Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Quote of the day

From a comment on today's Pearls Before Swine comic strip by user "Liverlips McCracken":

I have, for many years, passed by houses with signs that say “Drive like your kids lived here.” I want to make bumper stickers that say “Teach your kids to play as if everyone drove like you.”



A bitter, grumpy "Heh!"

Courtesy of Ninety Miles from Tyranny:

Given the Uranium One scandal, that's all too accurate.


Whether we call them refugees or migrants, they're coming - and they won't stop

Two recent articles have highlighted the reality of modern so-called "refugees" - in reality, most of them are economic migrants - who are flooding into the First World any way they can.  Having lived and/or worked in some of the worst affected areas from which the migrants are coming, I think I can provide an informed perspective on them.

First, New Republic focuses on the migrant flow through South America, and tells the story of several individuals.  Here's a brief excerpt from a lengthy article.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes—a higher number than ever recorded, as people flee war, political upheaval, extreme poverty, natural disasters, and the impacts of climate change. Since 2014, nearly 2 million migrants have crossed into Europe by sea, typically landing in Italy or Greece. They hail from dozens of countries, but most are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nigeria—countries struggling with war, political repression, climate change, and endemic poverty.

Their passage to supposed safety, which takes them across Libya and the Sinai, as well as the Mediterranean, has become increasingly perilous. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 150,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2017.

. . .

In response to the migrant crisis, European countries have sent strong messages that newcomers are no longer welcome; they’ve built fences to stop refugees from crossing their borders and elected far-right politicians with staunchly anti-immigrant messages. Meanwhile, most asylum cases are stalled in overburdened court systems, with slim prospects for any near-term resolution, which leaves many migrants stuck in the wicked limbo of a squalid, under-resourced refugee camp or austere detention facility. Today, European authorities have stiffened their resistance not only to new arrivals, but to the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers who arrived years before and remain in an eerie liminal zone: forbidden to live or work freely in Europe and unwilling, or often unable, to go home.

Because of the high risks of crossing and the low odds of being permitted to stay, more and more would-be asylum-seekers are now forgoing Europe, choosing instead to chance the journey through the Americas ... It’s impossible to know how many migrants from outside the Americas begin the journey and do not make it to the United States, or how many make it to the country and slip through undetected. But the number of “irregular migrants”—they’re called extra-continentales in Tapachula—apprehended on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico has tripled since 2010.

. . .

All Europe has done is redirect the flow of vulnerable humanity, fostering the development of a global superhighway to move people over this great distance. The doors will not hold, and neither will the fences. You can build a wall, but it will not work. Desperate people find a way.

There's more at the link.

Commenting on the New Republic article, and analyzing the issue further, David Goldman points out:

The problems of sub-Saharan Africa (as well as Pakistan and other troubled countries) are physically too large for the West to remedy: The sheer numbers of people in distress soon will exceed the total population of the industrial world.

. . .

President Trump's reported comments about certain countries as sources of prospective immigrants may sound callous. He simply is ahead of the curve. The hour is already late to put a merit-based immigration system in place with effective enforcement against illegal immigration. Mexico solved its economic and social crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s by exporting the poorest fifth of its population to the United States. With no prejudice to the Mexicans who chose to migrate, it is understandable why Americans feel put on. But that is tiny compared to what is headed towards us ten, twenty, or thirty years from now.

The mass of human misery headed towards the industrial countries simply is too great for us to bear. It is hard to see how humanitarian catastrophes of biblical proportions can be avoided. The responsibility of an American president is to make sure that they don't happen to us.

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

Two very different perspectives are portrayed in those articles.  The New Republic author is largely sympathetic to the "refugees", portraying the hardships they've faced during their long and frequently dangerous journeys.  He paints a picture of people willing to work hard and make a success of their new lives, if only they're given a chance.  The second article is not so sanguine, pointing out the sheer scale of the problem and the mathematical impossibility of solving it.

I can see both sides of the picture.  Having been in some of the countries mentioned, believe me, if I lived there today, I'd be doing anything and everything in my power to get the hell out!  I wouldn't care about other countries' laws or economic priorities.  Sheer desperation to have any sort of worthwhile life would drive me to join the migrant hordes heading for the First World.  I'd be willing to do anything, even commit the most heinous crimes, to escape the hell in which I was living.  On the other hand, I'm the product of a First World family, educated, working and living in that environment.  I can see and understand that such a flood of economic migrants will inevitably rob me and mine of the resources and opportunities on which we rely, forcing us to lower our standard of living to accommodate the "invaders".  (For example, the USA is already spending $18.5 billion every year on providing health care to illegal aliens.  That's coming out of your and my pockets, one way or another - and it's completely unsustainable.  It's got to stop.)

I understand the moral obligation to help others.  I'm a pastor, after all.  I've spent much of my life trying to help others, in many different ways, in many parts of the world.  I'm not blind to the reality of the misery suffered by untold millions in their countries of origin.  However, I'm also not blind to the need to balance that with our responsibilities to our own country and people.  One can't go overboard in either direction.

I can only repeat what I've said before.  It would be completely irresponsible, a dereliction of our duty to our own people and our own descendants, to allow ourselves to be overrun by a horde of indigents who will leech away our economic, social, cultural and national life blood in their desperation to find a better life for themselves.  At the same time, it would be immoral - sinful, from a Christian perspective - to abandon refugees and/or economic migrants to the despair in which they find themselves.  We can't have one side of the coin without the other.

We should by all means provide help to them;  but let that help be assistance to make their own nations more livable, more humane, a better home for them and their fellow countrymen.  Get rid of the corrupt, graft-ridden current international aid system.  Insist on accountability for every dollar we send.  If a government proves too greedy and grasping, retaining much of the aid for its own members rather than passing it through to its people, then let that government be cut off from all further funding.  If necessary, take active steps to remove it.

That said, I have no problem at all in strengthening our border defenses (including walls, fences, technological barriers, etc.) and increasing law enforcement within our borders to find, arrest and deport any and all illegal aliens.  Genuine refugees, who are in demonstrable, verifiable fear of their lives, should be accommodated;  but there aren't that many of them compared to economic migrants.  Furthermore, we should act against the corrupt "immigration industry" that (among other things) coaches illegal aliens in how to present their case (in other words, how to lie) in order to get permission to stay.  As far as I'm concerned, those involved in such schemes are criminals, and should be prosecuted as such.

We also need to acknowledge that this isn't a short-term problem.  It'll get worse as time goes on.  What we face now is going to be a lot worse in ten, or twenty, or thirty years' time.  We'd better settle down for the long haul, and be prepared to stand our ground.

What say you, readers?


That's a big plane . . .

Stratolaunch, the hybrid aircraft made up of two new fuselages and wings, plus six engines from old Boeing 747's, is conducting taxi tests prior to its first flight later this year.  It's enormous, designed to hang a satellite launch rocket from beneath its center wing, and lift it to 30-40,000 feet before dropping it, to get it through the thickest layers of atmosphere and give it a "head start" to orbit.

The six-engine, 385-foot-wide aircraft, nicknamed Roc, is the world’s largest airplane as measured by wingspan. It’s designed to carry up rockets for high-altitude launches in midflight.

Stratolaunch has said orbital launches could begin in the 2019-2020 time frame if the test program goes well.

Last weekend’s tests built on an initial round of low-speed runway tests in December, and were aimed at evaluating updates made to the plane’s steering and primary braking systems, Vulcan spokeswoman Alex Moji said in an email.

“We are excited to report all objectives of this test were achieved – the aircraft reached a runway speed of 40 knots (46 mph),” she said. “The data collected will be used to evaluate and update our flight simulator for crew training.”

There's more at the link.

Here's what the behemoth looks like during taxi tests.  Compare it to the size of the pickup trucks nearby.

That's BIG!


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The shotgun: brutally effective at close range

A video has surfaced on LiveLeak showing the fatal shooting (richly deserved) of a suspect by a police officer in San Diego, CA in 2016.  The DA's analysis (link is to a .PDF document in Adobe Acrobat format) includes this assessment:

Mr. Juan Carlos Fernandez had been issued a court-ordered restraining order forbidding him from contacting his former wife. Fernandez continued to harass and stalk her. On November 13, 2016, Fernandez went to his former wife's family residence. His ex-wife's father went outside to talk to Fernandez. The boyfriend of his ex-wife arrived, confronted Fernandez, and the two began to fight. Fernandez walked back to his car and retrieved a handgun. Fernandez chased the boyfriend and threatened to shoot him. The boyfriend ran from the scene and Fernandez grabbed his ex-wife by the hair. Her father attempted to pull Fernandez off of her. Femandez shot the father in the head. Fernandez then shot his ex-wife's grandfather and mother, injuring her grandfather and killing her mother. The bullet, which killed her mother, also struck his ex-wife in the chest. Fernandez grabbed his ex-wife by the hair again and dragged her to his vehicle attempting to shove her into his vehicle. Fernandez placed his ex-wife in a headlock, put the gun to her head, and pulled the trigger. The ex-wife heard the gun click, but it did not fire. Officer R. Bainbridge arrived on scene and saw Fernandez standing in the street, holding his ex-wife by the head with Fernandez's handgun pressed up against her temple. Bainbridge ordered Fernandez to drop his weapon and get on the ground multiple times. Fernandez responded by threatening to shoot Bainbridge and Fernandez's ex-wife. Fearing Fernandez was going to shoot the ex-wife, or Bainbridge and his partner, Bainbridge fired one shotgun round to Fernandez's head, killing him instantly.

There's more at the link.  The shooting was ruled fully justified under the circumstances.

Here's the video.  BE WARNED:  It may be in black-and-white, and therefore not as gory as color would be, but you're still going to see a man killed.  It's a graphic illustration of the effectiveness of the shotgun at halitosis range.  The wound isn't shown up close, which is why I've felt it OK to embed here;  but even so, DO NOT WATCH IT if you're squeamish.

I reckon that would have been a closed-coffin funeral.


EDITED TO ADD: Police bodycam footage of the incident may be viewed here. I won't embed it, because it's from a rather closer perspective.


From Pearls Before Swine:

Spirited, rather than spiritual?


Predatory lending comes to hospitals?

It looks like Big Medicine may be getting into bed with Big Banks.

Laura Cameron, then three months pregnant, tripped and fell in a parking lot and landed in the emergency room last May — her blood pressure was low and she was scared and in pain. She was flat on her back and plugged into a saline drip when a hospital employee approached her gurney to discuss how she would pay her hospital bill.

Though both Cameron, 28, and her husband, Keith, have insurance, the bill would likely come to about $830, the representative said. If that sounded unmanageable, she offered, they could take out a loan through a bank that had a partnership with the hospital.

The hospital employee was “fairly forceful,” said Cameron, who lives in Fayetteville, Ark. “She certainly made it clear she preferred we pay then, or we take this deal with the bank.”

Hospitals are increasingly offering “patient-financing” strategies, cooperating with financial institutions to offer on-the-spot loans to make sure patients pay their bills.

. . .

But the loans can be a band-aid solution, leading vulnerable patients to sign up to pay far more than they should, said Kathleen Engel, a research professor of law at Boston-based Suffolk University and an expert in consumer credit and mortgage finance.

“The hospital potentially is charging the patient the full, what I would call ‘whack rate’ for their care,” she said. “They try to collect the debt.”

Since many of these loans come without credit checks or affordability tests, the odds are higher that a loan could be financially unwise, experts warn.

There's more at the link.

I can only regard this as "predatory lending" in the classic sense of the term.  If you're lying on a stretcher or a hospital bed, in pain, scared, not knowing what's facing you, that's the worst possible time to be thinking about financial options and loan terms and conditions.  You simply aren't in a proper mental state to make such decisions.  For hospitals to try to force you into taking out a medical loan, then and there, is unconscionable.

I understand that these hospitals are trying to ensure they get paid for the care they provide.  On the face of it, there's nothing wrong with that - but such methods can only be described as manipulative, to put it mildly.  I think there'd be a good case for challenging any such agreement in court, on the grounds that the patient was not in a fit mental state to understand what he or she was signing.

If you should find yourself in hospital unexpectedly, and confronted with this sort of aggressive approach, I suggest you tell them to talk to your significant other, or ask them to wait until you're in a proper mental and physical and emotional state to make such decisions.  If they persist, tell them what they can do with the paperwork.  After all, they're in a place where it can be extracted once they've done that!


Monday, February 26, 2018

Combating child sexual abuse: an Internet dilemma

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has spoken out against the proposed Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).

FOSTA would undermine Section 230, the law protecting online platforms from some types of liability for their users’ speech. As we’ve explained before, the modern Internet is only possible thanks to a strong Section 230. Without Section 230, most of the online platforms we use would never have been formed—the risk of liability for their users’ actions would have simply been too high.

Section 230 strikes an important balance for when online platforms can be held liable for their users’ speech. Contrary to FOSTA supporters’ claims, Section 230 does nothing to protect platforms that break federal criminal law. In particular, if an Internet company knowingly engages in the advertising of sex trafficking, the U.S. Department of Justice can and should prosecute it. Additionally, Internet companies are not immune from civil liability for user-generated content if plaintiffs can show that a company had a direct hand in creating the illegal content.

The new version of FOSTA would destroy that careful balance, opening platforms to increased criminal and civil liability at both the federal and state levels. This includes a new federal sex trafficking crime targeted at web platforms (in addition to 18 U.S.C. § 1591)—but which would not require a platform to have knowledge that people are using it for sex trafficking purposes. This also includes exceptions to Section 230 for state law criminal prosecutions against online platforms, as well as civil claims under federal law and civil enforcement of federal law by state attorneys general.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the new version of FOSTA would make the changes to Section 230 apply retroactively: a platform could be prosecuted for failing to comply with the law before it was even passed.

There's more at the link.

On the face of it, those objections seem reasonable.  I'm certainly in favor of preserving civil liberties at almost any cost;  the Bill of Rights was hard-won at the start of this country, and I'll do my darnedest to preserve it against those who would undermine it.

Making a law retroactive is a clear-cut violation of civil rights before any other consideration, so I'm completely opposed to that element of FOSTA's provisions.  The problem is, the EFF's overall argument and approach focuses on only one side of the coin.  The sexual abuse of children is an enormous problem.  I've encountered its perpetrators behind bars on far too many occasions for comfort, and sometimes in the "real world" as well, including one incident in my own childhood (thankfully, interrupted before anything major could occur).  In seeking to protect civil and electronic liberties at all costs, the EFF's approach may end up neutering - or at least significantly watering down - measures that are vitally important to protect children against grooming, online trafficking, and sexual exploitation.  Which objective takes precedence?  Which is more important?

In an ideal world, we'd say that both are equally important, and find a way to compromise.  However, on this issue, it'll probably take years to find a mutually acceptable way forward.  How many children will be sexually abused during that time?  Is the delay worth that price?  There are those who'll accuse me of adopting the liberal line, "It's for the chiiiiilll-dren!"  I'm sorry about tha6t, but in this case, it really is.  I've seen the victims of child sex abuse at first hand.  It's the most spine-chilling, sickening thing you can imagine.  The impact on their lives is deep-rooted and long-lasting;  some say it never ends or goes away.  I, for one, am not prepared to see more young lives ruined by delay.  Yet, at the same time, I believe the EFF is right to argue against the erosion of civil liberties in the sphere of the Internet.

I have no answers.  I wish I could wave a magic wand, and pop the solution out of a hat as if it were a white rabbit . . . but I can't.  What about you, readers?  Do you have any suggestions that might satisfy the requirements of both sides?  Let's open this up to debate here, and see whether we can't find a way forward.


Would you pay $100 for a meatball???

Even this meatball?

Meatball lovers unite. The humble meatball is being transformed for one day only — on March 9, for National Meatball Day. (Who knew?!)

The $100 meatball will be available at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse at 447 Lexington Ave. Created by executive chef Juan Tourn, it’s made with Wagyu beef, truffle Caciocavallo cheese, foie gras, winter truffles — and topped with a creamy shallot and champagne sauce.

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the gonzo gargantua meatball.

Sorry.  I'll be darned if I pay $100 for any meatball, no matter how good its ingredients - unless, of course, I got a couple of pounds of meatball for that price.  With Wagyu beef involved, it'll get expensive.


So when does an adult become an adult?

Calls by several groups and individuals (including President Trump) to raise the legal age for purchasing a firearm to 21 are making headlines at present.  The problem is, buying a gun is just one part of being an adult, and it's neither the most risky nor the most politically awkward one.

At the same time, some are calling for the voting age to be reduced to 16.  Tell me;  if someone's not mature enough to own a gun until they're 21, what makes you think they'll be mature enough to vote - arguably a far graver responsibility - when they're 16?  Riddle me that!

There are all sorts of milestones associated with the transition from youth to adulthood and/or maturity:
  • The age at which one can obtain an unrestricted driver's license;
  • The age at which one can legally buy and/or consume alcohol;
  • The age of consent to sexual intercourse;
  • The age at which one can buy a firearm (currently split in many jurisdictions, with long guns - rifles and shotguns - legal to buy at 18, but handguns not legal until 21);
  • The age at which one can vote;
  • The age at which one can hold elected office (often varying according to the office);
  • and many more.

I propose that we identify a single age at which any or all of the above age-related rights can be enacted.  If the US military can train enlistees at the age of 17 or 18 to use a firearm, and issue one to them as a matter of routine, and if police academies can qualify recruits in firearms and send them to law enforcement agencies who will issue them a gun for daily carry, why should civilians of the same age not be allowed to buy and own a gun?  If you're old enough to have sex, why shouldn't you be allowed to drive a car (which can be as lethal a weapon as a firearm, under the wrong circumstances)?  If you're old enough to vote, why aren't you old enough to hold elected office?

Let's determine an age at which it's both safe and reasonable to permit and/or encourage any and/or all of the above activities, and use that across the board.  At age X, you can have sex, drink, buy a gun, drive a car, vote, be elected, whatever.  Anything less is merely a patchwork of nonsensically contradictory variations on whether or not one's an adult.

(There is, of course, the problem of those who'll never learn to be responsible adults, no matter what their age.  I've met more than a few of them.  What to do with them?  Maybe, if their conduct - particularly criminal conduct - demonstrates an ongoing inability to behave like an adult and a civilized human being, we should take away all of their adult rights.  Just a thought.)


Cowardice and betrayal of trust in Broward County

By now, I'm sure most of my readers are aware that four Broward County deputy sheriffs - including the school security officer - cowered outside the Parkwood school buildings and refused to go in to confront the shooter as he was murdering 17 of his former classmates.  (I won't name him.  He doesn't deserve to be remembered as a human being.  Let his name be forgotten.)

When it comes to the deputies' conduct, I don't think anyone has said it better than my friend and comrade Lawdog.

I'll go so far as to say that there is no dishonour in turning in your badge after the Academy if you realize that you can't walk into an on-going gunfight and shoot the critter pulling the trigger in the face until he changes shape or catches fire -- as long as you do it before the actual bullets start going "bang".

If you come to me -- or your boss -- on a quiet afternoon and say, "I've thought about it, and I don't think I can do the needful to save kids" then all honour to you, and I wish you peace and happiness in another profession.

But if you wait until the bangs and the stinks and the screams are in progress to decide that you just can't do it ... you, sir, are a useless oath-breaking bucket of squid chum, who is parasitising a position, a uniform, and a salary that could be held by someone who can do the needful.

And -- quite frankly -- if you wear a badge, and you hide behind a car while children under your protection are getting killed, you should have the common [deleted] decency to take your sidearm, find a quiet country road somewhere, and Do The Proper Thing.

There's more at the link.  Please go read the whole thing.  He says what needs to be said.

However, it's also emerged that Broward County policies in schools as a whole were so slewed towards covering up and/or ignoring actual crimes as to constitute malfeasance in office, not only on the part of those deputies concerned, but probably by the sheriff's department as a whole.

Broward County schools intentionally created polices from 2010 through 2016 that culminated in the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland.  We know this with great specificity because five years ago we warned Broward County Florida school board members this could happen.

In 2012 and 2013 while doing research into the Trayvon Martin shooting we discovered an alarming set of school policies being enacted in Miami-Dade and Broward County Florida.  The policies were called “diversionary programs” and were essentially about stopping High School students from being arrested. Law enforcement was instructed to avoid arrests and defer criminal conduct to school administrators.

Students who engaged in violence, drug sales, robberies, burglaries, theft and other various crimes were intentionally kept out of the criminal justice system.  County administrators and School Superintendents told local and county law enforcement officers to stop arresting students.

Unfortunately, the school board mandated policies came into conflict with law and order. The problem of the conflicted policy -vs- legality worsened over time as the police excused much more than misdemeanor crimes.  Over time this culminated in police officers falsifying documents, hiding criminal activity, lying on official police reports and even hiding stolen merchandise police retrieved from high school students.

Again, more at the link.

Given that police were called to the shooter's home no less than 39 times before his massacre of his former classmates, yet did nothing, one must assume that those policies were being actively implemented, both in and out of school.

There's blood on the shooter's hands, sure;  but I think there's just as much blood on the hands of the Broward County Sheriff's Office, and on the Sheriff's, and on the hands of every deputy involved, either before or during the tragedy.  Will anything be done about it?  I hope so . . . but I doubt it.  Those involved have too much incentive to cover for each other, lest they endanger themselves.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday morning music

Let's go back to classical music, with this performance of an orchestral suite from the opera "Naïs" by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764).

Very pleasant listening from the mid- to late Baroque era.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018


I had to laugh at this report.

[An adult entertainment Web site] introduced its new interactive vibrator, dubbed the “RubGrub,” in a press release issued on Thursday morning, describing the sex toy as “an interactive vibrator that has the ability to order Domino’s pizza immediately following an orgasm.”

According to the press release, the RubGrub will be outfitted with a button “affixed to the end” of the device, which can be pre-programmed with the user’s payment and delivery information, meaning he/she would merely need to push the button to summon a cheese pizza.

“While initially launching with the ability to order pizza, the adult entertainment company has plans to add additional restaurant chains, including those serving Mexican and Chinese food,” reads the press release, adding the devices will be available sometime in the coming months for $19.95 a pop.

Additional toppings extra.

There's more at the link.

But is it gluten-free?  And what about vegan options - i.e. no meat?


About those "spontaneous" news conference questions . . .

CNN claims it did not script the questions that were asked in a public news conference involving some of the survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

Courtesy of Daily Timewaster, I came across this picture from that conference:

Not scripted, huh?  With an e-mail setting out the question that student was to ask?

If you believe CNN on this, I've got this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC that I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

About that Playboy model's alleged affair with Donald Trump . . .

. . . well, look what's just turned up!

The centerpiece of a New Yorker story on Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Donald Trump, is scribbled notes kept by the former Playboy playmate.

These notes, obtained by journalist Ronan Farrow, are presented as her personal reflections on the relationship –“later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to the New Yorker.”

Readers could easily get the impression, as many journalists have, that McDougal wrote these notes during what she describes as a consensual relationship that began in 2006. But that is not the case.

. . .

The McDougal passages were written on a notebook marketed by fashion designer Izak Zenou, whose name appears at the bottom of one of the pages. He got into the business of creating office supplies in 2016, and the notebook was not available for sale on Amazon until March 2016.

The timing is significant.

Farrow writes that “the interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them.”

But in writing the notes in 2016 or 2017, the onetime Playmate of the Year did not foreshadow, by a decade, similar accusations by other women.

. . .

Farrow writes that he obtained the document from John Crawford, a friend of McDougal, and “she expressed surprise” that he had it but confirmed that the notes were in her handwriting.

Yet later in the piece, it became apparent that they are more than just friends.

Crawford told Farrow “that selling McDougal’s story was his idea, and that he first raised it when she was living with him, in 2016.” As they watched the presidential candidate on television, Crawford said he told McDougal that her past relationship with Trump “could be worth something about now.”

In an interview with CNN, Farrow called McDougal’s notes “written testimony” and said they exist because “in the course of selling the story, a friend of hers who coaxed her into selling it said sit down and write every detail.”

. . .

The reality is that at least a decade had passed before Karen McDougal wrote those notes, after her friend and roommate urged her to peddle her story for money.

There's more at the link.

Would any court in the land regard this sort of "evidence" as grounds for even suspicion, let alone convicting someone of guilt?  Like hell they would!  It's fatally flawed from the start, particularly because it's implied that the notes were contemporaneous with the alleged "affair".  That would almost certainly lead to the notes being ruled inadmissible as evidence in court.

I smell falsehood, deceit and lies . . . and they're not coming from the direction of the White House.

I'm not saying Ronan Farrow is a liar, but I certainly think he's been misled at best.  His journalistic integrity is now at stake.  I hope and trust he'll leave no stone unturned to obtain corroborating evidence for his allegations.  If he can't, he should publicly withdraw them, and apologize to President Trump.  As for Ms. McDougal . . . 'nuff said.


It's a dripping world out there

Tuesday's "blue norther", as they call such weather events in northern Texas, left a thick layer of frozen sleet on the ground, and all over local roads.  Driving was very tricky for a while, and most of us stayed firmly at home.

Today, things are warming up (well, to freezing point at least, and hopefully a few degrees above that by this afternoon).  Melting ice is dripping from the eaves of the roof, and the road outside is slush rather than ice.  Hopefully driving will be back to normal by tomorrow.  I have to go out later, but I'm hoping to wait until most of the slush has been pushed off the roads by other traffic.

For those of you caught in this storm, you have my sympathy.  Be careful out there.


Rockets, space and men: Moonbat Central strikes (out) again

Logic, rational thought and reasoning ability are conspicuous by their absence in this screed.

Frittering away your life savings on a red sports car is so last century. Instead, today’s man who is grappling with the limitations of his mortality spends $90 million on a rocket to launch a $100,000 electric car, helmed by a robot by the name of “Starman,” into space.

. . .

These men ... are not only heavily invested in who can get their rocket into space first, but in colonizing Mars. The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something, to any type of body, and to use it at will — is a patriarchal one. Indeed, there is no ethical consideration among these billionaires about whether this should be done; rather, the conversation is when it will be done. Because, in the eyes of these intrepid explorers, this is the only way to save humanity.

It is the same instinctual and cultural force that teaches men that everything — and everyone — in their line of vision is theirs for the taking. You know, just like walking up to a woman and grabbing her by the pussy.

It’s there, so just grab it because you can.

The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something — is a patriarchal one.

. . .

... the impulse to colonize — to colonize lands, to colonize peoples, and, now that we may soon be technologically capable of doing so, colonizing space — has its origins in gendered power structures. Entitlement to power, control, domination and ownership. The presumed right to use and abuse something and then walk away to conquer and colonize something new.

. . .

The raping and pillaging of the Earth, and the environmental chaos that doing so has unleashed, are integral to the process of colonization. And the connection of the treatment of Mother Earth to women is more than symbolic: Study after study has shown that climate change globally affects women more than men ... While men compete over whose rocket is the biggest, women are fighting to stay alive against assaults on their personhood — and their planet.

There's more at the link.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to learn that the author is "the Editorial and Communications Manager of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University".  Where else would one find inspiration for such drivel?
  • "Colonization as patriarchy" - WTF???  From its earliest days, colonization was all about obtaining resources for the colonial power, not about patriarchy.  It was (and probably will always be) commercial, rather than societal or cultural, in nature.
  • "No ethical consideration" - well, in commercial terms, generally, yes.  In other ways, no.  Don't forget, a primary impulse to the age of colonization was to spread the Christian gospel to the "heathen".  (They may not have wanted it to be spread to them, of course, but nobody asked their opinion.)
  • The origin of colonization was in "gendered power structures"?  Only because society happened to be set up that way at the time - and remember, women in powerful positions (Elizabeth I of England, and before her Isabella I of Castile - sponsor of Christopher Columbus - and others) supported colonization just as strongly.  I doubt whether the gender of those in power had much to do with colonization for economic and/or religious purposes.
  • Equating colonization with sexual assault?  That's pushing it way beyond any rational connection that I can see.  Same goes for climate change and colonization.  This author is making connections between entirely unrelated concepts, and offering no solid, factual, verifiable evidence for doing so.  It's argument from emotion rather than reality.

One wishes that authors such as this would take a couple of courses in Logic.  It's extremely helpful when formulating arguments for or against anything, because it forces one to be rational in one's approach - something that's sadly lacking in the above diatribe.  The author really needs a better understanding of logical fallacies before setting out to argue her case.  Her lack of it shows.


The moral evil of gun-grabbers

Yes, I'm saying that many (perhaps most) of those seeking to destroy the Second Amendment and confiscate firearms are morally evil.  Why?  Because they're deliberately propagating lies, and promoting an agenda that cannot possibly prevent evil acts such as the Parkland school shooting, while inflicting a different evil on other innocent people.

I've covered the basic arguments before, so I won't waste time doing that again.  Please read the article at that link for more details.  Not only do the anti-gunners refuse to address those points, they actively avoid doing so.  They know that if they do, it'll expose the hollowness of their position, which is not based on logic or fact, but upon emotion and feeling.  CNN's ruthless and cynical exploitation of teenagers to get their point across is a classic example of that.  "Never mind the facts - how do you feel about it?"  I think the best response to that came from a Facebook comment quoted by John Richardson:

Just last week, Congress was calling on Tide to change the design of the Pods so teenagers would stop eating them. This week, teenagers should determine gun policy.


Now we have members of the mainstream media actually applying pressure to commercial businesses to implement their anti-gun agenda, since they can't persuade lawmakers to do it.  The New York Times opines:

What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?

Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn’t be hard for them to take a stand.

. . .

For example, Visa, which published a 71-page paper in 2016 espousing its “corporate responsibility,” could easily change its terms of service to say that it won’t do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster ... If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system.

There is precedent for credit card issuers to ban the purchase of completely legal products. Just this month, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

To be clear: Those three banks won’t let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex.

. . .

Is all of this a pipe dream? Maybe, but I spent the last 72 hours calling and emailing a handful of chief executives to discuss these ideas. None wanted to speak on the record, because it’s a hot-button topic. But all applauded the idea and some said they had already been thinking about it. A few, I discovered later, called their peers to begin a conversation.

. . .

None of this is a panacea. But it’s a start. It takes leadership and courage — exactly what these executives say they have. If they don’t want to back up their words with actions, the next time there’s a school shooting that prompts a conversation about gun companies, it should also include the financial complex that supports them.

There's more at the link.

In so many words, the author is proposing that pressure should be applied to companies conducting lawful business to purchase legal products, in an attempt to stop this.  Clearly, he's not in the least worried about the law.  He's concerned only with his perception of what's right and what's wrong, what's good and what's not.  The fact that others disagree with him is neither here nor there.  If he can whip up enough pressure to make it difficult for law-abiding citizens like you and I to pursue our constitutional rights in buying a firearm, he'll do so, because he doesn't give a damn about us, our rights or our opinions.  Ethics?  Morals?  Laws?  They don't enter into it.  Only his feelings count.  He's arrogating to himself the right to impose his views on us, by hook or by crook, whether we like it or not, whether we agree with him or not.  If that's not evil in and of itself, what is?

There have been many articles following the Parkland shooting - far too many to list here.  You may find the following links useful.  I certainly did, and I highly recommend that you follow them all and read what the authors have to say.  It's eye-opening, sometimes mind-blowing.

There's enough meat at those links to give you food for mental digestion for a long time.  Sadly, the mainstream media won't bother to read or discuss such points of view, or the facts that support them.  They're interested only in whipping up popular indignation to further their agenda.

Most Americans are now aware that we live in an essentially surreal political environment.  A concerted team of political reactionaries guides the national conversation from crisis to crisis, all the while demanding further expansions of federal government power and the repudiation of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  A special group of professional complainants has taken over. Let's call it IndigNation.  Its members' sense of "outrage" at every perceived slight and misinterpretation drives them into ever greater commitments to their increasingly autonomous IndigNation.

. . .

At present, IndigNation has as its propaganda focus the deaths of 17 teachers and students in Broward County, Florida.  Their deaths can mean only one thing: more gun control.  IndigNation has had it.  Its members are fed up, and they will not take it anymore!  Rallies will commence, and the media cameras will be turned on, and the minders of social media will allow the narratives to coalesce around the grand theme of gun control.  The killer, Cruz, wore a "Make America Great Again" cap while he practiced with his firearm.  ABC News falsely reported that he was a member of a white nationalist group.  It all fits together for a mob mentality against the injustice of the crime.

IndigNation does not blame the government.  Only political figures seeking to limit the government are a threat and worthy of demise and removal.

. . .

There is no reasonable limit to their rage.  What is wrong in their minds goes beyond reason.  Pure emotion must be unleashed, and what better rhetorical vehicle than "the children"?  They were so innocent, and the Enemy is so guilty.  This is the terminology that escalates and spirals.  "Thoughts and prayers" are a conspiracy against the innocent.  No one should say such things!  People who say Jesus speaks to them are mentally ill.

Again, more at the link.

The greatest danger is that, in the face of such an unrelenting, massive onslaught against fact, right and reason, we shall grow weary of the struggle and simply give up.  I know some who've done that.  They've grown tired of arguing with family and friends, and see themselves as a minority assailed on all sides.  It's easier for them to "go with the flow" and simply give up.  That way lies disaster, both for us and for our society and nation.

As Edmund Burke famously said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".  In the face of such refusal to acknowledge or deal with law, facts or reality - which is, to my mind, unquestionably a moral and ethical evil - we dare not do nothing.  If we buckle, if we knuckle under, evil will triumph.  Our children, and our children's' children, will curse our memories for that.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Miss D. and I just got back from a chilly (but not unbearably so) Utah, where we attended the LTUE convention over the weekend.  We looked forward to warming up in the more temperate climes we're used to in Texas . . . but the weather gods had other ideas.

Yesterday morning it reached a high of 74 degrees (Fahrenheit, for the benefit of overseas readers) in our area;  then it plummeted by about 40 degrees, over the course of no more than an hour or two.  By last night it was in the low 30's, and this morning it hasn't climbed out of the 20's.  What's more, ice and sleet has been falling steadily for several hours.  The roads are a sheet of white, slippery as heck, and no-one with any sense is going anywhere, by car or on foot.  Fortunately, the moisture is already frozen by the time it reaches ground level, so we aren't seeing any accumulation on power lines or tree limbs, for which we're devoutly grateful.

I suspect we won't be going anywhere for the rest of the day, and perhaps not tomorrow either, until this clears up.  It's real brass monkey weather out there.


More about that Russian "mercenary" attack in Syria

Last week I wrote about a Russian "mercenary" attack in Syria.  It's described here by USAF Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, in command of USAF Central Command, at a news conference.

It seems that a lot more was going on than was mentioned in that brief, bald official announcement.  John Ringo, well-known military science fiction author and veteran of US service, has his own sources of information.  He wrote on Facebook:

1. Sov... err... Russians built a bridge over the Euphrates which was the designated 'deconfliction line'. Why? Reasons. 'Commite of Nations' or something.

2. 'Hybrid' force of mixed Russian contractors including multiple non-ethnic Russians (Serbs, Kossack, other non Slavics) as well as local Syrian Army 'commandos' attacked across temporary bridge. The 'Russian' side were 'Blackwater' equivalent mercenaries from a company generally called 'Wagner' which is the nom de plume of the boss. (Like if you called Blackwater 'Prince'.)

3. Unit was partially mechanized, battalion strength. (One thing everyone agrees upon is 'about 600-700 personnel.') Had some towed artillery as well as 't-55 and T-72 MBT as well as armored personnel carriers.' (Type unknown.) Full on 'we're taking that position and you're not stopping us' full court press.

4. Unit crossed bridge, arty deployed.

5. Arty opened fire while most of unit was still in approach column formation. (Normal) One portion moved to flanking positions.

5A. Minute the arty opened fire **** GOT REAL REAL QUICK.

6. Reapers took out artillery and most of armor with Hellfire. From the few videos, pretty much before they knew what hit them. There had to be quite a few Reaper drones up or they were feeding guidance to Hellfire from Apaches (see below.)

7. F-15E Eagles came in for clean-up and to check for anti-air defenses.

8. Warthogs showed up just to go BRRRRRRT!

9. AC-130 Spectre started ****ing up their day for the hell of it.

10. To add insult to injury, B-52s which, you know, just HAPPENED to be in the area, just minding our own business, just passing by from Diego Garcia which is a few thousand miles away, on our way to... somewhere... nothing to see here... decided to prove they could drop their entire load as precision guided weapons and just more or less DID A JDAM ARCLIGHT ON THEIR ***. At that point, more or less because CENTCOM said 'Why not? ARCLIGHT is always pretty to watch...'

11. The whole thing being so over it was ridiculous, AH-64 Apaches basically did 'hostile Bomb Damage Assessment' and complained there were no targets left.

12. Oh, and then the Kurds, to just really **** with these guys, released water from a dam upstream and broke their bridge. So they had to ford back with their wounded.

13. Nobody knows how many dead and wounded. Russians are saying 'only 8 Russian citizens' but that doesn't quite cover the whole of who may have been involved. One repeated number is 200 dead (remember, mixed Syrians, Russians and other ethnics) as well as pretty much the rest of the force wounded. (Not to mention pretty thoroughly demoralized.) One Kurd wounded. Probably fell off a stool laughing to tell truth.

There's more at the link.  Worthwhile reading.



It seems modern fighter aircraft are rather sensitive to what you put in their fuel tanks.

According to local media, the fuel used by the German Tornado fleet appears to have been mixed with ‘too much bio-diesel’.

According to news site Frankfurter Allgemeine, this was noticed during a routine check last Monday:

“The tolerance values ​​are minimally exceeded,” said Colonel Kristof Conrath of the Tactical Air Force Squadron 51. “It’s not that the aircraft would fall from the sky. For safety reasons, all tanks of the aircraft must be flushed.”

It is understood that this breakdown is particularly annoying for the Luftwaffe, as training of new Tornado pilots is already three months behind.

There's more at the link.

I didn't know that the Luftwaffe was using biodiesel in its jet aviation fuel - presumably as an additive, just as we're using ethanol as a gasoline additive in the USA.

Automobiles are a bit sensitive to what's in their tanks, too.  My father served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.  At the start of the war in 1939, the RAF began to switch to 100-octane fuel for its high-performance aircraft engines (previously it had used 87-octane).  Gasoline rationing was introduced at about the same time for all civilian vehicles.  He used to tell us stories of how airmen, who couldn't get enough gasoline coupons to make the trip to London and back, would "borrow" a few gallons of 100-octane fuel from the bowser to top up their tanks.  The engines of the time simply couldn't handle the hotter combustion temperatures of the aircraft fuel, and would burn out their valves, leading to drunken airmen stranded by the side of the road in the small hours of the morning, unable to get back to base.  Misuse of "official" fuel was considered a serious offense, so many of them simply accepted the punishment for being late to return from liberty - then proceeded to repair their engines using RAF maintenance facilities as well!  He used to laugh about that.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The real problem with guns and crime . . .

. . . is that guns truly aren't the problem.  The anti-gun brigade simply ignore the facts and the statistics, and manipulate victims and their acquaintances to project their own false arguments.

They also ignore a very real problem that's seldom mentioned.

Now that the gun control advocates have had their fifteen minutes of fame, let’s start focusing on the real issues impacting the rise in school shootings since that infamous day in Columbine in 1999. Issue number one that no one in the mainstream media or government wants to acknowledge: fatherlessness. Specifically, the impact of fatherlessness on the boys who grew up to become school shooters.

. . .

As Terry Brennan, co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, notes:

  • 72 percent of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers; the same for 60 percent of all rapists.
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state institutions grew up in single- or no-parent situations.
  • The number of single-parent households is a good predictor of violent crime in a community, while poverty rate is not.

Yet, despite the growing number of experts, pundits and commentators drawing attention to the impact of fatherlessness on school and community safety, the post-attack discussion inevitably reverts back to gun control. Instead of spending so much as fifteen minutes on fatherlessness we are forced to endure the same salacious headlines, the same provocative tweets, the same tired old memes about the evils of guns as if somehow a cold piece of metal convinced yet another boy to become a mass-murderer. We ignore the lack of adequate mental health services, the failure of law enforcement to effectively intercede, and the sickening impact fatherlessness has on each one of these tragic cases. Why? Because it is easier to ban a hunk of metal than it is to right systemic cultural wrongs.

There's more at the link.

If you look at American society and culture over the past three-quarters of a century, I think there's a lot of evidence to support that view.  After all, when millions of American servicemen came home from World War II and the Korean War, they were all highly trained in the use of firearms, and many had seen combat.  How many mass shooting incidents did they, or their children, perpetrate?  Just about none.  It's only with the breakdown of the nuclear family in the 1960's and beyond, and the astronomical increase in the divorce rate, that we see the emergence of more frequent mass shooting events.

Makes you think, doesn't it?


EDITED TO ADD:  Sebastian offers an excellent analogy as to why gun owners are fed up with those trying to take away our firearms.  Click over there to read it.  It's a good argument.

Apple Mac: lessons learned (so far) and questions

We run Windows 10 on most of Miss D.'s and my computers, except for one creaky 11-year-old laptop on which I've just loaded Linux Mint, to see whether it can be kept going for a year or two longer (doubtful - it's very slow).  I'm about to buy Vellum, a program that offers very easy and attractive pre-publication formatting of books.  Unfortunately, it only runs on Apple's Mac computer series, so I've got to get my hands on one.  The software is good enough that I'm willing to make that outlay - but I can't afford a new, top-of-the line system.  My budget isn't that large.

Several friends advised me to look for a used Macbook or Macbook Pro laptop computer.  However, there are several catches.  The first is that in 2012, Apple changed their manufacturing methods to ensure that users could no longer upgrade things like RAM or hard disks.  You're stuck with what the factory installed when the computer was built.  Oh, there are work-arounds if you send it back to Apple, to be upgraded by their (expensive) technicians using their (expensive) components;  or, if you're handy with a soldering iron and know computer wiring and architecture well, you might even be able to do it yourself.  However, for most of us (including yours truly) these are not cost-effective options.  Therefore, buying an older Mac comes with built-in limitations, unless one buys a pre-2012 model - in which case one is buying hardware that's several generations out of date.

What's even worse, the prices on used Mac computers are ridiculous!  It's as if the sellers think they're made of solid gold.  I can buy a used PC of similar vintage, power and performance for well under half what most sellers of used Apple computers are asking for what they appear to regard as their "precious" systems - something like this:

(Apple's new prices aren't much better, of course.  I reckon I can buy a comparable PC for about 40% less than Apple's price, across their range.)

However, there's a silver lining to the computer cloud.  If one is willing to go with a desktop system, Apple's "miniaturized" Mac Mini is available brand-new in a basic configuration for $499, and in a more powerful, better-equipped form for $699 or $999.

The lower two of those prices are significantly better than a well-equipped, used Macbook of comparable performance would cost me.  The Mac Mini doesn't come with keyboard, mouse or monitor, but it has standard HDMI and USB 3.0 ports that will work with just about anything you can plug into them.  I have a spare monitor and keyboard, so that's not a problem.

Before I make a final decision, I thought I'd ask my readers - at least, those of you who are familiar with Apple Mac computers.  Does my reasoning make sense to you?  Do you think the Mac Mini is worth its price?  If you've used Vellum, do you think it would run well on the Mini platform?  Would it also serve for common everyday tasks such as word processing, writing a blog, and web surfing?  If so, I might use it for more than just Vellum.

Please add your comments to this post, so we can all learn from your experience.  Thanks.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Thanks for the prayers, and good news

Thank you to everyone who offered prayers for my friend's brother, as requested in my previous post.  It looks as if he has encephalitis, which is not good, but is entirely treatable and curable.  I was very worried that it might have been a stroke or a brain tumor, both of which can produce the same symptoms.

I'm sure he'd rather not have encephalitis at all, but it's a lot better than it might have been.


Urgent prayer request for a friend

A friend's brother has just experienced sudden, extensive memory loss.  He's being taken to a treatment facility as I write these words.  Of course, there's no diagnosis available right now, but as I'm sure many of you are aware, that can be symptomatic of several ailments, all of them serious.

My friend and his family will be grateful for your prayers, I know.  I'll provide more information as and when I can.


Safely home - still exhausted

Miss D. and I finally made it home about half past midnight this morning.  We had a long flight, delayed by the arrival of a winter storm in Salt Lake City, which delayed our flight while it was de-iced before takeoff.  There was a bit of weather around Dallas, too, requiring incoming flights to "stack up" and delay their landings while controllers talked them down more slowly than usual.

The weather on the ground was strange.  Our car was parked in the long-term parking garage, but every car inside it was wet, as if it had rained indoors!  The floors were damp and slick, too.  There was a heavy mist, and it had obviously penetrated everything it could.  Driving home was no fun at all, with drifting banks of mist making it hard to see at times.  That didn't stop a lot of drivers going at it full tilt, to the undoubted irritation of the State Police, who were out in force.  I must have seen eight or nine of their vehicles on the road north, pulling over everyone who was driving too fast for the conditions.  I daresay they made a lot of money last night writing traffic citations.

I've got to give a shout-out to Braum's in Decatur, TX.  They were just closing as we arrived, but the manager could see we were tired and hungry, so he let us order a burger and fries apiece, and sit down and eat them, "as long as you don't mind us cleaning up around you!"  We didn't.  That was very good of him.  It gave me energy to drive the last stretch through the mist.  Progress was slow, as I didn't dare drive at the speed limit - vision wasn't good enough.  Still, we made it in the end, and fell into bed, very tired.

I'll post again later this morning when I'm compos mentis once more.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday morning music, and homeward bound

It's been an interesting three days at LTUE.  A group of friends and fellow writers gathered at a local rendezvous last night to share good food and good company, as a fitting end to a busy convention.  Since many brought their families, it was interesting to have to avoid rampaging small children while keeping up a conversation - not the usual Con fare!

Miss D. and I will be heading homeward later today.  The only direct flight that still had seats available when I booked, some months ago, is in mid-afternoon, so we'll kill time until then, perhaps visiting with friends once more.  We probably won't get home until late evening.  I'm sure the cats will be ready, first to greet us enthusiastically, then to give us the cold shoulder for abandoning them to a friend's care for a few days.  This seldom meets with their approval.

For today's music, I suppose traveling to (and from) a writers' convention provides suitable themes.

We may sleep in tomorrow morning, what with a long day's travel today, so regular blogging may resume a little later than usual on Monday.

As always, prayers for traveling safety will be greatly appreciated.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

So that's why men avoid housework!

The Independent reports:

Regular use of cleaning sprays has an impact on lung health comparable with smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, according to a new study.

The research followed more than 6,000 people over a 20 year period and found women in particular suffered significant health problems after long-term use of these products.

Lung function decline in women working as cleaners or regularly using cleaning products at home was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day over 10 to 20 years.

The scientists who carried out the study advised that such products should be avoided and can normally be replaced with simple microfibre cloths and water.

. . .

The study did not find any harmful effects comparable to those seen in women in the men they studied.

However, the scientists noted their work did have some limitations, and the number of men exposed to cleaning products on the scale of women in the study was small.

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

I'm sure many (most?) women will immediately claim that the reason fewer men than women suffer from this problem is because men don't do enough of the household cleaning and maintenance.  I daresay they're right . . . but, on the other hand, if you test men and women for impaired lung function after the use of automotive fuels and lubricants and gun cleaning solvents, I daresay we'd score a lot worse than most of the fairer sex!


What does the USAF want with light attack aircraft?

Air Force Magazine reports:

The Air Force has set aside $2.4 billion in the five-year future years defense program to start buying a new fleet of light attack aircraft ... The service announced earlier this month it was scrapping the planned combat demonstration in favor of a second experiment with two of the four original participants. That experiment, which will take place this summer at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., will be focused on integrating sensors onto the aircraft.

. . .

Exactly how many aircraft the service intends to buy, though, is still not clear.

. . .

Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes told reporters at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber conference in September the service was looking at using the light attack experiment as a model for new experiments, noting the possibility of a “light” intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft ... the service is “experimenting in a lot of different ways” with ISR in an effort to satisfy the “insatiable demand” for “persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.” That could include adding certain sensors onto whichever light attack platform the service chooses.

There's more at the link.

This is very interesting from many points of view, not least for the questions it raises.  The purchase appears to fly in the face of established USAF doctrine - so what is the service trying to achieve?

  • UAV's such as the MQ-9 Reaper (and UAV's in the US Army such as the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and smaller craft) are already handling the tactical ISR mission.  What do these small manned platforms bring to the table that such UAV's don't already provide?  That's not immediately clear - unless the manned aircraft are intended to control "drone swarms" of smaller UAV's during a mission, providing oversight and direction.  That would be a new departure.
  • The USAF is already critically short of pilots.  It needs 1,200 more just to operate its existing planes.  Where will it get the additional numbers to fly a group (2-4 squadrons) or wing (2-4 groups) of light attack aircraft - not to mention the weapons systems operators in the rear seats, plus the maintenance crews and administrative personnel?
  • Light attack aircraft such as those due for further testing (the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano and an uprated, armed version of the Beechcraft AT-6 Texan II) could not possibly survive in heavily defended airspace.  They're intended for areas where ground-to-air and air-to-air defenses are sparse (e.g. Afghanistan, where the Afghan Air Force is receiving 26 Super Tucano aircraft as military aid from the USA).  Is the USAF therefore willing to deploy some combat aircraft that will have limited combat capability?  That would make sense if the group/wing concerned were tasked with training and (at least initially) operating alongside the forces of allied minor powers, who would be the most likely customers for such aircraft.  It might also make sense if the light attack unit were regarded as a "feeder" organization, where newly-qualified junior pilots might be sent to gain experience, after which they would "graduate" to more powerful strike aircraft.  That might be justifiable in terms of the much lower cost per hour to operate light attack aircraft, compared to full-blown attack jets.
  • The USAF is apparently moving much more quickly than originally planned to bring this new light strike aircraft unit into being.  Why?  With all the other demands on its budget (the B-21 bomber program, ongoing F-35 purchases, maintenance backlogs, etc.), why is the service diverting critically needed funds to buy aircraft of limited utility?  There are clearly "wheels within wheels" that have prompted this decision, and we're not being told everything.  I'm curious - and puzzled.

This will bear watching.


Friday, February 16, 2018

On the ground at LTUE

It's the second day of the LTUE conference/symposium/authorklatsch/whatever.  Miss D. and I are enjoying ourselves, apart from finding the altitude a bit of a pain.  We've come from under a thousand feet at home to over four and a half thousand in Provo, Utah, with very, very dry mountain air thrown in.  I'm slathering moisturizing lotion on my arms and hands, and we're both drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated.  I was initially surprised that it affected us so badly, but then I realized that every other time we've been to Colorado or other higher states, we've traveled by car.  Our bodies have had more time to acclimatize on the journey there.  This time we flew, so there was no adjustment time at all.  We're feeling it.

Old NFO, Lawdog and I found ourselves hijacked enlisted by Larry Correia to help with a seminar he was running this afternoon.  None of his fellow speakers showed up, so he yelled at us as we came in the door and beckoned us to join him at the presenters' table.  We had fun for an hour talking about self-publishing, the state of the market and the industry, and how novices should go about entering the field.  Those in attendance (pretty much a full house) appeared to enjoy our presentation, and we had a good time together.  (All four of us go way back to Internet gun forums before the turn of the century, so it was really a gathering of old friends at the podium.  That's always fun.)

I was surprised and extremely pleased this morning, while on walkabout around the conference venue, to find a shop that stocked British and South African foods.  A large bag of biltong, a variety of chocolates, and other goodies followed me back to the hotel.  I've been handing out Turkish Delight bars to my buddies - Lawdog and I grew up on the stuff in Africa.  It brought back happy memories of younger days.

Last night a bunch of friends, including ourselves, adjourned to the house of a member of our group.  He and his wife fed us royally on barbecued chicken and adobo pork.  Delicious!  Their stock of bourbon and other fine liquors took some punishment, too, as spirited conversation and loud laughter rolled around the room.  I understand we may be having a sequel this evening, which would be fun.  We're coordinating our movements and intentions by text message, which can be tricky as conflicting messages criss-cross the ether.  I daresay we'll catch up with each other eventually.

More later.


Thoughts on the Florida school shooting

I've waited a couple of days to say anything about the tragic high school shooting in Florida.  As usual, the media and self-appointed "experts" were all over the situation, exploiting it for their various purposes and agendas.  Few, if any, worried about what the families who've lost loved ones might think, or how they might react.  As in previous such tragedies, the media are dancing in the blood of the victims.

I've written about such situations in the past, particularly here and here.  My arguments then remain valid today, so I won't repeat them.  I simply point out that gun control will not work.  It's as simple as that.  H. L. Mencken made the point in 1925, and Kevin over at The Smallest Minority expanded on the logic a few years ago.  Both are correct.  I invite anyone who wishes to refute their reasoning, to try to do so.  If anyone can demonstrate a guaranteed, practical, logical, rational approach to gun control that will - not may, will - reduce mass casualty events such as this, and reduce "gun crime", I'll support it with my money and my vote.  However, no-one will, because no-one can.  It's not humanly possible.

It's human to demand that somebody in authority "do something".  I can absolutely understand those who lost loved ones in this tragedy expecting that of their elected representatives.  The trouble is, "doing something" doesn't necessarily equate to "doing something effective".  The worst school massacre in US history did not involve firearms.  Neither did one of the worst nightclub massacres.  Gun control legislation would not have prevented either of those incidents, or many others like them in our troubled history.

Nevertheless, I must (and do) concede that the problem of access to dangerous articles and substances is one that must receive more attention.  If gun control legislation will not prevent such tragedies - and it won't - then what can we do to improve the safety of our schools and other vulnerable places?  Is there any possible way to provide greater security against such attacks?  I think there is, starting with more armed, well-trained guards in schools - preferably the teachers themselves, who will be in the best place to respond to such incidents as soon as they arise.  Israel found that approach effective after the Ma'alot massacre.  However, that was in the context of a broad, society-wide anti-terrorism effort.  Ultimately, it's that broader focus that has proven relatively effective, although even that has not prevented some terrorist attacks by "lone wolf" operators.

There's also the issue of the widespread and deliberate doping of our children.  Karl Denninger has a well-informed perspective on that issue.  There's been a lot of discussion about possible links between mood-altering prescription medication and mass shootings, including a very interesting list of perpetrators who were confirmed users of such drugs.  You can read more about it for yourself.  The upshot is, I think there's enough anecdotal evidence to justify a formal study of the issue.  If the authorities want to to "do something" really effective, perhaps they should start there?  I doubt that they will, though . . . there's an entire industry grown up around drugging our society as a whole with these medications, and an entrenched bureaucracy administering it that will fight tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in their authority, power or influence.  (For more information, see here, here and here.)

Ultimately, a large part of the problem boils down to individual versus community "rights".  Our Constitution enshrines individual rights - they're what the Bill of Rights is all about.  I'm certainly not advocating that any of them be reduced or constrained.  However, many of those arguing for greater gun control or other restrictions are not being fully honest, because what they want will necessarily involve restricting those individual rights.  Their objectives can't be achieved without that.

Are we looking at a situation where, to maintain, uphold and defend our existing individual rights, we must accept periodic shootings such as that in Florida as an unavoidable "side effect"?  That would be tragic beyond words . . . but it's a question that needs to be asked.  It's easy to be glib and say, "Yes - my individual rights take precedence over everything and everyone else!"  However, it's not so easy to say that when looking into the eyes of a mother who's just lost her child in a school shooting.  Somewhere, we have to find common ground, or risk our society unraveling over this issue.

I don't have any answers.  I suspect few of us do.  Nevertheless, we need to continue to look for them together.