Saturday, June 23, 2018

Chain migration's effect on one Pennsylvania town

City Journal recently published an in-depth article about the effect of chain migration on Hazelton, Pennsylvania.  It's a startling and eye-opening piece of journalism.  Here's a lengthy excerpt.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

With a population long dominated by the descendants of European immigrants, Hazleton has been radically transformed since the early 2000s by secondary chain migration, principally driven by Dominicans—immigrants, both legal and illegal, as well as second- and third-generation citizens arriving from the New York metropolitan area. In 2000, Hispanics made up less than 5 percent of Hazleton’s population; they now account for more than 50 percent. Such rapid and dramatic demographic shifts are rare in U.S. cities. For Hazleton, the consequences have been profound, and the city is struggling to cope.

. . .

Dominicans started moving to New York City in the 1960s, fleeing the Dominican Republic’s political upheaval and mass poverty, just as Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, a major policy reform that unleashed family-based chain migration in the United States. Mass chain migration resulted in Dominicans becoming Gotham’s second-largest Hispanic group by 1992. Many moved to northern Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, which transformed into a Dominican outpost, with bodegas, Pentecostal congregations, restaurants, and cab fleets bearing a Dominican cultural stamp. The Dominican New Yorkers tended to isolate themselves in the neighborhood, preserving their island culture with the aid of modern communications. A 2002 SUNY Albany study on Hispanic residential patterns found that, compared with other Hispanic immigrant groups, Dominicans had higher levels of residential segregation. The “average Dominican,” the report noted, “lives in a neighborhood where only one of eight residents is a non-Hispanic white.” Doubtless as a partial consequence of its isolation, the Dominican community has lower levels of income and higher unemployment, and receives public assistance to a greater degree, than other Hispanic groups.

While New York has enjoyed sustained prosperity and plunging crime rates since the mid-1990s, Washington Heights has remained relatively unsafe and impoverished, and its public schools are dismal. Over time, facing these urban woes, more and more Dominican residents wanted to escape. The September 11 attacks intensified that desire.

Hazleton’s low crime rate, affordable housing, stable schools, idyllic neighborhoods, and proximity to New York made it a perfect choice for relocation. In 1990, just 249 Hispanics lived in Hazleton, making up 1 percent of the city’s residents. But the earliest New York transplants loved their new home. “Most people in New York City think life in Pennsylvania as we’re living it is a dream,” a new resident told the Hazleton Standard-Speaker in 1991. “I can sit down in my house, open my door, watch TV to 10 or 11 at night. I don’t have to worry about someone walking in shooting me, ripping me off.” Another Hispanic transplant said that Hazleton should prepare for mass migration. “People of Hazleton have to realize we are going to keep pouring in,” he told the Standard-Speaker. “If not they have to learn we are just as free as they are. They can’t deny us anything. They have to start dealing with us. If they don’t deal with us, push has come to shove, and we’ll deal with them like in New York City.” After the towers fell, Dominican migrants began arriving en masse.

. . .

With Hazleton facing a nearly $900,000 deficit in 2017, Mayor Jeffrey Cusat applied for and received designation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a financially distressed city. The designation allows Pennsylvania to assist Hazleton in managing its finances and debt. The distress stems from diminished tax revenues, plummeting real-estate values, and the city’s shifting demography, which has led to a surge in demand for services such as public-safety efforts. Rising employee costs and pension obligations have added to the city’s precarious fiscal position. The state’s report on Hazleton’s budget crisis concluded that “the demographic and income changes affecting the city will only compound the future financial challenges.”

Crime has been a big challenge. In 2011, the U.S. Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) released a report on eastern Pennsylvania’s drug and gang threat. It focused on Hazleton as a regional center for illegal drug distribution. According to the report, Dominican drug-trade organizations (DTOs) and gangs started controlling the city’s wholesale drug distribution in the 1990s.

Hazleton’s proximity to I-80 and I-81 made the city an ideal location for Dominican DTOs to centralize their cocaine and heroin operations. The NDIC, which folded into the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2012, noted how “the presence of a long-established Dominican population, along with interstate highways that directly connect Hazleton to other Dominican populations in New York and New England, makes the city a favorable destination for Dominican fugitives seeking a place to operate away from law enforcement pressure in those areas.” In the early 2010s, the opening of a minimum-security halfway house in a historic hotel building in downtown Hazleton worsened the drug-trade problem. When released, halfway-house inmates, it turned out, often committed drug-related crimes or joined local gangs. By 2013, the halfway house yielded to community pressure, closing its facility.

. . .

Of course, Dominicans also take pride in their culture, but their gateway neighborhoods in New York served as an extension of their country of origin; assimilation proved unnecessary. The pattern has repeated itself in Hazleton. The broader Hazleton community has encouraged Dominicans’ political and civic involvement, but the newcomers often remain disengaged in local matters. Hazleton has become an important campaign stop for the Dominican Republic’s leading political candidates, for example, suggesting to many Hazleton residents that their new neighbors, even when U.S. citizens—and many are not—retain stronger ties to their ancestral home than to their city, or even to America. Resentments on both sides have grown.

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

The highlighted paragraphs illustrate precisely what the problem is with such migration:  it takes place without assimilation.  That's a fatal flaw.  If one thinks of a community as a human body, the problem becomes somewhat clearer.  In a human body, any outside element that seeks to become established (e.g. a cancer) is recognized as "foreign" and attacked by the body's immune system.  Either it will be overcome (often with the help of medical intervention) and destroyed, or it will win the fight and (eventually) kill the body.  In the same way, one simply can't allow an alien community (which is precisely what we're dealing with here) to become entrenched within a larger, local community if it does not assimilate into that larger community.  If that doesn't happen, inevitably, conflict will arise;  and only one of those communities will be able to survive.  The other will be either taken over, or have to leave for pastures new.

President Theodore Roosevelt put it very well, I think, in a 1915 speech.

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

It seems that Hazelton has a great many hypnenated Americans.  We should be on our guard against the spread of this disease, lest it destroy American society and the body politic arising from it.  I'm not in the least against legal immigration - I'm an immigrant myself, after all! - but let assimilation be a mandatory, required element of legal immigration.  If it's not . . . we'll have far more Hazeltons, and that can't be good for America.


Life-saving advice for special snowflakes

Courtesy of It Ain't Holy Water:


Friday, June 22, 2018

Sounds like a war to me

The likely winner of Mexico's imminent presidential elections appears to have declared war on US sovereignty.

Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) called for mass immigration to the United States during a speech Tuesday declaring it a “human right” for all North Americans.

“And soon, very soon — after the victory of our movement — we will defend all the migrants in the American continent and all the migrants in the world,” Obrador said, adding that immigrants “must leave their towns and find a life in the United States.”

He then declared it as “a human right we will defend,” reports.

While the election is not until July 1, Obrador is by far the frontrunner.

There's more at the link.

If Mr. Obrador follows through on his threat, the Wall won't be anything like adequate.  Minefields, barbed wire, Claymore mines and robotic weapons turrets will be more like it.  There won't be any other way to stop what will be, in effect, "human wave" attacks on the US border.

If it comes to that, I'm likely to be very grateful that we have President Trump in charge, and General Mattis as his Secretary of Defense.  At least they won't hesitate to defend this nation's sovereignty.  If Clinton had won, she'd simply roll over and surrender.

Better brace yourselves, folks.  This could turn nasty.  Oh - and if you live within a couple hundred miles of the border, stock up on firearms and ammunition while you can.  You may need them.


Waste not - because there's nowhere to put it

It looks as if China's decision to stop accepting a large proportion of the world's plastic and paper waste products is going to have a dramatic impact on the way we live.

In the wake of China's decision to stop importing nearly half of the world's scrap starting Jan. 1, particularly from the wealthiest nations, waste management operations across the country are struggling to process heavy volumes of paper and plastic that they can no longer unload on the Chinese. States such as Massachusetts and Oregon are lifting restrictions against pouring recyclable material into landfills to grant the operations some relief.

If Europe and the rest of the world struggle like the United States, according to the study by researchers at the University of Georgia released Wednesday, an estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will pile up by 2030. Based on the amount of domestic scrap exported to China, the researchers estimate that the United States will have to contend with 37 million metric tons of extra waste, an amount it's not prepared to handle.

. . .

"It will impact recycling programs across the country," said Ben Harvey, owner and president of E.L. Harvey & Sons Recycling Services in Westborough, Massachusetts. "If there's no place for this stuff to go, what's the sense of collecting it? We're going to look at the programs and say why are we collecting it, it's not a commodity anymore. It's a big thing. It's a scary thing."

Conservationists who reviewed the study and found it credible said such heavy loads of garbage worldwide would not only continue leaking into oceans but would also likely spill into neighborhoods.

. . .

Studies say that between 8.3 billion and 9 billion metric tons have been produced since 1950. That's more than four Mount Everest's worth of trash. According to a separate study released last year, all but 2 billion metric tons of that plastic still sits on the Earth as garbage in landfills, recycled trash or pollution scattered in the environment, including deep oceans where a plastic island twice the size of Texas floats.

Plastic has been discovered in the bellies of dead whales and the decomposed stomachs of seabirds that mistook it for food. And yet, production of plastic continues almost without regulation ... In 1960, plastic accounted for just 1 percent of junk in municipal landfills across the world. As single-package containers led to an explosion in convenience and use, that number grew to 10 percent in 2005. If the trend continues, researchers say 13 billion metric tons of plastic will sit in dumps.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

The report refers mainly to plastic and paper waste, but there are other waste products that are far more worrying.  In my travels throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, I've seen the impact of European waste dumping in that continent.  Sometimes it's been deadly to the local people.  What will happen when that sort of waste can't be dumped anywhere else?  How will we dispose of it locally without impacting our residents?  That's a good question.


Looks like bureaucrats are as Swamp-y as politicians

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney yesterday outlined the Trump administration's government reform plan.  His explanation of the problem raised a lot of eyebrows - including mine.  I had no idea things were this bad.

That sure sounds like a bureaucracy in dire need of reform!


Thursday, June 21, 2018

I think I may resemble that remark

From Pearls Before Swine yesterday (click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web page):

I guess my desk means I'm a creative genius . . . NOT!


Who will guard the (Catholic) guardians?

A few weeks ago, referring to the exploding sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in Chile, I wrote:

The Catholic Church, as an institution, and its bishops acting as a collective, have lied, are lying, and will continue to lie to the people of God about this problem.  They have no interest whatsoever in resolving it - only in protecting their own power, and the institution of the Church as a whole, and its power and prestige in society.  They do not care about the individuals involved, or the victims . . . or the good clergy who have been tainted with the stench of this scandal.

How can I say that?  It's very simple.  Actions speak louder than words - and lack of action is, in itself, an action.  The Church, in the United States, in Chile, in the Vatican, and elsewhere, has taken little or no effective, meaningful action against those who were ultimately responsible for this scandal - namely, its bishops and administrators, who routinely concealed the extent of the problem, shuffled offenders around among themselves, and allowed them to continue to offend, rather than deal with the matter.  Even after the scandal blew up, many leaders of the Church continued to try to defend their offices and the institution of the Church, rather than admit that the situation was absolutely indefensible.

There's more at the link.

Now comes the news that one of the Catholic Church's former (now retired) most senior leaders has been accused of sexual misconduct.  His punishment, however (at least so far) amounts to little more than a public slap on the wrist.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who led the Archdiocese of Washington and was a political force in the nation's capital, said on Wednesday that he has been removed from public ministry by the Vatican because of a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, "at the direction of Pope Francis," told McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise his priestly ministry in public, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, whose archdiocese led the investigation.

McCarrick was also accused three times of sexual misconduct with adults "decades ago" while he served as a bishop in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, the current bishops of those cities said on Wednesday. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements, the bishops said.

Again, more at the link.

Cardinal McCarrick is hardly the first prelate to have indulged in sexual sin while in office.  The former Archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, was hardly a shining example of probity, and displayed what appears to have been callous indifference to clergy sex abuse in his archdiocese.  Bishops Symons and O'Connell of Palm Beach diocese both resigned due to their personal involvement in scandal.  They are not alone.

Having been a priest myself, until I withdrew in disgust over the gross mishandling of the clergy sex abuse scandal, I've been informed by clergy in several other dioceses of suspected or alleged misconduct by other bishops, some still in office.  For obvious reasons, I can't name them here, because that would be regarded as hearsay rather than legally admissible evidence, no matter how holy or trustworthy the clergy providing it.  However, I daresay the truth will come out sooner or later.  In fact, I guarantee it will.

The Roman poet Juvenal asked, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", meaning "Who will guard the guardians?"  Since the Catholic Church sees bishops as the successors of the Apostles, one might reword that as "Who will guard the guardians of faith?" - or, at least, their consciences and conduct.  It seems some of them certainly need someone to do so!


EDITED TO ADD:  Tom Dreher has a lot more fuel to add to the fire. Go read it.

The Swamp, exposed. Every US voter needs to see this!

A new TV series, "The Swamp" - on Facebook, of all places - purports to document the shady backroom deals that infest politics and politicians in Washington D.C.  The Federalist explains.

Every grassroots political activist knows something is deeply wrong in Washington, D.C. No matter how hard we work to send good people to Congress, the majority of them go native upon arrival, forgetting their campaign rhetoric and falling in line with the political establishment. The few who retain their principles often seem sidelined and ineffective. Meanwhile, the legislative process is an unfunny joke: the Republican Congress can’t manage to keep its promises and repeal Obamacare, but it can pass a 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill without reading it.

What’s less clear is why the system is so broken, and what happens to turn our hometown congressmen into swamp critters. What is going on in those smoke-filled rooms? When brand-new representatives and senators arrive in D.C., what do they find?

A new documentary series, “The Swamp,” seeks to answer those questions, pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of Capitol Hill. Created by 28-year-old filmmaker Matt Whitworth, “The Swamp” has been releasing episodes to Facebook since April 4, with three 10-minute episodes released to date.

For a documentary featuring members of Congress, “The Swamp” is striking in how unfiltered it feels. Whitworth was granted unprecedented access to film and interview several House members as they work, meet with staff, and visit with constituents back home. Shockingly, the congressmen signed a film participation release relinquishing all editorial and creative control of the project.

. . .

“The Swamp” focuses heavily on the top-down power structure in Washington, D.C., where just a few party leaders make the majority of decisions, punishing members who won’t toe the line. After watching the first three episodes, I found these six revelations the most striking:

1. Partisan gridlock? Nah, the parties work together when they want to.

“We have a bipartisan bankruptcy going on,” Rep. Buck says near the beginning of Episode 1. “I think both parties are engaged in a quiet deal that we will support our base, and if it leads to bankruptcy, okay, and you will support your base, and if it leads to bankruptcy, okay.”

In Episode 2, the congressmen cite an example: Republican and Democrat leadership worked together to make sure the bloated omnibus spending bill came up for a vote. When a number of conservative Republicans voted against the rule in an attempt to stop the bill, the Democrats changed just enough of their customary “no” votes to make sure it passed.

“You could just see the Democrats huddled around Nancy Pelosi, and she would just send the next one down to make sure that the rule passed,” Buck recalls. “When it comes to bankrupting the country, they cooperate all the time.”

There's more at the link.  Worthwhile reading.

The first three episodes are now available on YouTube.  Each is relatively short (plus-or-minus 9 minutes).  They make very interesting viewing, and I recommend them.

I have to commend the (lamentably few) congressional representatives who were willing to give this sort of access to the documentary makers.  If I were in their constituencies, I'd vote for them on that basis alone!  We need more honesty and openness like this in Washington.

I'd like every American voter to watch these videos, and learn from them, and ask their congressional representatives to explain their role in such proceedings.  I'd like to see them squirm as they try to weasel out of answering!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It sounds like President Trump brought the smackdown to Republicans in Congress

At least, that's what DC Whispers reports.

“You really want to try and win your election in November without me? I don’t think so.”

UPDATE: “I’m following the law as it’s written. If you don’t like the law then Congress needs to change it. It’s simple. Simple. I’m with you but if you don’t like it you need to do something about it…It looks bad. Sure. Really bad. If you want to change that then change the law. DO SOMETHING. You people (Congress) have to change it. That’s how it has to be done.”

. . .

UPDATE #3: “Why is this coming up now? I mean, it’s so obvious am I right? Mitch knows. The economy, jobs, North Korea, there’s so much great news they had to do the fake news. I’m not saying the pictures aren’t bad. They’re bad. Certainly not good. They make it look bad. You have to do something. You have to work together. It could be such a big, beautiful thing if you did that. The Democrats won’t help. We all know that. They think this is good for them. We’ll see about that. But doing something, working together, isn’t that why you’re here? It should be. And if you don’t do that and November doesn’t work out for you then I’m sorry but you shouldn’t be here. Go do nothing somewhere else.”

There's more at the link.

"Go do nothing somewhere else."  I wonder when last (if ever) a President has spoken to his own party's representatives so harshly?  Yet, I think it was deserved.  If they won't get off their backsides and do what they were elected to do, then let them go to the wall, and let's find better representatives to replace them.


How China sets about global economic domination

The White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy has just released a report titled "How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World" (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).  It's obviously a partisan report, given its source, but even without that, it provides enough links to verify its arguments that it's hard to dismiss as merely a political perspective.  It makes sobering reading.

Here's how it begins.

The People’s Republic of China (China) has experienced rapid economic growth to become the world’s second largest economy while modernizing its industrial base and moving up the global value chain. However, much of this growth has been achieved in significant part through aggressive acts, policies, and practices that fall outside of global norms and rules (collectively, “economic aggression”). Given the size of China’s economy and the extent of its market-distorting policies, China’s economic aggression now threatens not only the U.S. economy but also the global economy as a whole.

In some respects, China has been transparent about its aggressive acts, policies, and practices. They are revealed in Chinese government documents, through behaviors of Chinese State actors, and from reports produced by business organizations, think tanks, and government agencies. Four categories of such economic aggression which are outside the scope of this report include:

  • Protect China’s Home Market From Imports and Competition: This category features high tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and other regulatory hurdles.
  • Expand China’s Share of Global Markets: Industrial policy tools include financial support to boost exports and the consolidation of State-Owned Enterprises into “national champions” that can compete with foreign companies in both the domestic and global markets. Chinese enterprises also benefit from preferential policies that lead to subsidized overcapacity in China’s domestic market, which then depresses world prices and pushes foreign rivals out of the global market.
  • Secure and Control Core Natural Resources Globally: China uses a predatory “debt trap” model of economic development and finance that proffers substantial financing to developing countries in exchange for an encumbrance on their natural resources and access to markets. These resources range from bauxite, copper, and nickel to rarer commodities such as beryllium, titanium, and rare earth minerals. This predatory model has been particularly effective in countries characterized by weak rule of law and authoritarian regimes.
  • Dominate Traditional Manufacturing Industries: China has already achieved a leading position in many traditional manufacturing industries. It has done so in part through preferential loans and below-market utility rates as well as lax and weakly enforced environmental and health and safety standards. As the European Chamber of Commerce has documented: “For a generation, China has been the factory of the world.” By 2015, China already accounted for 28 percent of global auto production, 41 percent of global ship production, more than 50 percent of global refrigerator production, more than 60 percent of global production of color TV sets, and more than 80 percent of global production of air conditioners and computers.

In addition, China pursues two categories of economic aggression that are the focus of this report. These include:

  • Acquire Key Technologies and Intellectual Property From Other Countries, Including the United States

  • Capture the Emerging High-Technology Industries That Will Drive Future Economic Growth and Many Advancements in the Defense Industry

This report will document the major acts, policies, and practices of Chinese industrial policy used to implement these two strategies. Through such implementation, the Chinese State seeks to access the crown jewels of American technology and intellectual property. (A compendium of the acts, policies, and practices used to implement China’s six strategies of economic aggression is presented in the Appendix.)

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading, particularly with all the alarmist news reports about a "trade war" between the USA and China.  In reality, this is the USA attempting to restore a more even, more level playing field in its economic relationship with China.  The facts speak for themselves.  Just look at the tariffs China has been charging on goods imported from the USA, versus those the USA has been charging on goods imported from China.  Q.E.D.


It's not about the children - it's about the state of the world

The concerted, all-out media and left-wing and progressive onslaught against the present Administration's practice of separating newly-arrested parents from their children is nothing less than hypocrisy.  Precisely the same policy was followed by the Obama administration, and before it by the Bush administration.  It's nothing new.  It's simply being used as a convenient emotional rallying cry by the forces arrayed against President Trump, who are determined to remove him at any cost.

However, it's also symptomatic of an underlying reality that not only won't go away - it's going to get worse.  That reality is the state of the world as a whole.

If you look at where these illegal aliens are coming from, their native societies are riddled with corruption, graft, crime and violence.  Consider these headlines (and follow the links if you're so inclined):

Those factors are having an inevitable, degrading effect on society as a whole.  They absorb resources that should be going to education, health care, etc., but aren't - because governments are corrupt to begin with, and what's left after graft has to be devoted to security issues.  This article summarizes the situation south of our borders very concisely.

The University of Costa Rica recently published a study entitled “Central America Torn,” which documented, through a survey, the reality of poor communities in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Roughly half of these young people between the ages of 14 and 24, are not enrolled in school. Of that total, 56 percent are females, while 44 percent are males.

More than half responded that they want to leave the country, with higher figures registered among Salvadorans (76%) and Hondurans (60%), according to AFP.

Having to deal with high levels of poverty, they often dream of migrating to another country to get away from the violence, gangs, lack of opportunity, as well as inadequate health care and education.

There's more at the link.

That's the fundamental reason why illegal aliens continue to stream towards, and into, the USA.  They have nothing where they are.  They want a life, a future.  The only nation within reach of them that offers those things is . . . guess what?  The United States!

Added to that, of course, are forces that decry the existence of national borders at all, and want to see free movement of peoples anywhere, anytime they please.  George Soros has been accused of funding such groups all over the world, and there's strong evidence to suggest that he's doing so;  but he's by no means the only one.  All sorts of groups see advantage in allowing greater immigration, legal or otherwise.  To name but a few well-known examples:

  • Left-wing, progressive politicians see such immigrants as a ripe source of future votes, as they tend to support parties and individuals who pander to their needs;
  • Religious groups (most particularly the Catholic Church, but not exclusively) see their numbers dwindling among the local populace.  They know that many, if not most, of the illegal aliens heading this way are (at least nominally) members of their faith group;  so, if they're allowed to stream in, they will automatically boost the numbers (and income, and influence) of those faith groups.  (This is also why churches are disproportionately represented among immigrant aid groups.  They're not doing it to help the immigrants so much as they're helping themselves.)
  • Socialist and anti-capitalist forces see illegal immigration as a necessary driver for greater spending on social services and the "welfare state", which automatically furthers their interests as well.

There are many others who benefit from the flood of illegal aliens.  All of those forces are doing their best to impede or shut down any and all efforts to control the situation.

The latest brouhaha over the separation of illegal aliens' children from their parents is just the latest move on the chessboard, appealing to emotion rather than fact.  If it is allowed to succeed, it will become yet another wedge to drive into the cracks that are already wide open in our immigration policies and procedures.  For that reason alone, we dare not let its proponents carry the day.  We have to face facts, because their reality will ride roughshod over our feelings if we don't.

I think the Border Wall (yes, I've capitalized it) is not a bad start . . . but it's only a start.  It has to be backed up with rigorous internal enforcement of the law, and external assistance to nations near us to improve their own situation, so that their people don't abandon them out of sheer desperation.  That includes tying economic and other aid to progress in the fight against crime and corruption, and directing it through non-governmental channels in an effort to bypass and choke off official graft.  There are many nations that won't allow that, of course;  they regard it as the right of politicians and officials to milk their share of other peoples' largesse.  That's going to have to change - how, I don't know, short of overthrowing governments and dealing with the worst offenders the hard way, but it has to change.

I think we also have to publicize the real cost to the USA of the illegal alien epidemic.  They appear to cost this country at least $113 billion every year, and perhaps as much as $148 billion . . . and that's probably the tip of the iceberg.  It also ignores the crime, violence and health issues that these immigrants bring with them.  If you've been raised in an environment where such things are an everyday occurrence, you can't help but bring them with you.  It's ingrained into your nature and your outlook on life.  That's just the way it is.  Read for yourself about the impact of gangs such as MS-13 on US schools and suburbs.  Again, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  It goes far deeper than that, as anyone familiar with US prisons will tell you.

The illegal alien invasion isn't new, and it isn't going to go away.  It's going to be there for the rest of our lives, and our children's lives, and their children's lives.  It's not a battle we can win once, and then ignore.  It's going to be a daily drain on our attention and resources for generations.  If we don't keep it under control, then we're going to end up in the same mess as the countries from which those illegal aliens are fleeing.  That's the plain, simple, brutal reality of the situation.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A bleg for reviews, please

I know many of you have read my two most recent books, the first two volumes in the Cochrane's Company trilogy, "The Stones of Silence" and "An Airless Storm".  Each has sold - thank you! - hundreds of copies, with hundreds more read via the Kindle Unlimited subscription library service.

The first book in the trilogy currently has 45 reviews on Amazon, and the second just 8 so far.  As I've mentioned before, reader reviews are the life blood of independent authors such as myself.  If you've read either or both books, may I ask you to please leave an honest review on Amazon?  This applies particularly to "An Airless Storm", which has relatively few reviews so far.  That will help me enormously, and help potential readers decide whether or not to risk their entertainment dollars on my books.

The third and final volume, "The Pride of the Damned", will be published (God willing) on July 9th.  Here's hoping you like it as much as the first two.



Doofus Of The Day #1,013

One has to feel sympathy for today's award winner, a restaurant owner in China.  He meant well, and his idea was good - it just wasn't properly executed.

An all-you-can-eat restaurant has racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt and been forced to close because diners ate so much food.

Chinese restaurant Jiamener was open for less than a month despite having more than 500 customers a day.

The owner was offering a $25 loyalty card, which is about £19, for unlimited food for a month.

Unsurprisingly customers took full advantage of this incredible offer, and the restaurant was soon in more than $100,000 worth of debt.

There are also reports loyalty card holders passed their cards onto family and friends.

The restaurant, which is in China, opened on June 1 and was forced to close after just two weeks.

There's more at the link.

Moral of the story:  make sure your "all-you-can-eat cards" are valid only for the person buying them - and hedge them about with conditions that won't bankrupt you!  If he'd made it "all you can eat for three meals a week", or something like that, he'd still be in business.


Monday, June 18, 2018

The "Russia! Russia!" court case is getting entertaining

The mainstream media appear to be ignoring this, but if you read the latest developments in the US District Court in Washington D.C., I'd say Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his legal team are trying to fight their way out of a box while the walls are closing in on them . . . and it's all their fault.

First, some background.

On February 16, 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a federal indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies for conspiring to wage “information warfare” by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to enable Defendants to interfere with U.S. political processes, including the 2016 presidential election.”

. . .

The indictment was heralded by the media as a major achievement by Team Mueller. But a few observers questioned whether Mueller truly expected any of the defendants to appear in a U.S. court to answer the charges. Others asked if the indictment was merely an empty public relations move by Mueller attempting to show that his investigation was producing solid results.

The answers to these questions have started to emerge. Against all expectations, in April, lawyers for one of the Russian corporate defendants, Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, entered their appearances in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They followed up by serving extensive discovery requests on Team Mueller seeking full disclosure of the government’s case and investigation including sensitive national security and intelligence information.

. . .

At the arraignment, Concord’s lead counsel, Eric Dubelier, was asked whether he represents Concord Catering, another one of the charged Russian companies. He replied that he did not and added, “I think we’re dealing with the government having indicted the proverbial ham sandwich. That company didn’t exist as a legal entity during the time period alleged by the government.” [Emphasis added]

Then, hinting at more of the graymail yet to come, he remarked darkly that, “We now know that the special counsel apparently has access to [Concord’s] confidential filings at the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which in and of itself is a disturbing fact.”

Dubelier stated, “Your Honor, we waive formal reading of the indictment. We enter a plea of not guilty. We exercise our right to a speedy trial.” [Emphasis added]

. . .

This is a no lose situation for Concord and a self-inflicted wound for Mueller. And, as the saying goes, self-inflicted wounds are always the most painful.

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

The special prosecutor filed for delays and gag orders concerning potential evidence.  Concord's lawyers filed their response last Friday.  They began with this doozy of an opening paragraph.

Having produced not one iota of discovery in this criminal case the unlawfully appointed Special Counsel requests a special and unprecedented blanket protective order covering tens of millions of pages of unclassified discovery.  Having made this special request based on a secret submission to the Court and a hysterical dithyramb about the future of the American elections, one would think that the Special Counsel would cite to case holdings that support this remarkable request.  But no, instead, the Special Counsel seeks to equate this make-believe electioneering case to others involving international terrorism and major drug trafficking, and relies only on irrelevant dicta from inappropriate, primarily out-of-circuit cases.  In short, fake law, which is much more dangerous than fake news.

Ouch!  As one Reddit commenter put it, "It’s an extra special touch when your lawyer s***s on another lawyer in such a way that they’re forced to look up the manner in which they’ve been insulted."

I think the Mueller team is caught on the horns of a dilemma here.  They appear to have filed a case mainly for its public relations impact;  but the targets of their wrath are refusing to roll over and play dead.  Instead, they're using the US legal system to insist that Mueller prove his charges, and disclose all the evidence involved.  That means he's got to put up, or shut up;  prove his case, or withdraw charges - which would be a public relations disaster.

Pass the popcorn.  This is going to get seriously entertaining.



From a collection of pictures of heartwarming kids and their antics over at Pitsnipes Grips (warning:  that blog is sometimes NSFW, although this post is OK), here's one that made me smile.

There are lots more at the link.  Enjoy!


So where do you get the ammunition?

In my review of Ruger's PC9 carbine, published earlier this morning, I recommended Federal HST 147gr. hollowpoint ammunition as an ideal pairing with the firearm.  That engendered several e-mails from frustrated readers, all saying, in so many words, "That's all very well, but where do we find that ammo?  Our local dealers don't have it in stock!"

That's not too difficult.  I've bought almost all my ammunition from SGAmmo of Oklahoma for several years, and I'd like to give them a shout-out here.  (No, they're not compensating me in any way for it, whether in cash or in kind.  I just like their great service and decent prices.)  The name comes from the initials of the owner/operator of the business, Sam Gabbert.

SGAmmo has probably got more varieties of ammunition in stock at any one time than most other suppliers, and I've always found their prices to be about the best on the market.  Others may come close to them from time to time, but I've never seen them consistently beaten.  That's why I keep going back there.  They have bulk supplies by the case, and in many cases they also offer ammo by the box, often in the hard-to-find varieties that you can't get anywhere else.  What's more, their service is great.  They show shipping costs on the ammo page, so you can factor it into your purchase.  They pack the items securely, e-mail you when the order's shipped, and offer shipping insurance and signature-required delivery as low-cost additional options.

Their prices are as reasonable as I think it's possible to get.  Sometimes they're great:  for example, as I write these words, you can get a 5,000 round case of CCI Blazer .22LR ammunition for $209.50 - about four cents per round, which is outstanding value in today's market.  A 500-round brick of the same ammo will set you back $21.95, which isn't much more per round.  The Federal HST2 9mm. ammunition I recommended in my PC9 review this morning will cost you, at the time of writing, $379.00 for a 1,000-round case, or $19.95 for a 50-round box;  and they have other bullet weights and cartridges in the HST range for a similar cost.  Those prices are far better (by 50% or more) than those I've seen in retail gun stores.

If you need handgun, rifle, shotgun or rimfire ammo, even a small quantity, check out SGAmmo.  I've been a repeat customer there for years, and I daresay you may become one too.  Highly recommended.


An almost ideal home/family defense weapon

For years, my recommendation for a basic, simple home and family defense firearm, for those who are not able or willing to undergo the training necessary to make best use of a different weapon, has been a 20ga. youth-model shotgun.  I discussed it in some depth in this article.

However, a new arrival on the firearms scene has led me to update that recommendation.  Ruger introduced its PC9 carbine some months ago, and it's been selling like hot cakes - so much so that it's very difficult to get hold of one.  Most gunshops can't keep them on the shelves.  They're sold within days, even hours, of their arrival.  I've been waiting impatiently to get my hands on one, as have several of my friends.  Now that we have, and been able to compare notes, it's my new recommendation as the best gun for home and family defense for those with little or no experience of firearms.  Let me outline the reasons.

First, it's extremely simple to operate.  Almost anyone old and/or large enough to handle a firearm can handle loading and unloading it, including operating the bolt against the tension of its spring.  Furthermore, the length of the stock can be adjusted, by adding or removing spacers, until the weapon fits anyone who might be likely to use it.  As I did with the shotgun, I recommend that the carbine be adjusted to fit the smallest person who might need it;  then the rest of the family should learn to use it in that configuration.  It's not much of a problem to use a shorter weapon than one prefers, but it's very tricky to use a longer one.

The carbine is light enough that almost anyone can handle it, and its short length makes it very handy in close quarters like moving around a house.  It can be equipped with a light using the short rail provided at the tip of the fore-end, circled in red in the image below (taken from the gun's instruction manual - click it for a larger view).

This makes it easy to handle the carbine as you move around the house, if that should become necessary, and you can light your way as well.  That may or may not be tactically desirable, of course, but that's a subject for another day.  You can also mount a telescopic or red dot sight on the included Picatinny rail above the receiver.  (My earlier recommendation, for the budget-conscious, of the relatively low-cost Bushnell TRS25 red dot sight would be an ideal pairing with this carbine.  You might find the taller model with a riser block to be better suited to your cheek weld;  try both options, if possible, and see which you prefer.  Alternatively, a simple, low-powered telescopic sight will work just fine.  I'd consider a 1x shotgun scope to be another very good match for this gun.)

The PC9 is a so-called "takedown" carbine, meaning that it can be separated into two parts for ease of transport and/or concealment.  This is a very big advantage in a day and age when uninformed people might be frightened by seeing a firearm, or a long weapon case that might hold a firearm.  Instead, the PC9 can be separated into two halves, which will fit into any normal suitcase or duffel bag or backpack.  It's out of sight and out of mind until it's needed, when it can be very quickly (with practice, well under 30 seconds) reassembled and loaded.

That may be a big advantage if you want to take a weapon with you when you're traveling, for security on the road and in hotels.  A handgun is, of course, much easier to conceal, but there are some places where it's hard, even impossible, to legally carry one, and it does require a greater level of firearms knowledge and skill to use a handgun effectively.  The PC9 obviates those issues, and will also be effective over a longer range if necessary.  I'd call it a "homestead defense weapon" as much as anything else, since it's more than capable of accurate work out to the fenceline of the average suburban plot, and beyond if necessary.  Add that to its ease of use, and you've got a winning combination.

The caliber, 9mm, is not stellar in its performance, but then, no handgun caliber can make that claim compared to any purpose-built rifle or shotgun round.  It's adequate for its purpose, provided you can put the bullets where they'll do the most good (or harm, depending on whose point of view is involved).  What's more, its recoil is greatly reduced compared to full-bore rifle or shotgun rounds, and in the PC9, it's made even less by an innovative bolt design that minimizes its effect.  Even a younger child can shoot this carbine with almost no problem from recoil.

Ruger very intelligently provides magazine wells for both its own SR-series magazine, and the ubiquitous Glock magazine.  Glock mags with up to 33-round capacity are freely available (although they aren't legal in all jurisdictions - check your local laws and regulations).  This makes the PC9 a compact handful of firepower, more than adequate to deal with almost any domestic or short-range problem.  In jurisdictions where smaller magazine capacities are required, you can get 10-round magazines from both Ruger and Glock that will do the trick, and they can be exchanged very quickly for loaded units if required.

The PC9 boosts muzzle velocities by anywhere from 10% to 20% compared to a handgun, depending on the ammunition one's using.  That makes expanding bullets more likely to expand, given the greater hydrodynamic forces engendered by their speed.  My favorite load for the PC9 is, hands down, Federal's HST hollowpoint in 147 grain weight.

This is slower out of a handgun (about 1,000 feet per second) compared to the company's lighter, faster bullets in the same cartridge;  but that's no handicap to its real-world performance.  It's a proven round that's gained a wide following.  It gains about 150 fps in velocity out of the PC9's longer barrel, giving it a lot more energy and "punch".  I think they make a great combination.

The PC9 is available in three models, two of which have threaded muzzles.  That's great if you can afford (and legally buy, of course) a suppressor for it.  Firing any weapon inside a building is very loud indeed, and can cause permanent damage to your ears.  Frankly, if you're able to afford the cost of a suppressor and can get the necessary legal permits to own one, you'd be silly not to pair one with this carbine.  You'll be able to use it to protect your home without fear for your or your family's hearing.  If you live in a jurisdiction that frowns upon threaded muzzles, there's a version of the PC9 (model # 19101) without it, so you don't have to do without one.

Here's Gunblast's video review of the PC9 carbine.  If you want to skip the details and get to the shooting, it starts just after the six-minute mark.

Having at last managed to get my own PC9, and handled it for myself, it's now my top-ranked recommendation for a top-notch, easy-to-use, relatively affordable ($500-$550 "street" price) weapon for home and family defense, superseding my earlier recommendation for a youth model 20ga. shotgun.  (The latter remains very viable, and should not be dismissed, of course - I'll still use one with great confidence if I need to.)

Mandatory disclaimer:  I haven't been compensated in any way for this review, either in cash or in kind.  I bought my own carbine with my own money, and the ammunition too.  I just like to let my readers know when an exceptional product or service has caught my attention.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday morning music

This one's for Cat lovers . . . Cat Stevens, that is, or Steven Demetre Georgiou as he was born, or Yusuf Islam as he is today.  He was tremendously popular and influential in the music scene of the 1960's and 1970's.  I'm sure many of my older readers remember him with as much pleasure as I do.  Here are just a few of his songs.

From his debut album in 1966, here's the title track, "Matthew and Son".

From his second album, 1967's "New Masters", here's "The First Cut is the Deepest".

His third album, "Mona Bone Jakon", delivered this perennial favorite: "Lady d'Arbanville", written about his girlfriend at the time, Patti d'Arbanville. Here's a live version, undated, but looking to be from the mid- to late 1970's.

From the album "Teaser and the Firecat" comes "Moonshadow".

From his sixth studio album, "Catch Bull at Four", here's "O Caritas".  There are various translations of the Latin lyrics:  if you're interested, see here, here or here.

And to close, here's a live performance from 1976 of "The Wind", from his album "Teaser and the Firecat".

Lots of memories there . . .


Saturday, June 16, 2018

It's been a bad week for armed robbers . . .

. . . because sometimes their victims are armed, too.

1.  Jacksonville police: Man takes cash register from Walmart, tries to carjack 2 people at knifepoint

A man was arrested Friday after he took a cash register drawer from the Walmart at River City Marketplace and then tried to carjack two people at knifepoint.

. . .

A witness saw Hill get into a silver Ford SUV, but it did not appear to start, so he got out and ran.

Police said Hill approached a man who was sitting in the parking lot near Supercuts. Hill asked the man for a ride and the man refused.

. . .

According to the report, Hill put the cash register in the Reardean's truck bed and pulled a knife, cutting Reardean on the hands and leg, the arrest report said.

"I was basically just doing this, trying to get the knife off me, and he's like, trying to pull me and he yanked my shirt and ripped it all up," Reardean said.

Reardean said to Action News Jax that he was able to grab his pistol from his truck and pointed it at Hill, who then ran away toward Starbucks.

Hill ran to the car of a woman who was in line at the Starbucks drive-through. She told police she rolled down her passenger's side window to see what he wanted and she said Hill opened her door and got into the car.

The woman said Hill told her to drive because someone was chasing him. She told police she tried to push him out of the vehicle and he would not get out. According to the report, she was in fear for her life, so she got out of her car to to get her Ruger pistol out of her trunk.

Hill got out of the car and came toward her. She said she pointed her pistol at him and he ran away.

In both cases, it would have been better for the victims had their firearms been more accessible:  but, better late than never.  They both prevailed, and the criminal ended up in custody.

2.  Police: Man shoots 3 attempted robbers outside DeKalb shopping center

Three men accused of trying to rob a couple Friday afternoon as they walked to their car outside a DeKalb County Kroger were shot in the shopping center’s parking lot, police said.

. . .

Police said the male victim exchanged gunfire with the alleged robbers, injuring them. Those three men are in the hospital, police said.

The couple was unharmed.

Way to go, that man!

Both cases highlight the fact that one simply doesn't know when, or where, or how, an assault on your property or person may occur.  Better to be armed and ready to defend yourself.  That way, if it happens, you won't have to spend the rest of your life (which may not be all that long) regretting your lack of preparation.


I couldn't live there without going nuts

A couple of articles about New York City have had me shaking my head in disbelief, to think of having to live in such a place.

First, there's the cost of accommodation.  Please note the bold, underlined text, which is my emphasis.

Tourists have been booking rooms in the 665-room Pod Times Square — a micro-hotel with rooms averaging just 115 square feet apiece — since its January debut on West 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue.

. . .

The hotel’s collection of “Pod Pads” — 45 apartments available for long-term rents — recently debuted, making Pod Hotels the latest micro-hotel brand to dip its toes into residential development.

The units, which occupy the top five floors of the 28-story building, are one- and two-bedrooms, with sizes from 400 to 650 square feet. That’s considerably larger than their hotel-room counterparts.

“In a perfect world, I would have made [the apartments] even smaller, but this is as small as you can get to code,” says Richard Born, of BD Hotels, the owner and developer of the Pod brand.

Rates vary depending on the length of stay in the dwellings, which come with kitchens and living rooms. Shorter-term stays are a bit more expensive, with one-month leases beginning at $5,200 and three-month rents starting at $4,400. Six-month leases, meanwhile, start at $4,000. Though the prices may seem a bit high (the median rent for a Manhattan apartment is $3,495, according to Douglas Elliman), Born says that’s to be expected for furnished apartments. (At additional costs, there’s housekeeping for $50 per visit and linen fees at $25 per bedroom each time they’re changed.)

There's more at the link.

The median rent for an apartment is $3,495???  That's considered a fair to middling monthly take-home salary in large parts of this country!  The thought of spending that much just for accommodation is mind-boggling . . . yet it's a daily reality for those who live in NYC and similar cities.  As for a property owner deliberately sizing his apartments as tiny as he can make them under the building code . . . that's great for him - maximizing the return on his investment - but what's it like for the people who have to live in the equivalent of a closet?

If that wasn't bad enough, there's the problem of getting around.

Driving in the heart of Manhattan has somehow gotten even slower, a city report revealed Friday ... Average travel speeds for the borough south of 60th Street have plummeted from 9.1 mph in 2010 to 7.1 mph in 2017, while those in Midtown alone have sunk even lower, falling from 6.4 mph to a measly 5 mph in the same period, according to the Department of Transportation’s Mobility Report.

. . .

“You know it’s bad when you’re sitting in traffic and little old ladies on the sidewalk are going faster than you . . . And you know it’s really bad when they’re using their walkers and they’re moving faster than you.”

In Manhattan, the people movers are even more sluggish, with speeds down 21 percent since 2010, according to the report.

Queens has also seen bus traffic screech to a halt in recent years, with average speeds dropping by 2 mph or more across swathes of the borough from 2015 to 2017.

Meanwhile, private-car registration is outpacing population growth, hitting 1.9 million in 2016 and increasing 8.3 percent since 2010.

Officials say they need to turn these trends around to keep the city moving.

“Mass transit is what makes New York City possible,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said in response to the report.

“Reversing the downward trend in subway ridership, speeding up buses, reducing private-car usage, and helping every New Yorker — not just the able-bodied — move around the city aren’t optional, they’re crucial necessities for the city to thrive.”

Again, more at the link.

Once more I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.  Who would want to live in a place where getting from point A to point B was basically an exercise in frustration?  And what about authorities who regard private car ownership as a negative, not a positive?  Clearly, the needs of the broad mass of people - people considered not as persons, not as human beings, but as mere dots on a map, to be aggregated and moved as impersonally as possible - outweigh any consideration of the individual.

I simply can't fathom why any sane person would live in such an environment.  Of course, they do - many of my readers are doubtless living in such conditions right now, and I'm sure they find it normal and natural.  They're used to it.  For myself . . . no.  You couldn't pay me enough to live like that!

I want to be able to get in my car and drive somewhere at a reasonable speed, without the journey being a drudgery to be endured rather than enjoyed.  I want the assurance that, in the event of disaster (for example, 9/11, or the impact of a major storm) I can "get out of Dodge" as quickly as possible, not be stuck in traffic for hours or even days trying to reach safety.  I want the assurance that essential supplies can get into town on an as-needed basis in such an event, not be held up by outgoing traffic;  and I want the freedom to ensure my own safety, rather than have the authorities deny me that right and insist that I do as they say, when they say it, and give up my right to independent action.  I don't trust them that far.

I've lived in big cities before, for years at a stretch (several in South Africa;  Nashville is the biggest I've lived in here so far), and had extended stays for weeks or months in others (Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, etc.).  I've rented and owned apartments, ranging from a convenience studio to a four-bedroom unit that was larger than my present home.  However, that was in my younger days, when I hadn't been exposed to all the things that can go wrong in a city.  Having endured them in several locations, I now have a less optimistic "all will be well" view.  Instead, I presume that Murphy's Law applies as much in cities as it does anywhere else, if not more so!  I'd rather have a lower income, but a lot more space around me, and the personal freedom that space conveys in and of itself.

YMMV, of course . . .


Friday, June 15, 2018

I think I'm in the wrong line of work

I'd do better working in New Jersey's ports than I would writing books - by more than an order of magnitude!

ON THE WATERFRONT, there’s a longshoreman on the books who washes trucks.

He gets paid $465,981 a year. To wash trucks.

Fired when his bosses discovered he wasn’t actually showing up when he claimed to be working, he nevertheless regained his job—after an arbitrator concluded it was not unusual in the industry for employees to be paid “without being expected to work all the hours for which they are being paid.”

. . .

Part of the reason for those high labor costs, claim waterfront regulators and federal prosecutors, include $117 million in lucrative pay packages that go to more than 400 longshoremen in New Jersey and New York, some of whom are never, ever officially off the clock, every day of the year.

The top 100 dockworkers alone at the marine terminals on both sides of the river each get more than $300,000 a year, according to salary data obtained through public records requests by NJ Advance Media.

One makes $516,996, based on an hourly rate that pays him 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a formula of straight time, overtime, double-time, as well as weekend and holiday pay. Another, who works as a timekeeper, is paid every hour that any union member is working. He received $513,382 last year.

The pay scales are all set in the dockworker union's collective bargaining agreement. But in March, longshoreman Paul Moe Sr., who made $493,029 a year, was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison for submitting false timesheets. While he was also paid for every hour of the day, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark said he was required to at least be physically at the job at least 40 hours a week.

Investigators who followed him testified that he was often seen fishing on his boat in Atlantic Highlands, at the movies, at home or on vacation in Florida or Aruba when his timesheets indicated he was at work.

When a dockworker prepared to testify against him, a not-so-subtle message was left for him. A plastic rat was placed on his front porch, federal prosecutors disclosed in court.

. . .

In an interview, Walter Arsenault, the commission’s executive director, charged that the union’s ranks are replete with high-paying no-show or low-show jobs. Many, he said, go to insiders, relatives and friends.

“Why do we have a port where special deals are made?” asked Arsenault, a former assistant district attorney who once headed the Manhattan District Attorney’s elite special homicide unit. “That’s the question.”

ILA officials declined comment. But during a 2010 hearing on hiring practices at the marine terminals, Harold Daggett, now president of the union, defended the salaries paid to his members.

"I wish all the members earned more than $400,000," said Daggett. "Forget about $400,000. That's not a lot of money today. These guys work their asses off out there."

Daggett himself makes more than $400,000. As president of the national union, he is paid $523,566, according to filings with the Department of Labor. As president emeritus of Local 1804 in New Jersey, he is paid another $156,781, for a total $680,347.

There's more at the link.

And all those grossly inflated salaries are paid by the businesses who ship goods into and out of those ports . . . and they pass on those costs to us in the form of higher prices.  Consumers in middle America are paying for union feather-bedding in New Jersey.

Rope. Dockyard cranes. Tar. Feathers. Union workers and leaders. Some assembly required.


The perils of cheap knives and swords

As part of writing the next Western novel in my Ames Archives series, I'm devoting a lot of attention to knives and their use in the Old West.  There were plenty of cheap ones, but also a surprising number of higher-quality, custom-made fighting blades.  I won't spoil the book by revealing too much, but it will cover the subject in some depth.

As part of it, I've been talking with Sven, the knifemaker who made a custom Damascus steel knife for Miss D. a couple of years ago.  He's going to help me make a very authentic replica of a pretty serious military knife from the middle of the 19th century, and possibly be involved in other ways as well.  We both agreed, during a telephone discussion last night, that many of the replicas out there are absolutely horrible, using cheap steel that's so brittle it's often dangerous to the person holding it, and that can't take or hold an edge.

To illustrate that, here's what happened when TV channel Shop At Home demonstrated a cheap-and-nasty set of samurai swords a few years ago.

Ouch! That's why you don't buy cheap crap with an edge to it!

What Sven makes (and will make as a tie-in to the next Ames novel) is far from cheap, and anything but crappy.  That's why I like working with him.


Stuff, according to George Carlin

Yesterday I wrote about Americans' accumulation of "stuff", and how they deal with it.  A commenter pointed me to one of comedian George Carlin's performances, where he comments on that issue.  It's a lot less profane than many of his rants, so I'll post it here.  He still uses a few less-than-polite words, so if you're easily offended, you might want to skip it;  but it's a very amusing performance.

A few e-mailed comments from male readers, following yesterday's article, alleged that the "stuff" problem in their homes was largely due to their wives and daughters, not to the men in their families.  I venture to doubt this.  I know a great many men who have extensive collections of tools, firearms, fishing gear, etc., plus accessories for all of the above.  For example, I have several plastic totes in the garage filled with holsters, grips taken off various firearms, reloading gear, and what have you.  I could dispose of them all right away, without affecting any the firearms I have in my gun safe;  but then, where would I find a set of grips that I liked if I bought a gun that didn't fit my hand?  I could always buy a set, but where's the fun in that?

I also went through my tools recently, and was surprised to find that I could assemble no less than four toolboxes (including the boxes, from small to large), each with a relatively complete set of tools for domestic maintenance and light household tinkering.  I have no possible need for more than one!  The others will be given to friends, or (if worse comes to worst) disposed of via our local thrift shop (which already offers multiple incomplete sets of sockets and wrenches, for example).  I also have a small plastic tote filled with several dozen rolls of builder's tape, duct tape, electrical tape, masking tape, gaffer tape, and other varieties of tape, in rolls from small to gargantuan, new or partly used.  Why I have so many, and/or how they got there, I have absolutely no idea!  I wonder how many of my readers could do the same thing, if they went through their garages or workshops?

Yeah, I also have too much "stuff" . . .


Thursday, June 14, 2018


(For those who don't know the acronym, see here.)

I thought radical feminism had long since jumped the shark.  Now it looks like they're jumping jellyfish, crustaceans and seaweed for good measure.

If you’re a dog owner, maybe, just maybe, a couple of things that come to mind when you take ‘ol Spot to the dog park are rape culture and non-heterosexual “performativity.”

What’s that? You don’t consider such things when you’re walking the pup? No worries, then. The Portland Ungendering Research Initiative’s Helen Wilson is here to clue you in.

Her paper, “Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon,” discusses the “emerging themes in human and canine interactive behavioral patterns in urban dog parks” in order to gain a better understanding about people’s decisions and “emergent assumptions around gender, race, and sexuality.”

The PhD in feminist studies writes that dog parks are “petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture.’” Never mind that dogs are, y’know, animals. Just go with it:

They offer a very public view into the ways human companions foster and perpetuate masculinist systems of communal oppression across species and in public spaces. The cultural norms operating within and upon these spaces form microcultures where acceptable and unacceptable behavior in human communities may be reflected in the way human companions construct their interactions with dogs, particularly in regard to rape culture and queering, and a-/moral interpretations of such behaviors and their human analogues under the assumptions of rape culture.

“In essence,” Wilson adds, dogs parks “become rape-condoning spaces in which human rape culture plays out by the moral permissiveness we extend to animals.”

In a nutshell, it doesn’t get much more intellectually vacuous than this, folks.

Worse still, the only canines that are oppressed (yes, oppressed) are those which exhibit — wait for it! — gay behavior.

There's more at the link.

I no longer think radical feminist theorists have jumped the shark.  Instead, I think they've humped it - or, perhaps, been humped by it.  What other possible explanation is there for such drivel?


Stuff, out the wazoo

When Miss D. and I moved to Texas, two and a half years ago, we shed an immense amount of excess belongings before the trip.  I reduced my library by two-thirds, carting six (six!) pickup-truck-loads of books to the second-hand store, and we got rid of a lot of other stuff as well.  Even so, we're finding it difficult to remain within our bounds now that we're here.  The garage is filling up again, and Miss D. has made it clear I need to winnow it down to a manageable amount of stuff once more.  (That's only fair - I'm the cause of a lot of the accumulation!)

It's some comfort - but also alarming - to know we're not alone.

Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the weight and burden of our clutter. We tire of cleaning and managing and organizing. Our toy rooms are messy, our drawers don’t close, and our closets are filled from top to bottom. The evidence of clutter is all around us.

Today, increasing data is being collected about our homes, our shopping habits, and our spending. The research is confirming our observation: we own too much stuff. And it is robbing us of life.

Here are 21 surprising statistics about our clutter that help us understand how big of a problem our accumulation has actually become.

1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

4. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

5. The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).

. . .

8. The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

9. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).

10. While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

. . .

16. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

17. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).

There's more at the link.

Some of those statistics sound so exaggerated as to be unreal (300,000 items in the average American home?  Really?  Are they counting every nail, nut, bolt and screw in the tool chest, every button on every shirt, and every individual piece of cat kibble or dog food?).  However, others are more realistic, I suspect.  Either way, it's a clarion call to all of us to prioritize our lives, keep what's essential, and get rid of as much as possible of what we don't need.