Monday, July 31, 2017

Looks like Antifa and its allies are getting feisty


It seems elements of the progressive, far-left-wing side of American politics are taking a leaf out of what they see as the far-right-wing's playbook.

Interestingly enough, the recent spike in political violence has come overwhelmingly from the left. Even more concerning is the growth of far left organizations openly advocating for “armed struggle”, especially considering the recent targeted shooting of Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others by a deranged left wing activist.

One of the largest and fastest growing organizations that fits this description is Redneck Revolt, a self described “above ground militant formation” founded in June of 2016 that claims to have 30+ vetted branches nationwide.

Redneck Revolt’s organizing principles mirror much of what you would see on any other far left organizing platform. They begin with their very reasonable, very easy to support, opposition to “white supremacy”. They then dive into class theory, anti-capitalist, and anti-wealth rhetoric that could have been copied directly from The Communist Manifesto. And finally, they wrap up with open calls for “militant resistance” and “revolution”.

. . .

But what’s most alarming are the resources they provide on their website. They promote several PDFs that endorse “armed struggle” and even offer a 36 page “Mini-Manual Of The Urban Guerrilla” (bottom right of resource page) which pictures left-wing militants using RPGs and outlines tactics for guerrilla warfare including sections on “sabotage”, “kidnapping”, “executions”, “armed propaganda”, and “terrorism”.

There's more at the link.  I deliberately have not provided links to the various Web sites and documents mentioned in this excerpt, because I don't want to give click-throughs to people like that;  however, if you really want to know more, you'll find links at the original article.  Help yourself.

These people may seem amateurish, even comical, to those of us with military backgrounds, particularly combat veterans;  but they're deadly serious about what they're doing.  What's more, I'm sure they have at least some veterans, perhaps even combat veterans, in their own ranks.  Don't dismiss their posturing as empty and meaningless.  At present, they're probably more smoke than fire . . . but given time, and enough willing volunteers, they may become much more than that.

Furthermore, remember that modern technology allows even small, otherwise ill-equipped and poorly-trained units of terrorists to become deadly threats.  Consider the thermite grenades dropped by small quadrotor UAV's on a Ukrainian ammunition depot back in March.  Thermite is easy to make - recipes are all over the Internet (for example, here).  Similarly, explosives are not hard to make;  again, a quick search will reveal plenty of instructions (for example, see here).  Home-made hand grenades are not difficult to manufacture, as evidenced by this report last year from Alabama.  Deactivated 'souvenir' military grenades can be reactivated, as Mexican drug cartels are already doing (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).  Domestic terrorists can easily access such information, buy the necessary components and parts, make their own small explosive devices, and purchase small UAV's to carry them from almost anywhere.  What would be the result if small, home-made thermite grenades were dropped on electricity transformers all across a city one evening?  Probably something like this.  Now, imagine that happening in a dozen cities, simultaneously . . .

Don't write off domestic terrorism.  The fact that we haven't yet had a major incident involving the moonbat left or the wingnut right, doesn't mean that either end of the loony spectrum isn't fully capable of providing one.  Be on the alert for signs of trouble, and be prepared to defend yourself if necessary.

Peter

Showing us how it's done


Following this morning's video of a rather fiery aborted takeoff by a Belarusian Air Force MiG-29, here's a clip showing how it's done.  In this case, the plane is a big military transport, the Airbus A-400M Atlas;  but the pilot handles it as if it were a fighter.  It's pretty spectacular.  Watch in full-screen mode for best results.





Impressive!

Peter

100 years ago today, the Battle of Passchendaele began


It was one of the bloodiest, most arduous, and most pointless battles of the First World War.  By the time it ended, in November 1917, well over half a million casualties had been suffered by both sides.  Over 42,000 of the dead have no known grave, their bodies never having been recovered.  To this day, farmers in the area routinely uncover human remains, weapons and explosive devices left over from the battle.



The wreckage of a British tank beside the Menin Road near Ypres


The Telegraph summarizes the battle thus.

What took place was officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, but history recalls the horror in one word: Passchendaele. The name, along with the Somme, has come to symbolise the Great War for many.

The Allied assault was launched in the early hours of 31 July 1917. Because of the torrential rain, the British and Canadian troops found themselves fighting not only the Germans but a quagmire of stinking mud that swallowed up men, horses and tanks.

After three months, one week and three days  of brutal trench warfare, the Allies finally recaptured the village of Passchendaele – but by then around a third of a million British and Allied soldiers had been killed or wounded in some of the most horrific trench warfare of the conflict.

. . .

The offensive took place in low-lying land which was home to thick clay soil and, after constant shelling during the war,  smashed drainage systems.

Days into the attack, Ypres suffered the heaviest rain for 30 years. Tanks were immoblised, rifles were clogged up and the shelter usually created by shells turned to swamps. Many men, horses and pack mules drowned in the quagmire.

. . .

On 6 November the British and Canadian forces finally captured what remained of Passchendaele, leading Haig to call off the offensive and claim victory.

There's more at the link.

The conditions on the battlefield were indescribably awful.  This video gives some idea of what the soldiers on both sides had to endure.  Sir Launcelot Kiggell, a staff officer at British Army headquarters, was reported to have visited the Passchendaele battlefield after most of the fighting was over, and burst into tears as he said, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”  (The story may be apocryphal, but it deserves to be true.)





One of my grandfathers fought at Passchendaele.  My parents told me later that he would never speak of his experiences there.  I think I understand.

The battle inspired a classic heavy metal song by Iron Maiden, titled simply 'Paschendale', released on their album 'Dance of Death' in 2003.  I think it encapsulates the experience of the Battle of Passchendaele for those who were there, even though it's sung by men of a much younger generation.  Perhaps, in its own way, it's a fitting memorial for those who died there.  I've chosen a video that incorporates the lyrics, which are sometimes hard to understand.





May the souls of all those who fought at Passchendaele rest in peace, and may their sins be forgiven them.  None of them are alive today, so let's remember them with compassion.

Peter

Er . . . oops?


A Mikoyan MiG-29 of the Belarusian Air Force recently had a major "Oops!" moment on takeoff.  It looks to me as if the pilot was planning a 'hot-dog' maneuver (which I've seen before under more successful circumstances), where the aircraft attains flying speed, the pilot picks it up just a few inches off the runway, then he retracts the undercarriage, so that it looks as if there was no take-off climb at all.  In this case, the plane just wasn't going fast enough . . .  Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.





I suppose it's possible the undercarriage malfunctioned, but at that point in the takeoff run, I'd say it's far more likely to have been pilot error.  I suspect the pilot's future career prospects in the Belarusian Air Force have just entered a steep downward trajectory - but at least he's still alive to watch their decline!




Peter

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday morning music


To my surprise, I recently learned that a friend had no idea about the controversy surrounding the song 'Scarborough Fair', as performed by Simon & Garfunkel.  It's an interesting piece of music trivia.  Wikipedia describes it like this.

Paul Simon learned the song in London in 1965 from Martin Carthy, who had picked up the tune from the songbook by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and included it on his eponymous 1965 album. Simon & Garfunkel set it in counterpoint with "Canticle" – a reworking of the lyrics from Simon's 1963 anti-war song, "The Side of a Hill", set to a new melody composed mainly by Art Garfunkel. It was the lead track of the 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, and was released as a single after being featured on the soundtrack to The Graduate in 1968. The copyright credited only Simon and Garfunkel as the authors, causing ill-feeling on the part of Carthy, who felt the "traditional" source should have been credited. This rift remained until Simon invited Carthy to perform the song with him as a duet at a London concert in 2000.

I think it goes further than that.  The dispute certainly aroused strong feelings in British folk music circles, where Martin Carthy's setting of 'Scarborough Fair' was widely regarded as the original, 'trad-folk' authentic one.  Paul Simon was derided by some as having 'stolen' Carthy's arrangement without any acknowledgment or recompense.  Carthy reportedly decided not to sue over the issue, but bad feeling remained for a very long time.

This morning, I'll let you judge for yourself.  Here's Martin Carthy's 1965 version.





And here's Paul Simon's arrangement, from 1966.





From the sound alone, I reckon it's pretty much an open-and-shut case.  Carthy's arrangement was undoubtedly used by Paul Simon, in a slightly adapted form.  Why he never acknowledged that, or paid any sort of license fee, I have no idea.

Peter

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A sneak peek for my readers


I asked Cedar Sanderson, long-time friend in meat- and cyberspace and an author and blogger as well, to design the cover for my new fantasy novel, the first I've written in that genre.  (You, dear readers, helped select it last year.)

Here's what she came up with.




I'm working on the second half of the book as we speak, writing the last chapters, checking for continuity errors, refining a couple of plot points, and generally getting ready for publication within the next few weeks. Watch this space for details!

Peter

A spectacular flypast at Oshkosh


The latest annual EAA Airventure is currently under way at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  A USAF B-1B Lancer bomber made an amazing flypast earlier this week.  Atmospheric conditions were just right to produce some spectacular effects.





I'd have loved to have seen that in person . . .

Peter

Friday, July 28, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #968


A tip o' the hat to the anonymous reader who forwarded me a link to this report from Florida.

It happened about 5 a.m. on July 17 as Officer Robie Troutman was in his patrol vehicle at the main police station writing a report, according to his report.

“While in my vehicle, I heard the rear passenger side door handle make noise and then the front passenger side door handle make noise, where I was positioned seated in the driver seat of my clearly marked Fort Pierce Police Department Patrol vehicle,” the report said.

Troutman opened his door and reported seeing a man later identified as Aaron Orlando Rodriguez III run away and hide behind another vehicle.

There's more at the link.

Not only that, the fleeing felon had drug paraphernalia on him, adding to the charges he'll face.  Clearly, he's not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

I do have to ask, though:  with a name like Troutman . . . did the officer suspect that something fishy was going on?




Peter

Stealing a missile . . . via the post office???


I was surprised to read that the Soviet Union learned of upgrades to the US Sidewinder air-to-air missile via an agent in Germany . . . and the German post office! War Is Boring reports:

Exploiting thick fog and careless guards, Manfred Ramminger – a KGB-agent in West Germany – entered Neuburg air base during the evening of Oct. 22, 1967. Together with his Polish driver Josef Linowski and German F-104 Starfighter pilot Wolf-Diethard Knoppe, he stole an operational AIM-9 from the local ammunition depot and transported it down the entire runway on a wheelbarrow to his Mercedes sedan, parked outside the base.

The 2.9-meter-long missile proved unwieldy. Ramminger broke the rear window and covered the protruding part with a carpet. In order not to attract attention of the police, he then marked the protrusion with a piece of red cloth, as required by law.

Reaching his home in Krefeld without any disturbance, Ramminger then patiently dismantled the Sidewinder. He kept the fuse for himself and personally handed it over to his KGB contact.

Finally, he packed all the pieces into a box and then brought it to the nearest post office, from where he shipped it – by air mail – directly to Moscow. In order to avoid any problems with the German or Soviet customs, Ramminger declared the content of the parcel as being for “low-grade export.”

Due to the weight of the parcel, the post charged him $79.25.

Air transportation services were making mistakes back then at least as often as they make them nowadays, and thus Ramminger’s parcel first traveled from Frankfurt via Paris to Copenhagen, then back to Düsseldorf, before finally reaching Moscow – 10 days late.

Ramminger and his aides were all arrested in late 1968 and jailed for four years. But by then the Soviets had already begun copying the next-generation Sidewinder.

There's more at the link.

The full article examines how the Soviet Union copied the original Sidewinder, then produced an improved version following the theft described above.  It's a pretty amazing story.  Recommended reading.

Peter

Heh - Mall Ninja edition


Seen at the Vulgar Curmudgeon's place, what he describes as 'Mall Cop Fantasy':




Looks like it's right up the Mall Ninja's alley!




Peter

Will robots rescue, or threaten, the airline industry?


Yesterday it was reported that US airlines were suffering a "staggering pilot shortage".

Passenger and cargo airlines around the world are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between 2017 and 2036. And they will need 637,000 new pilots to fly them, according to a forecast from Boeing released this week. That staggering figure is matched only by how many will leave the profession in the next decade -- particularly in the U.S.

Retirements at U.S. airlines will start to rise precipitously starting in 2021 as the current crop of pilots turns 65, the mandated age of retirement. More than 42% of active U.S. airline pilots at the biggest carriers will retire over the next 10 years, about 22,000, according to a recent report by Cowen & Company.

In the next 20 years, airlines in North America are going to need 117,000 new pilots, Boeing estimates. And the farm team for training and recruitment in the U.S. -- the military and regional carriers -- are already struggling to find and keep aviators.

The coming retirements exceed the active U.S. regional airline pilots corps, which stands around 19,000.

Without enough pilots, the amount airlines can fly will be capped. And an acute shortage may wreak havoc on air travel, grounding planes and reducing air service to some cities if routes are cut or curtailed.

It's already happening.

Last month, Horizon Air, the regional arm of Alaska Airlines, said it was canceling 6% of its schedule -- more than 300 flights -- from August to September because it doesn't have the pilots. And Republic Airways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016 in part because it was "grounding aircraft due to a lack of pilot resources".

There's more at the link.

This pilot shortage has been developing for several years, and airlines and the military have been devoting a lot of time and attention to dealing with it.  Perhaps the best-known technological approach is DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS).  The program "envisions a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would promote the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft, enabling operation with reduced onboard crew".  An early iteration was flight-tested last year.

Yesterday, a turboprop plane took off from a small airport in Virginia that from the outside, looked fairly unremarkable.

But inside the cockpit, in the right seat, a robot with spindly metal tubes and rods for arms and legs and a claw hand grasping the throttle, was doing the flying.



The demonstration was part of a government and industry collaboration that is attempting to replace the second human pilot in two-person flight crews with robot co-pilots that never tire, get bored, feel stressed out or become distracted.

. . .

Sophisticated computers flying planes aren't new.

But the ALIAS robot goes steps further.

For example, an array of cameras allows the robot to see all the cockpit instruments and read the gauges.

It can recognise whether switches are in the on or off position, and can flip them to the desired position.

And it learns not only from its experience flying the plane, but also from the entire history of flight in that type of plane.

The robot 'can do everything a human can do' except look out the window, Langford said.

But give the programme time and maybe the robot can be adapted to do that too, he said.

The programme's leaders even envision a day when planes and helicopters, large and small, will fly people and cargo without any human pilot on board.

The programme, known as Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS), is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and run by Aurora Flight Sciences, a private contractor.

. . .

Elements of the ALIAS technology could be adopted within the next five years, officials said, much the way automakers are gradually adding automated safety features that are the building blocks of self-driving technology to cars today.

Again, more at the link.

Here's a video clip of the ALIAS system being demonstrated on a helicopter and a light aircraft.  I suggest watching it in full-screen mode, to see the smaller inset videos to best advantage.





There's even a possibility that aircraft might fly without co-pilots at all.  Instead, multiple aircraft might have a single pilot, with all of them being assisted by ALIAS-type systems in case of emergency, directed by a controller on the ground.

NASA is exploring a related possibility: moving the co-pilot out of the cockpit on commercial flights, and instead using a single remote operator to serve as co-pilot for multiple aircraft.

In this scenario, a ground controller might operate as a dispatcher managing a dozen or more flights simultaneously. It would be possible for the ground controller to “beam” into individual planes when needed and to land a plane remotely in the event that the pilot became incapacitated — or worse.

. . .

The potential savings from the move to more autonomous aircraft and air traffic control systems is enormous.

In 2007, a research report for NASA estimated that the labor costs related to the co-pilot position alone in the world’s passenger aircraft amounted to billions of dollars annually.

Automating that job may save money.

More at the link.

Here's another video, showing the ALIAS hardware and software controlling a Boeing 737-800NG simulator.  It's a very short step from this, to putting it aboard a real airliner (replacing the co-pilot's seat) and taking it flying.





Of course, this automation technology might also pose a real threat to airline operations as they're currently structured, because it can be applied to other modes of transport as well.  Karl Denninger hypothesizes:

Prediction: Within 10 years every single airline will be reduced to carriers that operate routes consisting entirely of flights of more than 1,000 miles, most over water.

Why?

Because self-driving cars.

. . .

Look folks, most cars today can be retrofitted ... Show me a $500 Lidar array that can do the job and suddenly that $2,500 retrofit becomes not only possible it's easy and it's an option roughly equivalent in cost to a leather seating package on new vehicles.  At that point the "take rate" will be 90%.

Today I can drive from my home to Atlanta in about 5 hours.  All-in, including "mandatory" 1 hour pre-take-off airport arrival requirements it takes me almost 4 hours assuming no weather or schedule delays to fly that same route ... Actual operating cost of said autonomous vehicle is materially cheaper than the flight is and I can take a nearly-unlimited amount of cargo with me at no additional cost ... The day I can get into the car at midnight in the back where I have equipped half the fold-down rear seat and trunk into a comfortable place to sleep, push the button, go to sleep and wake up at 6:00 AM (1 hour time zone shift) in Atlanta in time for two espressos before a business meeting Delta is bankrupt.

. . .

Folks, there is no business model for the airlines as they exist today once this becomes rationally expensive ... Not only is this more-convenient and "on demand" rather than on someone else's schedule nobody gets bumped, nobody gets groped, there's no "extra fee and insult" garbage the airline industry has turned into a maze of and it's cheaper on top of it.

The airlines have cut their own throats, in short, and technology is about to kill them all, with the exception of 3,000 mile flights and over-water segments where you simply can't do it any other reasonable way.  That's a fraction of their current capacity and operating schedule and I'm going to enjoy watching them all burn in bankruptcy court.

More at the link.

I must admit, the thought of being able to avoid almost all airline travel is a very welcome one.  I long ago grew sick and tired of airlines handling me as if I was a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse, cramming me into an aluminum tube with minimal space or facilities (not to mention the TSA treating me with utter disrespect in the process!).  I hope Mr. Denninger is right.

Peter

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #967


A tip o' the hat to reader Snoggeramus in Australia for sending us this report.

A tip for offenders trying to avoid arrest, if you're going to use someone else's name, make sure that person isn't wanted on warrant as well.

Teenager Clayton Kraig Bligh knew he was wanted on warrant for not showing up at court, so when police spoke to him on the afternoon of May 25, he gave his name as "Travis Gordon", Toowoomba Magistrates Court heard.

However, when police checks found Travis Gordon was wanted on warrant, Bligh was taken into custody where he admitted his name.

There's more at the link.

I'd call that a classic 'own goal'!




Peter

Food fight - international version


Foodies have the best fights - or, at least, the funniest.  This one - according to its headline - concerns "crimes against the tortilla".

The British ambassador in Madrid made a daring foray into the world of Spanish cuisine on Wednesday night with an appearance on a popular cooking show where he defended UK chefs over alleged "crimes" against beloved national dishes.

Simon Manley had a starring role in the 45-minute edition of El Comidista, debating the merits of British versus Spanish food and receiving a tutorial on the perfect tortilla from host and chef Mikel Lopez Iturriaga.

The pair engaged in some light-hearted sparring over alleged British crimes against Spanish cuisine, with Mr Manly offering a valiant defence of Jamie Oliver, whose takes on traditional dishes have more than once incurred the wrath of the country's foodies.

Wearing a Union Jack apron and declaring "Vive la Majestad!" (Long live her Majesty), the diplomat rustled up Oliver's much-mocked recipe [shown below] with chorizo and - the host quipped - "raw onion".



He proudly championed the "Hispano-British tortilla", though Iturriaga was not entirely convinced.

There's more at the link.

That looks more like a toasted sandwich than a tortilla to me;  but then, I like toasted sandwiches as much as I like tortillas, so I'll gladly eat either.  Unfortunately, I'm supposed to be limiting my carbohydrate intake, so both are off my menu at the moment . . . (sob!)

If you're feeling adventurous with tortillas, here's Jamie Oliver's breakfast tortilla.  Looks and sounds delicious!





Damn, now I'm hungry!

Peter

Bringing back World War II high technology bombs


I was amazed to read that three of Barnes Wallis' so-called 'bouncing bomb' prototypes have been recovered from a Scottish loch where they were tested, more than 70 years ago.  These are examples of the 'Highball', a smaller version of the 'Upkeep' bombs used in the world-famous 'Dam Busters' raid in 1943.  'Highball' was intended to attack ships, rather than dams.  A Royal Navy press release announced:

A team of Royal Navy clearance divers from the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) have assisted in the recovery of historic World War Two bouncing bombs from the bottom of Loch Striven.



On Wednesday, July 19, three of the famous “Highball” bombs broke the surface of the Argyll Loch for the first time in over 70 years.  They were among an estimated 200 of the Barnes Wallis designed munitions tested on the loch ahead of the famous Dam Busters raid in 1943.



The concept of the bouncing bomb was first described by engineer Sir Barnes Wallis in 1942 and was originally envisioned for use by the Fleet Air Arm.  However, in November 1942 the project was split into two strands – codenamed “Highball” and “Upkeep” – with one weapon designed for use against ships and the other, heavier, Upkeep bombs for targeting dams.

The unique design of the bombs meant they could skip over the surface of the water, avoiding anti-torpedo nets and defences, to hit their targets.

Many of the spherical Highball bouncing bombs were tested on Loch Striven, with bombers from RAF Turnberry flying up the loch to bounce their bombs towards old ships which were used as targets.

Footage from the tests was gathered for analysis by photographers from the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) at RAF Helensburgh and was eventually seen by hundreds of thousands of people after it was used in the 1955 film “The Dam Busters”.

The project to raise the Highball bombs is an important one as there are currently no examples on public display.  The recovered munitions will eventually be re-homed in the Brooklands Museum in Surrey and de Havilland Aircraft Museum in Hertfordshire in time for the 75th anniversary of the Dam Busters raid next year.

There's more at the link, including more photographs.

This is a fascinating piece of military history, and something I'd never expected.  I'd thought that the testing prototypes would have been recovered at the time, or would long since have rotted away.  It's amazing that they've survived this long, and in such good condition.

Here's actual World War II footage of the 'Highball' tests, including some at Loch Striven.  It's silent, so don't adjust your speakers.





If it's given to our souls to know about such events after our deaths, I daresay there are a number of the shades of the members of 617 Squadron, and others involved in the development and use of 'bouncing bombs', who are smiling nostalgically, somewhere up there . . .

Peter

Transgenders in the military - some practical considerations


President Trump made headlines yesterday by announcing his opposition to allowing transgendered persons to serve in the US armed forces.

I don't propose to go into moral and/or ethical considerations regarding the ability of transgendered persons - about whom I've written before - to serve in the US armed forces.  I have opinions on the matter, but so has everyone else.  There's no point in debating feelings and emotions, when what's needed is a hard-headed, medical/scientific approach to the transgender issue in general, and a practical approach to their military service in particular.

As anyone who's served in any reputable military will confirm, the basic training through which all recruits must pass is designed to form individuals into members of a group.  The training frequently consists of team evolutions.  If a team fails because one or more individuals can't or won't make their required contribution, the whole team is punished.  The implied lesson is that either you work together, or you fail.  In the South African armed forces in the 1970's, it was not at all uncommon for recruits or trainees to physically assault the person or persons who caused the group to fail.  What's more, this was implicitly encouraged, and certainly tolerated, by those in command.  It was a grim, sometimes brutal lesson in "get with the program, or else!"  Sometimes suicides resulted.  Fortunately, today that sort of thing is much more rare . . . but I'm willing to bet it still happens.

That attitude of group rather than individual focus continues into military service proper.  A ship's crew must work together at all times to operate and safeguard their vessel.  If any one person fails to do his or her job, it places everyone else aboard at risk.  There's no room for 'special snowflakes' who want to do their own thing.  The same applies, more or less, to army units on patrol or in combat, or an air force squadron where everyone - air and ground personnel alike - has to pull together to accomplish the mission they're assigned.  It's a team approach.

This is why the introduction of women into physically demanding combat roles in the armed forces has created such controversy among military veterans.  We know, historically and experientially, the demands placed upon personnel in a war situation (and, let's face it, the fundamental reason that an armed force exists is to fight).  No matter how you slice it, there's no way on earth that any woman I've ever known can exert as much physical strength in combat as a man can.  You need to have timbers and plates manhandled into position to plug a leak aboard ship, and stop it sinking?  You need to drag or carry a combat casualty for dozens, perhaps hundreds of yards, to get them out of the danger zone to where their wounds can be treated - and then go back for the others?  You need to hurriedly refuel and rearm a combat aircraft, or load supplies into a transport, to get it back into the air and 'on task' as quickly as possible?  All those activities, and many more, require the maximum possible exertion and physical capability.  I don't care how fit and strong a woman is, she will never, repeat, never be capable of performing such activities at the same level as a fit and strong man, even if they're of comparable size and heft.  It's a physiological reality, not a matter of opinion.  This may become, literally, a life-threatening problem.

(Let me emphasize that I mean no disrespect to women by saying that.  My strength training coach is a woman, for whom I have great respect;  and I've had female superior officers during my military service, and supervisors or managers during my commercial career, whom I also respected.  They didn't have to be physically stronger than me to earn that respect, because physical strength wasn't an issue.  However, we're not talking about that sort of thing here.  I specifically referred to women in physically demanding combat roles.  In that instance, in almost every circumstance, sooner or later, physical capability is a factor.  I know.  BTDT.)

This immediately brings up the first issue with transgender persons in the military.  According to what standards of physical performance are they to be measured?  A male 'transitioning' to female is likely to be stronger and more physically capable than the women around him, because - with vanishingly few 'intersex' exceptions - his chromosomes, his physical makeup, are still male.  He/she will likely outperform the physical performance standards established for women.  However, a female 'transitioning' to male cannot and never will measure up to the physical performance standards established for men, because - with vanishingly few 'intersex' exceptions - her chromosomes, her physical makeup, are still female.  How can a self-proclaimed, formerly-female 'male' suffering under such a limitation be accepted by a unit relying on typically male strength to repair damage, rescue casualties, or perform any of the dozens of other tasks that require performance at the level of the physical standards established for men?  The units in which I served would have a short, very simple (and undoubtedly profane) answer to that question.  It can literally be a matter of life or death - so feelings and opinions simply don't count.  Reality bites.

There's also the issue of "keeping one's eye on the ball".  Armed forces exist to fight wars.  That's their primary purpose.  There are others, such as aid to the civil power in disaster situations, or 'showing the flag', or what have you;  but all of those go by the board when war comes.  Training, equipment, organization, and everything else must be focused on and serve that basic purpose, or that armed force will fail when asked to do its job.  Even if it doesn't completely fail, it will take unnecessary casualties, lose far more equipment than necessary, or handicap itself in other ways, before it can get its head out of its collective fundament, re-focus on essentials, and eventually succeed.

It's been my (admittedly limited) experience that most (but certainly not all) transgendered people exhibit greater or lesser psychological or psychiatric issues.  They demand attention;  they demand acceptance;  they demand tolerance.  They aren't willing to shut up and demonstrate, by the way they live, that they're valuable members of society who can be judged and accepted (or otherwise) on the basis of what they do.  Instead, they're vocal in demanding acceptance based on their own (in most cases, medically flawed) definition of what they consider themselves to be.  That can't and won't work in the case of a unit preparing to fight.  It has to keep its eye on the ball, and perform as a team.  There's no time and no place for special snowflakes demanding special consideration and/or treatment.  I'd say four out of five transgendered individuals in my experience (and I know, or have known, a couple of dozen of them) simply could not function like that.

Allied to that group focus is the basic reaction of normal human beings to what's out of the ordinary.  It's all very well to say that people must change their ideas, and accept as normal what they have culturally been raised to regard as abnormal, even disgusting.  That doesn't happen very easily even in civil society, where there's time to make one's case, and the opportunity for leisurely discussion and a slow evolution of cultural and social norms.  (It sometimes results in tragedy - for example, as was reported this week in both Maryland and Mississippi.)  It's far less easy to make it happen in the stress of the military environment.  I've heard many complaints from military friends of mine that so-called 'sensitivity training', and other officially-mandated forms of political correctness and cultural relativity, are consuming so much time out of the training schedule that their units' military preparedness and readiness is suffering.  When you have to take so much time, and make so much effort, in an attempt to change human nature, you have to accept that your warfighting ability will suffer accordingly.  That's reality.  You can't expect your armed forces to be as strong as you want them to be when you're wasting their time on non-military activities like this!  What's more, you can't expect average troops to shed their instinctive cultural and social reactions under the stress of combat, when reactions are automatic and instinctive - because if they're not, you die!

Finally, there are financial issues.  I've been informed (but have no way of confirming) that after the Obama administration relaxed military recruitment standards to encourage transgendered persons to enlist, there was a wave of applicants who expected the military to pay for their transition (including surgery, hormone treatments, ongoing counseling, etc.).  This would have entailed costs of at least several hundred thousand dollars per individual during their service;  some said the overall costs of establishing and maintaining such programs, in armed forces that had never needed them before, might amount to millions of dollars per individual.  I'm sorry, but I have no sympathy whatsoever for such recruits.  If they want to transition, let them do so in their own time, on their own dime.  As a taxpayer, I see no reason whatsoever why they should do so on mine!  The military claims to have insufficient funds to do all it wants and needs to do.  Why should more of its limited resources be diverted from its primary task to pay for their personal needs?

For all those reasons, I think President Trump is correct in his decision to prevent transgendered people from serving in the armed forces.  I doubt there's any personal animus involved, or distaste, or any sort of sexual or gender discrimination.  Furthermore, I don't think it has anything to do with their being 'worthy' or not (as one former SEAL has alleged).  I think it's purely and simply a matter of practicality.

I also think that the arguments advanced by some, that transgendered persons can serve perfectly well in non-combat roles, are dubious at best.  Sooner or later, in any typical armed service, many non-combatants end up in a combat zone, and all too often in combat as well.  Examples are legion.  When that happens, all my reservations outlined above come into play;  so I don't think an exception should be made for non-combat positions.  I don't see this as discrimination.  I see it as understanding and accepting reality.

If some of my readers disagree, let's discuss the issue in comments below this post.  Let me say, however, that if dissenters have not experienced combat, I don't believe they can fully understand the realities of military life.  It adds a dynamic all its own.  It's like the difference between sex education and sex training.  The first is academic.  The second . . . not so much;  and, once experienced, one's understanding changes radically and completely.  That's just the way it is.

Peter

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Feeling old, redux


Last week I linked to a series of photographs that made me feel awfully old.  Well, looks like I'm not alone.  Stephan Pastis appears to get sort of that way, too.




Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the 'Pearls Before Swine' Web page.




Peter

Amazing aerobatics in Moscow


This is the aerial display by the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter at the MAKS 2017 air show in Moscow, Russia, last week.  The aircraft has very powerful engines, giving a thrust-to-weight ratio much better than 1:1, and also boasts thrust vectoring nozzles, allowing it to use engine thrust to augment its already impressive maneuverability.  Its agility puts most other aircraft in its class to shame.

Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.

(EDITED TO ADD:  The first video I embedded was taken down.  Here's another, of the same display.)





I'd say the Su-35 is probably the best kinetic-energy dogfighting aircraft out there today . . . although that's not necessarily a war-winning attribute, in an age of stealth technology, long-range air-to-air missiles and active electronically-scanned radar arrays.  Nevertheless, if it comes down to knife-fighting range in future aerial combat, the Su-35 would seem to have a great many advantages.

Peter

We can't spare President Trump. He fights.


So says Evan Sayet.  Here's an excerpt.

The Left has been engaged in a war against America since the rise of the Children of the ‘60s.   To them, it has been an all-out war where nothing is held sacred and nothing is seen as beyond the pale.  It has been a war they’ve fought with violence, the threat of violence, demagoguery and lies from day one – the violent take-over of the universities – till today.

The problem is that, through these years, the Left has been the only side fighting this war.  While the Left has been taking a knife to anyone who stands in their way, the Right has continued to act with dignity, collegiality and propriety.

With Donald Trump, this all has come to an end.  Donald Trump is America’s first wartime president in the Culture War.

During wartime, things like “dignity” and “collegiality” simply aren’t the most essential qualities one looks for in their warriors.  Ulysses Grant was a drunk whose behavior in peacetime might well have seen him drummed out of the Army for conduct unbecoming.  Had Abraham Lincoln applied the peacetime rules of propriety and booted Grant, the Democrats might well still be holding their slaves today.   Lincoln rightly recognized that, “I cannot spare this man.  He fights.”

General George Patton was a vulgar-talking, son-of-a-bitch.  In peacetime, this might have seen him stripped of rank.  But, had Franklin Roosevelt applied the normal rules of decorum, then Hitler and the Socialists would barely be five decades into their thousand-year Reich.

Trump is fighting.  And what’s particularly delicious is that, like Patton standing over the battlefield as his tanks obliterated Rommel’s, he’s shouting, “You magnificent bastards, I read your book!”  That is just the icing on the cake, but it’s wonderful to see that not only is Trump fighting, he’s defeating the Left using their own tactics.

That book is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – a book so essential to the Liberals’ war against America that it is and was the playbook for the entire Obama administration and the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis.   It is a book of such pure evil, that, just as the rest of us would dedicate our book to those we most love or those to whom we are most indebted, Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer.

Trump’s tweets may seem rash and unconsidered but, in reality, he is doing exactly what Alinsky suggested his followers do.

. . .

So, to my friends on the Left – and the #NeverTrumpers as well -- do I wish we lived in a time when our president could be “collegial” and “dignified” and “proper”?  Of course I do.   These aren’t those times.  This is war.  And it’s a war that the Left has been fighting  without opposition for the past 50 years.

So, say anything you want about this president – I get it, he can be vulgar, he can be crude, he can be undignified at times.  I don’t care.  I can’t spare this man.  He fights.

There's more at the link.

Oscar Wilde said that "You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies".  Well, given that President Trump's enemies are, in the main, politicians, that's not very high quality at all;  and given that they're from across the political spectrum, that can't all be laid at the feet of leftists.  Nevertheless, to annoy, outrage and just plain piss off so many politicians and liberals is quite an achievement in itself.  Methinks Mr. Sayet has a point.

Perhaps we should adopt another of President Lincoln's reactions to the problematic General U. S. Grant.

After the failure of his first experimental explorations around Vicksburg, a committee of abolition war managers waited upon the President and demanded the General’s removal, on the false charge that he was a whiskey drinker, and little better than a common drunkard. “Ah!” exclaimed Honest Old Abe, “you surprise me, gentlemen. But can you tell me where he gets his whiskey?” “We cannot, Mr. President. But why do you desire to know?” “Because, if I can only find out, I will send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.”

It would, of course, have to be Trump-branded single malt whiskey. A man's got to make a profit, after all.




Peter

Lawdog goes dead tree!


'The Lawdog Files', which blasted its way into bestseller territory upon its release in e-book format less than two weeks ago, is now available in paperback.




I couldn't be happier for Lawdog's success.  He's been a friend for the best part of two decades, and to see his work so popular is warm, fuzzy happiness for his buddies.  He's hard at work right now, finishing some new material for the second volume, 'The Lawdog Files: African Adventures'.




I'm sure his fans will be delighted to learn that Brigadier-Captain Azikiwe, the anti-hero of the infamous Ratel Saga, will feature in the new material.  Lawdog's told us a few stories about him, over and above those that appeared on his blog, and some are now being prepared for publication.

The second volume is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and should be released early next month.

Peter

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quote of the day


From friend in meat- and cyberspace, fellow author and blogger, Daddybear:

If the people inside my head would learn to wait their turn, I’d be a lot more productive.

I know exactly whereof he speaks . . .

Peter

And now for something alcoholically different


Youtube has a large number of videos purporting to show Irish people trying various things from other countries.  Some are very amusing, including this one, where they try half a dozen varieties of American moonshine.  Love the reactions as their alcohol level rises and their inhibitions fall!





Given that Ireland's the home of potheen, and the source of uisce beatha, I'd thought they'd have liked moonshine more.  Oh, well . . .




Peter

Photographic evidence of the auto industry's dilemma


In a comment to my previous post, reader 'A Texan' pointed me to the blog of a lady in California.  In recent weeks she's photographed several parking lots, at defunct shopping malls and offices, that are being used as storage areas for a glut of unsold new vehicles.  Here's just one example.




Here are her blog posts, with pictures and (frequently snarky) comments:

She mentions how many of the cars have been standing there for up to a year, perhaps longer.  Their protective plastic coatings have weathered away, and they're extremely dirty.  My concern is that they haven't been run in all that time, either.  How many times have we seen mice, squirrels and other critters making nests in idle engines - and chewing their way through cables, pipes, tubes and wiring in the process?  How many engines can handle standing idle for that long, never being turned over, without risking damage when they're finally put into service?  Finally, just think of the financial burden represented by all those photographs.  There are hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in those overstocked vehicles in her part of California alone.  How much is tied up across the nation?

It's not just the USA, either.  Some years ago, Business Insider ran a photo essay titled 'Unsold Cars Around the World'.  Here's just one image from it, showing thousands of new cars being stored on the runway and taxiways of an unused Royal Air Force base in England.




There are many more photographs at the link.  They make sobering viewing - and the situation has gotten considerably worse since they were taken.  Late last year, the Detroit News reported:

At the end of November, the U.S. auto industry had nearly 4 million vehicles in inventory, or a 72 days supply, according to IHS. Automakers typically want to see a healthy level of between 60 and 65 days supply, IHS says.

The industry has 250,000 or 260,000 units of excess inventory “that kind of needs to be weaned from the system,” said Joe Langley, IHS principal analyst for North America light vehicle forecasting.

Again, more at the link.

The inventory and over-production situation has gotten significantly worse this year.

The imbalance was especially acute at General Motors, which entered March with a 123-day supply of cars and an 81-day supply of light trucks. Its Buick Division had an overall 167-day supply, the most of any U.S. brand. Buick's car stocks jumped to 239 days vs. 79 days a year earlier.

By comparison, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler US have sharply trimmed production of slow-selling cars in the first quarter. They were the only two of the seven best-selling automakers to reduce total March 1 inventory units from Feb. 1. Compared with a year ago, Ford's March 1 inventory fell 77,200 units to 678,300 and FCA was down almost 100,000 to 578,800 units.

In units, industry inventory stands at 4.1 million, up almost 300,000 from a year ago and the highest for any month since July 2004.

More at the link.

In other words, General Motors could sell cars for 123 days - a third of a year - at its normal rate without manufacturing a single new vehicle.  How much money is tied up in that inventory?  Think billions of dollars.  What's more, that overhang in new vehicle supply is going to be made far worse by the glut of vehicles coming off-lease over the next few years, all of which must be re-sold as used vehicles - over and above getting rid of the glut of new cars.

I stand by what I said in my previous post.  The US vehicle industry is in dire straits, and I don't see how it can survive in its present form.

Peter

Proof the US auto industry is in serious trouble


"Follow the money" is one of the oldest truisms.  Sooner or later, if you want to know the truth about something, or someone, or some industry, find out where the money is going, watch how it's being raised, see how it's being spent . . . and draw your own conclusions.

We've already seen how the US auto industry (and Europe's, too, for that matter) is threatened by a tidal wave of vehicles coming off lease over the next few years, as well as technological obsolescence.  Used car prices are predicted to drop by as much as 50% over the next few years, which will undoubtedly force new car prices to decrease as well - otherwise few will be willing to pay them, since the new-to-used differential will be so great.

There's another reason why vehicle prices are going to have to drop.  It looks as if many of us are struggling to afford them at any cost.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported:

The average price of a new car is now $31,000, up $3,000 in the past four years. But at the same time, the average monthly car payment edged down, to $460 from $465—the result of longer loan terms and lower interest rates.

In the final quarter of 2012, the average term of a new car note stretched out to 65 months, the longest ever, according to Experian Information Solutions Inc. Experian said that 17% of all new car loans in the past quarter were between 73 and 84 months and there were even a few as long as 97 months. Four years ago, only 11% of loans fell into this category.

Such long term loans can present consumers and lenders with heightened risk. With a six- or seven-year loan, it takes car-buyers longer to reach the point where they owe less on the car than it is worth. Having “negative equity” or being “upside down” in a car makes it harder to trade or sell the vehicle if the owner can’t make payments.

There's more at the link.

Jalopnik elaborates that there's a significant downside to longer-term loans.

These extra-long car loan terms seem good for new car buyers because they help keep the payments down, ideally under $500 a month. But as the story notes, it takes buyers much longer to reach the point where they owe less on the car than it is worth.

In the meantime, you're spending all that money each month for years at a time on a depreciating asset when it could be better spent on other things, like a mortgage or building up a savings account. You also may end up paying a ridiculous amount in interest over those years.

Again, more at the link.

Think about it.
  • 73 months = 6 years, 1 month - 50% longer than most people spend in high school, or to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree.
  • 84 months = 7 years - even worse.
  • 97 months = 8 years, 1 month - twice as long as most people spend in high school, or take to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree.

That's an awful long time to burden oneself with an auto loan, on top of existing debt such as study loans, credit cards, lines of credit, etc. (to say nothing of a housing loan).  What if you want to get married during the term of your auto loan?  You now have to carry that expense into your new (and hopefully lifelong) relationship, burdening your partner with it, even though the vehicle you bought may not be suitable for a couple (particularly if they plan to have children).  If you need a more suitable vehicle, as Jalopnik warns, you may be 'upside-down' on your loan (i.e. owe more than the vehicle is worth), and therefore have to take out an even larger loan to buy what you need.

There's another factor to consider.  I've written on many occasions about the real rate of inflation, as compared to the 'official' rate (which is deliberately understated to a ridiculous extent, so as to hold down mandated-by-law increases in entitlement costs).  The inflation-adjusted cost of a motor vehicle is claimed to be relatively constant over time.  (Click the chart for a larger view.)




However, average US incomes have not kept pace with the real level of inflation over time.  Even using the deliberately-skewed, politically-correct, understated 'official' inflation rate, the bottom three quintiles show a decline:




When one uses a more realistic measurement of inflation, as we discussed last year, the inflation rate - and the resultant decline in effective household income - is far greater.  Put in its simplest terms, most US households currently have significantly less disposable income, in terms of the buying power of their money, than they had in previous decades.  Therefore, while auto prices may have held reasonably steady in inflation-adjusted dollars, the incomes of those who buy them have not.  They're now effectively much lower.  (If you doubt this, do your own measurement.  Compare the cost of typical groceries and supplies for your household in 1997, in 2007, and this year.  I guarantee you, the cost difference will be much greater than can be accounted for by the official rate of inflation!  My wife and I reckon our expenses for normal household groceries and supplies have more than doubled over the past ten years;  yet our personal incomes have not grown to anything like the same extent.  I'll be surprised if you haven't seen something similar.)

That's why the duration of auto loans has had to increase.  People no longer have sufficient disposable income to afford both their normal living expenses, and the monthly payments on that auto loan over a more 'conventional' term.  That's also why many US cars are now sold through short-term leases rather than auto loans - because  loan payments are simply too high.  To take a wider perspective, it's also why most housing mortgages have stretched from fifteen to thirty years, in most cases, and why most people can't afford to put down a deposit of more than one or two per cent on their homes - and therefore are very, very vulnerable to another housing downturn.  (When Miss D. and I bought our house in Texas, a year and a half ago, I was told by the bank official handling our loan application that we were the first couple in six months to have taken out a 15-year loan, putting down a 20% deposit.  This is, apparently, simply impossible for most couples today.  That's a very scary thought!)

Putting all those factors together, I'd say the US auto industry is in very serious trouble indeed.  Many of its customers simply can't afford its vehicles at their current price levels;  and even those who can, often have to stretch out their auto loans to unconscionable lengths to reduce the monthly payment, thereby crippling themselves with additional interest charges (and affecting their ability to access other forms of credit, for the duration of the auto loan).  In order to sell cars to those who can't afford even such extended payment terms, the industry has hamstrung itself by leasing millions of vehicles.  As those short-term leases expire, they will vastly increase used-car inventories, making it impossible to both resell them all, and simultaneously sell more new cars, all at present, inflated prices.  The industry has been hoist on its own petard.

Herbert Stein famously said that "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."  I rather suspect that's about to happen to the US auto industry in its present form.  Unless it changes, it'll simply price itself out of its own market . . . and that'll leave it nowhere to go.

Peter

Monday, July 24, 2017

They're at it again!


Lots more rally action here, after last week's two videos on the subject.  A lot of this is inside-the-cab video, which gives a new and very scary perspective on just how fast things can go wrong.





Oops!

Peter

Charlie Gard: the inevitable result of a post-Christian world


I'm sure my readers have been following the sorry, tragic saga of Charlie Gard.

The real issue here is, who has parental authority over a child?  Is it the infant's natural, physical parents?  Or are they merely acting as custodians for the State?  In a post-Christian world, the latter view appears to be in the ascendant - and that should trouble not only Christians, but anyone who favors individual rights, freedoms and liberties over the authority of the 'nanny State'.

Charlie’s parents, Chris and Connie, have raised over a million dollars to bring Charlie over to America for an experimental treatment. But England’s health service seems to believe they know better than Charlie’s own parents. The National Health Service, NHS, told his parents he should be left to “die with dignity.”

Socialized medicine takes the human element out of health care and looks at illnesses and diseases in a strictly cost-based, quantitative view. If the likelihood of survival is low, the “national health experts” won’t take the “risk” with treatment. Never mind that the parents have already made plans to take the risk somewhere else.

However, the Charlie Gard case speaks to the ... redefinition of marriage in a broader, cultural sense. And this immorality affects medical care and health insurance, which leads to a socialized medicine with a subhuman view of man, while bestowing deity-like prominence on the State.

It isn’t just about denying parental rights in the medical treatment and health care of Chris and Connie’s child. It is denying they are even Charlie’s ultimate parents at all.

. . .

Charlie Gard isn’t just an example of the failures of socialized medicine. You’re thinking too small. It is the denial of true liberty.

There's more at the link.

This case is a direct, immediate warning to Americans of the likely consequences of single-payer health care.  The Chicago Tribune points out:

Why does the British government have such wide authority over Charlie's treatment? One big reason: Because the government funds a single-payer health system, picking up medical costs for British citizens.

We imagine many Americans reassure themselves that this country's largely private system of health insurance would never be so dismissive of a parent's right to make decisions about a child's health care. Or deny a parent the right to take a child home to die.

But this medical drama, no matter anyone's opinion, foreshadows the difficult decisions to come if America converts its medical insurance system into a single-payer model. (Note that "single-payer" is a euphemism for government-controlled health spending and care.)

The prospect of single-payer here isn't far-fetched: Medicare and Medicaid already account for about 38 percent of U.S. health care spending. Democratic politicians have floated the notion of lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55, or of a broader Medicare-for-all. Before Obamacare became law in 2010, there also was talk of a so-called public option — a government-run plan — to compete with private plans on market exchanges. That was widely seen as a Trojan horse for single-payer.

. . .

Bottom line: Single-payer is no panacea. Free treatment isn't free. Somebody — everybody — pays. To which proponents of single-payer would retort: Private insurers aren't models of generosity: Sometimes they pay for costly new treatments, sometimes they don't.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates probably never thought they'd be in this predicament, arguing with the British government about whether they could take a child home to die. Nor could anyone predict that a critically ill infant far from U.S. shores would provide one more reason for Americans to remain wary of a single-payer system.

Again, more at the link.

When Obamacare was introduced, there was much talk about so-called 'death panels'.  Opponents of the law warned of them;  supporters derided the very idea.  Well, the case of Charlie Gard demonstrates conclusively that in the absence of a morality that values human life as worthwhile in and of itself, even in the absence of any reference to a Divinity;  that sees human life as intrinsically valuable, rather than measuring that value in terms of dollars and cents . . . death panels are inevitable.  The British courts are, right now, functioning as a death panel in the case of Charlie Gard.

As a retired pastor, you'll understand that my own position on this is clear.  Others will doubtless differ.  Nevertheless, I pray most sincerely that God will protect young Charlie Gard from those who would see him dead, rather than allow his parents to spend their own funds and those donated by supporters, to give him a chance at life.  If his death is inevitable, let it occur;  but let it not be dictated by bureaucratic fiat, or imposed by a godless, indifferent State, overriding the wishes of his parents.

For the rest of us . . . the case of Charlie Gard illustrates the perils of allowing the State to dictate what health care we may, or should, receive.  "He who pays the piper, calls the tune":  and if we allow the State to pay the piper, we should not be surprised to find that we have no say at all in what he plays.  I'm absolutely certain that in time, this will extend to telling older people that they may no longer consume the lion's share of health care dollars, as they have in the past.  It's more cost-effective to let them die, because their utility to society is less than that of younger, more productive, less unhealthy people.  If you think that won't happen, explicitly or implicitly, there's this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell to you.  Going cheap!  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

We have been warned.

Peter

End of a long-drawn-out death


Readers will recall the saga of the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Italian coast in 2012.  It was raised from its watery grave in 2014, in what turned out to be the largest and most complex marine salvage operation in history, and towed to Genoa, where dismantling began.




The Ship Recycling Consortium has announced the completion of their task of scrapping the Costa Concordia.

Less than three years have passed since the arrival of the Concordia wreck in Genoa, on July 27th 2014. Below some of the most significant numbers of this project since the beginning of the operations:
  • Workforce employed: up to 350
  • Total effective hours worked: approximately 1 million
  • Companies and suppliers involved: 78 (98% of them are Italian)
  • Total recycled material: approximately 90%, equal to over 53,000 tons for almost 4,000 trips to recycling facilities in Italy
  • Total dismantled material: 8,000 tons with over 850 trips to dismantling facilities.

There's more at the link.

It's a sad farewell to a ship that should never have sunk, but for the tragic and criminally stupid actions of her Captain.  He began serving a 16-year prison sentence for his crimes in May.

Peter

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday morning music


Regular readers will know that I've been a lifelong fan of the music of Jethro Tull and its leader, Ian Anderson.  He's far more than just a rock or pop musician.  He's composed in genres ranging from pop, to disco, to folk, to hard rock, and any number of combinations thereof.  He's also transcribed many of his compositions for orchestra (and a number of classical orchestral works into rock songs, too!).

I thought you might be interested to see how his orchestral adaptations have worked.  Here's just one example from 'The Orchestral Jethro Tull', which is one of my favorite Tull/Anderson albums.




First, from the legendary 1971 album 'Aqualung', in the 40th anniversary remastered edition issued in 2011, here's 'Mother Goose'.





Now, here's the orchestral version, featuring a much older band, with lots more musicians.





I find it a whimsical, light-hearted and interesting variation on the original rock version.  You might like to check out the other orchestral renditions on the album (you can listen to samples at the link, and if you subscribe to the Amazon Unlimited music streaming service, the full album's available there at no additional charge).

Peter