Monday, October 31, 2016

Spot the ambush kitty

Kili, our four-year-old female cat, isn't about to let our new kitten, Ashbutt, ambush her from hiding.  However, Ashbutt is still small enough to fit underneath our couch, where Kili, being fully grown, can't get at him to administer condign punishment for his kittenish impudence.

Kili finds this . . . frustrating.


All mothers owe this woman a debt of gratitude

The woman who invented the disposable diaper (known as a 'nappy' in England) has died.  The Telegraph reports:

Valerie Hunter Gordon, who has died aged 94, helped to deliver mothers from the daily drudgery of mangle, washing line and ironing board by inventing the first disposable nappy system.

In 1947 Valerie, the wife of an Army officer, was living in Camberley, Surrey, and expecting her third child. She was not looking forward to the prospect of washing, ironing and drying the traditional towelling nappies which were all that were available at the time.

“I just didn’t want to wash them,” she told an interviewer last year. “You had to iron them as well. It was awful labour. I was amazed you couldn’t buy a disposable version. I enquired of the US and you couldn’t buy them there. It was extraordinary.”

So she decided she had better do something about it herself.

After a certain amount of trial and error (initially she used old nylon parachutes, of which there were many spare after the war), and drawing on her considerable needlework skills, she came up with a pair of adjustable PVC waterproof pants fastened with poppers, with a cord around the waist, which could be wiped clean, or washed and bleached. Into these she slipped a pad of cellulose wadding with a thin layer of cotton wool next to the baby’s skin to prevent soreness. The waterproof pants prevented leakage and were shaped to ensure that the pad remained in position without safety pins.

Unlike modern all-in-one disposable nappies, Valerie’s design meant that only the biodegradable dirty pads were disposed of, while the waterproof pants could be rinsed and used again. This  system created very little permanent waste; it also significantly reduced the water and electricity consumption associated with washing cotton nappies.

The nappies were a huge success on her baby son Nigel and she soon began taking orders from the wives of other senior officers at Staff College in Camberley.

“My husband used to cut out the pads on the floor of the attic when he came home from work and I used to run them up with my mother’s old sewing machine... I would go out for tea with the wives and babies, and they would say, 'Oh Valerie, wouldn’t you make one for me?’ It became a full-time job. It was more hard work than washing the damn things.”

There's more at the link.

I'm old enough to remember my mother laundering diapers for my two younger sisters.  She had an old washing machine with a mangle above the tub, rather like this one.

She'd soak the diapers in a pail to remove 'solids', then wash them, then feed them through the mangle into a basin at the rear filled with clean water to rinse them.  Once rinsed, they were 'mangled' once more before being hung out to dry.  It was a big job, and she had to repeat it (sometimes with the help of a domestic servant, which was fairly common in South Africa in those years) several times a week (particularly when the girls got diarrhea).

She didn't use disposable diapers because they were more expensive, in those days, than the regular variety, and our household budget was fairly tight.  She sometimes complained to me, when I was older, that the price dropped just too late to make her life easier!


A new Simon's Cat for Halloween

It's particularly appropriate, what with Miss D. and I having a lively, rampaging kitten in the house at present.

Ashbutt hasn't met the vacuum cleaner yet.  Maybe I should introduce them for Halloween?


The latest Clinton scandal (YAWWWWWNNN...)

The 'revelation' that the FBI will reopen its investigation into the Clinton e-mail scandal, on the basis of 'new evidence' found on Anthony Weiner's laptop computer in a different investigation, has got the news media and the blogosphere buzzing.  There's all sorts of frantic speculation about what it means, what it might uncover, and what it might imply for US politics.

My reaction is a big fat yawn.

What does it mean?  It means that we have yet more evidence (as if we didn't have enough already) of corruption and incompetence in the Hillary Clinton campaign. If Huma Abedin could swear, under oath, that she'd handed over any and all devices containing e-mails from or to or concerning Hillary Clinton, only to have this new evidence come to light, she was either lying under oath, or incredibly forgetful about where such e-mails might be located, or just plain stupid.  The same goes for her boss, for not checking, double-checking and triple-checking that all evidence had been dealt with, one way or another.  New scandal?  Nope.  Just the same old, same old.

What might it uncover?  It might uncover more evidence (as if we didn't have enough already) of corruption and incompetence in the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Same old, same old.

What might it imply for US politics?  It might imply will confirm yet again (as if it hadn't already been confirmed, many times over) that Hillary Clinton, her husband Bill, the Clinton Foundation, and almost anyone involved with any or all of them, is/are corrupt.  Same old, same old.

I remain astonished that anyone in their right mind could vote for Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, what with all the evidence of corruption and criminality that's come to light about her over the years.  It's like workers at an infectious disease laboratory voting to elect the smallpox virus as their new boss.

I sincerely hope that this new scandal will persuade some currently pro-Hillary voters to no longer support her.  However, the choices available to them (and to us) aren't much better, all things considered.  As I've said before, this election (like so many others) comes down to voting for the lesser of the evils confronting us.  There isn't a single candidate to whom I can point and say, "This person deserves to be President."  On the other hand, given the moral malaise infecting our society in so many ways (and against which so few of us are willing to take a stand), I can point to any of the current crop of candidates and say, "America probably deserves a President like this!"

And so we vote for the lesser of the evils confronting us.  Would Benjamin Franklin regard that as 'keeping' the republic he, and the other Founding Fathers, created for us?  I venture to doubt it.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Immigration - the numbers, by gumballs

I found this over at LL's place.  It seemed like an excellent way to illustrate the problem of immigration, refugees and displaced persons, so here it is.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

Someone should show this to Frau Merkel and the other Eurocrats agitating to let unlimited 'refugees' (AKA economic migrants) into the European Union.  They might learn something, if they were prepared to listen (which they probably aren't).


Typewriter heaven

I've long had a passing interest in typewriters - how they developed, the stages through which they went, and how they grew to be the indispensable office automation tool during most of the 20th century.

I was therefore both interested and amused to read how the lead designer and typographer for found an unheralded treasure trove of typewriters in a museum in Spain.  Popular Mechanics reports:

While poking around for a Salvador Dali museum in Figueres, Spain [Marcin Wichary] stumbled upon something else—the Emporda Technical Museum.

According to travel guides, you'll find it described as "[a collection that] shows how technology and science has affected our lives, [with] some beautiful items on show," but boy is that an understatement, as Wichary found out.

There's more at the link.  Fun stuff for typewriter and office technology fundis.


Any lower and he'd qualify for a lawnmower attachment

This video shows an Embraer E190 regional jet landing at St. Maarten, an island in the Caribbean.  The airfield is notorious for the very low approach path over the beach, with thousands gathering every year to watch and film the planes coming in and departing.  There are many videos about it on YouTube.  (We've seen several of them in these pages before.)

This plane got a lot lower than most . . . so low, in fact, that it seems almost as if spectators could reach up and touched it with their fingers.  If a vehicle had been passing below its flight path, the wheels would probably have bounced off its roof. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

I'm glad I wasn't on board - or on the road!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Quote of the day

From Tom Maguire:

If Weiner's sexting leads to Hillary's defeat I may literally die laughing. Huma, Hillary, and the men they married - feminists will never let this go.



Is this what they wear in da hood?

From Wirecutter:

Clearly meant to be worn with a hoodie . . .


Yet another reason why gun control won't work

I've long argued (as regular readers will know) that so-called 'gun control' focuses on the wrong target.  It's trying to control a thing (the gun), rather than the person wielding that thing (the shooter).  That's nonsensical.  When we encounter drunk driving, we don't charge the car - we charge the driver.  It's always the user that commits the crime or perpetrates the error, not the thing.

That said, there's been a lot of propaganda about how, if we control guns per se, we'll automatically control so-called 'gun violence'.  Figures of 250- to 300-odd million guns in circulation in the USA have been bandied about, with no real evidence to suggest that they're correct.  Recent research has argued that gun ownership is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of collectors or 'super-owners' (presumably to imply that it's less of a problem to go after guns than previously thought - after all, if it affects only a small number of voters, it's politically less of a liability to do so).

Weaponsman has come up with a thought-provoking calculation to debunk this train of thought.

We believe that the correct number [of firearms in circulation in the USA] is much higher — somewhere between 412 and 660 million.   You may wonder how we came to that number, so buckle up (and cringe, if you’re a math-phobe, although it never gets too theoretical): unlike most of the academics and reporters we linked above, we’re going to use publicly available data, and show our work.

What if we told you that one ATF computer system logged, by serial number, 252,000,000 unique firearms [produced from 1999-2016], and represented only those firearms manufactured, imported or sold by a relatively small number of the nation’s tens of thousands of Federal Firearms Licensees?

. . .

At this point we have a reasonable and very conservative, very low estimate of 329 million new firearms to the US market 1999-2016. The question becomes one of estimating how many firearms were made and imported in the period from the invention of modern metallic cartridge, smokeless powder ammunition from, say, 1899 to 1998 — and how many of those survive as practical, usable firearms.

. . .

Absent a better idea, we can say that the US inventory of firearms is almost certainly between 412 and 660 million, not the lower numbers recently trumpeted in the media.

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

This is very interesting statistical research, and I think Weaponsman draws some entirely logical conclusions.  If the number of guns in circulation is at least double what's been previously estimated (and I'm willing to believe that it is, based solely on my own knowledge of what I and my friends and acquaintances own in the way of firearms), it will make it that much harder for gun-grabbers to confiscate them all, even if their owners were willing to hand them over.  (Most aren't.  For example, in Connecticut, most owners of recently banned rifles are allegedly disobeying the requirements of that state's law, and in New York state the same thing appears to be happening.  I daresay the same would happen in any other state where such draconian legislation is enacted.)

Another aspect that hasn't received much attention is ammunition sales.  The recent 'ammo drought' is still fresh in the minds of most American shooters, many of whom have since built up their stocks to make sure they have enough to 'take care of business' in the event that something like it happens again.  I order ammunition online as and when I need it, typically buying a few hundred to a couple of thousand rounds at a time, and my main supplier is selling container loads of the stuff as fast as he can unpack it onto his shelves.  The relative good health of that market argues that many people aren't simply stockpiling guns - they're shooting them, and maintaining their skills through regular practice.

Hmmm . . . if there are that many guns in circulation, perhaps I don't yet own my fair share of them!  I'll have to do something about that.


Friday, October 28, 2016

More Clinton e-mail damage?

I note that the FBI, having disgraced itself in its handling of the Clinton e-mail scandal, is now 'looking into' newly discovered e-mails on a device or devices shared by Huma Abedin and her husband, himself-disgraced Anthony Weiner.

Inevitably, Hillary Clinton is 'confident' that the FBI will not recommend any charges.  Nevertheless, I have three questions.
  1. If there's enough evidence to charge someone with criminal wrongdoing, will Huma Abedin take the fall for Hillary, in the confident expectation that a presidential pardon will rapidly be forthcoming?  And, if such a pardon is not rapidly forthcoming, will she 'do a Samson' and bring down everybody else with her - or will she have a fatal 'accident' before then?
  2. Will Anthony Weiner use the newly 'discovered' e-mails to work a deal for himself, avoiding prosecution for his own misdeeds by threatening to 'do a Samson' on or to everyone else involved, unless he gets a free pass?
  3. So far, the only e-mails Wikileaks has released have been to and from members of staff of Hillary Clinton's campaign.  The election is now less than two weeks away.  When will Wikileaks begin releasing Hillary's own e-mails, and any incriminating evidence they contain?

I'll be watching with great interest to learn the answers to those questions.


A quirky, eclectic musician leaves a lasting legacy

I'm sure many of my readers will never have heard of the Scottish Celtic fusion and 'acid folk' group Shooglenifty.  Their sound is a blend of Celtic and Scottish folk, international folk influences, and jazz and rock elements as well.  It's an interesting mixture.  I don't like all their pieces, but some are intriguing.

Sadly, their violinist, Angus Grant, died earlier this month.  (Despite sharing his surname, I doubt we're related, except perhaps distantly through our mutual membership of the Grant clan in Scotland.)  The Telegraph reports:

Angus Grant, who has died of cancer aged 49, was the dreadlocked fiddler and leader of the Scottish band Shooglenifty, pioneers of a style of music variously described as techno ceilidh, acid croft or hypnofolkadelia – a blend of traditional folk with the rhythmic energy of contemporary dance music.

Shooglenifty’s unique twist on traditional Scottish tunes won them an extensive fan base not only in Scotland, but in continental Europe, the US and Australasia – even India, Malaysia and Japan.

They performed for Nelson Mandela, played with dhol drummers of Rajasthan at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and collaborated with Lebanese musicians in Beirut. In 1996 they became the first band to incite a stage invasion at Sydney Opera House and in 2000 they played in Cuba a whole year before the Manic Street Preachers’ more famous “Louder than War” gig.

. . .

Grant, described by one reviewer as a “bedraggled, bearded musical Merlin”, explained the band’s name as “just two nonsense Scottish words thrown together – 'Nifty’ is obviously just nifty and 'shoogle’ is to shake something. It’s saying you can have a good dance to it or have good sex to it”.

Having been brought up in the Scottish Highlands, as the band absorbed new global influences, it was he who kept it rooted to the traditional tunes of Scotland.

There's more at the link.

The band memorialized their late violinist in this article on their Web site, and James Mackintosh provided a personal, insightful tribute here.  The latter in particular is well worth reading.  Angus appears to have been one of life's characters;  not a classical hippie, but much more than a hippie, in his own unique way.  I hope the group can find someone to take his place and continue his legacy.

For those who don't know the group, here are three of their pieces.  I've deliberately chosen live performances, even though the audio isn't always the best, in order to convey the mood they could project almost at will. The late Angus Grant plays his violin in all of them.

First, a relatively traditional Scottish instrumental piece, 'Tammienorrie'.

Next, a Celtic/jazz fusion number, 'The Whisky Kiss'.

Finally, a collaboration with Indian folk musicians at a music festival in France, titled 'The High Road to Jodhpur'.

Angus will be missed.  May he rest in peace - and may the heavenly choir receive adequate warning of what's coming their way!


A scientific shell game

Donna Laframboise asks, "How many scientific papers just aren’t true?  Enough that basing government policy on ‘peer-reviewed studies’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be."

We’re continually assured that government policies are grounded in evidence, whether it’s an anti-bullying programme in Finland, an alcohol awareness initiative in Texas or climate change responses around the globe. Science itself, we’re told, is guiding our footsteps.

There’s just one problem: science is in deep trouble. Last year, Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, referred to fears that ‘much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue’ and that ‘science has taken a turn toward darkness.’

It’s a worrying thought. Government policies can’t be considered evidence-based if the evidence on which they depend hasn’t been independently verified, yet the vast majority of academic research is never put to this test. Instead, something called peer review takes place. When a research paper is submitted, journals invite a couple of people to evaluate it. Known as referees, these individuals recommend that the paper be published, modified, or rejected.

If it’s true that one gets what one pays for, let me point out that referees typically work for no payment. They lack both the time and the resources to perform anything other than a cursory overview. Nothing like an audit occurs. No one examines the raw data for accuracy or the computer code for errors. Peer review doesn’t guarantee that proper statistical analyses were employed, or that lab equipment was used properly. The peer review process itself is full of serious flaws, yet is treated as if it’s the handmaiden of objective truth.

And it shows. Referees at the most prestigious of journals have given the green light to research that was later found to be wholly fraudulent. Conversely, they’ve scoffed at work that went on to win Nobel prizes. Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, describes peer review as a roulette wheel, a lottery and a black box. He points out that an extensive body of research finds scant evidence that this vetting process accomplishes much at all. On the other hand, a mountain of scholarship has identified profound deficiencies.

. . .

Politicians and journalists have long found it convenient to regard peer-reviewed research as de facto sound science. Saying ‘Look at the studies!’ is a convenient way of avoiding argument ... We’ve long been assured that reports produced by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are authoritative because they rely entirely on peer-reviewed scientific literature. A 2010 InterAcademy Council investigation found this claim to be false, but that’s another story. Even if all IPCC source material did meet this threshold, the fact that one academic journal — and there are 25,000 of them — conducted an unspecified and unregulated peer review ritual is no warranty that a paper isn’t total nonsense.

If half of scientific literature ‘may simply be untrue’, then might it be that some of the climate research cited by the IPCC is also untrue? Even raising this question is often seen as being anti-scientific. But science is never settled. The history of scientific progress is the history of one set of assumptions being disproven, and another taking its place.

There's more at the link.  Ms. Laframboise's full report may be read here (the link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).

This is precisely why I profoundly distrust any politician who tries to tell us that 'the science is settled'.  All too often, it's far from settled.  It may even be actively and deliberately fraudulent, producing results tailor-made to satisfy the objectives of those who've funded the research.  Too many 'researchers' begin with a goal in mind, their conclusions already identified, and then seek evidence that will substantiate what they want to prove.  Anything to the contrary is ignored or discarded, or flagrantly manipulated to achieve the desired result (as in this example, to cite just one - there are many more).

That's not research at all.  It's pseudo-scientific sleight of hand.  It's a shell game.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Headline of the week

From the Telegraph:

'Small brown pebble found on East Sussex beach is pickled dinosaur brain'

Er . . . yes!  Quite so, old chap!  If you say so . . .

I honestly thought this was some sort of belated April Fool joke.  I mean, brain tissue simply isn't preserved in nature - it rots almost faster than any other body part.  However, the article appears legitimate.

Now to outrage the archaeologists and zoologists by trying some of those recipes for brains . . .


Some very good investment advice, IMHO

Grant Cardone offers what I think is good investment advice.

"I would never, ever invest money in a 401(k)," Cardone tells CNBC. "Why would I go to work, have my employer give me another $6,000 a year, and then take that money and send it off to Wall Street, where I can't even touch it for 30 years? I wouldn't do that."

The popular retirement plans are "traps that prevent people from ever having enough," Cardone writes on his website. "The 401(k) is merely where you kiss your money away for 40 years hoping it grows up."

Rather than focusing on saving, focus on earning — you can't save your way to millionaire status, he says.

"Wall Street is telling you to invest little bits, early. They don't believe in your ability to earn money," Cardone tells CNBC. "People need to show the ability to produce more revenue — not invest it — first. People get rich because they produce revenue, not because they make little investments over time."

And don't just focus on earning — focus on earning big, says Cardone. "Keep stacking that paper until you have a hundred grand in the bank. I know this is very unrealistic for a lot of people, but the reason it's unrealistic is because you've been conditioned to think small."

Grant is promoting saving the money you earn, but counter to most advice, he says to put the money in a good old-fashioned savings account — where your money is accessible at a moment's notice — until you have at least $100,000. Then, you can start investing.

"Put your saved money into secured, sacred (untouchable) accounts," he writes on Entrepreneur. "Never use these accounts for anything, not even an emergency. ... To this day, at least twice a year, I am broke because I always invest my surpluses into ventures I cannot access."

There's more at the link.

I think Mr. Cardone makes very good points indeed.  In recent years, when ZIRP and QE have produced risible returns on investment across the board, many people have found they actually made negative returns by the time they factored in the fees they were being charged by their 401(k) management companies.  If we follow Mr. Cardone's advice, there's always the risk that we can make a bad investment, but by having so much of a financial cushion to begin with, we'll be able to absorb it and continue with our other investments.  We won't have all our eggs in one basket.  What's more, if we choose wisely and then lock down our investments so we can't touch them, we're much more likely to see success in the longer term.


"The luckiest man in World War II" has died

Alistair Urquhart was dubbed 'The Luckiest Man in World War II' by the BBC when they made this documentary about his life.

Sadly, Mr. Urquhart died recently.  The Telegraph reports:

Alistair Urquhart, who has died aged 97, was a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, surviving both the infamous Death Railway and the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki; his memoir, The Forgotten Highlander, became a bestseller in 2009.

When Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, approximately 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war. Urquhart took part in a forced march of 18 miles to Selarang Barracks on the Changi peninsula, which became a vast PoW camp. On the way there, the road was lined with the heads of decapitated Chinese on spikes.

Seven months later, he was crammed with 30 others into one of a number of small steel containers used for transporting goods by rail. It was dark, airless and so hot that the steel sides burned any skin that came in contact with them.

After five days and nights, he set out with his companions on a six-day march of 30 miles. Prodded by bayonets and beaten with bamboo canes, they had to keep up a good pace through the jungle while avoiding venomous tree snakes dangling from the branches overhead.

On arrival at Kanyu Camp, on the River Kwai, Urquhart had contracted malaria and was covered in scabies and lice, but he had to help build the huts in which some 200 of his comrades were to live.

After the huts were completed, he started work on a section of the 260-mile-long Burma-Siam Railway, hacking through jungle, gouging out passes, spanning ravines, bridging rivers in one of the most inhospitable regions in the world – all on starvation rations. Many thousands of British, Australian, Dutch, American and Canadian prisoners would perish in the task.

Several of the overseers were selected for their brutality and sadism, and punishment took many forms. Cuts on feet and legs from poisonous plants, bad food or lack of hygiene were unavoidable and turned into ulcers which rotted flesh, muscle and tendons.

Urquhart, desperate to stop the rot that was devouring his legs, went to the doctor. He was advised to collect some maggots from the latrines and put these on the ulcers. The maggots nibbled away at the diseased flesh, new skin formed and the wounds healed.

He spent more than seven months splintering rock on a two-mile section known as Hellfire Pass that required five cuttings and seven bridges. On top of the cuttings, one of the guards relieved his boredom by rolling boulders down on to the prisoners toiling below. Out of sight of the guards, Urquhart sabotaged the bridge construction, sawing halfway through wooden bolts and  depositing termites in the joints of load-bearing timbers.

Urquhart received a bad beating for resisting the sexual advances of a Korean guard and was then made to stand to attention through two cold nights and a day under blazing sun. Whenever he lost consciousness, he had water thrown over him and was kicked back into life. Finally, he was squeezed into a semi-submerged cage and spent a week in a cramped hole in stifling heat.

When the monsoon arrived, the Kwai and its tributaries became loaded with cholera bacteria. Urquhart contracted the disease. He was isolated in the “death tent” and was the only survivor. He was then sent to Chungkai, a large hospital camp. Besides cholera, he had dysentery, beriberi and malaria and had lost the use of his legs.

He was examined by Colonel (Weary) Dunlop, an Australian doctor, who intervened with the Japanese constantly on behalf of his patients, at the risk of being executed, and has been credited with saving countless lives. After six months of treatment and rehabilitation, Urquhart was sent to the River Valley Road Camp in Singapore City.

In September 1944, together with 900 other British PoWs, Urquhart was herded aboard the cargo vessel Kachidoki Maru. He said afterwards that nothing that he had experienced in the camps had prepared him for the conditions on one of the Japanese “hellships”. Inside the hold, it was standing room only and there were no lavatory facilities. In the hot, dark, fetid atmosphere, men were driven mad by thirst. Cannibalism and even vampirism were not unknown.

Six days out of Singapore, the ship, part of a convoy, collided with an oil tanker which had been torpedoed and set on fire. There were no red crosses on the ship to indicate that PoWs were on board. That night, Kachidoki Maru was torpedoed by the American submarine Pampanito and sank within 15 minutes.

Water flooded the hold and Urquhart was washed over the side. The sea was thick with burning oil from other sinkings in the convoy. More than 240 of his comrades died that night. There were terrible scenes as men fought for a piece of driftwood that would support them. Urquhart found a one-man raft. By the fifth day, he was badly burned and unable to see. His eyes had been seared by the strength of the sun.

He was picked up, barely conscious, by a Japanese whaling ship and dropped off at Hainan Island. There, he and other prisoners who had survived the sinkings were paraded naked through the village. In mid-September he was taken by stretcher and lowered into the hold of another “hellship”.

Again the convoy was attacked by submarines, but after an 11-day voyage they reached Japan. Urquhart was put to work in a coal mine at Omuta. By that time he could hardly stand and scarcely knew his own name.

Dr Mathieson, a Scot serving in the RAMC, persuaded the Japanese to move Urquhart to the camp hospital, where he worked as an orderly. The doctor’s courage, dedication and skill saved Urquhart’s life and that of many others.

His camp was 10 miles from Nagasaki, and when the atom bomb was dropped on the city, his shrunken frame was knocked sideways by the blast. For several days he and his comrades feared that the Japanese would massacre them to destroy the evidence of their atrocities, but on August 21 1945 the camp commander announced the end of the war and the British gradually took over.

There's more at the link.

As the late General Patton reminded us, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."  We are diminished by their deaths when they finally leave us.


The Predator proliferates

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems produced the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 1994.  It entered service in time to take a starring role in the so-called War on Terror.

It would spawn a much more powerful successor, and imitators all over the world - imitators that have now given potential US enemies much the same capabilities as our own forces.  China's CAIG Wing Loong UAV (shown below) is perhaps the best-known of these.

It's in service with Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as China.

Now comes news that a South African company has taken a European motorized glider and converted it into a Predator-equivalent UAV.  What's more, it should be very economical compared to mainstream offerings from major powers.

South African company Ultimate Unmanned has launched its new Viper 1000C unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which is based on a Stemme motor glider.

The company said the idea is to lease the platform and sell air time for missions such as surveillance, border patrol, anti-piracy, pipeline monitoring, counter-terrorism, mapping, anti-smuggling, wildlife monitoring etc. Ultimate Unmanned is targeting the Middle East, amongst other regions, as parent company Ultimate Aviation has an existing footprint across Africa and the Middle East.

. . .

The Viper 1000C ... is based on the Stemme S6, production models will be based on the Stemme S15 (which has been converted to the Patroller UAV by France’s Sagem), with the S6-based Viper to be used for training.

Endurance of the aircraft is 28 hours with external and internal extended endurance tanks. Maximum altitude is 25 000 feet. The 18 metre long, 1 100 kg aircraft has a cruise speed of 113 knots and is powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 engine delivering 113 hp.

Flight is fully autonomous with automatic takeoff and landing and point to point waypoint navigation. Multiple payload options include high definition cameras, forward looking infrared systems and night vision systems. Two wing mounted hardpoints can carry up to 80 kg of payload, although total payload is up to 350 kg.

. . .

The ground based command and control centre is mounted in a 6 x 2.56 x 2 metre trailer that includes a kitchen, bunks, toilet, shower, weather station, pilot and payload operator stations, generator, water and fuel tanks and satellite communications link.

There's more at the link.

Like the Predator, the Viper 1000C will doubtless be capable of carrying Hellfire-class missiles such as South Africa's Mokopa, or the new, smaller Impi-S.

South African companies aren't the only ones looking to produce Predator-class UAV's.  The problem now is that so many countries are buying and fielding these aircraft that any US intervention in other parts of the world is going to become much more hazardous for the forces involved.  Until recently, the US had a monopoly on this sort of high technology.  That monopoly is now dead.  Those who agitate for US intervention in other countries are going to have to wake up to the fact that our forces are likely to suffer much heavier casualties than previously, because the weapons equipping their enemies are going to be much more capable than in the past.

This also means that US arms export restrictions are now so much pointless paperwork.  Saudi Arabia has already obtained Predator-equivalent surveillance UAV's from China.  The USA has refused to sell it armed UAV's because of human rights considerations, so it's reportedly talking to South Africa about buying armed UAV's from that country.  Effectively, any nation can now obtain armed UAV's at the drop of a moneybag, if not from one source, then from another.  So much for export restrictions!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A knife question for my readers

As part of a forthcoming book, I'm trying to describe a knife that will play an important role in proceedings.  It needs to be distinctive and easily recognizable, so I'd originally planned to have its blade in a sort of karambit style, with its tip curving down rather than up.  There are many such blades in numerous cultures.  For those who may not know what I'm talking about, here are a few examples.

Milwaukee Fastback hawk bill folding utility knife:

Cold Steel Tiger Claw folding karambit knife:

Gurkha Aeof Kukri fixed blade knife from Nepal:

The problem is that I'm writing a description, rather than showing a picture.  Words aren't as clear as images to someone unfamiliar with what I'm talking about.  What's more, the book will be read by people in various countries and parts of the world.  I might understand the term 'karambit', but someone who isn't interested in knives, or hasn't been exposed to a 'knife culture', won't.  In the same way, terms such as 'jambiya' or 'khanjar' (both of them curved daggers) are not familiar to many in the USA.

Therefore, my question is this.  Is there a 'standard' or 'universal' name that anyone, from anywhere in the world, who's somewhat knowledgeable about knives, would instantly recognize as meaning a knife with a downward-curving point?  Is there a name for such blades that transcends a particular culture and is commonly understood around the globe?

There may not be a universal descriptor, of course.  In that case, I'll have to change my approach and use a more conventional knife that doesn't appear too exotic, and therefore doesn't need a lengthy description.  However, I'd like to make the knife a prominent feature of the book, so I'll be grateful if any of you can help me out here.  Thanks in advance.


More Norwegians with explosives

Yesterday I put up a video clip from a Norwegian TV show whose title translates as something like "Don't do this at home".  It was well received, so here's another.

I'm sure most of my readers know about home-made rockets, consisting of a water-filled container that's pressurized with air.  When the pressure is suddenly released, the container takes off like a rocket.  The Norwegian team decided to do the same thing with an extra-large, extra-long steel container and fire it through a house, releasing the pressure by the judicious use of explosives.  (They do seem to use an awful lot of det cord on that program - take a look at their YouTube channel and you'll see what I mean.)

Boys and their toys, indeed!


Fascinating news (if true) for warbird enthusiasts

It's reported that fifty Focke-Wulf FW-190A3 fighters dating back to World War II might have been found buried in Turkey.

Fifty of 72 warplanes that went missing 70 years ago have reportedly been found buried under the former airport of the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri.

A German Focke-Wulf Fw 190A3
after landing in the UK by mistake in June 1942
(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - click it for a larger view)

Cooperation between Turkey and Germany continued after World War I and paved the way for production cooperation with German aircraft manufacturer Junkers. Afterward, Turkey’s first plane factory was founded, producing [Junkers] A-20 model planes.

To continue mutual production, a trade deal was signed between Turkey and Nazi Germany in 1941 following the efforts of former Chancellor Franz von Papen. Turkey sold iron and chrome ore to Germany and, in exchange, acquired 72 FW-190A3 warplanes.

The planes, whose pieces were produced in Anatolia, were brought to Turkey in 1943. The planes made their first flight on July 10, 1943, and were distributed to five provinces. A total of 50 of the planes were sent to Kayseri before disappearing in 1947.

According to newly surfaced documents, the U.S. wanted Turkey to destroy all German FW-190A3 warplanes in order to sell its planes that had remained unsold after World War II. As a result of lengthy talks with Ankara, the planes were never seen again.

There's more at the link.

If this report is true, it's likely to ignite a firestorm of interest in the warbird community.  If the aircraft can be excavated in even remotely restorable condition, I'm sure there'll be individuals and organizations falling over themselves to bid for them.  There are very few original FW-190's still in existence, and most of them are not airworthy, exhibited in museums.

I've not found any confirmation of this report from other sources, but here's hoping!


Your feel-good story of the week

Sometimes miracles happen.  Sometimes, if you're very lucky indeed, it's a double miracle.

It was pure chance that [Chris] Dempsey came into [Heather] Krueger’s life.

The code-enforcement officer in Frankfort, Ill., overheard one of his co-workers talk about a cousin who was dying of cancer and desperately needed a liver transplant.

Dempsey readily agreed to get tested to see if he was a match.

“I spent four years in the Marine Corps and learned there never to run away from anything,” he explained to CBS News. “So I just said to myself, ‘Hey, if I can help, I’m going to help.’ ”

He turned out to be a match.

“I got off the phone and ran down the hallway, and my mother and I were both crying our eyes out in disbelief,” Krueger said on “Today.” “I had never even met this man before.”

The pair finally met over lunch to discuss the surgery, and then found themselves becoming friends as the operation loomed nearer.

. . .

Krueger and Dempsey went in for the eight-hour procedure at the University of Illinois Hospital on March 16, 2015.

The surgery was a success — and the pair became even closer in its aftermath. They soon realized they’d fallen in love.

Last December, Dempsey took Krueger to the top of the Hancock Building in Chicago, and then proposed to her after a carriage ride.

There's more at the link.  Here's a video report that provides more details.

That's the best feel-good story I've heard for a very long time.  Congratulations to both of them, and best wishes for a long, happy and fruitful life together.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Someone should have warned the fire department . . .

There's a Norwegian TV program that seems to be something like Discovery Channel's Mythbusters.  It conducts weird experiments and films the results, which are sometimes rather spectacular.

Here's what happened when they tried combining potassium iodide with hydrogen peroxide . . . and adding flame. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

Why did no-one warn the fire department not to go charging in there?  Oops . . .


The composer of the world's shortest opera has died

I've just learned that Peter Reynolds, composer of the world's shortest opera, 'Sands of Time', died recently.  The Telegraph reports:

The work, Sands of Time, “a tempestuous tale of boiling eggs and boiling tempers”, was written to last precisely three minutes and 34 seconds, the time it takes to boil an egg (though it sometimes lasted a little over four minutes).

“The intention was to create a piece which bore the same relationship to opera as a miniature does to a full-length portrait,” Reynolds told the Guardian in 2004. He also hoped to slash the existing shortest opera record set in 1928 by Darius Milhaud with Deliverance of Theseus, which ran for a comparatively flabby seven minutes and 27 seconds.

Reynolds and his librettist, Simon Rees, created a suburban domestic scenario of a couple, Flo and Stan, having an argument at breakfast, starting with the egg timer being turned on and ending with the egg coming out of the saucepan.

At the height of the argument representatives from the soccer pools arrive to tell them they have won a large amount of money, and peace is restored.

There's more at the link.

For those interested, here's the entire opera.

An opera timed to boil an egg?  Verily, the musical mind doth boggle . . .


Would you like to get 'killed' for charity?

My long-standing buddy in meatspace and cyberspace, bestselling author Larry Correia, has issued another 'Charity Red Shirt' challenge.  His first such challenge raised enough money to pay for a young man's dialysis treatments until he could receive a kidney transplant.  It's taken him from then until now to use all the names of people who donated - hence the delay until this, his second Red Shirt challenge.

It is Charity Red Shirt time again!

That is where if you donate enough money to a specific cause, I will use your name in a book. Details are below.

This time we are helping my friend Mitch with his medical bills. I’ve known him for about 20 years. Mitch suffers from spina bifida and has gone through a bunch of surgeries. This is to help him climb out of the hole. Here is the link.

Let me tell you a little bit about Mitch...

. . .

He’s a good guy who has spent his life helping others, and now I want to do something nice for him. Medical bills are expensive and Mitch has been through the wringer for years. Our mutual friend Dave set this up when he found out how far in the hole Mitch is.

This is not tax deductible. This isn’t through a 501c3. It is just a couple of guys raising money for their buddy.

. . .

If you donate $150, or you donate less but win the raffle, then I will use your name in an upcoming novel. (You can donate more too if you like, because Mitch will just use it to pay off bills).

There's much more at the link.  As for what 'Red Shirt' implies, see here.

Larry's got one of the biggest hearts in the world, both literally (the man's a giant!) and morally.  I respect the heck out of him, and I thought his first Charity Red Shirt challenge was a wonderful idea.  You can bet your boots I'll be joining this second one, not to get my name in his books (I've already been used as the inspiration for a character in his first, breakout novel, 'Monster Hunter International' - those of you who've read it probably know whom I mean), but because he picks really good, deserving causes and follows through on his promises.  Not many charities do that today.

I strongly recommend Larry's latest Charity Red Shirt challenge to all my readers.  If you can afford to give something, no matter how small an amount, please consider it.


Monday, October 24, 2016

You don't say!

Received via e-mail, origin unknown:

Never mind preaching to the choir - how about to the driver?


Art is where you find it, I guess

It seems 'street art' is alive and well in Melbourne, Australia.

An abandoned car in North Fitzroy has been completely painted in gold to the delight of many local residents.

The crumpled Toyota Camry had been sitting in North Fitzroy, near the intersection of McKean Street and Michael Street, for a couple of weeks before getting the makeover.

One local said that whoever crashed the car into the tree probably took off in a hurry, as the driver's side window was left down and the keys were still in the ignition.

In proof that just about anything can become a piece of street art, the installation has become an overnight landmark.

There's more at the link.

Clearly, the artist got Camry'd away . . .


So much for the opinion polls

I'm sure that by now, most of my readers have learned about the incriminating e-mail sent by the Clinton campaign as long ago as 2008, and just revealed by Wikileaks.  In case you missed it, here's the salient excerpt.

I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.

There's more at the link.

Zero Hedge points out:

The email even includes a handy, 37-page guide with the following poll-rigging recommendations.  In Arizona, over sampling of Hispanics and Native Americans is highly recommended: 
Research, microtargeting & polling projects
  • Over-sample Hispanics
  • Use Spanish language interviewing (Monolingual Spanish-speaking voters are among the lowest turnout Democratic targets)
  • Over-sample the Native American population
For Florida, the report recommends "consistently monitoring" samples to makes sure they're "not too old" and "has enough African American and Hispanic voters."  Meanwhile, "independent" voters in Tampa and Orlando are apparently more dem friendly so the report suggests filling up independent quotas in those cities first.
  • Consistently monitor the sample to ensure it is not too old, and that it has enough African American and Hispanic voters to reflect the state.
  • On Independents: Tampa and Orlando are better persuasion targets than north or south Florida (check your polls before concluding this). If there are budget questions or oversamples, make sure that Tampa and Orlando are included first.
Meanwhile, it's suggested that national polls over sample "key districts / regions" and "ethnic" groups "as needed."
  • General election benchmark, 800 sample, with potential over samples in key districts/regions
  • Benchmark polling in targeted races, with ethnic over samples as needed
  • Targeting tracking polls in key races, with ethnic over samples as needed

Again, more at the link.

This absolutely confirms the recent revelation that the Clinton campaign was up to shady tricks (to put it mildly) in major media polling of potential voters.  They've been doing it for years - don't forget that the e-mail quoted above dates back to 2008!

It also explains recent triumphalist claims by the Clinton Campaign, for example:  'Hillary Clinton is so far ahead of Donald Trump in the race for the presidency that she no longer even feels the need to pay attention to the Republican nominee.'  As is now clear, she's mainly ahead in polls that have been deliberately skewed in this way, so as to portray her as so far ahead that the election is effectively a 'done deal'.  I suppose that's to try to persuade potential Trump and Republican voters not to bother to cast their vote, as there won't be any point.  Instead, they should stay home on election day and let events take their presumably inevitable course.

Thing is, of course, they're not inevitable.  Other polls (for example, this one) portray the race as much, much closer.  All of us have a voice, and every voice (and every vote) counts.  It's up to us to use them.


Travels in the Panhandle

In company with Old NFO and Lawdog, I headed for the Texas Panhandle this weekend, to do some research into an area that will be prominent in at least two more Walt Ames novels.  We met up with Alma Boykin on arrival, and she acted as our tour guide for the weekend.

We began at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.  It's one of the nicest small-to-medium-sized museums I've ever seen (and I've visited many of them, on three different continents).  It's very well laid out, with an excellent collection of exhibits.  It covers the prehistoric geology, biology and zoology of the area, its importance to several Native American tribes, the arrival of white settlers and the cattle industry, the development of the oil industry, and all sorts of ancillary topics.  There's a very nice collection of regional art (several examples of which I was sorely tempted to 'borrow' for the walls of my home), and a clothing and textile section that we didn't visit, but mentally noted as a place to bring the lovely Phlegm in future (she's very into that sort of thing).

Not surprisingly to readers who know our proclivities, the firearms collection occupied much of our time.  Of course, being who and what we are, we identified two mislabeled exhibits;  Lawdog spotted a Colt M1877 revolver that was labeled as the Lightning model, but was in reality the larger Thunderer, while I spotted a Winchester 1873 carbine model that was mislabeled as a full-length rifle.  Alma, who's researched at least two of her books in the museum's archives and knows everyone there, noted the details and handed them to a member of the staff before we left.  Apparently they have a lot more guns in storage than those on exhibition, so we're hoping that one of these days, we may be able to arrange a behind-the-scenes visit to look at the rest of their firearms collection.  I'm betting we'll be able to find several more errors in cataloging!

After a late lunch, I put my head down for a nap while Lawdog and NFO visited a few other local museums;  then Alma took us to Trail Boss, a local barbecue restaurant, for supper.  The food was delicious, and made the visit worthwhile on its own merits.  We'll be visiting there again.  (I tried to look innocent while suggesting to Lawdog that he try their 'Ghost Riders In The Sky Cheeseburger';  but unfortunately he noticed, just in time, that it included two slices of ghost pepper cheese.  He gave me one of those looks, and very rapidly chose a different dish!)

After supper, Alma took us back to her family's home to meet her father.  Inevitably, he and Old NFO had both been based on the same Pacific island at various times during their respective periods of military service, so the conversation rapidly degenerated into "Do you remember?" and "Was that like this when you were there?" and "What about old so-and-so?"  I get the feeling NFO's been everywhere, done everything and met everyone.  It's a lot of fun to eavesdrop on his conversations.

Sunday morning was spent at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  It really tugged at my heartstrings - the terrain and vegetation there are so like parts of Africa, where I grew up, that I literally couldn't tell them apart visually.  I felt right at home.  I reckon I could take any of my local friends, drop them into parts of Africa, and defy them to realize that they'd left the US at all.  Also, the place is almost oozing with memories . . . if I were the superstitious type, I'd say it was haunted.  There's so much history in that canyon that you can almost hear the spirits calling to each other.  It's a remarkable place.  (Click the image below for a larger view.)

Among other things, we visited the general area where the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon took place in 1874.  Again, one can almost hear the ghosts whispering there.  The deliberate slaughter of so many of their horses broke the spirit (and the resistance) of the Comanche tribe, which retreated on foot to its reservation in the Indian Territories (today part of Oklahoma).  According to Alma, the Comanche have from time to time held memorial services in the canyon to commemorate what was, for them, a national tragedy, with permanent spiritual as well as practical implications.

After lunch at a tourist stop in the Canyon, it was time to head for home.  We said our goodbyes to Alma, with promises to visit again soon.  We were greatly amused by Lawdog's comment that we were 'heading back east' - which for NFO and I usually means the far side of the Mississippi river!  Lawdog's stamping grounds are in west Texas, which is very different from east Texas, so I can see what he was getting at.  On our way through one of the towns where he'd served as a deputy sheriff, he entertained us by pointing out the locations of some of his adventures.  ("That's where I shot Santa... and that's the joint where Pearl stole the steaks.")  We wheedled some more details out of him here and there.  He'll be describing those incidents and more in his forthcoming book.

I learned a lot, and I'll be using the information in future Westerns.  We'll be heading back to the Panhandle soon for more research (and more good food and company!).


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Home again

I'm back from my weekend trip to research aspects of my next Western novel.  I'll tell you more about it tomorrow, after I've caught up on some sleep and persuaded Ashbutt to stop trying to help me compose a blog post by walking across the keyboard and batting at my fingers.



Trump as the flashing red light of destiny?

In a gloomy, but penetrating analysis of world prospects, Raúl Ilargi Meijer makes some sobering points about the wider implications of the current US election campaign.

It’s over! The entire model our societies have been based on for at least as long as we ourselves have lived, is over! That’s why there’s Trump.

There is no growth. There hasn’t been any real growth for years. All there is left are empty hollow sunshiny S&P stock market numbers propped up with ultra cheap debt and buybacks, and employment figures that hide untold millions hiding from the labor force. And most of all there’s debt, public as well as private, that has served to keep an illusion of growth alive and now increasingly no longer can.

These false growth numbers have one purpose only: for the public to keep the incumbent powers that be in their plush seats. But they could always ever only pull the curtain of Oz over people’s eyes for so long, and it’s no longer so long.

. . .

‘Leaders’ such as Trump and Le Pen can only be seen as intermediate figures necessary for nations, and indeed the world, to adapt to an entirely different paradigm. One that is at best based on consolidation, on trying not to lose too much, instead of trying to conquer the world.

But also one that is likely to lead to warfare and mayhem, because nobody’s been willing to address even the possibility of no more growth, and therefore everyone will be looking to squeeze growth out of any available place, starting with their neighbors, and the globe’s weakest. It’s the Roman empire all over again, where the core strangled the periphery ever harder until the Barbarians and the Visigoths decided it was enough and then some.

That is the meaning of Donald Trump, and of Brexit. You’re not going to understand these things without taking a few steps back, and without looking at history, and especially without acknowledging the possibility that, in economics, perpetual growth may indeed be what physics has always said it was: an impossible pipedream.

Trump has a role to play in this whether he wins the election or not. He’s the big red flashing American warning sign that the increase in poverty that has so far been felt only among those who it has hit, will shake the familiar political landscape on its foundations, and that this landscape will never return.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.


Beirut, 1983

Let us never forget the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on this date in 1983.

In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team - BLT 1/8), the death toll were 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II's Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens in general prior to the September 11 attacks, and the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens overseas.  Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died.  An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast.  The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.

There's much more at the link.

In the immortal words of Robert Laurence Binyon:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

"This land is our land" - somewhat speeded up

This video from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is kicking up a certain amount of angst in the Middle East and among Palestinian supporters and activists.  You can read all about it at Legal Insurrection.  Me . . . I'm just laughing at it, and enjoying it.

I think I could have done a much better British Civil Servant accent than that actor . . . and since my father once served as escort commander on the Cairo to Haifa Railway during one of his journeys in World War II, I daresay I've a hereditary claim on the office, dammit!  Mine! - or should I say, Mine too!


On the road for a couple of days

I'll be heading out on a research trip for my next Western this weekend.  Blogging will be very light, unless I have Internet access on Saturday evening, in which case I'll try to put up a post or two.  Meanwhile, please amuse yourselves with those on my blogrolls in the sidebar.

Normal blogging will resume on Monday morning.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Decade-old words of wisdom

Vox Day wrote a regular column for WND some years ago.  Today, on his blog, he reprinted one of his articles from 2004.  It struck me very powerfully, and I thought it would do the same to my readers.  Here it is, in full.

Tibetan religious tradition has it that when the Dalai Lama dies, the Buddha of Compassion leaves his body and incarnates in the body of a young child. The monks immediately go out in search of this blessed child, and when they find him – as they inevitably do – he is tested by a group of high lamas and enthroned as the reincarnation of his successor.

Imagine, however, if the lamas refused to recognize that the Dalai Lama was, in fact, dead. Suppose that instead of going in search of the Buddha’s new carnal home, they hooked the corpse up to a life support machine and waited patiently for the Holy One to awake and rise up. It’s not hard to see that they would be doomed to disappointment, and furthermore, would fail to find the next Dalai Lama as well.

This is precisely our dilemma today, for America, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, is dead. By every measure, large and small, the original vision of limited government by, for and of the people has been folded, spindled and mutilated beyond recognition. When one reads the Constitution, one simply marvels at the distinct difference between its words and our present reality.

Our paper Federal Reserve Notes are not Congress-issued gold and silver coins. Our direct taxes are not apportioned. We are entangled in a veritable web of foreign alliances, Congress shamelessly makes laws regarding speech, religion and guns, and the judicial branch has arrogantly assumed for itself unchecked supremacy over the other two branches.

Regardless of whether one see these changes as blasphemous treason against the Constitution, or as reasonable and necessary modifications to what was designed to be a living document that evolves with the times, it is impossible to deny that they have been made. It is likewise impossible to assert that a massive central government possessing eminent domain, owning over a third of the land and claiming more than a third of all income is either limited or small.

For many years, conservatives and other freedom lovers have placed their trust in the Republican Party, hoping that it would fulfill its promises to return America to its national birthright of freedom and individual liberty. Those promises, unsurprisingly, were broken by the party of Abraham Lincoln, who is most famous for converting what had been a voluntary Union of free association into a forced Union by military might.

Any last vestiges of hope in the Republican Party have been shattered by the current regime, wherein a Republican President, Republican House, Republican Senate and Republican-nominated Supreme Court have demonstrated that they have zero interest in the timeless vision of America’s founders. Supporting them in the hopes that they will revive American liberties is akin to hoping that shock paddles will suffice to revive a month-old corpse. American freedom is not only dead, it has been rotting for some time.

There are those who say that a vote for a third-party candidate, such as the Libertarian’s Michael Badnarik or the Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka, is wasted. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, these are the only votes that are not wasted, for positive change will only come from those outside the corrupt bi-factional system. After all, it was neither the Tories nor the Whigs who fought for American independence.

Like the Tibetan lamas, we must go in search of those in whom the spirit of freedom and liberty burns. The revival of American liberty is still in its infancy, as only 482,451 people voted for the Libertarian and Constitution presidential candidates combined, 0.96 percent of those who voted for the victorious Republican, George W. Bush. But that is 482,395 more people than the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and as for those who believe our present bipartisan system is eternal, well, tell it to the Whigs.

Or, for that matter, to the optimates and populares of Rome. The choice is simple, if not easy. A revival of liberty or the continued stink of an extinct republic as it decomposes into dictatorial empire.

America is dead. Let us go, then, and find her.

Being an immigrant to this country, I perhaps see this more clearly than some who've lived here all their lives, because I came to it 'fresh'.  When I became a chaplain for an agency of the federal government, I took the oath of law enforcement office administered to all federal law enforcement officers.

I ... do solemnly swear ... that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

I took that oath in the full understanding of what it meant, and I was determined to keep it.  I have done so, both in my active service and in my retirement.  Yet:

  • FBI Director Comey could take the same oath and blatantly ignore and/or violate it in his handling of Hillary Clinton's testimony and his recommendations to the Attorney-General.
  • DEA agents can blatantly ignore and/or violate it in their search and seizure policies, including asset forfeiture practices that appear to utterly ignore the Fourth Amendment.
  • In cases such as Ruby Ridge, Waco and others, federal law enforcement agencies and officers can blatantly ignore and/or violate their oaths in taking unconstitutional action against those they deem to be malefactors.  Subsequently, their actions are often retroactively approved, or excused, or covered up, while investigations are misled and legal action against the individuals responsible for such acts is often blocked.

I'm forced to ask whether federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and officers would do likewise if it came to imposing and enforcing blatantly unconstitutional legislation such as gun confiscation.  I fear many officers would put their own interests first (their salaries and pensions, and the needs of their families), and do so.  I don't know how many would actually honor their oath of office and refuse to do so, even in the face of losing their jobs and resultant personal hardship.

I saw that in South Africa, too.  Many black policemen, themselves victims of discrimination under apartheid, helped to enforce the racist laws of that policy against their own people.  As a result, they and their families were targeted by terrorists.  Many were killed or maimed for life as a result . . . but because they had no other means of support, and because without the protection of their police uniforms they'd have been attacked by their own communities, they kept right on enforcing racist laws and discriminating against their own people.  When democracy finally came to South Africa in 1994, the results for many of them were . . . not good.

I hope and pray Vox Day is wrong.  I fear greatly that he's right.  The United States of America, as envisioned by its founding fathers and as believed in by many of us (including myself), may indeed now be irretrievably lost to us.  If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I think that will serve as confirmation of that fact.

If it is lost, what do we do?  There's no point in trying to reform or renovate the present laws and institutions of government.  They're so deeply, irredeemably flawed, from a constitutional point of view, that I think that'll be flat-out impossible.  It may, indeed, be time to look for a new America, one that embodies the true aspirations of the old - and this time, take rather better care to ensure that those aspirations don't die of neglect.

Sadly, doing so will inevitably mean open conflict with those who hold our founding fathers and their aspirations in contempt.  Let's hope and pray it doesn't come to that.  I've seen and experienced three civil wars in three different countries.  There are seldom, if ever, any real winners among the ordinary people like you and I . . . just overwhelming suffering.