attribute causation as you wish. The condition remains. It has proved impervious to every conceivable social program. For this reason affirmative action has become an entitlement rather than an entry point. For this reason the blacks in the blighted cities will never be employable. Everything works against them, most potently their own attitudes. Joblessness rises among better qualified whites. Obama brings in more Latinos to compete with blacks.
Further, those in the ghettos show little disposition either to study or to work. This also is an obvious truth that one must not utter. A Mexican woman will work as a maid until she figures out something better; a black woman will not. A young Salvadoran man will make his way up Central America, through Mexican police likely to beat him, ride the Train of Death to the US border, and sneak into a country whose language he does not understand to work construction and send money back to his family. A black in Chicago won’t buy a Greyhound ticket to the same job. Yes, there are reasons. A condition does not go way merely because there is a reason for it.
It isn’t working.
Does anyone, black or white, man or woman, Left or Right, see any hope of change? Apparently not, since discussion consists entirely of vituperation. Squalling about conservative racism or liberal hypocrisy does nothing at all to change anything at all. Blacks, the only ones who could render their schools orderly, or make their children do their homework, or persuade their women to essay matrimony, do not.
The cultural divide appears unbridgeable. Blacks are a self-aware, aggrieved, and angry people widely apart from the civilization of whites. They have little desire for assimilation and indeed actively reject it. In Mexico, blacks speak normal Spanish and, in France, normal French. In America, Dat be actin’ white. They give their children strange names, Latoyota and Keeshawn, to maintain distance from whites. Their music is both frequently obscene and frequently hostile to whites. “Acting white,” as for example by studying, is punitively disdained. This is not headed for comfortable multicultural commensalism.
The core of blackness seems to consist of, first, a belief that all of their travails spring from the malignity of whites and, second, that whites owe it to them to solve their problems.
In politics, the focus is entirely on cosmetics. For example, Obama has ordered the Justice Department to use “justice-involved youth” instead of “juvenile delinquent,” and to cease using the word “Negro.” How this will improve literacy in the ghetto is not clear. He wants schools to suspend black and white students proportionately, being unhappy that blacks are suspended at higher rates. His is the quintessential black point of view: Everything springs from racism, of which blacks don’t have any, and the solution is a federal regulation.
Obama never says that black kids ought to study more or that black women ought to behave responsibly in childbearing. He clearly believes them incapable of it, a position is indistinguishable from that of the KKK. They both seem to be right.
Why should things be otherwise? Blacks have no roots in European civilization, nor in African, if any. Slavery decultured the slaves, leading to a free-floating miasma of American blacknism. This is unfortunate, which changes nothing.The denomination “African-American” serves more to separate them from whites than to link them to Africa. American African might be more realistic.
The racial experiment has failed. We must not say so, but I suspect that most of us know it. To admit it would be to concede the unspeakable. The horrible question arises again: What now?
It is apparent that nothing of any use in going to be done and probably that nothing can be done. The police? Pulling all police out of black neighborhoods would end complaints of racism by cops. It would also leave the ghettos utterly controlled by criminals. Take your choice.
The calls for the burning of white neighborhoods do not bode well. Whites often are well armed. Gun sales are way up. Men I know have no desire to shoot anyone but will do so if their homes are threatened.
What now? The Fergusons, Baltimores, and Milwaukees may calm down, but if they do, the underlying situation will not change. Nobody seems to have any more idea than I do what to do about it, which is no idea at all.
There's more at the link. Essential reading, IMHO.
I can offer one response to Fred's "What now?" It's based on cold, hard reality, learned in Africa over many years of traveling that continent and seeing what works and what doesn't. It's not politically correct, it's not merciful, and it's not very helpful . . . but it's practical.
Simply put, it's like this: YOU PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET.
Right now, the US government and US society are subsidizing the current mess in our inner-city communities. We're paying through the nose for it, directly and indirectly; and we're getting what we pay for.
Solution? STOP PAYING FOR IT.
Cut off the funding. Now. Completely. Not a dime more for failing schools, subsidized programs producing more failures, 'Blackness' orientation/education/promotion/whatever. Shut them all down.
I can already hear the screams, "But you can't do that! You'd leave a vacuum!"
What we have now has always failed, is continuing to fail, and will continue to fail. We aren't doing those trapped in its coils any favors by going on paying for them to fail. We may have nothing worthwhile to replace the programs we're cutting, but at least we'll stop wasting money hand over fist.
Some practical ideas:
- Get back to the 1990's welfare reform program, which has been eviscerated under the Obama administration. Welfare absolutely cannot be a lifelong entitlement, except for those who are definitively unable to provide for themselves due to mental and/or physical incapacity (which needs to be measurable and accountable). At the moment, so many programs (including our tax code) are funneling money hand over fist to those who haven't earned and don't deserve it that they've been (justifiably, IMHO) called 'stealth reparations for slavery under another name'. That's got to stop. Period. No exceptions.
- I'm a retired pastor, and I think in those terms. My approach to social welfare is Biblically based. For all except those physically and/or mentally incapable of doing so, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." That work can be as simple as cleaning up the neighborhood and keeping it clean - but it has to be done. If it's not done, why should tax dollars support someone living in a pigsty of his or her own making? Equally, why should tax dollars support addiction or dependency? Why should tax dollars be used for luxuries instead of necessities? Structure welfare accordingly.
- Let's get back to the three R's at school, and dump all the feel-good nonsensical 'courses' that do nothing whatsoever to prepare anyone for a productive membership in society. 'Black studies' and similar ethnic-based 'education' are a bad joke - and the joke's on those who've embraced them.
- Let's can all the social organizers and community activists and others who have done nothing whatsoever to solve the problem - indeed, most have only made it worse. In particular, let's nail the criminals who've turned our inner cities into crime-ridden, drug-addled ghettos. Shut them down, the hard way if necessary. No more soft touches. No more catch-and-release.
That's one approach. What's yours, readers?
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Stopping power - it's all about bullet placement
We've spoken about the so-called "stopping power" of firearms in these pages before, specifically in this three part article. Basically, no handgun has much "stopping power" compared to a rifle or shotgun, and we'd do well to bear that in mind. What makes the difference is where the bad guy gets shot. A central nervous system hit - specifically, in the brain stem or spinal cord - will shut down the fight right there and then. Anything else might not do so.
Two videos came my way via e-mail this week that illustrate that reality very clearly. WARNING: These videos show people getting shot, and in one case, getting killed. If you're squeamish about such things, DO NOT WATCH THEM!
In the first incident, shown below from two perspectives, an agitated man at Dallas Love Field airport attacked police. He was shot four times, but was able to get up and attack again, being shot five more times for a total of nine hits. He survived them all, and is facing criminal charges.
The first video is silent, from surveillance cameras. The second was taken by a bystander, and the nine shots can be heard clearly.
In the second shooting, two criminals try to hold up a store clerk at gunpoint. He fires a single shot at point-blank range into the face of the nearest criminal, who drops to the ground, dead right there. It's a perfect example of a central nervous system hit, probably taking out the brain stem.
That's "stopping power". One shot in the right place - the cartridge and caliber were basically irrelevant. It might have been a lowly .22LR, or a full-house .45 ACP. Doesn't matter. It was in the right place. In the first incident, the first four shots were clearly not in the right place, because the attacker got up and continued his attack; and the last five shots stopped the attack, but didn't kill him.
It's all about bullet placement.
Received via e-mail, origin unknown:
Based on my memories of military life, I'd say that was appropriate . . .
Doofus Of The Day #922
Today's winner proves that partying can be hazardous to your wallet.
This British bloke got more than he bargained for when he spent nearly $40,000 on a bus during a night out in Ibiza.
Instead of paying a few euros for a ride home, Davie Little, a DJ, shelled out a whopping $37,500 on buying his own coach.
The credit card sale was made just after midnight yesterday while Davie, who is from Durham, in northeast England, was partying in Ushuaia nightclub, and the poor guy still can’t figure out what he was thinking.
There's more at the link.
One does wonder what sort of credit limit one has to have, to buy a bus on one's credit card! "More money than sense", anyone?
Medical (mis)adventures and suchlike
Well, now that I'm safely back home, I guess I can tell you more about my recent adventures in hospital, and what led up to them.
As regular readers will know, I had kidney stone problems last year, leading to two procedures: a lithotripsy, trying to break up the stone from outside using directed ultrasound pulses, then, when that didn't work, a ureteroscopy. (The latter was a lot more painful than the kidney stone!) In the process of diagnosing and treating the kidney stone, an ultrasound examination revealed that I also had gallstones; but because they weren't causing any problems at the time, it was decided to do nothing about them in the short term.
Earlier this year, I began a water fast to try to knock off some weight and kick-start my metabolism, which had been severely disrupted by drug interactions and had never fully recovered. The fast worked very well, at least initially, and I dropped 25 pounds in only about 3 weeks . . . but unfortunately, the water fast also led to some very severe pain from my gall bladder (a known side effect of rapid weight loss, about which I'd read but for which I wasn't fully prepared). I therefore suspended my water fast and went back to the doctors (being hampered by having recently moved to this state, and therefore not having a local network of medical practitioners who knew me). I was eventually referred to a surgeon, and the decision was taken to yank my gall bladder.
I did the usual pre-admission testing and form-filling at the local hospital (discovering, to my extreme annoyance, that thanks to Obamacare's 'improvements', I'd have to pay a lot more out of my own pocket for this operation than I'd been charged for previous procedures). Everything was going smoothly until three days before the scheduled surgery, when the anesthetists at the local hospital demanded a cardiac clearance before they would proceed. I'd had a heart attack in 2009, followed by a quadruple bypass, so they regarded me as a high-risk patient. They would not accept that my two procedures under general anesthetic in 2015 were predictive evidence that I wouldn't have problems this time around. I was very angry about that, particularly when they used the usual 'weasel words' about wanting to 'improve my experience as a patient' (meaning, of course, "We want to cover our asses in case anything goes wrong!"). I suppose that's the nature of things in our litigious society. At any rate, my surgeon managed to get a short-notice appointment for me with a local cardiologist, who checked me out and issued the required clearance. Surgery was delayed for two weeks while this was going on.
Then came the fun and games of admission and preparation. I have fairly tough skin on my arms (the fruit of many years in African sunshine), and I also donated blood for several years as part of a cell separation team in South Africa. This involved taking blood out of one arm, centrifuging it to take out a single required component, then putting the rest back through the other arm. As a result, the veins in my elbow region on both arms have built up scar tissue, making it harder to get a needle into them. The poor nurses tried, and tried, and tried again, but simply couldn't 'stick' me as they required (the first time I'd experienced that - until now, other nurses in other states have not had anything like the same trouble). After nine (!!!) tries in my elbows and hands, they gave up, and called in a specialist with an ultrasound machine to insert what they called a 'PICC' into a deep vein in my upper arm. She failed, twice, and had to call in a colleague to try the other arm. On the twelfth attempt, the 'stick' succeeded . . . leaving me feeling like a pin-cushion, with pain and frustration steaming out of my ears. I was not a happy camper! (Poor Miss D. had to leave the room, as the constant pricking and needling was making her feel nauseous, never mind her husband!)
I'm told the surgery itself went well; but it seems that the delays in treatment had resulted in my gall bladder becoming necrotic, leading to infection and other complications. The surgeon decided that instead of discharging me the same day, as had been planned, he'd prefer to keep me in hospital in case of complications. This would allow medical staff to keep an eye on me, and initiate treatment quickly if it proved to be required. I only learned about this when I came out of the anesthetic, which led to a lot of vociferous unhappiness from yours truly. (My wife had to deal with that, as she relates on her own blog).
Anyhow, I ended up in a ward, where I settled down as best I could. I'm afraid I baffled the nursing staff. They're used to immediately-postoperative patients moaning in pain, not wanting to move, and being generally down in the dumps. I got up within an hour and started walking the halls, forcing my body to get moving and get on with it. Later that evening, Old NFO, Lawdog, aepilot_Jim and Miss D. arrived to visit, and we ended up walking the halls for another half-dozen circuits, chatting away loudly about surgeries we have jointly and severally known. The staff clearly aren't used to military veterans trying to outdo each other with memories of which surgery hurt the most (as were some of the other patients, who seemed a bit taken aback by our efforts to out-brag each other!) I've learned (as have we all) that it's no good moaning about pain. One simply has to push one's body to recover as quickly as possible. I've been in pain literally 24/7/365 since my spinal injury and damaged nerve in 2004, so this was simply a higher level of what I've learned to handle every day, and I wasn't about to let it get me down. That attitude was clearly not what the nursing staff were expecting!
Next morning the surgeon came to visit, clearly startled to be told by the nursing staff that I'd done more than two dozen circuits of the floor since being admitted, and was champing at the bit to go home. He signed off on my release, and the nice nurses told me it would be "Only about two hours" before they did the paperwork and got me a wheelchair to go down to the entrance. I gave them twenty minutes, or I'd leave without the paperwork, and refused point-blank to even consider a wheelchair. With long-suffering sighs, they eventually gave up and produced the documentation. They did insist that one of their staff go down to the front door with Miss D. and I, just in case I had a fit of the collywobbles or something like that. (He told us gleefully that the job was just what he wanted, as there was a bistro near the entrance, and he felt in need of a donut or two. He disappeared in that direction as soon as we got off the elevator, leaving us to make our own way to the front door.)
I'm back home now, with a cat who's being very gentle about jumping on me (she clearly knows I'm feeling sensitive, and is being very considerate - for a cat, that is!). I'm in a fair bit of pain, but the surgeon prescribed Percocet, so it's under control. (I was highly amused at aepilot_Jim's feigned annoyance when I told him I'd turned down a nighttime dose of Dilaudid on the ward, because I regarded it as unnecessarily strong for my level of pain, and I don't like the light-headed, dizzy feeling over-strong painkillers give me. He reckoned I should have taken 'the good stuff' to share with my friends - namely, him!)
I daresay my sleep cycles will be disrupted for a few days. I'm trying to get some rest as and when the pain level increases, rather than follow my normal pattern - I find this works best when recovering from this sort of thing. Blogging will thus be a now-and-then affair until I get back my rhythm.
Thanks to all who left good wishes and prayers in comments to my previous post. So far, so good!
Friday, August 26, 2016
Written from my hospital bed
It's almost 1 am, and I'm typing this on my cellphone. I'd hoped to be home by now, and had queued up what I thought were enough blog posts to cover my absence, but complications have arisen, so I have to stay in hospital vile longer than planned.
I underwent surgery to remove my gall bladder, but due to several delays, the darn thing had turned necrotic (i.e. was almost dead and rotting) by the time they got to it. I've got to stay in hospital until they're sure there will be no complications.
I should be out sometime on Friday. Regular blogging will resume ASAP.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Rockets tipped with swords?
I was fascinated to read about some early rockets tipped with blades.
Tipu Sultan brought the concept of using sword and blade thrust rockets in their military force to fight the advancing British army. There was a regular rocket corps in the Mysore Army, beginning with about 1,200 men in Hyder Ali’s time. At the Battle of Pollilur (1780), during the Second Anglo-Mysore War, Colonel William Baillie’s ammunition stores are thought to have been detonated by a hit from one of Hyder Ali’s rockets, contributing to a humiliating British defeat.
Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan deployed them effectively against the larger British East India Company forces during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. These ‘missiles’ were fitted with swords and traveled several meters through the air before coming down with edges facing the enemy.
The British took an active interest in the technology and developed it further during the 19th century. The Mysore rockets of this period were much more advanced than what the British had seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missile (up to 2 km range). Although rockets existed also in Europe, they were not iron cased, and their range was far less than that of their East Asian counterparts.
. . .
The rockets had a range of about 1,000 yards. Some burst in the air like shells. Others, called ground rockets, would rise again on striking the ground and bound along in a serpentine motion until their force was spent. According to one British observer, a young English officer named Bayly: “So pestered were we with the rocket boys that there was no moving without danger from the destructive missiles …”. He continued:
"The rockets and musketry from 20,000 of the enemy were incessant. No hail could be thicker. Every illumination of blue lights was accompanied by a shower of rockets, some of which entered the head of the column, passing through to the rear, causing death, wounds, and dreadful lacerations from the long bamboos of twenty or thirty feet, which are invariably attached to them."
There's more at the link.
Mysorean rockets captured in India were taken back to Britain for analysis and further study. They were the basis of the later Congreve rocket, used in the Napoleonic Wars and against the USA in the War of 1812.
A chilling odyssey of violent crime
Journalist Peter Nickeas describes three years on the nighttime crime beat in Chicago.
Halfway between dusk and dawn in the dead of winter, I parked under the Pink Line viaduct and stepped out into blackened snow and biting cold. I had driven southwest from the Tribune Tower, down Ogden Avenue, the skyline shrinking in the rearview mirror, out past Mount Sinai Hospital and the Ogden District police station to Lawndale Avenue.
Snow reflected light from dirty yellow streetlamps, casting an industrial glow over the neighborhood. The sky was an eerie shade of lavender. A police officer wanted to know who I was, then told me I’d get a better picture of the body if I circled back through the alley to the other side of the crime scene. The cops said a man had been shot after stepping on someone’s shoe at a house party. A murder over nothing, almost too petty to be believed.
I didn’t know the body would still be there. I didn’t know the police would be OK with me being there. I didn’t know what to do when the family showed up—the dead man’s son was there. I didn’t know how to talk to them. This was only my second murder scene in the city. Being out in the night was still new, and I carried an anxiety in my stomach wherever I went.
I tried to make myself invisible, but I was the only white person outside the police tape. As family members started walking away, I stopped a few of them and handed out my card, in case they wanted to talk. (They didn’t.)
It was the beginning of a three-year stint working overnights at the Chicago Tribune, covering any violent event that happened in the city after dark. I’d wanted a job at the paper, and this was the one they had. I was 25 years old. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to gain any perspective on what those three years have meant for me. I still feel wrecked sometimes. I still feel drained from the work of chasing incessant violence. Drained from going from shooting to shooting to shooting. Drained from enduring the mind-numbing silence of a slow night only to be jolted awake, adrenaline on, into full chase mode. Drained from trying to convince my wife that the job hasn’t changed me. Or that the change hasn’t been so bad.
I lurked in shadows, riding around listening to the police scanners, getting close enough to observe but staying far enough away not to interfere. Watching for new graffiti, gangbangers, memorials, crowds. Listening for yelling, breaking glass, squealing tires, revving engines. For calls of gang disturbances, for the battery in progress, for the battery just occurred. For anonymous neighbors complaining about young men harassing passing motorists or young men selling drugs in front of homes.
For shots fired.
There's more at the link. It's repellent, but fascinating and highly recommended reading.
People who live in such a culture of violence and social degradation (whether by choice, or because they can't afford anything better) are conditioned by it to a frightening extent. (An excellent example occurred in a Chicago courtroom just yesterday.) When frustrations boil over in such areas, they spill over from there to more civilized suburbs, and to towns that would normally consider themselves free of big-city problems. Natural disasters can produce the same effect; witness, for example, the migration of crime and violence in the wake of the dispersion of refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (I experienced that myself in central Louisiana, and wrote about it at the time.)
It's important for us to understand what's going on in inner-city ghettoes and impoverished areas such as those Mr. Nickeas describes, because such problems are only a heartbeat away from becoming our problems too. It's all very well to say that 'the government' must fix them, but the cold, hard truth is that no government can address them. Poverty and social degradation can't be solved by bureaucratic edicts or political promises. There will always be people who choose the 'dark side' of life; drugs, crime, violence, and the like. They tend to gravitate to such areas, and if moved out of them, will simply drag down their new places of residence until they resemble the old.
That's reality . . . and we'll do well not to forget it. Mr. Nickeas has done us a service by reminding us about that.
Where can one get advanced driver training in the USA?
In Britain and some of its colonies, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is a premier driver training school for 'post-graduate' work - i.e. to attend after you've got your driver's license plus a certain amount of experience. I did their basic course in South Africa during the early 1980's, and found it very helpful (although since then I'm sure I've picked up more than enough bad habits).
Miss D. and I would like to do some training like that, both to refresh and improve our driving skills, and also as something we can do together. However, I'm having trouble finding suitable facilities and programs in Texas or nearby states.
- Advanced Drivers of America claims to offer an IAM-type course in this country, but they don't respond to e-mails, which isn't very helpful.
- There are several performance and racing schools (e.g. Bondurant, Skip Barber, etc.). They look like a lot of fun, but I'm not sure their training is all that practical for non-racing purposes. They also tend to be very expensive, which we probably can't afford.
- Some schools appear to offer only specialized training (e.g. skid pans, off-road rallying, etc.). That's useful, but it's too limited for what we want.
- Online searches don't yield much else, apart from remedial driving courses for those convicted of motoring offenses, which isn't the case for us.
Can any of my readers recommend courses for people wanting to become better, safer, more competent drivers overall, improving their existing skills (and perhaps learning new ones that are useful on normal roads, rather than racetracks)? Offerings in or near Texas would be most useful, but we can travel if we have to. Please let us know about them in Comments. Thanks very much.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Useful long-term dry food storage tips
A couple of days ago I wrote about a German suggestion that everyone store emergency food and water supplies for up to ten days, in case of emergency. I recommended storing a minimum of thirty days' supplies, because a major emergency might disrupt deliveries to supermarkets and other places where we can replenish our larders. It may take weeks before things get back to some semblance of normality.
That led to a few e-mails from readers, asking what foods were easiest to store long-term without the risk of them going bad. That's not necessarily a primary consideration for short-term supplies, of course. One can simply buy one or two extra cans every week of food one already consumes (e.g. tinned beans, corned beef, Spam, vegetables, etc.) and build up one's reserves that way. One consumes the oldest can first, and replaces it in one's larder by a newer tin, so that one's supplies are constantly rotated and never get out of date. It's relatively easy to adopt this method; in fact, for my wife and myself, it's our primary reserve. We have canned food sufficient for up to thirty days, used carefully. This would be supplemented by dry foods such as rice, flour, dried beans, etc. (We also have a couple of dozen freeze-dried meals for quick-and-easy preparation. They're relatively expensive, but keep your eye out for sales - we bought ours at half the normal price on a Woot deal similar to this one.)
That said, there's nothing wrong with (and a lot to be said for) having a longer-term supply of dry foods. The Mormon church is particularly helpful about such matters, as it's part of their normal faith practices for families to keep up to a year's food in reserve. Many of their recommended supplies can be purchased online from the LDS Store, or through their local churches (many of which also offer food storage classes, and the shared use of expensive resources like canning machines, etc.). The University of Utah (known, with tongue firmly in cheek, as the Mormon Church in academic gowns!) has a very helpful food storage guide (downloadable in Adobe Acrobat format).
If you don't have the budget or storage space for large quantities of stored food, there are several economical steps you can take to begin more limited preparations. The first is to find appropriate storage containers. Plastic and mylar bags and containers are not always the best choice; they can be punctured, are hard to make (and keep) airtight, and so on. I strongly recommend the good old-fashioned Mason jar (particularly the larger sizes - I prefer the 64 oz., or half-gallon, version). They're air- and watertight, can be readily re-sealed with new and inexpensive lids, and can easily be vacuum-sealed. It's worth shopping around for the best price, including doing an Internet search every time, because prices vary constantly. For example, I bought some more half-gallon jars last week. On Amazon.com, the cheapest price I could find at the time (including shipping) was $16.30 for six (a price per jar of $2.72). Almost every other vendor was more expensive (including local stores, buying them off-the-shelf). However, Walmart.com offered a dozen of them (with free shipping to my local store for pickup) for only $20.38 - a dollar cheaper per jar. I'm sure you can guess where I bought my supplies! Spare lids and bands are also useful items, as are reusable plastic lids to secure the contents while they're being used after the jar's vacuum seal (if it had one) was broken when it was opened.
(By the way, if the boxes in which the Mason jars are delivered are heavy-duty and offer cardboard dividers between jars, don't throw them away. They make useful storage containers. I have some beneath the bottom shelf of our food closet, providing added protection to our filled Mason jars.)
You should also buy packets of oxygen absorber, because oxygen is the primary contributor to dried products going bad over time. I use these ones from Amazon.com, putting one or two into each half-gallon jar (depending on the food inside; dense foods like rice get one per jar, because there's less air space, while non-dense foods like pasta get two, because there's more oxygen to absorb). They effectively vacuum-seal the jar as they absorb the oxygen it contains. You can also buy a low-cost vacuum sealer with attachments to fit Mason jar lids if you want the added security of that approach. (I like to keep them on hand for foods that don't need oxygen absorbers.)
Some argue that Mason jars, being made of glass, are too easy to break. That would mean both the loss of the food they contain, and the risk of injury from broken glass. I accept that's a potential hazard, but not necessarily a major one. If you're in earthquake territory, where jars are likely to be shaken off shelves, by all means take that into account; but not all of us are. Even in earthquake country, storing jars on the bottom of a closet, beneath the protection of the lowest shelf, means they won't fall off anything, and should also protect them from things falling on them. Others object that jars are more fragile and heavier to transport in an emergency; but one's emergency food supplies aren't normally something one would 'bug out' with. They're meant to be used in place. If you plan to take them with you when you leave, tin cans or bags would certainly be more 'portable'; but even Mason jars are reasonably secure for travel if moved in the boxes in which they came (as mentioned above). If they arrived safely in those boxes, there's no reason to presume they won't be just as safe in them when they leave!
Finally, if you practice home canning or bottling (preserving fruits, vegetables and meats for your own use), you're almost certainly already using Mason jars by the dozen. It's no problem to add some more for dry food storage as well.
If you have further hints and ideas, please let us know in Comments.
Impressive A400M dirt field testing
Airbus has been testing its A400M Atlas military transport on unprepared surfaces in recent months. Here's video of its tests on a sand landing strip, showing how engineers measure the disturbance of the surface by the aircraft's passage and other important parameters.
Considering that the A400M's maximum rated landing weight is over 130 short tons, it's pretty impressive that it can handle unprepared surfaces like that. I bet the landing gear takes a beating in the process.
Stuxnet has offspring all over the place
It seems Stuxnet and Duqu, the (in)famous cyber-spying programs, have given birth to multiple descendants, all far more sophisticated and far harder to detect than their ancestor. They include packages such as Gauss, Duqu 2.0, Regin and others. Strategy Page reports:
Yet another high-end spyware system was recently discovered. This one has been called Sauron and it is very difficult to detect because it is designed that way. So far Sauron has been found in over 30 government networks in China, Rwanda, Russia, Iran and Belgium. Sauron spends most of its time monitoring the system it is in for specific types of information (like passwords, decryption keys and similar useful stuff.) Sauron can deliver its information via the Internet or by hiding in USB drives that are available. Internet security experts are hard at work trying to find out how to more easily detect that a system has been infected by Sauron and who created it and controls it.
High-end malware like this began showing up (or was first discovered) in 2009. In 2012 American and Israeli officials admitted that the industrial grade Cyber War weapons (like Stuxnet and several others) used against Iran recently were indeed joint U.S.-Israel operation. Few other details were released, although many more rumors have since circulated. Initially it was thought high-end malware might be created and used by existing Internet criminal gangs. East European programmers are suspected of being capable of this sort of thing and Russia appears to have commissioned some “royal” software using East European mercenaries. But as time goes on, and more is known about how this very complex and efficient malware is designed and built it becomes obvious that a government operation is the most likely source.
. . .
Despite all the secrecy, this stuff is very real and the pros are impressed by Stuxnet-type systems, even if the rest of us have not got much of a clue. The demonstrated capabilities of these Cyber War weapons usher in a new age in Internet based warfare. Amateur hour is over and the big dogs are in play. The Cyber War offensive by the U.S. and Israel appears to have been underway for years, using their stealth to remain hidden. There are probably more than three of these stealthy Cyber War applications in use and most of us will never hear about it until, and if, other such programs are discovered and their presence made public.
There's much more at the link.
We hear a great deal in the news media about computer malware and state-sponsored hacking by China, Russia and some other places, but there seems to be very little mention of the fact that the USA appears to be up to its neck in the same activities, using software such as that described above. One does wonder who really hacked those DNC e-mails, and the Clinton Foundation . . .
A forgotten heroine of World War II
I've studied the Second World War for decades, and know a great deal about it; but now and again, stories emerge that still surprise and enthrall me. Here's another one.
In the First World War, she was decorated for staying by her patients’ side even while Germans stampeded through her hospital. In the Second World War, as a member of the secret service, she landed behind enemy lines to bring two commandos back to Britain. She would also, during that conflict, save the lives of British and American women imprisoned in Ravensbrück, the infamous concentration camp known as the “Women’s Hell”.
And yet, today, Mary Lindell is largely forgotten. Whereas other female secret agents have gone down in history for their contributions to the war – not least Nancy Wake and Pearl Witherington, who inspired Sebastian Faulks’s novel Charlotte Gray – Lindell died in relative obscurity.
. . .
Born in 1895, into a wealthy family, Lindell was one of the thousands of young women in the First World War who volunteered for the nursing services, signing up for the French Red Cross. Known as La bébé anglaise by the French soldiers, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, after staying with her patients when her field hospital was overrun by the Germans.
Between the wars, Lindell married a French count, with whom she raised three children. After the Fall of France, she took the sight of German soldiers parading the avenues of Paris as a personal affront. She recalled: “Some of us had to stand up to the Jerries. Who? I said to myself, 'Darling, you’re to do it.’ ”
In her first mission she escorted an ambulance convoy out of Paris to the Vichy zone of France, but rather than seize her own freedom by crossing into Spain, Lindell returned to Paris to set up an escape line. She helped Frenchmen wanting to join the Free French and British soldiers who had missed the boat at Dunkirk. For two weeks she hid Jimmy Windsor Lewis – who would later win the DSO twice – while she obtained false papers for him and charmed the Germans into giving her a travel permit out of occupied France. Her own cover was “to hide in the open” dressed as a nurse.
In early 1941, Lindell was arrested on suspicion of anti-German activities and spent nine months in solitary confinement. When released, she hid in Lyon for several months until she escaped with more false papers, this time describing her as an English governess. In Spain she persuaded the British secret service to send her home by flying boat.
Back in London, Lindell was taken up by MI9 (a branch of Military Intelligence, rather shorter lived than MI6), where she received the briefest of training before being sent back to France to help a team of commandos, charged with destroying German ships in Bordeaux, to get back to Britain. As a concession to her age – Lindell was 47 by this time – Lindell was flown into France in a light aircraft, rather than being forced to use a parachute.
Only two men survived the raid, Herbert “Blondie” Hasler and Bill Sparks. After disguising themselves as tramps, the commandos finally made contact with Lindell in a town called Ruffec. On seeing Hasler, her first remark was: “That moustache is going to come off; it reeks of England.”
Lindell helped the men on their way then smuggled their report to a covert radio station in Switzerland. She then returned to France to organise an escape line for soldiers and downed airmen.
She was caught again in November 1943 having just escorted a party of Allied airmen to a Pyrenean village. She was wounded while jumping from a train and, after a long convalescence, sent, in September 1944, to Ravensbrück, where tens of thousands of women were worked to death or died of starvation and disease or were gassed and cremated.
There, despite the obvious danger of doing so, she quarrelled with the authorities. “I threw my weight about a lot,” she once said. “I used to say, 'You’ve lost the war, you know perfectly well you have.’ And they knew they had too. It didn’t stop them. They were b-------s. The weaker the people, the more beastly they were.”
Lindell found work in the camp hospital, and from there gathered intelligence, smuggled food and clothes into the cell block and finally produced a list of American and British women – when the Germans denied there were any in the camp – to the Swedish Red Cross, who evacuated them – and Lindell.
The French awarded her a second Croix de Guerre and the British awarded her the OBE, but Lindell herself hated the adulation. “When they say I am a heroine, I am most embarrassed and I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “One does a job, it is a job, but the heroine is all twiddle-rot.” Nevertheless, Airey Neave thought her one of the most remarkable characters of British Military Intelligence.
She died in 1986, aged 91. “You either go with your enemy, or you go against your enemy,” she said. “I couldn’t sit down and twiddle my thumbs. It wasn’t in my nature.”
There's more at the link.
The article's material is drawn from a new book about Mary Lindell.
Looks like that one's going on my "To Read" list.
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