Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday morning music

Let's have a change of pace.  Here's Telemann's Concerto in E Minor for Recorder and Traverso, TWV 52:e1.  The "traverso" is an early, transverse wooden flute.  You can read more about the concerto here, if you're musically inclined.  This performance uses medieval instruments, played in authentic style of the period, and is by the Bremer Baroque Orchestra.

I do like Telemann's music.  He was a bridge figure between late Baroque and early classical music, and had enormous influence in his time.  His works are always interesting.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

"The Highwaymen" is a heck of a movie

Netflix's new movie "The Highwaymen" is a heck of a ride.

It tells the story of how former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer (played by Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) pursued, caught and killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, better known as "Bonnie and Clyde".  It's a raw, unvarnished look at life, crime and law enforcement as it was in those days.  The law enforcement veteran with whom I watched the movie, and others with whom I've spoken about it, agree that it was an excellent, very factual portrayal.  Obviously, certain historical details were modified for the benefit of the camera;  but in general there were very few complaints.

I was particularly struck by one scene, about halfway through the movie, where a convict whose release on parole has been arranged in an attempt to capture Bonnie and Clyde, is killed by them - or their colleagues - to silence him.  The dialog between Hamer and Gault after they find the body is remarkably apt for two men whose backgrounds were steeped in blood and violence.  It struck me very powerfully.  It was a stark moment for me, a mirror held up for self-examination, much as the Navy SEAL movie "Act Of Valor" was for me several years ago.

All I can say is, this is the best movie I've seen in the past seven years.  It's head and shoulders above 1968's counter-cultural movie "Bonnie and Clyde".  I highly recommend this year's version of the story.


Challenging conventional wisdom about Special Forces

I'm very interested to see the debate currently going on in the US Marine Corps about its Special Forces component (MARSOC), their contribution to SOCOM, and the mission and future of the Corps itself. reports:

Dakota Wood, who worked as a strategist at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command from 2012-2013, released a 60-page report on Thursday titled "Rebuilding America's Military: The United States Marine Corps." It was published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank where Wood serves as senior research fellow for defense programs.

Facing relentless operational tempo and ongoing budget woes, the Marine Corps should reevaluate where it's spending resources, Wood writes. As part of that effort, he said service leaders should "strongly consider disestablishing [MARSOC]."

"It's a great outfit and they're doing great things, so this is not to disparage MARSOC," Wood told "It's stepping back and saying, 'OK, Marine Corps, what are you supposed to be doing? And how are you using the resources that you have?'"

Wood's call to disband the command comes after the Marine Corps released its 2020 budget request, revealing plans to increase the number of MARSOC billets. But the 2,700 Marines already assigned to MARSOC do more to benefit U.S. Special Operations Command than they do the Marine Corps, Wood wrote.

"The Corps' commitment to MARSOC, while a boon to SOCOM and the good work it does for the country, is an opportunity cost for the Corps and the work that only it can do, as opposed to SOCOM's role and the contributions long made to its mission by the Army, Navy and Air Force," he said.

. . .

For Marine Raiders who fought for a place within U.S. Special Operations Command over the past 13 years, Wood's suggestion falls flat.

The original Raider battalions were disbanded toward the end of World War II, and it was a decades-long effort to bring them back. Having someone make a case for dispansion again undoes years of hard work on and off the battlefield, they say.

MARSOC's critical skills operators were essential in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, said Nick Koumalatsos, who spent 12 years with the command and in the Marine Corps reconnaissance community. Dissolving MARSOC now, he said, would be a huge blow.

"This would set us back two decades, if not more," Koumalatsos said. "It's not the world we live in anymore. We're not lining up tanks and we're not lining up in trenches to fight a conventional battle."

. . .

The Marine Corps also can't operate in a vacuum, where it doesn't have a connecting line to SOCOM, said Prime Hall, a former Raider and water-survival instructor.

"This is much larger than the Marine Corps," Hall said. "This is about what is best for the Department of Defense and the country as a whole."

There's more at the link.  The whole article is well worth reading, for those interested in the subject.

I think this is a critically important debate, one that should have been started a long time ago.  It made a great deal of sense to boost SOCOM's role (and therefore MARSOC's) in a time of unconventional, anti-terror warfare, such as we experienced after 9/11.  However, special forces have never been intended to fight a major conventional war against conventional forces.  They're typically equipped with lighter weapons, and trained to fight without access to powerful support arms and regular resupply.  Put them up against a well-trained and -equipped regular force, in a conventional combat role, and they'd likely come off second best.  Firepower and numbers matter on a battlefield.

I'm not by any means suggesting that Special Forces are somehow illegitimate or unnecessary.  They've proved their worth for many years, and I hope we continue to field them for the long term.  However, their role within the overall combat effort needs to be reassessed in the light of current and projected threats, and the balance of forces adjusted accordingly.  That applies to the Marine Corps, too.  Is a Marine Corps actually necessary or desirable in today's combat environment?  If not, why does it still exist?  If it is necessary and desirable, what is its reason for existence?  Let's train and equip it for that purpose, rather than fritter away its substance across an overly broad spectrum of responsibilities.

Personally, I think the Marine Corps should be expanded, and treated as the "fast response" arm of the US armed forces overall.  Let's take that mission away from the US Army, freeing that service to train and equip itself to face a conventional adversary in likely combat scenarios and environments.  Similarly, let's release the Marine Corps from the conventional combat requirement, freeing it to train and equip itself for fast responses to emerging threats.  The Marines could deal with lesser threats on their own, or stabilize and contain more serious problems until heavier conventional forces arrive.

I think that approach is perfectly suited to the way the Marines have traditionally operated, on a limited budget with limited, clearly focused responsibilities.  What's more, it would fulfill an essential mission of our Armed Forces in a focused, unambiguous way.  At present, that mission is divided between conventional and special forces across several arms of service.  It siphons personnel and equipment from all of them, while not addressing the needs of any one of them in particular.  That's created a nebulous situation that satisfies nobody.

That's only one possible approach, of course.  There are many alternatives.  I look forward to this debate continuing and intensifying.  It's long overdue, IMHO.


Friday, March 29, 2019

Identical twins with a difference

Now and again, a human interest story rocks your world.  This is one of them, IMHO.

Adam and Neil Pearson are identical twins, but you’d never know it from looking at them. Although they share the same DNA, their appearances are vastly different; each suffers from neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that has affected them in divergent ways. They tell their story in Jonathan Braue’s deeply affecting short documentary, The Pearson Twins.

. . .

Despite their individual plights, the twins share an unshakable bond and a penchant for resilience, which has led them to develop an inspiring perspective on their situation.

“Adam and Neil’s story challenges the perception of what it means to lead a good life,” Braue told me. “With Adam, I was awestruck by how he never allowed his disfigurement to define him. Within five minutes of talking to him, the fibromas on his face almost seemed to melt into the background—his radiant persona comes to the foreground because he is a great human being with so much love and wisdom to share.” Braue was similarly moved by Neil’s determination to grow and learn through repetition and habit. “What you or I would quickly pick up by reading the rule book for a new board game,” he said, “he would have to read dozens of times while playing the game repeatedly to get the same base knowledge.”

While the effects of neurofibromatosis undeniably continue to shape their existence, neither Pearson twin wishes that things were different. “You’ve got to live the life you’ve got, rather than pining after the one you wanted,” Neil says.

There's more at the link.

Here's the video.

I'd never heard of neurofibromatosis until I came across this report and the video at the Atlantic's Web site.  I'd hate to be burdened with this incurable condition, but it looks like the Pearson twins have adopted the only sane approach to dealing with it.  Good for them, and God bless them.  May the rest of us learn from their example.  Their story reminds me of the old proverb, "I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet".  I wonder if any of us would cope so well with such an affliction?


Quote of the day

From Miguel at Gun Free Zone:

Statistically, a gun is much less likely to be used in a crime than a senator.



Thursday, March 28, 2019

A modest proposal to deal with the illegal alien invasion

It seems the USA is on track to be invaded by one and a half million illegal aliens in 2019.  What's more, it's reported that 92% of illegal aliens fail to appear at their deportation hearings when the time comes.  How does one deal with such massive, wilful lawlessness?

I think there may be a way.  I agree that we need far stronger border control measures, including a wall and other security features;  but I think we could make much better use of funds to deal with the illegal aliens already here.  Why not make it irresistibly profitable for others to turn them in?

It would work something like this.  Any US resident (legal or otherwise) who reports the presence of a genuinely illegal alien (i.e. one who's arrived illegally, or skipped hearings, or ignored deportation orders) to the relevant authorities, following which that illegal alien is deported, will receive $500 in cash, tax-free, no questions asked, as soon as the deportation is complete.  Any US resident reporting the presence of ten illegal aliens who are subsequently deported would receive a bonus of $5,000, over and above the $500 apiece he/she has already earned by reporting them individually.  If he/she reports fifty illegal aliens, they'll receive an additional bonus of $50,000, over and above all previous payments.  All bonuses would also be tax-free.  Minimal paperwork, no complications, no problem.

(In order to deter misuse of the system, provisions could be built in that if an alleged illegal alien is reported who turns out to be not illegal for whatever reason, the reporting agent could be held legally accountable for that.  I'm sure some way could be figured out to prevent fraud.)

I think that offer would attract an awful lot of attention.  Furthermore, on a cost-per-alien basis, I think it might be far cheaper than paying agents to investigate, track down and locate illegals.  We might even save money on our internal security budget.  What's not to like?  It's short, sweet and simple.  We could even make those who employ illegal aliens pay most of the costs involved.  Any company or employer who hires an illegal alien who's arrested under this system would be fined enough to pay all related expenses, from the reward money, through incarceration and processing, to the deportation flight back home.  That should be a very active deterrent to hiring illegal alien labor.

What say you, readers?  Please feel free to offer refinements and suggestions of your own.



Yesterday's Pearls Before Swine comic strip (click the image to see a larger version at its Web site):


Fashion, meet reality. It's not nice.

I note that a debate has been sparked over the appropriateness of women's leggings in certain settings.

In her lengthy rant, “The Leggings Problem,” White rues the day they “obtruded painfully on my landscape” during a Mass service last fall. She details being overcome with shame over what she viewed as the flaunted female form.

“In front of us was a group of young women, all wearing very snug-fitting leggings and all wearing short-waisted tops,” White whined. “Some of them truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them … Leggings are so naked, so form fitting, so exposing. Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead?”

It took less than 24 hours before Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a campus nonprofit group, organized a clap back to the mad mama’s manifesto. The group declared March 26 “Leggings Pride Day,” and encouraged people of all genders to post pics of themselves wearing their skin-tight garments on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

“While well-intentioned, White’s viewpoint perpetuates a narrative central to rape culture in implying that womxn [sic] and girls are responsible for the actions and reactions of others,” organizers posted on Facebook. “She argues that ‘girls’ at Notre Dame ought to change the way they dress to avoid attention from ‘unsavory guys who are looking at [people who wear leggings] creepily’ and in order to protect ‘nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking’ at people wearing leggings.”

“We wanted … to remind people that leggings are absolutely OK, and you’re allowed to dress your body in whatever way you see fit,” Anne Jarrett, who helped organize the protest, told TODAY Style.

There's more at the link.

I have a message for those feminists (and others) who protest the "narrative central to rape culture ... that womxn [sic] and girls are responsible for the actions and reactions of others".  You're theoretically correct, but in the real world, the one we live in, you couldn't possibly be more off beam.

You see, ladies, I've worked as a prison chaplain, both part-time and full-time.  I've worked with literally hundreds of rapists and violent men, over more than two decades, in at least eight prisons.  I've listened to their conversations, both with me and with their fellow convicts.  I know how they think - and they think of you as so much meat on the hoof.  They don't give a damn about your individuality, your femininity, your right to self-expression, or your right to "dress your body in any way you see fit".  They see your clothes as advertising the kind of person you are - and they'll have no hesitation whatsoever in taking advantage of that.  Are you showing nipples beneath a skimpy top, or displaying "camel toe"?  As far as they're concerned, you've just made yourself a target.

In prison, one routinely hears comments like these from convicted rapists:
  • "The bitch was askin' for it!  You could see her **** right through her clothes!"
  • "Damn, she was jigglin' an' wobblin' as she ran.  She weren't wearin' anythin' under her top.  Sure knew what she wanted, right away!"
  • "She's a damn ho.  Ho's need to be shown who's boss."
  • "You let bitches flaunt what they got to everyone, pretty soon you got nothin' for yourself."
  • "It's a man's world.  It ain't theirs."

You think I'm exaggerating?  I'm not.  Those comments are paraphrases of what I heard, day in, day out, over literally years.  There were others, a lot less printable, that I haven't bothered to paraphrase.  Suffice it to say that, whether women like it or not, and no matter how wrong or politically incorrect it may be, there is a class of sexual predator that will judge them on the basis of what they're wearing - and will act or react accordingly.

It's also important to note the context about which the writer of the letter complained:  namely, a university campus.  It's a relatively high-risk area for rape compared to a typical suburban street.  The US Bureau of Justice Statistics' 1991 report "Female Victims of Violent Crime" (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format) analyzed the statistics of rape and came to various conclusions.  Among them were:
  • Women age 16 to 24 were 3 times more likely to be raped than other women. This age pattern was similar for black and white women.
  • Women who lived in places like dormitories, halfway houses, and boarding houses and those in apartment houses with four or more units were more likely to be raped than were other women.
Both factors are present in abundance on university campuses - precisely where leggings and similarly revealing clothing are also abundant.

Studies have also shown that "drinking, drug use, and frequenting public places late at night increase the chances of victimization, because these “high-risk” activities tend to create opportunities for criminals".  Where is one most likely to find such activities?  On and near university and college campuses, that's where.  Young female students, intent on having a good time, living in a "wear-what-you-want, do-as-you-please" feminist campus culture, often make easy targets, because so many of them are oblivious to reality.  That's made worse by their choice of clothing, among other factors.

Ladies, you're free to insist on your rights and privileges all you want.  I'll fully support your right to do so.  However, there are men out there - more than a few of them - who regard revealing women's clothing as an open invitation to make use of what its wearers are advertising.  They don't give a damn about your individuality or your femininity or your freedom of choice.  As far as they're concerned, you're a "ho" or a "bitch", and you exist to satisfy their needs.  That's all.

Please think of that next time you're tempted to dress in such a way, and consider whether your choices may not be putting you at greater risk of harm.  Please think doubly hard about your children, and the choices you allow - and encourage - them to make, and the education you provide them about the pitfalls of life.  If all they're ever taught is "My body, my choice", some of them are in for a very rude and painful awakening indeed.  That may not be "fair" or "right" or "just", but it sure as hell is reality.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The next front in the attacks on President Trump?

Received via e-mail, origin unknown:

Apart from the misspelled "mattress", that's probably just about what Adam Schiff would try to get away with.  He's painted himself into a conspiracy corner, and can't get out, so he just keeps on doubling down on his stupidity.  He's one of the worst of his breed.

I knew a dog like that once, in Africa.  Didn't do him much good when he got in the way of a bigger predator.


"Most African women's first sexual experience is rape"

Cherie Blair has raised some culturally sensitive hackles in Britain by making that claim.

The barrister and women’s rights campaigner made the remark during a talk about women and leadership to pupils at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London.

. . .

However the 64-year-old wife of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has since been criticised for “usurping” the voice of African women.

One audience member at the event, Caitlin, who did not wish to give her surname, told The Guardian that she was surprised by Mrs Blair’s comment.

“No one seemed to react and I was shocked because I felt like she was in a position of authority and should take responsibility for saying things like that without any evidence to support it,” she said.

It is reported that when contacted the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, said Mrs Blair’s comment referred “to the women she had met and heard directly from in the initial years of the Foundation’s work rather than a specific research piece”.

Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa [said] ... “Violence against women is a huge problem in many African countries - as it is here - but to characterise African women's sexual experience as rooted in rape undermines the hard work of many to tackle this issue whilst playing to and indeed stoking stereotypes of sexually aggressive African men and passive women.”

Statistics released by Equality Now, which aims to advance the rights of women and girls across the world, show that in Africa, between the ages of 15 and 49, 43 per cent of women have reported having experienced gender-based violence, including sexual violence or abuse.

There's more at the link.

The outcry from the politically correct brigade can't hide the very real tragedy of what it means to be a woman in traditional African society.  To a greater or lesser extent, depending on tribe, nation and culture, African women are:
  • Trapped in a largely patriarchal society - the possession, first of their fathers, then of their husbands;
  • Sold for a "bride price" paid by their would-be husbands (which means that a wealthy, but otherwise undesirable man, can literally buy the wife or wives he wants by paying money, whether the woman welcomes his advances or not - she has little or no say in the matter);
  • Are blamed for any and all problems such as infertility, venereal diseases, etc.
  • Can be sent back to their families in disgrace (and the families can be forced to repay their "bride price") if they fail to adhere to their husband's wishes in every way.

It's a lousy situation, and the advent of Christianity hasn't necessarily overridden those "cultural" traditions.

The stories of sexual exploitation and oppression in Africa are legion.  I've encountered far too many of them myself.  Here are a few news reports you can read for yourself, if you wish:

I could provide many more such links, but those are enough to show the extent of the problem.  I think Ms. Blair is right.  I won't be surprised if the first encounter with sex of at least a third of African girls and women is violent, involving rape.  It may be as high as fifty percent or more.  That was my assessment when I was working in much of sub-saharan Africa in the late 20th century, and I see no reason to believe that things have gotten any better since then.  Politically correct posturing will do nothing to change that reality.

Instead of complaining about Ms. Blair's temerity in speaking the truth (because she's not herself an African woman), perhaps those who don't like it should ask themselves what they can do to change the reality for African women in general.  That way, they might actually do some good, instead of making themselves look like politically correct fools.


Doofus Of The Day #1,038

Today's award goes to an inebriated airline passenger in Russia.

A naked man attempted to board a plane at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport while shouting that clothes make him less aerodynamic, the REN TV television channel reported Saturday.

The man passed through the Ural Airlines flight’s registration before suddenly stripping off his clothes and running stark naked onto the jet bridge, eyewitnesses said.

“He shouted that he was naked because clothing impairs the aerodynamics of the body. He flies with more agility when undressed,” REN TV quoted a fellow passenger as saying.

The nude intruder was intercepted by airport staff before he could make it onto his plane to Crimea. He was later detained by police officers.

There's more at the link.

Well, I suppose that'll make inspecting his undercarriage a lot easier . . . and if they sit him down in the snow and ice still prevalent in Moscow at this time of year, it'll probably turn into a retractable undercarriage, too!


"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there"

That well-known quotation from L. P. Hartley's well-known novel, "The Go-Between", sums up the current dispute between Spain and Mexico.

Spain's government has refused a demand from Mexico's new president that it apologise for conquering the country five hundred years ago.

Firing the first shots in what threatens to become a diplomatic row, the Left-wing Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Monday that he had sent letters to Spain’s King Felipe VI and Pope Francis urging them to apologize for crimes committed against the indigenous peoples of what is today Mexico.

“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the temples,” Mr López Obrador said in a video message.

. . .

At a speech to supporters later on Monday, Mr López Obrador said he wanted to reconcile Mexico, the Spanish crown and the Vatican by “together reviewing the history of that military invasion and three centuries of colonisation”.

Mr López Obrador said it was time to bury the Spanish interpretation of the events of 500 years ago as “a meeting of two cultures”, adding that “thousands of indigenous people were murdered”.

. . .

“The arrival of Spaniards in what are now Mexican lands 500 years ago cannot be judged in the light of contemporary thinking. Our peoples have always been able to interpret our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective,” the Spanish government’s reply read, adding that “there is a great store of affection” between Spaniards and Mexicans.

There's more at the link.

I must admit, my sympathies are more with Mr. Obrador than with the Spanish government on this one.  However, that must be conditioned by the fact that Mexico - and most of South America - had been ruled for centuries, and in parts were still ruled during the immediately pre-colonial era, by bloodthirsty tyrants who slaughtered their subjects wholesale.  Spain merely brought firearms, gunpowder and a different religion to the table.  (Judging by the way the church was complicit in the enslavement of the continent of South America for the benefit of the colonial power, one can make a strong case that the Christian Gospel had long since been commandeered by the Spanish Crown for its own purposes, just as it did with the Spanish Inquisition.)

The sad thing about almost all colonial expansion, by any country, was that it was done for the benefit of the colonial power rather than its newly annexed subjects.  Britain alone made at least some effort to induct the local populace into the governing structure it established in many of its colonies, but it was a patchy effort, successful in some areas, but not in others.  Portugal did an abysmally poor job, reserving land, education and all well-paid jobs for its colonial expatriates rather than indigenous people.  (I was told that, when Mozambique became independent in 1975, it had precisely one indigenous graduate from a Portuguese university.  Some of its new rulers had been educated at university - but that was the notorious Patrice Lumumba University in the Soviet Union, which is about as poor a preparation to efficiently run a country as you can possibly imagine.)

Both sides can - and do - emphasize their loss/misery/deprivation/whatever at the expense of the other.  Here in the USA, I've heard black people demand reparations for slavery, even though no living US black person has ever been a slave.  On the other hand, I've heard some US whites sneer that if US blacks had been left behind in Africa, rather than brought to this country as slaves, they'd have been much worse off;  therefore, they should pay the USA for the greater opportunities they've enjoyed here.  Neither side is actually listening to the other, of course;  they're posturing for their own benefit.  Sadly, I don't expect that to change anytime soon.

In the end, I have to agree with Denys Winstanley, who observed, "Nothing is more unfair than to judge the men of the past by the ideas of the present."  I suppose the same can be said of the colonial era.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The recycling funeral option?

Courtesy of Chief Nose Wetter, we find this:

If they don't feel well, the English might say "I don't feel very chipper".  Well, when their illness has run its (terminal) course, now they can!


The roots of an amusing idiom

I've long been familiar with, and laughed at, the idiom "A blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat that isn't there".  However, I wasn't aware of its origins, or of the various ways it's been used in the past.  I decided, on a whim, to look it up.

Two articles at the always useful Quote Investigator provided the answers I needed.  The first article established its origins.

The earliest evidence located by QI in a Missouri newspaper in 1846 did not mention any professions; instead, the figurative language was used to illustrate the notion of darkness. Boldface has been added to excerpts:

A DARK SUBJECT—A blind negro, with an extinguished candle looking for a black cat in a dark cellar.
In August 1849 a London journal called “Family Herald: A Domestic Magazine of Useful Information and Amusement” printed a short item with an acknowledgement to another magazine called “Penny Punch”. The item presented a definition of darkness ascribed to a precocious child:


Dr. Twiggem—"Indeed, for his age, sir, he’s a wonderful child. Come now, Fred., my dear, give your papa a nice lucid definition of—of—darkness."

Fred. (after a little thought, and with much sagacity)—"Please, sir, ‘a blind Ethiopian—in a dark cellar—at midnight—looking for a black cat.' "

There's more at the link.

The second article provided a humorous look at the idiom's use in philosophical and theological debate - and in less-honest legal circles.

The earliest evidence located by QI appeared ... in a 1931 book titled “Since Calvary: An Interpretation of Christian History” by the comparative religion specialist Lewis Browne. The sharpest barb was aimed at a set of religious individuals called Gnostics:

Someone has said that a philosopher looking for the ultimate truth is like a blind man on a dark night searching in a subterranean cave for a black cat that is not there. Those Gnostics, however, were theologians rather than philosophers, and so—they found the cat!
. . .

In 1942 the acerbic commentator H. L. Mencken published a prodigious collection of quotations that included a concise unattributed version of the gibe:

A blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat which isn’t there — and finding it.
Author unidentified
Also in 1942 a book reviewer in the “Cornell Law Quarterly” extended the humorous passage by contrasting three professions: philosopher, theologian, and lawyer. This citation was listed in “The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations” and “Cassell’s Humorous Quotations”:

A philosopher is a blind man in a dark cellar at midnight looking for a black cat that isn’t there. He is distinguished from a theologian, in that the theologian finds the cat. He is also distinguished from a lawyer, who smuggles in a cat in his overcoat pocket, and emerges to produce it in triumph.

Again, more at the link.

Speaking as a once-upon-a-time theology student and now-retired pastor, I find the latter attributions very appropriate!


Quick road trip on a sad occasion

Sadly, and suddenly and without warning, the father of a friend died last weekend.  Miss D. and I will be heading south this morning for the funeral.  Please keep us in your prayers for traveling safety and the like; and also for the survivors of the departed, for whom funerals are always tough. We hope to be back by this evening.

I've queued up a couple of blog posts for later in the morning, so you won't be short of reading matter.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Clearly, they didn't work!

Remember these votive candles?

Clearly, either people didn't burn enough of them, or they didn't add enough prayers - or they were praying to the wrong deity!


Watch out for terror attacks this Easter season

I note that ISIS/ISIL, though territorially defunct in the Middle East, is preaching retaliation for the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The spokesman of the Islamic State emerged from nearly six months of silence on Monday to mock America’s assertion of having defeated the group and to call for retaliation over last week’s mosque attacks in New Zealand.

“The scenes of the massacres in the two mosques should wake up those who were fooled, and should incite the supporters of the caliphate to avenge their religion,” the spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, said in a 44-minute audio recording.

Mr. al-Muhajir portrayed the shootings by a white extremist, which killed 50 Muslims as they prayed in the city of Christchurch, as an extension of the campaign against the Islamic State. He likened the mosque attacks to the weekslong battle raging in the last village under ISIS control in Syria.

There's more at the link.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of former ISIS combatants and fellow-travelers have returned, or are in the process of returning, to their former home countries.  Many are not known to the authorities there.  I think it's likely to the point of certainty that some of them, at least, will take this call to action to heart, and plan revenge attacks on Christian places of worship.  What's more, Holy Week this year will occur between Sunday, April 14th (Palm Sunday) and Sunday, April 21st (Easter Sunday).  It's the holiest week in the Christian calendar, with several major church services planned;  Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday itself.  There's no better target for a committed Islamic fundamentalist terrorist.

If you're planning to attend any of those services, I advise increased caution.  If you're planning to attend them in a major center, I'd advise reconsidering your plans.  If you're planning to travel to attend them in a Christian holy place such as Rome, I'd frankly change my plans right now, and cancel the trip.  I think the odds in favor of an attack on such holy places are astronomically high - and those in charge of their security are probably on the highest possible alert, looking for warning signs.  Don't plan on heightened personal alertness and/or personal defensive weapons to help, either.  A car or truck bomb, or a suicide bomber, is no respecter of persons or preparations.

I think it behooves all of us to be ultra-cautious about such things at a time like this.


Are environmental concerns making the Nebraska floods worse?

I'm no hydrologist, but this article's claims about the current Nebraska floods sound plausible.

The Master Water Control Manual is the bible of the Missouri River basin dam system.  It defines the duties and protocols to be followed in order to best meet the various needs represented in the list of priorities.

From the completion of the dam construction (in 1967) until 2004, the Master Water Control Manual listed the priority functions in order of importance, with flood control being number one.

     1) flood control
     2) irrigation and upstream beneficial uses
     3) downstream water supply
     4) navigation and power
     5) recreation and wildlife

In 2004, under pressure from environmentalist organizations who had been lobbying hard for the previous decade, Congress approved a revision to the manual that no longer specifically prioritized the uses of the system, leaving the order of the functions to the discretion of the Corps of Engineers.

. . .

The "engineers," guided by the Endangered Species Act, not the Flood Control Act, bank water throughout the fall and winter, preparing to release it in spring to mimic nature with a sort of controlled flood.

Sometimes they get away with the gamble, but other times nature intrudes on their Gaia-worshiping skit and provides a stark reminder that "playing God" and "being God" are quite different things, indeed.  Nature lets loose with the real thing in the form of heavy snowfalls, heavier than normal rains, or a super-thaw from a rapid increase in temperatures and a wind-driven warm rainfall that rid thousands of square miles of an average three feet of snowpack in roughly 36 hours, as happened last week.  And once again, the faux gods were caught short.

Did the Corp cause the current flooding?  In my opinion, no.  However, it greatly contributed to its severity in numerous ways, not the least of which is its influence on the management of smaller tributary rivers and streams throughout the basin — the very rivers and streams that are presently roaming miles from their banks.  The primary reason the Corps deserves a major share of responsibility is its mismanagement of the dam system.  Had they been drawing down water throughout the early winter in anticipation of a higher than normal runoff due to higher than normal snow accumulations in the lower reaches of the basin, then the tributaries presently flooding would have had more room to drain through their natural outlet, the mighty Missouri river.

Would it have eliminated the flooding we see destroying farms, homes, and roads on our televisions (or right outside our own windows!)?  Not entirely, no.  However, it is unarguable that managing the Missouri River mainstem dams with an eye toward flood control above all else would have greatly minimized the severity of the event.

There's more at the link.

Can more knowledgeable readers enlighten us?  Are such revised policies and/or environmentalist agendas contributing to the current flooding situation, or is it just the result of a more-wet-than-usual winter season?


Mueller: the breakdown and (hopefully) the payback

I'm sick of hearing about the Mueller report and its (non) findings.  The whole affair was a nothingburger from start to finish, as many commentators have pointed out ad nauseam since this imbroglio kicked off three years ago.  I daresay the President is getting no small satisfaction out of the discomfiture of his enemies in the mainstream media.  For example, if I were in his shoes, I'd be laughing my ass off over this video collage:

The report's findings of no collusion proved the mainstream media wrong.  Its (carefully weaselly-worded) implication that it couldn't say whether or not the President had obstructed justice was an obvious attempt to find at least something to justify the enormous cost of the investigation - not just in money, but in damage done to our political system.

Alan M. Dershowitz, the attorney and Harvard Law professor emeritus, slammed Robert Mueller on Sunday, saying the special counsel engaged in a “cop out” by stating that his report neither exonerated President Trump nor concluded he'd committed a crime related to obstruction of justice.

Dershowitz said Mueller seemed to try having it both ways. “It sounds like a law-school exam,” he said, adding that the report sounded wishy-washy. “Shame on Mueller.”

. . .

Dershowitz said the job of the prosecutor is to make a binary decision, yes or no: yes means indictment and no means “shut up.”

He also said Mueller failed to have the "guts" to say yes or no, despite all the time and money spent on the probe.

There's more at the link.  I think Prof. Dershowitz has stated the reality of the matter very succinctly.

The Last Refuge (a.k.a. the Conservative Treehouse) has for several years done an outstanding job of investigating the behind-the-scenes reality of the Mueller investigation.  I found its conclusions yesterday to be very apposite.

The same career staff unit that originated the unlawful activity to weaponize the DOJ and FBI is the same team that transferred into the Mueller probe ... Yes, new additional lawyers were added, but the investigators who conducted the Mueller probe were the same investigators who were carrying out the 2016 unlawful and illegal surveillance activity.

. . .

The Russian Interference narrative was constructed ex post-facto to cover for a political surveillance operation that was targeting candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election ... The investigation into something that didn’t exist was predicated as a cover for something the DOJ and FBI were trying to hide.

. . .

After we accept the Russian narrative was entirely false, when we move to the Obstruction narrative we find out why they spent so much time on it.  Without any actual Russian interference to collude or conspire with, the possible obstruction case was the only case that could have ever existed.

And it is within the obstruction nonsense where anger over this fiasco really starts to settle in and there’s absolutely NO ROOM to consider Robert Mueller and/or Rod Rosenstein anything except complicit with the sedition team.

. . .

Team Mueller intentionally tells AG Barr they cannot make a determination of obstruction, and thereby force Barr to make the decision; and make it look political.

The obstruction angle was always what Team Mueller were working to deliver, in collaboration with their democrat political allies.

In my opinion it’s almost certain AG Barr saw this coming, which is why he forced DAG Rod Weaselstein to stick around, share in the decision and deflect the politics.

In summary it is almost certain that Team Mueller knew from the outset there was no Russian collusion/conspiracy because: 1) it’s the same team from 2016 through 2019; and 2) they knew from the outset there was no “there” there.

So, a reasonable question would be: How long did Mueller investigate conspiracy with Russia before jumping to Obstruction of Justice?

Again, more at the link.  I agree:  it's long gone time for the FBI's internal coverup of illegal and unethical activities by its own personnel to be investigated, and for the guilty parties to be punished.  Only a few heads have rolled so far.  There need to be many more.

Judicial Watch calls it:

Let’s be clear, neither Mueller, the Obama FBI, DOJ, CIA, State Department, nor the Deep State ever had a good-faith basis to pursue President Trump on Russia collusion. Russia collusion wasn’t just a hoax, it is a criminal abuse, which is why Judicial Watch has fought and will continue to fight for Russiagate documents in federal court.

The targeting of President Trump served to protect Hillary Clinton and her enablers/co-conspirators in Obama administration from prosecution. Attorney General Barr can begin restoring the credibility of the Justice Department by finally initiating a thorough investigation of the Clinton emails and related pay-to-play scandals and the abuses behind the targeting of President Trump.

More at the link.  We owe Judicial Watch a debt of gratitude for refusing to accept the blanket of "official" silence over what was going on, and for taking the matter to court again and again to force the release of important documents and other evidence.  Without their dogged persistence, we would not know as much today about the machinations in the background of the Mueller investigation as we do now.

I don't always agree with President Trump, but I think his response yesterday was entirely appropriate.

Trump himself slammed the probe as an “illegal takedown,” as he called Mueller’s report a “complete exoneration” and said it was a “shame” his presidency had to deal with the investigation for two years.

“Hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side,” Trump said. “This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side.”

In case it wasn't clear what he meant, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told Fox News an investigation should be launched into how the investigation began.

“He was being investigated for a crime that never happened,” Giuliani said. “There was never any collusion.”

Giuliani added: "There has to be a full and complete investigation, with at least as much enthusiasm as this one, to figure out where did this charge emanate, who started it, who paid for it.”

More at the link.

Given that the Steele dossier began as opposition research prior to the 2016 election, bought and paid for by the Clinton campaign, that investigation should certainly include that candidate, the Clinton Foundation, and anything and everything concerning its involvement in the operations of the US government, including the Uranium One scandal, pay-to-play at the State Department, and other machinations.  It's long overdue . . . as are jail sentences for all involved.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday morning music

This week, I'd like to feature one of the more interesting musical experiments of the 1970's and 1980's.  The British group Sky was formed by a number of musicians already eminent in their own fields, from classical music to progressive rock.  They specialized in adapting classical music to the electronic music era.  As Wikipedia notes, their backgrounds were eclectic, to say the least!

In 1971, John Williams released the fusion album Changes, his first recording of non-classical music and the first on which he played electric guitar. Among the musicians working on the album were Tristan Fry (an established session drummer who was also the timpanist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and had played Timpani on the Beatles "A Day in the Life") and Herbie Flowers (a former member of Blue Mink and T. Rex, as well as a busy session musician who, among other things had recorded the bassline for Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side").

The three musicians became friends, kept in touch and continued working together on various projects during the 1970s. One of these was Williams' 1978 album Travelling, another substantially commercially successful cross-genre recording. As well as Fry and Flowers, the record featured former Curved Air member Francis Monkman (who in addition to his progressive and psychedelic rock background as guitar and synthesizer player, was a trained and accomplished classical harpsichordist).

In 1979, Monkman performed on Louis Clark's album (per-spek-tiv) n., on which he collaborated with Australian session guitarist Kevin Peek. Peek was a musician equally adept at classical guitar and pop/rock styles, having built a reputation both as a chamber musician and as a long-standing member of Cliff Richard's band, as well as for working Manfred Mann, Lulu, Tom Jones, Jeff Wayne, Shirley Bassey and Gary Glitter.

The success of Travelling inspired Williams and Flowers to set up Sky, their own long-term cross-genre band. The band name Sky was suggested by flautist Pinuccia Rossetti, a member of the Carlos Bonell Ensemble, and a friend of Williams. Fry and Monkman were swiftly recruited, with Kevin Peek being the final addition. The band began writing and recording instrumental music drawing on their collective experience of classical, light pop, progressive and psychedelic rock, light entertainment and jazz.

There's more at the link.

Sky put out a lot of material, both adaptations of classical and other music and their own compositions.  To simplify the selection, I've chosen one track from each of their first four albums, to give you a sampling of their musical taste.

From their debut album, Sky 1, here's "Danza", an adaptation of a piece by Spanish composer Antonio Ruiz-Pipó.

From the album Sky 2, here's a 1980 live performance of Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, transcribed for the group's instruments.

From Sky 3, here's "Sarabande" (a dance form in triple meter) by Handel, from his Keyboard Suite in D minor.  This is a live performance from 1981.

Finally, from the album "Sky 4 - Forthcoming", here's To Yelasto Pedi, a piece by contemporary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.

Sky offered an interesting modern variation on classical themes.  I'm sorry the group is no longer active.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Anyone need a top-notch rifle case?

Quite a long time ago, before my disabling injury in 2004, I bought two Starlight 081454 rifle cases (shown below courtesy of Quarterbore at - click the image for a larger view).

Starlight was a veteran-owned company that started operations in 1994.  Sadly, it went out of business a couple of years ago.  I was alerted to their products by a couple of Marine scout snipers who were training at Thunder Ranch in Texas when I went there for a rifle course in the early 2000's.  They both used this model of case to protect their rifles, and swore by their toughness and durability.  (They'd taken them to the sandbox, and been very satisfied with them.)  On their advice, I bought a couple.

These are big, heavy cases, weighing in at 26 pounds and measuring 54"x14"x8" internally.  They're filled with high-density foam, which you cut out in the shape(s) you need for your rifle and/or other gear.  They come with very strong latches, a pressure equalizing valve, and wheels that are tougher than on any other case I've seen.  In my opinion, they're at least equal, if not superior, to the Pelican 1750 or iM3300 models.  (If you'd like others' opinions, here's a review of Starlight cases, and a forum thread comparing them to Pelican and other cases.)

Sadly, after my injury and resulting surgeries, I had to cut back on my shooting activities, particularly those involving shooting rifles - particularly heavier ones - from positions that were now difficult for me to get into (not to mention painful to maintain).  I never even cut the foam in my cases to fit my rifles.  They've traveled around with me for well over a decade, but I've never actually used them.

So . . . do any of my readers have a need for a top-end rifle case (new cost was close to $300, and they're easily in the price bracket of the Pelican cases I linked to above).  If I sell them, I'd like to get $200 apiece (I'll offer a discount if you take both);  but I'm open to swaps as well.  For example, I'd love a Pelican EMS case, or something like it of similar quality.  Shipping would be costly for such big, heavy cases, so it'll probably be best to sell or trade them to someone in or near Wichita Falls, Texas.  I can drive to meet and/or deliver them during the course of other trips, anywhere inside a loop from Oklahoma City to Amarillo to Dallas/Fort Worth.  It would just have to wait for a mutually convenient time.

If you're interested, and would like to discuss, please drop me a line.  My e-mail address is in my blog profile (see "About Me & Contact Info" in the sidebar).


The New Zealand massacre: seeking healing in national unity

There are doubtless those who will regard it as futile for New Zealand to seek national unity in the aftermath of the massacres at two mosques in Christchurch last week.  They'll say the divisions run too deep to fill in, and too wide to bridge.

That, however, is not what the majority of New Zealanders appear to believe.  They're making an all-out, passionate affair to use this tragedy as a fulcrum towards unity, rather than allowing it to tear their society apart.

Exactly a week after a gunman opened fire in the Al Noor Mosque, the ancient call to Friday prayers echoed out over police tape, and drifts of flowers, and over the thousands of New Zealanders gathered in central Christchurch’s Hagley Park to honour the 50 slain.

The haunting strains travelled across the nation, via simultaneous radio and television broadcasts.

"It used to be that you had to go into the mosque to hear the beauty of Islam. Now look at this," said Omar Nabi, gesturing at the sea of people. His father Haji-Daoud Nabi was among the first worshippers killed on Friday, a week ago.

"Today my father is smiling at me, and laughing at him," Omar said of the gunman.

Imam Gamal Fouda had a powerful message for the crowd: “We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.”

At the heart of the national response has been the country’s young prime minister, 38-year old Jacinda Ardern, rising day after day to her terrible duty. If there had been quiet criticism in some circles that she was an inexperienced leader with as much stardust as substance, that has now been put to rest.

Ardern has been a commanding figure of poise, compassion and strength, a textbook example to other world leaders about how to respond in the face of mass casualty terrorist attacks.

One of Australia’s leading counter-terrorism experts, Jacinta Carroll from the ANU’s National Security College, wrote this week that Ardern had provided a “masterclass … from possibly the most unlikely place in the world.”

It was, Carroll said, “that rare combination of the right words and the right actions” from the leader of a small country which until now had enjoyed a reputation as a blessedly low-threat environment.

. . .

From [Dr Bryce] Edwards' point of view, all of this suggests that beyond her genuine compassion Ardern has been acting with strategic pragmatism. Her goals, he believes, are manifold.

Firstly, she seeks to ensure that the division the gunman sought to sow between New Zealand Muslims and the greater community does not take hold.

Secondly, she wants to head off the potential for a culture war inside her country, with elements of the left seeking to identify racism in New Zealand society as the cause of the attack and sections of the right using it to impugn immigration or the Islamic community itself.

Thirdly Ardern - no doubt on the advice of police and intelligence agencies - has security implications in mind.

“Her security staff will be very concerned about the potential for retaliation and blowback,” Edwards told the Herald and The Age. By positioning New Zealand itself as the victim of the attack as well as its Muslim community, and by demonstrating unity with that community, Ardern is intent on reducing the potential for revenge attacks.

There's more at the link.

An Australian cartoonist is drawing international praise for his adaptation of the New Zealand fern symbol into a message of mourning and healing.

A simple but powerful image by The Canberra Times cartoonist Pat Campbell in response to the Christchurch massacre has been shared around the world, cutting through the millions of words written about the tragedy.

Campbell has received messages from Malaysia to Canada to Egypt, as people reacted to the humanity of the cartoon, which uses the iconic New Zealand silver fern to represent 50 Muslims in various stages of prayer, representing the 50 victims of the Christchurch shootings last Friday, March 15.  [Click the image for a larger view.]

"I can’t tell you the full reach but it’s spread far and wide," he said.

"Many Muslims have sent me messages thanking me for the image, which has been moving.  I’ve been approached by several parties wanting to use the image for vigils and fundraising for victims. It is a bittersweet thing to happen."

. . .

Much of the reaction has focused on the simplicity of the image. That it can encapsulate the horror and the humanity of the shootings  without words. That it can also suggest hope, resilience, and that a gentle, loving spirit will endure against even the worst mankind can serve up.

Again, more at the link.

Contrast such approaches with those who've used the atrocity to stir up yet more anti-Muslim feeling, or (in essence) blame Muslims themselves for what was done to them.  Even some of the comments on this blog (for example, here) have been very negative, which saddens me greatly.  As far as any of us know, those who died in the two mosques in Christchurch were not terrorists, not criminals, not extremists . . . not even violent at all.  They were as much innocent victims as those murdered by ISIS fanatic terrorists in Iraq or Syria.  Yet, some of the comments about their deaths indirectly imply that they deserved to be murdered, because of their faith and because of the actions of other people of that faith, in other countries.

Frankly, I find that sickening.  When extremist Islamic terrorists decide (as, for example, in Paris in November 2015) that otherwise innocent Westerners deserve to die simply because of who and what they are, do we regard the terrorists as justified in killing them?  Or do we condemn their mindless massacres as the atrocities they are?  And, if the latter, why are some of us so hesitant, so reluctant, to condemn mindless massacres of Muslims in precisely and exactly the same terms?  Aren't they the same crimes, the same evil - just with different victims?  (I'm not alone in asking those questions, either.)

New Zealand is trying to heal its internal wounds as best it can, under the most difficult of circumstances.  Some of the actions there, such as new restrictions on firearm ownership, I don't support, because my life experience and views lead me in different directions:  yet, the majority of New Zealanders appear to support them.  If I lived there, I'd now be facing a dilemma.  Would I be prepared to give up some of my cherished rights in the cause of national unity, putting my country ahead of my personal views?  Or would I "go along to get along", and make the sacrifice in the name of a collective rather than an individual cause?  I know many Second Amendment fundamentalists in the USA would reject that out of hand.  In New Zealand, which is a very different society with very different national and legal perspectives on such matters, it's a different ball game.  Firearms owners there are expressing anger and disappointment at being singled out for attention, but they don't have the constitutional, legal and other protections afforded to shooters in the USA.  I suspect they're not going to be given an option.

I'm many thousands of miles away from New Zealand, living in a very different country, under a very different constitutional, political and legal system.  I'm not going to second-guess that country, or its leaders, or try to impose my own views and perspectives on what they're doing.  They're trying to heal from a devastating wound to their national psyche.  I wish them every success in doing so, and I hope they find a way forward that helps all New Zealanders to grow together, and resist extremism in any and every form.  God be with them.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Quote of the day

From SNAFU Solomon, talking about the latest bad news concerning the F-35's problems:

I won't say he lied, but I do think he twisted the facts so hard that it would take a battalion of chiropractors to straighten things out.


Frogs, princes, and depression

I'm sure many readers are familiar with fairy tales in which a princess has to get up the nerve to kiss a frog, which then turns into a prince.  They usually end up getting married and living happily ever after.  That, in turn, gave rise to the rather more cynical and jaded advice that "You have to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your prince!"

Be that as it may, I was taken aback by an article a couple of days ago.

A new study finds that a psychedelic found in toad venom may help people struggling with depression or anxiety.

Research conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows the fast-acting psychedelic ... helped relieve symptoms in about 80 percent of the 362 study participants who tried it in a group setting. The authors believe the short duration of psychedelic effects make it a more favorable therapy for patients.

There's more at the link.

One presumes the psychedelic substance was chemically isolated, and administered to the participants in a rather more palatable way than having to actually kiss or lick the frog (or toad) concerned - at least, one hopes so . . .  On the other hand, that might make great aversion therapy.

Researcher:  "If you're still depressed, we're going to make you lick a toad."

Patient (shuddering in disgust):  "I'm happy!  I'm cured!  See my big smile?"

One wonders . . .


Thursday, March 21, 2019


A passenger aboard a French Air Force Rafale fighter aircraft had a shorter flight yesterday than he'd anticipated.

A civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet (example shown below - image courtesy of Wikipedia) as the aircraft was taking off.

The fighter jet was taking off ... for a training mission, on March 20, 2019. The pilot managed to land shortly after the incident. His hands were slightly injured by broken glass from the canopy.

The passenger, a man in his sixties, was hospitalized. His back was reportedly injured as he fell on the runway. He is now in a stable condition.

There's more at the link.

I presume the passenger was an aviation journalist or photographer, or a VIP visitor.  Such flights are often arranged for important visitors like that.  In this case, I suspect he got a rather wilder ride than he'd hoped for!  He'll be dining out on that story for years . . .



Found on Gab this morning:


Tsunami "survival pods"? I doubt it!

City Journal recently published an excellent article about the danger of a megaquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the west coast of North America.  I highly recommend reading it in full - it's certainly enough to give anyone in their right minds pause for thought!  One aspect in particular, though, caught my eye.

Tsunami pods ... are now available, manufactured by Survival Capsule, a company based in suburban Seattle. Made with aircraft-grade aluminum, they’re watertight and supposedly strong enough to withstand just about anything that nature can hurl at them.

They come with flares and personal-locator beacons that go out on marine-band radio. A two-person capsule is spacious enough for weeks’ worth of supplies, weighs in at 300 pounds, and costs $13,500. A user should put on a helmet and strap himself in, because he’ll be in for the roughest ride of his life. “It makes people uncomfortable to think about dying,” Survival Capsule’s first-ever customer, Jeanne Johnson, said to Portland’s KOIN 6 News. “I don’t think about dying anymore. I think about having to get in here and lock the door.”

There's more at the link.

Further reading showed that another company manufactures similar pods, constructed out of polyethylene rather than aluminum (and consequently much cheaper), with a top entry rather than a side door.

Both pods are designed to be anchored to a strong fixed point on the ground, so they won't drift away.  They have lifting rings or attachment points installed so they can be lifted out of the water, and both claim to offer storage for emergency rations, etc.

I have huge doubts about whether or not these devices will actually save lives during a major tsunami.  Just for a start, consider the pressure of so much water rushing in.  The video below was taken in Japan during the 2011 tsunami there.  Watch how the water moves vehicles, boats, heavy weights such as garbage skips, even entire buildings - and not slowly, either.

All those objects were ramming into each other, buildings, and what have you.  If your survival capsule was floating among them, it'd suffer such collisions not once or twice, but dozens, scores or even hundreds of times.  I should think even the toughest capsule would have a hard time surviving that, particularly if it were pinned between a heavy object ramming it, and a solid backstop that would not give under the impact - the side of a building, say, or a cliff face.  I seriously doubt whether the capsules pictured above could survive that, again and again, hour after hour after hour.

Then, there's the anchoring line, or cable, or chain.  Just look at the force of that water alone, never mind impacts from passing debris.  It'd take a very strong line indeed to resist that pull, and any collisions with other wreckage would tug and jerk at the line with an even stronger force.  I'm pretty sure the line, or perhaps its attachment point(s) to the ground or the pod, would fail.  The pod would go drifting away with all the other debris.  Where it would end up is anyone's guess.  What if it's washed into a big building such as a warehouse or factory, that then collapses on top of it?  What are its occupants' chances of survival then?

Next, there's the problem of seasickness.  Those pods have little or no stability.  They'll be bobbing around like corks on the water, tossing from side to side, perhaps tumbled completely upside down now and again as they hit shallow ground and are dragged across it by the water flow before moving back into deep water.  (If you doubt that, look how those cars in the video above were thrown around by the water.)  Those inside the pod are going to be disoriented, dazed, and probably sick as all get-out before even a few minutes have passed.  There are no windows, so they won't know what's coming, and the fear of not knowing what the next bump or bounce might signify will weigh heavily on them.  I think being in such a pod might be a nightmare of its own special quality, to put it mildly!

Also, there's no way to get rid of one's vomit.  It'll swill around the floor, adding its own special aroma to the atmosphere inside, and probably splashing all over the occupants as the pod bobs around in the rushing water.  The same applies to the products of urination and defecation.  Your bodily functions won't stop just because you're waiting to be rescued - and there's no toilet inside, nor is there room for one.  There isn't even room to stand up, even if the pod were stable enough to allow that.  You'll have to "do your business" all over your seat, maybe even in your clothes!  Put all that together, and I really, really don't want to be stuck in such a pod for days on end . . .

As for emergency rations, rescue, and so on . . . if you can carry two or three days' rations with you, that's great, but what if your pod is washed out to sea?  It'll be hard to spot among all the other floating debris, and rescuers will be so busy dealing with the broad mass of victims and survivors that they won't have time to go looking for it.  The largest concentrations of survivors will receive the most attention, on the basis of doing the most good for the greatest number.  You'll be drifting off on your own, far from the crowds.  Why should rescuers detach a badly-needed helicopter to go looking for you?  Will they even know you exist?  If your pod has an emergency locator beacon, they might detect that:  but those beacons will be going off from drifting boats, aircraft, and people in life rafts or canoes or whatever.  Yours will be one among many.  I wouldn't count on early rescue, if I were you - but I doubt you'll be able to carry enough rations or water to endure more than a few days.  Those are very small craft indeed.

I'm not saying these pods are useless, but I think they're an absolute last resort, when there are no other options at all.  Frankly, if I lived in a place where these pods were the only realistic option to survive a tsunami, I'd move to a safer place right away, while I still had time!  Give me somewhere with a reasonable chance of safe evacuation, even if the views aren't as good!

I suspect the price of a pod could be better applied to more versatile aids to surviving a disaster, like a used small camper or travel trailer, either ready to go, or already parked in a safer place to which one can evacuate.  These pods appear to be far from a guarantee of survival, despite their manufacturers' promises.  I'm not sure that I wouldn't prefer to buy a used lifeboat off a ship being scrapped, and stick that in the back yard.  If I'm going to float away anyway, at least I'd have more room in it for myself, my family and our supplies - even, perhaps, for a portable toilet or handy bucket!

What say you, readers?  Do these things appear useful, or are they just an expensive survivalist toy?  Let us know in Comments.