Tuesday, April 30, 2019

An oldie, but still funny

I forget where and when I first saw this cartoon, or something like it.  It made me laugh then, and it's still funny;  so I was glad to see it resurface on Gab the other day.  Click the image for a larger view.

Does anyone know its source?  There's no signature on the image.  If you do, please let us know in Comments.


Navies, ships, culture, and learning to get along

I was both interested and amused to read of cultural complications between French and Australian participants in the latter country's new submarine program.

"Not everyone thinks like the French," explained Jean-Michel Billig, Naval Group's program director for the project to build 12 new "Attack class" submarines.

"We have to make a necessary effort to understand that an Australian does not think like a French person, and that it's not better or worse, it's just Australian."

He cited the barbecue as an example of Australian culture, which is an important part of fostering good work relations, but said there was a reciprocal need for Australians to understand the French sanctity of the lunch break — not just a sandwich snatched at the screen.

Mr Billig also suggested the submarine project needed to be organised so that French translations were not just into English, but Australian English, and for employees "to speak a common language in cultural terms".

. . .

Another example of the cultural gap between both sides was highlighted when Naval Group CEO Hervé Guillou wrote to staff and referred to "la rentrée", a term describing the time when staff go back to work in September after a company closes down throughout August for the traditional French holiday.

"Stunned" Australian staff reportedly had to be educated about the one-month holiday, while the French were also apparently surprised to see their colleagues' insistence on punctuality, meaning "a meeting scheduled for an hour meant just that, not an extra 15 minutes".

In France, according to SLDInfo.com, there is the concept of a "diplomatic 15 minutes", indicating that one is not considered to be late if the tardiness is a quarter of an hour.

There's more at the link.

I know something about such cultural complications from a rather lower-level perspective, from my service in South Africa's armed forces.  Back in the early 1970's, South Africa had agreed to buy four corvettes from Portugal, which later became the Baptista de Andrade class in that country's navy.  Two more would have been built in South Africa, for a total of six ships in the class.  However, after the Carnation Revolution overthrew the right-wing Portuguese dictatorship in 1974, the purchase fell through.

Still needing new warships, South Africa turned to France.  A deal was struck to buy two avisos, light corvette-type warships of the A69 or D'Estienne d'Orves class, as well as two A70 Agosta class submarines.  South African sailors and other staff were sent to France to work with the shipyards during construction.  At the time, I'd just begun my military service.  I'd studied French to matriculation level at school, and also been a student member of Alliance Française for several years.  I was accordingly selected to form part of the project, and would have gone to France in early 1978.  However, the implementation of a mandatory United Nations arms embargo against South Africa in November 1977 meant that the ships could not be delivered, so the project was terminated, and I never got to go.  The two corvettes were subsequently sold to Argentina as part of that nation's three-vessel Drummond class, and the two submarines to Pakistan.

Even though I didn't get to France myself, I remember several discussions with other members of the team concerning cultural interactions and (mis)understandings.  South African personnel in France complained about many of the same issues the Australians are running into now, particularly the sacrosanct Mediterranean-area siesta after lunch (whether workers were on the clock or not).  Even though workers were supposed to be working, more than half of them could usually be found curled into out-of-the-way compartments aboard the ships, fast asleep, between noon and 3 p.m.   Outraged protests about the practice got absolutely nowhere;  French labor unions regarded it as all part of the job, and flatly refused to impose a stricter work discipline on their members.  (I remember one South African officer complained that the post-prandial odor of garlic and red wine in some compartments was almost overpowering.  Very un-South-African, that - nothing like boerewors and beer!)

Be that as it may, some Australians see the lighter side of the impasse.

First thing to get your melons around is that the French are fabulous people, it’s just that when it comes to being a weird mob, they are the gold medallists, while we can only crack it for silver.

The second thing to realise is that their wonderful creativity actually originates from their sometimes shambolic nature. If I may draw on the celebrated Jean Cocteau bon mot that the “French are just the Italian in a bad mood” ... Don’t try to tighten the parameters within which their French flair reigns, embrace it. It’s just the way they are.

. . .

[The French] want the spirit of something, rather than the dull literal meaning.

Hence a meeting at 10 am, doesn’t actually mean at 10 am, it means as soon as you can after 10 am, and we’ll see how we go.

But, and make no mistake, if that meeting goes until lunchtime, it will be stopped rigidly at lunchtime because the only thing that can get in way of lunch is ... dinner, should our lunch run long.

Praise the Lord, and pass the wine!

For you see, here is the key to the French. Beyond being world leaders in submarine technology, they’ve also got the market cornered on all the finer things to do with pleasure – from cuisine, to wine, to fashion, to art, to, yes, sexual expression. It’s just in their blood, and nothing can get in its way.

Again, more at the link.

Despite the complications, I'm sure Australia will be satisfied with its new vessels.  The French build good submarines.  South Africa operated three Daphne class subs for decades, and they gave valuable service.  They were small and quiet enough to give serious scares to a few Western nuclear submarines that traveled the Cape sea route from time to time, and exercised with local ships;  and they successfully completed numerous clandestine missions into Angolan and Mozambican waters during the Border War.


How not to diet

Stephan Pastis nails it again!  Click the image for a larger view at the "Pearls Before Swine" comic's Web site.

Personally, I think getting older is a fundamentally flawed process.  One forgets more, one's strength diminishes, one doesn't have the endurance or the stamina of youth . . . so why does one's weight get harder and harder to shed?  Surely that should diminish along with everything else?  It's not fair, I tell you!


Monday, April 29, 2019

A very profound, emotional day

Miss D. and I are safely home, after an emotional roller-coaster of a day.

I became a US citizen this morning, as mentioned earlier.  I found it very moving and awesome, in the true sense of that word:  awe-some.  I've regarded myself as American in spirit for years, but this put the official seal on the process of becoming one, along with new citizens from 40 other nations (including, sitting next to me, a woman from Zimbabwe, who formerly lived in Bulawayo, a city I knew from previous visits.  We exchanged congratulations and memories of our former homes.)  As we shared the national anthem for the first time, I couldn't hold back a tear.  It's my anthem, too, now;  and even though I've sung it innumerable times before, somehow this time was very special.

I was astonished at how many emotions and memories rolled through my mind during the ceremony.  In my previous post, I said that I thought many memories of my deceased friends and colleagues from South Africa would be with me when I took the oath.  That was an understatement.  The emotions were very powerful indeed.  Miss D. says she's heard others say something similar, if they came out of backgrounds of oppression and struggle, so I'm glad to know I'm not alone in feeling like that at a time like this.  I was truly surprised at how real my late friends seemed - not just memories, but almost tangible in their presence.  I hope they're as happy as I am at present.

Thank you to all who sent congratulations, both here on this blog and via other means.  Well over 250 of you have done so, which makes me humbly grateful for so many friends and well-wishers.  Now, I guess it's time to take a deep breath and get on with life - until the weekend, at any rate.  Old NFO and sundry other friends and blogging buddies are planning a citizenship party for me, which is attracting far more interest and enthusiasm from friends around the country than I'd imagined it would, and bids fair to get out of hand.  (Old NFO?  Out of hand?  Say it ain't so!)  I might have to leave town temporarily, in sheer self-defense, if it gets much larger!


A new and deeply meaningful rite of passage

Last night, Miss D. and I drove down to the DFW metroplex.  This morning, I'll take the oath of allegiance and become a citizen of the United States of America.

It's been a long journey to get here.  When I first became eligible to apply, after having held a permanent residence permit (the so-called "green card") for five years, I was in the throes of medical treatment for a nasty injury suffered during my work as a prison chaplain.  That, and its (permanently partially disabling) consequences, took up all my time and attention for several years, as I worked to rebuild my life and get back on my feet.  (My books are a product of that experience.)  Applying for citizenship took a back seat to those painful realities.

When I met Miss D. in 2009, she encouraged me to pursue the matter, and after we married, I did so - only to run into a bureaucratic roadblock.  You see, the USCIS (which handles citizenship applications) wanted five years worth of tax returns, to prove I was paying my fair share towards our nation.  However, because my income had been workers-compensation-related for several years (and thus not taxable), I hadn't met the minimum taxable income threshold that requires one to submit a tax return.  This did not satisfy USCIS, unfortunately - no tax returns, no citizenship!

I therefore approached the IRS and asked to file amended tax returns for the appropriate period, only to be told that this would be a waste of that agency's time and resources (because I still wouldn't owe any tax, after all), and therefore I should not do so.  Attempts to get the rival bureaucracies to talk to each other and sort out the problem were fruitless;  so I had to start all over again, filing taxes jointly with my wife and building up a new record as a taxpayer in that way.  (A big "Thank you!" to all of you who've bought my books, thereby giving me a taxable income once more!  In that sense, you've actively helped me become a citizen.)

When I filed a new application for citizenship, I was advised that the process would take a long time (years rather than months), due to a backlog of applications.  I resigned myself to a long wait.  It took more than a year before my interview came up, at which I was tested on my knowledge of US civics and other matters.  However, in the interim, a new system had been put into operation;  and when I passed the interview, I was advised that my naturalization ceremony would take place only a week later.  This was wonderful news.

Becoming a US citizen will be a very solemn, moving moment for me.  I take the oath of allegiance very seriously.  I've already sworn part of it when taking the oath of federal law enforcement office as a prison chaplain, well over a decade ago.  The citizenship ceremony will add to that an abjuration of any and all previous loyalties.  In that sense, it'll be a final, formal, legal and official severing of my ties to South Africa, where I'd spent almost two-thirds of my life so far.

Over the past few days, ever since learning that US citizenship was imminent, I've found myself haunted by the memories of my friends in South Africa who did not survive the terrible civil conflict that led to democracy in that country in 1994.  (I've written of them, and of that time, here, and in several other articles.)  It may be whimsical of me, but it feels as if many of their shades will be keeping me company as I swear the oath of allegiance.

I think that perhaps one can be a more dedicated citizen of the USA if one comes to it from outside, as it were:  jumping through all the legal and administrative hoops, having to earn the right to be assimilated into a new country and a new culture, rather than born to it.  I've tried hard to assimilate already.  I don't want to hold on to past loyalties and be what Theodore Roosevelt would have called a "hyphenated American".  In a speech to the Knights of Columbus in New York on October 12, 1915, he said:

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.

The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic. The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American. There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

That's the kind of American I shall strive to be.  Thank you, all my American friends, for welcoming me to your country, and adopting me into your national family.  Today is a very special day for me.

Blogging will be light for the rest of the day.  I'll post something late this afternoon, if I get home in time;  otherwise, look for more posts tomorrow morning.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday morning music

Those who don't listen to it much often think of classical music as slow and stodgy, not very interesting.  That's very far from the truth.

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) is best known for his sacred music, but he also produced "Terpsichore", a compendium of 300-odd medieval and early Renaissance dances.  Here's a 50-minute collection of several of them (not, as the video claims, a complete collection).  Some of them are quite rousing, and certainly foot-tapping even to those used to what's laughably referred to as "dancing" in modern popular music. I think you'll find some are very familiar to you, because they've been covered in modern versions by several artists.

If you'd like to see how these pieces would originally have been performed, here's a short excerpt from "Terpsichore" performed by Voices Of Music from San Francisco, using instruments of the correct vintage/design for the piece. In Praetorius' day, there was no conductor;  the music was led from the keyboard or violin, as shown here.

Lovely, isn't it?


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Feeling the burn

For the boy who wants the ultimate destructive toy, I daresay this comes close.

There's a more in-depth video discussion of this flamethrower here, including the laws and regulations governing their ownership and use (there aren't many of them).

There is a practical application for flamethrowers, of course, in setting fire lines for back-burns, etc.:  but they tend to be lower-pressure, shorter-range units.  This beast is designed to dump its cargo at maximum range and velocity, as quickly as possible.  It appears to have much the same range and burn duration as the US World War II M2 flamethrower.

Despite an extensive history of military flamethrower usage, I wouldn't recommend using it for defensive purposes . . . just imagine what a prosecutor could charge you with if you incinerate your attackers!


Will vehicle cannon become obsolete?

Over the past few weeks, I've published two articles about the increasing use of larger cannon aboard infantry fighting vehicles (IFV's) and armored personnel carriers (APC's):

There's an impressive amount of effort being put into the development of such weapons.  Trouble is, on the horizon is another development that may make them all redundant.  I refer, of course, to the vehicle-mounted laser.

Lasers have been vehicle-mounted for some years already, but in low-power configurations that might take out a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at relatively close range.  They've grown steadily more capable in this role.  Last year, Raytheon demonstrated a 5KW laser that's mounted on a militarized dune buggy (shown below).  It's able to shoot down small UAV's at ranges of up to 5,000 meters (just over 3 miles).

Larger, more powerful lasers have shot down mortar and artillery shells in flight.  This was achieved as long ago as 2002, albeit with a large, stationary laser that could not be vehicle-mounted.  By 2022, it's expected that a 100KW laser will be fitted to an armored vehicle.  This will be powerful enough to engage almost any target at ranges up to 5 miles (obviously, the closer the better, in terms of energy transfer sufficient to destroy the target).  Its main limitation will be the guidance system, which will have to react fast enough to aim the weapon accurately at high-speed targets.  I daresay that by 2030, prototype weapons of ten times that power will be available;  and that's enough to threaten anything within visual range.

Lasers have the potential to revolutionize vehicular combat weapons.

Lasers have many advantages over conventional projectile weapons. A laser moves at roughly the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second. Unlike a missile, an accurate laser beam can't be avoided. Lasers aren't affected by strong winds and can't be blown off target.

Laser weapons are invisible, operating at an optical wavelength the human eye cannot discern. They are also silent and unlike bullets and shells, do not produce miniature sonic booms. Unlike conventional weapons, which utilize a controlled explosion to generate energy, lasers have no recoil.

Lasers are also affordable. A single Griffin short-range missile costs at least $115,000. A shot from a laser costs usually costs less than a dollar, the price of the energy used. The actual laser system is more expensive ... but expect the price tag to fall as they become more common.

There's more at the link.

That being the case, there's an argument that much of the current investment in heavier cannon for light armored vehicles may be misplaced.  I'm sure there'll always be a need for cannon to do things a laser can't - like shoot in arcing trajectories over hills and other obstacles, for example;  the laser can only shoot in a straight line - but for vehicle-versus-vehicle combat, I think the laser is going to reign supreme as soon as it can be made powerful enough, and given an adequate power supply.  There's even talk of putting one aboard combat aircraft before long.

AFRL is leading a project to develop an experimental podded solid-state laser weapon for fighter jets under the Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program. The main goal there is to demonstrate a system that would be able to shoot down incoming missiles.

But if this arrangement works, it could provide a starting place for an offensive directed energy weapon. Such a system could theoretically work in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles and could offer a host of advantages over more traditional guns, missiles, and bombs.

The inherent ability of a laser focus its beam narrowly on a particular point could improve overall accuracy and help limit collateral damage during air strikes, especially in constrained environments such as densely populated urban areas, which is itself an increasing topic of concern across the Pentagon. Depending on the exact nature of the power source, it could also offer an effectively “bottomless magazine,” allowing an aircraft to remain on station and armed for a protracted period of time, even after engaging multiple targets.

Again, more at the link.

The one aspect of a laser weapon that I haven't seen mentioned in the literature (so far) is how to protect it against the effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP).  They're not new:  an EMP weapon was used in combat as early as 2003.  Here's a 2013 video about a test of Boeing's CHAMP EMP weapon.

On future battlefields, we can expect EMP to be used to disable enemy electronics and reduce their effectiveness.  (There are rumors that they've already been used by the USAF in Syria.)  Being electronic, I daresay a laser cannon will be susceptible to such attacks too.  Can it be insulated against them in some way?  Can its power supply and guidance systems also be protected?  That remains to be seen.  If it can't be easily or fully protected, then the good old-fashioned cannon may still have a long and useful life ahead of it.


Friday, April 26, 2019

A bureaucratic firestorm of problems and delays

From a comment to the previous post, I learned of a major airport in Germany that's never become operational, despite a twenty-year-odd construction period and an expenditure of well over eight billion dollars.  Sounds like a bureaucrat's vision of paradise!

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . . in particular, at the tolerance of German voters, who've put up with this boondoggle for so long at taxpayer expense!


Big balls indeed!

While searching for information about repairing a tool yesterday, I happened to wonder idly what were the largest ball-bearings ever made.  A bit of searching brought me the answer.

The Benicia–Martinez Bridge in San Francisco is a triple span affair, with two bridges for traffic in and out of the city and an older railway bridge between them.  The bridges were built at different times, using different then-current state-of-the-art engineering.  In the early 2000's, while the newest road bridge was under construction, it was decided to upgrade the older road bridge to be more earthquake-resistant.  This included replacing the old bearings (shown below), that allowed limited fore-and-aft mobility to the bridge girders during an earthquake (in other words, they could move along the line of the bridge to a limited extent across the rollers, but not sideways).  Note the white safety hat for scale.

The old bearings were replaced by what are considered to be the largest ball bearings in civil construction, a 12-foot-diameter disk with a mammoth ball in the center (shown below with a man kneeling next to the ball for scale).  These allow the bridge structure to move in any direction (not just fore-and-aft).  A man is shown kneeling next to the ball;  compare his white safety hat to that in the above picture for a direct size comparison between the old and new bearings.

Bearings Incorporated notes:

Each bearing is at least 12 feet in diameter, and weighs 40,000 to 50,000 pounds. Talk about some XXXL bearings!

And, when earthquakes hit, these magnificent bearings can allow for up to six feet of horizontal movement with little to no structural displacement. That’s unparalleled.

Making the bridges durable and safe during seismic activity cost around $122 million. Now the bridges are complete with a seismic monitoring system, seismic isolation bearings, steel joints, and expansion hinges.

Big balls indeed!  They must have taken a lot of time and trouble to machine correctly (much less the construction headache of putting them in place under the existing bridge, then have them take the strain of all that weight).

I wonder whether any of the recent bridge construction in China has used larger bearings?  It would be interesting to find out.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

"Greatest road rage of all time"?

That's what Chief Nose Wetter called this video.  I have to admit . . . it's weird!


Quote of the day - military edition

Solomon, blogging at SNAFU, commented on the problems currently being experienced with the Marine Corps' new CH-53K helicopter.  In that article, he observed:

NO ONE WEAPON SYSTEM is indispensable.  You equip the man, you don't man the equipment!

I applauded the sentiment at first . . . but then I thought about it.  That was certainly true during my military service, and it obviously remains a public talking point - just look at all the companies in the "military-industrial complex" who spout public relations glurge about "equipping the warfighter".  However, in many cases, their operations seem more geared towards the latest gee-whiz factors than towards the poor soldier who'll have to use their equipment.  Furthermore, in some cases, they aren't designing for the individual soldier, sailor or airman at all.  They're designing technology that can be "optionally manned" - indicating that sooner or later, it can be operated remotely, perhaps even autonomously (i.e. self-directed via artificial intelligence) instead of requiring a "human in the loop".

So many of the weapons we put into the hands of our armed services are aimed and guided by electronics, rather than people.  During World War II, I daresay 99% of the rounds fired (whatever they were fired from) were aimed by eye, or by analog calculations such as a warship's gears-and-wheels fire control system.  The first Persian Gulf War brought "smart weapons" to bear for the first time in large numbers.  Today, it seems "smart weapons" are taking over wholesale.  Even field artillery is now relying to an overwhelming extent on guided shells.  (There's a very interesting discussion on restocking artillery shells and rockets, and the impact of technology on army logistics in general, over at Strategy Page.  Go read it for more information.)

We've seen an increasing reliance on automated assistance in flying planes (even civilian airliners), driving cars, and so on.  Are we now seeing the same reliance developing in our combat arms?  Will the individual soldier, sailor or airman be, in so many words, just one element in a weapons system - and not the most important element, at that?  Will new equipment acquisitions (such as the CH-53K helicopter) be driven by human concerns first, or by "the system" (military administration) determining what "systems" (equipment) will be needed to deliver and support other "systems" (weapons, etc.), and ordering accordingly, without major regard to the people involved?  Will casualties caused by incomplete weapons development (see, for example, the V-22 debacle) simply be regarded as unavoidable "collateral damage" - part of the process?

I haven't thought this through to any great extent yet;  but Snafu's comment made me wonder.  How about you, readers?  Would those of you who are current or former military concur that this is going to be the wave of the future?  Please discuss in Comments.


Pedophiles and the Boy Scouts

I was very angry - but not surprised - to read of the extent of the problem of pedophiles in the Boy Scouts of America.

More alarming details have surfaced about how many people were listed in the Boy Scouts of America’s “perversion files,” according to lawyers who demand the full release of thousands of names of alleged offenders in the files. Nearly 200 of them are from New York and New Jersey.

Though allegations came to light Monday night, a victims' rights attorney who compiled an "incomplete" list of former Boy Scout leaders accused of abuse in New York held a press conferences Tuesday to discuss what he claims to be a widespread pattern of abuse. He also asked more victims to come forward.

The victims’ rights attorney, Jeff Anderson, called it a system of denial and cover-ups. He claims the Boy Scouts have files on child abusers within their ranks dating back to the 1940s.

. . .

He said, citing testimony by a professional retained by the BSA to audit the files, that there were 7,819 suspected perpetrators, while the number of victims total 12,254.

"That is a number not known before today or ever revealed by the Boy Scouts of America," he said.

There's more at the link.

To make matters worse, corporate pressure and political correctness may have contributed to the problem.

Dressed in a blazer and gray slacks, Eagle Scout Rex Tillerson — better known as the CEO of Exxon Mobil — approached the podium during a national meeting of the Boy Scouts of America at a Grapevine hotel last year.

The organization’s delegates had just voted to allow openly gay youths to join their troops and earn their merit badges. And Tillerson began laying out next steps in the same forthright tone with which he delivers financial results to shareholders.

“So we’ve made the decision we’re going to change. Now what?” he said. “No winners or losers. After we make the decision to change, it’s the mission.”

. . .

Tillerson’s close ties to the Scouts were evident last year when he took the stage to address the decision to allow gay youths to join.

The Boy Scouts of America declined to make board members or professional staff available to discuss their well-known Scout. And Tillerson, through the public relations office of Exxon Mobil, also declined to be interviewed ... Nonetheless, Tillerson was instrumental in lobbying the Scouts’ board to accept openly gay youths, said John Hamre, president of the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, of which Tillerson is a board member.

“I can’t get into the intimacy of these conversations. But he agonized over this. He prayed on it, and ultimately he came to the conclusion the only thing that can guide him here is what’s best for the young boys,” he said. “I think he became a key leader in helping the group come to a consensus.”

Again, more at the link.

Clearly, the Boy Scouts learned nothing from the Catholic Church's experience of pedophilia.  In the course of the latter institution's exhaustive investigation into the problem, numerous studies confirmed that not all homosexuals were pedophiles:  however, the vast majority of pedophiles in the Church were also homosexual, or exhibited at least some homosexual tendencies.  The correlation was very close indeed.  That information has been public knowledge since the early 2000's.  Why did the Boy Scouts not take it into account from that time onward, and use it in assessing how to relate to homosexuals within its ranks - particularly in positions of leadership and authority?

I was a Cub Scout in South Africa, although instead of proceeding to the Boy Scouts as I grew older, I chose to enter the Sea Cadets.  I still remember the Baden-Powell ethos that the Cub Scouts tried to inculcate in us (and which is strongly emphasized to this day by traditional Scout movements).  Given their politically correct attitudes, leadership and emphasis today, I wonder how the US Boy Scouts managed to lose sight of that so completely?


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

I'd love to know the story behind that . . .

Courtesy of Wirecutter, here's the mission record of a US strike aircraft:

I can figure out the Maverick missile silhouettes, the cannon shells, and the bombs . . . but I'd dearly love to know the story behind the cow!


Doofus Of The Day #1,041

Today's award goes to a self-described "doctor" in Kuwait.

Kuwaiti new-age therapist Dr. Mariam Al-Sohel said in a March 25, 2019 interview on Scope TV (Kuwait) that she has developed an anal suppository based on the "Prophetic medicine" of the Prophet Muhammad.  Dr. Sohel claims that the new suppository cures homosexuality by exterminating the "anal worm that feeds on semen." Showing examples of the suppositories, she claimed that this treatment has been subjected to modern research and testing. She referred to homosexual men as "the third gender" and to "butch lesbians" as the "fourth gender" and said that the new treatment "cures" both. She also claimed to have developed a balanced diet as part of the treatment that includes plenty of bitter foods and root vegetables, the consumption of which she said increases masculinity in men.

Dr. Al-Sohel was presented as a "Human Development Advisor," and on social media she identifies as a Reiki Master, and a member of Toastmasters International. She said that she received an honorary doctorate in "Sex Management," homosexuality, and sexual harassment from the International Union of Universities in Turkey.

Here she is.

Personally, I'd say she's several restaurants short of a meal, but maybe that's just me . . .


The latest statist wet dream

The so-called "Equality Act" appears to be nothing more or less than a slap in the face to the US constitution, and to the rights and freedoms it guarantees.  It also flies in the face of medical and scientific fact (as opposed to politically correct opinion).  I've seldom seen a more blatant assault on our civic foundation.

Let’s place ourselves, for a moment, into the mindset of a statist. If you and your cronies wanted to control everybody’s lives, how exactly would you go about getting such raw power? Obviously, you wouldn’t come right out and say you have a special project designed specifically to cement a permanent one-party state.

You wouldn’t explain, full disclosure, that the ever-growing bureaucracy you have in mind would promote a surveillance state and coercion that produces toxic levels of social distrust. You wouldn’t clarify that the point is to keep tabs on everyone in every aspect of their lives, including their education, their businesses, their medicine, their housing, their families, and their churches.

No, of course not. You would mask your self-supremacist intentions with a benign and trendy word like “equality.” You’d pretend that your project was about helping a vulnerable minority. To prevent scrutiny, you’d quickly shame anybody who had a question about it and defame them as haters. At the same time, you’d give special favors to those who can be persuaded to support your con job.

. . .

So we have the “Equality” Act, recently introduced by Democrats in Congress ... On the surface, the “Equality” Act is supposed to protect LGBT folks from discrimination by adding the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to all federal civil rights laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It would make claims of discrimination related to these characteristics legally actionable in the way racism is, and applying to virtually every area of life: the workplace, education, banking, jury service, federal funding, housing, medicine and psychiatry, and all public facilities.

It is a power grab in the guise of anti-discrimination. A bait-and-switch. It’s another attempt by a ruling micro-clique to exert mega-control over everyone else’s lives, including those it purports to protect. It allows the Mass State to maximize bureaucracy and social engineering, especially by its huge regulation of speech and expression. It erodes individual rights while claiming to uphold them.

There's more at the link.  If you place any value at all in our constitutional rights and privileges, you really, really need to click over there and read the whole thing.  Also, read the Heritage Foundation's analysis:  "7 Reasons Why the Equality Act Is Anything But".

I must confess, I'm baffled that any political party in its right mind would even introduce so blatantly unconstitutional an act.  I can see any number of ways in which the Equality Act could be overturned by a federal court - much less the Supreme Court.  Indeed, it's so blatant that I can't help wondering whether it isn't a deliberately sacrificial maneuver - something to pander to the Democratic Party's extreme left-wing elements, which the leadership know will never stand judicial scrutiny.  On the other hand, that's as blatant, as dishonest and as cynical as actually bringing it up for a vote in the first place.

The "Equality Act" is a monstrosity, and a recipe for disaster.  I don't care whether you're Democrat or Republican;  this thing is inimical to our constitution and our civic society.  It must be stopped.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Star Wars - Australian edition

This parody fan movie dates from 2013, but until reader Snoggeramus directed my attention to it, I'd never heard of it.  Half an hour of creative and Australian-sense-of-humor funny - what's not to like?

See the movie's Web site for more information.

It looks like there are a whole raft of Star Wars parodies and fan films.  See this list for the details.


HIV as a way to cure other diseases???

I was astonished to read this report.

US scientists say they used HIV to make a gene therapy that cured eight infants of severe combined immunodeficiency, or "bubble boy" disease.

. . .

The babies, born with little to no immune protection, now have fully functional immune systems.

Untreated babies with this disorder have to live in completely sterile conditions and tend to die as infants.

The gene therapy involved collecting the babies' bone marrow and correcting the genetic defect in their DNA soon after their birth.

The "correct" gene - used to fix the defect - was inserted into an altered version of one of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Researchers said most of the babies were discharged from the hospital within one month.

Dr Ewelina Mamcarz of St Jude, an author of the study, said in a statement: "These patients are toddlers now, who are responding to vaccinations and have immune systems to make all immune cells they need for protection from infections as they explore the world and live normal lives."

There's more at the link.

SCID got its nickname of "bubble boy disease" from the tragic case of David Vetter, who had to live in a plastic "bubble" tent facility from birth until he died.

SCID used to be a death sentence.  To think that HIV, one of the most ravaging, most lethal viruses in recent memory can be gene-edited to be not only harmless, but actually medically helpful in this way, is mind-boggling.  Kudos to all the researchers and staff involved.



Found on Gab:

With that incentive, runners should be breaking every record in the book!


Monday, April 22, 2019

When there's no room to "duck and cover"

I've had a couple of hairy experiences with road debris being flung up by vehicles ahead of me, striking my car.  It's no fun at all, and often very scary because one can't always turn the wheel to dodge the oncoming missile.  A few years ago, Miss D. and I were in a rented vehicle on an interstate when a truck ahead of us kicked up a large piece of gravel.  It seemed to move in slow motion as we watched it coming right into our windscreen, as if we had a bullseye target painted on our car.  There was traffic on either side of us, so we had nowhere to go.  It put a large, star-shaped crack in our windscreen as it bounced off with a heck of a bang.  (Fortunately, we always pay for extended insurance cover on rented vehicles, so we were able to hand in the car and get a replacement with no financial penalty.  Useful, that!)

I was reminded of that by this video clip.

That's far from rare, of course, as this report reminds us.

Be careful out there, friends . . . and if you're carrying anything in the load bed of your pickup, please, please tie it down securely!


For Oleg's friends - Gremlin is in trouble

Those who know the photographer Oleg Volk (a decades-long friend of mine) will also probably know his cat Gremlin, who adopted him more than a decade ago, and rules his life with an iron paw.

Sadly, Gremlin got into a fight with something bigger and more bitey than himself a few days ago.  He's in a bad way in kitty hospital.  Right now, it's unclear if he'll pull through.

His treatment and recovery is going to cost a lot, and Oleg's asking his friends to help.  He's set up a GoFundMe to cover some of the costs.  Needless to say, Miss D. and I have already contributed.

If you know Oleg, and you'd like to help, please click over to the GoFundMe page and do what you can.  Gremlin's a worthy cause, IMHO.


"After Empire" - a doctor reflects on Rhodesia and Africa

Following my series of three articles on Africa last week:

I thought it might be useful to provide some additional perspective.

Theodore Dalrymple (a pseudonym) is a British doctor who's traveled extensively in Africa, and (to my mind) understands African culture very well.  He writes about it trenchantly and without any attempt to sugar-coat the bitter pill that is often one's experience of Africa.  His portrayal of the aftermath of the savage, brutal Liberian civil war, "Monrovia Mon Amour", is a heartrending look at the destruction of that nation by tribal and ethnic rivalry;  and his travelogue "Zanzibar to Timbuktu" is an amusing, whimsical look at the people and places encountered during a transcontinental journey.  I recommend both books, as I do all his many other works:  and, since they've recently been republished in e-book format, their prices are very affordable.

Dr. Dalrymple wrote in 2003 about his memories of working as a doctor in Rhodesia, and what he learned (the hard way) about Africa.  Here's a lengthy excerpt from a much longer article.

As soon as I qualified as a doctor, I went to Rhodesia, which was to transform itself into Zimbabwe five years or so later. In the next decade, I worked and traveled a great deal in Africa and couldn’t help but reflect upon such matters as the clash of cultures, the legacy of colonialism, and the practical effects of good intentions unadulterated by any grasp of reality. I gradually came to the conclusion that the rich and powerful can indeed have an effect upon the poor and powerless—perhaps can even remake them—but not necessarily (in fact, necessarily not) in the way they wanted or anticipated. The law of unintended consequences is stronger than the most absolute power.

. . .

Unlike in South Africa, where salaries were paid according to a racial hierarchy (whites first, Indians and coloured second, Africans last), salaries in Rhodesia were equal for blacks and whites doing the same job, so that a black junior doctor received the same salary as mine. But there remained a vast gulf in our standards of living, the significance of which at first escaped me; but it was crucial in explaining the disasters that befell the newly independent countries that enjoyed what Byron called, and eagerly anticipated as, the first dance of freedom.

The young black doctors who earned the same salary as we whites could not achieve the same standard of living for a very simple reason: they had an immense number of social obligations to fulfill. They were expected to provide for an ever expanding circle of family members (some of whom may have invested in their education) and people from their village, tribe, and province. An income that allowed a white to live like a lord because of a lack of such obligations scarcely raised a black above the level of his family. Mere equality of salary, therefore, was quite insufficient to procure for them the standard of living that they saw the whites had and that it was only human nature for them to desire—and believe themselves entitled to, on account of the superior talent that had allowed them to raise themselves above their fellows. In fact, a salary a thousand times as great would hardly have been sufficient to procure it: for their social obligations increased pari passu with their incomes.

These obligations also explain the fact, often disdainfully remarked upon by former colonials, that when Africans moved into the beautiful and well-appointed villas of their former colonial masters, the houses swiftly degenerated into a species of superior, more spacious slum. Just as African doctors were perfectly equal to their medical tasks, technically speaking, so the degeneration of colonial villas had nothing to do with the intellectual inability of Africans to maintain them. Rather, the fortunate inheritor of such a villa was soon overwhelmed by relatives and others who had a social claim upon him. They brought even their goats with them; and one goat can undo in an afternoon what it has taken decades to establish.

It is easy to see why a civil service, controlled and manned in its upper reaches by whites, could remain efficient and uncorrupt but could not long do so when manned by Africans who were supposed to follow the same rules and procedures. The same is true, of course, for every other administrative activity, public or private. The thick network of social obligations explains why, while it would have been out of the question to bribe most Rhodesian bureaucrats, yet in only a few years it would have been out of the question not to try to bribe most Zimbabwean ones, whose relatives would have condemned them for failing to obtain on their behalf all the advantages their official opportunities might provide. Thus do the very same tasks in the very same offices carried out by people of different cultural and social backgrounds result in very different outcomes.

Viewed in this light, African nationalism was a struggle as much for power and privilege as it was for freedom, though it co-opted the language of freedom for obvious political advantage ... These considerations help to explain the paradox that strikes so many visitors to Africa: the evident decency, kindness, and dignity of the ordinary people, and the fathomless iniquity, dishonesty, and ruthlessness of the politicians and administrators.

. . .

The naive supposition on which the argument for education rests is that training counteracts and overpowers a cultural worldview. A trained man is but a clone of his trainer, on this theory, sharing his every attitude and worldview. But in fact what results is a curious hybrid, whose fundamental beliefs may be impervious to the education he has received.

I had a striking example of this phenomenon recently, when I had a Congolese patient who had taken refuge in this country from the terrible war in Central Africa that has so far claimed up to 3 million lives. He was an intelligent man and had that easy charm that I remember well from the days when I traversed—not without difficulty or discomfort—the Zaire of Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko. He had two degrees in agronomy and had trained in Toulouse in the interpretation of satellite pictures for agronomic purposes. He recognized the power of modern science, therefore, and had worked for the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, and was used to dealing with Western aid donors and investors, as well as academics.

The examination over, we chatted about the Congo: he was delighted to meet someone who knew his country, by no means easily found in England. I asked him about Mobutu, whom he had known personally.

“He was very powerful,” he said. “He collected the best witch doctors from every part of Zaire. Of course, he could make himself invisible; that was how he knew everything about us. And he could turn himself into a leopard when he wanted.”

This was said with perfect seriousness. For him the magical powers of Mobutu were more impressive and important than the photographic power of satellites. Magic trumped science. In this he was not at all abnormal, it being as difficult or impossible for a sub-Saharan African to deny the power of magic as for an inhabitant of the Arabian peninsula to deny the power of Allah.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

Dr. Dalrymple's story about Mobutu's alleged powers of witchcraft reminded me of other African superstitions I have known.  There are many of them.

Old Africa hands (of whom I'm one) say that the place gets into your blood, along with the malaria and other illnesses that infest the continent.  Once "bitten", you can never break free of it.  I can't say they're wrong.  Having spent more than half my life in Africa, I can still remember the good times, the good people, the sunrises and sunsets, the incredible beauty, the wildlife . . . but I also can't forget the savagery, the butchery and the inhumanity that can and do arise at the drop of a hat.  I buried too many friends in Africa.  Those memories haunt me still.  Sadly, on balance, they outweigh the good ones.  I daresay many like me can say the same.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday morning music

Since today is Easter Sunday, here's something appropriate for the feast:  "I know that my Redeemer liveth" from Handel's Messiah.  This performance is by the Choir of New College, Oxford;  the soloist is eleven-year-old Henry Jenkinson.  The video blurb states that "This recording is mean to replicate a 1751 performance of Messiah given in London, in which Handel employed trebles rather than adults on the soprano arias".

To my Christian friends:  May we rise with Christ to eternal life.  To those who don't share our faith, or any faith:  may the blessings of this season still be yours, in whatever way you are willing and able to receive them.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Now that's what I call a rape whistle!

Found on Gab (click the image for a larger view):

I approve!


What to do about Africa?

Following my article a few days ago about Rhodesia and white supremacists, I received this e-mail from a reader.

Feel free to publish my comment, if you like — but please do not publish my name.

I think that it is clear from your writings that you oppose the Apartheid approach to the ordering of civil society in Sub-Saharan Africa.  I think that it is also clear that you acknowledge that current conditions in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe (and, perhaps, to a somewhat lesser extent, in South Africa) are simply dreadful  —  for both whites and blacks.

What is not clear to me is how you would would recommend as an alternative.  How would you propose to organize and govern countries like Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and South Africa in light of the potent and undeniable realities of race, IQ, and culture (and their attendant, inescapable, behavioral consequences) that you addressed in your essay yesterday (“IQ, Countries, and Coping Skills”)?   What alternative can you identify to the widely discredited system of Apartheid that will not result in the appalling dysfunctionality and squalor that characterizes Sub-Saharan Africa today?

That's the problem, right there.  I can't recommend an alternative, because right now no alternative exists.  The realities I mentioned in "IQ, Countries and Coping Skills" are inexorable and unavoidable.  Go read that article for yourself, and look at the map of Africa with its appallingly low average IQ compared to the rest of the world.  That's reality.  If we deny, or protest, or ignore that reality, we're living in cloud cuckoo land.  That reality is also the reason why every single effort to "uplift" the people of Africa has, so far, failed miserably.

In his 2002 essay "Let Africa Sink", fellow former South African Kim du Toit wrote:

Just go to the CIA World Fact Book, pick any of the African countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi etc.), and compare the statistics to any Western country (eg. Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland). The disparities are appalling — and it’s going to get worse, not better. It has certainly got worse since 1960, when most African countries achieved independence. We, and by this I mean the West, have tried many ways to help Africa. All such attempts have failed.

Charity is no answer. Money simply gets appropriated by the first, or second, or third person to touch it (17 countries saw a decline in real per capita GNP between 1970 and 1999, despite receiving well over $100 billion in World Bank assistance).

Food isn’t distributed. This happens either because there is no transportation infrastructure (bad), or the local leader deliberately withholds the supplies to starve people into submission (worse).

Materiel is broken, stolen or sold off for a fraction of its worth. The result of decades of “foreign aid” has resulted in a continental infrastructure which, if one excludes South Africa, couldn’t support Pittsburgh.

Add to this, as I mentioned above, the endless cycle of Nature’s little bag of tricks — persistent drought followed by violent flooding, a plethora of animals, reptiles and insects so dangerous that life is already cheap before Man starts playing his little reindeer games with his fellow Man. What you are left with is: catastrophe.

The inescapable conclusion is simply one of resignation. This goes against the grain of our humanity — we are accustomed to ridding the world of this or that problem (smallpox, polio, whatever), and accepting failure is anathema to us. But, to give a classic African scenario, a polio vaccine won’t work if the kids are prevented from getting the vaccine by a venal overlord, or a frightened chieftain, or a lack of roads, or by criminals who steal the vaccine and sell it to someone else. If a cure for AIDS was found tomorrow, and offered to every African nation free of charge, the growth of the disease would scarcely be checked, let alone reversed. Basically, you’d have to try to inoculate as many two-year old children as possible, and write off the two older generations.

So that leaves only one response, and it’s a brutal one: accept that we are powerless to change Africa, and leave them to sink or swim, by themselves.

. . .

The viciousness, the cruelty, the corruption, the duplicity, the savagery, and the incompetence is endemic to the entire continent, and is so much of an anathema to any right-thinking person that the civilized imagination simply stalls when faced with its ubiquity, and with the enormity of trying to fix it.

There's much more at the link.  Go read it all.

I don't agree with Mr. du Toit's proposed solution, as those who've been reading this blog for a while will understand:  but I most certainly understand the anger, frustration and bitterness that caused him to come to that conclusion, because I've seen everything he did, and more.  It's repeating itself all over again in the current Ebola crisis in Congo, about which I've written frequently in these pages.  African tribal culture is, very specifically, the reason why the disease has not yet been contained, and threatens to spread even further.  (Go read the last-linked article for yourself, if you haven't already.  It's true, every word.)

If you look at how Western civilization developed, it came about through the education of the people over centuries, building on a shared Christian faith rooted in antiquity, founded on classical Greek and Roman culture, and expressed in religious and national sentiments that (for all their shortcomings and defects) provided a framework for people to move through and beyond the Dark Ages to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution (all of which produced our society today).  It took many centuries for all those influences to have their effect.  Africa has experienced none of them - no Renaissance, no Enlightenment, no Industrial Revolution.  It's had elements of all of them grafted on from external sources, but has never developed them internally, challenging its people to rise above primitive superstition and tribalism to something better.

The colonial era, following the so-called "Scramble for Africa", might have helped change that through education and economic development;  but those weren't the motives for colonization.  Colonial powers wanted cheap resources to fuel their own economies, and markets for the goods those economies produced.  They saw colonies as something to exploit, not as a place to invest money or resources.  As a result, when African colonies became independent after World War II, most had few (if any) trained, qualified, experienced (and, above all, honest) leaders and administrators.  The veneer of colonial civilization was soon stripped away, and tribal culture returned with a vengeance.  (I note with interest current Chinese efforts to "colonize" Africa economically.  The only reason they've succeeded so far is that they import their own people to manage everything, and to perform all skilled functions.  They're not investing in local education and training except to the unavoidable minimum extent, and they bribe local politicians to ensure that they can run their enterprises with a relatively free hand.  If they do it any other way, they'll find out what every African learns, sooner or later . . . Africa wins again.  It will do so again, even over China, given time.)

The same goes for indoctrinating Africans with various and sundry philosophies, political perspectives, economic theories, and what have you.  I've seen the US Peace Corps at work in a number of African nations, and I remain profoundly unimpressed at their efforts.  (Ask Lawdog sometime about his experiences of what the Peace Corps did in Nigeria.  He can wax fairly profane about it.)  In the same way, I've seen the results of Communist propaganda and "education" in Africa (often courtesy of Patrice Lumumba University in the former USSR).  They've been disastrous for those countries run by graduates of the latter institution.  Karl Marx may have regarded European religion as the opiate of the masses, but he never encountered African tribal superstition!  It would have driven him stark staring bonkers.  No external philosophy of government has ever really succeeded in tribal Africa, and it won't, unless and until the tribal mentality is overcome.

The one thing every old Africa hand has learned the hard way is that you can't impose a solution to that continent's problems from outside.  Only if it arises from the people themselves does it have any chance of success.  Tragically, the corrupt African powers that be know this . . . and so they ensure that anything that might develop into a threat to their hegemony is either co-opted, or nipped in the bud.  They have no hesitation in bribing, assaulting, exiling, jailing or killing anyone who might threaten their control.  That includes those of their people who are better educated, particularly those who've been "infected" with Western ideals through non-governmental organizations, and contact with aid workers and groups.  You can bet none of the people trained by Doctors Without Borders to deal with the Ebola outbreak in Congo will ever be allowed to occupy senior positions in the government health ministry . . . not unless they've been co-opted into the existing power structure, and given up any outlandish ideas about actually accomplishing something.

Tragically, that also means that any African who manages to get a halfway decent education and/or qualification immediately tries to leave for another continent, where he can make a better life for himself.  He knows damned well that if he tries to do so at home, he'll be exploited to within an inch of his life by his tribal extended family, the powers that be (who want to tax him for all they can get), and the limitations of the society in which he's forced to live.  Therefore, rather than help his own people, he helps himself by leaving.  I can't blame him.  In his shoes, I would, too.

Therefore, I can't propose any way to "organize and govern countries like Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and South Africa in light of the potent and undeniable realities of race, IQ, and culture (and their attendant, inescapable, behavioral consequences)".  I can't "identify [an alternative] to the widely discredited system of Apartheid that will not result in the appalling dysfunctionality and squalor that characterizes Sub-Saharan Africa today".  There is no practical possibility whatsoever of doing so from within, because those solutions require education, the end of tribalism and superstition, and a willingness to work for the greater good of society - all of which are conspicuous by their absence in almost every part of Africa.  And, since there's no internal structure to support such political solutions, they can't be imposed from outside, either.  China is making them work economically only because it imports every skilled worker it needs from China to staff its African enterprises.  It could not succeed if it relied on local workers and administrators.

Africa is hamstrung.  It has no way forward unless and until it develops an educated people who understand that they have to move beyond the shackles of past superstition and tribalism if they're to join the modern world.  Tragically, the powers that be in Africa have no intention whatsoever of allowing any such education to take place, because they know it would mean the end of their rule.  Africa is at an impasse, and I see no way forward at this time.  All I can suggest is that we try to support and defend any potential progress - and worthy individuals - we can identify there, try to protect them from the rapacity, greed and ruthlessness of local rulers, and see whether, in due course, the shoots of democracy and freedom will take root and grow in what has proved to be a Dark Continent indeed.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Doofus Of The Day #1,040

Today's winner is from Modesto, California.

Authorities say a man has suffered third-degree burns over half of his body while trying to melt a plastic jug full of gasoline in a Northern California parking lot ... [he] was using a lighter to melt the mouth of a gallon water jug into the shape of funnel to make it easier to pour the fuel into his car.

Instead, the jug exploded in flames. The man and a nearby car also caught fire.

. . .

He was airlifted to a hospital.

There's more at the link.

Sounds like a Darwin Award looking for a home, right there . . .


Debunking a so-called "scientific" study

Karl Denninger points out - scathingly - that a recent study of fine particulate matter air pollution is fundamentally flawed in its recommendations, because it doesn't take the whole picture into account.  The study claims that there are up to 100,000 "premature" deaths every year due to such pollution.

100,000 dead people in a year is 0.03% of the American population.  A real number, to be sure.

But..... all those trucks, trains, cars, boats, agriculture and industry -- the source of that fine particulate emission -- is why we have:

  • Food.
  • Energy.
  • Warm houses in the winter.
  • Cool houses in the summer (A/C, to be specific)
  • Fire engines so if your house catches on fire it can be put out.
  • Water pressure at the hydrant so the fire engine can put the fire in your house out.
  • The ambulance to haul your about-to-be-dead ass to the hospital when you have a heart attack.
  • The chemicals required to sanitize your city water.
  • The chemicals required to turn your **** (literally) into safe discharge water in that same city.
And so on.... basically, all the trappings of modern civilization.

In short without those emissions many more than 100,000 people would "prematurely die" -- 10x as many, if not more, due to a lack of food, electricity, clean water and readily-available transportation yet that alleged "paper" includes none of the positive effects and avoided deaths, premature or otherwise, that come along with those emissions.

This isn't "science", it's political advocacy and lying wrapped in "environmental" claims.

There's more at the link.

I've seen so many of these superficial, special-interest-driven "studies" that I've long since lost count.  They all espouse an ideological position, and amass "scientific" facts (or what they allege to be facts) in support of that position.  In other words, they decide what they want to prove, then set out to find corroborating evidence.  They don't look at the "big picture" at all, because that might threaten their preconceptions.

In fairness, we have to admit that this is a problem on both ends of the ideological spectrum;  conservatives are just as guilty as progressives, and so on.  Unfortunately, that means we can't accept a "scientific" study's conclusions uncritically.  We have to presume the existence of bias and manipulation, and double-check for them before we decide whether or not the study can be trusted.  That's bad for all of us, and for science as a whole.


Revisiting the Rhodesian War

Earlier this week, I analyzed a New York Times article about Rhodesia and its influence on white supremacists.  In that article, I noted:

The visceral response of many Rhodesian servicemen was to "do unto others what was being done to them". They became as much terrorists, in the way they treated their own people, as the guerrillas against whom they fought. I know they did - I saw them do it. (If you don't want to believe that, read some of the literature that's come out of the security forces since then. I can list some books here, if there's enough interest. It was a brutal time.)

In a comment to that post, and in e-mails from some readers, I've had requests for more information about those books.  OK - here goes.

When it comes to books that are freely available at a reasonable price, two stand out for their honesty about the evil and nastiness on both sides of the Rhodesian Bush War.  One is "The Bleed: With the Marines in Vietnam and the RLI and Selous Scouts in Rhodesia", by John R. Cronin.  Being an American who went to Rhodesia to fight communism, who therefore saw the reality of that war from an outsider's perspective, he's more frank and honest than many Rhodesian-born and -bred servicemen about what went on.  The second is "Bush War Operator: Memoirs of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Selous Scouts and beyond", by Andrew Balaam.  He goes into some detail about Selous Scout "pseudo" operations, including their (mis)treatment of local suspects.  This happened a lot more frequently than most surviving Scouts are prepared to admit.  He also discusses subsequent operations in South Africa, which shed a new and unhappy light on how that country responded to terrorism by using terrorism against other nations (just as Rhodesia did with RENAMO).  As the saying goes, "two wrongs don't make a right".

(EDITED TO ADD:  A third good book about the armed conflict is Chris Cocks' "Fireforce".  He doesn't gloss over the evils of the war, in the midst of recalling the effectiveness of the Rhodesian Light Infantry.  It's a very good book, by the standards of any and all individual memoirs from any war.)

An interesting book, the authenticity of which has been fiercely contested by some white Rhodesian sources, is Bruce Moore-King's "White Man, Black War", published two years before the end of the Rhodesian war.  He's been described as "Zimbabwean rather than Rhodesian" (meaning, basically, pro-black rather than pro-white), because he cataloged security force crimes right along with terrorist atrocities, and didn't side with Rhodesia as being "whiter than white" (morally speaking, that is).  The book's long out of print, and it's hard to find at any reasonable price point;  the cheapest used copies I've found have run $30-$40, including shipping, and some prices have ranged into the thousands of dollars.  Still, if you come across it, it's an interesting perspective.

Another informative book, albeit somewhat left-leaning politically, is David Caute's "Under the Skin: The Death of White Rhodesia".  Also long out of print, it chronicles the last five years of the Rhodesian War through interviews and vignettes with many individuals.  It's been fiercely criticized as biased by some former white Rhodesians, but others have stated that it's basically an accurate portrayal through the eyes of both sides (read the reviews on Amazon to get a cross-section of those perspectives).  Personally, I agree with the latter view, provided one reads it with an understanding of the author's left-wing politics, and makes allowance for that.

Apart from those books, there are many others that reflect their authors' views on the Rhodesian war;  but most of them don't analyze both sides in a balanced manner.  All too often, white Rhodesians ignore the reality that for twenty years, their tiny racial minority deliberately held an overwhelming black majority in subjection, denying them democracy and an equal share in their country's resources and opportunities.  That denial played right into the hands of the Soviet bloc, which armed, trained and organized terrorist movements in response, and gained support from many Third World nations for "opposing racism".  The outcome, from a demographic perspective, was never in doubt.  Tragically, it took tens of thousands of casualties before the inevitable happened.  When one factors in the lives lost to Rhodesia-related guerrilla warfare in Zambia, Mozambique and other nations, the death toll is almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands.  Precisely how many died, or were wounded and maimed, will never be known.

There are two interesting contributions on Reddit from user "profrhodes" concerning white racism in Rhodesia, offering what I think is a reasonably balanced perspective.  Certainly, based on my experiences there, I saw little to contradict them.  Their threads are:

1. "Europeans f***ed up a lot of stuff but they also helped a lot as well": Why we can't re-colonise Africa for fear of being called racists, why Africans have starved themselves, and why European imperialism brought Africa "forward in history"(???)

2. Was Rhodesia as racist as South Africa?

I hope those sources provide more information to those who'd like it.