Thursday, January 31, 2019

Heh


Received via e-mail, from a reader whose name I can't make out from his e-mail address.  Clickit to biggit.







Peter

That'll get the vegans going . . .


From The Devil's Panties on January 29th, 2019.  Click the link or the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web site.




One can almost hear vegetarian heads exploding . . . heads of lettuce, of course!




Peter

Legalized murder


I note with horror that left-wing/liberal/progressive voices have been celebrating - yes, celebrating - the latest abortion legislation in New York state.  It's clearly designed to preempt any threat to the Roe v. Wade decision by a newly conservative Supreme Court.  However, in doing so, it goes to lengths never before seen from - and certainly never before tolerated by - any legislature in this country.

“Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo after signing New York’s Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday night, January 22.

Not only will the law preserve access to abortions, it also removes abortion from the state’s criminal code. This would protect doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution. The law also now allows medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York.

“The old law had criminal penalties. It was written that the doctor or professional could be held criminally liable,” Cuomo said during an interview on WNYC Wednesday.

The law also addresses late-term abortions. Under New York’s Reproductive Health Act, they can be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or when necessary to protect the life of the mother.

. . .

“We need to be honest with the public and say that this bill does not simply codify Roe v. Wade… what this bill does is expand abortion up to birth and the third trimester,” State Assembly Rep. Nicole Malliotakis argued before the state legislature ... She also argued that removing abortion from the criminal code would mean that if a fetus died as the result of an assault on a woman there would be no prosecution. “Being assaulted and losing your baby is not a woman’s choice,” she said.

There's more at the link.

As if that wasn't bad enough, proposed legislation in Virginia would have gone even further.  If the makeup of the state legislature there changes, I have no doubt it'll be resubmitted for renewed consideration.

A push by Virginia Democrats to loosen restrictions on late-term abortions is erupting into a fierce partisan clash because of a viral video in which a lawmaker acknowledges her legislation would allow abortions up until moments before birth.

Gov. Ralph Northam added gas to the fire Wednesday by describing a hypothetical situation in a radio interview where an infant who is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth could be left to die.

. . .

In the video recorded by the Republican Standard, Gilbert asks Tran whether her legislation would let a pregnant woman who is dilating request an abortion if a doctor certified that the woman's mental health was impaired.

"My bill would allow that, yes," Tran said.

Existing state law does not put an absolute time limit on abortions and Tran's legislation does not alter that.

Her legislation would reduce the number of doctors who would have to certify late-term abortions are needed from three to one. It would also delete the requirement that doctors determine that continuing a pregnancy would "substantially and irremediably" impair a woman's health. Instead doctors would only have to certify that the woman's health was impaired.

. . .

Northam was asked about the video exchange during a regular radio appearance on WTOP-FM Wednesday.

The governor, who is a pediatric neurologist, defended the legislation and noted that late-term abortions are usually done because the infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth.

Northam said that if a woman were to desire an abortion as she's going into labor, the baby would be "resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue" between doctors and the mother, leaving open what would happen next.

Again, more at the link.

The truth, of course, is that there is no medical reason to abort a child in the third trimester or approaching birth.

An OB/GYN who has delivered more than 2,500 babies went viral for his response to New York state's new pro-abortion bill that allows abortion right up until birth in many cases.

. . .

Cuomo ordered that some buildings, including the One World Trade Center, be lighted in pink to celebrate the passage of the law.

“That’s actually sick,” [Dr. Omar L.] Hamada told "Fox & Friends" Monday morning, “that we’re celebrating the death of infants – of babies that could live outside of the womb right then. In fact, at the base of the World Trade Center…there is a memorial to 9/11 in which is listed the names of the victims and also the fetuses. I think there were four or six fetuses that were killed, and they list those as victims. And now they’re celebrating that they’re able to take the lives of those.”

The new law allows non-doctors to perform the procedure and allows for abortions up to the point of birth if the life or health of the mother is deemed at risk or the baby is not viable.

“There’s absolutely no reason to kill a baby before delivery in the third trimester," he said. "Not a fetal or maternal indication – what we say in medicine. If there’s a problem, and there are problems in the third trimester, both with the babies and with the mom that require delivery, just deliver the baby. We don’t have to kill it."

More at the link.

Dr. Hamada is quite right.  As a pastor, I've given emergency baptisms to several extremely premature babies, one only a little over five months old - she looked like a small frog compared to my hand.  I was summoned to the hospital urgently, because she was so premature she wasn't expected to live.  I baptized her with distilled water through a dropper-like instrument, reaching in through a port in the side of the incubator.  Want to know something amazing?  From the moment I baptized her - literally at that instant - she began to rally.  Two nurses by my side watched in astonishment, exclaiming aloud, as monitors showed all her vital signs simultaneously beginning to improve.  She went home after four months in the incubator, and as far as I know has had a normal childhood since then.  The point of telling that tale is to show that, given good medical care and a reasonable chance, even very premature babies have a good chance of making it to term and living a normal life, given modern medical care.  Abortion is not an inevitable or inescapable outcome.

I won't go into all the arguments about the sanctity of human life, the humanity (or otherwise) of the fetus in the womb, etc.  I have my views, conditioned by my faith, and others have different ones.  That's not the point of this discussion.  In medical and scientific terms, irrespective of one's moral code, there is no reason to abort a baby in the third trimester.  Once that baby is born, it's a living human being, and should be treated as such.  To suggest that it might be left to die as a sort of post-partum abortion is prima facie absolutely sickening and immoral.  Even if a law says it's not criminal to do so, that doesn't change the moral and ethical reality.  A law could say that the sky is not blue, but red, but it wouldn't change the reality we see with our own eyes every day!

As far as I'm concerned, any politician who votes for such a measure brands him- or herself as beyond the pale, and utterly unworthy of their office.  Please God, may voters treat them as such!

Peter

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Quote of the day


From Larry Lambert:


The problem with socialism is that you can vote your way into it but you need to shoot your way out of it.


That certainly seems to have been the experience of a great many countries so far.

Peter

When the S really does HTF


Many readers will be familiar with Selco Begovic and his so-called "SHTF School", where he teaches the lessons he learned the hard way during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995.  He's just published a new book, "The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival: The Brutal Truth About Violence, Death, & Mayhem You Must Know to Survive".




Before I speak of  his book, let me remind you that I've been in many emergencies and dangerous situations:
  • civil unrest in South Africa;
  • political and tribal turmoil in Zimbabwe, Congo, Rwanda and elsewhere;
  • wars in Angola and the horn of Africa;
  • disease, famine and other humanitarian disasters in several African countries;
  • and post-hurricane relief operations after Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Gustav (2008) in Louisiana.
I'm intimately familiar with the stresses of disaster, both natural and man-made, and what they can do to people and societies.  I think I'm pretty well qualified to review Selco's book.

Selco has written a truly superb insider's story of his own experiences during the civil war in Bosnia. He perfectly describes how things went to hell in a handbasket with almost no major warning signs - only trends that most people (including himself) dismissed as temporary or passing problems. His descriptions of foraging for food, defending himself and others, trying to help his extended family to survive, and the lasting effects of his experiences on himself and those around him, ring absolutely true.

I've seldom read a more brutally factual account. This is an indispensable book for anyone wanting to understand how a situation such as that in Bosnia (or many other places around the world, for that matter) can (and will) strip the veneer of civilization away from anyone and everyone, and force us all into a survival mode that we'd rather not even think about. When it's a matter of survival of the fittest, and every person or family for themselves, it's... it's very bad indeed. I know. I've been there multiple times, and seen it for myself. I've seen how it changed me.

I can't recommend this book too highly. It's essential reading for anyone interested in emergency preparations, even for a lesser emergency than civil war.  It's also definitely relevant to the schism in US society we're experiencing at present.  If that schism should go any further, this might be a grimly prophetic book indeed.

As a matter of fact, Selco's book has got me wondering whether I shouldn't write one of my own, about the lessons learned in SHTF situations in the many and varied circumstances in which I've found myself over the years.  I must think about that.

Peter

Will Iran start a general war in the Middle East?


Strategy Page reports that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which is being hammered by Israel in Syria, is now threatening to unleash terrorist movements Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel.

Iranian allies Hezbollah and Hamas are both threatening “war with Israel.” Such threats are not made without Iranian permission. That has long been the main Israeli fear, that Iran would support a simultaneous attack by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Israel believed Iran would wait until it had built a significant force of fighters and rockets in Syria before trying such an attack. Iran, however, is more calculating than most Islamic terror groups and knows that such an attack would, at best, cause a lot of damage but would not destroy Israel.

The repercussions for Iranian forces in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza would be considerable. Iranian hard liners (mainly the IRGC or Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) have the most to lose by backing such an attack and then having to face the blowback in Iran for failure. Then there is the “use it or lose it” angle. For over a year anti-government (and anti-IRGC) demonstrations in Iran have persisted and grown. Iranians are angry over all the money being spent to support Hezbollah, Hamas and military operations in Syria. Over 2,000 Iranians have died in Syria, most of them IRGC personnel and five to ten times as many Iranian mercenaries (mainly Afghans), Iran pays death benefits to the families of the mercenaries killed and the Iranians are finding out how much these wars really cost and how that prevents the Iranian economy from improving. Many of the senior clerics who control the religious dictatorship that runs Iran would like to curb the power of the IRGC and the current crises is beginning to look like a good opportunity. Thus many IRGC leaders would see an all-out attack on Israel as something to be attempted sooner rather than later when it is no longer possible.

When it comes to Syria the Russians recently admitted via mass media that they were not really a major Iranian ally and that Russia was more concerned with helping Israel maintain its security. This lukewarm Russian support for Iran has been assumed for some time but now it is openly admitted. Turkey is another Iranian ally that is more frenemy than staunch supporter of Iran. That means the Syrian support for Iran becomes questionable and there is growing evidence of that. In general Iran has few real friends when it comes to their Syrian operations. Iraq refuses to turn against the Americans and is getting cozier with the Gulf Arabs. Most Lebanese hate Hezbollah, which increasingly does whatever it wants no matter what harm it exposes Lebanon to. Egypt and most Palestinians (mainly Fatah in the West Bank) oppose Iran. Thus the growing risk of Iran losing Syria, Gaza and even Hezbollah. Something must be done and while many Iranians would prefer just declaring victory and going home the IRGC knows that means a defeat for them. Cutting support for Hezbollah and Hamas would not destroy those two but would encourage them to negotiate peace deals of their own.

There's more at the link.

The Revolutionary Guard is essentially between a rock and a hard place right now.  They've bragged openly about their intentions to "destroy" Israel, and hoist the Iranian flag over the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem:  but they're getting hammered in Syria every day by the Israeli Air Force, and their boasts are increasingly being revealed as so much hot air.  Support for them from the Iranian people is drying up fast:  many have begun to openly criticize them for their failures, and for wasting billions of dollars in Syria when it's desperately needed to improve conditions at home.

This has the look and feel of a "Hail Mary pass" by the Revolutionary Guard:  a desperation move to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  I don't think it can succeed, but it can certainly force Israel to go onto a full war footing, which would cost it an immense amount of money.  It would also devastate the southern half of Lebanon, much of Syria (which is already pretty devastated from almost a decade of civil war), and Gaza (and possibly the West Bank as well).  Millions of people's lives would be jeopardized, and stability in the region would be set back for decades.  What's more, if the threat is serious enough, Israel is quite capable of attacking Iran itself - and who knows where that might lead?

This is potentially a very serious situation.  Keep your eyes on it.  Its repercussions could affect the USA and Europe as well.

Peter

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Heh


Found at Free North Carolina:







Peter

Is the "United States" no longer an accurate description of America?


Donald Sensing, a pastor and former military officer, writes:

American politics have become only contests of power. No one on either side even attempts to appeal to transcendent authority or principle. As the Left's recent unbridled fury over the hapless Covington Kids proved, social media is leading the political and media decline of the country deeper and deeper into The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate.

I will turn 64 this year. I hope that this country can hold together for the maybe 30 years I have left and for the 10 years or so my wife has beyond that. But my three children? For what they will endure, I have only nightmares.

There's more at the link.  I strongly recommend reading it in full, particularly the essays he links.

It's interesting that Rev. Sensing, no liberal, links to Andrew Sullivan, decidedly a liberal, in making his point.  Sullivan, writing about the Covington incident, notes:

It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.

How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question.

. . .

Across most of the national media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the narrative had been set ... This is the orthodoxy of elite media, and it is increasingly the job of journalists to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it.

There’s a reason why, in the crucial battle for the legitimacy of a free press, Trump is still on the offensive. Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism. My own trust in it is eroding. I’m far from the only one.

. . .

I can understand this impulse emotionally ... But I fear it morally or politically. It’s a vortex that can lead to nothing but the raw imposition of power by one tribe over another. There can be no dialogue here, no debate ... And none of us is immune.

What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general.

. . .

This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us. This process is greater than one president. It is bottom-up as well as top-down. Tyranny, as Damon Linker reminded us this week, is not just political but psychological, and the tyrannical impulse, ratcheted up by social media, is in all of us. It infects the soul of the entire body politic. It destroys good people. It slowly strangles liberal democracy. This is the ongoing extinction level event.

Again, more at the link.

I'm hearing more and more rational voices, on both the left and the right of US politics, making this same point.  Have we reached the stage where we can no longer engage in dialog at all?  Have we reached the stage where politics is nothing more than a militant battle between tribes, cultures or viewpoints, with the winner trying to take all and deny even the dregs to the loser?  That's not democracy.  That's tyranny.

This is Gramsci's dream come true.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) ... talked of “becoming State”. That is, the Marxist vanguard -- on behalf of the working class (of course) -- would become the state. Alternatively they would “take over the institutions” of the state (the police, the law, political parties, the civil service, councils, etc.) and even the institutions which are not ordinarily deemed to be directly part of the state (e.g., the churches, charities, regional/national newspapers, the universities, schools, etc.). (Rudi Dutschke called this the “Long March through the Institutions”.)

This new Leftist hegemony was to be imposed upon the working class via the schools, universities, local councils, the law, etc. (in exactly the same was as Marxists believe that the “capitalist-state hegemony” was imposed on the working class).

More at the link.

The liberal/progressive left wing of US politics has, indeed, taken over many (if not most) of the institutions that form and shape our society.  It's eager to take over those it doesn't yet dominate.  That's why the vitriolic outbursts against the nomination of SCOTUS Justice Kavanaugh were so incredibly vicious.  He was attacked, slandered, libeled, and then when none of that worked, smeared with blatantly false, unprovable accusations.  He managed to survive all of them, and has been appointed - but the left is still threatening to "investigate" his "lies" during the process.  I imagine that if President Trump has the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice, the outbursts from the left will be even worse - because SCOTUS is an institution of ultimate power, the third arm of the separated powers (executive, legislative and judicial branches) that together govern the USA.  They're desperate to dominate it, because it can rule against their activities in many other areas if those contravene the Constitution.  Appointing judges with the "wrong" view of the Constitution (i.e. that it's an objective standard, rather than a fluid "living document") is a direct and immediate threat to the left's dominance overall - and President Trump knows it.

The news media no longer even try to hide their bias, their left-wing orientation, and their determination to destroy anything and anyone that stands in the way of their preferences.  In doing so, they've damaged themselves, perhaps beyond repair.

Conforming perfectly to Trump’s description of them as an “opposition party,” journalists have shed any semblance of objectivity and now simply wallow in anti-Trump politics. The frenzy over the bogus BuzzFeed story fed off the media’s conviction that Trump is an inveterate liar; the fraudulent story about the Covington students fed off the media’s conviction that the Trump hat is an inherent symbol of racism. The same journalists who scoffed at Baker’s counsel of restraint embraced the call of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to be “truthful,” not “neutral.” Such conceits have simply given the media a license to lie in the name of a supposedly superior politics. Neither truthful nor neutral, the media in the age of Trump is purely propagandistic and attitudinal: if something feels “true,” which is to say, if it furthers an anti-Trump narrative, they report it as true.

. . .

Out of spite for Trump, journalists gave themselves permission to ignore rigorous rules of skepticism and destroy what little remained of the wall between straight reporting and liberal opinion. They set out to torch Trump’s credibility but ended up obliterating their own.

The tragedy, of course, is that Newton's Third Law of Motion ("To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction") applies as much to politics as it does to the natural world.  To provide just one example out of many I could cite, here's Kurt Schlichter's response to Covington.

The Dems are spooning with socialism, and the goal of socialism is written in blood on the pages of history. The unapproved must be liquidated, and they are making no secret that you are unapproved.

I know it’s hard. It goes against everything you’ve been taught to believe to acknowledge that that a significant and influential group of other Americans – not that they identify that way – want you dead or enslaved. But they do.

. . .

You want to reject this reality, to dismiss it, to wave it off as crazy talk. But listen to what they say. Watch what they do. Have the strength to accept the harsh truth that is punching you in the face.

They hate you for not submitting, for being an obstacle to their rule.

The problem is that you are nice, and you project your niceness. Projection is human nature. So while leftist spittle-spewing sociopaths project their own shriveled morality when they shriek about how we’re all racist fascists of fascist racism when racist fascism is actually their jam, we Normals tend to project our decency when we assume that our opponents are just confused friends who are in the throes of a grievous misunderstanding about us that we can remedy with facts and evidence.

That’s 100 percent wrong. Facts and evidence don’t matter because the trial is already over and you’ve already been condemned because of who you are. You can’t ever clear yourself with the left because they don’t hate you for what you did or will do, but for who you are. That’s where the babble about “white privilege” comes from – if you’re white and conservative you’re wrong, and if you’re not white and conservative, you’re even... wronger.

It’s not about race or gender or orientation, but about power – they want to take yours, to strip you of your sovereignty and make you kneel. Their SJW posturing is all a lie and a scam. They don’t care about ending racism, sexism, homophobia, or any of the myriad other -isms and -phobias they blather about. Those poses are just weapons to be used to capture what they really want – total power over you. They seek to shame you into submission, and if that won’t work, then they’ll do whatever it takes.

. . .

Do you think that a leftist Supreme Court majority won’t construe the First Amendment to exclude protection for “hate speech,” by which I mean any thoughts you might wish to express that they object to?

Do you think they won’t turn the federal bureaucracy – including law enforcement – against their political enemies a thousand times harder than before, having been rewarded for the last decade of doing so?

Do you think they won’t start tossing dissenters into prison? They do in England. You can go to jail for a tweet there – and do you think the left thinks that’s a bad thing, or a creative European innovation that needs to be imported?

How about the Second Amendment? Are you kidding? The idea that our citizenry maintains the ultimate veto over tyranny drives them bonkers.

Do you think they won’t use violence to make you conform? Hell, Democrat presidential candidate Eric Swalwell is willing to nuke you for not giving up your guns. We know that because he said so.

It’s time to stop pretending that people who hate our guts don’t hate our guts, and that given the chance they won’t act exactly like people who hate our guts would act.

More at the link.

I wish I could say that Mr. Schlichter was wrong . . . but I can't.  The words actually used by those on the liberal/progressive extreme of US politics demonstrate the reality he writes about.

I fear we are no longer the "United" States of America so much as the "Riven By Differences" States of America.  Can we repair that in time to avoid a second civil war?  I hope and pray so . . . but I'm no longer sure.  Many have already made up their minds that we cannot.

Only time will tell which opinion is correct.  Unfortunately, I suspect time is running out.

Peter

Monday, January 28, 2019

The wind beneath their wings . . . was a tornado


The flight line at Antalya airport, in southern Turkey, was hit by a tornado on Saturday.  Video of the incident shows several airliners being moved around by the windstorm.





I hope they checked them all carefully before allowing them to take off again!




Peter

Never mind just one independent Presidential candidate - how about a dozen?


I was pleasantly surprised to learn this weekend that former Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schulz is considering running for the office of President of the United States in 2020 - as an independent.  The news has sparked concern among Democrats, who fear such a step might divide the progressive/liberal vote and ensure another four year term for President Trump.  However, I think that's a short-sighted perspective.

The problem at present is precisely that the two major political parties have made it almost impossible for any candidate outside their ranks to succeed in becoming President.  The entire system is geared to a two-party political process, both of which have ensured (acting together and independently) that there's little or no room for anything or anyone else.  It's to their advantage to set up the process to suit themselves, and they've done so with gusto.

I think the only way to break the Republicans' and Democrats' stronghold on the process is to chip away at it from all sides.  I'd like to see a dozen independent candidates, not just one, each with a credible message and an attraction to a part of the electorate.  If each of those candidates can attract an average of just 2½% of the votes, that'll take 30% of the votes in a presidential election off the table.  The two big political parties simply can't afford that, so their reaction will have to be one of two things.  Either they'll join forces to block anyone outside their ranks from running at all - which I don't think the American people will tolerate - or they'll have to make the process more transparent, more inclusive of views outside their own boundaries.  What's not to like about that?

As for Mr. Schulz, I'm unlikely to vote for him, given what I know about most of his policy positions.  However, I'm encouraged to read that he regards the national deficit - currently standing at about $22 trillion - as the biggest single domestic problem confronting this countryI couldn't agree more!  It overhangs any and every other policy option, and will doom them all unless it's dealt with sooner rather than later.  We simply can't continue deficit spending indefinitely.  That's what got us into this fiscal mess (courtesy of both the Republican and Democratic Parties), and it's what's stopping us getting out of it.

If it turns out that Mr. Schulz is the only candidate who understands that, and puts forward credible policy suggestions to deal with it, I think a lot of people might vote for him despite his other positions, because he'll be the only candidate who "gets it".

Peter

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday morning music


As regular readers are aware, I've been a fan of Mike Oldfield's music since his first album, Tubular Bells, which came out in 1973.  To date, he's released 26 studio albums, and is a giant in the field of progressive rock and many other genres.  He's also given plenty of attention to more traditional forms.  His 17th album, Voyager, released in 1996, celebrated Celtic music in a wonderful combination of acoustic and orchestral performances.  It remains one of my favorites.




The final track on that album, Mont St. Michel, is a musical homage to the island monastery off the coast of Normandy of the same name.




I find it wonderfully evocative of the history and spirituality of the place.  If you've ever visited it, you'll know what I mean.  It's particularly fitting that a Celtic-themed piece should pay tribute to Mont St. Michel, because its first religious inhabitant was an Irish hermit in about the sixth century AD.

I find this track simply beautiful.  I think that Irish hermit would nod approvingly as he listened, and say a prayer.





Meditative, inspired, and altogether lovely.

Peter

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Ebola: ramping up slowly


The situation in north-eastern Congo, where a major Ebola outbreak is in progress, is slowly getting worse.  The vaccination of tens of thousands of people at risk is helping slow its spread, but the numbers don't look good.

In a bulletin on Thursday, the health ministry outlined the growth of the Ebola outbreak.

"Since the start of the epidemic, the total number of cases is 715, including 666 confirmed and 49 probable. In all, there have been 443 deaths" in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, the ministry said.

DR Congo, formerly Zaire, has seen 10 outbreaks of the highly contagious haemorrhagic disease since it was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola river in the northwest of the country.

The latest outbreak was declared on August 1 in the region of Beni, a major market town in North Kivu, and quickly spread to neighbouring Ituri province.

The ministry said 248 people have recovered from the Ebola virus, while "236 suspect cases" were under investigation -- down one from the previous bulletin on January 15.

There's more at the link.

If the number of confirmed cases is correct, the death rate is 66.5%, while if the probable cases are also included, it's 62%.  The recovery rate is 37.2% or 34.7%, ditto.  Basically, two out of three people who contract Ebola in the Congo are dying of it.

Nor are the total numbers reassuring.  As I've written before, I know that area.  I'll bet a year of my income to a day of yours that the actual totals are very significantly higher than the "official" figures.  I won't be at all surprised to hear that there have actually been ten times that number of infections, most of them contracted by people in the bush who didn't report to medical facilities to ask for treatment.  Part of that's the fear of anything "official" - the people there have learned to distrust the authorities.  Part of it's the stigma of being diagnosed with Ebola, because you'll be ostracized by your family, friends and tribe - sometimes forever - for being a carrier.  Part of it's sheer physical weakness, because many won't try to get help at the first sign of infection, but will try to carry on as long as they can.  By the time they realize the problem's more serious than just a cold or the flu, it may be too late for them to seek help, because they may be too weak to reach a place where it's available.  Finally, if someone dies of Ebola in the bush, they won't be recorded as an "official" victim.  Those who knew them will flee, fearful of catching the disease, and even more fearful of being forcibly quarantined while they wait to find out whether they're infected, too.  It's a no-win situation for all concerned.

I continue to believe that the Ebola outbreak in Congo is far from contained.  Heroic measures from medical teams may have slowed its progress, but it's still spreading.  If the vaccine (which is in limited supply) runs out, or if enough people carrying the virus flee to other centers where it can spread unchecked . . . we'll have a nightmare on our hands.  I'm not exaggerating.  This is a very serious outbreak, and it's poised on a knife-edge right now.  Let's hope the medical teams in the area can prevent it sliding off on the wrong side.

Peter

The shutdown, the wall, and President Trump


I'm no longer astonished by the short-sighted and vitriolic reactions, from both sides of the political aisle, to yesterday's announcement by President Trump that the current government shutdown will be suspended for a few weeks, to allow further negotiation and (hopefully) a compromise solution.  If that doesn't happen, the President has made it clear that he'll proceed with other measures to build the wall - measures that are sure to be challenged in court.

The tragedy is, this entire episode has further entrenched the "great divide" in this country between left and right, urban and rural dwellers and interests, liberal and conservative . . . need I go on?  The President has been excoriated by those who've previously supported him, claiming he's "caved" or "given in" or "surrendered".  Those doing so forget that he's the head of the executive branch of the US government - only one of its three branches.  He can't get the support he needs from the legislative branch, which makes and passes budgets and laws.  He couldn't get it before, when his own party controlled both houses of Congress, and he sure as hell can't get it now, with divided control.  He also can't get it - at least, not in the short term - from the judicial system, the third branch of government in this country.  Many lower courts, particularly those with liberal-leaning judges, have demonstrated their political bias by ruling against the President's policies on the basis of factors other than the law.  On appeal, many of their rulings have been overturned . . . but the President can't do anything until they have been overturned.

President Trump's hands are effectively tied when it comes to immediate, short-term action.  He's not a dictator, able to rule by decree;  and he's not a magician, able to make things happen by waving a magic wand.  Why criticize President Trump when his own party wouldn't vote him the funds necessary to build the wall?  He asked for them.  He wasn't given them.  Is that his fault, or the fault of RINO Republicans, who lost their majority in the House as a result of their pusillanimity?  Why criticize him when his policies are delayed, and sometimes derailed, by hostile court rulings?  He's not to blame for them.

Daniel Greenfield points out that the struggle over the Wall is actually a struggle to define what is true, both physically and morally.

A breakdown in border security is not only a physical breakdown, it’s a moral collapse. We aren’t lacking in the physical resources that are needed to construct a wall and to secure the border ... What we lack are the moral resources to secure the border. The struggle over the shutdown is not a battle over resources, but a struggle over morals.

. . .

The radicals claim that the concept of a wall is divisive, but it’s actually unifying. Walls encompass what is within and thereby create unity. Without a wall, there can never be unity, only endless divisions. Where there is no wall that we can agree on, it is inevitable that we will build our own walls. And when there is no single principle worth fighting for, we will fight over everything.

. . .

The battle over a wall is at its heart a battle over truth in both the general and the specific senses ... Walls and objective truths are inherently alienating because they are fixed moral structures ... That is why the wall became the country’s dividing line. It is a line that not only divides borders, but concepts. It separates truth from lies and fact from fiction. It embodies the larger struggle not only over what legally makes one an American, but what morally makes one an American.

There's more at the link.  Good reading.

Some believe that President Trump has "caved" to the liberal opposition.  Ann Coulter has called him a "wimp", and Karl Denninger believes he "gave up".  I respectfully suggest neither is true.  President Trump is fighting virtually alone, backed up to only a limited extent by a squishy Republican caucus whose support can't be guaranteed.  He's battling entrenched opposition in both the legislative and judiciary branches of the US government, which effectively hobbles his freedom of action.  He's doing the best he can against monumental odds . . . and, based on his track record so far, I think he may have several tricks in reserve.  He's demonstrated time and again, both in the commercial world and in politics, that he can pull a rabbit out of a hat at the appropriate moment.  Who's to say he may not do so this time?  He may not.  He may, indeed, have "caved".  However, right now, that's far from clear.

As Aesop points out:

The Democrats have promised all along to "negotiate in good faith" once the government was reopened.

That bluff has been called.

If they don't do exactly that now, they have no leg to stand on if Trump simply declares an emergency next month, noting they got everything they asked for and still refused to deal, and starts building the wall they said they wanted time and time again, before he was president, by going right over their heads, when they turn out to be the same lying sacks of **** they've always been.

. . .

But what if, contrary to all historical evidence, Trump ultimately folds?

(And if he does, he does; I won't be the last guy looking for the pony under the mountain of horse****. I've noted multiple times the President Trump is "not my guy". He's just governed more conservatively than anyone since Coolidge, and played harder hardball than anyone since Andrew Jackson shot a guy for insulting him.)

This was his "Read my lips..." moment, and you can start planning for him to get ousted in the primaries, if he doesn't simply resign and hand the whole ****ball to Pence sooner. Or get impeached, tossed out, followed by cuffed and stuffed by the FBI Obama Holdout Brigade. Because I don't see them letting him pull a Nixon and retiring to a quiet life of writing books and playing golf. They want his head on a pole.

Which means you have, at best, about 700 days before President Shrillary/Biden/Kamala Harris gets sworn in, to get all your crap in one bag.

Either way, by the end of February, you should know beyond any doubt whether **** just got real.

Again, more at the link.

What scares me is to see the border wall imbroglio in the light of the arrest of Roger Stone, which was a blatant, in-your-face publicity stunt rather than a law enforcement proceeding, and the demonization of the Covington schoolkids in true Alinsky fashion.  Do please follow both those links and read their contents in full.  They're very important.  What we're seeing in all these events is a growing radicalization - a Stalinization, if you wish - of the left in this country.  The Border Wall is only one aspect of that, along with many others.

Borepatch observes that we may be turning into the Soviet Union.

I don't see how this doesn't spin out of control.  The Democratic Party has no interest at all in reining in the street muscle, and the Deep State - especially the FBI/NSA/FISA Secret Police - has no interest in backing off the official oppression.  I wish I were more optimistic, but now I'm wondering if maybe this will be the year that people start shooting back.

For the first time, I fear he may be right.  This may, indeed, be the year that people start shooting back . . . because they're being pushed beyond endurance by those who hate America as she was and is.  They won't rest until she becomes the left-wing, progressive dictatorship they revere.  Trouble is, there are many who will simply not tolerate that.  "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" . . . and in US politics right now, that reaction is growing stronger.

Can the United States survive in its present form?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Peter

Friday, January 25, 2019

Suddenly I'm hungry . . .


It seems that the classic Cajun/Creole standby, gumbo, is changing with the times.

Gumbo, long a fixture in restaurants here, has disappeared from many menus as new chefs arrive with different cuisines and ideas, catering to a population remade by the transplants who settled in the city after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005.

But the chefs who have stuck by the dish are using the moment to stretch its boundaries by adding ingredients that defy tradition, bringing it fresh relevance. Many of the innovations reflect global influences on New Orleans cooking, particularly from South and Southeast Asia. This time of year, with the cooler weather and the start of the Mardi Gras season, may be the best time to sample them — and to appreciate gumbo’s long and continuing evolution.

Michael Gulotta, a New Orleans native, has resumed cooking the seasonal seafood gumbo he introduced as a lunch special last year at Maypop, his modern restaurant in the Warehouse district. It’s seasoned with lime leaf, fermented black beans and black cardamom, in homage to the Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants that have long flourished on the city’s outskirts.

Blue crab & black bean gumbo at Maypop's

“I served that gumbo all last winter,” Mr. Gulotta said. “People went crazy for it.”

Gumbo has existed in various forms across south Louisiana for centuries. It can contain any number of ingredients, depending on the chef and the season. But until recently it was rare to find gumbo that incorporated ingredients beyond a fixed list of proteins (fowl, sausage, local shellfish), aromatics (onion, bell pepper, celery — known locally as the holy trinity) and spices (cayenne, thyme, white pepper).

Gumbo’s flavor is further influenced by roux, the blend of fat and flour used to thicken the broth. It’s a French technique adopted by Louisianians, who often cook the roux so long that it darkens and takes on bitter notes reminiscent of Mexican mole. Sliced okra and the sassafras powder known as filé, a Native American contribution to Louisiana cooking, are also used as gumbo thickeners, either in combination or in place of roux.

All of which is to say that New Orleans gumbo welcomed considerable variation and interpretation even before chefs and home cooks started to add collard greens and Vietnamese fish sauce to their pots.

The pale-roux gumbo with shrimp, crab and oysters that Billy Thurman, a commercial fisherman, cooks at home in Meraux, a 25-minute drive down the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, has little in common with the inky brown duck-andouille gumbo served at Upperline, a traditional restaurant in Uptown.

“Everybody likes it different,” Mr. Thurman said as he stirred his roux with a rubber spatula.

That a single dish can encompass such a broad spectrum of flavor is a big part of gumbo’s enduring local appeal. “Of all the many dishes in Louisiana cooking, gumbo is the one that most singularly defines us,” said Frank Brigtsen, the chef and an owner of Brigtsen’s Restaurant, where rabbit filé gumbo has been a signature offering for 25 years.

There's more at the link.

I was very interested to read some of the recipes discussed in the article.  I've enjoyed Cajun dishes since coming to the USA in the late 1990's;  my first state of residence was Louisiana, from which the title of this blog is derived.  If I do say so myself, I make a pretty good jambalaya.  I'm going to have to experiment with gumbo, too, and see about trying a few new twists to an old favorite.  The curried seafood gumbo served at Saffron Nola (shown below) sounds like a great place to start.




Dang, suddenly I'm hungry . . .

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #1,035


Today's award goes, jointly and severally, to the Washington D.C. City Council.

The D.C. City Council voted 11 to 2 to override Mayor Muriel Bowser’s veto of their bill to decriminalize fare evasion on the metro on Tuesday, prompting the District to join the likes of California, Seattle, Portland and New York where such measures have already been enacted.

“With today’s vote, the Council sent a clear message that it is committed to progressive criminal justice reform that dismantles the systemic racial and economic injustice that has only harmed our communities,” said Nassim Moshiree, Policy Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia. “We once again extend our deepest gratitude to Councilmember Charles Allen for shepherding this bill in the council, to Councilmember Trayon White for introducing it and to all of the Councilmembers who stood firm in their vote.”

Trayon White made headlines earlier this year when he accused Jews of controlling the weather.

. . .

Proponents of the decriminalization bill, including White, cited a disproportionate effect of such laws on people of color.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes and read stories,” said White at a previous meeting of the D.C. City Council. “91 percent of citations given were issued to black people.”

Councilmember Brianne Nadeau also supported the legislation, tweeting,  “The more we commit to using the lens of race equity in all we do in government, the sooner we will be able to rectify the real crime here, which is perpetuating racist government systems in our own government.” She and other supporters of the bill used the hashtag #ItsNotFare to show their support.

There's more at the link.

If there's a poster child for abysmal stupidity, the D.C. City Council appears to be a strong contender for the position.  Let's be blunt:  fare evasion is theft, pure and simple.  If you decriminalize theft, why should anyone refrain from stealing?  If I were an ordinary, honest, law-abiding commuter on the D.C. metro, why should I pay my fare from this day forward?  The council has just told me in no uncertain terms that it's not wrong to do that!

As for alleged racial animus in the situation, that's ridiculous.  Did it ever occur to Councillor White that the reason "91 percent of citations given were issued to black people" is simple?  If 91% (or thereabouts) of the perpetrators were from one racial group, of course they're going to get that proportion of citations!  I used to deal with the same complaint from family members of incarcerated convicts when I worked as a prison chaplain.  I tried to explain to them that "the system" wasn't racist:  that the reason proportionately more of the USA's black population was locked up, compared to other racial groups, is that proportionately, on a per capita basis, the black community committed more of the crimes in this country.  That's not a racist statement;  it's a factual one.  Ask the FBI if you don't believe me.  Law enforcement knows the truth all too well.  It's just that it's politically incorrect to talk about it.

The D.C. City Council have just ensured that the money to operate and maintain the city's metro service will no longer come from those who use it.  Instead, the council will have to gouge taxpayers even more, to cover the costs that their own stupidity and fecklessness have ensured can't be paid any other way.  Genius!  Sheer genius!




Peter

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Puppies...


Found on Gab this afternoon.  This calls for an old-fashioned refrigerator with a latching door!







Peter

Lithium-ion batteries - a permanent fire hazard


I'm noticing more and more reports of lithium-ion batteries, packed in luggage or shipping containers, causing fires that can potentially be devastating.




Several container ships have had fires on board that damaged them severely, notably MV Maersk Honam and MV Maersk Kensington in March 2018, the SSL Kolkata in June 2018, and MV Yantian Express this month.  As a result, changes to the guidelines for dangerous cargo in containers are being discussed.  It's not certain that lithium-ion batteries were involved in all the incidents, but experts in the field say that danger is increasing due to the growing number of such batteries included in modern consumer electronics.  Lithium-ion batteries will burn or explode if punctured, can't tolerate water damage, and are very sensitive to shocks.

Aircraft are also at risk:  lithium-ion batteries have caused more than one fire aboard airliners - so much so that the ICAO has banned them from being loaded into cargo compartments of passenger aircraft.  The most recent example happened just a few days ago.

The latest fire involved Air Transat flight 443, on an Airbus A321 operating from Cancun to Vancouver on 12 January.

During the baggage loading process in Cancun, "brown smoke could be seen coming" from one piece of luggage, according to a preliminary aviation incident report released by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada. The fire burned through the luggage, it adds.

"The suitcase was taken away from the gate area and sprayed with a portable fire extinguisher," says the report. "It was determined that the fire and smoke was caused by electronic cigarette batteries that were overheating."

Air Transat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident did not cause injuries, but it punctuates a risk the TSB highlighted last week in a report into the cause of a June 2018 fire involving a WestJet Boeing 737-700.

That aircraft was operating WestJet flight 113 from Calgary to Vancouver when the crew received an aft cargo fire warning light while climbing through 9,000ft, the TSB's 18 January report says.

The crew discharged fire extinguishers and safely made an emergency return to Calgary, where ground workers discovered a scorched bag in the cargo hold.

The passenger who owned the bag "inadvertently packed two spare lithium-ion batteries for his e-cigarette", the TSB says. "One battery in the charger experienced a thermal runaway."

The WestJet incident "highlights the hazard that lithium-ion batteries, such as those found in electronic cigarettes, pose to the safety of aircraft when stored in checked baggage," it adds.

There's more at the link.

Yet another reason to be leery of commercial air travel . . . as if the TSA wasn't bad enough!




Peter

Science, art, and history come together


I was fascinated to read that scientists investigating rogue waves have not only recreated one under laboratory conditions:  it's also an almost picture-perfect copy of a very famous wave in Japanese art.

Mark McAllister at the University of Oxford and his colleagues have recreated the Draupner wave, the first rogue wave ever recorded.

The 1995 wave, measured in the North Sea, had a maximum height of 25.6 metres ... Prior to this, the existence of these freak waves was merely anecdotal.

The team generated two sets of waves in a circular tank, and crossed them at various angles in an attempt to recreate the conditions that formed the Draupner wave. When these wave groups crossed at an angle of 120 degrees, they coalesced to produce a wave with the scaled height and length of the Draupner wave, 1/35th of the original.



The wave looked remarkably similar to Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa.



While the causes of rogue waves aren’t known for certain, they are more common in crossing sea conditions, says McAllister. They are difficult to predict, appear suddenly, and have previously been implicated in maritime disasters.

There's more at the link.

I've written about rogue waves in these pages before.  They're far from unknown, but previously only from anecdotal evidence, plus the damage they left behind.  For example, the Norwegian tanker Wilstar ran into one off South Africa in 1974.  This was the result.




That photograph was taken in Cape Town harbor after the ship very, very carefully made her way there, to offload her cargo of crude oil and undergo preliminary repairs.  I went down to the dockside to look at her.  You could, quite literally, have driven a double-decker bus into her hull through the hole in her bows - it was that big.  I think every seaman and merchant navy officer in the harbor took the opportunity to stroll over to her berth and stand there, looking very thoughtful as they examined the damage.  It was most impressive . . . and they were about to sail in the same seas where she'd met that wave.  It gave them plenty of food for thought!

The Draupner rogue wave was the first of its kind to be precisely, accurately measured, allowing further investigation.  Full marks to those involved for determining the angle at which cross-currents need to merge to generate such waves.  Perhaps, with this information, weather conditions favorable for them to occur might be better forecast, improving maritime safety.

As for Hokusai's famous print, perhaps the best-known artwork in Japanese history, here's more information about it.





I'd love to know how and why Hokusai's wave image so closely matches that of a real rogue wave.  Coincidence?  Had he, perhaps, seen or been told of such a wave off the coast of Japan?  I suppose we'll never know.  It's one of the more tantalizing questions of art history, IMHO.

Peter

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"They're just molesting the kids another way"


That's the conclusion of American Thinker as it analyzes the inexplicable tardiness of the Catholic Diocese of Covington in failing to withdraw its untrue and dishonest condemnation of students at its High School.  I'd like to say up front that I support AT's conclusions.

Nobody should be all that surprised that leftist mobs and their mainstream media allies perpetrated a false story about Covington Catholic schoolboys ... But what isn't good is the embrace of the dishonest narrative from the kids' own school and their own Catholic diocese, falsely condemning them in some amazing public calumny they have yet to retract.  It's shocking, actually.


We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C.  We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips.  This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.

The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.

We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.

The clerics and their educators haven't retracted that statement, although both websites – that of the diocese and the school itself – are now down.

So much for the Church's teaching on "dignity and respect of the human person."  Based on that statement, they've made an exception for MAGA-hat wearing kids even if they're inside the Church's own educational care.  Talk about not loving your own kids.

The full video has since shown that in fact, the kids were the ones being provoked...

. . .

This is sick stuff, because the facts show that the kids acted with admirable restraint in the face of a genuine provocation to violence.  They should actually be drawing praise from their diocese.

But there they go, condemning their own kids, publicly threatening to expel them, and apologizing to a professional agitator who tried to provoke a fight, all in the name of appeasing the rabid left.

What weakness.  And that's the best scenario ... To condemn [the kids] without the full facts and then slink away with a broken website, saying nothing, is rather insect-like.

. . .

Did Brett Kavanaugh's Jesuit Catholic school come out and condemn him when false accusations were lobbed against him during his Supreme Court hearing?  Not in the slightest.  It correctly recognized that the attack was groundless, with a secondary aim to discredit all Catholic education.  The school stood up for itself and its values, knowing full well what was at stake.

Not so Covington.

. . .

... the clerics persist in condemning the boys and sticking to their story.  Not even the prospect of a lawsuit scares them.  Maybe one of them should look up "calumny" on the "sin" scale and see if it registers.

If they don't, they're just molesting the kids another way.

There's more at the link.

The Web site of the Diocese of Covington is, indeed, down at present.  All one sees at the time of writing is a revised statement, which reads in part:

Concerning the incident in Washington, D.C., between Covington Catholic students, Elder Nathan Phillips and Black Hebrew Israelites the independent, third-party investigation is planned to begin this week. This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people. It is important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate.

We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably and ask others to join us in this prayer.

We will have no further statements until the investigation is complete.

Again, more at the link (at least for the present).

I think this is yet another example of the malevolent infestation of secular humanism at work.  Back in the 1970's, Pentecostal evangelist Bob Mumford defined secular humanism as "what happens when the world evangelizes the church".  I saw precious little of anything except worldly considerations in the Diocese's first statement, and I see little improvement in its current stance.  What happened to defending and upholding the teaching of Him who said "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life"?  If Christ is Truth, why are his (alleged) followers in the Diocese of Covington not standing firmly in defense of the truth?

I'll let Tucker Carlson put things in perspective.  If you prefer to read his words, rather than watch the video, you'll find them here.





Oh - and in case you were wondering about "Vietnam era veteran" and "Recon Ranger" Nathan Phillips' claims concerning his military service . . . wonder no more.  (Language alert - the guy who unmasked his true military record has exposed many military wannabe posers, and isn't polite about them.)  Quelle surprise!




Peter

EDITED ON 2019/01/26 TO ADD:  The Bishop of Covington diocese has apologized to the parents and school pupils concerned for his erroneous initial condemnation of what happened in Washington D.C.  I think it's too little, too late, but others may differ.  At least he made the effort.

Heh


Shamelessly stolen borrowed from It Ain't Holy Water:







Peter

"How to spot a bad guy"


That's the opening of the title of a new article from Greg Ellifritz, whom we've met in these pages before.

It was day time on a crowded big-city street in a country far from home.  It seems my girlfriend and I attracted the attention of a gang of bag thieves.

I noticed a guy on an opposite street corner talking on a cell phone.  He caught my attention when he seemed to be pointing us out to some unseen other person.  As soon as he pointed at us we picked up a tail.  Two guys appeared out of nowhere and started following us very closely.  The dude on the cell phone supervised from a distance.

I slowed down our walking pace.  So did our followers. Not a good sign.  The man on the phone paralleled us from across the street.  I made a quick stop and forced our followers to walk past.  They didn’t like that at all and we could tell that it screwed up their plan.

It was quite the study in the criminal assault paradigm.  The two men were obviously together, but walking a half step apart to seem separate.  They weren’t talking.  One guy was pretending to look at a cell phone in a very unnatural posture (trying to look inconspicuous). The other was giving off constant “grooming cues” touching his face, neck, and hair as he nervously kept looking over his shoulder to check our position.

They were obviously up to something.  I warned my girlfriend and slowed the pace even more.  The two guys slowed down as well, keeping the same distance between us.  In between nervous strokes of his neck, I saw one of the men dart his hand into his pocket.  He pulled it out and had something gold and metallic-colored in his palm.  I couldn’t tell what it was, but it looked like brass knuckles of some sort.  Go time.

I maneuvered aggressively between my girlfriend and the two men so that I could give her a chance to get away as I accessed my knife.  She saw what I was doing (without knowing what had prompted my draw) and was astute enough to say “Hey! Let’s check out this restaurant!” as she pulled me into an eatery we were passing.  Smart girl.  The crooks kept walking and I didn’t have to stab anyone.

Pre-assault indicators are universal.  It doesn’t matter whether you are at home or abroad.  Be alert when you start seeing any predatory movement patterns or deliberate approaches in a crowd.

There's more at the link.

Greg goes into body language and behavioral indicators that an assault or other crime is about to be committed.  It's a good article, and covers a lot of the basics.  It's essential reading to be informed about how to spot someone who's selected you as a target, and is trying to set you up for an attack or choose the right moment to take you.

Highly recommended reading, particularly for everyone in a crowded urban environment who may be accustomed to "tuning out" the people around them, and walking with their eyes glued to a smartphone display or bopping to the beat of music in their earbuds.  Both are very bad ideas.

Peter

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It's time for more Bollywood fight scenes


In the past we've enjoyed (?) several fight scenes from Bollywood movies.  I think it's time we revisited the genre.  This will be the first of a number of posts dealing with it.

The 1978 film Aadi Yug showed the creation of the world and of primitive man, in a typically Bollywood fashion (as described at the link).  Here's a fight scene from the movie, showing three "cavemen" competing with another for the "affections" (?) of a cavewoman.  It's ridiculously over-the-top and ludicrously over-acted.





No Oscars or Emmy Awards for that scene, but it's still good for a laugh, forty-one years after it was made.

Peter

Another great restaurant


During our brief road trip to Shreveport, Louisiana, last week, Miss D. and I took advantage of our visit to sample the food at Crawdaddy's Kitchen, a Cajun restaurant in that city.  It was delicious!




Even later in the evening, there were plenty of customers.  Most appeared to be locals, working men and women;  it wasn't an upmarket tourist trap by any means.  The air was fresh and clean inside, despite the heavy emphasis on seafood and shellfish on the menu, which is always a good sign.  The decor was simple, but clean and orderly.

Miss D. decided that she'd like to try the restaurant's version of the famous Hurricane cocktail, while I stayed with a more prosaic beer.  The Hurricane was tasty, but very strong, so much so that she wasn't able to finish more than half of it.  I sampled it, and did a double-take.  No complaints about lack of alcohol there!  If you like that sort of thing, this is a good place to order one - but probably not more than one!

Miss D. went with the fried alligator platter, while I sampled the crawfish étouffée with crab cakes.  Both were excellent, well cooked, with just the right mix of spices and seasonings to make them irresistible.  The portions were large enough that we didn't have room for a full dessert each, so we shared a single serving of New Orleans style bread pudding with rum sauce.  It was delectable, a perfect balance between sweet, spicy and alcoholic - possibly the best of its kind I've ever eaten.  (You can see the restaurant's menu for yourself here.)

Crawdaddy's Kitchen is definitely on our list of restaurants to visit again, if we should pass that way.  (No, they're not compensating me in any way for posting this review:  I just like to share this sort of thing with my readers.)

Peter

Karl Denninger analyzes the government's inflation calculations . . .


. . . and finds them wanting in almost every respect.

How do you measure inflation?  Well, the common claim ... is that you use the government's numbers -- specifically, CPI.  It says there's no inflation so there isn't, so it is claimed.

Sure.

Let me point out a few inconvenient facts.

First, CPI only measures some things.  The name is consumer price index.  In other words, it is only intended to measure the price of things you consume.  That explicitly excludes assets.  But you require assets to live, and the price of them is inevitably paid for by you.

Then there's this nonsense, directly from the CPI itself:

In calculating the index, price changes for the various items in each location are aggregated using weights, which represent their importance in the spending of the appropriate population group.

Or so the Bureau of Lies and Scams claims.

The reference of "100" is set at 1982-84; in other words, a "200" means that item is allegedly twice as expensive as it was in 1982.

The "all items" index number, unadjusted, is 251 at the present time. If there has been no inflation why is the average price 251% of what it was in 1982?

Then there are the crazy outliers -- medical care services are 522% of the 1982 price, for example.

Shelter is over 300% the price.

Car insurance is 572% as expensive.

Do you smoke?  That's 1,082% as expensive.

But there's been no inflation.

Uh huh.

. . .

Health insurance is claimed to be 1.08% of your budget.  Uh huh.  The price is claimed to have been up 5.4% in the last year.  This is an improvement, I suppose, in that health insurance a few years ago was claimed to be 0.6% of your household budget!  For comparison car insurance is claimed to be 250% more expensive as a percentage of household operating budgets than health insurance.  If you believe this I have a bridge for sale over the Hudson River.

The CPI also ignores such things as property taxes.  It claims to include all direct taxes in the price of a product or service, but property tax isn't a direct tax.  It also ignores house price inflation, instead using what is called "Owner's Equivalent Rent", which is claimed to be what you would have to pay to rent your owned house.  How do they come up with this?  Good question -- and without much if anything in the way of a decently-documented answer.  May I point out that when people charge a lower rent because they believe prices will rise and thus they'll make a capital gain that would lead to a LOWER "Owner's Equivalent Rent" and yet the expectation and market price of houses is rising in a bubble!  That is exactly, and intentionally, backward and produces an intentional false inflation reading.

The facts are that property taxes have skyrocketed.  That's inflation.  The property tax on the house I used to own in the Chicagoland area has more than doubled since I sold it, and now is over $20,000 a year.  That's insane.  The property tax on the home of my late mother's residence has gone up enough that in nominal terms the house is worth no more today, before wear, than it was in 1995.

Due to inflation the actual value of that home in constant dollars (that is, constant spending power) has been cut by half or more!

BUT THERE HAS BEEN NO INFLATION, SAY THOSE WHO CLAIM THE DEBT DOESN'T MATTER.

Like Hell.

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

Compare Mr. Denninger's figures to those we discussed a few weeks ago in these two articles:
I think his estimate of current US inflation is woefully low at just 6.2%.  Based on information from Shadowstats and the Chapwood Index (see the articles linked immediately above for details), I'd say it's more like 8-10%.  Nevertheless, his analysis of the insanely low values assigned to everyday costs of living by Government economists are very enlightening.  (If any reader is paying a mere 1.08% of his or her monthly or annual budget for health insurance, please tell us in Comments.  I'm willing to bet everyone's paying a lot more than that!)

Our government, and both major political parties, are consistently and persistently lying to us about inflation and our economic prospects.  Only those who have their eyes wide open, and are reading the economic facts and figures for themselves, understand the true situation.  That information's not hard to find, but it's largely ignored - particularly by those who rely on government support, in cash and in kind, to make ends meet.  What happens when inflation erodes the value of that support to the point where it's no longer enough to live on?  I think we can all guess the answer.

Inflation is a direct and immediate threat to us all, a clear and present danger to our current standard of living and future prospects.  We need to be aware of its reality, and should already be taking steps to shelter ourselves from the worst of its ravages in any and every way possible.

Peter