Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday morning music

Let's have a little classical guitar music.  From Paraguayan composer Agustín Barrios, here's La Catedral. a short piece with three movements - Preludio, Andante and Allegro.  It's performed here by Gabriel Bianco.

Definitely music for listening, not for background noise.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

I resemble that . . .

Courtesy of The Feral Irishman (site sometimes NSFW):

The thunderstorm and rain outside right now are reminding quite a few of those places (particularly the joints) that they aren't in their twenties any more . . .


If you like pork, stock up quickly

It looks like pork prices are set to skyrocket in the very near future, just as availability plummets.  That goes for bacon, sausage, and other pork products, too.

The price of pork around the world is set to soar as the outbreak of a deadly virus sweeps China and surrounding countries necessitating the cull of millions of animals.

. . .

In China, as was the case in Britain at the height of the BSE crisis, entire herds of animals are having to be killed and burned or buried in an effort to contain the disease.

Mongolia, Vietnam and Cambodia are also fighting outbreaks and the disease has also been reported in wild boar in Eastern Europe and Germany.

Denmark is erecting a 43-mile fence in a bid to keep out infected animals and customs officials have been placed on high alert in Britain and across the European Union.

Since the virus was first reported in China in August last year more than a million pigs have been culled globally and international wholesale pork prices have climbed by as much as 20 per cent.

“African swine fever will be the biggest influence on global meat markets possibly for the next few years, if not possibly the decade,” said Tim Ryan, a Singapore-based market analyst with trade group Meat & Livestock Australia. “I don’t think there’s going to be enough meat around the world available to actually fill the gap.”

China is the single biggest consumer of pork in the world and even in normal times has a near-insatiable appetite for the product.

Now with 20 and 30 per cent of its livestock lost, it is turning to international markets to fulfill demand.

It’s pork imports – which mostly come from the European Union, Canada and Brazil – are expected to surge 40 per cent to 1.7 million tons this year, before increasing to 2.1 million tons in 2020, the China Daily newspaper reported, citing a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Beijing.

. . .

... Chinese pork production is set to reduce by about 13 million tons this year - about the same amount of pork that the US produces every year.

There's more at the link.

This may affect medicines, too.  Insulin, heparin, and other common medicines and compounds are made from pigs, among other sources.  The ripple effect of rising demand for pork could be substantial, particularly if Western herds become affected.  Imagine what might happen if US pig producers had to cull their herds.  Prices might double or triple within weeks.

Just a word to the wise.  If you like pork products, and expect to use a lot of them, you might want to buy now and invest in a freezer.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Looks like a classic - and fatal - case of pilot error

Readers will recall the crash of an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft in Moscow several days ago.  Surveillance video has been released that shows the aircraft trying to land.  It bounces and porpoises several times, in what looks like an abominable display of pilot mishandling, before touching down so hard that it collapses the landing gear.  That started a fire that burned out the rear half of the aircraft, killing 41 of those on board.

Look in the upper right-hand corner of the video to see the plane touch down.

And here's how it ended up.  WARNING:  Some of the scenes in the video below were taken inside the doomed airliner as it slowed and stopped.  They're not for the faint-hearted.

May those who died, rest in peace . . . and may Aeroflot choose better pilots, and train them better!


Doofus Of The Day #1,043

Today's award goes to a British trainee restaurant manager.

The unidentified group ... walked into the Hawksmoor's bar on a busy Tuesday night whilst the restaurant had its hands full with 170 other diners.

“It was an usually very busy night for us,” restaurant manager Dale Clovey said. “The Biba conference is currently taking place in Manchester at the moment, so we think they came from that. They were suited businessmen.”

Alongside a 350g ribeye steak, two 300g fillet steaks and a side of mash potatoes, they asked the waitresses for a 2001 bottle of Chateau Pichon Longueville Contesse de Lalande, which has a price tag of £260 [about US $333].

The waitress asked a manager, who was visiting from another store doing some training, if she could fetch it for her but she picked up the wrong bottle.

A £4,500 [about US $5,760] bottle of Château Le Pin, Pomerol, 2001 was sent to the table instead.

Will Beckett, 41, a co-founder of Hawksmoor, said: “Another manager picked up on it when they asked for a second bottle.”

Not wanting to cause a fuss the staff member “gently steered the customers toward another bottle of wine and kept quiet”, he said.

The steakhouse only has a single bottle of the Château Le Pin in stock at any one time, with only 500 cases of the vintage ever made.

It is on their “rarities” menu and costs almost £3,000 [about US $3,840] more than any other bottle available.

The final bill for the three men came to just over £400 [about US $512] – less than a tenth of the cost of the wine.

There's more at the link.  All currency conversions are correct at the time of writing.

I wish I'd had a mistake like that made in my favor . . . if the price is anything to go by, that must have been a passing fair plonk.  No wonder they wanted another bottle!


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Is Ebola being used as a weapon by jihadist terrorists?

Austin Bay raises a very worrying question about the current Ebola epidemic in the Congo.

Unfortunately for all homo sapiens living within 200 kilometers or so of a major airport anywhere on this planet, the Ebola virus epidemic afflicting eastern Congo constitutes a deadly, international, mass-casualty threat to human life.

And there are political predators who would like to see this plague seed global fear and death ... The difference (I hope) between you and the predators is that they are megalomaniacs and you are not.

. . .

In casualty terms, the 2013-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak surpasses the current eastern Congo epidemic. West Africa was a slaughterhouse. There were 28,000 cases reported, and at least 11,300 people died.

But West Africa's outbreak didn't confront terrorists with a global mass murder agenda who think Ebola is a weapon of mass destruction their terror attacks can unleash.

Enter the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist-jihadi outfit that murders throughout eastern Congo ... on Feb. 24, gunmen attacked an Ebola clinic in the North Kivu city of Butembo. "The men hurled rocks then burned clinic supplies and water and sanitation equipment," it said. On Feb. 27, attackers struck a Butembo clinic with several infected patients, "and a gunfight ensued. Some infected patients ran away in order to escape the gun battle."

The jihadi ADF was likely responsible for the attacks.

. . .

The UN says it need additional resources (to include medical personnel) to contain the virus and keep it from spreading to neighboring countries.

To promote that good end, UN peacekeepers in Congo need to eliminate several hundred ADF jihadis -- for the good of your health and humankind.

There's more at the link.

What if he's right?  What if the ADF (and perhaps others in the region) actually want to see Ebola spread far and wide, as a weapon of jihad?  What if they want to kill as many people as possible, and will accept disease as a weapon if they can't use guns or explosives?  What if they're so fanatical that they don't care if the disease kills them, so long as it also kills everyone they consider enemies?

That's a truly frightening thought . . . particularly for anyone trying to contain the epidemic.  They'll be targeted not only by the disease, but by those who want their health care mission to fail.


Allen West lays it down on the NRA

A few days ago, I asked whether it wasn't time to clean house at the NRA by firing everybody involved in recent controversies.  I've been reinforced in that opinion by these words from Allen West, former US Army Lieutenant-Colonel and congressman, whose opinions I respect.  I'll reproduce them in full.

It has become very apparent that I need to speak out about what is happening at the National Rifle Association.

I am in my second term as a Board member, and I am deeply concerned about the actions and statements being made. The recent statements by Charles Cotton and Carolyn Meadows that are appearing in the Wall Street Journal, and now other news outlets, are outright lies. I have never been told, advised, informed or consulted about any of these details mentioned in the WSJ, and who knows how much more despicable spending of members’ money.

These statements have maliciously, recklessly and purposefully put me, and uninformed Board members, in legal jeopardy.

Prior to the NRAAM in Indianapolis I sent an email to Wayne LaPierre’s managing director, Millie Hallow, expressing my sentiment that Wayne LaPierre resign immediately.

I also drafted a memo entitled “Resolution of Concerns,” both of these statements are known to the NRA Board. It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house. If we had done so in Indianapolis, much of this could have been rectified.

I do not support Wayne LaPierre continuing as the EVP/CEO of the NRA. The vote in Indianapolis was by acclamation, not roll call vote. There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. My duty and responsibility is to the Members of the National Rifle Association, and my oath, since July 31, 1982, has been to the Constitution of the United States, not to any political party, person, or cabal.

The NRA Board of 76 is too large and needs to be reduced to 30 or less. We need term limits of four (4) terms on the Board. We need to focus the NRA, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization on its original charter, mission, training and education in marksmanship, shooting sports, and the defense of the Second Amendment.

I will dedicate all my efforts to the reformation of the National Rifle Association and its members, of whom I am proud to serve.

It sickens me to publicly make this statement, but I will not allow anyone to damage my honor, integrity, character, and reputation. Needless to say, there are those who have willingly done so to their own.

Steadfast and Loyal,
Lieutenant Colonel Allen B. West (US Army, Retired)
Member, 112th US Congress
Patriot Life Benefactor, Board Member, National Rifle Association

Thank you, Col. West, for speaking out so strongly.  You've set things out plainly and simply.  Now to see whether the membership of the NRA can overcome the entrenched interests that have hijacked the organization, disregarding the rank and file and warping the organization into something it was never intended to become (not to mention enriching themselves in the process).


Heh - horseback edition

I was doing some research for a novel that's in progress, and wanted to double-check something:  so I went online and looked around.  I found a thread asking, "What's considered 'a day's ride' for folks on a horse with average load over average terrain (relatively flat, even)? Not necessarily flat-out, but at a pace that won't wear out the horse?"

There were the usual thoughtful, considered answers, like "Anywhere from 15 to 30 miles is a realistic number to work with", or "Everything I've read indicates a good days travel on horseback is around 30 miles, more or less".  However, this answer made me do a spit-take.

My daughter (and wife and I) started horseback riding lessons in February. Based on how my ass feels afterward, I'd say 200 yards.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Follow the money, and all becomes clear

I mentioned last week that the brouhaha over President Trump increasing tariffs on Chinese goods was exactly that - a brouhaha, not a real issue.  However, we're still seeing alarmist articles in the mainstream media almost every day suggesting they'll precipitate a recession, throw the USA into economic doom and gloom, and so on.

MarketWatch puts things in perspective.

Most of what the public is being told about these tariffs is either misleading or a downright lie.

. . .

President Trump just hiked tariffs from 10% to 25% on about $200 billion in Chinese imports. In other words, he just raised taxes by … $30 billion a year.

Oh, no!

The total amount we all paid in taxes last year — federal, state and local — was $5.51 trillion. This tax increase that has everyone’s panties in a twist is a rounding error ... Even if Trump slapped 25% taxes on all Chinese imports, it would come to a tax hike of $135 billion a year. U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) last year: $20.5 trillion.

So even this supposedly scary “escalation” of this “tariff war” would, er, raise our total tax bill from 26.9% of GDP all the way to 27.5% of GDP.

. . .

Right now we export less to China than we do to Japan, South Korea and Singapore put together. That’s the point. So the effect of China’s new tariffs on the U.S. are yet another rounding error. Even if China banned all imports from the U.S., that would amount to only 0.6% of our gross domestic product. And we’d sell the stuff somewhere else.

Don’t buy the hysteria. President Trump is simply trying to pressure our biggest competitor to buy more American goods. That should be a good thing, even if you don’t like him.

There's more at the link.

So, why is there so much fuss about the tariffs?  There's a very simple reason - the US Chamber of Commerce and its bought-and-paid-for shills in the mainstream media and in Congress.

So what is the USCC? It is a business lobbying group that represents 80% of the Fortune 100 companies and is by far the largest interest group in Washington. According [to] the Wall Street Journal, the Chamber spent $125 million in lobbying in 2014 and $95 million last year. This dwarfs the spending of any other interest group.

. . .

Adhering to its corporate masters’ call for a continuous supply of cheap labor, the Chamber lobbies for more immigration and resists tight border controls. Trade is much the same. Past trade pacts have allowed Wall Street to grow obscenely rich in the outsourcing of American jobs to third-world countries for sake of the bottom line of the multinationals. In the process, over a million ordinary Americans were left holding the bag.

All this is still playing out today. The president is striving to adjust the unfair trading arrangements that the political class, in cahoots with the big money interests on Wall Street, have saddled the U.S. with.  But Trump and his trade team of Robert Lighthizer, Wilbur Ross, Steven Mnuchin, and Larry Kudlow are fighting not just China, but what is effectively a Fifth Column here at home. It's composed of the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and a sizable portion of the political establishment, which is used to dipping its beak in special-interest money.

As to this latter point, just look at the breaking news of the dealings of Joe Biden's son, Hunter, with the Chinese government.

. . .

What this means is that what is good for Main Street will not be good for Wall Street and Big Biz, at least not in the short run. What benefits the American worker -- fair trade policy and tight immigration control -- will initially hurt Big Biz and Wall Street. And the hurt will continue until the financial economy is scaled back to its proper size and is no longer allowed to the tail that wags the American economic dog. Until then, MAGA is at war with Big Biz and the bought-and-paid-for political establishment. And this explains much of the resistance to Trump's tariffs and trade position.

Again, more at the link.

There's an old and time-honored saying that "Where there's smoke, there's fire".  Trouble is, when people see the smoke, point, and scream "Fire!", they may not be pointing at the real fire.  That's the problem with the mainstream media today, and with most politicians.  They're paid - one way or another, through "re-election contributions" or advertising revenue or corporate tie-ins - to promote a particular point of view, rather than analyze the facts and let them speak for themselves.

That's why there's a big fuss about President Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods.  Those making the fuss are trying to protect their entrenched positions.  They're trying to hold on to all the money they've made out of the old way of doing things.  I sincerely hope they fail miserably.

If you'd like to read a particularly well-written, thoughtful analysis of what President Trump is trying to do with his tariff policies towards China, you'll find one hereHighly recommended reading.


Low-flying helicopters and power lines don't mix well

A French rescue helicopter was involved in a training exercise when it had an unfortunate encounter with low-hanging power lines.

Very fortunately, no-one was hurt this time.

The helicopter was equipped with a wire-cutter, ringed in the photograph below (a screen-capture from the video above).

That may have helped prevent a crash, by deflecting or cutting the wires before they could get tangled in the rotor.  However, I imagine all on board had a brown-trouser moment!


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

I'm not surprised that no-one in the mainstream media seems to be commenting on former Vice-President Joe Biden's latest excuses . . . but I am very disappointed.  You may be sure that if a Republican candidate had used the same words, about the same actions, he'd be flayed up one side and down the other for evading the issue.  (Let me repeat what I've said many times in these pages:  I'm neither Democrat nor Republican.  I vote for the person, not the party.  As far as I'm concerned, a good person who has the strengths I look for in an individual will get my vote, and I don't care what party he or she belongs to.)

Biden is seeking to deflect criticism of his past activities in Ukraine that may have benefited his son.

Former Vice President Joe Biden denied Monday that his son Hunter Biden asked him for a favor in Ukraine while serving on the energy board of a Ukrainian energy company.

“We never once discussed it when he was there,” Biden told the Associated Press. “There’s not a single bit of evidence that’s been shown in any reporting that’s been done that he ever talked about it with me or asked any government official for a favor.”

When he was vice president, Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine if officials did not fire the country’s top prosecutor, who was pursuing a corruption investigation of an energy company while his son Hunter was serving on the board ... Hunter Biden was paid as much as $50,000 per month while serving on the board, as his father led the Obama administration’s policy with Ukraine.

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

Y'know, if I challenge someone about an ethical or moral issue, and they come right back with "Well, you have no evidence!" . . . I pretty much know they're lying, right there.  They're not so much denying it as telling me I can't prove it.  As for discussing it "when he was there", that didn't stop them discussing it when his son was here in the USA, did it?  He was flying back and forth frequently.  It wouldn't have been necessary to discuss it "there".

Evasions.  Weasel words.

There are more of them concerning Biden's later assistance to his son in China.

Last week, Biden raised eyebrows when he shrugged off concerns over the China threat. “Come on, man,” Biden said. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

Perhaps Biden’s insouciant attitude toward the Chinese government has to do with the fact that his family does not consider them competitors but business partners.

In 2013, then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden flew aboard Air Force Two to China. Less than two weeks later, Hunter Biden’s firm inked a $1 billion private equity deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Bank of China. The deal was later expanded to $1.5 billion. In short, the Chinese government funded a business that it co-owned along with the son of a sitting vice president.

Again, more at the link.

I'm sorry, but coming on top of the Ukraine allegations, this simply reeks of impropriety.  If a Republican Vice-President had done exactly the same thing, the mainstream media would be baying for his blood . . . but as far as Biden's concerned?  Crickets.  It's left to independent media and commentators to highlight the contradictions of the situation.

We're in what amounts to a trade war with China.  They've been exploiting our markets for years, and sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of our pockets into theirs with their one-sided and unfair tariffs, regulations and policies.  How can we trust a politician like Biden - irrespective of his political party - to deal with that situation in the best interests of the USA?

I'm not a particular fan of President Trump, although I freely admit that a lot of his policies have pleasantly surprised me.  I'm very much in favor of his appointment of constructionist judges, and I think his trade policies towards China and other power blocs are long overdue.  I'm sure he's used his influence as a businessman, while he was a businessman, to obtain assistance for his family's enterprises abroad.  There's nothing wrong with that, of course.  However, as far as I'm aware, no-one - not even the mainstream media - has alleged, much less provided any verifiable evidence, that he's used his office as President to do the same thing.  For that, I give him credit where it's due.

Could we ever do the same to a future President Biden, considering his track record?  I'm guessing not.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

RIP, Tim Conway, and thanks for all the laughs

Beloved actor and comedian Tim Conway died this morning in Los Angeles.  He was famous for his roles on The Carol Burnett Show, as well as other productions.

He was truly a comic genius, and a master of timing.  To illustrate, here's one of his most famous sketches from The Carol Burnett Show:  the Elephant Story.

Hilarious, human, and touching.  God rest you, Mr. Conway, and thanks for many happy memories.


Urban conflict: a recent object lesson

A few days ago, I published a post about urban self-defense and security.  In it, I noted that the author of a linked series of articles had gained experience in that field in Iraq, while mine had been in Africa, but that both of us - and most veterans of urban warfare - would agree that there's a great deal in common about it, anywhere in the world.

Another urban conflict, not even two years ago, was the Battle of Marawi in the Philippines, in 2017.  Wikipedia describes it:

The Battle of Marawi ... was a five-month-long armed conflict in Marawi, Lanao del Sur, that started on 23 May 2017, between Philippine government security forces and militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups. The battle also became the longest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines.

Obviously, full-blown urban warfare like the Battle of Marawi is unlikely to erupt in the USA, or any First World nation, under normal circumstances.  Nevertheless, even a lower-level conflict (including civil conflict between competing groups such as gangs, ethnic alliances, etc.) may produce at least some similar effects, and cause just as much disruption to those living nearby.  (See Selco's book, that I recently reviewed, for another example of that.)

An excellent analysis of the fighting in Marawi was compiled for the Australian armed forces, who are obviously keeping a weather eye on developments in their back yard.  It's well worth reading in full, to see how the Philippine armed forces succeeded in their task despite some real handicaps and shortcomings, and how they overcame the latter.  Here are some excerpts to whet your appetite.

The costs of the Battle of Marawi were high. Opinions on infrastructure damage vary but aerial imagery indicates that huge swathes of the city have been devastated by the fighting – the mass destruction flattening entire city blocks. The World Bank estimates it may take two decades to restore Marawi to its original condition. However, the true price of the battle is that paid by the people of Marawi and the lives of those fighting. 165 members of the AFoP were killed in action, with over 1,000 injured. Some reports indicate over 1,000 insurgents were killed in the siege, which also took the lives of 47 civilians. The fighting drove over 400, 000 people from their homes.

. . .

While the [Philippine armed forces] had access to enabling technologies and supporting arms such as indirect fire, close air support and armoured fighting vehicles, the battle was ultimately won by room-to-room, house-to-house fighting. No amount of firepower can substitute this intimate, discriminate, and precise application of force.

Combat shooting, battlefield fitness, small team [tactics, techniques and procedures] and battle craft are more important than any other skill, and must be prioritised. Above all else, the Australian Army must have the ability to deliver small combined arms teams to the fight who are capable of shooting faster and more accurately than their enemy out to 200 metres by day and by night; who can dominate and control complex spaces more rapidly and with fewer casualties; and who can operate seamlessly with other small teams or supporting elements in joint and coalition environments.

The Marawi experience suggests that such small teams, operating seamlessly alongside engineers, artillery and armour—as well as combat medics and military police—fighting as combined-arms sections, platoons, combat teams and battlegroups, are essential.

. . .

Medical planners should expect higher rates of casualties than usual when fighting in the urban environment. Furthermore, combat trauma management skills must be trained down to the individual level. Such skills save lives – and instil morale.

The battle also highlighted the sheer number of non-battle injuries in the urban environment, and the importance of using protective equipment such as helmets, ballistic eye protection, gloves and body armour. The true value of this equipment was found in protecting combatants from secondary fragmentation, falling debris, hitting their heads while moving, and preventing the cuts and scrapes which rapidly become infected in this environment.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended and thought-provoking reading.

Do please note the emphasis on "Combat shooting, battlefield fitness, small team [tactics, techniques and procedures] and battle craft".  These are basic elements of the soldier's craft, and they should be basic for us as well, to the extent possible to civilians.  It's not going to help to train with your weapons only on the "square range", where you line up your shots slowly and carefully from a shooting bench, pull the trigger, stop to chat with your buddies for a while, then leisurely fire off another round.  No, snap shooting, rapid movement, and the pressure of knowing that someone out there is trying to "do unto you" what you're trying to "do unto him", will make the real deal something you really don't want to experience!  (How do I know this?  Trust me.  I know this.)

That's why, to cite just one example, the Rhodesian Army spent so much time training its recruits in combat reaction shooting - seeing targets only fleetingly and at odd angles, some partly or fully behind cover or concealment, requiring extremely fast reactions, rapid sight alignment and snap-shooting accuracy.  South Africa adopted similar methods (sometimes called "Jungle Walk" training).  I'm here to tell you, they were very effective.  For more details, see the sections "Fire and Movement" (p. 6) and "The Rhodesian Cover Shoot - 'Kill' the concealment, kill the terrorist" (p. 8) in the Adobe Acrobat document "Rhodesian Cover Shooting" at Small Wars Journal.  They're very informative.  The Rhodesians operated in a bush warfare environment, of course;  but similar skills may (probably will) be needed (suitably adapted, of course) in cities, even if the situation doesn't degenerate into full-blown urban warfare.  (Again, see Selco's book.)

To give you an idea of just how bad urban warfare can become, a video was made by the Philippine Armed Forces about the Marawi fighting.  It was produced for publicity and propaganda purposes, but that doesn't change the reality of what it portrays.  WARNING:  It doesn't pull any punches.  You see civilians being brutally murdered by terrorists, actual combat footage, and other nastiness.  If you're squeamish, DON'T WATCH IT!  If, despite that warning, you want to proceed, you'll find the video here.  (I'm not going to embed it in a family-friendly blog, for obvious reasons.)

I haven't forgotten my idea about writing a book of my own about surviving in a situation of societal breakdown and low-intensity unrest, which I mentioned earlier.  I'm going ahead with that project, and I'll include a section on dealing with armed urban conflict.  It's something I don't want to face again . . . but given what some groups are up to in these United States (think Antifa, Black Lives Matter, etc.), that may be unavoidable.  Even law enforcement agencies are pulling back from some such conflicts, because their safety is being prejudiced by politically correct city administrations (for example, in Portland).  If law enforcement can't or won't be there to help you, you're on your own . . . so you'd better think about how you're going to cope, and prepare for it.


With evidence like that, why bother with the trial?

I'm normally a strong believer in the rule of law, particularly the Sixth Amendment to the US constitution, guaranteeing a fair trial to those accused of a crime.  Without that, who can ever be assured of real justice, rather than partisanship, bias and bribed judges and juries?

Nevertheless, in a few particularly egregious cases, the issue is so clear-cut that a trial hardly seems necessary.  This appears to be one of them.  (Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.)

Investigators have arrested a man after his wife found video on his phone of him sexually abusing her 5-year-old son, his stepson.

On May 5, the victim's mother contacted police saying she found video from March 22 around 7:42 a.m. that showed Calvillo engaged in sex acts with the young boy. The details of the affidavit are too explicit to publish.

There's more at the link.

A scumbag who's so depraved, evil and vicious that he not only abused a young boy like that, his own stepson, but filmed himself doing so?  He's already provided all the evidence any right-thinking person would need to establish guilt.

Am I the only one who thinks that "jailhouse justice" would not be inappropriate in this case?  Given my experience as a prison chaplain, I think I can say with some confidence that if the suspect's guilty man's cellmates find out about this, he may not survive long enough to see trial . . . and his demise may be painful and long-drawn-out.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Yes, some days are just like that!

Stephan Pastis hits one out of the park.  (Click the image for a larger view at the comic's Web site.)

I've known too many days like that . . .


The NRA: time to clean house by firing everybody?

The most recent allegations of financial irregularities at the National Rifle Association should be enough to get its members' blood boiling.  How many of them knew that their membership fees and other contributions were being used to finance this sort of thing?

National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre billed the group’s ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it.

. . .

The NRA released a statement from Carolyn Meadows, its new president, who said the “entire board is fully aware of these issues. We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre.” She added that “it is troubling and pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas.”

Mr. LaPierre didn’t respond to a request for comment sent through the NRA.

. . .

An NRA attorney, William A. Brewer III, previously has said the vast majority of Mr. LaPierre’s travel expenses charged to the ad firm were for “donor outreach, fundraising and stakeholder engagement” and were being reviewed by the board. The NRA also has said Mr. LaPierre’s clothing expenses were justified due to his many public appearances.

. . .

Nonprofits are supposed to be run in the best interests of the organization, not for the benefit of board members or executives, legal experts said. Under New York’s nonprofit law, among the toughest in the U.S., the attorney general could seek to remove directors or officers, and claw back as much as double any improperly obtained benefit.

There's more at the link.

Frankly, when I look at those figures, I'm outraged.  Mr. LaPierre already earns a salary of about a million dollars per year, and has made millions more, directly and indirectly, out of his position at the NRA.  If he's pulling down expenses of at least half a million per annum, over and above his salary, he's not an asset to the NRA - he's a liability, and a hefty one at that!  What's more, the NRA board appears to have been subverted from its main task of guiding and shepherding the organization.  Instead, it's circling the wagons and protecting Mr. LaPierre, as well as taking sides in the dispute between him and Oliver North.

Quite apart from its billing dispute with its advertising agency, there's also the question of multi-million-dollar bills to the NRA from a legal firm - as much as $100,000 per day!  Who authorized them?  Why were members never fully informed about them?  How do we know they're justified, when we have no evidence whatsoever of what work was done to incur them?  Why have Mr. LaPierre and the NRA Board remained silent about this mess?

I have a simple solution.  Let the NRA fire every single person involved in this whole imbroglio, from the highest to the lowest.  That includes any and every board member who's tried to protect or defend such ridiculous, unjustifiable expenditure.  We need new blood at the head of the organization, people who won't protect vested interests or financial shenanigans.  The NRA is supposed to protect and defend Second Amendment rights, and popularize and promote the shooting sports.  Let it get back to its roots, and forget about politics in a wider field, or spending money on anything except its core mission.  Anything less will be a betrayal of the NRA's members . . . and I don't think they'll stand for it.

Right now, the NRA Board stands on the cusp of deciding the organization's future.  If it makes the right choices, the NRA will recover from this mess, and thrive.  If it makes the wrong ones, the organization will destroy itself.  Frankly, we can't afford that . . . but it's not in our hands to save it.


I warned about a pension bailout . . . now, guess what?

For years I've been pointing out how federal, state and local government pensions (not to mention many private pension funds, particularly those organized by trades unions) are woefully underfunded, sometimes so much so that they're effectively bankrupt already.  I've also warned that we can expect calls for a federal bailout of such funds, forcing the burden for their deficits onto the US taxpayer instead of those who are rightfully responsible for them.  Most recently, in February, I wrote:

I fully expect semi-bankrupt cities and states to demand a Federal bailout of their obligations.  I hope and trust that won't happen . . . but bear in mind that almost every city with serious debt problems is run by a Democratic Party administration.  If the Democrats take over the Senate and Presidency, in addition to their present hold on the House, you can bet your bottom dollar (literally) that such a bailout will be passed.  That'll put all US taxpayers on the hook for all that money - at least $5 trillion for all states and major cities right now, and probably higher.

Am I a prophet, or what?

Here’s a remarkable lending opportunity to consider:  Let’s make billions of dollars in loans to borrowers which “are insolvent” or in “critical or declining status.”  These loans would be unsecured and no payments of principal would be due for 30 years.  At that point, in case of default, the loans would be forgiven.  Would you make such a loan?  Obviously not, and neither would anybody else—except maybe the government.   This idea is one only politicians could love, since it gives them a way to spend the taxpayers’ money without calling it spending.

Making such loans is proposed in a bill before the House Ways and Means Committee, entitled “Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act” (HR 397). The borrowers would be multiemployer (union) pension funds which are deeply underfunded, insolvent in the sense of having obligations much greater than their assets, and won’t have the money to pay the benefits they have promised.  A more forthright title for the bill would be the “Taxpayer Bailout of Multiemployer Pension Funds Act.”

The bill’s primary sponsor, Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), who is Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has stated, “This is not a bailout.”  But a bailout by any other name is still a bailout.  “These plans would be required by law to pay back the loans they receive,” said Chairman Neal.  But the bill itself provides on pp.18-19:

“(e) LOAN DEFAULT.—If a plan is unable to make any payment on a loan under this section when due, the Pension Rehabilitation Administration [PRA] shall negotiate with the plan sponsor revised terms for repayment, which may include…forgiveness of a portion of the loan principal.”

No limit is set on how big the “portion” may be.  Why not 100%?  Of course, all loans of all kinds are in principle required to be repaid, but are nonetheless not repaid if the borrower becomes insolvent, and pension funds demonstrably can go broke like anybody else.  As one actuary recently observed, “It seems very likely that the default rate on PRA loans will be significant.”  Indeed it does.

. . .

In short, the bill is a convoluted way to a simple end: to have the taxpayers pay the pensions promised but not funded by the multiemployer plans.  If enacted, the bill will encourage other plans to make new unfunded promises in the very logical expectation of future additional bailouts.

There's more at the link.  The bill contains other (unpleasant) surprises, too, so it's worth reading the article in full.

The bill's sponsor(s) may deny that it's a bailout, but if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck . . . it's a duck.  This is a bailout, pure and simple, with some hastily applied camouflage to pretend that it's merely a "loan".  That's a con from beginning to end.

If this is allowed to pass, it'll open the gates to shunt $5 trillion or so of city and state pension underfunding onto US taxpayers' shoulders.  (After all, if we're helping union pension funds, how unreasonable not to do the same for government employees, no?)  If this measure doesn't pass, there'll be more.  The politicians are dependent on voters to keep their jobs, so they're very vulnerable to pressure to get them to support such schemes.  "Vote for this bailout, or we'll tell all our union members/city residents that you blocked the rescue plan for their pensions!"  Politicians are, in general, fundamentally cowardly, putting re-election over principles and ethics.  They'll cave . . . unless we are ceaselessly watchful, and protective of our own interests as taxpayers.

To shunt $5 trillion more onto the already unmanageable national (i.e. federal) deficit would increase it by almost 23%, virtually overnight.  That's madness!  Please write your congressional representative and Senators about this, objecting as vehemently as possible to being made to carry the fiscal can for the financial irresponsibility and fecklessness of others.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday morning music

Time for a few laughs!  I enjoy funny songs as much as serious ones, and there are several good ones out there.  I've chosen four this morning, and I daresay I'll do another post or two like this in due course with a wider selection.

To start, let's have Clinton Ford tell us about The Old Bazaar in Cairo.

Next, The Weavers with The Frozen Logger.

Here's Maddy Prior, the main female vocalist for Britain's famous folk-rock group Steeleye Span, performing with another group, The Carnival Band.  The song is a traditional British folk tune, The Prodigal's Resolution.  I particularly like this version because it involves multiple kazoos and spoons among its musical instruments, played with verve and enthusiasm.  Their sound always make me smile.

Finally, here's a song from the 1960's show Wait A Minim!  It originated in Southern Africa, then went to London before opening on Broadway.  It had a number of very funny songs, some of which I'll use in future blog posts.  This one's about Sir Oswald Sodde and his wife's misadventures (or should that be Mrs-adventures?) with her chastity belt.  Due to the fact that there were no less than three cast recordings (for the South African, London and Broadway versions of the show), many of the songs are no longer available.  Fortunately, YouTube has archived most of them.

I hope these helped you start your Sunday with a smile.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

The not-so-scary reality of President Trump's tariffs against China

Corporate agriculture has been ringing alarm bells about President Trump's latest tariff increases against Chinese products, because retaliatory tariffs threaten their exports to that country.  Karl Denninger - no fan of the President - brings the smackdown against such scare tactics.

So over the first seven months [of tariffs] we've collected $41 billion and change in duties over the $22 billion and change last year.  That's $19 billion smackers in additional tariff revenue.

Total ag exports to China are approximately $24 billion a year.

All of them.

Well, so will be the tariffs over a 12 month period.

So with that tariff revenue, should the Chinese decide they would like to try to boycott American agricultural products, we can buy the same amount of said agricultural products and essentially erase a huge amount of starvation in third-world nations by giving the products to them.

It will cost US Treasury zero to do that.

BTW $24 billion is about 0.12% of the US economy.  That is, the cost to you as a consumer of these tariffs is going to be a grand price increase of about 0.12%.  You won't even be able to see that in the price of what you buy -- even more than doubled it will be less than one quarter of one percent in price increase, unless US firms try to gouge you -- and if they do then your correct response is to destroy the firms and executives who do that and ship their body parts over to China to be recycled by swine-flu infected hogs.

There's more at the link.

It's worth noting that Denninger's figures refer to present (i.e. pre-increase) tariff rates.  The new, higher tariff rates will bring in even more.  Therefore, his arguments make an awful lot of sense to me.  If China retaliates against the $10 billion or so of US trade upon which it hasn't yet imposed tariffs, the US has a lot more wiggle room.  Right now, the side exporting the most to the other side has the most to lose from increased tariffs - and the USA is exporting far less to China than the other way around.  For the foreseeable future, tariffs are a weapon the Chinese economy can't match.  If they want to resolve the situation, they can . . . by negotiating in good faith, and proving it with actions, rather than words, instead of trying to renege on previously-agreed points.

The "good faith" aspect is critical.  Any future agreements must be confirmed in operation by mutual inspections, audits, or whatever.  As the late President Reagan said in another context, "Trust . . . but verify."


An interesting look at urban defense

I'm not one to fantasize about civil war, or armed rebellion, or whatever.  I've seen them in real life, in more than one African nation, and they're the very last thing I want to see in these United States!  I think most people who've experienced them will say the same.  Nevertheless, some worry that we may see some sort of major civil unrest in our cities.  With Antifa, Black Lives Matter, urban gangs, and other elements in the news, that's certainly not impossible.  If it looks likely, my preferred response will be to get the hell out of the way before things happen . . . but that may not be feasible.

In that case, in a series of articles, Clay Martin offers his thoughts on defensive measures for city dwellers:  preparing one's property, choice of defensive weapons, and other issues.  I don't agree with everything he proposes, but on the whole his ideas appear sound.  His experience was in Iraq, whereas mine was in Africa, but urban conflict isn't all that different anywhere around the globe.  His articles are, in chronological order:

Follow each link to read the articles.  I hope you won't need the information they provide, but you never know . . .

My favorite quote from Mr. Martin's series:

The one thing I see over and over again in prepping circles is a belief that a mountain of ammo is all you need. Absolutely not true! In fact, I believe that most people would be better off with 300 rounds and the skills of having shot 20,000 as opposed to 20,000 stockpiled and the skills of having shot 300.

Very true, IMHO!

EDITED TO ADD:  I've since put up a brief analysis of the urban conflict experienced in Marawi, in the Philippines, two years ago.  It discusses that conflict and experience in others, with an emphasis on what it's like to fight your way into, around, or out of a city.  It includes a link to a very graphic, brutal video that shows actual murders, combat in the ruins, etc.  This is not what we expect to face in US cities;  but, given that some law enforcement agencies are already refusing to back up local cops in cities where liberal administrations are giving the mob free rein . . . it's not inconceivable.  Go read it, and factor that into your preparations.


Friday, May 10, 2019

So that's what happens to them!

Received via e-mail, origin unknown:


Sunscreen may not be as harmless as we thought

Wired reports:

Today, researchers at the FDA revealed the results of a small clinical trial designed to test how four of the most common sun-filtering molecules on the market behave after they’ve been sprayed on and rubbed in. The results, published in the journal JAMA, show that contrary to what sunscreen manufacturers have been saying, UV-blocking chemicals do seep into circulation. Now, don’t panic and toss your tubes. There’s no evidence yet that they’re doing anything harmful inside the body. But the revelation will have serious impacts on sunscreen manufacturers going forward, and may change what options you’ll find on drugstore shelves before the year is out.

“Everyone had always thought that because these are intended to work on the surface of the skin that they wouldn’t be absorbed, but they are,” says Theresa Michele, director of the FDA’s division of nonprescription drug products, and coauthor on the FDA-funded study. Her team found that it took only a few hours after the application of sunscreen for the photoprotective chemicals to infiltrate the bloodstream and shoot up to concentrations above the FDA’s toxicology threshold that triggers further safety testing.

. . .

The fact that these sun-filtering molecules do penetrate into the circulation system does not on its own mean that such ingredients are unsafe. “There might be nothing, and that would be great,” says Kanade Shinkai, a dermatologist at UC San Francisco and editor in chief of JAMA Dermatology. “But the problem is that we just don’t know.” The bottom line, she says, is that although the evidence is irrefutable that the sun causes skin cancer, scientists know a lot less about sunscreen chemicals’ relative risks and benefits.

There's more at the link.

This is particularly worrying to me, in that I can see the long-term effects of sun on my forearms and other areas of skin.  Exposed to the burning African sun for years as I was, it took its toll;  and it would have taken a greater one if it wasn't for large quantities of sunscreen, liberally applied.  Now I wonder whether the sunscreen might not have posed more of a danger than the sun!

This will bear watching.


"A meteor filled with swords"

That's what Task & Purpose calls the recently revealed R9X version of the Hellfire missile.  The Wall Street Journal described it thus:

The U.S. government has developed a specially designed, secret missile for pinpoint airstrikes that kill terrorist leaders with no explosion, drastically reducing damage and minimizing the chances of civilian casualties, multiple current and former U.S. officials said.

. . .

A modified version of the well-known Hellfire missile, the weapon carries an inert warhead. Instead of exploding, it is designed to plunge more than 100 pounds of metal through the tops of cars and buildings to kill its target without harming individuals and property close by.

To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky, the officials said. But this variant of the Hellfire missile, designated as the R9X, also comes equipped with a different kind of payload: a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact, shredding anything in its tracks.

There's more at the link (behind a paywall, unfortunately).

As Task & Purpose discovered, there may already be photographic evidence of its effects.  Nick Waters provided these images via Twitter, showing the car in which Abu Khayr al-Masri, deputy leader of Al-Qaeda, was assassinated in Syria in 2017.

Video of the vehicle, showing recovery efforts, may be found here.  It certainly makes it look as if it was difficult to extract those inside, possible testimony to the striking power of the missile and its blades.

The red lines in the images above indicate straight-line cuts in the vehicle around the missile entry point.  Mr. Waters also showed this conceptual image of how the blades might deploy around the missile in the split-second before impact.  (The missile's electronics presumably measure how far it is from its target, and release the blades just in time to cause maximum damage, but before they can disrupt the weapon's flight path.)

I'm familiar with simple kinetic weapons such as the USA's Lazy Dog bomb containing metal darts.  Rhodesia developed something similar under "Project Hotel", described as basically 6-inch nails fitted with plastic tail fins, scattered from improvised containers beneath an aircraft's wings.  They proved very effective in bush warfare, but were only used to a limited extent.  This approach, using a blade-equipped but otherwise inert Hellfire missile, is something new.  Given its velocity of over Mach 1, I imagine that even a glancing blow from one of them would prove lethally effective, while being much more precise than a scatter-shot area weapon.

A collection of swords, moving at 1,000 mph . . . shiver!  Remind me to stay far away from them!


Thursday, May 9, 2019

"Why millennials are not buying motorcycles"

Chief Nose Wetter offers 25 reasons, including:

2. Can't get their phone to their ear with a helmet on.

6. Might have a bug hit them in the face and then they would need emergency care.

10. Their pajamas get caught on the exhaust pipes.

12. The handle bars have buttons and levers and cannot be controlled by touch-screen.

14. It's too hard to take selfies while riding.

There are many more at the link.  As a former motorcyclist, I had to laugh.  (On the other hand, I've seen plenty of millennials on electric scooters or e-bikes in larger cities, so maybe they've just changed the type of motorcycle they ride.  Even so, there's nothing like the wind in one's face on a nice long tour of the countryside, with a good motor purring away beneath you.  I remember my late 1970's BMW R100RT with great affection.)


So true it hurts

Received via e-mail, origin unknown:

That reality is why a lot of people buy guns every year, and learn how to use them.  As a former part-time firearms instructor for disabled students, I'd say well over half of those I trained had bought a gun because they'd been the victims of crime, and were determined that they wouldn't be helpless victims again.  So far, a number of my former students have had to use their weapons to deter criminals, and three have had to actually pull the trigger.  All three are still alive, uninjured, and happy to be that way.  Their attackers . . . not so much.

Look up the average response time for police in your area.  It's usually in the five to ten minute range, although in rural areas it can be several times that.  (If your local law enforcement agencies won't provide that information, their performance is probably worse than average.)  Now, imagine how much damage an intruder can do to you (and your loved ones) while you're waiting for help to arrive.  To inflict crippling injury or death can take only a few seconds.  Having a weapon, and being trained in using it to defend yourself, is a vastly better option for everyone except your attacker, IMHO.


Doofus Of The Day #1,042

Today's award goes to the Reserve Bank of Australia.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link.

An anonymous tipster with eagle eyes, a magnifying glass and, presumably, a little free time, alerted radio stations to a typo on the new $50 banknote that has escaped everyone's attention since 46 million of them were rolled out in October last year.

The RBA has confirmed the word "responsibility" is incorrectly spelled "responsibilty" - without the third "i".

And it has admitted the error was brought to its attention back in December.

But it has no intention of withdrawing or recalling the notes from circulation. The error will be corrected in the next print run, the RBA said.

There's more at the link, including pictures of the error.

That's going to be interesting.  If the first print run contains a misspelling - which is apparently repeated three times - will counterfeiters reproduce the error as well?  Or will they use the correct spelling, and try to pass off their forged notes as being from the second print run?  If so, they'd better not try to spend them until the latter's in widespread circulation, or eagle-eyed shop assistants will have a field day spotting the fakes.

On the other hand, I have to admit that the misspelling is in very tiny print indeed, not really noticeable to the naked eye at all.  It's really only visible to those with a truly anal-retentive obsession with looking for such things.  Even so, it's an embarrassing slip-up all round, particularly being legal tender and all that - although still not as good (?) as the (literally) sinful typo in the so-called Wicked Bible, a few centuries ago.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Why African migrants will flood the world over the next half-century

CDR Salamander has an interesting series of charts about Africa at his blog.  They're all factual, and I'll leave you to read about them for yourself.  I'd like to highlight this one in particular.  (Click the image for a larger view.)

The reasons for Africa's pyramid-like population distribution and youthful population explosion are many, including (but not limited to):
  • Improved medical care, which has greatly reduced child mortality and diminished the impact of traditional "killer" diseases like malaria, dengue and other fevers;
  • The AIDS epidemic, which has killed many older Africans and disproportionately increased the ratio of young to old;
  • Improved nutrition, particularly through international aid in response to regional disasters like famine, which previously killed thousands (if not millions) of people.

However, those people have nowhere to go in Africa, and nothing to hope for.  The continent is cursed with a chronically low-IQ population.  They're largely unschooled by Western standards;  and even if their educations were better, there are few if any local jobs that would require that sort of learning, and pay a commensurate salary.  There's little industrial development in Africa beyond mines and government infrastructure, and those need cheap labor rather than skilled workers.  There's no social security or welfare network in Africa, because countries on that continent by and large can't afford to provide one;  so, if you have no work, you starve, or turn to crime.  China has spent billions on the economic colonization of Africa, but has done so by importing her own workers to that continent, rather than educating, training and using local staff.  That's not likely to change anytime soon.  (I wrote about the immensity of Africa's problems a few weeks ago in more detail, if you're interested.)

The inevitable result of this lack of opportunity, and intense competition between the multitudes of younger Africans for the few scraps that are available, has meant a veritable invasion of Europe by people desperate to grasp at any opportunity - legal or not - for something better.  A street-sweeper or garbage worker or manual laborer in Europe will earn more in real terms, and have far better economic prospects, than the average school-teacher or government bureaucrat or miner in Africa.  This is what's fueling the influx of so-called "refugees" through Libya and other northern African nations to the southern nations of Europe, across the Mediterranean Sea.  Non-governmental organizations opposed to concepts such as national borders are aiding and abetting this flood.  What's more, it's reached the borders of the USA as well.  We're going to see more and more of it here.

Of course, we can't afford to allow this invasion to overwhelm our economy.  We can't provide for the millions of desperate "refugees" (in reality, economic migrants) from South America who are already overwhelming our border facilities by the millions every single year.  We certainly can't provide for an even greater influx of desperate Africans - yet they're going to keep on coming, because they have no other hope and nothing to go back to in Africa.

I certainly believe in the Christian principle of helping one's neighbor;  and, to the extent that we share a common planet and a common race (i.e. human), we should be willing to help those less fortunate than ourselves.  Sadly, aid to Africa as presently allocated and distributed is a lost cause.  It's almost all embezzled, stolen, and diverted into the pockets of the authorities and the bureaucrats in most African nations.  We need to mount a major effort to make sure that stops, and that aid goes to those who'll use it to genuinely help their people.  Our aid should create economic and other opportunities for them, so that they don't need to flee elsewhere to make some - any! - kind of future for themselves.  At present, this is not happening;  but unless we make it happen, the invasion of First World countries, including our own, by illegal aliens will become an unstoppable flood.

Go look at CDR Salamander's charts again, and think about them.  All that is headed Europe's way today.  It'll be headed our way tomorrow.  What are we going to do about it?  There's no way we can shoot all those who are desperate - not without making ourselves monsters.  We have to find another way . . . but what?


Definitely - and literally - a crappy promotion

I'm mind-boggled after reading about the latest idea from the good (?) people at Kentucky for Kentucky.  They describe their mission as:


Whether or not this accomplishes that mission, I'll leave to you to decide.

Introducing Derby Turds, the first in a Dixieland Preserves line of bizarro Southern resin encapsulations by Kentucky artist Coleman Larkin.

These gorgeous nuggets of digested Kentucky bluegrass and whatever else horses eat were daringly harvested by the artist himself, fresh from the haunches of legendary 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm at Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Ky.

Silver Charm, great-great-grandson of the famed War Admiral, also crapped all over the competition in the 1997 Preakness Stakes and placed at Belmont, narrowly missing the third jewel of the elusive Triple Crown. He is considered one of the Top 100 racehorses of the 20th century and, in 2007, he was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame.

Now you can own a one-of-a-kind piece of Derby lore from this kickass old stud.

A laborious proprietary process sees that each of Silver Charm’s incomparable bowel movements is suspended in crystal clear epoxy resin inside a 16-ounce mason jar with all the care of a Southern mamaw putting up pickled corn for the winter.

“It’s a very long, very ridiculous procedure,” says Larkin. “The most difficult step is probably the one where I have to ask the type of people that own million-dollar Thoroughbreds if I can please have some horse turds to put in jars.”

The end result is a must-have object that blurs the line between art and novelty, built for the ages and to forever blow the minds of even the most jaded curiosity seekers.

“I personally guarantee they’ll last longer than you do,” says Larkin. “Even if I have to kill you myself.”

There's more at the link.

That's not a "resin encapsulation", that's a resin encrapsulation!  I ask you with tears in my eyes . . . $200 - two hundred dollars! - for a piece of horse pucky in fiberglass resin???  I think that deserves a Doofus Of The Day award for everyone who spends their hard-earned money to buy it.  That doesn't apply to the sellers, though - if they do, indeed, manage to move this, I'll doff my marketing cap to them in sheer respect.  I'll even ring a bell for them . . . dung! dung! dung!


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Just how much did that cup of coffee cost?

I'm amused at the brouhaha over the allegedly "accidental" placement of a Starbucks coffee cup in a scene from the latest Game of Thrones episode.

Do you really believe that happened "accidentally"?  Do you really think that cup happened to "just end up" in the final season of what may be the most popular HBO show ever, in absolutely plain sight - not hidden behind anything, or in a place where it might have been overlooked?  Do you think that happened despite all the continuity staff's precautions, the most experienced crews in showbiz, and all the measures against things like that going wrong?  I don't see it.  In particular, if it was accidental, why have no heads rolled for so egregious an error?  Surely those responsible would have been fired?

I'd love to know whether there was a large, unexpected payment from Starbucks to HBO before or after that "accident".  Starbucks has received so much "free" publicity from it that the company could afford to pay for the world's most expensive advertisement, and still make a profit . . .  The cup has already been digitally removed, but not before Starbucks got the benefit of all that publicity.

"Accident", my fundamental jujube!


EDITED TO ADD:  Aesop disagrees with my perspective, speaking from his own (hilarious) experience. For example:

I might even know of an incident where a raccoon tail was shoved up the nostril of a moose head on set, and no one noticed until they'd moved on, and saw it in the background of several shots during dailies the next day, and it was too late to re-shoot the scene, so it's in the final cut, but I ain't saying anything more about it. Maybe the moose snorted a raccoon.

Y'know, I'd pay to see that . . .

Green tea: a dietary risk I didn't know about

I was surprised to learn that green tea in high concentrations can be a health risk.

A 16-year-old girl developed acute hepatitis about three months after adding Chinese green tea to her daily diet, states a report in BMJ Case Reports. At first, the girl told the doctors that she wasn’t taking any over-the-counter medicine that could have caused the problem.

However, despite signs of liver damage, the doctors couldn’t find any other sources, such as a viral, autoimmune or metabolic problem. That’s when more specific questioning revealed the girl had ordered Chinese green tea online.

According to Live Science, the girl didn’t know all of the product’s ingredients due to Chinese labeling. To further confirm the doctors’ suspicions, the girl quickly recovered from her hepatitis once she stopped consuming the green tea.

There's more at the link.

It seems that the highly concentrated supplements she was drinking, added to a highly concentrated form of green tea, caused the problem.  Green tea in concentrated form can cause a reaction in the liver.  In this case, that led to hepatitis - fortunately not the permanent variety!

I drink green tea now and again, although I prefer black;  and I tend to make it pretty strong, because that's how I like all my tea, regardless of what type it is.  I'll have to re-think that.  Those of my readers who do likewise might wish to do the same.


"Racist" as a code for everyone who isn't "woke"

I'm getting very frustrated with the constant drumbeat of commentary from left-wing, progressive elements of US politics that accuses anyone not - or not sufficiently - on their side of being "racist".  It's a lie, but that doesn't stop them proclaiming it loudly and frequently to all and sundry.

The latest example of this idiocy comes from the Washington Post.

The alarming rise of white-power violence, from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh and now to Poway, Calif., has left many Americans scrambling to make sense of the toxic stew of racism, anti-Semitism and nativism that is swamping the United States and that has claimed yet another life in a house of worship. Given the Unite the Right rally’s fascist symbols and the swastikas appearing on synagogues, it’s hard not to wonder: Didn’t we already fight — and win — this war?

. . .

After Charlottesville, too, social media echoed with variations of the line: “My grandpa didn’t fight the Nazis only for them to return.” And it’s possible that a good many of our grandfathers might have fought the Nazis expressly to oppose their race supremacy. But it’s worth putting this plainly: The Allied leadership did not fight the war over fascist race-nationalism. That was the historical path not taken.

As it’s once again on the ascent across the globe, this historian imagines where we might be today had the Allies fought on the basis of eliminating the racial supremacy of the Germans (and, in their variation, the Japanese). What if that principle had been, through the greatest global struggle of humankind, woven into our social DNA? And how can we make that principle central to our societies today?

There's more at the link.

This is moral blindness and stupidity at its worst.  Stopping the Nazis was good in and of itself.  Whether or not it explicitly invoked racism is irrelevant.  Besides, all combatant societies espoused racism to a greater or lesser extent.  The USA became infamous for its handling of Japanese-Americans, its shoddy treatment of African-American servicemen, and so on;  but that didn't stop it learning from its experiences during the war, and changing those negatives over the following decades.  Similarly, Britain exploited its non-white colonies shamefully during the war (including causing a mass famine in India that killed millions of people, because Churchill initially refused to redirect badly-needed war shipping to carry food to the subcontinent), and other European colonial powers did likewise to their outposts of empire.  All found after the war that they could not continue along that path, because they'd effectively educated their own colonial populations to demand greater freedom and refuse to be taken for granted any longer.  Thus, Allied wartime racism contained the seeds of its own destruction.  War is a great egalitarian leveler, when it comes down to it.

To call America "racist" today is to betray one's own complete and utter lack of understanding of that term.  I've spent years working in the Third World, and I can promise you, there are millions upon millions of impoverished residents there who would cheerfully commit any crime, up to and including murder, to be able to enjoy the lifestyle that the poorest of our poor must "endure" from day to day.  Those Third World residents know the meaning of racism, tribalism, cronyism, corruption, and every other evil one can imagine.  They live it every day.  They wouldn't find our system racist at all.

Alyssa Ahlgren points out:

When you turn on the news, listen in class, or overhear a political conversation you would think that racism is mainstream. You’re probably so sick of the words “racist,” “hate,” or “bigoted.” These terms used to carry weight, as they should. However, they are now being so loosely applied your eyes start to roll back when you hear them. We have one side of the aisle claiming our nation is plagued by evil racism that reaches the core of the system as well as all of its individuals. You have the other side of the aisle pointing out that America has become the least racist multi-racial society in history.

Which one is it? Are we so rooted in racism as a society that we don’t even realize it, or have we evolved since the Civil Rights Movement and the abhorrent Jim Crow era? Let’s look at the facts. When we hear the words “systemic racism” it is often in reference to America’s “racist” police force. This claim alleges that cops specifically target and discriminate against black people. Statistics, however, do not support this notion. According to FBI data, white people are twice as likely to be killed by cops than black people. Not only that, but police are 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black person than an unarmed black person is to be killed by a cop. Black and Hispanic police offers are more likely to fire upon a black individual than a white officer. On top of that, black people are underrepresented in stop-and-frisks by police when compared to the percentage of black people that commit crimes. Racism is not the reason for racial disparities, crime is.

. . .

Propagating a false narrative that the United States and everyone in it is inherently racist in order to continue to fight for a cause that has been long won is regressive. The unspoken reality is that if we all admit that racism is an issue that is only seen in the execrable fringe of society then the left loses. Leftism thrives on victimhood. Leftism thrives on racism. Without it, the basis of their talking points and policy falls. Without it, political figures who have established their careers on racial division are out of a job.

Again, more at the link.

Are there elements of racism in US society?  Sure there are.  Are there elements of racism inside each and every one of us as individuals?  Probably.  The old saw about "Would you want your son/daughter to date one of them?" isn't just a cliché, but an uncomfortable truth.  We're all at least uneasy about, if not suspicious of, anyone who "isn't like us".  It's an instinctive, inherent reaction.  I have it, just as I'm sure almost every one of my readers does.  It's part of the human condition.  However, that's not racism as such.  It's one's instinctive adherence to one's own kind.  It would be very nice if that meant all Americans adhered to each other as a nation, irrespective of race, but that's not going to happen.  Our loyalties are on a smaller scale, to family, to clan, to tribe.  That's a survival mechanism that's been honed over millennia of experience.  We've learned it the hard way.  The very liberals who are so upset about racism have it, too.  Just wait until their sons or daughters want to date a conservative, and watch them froth at the mouth!

That doesn't mean we're automatically, instinctively racist.  It means we have to learn - also, the hard way - that some people out there, even though different from us, are good, while others are bad.  That has to do with ethics and morals, not race, language, skin color, etc.  We have to learn to identify who's who among them, and deal with each group accordingly.  Under stress (e.g. war, civil conflict, and so on) we tend to automatically lump the "other" into a potentially threatening group, and treat them accordingly unless and until they've proved otherwise.  Again, not racist - just very, very practical.

After the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, I wrote:

The terrorists haven't thought about it, I'm sure, but they're going to produce a similar and even greater tragedy for their own people than they've inflicted on France.  The reaction from ordinary people like you and I won't be to truly think about the tragedy, to realize that the perpetrators were a very small minority of those who shared their faith, extremists who deserve the ultimate penalty as soon as it can be administered.  No.  The ordinary man and woman on the streets of France is going to wake up today hating all Muslims.  He or she will blame them all for the actions of a few, and will react to all of them as if they were all equally guilty.

One can't blame people for such attitudes.  When one simply can't tell whether or not an individual Muslim is also a terrorist fundamentalist, the only safety lies in treating all of them as if they presented that danger.  That's what the French people are going to do now.  That's what ordinary people all across Europe are going to do now, irrespective of whatever their politicians tell them.  Their politicians are protected in secure premises by armed guards.  They aren't.  Their survival is of more immediate concern;  so they're doing to do whatever they have to do to improve the odds in their favor.  If that means ostracizing Muslims, ghettoizing them, even using preemptive violence against them to force them off the streets . . . they're going to do it.

I've written before about how blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is disingenuous and inexcusable.  I still believe that . . . but events have overtaken rationality.

. . .

That's the bitter fruit that extremism always produces.  It's done so throughout history.

More at the link.

In that sense, the extremists who're peddling the "Everything and everyone is racist!" lie are effectively making that more of a reality every time they scream it.  By pushing such an extreme, manifestly untrue perspective, they're radicalizing those who don't share it.  This causes the latter to reject it - and those pushing it.  "Every action begets an equal and opposite reaction", as Newton pointed out - and it applies in politics as much as in physics.  However, I suspect they haven't thought about that.