The idle musings of a former military man, former computer geek, medically retired pastor and now full-time writer. Contents guaranteed to offend the politically correct and anal-retentive from time to time. My approach to life is that it should be taken with a large helping of laughter, and sufficient firepower to keep it tamed!
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Belt knives at bargain prices
Now and again I come across products that are so useful, and offer such good value for money, that I have to recommend them to my readers. I don't get paid or compensated for doing so - that would make it a commercial transaction, rather than a personal recommendation, and I don't do that here.
Fixed-blade knives are usually stronger than folding blades, although that's not always the case. There are general-purpose blades, and more specialized ones such as skinning knives used by hunters, fishing filet and bait knives, and so on. A good general-purpose field knife is a very, very useful tool. We've spoken of Mora and Glock knives in that category in a previous post. I continue to recommend them very highly; others have come close to equaling them in terms of quality and value for money, but not beaten them (at least, not yet). However, I've found two more that come close, and are (I think) worthy of attention.
A Ukrainian knife manufacturer, Grand Way, came to my attention when I read that it had copied the excellent Mora Outdoor 2000 knife, and was selling its version for about half the price of the original. I normally expect such knock-offs to be of very inferior quality, but I was surprised to find that the Grand Way version was actually pretty well made. It wasn't as good as the Mora, but it wasn't too far away, either. That caused me to look at the rest of the Grand Way knife range, which is very extensive. Their prices tend to be extremely reasonable compared to the "name brand" competition, and while their quality may not be as good as the latter, it's generally quite acceptable, and certainly delivers value for money.
My eye was immediately caught by what appears, at first glance, to be a copy of the excellent Buck Knives 0103 Skinner fixed blade knife, which costs $60-$80 and looks like this:
In its "Hunting Fishing Knife Model 01085", Grand Way appears to have copied the 0103's blade size and geometry relatively closely. It uses 420 steel, which is adequate for the task (Buck Knives uses 420HC, which is higher in carbon and therefore slightly harder than "straight" 420). The Grand Way handle is, to my mind, more practical for field use than the Buck Knives offering, because it's molded from soft rubber, offering a secure grip even if the hilt is wet with water, or blood, or what have you. It also has a lanyard hole, which can be very useful for retention. It looks like this:
Best of all, the Grand Way model is currently priced at just $12.99. It may not offer the same quality, fit and finish as the Buck Knives 0103, but one can buy several of the former for the cost of one of the latter. Effectively, it's a knife that does a good job, without requiring an investment that will break your heart (or your wallet) if you lose or damage it.
If you want a similar knife that looks more spiffy, Grand Way offers its FB 251 hunting knife for an even lower price, just $11.90:
There's also the Model 148109-1, which is a similar size, but in a drop point configuration, for $16.15:
All the Grand Way knives come with cordura/nylon sheaths, which look rather flimsy. I wouldn't trust them to stand up to extended wear. However, at the price, one can't really expect more. It's easy enough to make or buy better sheaths for them if needed. As I said, I prefer the rubber grip of the Model 01085 to the better-looking wood grips of the other two knives, but that's for reasons of practicality and comfort during extended use. YMMV.
None of the Grand Way knives are of the same quality as Buck Knives' products, but they come reasonably close, and they're far, far cheaper. Based on my limited experience (so far) with the Model 01085 and the Model 148109-1 (both of which I've bought with my own money - no sponsorship or compensation here), for those of us on tight budgets, they appear to offer real value and utility.
The other manufacturer that caught my eye was Tramontina, the well-known Brazilian manufacturer of all sorts of useful ironmongery. I've used their full-size machetes from time to time, and like them. I've previously expressed my fondness for Kershaw's Camp Knife, which comes in 10", 14" and 18" lengths. I particularly like the short 10" version, which is heavy enough to chop wood if necessary, and handy enough to do almost anything you need to do around camp. I own multiple copies of it.
It's not very expensive - $31.09, including free Prime shipping at Amazon.com - but that's still a stretch for some people. I was therefore interested to note that Tramontina makes a 12" machete, including a nylon sheath, for just $14.93 (again including shipping).
It's not as heavy or as well balanced as the Kershaw Camp Knife, but it's perfectly serviceable; and it's less than half the price of the latter, which has to help those on a tight budget. (If you want one without the sheath, it's even cheaper, at just $10.64.) I bought one to try out, and I'm quite happy with it. I won't give up my Camp Knives, you understand, but I'll certainly give this my seal of approval as a low-cost alternative. It'll certainly be a better option for younger members of the family, who want to "help" the adults do things, but can't be trusted to treat a more expensive tool with the care it deserves. (Of course, they can cut each other and themselves just as easily with a cheaper tool as with an expensive one . . . so be careful!)
I hope these knives help some of you with your Christmas shopping.
(EDITED TO ADD: I thought that Grand Way was a Chinese company, but a commenter informs me it's Ukrainian. After a bit of Internet searching, I confirmed that. I've corrected the article accordingly. Sorry for my mistake.)
Floating drydocks, accidents, and ingenuity
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov has been damaged during the sinking of a floating drydock. It's shown below in the dock before the undocking maneuver.
The news reminds us, once again, that floating drydocks are enormously useful, but also potentially very hazardous. They require very well-trained operators to partially submerge the dock, bring a ship into it and secure it to the dock, raise up the dock, and (after repairs are completed) submerge it again to let the vessel out. The whole operation relies on pumping water into or out of various tanks along the length and breadth of the drydock. Any miscalculation or technical problem can unbalance the dock and its contents, putting unbearable strain on its structure that can result in serious damage to the dock and/or the ship it contains. In this case, the dock sank, with the apparent loss of at least one life.
It's not the first time this has happened. The Royal Navy battleship HMS Valiant (shown below) was seriously damaged in 1944 due to miscalculations about the pumping out of an Admiralty Floating Dock in Ceylon (today Sri Lanka), and the dock itself was lost.
Wikipedia describes the incident as follows:
On 8 August 1944, she was severely damaged in an accident with the floating drydock at Trincomalee, Ceylon. The drydock was being raised with Valiant in it by pumping water from ballast tanks. The tanks were emptied in the wrong sequence for Valiant's weight distribution, which was exacerbated by her full munitions load. As a result, the drydock was over-stressed at its ends, broke its back and sank. Valiant's two inner screws were jammed as well as one of her rudders. Valiant had remained in steam and was able to avoid worse damage or sinking.
A more detailed account of the incident may be read here. It must have been "exciting" for those on board! HMS Valiant was so severely damaged that she never saw action again. Fortunately, by 1944, the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt, and her services were not as urgently required as they had been earlier in that conflict.
Another, more successful (and very innovative) use of floating drydocks occurred at Massawa on the Red Sea in 1942. US Navy engineering officer Edward Ellsberg, then a Commander (later Rear-Admiral), described how he successfully repaired the light cruiser HMS Dido, shown below (and subsequently two other Royal Navy cruisers) using a floating drydock that was far too small for them.
The Persian dry dock was, as usual for a large ship, fully but not abnormally flooded down. Excessive draft was not a problem in docking the Dido—it was her gross overweight and her excessive length that were the difficulties to be overcome.
The Persian dry dock could lift a maximum of only 6000 tons; her keel blocks could support a length of only 410 feet.
H.M.S. Dido displaced (or weighed) over 7500 tons; her length was 530 feet.
It was on the face of things my job to dry-dock a ship of 7500 tons displacement and 530 feet in length in a dry dock which could lift only 6000 tons and support a length of only 410 feet.
Of course, I could not do that. No one but God himself could have done it. I had no intention of even trying to do it. The thing that had struck me like a flash in Alex the day I was pondering the problem was that it wasn’t necessary to do it in order to repair completely the damage to the Dido. It so happened that the damage to the Dido was wholly at her stern. To repair it, all that was required was that I lift her stern clear of the water. I didn’t have to lift her bow out of the water also, as is normally done in docking any ship—there wasn’t any damage to the bow. And not having to lift her bow out of the water (which I couldn’t do simultaneously anyway) solved the other dilemma of the inability of the short dry dock to support such a long ship lest the unsupported part break off. The bow of the Dido was going to remain floating in the water at practically its normal draft forward, supported almost as usual by the sea, while I lifted only the stern clear of the water to repair the damage there.
The whole result was going to be that when docked for repairs, the Dido (and, of course, also the dry dock with her) was going to be on considerable of a slope as if sliding downhill towards her bow. The effect was to be about as if some titanic derrick had taken hold of that long cruiser at the stern and lifted that warship’s stern well out of water while leaving her bow afloat and undisturbed.
In the actual operation, the dry dock would not have to lift even 6000 tons’ worth to get the stern completely out of water; it would be easy for the dry dock. The only dangers involved were in getting too much of the lift needed, towards the bow of the dry dock—that might strain the ship there; and in getting the ship on such a steep slope that she would slide forward down the incline and capsize the keel blocks on the floor of the dry dock. The first danger could be avoided by not lifting too much with the bow compartments of the dry dock. The second danger could be eliminated by not lifting the stern any higher than necessary to repair the damage and by securing the Dido to the dry dock by stout fore and aft steel hawsers, hauled taut, so she had no chance to slide forward in the dry dock.
And that was how H.M.S. Dido was dry-docked in a dry dock too small to take her. She came into the dry dock as for any normal dry-docking, but was hauled through it till about 110 feet of her bow overhung the forward end of the dry dock altogether. Then the dry dock was pumped up with the ship level fore and aft, no trim on her, till the keel blocks of the dry dock touched for their entire length. At that point, the sliding bilge blocks were run in under the ship and the side spur shores run in against her sides to keep her from listing to either side as her stern lifted. At the same time, the steel hawsers to keep her from sliding forward were hauled taut.
After that, the dry dock was pumped up on a slant, with far more buoyancy aft than forward, till the stern of the Dido came clear of the water, leaving the overhanging bow afloat practically as usual. I stopped lifting when the stern was clear, leaving about four feet of water over the dry dock floor aft—no more than a man could wade in and reducing the slant of the ship by that much.
At that point the docking operation was completed and the repair job could start. I must admit that anyone looking across the harbor at that crazily slanted cruiser and dry dock would have concluded there was something cock-eyed going on in Massawa. And he would have been right.
Commander Ellsworth was promoted to Captain for his services at Massawa. He wrote many books, fiction and non-fiction, during his career. His three books about his World War II service are, in order of events:
Under the Red Sea Sun - clearing the port of Massawa on the Red Sea;
No Banners, No Bugles - clearing the Vichy French ports of North Africa after Operation Torch;
The Far Shore - preparing the maritime engineering infrastructure for the invasion of Europe on D-Day.
I recommend them very highly to all those interested in the behind-the-scenes reality of naval warfare, and the enormous resources required to support the fighting ships.
Punishing naughty kids, millennial edition
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Great piloting skills, mad-as-a-hatter risk-taker, or both?
Mad skillz, or just mad? I'm betting on a combination of both!
War with China?
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", as Bob Dylan reminded us. China's economy is suffering serious setbacks right now, largely due to President Trump refusing to allow the USA to continue to subsidize China by up to a trillion dollars every year due to trade imbalances and disadvantages. That nation can't tolerate that level of economic pain, because its internal stability is inextricably bound up with providing full employment and rising wages to its people. Take away the latter, and the former suffers. Therefore, in response, China is becoming more and more belligerent towards the USA and its allies. That focuses popular attention on external factors, rather than having its people blame the Communist Party and national leaders for their woes. It's the oldest trick in the political playbook . . . and it still works just as well as it ever did.
Consider these recent headlines, and sample excerpts from the articles.
Chinese warship came within 45 yards of USS Decatur in South China Sea
USS Decatur had sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands when it was approached by the Chinese destroyer.
The Chinese Navy "destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for DECATUR to depart the area," Brown added.
"The PRC destroyer approached within 45 yards of DECATUR's bow, after which DECATUR maneuvered to prevent a collision," said Brown.
Retired U.S. general says war with China likely in 15 years
"The United States needs a very strong European pillar. I think in 15 years — it's not inevitable — but it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China," Hodges told a packed room at the Warsaw Security Forum, a two-day gathering of leaders and military and political experts from central Europe.
"The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat," Hodges said.
. . .
Hodges told The Associated Press that a recent near-miss between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Chinese warship in the disputed South China Sea was only one of the signs pointing to an "an increasingly tense relationship and increasing competition in all the different domains."
Others, he said, are China's "constant stealing of technology" and how China is gaining control of infrastructure by funding projects in Africa and Europe. He said that in Europe, China owns more than 10 percent of the ports.
‘Prepare for war’, Xi Jinping tells military region that monitors South China Sea, Taiwan
Xi’s visit to the military command was one of several he made during a four-day trip to the south China province aimed at bolstering confidence amid an economic slowdown, and growing trade and strategic disputes with the United States.
Details of his speech came a day after China’s State Councillor General and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said the country would never give up “one single piece” of its territory and warned that “repeated challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan were extremely dangerous and would result in military action.
. . .
Military observers said Xi’s comments were most likely intended to boost morale and reiterate Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“It’s likely intended as a signal to the US in particular and any parties that Beijing perceives to be causing provocation [in the disputed waters],”...
The biggest military fiction. Taiwan being able to defend & the US being able to assist in its defense.
No matter how you slice it, we are victims of time and distance. The Chinese are too close, we're too far away and the Taiwanese have been so thoroughly infiltrated that success is impossible.
Look at the Chinese order of battle.
Do the same for Taiwan.
The results of your count should be obvious. Taiwan will fall.
One Man's View
While it's not covered here in the mainstream media, the Chinese press is whipping up people in the PRC to prepare for war with the USA. It has to do with Taiwan and with serious economic downturns in the worker's paradise. There's talk on the street in Shanghai of interning Americans living in China during the upcoming war.
From Berlin, Beijing, to Brasilia – a New Era is Setting Up
After centuries of humiliation from near and far abroad, China is returning to her place in the world. Few see how huge this move will be. The scale is hard to grasp for many. You could remove the equivalent of the entire population of the USA, and China would still have almost a billion people.
Unlike her fellow mega-nation India, China is not content with making things best inside her borders.
She wants a global stage, and she is buying as much of it as she wants to.
She was not party to this “Liberal World Order” others keep telling her about, and she is not bound to it. She reserves the right to approach international law cafeteria style; she’ll take what she wants and slide by the rest.
She has scores to settle and strategic depth to secure.
There are simply too many indicators out there to take this lightly. I'm by no means an expert on China and the relations between our nations, but other people are - and they all seem to be concerned. I've learned enough in my life to be pretty sure that when I read so many articles like those above, they amount to what experienced investigators call "a clue". We need to read the signs of the times.
God forbid that we should find ourselves at war with China, whether far from our shores or upon them. We can't afford that, and we probably can't win - China is already too powerful in military terms, and it has an immense advantage in that most basic of yardsticks, its population. However, China probably can't win either, in terms of defeating the USA. The most we could hope for is that hostilities would eventually grind to a halt simply because both sides had suffered enormous damage, and couldn't afford to fight any longer. That's a miserable outcome for the survivors on both sides.
A reader weighs in on the Tac Tool debate
Yesterday's post about the Ka-Bar Tac Tool produced a number of comments and e-mails among those who know about and use such things. One extended reply was submitted by reader Raven, who agreed to share it with all of us. Given his background and experience, I found it interesting.
My comments are not too well organized but do come from 50 years of manual labor- mechanical, logging, commercial fishing, woodworking etc.
Modern life is packed with gadgets- any hobby or vocation is filled with trinkets to part people from their money- newest and best gimmick on the block syndrome- everyone looking to develop a new niche product to fill some perceived or imaginary void. And every once in a while someone hits a home run- but rarely.
IMO, with all due respect, most of those "all purpose whack'n chop" tools are just belt jewelry for the tacticool, and people who have never really worked with tools on a long term daily basis. And the danger of using a very marginal tool to try to accomplish a task is real- for example, using something as a pry par that has cutting edges on it, is asking to be badly cut, when it slips, it will be with full body weight behind it...All of a sudden the problem got much worse.
I never understood the "cutting brush" business- unless you are clearing for column of infantry behind you, it is far easier and quicker to sneak through it or walk around it.. And if one really has to "cut brush", the tool to use is not a chopper or machete of any sort- it is a set of tree trimming shears. How prosaic. And chopping? Why, exactly? To cut firewood? Ha ha ha. Give me a break- if one is in the woods, and needs to start a fire , use deadwood, burn it from the ends. And a simple notch cut with a penknife will create a stress riser to break off a modest sized dry branch. If you really absolutely have to cut through something, a lightweight folding swede saw is the way to go. And splitting wood? What they like to call "batoning? HA HA HA- if you gotta split shakes, get a froe - that's what they are made for. I get the impression most of the advocates for the whack'n choppers can't decide if they are going to evade the enemy or timber frame a vacation home- in either case, the tool is crap.
(a fire starting tip- if you are in a forested area, look for a nice old rotted stump from a coniferous tree- standing out in the soft duff of rot there will be hard spikes of undecayed wood filled with pitch, and they will burn like a candle when used as a firestarter. Smokes like the dickens too, so not good if bad people are looking for you)
For 50 bucks, a guy could go to a thrift store and buy a nice American made framing hammer or framing axe- AKA- Bec de Corbin / mace, a nice American made pry bar, a pair of vice grips and and knife and be worlds ahead. Add an old E-tool and be a universe ahead. And an old carpenters tool bag. And a handful of nails- Now a pry bar is exponentially more useful if a hammer is available to drive it into a crack. And if one has a bit of skill, they could even trade a meal for a simple repair job! Throw in a hardhat and reflective vest and you could go anywhere without a second look....just another construction worker.
they won't have to explain to the cops what that funny weapon looking thing is either.
One has to assume these whack'n choppers are meant to be carried in a vehicle, as such an implement would be the first thing dumped on a long walk, so there is no weight penalty for having a bag of goodies in the truck that will actually be of some use, they won't go on a walk either.
Tools If you have to walk-
An rarely mentioned item of clothing- a good brimmed hat.
a Mora knife- light, strong, sharp.
A multitool with locking pliers. Kershaw 100 is my favorite, no longer made. A broken piece of hacksaw blade or two, and a scalpel blade, and a few feet of .030 stainless steel rigging wire. (boat wire, for securing turnbuckles etc- it is tough , strong, and malleable). All of which can be clamped in the pliers and put to use. The locking function means you have a clamp, as well as a pliers. Do not underestimate the value of a clamp!!
A small LED flashlight. (Light of Galadriel)
the normally carried pocketknife.
DEET. a "tool" of near infinite value..
Just with the above, things are getting heavy.....when everything else is added in.
In wooded country, maybe a folding saw like one of the Japanese folding tree trimming saws or a sven saw. For cutting shelter.
Couple of vicegrip stories- once when I was way back in the boonies with my dirt bike, I lost the shift lever-bolt came loose and it slid off the splines-a vice grip pliers clamped on gave an impromptu shift lever and saved miles of walking.
A friend, who's father ran a makeshift sawmill ( aren't they all?) , was fond of relating how he was riding with his father on a tough downhill run when the shift lever on his logging truck broke off almost flush with the floor, and without missing a beat his dad grabbed a pair of vicegrips, clamped them on the stub and kept rolling!
The same guy liked to use the classic colloquialism, "don't force it!. Use a bigger hammer." Like I said, makeshift...
Useful advice. Thanks, Raven!
Monday, October 29, 2018
That's telling 'em!
The Ka-Bar Tac Tool: way overpriced for what it offers
In a great many markets for self-defense, security, do-it-yourself, "tacticool" and similar products, there's a high volume of hype and exaggeration in advertising. Most of it is completely without foundation. It's meant to appeal to the "boys and their toys" market, where (sadly) many men can be seduced into buying something because it's the latest and greatest and "coolest" thing out there. Whether or not it's worth its asking price is seldom asked. We looked at earlier manifestations of this in 2014, in terms of wilderness and survival tools and knives, and also last August, when we examined two wrecking tools from the same manufacturer. The "tactical" label on one was apparently sufficient justification to charge 145% more for it than its almost identical "non-tactical" equivalent.
I was reminded of this issue when I read the most recent article on Commander Zero's blog. He's a very knowledgeable man in the field of survival gear and procedures, and I've learned a lot from him. However, in this specific case, I'm going to respectfully disagree with him, on the grounds of value for money and return on investment.
Commander Zero writes in praise of the KA-BAR 200038 BK3 Becker Tac Tool.
Among other things, he says:
It’s really just a sharpened crowbar with a handle. I have it expressly for the purpose of cutting, chipping, prying, hacking, hammering my way out of or through whatever is between me and safety. Prying open doors, busting windows out of frames, hinge pins out of doors, and all that sort of thing. I have a more ‘regular’ knife or two in my bag as well, but this is the big kahuna for when something needs to be destroyed.
That's all well and good: but the lowest price I've been able to find for this tool (on Amazon.com) is $97.98. For almost a hundred bucks, it had better be head and shoulders above its competitors . . . but it's not. There are very viable alternatives available for far less money. They may look less menacing or less "tacticool", but they're every bit as effective - in some cases, much more so. For example, here are a few options in ascending order of price (also on Amazon.com, and also with free Prime shipping, for ease of head-to-head comparison with the Ka-Bar tool - all prices correct at the time of writing):
- A Stanley STHT55134 FUBAR Demolition Bar, which offers more options than the Ka-Bar tool in a slightly larger and heavier package, is just $17.99.
I can buy five of them for the price of one Ka-Bar Tac Tool, and have change left over.
- The Off Grid Tools Survival Axe combines a useful hatchet, hammer, claw, pry bar, hex sockets and a 6" saw in a compact package for just $32.88.
I can buy three of them for the price of a single Ka-Bar tool, and have greater functionality into the bargain.
- The Dead On Tools 14-inch AN14 Annihilator Wrecking Bar is only slightly larger and heavier, offers a few different options, and is priced at $39.99.
I can buy two of them for the price of one Ka-Bar, and have almost twenty dollars left in my pocket.
- The Trucker's Friend from Off Grid Tools combines a useful axe, a hammer and a pry bar into a single tool.
It's larger and heavier than their Survival Axe (see above), and a lot more versatile than the Ka-Bar, but is still priced at just $49.55. I could buy two of them for just 1.1% more than a single example of the latter.
Any of these tools would give me similar (in some cases far better) functionality to/than the Ka-Bar Tac Tool, at a considerable saving in money. The Ka-Bar is neither fish nor fowl. It's too big and heavy to be a convenient, carry-anywhere knife, but it's too small and doesn't offer enough options to be an optimum wrecking tool. I don't deny its versatility, and I'm sure that in an emergency, it can and will do everything its manufacturers claim. However, I object to it being priced at a premium, while offering less versatility and overall usefulness than many competing products costing far less.
For my money, I'll buy a Stanley STHT55134 for less than a fifth of the price of the Ka-Bar. It'll do anything the latter will. If I need to carry it on my belt, I can either just slide it between belt and trousers - the rear "lip" will hold it in place - or make a belt loop or sheath from nylon webbing, Kydex, a flattened piece of PVC plumbing pipe, or even a plastic one-gallon water or milk jug. (You'll find lots of "how-to" videos on YouTube.) If I want to tackle bigger, heavier jobs, I'll add the Trucker's Friend. The two together will cost me only about two-thirds the price of a single Tac Tool.
As for knives, I've got plenty of them. I don't need a sharpened pry-bar for cutting (although I think the Stanley will do as well as the Tac Tool for that purpose, if necessary). I'll have a folding knife in my pocket for small jobs. For heavier work, there'll be a trusty (and reasonably priced) Mora or Glock knife in my rucksack or on my belt. If something bigger and stronger is needed, I'll turn to a low-cost machete or (a personal favorite) the Kershaw camp knife (I find the 10" version to be very tough and versatile). All those choices are far cheaper (and many are lighter and more portable) than the Tac Tool.
"You pays your money and you takes your choice", as the old saying reminds us. I'm sorry, but I regard the Tac Tool as ridiculously overpriced. If they reduce it to about $20-$25, I'll take another look; but until then, there are far more cost-effective options out there.
I'm grateful to Commander Zero for writing his review of the Tac Tool, even though I disagree with his conclusion. Who knows? If a few of us can get a dialog going, where we each discuss tools (and categories of tools) where we have enough knowledge to speak with some authority, and can therefore help to sort out the wheat from the chaff, perhaps all of us can benefit - and our readers, too.
For those of us who didn't win the Powerball jackpot . . .
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Sunday morning music
In memory of the victims of yesterday's hate crime at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, here's the traditional Jewish prayer, Kaddish, recited for the dead.
May the souls of the victims rest in peace: and may anti-Semitism, which is just another form of the even more ancient evils of racism and sectarianism, be cursed along with them in the sight of God and humankind. May those who espouse such views come to their senses before another such evil is perpetrated. That's a pipe dream, I know . . . but it's still worth praying for.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Useful post-election security advice from Greg Ellifritz
We've mentioned Greg Ellifritz several times in these pages. He's produced a couple of very useful articles about how to prepare for and/or react to possible violence following the imminent mid-term elections. Given the social turmoil in these dis-United States right now, this may be prescient.
He has two articles focusing specifically on that issue, and a third on a possible rioter's weapon.
Post Election Riots?
Post Election Violence Part II - Surviving the Flash Mob
Dealing with Molotov Cocktails and Fire Bombs
Post Election Violence Part II - Surviving the Flash Mob
Dealing with Molotov Cocktails and Fire Bombs
They're very informative and practical. I learned and re-learned several important lessons while reading them. For example: "Tear gas will destroy your soft contacts…trust me. You will never want to put them back in again if you get exposed. If you need your lenses to see, carry a spare pair." I don't wear contact lenses, so I'd never considered this. If you, or your loved ones, use them, you should heed Greg's advice. For those relying on spectacles (or eyeglasses that are endangered by being too close to the spectacle!), it might be worth considering keeping a spare set on hand. That includes reading glasses, if you need them.
All three articles are worthwhile and recommended reading, particularly for those living in or near areas where urban unrest may be expected if the election results are not to the liking of the angry classes. (Berkeley, CA; Portland, OR; I'm looking at you!)
No word on the smell . . .
I was taken aback (sort of) by reading about a new technique for producing bricks . . . using human urine.
The world’s first ‘bio-brick’ made from human urine was unveiled by University of Cape Town (UCT) civil engineering masters student Suzanne Lambert on Wednesday.
. . .
Dr Dyllon Randall, Lambert’s supervisor and senior lecturer in water quality at UCT, explained that the “bio brick” is created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation.
“It’s not unlike the way seashells are formed,” Randall said.
Parts of the urine are combined with loose sand and a bacteria to produce an enzyme called urease which breaks down the urine to produce calcium carbonate through a complex chemical reaction.
The calcium carbonate turns the sand into "cement". The bricks are made in moulds at room temperature - better for the environment, as regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures around 1 400°C and produce vast quantities of carbon dioxide.
The strength of the bio-bricks would depend on client needs.
“If a client wanted a brick stronger than a 40% limestone brick, you would allow the bacteria to make the solid stronger by ‘growing’ it for longer,” said Randall.
There's more at the link.
I daresay this process might have all sorts of useful applications in areas where bricks are hard to come by and/or make . . . but I can't help feeling a bit queasy about the process. How are you going to go about collecting the urine? Shared urinals draining into a barrel? If you can't flush them, that's going to get a bit aromatic after a while. The article also points out that men might have an easier time "donating" urine than women, particularly where tribal taboos predominate (which, in Africa, is a large part of the continent). And what about "number two"? It's going to be hard, if not impossible, to separate "number one" from the solids involved. Can animal urine also be used? If so, how to collect it?
Still, those are just details. If the new process works, and it's cheaper and easier than current technology, there's sure to be interest in it. I just hope the odor of urine doesn't carry over to the bricks - or the houses built with them!
Friday, October 26, 2018
Where the USA stands in 2018
We've met Angelo Codevilla in these pages before. He's a sharp, incisive, reliably thought-provoking observer of these United States, and his predictions have proven to be accurate more often than not.
He's just come out with his latest article, titled "Our Revolution’s Logic". I think it's essential reading, critically important, particularly prior to next month's elections. Here's a lengthy excerpt.
Prior to the 2016 election I explained how America had already “stepped over the threshold of a revolution,” that it was “difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate how it might end.” Regardless of who won the election, its sentiments’ growing “volume and intensity” would empower politicians on all sides sure to make us nostalgic for Donald Trump’s and Hilary Clinton’s moderation. Having begun, this revolution would follow its own logic.
What follows dissects that logic. It has unfolded faster than foreseen. Its sentiments’ spiraling volume and intensity have eliminated any possibility of “stepping back.”
. . .
This is our revolution: Because a majority of Americans now no longer share basic sympathies and trust, because they no longer regard each other as worthy of equal consideration, the public and private practices that once had made our Republic are now beyond reasonable hope of restoration. Strife can only mount until some new equilibrium among us arises.
The logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior. With Newtonian necessity, each such exercise causes a corresponding and opposite reaction. The logic’s force comes not from the substance of the Progressives’ demands. If that were the case, acquiescing to or compromising with them could cut it short. Rather, it comes from that which moves, changes, and multiplies their demands without end. That is the Progressives’ affirmation of superior worth, to be pursued by exercising dominance: superior identity affirmed via the inferior’s humiliation. It is an inherently endless pursuit.
The logic is rooted in disdain, but not so much of any of the supposed inferiors’ features or habits. If it were, the deplored could change their status by improving. But the Progressives deplore the “deplorables” not to improve them, but to feel good about themselves. Hating people for what they are and because it feels good to hate them, is hate in its unalloyed form.
. . .
The 2008 financial crisis ... showed “government by the people, for the people” to be a fable.
This forced the recognition that there exists a remarkably uniform, bipartisan, Progressive ruling class; that it includes, most of the bureaucracies of federal and state governments, the judiciary, the educational establishment, the media, as well as major corporate officials; that it had separated itself socially, morally, and politically from the rest of society, whose commanding heights it monopolized; above all that it has contempt for the rest of America, and that ordinary Americans have no means of persuading this class of anything, because they don’t count.
As the majority of Americans have become conscious of the differences between this class and themselves they have sought ever more passionately to shake it off. That is the ground of our revolution.
. . .
The 2016 election’s primaries were all about the American people’s search for means of de-throning increasingly insufferable rulers ... Donald Trump was out of central casting—seemingly a caricature of what the ruling class said about its opponents. But the words he spoke were less significant than that he spoke with angry contempt for the ruling class. That ... is what got him elected President of the United States.
Those who voted for Trump believing or hoping that he would do a, b, or c, were fewer than those who were sure that he offered the only possibility of ending, or at least pausing, the power of an increasingly harmful, intolerant, disdainful, socio-political identity. In 2016 one set of identities revolted against another. That was the revolution’s first turn.
The ruling class’s “resistance” to the 2016 election’s outcome was the second turn. Its vehemence, unanimity, coordination, endurance,and non-consideration of fallback options—the rapidity with which our revolution’s logic has unfolded—have surprised and dismayed even those of us who realized that America had abandoned its republican past.
The “resistance” subsequent to the election surprises, in part, because only as it has unfolded have we learned of its scope prior to the election. All too simply: the U.S government’s upper echelons merged politically with the campaign of the Democratic Party’s establishment wing, and with the media. They aimed to secure the establishment candidates’ victory and then to nullify the lost election’s results by resisting the winners’ exercise of legitimate powers, treating them as if they were illegitimate. The measure of the resistance’s proximate success or failure would come in the 2018 elections.
Partisan “dirty tricks” are unremarkable. But when networks within government and those who occupy society’s commanding heights play them against persons trying to unseat them, they constitute cold civil war against the voters, even coups d’etat. What can possibly answer such acts? And then what?
. . .
What matters a lot is that our ruling class does not deal and will never again deal with their opponents as fellow citizens. Theirs was a quintessentially revolutionary act, after which there is no stepping back.
The “resistance” worked. You may have won the last election, said the ruling class. But we’re still in charge. Indeed, they are. And they might stay that way. But human nature ensures that people reply, and repay. Establishment Republicans were driven to admit that their kind could no longer buy the Left’s comity. Hence the Wall Street Journal’s editorial announcing “We’re all deplorables now.” That is the only sense in which the “resistance” may rue the Kavanaugh saga. That is revolution’s logic.
. . .
In short, the “resistance” has begun to radicalize middle America. It redoubled millions of Americans’ sense of siege, their fear of unbridled rule by unaccountable powers, of being accused of “hate speech,” of normal life made impossible by Progressive socio-political demands. It confirmed the sense that Donald Trump and such as he, whatever their faults, are all that stands between themselves and having an alien way of life imposed upon them ... Political correctness is more virulent than ever, speech is more restricted than ever. Being on the wrong side of the right people is more dangerous than ever.
. . .
At any rate, what happens in our revolution’s third turn depends less on what Trump will do than on what millions of people on all sides will do.
Who will accept losing the next elections? Odds are that neither the Left nor, now, the Right will accept it. What forms may such rejections take?
. . .
Unattainable, and gone forever, is the whole American Republic that had existed for some 200 years after 1776. The people and the habits of heart and mind that had made it possible are no longer a majority. Progressives made America a different nation by rejecting those habits and those traditions. As of today, they would use all their powers to prevent others from living in the manner of the Republic.
There's more at the link.
If you care about this country's future, and wonder where we're headed, I don't know many commenters who have a more penetrating perspective than Prof. Codevilla - or who have been proven more prescient. Very highly recommended reading.
Doofus Of The Day #1,030
Today's award goes to a spider-hunting inadvertent pyromaniac in California.
A man who was house-sitting for his parents set their home on fire when he used a blowtorch to kill spiders, according to authorities.
. . .
"The tenant used a torch like a handheld propane torch to kill the spiders that were around the base of the residential structure, and in doing so some flame from the torch went in between some of the cracks and the siding and into the interior of the wall," [Lee Wilding, deputy fire marshal with the Fresno Fire Department, told ABC News]. "It started a small fire within the wall that then traveled up into the attic through the wall space and into the attic to cause a larger fire."
. . .
Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo told ABC News Fresno affiliate KFSN-TV that the man could have used insect repellent to get rid of the spiders rather than a blowtorch.
"We don't ever recommend using some type of heating device like that to get rid of any vermin or spiders,” Escobedo told KFSN. “This probably was a bad idea."
There's more at the link.
Helluva house-sitting job there, son. That was really hot stuff. I wonder if your parents will ask you to do that again?
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Tugboats at work
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, the so-called "Tavern of the Seas". Its harbor hosted vessels from all over the world as they made their way around the Cape of Good Hope. It boasted several hard-working tugboats, busily bustling from berth to berth as they assisted with the docking and undocking of all sorts of ships. Their crews and captains were mostly experts at their trade . . . with a few exceptions. I've watched tugs come boiling up to a ship at what looked like a dangerously high speed, only to put their propellers into reverse and come to a gentle stop exactly where they needed to be - most of the time. On a few memorable occasions, the captain left it too late, and there was a loud thump as tug's bow met ship's hull. (This was usually accompanied by loudly screamed profanity from both vessels, that my youthful ears fortunately couldn't understand very well.) More modern tugs, equipped with steerable thrusters, could stop much more easily and even turn in their own length. They could pull ships while going sideways if need be.
It was always fun to watch the tugs at work, particularly for a small boy who was enthralled by the clouds of thick black coal smoke rising from the stacks of the older ones, and the ear-splitting tooting of their high-pitched steam whistles (usually answered by the deep bass tones of a freighter's or liner's horn). Here's one of them, the T. S. McEwen (built in 1925, and named for a senior South African railways and harbors executive) assisting what looks like a mail ship of the Union-Castle Line in windy conditions. The world-famous Table Mountain is in the left and center background, with Lion's Head to the right. (Click the image for a larger view.)
T. S. McEwen was renowned for her funnel smoke.
She was better know[n] in Cape Town as Smoky Sue, due to the fact that she put out huge palls of smoke from her coal-fired boilers. She got this name from the shipping journalist George Young.
One time when she assisted the Cunard cruise liner FRANCONIA by docking, she put out a spectacular pall, which enveloped everybody on the bridge and prevented them from seeing ahead.
When assisting the liner FAIRSKY one time her smoke was drawn through the ventilation system of the vessels and many passengers thought the vessel was on fire.
(EDITED TO ADD: Here's a brief excerpt from an early 1970's video of T. S. McEwen at work. You can see how she got her nickname! Compare the black coal smoke from her funnel with the white oil-fuel smoke from the liner moored at the dockside.)
I was reminded of the tugs in Cape Town by an amusing post over at Hawsepiper's place this morning. Here's an excerpt.
We swap out tugboats constantly, and the cadre of experienced New York-based tugboaters is in high demand for their skills. While NY doesn't have the ripping giant tides of New England, neither does anywhere else in the lower 48, and compared to the docile rivers and bays of the south, where the current might be fast but is predictable, New York's rivers, bays and harbors are a crucible that purifies the skills of a tugboater, forcing the dross out.
Or, you know, forcing employers to pay for all the destruction the dross causes, which is also a strategy.
Well, we have a diverse bunch of tugboaters in our stable. The NY-based guys are in great demand, as they can moor and unmoor without crashing, or at least with controlled crashing. The Out-Of-Towners are more variable. Some are excellent boathandlers no matter where they are. Others are just wrecking ball operators, treating their tugs like a Peloponnesian war galley.
There's more at the link.
The image he chose just cracked me up. I think I've met some of the same tugboat skippers he has . . . or, at least, their South African relatives! I wonder if they're descended (in spirit, at least) from those early Peloponnesian galley captains?
Souls, cupcakes, fiddles and math
Why did math classes in high school never have interesting problems like that? I might have scored better if they had!
A doctor speaks bluntly about untimely death
Dr. Louis M. Profeta (his website is here) penned an angry, yet thought-provoking article earlier this month, titled "I'll Look at Your Facebook Profile Before I Tell Your Mother You're Dead".
It kind of keeps me human. You see, I’m about to change their lives — your mom and dad, that is. In about five minutes, they will never be the same, they will never be happy again. Right now, to be honest, you’re just a nameless dead body that feels like a wet bag of newspapers that we have been pounding on, sticking IV lines and tubes and needles in, trying desperately to save you. There’s no motion, no life, nothing to tell me you once had dreams or aspirations. I owe it to them to learn just a bit about you before I go in.
. . .
Maybe you were texting instead of watching the road, or you were drunk when you should have Ubered. Perhaps you snorted heroin or Xanax for the first time or a line of coke, tried meth or popped a Vicodin at the campus party and did a couple shots. Maybe you just rode your bike without a helmet or didn’t heed your parents’ warning when they asked you not to hang out with that “friend,” or to be more cautious when coming to a four-way stop. Maybe you just gave up.
Maybe it was just your time, but chances are . . . it wasn’t.
So I pick up your faded picture of your driver’s license and click on my iPhone, flip to Facebook and search your name.
. . .
You’re kind of lucky that you don’t have to see it. Dad screaming your name over and over, mom pulling her hair out, curled up on the floor with her hand over her head as if she’s trying to protect herself from unseen blows.
I check your Facebook page before I tell them you’re dead because it reminds me that I am talking about a person, someone they love—it quiets the voice in my head that is screaming at you right now shouting: “You mother ******, how could you do this to them, to people you are supposed to love!”
There's more at the link. You should read the whole thing.
As a pastor, I had to do this more than once . . . far too many times, in fact, although by no means as often as an emergency room physician like Dr. Profeta.
I remember a car driven by a teenager who'd just got her license. To celebrate, she took three of her girlfriends for a ride one evening. She turned out of the side road where all their families lived, onto a main road that would take them to a local hangout for ice cream . . . and was T-boned by a fully loaded truck that she didn't notice, and that couldn't turn or stop in time to avoid them. All four girls were killed.
How can anyone bring any meaningful comfort to four sets of shocked, stunned, almost hysterical parents (not to mention the dead girls' siblings) who've just had the bottom knocked out from under their worlds? Anyone who tries to peddle pious platitudes in such a situation deserves to have his teeth knocked out. It wasn't "God's will" at all - it was a stupid human mistake, from an otherwise nice, normal teenage girl, that killed her and three of her best friends. Sometimes all one can do is follow St. Paul's advice: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep". Pain such as that can only be shared. It can't be wished or counseled away. Only tears make sense at such a time, until some semblance of sanity can return . . . and for some of their families, it never did fully return. I know. I knew them all.
Friends, if you have young people in your family, or know them, or work with them, please try to get them to read Dr. Profeta's article. If it makes them think, it might save their lives . . . and save their families a grief that's too deep for words to ever describe it.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
The REAL rate of inflation is getting seriously bad
I've written often enough about inflation in these pages, with three prior posts this year alone:
I'm getting seriously worried about inflation
Lies, damned lies, and inflation
Inflation and the "burrito index"
Lies, damned lies, and inflation
Inflation and the "burrito index"
I took care to point out how profoundly flawed and unrealistic the "official" rate of inflation is. Much more accurate and realistic measurements may be found at Shadowstats or the Chapwood Index, both of which are (IMHO) indispensable.
Miss D. and I had an object lesson in this inflationary reality yesterday, when we went shopping at Sams Club for ingredients for a supper for friends. Admittedly, we didn't buy cheap stuff: we bought meat, dried fruit, and some fancy frills, with no cheap carbs included at all. Nevertheless, this is all stuff we've bought before. We got severe sticker shock at the till. The total cost for everything was at least 30% higher than the last time we'd bought it, and closer to 40% on the overall bill. This is over a period of not more than six to nine months!
I've been noticing it as well during the last couple of weeks, as I sort through our emergency supplies, discard those that are well past their expiry date, and replace them with new stocks. The replacement prices for many items are between 50% and 100% higher than they were only two to four years ago! We're talking things like canned tuna, chicken and beef, trail mix bars, sachets of condiments, and so on. Staples such as rice, dried beans, etc. aren't as badly affected, but they're still up to a third higher than they were last time I checked.
We aren't serious "preppers" by any means - we can't afford to be. I've slowly built up about three months' supply of food on hand, much of which consists of our regular pantry items stacked a little deeper than usual. However, I'm beginning to think that those who've salted away a year or more of food supplies may well find their cache is a very welcome hedge against inflation, as well as for emergencies. If something is too expensive to afford right now, they can consume their stored reserves of it until its price comes down again, or until they can afford to restock. That will add very practical everyday value to one's emergency preparations.
If you've noticed the same sort of cost increases, you're not alone. Here are two recent articles providing more information than any "official" source:
I highly recommend that you read both of them carefully, considering the points raised by the authors. The charts provided in the first article are particularly informative. If you don't understand this stuff, you won't understand why your money is being stretched further and further every day, and buying less and less.
We continue to sink deeper and deeper into a high-inflation environment; yet, our government continues to lie to us about it, because if they told the truth, they'd have to adjust their entitlement programs, salaries, pensions, etc. in accordance with the facts - and that would bankrupt them (and our nation). They'd rather lie, and hope we don't notice what they're doing. That applies across the board, to Democrats and Republicans alike. There are few if any honest politicians when it comes to the economic facts of life.
Your wallet is proof positive, in itself, that they're up to no good. We're all going to pay the price for that - economically and otherwise.
A public service reminder . . .
. . . courtesy of Aesop, who's produced dozens of these (all of them giggle-worthy).
"Too heavy" leads to "Too slow" leads to . . . dead?
Strategy Page outlines the dilemma facing the designers of modern infantry protective gear.
The U.S. Army finally (in 2017) agreed to do a study of the impact of the weight American infantry carry into combat and the impact of that weight on performance. The troops have been complaining about this weight issue for some time. The average weight carried is 54 kg (119 pounds) and while about a third of that can be dropped in an emergency, most of it (weapons and protective gear) cannot. The IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) and helmet account for a third of the weight. Worse the IOTV restricts movement and this is a major shortcoming in combat.
Because of this, the U.S. Army is having second thought about its IOTV and current body armor designs in general.
. . .
What the army has not tweaked is the weight and, to a lesser extent, the restrictive nature of the vest. While the troops appreciate changes that make it easier to move about while encumbered by the vest, what was bothering troops most, especially the infantry who have to run around on foot wearing IOTV while fighting, was the weight ... Marine and Army experts point out that the drive (created mainly by politicians and the media) for "better" body armor resulted in heavier and more restrictive (to battlefield mobility) models. This has more than doubled the minimum weight you could carry into combat. The report agreed with troop complaints that the excessive weight caused increased fatigue, reduced speed in combat and made it difficult to use weapons quickly and effectively when the enemy was encountered. The report also pointed out that a third of the troops shipped out of the theater for treatment of injuries were suffering from weight-related problems (musculoskeletal injuries) and that was twice as many suffered from enemy fire.
. . .
This weight issue is a relatively recent problem. Until the 1980s, you could strip down (for actual fighting) to your helmet, weapon (assault rifle and knife), ammo (hanging from webbing on your chest, along with grenades), canteen and first aid kit on your belt, and your combat uniform. Total load was 13-14 kg (about 30 pounds), which is as much as the IOTV alone weighs. You could move freely and quickly while carrying only 14 kg and you quickly found that speed and agility was a lifesaver in combat. But now the minimum load carried is at least twice as much (27 kg) and, worse yet, more restrictive to mobility and speed.
. . .
The enemy has also adapted, knowing that the more heavily encumbered Americans were not as agile or as fast and that could be exploited. The frustration of being slower than your foe often led U.S. troops to exertions that brought on musculoskeletal injuries. The new body armor may protect from bullets and shell fragments but it does nothing for over exuberant troops.
So the soldiers and marines are getting louder in their demands for relief from protection they don't need and restrictive protective vests that can get them killed.
There's much more at the link. Recommended reading.
It's great that the new protective gear has reduced serious injuries and deaths as much as it has: but my own memories of running around in an operational zone, carrying all the weight of a 1970's and 1980's serviceman, are not happy ones. Weight is not your friend at the best of times, and in extreme climatic conditions, it's even more so. You can become so exhausted that you can't react quickly enough to the stimulus of gunfire or an ambush, can't return fire accurately or fast enough to stop someone hitting you or your buddies, and can't get your mind into gear to deal with injuries or other problems to your buddies that require instant attention. It's like your mind is wading through molasses in its efforts to respond - usually unsuccessfully. It's terrifying to experience.
I hope the US Army's study bears fruit. An infantryman carrying up to 120 pounds of gear is not capable of responding and reacting as fast as he should. It's as simple as that. When it comes to women in combat, it's even worse, because in general they don't have the muscle mass to cope with that burden. It's almost guaranteed to get them killed or injured at far higher rates than male soldiers.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
What a carry on!
I'm running around doing far too many things this morning, so blog posting will be a little sparse. To keep you entertained, here's a scene from the 1966 British comedy, "Don't Lose Your Head". It's the thirteenth in the "Carry On" movie series, and is a spoof on the Scarlet Pimpernel stories by Baroness Orczy, dating back to 1905, concerning an English nobleman who sets out to rescue French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution. Needless to say, things go hilariously wrong on all levels, almost all the time.
I grew up on a diet of the "Carry On" movies. I suspect their influence is still visible in my sense of humor . . .
We don't need more government programs for the poor
I'm getting more and more annoyed by claims from liberal and left-wing politicians that we need to provide more money for entitlement programs, social support programs, community development efforts, and the like. We don't. The facts speak for themselves.
Since 1966, the first year with a significant increase in antipoverty spending, the poverty rate reported by the Census Bureau has been virtually unchanged.
Last year a United Nations investigator using census data found “shocking” evidence that 40 million Americans live in “squalor and deprivation,” in a country where “tax cuts will fuel a global race to the bottom.” He continued: “The criminal justice system is effectively a system for keeping the poor in poverty,” and reported that “the demonizing of taxation means that legislatures effectively refuse to levy taxes.”
If that doesn’t sound like the country you live in, that’s because it isn’t. The Census Bureau counts as poor all people in families with incomes lower than the established income thresholds for their respective family size and composition. The thresholds, first set in 1963, are based on a multiple of the cost of a budget for adequately nutritious food, adjusted for inflation. While the Census Bureau reports that in 2016 some 12.7% of Americans lived in poverty, it is impossible to reconcile this poverty rate, which has remained virtually unchanged over the last 50 years, with the fact that total inflation-adjusted government-transfer payments to low-income families have risen steadily. Transfers targeted to low-income families increased in real dollars from an average of $3,070 per person in 1965 to $34,093 in 2016.
Even these numbers significantly understate transfer payments to low-income families since they exclude Medicare and Social Security, which provide large subsidies to low-income retirees. Compared with what they pay in Social Security taxes, the lowest quintile of earners can receive as much as 10 times the lifetime benefits received by the highest quintile of earners and three times as much as the middle quintile.
The measured poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged only because the Census Bureau doesn’t count most of the transfer payments created since the declaration of the War on Poverty. The bureau measures poverty using what it calls “money income,” which includes earned income and some transfer payments such as Social Security and unemployment insurance. But it excludes food stamps, Medicaid, the portion of Medicare going to low-income families, Children’s Health Insurance, the refundable portion of the earned-income tax credit, at least 87 other means-tested federal payments to individuals, and most means-tested state payments. If government counted these missing $1.5 trillion in annual transfer payments, the poverty rate would be less than 3%.
. . .
Transfer payments essentially have eliminated poverty in America. Transfers now constitute 84.2% of the disposable income of the poorest quintile of American households and 57.8% of the disposable income of lower-middle-income households. These payments also make up 27.5% of America’s total disposable income.
There's more at the link.
Ronald Reagan famously said: "If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it." We've subsidized "poverty"; so, inevitably, we have more of it, according to the warped, twisted measurements of those who benefit from such an expansion (bureaucrats, politicians, and those individuals and organizations who administer and distribute programs and aid for the poor).
To use the old carrot-and-stick metaphor, we've rewarded poverty (carrots) rather than made it undesirable (the stick). For all except the truly down-and-out, perhaps it's time to use less carrot and more stick, by at least reducing, if not actually eliminating at least some of, the subsidies that make a life in extended "poverty" not only possible, but lucrative. That would also make our national budget look a lot healthier than it is!
Monday, October 22, 2018
Having just got back from the gym . . .
. . . Sunday's "Pearls Before Swine" strip has immense appeal right now! Click the image for a larger view at the strip's home page.
However, I'll be good. I have to, if I want to lose weight . . . but I don't want to, dammit!!!
Yeah, families can be unreasonable like that . . .
Courtesy of prolific correspondent Snoggeramus, we learn of a funeral with a sequel.
A Ugandan civil servant instructed his wife to bury him with a cash amount of Sh 6 million [Uganda shillings - equivalent to about US $1,600 at present exchange rates].
The money was meant to appease God for the deceased’s earthly sins.
. . .
Even though the exact sin was not stated, he asked his brother and sister to ensure that his wife does as he instructed.
Uganda’s Daily Monitor news portal reports that he died after a protracted illness and was buried in his ancestral home in the northern Lira district of the country. The portal adds that the metallic coffin he was buried in cost Sh 500,000.
His will was however ‘violated’ over the weekend after his remains were exhumed and the money removed by his clan members.
There's more at the link.
Well, they complied with his request - at first, at least. One trusts the deceased maintained his (de)composure as his coffin was subsequently rifled . . .
If it's restricted, it's not free
I spotted this cartoon on Gab:
It makes an excellent point. Speech is either free, or it isn't. Any restraint, and it's no longer free speech. It really is as simple as that.
Some people argue that the Schenk case, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes made his famous comment about shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater, justifies restrictions on otherwise free speech. That ignores the fact that the Schenk verdict was partly overturned by Brandenburg vs. Ohio several decades later, in which the court held that 'government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action".' The two concepts of lawlessness and imminence of action remain the bedrock of jurisprudence at this time in the United States. The standard - and, for that matter, the First Amendment to the US Constitution - says nothing about political correctness, ethics, morality, opinion, or any other factor. As Wikipedia points out:
Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment include obscenity (as determined by the Miller test), fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising. Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors over their works (copyright), protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons, restrictions on the use of untruths to harm others (slander), and communications while a person is in prison. When a speech restriction is challenged in court, it is presumed invalid and the government bears the burden of convincing the court that the restriction is constitutional.
The trouble is, many on the liberal and progressive side of the political spectrum are conflating speech with violence, arguing that speech supporting any of a number of areas of which they disapprove - such as so-called "hate speech" - is violent in and of itself. They then use that conflation to invoke limitations on free speech as an anti-violence measure. That conflation, in and of itself, does violence to the rule of law and Constitutional standards and norms, and must be resisted at every opportunity. Violence is clearly defined, and is a well understood concept. If we allow it to be perverted to shut down free speech, our entire society will suffer.
Freedom is freedom. Restrictions always inhibit freedom. I tend to choose the maximum practical degree of freedom, and will work against any attempt to restrict it, even if others wish to use that freedom to attack positions and principles that I hold dear. If they have the right to do that, I also have the right to defend my positions against their attacks. It works both ways.
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)