Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Oh, the professorial outrage at being objectively measured!

I'm cynically amused by the protests coming from professors at the University of Texas at Austin.

The University of Texas at Austin this week became one of the most prestigious research institutions to join a faculty rebellion against Academic Analytics, a data company that promises to identify low-performing professors.

UT-Austin’s Faculty Council voted on Monday to approve a resolution recommending that the university make no use of Academic Analytics, especially concerning promotions, tenure, salaries, curriculum, and other faculty issues.

As with previous faculty protests of the company at Georgetown and Rutgers Universities, UT-Austin faculty members cited concerns about the accuracy of Academic Analytics’ data, the lack of opportunities for professors to correct errors, and the inappropriateness of numerical rankings for making complex decisions about people and education.

There's more at the link.

The protest sounds great, doesn't it? - that is, until you look at what Academic Analytics actually does, the data it gathers, and how it enables administrators to examine every professor and lecturer in comparison with others in their field nationwide.  The company asserts:

The Academic Analytics Database (AAD) includes information on over 270,000 faculty members associated with more than 9,000 Ph.D. programs and 10,000 departments at more than 385 universities in the United States and abroad. These data are structured so that they can be used to enable comparisons at a discipline-by-discipline level as well as overall university performance. The data include the primary areas of scholarly research accomplishment...

. . .

Academic Analytics accurate and comprehensive database is accessible through our unique online Portal. The portal offers more than 40 different tables, charts, and data cutting tools facilitating rapid answers to common questions that our data can help solve, as well as unique visualizations that provide an opportunity for the discovery of previously unrecognized data, trends, patterns, and centers of strength and weakness at your university.

Again, more at the link.

Gee!  You mean, professors can now have their actual job-related performance measured accurately in comparison to the requirements of their positions, and the performance of their peers in universities and colleges across America?  Why would they object to that, I wonder . . . NOT!!!

I think we all know why the academics are upset at being accurately assessed.  They can't get away with "fudge factors" any more.  They might even have to stop fashionable, politically correct protests and other extracurricular activities, and get down to the business of teaching - which is, after all, the reason they were employed in the first place.  Clearly, as far as they're concerned, accountability is very low on their list of priorities - but for people like you and I, forced to pay exorbitant fees to study under them, it's rather more important.

In fact, why don't we ask Academic Analytics to make available public profiles of every professor in their database?  It might help prospective students, and/or their parents, choose professors who best meet our needs - and boycott those who don't, and the institutions that employ them.  Wouldn't that just set the cat among the academic pigeons?


Doofus Of The Day #994

Today's award goes to the authors of a ridiculous article about yoga.

A professor of religious studies at Michigan State University recently argued that white people who practice yoga are guilty of enjoying a “system of power, privilege, and oppression.”

To truly honor yoga, writes Michigan State University professor Shreena Gandhi, white Americans should understand its history, acknowledge the cultural appropriation they engage in, and possibly reduce the cost of yoga classes for poor people, a group that often includes people of color and “recent immigrants, such as Indian women to whom this practice rightfully belongs.”

Gandhi, in an article she recently co-authored, argued yoga as it’s practiced in America today is an extension of white supremacy and the “yoga industrial complex.”

“Yoga became — and remains — a practice which allows western practitioners to experience the idea of another culture while focusing on the self,” wrote Gandhi and co-author Lillie Wolff, a self-described “antiracist white Jewish organizer, facilitator and healer” who is passionate about “decolonizing” yoga.

“The explosion of yoga studios, yoga videos, apps, yoga pants, and other yoga swag over the last two decades is evidence of this. Yoga contributes to our economic system, but never forget this system is one built upon exploitation and commodification of labor, often the labor of black people and people of the global south,” the two argued in their piece, titled “Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation.”

“… We must ask, in what ways are we complicit in a system that harms People of Color, queer and trans people, poor people, people with disabilities, and immigrants? Despite our best values and intentions as individuals, our actions (and inaction) are inherently connected with a system of power, privilege, and oppression.”

The authors write that the many white people who practice yoga should continue to enjoy it, but also “look outside” themselves and “understand how the history of yoga practice in the United States is intimately linked to some of the larger forces of white supremacy.”

There's more at the link.

Wow.  There's so much bull**** in that excerpt that one hardly knows where to begin analyzing it.  Just for a start, yoga comes from ancient India, but spread through three major religions - Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.  Which of them (if any) "culturally appropriated" it from the other(s)?  Who says this practice "rightfully belongs" to Indian women?  How about cooking rice?  Indian women do that, too.  Does that mean it's an Indian cultural thing?  Chinese women might have something to say about that . . .  As for "queer and trans" people, how the heck did they get into this debate?  And just what the hell is the "yoga industrial complex"?  One has visions of General Motors making cars where the exhaust plays the "jewel in the lotus" theme.  Yoga, yes;  industrial, yes.  Brilliant!  In that context, maybe "trans" means "transmission"?

The authors of that article can kiss my non-yoga-practicing, non-supremacist, fundamental jujube.  That's the only response I can think of that adequately reflects my disgust.


A big "Thank you!" to those who supported Wil Caligan's fundraiser

Last week I asked for your support for a fundraiser for Wil Caligan, a graphic artist who ran afoul of SJW thought police and found his professional future imperiled.  You responded with great generosity, as did others.  By the time the one-week fundraiser ended, on Monday morning, Wil's fundraiser had raised no less than $59,046.  Since the initial baseline appeal had been for just $7,500, that represents an oversubscription of no less than 787%!  Well done, everyone, and thank you very much!

With all its stretch goals fulfilled, the fundraiser will now pay for Wil to draw three complete graphic novels, in up to 24 distinct full-color comic-book segments.  Backers will vote on which books they want to see in graphic novel format.  I think we'll see the first within six months or so, judging by what I'm hearing, although that's subject to confirmation.

Thanks again to all of you who responded to this appeal.  I'm looking forward to seeing its fruits in print soon.


Campus politics and the State of the Union address

Cathy Young, writing in the Boston Herald, has some pithy comments about "How campus politics hijacked American politics".

For some time, a fixation on identity politics, a culture of reflexive outrage, and a scorched-earth approach to trivial transgressions have been all hallmarks of student activism and academic radicalism. They are now becoming increasingly evident in American life as a whole. In the name of defending women and ethnic and sexual minorities — all reasonable goals — progressives on and off campus are taking illiberal stances that polarize society, put a chill on free speech, and erode respect for due process.

Not long ago, tropes such as “white privilege” or “rape culture,” which reduce a vast range of social dynamics to racism and misogyny, were seldom heard outside the radical wing of the academy; today, they’ve joined the mainstream. The term “microaggression,” describing statements and acts deemed unintentionally prejudiced, now shows up without explanation even in business publications.

Opposing bigotry and injustice are noble goals; but the social justice movement, on and off campus, goes far beyond that. It labels people by identity, creating a hierarchy in which being “marginalized” confers status while being “privileged” brings shame. Moreover, given its focus on changing “wrong” attitudes, is almost by definition hostile to free speech: dissent, even counterargument, becomes “microaggression” or “discursive violence.”

. . .

Yet the assault on “bad” speech is not just a campus matter. Especially after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville that turned violent last August, the idea that free speech protections should be reconsidered has been gaining currency on the left ... For now, the First Amendment seems safe. But the campus-bred identitarian left is leaving its mark on society in other ways, especially in areas directly connected to culture: media, publishing, and entertainment, which in turn help shape the social climate ... Often, the effect is a chilling one ... Recent graduates, and the cultural politics they bring, also influence corporations that want to maintain a progressive image — including the tech giants that set the tone for much of the social media.

. . .

What’s more, left-wing campus politics also feed and empower the right. Stories of political correctness run amok, gleefully picked up by conservative media (and in some cases overblown), boost the perception of rampant hypersensitivity, speech policing, and anti-male and/or anti-white bias. New research by Georgia State University Ph.D. candidate Zack Goldberg confirms anecdotal reports that many Trump voters were at least partly motivated by concerns about political correctness.

Perhaps the real danger is that “social justice warriors” on the left are propping up Trumpism on the right, and vice versa. With each side spurring the other to action in a feedback loop, there will soon be little room left for anyone else.

There's more at the link.

I think many of us would agree with many of her points.  I think the proof of them is likely to be found in reactions to last night's State of the Union address by President Trump.  I'm already noting that various left-of-center and far-left analyses of the speech have focused on "fact-checking" by providing "context" - in other words, not so much checking the actual facts themselves as by putting them within a political framework that allows them to be criticized more or less heavily.  They're not allowing the facts to speak for themselves.  What's more, some of the President's claims are being "fact-checked" to a ridiculous degree, particularly by media adding "context and analysis" (from their own ideological perspectives, rather than factually) to his words.  An example from the Guardian:

The Empire State Building

"America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year – isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take ten years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?"

The Empire State Building was built in one year and 45 days.

I think a minor discrepancy of about 12%, in order to make a rhetorical point, is hardly worthy of comment.  I'd give any president a pass on that, Democrat or Republican.  However, it's yet another convenient stick with which to beat the anti-Trump drum, so it's "fact-checked".  Yawn.  Big fat hairy deal.  It doesn't take anything away from the President's point, given in the text in italics.

I think a lot of the vituperation directed at President Trump from the left of US politics is simply a reflection of their despair that he's not listening to them.  They're living in their own echo chamber, where everyone parrots the same party line, and they can't understand how he's not intimidated into following their wishes.  They have no conception that anyone can - or should be allowed to - differ from their opinions.  The trouble is, they've now turned to trying to impose their opinions through corporate censorship and social ostracism of anyone with different views.  That's dangerous - and it needs to be stopped.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A life well lived, remembered with laughter

I was touched - and amused - to read the obituary of the late Terry Ward, who died last week.

Terry Wayne Ward, age 71, of DeMotte, IN, escaped this mortal realm on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018, leaving behind 32 jars of Miracle Whip, 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper and multitudes of other random items that would prove helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Terry is survived by his overly-patient and accepting wife Kathy, who was the love of his life (a fact she gladly accepted sympathy for during their 48 years of marriage). He is also survived by daughters Rebecca (William) Hines and Jean (Jeff) Lahm; sister, Linda; brother, Phil; grandchildren: Alexander and Hannah Hines (The Mesopotamians), Daphne and Erin Pistello (The Daffer and Peanut), Brendan and Owen Lahm (Phineas and Ferb) and Tessa McMurry (Smiley).

He is preceded in death by his parents Paul and Bernice Ward, daughter Laura Pistello, grandson Vincent Pistello, brother Kenneth Ward, a 1972 Rambler and a hip.

Terry graduated from Thornridge High School in South Holland, IL, where only three of his teachers took an early retirement after having had him as a student. He met the love of his life, Kathy, by telling her he was a lineman – he didn’t specify early on that he was a lineman for the phone company, not the NFL. Still, Kathy and Terry wed in the fall of 1969, perfectly between the Summer of Love and the Winter of Regret.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.  It's warm-hearted and vibrant.  I hope I'm remembered with as much love and affection, when my time comes.

May Mr. Ward's sins be forgiven him, and may he find eternal rest;  and may those who survive his loss find comfort in the warmth of their memories.


Jihad in Minnesota: why the deafening media silence?

Readers may remember the stabbing attack on two shoppers at the Mall of America in Minnesota last November.  It was widely reported in the mainstream media to be a robbery attempt.  Many of us had our suspicions about that, given the name and religion of the attacker (not widely reported at the time).  To this day, such evasion continues.

However, it now looks like our suspicions were justified.

At the plea hearing Thursday, Abdiraham's attorney read a statement — which is public record — to the courtroom, which explained why he attacked the two men.

In the statement, Abdiraham said he went to the Mall of America to answer the "call for jihad by the Chief of Believer, Abu-bakr Al-baghdadi, may Allah protect him, and by the Mujahiden of the Islamic State."

The statement added, "I understand that the two men I stabbed know and have explained the reason for my attack, and I am here reaffirming that it was indeed an act of Jihad in the way of Allah."

Abdiraham also said in the statement that Americans will not be safe as long as "your country is at war with Islam."

Omar Jamal, an activist with a Somali watchdog group, said he is aware of the statement.

"This is a widespread sentiment with Somali youth," he said.

Jamal said the federal government's effort to make it difficult for would-be jihadists to travel abroad and join a terrorist group has had unintended consequences locally.

"What is very concerning in this instance, is the fact that youth are exploring more 'How can I do something here, what weapons are accessible,'" he said.

There's more at the link.

It's not racist or intolerant in the least to acknowledge that certain areas of the country are at higher risk of this sort of attack, because of the higher proportion of Islamic candidates who might be potentially radicalized in that way.  Minnesota's Twin Cities area is among them, thanks to a large local population of Somali refugees and immigrants.

If you live in or near such an area, it's no more than common sense to be on the alert.  I'm not for a moment advocating vigilante justice, or anything so stupid.  However, if the two men stabbed in this attack had been more aware of the risks involved, and more on their guard, they might have been better able to protect themselves.  That's a worthwhile thought to keep in mind.


The 2018 "Tuna Tossing World Championships"???

Yes, they're a thing - in Port Lincoln, Australia, as part of the annual Tunarama festival.  The 2018 championships have just been held there.  The Telegraph reports:

Historically a fishing town, the idea grew from watching dock workers hurl fish from the decks of overflowing boats.

Dead fish were thrown in earlier editions of the event, first held in 1979, but the decision was made several years ago to toss rubber ones instead.

There's more at the link.

Here's some footage from last week's competition.

I suppose the losers were weighed in the scales and found wanting . . .


Daniel Greenfield lays it on the line

Daniel Greenfield, who blogs at Sultan Knish, often has interesting views.  I don't always agree with them, but in a recent speech to the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, I think he hit several home runs clear out of the park.  It's very worthwhile to listen to his speech in full;  I've included it after the excerpt below, and you can read a transcript at his blog.

Here's a lengthy excerpt that I think encapsulates the core of his argument.

Whether it’s Federal or State, Executive, Legislative or Judiciary, the left moves power around to run the country. If it controls an institution, then that institution is suddenly the supreme power in the land.

This is what I call a moving dictatorship.

There isn’t one guy in a room somewhere issuing the orders. Instead there’s a network of them. And the network moves around.

If the guys and girls in the network win elections, they can do it from the White House. If they lose the White House, they’ll do it from Congress. If they don’t have either one, they’ll use the Supreme Court.

If they don’t have either the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court, they’re screwed. Right?


They just go on issuing them through circuit courts and the bureaucracy. State governments announce that they’re independent republics. Corporations begin threatening and suing the government.

There’s no consistent legal standard. Only a political one.

. . .

The only consistent thing is that leftist policies are mandatory and opposing them is illegal.

Everything else is just a song and dance routine.

That’s how it works. It’s the moving dictatorship. It’s the tyranny of the network.

You can’t pin it down. There’s no one office or one guy. It’s a network of them. It’s an ideological dictatorship. Some people call it the deep state. But that doesn’t even begin to capture what it is.

To understand it, you have to think about things like the Cold War and Communist infiltration.

A better term than Deep State is Shadow Government.

Parts of the Shadow Government aren’t even in the government. They are wherever the left holds power. It can be in the non-profit sector and among major corporations. Power gets moved around like a New York City shell game. Where’s the quarter? Nope, it’s not there anymore.

The shadow government is an ideological network. These days it calls itself by a hashtag #Resistance. Under any name, it runs the country. Most of the time we don’t realize that ... It’s only when someone came on the scene who didn’t play the game by the same rules, that the network exposed itself. The shadow government emerged out of hiding and came for Trump.

And that’s the civil war.

. . .

Now the network isn’t running the country from cover. It’s actually out here trying to overturn the results of an election and remove the president from office.

It’s rejected the victories of two Republican presidents this century.

And if we don’t stand up and confront it, and expose it for what it is, it’s going to go on doing it in every election. And eventually Federal judges are going to gain enough power that they really will overturn elections.

It happens in other countries. If you think it can’t happen here, you haven’t been paying attention to the left.

Right now, Federal judges are declaring that President Trump isn’t allowed to govern because his Tweets show he’s a racist. How long until they say that a president isn’t even allowed to take office because they don’t like his views?

That’s where we’re headed.

Civil wars swing around a very basic question. The most basic question of them all. Who runs the country?

Is it me? Is it you? Is it Grandma? Or is it bunch of people who made running the government into their career?

. . .

Freedom can only exist under a volunteer government. Because everyone is in charge. Power belongs to the people.

A professional government is going to have to stamp out freedom sooner or later. Freedom under a professional government can only be a fiction. Whenever the people disagree with the professionals, they’re going to have to get put down. That’s just how it is. No matter how it’s disguised, a professional government is tyranny.

Ours is really well disguised, but if it walks like a duck and locks you up like a duck, it’s a tyranny.

There's much more at the link, and/or in the video below.  Highly recommended reading and/or listening.

As proof of Mr. Greenfield's thesis, I offer the bizarre situation that developed last year over the succession to the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  It was clearly, unambiguously and unmistakably an attempt to bypass Presidential authority and ignore his policies.  It couldn't be clearer - and, I submit, it demonstrates that the conflict identified by Mr. Greenfield is real.


Monday, January 29, 2018

The most cost-effective binoculars I've ever owned

A few years ago I wrote about the usefulness of binoculars in emergency situations, following that article with another on how to choose the right low-cost binoculars for your needs.  I stand by most of my recommendations in those articles;  but technology has improved to the point that many of my earlier criteria are about to be overturned.

I have on my desk, as I write these words, an example of that.  It's the Costin Ultimate HD 8-24x50 Zoom Binoculars.

Yes, you read that right:  they're an 8x50 pair of binoculars, with a zoom feature that lets you increase that magnification by up to three times, to 24x.  They're quite lightweight, much more so than conventional 8x50's, so I presume the lens barrels and other features are plastic rather than metal.  They're not the world's best glass, and they don't gather light as well as more expensive units, and they're not as clear and sharp as others I've tested:  but at their price - including a discount currently being offered, I paid only $26.59 for them - they're unbeatable value for money.  Even at their list price of $37.99, they're a bargain.

A price like that changes the whole cost-benefit analysis.  Smaller, cheaper binoculars can be had - for example, small 8x25 units can be found for under $10 - but the larger, lightweight Costin units are so much easier to hold on to, carry, and focus, and offer so much more light gathering power, that there's really no comparison.  As I said earlier, these Costins are not great binoculars;  they're no better than adequate, optically speaking.  However, at this price point, comparisons become rather pointless.  They're simply outstanding value for money.  The zoom feature even gives them the same power as low-end telescopes, adequate for looking at the Moon or something like that.  What's more, if you should drop one and break it, or lose it overboard from a boat, or give it to kids to play with and they lose it . . . so what?  You haven't lost a lot of money.  That changes the whole ownership equation.

These are the first binoculars I've seen with so many features at this price point, but I'm sure they won't be the last.  I'll be watching with interest to see what emerges over the next year or two.  I don't intend to dispose of my Vanguard or Nikon or Bushnell units, because I value their higher optical quality and sharpness;  but I'll be carrying them a lot less than I will this Costin unit, because I can afford to lose it if I have to.  I can even leave it in the car, not worrying about whether it may be stolen or not.  I can now have relatively high-performance optics with me at all times, irrespective of risks.  That's a game-changer.  How I wish I'd had something like this during my African adventures!  It might have made some of them less adventurous, if you know what I mean.

I've ordered several more of the Costins.  They'll be gifts for friends, whom I'm sure will find them just as useful as I'm doing.

(Mandatory disclaimer:  no, I'm not being paid or compensated in any way to advertise these things, and I bought my review unit with my own funds.  I simply like to tell my friends and readers when I find a bargain.)


Wind shear and turbulence at twilight

Here's a near miss with Mother Earth, followed by a successful landing.  Must have been fun (NOT!) to be in the cockpit . . .


Lies, damned lies and statistics - California edition

I'm sure many of my readers will have read or heard that Governor Jerry Brown of California boasted last week that crime in that state was way down.  Well, it all depends what you call a crime, doesn't it?

In his state of the state address yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown boasted that last year the number of reported felonies was actually lower than in 1970.

He must [have] forgotten that in 2014, Proposition 47, which he supported, converted all theft, fraud, and receiving stolen property felonies of less than $950 and most drug possession crimes to misdemeanors. That’s thousands [of] crimes per year that are no longer felonies.  Of course reported felonies are down.

What he did not tell us is that, under his inmate release and rehabilitation policies violent crime in California has increased for three years in a row.  This is the first time that has happened since 1992. This includes murder, robbery, rape and aggravated assault.  Auto thefts have gone up for eight straight years.  And the millions in promised savings of state prison costs by leaving criminals in the counties never happened.  Since 2011, when the Governor signed AB 109, his first big sentencing reform, state prison costs have climbed by $1.7 billion, according to the Governor’s own budget office.

What’s worse, the just released preliminary numbers for big California cities over the first six months of 2017 show another increase in violent crime in 56% of the state’s 73 largest cities.  This is very similar to increases reported for the first six months of 2016.

There's more at the link.

I'm not blaming Governor Brown as a Democrat for this, of course.  Republicans are more than willing to pull similar shenanigans, every chance they get.  It's the curse of politicians in general.  Once they get into office, they lie, either deliberately, or by fudging the statistics (for example, the official rate of inflation, which is far below the real rate, as we've discussed in these pages on numerous occasions).

How do you know when a politician is lying?  Whenever their lips are moving.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday morning music

Having recently enjoyed (?) a government shut-down over immigration issues, I decided to look for immigration-themed songs.  Of course, there's only one way to begin!

I searched for more songs about the theme, but being a (legal) immigrant myself, I found it a depressing experience.  There are many songs on the subject, but most are from very partisan perspectives, either pro- or anti-immigration (particularly illegal immigration).  If I select any of them, I'm sure to offend some readers while pleasing others.  Therefore, I point you to the selection available on YouTube, and invite you to choose those that suit you.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

It's not just the three-letter agencies; it's the entire American ruling class

I've referenced Angelo Codevilla's landmark article 'America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution' in these pages before.  In it, he observed:

Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

There's much more at the linkHighly recommended reading.

In a later article, 'After the Republic', Prof. Codevilla expanded on his vision of our future.

Because Republicans largely agree with Democrats that they need not take seriously the founders’ Constitution, today’s American regime is now what Max Weber had called the Tsarist regime on the eve of the Revolution: “fake constitutionalism.” Because such fakery is self-discrediting and removes anyone’s obligation to restrain his passions, it is a harbinger of revolution and of imperial power.

. . .

In today’s America, a network of executive, judicial, bureaucratic, and social kinship channels bypasses the sovereignty of citizens ... If you are on the right side of that network, you can make up the rules as you go along, ignore or violate any number of laws, obfuscate or commit perjury about what you are doing (in the unlikely case they put you under oath), and be certain of your peers’ support. These cronies’ shared social and intellectual identity stems from the uniform education they have received in the universities. Because disdain for ordinary Americans is this ruling class's chief feature, its members can be equally certain that all will join in celebrating each, and in demonizing their respective opponents.

Again, more at the link.

I think those two excerpts sum up the arrogance displayed by the leadership of the FBI and the NSA towards Congress and the American people, which we discussed earlier this week.  Remember, the leaders of the so-called "Deep State" are drawn from what Prof. Codevilla calls the "ruling class" of America.  They seem to genuinely believe that they know better than we do what we need, and they're determined to give it to us, good and hard.

Only when they're caught red-handed do they change their tune - and then it's never with apologies, but only with implausible excuses.  If anyone really believes that the FBI suddenly, magically "recovered" the "missing" 50,000-odd text messages, they're living in cloud cuckoo land.

Karl Denninger sums it up.

The FBI "lost" tens of thousands of text messages.

Then they "un-lost" them.

Remember, this is the "agency" that is charged with never losing anything, and having legally-defensible forensic evidence to prosecute crimes.

. . .

The FBI knows all of this and in fact it's their procedure and policy.  They didn't just have one copy and they certainly did not fail to verify that their imaging, backups and integrity checks work.  To do so would be to render all of their cyber-based prosecutions worthless as they'd never get another conviction -- ever.

So no, they didn't "lose" anything.

The FBI intentionally deleted the messages in question after making damn sure they had good archival copies in an attempt to corruptly cover up the outrageous actions of their own agents, virtually all of which meets the legal definition of obstruction of justice and some of which may even rise to the level of a seditious conspiracy -- and then lied about their actions.  It was only when faced with the inevitability of being caught in said lie (and yes, they were going to get caught) that they "decided" to "un-lose" the messages.

The FBI must be dismantled and everyone involved in that crap imprisoned right here and now, and if Trump does not direct Jeff Sessions to do so forthwith then he and the remainder of the DOJ is a knowing and willing part of it.  The bureau is intentionally, internally and irrecoverably corrupt.


More at the link.

It's almost impossible to argue with Mr. Denninger's conclusions.  Having worked in the field of Disaster Recovery Planning for information technology systems, I know from first-hand experience that his assertions about computer archival and recovery procedures are correct.

The question is thus, what is President Trump going to do about it?  I don't believe he can afford to let this slide.  I believe all those responsible, by commission or by omission, must be punished, at the very least by dismissal from their jobs and the loss of their pensions.  Anything less would be a betrayal of the Constitution and the trust of the American people.

What say you, readers?


Reverting to a third world s***hole

I'm an American now, no longer a South African . . . yet I can still be disturbed by news from the land of my birth that illustrates just how far it's fallen from the First World standards that generally prevailed in my youth.  I don't regret the passing of apartheid - it was a truly evil system of government, with far too much for comfort in common with Nazi Germany, and deserved to die - but what's replaced it has become a travesty of nationhood.  When even essential traffic control technology is no longer safe, you know that a country's well on the way to what President Trump (and others, including myself) would call "s***hole status".

Theft and vandalism is such a big problem that the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) won’t replace some traffic lights.

The situation is so bad that when the JRA tightened security‚ criminals killed two guards to get their hands on the infrastructure.

. . .

The agency said [stolen] traffic signals were recently reinstalled‚ using new copper-clad aluminium cables that have very little resale value. Despite displaying notices pointing out that the cables had no resale value‚ the cables were stolen again.

“Due to the high risk of theft and vandalism in that area‚ it was decided to decommission these traffic signals rather than to continuously rebuild the intersections again at a cost‚ just to have everything stolen again‚” said Scheepers.

. . .

The Gauteng roads department is to install stop signs and road markings. But the department expects thieves to steal the sign boards.

. . .

Scheepers said the JRA had seen a significant increase in theft of all road items that could possibly be resold such as manhole covers‚ steel posts and grids‚ road signage‚ guardrails‚ traffic signal poles‚ copper cables‚ traffic cameras and uninterrupted power supply units.

There's more at the link.

It's not just criminal tendencies that are driving those thefts - it's sheer poverty.  South Africa's official unemployment rate was 27.7% last year, but that probably understates the real position by at least 50%.  I won't be surprised if true unemployment - including those not employed in the formal sector, who scrabble to make ends meet through subsistence agriculture or part-time, off-the-books jobs - is in the 40% to 50% range.  When you have poverty like that, you'll do whatever it takes to survive.  Stealing traffic signals to sell their cables and electronics is one way.  It's a desperation economy.

Trouble is, there are growing areas of the USA that are becoming like that.  All of those of which I'm aware are in inner-city areas.  I know several where municipal works departments can no longer send a single truck or van to do a job, because it's more likely than not to be robbed or hi-jacked.  They have to send more people, some to provide security while others do the work that's required, or have a police patrol car standing by, just in case.  Power cable theft has become rampant in several states, and the theft of electricity itself has been called "the third most stolen item [in the USA], after credit card data and automobiles".  Poverty can't be pleaded as an excuse in this country, what with all the government support programs available - not to mention the lucrative trade in illegal narcotics, for which there seems to be endless demand.

It's culture (or the lack thereof), rather than poverty, that's driving our problems.  That being the case, can we stop parts of our own country becoming "s***holes" as well?  That's a good question . . .


Friday, January 26, 2018

The primal scream of a big V8 engine at full blast

Courtesy of an email from Gerald F., here's an amazing sound.  Someone had the bright idea (?) of converting an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 road racing car into a rally car.  You can read more about the project here.  Gerald sent links to a few videos of the car in full song during the Rallye du Var in France, last November.  The sound is indescribable!  Hear and see for yourself.

And here's what a couple of stages looked and sounded like from inside the car.  The driver is French rally ace François Delecour.

I'd have paid good money to be on board for that . . .



A classic example of a left-wing, progressive, social justice whiner at work

Prof. Jordan Peterson's recent interview with Cathy Newman of Britain's Channel 4 News has sparked amazing controversy and feedback, not because of what he said, but because of her deliberate, persistent, inflammatory misinterpretation of his views.  From start to finish, she flat-out misstated his positions and tried to paint him into a corner.  It's only because he's an accomplished debater and a very intelligent man, who could see what she was trying to do and counter it at every turn, that he wasn't intimidated or coerced into submission.

If you haven't watched it (which I highly recommend), here's the full interview.  It's worth watching Cathy Newman's dishonesty as she continually tries to warp and twist what Prof. Peterson says into something he didn't say at all.  It's a classic portrayal of what Vox Day identifies in his bestselling books, "SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police" and "SJWs Always Double Down: Anticipating the Thought Police" (both of which are very well worth reading).  She's the personification of a so-called Social Justice Warrior (although I prefer a different, rather more pejorative term for the last word of that phrase - one of the possibilities is in the title of this post).

You can hear Prof. Peterson's own comments on that interview in a very lengthy discussion here.  The cartoonist behind Dilbert and author of many books, Scott Adams, who's a shrewd observer of the business world and the interaction between people, says that Ms. Newman's reactions are a classic example of cognitive dissonance - a psychological condition that manifests itself in different ways, including "when confronted with new information that contradicts [one's] beliefs, ideals, and values".  Here's what Mr. Adams, a shrewd observer, had to say.

Do please take the time to watch Scott Adams' analysis.  It's worth it.

I thought National Review's perspective was particularly appropriate.  Bold, underlined text in the final paragraph is my emphasis.

Any statement — any statement — must be gauged not only on the basis of its truth-value, according to the Left, but on the basis of whether such truth is likely to offend — or, at least, whether such truth is likely to offend groups the Left perceives as victimized. According to the Left, any and all truth must take a back seat to “your truth,” so long as you claim minority status in any way.

. . .

Of late, however, the Left has simply gone too far. No longer do they ask whether objectively offensive statements ought to be made; they now take each statement and ask whether it is subjectively offensive to anyone. First person to claim offense wins. Which is precisely why Peterson’s logic trips up Newman: He plays her own card against her. By demonstrating that anyone can be offended by anything, he returns the conversation from the vague recesses of subjective reaction to the hard and fast ground of objective truth.

This is the ground on which conservatives should fight, of course: acknowledgement that while manners matter, truth matters more ... Yes, let’s behave with manners. But let’s recognize that only a society that values truth can afford manners.

There's more at the link.

Finally, the Atlantic (hardly a conservative publication) identifies the core issue with Newman's flawed approach.

Peterson was pressed by the British journalist Cathy Newman to explain several of his controversial views. But what struck me, far more than any position he took, was the method his interviewer employed. It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication.

First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.

. . .

Newman relies on this technique to a remarkable extent, making it a useful illustration of a much broader pernicious trend. Peterson was not evasive or unwilling to be clear about his meaning. And Newman’s exaggerated restatements of his views mostly led viewers astray, not closer to the truth ... Peterson makes a statement. And then the interviewer interjects, “So you’re saying...” and fills in the rest with something that is less defensible, or less carefully qualified, or more extreme, or just totally unrelated to his point.

. . .

Lots of culture-war fights are unavoidable––that is, they are rooted in earnest, strongly felt disagreements over the best values or way forward or method of prioritizing goods. The best we can do is have those fights, with rules against eye-gouging.

But there is a way to reduce needless division over the countless disagreements that are inevitable in a pluralistic democracy: get better at accurately characterizing the views of folks with differing opinions, rather than egging them on to offer more extreme statements in interviews; or even worse, distorting their words so that existing divisions seem more intractable or impossible to tolerate than they are. That sort of exaggeration or hyperbolic misrepresentation is epidemic—and addressing it for everyone’s sake is long overdue.

Again, more at the link.

The Peterson-Newman interview is going to go down in social media history as a classic illustration of the deliberate misinterpretation, twisting and miscasting of one side's arguments by another.  It's dishonesty in action, as far as interviewers are concerned.  It's highly informative, and a warning to the rest of us not to bother debating such people unless we've got all our ducks in a row, as Prof. Peterson clearly has.  He's an exceptional debater.  Few of us are so talented - and we risk being manipulated or misrepresented by ruthless SJW's as a result.

(Readers will recall incidents like that during my call for a boycott of Tor Books a few years ago.  I'm still rather unpopular in SJW circles as a result.  You will doubtless have noted how terribly intimidated that made me feel.)


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Only halfway, and still going very strong!

The special one-week-long fundraiser for Wil Caligan, about which I wrote on Monday and Tuesday, is going great guns.  The original goal of $7,500 was passed in less than 2½ hours, and the original final "stretch goal" of $35,000 is within a few hundred dollars of being reached as I write these words.

I'm one of the authors who've offered books to be converted to graphic novel format as part of this campaign, and I'm also a contributor.  As I mentioned on Monday, I think this is a cause we can all rally around.

Since the fundraiser is going so well, a new "stretch goal" has been announced, this time of $50,000.  If it's reached, Wil will be commissioned to produce a third graphic novel.  I've no doubt that if we exceed that amount, the third novel will also be in color.  If you haven't already contributed, may I respectfully invite you to think about doing so?  Grateful thanks to all of you who've already done so.


That's the narrowest taxiway I've ever seen

Here's a video clip of a Pilatus PC-12, fitted with a new 5-blade MT propeller, taking off from the grass uphill/downhill strip at Locher, near Bolzano in Italy.  Note the taxiway from the hangar to the "runway".  It's so narrow the plane can't stay on it when turning!

Looks like an enjoyable place for a bush pilot - all the fun of a tricky strip, but in civilized surroundings.  What's the Italian for "Here, hold my beer and watch this"?


Facebook as a symptom of our emptiness

I've argued against using Facebook on several occasions in these pages.  I still don't use the platform, and have no intention of doing so.

A recent article at Running Iron Report provided a new perspective on what I consider to be the real danger that Facebook represents.  I should say, right from the start, that the article covers a lot more than just Facebook, and I don't agree with all the author's points.  He doesn't provide links to the sources he cites, and some of them that I looked up for myself are, to put it mildly, not my cup of tea.  (I've looked up, and added links to, those cited in the excerpt below.)  Also, I think many of my readers, and myself, don't fit the mindless mental meanderings that he identifies in much of American society.  Nevertheless, concerning Facebook, I can't disagree with his perspective.

The author begins by citing a recent interview with Sean Parker, the founding President of Facebook.  Here's the salient excerpt.  It's short, but very important, so please take the time to listen to it.

The article goes on:

At least as revealed in this interview, very little, if any, thought was given to the downstream consequences. The product was made, marketed, and eagerly consumed by billions of users as the next great thing. It also became, in many ways, a replacement for the usual requirement of thinking before speaking, and even the briefest tour of the Facebook landscape reveals a populace steeped in gloom, conspiracy, meme-think, bubble-gum politics, and the utterly inane behavior of endlessly gyrating pop stars. In many cases it is similar to being detained in a kind of uber-sentimental nightmare — a bad jokes, stupid thoughts, and greeting-card ante-chamber to hell.

. . .

For many of us, these quotes from Mr. Parker are not revelations — we’ve suspected as much for some time — but they are admissions of a deliberate strategy aimed at mind control, which should probably be terrifying. It is mortifying that American consumers would line up, willingly and with unrestrained enthusiasm, to indulge in the ease and convenience of a product designed, intentionally, to control their minds.

This is exceptionally true because we don’t, and will never, know to what ends the platform is ultimately being used, or by whom ... And it is controlled minds, either by consumerism, religious fundamentalism, or unquestioned belief in the immortal virtues of a growth economy, that are so difficult, and will perhaps eventually prove impossible, to persuade that the voices they hear are actually screams coming up from the bottom of the well.

Jerry Mander (yes, his real name) wrote in The Walling of Awareness [from his book "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television"] that “What we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel and understand about the world has been processed for us. Our experiences of the world can no longer be called direct, or primary. They are secondary, mediated experiences.” Nowhere is the secondary, mediated experience more apparent than in the world of Facebook, and according to Mr. Parker, it is entirely deliberate.

We have options, and most of them are personal. No single person among us is likely to persuade some 400 million Americans and those billions more across the globe that our addiction to consumerism is ultimately dangerous and counter-productive to independence of thought and action. It becomes something more of a personal commitment. What’s required is a concerted effort to fill in the hollow places we know exist because we can see and feel them, to address the planned obsolescence of our goods — and even our own lives — by making more careful and deliberate choices — by exercising options anchored firmly in family and local community, and to steadfastly refuse to be harried into a political corner by irrelevant party platforms, and the zealots who defend them. The once admirable American political system has devolved into a marketing and consumerist free-for-all, utterly devoid of meaning, a kind of freak show capable only of trotting out the worst possible candidates for public office.

. . .

Jim Dodge, in Living by Life [a version of which may be found in the collection "Literature and the Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture"], had this to say:

“We spend more time posturing than we do getting it on. In short, American culture has become increasingly gutless and barren in our lifetimes, and the political system little more than a cover for an economics that ravages the planet and its people for the financial gain of very few. It seems almost a social obligation to explore alternatives. Our much heralded standard of living hasn’t done much for the quality of our daily lives; the glut of commodities, endlessly hurled at us out of the vast commodity spectacle, is just more **** on the windshield ... Our only claim to dignity is trying our best to do what we think is right, to put some heart in it, some soul, flower and root. We’re going to fall on our asses a lot, founder on our pettiness and covetousness and sloth, but at least there is the effort, and that’s surely better than being just another quivering piece of the national cultural jello.”

There's more at the link.

As I said above, I sincerely hope that many of those reading this blog don't exhibit the "pettiness and covetousness and sloth" that Mr. Dodge, cited above, identifies in US society.  Hopefully, most of us think for ourselves - if we didn't, after all, we wouldn't be reading (or writing) these pages.  Nevertheless, as an indictment of US society in general, particularly in the major urban areas, I find it hard to disagree.  The fuss and froth over the election of President Trump, and current efforts in California to impose an ever more moonbattish diktat over the unfortunate people of that state, tend to reinforce that perspective, don't they?

Facebook is, to my mind, a profoundly disturbing reflection and embodiment of that attitude.  What's more, its cavalier disregard of - if not contempt for - our privacy is something I just can't stomach.  I remain steadfastly opposed to having anything to do with it, or with any similar platform that might one day take its place.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Well played, NSA - NOT!!!

Just after the National Security Agency (NSA) deleted critical data that a court had ordered it to preserve, we learn this.

The National Security Agency maintains a page on its website that outlines its mission statement. But earlier this month, the agency made a discreet change: It removed “honesty” as its top priority.

Since at least May 2016, the surveillance agency had featured honesty as the first of four “core values” listed on, alongside “respect for the law,” “integrity,” and “transparency.” The agency vowed on the site to “be truthful with each other.”

On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page – which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive – and replaced it with a new version. Now, the parts about honesty and the pledge to be truthful have been deleted. The agency’s new top value is “commitment to service,” which it says means “excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.”

Those are not the only striking alterations. In its old core values, the NSA explained that it would strive to be deserving of the “great trust” placed in it by national leaders and American citizens. It said that it would “honor the public’s need for openness.” But those phrases are now gone; all references to “trust,” “honor,” and “openness” have disappeared.

There's a lot more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.  It's worth your time.

Tell me, again, why we should trust the NSA to do anything other than betray the trust it so arrogantly demands from us?  And why we should not apply the Aliens solution to it?


In memoriam: Harry Selby

Harry Selby, one of the most famous professional hunters in Africa (so-called "white hunters" in a previous age), has died in Botswana at the age of 92.

Selby was made famous by American novelist Robert Ruark, who was also an enthusiastic big game hunter.  He made a months-long safari visit to Africa in 1951, guided by Harry Selby, and immortalized the latter in his book about the experience, "Horn of the Hunter".

During a later safari with Selby, Ruark made an hour-long movie about the experience titled "Africa Adventure".  Selby is to the left of Ruark in the cover image.

Ruark wrote two best-selling novels about Africa, "Something of Value" (1955) and "Uhuru" (1962), based on his experiences in that continent, particularly with Harry Selby and his native trackers, from whom he learned much about tribal culture and its (lack of) compatibility with Western values.  Today, they're considered anything but politically correct, but they do convey - and convey very accurately - the attitudes of the times, on both sides of the racial divide.  I often advise people to read them as textbooks of what went wrong with colonialism, all over the continent.

The New York times wrote of Selby in its obituary:

Mr. Selby grew up on a ranch astride the Equator in Kenya, watching enormous herds of zebra and impala, sniffing for lion and Cape buffalo, listening to an elephant scream and hyenas giggling at sundown. In the burning heat, he learned to track an animal over rocky ground, and to avoid the rhino laid up in the dusty shade of an acacia tree. He shot his first antelope at 8, his first elephant at 14.

Mr. Selby was a postwar protégé of the East Africa hunter Philip Hope Percival, who took Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway on safaris, and he became a professional hunter himself in the late 1940s.

. . .

It was not all shooting and campfire tales. A Selby safari required an army of bearers, cooks, skinners, porters, drivers and others; game licenses and financial transactions; transportation arrangements, from trucks and horses to planes and boats; and a complex coordination of supplies and equipment: guns and ammunition, food, water, tents, cots, radios, medicines, maps, clothing and a thousand other necessities.

Without cellphones or evacuation helicopters, Mr. Selby had to be the doctor, mechanic, chauffeur, gin-rummy-and-drinking partner and universal guide, knowledgeable about mountain ranges, grassy plains, rivers, jungles, hunting laws, migratory patterns, and the Bushmen, Masai, Samburu, Dinka and Zulu tribes. He spoke three dialects of Swahili. And he improvised; if there was no firewood, he burned wildebeest dung.

He was no Gregory Peck, but had an easygoing personality that made for good company in the bush. He coped with emergencies, pulling a client clear of a stampede or a vehicle from a bog, treating snakebites or tracking a wounded lion in a thicket — his most dangerous game. He was left-handed, but his favorite gun was a right-handed .416 Rigby, which can knock down an onrushing bull elephant or Cape buffalo in a thundering instant.

There's more at the link.

My own fondness for the .416 Rigby cartridge (my preferred "heavy" cartridge in a magazine rifle, with the lighter .375 H&H as my preferred "all-round" African cartridge) came from reading Mr. Selby's praise of it, as well as the experiences of Commander David Blunt in Tanganyika during the 1920's (you can read about his experiences, and his use of the .416 against elephant, here).

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Selby on two occasions in Botswana during the 1970's and 1980's.  He was a self-effacing man, not trying to live up to his reputation or use it to impress others.  I was never more than a casual, passing acquaintance, but he was always courteous.  I liked him.

You can read Mr. Selby's impressions of the changes in African safari hunting over sixty-odd years in this excellent article in Sports Afield.  Highly recommended for Africa buffs.  As another illustration of his life and times, his daughter Gail Selby Wentink put up this video on YouTube on the occasion of his 90th birthday, in 2015.  It shows him in earlier years, as well as many images of an Africa that's almost gone now.  It made me feel very nostalgic to view it.

May Harry Selby rest in peace.


Stand by for a "super blue blood moon"

I had no idea that such a combination was possible, but according to the Telegraph, it is.

Falling on January 31, it will be the product of three different phenomena, each of which would be exciting enough on their own.

Not only will it be a blue moon - the name given to the second full moon in one calendar month - it will also be a supermoon; this occurs when a full moon is at the point in its orbit closest to Earth, making it appear larger and brighter.

However that's not all: it will also be a blood moon in some areas of the world. A blood moon happens when the shadow of Earth casts a reddish glow on the moon.

Stargazers in Australia, New Zealand, central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, Alaska, Hawaii and parts of North America will be able to see the super blue blood moon, if the skies are clear ... It will be the first time a 'super blue blood moon' has graced the skies in 152 years, with the last one falling on March 31, 1866.

There's more at the link.

If you'd like to watch it, NASA has some advice.

NASA says viewing the eclipse may be challenging in the eastern time zone, with the best viewing in the western U.S.

“The eclipse begins at 5:51 AM ET, as the Moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east,” said Gordon Johnston, program executive and lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The Moon will enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow at 5:51 a.m. EST, but it reportedly won’t be all that noticeable. The darker part of Earth’s shadow will begin to blanket part of the Moon with a reddish tint at 6:48 a.m. EST, but the Moon will set less than a half-hour later, according to NASA.

“So your best opportunity if you live in the East is to head outside about 6:45 a.m. and get to a high place to watch the start of the eclipse—make sure you have a clear line of sight to the horizon in the west-northwest, opposite from where the Sun will rise,” said Johnston.

Again, more at the link, including a diagram of what will happen, when.

If you'd like to know more about the various names given to different phases and/or perspectives on the moon, see here.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The perils of power lines when flying low

A South African Air Force Oryx helicopter crashed on Sunday, in a part of the country I know well.  The reason for the crash illustrates one of the hazards of flying in what is now, sadly, a third world environment.

The medium transport helicopter, operated by 22 Squadron based at AFB Ysterplaat, crash-landed and ended up on its side just outside the Huguenot tunnel on the Worcester side.

An occupant of the helicopter said that they flew through newly erected wires at 300 feet before crashing onto the highway, narrowly missing a road resurfacing machine and scattering debris onto the road.

Of the three crew and five passengers aboard, only the aircraft commander received serious injuries, having fractured two lumbar vertebrae. He was admitted to 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town, for further treatment and overnight observation. The co-pilot and flight engineer were discharged, having only received moderate injuries. “All family members walked away without a scratch,” the aircraft occupant said.

. . .

The area is well known to the Cape Town based helicopter crew, but it appears that the wire the Oryx hit had only recently been erected in a valley of the Du Toitskloof Mountains.

“Wires are brand new (only put up this week) with no notams [notice to airmen],” the crew member said.

He added that not even the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS) knew about the wires, despite AMS also flying extensively in the area.

There's more at the link.

I've traveled the old Du Toits Kloof Pass and its successor, the Huguenot Tunnel, many times.  It's pretty rugged country.  The passengers and crew are very lucky the helicopter crashed on the road, rather than in the rocky, mountainous terrain around it.  Here's a video clip of the old pass, to show you what I mean.

I also remember No. 2 Military Hospital, less than favorably . . . I spent a total of 40 days there recovering from injuries during the 1970's.  It was no fun at all.  However, at the time, most of its buildings were so-called "temporary" wooden barracks left over from World War II.  Comfortable, they were not!  They were replaced by a modern hospital some years ago, which was recently upgraded.

I think the people aboard the helicopter are very lucky to be alive.  I wonder what will happen to the contractor(s) responsible for putting up the wires without notifying air traffic control?  That's a well-known helicopter route, particularly for air ambulances.  The Oryx just happened to be the first to use it after the wires were strung - with predictable results.


Talk about blowing them away!

A very big, heartfelt THANK YOU!!! to all my readers who've contributed to Wil Caligan's fundraiser, which I mentioned yesterday.  It's been "live" for a mere 24 hours, and has already exceeded its initial goal of $7,500 more than three times over - at the time of writing, $24,925, or 333%, to be exact.  So powerful has been the response that additional "stretch" goals have been announced.  If the campaign reaches $50,000, a third book will be commissioned;  and if (as seems likely, judging by the response so far) that goal is reached (we're already almost halfway there), I daresay further "stretch" goals will be announced.

I'm sure Wil is delighted by your support, and very grateful.  I certainly am!  I hope that the SJW's who attacked and sought to ostracize him have learned from this.  There are enough people out there who reject them and their weird, moonbattish views that they simply won't be allowed to keep a good man down.  One would have thought they'd already learned that, but they seem to be a particularly hard-headed crowd.  Oh, well . . . we'll just have to keep applying the necessary cluebats.

If you haven't already contributed to the fundraiser, may I earnestly request that you consider doing so?  I think this is a very worthy cause.  It's only open for another six days, so time is short.  Heck, if we raise enough, we might be able to get Wil to draw graphic novels of all seven of the books offered to him for the purpose!  Wouldn't that be fun?


A steam-powered Land Rover???

This thing is the very definition of "boys and their toys".

With its array of pulleys and levers and great clouds of belching steam this contraption may at first appear to be one of the fantastical machines conjured up by the great cartoonist W. Heath Robinson.

But it is in fact a perfectly roadworthy Land Rover, whose petrol engine was taken out and replaced by its owner with a steam-driven engine.

So efficient was its conversion from petrol back to the steam age that Frank Rothwell now uses the car for his daily commute.

. . .

The custom-built motor works like a traditional steam train, with a coal fired boiler heating the water up to steam pressure in order to run the small engine. Driving for an hour takes around 100 lbs of coal.

. . .

At full steam the car, which is fully taxed and insured, is capable of speeds of up to 15 mph - which may give Mr Rothwell a thrill, not to mention a sense of personal satisfaction, but is no doubt rather irritating for his fellow road users stuck behind him on the Lancashire lanes of his journey to work.

There's more at the link.

Here's a video of the Land Rover under steam power.

It's daft, it cost more than US $33,000, and it's hardly practical . . . but I still want one!  Full marks to Mr. Rothwell for his ingenuity.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Shutdown, oh, shutdown . . .

The blogosphere has been having fun with the government shutdown.

From Daily Timewaster:

From Political Clown Parade:

There are many more out there. Have fun looking for them!

Meanwhile, of course, the so-called "shutdown" leaves a lot of things running.


Here's a cause very worthy of our support

I'm sure most of my readers aren't familiar with the name of Wil Caligan.  He's a cartoon/comic artist who's just run headlong into the social justice warriors infecting the comic industry with their version of political correctness.  You can read all about it, and see screen captures of some of the comments, at that link.

Some examples of Wil's art may be seen here, among other places.  I particularly like the black-and-white drawing on the left, for reasons that should be obvious to readers of my Ames Archives Western novels.

Megan Fox reports:

In Caligan's case, he made the catastrophic mistake of voicing his opinion about a pop culture story about a straight man rebuffing a kiss from a transwoman.

A few weeks ago, rapper Ginuwine was caught in an uncomfortable situation where a transgendered male-to-female tried to kiss him. When he rebuffed the advances, the internet accused him of transphobia. The lesson here seems to be that if Harvey Weinstein tries to kiss a woman, that's assault. But if a transgendered person tries to force someone to kiss him, there is a requirement for the victim to prove a lack of transphobia by complying. Caligan posted his thoughts on this situation and then all hell broke loose.

Caligan's views on science and gender are not unique. Most people know that sex is based on genetics and DNA, and gender is a grammatical term used by the trans activists to confuse the issue. But even stating that pedestrian view jumpstarted a witch hunt.

. . .

This doesn't seem like a  proportional response. But where LGBTQWTF feelings are concerned, no depth is too low to sink. No person is too honorable to defame with epithets, even a Special Forces veteran of two wars who contracted a desert illness fighting for the rights of overweight gender-confused half-wits to speak their minds from Mommy's basement. Malikali Shabazz, a person who is supposed to be a fellow comics artist and a peer of Caligan's, is a real peach.

Shabazz believes that heterosexual men are "transphobic" because they won't have sex with other men. No, seriously. You're not allowed to be straight anymore. The LGBTQWTFs once told us that they just wanted to live their lives. Today we are required to participate in their sexuality (whether we consent or not) or face the firing squad.

There's more at the link.

As a result of Caligan's standing up for his (Christian) beliefs and a medically and scientifically accurate perspective on such matters, his relationship with Short Fuse Media has been terminated.  However, many (including myself) feel that he's the victim rather than the offender.  We've teamed up to do something about it.

A one-week fund-raiser has been launched.  It'll raise funds to produce one or more of Wil's comics through an independent publisher.  Several authors, including Lawdog, John C. Wright, Nick Cole and myself, have offered some of our books for 'conversion' to a graphic novel format, free of charge, to show our support.  You'll find the full list at the fund-raiser page.

This is a special one-week campaign designed to provide work for Will Caligan, a military veteran, a Christian, and a comic artist who was swarmed by SJWs and lost his publishing arrangement due to his willingness to stand up for his beliefs about right and wrong. All of the funds raised will go to paying for the production of one or more comics illustrated by Will that will be published by Arkhaven. The graphic novel – or novels – will be based on novels chosen by the backers that have been contributed by various authors, and comics legend Chuck Dixon will be providing the adapted scripts for free. A Gold-rate team of colorists, Arklight Studios, will provide the colors for the cover at a steep discount.

The precise size of the graphic novel will depend upon the novel adapted, but it is expected to be around 132 pages. Will Caligan’s comic will be published in a series of 22-page comics and as a single graphic novel, in black-and-white format with a full color cover. A color interior is one of the stretch goals.

Again, more at the link, including more examples of Wil's work.  The initial objective, for a single graphic novel drawn in black-and-white, with a full-color cover, is just $7,500.  If the top stretch goal of $35,000 is reached, it's hoped to produce two graphic novels with full color interiors.  I think that's entirely do-able, with everyone's goodwill and support.

I've already contributed to this fund-raiser in cash, as well as by donating the rights to one of my books if the backers should vote to select it for production in graphic format.  May I appeal to you, dear readers, to please do the same?  I think this is a cause, and an artist, eminently worthy of support.



EDITED TO ADD:  Wow!  The fundraiser blew past its initial target of $7,500 a mere 149 minutes after going live - less than two and a half hours!  At this rate, we might raise enough to publish all seven novels on offer in graphic form!  Thanks to everyone who's contributed so far;  and, to those who haven't, please join us.  Let's make this a smash hit!