Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday morning music

Friends in Colorado are vocally unhappy at being dumped on by an April snowstorm.  To comfort them, here's Flanders and Swann, a British comedy duo from the 1950's and '60's, with their Song of the Weather.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Beware mothers of new-born babies . . .

. . . because they can be very protective, as this veterinary surgeon found out.



It's a self-correcting problem

I note that the use of illegal drugs has become more hazardous with the addition of elephant tranquilizer.

A substance used to tranquilize elephants that is 100 times more potent than the drug that killed Prince is presenting a new and difficult challenge in the nationwide opioid epidemic.

The exotic and toxic sedative named carfentanil has been linked in recent weeks to fatal overdoses in Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

. . .

The difficult-to-detect substance is so powerful that an amount equivalent to a few grains of salt can be deadly. It requires more aggressive treatment than a typical opiate overdose to reverse. First responders are getting burned out answering back-to-back overdose calls rising because of carfentanil and other synthetic opioids, and they worry about falling ill after exposure while answering calls.

The drug is so new that some medical examiners don't have the tools to detect it in autopsies.

"It shows how callous these drug dealers are," Synan said. "It has no human use whatsoever, and they're putting it out on the street and wreaking havoc."

. . .

All of the zookeepers and vets in the United States combined need only about 18 grams of carfentanil a year, about the weight of 18 artificial sweetener packets, Patterson said. "If they don't need very much of it to use on an annual basis to tranquilize big, large animals, then we humans don't stand up at all," Patterson said.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading if you're the parent of teens or other young people at risk.

The thing is, drug addiction can only be solved by the addicts themselves - or potential addicts.  I was addicted to nicotine, in the form of cigarettes, for many years.  I had to decide for myself to stop smoking.  It offered sufficient pleasure that only something better could have persuaded me to quit.  What did it for me was meeting my future wife.  She made it clear that she wouldn't marry me if I continued smoking.  I had to make a choice;  cancer sticks, or her.  I chose her, and I've been very happy with the results.

Those addicted to illicit narcotics have to come to the same place.  They have to decide that something - life itself, or a partner, or a job, or whatever - is better, and more important to them, than their addiction.  Persuasion, courses, propaganda . . . none of them will work without that elementary, life-changing decision on the part of the addict.  I fear that with the advent of carfentanil, many of them won't have time to make it before the consequences of their addiction catch up with them . . . but it's their choice, no-one else's.  Those knocking themselves out to save them from the consequences of their choice need to bear that in mind.  Death is just as much a correction to the problem of addiction as is deciding to stop.


Friday, April 28, 2017

A big "Thumbs Up" for a useful range of tools

I don't often recommend particular manufacturers, or brands, or models of tools, equipment, etc.  When I do, it's never because I've been asked to do so, but because I've tried them myself, and found them worth having.  I do so because I reckon my friends and readers would like to know about something that can be honestly recommended, without bias or ulterior motive.

In that light, I think it's time to give a big shout-out to Black & Decker's 20V range of handyman's tools and hand-held appliances.  I've been undertaking a fair amount of work in our Texas home, into which we moved just over a year ago, and my older nickel-cadmium battery-powered tools simply weren't up to it any longer.  The batteries would no longer hold a charge for very long, and some of the tools were big and clunky by modern standards - not surprising, really, since they were more than a decade old, and there's been a lot of progress since then.

I shopped around online and in local hardware and home improvement stores, but I wasn't impressed by the prices demanded for 'big-name' brands such as DeWalt, Makita, etc.  Miss D. and I aren't poor, but we're not rich either.  We live relatively frugally, and try to spend our money wisely.  I really couldn't see spending close to $1,000 on the tools I needed.

In thinking about alternatives, I noticed that Joel has had good things to say about his Black & Decker 20V drill/driver, and has added to his arsenal a reciprocating saw and a chainsaw using the same batteries.  He found that the reciprocating saw went through batteries at a brisk rate, but that's not surprising - those things chew power - and it's not necessarily a disadvantage if one has spare batteries.  Comparing the prices of the B&D range of tools to their major competitors, they were usually significantly cheaper, and I know Joel gives his tools a good workout:  so I took the plunge.

I bought this drill/driver and this sweeper/leaf blower to start with, planning to get more tools as I went along.  They proved very useful, particularly the drill/driver, which is lightweight, yet powerful enough to get some pretty big jobs out of the way.  (For example, I was able to drive 6" screws through 4x4 uprights into plugs in brickwork without trouble, something that had been hard work for my old drill/driver unit.)

The standard batteries had a charge life adequate for my needs, but in case I need to use them for extended periods, I've bought a 2-pack of replacement batteries and a high-speed charger.  I've since added a small chainsaw to my Black & Decker arsenal.

In general, I've been very impressed by all these tools.  They appear to be more than adequate for home handyman use, and get the job done to my satisfaction.  Over the course of the next few months, as funds allow, I'm going to add a garden cultivator/tiller, a reciprocating saw and a string trimmer/edger to our collection, all using the same batteries we already have.  Given that both Miss D. and myself have physical limitations, their light weight and good ergonomics should prove very useful to both of us.

In short, a highly satisfied "Thumbs Up" to the Black & Decker 20V range.  For domestic and handyman use, it seems to offer very good value for money.  Recommended.

(No, I haven't been offered anything, in cash or in kind, to recommend B&D.  I bought and paid for all the tools I've mentioned with my own money.  I just like to share a good thing, when I find one, with my readers and friends.)


Doofus Of The Day #957

Today's award goes to a hapless addict in Ohio.

Police say an Ohio man called 911 to request a police dog to help track down heroin allegedly stolen from him.

. . .

When the call operator asks why the caller needs a police dog, he replies that a female stole heroin from him.

Bath Police Chief Mike McNeely says it’s among the most bizarre things he’s heard in four decades of policing.

There's more at the link.

The same individual is accused of peeing on a police officer at Disney World in Florida last January.  I guess it goes to show . . . do enough drugs, and you can't think or act straight any longer, even when you're not high.  I saw that often enough in my work as a prison chaplain.  Those who'd consumed enough cocaine, or PCP, or other nasty stuff, never got over it.  Their brains were more or less fried for the rest of their lives.  In this case, a young man appears to have become a perpetual doofus as a result . . .


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Blunt truths about the border wall

Ann Coulter brings the smackdown.

No politician wants to have to explain a vote against the wall. What the Democrats want is for Trump to be stuck explaining why he didn't build the wall.

Then it will be a bloodbath. Not only Trump, but also the entire GOP, is dead if he doesn't build a wall. Republicans will be wiped out in the midterms, Democrats will have a 300-seat House majority, and Trump will have to come up with an excuse for why he's not running for re-election.

The New York Times and MSNBC are not going to say, "We are so impressed with his growth in office, we're going to drop all that nonsense about Russia and endorse the Republican ticket!"

No, at that point, Trump will be the worst of everything.

No one voted for Trump because of the "Access Hollywood" tape. They voted for him because of his issues; most prominently, his promise to build "a big beautiful wall." And who's going to pay for it? MEXICO!

You can't say that at every campaign rally for 18 months and then not build a wall.

. . .

He's the commander in chief! He said he'd build a wall. If he can't do that, Trump is finished, the Republican Party is finished, and the country is finished.

There's more at the link.

I think Ms. Coulter is right.  Above all else, President Trump's base wants the wall.  Heck, I'm not part of his base, and I want the wall!  Illegal immigration is destroying the rule of law in the USA.  It's the single most important issue requiring a solution if the rule of law is to be restored.  The solution will include the problems of sanctuary cities, employers hiring illegal alien labor, etc. - but it starts and ends with controlling the border, and preventing the massive influx that peaked under President Obama.

President Trump, stop shilly-shallying.  To hell with politics as usual.  Build the damned wall!


Quote of the day

From Kurt Schlichter, who addresses the politically correct:

And then there is the systemic hate for my rigidly male monosexual identification and my pronounced pro-chick agenda. Too often those of you who are genderfluid deny the identity of those of us who are gendersolid.

Finally, it is time to reject society’s paradigm of unphallused privilege. This bias results in interlocking systems of domination that produce the conditions under which oppressed peoples like me are forced to live, and usually manifests in me getting called whenever someone needs help lifting something heavy.

Those of us who wield a penis demand that you cease your dehumanizing unmale gaze and validate the manly values that stand firm against your anti-testicular hegemony.

There's more at the link.

Word!  Preach it, brother!


Echoes of the 2007-08 financial crisis?

Remember the subprime mortgage bubble in the US in the early years of this century?  It led directly to the 2007-08 financial crisis, the echoes of which are still with us today.  It looks as if one of Canada's major mortgage lenders is rediscovering the implications of that bubble.

Home Capital Group Inc.’s shares plunged more than 60 percent after the mortgage lender disclosed a costly new loan to tide it over as its deposits dwindle, intensifying a spiral of bad news for the company.

. . .

“They did what appears to be to us a very expensive deal,” said David Baskin, president and founder of Baskin Wealth Management in Toronto, a former investor in Home Capital stock. “Basically they blew up the income statement in order to save the balance sheet, which I guess if you’re facing an existential crisis is what you have to do.”

Ontario’s securities regulator last week accused the company of misleading investors and breaking securities laws. On Wednesday, Home Capital shares dropped as much as 64 percent in Toronto to C$6.11, their lowest since 2003 after their biggest ever one-day drop. Other home lenders’ shares declined as well, with Equitable Group Inc. falling 32 percent, Street Capital Group Inc. down 7.5 percent, and First National Financial Corp., 8.5 percent.

Home Capital’s troubles come as housing prices have jumped in Canada. In Toronto, home affordability reached its worst level since 1990 at the end of 2016, according to a report from Royal Bank of Canada.

There's more at the link.

Yes, I know, it's Canada;  but that country's economy is a microcosm of the US market.  Anything that happens there is very likely to be reflected in our own economy, and vice versa.  As Zero Hedge points out, Canada's entire wildly-inflated mortgage market is reeling under the shock of Home Capital Group's crisis.

It's precisely that sort of financial shock that preceded - and precipitated - the US financial crisis, a decade ago.  The subprime mortgage crisis led directly, and very quickly, to a banking crisis - remember the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy?

This situation will bear watching.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A builder's boo-boo turns into a great opportunity

A couple of weeks ago we hired a local builder to improve the drainage on our property.  He extended the gutters on each side of the house, dug a trench for a drainage pipe to the bottom of our property, and set a grate up at the start of the trench to capture drainage from downpipes.  It's worked pretty well, so far.

On Monday I was surprised when our doorbell rang.  It turned out to be the owner of the property behind ours, which is part of an empty stretch of land running behind four houses on our street, with no buildings on it (it's too small to build on - it's basically wide enough to serve as a two-lane road, but no more).  He complained that our builder had extended the drainage pipe beyond the boundary, a good ten feet or so on his side of the dividing line.  I checked, and he was right - something the builder hadn't told me.  I apologized, of course, and promised to put the matter to rights;  to which he responded, "Sure - or you can just buy the property, if you want."

My ears pricked up at that.  One minor drawback of our home is that the back garden is relatively small.  That had helped us to buy it at a very good price, but even so, it would be nice to have more space to erect a patio and gazebo in due course, and some raised beds for vegetable gardening.  (It would also be nice to have an enclosed back garden big enough to keep a dog.)  After a bit of negotiation, the owner has agreed to sell us the part of his land behind our house at a very good price indeed - so good that we can't afford not to buy it!  It'll raise the value of our property by far more than we'll pay to buy it.  We'll keep it under a separate title until our house is paid for, after which we'll amalgamate the deeds into a single property.

So, a builder's error has turned into a golden opportunity for us.  Someone up there must like us . . .


Doofus Of The Day #956

Today's award goes to two idiotic turkey hunters in Kansas.

A hunter who believed he had taken down a pair of turkeys set out to find the birds, only to discover his brother and friend wounded on the ground. Kenneth Dienst, who was out hunting with the victims on the opening day of turkey season in Kansas, accidentally shot the pair after mistaking their disguises for real birds.

The victims, identified as Gary Dienst and Justin Wiles, had been hiding behind preserved turkey tail fans, meant to act as a decoy to attract other birds ... the two victims returned to where Diesnt was hunting without notifying him.

There's more at the link.

Of all the dumbass things to do, returning to where you know another hunter is waiting, whilst waving turkey feathers in front of your face as a disguise and making turkey calls, has to be right up there on the list!  At least their injuries weren't too serious - they were able to walk back to their vehicles.


Political correctness might get you killed

I note with displeasure that a very accurate study of radical Islamic influence in the USA - specifically, in New York City - has become yet another victim of political correctness.

The NYPD has ... censored an anti-terror handbook to appease offended Muslims, even though it has accurately predicted radicalization patterns in recent “homegrown” terror cases. Rank-and-file NYPD officers, detectives and even intelligence and counterterrorism units are officially barred now from referring to the handbook or the scientific study on which it was based.

Former law-enforcement officials fear its removal as a training tool may be hurting efforts to prevent terrorist activity, such as the vehicle-ramming attacks plaguing European cities.

“The report was extremely accurate on how the radicalization process works and what indicators to look for,” said Patrick Dunleavy, former deputy inspector general of the New York state prisons’ criminal-intelligence division, who also worked with the NYPD’s intelligence division for several years.

Mayor de Blasio agreed in January 2016 to purge the remarkably prescient police training guide “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat” to help settle a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Muslim groups who claimed the NYPD’s anti-terror training discriminated against Muslims.

Written 10 years ago, the seminal NYPD report detailing the religious steps homegrown terrorists take toward radicalization is now more relevant than ever, with recent terror suspects closely following those steps. But in 2007, the same year the study was released, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) organized a protest against it, complaining it “casts suspicion on all US Muslims.” Even though federal law enforcement has long-shunned CAIR as a suspected terrorist front organization, “groups like CAIR were insistent on having it removed, and de Blasio caved into them,” Dunleavy said.

Under the city’s unusual settlement agreement, the NYPD as well as New York state agencies were forced to remove its 90-page anti-terror study — described by plaintiffs as “deeply flawed” and “inflammatory” — from databases and no longer rely on it “to open or extend investigations” into terrorist activities. Also, police must now commit to “mitigating the potential impact” of any counterterrorism investigation on the Muslim community.

. . .

“The bad guys know if police don’t know this stuff at the ground level, they win,” added [former FBI Agent John] Guandolo.

There's more at the link.

The report is still available online from various sources - for example, here, or here, or here.  If you haven't read it, I urge you to download a copy and do so.  It's very informative.

I can confirm many of the report's findings from my own experience, which is extensive.  It ranges from encounters (some of them armed) with mujahedin returning from Afghanistan, to organizations they founded or radicalized in South Africa such as Qibla and PAGAD, to contact with fundamentalist Islamists in US prisons when I served as a chaplain.  You can take the report as gospel.  It's that good.  (In my opinion, it says a great deal about CAIR that it vehemently opposed the report from the start.  Draw your own conclusions.)

When police departments and sheriffs' offices can't train their people about how Islamic fundamentalist terrorism obtains and radicalizes its recruits, those agencies can't function effectively in their communities to combat terrorism.  This politically correct nonsense can - and probably will - get people killed in due course.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Donors supporting Antifa?

A tweet from Jack Posobiec provides this list of donors allegedly supporting UEAA (United for Equality and Affirmative Action) and the Antifa-supporting group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary).  Click the image for a larger view.

Obviously, this is from a partisan source;  and clearly, I'm not in a position to confirm that the names on the list are actually supporters of the causes and groups named above.  If anyone can do the latter in Comments, providing sources, please do so.

Nevertheless, the names of a lot of the 'usual suspects' appear on the list.  I suggest that those of us with our heads screwed on straight should take them into account when we decide where to send our own support (not to mention who to believe about the current political mess in this country).


Motorcycle maintenance attains nirvana?

Robert M. Pirsig, author of the 1974 cult classic book 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', has died.

The New York Post reports:

In the nearly five years it took Robert Pirsig to sell “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” 121 publishers rejected the rambling novel.

The 122nd gently warned Pirsig, a former rhetoric professor who had a job writing technical manuals, not to expect more than his $3,000 advance.

“The book is not, as I think you now realize from your correspondence with other publishers, a marketing man’s dream,” the editor at William Morrow wrote in a congratulatory note before its 1974 publication.

He was wrong. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values” sold 50,000 copies in three months and more than 5 million in the decades since. The dense tome has been translated into at least 27 languages. A reviewer for the New Yorker likened its author to Herman Melville. Its popularity made Pirsig “probably the most widely read philosopher alive,” a British journalist wrote in 2006.

There's more at the link.

Philosophy has often been derided as a dry-as-dust academic-only pursuit, but Pirsig popularized the field (and the Zen Buddhist religion) in this book.  It's had a lasting impact on US culture, and around the world as well.

May he rest in peace.


"A day without coal" in Britain?

It's claimed the first "coal-free" day was achieved in the UK recently.

The National Grid has announced Britain’s first full day without coal power “since the Industrial Revolution”.

A combination of low demand for electricity and an abundance of wind meant the grid completed 24 hours relying on just gas, nuclear and renewables.

Engineers at the company said Friday marked a “historic” milestone in Britain’s shift away from carbon fuels, and that coal-free days would become increasingly common.

Use of the fossil fuel has significantly declined in recent years, accounting for just 9 per cent of electricity generation last year, down from 23 per cent in 2015, with the closure or conversion of coal plants.

The Government has pledged to phase out coal - the most polluting fossil fuel - from the system by 2025 as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions in the UK.

There's more at the link.

That's all very well . . . but it relies heavily on the right weather conditions to produce enough solar and wind power to make up for what coal-fired stations would have produced.  It also relies on having enough nuclear power stations available to generate what's needed.  With older British nuclear power stations being closed, that won't be the case for much longer - at least, not in the numbers needed.

I'll be watching this with interest.  "Coal-free" days may be a Green's nirvana, but I suspect they won't be as practical as they hope.


Monday, April 24, 2017

How do you defend yourself against this?

I'm sure that by now, most of my readers have seen news reports about a gang of 40-60 'youths' who took over a commuter train in Oakland, California last weekend, and robbed dozens of passengers.  If you haven't, please follow that link to learn more, then come back here.

As I pointed out on two occasions in 2014, even if you successfully defend yourself against such criminal 'flash mob' attacks, you still can't win.  You'll be pilloried by the press, excoriated by politically correct commentators, and in certain parts of the country (e.g. Baltimore, etc.) have to deal with politicians and prosecutors who are first and foremost political creatures, pandering to those who elected them.  Here's a hint:  that wasn't you.  It was the people who form those 'flash mobs' in the first place.

In a situation where you're armed with a typical concealed handgun, usually small and with limited ammunition capacity, you may not be able to prevail against so many attackers anyway - particularly if some of them are armed as well.  Even if you succeed, you run the risk that some of your bullets may miss their intended target, or over-penetrate it, and strike innocent bystanders.  Finally, there's the aftermath to consider.  It may be better, no matter how unpalatable, to hide your handgun and submit to robbery, rather than fight back - even if that grates with the macho element among us.

In March 2014, referring to criminal attacks in Louisville, KY, I pointed out:

What's worse is, even if you're aware of the potential danger and have armed yourself as a precaution against it, this is a fight you simply can't win. If you survive and prevail on the street, you'll be crucified in the court of public opinion - and you can bet that race-baiting agitators would make sure you'll be prosecuted for defending yourself, too. Just imagine the sensation-seeking newspaper headlines by liberal or progressive reporters and editors, who will try to obscure the truth of what happened:

     "Panicked bystander turns gun on teenage boys"
     "Children massacred in tourist mecca"
     "Man guns down youths in crowded plaza"

Like I said . . . you can't win, even if you survive. Note what happened to the old man who defended himself with a knife when attacked in Louisville (described in the linked article above - the incident which appears to have sparked last weekend's violence). The police immediately arrested and jailed him. The grand jury no-billed him when they saw the security video, and he's since been released . . . but until that happened, he was locked up among all sorts of criminals and gang-bangers. Now imagine yourself in his shoes. You've successfully defended yourself against a criminal flash mob. Now you're locked up among thugs and criminals who probably knew some of those you've just shot, and who are likely to be looking to avenge them. Are you sure you'll survive long enough to be exonerated? I'm not! The cops are highly unlikely to give you a secure cell to yourself. You'll be on your own, surrounded by those who, at best, have no reason to love you. Good luck, friend . . . you're going to need it!

There's more at the link.

Public transport is likely to become more and more infested by such vermin, particularly because the authorities are all too often reluctant to offend potential voters on whose support they rely for their well-paid positions.  In some cities, notably Chicago but including others too, gangs openly barter their support and ability to get out the vote in exchange for political favors.

We have to ask ourselves;  is it worthwhile becoming the next Bernhard Goetz?  Is it worthwhile becoming the next George Zimmerman?  If we defend ourselves using lethal force against an attack such as that on the train in Oakland . . . we're probably going to find out the hard way.

My take on the problem:  don't use public transport unless you have no other choice - and if that's the case, be hyper-alert for trouble, and ready to remove yourself from the scene of conflict if at all possible.  Don't let the scum of society suck you into the morass of politically correct retaliation.


Another reason to avoid flying, if possible

There are well-grounded fears that some of Venezuela's latest-generation man-portable surface-to-air missiles might get into the wrong hands.

The Venezuelan government’s decision to arm civilians to defend the country’s socialist revolution amid growing unrest is rekindling fears of terrorists and criminal organizations acquiring part of the nation’s arsenal, which include a large stockpile of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles.

. . .

According to internal military documents obtained by el Nuevo Herald, over a number of years Venezuela has purchased several hundreds of the latest variant of the land-to-air missiles Igla-S, the Russian equivalent of the U.S.-made Stinger missile.

Caracas’ possession of the portable, infrared-homing Igla-S has been a source of concern in the U.S. for some time, given the socialist regime’s cozy relationship with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, groups classified as terrorist organizations by the U.S.

Those concerns had previously taken a back seat given repeated Russian assurances that those weapons would not fall into the wrong hands, according to State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks.

But Maduro renewed those fears last week after green-lighting the Zamora Plan — a readiness operation that calls for the activation of militias when facing an imminent threat of war — after thousands took to the streets in Venezuela to protest while accusing the Chavista leader of executing a self-coup.

The signing of the Zamora Plan gave the legal grounds to enact Maduro’s previous announcement that he would give rifles to 400,000 militias to protect his government from a coup that he said was planned in Washington.

The prospect of rogue groups obtaining the Igla-S is particularly frightening given its small size and effectiveness. Weighting only 24 pounds, the tube-like launcher could be relatively easy to smuggle across borders, and its 2.5 kilogram warhead can shoot down an airplane or helicopter from 3.7 miles away.

There's more at the link.

The Igla-S is far more advanced than the original Stinger missile, which dates back to the early 1980's.  The original Igla (known as the SA-16) is of similar vintage and performance to the US weapon;  I had the opportunity to compare them side by side in Angola during the mid to late 1980's.  However, it's been drastically improved - so much so that in its latest SA-24 guise, it's a brand new weapon.  It's probably the most advanced missile of its kind in the world.

With Hezbollah active in the Tri-Border area of South America, and also in Mexico, where it's cooperating with drug cartels, there's a real danger that these missiles might find their way northwards.  Couple that with Venezuela having supplied thousands of passports to potential Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Syria and elsewhere, and we may have a security nightmare on our hands.

I think I'll be driving to future destinations, as much as possible.  I also predict that videoconferencing will probably replace a great deal of business travel, for security reasons.


Big or small, they're still cats

Observe the hunting behavior.

Yep. Cats. No matter what their size or species, they're the same inside . . . and the big ones will scare you to death!  Ask any old Africa hand about lions and leopards, or any Indian about tigers.  To them, we're the equivalent of mice.


Says it all, doesn't it?

With Berkeley's dismal recent record over free speech in mind, I couldn't help a cynical smile when I received this image via e-mail (origin unknown).

Yep. That's about it.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday morning music

I think it's time for a little classical music.  How about Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto?  This performance is by Sayaka Shoji, performing last year during the international music festival, "Stars on the Baikal", held in Irkutsk, Russia.  The Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.

Ms. Shoji plays a Stradivarius violin made in 1729.  I chose this recording because the video shows her technique very well, and provides close-up views of the instrument.  (She also performs a short, quirky encore after the concerto, which I found amusing.)

I've never had the privilege of seeing Ms. Shoji perform in person, but if I ever get the chance, I'll be there.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Learning from ancient history

Last month, Cdr. Salamander put up a very interesting video of a talk by Prof. Eric Cline, titled '1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed'.  Before embedding it, he had this to say.

Few things seem as frightening, or as unrealistic to those living in the "now," as systemic societal collapse. Not just of your country, but of the entire global system. All the zombie books, movies, and stories derive from that concern in the back of everyone's mind; an almost genetic memory. It should be, as almost complete collapse has been a regular occurrence throughout human history.

Sure, when you bring up the topic, most will think of the fall of Rome, but that was just one recent example in a long series of diverse, complicated, and relatively advanced civilizations that collapsed over the course of thousands of years on every continent but Antarctica - and at least for now - Australia.

I find this topic fascinating because there is always a collapse in the making small, and perhaps even large. They are decades, and more often than not centuries, in the making. Sometimes it is the collapse of a single nation, but often it is something much greater. Unless you believe that you are living in a unique moment in human history that has brought a halt to all the normal ebb and flow of our existence, you have to ask yourself, when is the next collapse?

Will it be small and localized somewhere else, or a cascading global collapse driven by its own inertia and logic?

Is it in 10 years? 100? Are we going to be lucky and have another 500 yrs to so to go? Or, are you living right in the middle of one yet, being part of it, don't have the perspective to see what is going on?

All these things came to mind again while watching the below video from Eric Cline, PhD, professor at George Washington University in DC, and author of a book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

The video's over an hour long, but it's very interesting for anyone with a sense of history and a willingness to learn.  I strongly recommend that you take the time to watch it.  You'll learn a lot.

Thought-provoking indeed . . .


A potent reminder of why you should keep cash on hand

The power failure yesterday in San Francisco demonstrated, yet again, that cash is still essential.

Johnny Sadoon, owner of Sutter Fine Foods on Nob Hill, sat against a register eating vanilla ice cream from a Häagen-Dazs carton. He figured he had but a few hours before he should start to worry about the food going bad and the ice cream melting in the freezers.

He had kept the store open despite the blackout and a few customers perused the darkened aisles, but because the credit card machine doesn’t work without power, sales were few and far between.

“No one pays cash anymore,” he said, spoon in hand as a siren wailed outside. “I’m angry. I’m annoyed.”

There's more at the link.

I can already hear some readers scoffing that a short-term power failure like that is nothing to worry about, and no reason to increase their cash reserves at home . . . but what if it isn't short-term?  The Pentagon appears to be thinking about that already.

Amid warnings that North Korea and Iran have plans to take out parts of the U.S. electric grid through a cyber attack or atmospheric nuclear blast, the Pentagon is taking steps to both protect the nation's communications and power lifeline.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has charged BAE Systems to map a system that can detect a cyber attack and gin up an alternative communications network for military and civilian use if the grid is fried, according to Defense Systems, the online newsletter.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey has been warning for years that the grid is extremely vulnerable, and recently the Pentagon and some states have taken the warning seriously. Woolsey and former EMP Commission chief of staff Peter Vincent Pry have pointed a finger at North Korea, which is now threatening the U.S.

DARPA's focus is on thwarting a cyber attack, but Pry and Woolsey have also warned that North Korea or Iran could attack the grid with an atmospheric nuclear explosion over the East Coast that will disable the grid and that could end up leading to the death of 90 percent of those in the East.

Again, more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Given North Korea's record of unsuccessful missile launches, I daresay the nuclear threat at this time is relatively low . . . but it may not stay that way.  That's probably why President Trump appears determined to do something about it before it gets more serious.  As for a cyber-attack, even if it's thwarted, it may result in local or regional disruptions of the power supply for days, or even weeks, while normal operations are restored.

I can only repeat my frequently-expressed recommendation, in my articles on economic conditions and emergency preparations, to keep extra cash at home, in a secure location.  If possible, I strongly suggest you have enough for at least one month's normal expenditure on everything - rent, utilities, regular payments, groceries, fuel, the whole enchilada.  Even if a month's cash is impossible, at least try for a week's worth.  That way, if things do grind to a halt, electrically speaking, you'll have enough to buy emergency supplies . . . while others, who haven't taken that precaution, are left waving useless credit and debit cards at silent, powerless (literally) card machines.

(I might add that a decent supply of cash, under such circumstances, can result in a windfall in supplies.  On more than one occasion I've seen a desperate store owner, knowing that he was about to lose the entire contents of his refrigerators and freezers to a power failure, sell them at half or more off their regular price.  If you have a freezer at home, and a small generator to keep it going until power is restored, you might pick up several weeks' worth of meat at far less than the usual cost - to say nothing of multiple gallons of ice cream!)


Friday, April 21, 2017

At the bleeding edge of anti-missile warfare

I found this very interesting article about three young Israeli officers, each serving in an anti-missile unit, discussing their experiences in engaging incoming threats.  Here's an excerpt.

Ron, Dima and Chen are the face of a new brand of warfare. They may talk shyly, sometimes a bit too quietly, and smile with embarrassment when talking about their accomplishments, but they, along with the IDF's cyber warfare unit, are at the forefront of the battle against the threats Israel faces today.

They are the interceptors. Being a combat soldier nowadays doesn't necessarily require gun-in-hand and knife-between-the-teeth, but rather advanced technological knowhow and the courage to green-light—with only seconds to decide—the Iron Dome, Patriot or the Arrow missile-defense systems to intercept incoming projectiles. That is true for present threats and even more so for the dangers the future holds.

Each of the three is responsible for a recent, notable missile interception.

. . .

Second Lt. Chen Shaked was also a part of something extraordinary. He fired an Arrow interceptor—a missile system that is very rarely used—on March 17, and it even earned him a new nickname. "I no longer have a name; I'm addressed only as 'The Interceptor'," he says. "They also won't let me wash the finger I used to push the button to intercept."

. . .

"It was during the night between Thursday and Friday. I started my shift at 2am—a regular shift. I got a rundown, and everything was going as it should. There was no intelligence warning; there was nothing special. Then, all of a sudden, a target moving towards Israel appeared on the screen."

That must have been stressful.

"We train for this a lot, so I knew what I had to do, despite being young. I had drilled this, and I know that when I make a decision—in accordance with orders, of course—I'll have full backing.

"In this case, I simply identified a ballistic threat to the State of Israel, and we immediately called in the team we needed for interception. It was very quick. Fourteen seconds after we called the team in, everyone was ready to intercept when given the order. Then I made the decision to do it."

Did you have no one to consult with?

"No. It was just me, on my own, against the missile. In my system, the window of time for making a decision is very small, and you have no one to talk to. By the time I take this upstairs, the missile could hit. There's not much you can do about it besides knowing it's down to you. And then you make a decision based on the orders."

So you pressed the button.

"Yes. And a second or two later, my commander happened to enter the room. I pointed to the board and told him, 'Look, Arrow has been launched.' I was told I stuttered, but I don't remember that. I do remember that he looked at me and said, 'Well done.'"

In those initial moments, before the debriefing and investigation, and before the army officially determined the interception was justified, did you think that perhaps you didn't act correctly?

"I knew that I had done the right thing. My target identification was very clear. But there was this feeling of uncertainty."

And how did others react? After all, an Arrow interception is rare.

"In the first few seconds, the room went quiet. I don't know why; it just went silent. You expect that when something like this happens, that there would be noise, shouting. The Arrow was launched, that's not something that happens every day. But it was quiet. Only a little while later, we started smiling and told each other, 'Way to go!' and 'You’re the man!' There wasn't a deep conversation about it."

. . .

"This kind of interception is something that stays with you. A week after that, we went on a large-scale training exercise, the kind we do every four months, and the reserve soldiers started asking around about the interception. I happened to be there, and they told me, 'It's you? You kid, we've been waiting for 20 years to do this, and you got to?'"

There's much more at the link.

The article makes very interesting reading in this age of missile warfare, when reaction times must be measured in seconds rather than minutes, and a mistake can mean the loss of many civilian lives.


A useful - and very cheap - firearms accessory

If one uses one's noggin, one can come up with some very low-cost alternatives to products sold by gun stores at a considerable markup.  For example, some time back I pointed out that #4 drywall anchors made very good .22 rimfire snap caps, at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

Here's another helpful hint for those wanting to buy chamber flags - those red, orange or yellow plastic bars or flags that you insert into a semi-auto pistol or rifle chamber, to indicate that there's no cartridge inside.  They cost one to two dollars apiece when you buy the custom-made variety;  but there's a much cheaper solution - cable ties, like these 8" ones that I use.

They're available in several colors.  I prefer fluorescent orange, because it's a widely recognized safety signal, but you can use all the colors of the rainbow, if you wish.  (That also helps to distinguish between guns owned by different people, if they're stored in the same gun safe:  each person can choose a color for their cable ties, for instant differentiation, even if they own visually identical firearms.  For example, in my gun safe, Miss D.'s firearms are marked with purple cable ties, as it's one of her favorite colors.)  At only $6.99 per 100, these cable ties are very affordable.  If you lose or break one, it's no problem to replace it.  At 8" long, in most pistols they protrude from both the ejection port and the end of the barrel, providing a double visual indication that the firearm is unloaded.  (If you want to use them in a rifle or shotgun, you can get white heavy-duty cable ties from 9" to 36" long - just cut the longer ones to the length you want, and apply a little paint to the ends if you wish.)

For revolvers, it's just as easy.  Simply buy orange drinking straws like these (or whatever color you choose).  They're 0.21" in diameter, which is small enough to fit into any barrel from .22 upwards, although they're a tight fit in the smallest ones.  Slide them in from the muzzle, all the way down through the barrel into the chamber.  If they fit loosely, they can fall out, of course;  but if you handle the gun with due care and attention, that's not a problem - or you can tape them in place, or wrap paper or cloth around the muzzle end to fit more tightly.  As long as they're there, they provide a visual indication that the firearm isn't loaded.  (If your gun's barrel is too long for them, simply insert one straw into another, or tape them together, to double their length.)

Another idea:  for cheap cleaning cloths and patches, retain old underwear and T-shirts after they wear out, and get too many holes or tears or marks to be worn any longer.  Cut them into patch-size squares to use with your cleaning rod, or into larger cloths for wiping down your guns.  You'll also find them useful if you store a firearm in a case with exposed foam pressed against the metal.  The foam can mark the gun over time, and perhaps even become glued to it, through interaction with cleaning solvents, etc.  To guard against this, wrap the gun in a single thickness of clean cloth from an old T-shirt, to separate it from the foam.

If anyone else has useful money-saving ideas like this, please let us know in Comments.  I'm sure we'll all be grateful.


A truly magnificent rant. Bravo!

Iron Mike sounds off about the Antifa imbeciles, who insist on strutting their stuff in liberal and progressive strongholds against more conservative speakers.  It's rude, in-your-face and anything but politically correct;  but it resonates with my own views, even if I wouldn't put them quite as bluntly as he does.  Here's an excerpt.

Alright ****sticks, this circus has gone on long enough and the audience has gotten tired of the clowns doing the same act for months on end. Your special snowflake brand of socialist revolution (black masks and tipped over trash cans) is sputtering out from underneath you. You’re not any more dedicated and disciplined at seeing this through than you were moving out of your parents’ guest bedroom after your “one semester off” 4 years ago. It’s time to take off the Doc Martins, wash your dreadlocks, remove the 9 facial piercings, and go get a job. You are not a revolutionary. You’re not changing the world. You WILL NOT win. All of your goals are stupid and you should do what you do best... quit. Until at least January 20th, 2020 Donald Trump is still going to be President; America is going to have a Capitalist, Market Economy; and working-class people are not going to fall in line with a bunch of spoiled middle-class college pussies LARP-ing as communist insurgents. Let me delve into this a bit deeper since all you chardonnay socialists clearly have a goddamn learning disorder... and no, your self-diagnosed ‘Autism’ does not make you “Neurodiverse”, it makes you a hand-flapping puddle of mush.

First of all, your stupid ******* beliefs are incoherent at best. Your little red & black flag of ‘Anarcho-Communism’ might as well be a ***damn Bat-Signal that you were on a first name basis with the driver of the short bus as a kid. Anarchism is the complete lack of formal government. Communism is the complete ownership of all property by the State and a state-planned central command economy. You’re telling me you want a world with no government, no private property, and a centralized distribution system to manage all wealth and material necessities? You idiots somehow came to the conclusion that these polar opposite concepts are somehow compatible, and that a bunch of dope smokers that congregated in online blog forums will bring about your imagined utopia by trashing a Starbucks? What the **** is wrong with you? With that level of brain damage, it’s like your mom tried to drown you as a baby in a bathtub full of bong water...

. . .

I could go on all day about how pathetic you all are and how your bullshit movement is just another way for you to escape the real world and your many, many, personal faults... but I have another message for you. Please get more violent. Please don’t learn anything from getting your asses kicked... and double down. Please, for the love of God, pick up an actual weapon and declare yourselves violent enemies of the state. Give us red-blooded Americans the justification to really give you what you’ve been asking for with your constant threats, arson, and violent outbursts. Let’s really turn this into an old-school Communist revolution! I dare you. I double dare you.

There's much more at the link.  Go read, and enjoy.


When art collides head-on with reality

Two 'art' controversies have made it to the front page in recent weeks, and both raise similar questions.

First, a painting depicting police officers as pigs was removed from exhibition at the Capitol.

This week, a judge refused to order its return.

"There is little doubt that the removal of the painting was based on its viewpoint," Bates said in his ruling, dated Friday. But he concluded that the government's editorial decision to select and present the artwork meant that the display amounted to government speech and was, therefore, not subject to First Amendment protections.

There's more at the link.

Then, the University of Alaska at Anchorage defended a bizarre (and offensive to many, including myself) painting by one of its professors.

The painting shows a nude Captain America (as portrayed by liberal actor Chris Evans) standing on a pedestal and holding Donald Trump’s head by the hair. The head drips blood onto Hillary Clinton, who is reclining provocatively in a white pant suit, clinging to Captain America’s leg. Eagles scream into Captain America’s ear, and a dead bison lies at his feet.

The painting, created by Prof. Thomas Chung, hangs on campus as part of an art exhibition this month.

But it became controversial after a former adjunct professor, Paul R. Berger, posted the image on Facebook, saying he was “not sure how I want to respond to this.” On one hand, he posted, “first thing that comes to mind is freedom of expression,” but he also noted the university’s exhibit was publicly funded.

Again, more at the link.

I think there are two problems to contend with.
  1. If government was involved in any way with the artwork - funding it, and/or paying its creator, and/or deciding whether, where and when to exhibit it, and so on - then it's pretty much no longer a 'free speech' issue.  That's what the judge decided in the first case.
  2. If it involves politically sensitive matter (as both these paintings do), it's bound to offend individuals and groups who disagree with its viewpoint and perspective.  In art as in conversation, civility and common decency are still social lubricants.  When they're deliberately thrown away, friction results.  If this surprises artists and/or their supporters, they're living in cloud cuckoo land.

I have only one strongly-held opinion about both paintings, and that is that government - support, funding, whatever - should have nothing to do with either of them.  If an artist wants to express a particular viewpoint, no matter how personally offensive I may find it, it's his or her right to do so as a private citizen, just as it's mine to support or oppose what their works have to say.  However, when tax dollars play any part whatsoever in producing, displaying or supporting the artist and/or the work(s) concerned, I draw the line.  The 'cops-as-pigs' painting should never have been displayed at the Capitol, and the 'beheaded-Trump' painting should never have been exhibited at UAA.

(For precisely the same reasons, I oppose any and all state funding for the arts.  Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize private freedom of expression.  It's too easy for it to be hijacked by those of one or another political, social or cultural persuasion - just look at the NEA or PBS for proof of that.  Let those who like the art in question support it by their purchases, donations, etc.  Leave public funds out of the equation.)


Thursday, April 20, 2017

"How Amazon is dismantling retail"

That's the title of this talk by Prof. Scott Galloway.  It's very interesting, from three different points of view:
  1. What Amazon is doing to the retail sector of the US economy;
  2. Amazon's impact on the brands that are relied upon by most major manufacturers and distributors;  and -
  3. Amazon's longer-term implications for us as consumers.

I've been warning for some time that the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence threatens many traditional jobs.  Now it's becoming clear that those fields, applied to retail (as Amazon is doing at breakneck speed), may literally dismantle the supermarket as we know it today.

I highly recommend watching this video clip in full.  It'll make you think.

You can read an article based on the clip here.  The links it contains to other articles are also worth following.


Terrorism: None so blind as those who will not see

I was extremely irritated by this so-called expert's views on how to "train our citizens to survive" terror attacks.

A key part of this is what the security industry refers to as “situational awareness” and it’s an effective tool for those trained how to use it properly.

. . .

Therefore, it’s the small pre-event indicators we need to be aware of, the change in engine pitch, the screech of tyres or the sound of people shouting. Unfortunately, most people are not attuned to such warning signs, not just because they haven’t been trained, but simply because they wander around in their own world, or are too busy concentrating on their phone rather than what’s going on around them.

. . .

Surely then, it’s time for the government to establish a national programme to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to play a bigger part to prevent, and deal with a terrorist attack. A call to action for everyone to unite and safeguard our way of life.

. . .

We need to provide the public with the skills and training to enable them to spot the tell tale signs of suspicious activities or behaviour within their neighbourhoods. Including signs of radicalisation and identifying those who support violence and are sympathetic to terrorists and their causes.

How to recognise suspicious articles, behaviour and vehicles and how to provide an accurate description of these to the police. It should also provide a process of things to do after a terror attack in order that communities can work together during a time of difficulty and adversity.

The response to a terror attack and what people can do to protect themselves and their fellow citizens is critical in countering the current threat.

There's more at the link.

Notice what's missing?  At no time does he say a single word about resisting an attack.  At no time does he mention defending oneself and one's loved ones against attack.  At no time does he entertain the possibility of training people to fight back.  As far as I'm concerned, that gaping void in reality degrades and diminishes everything else he has to say.  Awareness of the situation, without the will and the means and the training and the mindset to do something about it, is of little value.

Why allow yourself to be a victim?  Why perish helplessly?  Sure, you may die in a terror attack . . . but if you're going to die anyway, why not die fighting back?  Why not spit defiance into the face of the monsters who try to terrify the society in which they live, and show others of their ilk that they won't have it all their own way?  Who knows?  You might succeed, and live . . . and even if you die, you might set such an example of courage that the next wannabe terrorist might think twice about his evil intentions.  What have you got to lose?

Gabe Suarez puts it succinctly in analyzing the terrorist incident in Fresno a few days ago.

Fresno Police report that a thirty-nine year old, male black, named Kori Ali Muhammad, killed three people Fresno as he shouted "Allahu Akbar”, and other statements about hating white people ... According to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, “Muhammad had expressed hatred toward white people and the government ... In a video clip, Muhammad vows to “bring destruction & wrath upon America” and “white devils”.

What is incredulous and almost ridiculous is that Chief Dyer said it was “too early to say whether or not this involves terrorism,” although he acknowledged that Muhammad shouting Allah Akbar “could give that indication”.


1).  We still live in a time of war.  And the terrorists we have to concern ourselves with as individuals are neither in Syria nor in Iraq.  They are right here, were likely as not born right here, and speak English.  It would be stupid for the reader to not be suspicious of a man like Kori walking up and trying to establish contact with them.  I imagine all his victims, those "white devils" he discusses in his video, were apprehensive about him initially, but their next thought was likely, "Good heavens...I don't want to appear to be a racist".

2).  Fresno is not a gun friendly place, nor in a gun friendly state.  His victims could not have done much - at least not if they were obeying the rules.  Interesting that Mr. Mohammed was not obeying such rules.  I wonder again if the victims were given a do-over, if they would have lifted a middle finger to such rules and carried a pistol with them that day?

3).  America may have made a hard right turn last November, but the left still controls the media and the minds of many ... One must ask, if a similarly motivated man, named himself "Saint John", went out and shot a few people while yelling, "In Jesus' Name!"  I will bet you my police retirement that there would be zero hesitation in labeling such a man a "White Christian Terrorist".  So why the double standard, media people?  One wonders.

We still live in a time of war.

Stay frosty - stay dangerous.

Again, more at the link.

Yes, we are living in a time of war;  and yes, we are all potentially on the front lines, so be prepared to fight.  Why die like a sheep, crawling on your knees and begging for mercy?  At least be willing to die like a man, fighting for what's right, and to defend oneself, one's family and one's country - and be equipped, trained and prepared to fight!

If anyone tells you that's wrong, or immoral, or whatever, treat them and their arguments with the contempt they deserve.  They're nothing more than enablers of terror.


Dramatic color photographs from World War II

The Imperial War Museum in London, UK has released (in some cases, re-released) a number of color photographs from World War II, when that technology was still not widely used.  They reveal a past that was familiar to many of our parents and grandparents, but is largely forgotten or ignored today.  Here are just three of the recent releases;  click on each image for a larger view.

First, the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper in dry dock in Kiel at the end of the war, after having been heavily bombed by the Royal Air Force.  She was subsequently scrapped.

Here's a British BL 5.5" Medium Gun, firing on German positions in Italy in September 1943.  (This is particularly interesting to me, because those cannon were also used by South Africa well into the 1980's, until sufficient more modern artillery became available to replace them.  I can recall seeing them in action in southern Africa on more than one occasion.)

Here's a Churchill Crocodile flame-thrower tank in operation in France after the Normandy invasion in 1944.

This last picture, also from the Imperial War Museum, isn't part of the recently-released batch, but I find it fascinating nonetheless.  It shows the Royal Navy battleship HMS Howe, passing through the Suez Canal in 1944 on her way to the Pacific Ocean theater of combat, where she served as the flagship of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser during the Okinawa campaign and the final months of World War II.  The felucca in front of her uses a design that probably dates back to the Exodus, if not before . . . an interesting contrast in technologies.

You'll find many more recently-released photographs at the link.  Interesting viewing for military history buffs.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rev. Paul's blog address has changed

I know many of my readers also follow Rev. Paul at Way Up North.  Due to a slight hiccup with his domain name, he's had to go back to his Blogger account for at least the short term.  You can now find his blog at this address:

Please adjust your bookmarks accordingly.


Getting buzzed in a rather different way . . .

. . . which was probably a lot more painful, and a lot less fun, than they'd planned!


The gay lobby just won't shut up

I'm getting very tired of the GLBTEIEIOBBQWTF lobby's insistence on throwing their sexual preferences, practices and peccadilloes in our faces, whether we're interested in them or not.  Quite frankly, I don't give a damn what they do to each other in the privacy of their own bedrooms, or what they use to do it.  It's their business, not mine.  However, when they insist on invading my privacy with their antics, and/or challenging the moral code by which I've chosen to live, they go too far.

I see that this same insistence is now bedeviling British politics.

Sue Perkins and David Walliams are among those who have criticised Lib Dem leader Tim Farron for being evasive when asked whether being gay is a sin.

Mr Farron has been branded a "bigot" and an "absolute disgrace" for failing to answer the question.

On Tuesday night, Channel 4's Cathy Newman asked the Lib Dem leader about his views on LGBT rights and gay people.

She asked: “A while back I asked you if you thought that homosexuality was a sin and you struggled to answer.

“Now you’ve had a while to consider that question, what is the answer?”

He replied: “I don’t think I struggled to answer it at all, Cathy. I think I’m not in the position to make theological announcements over the next six weeks.

“I’m not going to spend my time talking theology or making pronouncements.”

She reminded the Lib Dem leader that in 2015 she had asked him three times if homosexuality was a sin “and you said ‘we’re all sinners’. Is that still the answer?”

Farron replied ... “Just because I’m Christian, it would be a bit boring for everybody to spend the next weeks asking me to make theological announcements that I’m not going to make.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said on Good Morning Britain that it is "appalling" if Tim Farron believes homosexuality is a sin urged him to clarify his position.

Comedian David Walliams tweeted: "Mr @timfarron you are definitely a sinner for your continued intolerance & prejudice. Please try and join the rest of us in the year 2017."

There's more at the link.

I wish they'd all shut up . . . but they won't, of course.  They're absolutely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their liberal, progressive philosophy.

To make it clear to all concerned:  yes, biblical Christianity does condemn homosexuality as a sin.  There's no doubt about that whatsoever.  It's not just a 'cultural thing', but a deeply moral message.  It remains binding on all who accept the Bible as God's word, and that's final.  However, biblical sexual morality covers our sexuality and sexual conduct in a far broader context.  In short, any sexual relationship outside a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is considered sinful, no matter what sex(es) or numbers of people or actions are involved.  That's it, in a nutshell.  Homosexual sin is, in that context, no different from heterosexual sin.

Furthermore, each and every individual must decide whether or not the Bible is, in fact, God's word - and, of course, whether or not there is a God at all, and if so, who (or what) he (or she, or it) may be.  As a Christian, I can't demand that someone who doesn't accept the Bible as Divine revelation must agree with and/or observe its moral precepts, just as he or she can't demand that I have to accept their personal moral precepts as binding on me.  To say that it's "appalling" or "intolerant" or "prejudiced" to believe in a biblical moral standard is to implicitly deny freedom of religion and/or moral choice to others;  and if one denies it to others, then one has no grounds for complaint if and/or when others deny it to you.

As long as I don't seek to force my Christian views on others, they have no right to criticize me in any way for holding them.  They may dissent from them, of course;  but their right to disagree with Biblical morality is the same right that permits me to agree with it.  You can't have one without the other.  Either everybody has freedom of belief, or nobody has it.

I have more than a few gay and lesbian friends, and I continue to enjoy their company.  They know, I'm sure, that I don't approve of the moral code (or lack thereof) by which they choose to live;  but I don't have to approve, and my lack thereof doesn't mean I reject them as individuals.  I continue to like and respect them.  I do hope and pray that they find a better, more Godly way of life;  but they won't do so if I use the Bible as a club to beat them over the head.  Instead, my job is to love them as Christ does, and set an example to them that (hopefully) will make them think about things differently.  In their turn, they know that if they try to use their own moral choices and preferences to beat me over the head, it'll lead to a rupture between us;  so they don't.  Instead, we give each other the freedom to follow the different paths we've chosen, and do our best to support each other anyway.

Anyone who tries to make our worth as a human being dependent upon following their chosen moral code, or that of popular opinion (which is fickle, and changes year by year), is essentially denying our independence as a human being, and our own right to freedom of belief.  By doing so, they're demonstrating that the real intolerance is on their side, not ours.  I think it's a pity Mr. Fallon didn't make that point rather more clearly to his opponents.  Intolerant assholes abound, in politics as in every other walk of life.  They need to be exposed for what they are.


In memoriam: Kevin O'Brien, a.k.a. Hognose of WeaponsMan

'Hognose', in reality Kevin O'Brien, well-known for his WeaponsMan blog, has died suddenly.  A post by his brother on that blog states, in part:

He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien.  We grew up in Westborough, Mass.  Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979.  He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.

Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army.  He loved the service and was deeply committed to it.  We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret.  He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003.  He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.

Kevin worked for a number of companies after leaving active duty.  He had always loved weapons, history, the military, and writing, and saw a chance to combine all of his interests by creating  I think the quality of the writing was what always brought people back.

. . .

He ... called 911 on Friday afternoon and was taken to the ER with what turned out to be a massive heart attack.  Evidently he was conscious when he was brought in, but his heart stopped and he was revived after 60 minutes of CPR.  He never reawakened.

On Saturday, he was transported to Brigham and Women’s where the medical staff made absolutely heroic efforts to save his life.  Our dad came up on Sunday and we visited him Sunday, Monday, and today.  Each day his condition became worse.

As of last night, it was obvious to everyone that he had almost no chance of survival; and that if he did by some chance survive, he would have no quality of life.  Kevin’s heart was damaged beyond repair, his kidneys were not functioning, he had not regained consciousness, and he had internal bleeding that could not be stopped.  We made the decision this morning to terminate life support.

There's more at the link, including a contact e-mail for anyone wishing to express condolences.

I'm particularly saddened by Kevin's death for a number of reasons.  The most important, of course, is his encyclopedic knowledge of firearms, which is now lost to us.  Few individuals knew as much as he on the subject, or were as generous in sharing their knowledge with the rest of us.  Kevin also did me the honor of reading here, and quoted me on occasion on his own blog, which was very kind of him.

I'm also sad because Kevin and I were of an age, and he was struck down by an unexpected heart attack that came out of nowhere, just as I was in 2009.  I survived mine, but his must have been far worse.  I suppose it's a reminder that "in the midst of life, we are in death", as the traditional funeral service goes.  None of us know the day or the hour on which we'll be taken.  All we can do is live each day to its fullest, and make the most of it.  It sounds as if his family didn't have time to talk to him, although they were able to be with him during his last days.  That, at least, is a small mercy.

I don't know whether the WeaponsMan blog will remain available or not.  If any of you have favorite posts there that have been useful to you, it might be a very good idea to save copies of them over the next couple of days, just in case.

May Kevin rest in peace, and may his sins be forgiven him.  He will be missed.