Friday, August 31, 2018

That's one way to do it

This isn't the first time I've heard of farm animals being used to further a romance.  No, it's not what you think.

Chris Gospel of Strichen, Aberdeenshire, got down on one knee in a field to ask for Eilidh Fraser's hand in marriage.

But the 30-year-old did not need to pop the question, as he enlisted the help of Curlytop the cow by writing "will you marry me?" on the animal's body.

Mr Gospel said: "She was a star. The writing was on the side and as were were walking up she was facing us.

"Eilidh could see something written on the side but not what it was. Curlytop came up to us and then turned.

"By the time Eilidh read it I was down on one knee and proposed."

The microbiologist said yes and a picture was posted on social media, with Curlytop's message in the background.

. . .

Mr Gospel said Curlytop would get an invite to the wedding, but was unsure whether it would be accepted.

He added: "She's still not forgiven me for writing on her."

There's more at the link, including a picture of the cow in question (literally).

The jokes write themselves, don't they?
  • Good thing he wrote it on a cow.  That way, she knew his proposal was no bull!
  • What if she'd slapped him for proposing in that way?  Would that have been dis-udderly conduct?
  • It must have been a moo-ving experience.
Feel free to add your own in Comments.


What a hoot! - feminism edition

Apparently something called "Woman Fest" was recently held in England.  Jan Moir was there to review it for the Daily Mail - and it's a laugh riot all the way.

‘Just go down there, walk through the giant vagina and you are there,’ she says.

Is she kidding? She is not kidding.

At the bottom of the hill there is, indeed, a V-shaped pink tent adorned with red fringing, complete with padded silk anatomical detail and open at both ends.

. . .

... we will be getting high on the power of song and dance, or indulging ourselves in myriad alternative diversions including tarot, acupuncture, massage, drumming workshops, basket weaving, campfire debates, shamanism, womb wisdom, ancient Swedish folk music and gong baths (a form of sound therapy using the metal musical instrument).

We will also be connecting to our wild feminine power by focusing on our yonis — yoni being a Hinduism for what Hyacinth Bucket would call our private lady parts.

. . .

There will also be yoni printing (oh God, surely not) plus various sinister sounding classes including Mothering the Moon Maiden, Sex Magic Rituals and a Shamanic Bee Smoking Ceremony. What?

. . .

In the opposite corner, a regular stream of women come in to kneel at a small altar, heads bowed in silent contemplation as they study what seem to be tiny missals.

Pray, what deity inspires such devotion among the sisters? Only when I get closer do I see that it is a phone recharging station.

Stretching up the hill are a collection of tipis and tents, including the Womyn Rising tent, the Woman’s Circle tent, the Woodland Tipi and the rather scary Red Tent.

Women who are ‘on their moon’ are invited to visit the Red Tent, where I imagine they spent hours shouting: ‘Who touched my camomile teabags?’ and ‘Stop looking at me like that.’

. . .

Yet I do wonder if all this focus on the yoni is entirely mindful and healthy? I mean, what would we call it if a bunch of men went off into the green wilderness to contemplate their penises for a few days?

‘We’d call it a golf weekend,’ says Coral from Wiltshire, who is sitting on a milking stool in the Sacred Garden.

Time for more enlightenment, so I join the Fool Expression class, held by Christie Holly Tree.

Twelve of us sit in a circle of cushions while she explains the concept. Something about the role of the jester in history and how it is a way to inner peace? This is hard to grasp and anyway, wasn’t the jester always a — whisper it — man?

All too soon, Christie puts on some plinky-plonky music and we all have to stand up and perform, letting our inner jester out. Oh God. I wobble about like a weeble, sometimes doing a flute-playing Jethro Tull on one leg. You can’t say I’m not trying.

Among my fellow Fools one woman is shaking her shoulders and making the kind of grunting noises you’d expect from a copulating mammoth. Kaftan-wearing Ollie, a plucky 71-year-old from Essex, is doing the twist.

Next to her, a woman in red velvet is on all fours, barking loudly. Another woman makes kitten ears with her hands and mews.

‘I was pretending to be my cat,’ she says later.

There is always one, isn’t there?

There's more at the link.

That's some of the best real-world comedy I've read in years.  Dammit, I'd pay to be there (or to bug it from a safe distance), just for the belly-laughs!

I can only say that I'm very, very glad that my mother and sisters were never numbered among the "sisterhood".  It probably made my childhood a lot safer!  Similarly, Miss D. would not fit in well at a gathering like that.  She'd be laughing too hard all the time!  (The same goes for most of our lady friends, of course . . . that's one of the reasons why they're our friends.)


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Oh, well played, sir!

Full marks to Aesop at Raconteur Report for this meme masterpiece:

(Open the image in a new tab or window for a slightly larger version.)

Well played, sir!


Political correctness trumps medical research - twice

It seems research is only acceptable at Brown University if it's also politically correct.

Brown University has come under fire after censoring its own study on transgender youth, which found that social media and friends can influence teenagers to change their gender identity.

The university removed an article about the study from its website five days after it was published, following community complaints that the research was transphobic, the Daily Wire first reported.

In addition, the findings "might invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community," a university dean wrote.

The dean insisted, however, that it was still committed to “academic freedom,” noting that all studies should be "debated vigorously."

The study examined what it called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” when a teen suddenly begins identifying as transgender despite never previously never questioning their identity.

The transition often happens after teens use social media and watch online videos about transitioning to another gender.

. . .

The parents described "a process of immersion in social media," such as binge-watching "transition videos" and excessive use of social media, immediately preceding their child becoming gender dysphoric, the study claims.

The research goes on to suggest that teens could be influencing each other to promote certain behaviors through “peer contagion.”

In a statement posted online, Bess Marcus, dean of Brown's School of Public Health, said the university “has heard from Brown community members expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”

There's more at the link.

This isn't new, of course.  Yale appears to be infected by the same scientific dishonesty.

If males and females are the same psychologically and physically before the patriarchy starts assigning sex roles, then medical research need not distinguish between males and females, either.

It turns out, however, that males and females differentially respond to stress, environmental risk factors, drugs, and disease, as an initiative called Women’s Health Research at Yale devotes itself to documenting ... Such discoveries should be the death knell for social constructivism.

. . .

And yet, feminist social-justice warriors are perfectly capable of proceeding on several contradictory fronts simultaneously. Even as the director of the Women’s Health Research at Yale initiative insists that it’s time to “stop treating women as a subgroup of the human population” (because women are biologically and psychologically distinct from males), the magazine and its sources carefully follow the conventions of social constructivism. “Sex” is always paired with “gender”—as in, Yale’s medical school needs to “include more instruction on sex and gender differences”—lest anyone think that sex is the same thing as gender and determinative of biological reactions.  An assistant professor at the medical school suggests asking students how the prognosis of a disease changes “if the patient identifies as a woman or a man.” But if, as documented, females are not just a “subgroup of the human population,” but physiologically and psychologically different, how a patient “identifies” should not change the prognosis. What matters is the patient’s actual biological sex.

. . .

Expect to see millions of taxpayer-derived research dollars directed toward the first reading—that someone’s self-declared gender identity should be taken into account in diagnosing disease—even as the evidence piles up that males and females are not a political construction, but a biological one. Given that we are now up to over 100 different gender identities, the diagnostic complications will be enormous. Nevertheless, the march of academic identity politics through the institutions continues.

Again, more at the link.

The frightening thing is, this academic, scientific and research dishonesty is in areas that directly and immediately affect human health.  If we allow it to continue, we risk being treated, not for our actual diseases or health issues, but for those deemed politically correct.  That could - literally - kill us, or lead to other, much more severe health complications.  Why can't the politically correct understand that?

Even worse . . . perhaps they do understand it, but they just don't care.


No kidding!

Stephan Pastis expresses (or should that be "espresso's"?) the fear of every old codger.  Click the cartoon to be taken to a larger version at its home page.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I approve this message

Shamelessly borrowed from Daily Timewaster:

If every US voter did that, we'd have major political reform overnight.

Sadly, they won't . . . our politicians have made sure of that.  Some call it "welfare".  Others call it "bribing the electorate".  Go figure.


Decline and fall?

Fred Reed, whom we've met in these pages many times, isn't very hopeful about the future of the USA.  It's hard to gainsay the negatives he's seeing.

I am not sure why people write columns. Partly from boredom, I suppose, or lack of anything better to do. Partly from exasperation. Yet partly from the hope that if enough people collectively become aware of problems, they might, just maybe, do something about them. I can’t believe this any longer. Today’s crimes, lunacies, and decays  are too many, profitable, and intractable. We are racing out of control toward some as yet dimly limned catastrophe. Hang on and take the ride.

To begin with, America is no longer a country. It is a set of special interests occupying the same place: Corporations, races, ethnicities, faiths, ideologies, foreign agents pretending to be Americans, all at each other’s throats. No cure is possible.

Racial relations are a disaster. Blacks, fourteen percent of the country, are congenitally furious at whites. They neither assimilate nor want to. Whether they should doesn’t matter since it will not happen.

. . .

Hispanics, seventeen percent of the population,  have a much higher likelihood of assimilating, and are doing so, but it will not happen overnight and will never be complete. They face intense hostility from much of the white population. Add Somalis, North Africans, Jews, Asians, and various Muslims and you have more than a third of the country.  Their interests are their own interests. This cannot be changed.

Americans no longer have a shared identity, a common culture to hold them together. In 1950 America was overwhelmingly white, European, and Christian. How deeply one believed was not the point. Christianity was a matrix binding all, as Catholicism is in Latin America. Today Christianity is like marijuana–tolerated, barely legal, but better not to get caught. Whites are reviled by those of lesser capacity and, weirdly, by themselves. What do we now have in common? Almost nothing. This will not change before some strange looming denouement befalls us.

Government has changed irrevocably, and changes yet. It no longer consists of executive, judicial, and legislative branches. In  practice the branches are now the Presidency, Wall Street, the corporations, AIPAC, and the media, with overlap and interlocking directors. Elections are play toys to occupy the public. The levers of governance are no longer accessible to the populace. Governments gain power. They do not give it up. This will not change.

. . .

Overall, America declines into the Third World. The one percent own most of the country while the middle class declines. Retirement plans and health insurance evanesce. The police become more brutal and less accountable. Censorship intensifies. Impunity grows: Nobody went to jail for the subprime scam. Politicians pose in front of The Flag, trumpet democracy but do not practice it.  Surveillance quietly grows: TSA, tracking by cell-phone location records, NSA’s internal spying, social media recording everything we do, and now Alexa and voice-controlled televisions constantly listen in our homes. Civil unrest grows with street gangs of Antifa and BLM fighting white nationalists and defying police.

We know the foregoing, many of us. The takeaway is that none of it is preventable. We careen toward whatever epochal demise awaits us. Slow motion or all at once, it will be a doozy.

There's more at the link.  I very strongly recommend clicking over to Fred's site to read the whole thing.

I must admit, recent primary elections appear to confirm Fred's views.  Consider last night in Florida.  The Democratic candidate for governor is a "progressive", endorsed by Bernie Sanders from his socialist perspective.  The Republican candidate is endorsed by President Trump, a capitalist and (relative) conservative.  From what I can see, they espouse radically different positions, and offer radically different solutions to the voting public on how to deal with our problems.  It's an "either-or" situation, without much "meet-in-the-middle".  That's just one primary election.  Many others, in many other states, appear to offer the same conundrum.

As William Butler Yeats said, in another context:  "Things fall apart;  the center cannot hold".  Is there a "center" in American politics any more?  Is there a single common value around which both Left and Right can coalesce, rejecting the extremes?  If you can see one, please let us know in Comments . . . because the politicians certainly aren't offering one!


Prison reform and the US justice system

I note that there's a push to get a prison reform bill through Congress by the end of the year.  I'll be the first to applaud if they can produce a workable solution to the present problems in the prison system:  but I think they're starting from the wrong end.  The problem isn't so much prisons as what happens to criminals before they get there.  I've written at some length about it in my memoir of prison chaplaincy.

For those who haven't read the book, here are a few important points (out of many) for consideration.

First, the present justice system does almost nothing to deter youth crime, and punishments amount to little more than a slap on the wrist.  Young criminals get used to "getting away with it", and grow up with the impression that they can do almost anything, and not be punished.  However, the instant they can be tried as adults for the same crime(s), the boom comes down on them.  I've lost count of the number of furiously angry felons who complained to me that they committed crimes for years without serious punishment, and then, in some arbitrary and capricious fashion, "the system" or "the man" nailed them for a five-to-ten stretch for doing exactly the same thing.  They couldn't understand that (in part because the so-called "education" system had failed to educate them at all), and were bitter and hate-filled as a result.  It was perfectly obvious that they'd failed to learn anything in prison, except better criminal skills from their fellow convicts.

Second, the methods and practices of incarceration have to be improved.  Other societies imprison a vastly smaller proportion of their population, and have a much lower recidivism rate (i.e. the rate at which a criminal re-offends after release) than ours.  For the past few decades, the US recidivism rate has been about 70% over five years.  In other words, seven out of ten criminals released from our prisons will have committed more crimes (sometimes a lot more crimes) by that time.  That demonstrates individual tendencies, to be sure, but it also demonstrates that rehabilitation programs in prison are so much hot air.  We have to find a better way to help inmates change.  Some won't, of course;  but others will, if they're given sufficient incentive to want to change.  It takes the carrot as well as the stick.

Third, there needs to be a mechanism in the justice system whereby those who supervise criminals in prison can monitor their behavior, record (objectively and fairly) their progress (if any), and go back to court if necessary to inform a judge that the felon in question has been a hard-case behind bars, has not shown any improvement, and/or has refused to participate meaningfully in rehabilitation programs.  He's therefore considered likely to re-offend, and should thus continue to be incarcerated until he does show progress.  That won't stop all recidivism, but it should go a long way towards reducing it.  Civil libertarians will bleat that this is unfair to the prisoner.  My response is, what about the victims of the crimes he's very (very!) likely to commit once he's out?  Don't they deserve the "fairness" of being protected from that risk?

Fourth, we have to reform the system of trial and sentencing.  Right now, a vast number of people are caught up in a judicial "sausage machine", processed from one end to the other without any meaningful consideration as to whether they belong there.  Plea bargains are common;  a truly dangerous criminal might plead down a serious assault that left his victim in hospital, perhaps even crippled for life, to a simple assault charge, because it's simply too much hassle for the overworked, overloaded District Attorney's office to line up witnesses, try the case, and get a more appropriate punishment.  The DA needs to use his limited staff and resources to cover far too many cases, so he'll take a plea deal that doesn't punish the criminal as he or she deserves, simply in order to free up his resources to work on other cases.  About 95% of all felony charges in the USA end up in plea bargains like this.  That's not "justice" at all - that's gaming the system.

Fifth, criminal laws have to be reformed too.  In many cases, legislatures pass laws inflicting harsh punishment for certain crimes on the basis of emotion or knee-jerk reaction, rather than logic.  (Example:  until very recently, dealing in crack cocaine rocks drew a much heavier prison sentence than dealing in cocaine powder, even though the drug in both cases was exactly the same.)  Many crimes are classified as felonies when they should, in fact, be only misdemeanors.  The laws are tweaked to produce the result lawmakers and/or their electorates want, without stopping to ask whether or not that's been effective in the past, and whether or not it's likely to be effective in the future.  The result is that the US imprisons a much larger proportion of its population than any other nation in the civilized world - and its taxpayers have to carry the enormous costs of doing so.  That's simply unsustainable.

There are many other elements of prison reform, and I've tried to address them in my book;  but those areas have to be dealt with before we'll see any real progress.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Why modern cars are becoming "disposables"

Over the past few decades, I've noticed that it's more and more expensive, and less and less practical, to fix any appliance or electronic item that breaks.  For a start, labor costs per hour are prohibitive;  then there's the almost complete absence of critical spare parts, particularly electronic ones.  In the old days, a soldering iron and a couple of transistors, or a replacement plug-in card, could fix most things.  Today?  Fuggetabahtit!  The average personal computer used to consist of a fairly simple motherboard, with all peripherals and add-on components on separate, plug-in cards.  Nowadays, a motherboard contains everything, and has little or no room to plug in any cards at all.  If an essential part of that motherboard fails (e.g. the video interface), you have no choice but to replace the whole thing - and in most cases, the manufacturers won't sell you a replacement motherboard.  No, they want you to buy a whole new computer!

Increasingly, the same applies to motor vehicles.  I'd been thinking about it in general terms, but an excellent article today by Eric Peters sheds light on the subject.

Insurance costs are skyrocketing because cars have become too complex, fragile and more disposable.

While they don’t need the regular tuning-up and other minor adjustments cars once needed, when they do need work, it is often extremely expensive – because of the complexity of the components and the specialized diagnostic equipment and highly-trained (and highly expensive) technicians needed to service them competently.

They are also easily damaged. Front and rear clips are made of plastic; hoods and fenders of extremely thin gauge metal (often, aluminum) in order to shave weight and increase mileage (to comply with government MPG fatwas) with the result being that what used to be minor fender-benders are now major accidents, in terms of repair costs – and these costs are necessarily being reflected in insurance costs. While the insurance mafia is despicable – any business that uses the government to force people to buy its services is despicable – one cannot blame them for adjusting premium costs to reflect repair costs.

Also, throw-away costs.

Cars now have so many air bags – the average new car has at least six – that the chances of the car being declared a total loss (economically unrepairable) in the event of a relatively minor – and otherwise repairable – accident are high. It can cost several thousand dollars to replace just two air bags – and all the related interior parts destroyed when the air bags go off. This is before one adds up the cost to repair damaged body panels. Most insurance companies will write-off a car as a total loss if the estimated cost to fix it exceeds 50 percent of its retail value.

Getting to 50 percent isn’t hard when a car is say four or five years old, worth 60 percent what you paid for it – and the wreck you just had will take $10,000 to repair (a third of that cost being the cost to replace the air bags that went off).

A car that cost $35,000 when it was new – the average purchase price of a 2018 model car – is effectively worthless after just a few years or a fairly minor accident. It is a lot of money to just throw away.

There's more at the link, focusing particularly on why vehicle ownership is set to decrease drastically, simply because motorists can no longer afford to buy their own transport.  Increasingly, "rental as you need it" is going to be the only affordable option.  Highly recommended reading.

You might think that driving an older, more "repairable" vehicle will allow you to avoid these problems.  Not so much . . .  Many manufacturers are no longer producing OEM spare parts.  You have to rely on cheap Far Eastern knockoff components, where the quality is at best questionable, at worst abysmal.  Even there, only the more popular parts are being produced in economical quantities.  Try to find something hard-to-get, and you'll pay through the nose.  Furthermore, many parts are now only available as complete sub-assemblies.  For example, on my wife's car, a front headlight must now be bought as a complete assembly, even though only one bracket is defective.  You simply can't buy the bracket on its own - at least, not from the manufacturer.  Additive manufacturing (so-called "3D printing") is supposed to help alleviate this problem, but I haven't yet seen any reports of it making a significant difference.

Therefore, your old beater car will remain a good, low-cost solution, unless and until you can't get the parts you need to keep it on the road.  We might end up like Cuba, where thousands of pre-revolution cars had to be kept going for decades with ingenuity, handmade parts and other workarounds, because there were no replacement vehicles available.

There's also the growing issue of self-driving cars and automated vehicle safety systems.  As we've observed in these pages before, once cities have installed the necessary roadside hardware to more efficiently and effectively control vehicles fitted with such systems, they're going to want all vehicles without them to be removed from the roads.  It makes sense from the point of view of control, after all - no mavericks wanted!  They'll protest that they aren't confiscating our private vehicles;  we merely have to bring them into compliance with "modern road safety standards" if we want to drive them on their roads.  Since it'll be technically impossible to bring them into compliance . . . well, that's our problem, isn't it?

I have a nasty feeling that the next vehicle Miss D. and I buy will have to last us for a long time, because its replacement will be either unaffordable, or so automated that we won't be allowed to drive it ourselves.  We'll have to allow a computer to operate it, and carry us hither and yon - if, and only if, it condescends to agree with what we want.

Neither prospect pleases.


Another nail in the coffin of the Afghanistan campaign

It appears that Pakistan's newly elected leader, Imran Khan, has a mind of his own when it comes to the US campaign in Afghanistan.

I can't say I blame him.  As I've said many times before in these pages (most recently just last week), there is no military solution possible in Afghanistan.  If that's the case, why are we still fighting there?  Better to cut our losses and leave, rather than lose more American lives in a hopeless cause.

Yes, there are those who'll argue that by being there, we prevent other powers from moving into the vacuum that would be left by our departure.  They point to Iran as wanting to draw Afghanistan into its sphere of influence, to control it, to use it (and its fighters) as a springboard for expansion into the Middle East and Asia.  Well, good luck with that!  Let's see what happens when Pashtun meets Persian.  Past history suggests it won't be pleasant - or productive - for either side.  As for possible Chinese intervention . . . they've got enough problems with their Uighur population.  If they want to add Afghanistan to that, they're crazy - but perhaps we should encourage them, if only so they can find out that some games aren't worth the candle.


Doofus Of The Day #1,020

Today's award goes to a visually (and possibly intellectually) challenged anti-gunner.  A tip o' the hat to Miguel at Gun Free Zone for spotting it first.

Rob Clewley was outraged to come across a picture of the latest assault weapon, and posted his reaction on Twitter. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Unfortunately for Mr. Clueless, he'd been trolled.  As Aesop gleefully points out, that picture shows "a tripod, two camera bodies, three zoom lenses, a remote shutter release, a microphone, a battery pack, and a camera neck strap".  If you don't believe it, enlarge the picture and count them for yourself.

That's an epic trolling move by whoever composed the image . . . and Mr. Clueless fell for it hook, line and sinker.  Talk about a classic knee-jerk response!

To paraphrase John Donne:  "Send not to know for whom the image trolls.  It trolls for thee."


Monday, August 27, 2018

Honoring Tim Conway

I was sad to learn that Tim Conway is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and is coming to the end of his life.  His comedic timing was impeccable, and he gave me (and millions of others) a great deal of enjoyment in his acting career.

I can't think of any better way to honor him than his famous Elephant Sketch from the Carol Burnett Show.

A timeless comedy classic!


Liberal or conservative?

A number of blogs recently published James Burnham's list (from his 1964 book "The Suicide of the West") of questions that determine whether one is a "liberal" or not (in 1960's terms, of course).  It's a very interesting list, not least because today's understanding of a political "liberal" is rather different from that of half a century ago.  Burnham wrote:

A full-blown liberal will mark every one, or very nearly every one, of these thirty-nine sentences, Agree. A convinced conservative will mark many or most of them, a reactionary all or nearly all of them, Disagree.

By giving this test to a variety of groups, I have confirmed experimentally what is obvious enough from ordinary discourse, that the result is seldom an even balance between Agree and Disagree. The correlations are especially stable for individuals who are prepared to identify themselves unequivocally as either ’liberal’ or ’reactionary’: such self-defined liberals almost never drop below 85 percent of Agree answers, or self-defined reactionaries below 85 percent of Disagree; a perfect 100 percent is common. Certain types of self-styled conservatives yield almost as high a Disagree percentage as the admitted reactionaries. The answers of those who regard themselves as ’moderate conservatives’ or ’traditional conservatives’ and of the rather small number of persons who pretend to no general opinions about public matters show considerably more variation. But in general the responses from this list of thirty-nine sentences indicate that a liberal line can be drawn somewhere ... and that most persons fall fairly definitely (though not in equal numbers) on one side of it or the other.

These sentences were not devised arbitrarily. Many of them are taken directly or adapted from the writings of well-known liberals, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, or liberal questionnaires that have been put out in recent years by the American Civil Liberties Union. The last eight are quoted verbatim from the United Nations’ ’Universal Declarations of Human Rights,’ adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Courtesy of a New Criterion article from 2003, here's Burnham's list of questions.

1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general.
11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

So, dear readers, how do you score?



Some whale watchers near Gustavus, Alaska, got a little more than they bargained for last week.

I think that's whalespeak for "Well, hello there!"


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday morning music

Some of you are going to hate me for this . . . but do you remember bubblegum pop music?  I do, with a cringe or two as I think of some groups who were very popular in the late 1960's and early to mid 1970's.  One of them was a British outfit calling themselves "Middle Of The Road".  I went to one of their live performances in South Africa in the early 1970's, for reasons that escape my adult self (put it down to what was, at the time, a less than mature musical taste, if you like!).

At any rate, they were reasonably successful in Britain and its former colonies, and had some airtime here in the USA.  Here's a selection of some of their hits.  Remember to chew gum while you listen.  (Not!)

Amazingly, they're still around!  Here's a live performance from 2016 in Berlin.

Ah, memories . . .  What were your favorite bubblegum pop groups and songs, way back when?  Let us know in Comments.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ebola: a clear and present danger, if it gets here

The latest outbreak of Ebola in central Africa is looking more and more dangerous.  It's proving very hard to contain, because it's in the middle of a "hot" conflict zone, and medical teams can't move around safely.

Aesop has some trenchant thoughts on the subject.  Here's an excerpt.

Hospitals here ... are utterly, completely, and massively unprepared to deal with this, as the Dallas example proved in about 21 days, and neither they nor the CDC wants to talk honestly about this.

Neither you, I, nor 2M other RNs nor 1M doctors has the slightest effing CLUE about dealing with this (unless they volunteered in West Africa in 2014) and come the day, they're going to make simple mistakes that'll get them dead, along with thousands to millions of their patients.

The suiting up and decon process takes half an hour each coming and going, requires scrupulous attention to detail at every step, unless you want to die, the gear is hot, a lot hotter than most people can work in for more than a couple of hours, and a "simple" pee break requires the entire 30 minute decon, then another 30 minutes to re-suit. It takes two people who do nothing but suit you up, and another who does nothing but monitor you peeling out of it without effing up and killing yourself. So imagine with me a staffing ratio of four people for every one person who can actually render bedside treatment. And you think the nursing shortage is bad now?

Bear in mind the age of the average nurse in the US is something like 50 years old, not 21 or 22. So you'll have people old enough to be retirees in the military, in the equivalent of MOPP Level IV, which is hotter than hell even in an air-conditioned room,  sweating like a pigs, and doing everything through a fogged up facepiece and two layers of gloves, in a rubber suit, with a virus that only has to get lucky once, with delirious feverish patients oozing blood from every orifice onto everything, and coughing a miasma of bloody sputum into the air. Yeah, that should work.

And then, tell me how many CNAs, EMTs, and PCTs are going to risk their lives for $10-15/hr.?

In someone's effing dreams, baby; hospitals will become ghost towns, just like Texas Health in Dallas did. In minutes and hours, not days. You'll have patients and staff going out the fire escapes and jumping down laundry chutes, mark my words.

. . .

Canada has zero BL-IV beds, AFAIK. But hey, free health care! Just like in Ebola clinics in the African bush. Should work out great for them.

Mexico has...wait, you're shitting me, right? Mexico has what you'd expect Mexico to have: a corrupt government, and an overabundance of expendable and illiterate peones. No points for guessing who'll handle clean-up there. Then take the disease home to papi y los niños, Tío Juan and Tía Julietta, y los viejos. Who will cheerfully and unknowingly spread it to all their friends, and pretty soon, you solved the immigration problem by erasing everyone from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego, except maybe some lucky isolated Indians in the deep Amazon rainforest. ¡Viva!

. . .

In 2014, we had TEN cases here.

We were two Ebola patients away from swamping the lifeboats, and turning any other hospital into Texas Health Presbyterian, which was Tier One disasterpiece theater. They exposed thousands of people, unwittingly. They had the infected guy in once, misdiagnosed it totally, and sent him home. They didn't catch on until he was brought in again in total collapse, and after throwing the entire best the first world had to offer at him, he died anyways. And infected a perfect R-naught of 2 additional victims. Only fate, or a benevolent deity, kept that incident from turning Dallas in[to] Freetown, Liberia in about two weeks, and wiping out their whole ER shift staff that night. Poorly protected clean-up crews in Dallas were pressure-washing the guy's vomit - live, active virus - onto everything within yards of his apartment in suburban Dallas, the day after it happened. Because illegal aliens with a fourth-grade education are the front line in that clean-up, hired by companies with no more sense than God gave a jackass about Hazmat gear, or proper Ebola precautions. In NYFC, they were handling stuff with no PPE whatsoever. Hand to God on that.

Sleep tight, America.

Anyone in health care who isn't concerned whenever Ebola crops up, simply and respectfully doesn't know what the hell they're talking about.

There's much more at the link.  Pungent, profane, and to the point.  Highly recommended reading.

I might add, from a personal preparedness point of view, that this scenario is the ultimate justification for having a couple of months' worth of food stored at home, along with enough essentials to get you through that period without leaving the house.  Self-quarantining your entire family until the worst is over might be the only viable option, if this disease breaks loose in your city.  Even that won't be foolproof, but it'll be a lot better than going out and risking infection.


Good question!

Shamelessly borrowed from Virtual Mirage:

Seems like a perfectly good question to me.  Furthermore, how many Congressional representatives who've quietly settled claims against them using that fund, will dare to vote to impeach President Trump, if it comes to that?

Pot, meet kettle.  Kettle, pot.


Bite-size snapshots of life in Chicago

Chicago Magazine has just published what appears to be the third in a series of vignettes of life in that city, as seen through the eyes of some of those who live and work there.  This one's from the perspective of emergency room physicians.  Here are a few excerpts.

"Your body is plumbing, electricity, and structure. Bones are the structure, electricity is the nerves in your brain, and plumbing is the blood vessels that supply oxygen to your tissues. Broken plumbing is going to kill you first, unless you get shot in the brain. I’m a glorified plumber at the end of the day."

"At a hot-dog plant in the city, a guy got his arm shredded through the meat grinder. I love hot dogs. I’m a hot-dog connoisseur. But I didn’t eat hot dogs for a month after that."

"There was a gentleman who was in custody. I’m not sure what he did. There were four police officers around him. He was cursing out my nurse—a senior nurse who has been here for 30 years. She can connect with anybody. He was egging her on: “Bitch!” Calling her a motherfucker, everything. But she kept her composure. Later I walked in to get my morning report, and she’s sitting at his bedside holding his hand and they’re talking."

"You don’t want to put a severed limb on ice directly because it can freeze or damage the tissue. You want it in a moist gauze on ice."

"I tell new residents, “You’re going to see a lot of death here.” And it’s abrupt, which is far from the norm of what you see at most hospitals."

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

There are two previous articles in the series:  "What Cops Know" and "What Teachers Know".  Both are equally illuminating.  I don't agree with some of the views expressed, but the whole idea is to see life in the Windy City through the eyes of those who have to endure it.  From that perspective, I find all the articles invaluable - and great food for thought as a writer.


Friday, August 24, 2018

I think I've met that dog

Sent to me via e-mail this morning, origin unknown:

If it was a cat, of course, it'd blame you when the "jalapenos" get a little too "hot" for its taste . . .


Marketing: it's all about the buzzwords

Having been involved with the military and security sectors for large parts of my adult life, both in uniform and out of it, I have a certain acquaintance with the ways in which companies market their products to those industries - particularly to "wannabes" who want to look the part, even if they can't actually fill the role in real life.  (There are far more self-proclaimed "Green Berets", "Rangers", "Navy SEALs", etc. in US bars than there ever were in uniform.)

One of the ways in which companies capitalize on such fantasies is to market products that are (allegedly) used by professionals in the field.  I've mentioned before how ammunition vendors try to imply that their latest, greatest, felon-blaster, magnum-stopper, destructo-gizmo round is used by security forces, particularly special forces.  They're almost always lying, or purposely using "weasel words" to misdirect our attention.  If their products were as good as they claim, the real Special Forces would switch to them at once, if not sooner, because their lives are on the line.  The fact that they don't, and carry on using tried-and-true solutions instead, is more than sufficient evidence to debunk such over-the-top marketing claims.

Another favorite marketing tool is to label everything as "tactical".  A few examples:

Of course, soldiers and warriors down the ages have never needed any of those allegedly "tactical" items to do their jobs.  I certainly got by just fine without any of those options while wearing a uniform.  It's all in the name, as far as marketing goes.

I was forcibly reminded of this today while researching a demolition tool, needed by a friend for a forthcoming project.  I found the "Stanley FatMax Xtreme 55-120 FuBar III" on Amazon, priced at $64.99:

I happened to come across this, too, the "Stanley 55-122 FuBar Forcible Entry Tool, 30 inch", priced at $159.28;

Doesn't "Forcible Entry Tool" sound much more tactical and awe-inspiring than "FuBar III"?  Yet, if you look at the details of both items, they're virtually identical in size, weight and features.  The "Forcible Entry Tool" has a couple more holes than the "Fubar III", and has fancier synthetic grips applied to the shaft, but effectively it's the same tool, renamed for the "tactical" market.  It's also 145% more expensive than the "non-tactical" version!  Do those minor, cosmetic changes justify such a steep increase in the price?  Not as far as I'm concerned!

As a general principle, if you're looking for an item of equipment for self-defense or anything remotely "tactical", by all means search for it using that term;  but then repeat the search for similar items to those that catch your eye, without the word "tactical" or "law enforcement" or whatever in the title.  You can often save a whole lot of money without sacrificing any performance at all.

As for my friend, I've advised him not to buy either of the above tools, because while they'll do an excellent demolition job, they aren't very useful for much else.  It'll be a big investment for only occasional use.  I've suggested he go with this solution, which will be almost as effective for demolition, yet also offer ongoing general utility in gardening, camping, and many other situations.

To cap it all, it's easier to carry than the above alternatives, and cheaper than either of them.  What's not to like?


"The Billion Dollar Homeless Scam"

That's what Daniel Greenfield calls the billions of dollars spent on the homeless in major US cities.

New York City will be spending $2.06 billion on its Department of Homeless Services. There are 61,421 homeless people in the city which is spending $33,539 per homeless person.

That’s only a little short of the starting salary of an FDNY firefighter at $39,000.

More money will be spent on the homeless than on the firefighters who save New Yorkers from burning buildings. The FDNY will have to make do with $2.04 billion, and the health department with $1.6 billion.

That’s impressive for DHS, a department that was only created in 1993 by the disgraced Dinkins administration and is now burning through more cash than agencies fulfilling actual vital city functions.

Two years ago, DHS had over 2,600 employees. That’s 1 employee to every 23 homeless people. Meanwhile 234 New Yorkers get only 1 police officer to serve and protect them from criminals.

Has this vast infusion of cash solved homelessness in the city? Nope.

New York’s homeless population has kept on growing until it now has more homeless people than any other city. New York City’s homeless growth rate is also faster than that of any other city.

Maybe because it spends more than any other city. But Los Angeles is catching up.

Its $4.6 billion package of homeless tax increases are staggering. Los Angeles doubled its homeless budget to $450 million. Los Angeles County plans to spend $374 million. That’s 1 percent of a budget meant to service a population of over 10 million going to just 53,193 people.

As Los Angeles threw more money at the homeless problem, its homeless population increased 26%.

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading to realize just how much money is wasted in the US political and administrative system of government.

As Albert Einstein is disputably reputed to have said:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That perfectly describes what urban governments are doing to and in their homeless programs.  It recalls Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

All such programs are ultimately scams.  They exist more to employ those with sufficient influence to warrant "patronage jobs", or whose appointment to such sinecures helps to build the empires of more senior patronage job-holders.  Their continued existence depends on manufacturing more and more work to keep those people occupied.  The actual achieving of concrete, worthwhile, desirable results is of secondary importance.

Yes, we should throw out all of them, and the politicians who created and continue to support such programs.  Will it happen?  Not while there are sufficient funds available to buy off the voters . . .


Automotive gender? Or is that pretentiousness appropriation?

Received last night via e-mail, origin unknown:


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Yes, it really is that hot in Texas

Following yesterday's article about this weekend's Hotter 'n Hell Hundred cycle race, a couple of readers asked whether it was really that hot all through summer in northern Texas.  I told them that while there were mild periods, generally we expected our temperatures to hover between 95°F and 105°F all summer long.  This year, June/July was exceptionally hot, with the mercury hitting 114°F one day - a real scorcher.

We're not alone in that.  Southern Texas gets just as hot, and sometimes more so.

ROMA, Texas — This week marks the end of the dog days of summer, the 40 hottest days of the year known along the south Texas border as the “canicula.”

Canicula is Latin for “dog star,” a reference to the Canis Major constellation that appears above the sun during the hottest days of the year.

Even before it started, the term was on residents’ minds, in part because of the host of superstitions that surround it: Children should be kept inside during canicula season. It’s not good to make big decisions, like getting an operation, during the canicula. If the canicula starts with rain, the summer will be mild. If it starts out hot and dry, as it did this year, beware.

Temperatures rose to the triple digits last month in every city across the Rio Grande Valley. The canicula was on the lips of waitresses, Rosary Society ladies and even priests, some of whom mentioned it last week during their homilies. Father Pablo Wilhelm reminded those about to leave the air-conditioned comfort of Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic Church that salvation — at least, the earthly variety — was only weeks away.

Customs agents who spent the summer baking on the border, processing immigrant families from Central America, can tell you when the canicula ends. So can Border Patrol agents charged with chasing migrants through miles of overgrown ranch land. And so can the immigrants themselves. Heat here does more than wither cotton crops and fray nerves — it kills.

There's more at the link.  I recommend that you read it with a glass of something icy cold within reach!


A very big ship, and a very big building

Here's a fascinating video for those who think that size matters more than almost everything else.  It shows a brand-new cruise ship, AIDAnova, emerging from her immense construction shed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.  The ship is the first of a new class of cruise liners fueled by liquid natural gas, rather than fuel oil or diesel.  She's being built for AIDA Cruises, the German arm of Carnival Corp., 'the world's largest travel leisure company'.

I suggest watching this in full-screen mode, and comparing the size of the ship to the people visible dockside and aboard the vessel.  She weighs over 180,000 tons, and can accommodate up to 6,600 passengers - a behemoth of her kind.

The size of the ship is all very well, but just look at the 'shed' (understatement!) in which she was built.  That's amazing!  The Meyer Werft 'Dockhalle No. 2' is listed as the sixth-largest building in the world by usable volume, with a floor area of 680,000 square feet (enough to accommodate well over 400 houses the size of mine on its floor!), and a volume of 167,000,000 cubic feet.  Here's an inside shot, showing another, equally large cruise ship under construction.

I suppose it makes economic and engineering sense to construct a ship like that under cover, so that wind and weather can't slow down operations, or damage furniture and fixtures being installed in the cabins;  but the sheer size of the building is daunting.  I wonder who thought up the concept, and decided to fund it?  It must have cost a not-so-small fortune to erect.

Here's another video of the float-out of the AIDAnova, this time focusing on the building and the activities rather than the ship herself.

It took a full day to get the ship out and into the holding dock, and make her fast to the quayside.  Here she is after it was all over, with the building in which she was constructed in front of her.

I'm unlikely to ever take a cruise - who wants to be shut up, crammed elbow-to-elbow with thousands of strangers, aboard something one can't easily escape in the event of trouble? - but the whole process of launching the AIDAnova looks to have been fascinating.  I'd have liked to have seen it for myself.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It's time for the annual Hotter 'n Hell Hundred

Wichita Falls is about to host the annual Hotter 'n Hell Hundred cycle race.  It covers a hundred miles around the region in temperatures that, at this time of year, are usually at or over (sometimes well over) a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  Thousands of riders are pouring into the city, and nervous eyes are scanning the weather forecast (which is presently 103° F - about 39½° C - for Saturday, race day, allowing the event to live up to its name).  For weeks, cyclists have been seen zooming around roads in the region, getting the feel of the course and testing their fitness against the searing summer heat in this part of the world.

Here's some footage of the 2016 event, to give you some idea of how big this race is.

The event brings out lots of community organizations, distributing water and food to the riders, helping with first aid, and so on.  Every local and regional law enforcement agency gets involved, directing traffic, helping to keep the riders on the right road, and clearing up incidents.  (One local officer, who shall remain nameless, loathes the event because of having to stand outside in the extreme heat for hours on end.  He describes, with a certain malicious relish, the sound made by less attentive riders as they plow headlong into his car, parked at the side of the road.  It seems many of them don't, or won't, lift their heads to look where they're going.  They simply look down at the line demarcating the shoulder, focus on it, and ride like bats out of hell . . . until they meet an immovable obstacle.  He says they usually fly right over his car, if they're going fast enough!)

Interestingly, the well-known Camelbak personal water system had its origins in the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred back in the 1980's.  It's come a long way since then!


Occupations, ideology, and politics

A couple of readers sent me a link to an article titled 'Occupations and Their Ideologies'.  It includes this interesting graphic, showing several occupations and how their occupants align politically.  (Clickit to biggit.)

The author offers this explanation:

Just speculating, the left-wing occupations seem to be mostly about social performance and they garner high status. The right-wing occupations are mostly about mundane things and garner zero or negative status. And the divided occupations are those that call for ambiguous combinations of these things (person-facing but socially unimpressive).

There's more at the link.

It's certainly food for thought.  Consider the current censorship of social media by the largely left-wing, progressive-oriented companies in the field such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Their staff would overwhelmingly fit the self-perceived "high status" image, even though many of us might disagree with that.  They, on the other hand, would regard the "deplorables" as having "zero or negative status", and as such not worth worrying about.


The worst battlefield in the world - cities

I'm not surprised to read the views on urban warfare of the head of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Future wars will be more Stalingrad than Star Wars, a US General has said as he warns against a relentless focus on technology.

General Stephen Townsend, the head of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, told British military leaders at the annual Kermit Roosevelt lecture in London, that combat in an increasingly urbanised world will result in a “scale of devastation beyond our comprehension”.

“The future operational environment will be more lethal and on a scale not seen in decades,” he said, as he warned military chiefs that advanced weapons will be of little use in built up areas devastated by fighting.

Modern armies have no idea how to fight in these “hyper populated [and] literally unboundable” areas, Gen Townsend told the audience ... In the battle to liberate Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), he had had to ask coalition partners if any army still used flamethrowers, as 'bunker buster' bombs had proved useless against fighters dug in amongst destroyed buildings.

. . .

General Townsend ... likened the fight to liberate Mosul to Stalingrad, the bloodiest battle of the Second World War.

A coalition force of 90,000 soldiers took nine months to finally defeat the 5,000 Isil fighters in Mosul. It took seven days to clear the last pockets of resistance, contained in an area about the size of a premier league football pitch.

Gen Townsend said that buildings taller than about four storeys would just collapse under aerial bombs with the basements and ground floors - where Isil fighters were hiding - largely intact. Subsequent bunker busters just made the ruined structure shake a bit and absorb the blast. He needed a way of killing every last Isil insurgent as they were determined to fight to the death and cause as many casualties as possible.

Eventually the Iraqi army deployed a specially designed armoured bulldozer to bury alive the remaining Isil fighters. Soldiers patrolling behind the bulldozer were used to kill any Isil suicide bombers that ran out to stop the vehicle.

It was a low-tech and brutal form of war. Gen Townsend questioned whether Western armies had maintained the skills and the stomach for such a fight. "Battles are won by young soldiers fighting in sand, mud, heat and cold," he said. Hi-tech weapons are largely useless in such battles, Gen Townsend cautioned.

There's more at the link.

My military experience is decades old, and didn't involve such intensive urban combat as Mosul.  Nevertheless, I had some interesting times in towns in African nations, and extensive exposure to urban unrest in South Africa during the 1980's.  Lower-key though those situations were, they were enough to convince me that the worst possible place to have to fight for your life was in an urban environment, where you couldn't see an opponent behind walls or rubble, and where every step exposed you to new angles of fire from potential enemy positions that you could neither see clearly nor control.  I'm sure every serviceman who saw urban combat in Iraqi cities (see, for example, the First and Second Battles of Fallujah, or the 2003 or 2008 Battles of Basra), or any Russian serviceman who found himself in the 1994/95, 1996 or 1999 Battles of Grozny, or anyone trapped in the urban warfare in Syria over the past few years (see the video "lessons" here), will be able to confirm that from their own experiences.

I agree with General Townsend on the drawbacks of high technology in such a combat environment, but with a caveat.  A new generation of tiny unmanned vehicles, both terrestrial and airborne, may lend a new dimension to urban warfare.  When individual soldiers or fire teams can deploy miniaturized drones to peer around corners, over walls and within buildings, to give them advance warning of dangers ahead, that may allow them to develop tactics that will be more effective and give them a better chance of survival.  (Of course, if and when both sides deploy the same technology, the stalemate will return.  The next step will be jammers to stop the enemy using his drones, but allow you to use yours.  The enemy will then counter that, and it's back to the same old, same old . . .)

We may see a return to siege warfare of a sort.  An attacking force may refuse to enter an urban area, because of the difficulties and costs involved in fighting there.  Instead, it may seal off the area, preventing ingress or egress, and try to "starve out" those living there.  If the defenders are terrorists rather than conventional troops, they may, in turn, try to use the inhabitants as "human shields", forcing them to provide cover from incoming fire, get food and water for the combatants, etc.  Armed forces with moral or ethical standards will try to avoid inflicting casualties on the "shields".  Those without, will not.  Either way, the "shields" are unlikely to enjoy the experience.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The other side of the "tariff war" with China

There's a great deal of talk in the news about the tariffs President Trump has imposed, and/or threatened to impose, on imports from China.  That's an ongoing issue that isn't likely to be resolved overnight.  However, it's worth bearing in mind that, while the US economy overall is larger and stronger than the Chinese, that's changing fast.

One example is that General Motors has for some years sold more cars in China than it does in the United States.  Most recent figures, for the second quarter of 2018, show that GM sold 758,376 units here, and 858,344 in China.  That's a difference of 99,968 vehicles, or over 13% more sales in China than in the USA.  Other companies are rapidly approaching the same threshold, or even passing it.

Other major economic indicators are also slowly but steadily swinging in China's favor.  This morning Flight Global reported:

For a one-word summary of the megatrend shaping the world's commercial airliner fleet, read simply "China". Our annual World Airliner Census, built on Flight Fleets Analyzer data, reveals that during the past year the distribution of the global fleet crossed a milestone. A year ago, North America – always the biggest fleet region – led the in-service jet table with 30% of the global total, ahead of Asia-Pacific and China, with 29%. This year those percentages are reversed.

(Bold print is my emphasis.)

Tariffs are intended to restore a level economic playing field between the USA and China . . . but, as the saying goes, "quantity has a quality all its own".  The US population is about 327 million people.  China has approximately 1.415 billion inhabitants - outnumbering the USA by well over four to one.  As China's population earns more, and is able to afford a higher standard of living, China's internal markets will become much larger than the USA's, and its economy will inexorably power past ours in every respect.  Within 50 years, the USA will be far behind China in terms of overall economic numbers (unless something catastrophic happens to change that).

Tariffs can provide a short-term equalization impetus, but they can't change that reality.  In the not too distant future, China will be in a position to impose its own punitive tariffs on other nations, and make them stick.  It would be wise not to provoke the dragon too much.  It has a long memory.


Tab clearing

Several articles and posts caught my eye recently.  In no particular order, they include:

  1. On Security Clearances (The Diplomad)
  2. Pulling Their Clearances Is Only the Start – It’s Time to Stamp out Elite Privilege (Townhall)
  3. Trump Is Not Trying to Silence Brennan.  The president’s strategy is the opposite: to make the former CIA director more prominent and use him as a foil (Bloomberg)
  4. Connecting some dots (Reddit - if true, this list of people and their links uncovers the "Swamp Conspiracy" against President Trump more clearly than anything else I've read)
  5. Top Far Left Organizations Bragged About Working with Facebook and Twitter to Censor and Eliminate Conservative Content (Gateway Pundit)
  6. Police Body Cams: The worst thing that could happen to Race Baiters (Gun Free Zone)
  7. And there you have it:  the NRA's many failures and self-inflicted injuries (In the Middle of the Right)
  8. Study: Humans Are Almost Surely The Only Sentient Life In The Universe (Federalist)
  9. The Best Handgun Caliber - A Real World Study (YouTube - flawed statistical analysis, but nevertheless a useful real-world study)
  10. We've Reached "Peak Vagina" (Captain Capitalism)
  11. IMPORTANT – Michael Pillsbury: China Has “New Respect” For U.S. Trade Strategy (Conservative Treehouse - new insights into how President Trump's so-called "tariff war" is working)
  12. And, last but not least:  Hippos Poop So Much That Sometimes All the Fish Die (Atlantic).

They're all interesting reading.  Enjoy!