Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nice shooting!

A Kansas game warden recently demonstrated a unique way to separate deer.

It’s not unusual for deer and other large animals to fight during the rut, as dominant males and younger contenders battle for mates and territory. Serious injuries can result, and in rare cases, the combatants’ antlers become permanently locked together.

. . .

From his experience as a warden, Koch knew the situation could easily come to a grim conclusion. Exhausted from the struggle, bucks with entangled antlers often die of exhaustion or are killed by coyotes. Koch said he has actually seen coyotes eat a dead buck while another buck, locked in its antlers, dragged it around and tried to escape.

After discussing the situation with his partner, Koch decided the best solution would be to try to shoot the antlers. If he could strike the area where they were locked, both bucks would be freed.

From about 20 feet away, Koch drew his .45 Glock. “All right, boys, hold still,” he said in the video, before firing a single shot.

Incredibly, the tactic worked. Both bucks sprang to their feet and went their separate ways, leaving a fractured portion of antler behind.

There's more at the link.

Here's the video.

Nice shooting, sir!


A doofus, or a persevering athlete?

I'm not sure what to think about an aspiring Venezuelan skier.

Adrian Solano wobbled nervously backward as he exited the starting gate at the Lahti2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships this week. He fumbled into the white powder after sliding down a small hill. And he tried awkwardly walking up an incline while others raced by him.

By Thursday, sports commentators circulating videos of his comedic cross-country performance online had dubbed him the worst skier alive.

. . .

Solano’s saga has hit a nerve among Venezuelans and angered the country’s highest officials, who are denouncing France for deporting the athlete in January while he was trying to get to Sweden to train on snow. Airport migration officials in Paris allegedly doubted his story, thinking his journey to the slopes was a ploy to leave his beleaguered country.

“We will issue a strong statement to the French government for their affront against a Venezuelan athlete,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, wrote in a tweet Wednesday.

Stuck back in Caracas, Solano’s supporters started a GoFundMe page that brought him to Finland just in time to compete.

The only problem: He hadn’t practiced skiing on snow, only on wheels in Venezuela’s scorching heat.

There's more at the link.

Here's a video of him at the championships.

I'm familiar with the movie 'Cool Runnings', about the wannabe Jamaican bobsleigh team that drew first hilarity, then respectful applause at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada.

However, they appear to have been a model of professionalism compared to Señor Solano.  In particular, entering a competition at this level without even once having skied on snow . . . that's just too much to swallow.  Even a few days' practice beforehand would have helped, and surely that's not too much to ask?


It's done!

I'm very happy to report that 'Rocky Mountain Retribution', the second volume in the Ames Archives and sequel to my first Western novel, 'Brings The Lightning', has been submitted to my publishers, Castalia House, for editing.  I finished it on Sunday, as promised. I spent yesterday and early this morning doing a quick read-through and edit, to catch the most egregious problems, and writing an Author's Note (as I did in the first volume) to explain some of the historical quirks that I mention in the text.

The manuscript will now go to several alpha readers here in the USA, while Castalia is editing it from their side.  I'll do a 'binge edit' as soon as all the responses are in, probably in late March or early April, and I hope the book will be published in e-book format by early May.  Print and audio editions will follow as soon as Castalia can produce them.

It's been a lot of fun writing this book.  It incorporates trips to Colorado and New Mexico, a lot of research in history books and contemporary accounts of the Old West in those states, and a great deal of hard work.  I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing your reaction to it in due course.

I've now got a couple of weeks' hard work scheduled around the house (my wife has a long 'Honey Do' list waiting for me!), as well as administrative work like preparing for tax day in April.  After that, it's hi-ho for my first fantasy novel, which you chose last year. It's already close to half-written, so I hope to have it ready for publication in May as well.  It'll be fun to launch two books in the same month!


This one's for Old NFO...

. . . who's probably traveled more miles in aircraft, military and civilian, during his eventful life than most of us have over the same period, in cars!  He's described some of those flights on his blog from time to time.

From the 'Pearls Before Swine' cartoon strip last weekend (click the image for a larger view at the cartoon's home page):


Monday, February 27, 2017

Even Superman couldn't get this right!

To get the taste of last night's Oscars out of our mouths, here's another in our ongoing series of Bollywood fight scenes.  This is so over-the-top that I don't think any of the studios who put out all those ridiculous superhero movies would dare make it!

Definitely superhero material, I'd say.


Time and project management, the old-fashioned way

I grew up learning to manage my time and activities the old-fashioned way, using pen, pencil and paper.  Even Gantt charts were not widely used outside formal project management circles.  I later became a project manager in the IT industry, among other hats I wore during my commercial career, where I became familiar with specialized software to help control time and activities;  but I never found any one program or package that did everything the way I wanted.  I always had to adapt myself to the software, rather than the other way around.  Later, artificial intelligence was applied to some software development tools, supposedly 'helping' to manage the development life cycle better; but again, they made you fit their needs, rather than vice versa.

Now, as a private individual with simpler needs, I no longer bother with project management disciplines and software;  but there are still times when I need to organize a writing project.  I do this manually, for the most part, entering outlines and processes into regular computer spreadsheets or documents, or doing it by hand with scribbled notes.  Not as efficient as more sophisticated solutions, to be sure, but adequate for my needs.

I was therefore pleased to be reminded recently of an older, manual way of doing things.  SoftBaugh Blog has a useful article titled 'Time Management Skills'.  It's an interesting look at how simple processes and perspectives can bring discipline and order to what is often a rather less than well-ordered process.

Click over there and read it for yourselves. I think you'll find it useful.


Dancing monkeys, flinging poo

The Oscars awards last night . . . oh, the Oscars.  Oh, dear.

The first salvo against Donald Trump was fired only a few minutes into the Oscars — and then they just kept on coming.

In what might be an unprecedented numbers of jokes, allusions, and sincere articulations inspired by a single person during an awards telecast, Hollywood’s most luminous tackled Trump and his policies during the the 89th annual Academy Awards. From host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, to the acceptance speeches, to those blue ribbons on tuxedo lapels, there were direct and indirect references to the 45th president throughout the ceremony.

. . .

(After that, of course, Trump was quickly forgotten amid the jaw-dropping chaos of Dunaway reading the wrong winner, but that’s a whole other story).

Sunday’s ceremony was expected to one of the most politicized in memory given Hollywood largely standing in opposition to President Trump and his policies.

There's more at the link.

I'm afraid the mass display of groupthink last night (or, given the very well publicized proclivities of many Hollywood denizens, perhaps that should be 'gropethink'?) left me cold.  I have no problem at all with people holding their own political opinions, whether or not those happen to coincide with my own.  I have no problem with them expressing those opinions in appropriate fora . . . but the Oscars are supposed to be the pinnacle of recognition for US cinematic art and related fields.  They are not supposed to be a political party rally - but last night, they may as well have been.

I suppose this is yet another example of the echo chamber effect.  The stars and their coteries last night are surrounded (or, rather, they surround themselves) with sycophants who echo their opinions.  That's how things work out there.  They never come into contact with the rest of us, the 'great unwashed', the 'deplorables'.  They completely ignore the fact that it's the 'unwashed', the 'deplorables', who voted the present administration into office.  They don't see that as being in any way important compared to the importance, nay, the sanctity, of their different views.

I'm left shaking my head at their moral, intellectual and mental blindness.  It seems almost inhuman in its robotic lockstep political perspective . . . but then, as my friend Jennifer observed several years ago, it may not be a human characteristic after all.

Dear Hollywood celebrities,

You exist for my entertainment.  Some of you are great eye candy.  Some of you can deliver a line with such conviction that you bring tears to my eyes.  Some of you can scare the crap out of me.  Others make me laugh.  But you all have one thing in common, you only have a place in my world to entertain me.  That’s it.

. . .

I don’t really care where you stand on issues.  Honestly, your stance matters far less to me than that of my neighbor.  You see, you aren’t real.  I turn off my TV or shut down my computer and you cease to exist in my world.  Once I am done with you, I can put you back in your little box until I want you to entertain me again.

. . .

I’m supposed to care what the director of fluffy tripe made for gullible people thinks of those who realize global warming is a scam?  Get back into your bubble.  I’ll let you know when I’m in the mood for something blue and shiny.

Make me laugh, or cry.  Scare me.  But realize that the only words of yours that matter are scripted.  I might agree with some of you from time to time, but it doesn’t matter.  In my world, you exist solely for my entertainment.

So, shut your pie hole and dance, monkey!

Again, more at the link.  (BTW, her words have been plagiarized many times by others.  If you see any reference to Hollywood stars as dancing monkeys, the odds are pretty good that whoever's saying it is, to a greater or lesser extent, copying Jennifer - very often word-for-word.)

Performing monkeys.  Dancing monkeys.  I think that just about sums it up, for most of us.  As for the 'flinging poo' part - the vituperation directed against those with different views - well, that's pretty much a characteristic of the breed, isn't it?


Sunday, February 26, 2017

A day off blogging

I expect to finish the draft of my second Western novel today.  It's the sequel to 'Brings The Lightning'.  I'm going all-out to get it done, so that I can do a preliminary read-through on Monday and Tuesday, then get it off to the publisher for editing.

That being the case, I won't put up blog posts today, but concentrate on my book instead. I hope you'll forgive the lack of fresh content, and amuse yourselves in the archives, or with the blogs listed in my sidebar.  They write good stuff, too!

See you tomorrow.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Those were the days . . .

The Devil's Panties cartoon strip for February 24th, 2017, made me laugh.  Click the image for a larger view at the cartoon's home page.

Yes, I remember those days . . . in fact, I still live in them.  I frequently leave my cellphone at home, or switch it to silent mode if I need to concentrate on writing.  And, yes, I get uphill from my friends on occasion when they've been trying to reach me, and I don't answer:  but I refuse to be a slave to an electronic gizmo!


How to groom an emu

Courtesy of Australian reader Snoggeramus, here's a very funny video clip.

Where I come from, we had ostriches, rather than emus . . . but I'm sure not going to try grooming one of those suckers!


Friday, February 24, 2017

It's about time!

I'm delighted to see that over 200 allegedly violent and/or otherwise criminal protesters have been indicted for their actions at demonstrations during President Trump's inauguration.

Called out for individual acts of vandalism, violence and destruction, prosecutors alleged Tuesday that 214 protesters engaged in "black bloc" tactics on Jan. 20 during President Donald Trump's swearing-in, causing damage to vehicles and property. Six police officers were also hurt during the riots as they exchanged flash-bang explosives with protesters hurling rocks and firecrackers at them.

. . .

"Black bloc" protest tactics, which have been used by some protesters for decades, include dressing in black or dark colored clothing while concealing one's face using scarves, masks and sunglasses. Some of the protesters brought with them hammers, crowbars, bricks, rocks, flares and firecrackers.

There's more at the link.

Earlier, alternative news site gotnews.com published the full list of all those arrested during the demonstrations.  I understand some were journalists caught up in the situation, but most will be among those charged today.

I'll be very interested indeed to see whether, and how many, of these people were also active (and violent) in other protests around the country.  One allegedly complained on social media about being abandoned by organizers and paymasters after being arrested (EDITED TO ADD:  You can read it here - thanks, Capt. Tightpants!).  'Useful idiots' is a phrase that comes to mind . . .


The CIA, Google, the NSA, and the rest of the alphabet

Back in 2015, an interesting two-part article was published on medium.com. It purported to show how the Central Intelligence Agency was the early impetus behind Google, and how the latter then spearheaded the National Security Agency's drive to collect any and all data available on everything and everybody.  The two parts are:

I hasten to add that the articles are clearly written from a particular political perspective, one with which, in the main, I don't agree.  Nevertheless, they raise questions and make allegations that are disturbing, if true.

The articles aren't new, but in the light of the current media war against President Trump, I think they deserve renewed attention.

From the first article:

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.

And from the second article:

Mass surveillance is about control. It’s promulgators may well claim, and even believe, that it is about control for the greater good, a control that is needed to keep a cap on disorder, to be fully vigilant to the next threat. But in a context of rampant political corruption, widening economic inequalities, and escalating resource stress due to climate change and energy volatility, mass surveillance can become a tool of power to merely perpetuate itself, at the public’s expense.

A major function of mass surveillance that is often overlooked is that of knowing the adversary to such an extent that they can be manipulated into defeat. The problem is that the adversary is not just terrorists. It’s you and me. To this day, the role of information warfare as propaganda has been in full swing, though systematically ignored by much of the media.

. . .

It is this sort of closed-door networking that has rendered the American vote pointless. Far from protecting the public interest or helping to combat terrorism, the comprehensive monitoring of electronic communications has been systematically abused to empower vested interests in the energy, defense, and IT industries.

Obviously, the article is not specific to the results of the 2016 Presidential election.  Nevertheless, if one reads it in the light of recent events . . . it makes one think.  It's even more thought-provoking when one hears about news media partisanship, and social media's determination to censor freedom of speech, and manipulate discussion so that it trends in favor of 'politically correct' topics.

Your thoughts?


Immigration: The hypocrisy and propaganda are astounding

The Intercept has just published a hair-rending, hysterical-screaming article about proposed new Department of Homeland Security regulations concerning illegal aliens (note:  NOT 'undocumented immigrants', as some on the left prefer to call them - there are, by definition, NO 'undocumented immigrants' in the USA.  I should know.  I'm a documented immigrant - and very grateful to be one, thank you very much!)

The hysteria starts in the title of the report:  'Donald Trump Plans to Bypass the Courts to Deport as Many People as Possible'.  Eeeeek!  Ooh!  Aah!  Panic stations!  Except . . . that's not true.  For a start, Donald Trump has not personally issued (or probably even read) these proposals.  They originate with the Department of Homeland Security, which has all the authority in law it needs to issue new regulations.  The DHS proposals are based on existing US law, as already tested in and approved by US courts, to streamline administrative functions.  They don't deprive people of access to the courts at all - they merely invoke and apply existing provisions to people who are, by legal definition, in violation of US law.  Their access to the courts remains intact.

The first few paragraphs of the report are very thin on fact, and extremely long on hand-wringing emotional reaction.  For example:

“I expected bad based on Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric,” added David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration attorney and past president of AILA. “Then when I read the executive order, I expected really bad … but I’m absolutely shocked at the mean-spiritedness of this.”

Hmmm . . . news report, or opinion piece?  Facts, or feelings?  Decide for yourselves.

The meat of the matter comes in two paragraphs.  I've underlined a few phrases, and followed each by a number in parentheses, which I'll use below to comment on them.

The guidance tracks closely with the executive orders Trump signed in January, confirming, for example, that ICE is now prioritizing the deportation of virtually all immigrants in the country without authorization (1), including individuals with no criminal records and others whose only offenses (2) involve low-level, nonviolent immigration violations or the falsification of documents to obtain work. According to experts, this range of individuals includes essentially all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., with the exception of the roughly 740,000 individuals protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The memos also institutionalize a hardening of the nation’s asylum system and call for the criminal prosecution (3) of immigrant parents who attempt to have their children transported to the U.S. without authorization.

. . .

Crucially, the guidance expands the use of a deportation procedure called expedited removal — the means by which the government can swiftly deport an individual who is not authorized to be in the country without a hearing or a judge’s approval. Under the Obama administration, the process had been mostly limited to undocumented immigrants detained within 100 miles of the border who could not prove they had been in the country continuously for 14 days or more. The Trump administration has scrapped that policy, opting instead to use the full force of the law (4) to expand expedited removal nationwide and require immigrants to prove (5) up to two years of continuous physical presence in the country in order to avoid deportation proceedings.

Key points:
  1. There are no 'immigrants' in the country without authorization.  Those people are illegal aliens.  Can we please get the terminology right here?  It's a legal definition.
  2. Their 'only offenses' are precisely that - offenses.  They are offenders - in other words, criminals.  That's not a matter of opinion, but of fact. They have violated US law by their very presence here.
  3. 'Criminal prosecution' of so-called 'immigrant parents'?  In other words, illegal aliens (see 1 above) who try to bring their children here in order to make them illegal aliens as well.  That's criminals trying to make criminals out of their children.
  4. 'Full force of the law'?  Precisely.  The Trump administration is enforcing the rule of law.  The Obama administration frequently did not, at least as far as immigration law is concerned.  These regulations and guidelines were not sucked out of thin air.  They implement US law, as the Department is legally required to do.  If you don't like the law, don't blame the Department - change the law.
  5. 'Require immigrants to prove' their presence for up to two continuous years?  Why not?  That's what the law requires.  When I obtained, first my work visit visa, then a residential work permit, then a green card, I had to jump through each and every hoop specified in the law.  It cost me a lot of time, a lot of money, and sometimes a great deal of difficulty (such as driving a round trip of over 200 miles, the day after an ice storm, for one interview that could not be rescheduled.  Guess what?  I made the drive, in the ice, at about 20 mph the whole way!)  If I can do what the law requires, why should another immigrant (legal or otherwise) not be required to comply with exactly those same requirements?

Want more?

The expansion of expedited removal has immigration lawyers, and some U.S. immigration officials, deeply concerned. Chief among those concerns is a fear that DHS will make passing credible fear screenings more difficult, thus allowing more people to be deported without seeing a judge. According to one senior U.S. immigration official, speaking to The Intercept on condition of anonymity, those changes are already in the works. As DHS rolled out its memos earlier this week, leadership at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services distributed new guidelines making a number of changes to the credible screening process. The guidelines detailed in the internal communications, reviewed by The Intercept and set to go into effect next week, would place added requirements on asylum officials to confirm that the fear described by asylum seekers is credible, including through a new checklist of questions and submission of a written analysis in cases where a positive determination is made.

“Immigration advocates should prepare for a storm of negative screenings,” the official said.

Again, where's the problem?  Claims of 'credible fear' have been completely undermined by the previous administration, and by activist organizations.  Some of the latter merely publish extensive guidelines as to how the asylum process works (in other words, they ensure that those wanting to 'game the system' know it works, to make the process easier). Others actually brief potential asylum claimants, sometimes even prior to their arrival, as to exactly which 'magic words' or key words or phrases or excuses to use.  (Follow those links for more information.)  As one report noted about the previous administration's policies in this regard:

The misapplication of “credible fear” and lack of detention are not only breaches of law according to Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple University. Ting said the expanding definition of “who is legal” puts the entire system in jeopardy.

“Asylum is the trump card of immigration,” said Ting. “Credible fear was an informal procedure intended to keep people out, what’s its doing now is letting people in. People have learned the right words and phrases whether true or not.”

According to Ting, poverty and violence are not grounds for asylum and officials are watering down and misapplying the basic threshold.

“A natural disaster or flood of bullets flying around your neighborhood doesn’t meet the standard,” said Ting. “If the government wanted to deter illegal immigration, they would alter the cost-benefit analysis. Instead, they are looking for ways to help them stay.”

Ting said the situation is a legal and economic “formula for permanent dysfunction” and a core reason for the lack of jobs for Americans and stagnates wages.

“It isn’t border security if all you need is a story,” said Ting.

There's more at the link.

To get back to the Intercept article, here's another excerpt that ignores the reality of the situation.

Location aside, Schlanger said the DHS memos indicate a preference for having more immigrants in detention as a means to achieve faster deportations. Outside of detention, immigration cases can take years to adjudicate. That’s typically not the case when the person in question is in custody — though there have been significant and egregious exceptions in that area as well, particularly among women and children seeking asylum from Central America, who were held in family detention centers under the Obama administration.

“It’s quicker because … you don’t have to go get them, you don’t have to go find them,” Schlanger said. “It’s also quicker because it’s much, much harder for them to find and get lawyers when they’re there.” She added, “This looks like an effort to switch everyone from the non-detained docket to the detained docket.”

The fact is that detention appears unavoidable, given that, to cite just one example, "70% of illegal immigrants who traveled to America as a family unit failed to show up to their immigration hearings".  Why release illegal aliens to non-detained status when the majority of them will simply disappear into society, and not comply with the requirements of the law?  At least, if they're in detention, they can't do that.  Makes sense to me.

The last paragraph of the report is also telling.

“I fear that it’s going to be a really effective, comprehensive strategy that will look good on the outside — deportations will go up, ‘danger aliens’ will be in detention, asylum claims will go down, illegal border crossings will go down,” the official said. “My fear is that the likely success in terms of the numbers will drown out the ethical considerations.”

  1. 'A really effective, comprehensive strategy', provided that it's in accordance with the law, is praiseworthy.  What's the problem here?
  2. 'Ethical considerations' are not the province of DHS - they're the province of Congress, that passed the law(s) in question.  DHS is an executive department.  It implements the law, and in doing so, acts in as ethical a manner as possible - but it doesn't make the laws that it executes.  If you regard those laws as unethical, don't blame DHS - point the finger where it belongs, at Congress, and work to change the laws, not the policies that implement them.  (Of course, that ignores the fact that the US electorate voted for the people who enacted those laws . . . and if they tried to water them down, they know darn well they'd lose votes.  Reality bites, folks.)

What's so hard to understand about all this?  (Except for far-left progressive immigration activists, of course.  They understand it very well . . . they just lie, obfuscate and emote about it.)


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quote of the day

Courtesy of a link at Joel's place, we find this letter from Thomas Jefferson in 1807 - two hundred and ten years ago.

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle ... I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.

There's more at the link.

I didn't know that Jefferson numbered prophecy among his many gifts!  His words apply just as well to the mainstream news media today as they did to the newspapers of 1807.


Note the instant effect of Twitter's censorship

I'm obliged to Gab user Matthew T. McDonald for providing the image below.

This morning, activist James O'Keefe released over 100 hours of video, allegedly showing how CNN's coverage of news was deliberately biased, falsified and redacted to reflect its editorial point of view.  Discussion immediately arose on Twitter (and elsewhere) about it, using the hashtag #CNNLeaks.  Twitter censored that hashtag a short while later, to prevent it becoming even more popular (Twitter being a hotbed of left-wing partisan political activism, as we've discussed here before).

Mr. McDonald notes:

This graph shows the moment when Twitter dumped the #CNNLeaks hashtag. Around 9:30 AM 15,000 ppl were using it, moments later only 600.

Very eye-opening!  Now you see why Twitter, Facebook and other left-wing-oriented social media are censoring alternative viewpoints as hard as they can.  If they can reduce discussion of events or news unfavorable to their side, they can have a significant effect on public opinion and political debate.

That being the case, I guess it'll be up to supporters of free speech and open debate to make sure that all points are aired, regardless of censorship.  I try to do that here, as you saw earlier this morning.


Michael Moore offers ten points to thwart President Trump

Michael Moore is a hard-core progressive left-wing activist, far more so than the mainstream of the Democratic Party.  I disagree profoundly with his politics, but he is a politically savvy commentator.  Don't forget, he predicted President Trump's victory almost a year before it happened, to mingled scorn, laughter and anger from other left-wing commentators.  He was proved right.

He's now come out with a ten-point plan to thwart the President's aims and objectives, and prevent his re-election.  He claims baldly:  'Do These 10 Things, And Trump Will Be Toast'.  Here's a sample.

6. TAKE OVER THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The old guard of the party has twice in 16 years presided over the majority of Americans electing the Democrat to the White House ― only for us all to see the losing Republican inaugurated as president. How is it that we have won the popular vote in SIX OF THE LAST SEVEN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ― the Republicans have only won ONCE since 1988 ― and yet, we hold NO power in any branch of government?! That, plus losing 1,000 local seats in this election that the Dems use to hold ― plus watching many Dems in Congress unwilling to stand up to Trump ― PLEASE, the old leadership has to go. God love ‘em for their contributions in the past, but if we don’t enact a radical overhaul right now, we are doomed as far as having a true opposition party during the Trump era. And that, more than anything, will help to usher in the vise-grip of a totalitarian culture.

. . .

7. HELP FORM BLUE REGIONS OF RESISTANCE: People keep saying to me, “Mike - I live in a Blue State - what can I do?” If you live in a Blue State, you have one of the MOST important tasks to complete: Show the rest of America what it looks like when Trump isn’t in charge! Blue States and Blue Cities must do an end-run around Trump and create the America we want to live in. That means New York goes ahead and offers Free College for All. California can create its own Universal Health Care. Oregon can stop mass incarceration of African Americans. Hawaii can enact its own climate change laws. Blue States can show the rest of country how much better life can be. Important historical note: Before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, California and New York passed their own state laws to make it legal. This greatly helped pave the way for CHOICE being the new normal ― and the enactment of Row [sic] v. Wade.

There's more at the link.

As I said, Michael Moore is politically savvy.  Expect to see elements of this road map adopted by others, and put into practice.  Those of us opposed to it will have to counter its points as they emerge - so consider this a warning shot across our bows.

As a matter of fact, I strongly support point 7 above.  I believe it would be very good for America if those living in states with a strong, dominant Democratic or left-wing or progressive element were to adopt and implement those social policies and entitlement programs that they think are most important.  That way, the rest of the country could see how they work - or don't.  In fact, why don't we use that as a point of argument?  Why should the federal government be involved in any such programs?  Why not send them back to the states, who can fund them - or not - as they see fit, and adopt their own tax structure to do so?

For example, those states that are opposed to socialized medicine can de-fund all except emergency care.  Those states in favor of it can adopt comprehensive, Obamacare-plus-plus programs, or go all the way to a single-payer system such as Canada uses, and levy taxes on their citizens to pay for it.  Individual citizens and residents can decide for themselves which system they prefer, and vote with their feet and their wallets by moving to states that have adopted that system.  The same can apply to almost any program.  Let those who want them, vote for them in their states and pay for them by local taxation.  Those of us who don't want them should be equally free to vote against them and de-fund them.

We'll do well to pay attention to people like Mr. Moore.  We don't have to agree with them.  We just have to understand where they're coming from, and examine our own beliefs in the light of their proposals.  Informed opposition is far better than knee-jerk rejection - on both sides of the political divide.

(I'm obliged to reader Antibubba for sending me the link to Mr. Moore's article.)


Looks like the ATF is at it again

We all remember the BATFE's 'Operation Fast and Furious'.  So far, its 'score' includes two dead Federal law enforcement officers, several hundred dead Mexican nationals, and who knows how many lives ruined by their loss.  Now it looks like at another arm of the BATFE went so far as to fund their operations off-budget, evading Congressional oversight, by creaming off the profits from an illegal cigarette marketing operation.

Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The operation, not authorized under Justice Department rules, gave agents an off-the-books way to finance undercover investigations and pay informants without the usual cumbersome paperwork and close oversight, according to court records and people close to the operation.

The secret account is at the heart of a federal racketeering lawsuit brought by a collective of tobacco farmers who say they were swindled out of $24 million. A pair of A.T.F. informants received at least $1 million each from that sum, records show.

The scheme relied on phony shipments of snack food disguised as tobacco. The agents were experts: Their job was to catch cigarette smugglers, so they knew exactly how it was done.

There's more at the link.

Would someone please tell me why the BATFE should not be designated a rogue agency, out of control, and the entire damned operation shut down once and for all?  It seems to be a living definition of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy.  If President Trump is looking for ways to cut costs in the federal government, I suggest that 99 New York Avenue, NE in Washington DC would be an excellent starting point.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The media's job is to "control exactly what people think"

That's the extraordinary claim made by MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski earlier this morning.

While discussing President Trump's entreaties to the American people to remain skeptical of the press, Bzezinski worried that if the economy turns south, Americans may end up trusting him over the media.

"And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think," Brzezinski said. "And that, that is our job."

SCARBOROUGH: "Exactly. That is exactly what I hear. What Yamiche said is what I hear from all the Trump supporters that I talk to who were Trump voters and are still Trump supporters. They go, 'Yeah you guys are going crazy. He's doing -- what are you so surprised about? He is doing exactly what he said he is going to do.'"

BRZEZINSKI: "Well, I think that the dangerous, you know, edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job."

There's more at the link.

That explains a lot about why the mainstream media are so adamantly, categorically, pathologically opposed to President Trump and his agenda.  We've examined several of their falsehoods on this blog in recent weeks.  To mention just a few, from most recent to oldest:

Brzezinski's comments provide a new perspective on such media bias.  They honestly think it's their job to be that way, and for the rest of us to fall into line and digest what they spoon-feed us.  One can't help but wonder what they've been smoking, to give them that idea . . .  After all, if I wouldn't (and I don't) trust any politician or bureaucrat to tell me what to believe, why should I trust any journalist that way?


"You might be an Alaskan if..."

Rev. Paul has channeled Jeff Foxworthy to produce some very funny suggestions.  Examples:

  • If the entry way to your home doubles as a refrigerator, and sometimes even a freezer, you probably live in Alaska.
  • If you use your old 200lb. console TV for weight in the back of your truck, instead of sandbags, you might be an Alaskan.
  • If you use duct tape to detail and customize your car instead of actually getting a paint or detail job done, you probably are an Alaskan.
  • If you don't wash your car or truck anymore because the dirt is the only thing holding it together, you might be an Alaskan.

There are many more at the link.  Since Miss D. was an Alaskan (by adoption) before she became a Texan (also by adoption), there was much gigglage when reading these.  Thanks, Paul!  You made my morning.


In haste

I haven't had time to put up a blog post yet this morning.  I'm off to town with Miss D. for an appointment that will keep us busy for a few hours.  I'll put up something when we get back.

In the meantime, please amuse yourselves with my fellow bloggers linked in the sidebar.  They write good stuff, too!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fishy dishies

Miss D. and I went up to Oklahoma City this morning. It's a drive of a couple of hours, not too far for an occasional day out.  We wanted to buy new dinner plates and accessories, and there's a Corelle factory outlet store there.  We spent an hour walking through it, buying dinner and side plates in the design we'd selected, and then browsing for bowls and other bits and pieces.  Their prices were rather better than other shops or online vendors we'd tried, so it was worth the trip.

By then it was lunchtime, and I suggested seafood.  Miss D. did her usual wizardry with what Lawdog calls the Portable Magic Elf Box (a.k.a. smartphone), and after perusing a list of local establishments, we decided that Pearl's Crabtown, housed in a converted warehouse, sounded interesting.  We headed that way.  My, oh my, oh my . . . it turned out to be an inspired choice!  (Click the pictures for a larger view.)

The decor and atmosphere are very warehouse-like, very pub-like, and comfortable.  We had to smile at the giant green crab over the fireplace.  I think the picture below must have been taken from right next to the table where we sat.

The service was extremely good, so much so that our waitress got a better than 20% tip for her hard work.  As for the food, we decided we'd try a combination of several starters and nibble on them together, rather than order a single main course each.  We picked (from their menu - link is to an Adobe Acrobat file in .PDF format):

  • Chowder Fries - "Crabtown fries smothered with creamy clam chowder, cheddar cheese, crispy bacon and scallions";
  • Fried Calamari - the regular rather than the spicy version;
  • Louisiana Crab Cakes with remoulade sauce;  and -
  • A cup of Boston Clam Chowder.

I can only describe the food as superb.  It's easily the best seafood we've tasted since we visited the Gulf Coast a few years ago (where, as you may recall, my wife was mean to me - and yes, I still tease her about that!).  Everything was very tasty, but the crab cakes and clam chowder were particularly delicious.  We were too full for dessert (even though these were nominally starter-sized portions, they were very generous), but we ordered a slice of key lime pie to take home with us.  Miss D. always says that the further a restaurant is from the sea, the more she mistrusts its seafood;  but after today's lunch, she says she'll gladly make an exception to that rule for Crabtown.

I washed down my meal with a very interesting beer:  Marshall Old Pavilion Pilsener.  It was a delicious and original variation on traditional German pilsener, rather 'heavier' than usual.  I enjoyed every drop.  It doesn't appear to be available outside Oklahoma, so that's a good excuse to make more trips there to stock up on it now and again!

If you happen to find yourself in Oklahoma City for any reason, and you like seafood, Miss D. and I highly recommend Pearl's Crabtown.  We'll be going back there, even if it takes an almost five-hour round trip to get there and home again.  It's worth it.  (No, they aren't sponsoring this review or giving me any kickbacks.  I just like to tell my readers when I discover something worthwhile.)


Home security - "Hot time in the old town tonight" edition?

It seems a Chinese power utility has developed a flame-throwing drone to combat trash on transmission lines.  You can read about it here, in English.  Here's a Chinese TV report.

Can you imagine the fun if you could incorporate something like this into a home security system?

  1. Trash jumps over back fence to break into your house.
  2. Trash is incinerated before he can make entry.
  3. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I think that might sell like hot cakes.  There really would be a 'Hot time in the old town tonight'!


Starting your Tuesday off with a bang

Continuing our week of interesting video clips involving dynamite - things I encountered while researching that substance for my new Western novel - here's a piece of history.

The video of a dead whale being blown up on an Oregon beach has been described as the most-viewed in history (or the fifth most viewed, depending on whose statistics you believe).  However, many of the copies of it online have been edited or 'enhanced', which spoils the fun, IMHO.

A few years ago, on the fiftieth anniversary of the television station that originally broadcast that footage, a presenter interviewed the reporter who'd covered the story, and played the original report exactly as it was shown at the time.

I still want to know who calculated that they needed twenty cases (!!!) of dynamite.  How on earth did someone come up with that figure?  That's a hell of a bang!  (Yes, yes, I know - it was probably some anonymous of-fish-ial somewhere!)


Monday, February 20, 2017

Busy, busy, busy

I'm really swamped at the moment, so I must apologize for the less-regular-than-usual blog posts.  So far this morning, I've:

  • Written 3,000 words for my latest novel (now at 53,000 words completed);
  • Put in about 2 hours of research for the next 2 chapters of the book;
  • Had an extended counseling session with two people trying to cope with the aftermath of a tragedy (I'm a retired pastor, remember - I may not be able to hold down a church any more, but I still do this sort of thing);
  • Answered 9 e-mails, and opened and dealt with a few dozen more.

My cup overfloweth . . . but not with blog fodder, I'm afraid.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Meanwhile, amuse yourself with this classic song about insanity (which fits the busy-ness of my life rather well right now!).  This version's from Old Blind Dogs, a live recording.


Starting your Monday off with a bang

In case you missed it, on Saturday I put up a teaser chapter from my new Western, the second volume in the Ames Archives and sequel to 'Brings The Lightning'.  If you haven't already read it, click over there and enjoy it.

As part of the research for this novel, I've been looking into early forms of dynamite and how it was used.  It's been very educational.  (I hope the FBI doesn't get suspicious about the Internet searches I've been doing on that subject over the past few days!)  I've learned a lot about it, as well as related areas such as fuses, blasting caps, handling precautions, etc. In particular, I've gained a new respect for those who used the stuff in those early days, before it was properly stabilized.  It had a shelf life of only up to a year, and that only if it was stored under controlled conditions and turned regularly, to stop the nitroglycerin oozing out of the sticks of dynamite and pooling or puddling at the bottom of the case.  Once that happened, or if beads of nitro formed on the sticks, it became highly unstable.  A sudden shock to the stick or case, and you'd be spread all over a couple of acres of countryside.

Old dynamite is still sometimes discovered, as my Internet searches have revealed.  Among other things, it seems a group of people with too much time on their hands needed to dispose of no less than 192 (!) sticks of it.  They did what everyone does, of course:  stuffed it all into an old Chevrolet Celebrity and set it off.  The resulting screams and shrieks of glee will gladden any redneck's heart. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

Boys and their toys, indeed!

I've discovered several video clips of similarly explosive shenanigans in the course of my research. I'll post one each day this week, just for fun.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pedophilia does "no lasting harm"??? Yeah, right!

Richard Dawkins, well known for his militant atheism, has really put his foot in it this time.

In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

. . .

Child welfare experts responded to Dawkins’ remarks with outrage — and concern over their effect on survivors of abuse.

There's more at the link.

All I can say is, as a pastor and clinical counselor, I've had a great deal of experience trying to help the victims of pedophiles. Many went on to become pedophiles themselves - a cycle that carries on down the centuries, if you go back far enough.  Others have had their confidence in themselves destroyed, their ability to love and be love corroded, and their lives ruined.

I'm a strong believer in the rule of law.  I've worked inside the criminal justice system to help promote the rule of law.  Nevertheless, if there's any one sin or crime that cries out to Almighty God for vengeance, it's pedophilia.  In the words of Jesus himself:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

You can debate, if you wish, whether those words were meant to include pedophilia, or merely other types of offence.  Personally, I have little doubt.  No, scratch that - I have no doubt.  If a pedophile were caught in flagrante delicto, I would have few or no moral qualms if the parents of the child concerned executed him on the spot.  I think there'd be little or no sin in that;  in fact, I could make a strong case for it being the justice of an outraged God.

Pedophiles can't be cured.  Time after time that's been tried, and failed miserably.  They can only be prevented from committing their crimes, either by incarcerating them where they can't get at children, or by executing them.  Harsh?  Yes, it is harsh.  Having seen too many children's innocence destroyed by pedophiles, my feelings towards the latter are very harsh indeed!  Right now, I'm not feeling particularly charitable towards Mr. Dawkins, either . . .


Fixing the State Department - and the left-wing spin

It looks like the Augean Stables at the State Department are, at long, long last, being cleaned out . . . but you'd never know it from the mainstream media.  For example, here's how CBS News reported it.

Much of [the] seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told today that their services were no longer needed.

These staffers in particular are often the conduit between the secretary’s office to the country bureaus, where the regional expertise is centered. Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy.

There are clear signals being sent that many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats.

. . .

... State Department officials ... hope that Mr. Tillerson - who had a long career as Exxon Mobil’s CEO -  will bring his worldly experience and management to a building that has been demoralized by the Trump administration’s antipathy toward multilateralism and cavalier approach to diplomacy.

. . .

While positions are often reshuffled during transitions and those perceived as politically-oriented are moved aside, the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability.

. . .

“It is irresponsible to let qualified, nonpartisan, experienced people go before you have any idea of their replacement. You can’t do foreign policy by sitting in the White House, just out of your back pocket,” explains Tom Countryman, Former Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation who was let go earlier this month. Countryman worries that the White House is displaying an intent [to] not rely on the State Department for foreign policy in that no one will be in place to challenge the edicts drawn up in the Oval Office.

There's more at the link.

Wow, just look at all the negativity!  This is clearly a disaster for US foreign relations . . . or is it?  Let's pick a few comments and respond to them.

"... some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making ...".  It's certainly a purge - and it's long overdue!  It was senior State Department officials who referred to themselves as a 'shadow government', when, in fact, they are (constitutionally and legally) nothing of the sort.  I've heard many military officers refer to the State Department in (to put it as politely as possible) disparaging terms.  Their view may be summed up as, "We went there to win, they went there to make sure the other side won".  I've heard that perspective on Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear deal, and a lot more.  I daresay some of my readers have more direct experience in that regard.  As for 'expertise', that's debatable.  I've worked in many countries in Africa where I've had contact with representatives from US embassies, consulates and other official bodies.  I can't say I've been particularly impressed by their expertise about those countries or regions . . . in fact, I often got the impression they believed all that was necessary was to improve hygiene, bring in US-style democracy, and promote abortions!

"... many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats."  How is this a problem?  The professional diplomats have screwed up rather spectacularly in the past (they've also had some successes, admittedly).  Who's to say that the White House, using its own carefully selected team, can't do as well?  I don't see any reason.  The current Secretary of State has no diplomatic background whatsoever, but a great deal of international business experience.  Does that mean he'll be less effective in that role than a 'professional diplomat' would?  (The same question might be asked about the previous Secretary of State as well.)

"... the Trump administration’s antipathy toward multilateralism and cavalier approach to diplomacy."  Blinkered perspective, anyone?  Who says the current Administration has a 'cavalier approach to diplomacy'?  That's an accusation, not a news report!  Anti-Trump bias at work again . . .

"... the departures leave the positions vacant at a time of global instability."  Ooh!  Panic stations!  Except . . . what difference would it make if those positions weren't vacant?  Would it make the globe any less unstable?  No?  Then why is it a problem?  Instability is a fact of life in diplomacy.  Some countries, and some people, handle it better than others.  Based on the State Department's track record, I venture to guess that it's not among them, whether or not all its bureaucratic positions are filled.

As for Mr. Countryman's comments, he was appointed to his Cabinet-level position by President Obama.  As a political appointee, of course he'd be let go, and replaced by someone chosen by the current Administration, just as is normal whenever the Presidency changes hands.  He might even be expected to resent losing his job and the status it provided, and he might possibly be expected to express that resentment through the content and tone of his comments about the Administration that removed him.  However, you don't see CBS News telling us any of that, do you?  Furthermore, Mr. Countryman was appointed to his position precisely in order to ensure that 'edicts drawn up in the Oval Office' (by President Obama) were implemented in and by the State Department.  If that was in order for the previous President, why isn't it in order for the current President to do likewise?

This is yet another example of the relentless drumbeat of criticism directed by the 'establishment' (which includes most of the news media) against President Trump.  When you deconstruct most of the negative articles like this, it's amazing how much bias and subjective vitriol emerges.

I suggest that reports in the mainstream media about anything to do with the current Administration should be regarded as unreliable until proven otherwise.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

A sample from my second Western novel

I'm hard at work on the second book in the Ames Archives, my Western series.  I won't give away the plot, but it's a lot more involved than the first book, 'Brings The Lightning'.  That was basically the story of how my protagonist, Walter Ames, made it from Tennessee to Colorado after the Civil War.  In this volume, he runs into a lot of trouble with a stock theft syndicate.  There's robbery, arson, murder and mayhem galore.

I've just finished the first half of the book, which culminates in a tragic gunfight, setting the stage for vengeance in the second half.  To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from midway through the first half.  It's set in a mining town high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

    Walt looked around the cantina as he mopped up the last of the savory, spicy enchilada sauce with a piece of tortilla, and popped it into his mouth. The room wasn’t large. Its four tables were all occupied with eager diners. Other men stood at the bar, glasses of beer and tequila in front of them. Several young and not-so-young women circulated, bearing trays and glasses. A hubbub of conversation in Spanish filled the smoky air. He and Isom were the only non-Mexicans there.
    Walt chewed slowly, swallowed, then sighed with repletion. “Man, this is only the second day we’ve eaten here, but I already feel like I’m gettin’ fat! If I could figure out how to hire Rosa’s cook away from her, I swear I would. This is the best Mex food I’ve tasted in years.”
    “It’s pretty good,” Isom mumbled through a mouthful of burrito. “Trouble is, Rosa would probably shoot you if you tried.”
    “I certainly would, señor,” a woman’s voice said behind them. Walt looked up to see Rosa standing there, a slight smile on her face. “I value my cook.”
    “Rosa, you must have ears as sharp as an eagle’s eyes, to hear what we were sayin’ over the noise in here!” Walt waved his hand around the cantina.
    “It is my business to hear things of interest to me, señor. However, if you want a good Mexican cook, I can find you one. You hire him for your house?”
    “I’m goin’ to be settin’ up a horse ranch near Pueblo. I reckon on buyin’ breedin’ stock in Mexico, an’ also hirin’ some of their mesteñeros to catch wild horses, then break and train them. I reckon they’ll prefer their own kind o’ food. The rest of us will, too, if it’s as good as yours.”
    “You sound like a man of importance, señor.”
    “I dunno ’bout that. I’m just tryin’ to build my business, that’s all. I did well in Denver, an’ now I’m investin’ the proceeds.”
    “You must have done well, to talk so freely about buying horses south of the border. Good breeding stock is expensive. So is hiring your own team of mesteñeros. Such skills don’t come cheap.”
    “I did all right.”
    “He owns a freight company, too,” Isom told her. “He’s a good man to work for.”
    “Indeed? Well, señor, when your horse ranch is ready, send word to me. I shall find a good cook for you – for a small fee, of course.”
    “I never mind paying for good service, or for other things I need. I can be real generous.” Walt laid a gold double eagle on the table. “That’s for starters.”
    Her eyebrows rose as she picked up the twenty-dollar coin, hefting it in her hand. “We do not often see one of these in here, señor.”
    “You get me what I need – not just a cook – and you’ll see more of them.”
    “Indeed? What else are you needing, señor?”
    “Information. I –”
    Walt was interrupted as the batwing doors slammed back, and a big, burly man stalked through them. His gait was unsteady, as if he’d already had more than a few drinks and was feeling their effects. He was dark-haired, with a big, bushy beard. His grubby, stained checkered shirt was tucked into black trousers that fell to mud-stained boots. A revolver was holstered at his right side, balanced by a long-bladed knife on his left. He was followed by what looked like a younger version of himself, dressed and armed in the same style, also not very steady on his feet.
    Rosa hissed in anger, and started forward. The men at the bar looked around, then backed hurriedly away from the new arrivals as the bartender lowered his hands out of sight behind it.
    Walt pushed back his chair, and murmured to Isom, “Stand by for trouble.”
    “Got it.” Isom gently moved his chair back as well, to give himself room to move.
    Rosa stepped in front of the burly man, arms akimbo, fists clenched. “I told you not to come back here, Señor Furlong!”
    “Aw, shaddup, Rosa!” the man slurred, trying to focus his drink-sodden eyes on her. “I gotta wait here in town for a reply to a telegraph message, an’ I want someone to keep me warm ’till then. Here – I’ll pay.” He fumbled in his pocket.
    Rosa exploded with rage. “You hurt my girl last time! She couldn’t work for two weeks! No more of them for you! You get out of here, and take your son with you!”
    “Aw, you’re cute when you’re angry. Maybe I’ll take you tonight instead!” Bart’s hand shot out and grabbed her right breast, squeezing. Rosa’s eyes bugged out and she yelled in pain, pulling back, trying to free herself.
    The bartender lifted his hands above the bar. They were holding a sawn-off double-barreled shotgun. He began to swing it into line, but Walt was faster. He threw himself forward, drawing his right-hand revolver, lifting it, then chopping down with vicious force, clubbing Bart over the head with the butt of the gun. The man collapsed as if he’d been pole-axed.
    Isom was right behind him. As the younger man staggered unsteadily, reaching for his holstered revolver, the teamster grabbed his shoulder, spun him around, and launched a haymaker that came around with all the weight of his body behind it. It landed on the side of the man’s jaw with an audible crunching sound. His victim flew sideways, crashing into the wall with an impact that shook the room. He hung there limply for a moment, then toppled forward to land face-down on the floor.
    “Thank you, señor,” Rosa said, rubbing her breast absently, her eyes on the revolver in Walt’s hand. “You are very fast with that.”
    “I get by,” Walt said shortly, holstering the gun and looking round at Isom. “I heard something break – not your hand, I hope?”
    “Naw,” the other replied, massaging his knuckles with his left hand. “I think it was his jaw.”
    Walt bent over and rolled the younger man onto his back. Sure enough, his jaw was bent sideways. “Yeah, you got him good. He won’t be eatin’ steak for a while.”
    He straightened up and looked around. All the customers in the cantina were on their feet, eyes wide, staring in stunned silence at the scene. Walt said, “You don’t want trouble with this man when he wakes up. None of you were here tonight. You saw nothing, you heard nothing, you know nothing. Understand?”
    Everyone nodded solemnly.
    “Right. On your way.”
    The onlookers hurried out. Most stepped over or around the recumbent men, but a few trod on them, very deliberately. One spat in Bart Furlong’s face.
    Walt waited until all the customers had left, then looked at Rosa. “I don’t want them to remember anything about us, or even how they got hurt tonight. Can you fix that?”
    She gazed at him expressionlessly. “I don’t know what you mean, señor.”
    “Oh, come on, Rosa! I’m sure you’ve had to deal with rowdy drunks before. Don’t tell me someone in your line of work doesn’t have a bottle of chloral hydrate stashed behind the bar!”
    She nodded slowly. “Yes, I have.”
    “Then put a good dose of it in two glasses of tequila – not too much, mind; we don’t want to kill them – an’ make ’em drink it. Hold their noses until their mouths open, then pour it into them, bit by bit. Make sure they swallow it. That’ll knock ’em out for the rest of the night. Once they’ve drunk it, dump ’em down by the creek. It’s warm enough that they should be all right there overnight. They won’t remember much when they wake up in the morning.”
    “I would rather dump them in the creek, señor – face down. I would prefer that they don’t wake up at all.”
    Walt shook his head. “Too risky. Even if your customers don’t talk, someone may have seen them come in here.”
    “I suppose you are right,” she sighed.
    “I am. Besides,” and he grinned nastily, “I’d like them to live a while longer, to savor the misfortune that befell them tonight.”
    “You mean, being knocked out like this?”
    “No, I mean the fire that burned their place to the ground.”
    “What fire – oh!” Her eyes sparkled with sudden, savage glee.
    “That’s right. If this is Bart Furlong an’ his son, a bunch of his boys stole some of my horses the other night, an’ killed one of my men. They didn’t know who I was, or they wouldn’t have done that. They won’t be doing it again. I came up here to find out who gave the orders. I reckon he needs to be taught a lesson, and I know just how to drive it home.”
    “What if he finds out who you are, señor? He is a bad enemy.”
    “So am I, Rosa. I can be the best friend you’ll ever have, or your worst nightmare. Take your pick. Furlong’s already made his choice, by what he did.”
    “You know… I think I believe you, señor,” she murmured, staring at him intently.
    “Keep an eye on him. If he finds out who I am, or he’s fixin’ to try to get even with me, warn me. Send a letter or a rider if you have time; if you don’t, send a telegraph message sayin’ that Pedro is comin’ down the mountain to see me. I’ll know what it means.”
    “I will do that, señor, and I will ask others to tell me if they hear anything.”
    Walt took out his notebook, scribbled a few lines, tore out the page, and handed it to Rosa. “You can reach me there.” He took a coin purse from his pocket, extracted five double eagles, and laid them on the bar counter. The bartender’s eyes, and those of the four women waiting on tables, bugged out at the sight of the gold. “This is to make up for the trade you lost tonight, and for your trouble. Keep me informed of anything I need to know, and there’ll be more where that came from.”
    She scooped up the money. “You are very generous, señor.” Her eyes and voice turned coy. “Will you come back tonight? We have reason to be grateful to you; and for a man who pays so well, many pleasures can be arranged – for his friend, too.” She glanced at Isom.
    He laughed. “No, we’ll head out after we pay a visit to Mr. Furlong’s place. How do I get there?” Rosa gave rapid directions. “Thanks. Look after those two for me – and don’t hurt ’em more than they are already. You don’t want ’em lookin’ for evens with you, too.”
    “We will be careful, señor. Thank you.”
    “Thank you, Rosa. If you need anything shipped up from Pueblo, remember, my freight business will haul it for you at good rates.”
    “I will use your services, señor, and tell others about them. It will be a good way to get regular messages to you.”
    “Yes, it will.” Walt turned to Isom. “Come on, let’s get our gear and collect the horses.”

That's very much a first draft, unedited and unimproved.  I'm sure it'll be polished under the guidance of Castalia House before publication.

I'm having a lot of fun writing this book.  I hope you'll enjoy it too.


Top-down versus bottom-up - how President Trump won the election

An article in the Daily Beast gave me pause for thought.

It is difficult to overstate just how enraged state Democratic activists and leaders are with Organizing for Action (OFA), the political and community-organizing army that grew out of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

The nonprofit, which functions as a sort of parallel-Democratic National Committee, was founded to mobilize Democratic voters and supporters in defense of President Obama’s, and the Democratic Party’s, agenda. Instead, the organization has drawn the intense ire, both public and private, of grassroots organizers and state parties that are convinced that OFA inadvertently helped decimate Democrats at the state and local level, while Republicans cemented historic levels of power and Donald J. Trump actually became leader of the free world.

These intra-party tensions aren’t going away, especially now that OFA “relaunched” itself last week to protect the Affordable Care Act, boost turnout at congressional townhalls, and train grassroots organizers gearing up for the Trump era.

“This is some GRADE A Bullshit right here,” Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, wrote in a private Democratic-listserv email obtained by The Daily Beast.

. . .

The decimation of the Democratic Party during, and leading up to, the Age of Trump is not, however, any single organization’s fault. The DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign raised many times more money than OFA for the 2016 cycle, and that didn’t stop President Trump, either.

To the defeated and angry liberal activists and operatives, OFA is just one of several “devils”—one that is emblematic of large-scale institutional problems.

“We’ve seen over the last eight-plus years a deterioration of permanent state infrastructure,” one red-state Democratic operative, who requested anonymity, said. “And OFA built an alternative infrastructure that was very top-down. OFA’s actions were wasteful, duplicative, and it made no sense… There were these tensions on the ground that we saw that all over the country. Local officials felt tossed aside. A lot of these red states were abandoned. The OFA model was never a 50-state strategy—it was about the president’s agenda.”

. . .

“I don’t know what the mission is with the new OFA, what the purpose is supposed to be,” Jaime Harrison told The Daily Beast. “There are a lot of these various [outside] groups… and if having all these other groups means diminishing the impact of state parties, that’s where I have a problem. We need to figure out the best path forward. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean a world without OFA, but… we have to focus on rebuilding the party across the board, not just focusing on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

There's more at the link.

When you think about it, that's the opposite of how President Trump won the 2016 elections.  He didn't have a top-down structure at all - in fact, he defeated every candidate put up by the Republican Party's top-down structure.  He mobilized the grass-roots, the 'forgotten people' that both political parties ignored.  He's still doing that.  If you look at the opinion polls, for all that the press and the 'establishment' fulminate against him, try to undermine him, and seek to put obstacles in his path at every turn, he maintains a better-than-50% approval rating.  That's because the grass-roots know that he came out of their ranks, with their votes;  and he's cemented their loyalty by doing, in his first few weeks in office, precisely what he promised them he'd do.

Indeed, the efforts by the 'establishment' to stop the President's program in its tracks, and overturn his executive actions, are merely confirming to the grass-roots why they voted for him.  He's doing what they want.  The 'establishment' is trying to stop it.  Therefore, the 'establishment' is against the grass-roots, and must be destroyed.  That's their mood right now, and that's why they're not being turned off by the deluge of negative propaganda in which the 'establishment' is seeking to drown President Trump.

If the Democratic Party wants to regain the White House - much less the House and Senate - it had better wake up and smell the grass-roots coffee.  It's already lost a lot of support from union households, a foundational element of its constituency.  As Mark McDermott (himself a Democrat) put it, 'The Democratic Party is losing the working class'.  If that takes root, it'll be out of power for generations.

Top-down just won't cut it with the grass-roots or the working class.  It has to be bottom-up . . . or you'll forfeit their support.  OFA - a top-down organization if ever there was one - hasn't figured that out yet.


Friday, February 17, 2017


A tip o' the hat to SayUncle for finding this gem.

Boys and their toys, indeed!


Doofus Of The Day #950

Today's award goes to the members of the House of Clergy of the Church of England.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link.

THE Church of England’s crucial vote on gay marriage has been thrown into chaos after some clergy claimed they “got confused” and “pressed the wrong button”.

The Church’s legislative body voted last night against a report that calls for continued opposition to same-sex marriage.

. . .

Now some clergy have come forward saying they made a mistake when using their voting machines, and that they actually supported their colleagues’ report.

. . .

Other members said that they had voted the wrong way because they thought they were voting on a point of procedure.

There's more at the link.

I tend to take such excuses with a grain (or, in this case, a whole damn shaker) of salt.  I think they voted because they're liberals at heart, and now they're trying to appease the more conservative members of the Church.

Regardless, the House of Clergy just voted against the traditional, Biblical perspective on marriage.  If that can be taken as representative, methinks the Church of England is well on its way to becoming just another reflection of secular society, which doesn't seem to believe in anything except "If it feels good, do it!"


Twitter is becoming an 'Orwellian nightmare'

Forbes has a worthwhile analysis of Twitter's latest moves towards open, outright censorship of its users.

Earlier this morning social media and the tech press lit up with reports of users across Twitter receiving half day suspensions en masse as the platform abruptly rolled out its decade-overdue  hate speech filter to its platform. The company has refused to provide details on specifically how the new system works, but using a combination of behavioral and keyword indicators, the filter flags posts it deems to be violations of Twitter’s acceptable speech policy and issues users suspensions of half a day during which they cannot post new tweets and their existing tweets are visible only to followers. From the platform that once called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” these new tools mark an incredible turn of events for the company that just two years ago famously wrote Congress to say it would do everything in its power to uphold the right of terrorists to post freely to its platform. What does Twitter’s new interest in hate speech tell us about the future of free speech online?

. . .

The question of censoring speech versus ideas is not an idle one ... the mere possibility ... is absolutely frightening from the standpoint of freedom of expression in the United States. Here in the US it has been a long-standing tradition that any citizen may criticize their elected officials even in strong terms without the risk of being silenced. Even legal concepts like libel make special accommodation for accusations against public figures like politicians that bear on their official duties. However, in some countries criticism of the government is actually illegal and can result in harsh prison sentences even for a first offense.

If Twitter really did suspend a user for criticizing a politician and exercising his free speech rights to argue that he believes that that politician broke the law, that presents a truly frightening dystopian 1984 world in which criticism of the state could be simply wiped from existence. Imagine anyone who posted any comments critical of an elected official being suspended from Twitter and potentially banned outright with all their posts deleted. It is not hard to imagine governments throughout the world exploring how they, too, could force Twitter to eliminate critical speech and given that Twitter now has a production deployed tool, it can no longer argue that adding such filters would pose insurmountable technical challenges.

In short, while better than previous efforts, the way in which Twitter has rolled out this new system and the potential for its abuse by governments, companies and others to stifle legitimate criticism has opened Pandora’s box and moved us a giant leap towards the end of free speech just when we need it more than ever.

There's more at the link.

I note that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, is the same individual who spoke of observing, among his company's users, "A lot of the same patterns we’ve seen during the Iranian Green Revolution and the Arab Spring".  He's an out-and-out opponent of President Trump and anything other than progressive, far-left-wing political causes.  Last year he appointed a 'Trust and Safety Council', almost exclusively made up of progressive fellow-travelers, to help "ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter".  The actions of that council have done nothing to inspire confidence that free speech is their goal.  Indeed, one critic has gone so far as to call it an 'Orwellian nightmare'.

What's striking isn't just that there may be a political bias in those decisions. The more serious problems are a lack of due process and explanation, and a striking imbalance between what happens to semi-prominent Twitter personalities and the countless run-of-the-mill Twitter trolls who are still at large ... The Trust and Safety Council can't actually protect users from abuse; its only power is stop controversial users from issuing controversial opinions on Twitter.

It appears Twitter supports free speech from only the left side of the political, social and cultural aisle.  Centrists are, at best, tolerated.  Those to the right are 'throttled', 'shadowbanned', censored, or kicked off Twitter altogether.  One report claimed:

Twitter maintains a ‘whitelist’ of favoured Twitter accounts and a ‘blacklist’ of unfavoured accounts. Accounts on the whitelist are prioritised in search results, even if they’re not the most popular among users. Meanwhile, accounts on the blacklist have their posts hidden from both search results and other users’ timelines.

Our source was backed up by a senior editor at a major digital publisher, who told Breitbart that Twitter told him it deliberately whitelists and blacklists users. He added that he was afraid of the site’s power, noting that his tweets could disappear from users’ timelines if he got on the wrong side of the company.

Again, more at the link.

Twitter may claim that it isn't bound by the First Amendment, because it's a private corporation, not a government entity.  In that it is, of course, quite correct.  Nevertheless, its actions demonstrate that it is not only not bound by the First Amendment, but that it holds it in contempt.  It openly boasts about its efforts to stifle free speech under the guise of taking action against 'abuse and harassment'.  Those efforts are clearly and visibly applied, for all the world to see, against only one side of the political spectrum.  As far as Twitter is concerned, it appears that abuse and harassment, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder - namely, the company itself.  Truth and objectivity are irrelevant.

That's why I won't use Twitter.  I regard the company as completely untrustworthy.  I've switched to the new startup Gab instead, which emphasizes free speech at all costs, eschewing censorship as a corporation and leaving it up to individual users to self-censor what they would, or would not, like to see.  Furthermore, the company openly undertakes to never censor any speech except "illegal activity, spam and abuse", which are clearly and openly defined for all the world to see.  There are no 'secret clauses' or gotchas.  That's the way it should be, IMHO.


(P.S.:  If you're on Gab, follow me at @PeterG.)