Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rare World War II photographs from the Soviet side

The New York Times has a very interesting article and photo gallery about the discovery of a Soviet photographer's prints and negatives from World War II.  The images reproduced below have been greatly reduced in size, to fit on this blog.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bondar heard that the family of a Soviet war photographer was selling his negatives. The photographer, Valery Faminsky, had worked for the Soviet Army and kept his negatives from Ukraine and Germany meticulously archived until his death in 2011. Mr. Bondar had seen many books and several exhibits of World War II photography but had never heard of Mr. Faminsky.

German prisoners in 1944

Most of the best-known Soviet images from the war were used as propaganda, to glorify the victories of the Red Army. Often they were staged. Mr. Faminsky’s images are for the most part unvarnished and do not glorify war, Mr. Bondar, 33, said, but focused on the human cost and “the real life of ordinary soldiers and people.”

Bridge over the Spree River, Berlin, 1945

Mr. Faminsky’s family had a two-page autobiography that he dictated shortly before he died. He said that he was born in Moscow in 1914 and that his parents both served in the Red Army from 1918 until the end of the civil war. He started photographing and working in a darkroom as a teenager, joined the army in 1941 and photographed for the Soviet secret police in the city of Kemerovo.

Dog carts evacuating wounded Soviet soldiers, Seelow Heights, 1945

In May 1945, he photographed the Red Army’s final assault on Berlin and sent prints to the Military Medical Museum of the Red Army. But he meticulously organized and kept the negatives, rarely sharing them with anyone.

There's more at the article, and many more images in the gallery.

It's a fascinating collection of pictures, and, as noted, shows almost exclusively the human side of war, and its cost.  The pictures of soldiers, civilians and passersby are extremely poignant - a soldier playing an abandoned piano by the side of the road, a burly, uniformed male nurse trying to thread his way through stretchers filled with wounded soldiers being treated in the most primitive, rough-and-ready circumstances imaginable, and much more.

I highly recommend taking the time to read the article and view all the photographs.  This is a side of war that's rarely seen by civilians, and I think the New York Times has rendered a public service by publishing them.


Another classic from Bundaberg

Back in 2010 I put up three classic (and very funny) advertisements from Bundaberg Rum in Australia.  The links I used have died by now, but someone on YouTube has combined all three advertisements in a single video.  In case you missed them back then, here they are.

Recently, while browsing YouTube looking for something else, I came across another of their advertisements, this time from 2014.  Again, it made me laugh.  I think I've met those boys!

I still giggle at the crocodile-leather luggage, though . . .


In Africa, everything bites . . .

. . . or kicks, or scratches, or is just plain bloody-minded.  This lion found out about that when she tried to stop a giraffe being chased by the rest of her pride.

I've often had people say to me how sorry they are for the poor prey animals in Africa, so helpless before the teeth and claws of predators.  Er . . . not always! I remember one well-known incident where a sable antelope killed two young male lions that had decided to eat it.  It hoisted one on its horns and tossed it a full twenty feet, over the thorn boma around a game lodge and into its swimming-hole!  Talk about spectacular!  The sable trotted away, snorting derisively, leaving two very dead lions in its wake.  Sable are spectacular, beautifully proportioned, with long, scimitar- or saber-like horns, and an attitude of scorn and disdain towards anyone and anything nearby.  I like them.

A tip o' the hat to SNAFU for finding the video.



Seen on Gab, from user Buzzy:

I accidentally swallowed a handful of Scrabble tiles today.

My next bowel movement could spell disaster.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How to hold an election when voters are illiterate

Gambia has an ingenious solution.

Gambia showcased on Monday its homegrown solution to the problem of fraud and illiteracy at the ballot box: voting with marbles.

At a press conference in the capital, Banjul, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) displayed three metal drums representing the three presidential candidates contesting a December 1 election in this tiny west African state.

Voters enter a private area that is curtained off where they drop a marble into one of the three drums that are painted with the party colours and emblems, and a bell rings confirming a vote has been cast.

. . .

Electoral officials say the system all but eliminates spoilt ballots and allows illiterate Gambians to vote more easily, while ensuring only one vote is cast per person.

Sawdust or sand is sprinkled on the bottom of the barrel so that no second sound is heard.

There's more at the link.

I can't help but think that some US states would benefit from a similar system.  Instead of hanging chads affecting votes, we could have holes in the barrel, from which marbles could drop out!  In Chicago, of course, they'd magically roll from one barrel to another as well . . .


Doofus Of The Day #937

Today's award, accompanied by a dozen brickbats served with a sauce of blinding rage, goes to the Attorney-General of Michigan.

Attorneys for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are asking a judge to toss out a lawsuit against the state of Michigan filed by students in the Detroit school system and claim that literacy is not a legal right in the state of Michigan.

Seven children filed the lawsuit in September, saying decades of state disinvestment and deliberate indifference to Detroit's schools have denied them access to literacy.

The plaintiffs say the schools have deplorable building conditions, lack of books, classrooms without teachers, insufficient desks, buildings plagued by vermin, unsafe facilities and extreme temperatures.

The Michigan Attorney General asked a federal judge to dismiss a class action lawsuit arguing that Detroit schools are obligated to ensure that kids learn how to read and write. The state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit says: "there is no fundamental right to literacy".

. . .

State lawyers ... say that "Michigan's constitution requires only that the legislature provide for a system of free public schools", leaving the details and deliver to specific educational services to the local school districts.

In other words, the state must provide for schools, but there's no obligation to make them work.

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

If the last sentence in the report above is correct, then surely it follows that:

  • The state must provide for roads, but there's no need to make them go from Point A to Point B - they can simply wander aimlessly across the countryside.
  • The state must provide for health care, but there's no obligation to make it effective - after all, death is, by definition, the end of disease and injury, no?
  • The state must provide for administration, but there's no need to make it work.  Thus, you can apply for a driver's license, but if it takes six months to issue it, you can walk during that time.  After all, it's not as if the state is stopping you traveling on foot while you wait, is it?

This is one of the most fatuous, ridiculous legal arguments I've ever heard.  If the Governor and Attorney-General of Michigan are actually behind it, they need to be expelled from public office, preferably covered in tar and feathers and riding on a rail - and they need to be blocked from ever again holding any public office, down to and including deputy honorary acting unpaid second assistant dog-catcher.



An amazing piece of history, and what happened to it

Some stories simply boggle the mind.  This is one of them.

The blue and grey stripes struck Jillian Eisman like a lightning bolt.

She was rummaging through a packed closet during a Long Island tag sale when she immediately recognized the symbol of horror and hate: a jacket worn by a prisoner at the Nazi Dachau concentration camp during World War II.

"I knew exactly what it was, even before I saw the numbers (84679 on the chest)," said Eisman, who purchased the jacket for $2 at the sale last year and donated it to the Kupferberg Holocaust Center in New York City.

Curators there not only put the jacket on display, but also unearthed the story of the person who wore it: a teenager forced to make munitions for the German war effort, spent four years in a relocation camp and then came to America, never telling his children much about Dachau or that he kept the jacket.

The story of Benzion Peresecki — who later became Ben Peres — is told in extraordinary detail, thanks largely to the serial number and careful records that he kept and that his daughter found long after he died.

. . .

Eisman, whose 24-year-old brother, Joshua Birnbaum, was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, said she feels "everything happens for a reason."

"There is a reason why I was supposed to be in that house. ... There is a reason why I was friends with someone who worked at a Holocaust museum. What are the chances of that? It is difficult to say everything is a coincidence."

There's more at the link.

The jacket is going on special exhibition, and may travel around the country - or perhaps even further afield.  Here's a video about the proposed exhibition and associated material.

Personally, I don't think Ms. Eisman finding Mr. Peresecki's jacket was a coincidence at all . . . but then, I'm a man of faith.  YMMV, of course.

May Mr. Peresecki, and all those who died in the Holocaust, rest in what peace they may find.


Monday, November 28, 2016

An in-depth look at the war on science

City Journal has a long and very interesting article titled 'The Real War on Science'.  It takes a bit of time and effort to wade through it, but if you're interested in how partisan political views have tainted science, and warped and twisted its perspective on reality, it's a very useful read indeed.

Here's a fairly lengthy excerpt, cherry-picking a few of the many points covered.

Both sides cherry-pick research and misrepresent evidence to support their agendas. Whoever’s in power, the White House plays politics in appointing advisory commissions and editing the executive summaries of their reports. Scientists of all ideologies exaggerate the importance of their own research and seek results that will bring them more attention and funding.

But two huge threats to science are peculiar to the Left—and they’re getting worse.

The first threat is confirmation bias, the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. In a classic study of peer review, 75 psychologists were asked to referee a paper about the mental health of left-wing student activists. Some referees saw a version of the paper showing that the student activists’ mental health was above normal; others saw different data, showing it to be below normal. Sure enough, the more liberal referees were more likely to recommend publishing the paper favorable to the left-wing activists. When the conclusion went the other way, they quickly found problems with its methodology.

Scientists try to avoid confirmation bias by exposing their work to peer review by critics with different views, but it’s increasingly difficult for liberals to find such critics. Academics have traditionally leaned left politically, and many fields have essentially become monocultures, especially in the social sciences, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans by at least 8 to 1. (In sociology, where the ratio is 44 to 1, a student is much likelier to be taught by a Marxist than by a Republican.) The lopsided ratio has led to another well-documented phenomenon: people’s beliefs become more extreme when they’re surrounded by like-minded colleagues. They come to assume that their opinions are not only the norm but also the truth.

. . .

The combination of all these pressures from the Left has repeatedly skewed science over the past half-century. In 1965, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a paper presciently warning of the dangers for black children growing up in single-parent homes, it was greeted with such hostility—he was blaming the victim, critics said—that the topic became off-limits among liberals, stymying public discussion and research for decades into one of the most pressing problems facing minority children. Similarly, liberal advocates have worked to suppress reporting on the problems of children raised by gay parents or on any drawbacks of putting young children in day care. In 1991, a leading family psychologist, Louise Silverstein, published an article in the American Psychologist urging her colleagues to “refuse to undertake any more research that looks for the negative consequences of other-than-mother-care.”

The Left’s most rigid taboos involve the biology of race and gender, as the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker chronicles in The Blank Slate. The book takes its title from Pinker’s term for the dogma that “any differences we see among races, ethnic groups, sexes, and individuals come not from differences in their innate constitution but from differences in their experiences.” The dogma constricts researchers’ perspective—“No biology, please, we’re social scientists”—and discourages debate, in and out of academia. Early researchers in sociobiology faced vitriolic attacks from prominent scientists like Stephen Jay Gould, who accused them of racism and sexism for studying genetic influences on behavior.

Studying IQ has been a risky career move since the 1970s, when researchers like Arthur Jensen and Richard Herrnstein had to cancel lectures (and sometimes hire bodyguards) because of angry protesters accusing them of racism. Government funding dried up, forcing researchers in IQ and behavioral genetics to rely on private donors, who in the 1980s financed the renowned Minnesota study of twins reared apart. Leftists tried to cut off that funding in the 1990s, when the University of Delaware halted the IQ research of Linda Gottfredson and Jan Blits for two years by refusing to let them accept a foundation’s grant; the research proceeded only after an arbitrator ruled that their academic freedom had been violated.

. . .

And that brings us to the second great threat from the Left: its long tradition of mixing science and politics. To conservatives, the fundamental problem with the Left is what Friedrich Hayek called the fatal conceit: the delusion that experts are wise enough to redesign society. Conservatives distrust central planners, preferring to rely on traditional institutions that protect individuals’ “natural rights” against the power of the state. Leftists have much more confidence in experts and the state. Engels argued for “scientific socialism,” a redesign of society supposedly based on the scientific method. Communist intellectuals planned to mold the New Soviet Man. Progressives yearned for a society guided by impartial agencies unconstrained by old-fashioned politics and religion. Herbert Croly, founder of the New Republic and a leading light of progressivism, predicted that a “better future would derive from the beneficent activities of expert social engineers who would bring to the service of social ideals all the technical resources which research could discover.”

This was all very flattering to scientists, one reason that so many of them leaned left. The Right cited scientific work when useful, but it didn’t enlist science to remake society—it still preferred guidance from traditional moralists and clerics. The Left saw scientists as the new high priests, offering them prestige, money, and power. The power too often corrupted. Over and over, scientists yielded to the temptation to exaggerate their expertise and moral authority, sometimes for horrendous purposes.

. . .

President Obama promotes his green agenda by announcing that “the debate is settled,” and he denounces “climate deniers” by claiming that 97 percent of scientists believe that global warming is dangerous. His statements are false. While the greenhouse effect is undeniably real, and while most scientists agree that there has been a rise in global temperatures caused in some part by human emissions of carbon dioxide, no one knows how much more warming will occur this century or whether it will be dangerous. How could the science be settled when there have been dozens of computer models of how carbon dioxide affects the climate? And when most of the models overestimated how much warming should have occurred by now? These failed predictions, as well as recent research into the effects of water vapor on temperatures, have caused many scientists to lower their projections of future warming. Some “luke-warmists” suggest that future temperature increases will be relatively modest and prove to be a net benefit, at least in the short term.

The long-term risks are certainly worth studying, but no matter whose predictions you trust, climate science provides no justification for Obama’s green agenda—or anyone else’s agenda. Even if it were somehow proved that high-end estimates for future global warming are accurate, that wouldn’t imply that Greens have the right practical solution for reducing carbon emissions—or that we even need to reduce those emissions. Policies for dealing with global warming vary according to political beliefs, economic assumptions, social priorities, and moral principles. Would regulating carbon dioxide stifle economic growth and give too much power to the state? Is it moral to impose sacrifices on poor people to keep temperatures a little cooler for their descendants, who will presumably be many times richer? Are there more important problems to address first? These aren’t questions with scientifically correct answers.

Yet many climate researchers are passing off their political opinions as science, just as Obama does, and they’re even using that absurdly unscientific term “denier” as if they were priests guarding some eternal truth.

There's much more at the link.  Very highly recommended reading.


Are fishermen being 'robbed' of their livelihood by over-regulation?

I confess, in the past I've been very sceptical of claims by commercial fishermen that their livelihoods are threatened by over-regulation.  I've seen too much 'factory fishing', where entire fish populations are driven to the point of collapse by over-exploitation.  (For example, I've never forgiven the then-Soviet Union for sending in bottom trawlers to Mozambique after that nation's independence from Portugal.  They wiped out the prawn beds off Lourenço Marques [today Maputo] in just six months.  Whilst the national prawn industry continues, it's based in other centers today, and has never been as good as before, according to acquaintances who were there at the time.)

Nevertheless, a new book, 'The Fish Market', argues that new regulations and the so-called 'catch-shares' program have idled thousands of fishermen, effectively depriving them of a livelihood.

In an article discussing the book's findings, the New York Post reports:

The town of St. George, off the Bering Sea near Alaska, was long home to some of the most robust pollock fishing in the country. But due to a fishing rights management scheme called “catch shares,” the town has no rights to fish its own waters and regularly watches their former industry literally pass them by.

“Every year, the industry takes about $2 billion in gains out of this fish resource on the Bering Sea,” St. George Mayor Pat Pletnikoff tells Lee van der Voo in “The Fish Market.” “Not one plug nickel sticks to St. George.”

Catch shares work by dividing our oceans just like any other physical property, creating theoretical property lines. Then the rights to fish different species in various sections are awarded to applicants — which could be individuals or companies — based on how much fish they catch over a certain period of time. These rights are given by eight fishery councils throughout the country, which also place restrictions on how much of any species can be fished.

While catch shares are credited with greater species management — the US government found in 2007 that of 230 species of fish, 92 were going quickly extinct due to overfishing — the catch-shares program has virtually privatized our oceans, destroying the livelihoods of many lifelong fishermen and other small businesses in the process.

While any system has winners and losers, catch shares allow for one major exploitation: Those who own the rights to fish a certain area can rent or sell them like feudal landlords, in perpetuity. That means fishermen, who used to freely fish certain areas, now have to rent those same areas from absentee landlords.

. . .

The bizarre setup means owners of fishing boats have become the equivalent of Uber drivers for share owners who take anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent of the profit.

Owners of less than 20 percent of a boat are required to be aboard any vessel catching their fish, but are not required to fish. This has led to boat owners offering amenities such as “big screen and satellite TVs, massive DVD collections, quality grub and staterooms” to attract share owners aboard to relax while the owner and his crew do the back-breaking work of fishing.

There's more at the link.

I hadn't been aware of the impact of this new approach, but if the book's author is correct, it looks like yet another attempt to 'restore order by regulation'.  I can't think of many cases in any industry, or with any natural resource, where that's worked.  Whenever bureaucrats and regulations multiply, it seems to me that natural balance and individual enterprise lose.


Of German politics and . . . sex toys???

It is to laugh . . .

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Saxony has picked a fight with a more mainstream party politician. But it’s not about immigration or foreign policy - it’s about sex toys.

Each year the Free State of Saxony holds a competition called futureSAX for startups and fledgling businesses with innovative ideas . The winners then receive money to go towards developing their novel products.

This year a silent vibrator won third place with a €5,000 prize.The noise-less sex toy hopes to be a boon for those particularly annoyed by normal ones, including an elderly woman in Cologne who earlier this year got into a row involving police about a "farting, kissing" vibrator she purchased.

But not everyone was so impressed with the invention.

The far-right AfD’s vice chair in Saxony, Thomas Hartung, wrote in a statement on November 7th that the rewarding the vibrator by company Laviu was “a pathetic display”. He went on to foist blame onto state economy minister Martin Dulig, whose ministry oversees the contest.

He also gave Dulig the quaint nickname of “Dildo-Dulig”.

“Whoever considers the development of a silent vibrator to be innovative and gives it third place in the ‘futureSAX’ competition must ask themselves about their own understanding of technology,” Hartung wrote.

“Saxony used to be proud of inventions... like the mechanical loom or Germany’s first functionally-built steam locomotive, but now it’s supposed to be proud of sex toys,” he added, also bragging about Saxony’s apparent invention of a drum washing machine, which some may in fact use as an alternative to the invention he condemned.

There's more at the link.

Perhaps they should withdraw (you should pardon the expression) the vibrator's award.  After all, there must be a penile-ty clause somewhere in the contract!


Doofus Of The Day #936

Today's award goes to a bunch of hysterical, pants-wetting, sissified social justice warriors at Edgewood College in Wisconsin.

The post-it-note says "Suck it up, pussies!" Whoever wrote it also drew a winking, tongue-out smiley face...

. . .

Students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on post-it-notes and placing them on a designated table. The post-it-note in question appeared in the window of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion instead, according to Campus Reform.

College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to campus condemning this "act of cowardly hatred" and "intimidation." He wrote:

A group of cross-functional college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime…
College officials informed the Madison police, and now the cops are investigating. They are investigating a post-it-note. With a non-threatening message and a smiley face on it. After inviting students to express their feelings via post-it-note.

That's hate for you, I guess.

There's more at the link.

Ye Gods and little fishes . . . hysterical over-reaction, anyone?  I wonder what they'd do with a real hate note?


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hippos are not tutu-wearing Disney dancers . . .

. . . as I've had occasion to point out before.  Last week, in South Africa, a motorist learned that lesson anew when he drove rather too close to an annoyed hippo.  The driver's language is unfortunate, but I think it's entirely excusable under the circumstances!

A two-ton hippo meets a one-and-a-half-ton pickup.  Pickup is crumpled.  Hippo is annoyed.


So Fidel Castro is dead. This is not my sad face.

The news that Fidel Castro has died brought back one memory in particular.

I was standing in the Angolan bush, along with a group of UNITA rebels.  They were cleaning up after a firefight - which meant leaving the enemy bodies where they had fallen, but stripping them of their weapons, uniforms and supplies.  Everything would be washed, cleaned, repaired if necessary, and reissued to new owners, who would use it to kill more of the enemy.

Among the dead were two very young Cuban conscripts, some of the tens of thousands of troops sent by Fidel Castro to prop up the brutal pro-Communist regime in Angola. They were probably well under 20 years old.  They hadn't even finished growing;  they still had that gangling, slightly disjointed look of late adolescence.  Both looked as if they didn't yet need to shave every day.  They never would, now.  Their AK-47's were still half-slung.  They hadn't even managed to raise them to a firing position before the RPD bullets found them.

A grizzled NCO looked down at them, and an odd look came over his face. He spat to one side, very expressively, and murmured, "Just one more. That's all I ask.  Just one more."

I looked at him, and my eyebrows rose.  He caught my expression, and nodded.  "I want the bastard who sends kids like this over here to die."

I could hardly argue with him.

Fidel Castro murdered, imprisoned, tortured and exiled millions of his own people.  He sent tens of thousands more to countries around the world as armed, uniformed Communist surrogates, to support pro-Kremlin regimes.  He pocketed a lot of the money paid for their services by those regimes, and by Moscow . . . and never said a word about Cuban casualties, which in some cases were extensive.  (I helped to cause some of them, so I speak with a certain insight into the matter, you understand.)  The thousands more who came back from Africa infected with AIDS and other nasties were (at least from 1986 to 1993) left to rot and die in internal exile in Cuba, 'quarantined' in so-called 'sanatoria'.  I've heard from some people with inside knowledge of what went on behind their walls during those years.  It wasn't nearly as pretty as propaganda articles like to portray.  Things changed after that:  but, of course, most of those coming back from Africa with AIDS had died by then, so such harsh measures could be scaled back.

I won't pray for any man to go to Hell.  My own sins give me too much cause to fear God's justice (although, of course, I hope in his mercy) to wish that on anybody else.  However, in Fidel Castro's case, there's a very solid body of evidence suggesting that his eternal destination might not be on the upside.  I daresay we'll find out, one of these days.

I'm glad, at least, that he's no longer wasting our oxygen.


Ultra-slow-motion leg waxing

I've never seen torture enacted at extremely slow speeds . . . until now.

Ouch!  (Slowly!)


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Farewell, Shepherd Book

I was sad to learn that actor Ron Glass died yesterday.  I didn't know much about his life or work, but to me, he was an essential element of the TV series 'Firefly', in which he played Shepherd Book, a futuristic version of a pastor.  Being a (now-retired) pastor myself, I could empathize with many of his challenges.

Here's one of my favorite (very short) snippets from 'Firefly', in which Ron plays his character to perfection.

I may or may not have applied similar logic from time to time during my brief career as a prison chaplain . . . further deponent sayeth naught!

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Glass. Rest in peace.


A recipe for inevitable conflict

If you want to know why very large numbers of Third World citizens want to migrate to the First World - Europe, the USA and Canada - by hook or by crook, look no further than this graphic.  (Click the image for a larger view.)

It's taken from the latest Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report.  Market Watch reports:

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, a mere 0.7% of the global population owns nearly half the world’s wealth. At the other end, 73% of the population have less than $10,000 each.

. . .

Oxfam International’s Max Lawson, in a response to the study, says inequality has reached “shockingly” high levels, and changes need to be made.

“This huge gap between rich and poor is undermining economies, destabilizing societies and holding back the fight against poverty,” he said. “Governments must act now by cracking down on tax dodging, increasing investment in public services and boosting the income of the lowest paid.”

There's more at the link.

Of course, I disagree entirely with Mr. Lawson's prescription to solve the problem.  It's typically socialist - use the state to 'level the playing field' by taxing the hell out of the rich and 'redistributing' wealth to the poorer sections of society.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work.  It's never worked in a single country where it's been tried.  Everyone ends up paying crippling tax levels to support a social services infrastructure that treats everyone equally badly, rather than equally well.  (Classic examples are Britain's National Health Service or Canada's Medicare, which deliver generally good levels of care, provided you're prepared to wait your turn in a very long line to get them.  If you die before your turn comes up, or before there's budget available to pay for your needs [which may have to be deferred into the next fiscal year, because they've run out of money this year] . . . that's just too bad.)

Nevertheless, the pyramid shows a grim reality.  The phrase 'follow the money' is as applicable in economics as it is anywhere else.  Trade will go to places where there's money to pay for it.  Economic development will occur in places where there's money to pay for it.  Goods and services will flow to, and be produced in, places where there's money to pay for them.  That excludes most of the Third World, by default;  yet the population of the Third World has doubled, then doubled again, since the Second World War.  There's no employment for these people, no prospects, and no hope.  Is it any wonder that they, too, are 'following the money' and trying to get into more prosperous nations, by hook or by crook?

I'm not arguing that the rich should lose what they've rightfully earned, through their own hard work and expertise.  However, I'll certainly argue that where they've weighted the scales in their own favor, at the expense of everyone else (through measures such as tariffs, preferential taxation, regulatory capture, and so on), those imbalances need to be undone and fair dealing restored, so that everyone else has the same opportunity to progress.  I'm absolutely opposed to legislating equal outcomes, but all in favor of ensuring equal opportunity.  (Left-wing and progressive elements usually disagree - see, for example, this article.)

I'm also in favor of preserving national identity and securing national borders, so that those within a nation have the first and best chance of improving their lot using the resources that belong to them.  Let those from other nations, who want to do likewise, try to improve their own countries to provide greater opportunities.  They should not be allowed to invade richer countries, bringing nothing to contribute, but expecting everything that they lack to be given to them (and rioting or burning down what's provided if they're not satisfied with it).  Those aren't refugees.  They're leeches.  Let's treat them as such.


Remembering a legendary Canadian folk rock group

I wonder how many of my readers have heard of Canadian folk rock group Figgy Duff?  They were active from 1974 until the death of their founder in 1993, and their music remains popular among aficionados of the genre.  They were based in Newfoundland, so their songs are heavily flavored with sea shanties and a nautical influence.

I've picked three of my favorite tunes to introduce them to you.  Here's 'Honor, Riches' from their album 'After The Tempest'.

Next, a slower, somewhat mournful instrumental piece that segues into a foot-stomping dance:  'Rumboldt', from their album 'Weather Out The Storm'.

Finally, an early Elizabethan-type tune, 'Tarry Trousers', from their album 'A Retrospective 1974-1993' (which is a good place to start if you'd like to get to know more of their music).

Lovely stuff.  I have all their albums, and listen to them frequently.


The last Apollo flight

Here's a great video, using restored original footage, of the Apollo 17 flight to the moon - the last flight of the Apollo program.  I remember this as it happened . . . the feelings of 'end of an era', the memories of the earlier Apollo flights, the wondering what would come next.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

At the time, we wondered whether our children (or at least our grandchildren) would be living on Mars or another planet.  That dream has died in the bureaucratic, politically correct morass that NASA subsequently became . . . but who knows?  Perhaps, one day, the dream may yet fly again.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Maxwell Volume 5, 'Stoke The Flames Higher', is finished!

Today I had the enormous pleasure of writing the last words of my latest novel, 'Stoke The Flames Higher', fifth volume in the military SF Maxwell Saga.

I'm now going to begin several days of intense editing, to make sure I've got the continuity straight and ironed out as many errors as possible.  I'll also be sending it to a few beta readers for feedback.  (DaddyBear, Rev. Paul, Uncle Lar - if you're able to beta-read this one and provide rapid feedback, please send me an e-mail.  Thanks!)

Thank you all for your patience.  It's great to be back in the writing groove after fifteen months of sometimes nasty health issues.  I'll get this one out by early December, then it's hi-ho for Volume 3 of the Laredo War trilogy, and Book 2 of the Ames Archives!


Oh, yeah . . .

Courtesy of The Lonely Libertarian:

That says it all . . .  (Click the image for a larger view.)


Social Justice Warrior Insult Generator

If you want to torment your friends by abusing them in the manner of a hard-left-wing, progressive Social Justice Warrior, click over to the Social Justice Warrior Insult Generator and have at it.  The possibilities are limited only by your imagination!


At last, some authoritative sanity on gender orientation!

I've long argued in these pages that so-called 'gender orientation' is a fraud.  One's biological sex is determined by one's chromosomes, with the (vanishingly small) exception of those unfortunate few who are so-called 'intersex' persons.  One's gender identification cannot nullify or change one's biological sex, and any attempt to pretend that one can undergo so-called 'sex reassignment' is a lie in and of itself.  One can't alter one's chromosomes.  It's simply out of the question.  No matter what cosmetic surgery one may perform on one's body, the chromosomal reality remains unchanged.

I'm therefore very pleased to see that the American College of Pediatricians has come out four-square in support of this basic reality, and argues that 'Gender Ideology Harms Children'.  In the latest edition of that paper, it argues:

1.  Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of male and female, respectively – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs do not constitute a third sex.

2.  No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.

3.  A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V).5 The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.

. . .

8.  Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.

There's more at the link.

I can only hope and pray that this basic, common-sense wisdom will be able to stand up against the onslaught of politically-correct, hag-ridden progressive identity politics, and reassert medical fact over emotional baggage.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

A blast from my past, by someone else

As regular readers will know, I spent some years working as a prison chaplain, first part-time, then full-time, until a disabling injury forced my medical retirement.  I wrote a book about my experiences, 'Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls'.

It's just been reviewed by one of the Castalia House bloggers, even though it came out some time ago and that house didn't publish the book.  He decided that its insights into the reality of prison life deserved a wider audience, for which I'm very grateful.  You'll find his interview here.  Go read, if you'd like some insight into a world that's seldom accurately portrayed in entertainment or the media.  (Hint:  if the prison depicted in 'Orange Is The New Black' was really run that way, its warden and senior administrators would very quickly be behind bars themselves, facing criminal charges!)

Thanks, Scott, for an interesting to-and-fro interview process.  It was fun.


A Thanksgiving message from President-elect Donald Trump

Thank you, sir.


Doofus Of The Day #935

Courtesy of a link provided by Australian reader Snoggeramus, today's award goes to the careless driver of a pickup in Toowoomba.

There was a bad case of the runs near Toowoomba on Wednesday morning when a truck carrying 27 tonnes of human waste lost its load after the driver was allegedly forced to brake to avoid a collision.

The Arkwood Organic Recycling truck was on Crowley Vale Road off the Warrego Highway at Crowley Vale, 45 kilometres east of Toowoomba, when the driver is believed to have swerved and applied the brakes to avoid a merging car.

Two tonnes of the waste pulled through the load's tarpaulin cover and ended up on the road just after 8am.

Arkwood Organic Recycling co-director Elissa Clarke said "it's like carting a fish bowl" and the sudden braking had forced the waste to spill through the cover.

She also had a message for other drivers.

"Tell people not to pull out in front of trucks, because you don't know what they're carrying," she said.

There's more at the link.  Here's how it went down (you should pardon the expression).

To my Australian friends:  it's Thanksgiving in the USA today, so I'm starting the day by being very thankful I wasn't within the smell radius of that one!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ashbutt McDieselThroat

Our farm kitten has grown big enough, and smart enough, to figure out how to climb things.

Our sofa is looking distinctly the worse for wear . . .

Ashbutt is only 4½ months old, but already bigger (height and length) than our adult female cat, and he's growing like a weed.  The vet has warned us that he's going to be a VERY big cat.  I'm willing to bet he'll be at least 20 pounds when full grown, and may be quite a ways heavier than that.

He's always happy.  I've never seen him anything but cheerful.  He plays at the drop of a hat, and drops it himself if he thinks you aren't getting the message.  He chases his toys all over the house at breakneck speed - in fact, I'm wondering why he hasn't broken his neck half a dozen times already, running into walls and furniture at full gallop!

When I get up, usually in the small hours of the morning, and sit down at the computer to write, he leaps into my lap and spends half an hour purring heavily in the crook of my left arm while I go through the news headlines, blogs, etc.  He usually objects strenuously when I put him down to free up my hands to type, and I often have to fend him off a few times before he gets the idea that no, I really mean it, NO MORE LAP!  He'll either settle down on and around my feet, or head back to the bedroom to wrap himself around my wife.

He's always purring, too.  We're thinking of augmenting his name to Ashbutt McDieselThroat.


Spectacularly beautiful!

Courtesy of a link at Daily Timewaster, here's Iceland as you've never seen it before.

Utterly beautiful!


Some great reading for Thanksgiving from Tom Rogneby

Tom Rogneby, who blogs as Daddybear, and who's a meatspace and cyberspace friend to Miss D. and myself, has published his latest novel.  This one, 'Quest to the North', continues and expands upon his Minivandian universe.  Two more will follow it in quick succession.

The blurb reads:

Long before the comfortable adventures of the everyday, Ruarin, the Lady of Eyre and Daddybear the Minivandian make a harrowing journey to track down the ghoulish remnants of a friend, and the captive he took.

In the frozen north, they must brave not only killing weather and hidden monsters, but the secrets of Daddybear's past, including his true name...

You can read two snippets from the book on Tom's blog, here and here.  At only $2.99 (or read it free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber), what's not to like?

We've already ordered our copy.  Thanks, Tom!  Write faster!


A little story about our potential SecDef

I'm sure most of my readers know that retired US Marine General James N. Mattis is being considered for the post of Secretary of Defense by President-elect Donald Trump.  His uncompromising stance and sometimes . . . ah . . . expressive rhetoric have raised a few eyebrows (not to mention concerns).  I'd have to say he seems like a modern version of Chesty Puller, from all I've heard - a "Marine's Marine" - and I can't think that's a bad thing.  If he's appointed SecDef, I expect at least two-thirds of the Marine Corps to be heavily hung-over the morning after the announcement, and the entire Marine Corps to be under the weather the morning after he's sworn in!

Be that as it may. Gorges' Grouse has a heartwarming story about him back when he was a Brigadier-General.  Go read it for yourself.  It shows the more human side of the man - and a background that, sadly, few Secretaries of Defense have had, for far too long.

EDITED TO ADD:  The original link seems to have gone down, so here's another link to the same story.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More about that strike aircraft crash

Thanks to reader 'a bear' for providing the link to this article about the crash of that Sukhoi Su-34 last year, about which I posted a video earlier today.  Here's a picture of the plane at the end of the runway.  Click the image for a larger view.

There's more at the link.  Looks like it was a wild ride!

According to another commenter, speaking of the Russian-language exchanges heard on the video recording, "As soon as he lands, the air traffic controller is saying 'brake, brake, BRAKE!' "  Clearly, those instructions weren't obeyed;  but fortunately, the two crew members escaped with light injuries.  The aircraft wasn't so lucky.


New toy

Like many other shooters, I was afraid that if Hillary Clinton won the election, we'd be in for massive new gun restrictions with all the trimmings.  I'm very glad that didn't come to pass.  To celebrate, I decided to buy myself a rifle I've wanted for some time:  a Ruger American Predator model chambered in .308 Winchester (a.k.a. 7.62x51mm. NATO).

It feels very well balanced in the hands, and the adjustable trigger will help with accuracy.  I'll put a Nikon 4x12 BDC scope on it, and see how it performs.  (Thanks to a knockout ammo deal last year, I have plenty of rounds to shoot through it.)

I'm looking forward to some range time.  Being almost winter in Texas, I'll have to put up with days in the chilly 55°F to 65°F range, but that's one of the hardships of living here.  Eat your heart out, friends in more northerly climes!


How not to land a modern strike aircraft

A brand-new Russian Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft (roughly equivalent to the US F-15E Strike Eagle) crashed on landing in June last year, flipping over onto its back.  Video taken from the cockpit has just been released.  It shows some REALLY BAD piloting.

  • Watch how the aircraft bounces and dances around as it approaches the runway.  That's not wind or weather - that's a pilot who's let the aircraft get ahead of him.
  • Next, it lands long, after much of the runway has already passed beneath it.  Any competent pilot would have aborted the takeoff at that point and gone around, but not our intrepid aviator.
  • Finally, watch how the end of the runway approaches before the aircraft has bled off enough speed to turn off onto the taxiway.  Again, this doesn't deter the pilot - he turns anyway, with predictable results.

After that display, I can only presume that the pilot's career in the Russian Air Force came to as sudden and as grinding a halt as did his aircraft.


EDITED TO ADD: A follow-up article, with picture, may be found here.

Politics and business = oil and water???

I'm dumbfounded by the sheer stupidity of business leaders who seem to think they can express - loudly - highly partisan political opinions, without alienating customers who hold different opinions.  It seems like a bad case of hubris . . . and we all know what that leads to.

An excellent example is the open letter on Donald Trump's candidacy signed by dozens of Silicon Valley leaders in July.  They undoubtedly have the right to their opinions, and a disclaimer attached to the letter emphasized that they were signing it in their personal capacities:  but they added their companies' or organizations' names as well.  If they were signing as individuals, why mention the latter?  Clearly, there was a strong identification of, or link between, individual and entity.

Now that Mr. Trump is our President-elect, Silicon Valley is changing its tune rather rapidly.

The valley built almost no inroads to Donald Trump and his administration’s inner circle. The one tech leader who is now on the transition team, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, was roundly criticized here for giving money to elect the real estate baron.


So in the wake of the election, Silicon Valley is trying to pivot, as startup gurus like to say.

. . .

But if tech CEOs make public overtures to Trump, they risk a backlash among many of their employees, customers, partners and netizens everywhere. This is a difficult line to walk.

. . .

The industry is seen as part of the elite, which many Trump supporters rejected for being out-of-touch with the concerns of working people.

“We need to talk about tech as it exists in places like the Rust Belt and the Midwest,” said Jonathan Godfrey, vice president for public affairs at The App Association.

Silicon Valley has to be realistic. “There are going to be grudges that will be held for a very long time,” said Larry Irving, formerly vice president of global government affairs for Hewlett-Packard and now a telecommunications and information technology consultant.

There's more at the link.

I'm sure that grudges will, indeed, be held.  If I were in Mr. Trump's shoes, I'd hold them by the bushel!  It's entirely possible to oppose someone's policies without trashing the person himself.  Silicon Valley, and the US press corps, seem to have lost sight of that reality . . . and now those chickens are coming home to roost.

I also note that there's no mention in the above article about how individuals feel about the invasion of their privacy by tech firms, so that information about us is gathered without our consent, bought and sold without so much as a by-your-leave, and used to make gigantic profits for tech companies at our expense.  This doesn't even appear to have entered upon the thought horizon of Silicon Valley, where Big Data has for too long been a vital tool in Big Brother's arsenal.  However, it concerns a lot of citizens, who are sick and tired of it, and want their privacy back.  Include me in that number.  It's not just about politicians, Silicon Valley - it's about us, too.

Then we have intemperate outbursts that can cause serious harm to companies.  Witness the Grubhub imbroglio last week.  Another one is providing some spicy exchanges (you should pardon the expression).

Penzeys Spices ... is continuing to elicit both dissension and commendation for spicy remarks made by the company's CEO implying that voters who cast a ballot for President-elect Donald Trump were racist.

This past week, the Wisconsin company recently found itself at the center of political controversy after news broke that CEO and president Bill Penzey said in an email newsletter to customers that those who voted for Trump "just committed the biggest act of racism in American history since Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway 53 years ago."

Those strong statements have ruffled the feathers of some on social media, with a few Twitter users even starting a #BoycottPenzeys hashtag in an effort to get customers to abstain from buying the company's spices.

"Goodbye Penzeys!" a Twitter user posted. "We've been a customer for over a decade. Loved your spices now hello The Spice House! #BoycottPenzeys"

However, some social media users were quick to praise Penzeys Spices for its denunciation of racism.

"Just placed my first order," another Twitter user posted. "Thank you for opposing racism, and embracing love! #Penzeys"

And of course, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke weighed in too, tweeting: "This typical hate-filled white elitist lefty doesn't live around black people or have stores in black neighborhoods."

Again, more at the link.  I might add that my wife and I have been customers of Penzey's for some time, and have large quantities of their products in our pantry.  However, from now on we'll be looking to The Spice House for our requirements.  They don't allow politics to intrude into business, and even have a discount code of NOPOLITICS, which gets you free shipping!  I like it - and I'll take the savings, thanks.


Monday, November 21, 2016

It's about time!

I'm delighted to see that President-elect Trump is not changing his tune when it comes to the press.  The New York Post reports:

Donald Trump scolded media big shots during an off-the-record Trump Tower sitdown on Monday, sources told The Post.

“It was like a f–ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

“The meeting took place in a big board room and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

. . .

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway told reporters the gathering went well.

“Excellent meetings with the top executives of the major networks,” she said during a gaggle in the lobby of Trump Tower. “Pretty unprecedented meeting we put together in two days.”

The meeting was off the record, meaning the participants agreed not to talk about the substance of the conversations.

There's more at the link.

This is long overdue.  The mainstream media appear to have developed the weird, yet unshakable idea that they are the arbiters of what is, or is not, news;  and that they can deliver commentary on the news, rather than a factual presentation of or about it, yet pretend that their opinions are actually the news itself.  That's beyond ridiculous - yet they're continuing with their anti-Trump crusade even after he was elected.  They seem unable to believe that people actually ignored their opinions and prognostications, and voted for him anyway.

If I were Mr. Trump, I'd refuse to allow any journalist who slandered, trash-talked or lied about him to attend any of his press conferences.  I'd insist on fair journalists and fair journalism.  If any outlet persisted in anti-Trump propaganda (such as those named in the article above), particularly between now and his inauguration, I'd bar them permanently from the White House press pool.

Time to clean the scum out of the news media pond, before it takes over every part of it - even the water.


Ever heard of an 'Otamatone'?

I hadn't, until reader M. C. sent me the link to the video clip below.  According to Wikipedia, an otamatone is:

"an electronic musical instrument synthesizer ... It is a singing toy whose body is shaped like an eighth note (it also somewhat resembles a tadpole, "otamajakushi" being Japanese for "tadpole"), with sound emerging from a "mouth" on the notehead. It requires two hands to play: while one hand holds and squeezes the "head", the other hand controls the pitch of the tune by placing the finger on a ribbon controller on the stem; a higher position on the stem creates a lower sound. The ribbon controller is deliberately delinearized to resemble a guitar, so there is a shorter distance between higher notes than between lower ones. Varying the pressure on the head (thereby opening and closing the "mouth" of the instrument) creates a wah-wah effect, and shaking the neck (and thereby slightly changing pressure on the head) creates a vibrato effect. Switches on the back of the head allow users to change octave, turn it off or on, or change the volume."

Here's the theme from the Pink Panther movies, played on three of these weird-looking beasties.

Personally, they remind me of Denis Norden's (in)famous response when asked what was his favorite musical instrument:  "Bagpipes - receding into the distance!"  I suspect otamatones might be similarly improved . . .


Yes, please!

Found at An Ordinary American:

Can't happen too soon for me...  I can't help wondering whether President Trump will sic the IRS onto both of them.  AFAIK, Sharpton still owes over $4 million in taxes, and under President Obama he's been given a pass.  Unless he makes some very rapid arrangements with the IRS, I suspect that after January 20th, 2017, he may not be given such an easy ride.  Similarly, Jesse Jackson has a long history of income tax shenanigans.  Will the IRS axe come down on both of them?  It's a consummation devoutly to be wished.


Yes, it was a fake

I asked yesterday whether a video of a slip-'n-slide was a fake.  Turns out it was.  Here's how Mythbusters debunked it.  Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.

Those two seem to have an awful lot of fun, don't they?


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Real, or staged/faked/whatever?

I've watched this darn video (courtesy of The Vulgar Curmudgeon) half a dozen times, and I still can't figure out if it was real or faked.  What say you?

If it was real, I'd love to know how many test runs they had to do to get it right . . . and who volunteered (or was 'voluntold') for them!


I'm working my trousers to the bone

Not much blog fodder this morning.  I'm writing as hard and as fast as I can, preparing to get the fifth volume of the Maxwell Saga out by early December.  It's going well, and initial feedback from alpha readers has been positive.  So far, so good!

Unfortunately, concentrating so hard on writing a book means that I haven't had as much time as usual to research, write and put up blog posts.  I'll try to have something for you later today.  Meanwhile, please amuse yourselves with the bloggers in the sidebar.

I've written over 2,000 words today already, and it's not even 6.30 am yet!  I'd better reinforce success and crack on.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

This one's for our new kitten

I've written several times about Ashbutt, our new kitten.  He's growing like a weed, and getting more rambunctious and kittenish by the day.  He's a lot of fun.

I think the author of The Devil's Panties cartoon strip had Ashbutt in mind when she drew this morning's comic.  If she didn't, it accurately expresses his occasional attitudes!


That about sums it up . . .

From Hope 'n Change cartoons last Monday:


Not a product endorsement

From fellow author and friend in meatspace and cyberspace, DaddyBear:

I made a total impulse buy and got myself a “Holiday Spice Flat White” from Starbucks, because sugary coffee with nutmeg smelled good at the time.  It was… different.  Imagine piping hot, slightly sweet, caffeinated chicken gravy.


Thanks, buddy . . . I think.

(Makes mental note of what not to buy for Miss D., because I want to stay married to her.)