Thursday, May 31, 2018
More specifically, I need the input of those who've read some or all of the books in my "Maxwell Saga" military science fiction series. I've been pondering the future of this series, and I've come up with some ideas: but they may not satisfy my readers, so I'm giving you the chance to weigh in.
When I began the Maxwell Saga, I was a novice fiction writer. It was my first series of books, and I had a lot of learning to do. I still think it's a pretty good series overall, and obviously many of you do too, as your reviews indicate. However, because it was my first effort, there are areas where it lacks the finer touches of later series. If you compare it to, for example, my current "Cochrane's Company" trilogy, the latter is obviously better written, flows more evenly, and shows greater character development, plot progression, etc.
I pre-plotted the Maxwell Saga to include about a dozen books. So far, I've written five, with a sixth in preparation. However, I could just as easily take the plots of the last six books in the series and use them in one or more new series - perhaps shorter ones such as a trilogy, which means people don't have to drag on year after year waiting for more, and perhaps getting tired of it. I've heard several negative comments along those lines from readers I like and respect concerning other lengthy series of novels (which I won't name here, out of respect for their authors). I don't want to fall into the trap of writing "formula" fiction, where a series becomes boring and/or each new book becomes predictable. I'd rather keep my readers interested, entertained, and guessing!
I'm therefore considering ending the Maxwell Saga on a high note with the sixth book. My protagonist, Steve Maxwell, would triumph over an old enemy, and be faced with a life-changing decision as to his future. His choice will allow the series to close positively, rather than negatively, which I prefer (and I think my readers do, too). I would then move on to more books, probably using elements of the plots I'd worked out for the seventh through the twelfth Maxwell books. However, if my readers want the Maxwell Saga to continue, I can go on writing them, striving to make each new book (hopefully) better than the last, and avoid the "series burnout" trap.
Therefore, I'd like your input, please, readers. Which option would you prefer? End the Maxwell Saga on a high, positive note, and clear the decks for more and different series: or continue it, probably at a slower pace, so that I can produce other new, shorter series alongside it? Please let me know in Comments.
I've written often enough about inflation here, most recently last month. It's a serious and growing threat, particularly because the government persistently and deliberately understates the actual rate of inflation, so that it doesn't have to pay out so much in inflation-linked indices. On that same date, I embedded the video below, in which Ed Butowski explains why he created the Chapwood Index to give a more accurate, more realistic understanding of the real rate of inflation.
Now, Charles Hugh Smith (whom we've met in these pages before) updates his "Burrito Index" measurement of inflation.
Long-time readers may recall the Burrito Index, my real-world measure of inflation. The Burrito Index: Consumer Prices Have Soared 160% Since 2001 (August 1, 2016). The Burrito Index tracks the cost of a regular burrito since 2001. Since we keep detailed records of expenses (a necessity if you’re a self-employed free-lance writer), I can track the cost of a regular burrito at our favorite taco truck with great accuracy: the cost of a regular burrito has gone up from $2.50 in 2001 to $5 in 2010 to $6.50 in 2016.
It's time for an update: the cost of a regular burrito has now reached $7.50, triple the 2001 cost. That's a 200% increase in 17 years. According to the federal government, inflation since 2001 has risen about 40%: what $1 bought in 2001 now costs $1.43, according to the BLS Inflation calculator.
The Burrito Index is five times the official inflation rate ... Lest you reckon only burritos have tripled in cost since 2001--have you checked out college tuition or rents lately?
. . .
Welcome to debt-serfdom, the only possible output of the soaring cost of living for the unprotected who are ruled by a hubris-soaked, Protected Elite. Our job is to shoulder the higher prices by taking on more debt--debt which is immensely profitable for the Protected Elite.
Here's what you're supposed to swallow: big-ticket expenses such as rent, healthcare and higher education cost tens of thousands of dollars more, but TVs cost a few bucks less, and as a result, official inflation is 2.1% annually.
As long as we accept this travesty of a mockery of a sham, we deserve what we get.
There's more at the link.
A 200% increase in prices in 17 years? That squares very well indeed with my earlier estimate that "Our incomes are being reduced in purchasing power by approximately 10% per year".
Folks, as I've said many times before, debt, inflation, and all their concomitant problems are killing us, economically speaking. If you're not working all-out to reduce your debt and live within your means, this whole mess is going to come crashing down upon you within a measurably short space of time.
Next Big Future has an interesting article comparing purchase and operating costs of US Air Force and US Navy combat aircraft. Among its features was this graphic (click it for a larger view).
If you do a little basic arithmetic, you find that the cost of buying, say, an F-35 (as cited in the article) will be matched by its operating costs within less than half the aircraft's expected service lifespan - less, if inflation drives up those operating costs (as it almost certainly will). Therefore, even after the aircraft have been bought, their ever higher operating costs will continue to eat up the defense budget for years to come.
I think the US Navy is taking a very intelligent look at the situation, with its recent decision to upgrade its older Super Hornet aircraft and buy new ones to add to its inventory. Their purchase price and operating costs are far lower than the latest F-35 models, but the aircraft are almost as capable across the entire spectrum of military operations. That fleet mix bodes well for future Navy budgets. However, the USAF has "bet the farm" on stealth, and demands an all-stealth combat fleet at much greater expense. Can it afford to pay for it? Can the country afford such a force? Is it worth its expense, in terms of operational effectiveness? Only time will tell.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
I had to shake my head when reading an article headlined:
Um . . . the pills may be packaged wrongly, as the article says, but that won't cause pregnancy. As far as I know, a man - or, at the very least, the male reproductive apparatus and its biological byproducts - is also a necessary part of the process.
The lovely Phlegmmy is quite the connoisseur of ladies' shoes. When I saw this image over at Wirecutter's place, I couldn't resist borrowing it to show her here.
Louboutins they ain't; Fluevogs they're definitely not; but they have a certain je ne sais quoi, wouldn't you say? Note the
EDITED TO ADD: Reader L. L. just e-mailed me, saying "Hey! Cluck-me shoes!" Grrroooooaaaannn . . .
I'm more and more getting the impression that it is. It's not just that police departments are under political pressure to under-report crime, or wrongly classify more serious offenses under less serious codes: it's that the news media, nominally independent, are nevertheless deliberately under-reporting the crime situation as well, if not completely ignoring it, in blatant support of an ideological agenda.
An excellent example was provided in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend. The news media were largely silent about an epidemic of mob violence in one of the city's premier shopping districts, particularly because it apparently involved "youths" of one race in particular. Second City Cop, one of the primary resources for anyone wanting to know about crime in Chicago, reports:
Once again, the only people reporting (complete with pictures and a bunch of video) about what has been going on downtown this weekend is the Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown blog:
It's been a wild holiday weekend in Chicago, especially in River North and the Magnificent Mile. CWBChicago estimates a minimum of 18 arrests between noon on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday related to mob activity, battery, and weapons possession.
A number of Mag Mile fight videos from the weekend were sent to CWBChicago. We've included them in this report.
. . .
Police grappled with large groups of teenagers in the Water Tower area on Saturday and Sunday nights. Their efforts were snarled when the CTA apparently fumbled plans to send trainloads of kids out of downtown on express runs.
There's more at the link.
I followed SCC's link to CWB. Here's some of what they had to say.
Downtown: Overworked Cops Battling Mag Mile Fights, Mayhem Through Weekend
It's been a wild holiday weekend in Chicago, especially in River North and the Magnificent Mile. CWBChicago estimates a minimum of 19 arrests between noon on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday related to mob activity, battery, and weapons possession.
A number of Mag Mile fight videos from the weekend were sent to CWBChicago. We've included them in this report. The mayhem comes less than a month after similar mob actions were reported on the famed retail strip.
. . .
For years, our team has compiled "highlight" reports of emergency radio traffic heard during Chicago's Pride Parade and St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Now, for the first time, we present a Memorial Day Weekend edition. To be honest, we couldn't figure out any other way to convey the craziness that emergency workers tried their best to contain.
Again, more at the link, including a number of very disturbing video clips of the violence. (Also, please follow the link included in the excerpt above. It's equally disturbing.)
Chicago is only one example. I have contacts, law enforcement and otherwise, in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New Orleans. In every one of those cities, I'm hearing that the crime and social unrest situation is being seriously under-reported, both by police and by the news media. It's almost as if the powers that be are determined not to acknowledge the size, scope and scale of the problem. I would say "I wonder why?", except that we know why - they don't want to admit the failure of liberal, Democratic party government and policies in those cities (and many others) over the past few decades. The chickens of those years are now coming home to roost. (To see one aspect of what they've meant in Seattle, for example, see here and here. Both articles, and the video accompanying the second, are depressing, to say the least.)
If you, dear reader, live in such a city, please be careful; and, if your circumstances allow, I strongly suggest that you consider moving to a safer place! Please also see my articles over the past few years about this sort of threat to your and my security:
- The changing urban self-defense environment
- More evidence of the growing need to defend yourself
- Criminal gangs spread to smaller cities
- Flash mobs strike again
- Criminal 'flash mobs' - a growing peril to your safety
- Why you should avoid urban shopping malls
Since Miss D. and I are now following Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength program, Stephan Pastis' comics about gyms appeal to us even more - and warn us not to fall into the same bad habits! Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web site.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Today's award goes to the person who asked this question concerning the volcanic eruptions currently going on in Hawaii.
The USGS responded to one Twitter user who asked, “Is it safe to roast marshmallows over volcanic vents? Assuming you had a long enough stick, that is? Or would the resulting marshmallows be poisonous?”
. . .
The USGS responded:
Erm... we're going to have to say no, that's not safe. (Please don't try!) If the vent is emitting a lot of SO2 or H2S, they would taste BAD. And if you add sulfuric acid (in vog, for example) to sugar, you get a pretty spectacular reaction.
There's more at the link.
That someone would even think it feasible (if not necessarily safe) to get that close to an active volcanic vent in the first place . . . verily, the mind doth boggle! You might say this Doofus award is an honorary preliminary to their almost inevitable Darwin award!
A fascinating article in the Economist suggests that it might be.
THE effects of child abuse can last a lifetime. Neglected or abused children have a higher risk of developing all sorts of ailments as adults, including mental illnesses such as depression but also physical ones like cancer and stroke. In fact, the effects may last even longer. Emerging evidence suggests that the consequences of mistreatment in childhood may persist down the generations, affecting a victim’s children or grand-children, even if they have experienced no abuse themselves.
Exactly how this happens is not well understood. Rigorous experiments on human subjects are difficult. Scientists have therefore turned to rats and mice. But now Larry Feig of Tufts University and his colleagues have shown that psychological stress seems to cause similar changes in the sperm of both mice and men.
Biologists know that traits are carried down the generations by genes. Genes encode proteins, and proteins make up organisms. That is still true. But it has recently become clear that it is not the whole story. Organisms regulate the activity of their genes throughout their lives, switching different genes on and off as circumstances require. It is possible that such “epigenetic” phenomena can be passed, along with the genes themselves, to an animal’s descendants. They offer a mechanism by which an animal’s life experiences can have effects on its offspring.
There's more at the link.
Just as a hypothesis, based on many years of working in severely distressed Third World environments, here's a thought. What if those severely distressed environments have such an effect on those experiencing them that they pass on their elevated stress levels to their children? And what happens if those children, and their children, and their children's children, continue to experience that stress? Does that society eventually become so "stressed out", genetically speaking, that it - society itself - fails? Is that what we're seeing in parts of Europe now, where - after two World Wars and the Cold War - some societies look as if they're disintegrating?
If we look at history, particularly in the nastier parts of the world, that's not so far-fetched a suggestion as it might seem. If this research is validated, I'm surely going to wonder . . .
Writing a military science fiction trilogy as a whole, publishing the books within a few weeks of each other, is turning out to be a whole lot more work than I'd bargained for! Not only does one have to format and prepare each book for publication, but one has to ensure a common structure, "look and feel", etc. across all three volumes - otherwise the trilogy becomes an exercise in frustration for readers, who get used to one format in the first book, then have to suddenly adapt to a new one in the next volume. That doesn't make for a happy reading experience.
I'm accordingly spending hours each day going through the publication-format files, comparing them to each other, making sure that headings, sub-headings, section breaks, etc. are all handled in the same way and don't conflict with each other. My eyes are getting pretty tired, I can tell you! That's the penalty of being a one-man publishing shop. I'm grateful for the existence of moisturizing eye drops and gels. I use the gel at night when I go to bed, and flush my eyes when I get up with warm water, followed by moisturizing eyedrops. That, plus regular breaks to look at something other than my monitor, keeps the dreaded "computer vision syndrome" at bay.
I've just finished a minor revision to "The Stones of Silence", fixing a few errors that escaped notice in the initial proof-reading. It'll go up on Amazon later this week. Those of you who've already bought the book will receive the new edition automatically, provided you've turned on your Automatic Book Updates setting. I'll also be finalizing the print edition of the first book, so that the cover designer, Steve Beaulieu, can produce a version of the cover for dead tree format.
Steve's just finalized the cover for Book Three of the trilogy. Here it is.
I really like his work. He takes time and trouble to work up a new cover with the author, being willing to revise, adapt and modify the cover as needed - something some artists simply won't do. He's definitely worth his price!
As always, if you've read and enjoyed "The Stones of Silence", and any other of my books, please leave an honest review at Amazon.com. For independent authors such as myself, reader reviews are the life blood of our marketing efforts. If prospective readers can see what others have thought of a book, they may be more willing to buy it themselves.
There's less than two weeks to go before Book Two of the trilogy, "An Airless Storm", goes live. Book Three will follow it in early July. I hope you enjoy them all.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Daniel Greenberg reminds us of the reality underlying Memorial Day.
The warrior's tale tells each generation that they stand on the wall against a hostile world. And that the wall is made not of stones, but of their virtues. Their courage, their integrity and their craft. Theirs is the wall and they are the wall-- and if they should fail, then it will fail. And the land and the people will be swept away.
What happens to a people who forget the warrior's tale and stop telling it around their campfires? Worse , what of a people who are taught to despise the figure of the warrior and what he represents? They will not lose their courage, not all of it. But they will lose the direction of that courage. It will become a sudden unexplained virtue that rises to them out of the depths of danger. And their wall will fail.
It is the warrior's tale that makes walls. That says this is the land that we have fought for, and we will go on fighting for it. It is sacrifice that makes mere possession sacrosanct. It is blood that turns right to duty. It is the seal that is above law, deeper still to heritage. Anyone can hold a thing, but it is sacrifice that elevates it beyond possessiveness. And it is that tale which elevates a people from possessors of a land, to the people of the land.
Universalism discards the warrior's tale as abomination. A division in the family of man. Their tale is of an unselfish world where there are no more divisions or distinctions. Where everyone is the same in their own way. But this tale is a myth, a religious idea perverted into totalitarian politics. It is a promise that cannot be kept and a poison disguised with dollops of sugar. It lures the people into tearing down their wall and driving out their warriors. And what follows is what always does when there is no wall. The invaders come, the women scream, the children are taken captive and the men sit with folded hands and drugged smiles dreaming of a better world.
There's more at the link.
Well said, Mr. Greenberg. Having been one of those standing on the wall, I can attest that I and many of my former comrades-in-arms, living and dead, will be nodding agreement with those sentiments, today and every day.
I've been angered to read two recent news reports.
Woman who falsely accused 49ers player of domestic violence likely to avoid charges
“We don’t charge domestic violence victims who falsely recant. We empathize with them, we support them, and we advocate for them,” the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement to the news outlet.
Woman's bogus rape claim against Texas trooper wasn't a crime, DA says
Prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against a Grapevine woman who falsely claimed that she was sexually assaulted by a state trooper last weekend.
. . .
The office concluded that Dixon-Cole's claims "do not constitute a false report to a peace officer" because they were made to either detention officers or to a private citizen over a recorded jailhouse phone line.
It also said the claims "did not create a situation, either real or false, in which there was imminent danger of serious bodily injury or imminent danger of damage or destruction to property."
I'm sorry, but I simply don't buy the explanations. Isn't making false accusations against anyone, whether or not they're police officers, an actionable offense? Perhaps lawyers reading this will offer their opinions, but that's always been my understanding. At the very least, I hope that the officer concerned will bring a civil case for slander, libel, defamation, and any other feasible charge against his accuser. If he doesn't, what's to stop others making similar accusations in future? If there's no deterrent, why shouldn't they?
I don't see any way to stop such false accusations other than by making those doing so pay a heavy price for their lies. As one who's been subject to false accusations myself in the past, I know from personal experience how difficult they can make your life. Somehow, this must be stopped. If that means treating offenders harshly, to make an example of them in order to deter others, well . . . they asked for it. Only in the case of mental illness - clinically diagnosed, confirmed, and beyond doubt - would I make an exception.
Back in 2012, I wrote about Memorial Day. I really can't improve on what I said there, or the events described, so I won't even try. Please click over to that article and read it.
May all those who died in the service of this country find eternal rest; and may they never be forgotten.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
I've been working my trousers to the bone, editing and preparing the second and third volumes of my new "Cochrane's Company" trilogy for publication in June and July respectively, and formatting the first volume for print publication. It's an immense amount of work, not only to try to get their elements uniform across all three volumes, but trying to catch as many errors as possible and fix them before publication. (Sadly, in the first volume, "The Stones of Silence", I've already found - and/or been alerted to by readers - half a dozen mistakes. I've just corrected them all, and a new edition will be going up next week. Those who've bought it already in the Kindle Store will find their editions automatically updated, provided they've turned on the automatic updates feature. That's another reason to delay the print edition of each book by a few weeks: it gives my readers time to alert me to any mistakes I may have missed, so I can correct them before they're irretrievably on paper.)
Be that as it may, all three books are set in space: so I figured some music around that theme might be appropriate. Here's Gustav Holst's suite "The Planets". This live performance, during the 2016 Proms Concerts, is by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the CBSO Youth Chorus, conducted by Edward Gardner.
When "The Planets" was written, between 1914 and 1916, Pluto had not yet been discovered, so it was not included. The original suite ended with "Neptune, the Mystic", which "concludes with a wordless female chorus gradually receding, an effect which Warrack likens to 'unresolved timelessness ... never ending, since space does not end, but drifting away into eternal silence'." However, this rendition includes an additional piece, "Pluto, the Renewer", written as an add-on to the suite by Colin Matthews. The elements are, in order:
Mars, the Bringer of War 0:00
Venus, the Bringer of Peace 7:15
Mercury, the Winged Messenger 15:09
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity 18:58
Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age 26:42
Uranus, the Magician 35:32
Neptune, the Mystic 41:20
Pluto, the Renewer 49:17
Lovely, stirring music. One does wonder how much influence the First World War (which was raging during the period in which Holst composed this suite) had on its themes and musical imagery. I suspect it was more than a little.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Courtesy of FerFAL, we find this video of an off-duty Argentinian policeman who was attacked by three armed muggers as he pulled his car into his garage one evening. Despite being outnumbered by three men carrying firearms, he waited for the right moment, then pulled his own gun and killed two of them, critically injuring the third.
Google Translate renders the Spanish video description as follows:
Two criminals were killed and another was seriously wounded during an attack on a policeman on Thursday night at Isidro Casanova, La Matanza party. The incident occurred around 20.30 on the street Acassuso to 200, in the Barrio San Carlos, where three armed robbers got into the garage of the officer's house, which was entering the car at his home.
I suggest you mute the music soundtrack, which is completely unnecessary and (IMHO) detracts from the video. The security camera footage doesn't have sound, anyway.
Good work by the driver. This is a situation any of us might face in many larger American cities. There are lessons to be learned here, particularly when it comes to parking at night. If you can so arrange your property that muggers like these three can't sneak up and catch you unawares, so much the better! If you can't, take whatever other precautions you can. It's better by far never to get into a gunfight than to be forced to engage in one. At such close range, survival is often the luck of the draw (literally).
Friday, May 25, 2018
Here's some spectacularly good soft-dirt-road driving from this year's Rally de Portugal, held last weekend. These drivers are probably the best in the world on such surfaces, and it shows.
Stellar driving indeed!
From Paul, blogging at Hawsepiper, talking about driving a very upmarket rental car:
Driving a Jaguar on the highway is like wiping your ass with silk. OMG.
Er . . . I don't think Jaguar is likely to use that phrase in their advertising, but I have to admit, it's very descriptive!
(I would, however, like to know how he came up with the comparison. Was it based on personal experience?)
That's the title of my post this morning at Mad Genius Club. If you'd like to learn more about some of the steps involved in writing and publishing a book, click over there and read.
There are clearly very different standards of what constitutes "wealth" when it comes to owners and bankers. In two recent articles, Bloomberg makes the distinction clear.
In the first article, "How Much Money Do You Need to Be Wealthy in America?", those who own the money (or whatever) reveal their standard of measurement.
To be financially comfortable in America today requires an average of $1.4 million, up from $1.2 million a year ago, according to the survey. The net worth needed to be “wealthy”? That’s an average $2.4 million, the same as last year in the online survey of 1,000 Americans between age 21 and 75.
There were some heartening signs amid the numbers. While 18 percent defined wealth as being able to afford anything they desired, 17 percent said it was “loving relationships with family and friends.” That jibes with how Joe Duran, chief executive officer of money manager United Capital, said he likes to think of “wealth.” After building and selling his first company, “I realized that money is nothing more than fuel,” he said. “It is a resource that lets you have choices, but if you don’t think about what you are working for, you will die rich but not live rich.”
There's more at the link.
Banks, on the other hand, have a very different perspective on wealth. In a second article, "Here’s How Much Money You Need for Bankers to Think You’re Rich", Bloomberg lays it out.
For most of the planet, $25 million represents unfathomable wealth. For elite private bankers, it buys their basic service.
Call it economy-class rich. Business class? That's $100 million. First class? $200 million. Private-jet rich? Try $1 billion.
. . .
No private bankers worth their wingtips will say they don’t care about clients with “only” a few million ... But “to get the highest level, companies have raised the bar,” said Brent Beardsley, who leads Boston Consulting Group’s work in asset and wealth management globally.
The measure of what makes someone rich has changed dramatically in the past two decades. In 1994, when Peter Charrington, global head of Citi Private Bank, first joined the firm, “Three million was largely considered ultra-high net worth across the industry,” he recalled. “Fast-forward almost 25 years, and $25 million is how we define ultra-high net worth.”
. . .
That’s not to say $25 million opens all doors. Abbot Downing, Wells Fargo’s operation for ultra-high-net-worth families, works with clients who have at least $50 million in investable assets or $100 million in net worth. Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank sets what Martim de Arantes Oliveira, regional managing director for its San Francisco office, calls a “stake in the sand” at $75 million in net worth for multigenerational wealth.
Again, more at the link.
Well, that makes it simple, doesn't it? Neither my bank nor I think I'm rich - not even close to it!
Thursday, May 24, 2018
For those who've been following the saga of Intuit's deliberate slighting of its firearms industry customers, and wish to boycott that company's products (as I'm doing), there are a couple of excellent alternatives to its Quickbooks small business accounting software.
My accountant had recommended that I use Quickbooks for the company Miss D. and I have just set up, as a corporate structure for our books and publishing activities. However, in the light of recent events, that's obviously a non-starter. I looked online, and found that PC Magazine had recently reviewed "The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018". There were three Editors' Choice awards: Quickbooks, Wave, and AccountEdge Pro (follow the links to the reviews). The latter costs $399, whereas Wave is free to try, free for limited business use, and very low-cost even if you add in its advanced features such as payroll processing. Naturally, given that both packages were equally highly rated by PC Magazine, I chose Wave on cost grounds.
I've been playing with Wave for a couple of days. It's easy to master, particularly if you've used any form of personal finance or small business accounting package before. I particularly like the fact that it offers genuine double-entry accounting, something many "lightweight" packages lack. My accountant says it'll do just fine from his perspective, so as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to be riding the Wave!
I figured some of you might be interested in either Wave, or AccountEdge Pro, as viable alternatives to Quickbooks. If anyone has a favorite tax preparation package that's a viable alternative to Intuit's TurboTax, please let us know in Comments. (Miss D. and I are going to have our accountant prepare our taxes - it's not much of an additional charge, over and above preparing our business accounts.)
It's looking more and more as if there was, indeed, a "Deep State" plot, tightly embroiled with and controlled by the Obama administration (or, at the very least, certain individuals within it), designed to spy on the Trump campaign and, if possible, take it down. Now that he's President, that same plot has switched focus to removing him from office at all costs, regardless of the facts (or the lack thereof).
Four important articles that I think are worth reading and bookmarking for future reference:
- Sharyl Attkisson: "Collusion against Trump” timeline". An exhaustive listing, from 2011 to the present, of events and incidents relevant to the situation. Attkisson, remember, was the journalist primarily responsible for the in-depth investigation of the "Fast and Furious" scandal involving gun-running to Mexico by the ATF and (possibly) other branches of the US government under the Obama administration. More is soon to come out about that scandal.
- Also by Sharyl Attkisson: "8 signs pointing to a counterintelligence operation deployed against Trump's campaign". This is important because counterintelligence operations are not subject to the same legal restrictions as law enforcement investigations. It may be that the Obama administration deliberately used that distinction to attempt to avoid responsibility for its actions. I don't think that's going to work.
- Kimberley Strassel: "Was Trump’s Campaign ‘Set Up’? At some point, the Russia investigation became political. How early was it?" Read this in conjunction with item 1 above. I think there's growing evidence that it "became political" rather earlier than most people think.
- Mark Penn: "Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all". This is an opinion piece (with which I largely agree), but it has one very important sentence indeed, which I think is very true:
"Rather than a fair, limited and impartial investigation, the Mueller investigation became a partisan, open-ended inquisition that, by its precedent, is a threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again."
As Kurt Schlichter puts it: "The question all boils down to this – is it acceptable for the party in power to use the intelligence and law enforcement communities against its rivals?"
Keep watching. I suspect the fur is only just beginning to fly.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Last year I warned readers about the dangers of unwittingly buying a flood-damaged car, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It looks like the problem is still very real. Old NFO passed the word that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has just issued this warning (link is to an Adobe Acrobat file in .PDF format):
More than eight months after Hurricane Harvey damaged an estimated 500,000 cars and trucks, Texans are still at risk of unknowingly purchasing flood-damaged vehicles.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) is urging Texans to do their research before buying a new or used car.
“Too many Texans already get taken advantage of by people selling flooded, salvaged, and rebuilt vehicles as though they are in perfect condition,” said TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster.
TxDMV uses a national title database under the United States Department of Justice to help stop title fraud and urges consumers to learn how to protect themselves when buying a vehicle. Brewster cautioned, “Don’t find a problem after you bought the vehicle. Protect yourself before you buy.”
There's more at the link, including a useful checklist of what to look for to identify suspect vehicles.
If you look at my earlier article, there's an impressive video clip of flood-damaged cars lined up nose to tail, awaiting disposal. Don't buy one!
I've seen posts on several blogs from time to time offering pictures of picturesque cabins in the woods, in the mountains, at the seashore, etc. I was reminded of them when I found this image on Gab this morning. Clickit to biggit.
Imagine waking up to that view in summer! It'd be great. Winter . . . not so much, I guess. I imagine it'd be really cold up there!
Following my two posts (linked below) about the Intuit imbroglio, I thought the following e-mail exchange between myself and Mr. Brad Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Intuit, might be of interest to my readers. It began a couple of days ago, when I e-mailed him concerning the situation at Gunsite.
Dear Mr. Smith,
I understand that your company has chosen to discriminate against Gunsite Academy in Arizona by denying them the use of your financial services. I might point out that Gunsite Academy is involved in training some of America's finest military personnel and first responders. I speak as a retired military officer and Chaplain, who is well aware of the excellence of Gunsite Academy's offerings.
You are, of course, free to adopt whatever policies you please as a corporation. However, so am I. Last month I formed a new company in Texas, Sedgefield Press, to act as a corporate vehicle for my writing activities. I have published over a dozen books so far, and according to Author Earnings' statistics, I rank within the top 1% (by earnings) of conventionally- and self-published writers in the United States.
I had discussed accounting software with our accountant, who recommended Quickbooks to me. However, following your decision to discriminate against Gunsite and similar institutions, I shall instead give my business to a company that does not discriminate against lawful commerce and industry for the sake of political correctness. What's more, I shall advise my colleagues, fellow authors, and industry professionals to do likewise, for every product offered by Intuit.
You should be ashamed of yourselves for such blatant non-commercial discrimination. However, I suspect political correctness is more important to you than a sense of shame.
This morning, Mr. Smith replied, copying his e-mail to several other individuals at Intuit, whom I presume are legal representatives or account managers.
Thank you for reaching out and sharing your point of view. There seems to be some confusion about this situation, so I want to be very clear about our policy.
In-person sales of firearms are permitted under our payment guidelines. However, there are transactions that are prohibited by our partner bank and our own policy if they take place in situations other than face-to-face. Firearms sales that do not occur in a face-to-face transaction are one of those situations. With that said, in-person sales of firearms are not prohibited.
This policy is not new and has not changed. Our small business customers are made aware of these terms, and must agree to them, before they begin using our payments processing services.
I hope this helps clarify our position on the matter.
I have just replied, as follows.
Dear Mr. Smith,
You are misinformed, sir. No, I repeat, NO firearm transfers can take place between a buyer and a Federally licensed seller (such as Gunsite) UNLESS the legally required background check form has been filled out and signed, the purchaser's identity has been checked, the background check has taken place, and a NICS clearance number for the transaction has been issued. Mail-order firearms sales are no different. If I order a firearm from Gunsite (or any other dealer), they are not permitted to ship it directly to me. Instead, I must make arrangements with a licensed firearms dealer in my state. Gunsite will ship it to that dealer, who will conduct the background check required by law. Only when I have passed that check may I take delivery of the firearm from them (paying an additional fee for their work in processing the transaction).
I simply cannot believe that a large corporation such as Intuit, with its many legal representatives on staff, can be unaware of this legal requirement. I therefore find your explanation disingenuous, at best. Furthermore, your company's conduct w.r.t. the Lone Wolf - Flint River transaction, over and above the Gunsite imbroglio, implies that its fundamental philosophy is to make life as difficult as possible for its customers - those, at least, that it still has, and those probably not for long - in the firearms industry. I find it hard to believe that this is the result of pressure from "your partner bank", as financial institutions must surely be aware of the legal situation. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN OFF-THE-BOOKS, NON-FACE-TO-FACE FIREARMS TRANSFER when it comes to a Federally licensed dealer. To suggest that there is, is preposterous. If the face-to-face transfer does not take place at the originating dealer, it must and will take place at the transferring dealer in the buyer's home state. Anything less will result in Federal charges and prison time for those responsible, on both sides of the transaction. The same applies to a private seller. If the buyer is from another state, he or she must send the firearm to a dealer in that state to conduct a background check. Again, there will be severe consequences if this is not done.
In the light of your company's conduct, and its inexplicable refusal to give an honest, timely, truthful explanation to its customers of its actions and motives, I have publicly called for a boycott of Intuit and all its products and services. I see no reason at this time to retract or modify that call. You will find my comments on your company's actions at the following blog posts:
I have every hope that my several thousand daily readers will understand and respond to that call. You will also find - a quick Internet search will reveal - that I'm far from alone in my reaction to your company's unbelievably inept handling of these situations.
I shall post your response, and my reply, on my blog later today, so that my readers can make up their own minds.
I leave you, dear readers, to make up your own minds. If you wish to contact Mr. Smith for clarification, his e-mail address (available publicly on Intuit's Web site, so I'm not doxxing him in any way) is firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to know about excellent alternatives to Quickbooks for small business accounting software, see my article here.
I've written several times in the past about jobs, the impact of automation, the economy, and our future. It's not a very comfortable subject, but it's becoming more and more critical for everyone in this country to be aware of what's going on and plan accordingly.
Two recent articles drive home this point. They're long, and therefore likely to be overlooked by many who want a quick fix of information without having to work at it, but they repay our attention. I'll quote from both at some length. Even if you don't read both articles in full (which I hope you will), please read and think about these excerpts. They're important to your future, and mine. I've highlighted some points in bold print.
The first article is titled "The Long Death of America’s Middle Class".
The American middle class is dying.
In 2015, it dipped below 50% of the population for the first time since data collection started on the issue. It’s now an official minority group.
Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans don’t have enough money to cover a surprise $400 expense. Many are living paycheck to paycheck, with little to no cushion. And US homes are less affordable than they’ve been in decades—possibly ever.
. . .
The late 1950s was the golden age of America’s middle class ... Around then, a husband could support his family on an average income. He and his wife likely owned their own home, as well as their car. They had multiple children—and didn’t think much of the cost of having more. Plus, they had money to save.
Compare that to the average family today. Both spouses likely have to work—whether they want to or not—just to afford the same basic lifestyle.
Plus, it now costs well over $200,000 to raise a child, on average. And that doesn’t even include college costs. Back in 1960, it cost roughly $25,000.
This hefty price tag is one of the main reasons middle-class families are having fewer children… or none at all.
In short, the average American’s standard of living has taken a huge hit over the past generation or so.
For example, consider a typical high school teacher’s financial situation.
In 1959, the median annual salary for a US high school teacher was $5,276, according to the Department of Labor. Meanwhile, the median US home value was $9,627, according to the US Census Bureau.
That means a teacher made enough money each year to cover over half of the price of a middle-class home. Or 55%, to be exact.
Take a minute and think… How does your annual income compare to the price of your home? I’d bet many people make far less than 55%.
Today, the median purchase price of a US home is $241,700. To maintain the 1959 income-to-home price ratio, a high school teacher would need to make $132,935 annually.
Of course, the average high school teacher doesn’t make nearly that much. Not even close. He or she makes around $48,290—just enough to cover 36% of the median home price.
. . .
Cars are another large expense for Americans. Debt has helped camouflage a big price increase there, too.
Americans are now over $1.1 trillion in auto debt. This figure has skyrocketed 2,954% since 1971.
Americans have also racked up more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. This debt explosion also started in the early 1970s. Credit card debt is up 14,281% since 1971.
So why are Americans going deeper and deeper into debt?
It’s simple: The cost of living for the average middle-class family has risen dramatically faster than its income.
Since 1971, there’s been a dramatic—and growing—split between work and wages. As the next chart shows, the average person’s real wages have more or less stagnated since the early 1970s.
With higher expenses and stagnating wages, people have made up the difference with debt.
There's more at the link.
When you combine that with the employment situation, the red warning lights are flashing ever brighter. John Mauldin sets out the scale of the problem in an article titled "The Great Jobs Collision".
Bain thinks automation will eliminate up to 25% of US jobs by 2030, with the lower-wage tiers getting hit the hardest and soonest. That will be devastating, and it’s not that far away. Remember 2006? Right now, you are halfway between then and 2030. Time flies, and this time it won’t be fun. Interestingly, though, Bain predicts that the manpower needed to build out the technology that will ultimately eliminate all those jobs will be enough to keep us all working until 2030. The Bain team is a tad more optimistic than I am. But they have their reasons.
Why is this happening? Demographics and automation are mutually reinforcing trends. One we already see: Employers turn to automation increasingly because they can’t find workers with the skills they need in sufficient numbers. The Baby Boom generation is leaving the workforce (though many Boomers are delaying retirement as long as they can). The additional labor that came from one-time factors like China’s opening has mostly run its course. If sufficient numbers of qualified people aren’t available, employers turn to machines.
At the same time, technology is making the machines better and less expensive. Much of the job automation so far has been fairly benign, jobs-wise. It has replaced dangerous factory work or other repetitive, unpleasant manual labor. Often the automation makes human workers more productive instead of replacing them. That’s about to change as artificial intelligence technology improves. Machines will be able to perform cognitive tasks that once required highly trained, experienced humans.
Now, at any given company this trend can look like a good thing to the owners. Invest in machines, lay off people, mint more profits. But that’s short-sighted in the aggregate because someone has to buy your products. The workers your company and others just laid off won’t be able to spend as much unless new jobs replace the ones you just eliminated.
In theory, automation will enable lower prices, which will raise demand and create more jobs. Bain does not think it will happen that way. They foresee up to 40 million permanent job losses in the US, even accounting for higher demand.
In other words, in the next 10–12 years the US economy will swing from a labor shortage to a huge labor surplus. With the labor force presently around 160 million, this implies an unemployment rate around 25%. I find it hard to see how we could call that an economic boom.
But let’s be optimistic and assume other jobs do appear for many displaced workers. The situation still won’t be ideal for either them or the economy at large, because they will likely make less money and have less spending power. Karen’s report points out that wages will face downward pressure long before workers get replaced by machines. The mere existence of the new technologies will cap wages as the price of automating vs. employing humans falls.
. . .
As you might imagine, this doesn’t end well. The best case is that reduced consumer demand caps growth and we’ll see more decades of flat or mild growth. The worst? Economic dislocation and inequality lead to social breakdown and more calls for government intervention, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more generous welfare programs.
. . .
As we see large parts of jobs destroyed, displaced workers won’t meekly surrender, nor will they be happy that small numbers of highly talented, mostly older workers receive most of the rewards. They will want help, and in a democracy they will have the power to demand it.
This response means that the populist movements springing up all over the world will probably keep gaining momentum and, increasingly, taking control of governments. Resulting policy changes could be significant ... mild measures like job retraining probably won’t suffice this time. We could see major expansion and redesign of the “safety net” programs.
. . .
The potential for a left-wing populist movement to arise is at least 50-50. And those odds mean higher taxes. And larger government and more government controls ... populist movements look for a strong leader to be able to direct the country and the correct path.
. . .
How to pay for all this? Karen expects pressure for a wealth tax. Not an income tax, mind you, but a tax on all your wealth. That will be aggravating to many who have already paid tax once when they earned that wealth. Now imagine having to “donate” 1% or 2% of your net worth to the IRS every year. It could happen, and if it does, it will make it that much harder to keep your assets growing against other headwinds. I agree that we won't see a wealth tax under a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, but these things do not last forever. When a populist backlash takes us to a different state of mind, when a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren type figure emerges, likely much younger and more charismatic than his or her predecessors, with the siren song of how the rich should be made to pay to make society more “just” and equal, because they benefited the most and the majority of the population did not, that message will resonate.
Again, more at the link.
We need to be thinking about these things now, and planning our futures accordingly. If our jobs are likely to be affected by automation, we should be planning right now to get whatever education and/or training we need to move into a field where that's less likely to happen. I suspect many so-called "service" jobs (e.g. plumber, electrician, auto service and repair, etc.) will remain in high demand, simply because people can't afford to do without them. Increasingly, such jobs will be a lot more "automation-proof" than working at a call center, or customer service center, or shop assistant.
It's already reached a point where many of the "voices" you hear when you call a bank, or insurance company, or other major corporation aren't human at all. They're artificial intelligence systems, designed to screen all incoming calls and direct them to the most appropriate department or person - or deal with them through a series of automated menus, so that no human contact is needed. That's faster and cheaper for the company, so expect getting through to a human being to become more and more difficult - by design. Expect the same automation-centered approach to dominate more and more businesses.
It's an "interesting time" to be alive, in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Yesterday I noted that "Clearly, you do business with Intuit (Quickbooks, TurboTax, etc.) at your own risk". This followed Intuit's cancellation of its contract with Gunsite Academy, and its deliberate withholding of funds from that institution, returning them to its customers rather than paying the debts incurred at Gunsite by those customers.
It seems they're at it again - this time to the tune of $150,000 - for a non-firearms transaction!
On May 11th, Lone Wolf made two of what would be three transfers to Flint River. On May 14th they completed the third transfer. The transfers were made through Intuit’s QuickBooks merchant services; Flint River Armory had a merchant account for the purpose of credit card and ACH payment processing. At the time of the transaction, Flint River’s QuickBooks merchant account had been in place for around six weeks. According to Intuit’s own marketing blurb, merchants can use QuickBooks “to get paid 2x faster” – or not.
The transfer in question wasn’t for firearms, it was a separate business transaction. I’ll state that again: it had nothing to do with either components or complete firearms. The total amount of the three transfers: $150,000.
The money was withdrawn from Lone Wolf’s account by Intuit within thirty minutes. In accordance with standard business practices, it should have been deposited into Flint River’s account with relative speed. Instead, there was no sign of a pending deposit. Instead Intuit abruptly terminated Flint River’s merchant account.
Thus began several days of Flint River contacting Intuit three and four times a day. Finally, after approximately fifteen phone calls – each of which they documented – Flint River’s accountant got someone on the phone who would answer some of their questions. The accountant called John Heikkinen into his office, put the woman on speaker phone, and waited to see what she’d say.
Intuit had decided they would no longer do business with firearms companies, she told them. Flint River’s QuickBooks merchant account had been closed down because they’re a firearms company. Their other Intuit-owned services would also be terminated.
Intuit continued to deny John’s request for documentation of the transfer being reversed. In fact, they refused to provide documentation of any kind.
Meanwhile $150,000 of Lone Wolf’s money was being held by Intuit. That meant Intuit was earning interest on $150,000 they claimed they didn’t want (because, guns, even though, again, the transaction wasn’t for firearms or components). While their exact interest rate is unknown and bank savings rates vary widely – Capitol One’s is 0.75% APY and Synchrony’s is 1.05% APY – the current Federal Reserve Funds rate is 1.75%.
. . .
How would Intuit feel if we, as an industry, dropped them? No more QuickBooks, no more Mint, no more TurboTax. A little something to consider. A project for our readers: back, frequent, and support businesses that support the Second Amendment. Money talks, guys. Make yours sing.
There's more at the link. Bold print in the final paragraph above is my emphasis.
I have no hesitation in calling this complete lack of response, and failure to return the funds immediately, as being at best ethically questionable conduct on Intuit's part. Depending on the facts of the matter, I suspect it might even be legally questionable, as it was done without explanation or prior warning, and might therefore be portrayed as a deliberate entrapment of customers' funds in an effort to hurt their business. I'd certainly be suing Intuit for every cent that they earned in interest on the money while they were holding it, plus damages for any opportunity cost to my company as a result of their holding on to my money, plus punitive damages. I think I could make a very strong case in court.
Folks, it's now quite clear that Intuit doesn't give a damn about its customers - only for the politically correct flavor du jour out there, whatever it may be. If it's firearms-related businesses today, it'll be Christian-related businesses tomorrow, or wedding organizers offering marriage services that adhere to religious rather than secular standards, or those offering rental accommodation who insist on criminal background checks for prospective tenants.
I personally plan to never again use any Intuit product or service. In fact, I'll be asking prospective vendors whether they use Intuit's payment processing facilities, and if they do, I'll be taking my business elsewhere - after telling them why I'm doing so. From now on, Quickbooks, Quicken Loans, TurboTax, Mint and Intuit's other offerings are on my "Do Not Use Under Any Circumstances" list.
I call upon all my readers to do likewise. I can only describe Intuit's policies, behavior and attitude, as revealed in both these cases, as discriminatory, unfair, unjust, and intolerable. If you agree, please contact Intuit by telephone and/or e-mail and/or snail mail to tell them so.
That's the title of an article by Victor Davis Hanson. It's powerful stuff, and well worth reading in full. Here's an excerpt.
We are all worried, on occasion, by nationalist and anti-democratic movements abroad in former democratic countries. We all sometimes wish Donald Trump would ignore personal spats and curb his tweeting and thus let his considerable accomplishments speak for themselves.
But that said, the current and chief threats to Western constitutional government are not originating from loud right-wing populists in Eastern Europe, or from Trump wailing like Ajax about the rigged deep state.
Rather, the threat to our civil liberties is coming from supposedly sanctimonious and allegedly judicious career FBI, Justice Department, and intelligence agency officials, progressive and self-described idealistic former members of the Obama national security team, and anti-Trump fervent campaign operatives, all of whom felt that they could break the law—including but not limited to illegally monitoring American citizens, and seeking to warp federal courts and even the presidential election because such unsavory and anti-constitutional means were felt necessary and justified to prevent and then subvert the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
It is willful blindness for progressives and NeverTrump Republicans to overlook what has happened only to damn what has not happened. The dangers in America are not from transparent right-wing authoritarians (who are easily spotted in their clumsiness), but from mellifluous self-styled constitutionalists, whose facades and professions of legality mask their rank efforts to use any anti-constitutional means necessary to achieve their supposedly noble egalitarian ends.
This is the way democracies end—not with a loud boisterous bang, but with insidious and self-righteous whimpers.
There's more at the link.
I found Prof. Hanson's words even more powerful when read in conjunction with another article, this one titled "H.A.L.P.E.R. Spells Game Up for Obama's Spies". The author quotes former FBI agent Mark Wauck as follows:
The FBI is asked--way back as early as 2015, but who knows? -- to be helpful to the Dems and they agree. What they do is they hire non-government consultants with close Dem ties to do "analytical work" for them, which happens to include total access to NSA data. Advantages? For the Dems, obviously, access to EVERYTHING digital. A gold mine for modern campaign research. For the FBI there's also an advantage. They get to play dumb -- gosh, we didn't know they were looking at all that stuff! They also don't have to falsify anything, like making [stuff] up to "justify" opening a FI [full investigation] on an American citizen and then lying to the FISC to get a FISA on the USPER [US person] and having to continually renew the FISA and lie all over again to the FISC each renewal. And the beauty of it all is, who's ever going to find out? And even if they do, how do you prove criminal intent?
So everything's humming along until a pain in the a** named Mike Rogers at NSA does an audit in 4/2016, just as the real campaign season is about to start. And Rogers learns that 85% of the searches the FBI has done between 12/2015 and 4/2016 have been totally out of bounds. And he clamps down -- no more non-government contractors, tight auditing on searches of NSA data. Oh sh*t! What to do, just give up? Well, not necessarily, but there's a lot more work involved and a lot more fudging the facts. What the FBI needs to do now is get a FISA that will cover their a** and provide coverage on the GOPers going forward. That means, first get a FI on an USPER [US person] connected to the Trump campaign (who looks, in [April] or [May] 2016, like the GOP candidate) so you can then get that FISA. That's not so easy, because they've got to find an USPER with that profile who they can plausibly present as a Russian spy. But they have this source named Halper.
So they first open a PI [preliminary investigation]. That allows them to legally use NatSec Letters and other investigative techniques to keep at least some of what they were doing going. But importantly this allows them to legally use Halper to try to frame people connected to the Trump campaign -- IOW, find someone to open a FI on so they can then get that FISA. However the PI is framed, that's what they're looking to do. It has legal form, even if the real intent is to help the Dems. And you can see why this had to be a CI [counterintelligence] thing, so in a sense the Russia narrative was almost inevitable -- no other bogeyman would really fit the bill, and especially on short notice.
So that's what they do, and Halper helps them come up with Papadopoulos and Page, so by the end of July they've got their FI. Problem. Their first FISA is rejected, but eventually, 10/2016, they get that.
And then Trump wins and Rogers visits Trump Tower. And the Deep State has a fit.
Again, more at the link.
I believe both of the articles cited above are really important reading for anyone wanting to understand the way in which the Obama administration "weaponized" the primary security agencies of the US government for partisan political purposes. Unless this is stopped, decisively, and dealt with once and for all, it will become routine for every administration to do the same. If that happens, our constitutional republic will be as dead as the proverbial dodo.
Greg Ellifritz issues this timely reminder.
Four years ago, I wrote an article titled Lock Your Damn Doors. In that article I looked at a month’s worth of burglary and theft reports from the city where I worked and tracked how many theft victims had left their houses or cars unlocked before the thefts occurred.
The results? 83% of the theft victims had left their doors unlocked, making the criminals’ jobs extremely easy.
Another spring, another increase in theft offenses. I decided to repeat the study to see if the victims in my city had learned any lessons in the last few years. I tracked all the thefts from vehicles and burglaries reported in the city where I work (an upper-class Midwest suburb with around 35,000 residents) during the month of April.
Here are the numbers:
- Number of vehicles entered- 25
- Unlocked vehicles- 25
- Locked vehicles- 0
- Percent of vehicles unlocked- 100%
. . .
- Number of houses (or garages) entered- 8
- Unlocked houses (or garages)- 4
- Locked houses (or garages)- 4
- Percent of residences unlocked- 50%
This is the first year since I have been tracking that 100% of vehicle thefts occurred in unlocked vehicles. Not a single car window was broken to steal anything. I find that absolutely shocking. You can safely assume that if there is nothing visible to steal in your car, thieves won’t break windows just to check. On the other hand, if you leave your doors unlocked, thieves will open the door and see what they can find. As the title of the article says: Lock your damn doors! If you don’t want your crap stolen, keep your doors locked and valuables out of sight.
There's more at the link.
Mr. Ellifritz provides this video of a criminal 'casing' cars, looking for unlocked vehicles.
He's right, of course. In conversations with criminals during my service as a prison chaplain, I routinely heard that they sought out neighborhoods and individuals who made their lives easier by leaving vehicles and buildings unlocked. I recall one car thief who bragged that he'd made off with something over a hundred vehicles, during a criminal career spanning several decades, by simply watching to see who started their cars in their driveway on a cold morning, then went back inside to finish getting ready for work. He could be in and gone before they realized anything was wrong. His biggest complaint was the advent of remote-starting vehicles, that allowed their owners to start them without unlocking the doors!
The neighborhood in which I currently live is, sadly, an example of what Mr. Ellifritz is talking about. It's very safe and secure - crime is so minuscule there are hardly any records of it for about a mile around. Unfortunately, many who live here have become security-lax as a result. If we ever do have an influx of criminals, they'll find easy pickings . . . but then, this is Texas. As soon as someone notices, they're likely to get their fundamental jujubes shot off.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Courtesy of The Aviationist, here's an amazing video clip of a USAF C-5 Galaxy transport - the largest aircraft operated by that force - taking off from the just over 7,000 foot runway at Ilopango Airport in El Salvador. For an aircraft that large, carrying an unknown cargo but clearly heavily laden, it's quite an achievement.
The wingspan of the C-5 is about 80 feet wider than the runway, hence the clouds of dust raised during the last part of the takeoff run, when the jet exhaust is angled down towards them.
I'd call that dusty in anyone's language!
Today's award goes to a felon in Florida.
A Lake City man was jailed after he reported that his son had stolen his rifle.
The problem? The man, James Denson, is a convicted felon who is not allowed to own a rifle, the Lake City Police said in a press release.
There's more at the link.
Uh-huh. Before you call the cops to report a crime, make sure you're not implicating yourself in the same crime!
Intuit - owners of Quickbooks, TurboTax and other widely used financial software products, as well as a provider of financial services such as credit card payment processing - has just dumped one of its customers firmly in the dwang, for politically correct - not legal - reasons.
A couple of months ago Gunsite decided to make a change to a new credit card processor, QuickBooks. It seemed to be a wise business choice at the time and may have been, had Intuit not chosen to go the way they did.
. . .
Then, a week ago – May 11th, 2018 – Gunsite got another phone call from QuickBooks. This time it didn’t go as well. The software company informed Gunsite that they were immediately ceasing all business with them. Why? Because they sell and promote firearms.
At first blush this was frustrating news, but Gunsite figured it could be handled. Then the other shoe dropped: in addition to cutting business ties with Gunsite, QuickBooks/Intuit refused to release the money from credit card charges currently in process from sales that had already made.
This amounts to tens of thousands of dollars from not only purchases made in the Gunsite Pro Shop – including hats, shirts, bumper stickers, and coffee mugs – but also money that had been paid for classes taken on gun safety and marksmanship.
Yes, you read that right. Tens of thousands of dollars in sales of products and classes, paid for in good faith, that Intuit has refused to release. Instead, Intuit stated they would refund those monies to the credit card holders. That means revenue for everything from pens to five-day level 250 pistol courses had just became door prizes, provided free to people who had the benefit of the training and took home products, all courtesy of the Intuit’s largesse.
Ken Campbell is matter-of-fact about the issue: “It is their right in the republic to choose not to do business with us. In fact, I do not want to do business with them or any company that does not support the Second Amendment. The issue is their refusal to release our funds to us.”
There's more at the link.
This is beyond stupid. As far as I can see, it may verge on the criminal. At least three lawyers of my acquaintance have observed that withholding funds for ideological rather than legal reasons may well be actionable - and if so, I hope Gunsite takes such action.
My own accountant had just (last month) recommended Quickbooks to me as good accounting software. Needless to say, under the circumstances, I'll be using something else - there are plenty of competing products out there. I shall also never again use TurboTax or any other Intuit product. If they show such contempt for law-abiding businesses and citizens, they clearly hold me in contempt as well - so why should I give them my hard-earned dollars?
I strongly recommend to every reader of this blog that they should not do business with Intuit at all. The company's decisions in the Gunsite case appear to be driven by political correctness, rather than the law; and if that's the case once, it probably will be again in future. Therefore, I intend to let them stew in their own ideological juice, and I suggest that we should all do likewise. That may be the only language they'll understand. I also recommend that you contact the company and tell them why you're doing so. I already have.
EDITED TO ADD: If you'd like to look at a couple of excellent alternatives to Quickbooks, see my article here.