Saturday, September 30, 2017

Puerto Rico: politicians playing politics with tragedy and disaster

Following my earlier article about how Puerto Rico's state and local governments are the real problem with aid distribution and relief efforts there, I can't resist pointing you to three other comments that summarize the problem.

First, Aesop pins down the Mayor of San Juan in two blunt blog posts.

Chutzpah Alert:
Apparently, the stacks of containers sitting undistributed on the docks at San Juan are the president's fault because he hasn't come down to hand out the water bottles personally, and the Puerto Ricans can't be bothered to distribute literal cargo containers of supplies themselves.

No doubt it's also Trump's fault that the island's government is bankrupt, short $74 billion in bonds since May, and another $49B in unfunded pension liability, having squandered billions of dollars, including FEMA grants, for a decade, without spending any of it on hardening and improving the island's decrepit infrastructure, despite the fact that PR gets hit by hurricanes nearly every year since forever, and instead blowing the money on failed social programs.

Calling it an island of lazy dumbasses run by a Democrat kleptocracy isn't racial profiling, it's predictive modeling based on decades of experience.

The main thing Puerto Rico brings to the table is the ability to make the District of Columbia, or Venezuela, look like well-run entities by contrast.

Island Time Means Never Showing Up To Work:
So with USAF planes landing supplies, navy ships in the waters offshore, and tons of relief cargo being unloaded at the Port of San Juan, how are they handling things?

Well, the D- student of the pledge class, the PR National Guard, currently boasts that around 50% of guard members called up for service during the emergency have actually shown up. FTR, those are criminal counts of AWOL, chargeable under the UCMJ, and probably under federal and territorial law as well. And these are the honormen of the class.

Posting a 20% score, for a solid F, are truck drivers. The Teamsters there are on strike, and refusing to deliver supplies, or even show up to transport them, until they extort a favorable contract out of TPTB. That little stunt should be the reason that the president declares martial law, nationalizes the drivers, and tells them failure to muster for driving duty will be a federal felony, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All of which is both legal under federal law, and proper under the circumstances.

But the star pupil? Posting a 0% attendance rating?

Oh, that would be Heronner, above, Miss Chiquita Banana Republic postergirl herself, Carmen Yellin' Yulin Cruz, bitchmeister meisterburgher of the quaint little hellhole fiefdom of San Juan, PR. She's been invited to multiple FEMA meetings, but apparently due to her endless commitments for TV spots to decry the overwhelming federal response to the disaster, she's been unable to attend every planning meeting she's been invited to at FEMA HQ.

Here's what the head of FEMA has to say.

Folks, I know disasters.  I've been in and around far too many of them for comfort, ranging from man-made (the aftermath of war, insurrection, terrorism and riot) to natural (Tropical Storm Domoina, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, and the Nashville floods of 2010).  I also know disaster relief, from the inside (as a civil defense sector officer, as a member of military units assigned to relief work, and as a volunteer in situations of civil unrest and natural disaster), and from the outside (as a recipient of aid).  I speak from both experience and expertise when I say that FEMA is doing everything it possibly can right now to deal with disasters in many different areas.  (It's not just the states affected by hurricanes, but also the wildfire situation in the western US, which is as bad as it's ever been).  FEMA is doing a much better job than it did in previous disaster situations where I saw it at work.  It's clearly learned a lot of lessons, and I'm impressed by its performance.

The states of Texas and Florida are also doing a great job of distributing the aid that FEMA and their own governments and citizens are supplying.  Of course, in a major disaster situation, not everything is going to go smoothly.  That's why they call it a disaster!  Nevertheless, overall, the response in terms of rescue, recovery, resupply and rebuilding of basic infrastructure has been outstanding in those states.  If it hasn't been as good in Puerto Rico, as I've said before, don't blame FEMA and the federal government for that.  State and local assistance is not their job, because no Washington bureaucrat or aid organizer can know about conditions on the ground.

FEMA gets aid and supplies to the area concerned.  After that, it's the job of state and local governments to distribute them and use them wisely.  In Puerto Rico - unlike Texas and Florida - those entities have been conspicuous by their absence and/or abject collapse.  That's why the crisis on the island is so much worse than in the other hurricane-affected states.  As far as I'm concerned, those trying to score anti-President-Trump or anti-federal-government points out of this tragedy deserve to be strung up on Puerto Rican lampposts . . . that is, if any of the latter can be found still upright.

(If you'd like to read a situation report from Puerto Rico, from someone who knows what he's talking about, see here.)


Electric vehicles as a tool of Big Brother and social control

I note that Governor Jerry Brown of California has some big plans for electric vehicles.

Mary Nichols, head of California's Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg News this week that Brown has been pestering her about getting a gas-car ban on the books.

. . .

The United Kingdom and France have both said they will ban the sale of gas and diesel by 2040. Norway's transportation plan calls for all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2025. India wants to make the switch to electric by 2030.

But it's the People's Republic of China, currently drafting its own ill-defined ban on the production and sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, that is giving Brown the most grief.

Says Nichols, "The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California."

Apart from envying the autocratic powers of a communist dictatorship, Brown has not said what a ban on gas and diesel vehicles might look like. Nichols herself offers scant detail, other than saying that a complete ban on the sale of new combustion-powered vehicles could arrive as early as 2030 and that all combustion would have to be phased out by as early as 2040.

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

The article doesn't address the very real problem of an electric grid that won't be able to cope with the load of recharging all those electric vehicles, as Old NFO pointed out yesterday.  I've no idea what it will cost to upgrade our national power grid for that purpose, but it's got to run into the billions, if not the trillions of dollars.

The main point, though, is that this puts every citizen more at the mercy and under the control of Big Brother.  Think about it.  What if the state wants to stop citizens running around willy-nilly?  Why, they can simply restrict power supply to homes and businesses, so that you have a hard daily or weekly or monthly limit on consumption.  Exceed that limit, and your power is cut off.  That means you face a hard choice.  Do you run your air conditioner, or furnace, or washing machine, or refrigerator, or freezer, or lights . . . or do you charge your vehicle more often?  Tough choice, isn't it?

There's also an aspect of social control.  If the government wants to prevent people going to a particular gathering (say, a political meeting), or wants to force people to stay put rather than evacuate an area threatened with natural disaster (say, a hurricane), it can simply restrict, or even cut off, the power supplies in, and for a given radius around, that area.  If you can't recharge your car, you can't get very far, can you?

There's also the aspect of integrating recharging facilities with "smart car" features.  We've already heard rumblings from European law enforcement that they want a "kill switch" incorporated into every new vehicle, so they can automatically disable them in order to investigate the occupants.  Some US law enforcement agencies have made similar noises, and General Motors has already incorporated it into its OnStar service.  What if that "kill switch" includes an option to disable recharging?  What if it shuts down the battery when it reaches a given level of charge, so that the vehicle's range is automatically restricted - i.e. if your battery charge falls below (say) 50%, your car automatically parks itself and switches off?  Welcome to an even Bigger Brother!

Finally, there's the aspect of how to afford this new technology.  If California truly wants to phase out all combustion engines by 2040, that will mean taking off the road something like 99% of all vehicles currently being driven.  If you want to keep yours, you can . . . but where are you going to buy fuel for it, when gas stations are forbidden to sell it to you?  Who's going to pay for replacement vehicles?  Most of us certainly won't be able to afford the new technology vehicles . . . and that may be the point of the exercise.  If we can't afford our own vehicles, we'll automatically be forced to rely on public transport.  That can be provided selectively, to areas "approved" by the government for mass housing - say, tightly-packed high-rise inner-city neighborhoods.  Don't like small "efficiency" apartments?  Want to live outside those areas, in a bigger house?  Too bad, comrade.  You're on your own to get there and back.  Kiss suburbia goodbye!  What's more, the immense cost of building and expanding mass transport systems and services will require increased taxes, and will offer unparalleled opportunities for graft, corruption and favoritism.  Are you excited yet?  The politicians certainly are!

Depriving people of the ability to fuel/charge and refuel/recharge their own vehicles, at their convenience, is merely another form of government control.  It turns citizens into subjects.  No, thank you!


The reason so many NFL players don't like cops . . .

. . . is apparently because so many of them have been arrested by cops - sometimes for repeated offenses.

If you want the short-and-simple version, USA Today has published a list of NFL player arrests going back to the year 2000, in reverse date order.  It's very informative.

For the full, much longer version, a Web site provides searchable information on NFL arrests.  It's been so overloaded in recent days that the primary site is currently offline;  but it's been mirrored on a backup site, which is still working.

The Web site notes:

Keep in mind there are 1700 NFL Players and their arrest rates are lower than the USA arrest rate.

That's all very well, of course . . . but if you look at the NFL players who are actually taking a knee in protest, and compare their names to the arrest database, there appears to be a strong correlation - and that would make the arrest rate for the former a lot higher than the USA arrest rate.

Makes you think, doesn't it?


Making crocodiles look like minnows by comparison

Australian reader Snoggeramus sends us a fascinating report about a dead whale that's being eaten by salt-water crocodiles.

"We had paying passengers from a cruise ship and they had a look at something truly amazing," Mr Crook said.

"When we got there we counted nine crocodiles, quite big at around three metres probably, and they were just tiny compared to this whale, which was maybe a medium sized humpback, not a juvenile but a bit older."

As they circled their [helicopter] around the carcass, later on at least fourteen crocodiles arrived to feast on the dead whale, with some even spotted emerging from the carcass' belly.

Photos taken by Mr French show 3.5 metre crocodiles looking like small lizards next to the massive whale.

"The smell was incredible, even in the chopper, so the crocodiles will be coming from miles around," Mr Crook said.

There's more at the link, including a photograph.

To see those massive crocodiles (10-12 feet long) absolutely dwarfed into insignificance by the huge carcass of the dead whale is amazing!  I hope more photographs emerge of the incident, and possibly some video too.


Friday, September 29, 2017

More post-hurricane "lessons learned"

Yesterday I put up a post titled "Lessons learned from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria".  I've continued to receive reports from correspondents, so I've added some more "lessons learned" to it.  If you'd like to read them, click on the link above to the original post, and scroll down until you find this heading:

6.  More lessons learned:  Friday, September 29, 2017.

I won't say "Enjoy!", because it's not a fun subject, but there's a lot to be learned from the experiences (and mistakes) of others.


Doofus Of The Day #979

A tip o' the hat to Diogenes' Middle Finger for spotting this pseudo-scientific idiocy.

Playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics.

. . .

Like many parents of small (and not-so-small) boys, two of us (KW and DL) have observed the great delight young males take in urination, a process by which they produce and direct a visible projectile arc.

The fact that boys (and men) play with their ability to projectile pee is hardly contentious. Boys are trained to pee into toilet bowls with floating targets, a huge variety of which can be bought on Amazon; Amsterdam Airport Schiphol famously cleaned up its urinals by encouraging men to hit flies etched next to the drain; and Peeball is now a worldwide phenomenon.

Meanwhile, YouTube videos explain how to write your name in the snow with your pee; and the post-match celebration peeing antics of sportsmen are widely reported in the media. Indeed, the very notion of a pissing contest – furthest, highest, most precisely aimed – is a deeply embedded part of some cultures. Alexander Pope includes a pissing contest in his narrative poem, the Dunciad. Our own children describe a stepped wall behind their primary school that’s used by male pupils for competitive target practice. And a colleague who grew up in the Canadian arctic describes boys competing to see who could perfect the trajectory so that what ascended as liquid fell as ice crystals.

All this is experienced up to five times a day, so by 14, boys have had the opportunity to play with projectile motion around 10,000 times. And 14 is when many children meet formalised physics in the form of projectile motion and Newton’s equations of motion for the first time.

This self-directed, hands-on, intrinsically (and sometimes extrinsically, and socially) rewarding activity must have a huge potential contribution to learning, resulting in a deep, embodied, material knowledge of projectile motion that’s simply not accessible to girls.

There's more at the link.

It sounds all very high-falutin' and pseudo-scientific . . . except that I know lots of men (including myself) who never had the slightest interest in exploring projectile motion via urination.  I never even wrote my name in the snow - admittedly, partly due to the fact that snow was non-existent in my experience until well after I grew up!  As for a "hands-on, intrinsically ... rewarding activity" . . . that might have been better phrased, don't you think?

I can't for the life of me figure out how directional manipulation of a stream of urine can possibly translate to a "material knowledge of projectile motion".  Of course, if it did, it'd be the ruination of urination . . .


Larry Correia brings the smackdown again . . .

. . . this time responding to a particularly clueless and uninformed rant against firearm suppressors.

The following post is from author Elizabeth Moon, who is an extremely good science fiction writer, but who apparently knows jack shit about guns. Which is kind of sad, since she was a Marine. There is so much wrong with this post that ... I’m going to have to break it down and fisk it line by line ...

. . .

There is so much nonsense in there that it is going to take some time to refute it all. This is a perfect example of Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle, in that it takes an order of magnitude more effort to refute bullshit than to create it.

. . .

The thing that congress is talking about doing is moving suppressors from the NFA, to treating them like they were regular guns. The NFA is bloated, inefficient, slow, and basically a useless relic requiring 1934 level tech. We have a National Insta Check System already for firearms purchases, so there’s no reason they couldn’t just use it instead. Personally, I think they’re just glorified pipes, so even treating them like a firearm is kind of silly, but it’s an improvement over our current archaic system.

Now let’s break down Elizabeth Moon’s hyperbolic silliness, line by silly line.

So the House is once again trying to sneak through a bill that deregulates silencers on personal weapons. Yes, they really want us all dead…

That’s just stupid. If congress wanted us all dead it would be easier to just put the democrats from Flint in charge of our water supply.

they really want to make it easier for their right wing goons to shoot us and not be heard doing so.

That’s right. Congress wants roving bands of redneck ninja death squads, silent but deadly, offing delicate Bambi-like progressives who were just standing on the corner minding their own business.

There's much more at the link.  I've added links for the benefit of those (particularly overseas readers) who may not understand all the references Larry makes.  Highly recommended reading.

If you've never known anything about suppressors except what Hollywood (inaccurately) portrays in its movies, Larry's rant will give you an instant (and very accurate) education in what they're all about.  Most important, they are not, repeat, NOT "silencers"!  There's no such thing as a completely silent firearm.  A suppressor does precisely what its proper name suggests;  it suppresses - but does not eliminate - the report of a cartridge being fired.  The extent to which it does so depends on many things, including the cartridge concerned, the velocity of the bullet, the design of the suppressor, ambient weather conditions, and a host of other details.

If you'd like to, not just learn, but see how a suppressor works, this video will show you.


Don't blame the Federal government for Puerto Rico's aid crisis

The chronic mismanagement, inefficiency and sclerotic bureaucracy of Puerto Rico continue to take their toll on residents after Hurricane Maria.  The New York Post reports:

“There are plenty of ships and plenty of cargo to come into the island,” said Mark Miller, a spokesman for shipping company Crowley, which has 3,000 containers of supplies in the US territory.

“From there, that’s where the supply chain breaks down — getting the goods from the port to the people on the island who need them,” he told Bloomberg News.

Around 9,500 containers carrying supplies remained stuck at the Port of San Juan on Thursday, while the island’s 3.4 million residents faced another day of food, fuel and water shortages, waiting in hours-long lines to buy basic items.

“Really, our biggest challenge has been the logistical assets to try to get some of the food and some of the water to different areas of Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told MSNBC.

Many roads on the island remain washed out or blocked by debris, and authorities have had trouble reaching out to truck drivers who can deliver supplies.

“When we say we that we don’t have truck drivers, we mean that we have not been able to contact them,” Rosselló said.

. . .

The Trump administration has been facing criticism over its response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, with some charging that it was slow to react.

“The federal response has been a disaster,” said lawmaker José Enrique Meléndez, a member of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party. “It’s been really slow.”

But Trump’s advisers pushed back against those accusations on Thursday, with acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke saying that she was “very satisfied” with the federal government’s response and that “the relief effort is under control.”

There's more at the link.

What most critics are not saying (largely, I presume, due to trying to score partisan political points with voters) is that it's not - or, at any rate, should not be - the federal government's job to manage the local distribution of aid.  The feds didn't do so in Texas, after Hurricane Harvey, and they didn't do so in Florida, after Hurricane Irma.  That's because state and local governments did their jobs properly, and handled local cleanup, aid distribution and recovery operations.  Those things aren't supposed to be handled by and from Washington D.C.   How can a Washington bureaucrat know what's needed in a flooded neighborhood a thousand or more miles away?

Puerto Rico was already swamped by a massive financial crisis, long before Hurricane Maria came along.  The storm has merely worsened its already chaotic administration - just as previous hurricanes have done.

Why didn’t island officials, like Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, prepare for a disaster they knew was coming? And how did Puerto Rico spend several hundred million dollars in US taxpayer-funded FEMA grants?

. . .

Between 1956 and 1996, there were 12 disaster declarations from hurricanes and flooding in Puerto Rico. Over the last 20 years there have been 15. FEMA has provided nearly a billion dollars in disaster relief to Puerto Rico since 1998.

By now, you’d think Puerto Rico would be prepared. Instead, Mayor Cruz told The Washington Post, “People are starting to tell us ‘I don’t have my medication. I don’t have my insulin. I don’t have my blood pressure medication. I don’t have food. I don’t have drinking water.’ ”

Puerto Rico’s El Vocero newspaper published a similar quote following Hurricane Hugo in 1989. There was “a lack of and delay in obtaining essential services and resources: for example, sanitary facilities, beds, food, water, prescription drugs, and health services . . . San Juan metropolitan area suffered from a lack of water for nine days.”

Old newspaper reports are not the only sources for what Puerto Rico could expect when a major hurricane hit. Government agencies publish post-incident reports following every hurricane. Many of them are available online.

We know some Puerto Rican officials must have reviewed at least some of them. They would have used the information provided in these reports to win $300 million from FEMA’s hazard-mitigation program.

. . .

The cycle rolls on: Puerto Rico gets hit by a major hurricane. The island is devastated. There is flooding. The power grid gets knocked out for weeks, if not months. The federal government sends billions of dollars for clean-up and repairs.

Then the next hurricane hits and the cycle starts all over again.

. . .

The federal government has already spent billions in this century shoring up and rebuilding coastal communities. We already knew Puerto Rico has no capacity for managing its finances. Now we also know Puerto Rico has no capacity for planning and protecting its citizens — who are also American citizens.

Again, more at the link.

Karl Denninger is less polite about the Puerto Rican administration.

How does Congress "prevent a deepening disaster"?

It cannot.  You cannot change the laws of physics nor magically make things that are broken become not-broken.  There is no issue with funding in the current paradigm; the problems are logistical.

Those issues arose because of decades of intentional mismanagement, grift and fraud including by the Governor himself and the rest of the Puerto Rican government, which has taken on debt over and over while squandering it on social programs instead of taking care of critical infrastructure needs -- like basic maintenance to the electrical grid.

. . .

... prudence demands that reserves must be maintained as part of ordinary practice and infrastructure hardening implemented, so that when such disasters occur their impact is blunted.

The island's government refused to do that. Wall Street banks and "investors" didn't care that the island government refused to do that, and bought the debt anyway, smug in the belief that the US taxpayer would bail them out if something bad happened.

Well, something bad happened.

We must not bail any of them out.

. . .

The lesson here is that if your government is squandering basic infrastructure maintenance and repairs so as to hand out cash to various people and favored groups, pretending the bill will never come due, yes it will, yes it does, and yes you will get hosed when it does.

In addition people should carefully consider the realistic carrying capacity of a given landmass in a given state of infrastructure development and maintenance.  Those who live in Puerto Rico currently did not, and sadly they are paying for that decision now.

More at the link.

Sadly, I have to agree with Mr. Denninger.  The current parlous conditions on Puerto Rico may be primarily laid at the door of the island's own administration.  It fell down on its job long before the hurricane struck - and it's never bothered to regain its feet.

Don't blame President Trump or Washington D.C. for what is, very clearly, Puerto Rico's home-grown problem.  That would be like the mayor of New Orleans blaming the lack of state and federal government help for failing to evacuate his citizens before Hurricane Katrina struck - while leaving hundreds of his own city's buses to flood in their parking lots.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

How do you say "Oops!" in Russian?

Last week I showed a Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber make a very, very long takeoff, leaving a cloud of dust at the runway threshold as it lifted off just in time.

This one didn't make it at all.  Running out of runway, its pilot deployed its braking parachutes as he tried to stop - but to no avail.

Listening to the sounds, it looks as if the tail section - visible towards the end of the clip - broke off and came to a stop, while the rest of the plane kept on going for a while.  There was no sign of a fire, so I hope the crew survived.

If anyone can provide more information about this accident, please do so in Comments.


EDITED TO ADD: A tip o' the hat to Irish for providing the link to an article about the crash.

Lessons learned from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, I wrote a series of "lessons learned" points, which I combined into an article on this blog some time later.  It's consistently among the most viewed articles here, so I hope it's done some good.

As the wider picture is emerging after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Hurricane Irma hit Florida, and Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico over the past couple of months, there have been more useful lessons coming out of the experiences of my correspondents (and from news media articles).  I'm going to summarize some of them here.  I'll add to this article in future (with a link to it at the time) as more information comes out.

1.  Storage of emergency supplies.

This is problematic when your building floods, and/or when hurricane-force winds damage or destroy it.  A number of issues have come to light.
  • If your containers (e.g. tin cans, jars, etc.) are identified only with paper labels, they probably won't stay attached (and/or legible) when flood waters rise.  It's a good idea to write the contents on the tops and/or bottoms of such containers using a waterproof Sharpie, or something like that.  If the label is soaked and/or falls off, you'll still know what's inside.
  • Some containers (e.g. Mason jars, etc.) are a lot less damage-resistant than others.  This is important if part or all of your building collapses.  Anything made of glass will probably break, and its contents will be ruined.  Tin cans are more resistant to that, but not invulnerable.  You may need to dig your supplies out of a damaged room, so it's important to make sure they survive the damage!  After hearing from correspondents about this, I've decided to store some of our emergency food supplies in heavy-duty, relatively damage-resistant totes (such as those recommended in this article).  That will help keep them together, make them easier to recover if necessary, and hopefully provide greater security against breaking or leaking.  (Note:  if your supplies are heavy [e.g. Mason jars or tin cans], pack them in smaller totes, so that the overall weight is manageable.  A large tote, loaded to the gunwales with heavy containers, is going to be hard to move at the best of times, let alone when you have to dig it out from a damaged or destroyed room!)
  • If space allows, it's a good idea to separate your emergency supplies, making at least two caches at opposite ends of the house.  That way, if one part of the building is so badly damaged you can't safely enter it, you can at least use the supplies in the other part.  It might also be worth storing some supplies with friends or relatives whose homes are stronger and more disaster-resistant.  If yours becomes completely unusable, you'll still have something to fall back on.
  • Garden sheds are very useful to store volatile supplies such as cans of gasoline, propane gas cylinders, etc, keeping their fire hazard away from your primary residence.  Emergency supplies can also be stored there.  However, in a hurricane or flood, they're a lot less secure than a large building.  They may collapse, or be knocked over, or be washed away;  and looters looking for easy pickings will find it relatively easy to gain entry to them, if necessary by kicking in a wall or a window.  They are not secure storage, and should not be regarded as such.  If you have warning of an approaching emergency, move essential supplies out of sheds into safer and/or more secure locations.

2.  Using transport and/or travel trailers to "bug out".

Many people rely on transport and travel trailers or RV's to "bug out" if necessary, or provide alternative accommodation if their primary residence is damaged.  However, they are much more vulnerable than a house or apartment, particularly in weather-related disasters, and especially if strong winds arise.  Don't take a trailer into a high cross-wind situation, whether parked or on the road.  The odds are very good it'll blow over, as these videos illustrate.

There are many more like them, as an Internet search will demonstrate.  Also, be aware of the potential hazards of towing large, unwieldy trailers in the midst of heavy evacuation traffic, as noted in my Katrina after-action "lessons learned" article.

3.  Cash is king!

I've spoken several times about the need for an emergency cash reserve.  These hurricanes have driven home that need even more powerfully.  In Houston and Florida, electronic payment networks (needed to operate credit card machines, ATM's, etc.) were down from days to weeks on end.  In Puerto Rico, they're still largely inoperable in most parts of the island.  Most shops are insisting on cash payment only - and if you don't have cash, you're out of luck.  Reuters reports:

Demand for cash in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico is "extraordinarily high" after power outages knocked out electronic transactions and ATMs ... Residents and tourists were counting their dwindling banknotes in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which crippled the electrical grid and communications network, turning the Caribbean island into a largely cash-based economy.

. . .

With electricity and internet down in Yauco, southwestern Puerto Rico, Nancy and Caesar Nieve said they could not access paychecks directly deposited into their bank accounts.

"What are we going to do when we don't have any cash? The little cash we have, we have to save for gas," said Nancy.

Cash demand spiked in the first few days after the hurricane as merchants were unable to accept other modes of payment.

. . .

Isolation and widespread power outages ... intensified the cash crunch in Puerto Rico.

"I'm out of options," said Brandon Alexander Jones, a vacationer from London who on Tuesday was down to $85, with no way to get more cash, and no way to reach a friend on the island due to crippled cellular service.

He was staying in a San Juan shelter after a hobbled hotel had asked him and other guests to leave, and he spent much of his remaining money to get to the airport.

"I don't know how to get across the Atlantic. I don't know how to get to the States. I'm stranded," he told Reuters. "I'm out of reach from anyone who can help me."

There's more at the link.

Note, in particular, Mr. Jones' account in the above report.  If we travel to or in areas where natural disasters are more likely to occur (e.g. California [earthquakes], the Caribbean [during hurricane season], areas with active volcanoes, etc.), we need to have additional cash on hand, just in case.  It's too easy to rely on credit cards when traveling . . . but you're stuck if you can't use them.

I continue to believe that an emergency cash reserve of at least one month's routine expenditure, stored securely at home rather than in a bank savings account, is an essential part of one's emergency preparations.  If that's not possible, try to save a week's worth, or even a couple of days' worth of cash.  It may make all the difference in difficult times.  Furthermore, when traveling, take extra cash along, just in case.  Yes, it can be a security headache . . . but its absence during an emergency may be a much bigger one!

4.  Security may be a much bigger problem than you realize.

The crime and looting reported from Texas and Florida weren't too bad, thanks to a strong police presence (although they were bad enough if you were a victim, I'm sure!).  Puerto Rico appears to have a much bigger problem.

The island of 3.4 million people is without electricity, and water, and looters have taken over as police and the National Guard enforce a strict 6 pm to 6 am curfew — leaving Americans in chaos, abandoned by their government.

“It’s a war zone,” Beckles said by email. “There is no power or water. We are under curfew from 6 pm to 6 am. Food is becoming scarce and people are getting desperate. Looting has already begun. The lines to get gas are seven to ten hours long — to receive $10 worth of gas.”

. . .

Beckles said that in the first few days after the Hurricane it seemed things might be fine — but help never came.

“We are now 7 days in and nothing is happening. How can anyone feel safe with a curfew in place and looting going on?” she said.

The mayor of San Juan has warned people to stay indoors and not violate the curfew for their own safety.

Again, more at the link.

There have been similar reports from other Caribbean islands affected by the hurricanes.  This is made worse, from our point of view, by the fact that many of those islands (including the US Virgin Islands) have more restrictive firearms laws and regulations than the USA, making it much more difficult to defend oneself and one's family, and protect one's property and emergency supplies from looters.

The situation after Hurricane Katrina was much worse than it has been this year.  I suspect US law enforcement authorities learned from Katrina, and responded accordingly;  but that may not be universal.  I continue to suggest that you arm and train to defend yourself and your loved ones, if necessary - and protect your emergency supplies while you're at it.  It's like a parachute.  You may never need it . . . but if you do, you won't have time to go and buy one, and learn how to use it!  Better to be prepared in advance, just in case.

5.  Generator issues.

A Puerto Rican correspondent at Voat reported:

In this small town we probably have 10-15 people with generators and about maybe im guessing 40 with water tanks . Its taken to day 5 when now people are complaining about those with the generators. How inconsiderate we are, how noisy the generators are waah. I will gladly charge up your phone no prob thats nothing. anything else ,I need to see a gallon and an extension cord. the town ran out of gas, the town over has gas but the closest functioning ath is 2 towns away so yea its sucks all around. People are looking at your tank (mines at half, so shit it needs to rain.) 5 days is what Im learning where peoples tipping point is.

. . .

Sorry about dropping off last night generator died and I had about 2 gallons left until I went out to get more. Which was this morning. electric came back in the afternoon. If I dont see at least 10 more generators pop up next time the power goes out I will know for sure people are just stupid and theres no helping them.

More at the link.

That's worth thinking about.  If you have a generator (which will be obvious from lights in your home at night, even if people are too far away to hear its exhaust), you're going to attract the envy of those who don't have power.  At first it may be a request to charge a phone;  then it might be to run an extension cord to their house, so they can share your electricity.  If you have a small generator, that won't carry that sort of load, you're going to refuse, of course;  but that's going to create bad blood with your neighbors.  Worth thinking about . . . and perhaps worth planning not to use electric light at night, so as not to attract unwanted attention.  Burn candles, use flashlights, whatever, and use generator power for things like refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and small window air-conditioning units (or heaters in colder weather).

Another important point is the fuel consumption of your generator.  Bigger units consume more fuel, which is not a good thing when fuel supplies are limited or non-existent!  Given that factor, as well as the security aspect discussed above, I'm coming to think that one or two small 2,000 watt inverter generators (which can be connected together to draw more power from both of them) may be a better option for the budget-conscious (like myself) than a larger, more powerful unit.  Consider:
  • They use a gallon or so of gasoline for seven to ten hours of operation, as opposed to several times that for a larger unit, so your stored fuel supplies will go further.
  • They're much quieter than a larger unit, typically operating at conversational noise levels - so they're easier on your ears, and harder for your neighbors to hear.
  • They're very portable - you can carry them in one hand.  This makes transporting them much easier than bigger, heavier, more unwieldy generators.
  • If you have two of them (to run them as a combined unit), and one breaks down, you still have one in operation.  If your only large generator breaks down, you're S.O.L.
I'm almost sure that, when it comes time to buy a generator for Miss D. and myself, we'll go for two of the smaller units rather than a single, larger one.

Finally, FEMA administrator Brock Long has a message for all of us.


* * * * * * * * * *

6.  More lessons learned:  Friday, September 29, 2017.

I've been hearing from more correspondents about their experiences.  Here are a few more "lessons learned".

  1. It's very useful to have a cooking method available that doesn't require very much fuel.  Three correspondents report that they put thermal cookers to good use.  They're a modern version of the old haybox.  You first boil the food, then put it in the thermal cooker and close the lid.  The food continues to cook from the heat stored within it, but doesn't require any further energy from outside.  After four to six hours, you can produce a very tasty, well-cooked stew, soup or something like that, with the use of only as much energy as it took to boil it in the beginning.  That saves a lot of fuel (propane, or kerosene, or firewood, or whatever).  You can also carry a thermal cooker around with you if necessary, letting the food cook while you travel or do other things.  I'm impressed enough by those reports that I'm going to get two for our own use, one larger, one smaller in size.  I'm looking forward to experimenting with them.
  2. "Tall poppy syndrome" appears to have reared its ugly head in several communities.  Some of those who'd made adequate preparations for disaster, and consequently come through the storm in relatively good shape, are said to have bragged about their forethought and acumen, and made disparaging comments about those who hadn't done likewise.  This has not exactly made them popular with their neighbors, particularly those who would have liked to prepare as well, but couldn't afford to do so to the same extent.  Also, some "preppers" are reported to have taken delight in eating and drinking on their porch, even barbecuing meat from their generator-powered freezers in full view of passersby, flaunting their "success".  I'm sure you can imagine how popular this has made them!  I have no idea why they behaved like that, but I suspect it's going to have long-term repercussions for them.  Not an example we want to emulate!  I suggest that keeping a low profile, and having some extra supplies to share with those around you, are worthwhile precautions against future resentment if you want to go on living in your neighborhood.
  3. In many areas, aid workers have arrived in trucks bearing bottled water, emergency food supplies, etc. and distributed them to all who needed them.  However, it's reported that some "preppers", who were known by those living around them to have their own supplies, tried to obtain more from the aid workers.  This led to several altercations and a few fist-fights, as those who were in greater need showed their anger and disgust.  I think the moral of the story is to keep your emergency supplies out of sight, and not let it be known that you have them - or, at least, not as much of them as you may have.  Also, don't be greedy and try to take supplies that you don't really need.  You don't want to provoke that sort of response.
  4. A lot of people are angry and upset that they weren't - and in some cases still haven't - been allowed to access badly damaged areas or properties.  This is only common sense.  The emergency services are already overloaded.  The last thing they need is to have more problems thrown at them, rescuing home-owners and residents who've put themselves at risk!  However, many of the latter seem to think they have a God-given right to enter their properties and recover their belongings at their convenience.  This has led to a number of clashes.  Some home-owners have even been arrested for refusing to obey orders from the authorities.  I can understand their frustration, but really, there's no excuse for that behavior.  It's not just our lives, but the lives of all those who'll have to put themselves at risk to rescue us if something goes wrong - and the other important tasks they'll have to leave because of our selfishness.  Communities have to sort things out one problem at a time, as resources allow.  It doesn't help anybody if we try to assert our "rights" (no matter how questionable) and refuse to cooperate.
  5. Many landlords have been terminating leases for their properties, requiring tenants to move out at once so that they can commence repairs or rebuilding.  Some tenants are apparently upset about this, because they can't get other rental accommodation near their work or family or schools (most of it having also been damaged or destroyed).  They're accusing their landlords of being "uncaring", or "gouging" them, or words to that effect.  Again, I don't get it.  If the building's badly damaged (particularly if interior flooding and mold removal are involved), it has to be emptied if it's to be repaired.  Sure, that's inconvenient, and may result in a lot of unexpected expenses for tenants;  but that's the reality of the aftermath of a disaster.  It's nothing personal - it's just the way it is.

I'll post more "lessons learned" as they come in.


At these numbers, why NOT build the wall?

I noted an article yesterday, headlined:

It began:

The swelling population of illegal immigrants and their kids is costing American taxpayers $135 billion a year, the highest ever, driven by free medical care, education and a huge law enforcement bill, according to the the most authoritative report on the issue yet.

And despite claims from pro-illegal immigration advocates that the aliens pay significant off-setting taxes back to federal, state and local treasuries, the Federation for American Immigration Reform report tallied just $19 billion, making the final hit to taxpayers about $116 billion.

State and local governments are getting ravaged by the costs, at over $88 billion. The federal government, by comparison, is getting off easy at $45 billion in costs for illegals.

There's more at the link.

President Trump's much-touted wall along our southern border (across which the overwhelming majority of those illegals come) is, by comparison, estimated to cost anywhere from "$10 billion or less" to $67 billion, depending on which news report you believe.  Even at the high end, that would cost less than half as much as one year's illegal immigration costs.  Once it was built, attention could turn to getting rid of as many as possible of those illegal aliens, saving us more and more money every year as their numbers diminished.

I don't know about the wall's opponents, but I know a bargain when I see one!


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Headline of the week

From the Daily Mail:

How very em-pathetic of them . . . with emphasis on the 'pathetic'!


Same statistics on police shootings - two radically different perspectives

It just goes to show - the direction from which one approaches something makes a big difference in how it looks.  That applies particularly to police shootings of Black suspects.

The Huffington Post takes a progressive, left-wing approach to the statistics.

Police and law enforcement officials killed at least 223 black Americans in the year after Kaepernick first began to protest, according to a HuffPost analysis of data compiled by The Washington Post and The Guardian ... police across the United States killed at least 222 other black Americans ― culminating with the death, on Aug. 13 of this year, of Patrick Harmon, a 50-year-old black man shot and killed by police in Salt Lake City.

It’s likely that even more black people were killed by police during that time period. The race of the victim has not been identified or confirmed in more than 160 police killings between Aug. 14, 2016 and Aug. 14, 2017 ... Overall, police shot and killed 978 people in the yearlong period that immediately followed Kaepernick’s first protest, according to the Post. Black Americans made up roughly 21 percent of the victims, according to HuffPost’s review.

. . .

African-Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the country’s population ― meaning they are far more likely to die at the hands of police than white Americans, even though more white people are killed by law enforcement overall.

Though many of the victims of police violence were considered armed, according to the Post’s database, others were not. Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to be unarmed when police kill them, according to a study released in February.

There's more at the link.

On the other hand, the more conservative, more right-wing City Journal looks at the same numbers, and comes up with a very different perspective.

The FBI released its official crime tally for 2016 today, and the data flies in the face of the rhetoric that professional athletes rehearsed in revived Black Lives Matter protests over the weekend.  Nearly 900 additional blacks were killed in 2016 compared with 2015, bringing the black homicide-victim total to 7,881. Those 7,881 “black bodies,” in the parlance of Ta-Nehisi Coates, are 1,305 more than the number of white victims (which in this case includes most Hispanics) for the same period, though blacks are only 13 percent of the nation’s population. The increase in black homicide deaths last year comes on top of a previous 900-victim increase between 2014 and 2015.

Who is killing these black victims? Not whites, and not the police, but other blacks. In 2016, the police fatally shot 233 blacks, the vast majority armed and dangerous, according to the Washington Post. The Post categorized only 16 black male victims of police shootings as “unarmed.” That classification masks assaults against officers and violent resistance to arrest. Contrary to the Black Lives Matter narrative, the police have much more to fear from black males than black males have to fear from the police. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer. Black males have made up 42 percent of all cop-killers over the last decade, though they are only 6 percent of the population. That 18.5 ratio undoubtedly worsened in 2016, in light of the 53 percent increase in gun murders of officers—committed vastly and disproportionately by black males. Among all homicide suspects whose race was known, white killers of blacks numbered only 243.

. . .

Four studies came out in 2016 alone rebutting the charge that police shootings are racially biased. If there is a bias in police shootings, it works in favor of blacks and against whites. That truth has not stopped the ongoing demonization of the police—including, now, by many of the country’s ignorant professional athletes. The toll will be felt, as always, in the inner city, by the thousands of law-abiding people there who desperately want more police protection.

Again, more at the link.

The difference is obvious.  City Journal focuses on the "big picture" - crime statistics overall - and shows that racial disparities appear very different when viewed from that perspective.  Huffpo, Black Lives Matter and their ilk "drill down" to a narrow, tightly focused view of police shootings of black suspects, and draw drastically different conclusions.

I view the latter approach as being so flawed, statistically speaking, as to render it both dishonest and irrelevant.  It plays well to the perpetually aggrieved section of the populace, but all it's doing is reinforcing their stereotypes and further inflaming already seething emotions.

Robert Heinlein put important words into the mouth of one of his most famous characters:

What are the facts? Again and again and again - what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell", avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" - what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

I think only the City Journal article bothers to give us most of the plain, unvarnished facts, and - whilst expressing its author's own opinion - gives us enough information to draw our own conclusions.  The Huffpo article presents opinion as fact, and ignores any statistics that would lead its readers to question that opinion.  In this case, reality is not on the side of Huffpo, or Black Lives Matter - or the NFL protesters.


A modest proposal for the NFL . . .

. . . from Larry over at Virtual Mirage.

There are remedies to the grievances that the black players have. One of the first would be for the NFL to mandate 100 hours of off-season police ride-alongs for each multimillionaire football player. If you don't like the police, walk in their shoes.

There's more at the link.

I think that's an excellent idea.  I'd go further.  I'd make the aggrieved players do their ride-alongs in neighborhoods that would normally be hostile to someone of their race.  For example, let's say you have a black NFL player who grew up in inner-city neighborhoods dominated by the Crips or the Bloods, and who supports Black Lives Matter.  OK - let him ride along with the police for a hundred hours in a barrio dominated by MS-13, and whose people support Mecha or a similar organization.  The police might not like that, of course, because they'd have to keep the local (or should that be loco?) gang-bangers off him (since they don't like other races either), but it would sure be educational for him!  He might learn how tough it is for police to maintain law and order among groups that have little use for either.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Antifa picked a fight with Austin, TX police. That wasn't a good idea.

Last weekend Antifa protesters went on their usual potty-mouthed, profane way in Austin, TX.  Unfortunately for them, Texas police are less tolerant of being sworn at, pushed, shoved and punched than some of their law enforcement brethren in more liberal states.  Some of the protesters found that out the hard way.

I hope they learned from that experience - but I doubt it . . . I also hope they never try the same nonsense in the part of Texas where I live. Last time there was an attempt to arrange an Antifa demonstration in these parts, a local law enforcement agency broke out its 3-foot-long riot batons and gleefully issued them to everyone, along with encouragement to remember their training in how to use them. Things went down right peacefully after that!


So now incumbents are worried about primaries? GOOD!

The Hill expresses GOP incumbents' concern about the 2018 primaries.

Conservative activists say the latest GOP health-care bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) falls short of the promise to repeal ObamaCare “root and branch,” but it’s better than nothing.

If that fails this week, as expected, Republican primary voters will have even less confidence in the GOP establishment — a rift that could spell trouble for incumbents in next year’s primaries.

“The backlash for the members of Congress more than the president could be significant if they truly can’t get their ducks in a row and get repeal accomplished,” said Chip Roy, former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), warning of danger for Republicans up for reelection next year.

“They would be in a much stronger position if they had done what they said what they were going to do and should have done, which was repeal it at a date certain and then have a series of discussions and debate about how to reform health care,” he said.

“We’re now staring at a much messier 2018 if Republicans continue to fail to get the job done,” he said.

Republican strategists and conservative activists predict that combined with Moore’s projected victory over Strange, an ObamaCare defeat will embolden conservative challengers to take on Senate and House GOP incumbents.

. . .

“I’m already getting calls from people who are going to primary [a] sitting Republicans,” said Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, who has fielded calls from prospective challengers to Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) and Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock (R).

Two of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican incumbents, Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.), have already drawn challengers.

. . .

“On issue after issue, Senate Republicans are making excuses rather than delivering,” said Ken Cuccinnelli, head of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “We could definitely see a string of new primary challengers emerge in the coming months and Senate Republicans will only have themselves to blame for it.”

There's more at the link.

I think this can only be a positive development.  There are far too many representatives and Senators who are RINO's - Republicans In Name Only.  They aren't really interested in working with President Trump;  they have their own cosy deals going on with lobbyists, and in some cases with their Democrat "opponents in name only", and the will of the people doesn't really enter into their thinking.  If we can replace at least some of them with principled people, that will most likely be good for America.

However, I think precisely the same must happen on the other side of the aisle as well.  I'd love to see more honest politicians in the Democrats' ranks, too.  If the Bernie Sanders wing of the party is so strong in some states, let them nominate primary challengers to "old guard" incumbents.  If we get some of them into the House and the Senate, as well as some more committed conservatives, politics may well become a lot more entertaining.  It'll be the irresistible force meeting the immovable object - and sparks will fly.

Who knows?  Principled politicians might actually learn to compromise in the interests of the country as a whole, instead of fighting their partisan political battles in the press and making back-room deals in smoke-filled rooms.  Yeah, yeah, I know . . . dream on!

I think the only real solution is to term-limit all politicians.  Let's say you get ten to twelve years in elected office, of whatever nature (local, state, federal, whatever).  At the end of that period, you have to return to the private sector - no working for a political party, or lecturing in a politician-friendly academic environment.  Support yourself by hard work.  No easy sinecures!  After ten years in private life, you may be eligible to run for a more senior office - say, Senator or President.  Let's reserve those for more senior, more experienced people, by all means.  You can't run for the "junior" offices (say, up to and including Congress) any longer.  Again, a ten- to twelve-year term limit would apply.

What do you think, readers?


Are we already forgetting the lessons we should have learned?

I'm not a gung-ho "survivalist", one of those who gets ready for the end of the world as we know it, with food and supplies for at least a year stashed away, and the necessary firepower to keep it from the ravening, unprepared hordes who want to take it.  I think that's a pipe-dream.  If things get that bad, very few will survive, and then only because luck went their way.  Having been in too many Third World hell-holes for comfort, I know all too well that no amount of preparation can guarantee survival when society disintegrates around one's ears.  There are too many variables.

Nevertheless, I'm a strong proponent of preparing for emergencies as best one can, and being ready to make it without outside assistance for a few weeks to a couple of months.  I learned a lot traveling through those Third World hell-holes.  I've been through four hurricanes in the USA, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (about which I've written extensively), and experienced the Nashville floods of 2010.  I've seen enough to learn a number of important lessons.  The photographs of damage and destruction after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria over the past few weeks have merely reinforced my determination to do all in my power to have emergency essentials on hand, just in case.

What boggles my mind are the reactions I'm already hearing about (from friends in local and state law enforcement) among those who rushed to get gasoline, and panic-bought bottled water, bread, beer and other essentials (?), when they knew the storms were almost upon them.  Now that the storms have passed, and rescue and recovery have turned into repair and rebuilding, how many of them have bothered to restock their emergency supplies?  How many of them would be prepared if another Atlantic storm system strengthened into a hurricane, and headed their way?  (We're only halfway through hurricane season, after all.)  I suspect relatively few have even considered the possibility.

I'm equally baffled by the nonchalant attitude of those living outside the hurricane-stricken areas.  We've all seen the photographs and video clips of the damage to Texas, Louisiana, Florida and a number of Caribbean islands.  (Here, for example, is the Atlantic's photo essay of damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  It's worthwhile viewing.  Ten days ago, those neighborhoods looked like many in mainland USA.  Now . . . not so much.)  We know what Mother Nature can do when she sets her mind to it - and that's not just involving hurricanes.  Scenes of disaster after tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods and the like are all too familiar, and have been splashed across our news media for years.  Newspapers regularly publish scare stories about "the Big One" in California, or the Yellowstone "supervolcano" letting go . . . but most of those living in the danger zones for those hazards carry right on as usual, doing little or nothing to make what preparations they can in case such an emergency should arise.

I don't understand that.  OK, I've seen more than my fair share of disaster situations, but even so, everyone else I know has seen them too, albeit only on TV or in newspapers.  Why the mental switch-off?  Why the refusal to heed the advice of FEMA and other official resources, all of whom recommend that you maintain at least a minimal level of emergency supplies?  Why the resentment directed by so many against "preppers", when they'll be the first to ask those same preppers for help if disaster strikes their area, and resent the hell out of them if they don't share what they've put aside to help their own families?  Why the refusal to invest even a hundred dollars, over the course of a year, in building up a three- to seven-day reserve of food and potable water?  If you put $2 to $5 every week into buying a couple of extra cans of food, or a flat of bottled water, or other basic needs, at the end of a year you'll have your basic minimum emergency needs covered - so why not do it?

I've gone further than the minimum.  Miss D. and I have invested in our preparations, and expect to spend more over the next year or two, providing additional resources such as a small generator.  We don't have every "i" dotted or every "t" crossed - we can't afford to - but we've covered most of the basics.  Following the lessons I learned during Hurricane Katrina, I'm fairly sure we'll need to help friends and acquaintances, too, so we have enough put aside to do that if necessary.  We'd all get tired of rice and beans, but we'd survive.  What's more, if things become untenable locally, we can load our food and other gear into our vehicles, top up their tanks from our stored supplies, and head for safer pastures.  We won't be an immediate burden on those at our new location.

There are those who argue that, if they're not in an area prone to hurricanes or similar major emergencies, they don't need to make such extensive preparations.  That's their business, of course.  However, hurricanes are far from the only major threats.  Where we live now, in northern Texas, we could encounter the "triple whammy" of earthquakes to our north, in Oklahoma;  weather emergencies coming in from the west, along the "dry line", including torrential rains and the risk of tornadoes in summer, or ice storms in winter (as Lawdog can attest);  and wildfires or floods, both of which are far from unknown in this area.

Any one of those would be bad enough.  Two or three of them at the same time would stress every resource we've got, including the transport network through which assistance and supplies would have to reach us.  That stress would be made worse by the need to help other communities, perhaps worse off than we might be.  We might have to wait until their immediate needs were met before we received help and supplies ourselves.  That's not being paranoid;  that's being realistic, and is entirely in line with historical reality.  I'm sure, if readers check the history of their own areas, they'll find similar risks for which to prepare.

It worries me very much to see how few people around here have taken any precautions against or made any preparations for emergencies, even after official advice to do so, and after the recent hurricanes have demonstrated so clearly why that's a good idea.  In the event of real need, what will they do?  They'd better not come knocking at my door, because my reserves will go to my wife and our small local network of close friends.  That's what they're there for - not for public distribution!

I'm sure many of my readers are familiar with Aesop's fable of the ant and the grasshopper.  The original version goes something like this.

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"

"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew...

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

The revised version is somewhat different.

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, laughs, and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

CBS, NBC and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”

Jesse Jackson stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing “We Shall Overcome”. Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper’s sake.

Al Gore exclaims in an interview with Peter Jennings that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his “fair share”.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the “Economic Equity and Anti-Grasshopper Act,” retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.

Hillary Clinton gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges appointed from a list of multi-generation welfare recipients. The ant loses the case.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around him because he doesn’t maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.

I fear those of us who prepare for emergencies are more likely to encounter the second version . . . but that doesn't make preparations less worthwhile.  I hope, dear readers, that you're doing the same - and not being grasshoppers.  There are altogether too many of them for comfort.



Monday, September 25, 2017

It's not just the the swamp - it's our fault, too, for sending the wrong people there

I note, with mingled approval and annoyance, this article in the Orlando Sentinel.  It was first published in 1984.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of 238 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Bank because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I exclude all of the special interest and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Don't you see now the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.

. . .

Just 545 Americans have fouled up this great nation.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted - by present facts - of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can't think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those people.

There's more at the link.

I think the author's making one mistake - one that lays the blame for Washington's fecklessness at our door, as much as anyone else's.  You see, the representatives and Senators - yes, and the President - in Washington are there because we put them there.  In some cases, we made wise choices.  In other cases, we made extremely poor ones.  Either way, they wouldn't be there without our votes.

It's too easy to blame Congress and the Senate for the mess we're in.  We need to look in the mirror when we do that . . . because we're just as much to blame as they are.  They reflect us, and our values - and, in the case of far too many of them, that's a terrible judgment on their constituencies, and on our country.


Yet more clergy sex scandals hit the Catholic Church

I've hoped against hope, ever since my own crisis of conscience back in 2005, to learn that the Catholic Church has taken meaningful action to clean up its Augean stables of clergy sex problems.  Tragically, that hope has been in vain.  Many new scandals have rocked the Church over the past few months.

CNS News recently reported:  "Vatican Cardinal’s Secretary Arrested for Hosting 'Cocaine Fueled' Homosexual Orgy Near St. Peter’s".  This is a particularly disturbing report, as the senior priest concerned is said to have been recently recommended for promotion to Bishop.  He also allegedly used a vehicle with Vatican diplomatic license plates to smuggle cocaine into the Vatican to fuel his orgies.  (It's not surprising that homosexuality is encountered in the Vatican, of course.  Back in 2013, Vanity Fair ran an in-depth exposé about it, and a year later, a former commander of the Pope's Swiss Guard claimed that there was a "gay network" in the Vatican.)

A major sex scandal erupted last year on Guam, where a former Archbishop and many priests have been implicated in the abuse of children and teenagers.  The scandal has only grown since then.  What's more, allegations of uncanonical practices and misuse of donated funds have led to even more problems for the Guam archdiocese, making it more difficult to focus on the sex scandal and deal with it as it deserves.

A couple of weeks ago, a priest was recalled to the Vatican from that nation's embassy in Washington DC after he was alleged to have trafficked in child pornography.  One presumes that the cleric will face due process in the Vatican . . . but there's no guarantee of that, of course.  After all, some of those most responsible for the child sex abuse crisis in the US Catholic Church have found a form of sanctuary there (for example, Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston).

Internationally, sex scandals have continued to plague the Catholic Church.  The head of the Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brian, stepped down after being exposed as an abuser - but was not defrocked.  It's been alleged that South America has become a "safe haven" for priests accused of child abuse in other countries, particularly the USA - and that's without taking into account the home-grown sex scandals afflicting Catholic churches in that continent.  Observance of celibacy in the Catholic Church in Africa is conspicuous by its absence in many areas (I can confirm this from personal observation during my travels in that continent).  The worldwide list of countries affected by sex scandals in the Catholic church, particularly child sex abuse, is simply staggering.

There may be those who think I'm anti-Catholic by publishing this information.  I'm not.  I was born and raised Catholic, and I daresay I'll never change my Catholic outlook on life.  However, as I wrote during the height of the Catholic child sex abuse scandal in the USA, my perspective changed when I was asked - no, ordered, as were all priests - to lie to our people about it.  I wrote extensively about that dilemma several years ago, and about my response to it.

Tragically, I truly and sincerely believe that most of the "establishment" of the Catholic Church - the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and administrators who run the Church - have no intention whatsoever of taking stronger action to root out immorality and sex abuse of every kind, unless and until they are forced to do so.  They see their priority as protecting themselves and the institution of the Church, instead of putting the interests of the people of God first, as they should.  They are, I believe, a perfect example of Dr. Jerry Pournelle's "Iron Law of Bureaucracy":

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:
  • First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
  • Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

In my opinion, the "Iron Law" perfectly describes the Catholic Church hierarchy today - and perfectly explains why it cannot and will not confront the problems of immorality and sex abuse among its members.  That's truly sickening - and it leaves those of us who believe, out in the cold.

Protestant evangelist Bob Mumford once defined secular humanism as "what you get when the world evangelizes the Church".  I suspect that's a very accurate description of what's happened to many of the leaders of the Catholic Church.  May God protect us from them . . . and lead them to repentance and conversion, to save their souls from the consequences of their choices.


It's not the NFL versus President Trump - it's what it means to be American

I've become very annoyed at much of the commentary this weekend concerning President Trump's call to the National Football League to fire players who protest during the playing of the national anthem.  One would think, to judge by the voluminous verbiage being spouted by so many, that this was a case of Big Brother oppressing its citizens yet again.  In one of the more balanced comments, the Wall Street Journal opined:

With the politicization of the National Football League and the national anthem, the Divided States of America are exhibiting a very unhealthy level of polarization and mistrust.

. . .

Mr. Trump has managed to unite the players and owners against him, though several owners supported him for President and donated to his inaugural. The owners were almost obliged to defend their sport, even if their complaints that Mr. Trump was “divisive” ignored the divisive acts by Mr. Kaepernick and his media allies that injected politics into football in the first place.

Americans don’t begrudge athletes their free-speech rights—see the popularity of Charles Barkley —but disrespecting the national anthem puts partisanship above a symbol of nationhood that thousands have died for. Players who chose to kneel shouldn’t be surprised that fans around the country booed them on Sunday. This is the patriotic sentiment that they are helping Mr. Trump exploit for what he no doubt thinks is his own political advantage.

American democracy was healthier when politics at the ballpark was limited to fans booing politicians who threw out the first ball—almost as a bipartisan obligation. This showed a healthy skepticism toward the political class. But now the players want to be politicians and use their fame to lecture other Americans, the parsons of the press corps want to make them moral spokesmen, and the President wants to run against the players.

The losers are the millions of Americans who would rather cheer for their teams on Sunday as a respite from work and the other divisions of American life.

There's more at the link.

The WSJ almost gets it . . . but not quite.  Perhaps, as an immigrant to this great country, I have a different perspective, one that's a little clearer.

Every nation has its symbols;  those tangible things that represent what it is and what it stands for.  The flag and the national anthem are two such things.  Every American does - or should - recognize them for what they are, understand how they became national symbols, and the rich history that they represent.  Those of us who become Americans from outside certainly do - or, at least, all those with whom I've spoken certainly do.  We adopt those symbols as our own, learning about them, answering questions about them as part of the process of becoming citizens, and learning to value them more than the symbols we've left behind elsewhere.  I think that gives us an advantage, an insight, that's perhaps denied to those who grow up with them, never having to think about them.

Those who serve their countries also adopt symbols that have particular meaning for them.  Military servicemen know that their comrades and forebears died under the flag of their country, so it has particular meaning for them in that respect.  (South Africa has had a new flag since democracy came to that country in 1994, but I still respect the older flag, the one under which I served in the armed forces, despite the fact that it's tainted by connotations of racism.  It remains the flag under which many of my friends died, and under which I was wounded.  I still wear it on my lapel, paired with the US flag.  It's an instinctive tribute, and I guess it'll be that way until I die.)

There are other, less publicly recognized symbols that service personnel and veterans will understand.  A recent example is "The Brick of the Unknown" (shown below), carried by US Marine Corps service personnel during a recent run.  It's described as "a block symbolizing the weight of those who were lost or captured, to remember their sacrifice".

You can bet the Marines who carried it, and those who saw it, understand that symbol very clearly - and if anyone had tried to dishonor that symbol, you can bet there'd have been a very strong reaction!

I think there are a great many Americans who do understand the meaning of our flag and our national anthem.  To see NFL players deliberately disrespecting that, putting identity politics over nation, is not just upsetting to us - it's flat-out disgusting.  If they do not respect the symbols of our nation, they should just get it over with and give up their citizenship.  We don't need them wasting our oxygen, consuming our resources and trashing what we hold dear.  The nation is greater than the sum of its parts.  That's why our forefathers rebelled against Britain in the first place.  That's what they fought a bloody Civil War to maintain.  The nation serves us to the extent that we serve the nation, and vice versa.  No service - no nation.  We give in order to receive - and I'm not talking about entitlement programs or handouts!  It's a two-way street.

What the protesting NFL players are doing is making it a one-way street.  They're demanding that we - that our country - give, whilst they give nothing back.  They're trampling on the symbols we hold dear because they think there are some things more important than our - note, our - nation.  In trashing those symbols, they are also trashing those of us who hold them dear.  It's no wonder that the reactions to their protests have been so strong, and so negative.

Last night I heard a friend, who's watched NFL games on TV as long as I've known him, say bluntly that from now on, he'll watch something else.  I heard another friend ask for the channel to be changed when an NFL game came on, for the same reason.  I think the players and the NFL have no idea how strong a reaction their antics have stirred up - but I think President Trump understands very well.  In publicly excoriating them for their protests, he's tapping into a deep-rooted anger and disgust running through much of the American people.  I share that anger and disgust.

I hope and pray that Americans will vote with their feet, their TV remote controls, and their wallets.  Let's bankrupt the NFL.  Maybe that will alert the (hopefully soon-to-be-impoverished) privileged players, the team owners, and all others who espouse identity politics, that they can go too far.  In this case, I think they have;  and I think President Trump is absolutely correct.  Fire their asses!