Saturday, August 31, 2019
Here are three examples (all reduced in size) from an astonishing collection of thirty kitchens that are "hilariously terrible".
There are many more at the link. Go feast your eyes . . . if you dare!
Last week saw a milestone: the centenary of scheduled international air travel.
In a year that marks so many important aviation anniversaries, the month of August has possibly the most significant of them all. For on 25 August 1919, a small British-built biplane took off from heathland close to where London Heathrow is today, beginning the first-ever daily international passenger air service.
. . .
While other passenger air services had been flown before, aviation historians point to the Aircraft Transport and Travel (AT&T) operation between Hounslow Heath and Le Bourget as the true beginning of international flights, as it marked the first daily international passenger, mail and passenger service. None of the previous flights had combined all these.
. . .
The “airliner” that operated the inaugural flight to Paris was a two-seat Airco DH4A biplane (shown below).
It was powered by a single 375hp Rolls-Royce Eagle engine and flown by a single pilot, seated in an exposed cockpit ahead of the small passenger cabin.
. . .
Another UK airline – Handley Page Transport – which had been created in June 1919 by the Cricklewood-based aircraft manufacturer of the same name, also flew its first London-Paris service on 25 August carrying a group of Fleet Street journalists, but regular flights did not begin until the following week. The aircraft used was the much larger Handley Page 0/7 passenger conversion of the 0/400 twin-engined biplane bomber (shown below).
There's more at the link.
My late father was born just a couple of months later, in October 1919. He would go on to become an aircraft rigger and fitter with the Royal Air Force during the 1930's, under the Aircraft Apprentice Scheme, and remembered working on DH4's during his training - old, non-flying aircraft used for ground instruction. He would also travel tens of thousands of miles by air during and after World War II, including the inaugural service of BOAC's Boeing 747 between London and Johannesburg in the early 1970's. I asked him once how he'd felt, seeing aircraft go from fabric over wood frames in his youth to the aluminum and composite behemoths of his later years. He just shook his head . . .
Friday, August 30, 2019
Strategy Page brings us the latest on the Ebola epidemic in the Congo. I've bolded and underlined a few key sentences that reinforce what I've been saying for months.
In early August Congolese government health officials publicly stated what everyone suspected: many doctors and health care workers believe the medical relief effort is identifying only half of Congo’s Ebola virus (Ebola hemorrhagic fever) cases. That meant the current epidemic that began in August 2018, could continue another three years. During August 2019 the government and WHO (World Health Organization) confirmed the virus has spread from Ituri and North Kivu provinces to a third Congo province, South Kivu, where two cases were confirmed. WHO continues to worry about the spread of Ebola in the city of Goma (North Kivu province) and into Rwanda. Goma has over two million residents and many people cross the unguarded Rwanda border rather than an official border crossing site. Therefore they do not go through health screening.
On August 17 the government confirmed that a woman in the village 160 kilometers from Goma had contracted Ebola. This was well away from the epicenter of the epidemic. The Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels still occasionally raid the area where this Ebola victim lived and local Security officials noted this was in a “very insecure area.”
The virus continues to take a steady toll within Congo. As of August 26 Congo had 2983 Ebola cases (2878 confirmed and 105 probable). So far 1994 have died from the virus, so it continues to have a 67 percent fatality rate. Reports have to be compiled and tend to be a few days behind the field count and, as health officials acknowledge, the figures likely understate the number of victims. On August 15 WHO reported a total of 2,842 Ebola cases and 1,905 deaths. Over an 11 day period 89 people died.
There's more at the link.
This crisis is far from over. So far, international efforts have managed to slow its spread to a crawl, instead of a sprint. That's actually a remarkable achievement, given the primitive state of that part of the world and its inhabitants. Nevertheless, a breakout is more than possible, given the realities on the ground there; and if that happens - if the disease gets beyond the "care boundaries" established in the Congo, and penetrates new countries before the boundaries can be expanded to include them - then it could flare up like wildfire.
Nobody should be taking this lightly. Ebola really could pose a threat to every nation, if things get out of hand. If you don't believe that, go back and read the death rate percentages referred to above. That's with the latest treatments, vaccines, trained staff, etc. available in the area. Without them? The good Lord only knows . . .
This article dates from 2016, but I'm sure things have only gotten worse since then.
The NSA and the GCHQ are able to intercept data from passengers traveling on board commercial aircrafts.
. . .
At the end of 2012, in a presentation, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA ... disclosed a ‘top secret strap’, the term used for the highest level of classification, the content of the Southwinds programme, set up to gather all the activity, voices and data, metadata and content of the calls on board aircraft. The zone was still restricted to the regions covered by the Inmarsat satellites: Europe, the Middle-East and Africa.
The data collection was done ‘practically in real time’ and an aircraft could be followed every two minutes. To spy on a telephone, all that was required was that the aircraft be cruising at an altitude of 10,000 feet. As the signal transited through the satellite, the intercept technique was done by secret aerial stations on the ground. The simple fact that the telephone was switched on was enough to give its position, the intercept could then be crossed with the list of passengers registered and the number of the aircraft to assign a name to the user of the smartphone. The GCHQ could even, remotely, interfere with the working of the phone; as a result the user was forced to redial using his or her access codes. The British Intelligence services intercepted the identification codes (login and password) at the same time.
. . .
Today, approximately one hundred companies permit in-flight use of telephone. ‘Customers now consider it normal, even necessary, to remain connected in flight’ stated the Air France management. The aviation security authorities have all approved the use of GSMs on board aircraft and the experts estimate that the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 will go down in history as the years of the in-flight mobile phone, in particular with the long-term installation of in-flight Wi-Fi.
This will further extend the scope of espionage by aiming at ‘several hundreds of thousands of people’ to be closely monitored, according to the NSA projections. This implies a population which goes far beyond the targets involving terrorism alone. The political or economic surveillance of passengers in Business or in First Class on long-haul flights is of interest to many more services.
There's more at the link.
The potential for state-sponsored industrial espionage is obvious. I wonder how many business visitors to China have had their negotiating positions revealed by such techniques, to be passed on to their prospective Chinese partner companies so that they can negotiate from a position of strength? I don't know whether US or British government entities would do the same, but I wouldn't be surprised to find at least some leakage taking place.
I've spoken many times in these pages about our loss of privacy, and how angry it makes me. However, I've come to realize that I'm simply a dinosaur in my attitudes to that sort of thing. I don't intend to change, but I'm definitely out of step with our world, particularly younger people who seem to have no problem at all publishing the most intimate details about themselves in public. Privacy, it seems, is now conspicuous more by its absence than by its reality.
This is, of course, yet another reason to avoid air travel unless absolutely necessary.
I found this pair of photographs on Gab yesterday, showing a lighthouse on Lake Michigan near St. Joseph during and after a winter storm. Clickit to biggit.
I've seen similar photographs before, of course, as I'm sure have most of my readers. However, I'd never thought about one obvious question. If the lighthouse is required by ships on the lake for safe navigation, what happens when it's shrouded in ice and its light can no longer be seen? Is waterborne traffic suspended until it defrosts? Is, there, in fact, any waterborne traffic on the Great Lakes during the winter months, or does everything come to a grinding halt until the spring?
I have no idea of the answers, but I'm sure my readers in that part of the world can tell us. Please let us know in Comments. Thanks!
Thursday, August 29, 2019
. . . in his usual inimitable style.
The 2020 campaign promises to be Trump running around the country telling his fans about all the winning, while Warren runs around wagging her bony finger at them, telling them about how she has been wronged. It will be the cad versus the nag, largely a fight among white people about how best to go into that dark night. On the one side will be Trump nostalgic for a lost America. On the other will be Warren, haunted by an America that never was. Two characters from a soon to be forgotten past.
Neither side will have much to say about what comes after them, because they are from a generation that thought they would live forever and never grow old. The people who swore they would never trust anyone over thirty, now can’t spare a second to consider the future of those under 30. It’s going to be two perpetual adolescents throwing one final tantrum, demanding the rest of us indulge them one more time. It is the last hurrah for a generation that will buried, not praised, by those who follow.
There's more at the link. Recommended (and sometimes funny, and sometimes sad) reading.
Many countries practice operating military aircraft from civilian highways, often strengthening or adapting the latter during construction so that they can be used as emergency air bases in the event of hostilities. However, most of the aircraft involved (that I've heard about, at least) have been standard fighter or strike aircraft; not the largest or heaviest in a modern air force.
Russia recently sent some of its Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft to practice operations from an improvised airstrip on a highway in Tatarstan. The Su-34 is very large and heavy (comparable to the older US F-111), rather bigger than one would expect to operate from that kind of surface. They must build their roads tough in Tatarstan!
Interesting, too, is the range of equipment deployed for the exercise - support vehicles of every description, radars, and what have you. In wartime, there would probably also be missile batteries for anti-aircraft defense. It looks like a well-practiced operation.
When is a "controlled" explosion not a "controlled" explosion? When it does this!
A Swedish police warehouse building in Linköping was destroyed after the bomb squad detonated a motorbike filled with explosives.
The moped containing what has been described as some form of plastic explosive covered with nails was discovered on Monday afternoon by officers in a stolen property room, and led to the evacuation of around 170 personnel from the area, Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Radio reports.
Following the evacuation, the Swedish bomb squad was called in to make a controlled detonation of the explosives but, according to Sveriges Radio, something went wrong with the operation and a much larger blast than expected took place.
Police spokesman Erik Terneborn admitted that the detonation, “did not go quite as one had hoped” but said the officers had taken such a scenario into account when they evacuated the area.
The building was totally demolished and windows in nearby properties largely destroyed, but no injuries to officers or civilians have been reported.
There's more at the link.
Linköping seems to have a high explosive problem at the moment. Another explosion there in June blew out the windows of an apartment block and caused extensive damage.
An examination of the city's immigrant statistics suggests a possible explanation, much as parts of Malmo have been described by police as "especially vulnerable" due to drug-dealing and gang violence. Swedish media are, of course, particularly prone to political correctness, so they seldom admit that most of that sort of problem is driven by "refugees" and "immigrants", even though it's common knowledge among Swedes and the subject of frequent controversy.
Must be those rampaging Swedish Lutherans, I suppose . . .
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Last week we saw the latest video from Mike Olbinski, a master at photographing nature in the raw and extreme weather conditions.
Another expert in the field, Ty Schmitt, has just released his latest video on the same theme. He calls it "From Darkness to Light".
I was struck by this article at CNBC, not only for its positive points, but for what it misses. It's a case of "close, but no cigar".
By investing in liberal arts graduates, we gain people with human-centered skills who can approach problems in entirely new ways, contributing to out-of-the-box thinking in a digital age.
Liberal arts graduates bring a depth and breadth of knowledge from across the humanities and social sciences that complement the hard skills of engineers and data scientists. And in a world that increasingly interacts with technology in every facet of daily life, it's increasingly important that technology reflects the world around us.
When a customer visits a website or withdraws money from an ATM, we need technology that not only works but works for the user. How do the people of the world interface with the technology they use every day? Is it user-friendly? Visually pleasing? These questions, and so many others, are not nice-to-haves. They're critically important to the success of technological endeavors, and they are answered in the affirmative only when a diverse group of individuals designs it in the first place.
. . .
We know liberal arts students know how to learn. Now all they need is the opportunity. That's why we need a nationwide model of workforce development that recognizes private enterprise must play the leading role in embracing workforce transformation. As employers, we can provide the training and tools necessary to build the workforce of the future. By broadening the aperture on the candidates we recruit to include students with a high "learnability index," we can solve the talent crisis and improve our products and services at the same time.
There's more at the link.
What the author appears to miss, almost completely, is the original purpose of a liberal arts degree. It was supposed to provide an education rather than vocational training; to broaden the mind, to teach students critical thinking, and to enable them to assess different disciplines - history, language, art, etc. - in the context of a broad view of human civilization as a whole. The initial degree was deliberately designed to take in multiple disciplines. Only in post-graduate degrees did the student focus on one particular field of study. My Bachelor of Arts degree had English and History majors, economics and philosophy as sub-majors, and several other subjects.
I've always been grateful to my parents for their insistence that my first university degree should be focused on education, rather than training. (Confused over the difference? My dad explained it by asking, "When you have children, do you want them to receive sex education or sex training at school?" That summed it up very clearly, IMHO!) Time enough, they assured me, to focus on specialization once I had an education - but unless I got that education first, I'd never have the opportunity again, because the higher education system makes it very hard to turn back from a narrow path of study into a broader one. I certainly found that true when I switched career paths from business to religion, and studied to become a pastor. By then I had three university qualifications, and starting over at Bachelors degree level was tricky, to put it mildly - I had to get my head out of the business and technology "focus" and back into a broader perspective.
The trouble is, today's liberal arts faculties are so politically correct and academically wishy-washy that I'm not sure they're worth much at all. There are obvious exceptions, of course. I'm very taken with Thomas Aquinas College in California; it's the kind of institution I wish I could have attended. If I had children, I'd strive with might and main to send them there. Hillsdale College in Michigan also looks very interesting. However, they're the exceptions that prove the rule as far as the broad mass of liberal arts faculties are concerned. Classes promoting sexual deviance of every possible description (and a few that aren't physically possible at all, as far as I can tell); courses in subjects that aren't so much esoteric as idiotic; and an intolerance for all except the most inclusive, most politically correct claptrap, seem to mark too many liberal arts institutions these days (cough*Oberlin*cough - also see here).
So, yes, I absolutely agree that liberal arts education has a very important place in today's society, in business as well as everywhere else. The important thing is to make sure that it really does cover the liberal arts, and it really is an education. Absent those guarantees . . . it'll be worthless.
It's becoming clearer and clearer that massive voter fraud is a real and serious problem in these United States. Some states are worse than others (cough*California*cough), but all states appear to be affected to at least some extent. Fortunately, Texas, where I live, appears to be tackling the problem with real energy, as this report demonstrates.
There's more in this written report.
There seems to be a pattern of manipulation, too, depending on the party in power. This problem isn't just Democrat or Republican - it's pervasive across our democracy. Based on what I've been reading and researching, it appears that most voter fraud based on individual votes is conducted by Democrat supporters. Republican supporters, on the other hand, "game the system" by gerrymandering electoral districts - not that Democrats don't do the same thing, but Republicans appear to do so more enthusiastically and more systematically.
Folks, electoral fraud is flat-out unacceptable, no matter who's doing it or in whose favor it works out. We all suffer its consequences. I urge everyone who cares about our democracy to find ways to fight it, whether by simply keeping our eyes open, or volunteering as poll workers, or supporting efforts to monitor elections by various organizations. This is too important to leave to chance.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
That's the title of the latest article at Eric Peters' blog. He points out that modern technology in our vehicles is costing all of us a lot more when it comes to repairs, even for something as ostensibly simple as replacing a windshield.
Embedded in the glass – part of the “assembly” – is saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety technology. It’s usually part of the rearview mirror, technically – but that’s now part of the windshield assembly in more and more new cars.
It’s no longer the simple – and generic/universal – glue it in place rearview mirror cars used to have.
The rearview mirror is almost an afterthought.
The rest of the assembly – that huge chunk of plastic that’s glued to the glass – contains sensors and cameras, integral to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety systems such as Lane Keep Assist, Automated Emergency Braking and so on. Some keep track of what’s happening outside the car and some (like Subaru’s EyeSight system) also keep track of what’s going on inside the car.
. . .
The replacement windshield for the 2016 [vehicle] costs say $200; $150 for the functionally identical aftermarket/generic replacement. But the same glass for the 2018 [model] costs twice as much – because it’s no longer just the glass . . . and because there is no generic/aftermarket option.
That stone chip just got a lot more expensive.
Your insurance, too. Both the premium and the deductible. People are beginning to notice – especially after they file that first claim for a replacement windshield. They are fall-to-their-knees grateful when they find out that’s only going to cost them $100 (for the deductible) to get that $1,000 windshield.
A month later, they get the new bill – the “adjusted” premium (and deductible) which – in defense of the insurance mafia – reflects a legitimate cost.
What’s not legitimate is that we can’t opt out – of either.
There's more at the link.
The entire article is worth reading in full. For years, manufacturers have been making vehicles that are more and more difficult for an owner or home mechanic to maintain, due to computerization and other "advances". It's getting to the point that if a car's more than two or three years old, an accident results in an automatic insurance write-off of the entire vehicle, because the cost of replacement parts, and/or the time and skilled labor and equipment needed to install them, is prohibitive. Cheap repairs aren't, not anymore.
I'm grateful for many of the advances in automotive technology that make our lives easier today . . . but I can't help think of my first cars (a Morris 1100 Mk. 1, followed by a Chevrolet Firenza 1300), which were shade-tree-mechanic maintenance specials, and on which I could turn a wrench without fear of unscrewing the inscrutable.
Reader Steven S. sent me the link to this video of an Australian police motorcycle display team from 1933.
Did any American or other display teams do something similar? If so, please let us know in Comments, and if possible, provide a link to the video or report.
My latest Western novel, "Gold on the Hoof", third in the Ames Archives series, has been published in e-book format on Amazon. A print edition will follow soon.
I previously published an excerpt from the book on this blog, to whet your appetite.
The blurb reads:
The Comanche and Kiowa are painting for war in the Texas Panhandle. The US Army is preparing to stop them – but it needs horses to do so. Lots of horses. Walt Ames knows where to find them, and breeding stock for his horse ranch, too. All he has to do is ride down to Mexico, buy them, and bring them back safely. That’s easier said than done.
He and his men will have to cover more than two thousand brutally hard miles, and deal with Indian raiders, Comanchero renegades, bandidos, and would-be horse thieves… not to mention a certain Irish-Mexican redheaded beauty who can make him forget everything else in the emerald glow of her eyes. Walt’s going to need every ounce of his grit and determination, plenty of firepower, and a lot of luck if he’s to convert the gold in his pockets to gold on the hoof.
I had a lot of fun writing this book, including an extended research trip to some of the military installations on the Texas Forts Trail, where part of the book is set, and through the Wet Mountain Valley in Colorado, where Walt's ranch was established. I do try to write true to my locations - I learned that lesson from the late, great Louis L'Amour - so there's always more to be learned.
As always, please help spread the word about my new book to your friends through social media and other means. Independent authors don't have the budget to advertise widely, so we rely on you, our loyal readers, to spread the word for us. Thanks! Also, please leave a fair and honest review on Amazon once you've read the book, even if you didn't like it (although I certainly hope you will).
Monday, August 26, 2019
Why, John Cronin, of course, the protagonist in Jim Curtis' "Grey Man" series of novels. The latest in the series, a novella titled "The Grey Man - Down South", has just been published.
Jim's a good friend in meatspace and cyberspace, so I had the privilege of beta-reading this novella for him. It's fast-paced and interesting. What's more, those who've "been there and done that" tell me that his descriptions of the seamier aspects of the war on drugs in South America are right on the money.
The blurb reads:
After too much action, too much peace gets on a man's nerves. John Cronin's back from Vietnam and bored, when Billy Moore suggests he check out the brand new Drug Enforcement Agency. He'd expected paperwork and meetings; he got on-the-job training in South America with stakeouts gone wrong and ambushes exploding into firefights.
This isn't Cronin's first rodeo, and now he's taking the fight to the cartels, from the laboratories hidden deep in the highland jungles to the enforcers in the cities and secure compounds!
I was interested to read that Chinese soldiers in Tibet are using an ancient means of transport to patrol their area of responsibility.
Chinese media has, since the 1960s, regularly featured stories of the harsh conditions soldiers face in Tibet and Xinjiang, the two western provinces that border the Himalayan and Pamir Mountains as well as the high-altitude borders with India, Pakistan and Tajikistan. In effect China has the longest high-altitude borders in the world and uses a variety of methods to effectively patrol them and control smugglers and other illegal border crossers (like Islamic terrorists).
For most of the border troops on foot, vehicles or aircraft can keep an eye on things. But in some of the more remote areas the smugglers use yaks, a sure-footed high altitude animal native to these areas and used by the locals for thousands of years. That means local smugglers use them as well. So the Chinese maintain several units of border troops who are trained to ride yaks though the same border areas the local smugglers still use. This does not completely eliminate the smuggling but does make it riskier and less frequent than it would otherwise be without the yaks.
Chinese soldiers riding yaks (image courtesy of SinaEnglish)
This use of yaks is not unusual because yaks are the only breed of cattle with long hair and adapted to living at high altitudes in Tibet, Xinjiang and adjacent highlands. Domesticated male yaks weigh about half a ton, about half what wild yaks weigh, and have long been used for carrying cargo, or riders. While not as fast as a horse yaks are more surefooted in ice, snow and rocky areas. Soldiers have been riding yaks in this area for over a thousand years, mainly to control smuggling.
There's more at the link. It's a very interesting article. I wonder if modern animal-riding soldiers ever think about the immense weight of history that's behind their means of transport?
(Of course, that applies in many areas. Take organized crime, for instance. Is there a reason why Japanese criminal gangs are known as yak-uza?)
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Saturday, August 24, 2019
Today sees the annual Hotter 'n Hell 100 bicycle race in and around Wichita Falls, Texas. It's so named because the temperatures usually hover at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of year, and the full-length race covers 100 miles (with shorter distances for less ambitious competitors).
As I write these words, the competitors are pouring out of the city and onto regional roads, heading out on the opening leg of the race. It's relatively cool this year, thanks to some unseasonal rain showers, which are very welcome to those of us who live here, but resented by many riders ("Hey, what happened to the hundred degrees we were promised?"). A mammoth support effort is being mounted by volunteers, and local police and fire departments along the route. The county Sheriff's Department is fully committed to traffic control, and other organizations are helping in any way they can.
I must admit, I'm amazed by the level of enthusiasm shown by riders who stream into the area from all over the country. It's too soon for this year's start to have been uploaded to YouTube, but here's last year's start, to give you some idea of the numbers.
For the rest of us, this is a morning to avoid downtown at all costs, and sit back and relax in the comfort of our own homes. That'll be more than hot enough for us!
Friday, August 23, 2019
Courtesy of more than one reader, here are some links with additional information to go with the three articles I posted earlier about personal security in an era of mass shootings:
Personal safety during a mass shooting
Everywhere is a potential danger zone - so prepare accordingly
Ammunition selection for small handguns
Everywhere is a potential danger zone - so prepare accordingly
Ammunition selection for small handguns
Greg Ellifritz wrote two articles some years ago that directly address some of the same issues. I recommend both to your attention:
I note that both articles confirm my preference for my standard .38 Special and .380 ACP loads, as discussed in my earlier blog posts.
Next, Mike Kupari asks the all-important question about the self-defense mindset: "When is 'Good Enough' actually good enough?" That's a very important question, and one that each of us must answer for ourselves, based on our own needs, criteria, and lifestyle. He rightly observes that some "instructors" out there are out to sell us what they prefer, while others aren't objective in assessing our needs. It's a good article, and worth reading.
We've met videographer Mike Olbinski in these pages before. You really need to see his latest video in full-screen mode, preferably on a wall TV through an HDMI connector. It's that good.
You'll find more of Mike's videos listed at his Vimeo page. Highly recommended viewing.
Over at Mad Genius Club this morning, I consider proposals to "establish social and emotional learning as a priority in education". I find them rather frightening, to put it mildly. Here's an excerpt from that article.
My problem is this. It looks very much as if CASEL is trying to “homogenize” our youth, teaching them the One True Way to deal with life issues, and inculcating a standard set of responses that ignore individuality and “program” them to deal with life, the universe and everything according to whatever approach is politically correct at the moment. (Read more about it at their Web site.) The problem is, that approach can change as easily as the prevailing winds. Once the structures are in place to impose a standard, or set of standards, then those standards can be replaced with others at the drop of a hat, and the same structures can then be used to “implant” them in our young people. There’s nothing to stop that happening.
Speaking as a writer, that’s frightening. It’s Orwell’s “Big Brother” writ large upon our younger population. We’re actually willingly sending them into a system that openly acknowledges it intends to indoctrinate them, and paying for that system with our tax dollars. Are we, in the process, funding and encouraging the demise of free thought, and the end of the inquiring mind? Are we accepting that people can and should be programmed like computers? And what does that say for the future of writing and books? Will it be restricted to products that conform to the system – not necessarily through editorial fiat, but because our potential readership has been programmed to reject anything else?
There's more at the link.
Since Mad Genius Club is a shared writers' blog, I contribute there from that perspective; but the problem is a much wider one. Click over there, read the information provided, and ask yourself what signs you're seeing of this in your own environment. More and more, I think our schools are indeed laboratories for "establish(ing) social and emotional learning as a priority in education". Is that a contributing factor to the number of school shootings, and/or the number of mass shooters in society in general? I rather fear it may be. If outliers don't, or can't, or won't conform to the standards being imposed upon them at school, some sort of explosion may be inevitable. On the other hand, I concede:
Of course, there's also the opposite point of view. If families are no longer providing an environment in which to raise children inculcated with moral and ethical norms and values, is it not the school's responsibility to try to provide some sort of behavioral framework? I'd argue that it isn't, but others would then ask who's going to do so if the school does not. It's a valid point, and one to which I don't have an answer right now.
Discuss among yourselves.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Many corporations appear to be rethinking their role in society, and in the process losing their focus on the original reason(s) for their existence.
The purpose of a corporation is to serve all of its constituents, including employees, customers, investors and society at large, the Business Roundtable said Monday in a statement. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., heads the group.
“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” the group said in the statement. “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity.”
. . .
The shift in corporate priorities comes as widening income inequality and the rising costs of items including health care and higher education have led some politicians and others to question whether the fundamental premise of American capitalism should be revamped. Some executives also have complained that an outsize focus on share prices and quarterly results hamper their ability to build businesses for the long term.
. . .
The idea that businesses exist primarily to benefit shareholders -- also known as shareholder primacy -- took hold in corporate America in the 1980s. In 1997, the Business Roundtable embraced the idea in a document outlining governance principles.
The concept has been criticized for leading to a fixation on short-term results and helping fuel the rapid increase in executive compensation.
In his annual letter to shareholders this year, BlackRock's Fink urged CEOs to take a larger role in social and political issues rather than just focusing on profit.
“Stakeholders are pushing companies to wade into sensitive social and political issues -- especially as they see governments failing to do so effectively,” said Fink, whose firm oversees almost $7 trillion in assets. The message echoed a position he took in 2018 urging CEOs to make a more positive contribution to society.
There's more at the link.
There are huge dangers in this revised approach. To mention just a few of them:
- Who elected or appointed companies to do the job of politicians and political parties? By what right do they arrogate to themselves the duty and/or responsibility to correct what they see as societal "problems"?
- Who says that what corporations see as "problems" are, in fact, problems at all? What gives them the gift to infallibly identify such things, and come up with appropriate solutions for them? What ethical and/or moral principles are "good" or "bad", anyway? And who says they are? On what authority?
- What happens when corporate responsibility clashes with the basic duties of government? Take border security, for example. Companies may benefit from an endless supply of cheap labor, provided by illegal aliens. Pressure from progressive elements in society for open borders may therefore appear worthy of their support - but governments have the duty and responsibility to secure the nation against unauthorized and illegal entry. How do you square one against the other?
- What happens if corporate budgets are set against national budgets in an attempt to fix problems? For example, what happens if government wants to solve the homelessness problem by improving mental health programs, but corporations want to work with local pressure groups to provide more group homes and subsidize the homeless - possibly working against government efforts to divert them into mental health programs?
- What about the conflict of interest between corporate interests and national interests? Remember the famous scene in the movie "Stagecoach"?
We all know how that worked out. What are the chances that corporations might try to sway national policy to boost their profits - say, through government subsidies? Naw, that'd never happen . . . right? Right?
I think the risks inherent in corporations becoming more politically and socially active far outweigh the dangers of them not being active enough.
The usual suspects are coming up with the same tired old ideas to implement gun control, usually incrementally, so we don't see confiscation creeping up on us. It's a game as old as the hills, and it'll go on as long as the hills are there.
One idea being advanced (again) as part of a "Green New Deal for Guns" is a gun buyback program, this time mandatory rather than voluntary. Of course, it's logically nonsensical; how can the government (or anyone else) buy back a gun that was never theirs in the first place? However, logic has never stopped a gun-grabber. I think Clint Eastwood put this idea firmly in its place some time ago.
“Participating in a gun buyback program because you think that criminals have too many guns is like having yourself castrated because you think your neighbors have too many kids.”
I also like another of his quotes on the subject:
"I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it."
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
A pristine seafront near Sydney, Australia isn't so pristine any longer, after a barge carrying a sewage truck passed... er, didn't pass by.
They're going to have fun salvaging that sewage truck, I don't think! A tip o' the hat to reader Snoggeramus for sending me a link to the story.
There's been a certain amount of hilarity hereabouts - not to mention anger - at the latest bureaucratic advice on how to deal with hot weather.
The coolest temperature Americans should keep their thermostats set to is 78 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Energy Star, a federal program aimed at energy efficiency and cost savings for consumers. But many on social media do not agree with that recommendation.
And social media users were even more vocal in objecting to Energy Star's recommendation for nighttime thermostat settings.
. . .
Energy Star, a joint federal program run by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recommends that for optimal cooling and energy efficiency, the coolest temperature consumers should keep home thermostats set to is 78 F -- and that’s only when they're at home and awake.
When consumers are out of the home, Energy Star recommends to keep thermostats set at 85 F and suggests 82 F as the optimal temperature for sleeping.
There's more at the link.
Sounds good . . . except that here in north Texas, I don't think the temperature's been as low as 78 degrees since sometime last month! We've had over-100-degree days non-stop for the past few weeks. At night, the actual air temperature outside may drop to the low 80's or high 70's, but indoors, in heat-soaked buildings that haven't lost the warmth of the day, it's usually at least ten to fifteen degrees warmer than that without adequate air-conditioning. Even at sunrise, if I walk into our attached (non-air-conditioned) garage, it's at least ten degrees hotter than the rest of the house. The building simply doesn't cool down at this time of year.
Standard domestic central air-conditioning units don't cope well with such temperatures. We'll start the day with ours set to 72 degrees, but by late afternoon it'll be ten degrees hotter than that, and stay at the higher level right through till bedtime. The only way we can cool the house further is to run a window A/C unit in our master bedroom, which pours cooler air out of its door into the main air intake to the master A/C unit. That, in turn, means the main A/C receives cooler-than-ambient air, which it can cool even further before spreading it to the rest of the house. By running the two in combination, we can get the house down to the mid-seventies by bedtime . . . and that's the only thing that makes it bearable to try to sleep.
I can only doff my hat in real respect to the original settlers here, who had to deal with such temperatures without even electricity, let alone air-conditioning. I know they built their homes to be as cool as possible in summer, but even so, I simply can't imagine going through an entire summer of such heat without any escape. As for working outside during it, in the fields or on cattle drives, the thought just boggles my mind!
If I ever have the opportunity to build a home to my own specifications, it's going to be over-climate-controlled for its size, so that no matter what the outside temperature, hot or cold, it'll hold the internal temperature I want. If Energy Star doesn't like that, well, that's just too bad!
I'm sure readers have noticed the sudden drumbeat of "Economic recession! We're doomed!" headlines and articles all over the country. They were so simultaneous and so contrived that it was obvious they were being coordinated by a single source. The Gormogons laid it out neatly.
If only there were a way to defeat Trump’s economic record. Early attempts to dismiss it as a Potemkin boon only benefiting the ultra-wealthy—you saw this in the Democrat debates—didn’t jive with the fatter paychecks lower class and lower middle class folks were finally depositing in parched bank accounts. Time for the Ultimate Weapon: in order to win the election, the Democrats would need to destroy the economy.
So, in late July, orders were issued from the DNC to start creating panic and fear in the voter’s hearts. Recession is coming! It’s almost here, the message went like some Game of Thrones fantasy (which is how an increasing number of voters understand politics). Within hours, the headlines appears on all the major outlets.
Just Google “economy beat trump recession,” and behold the hundreds of news articles warning voters that a recession is certainly coming, all written in the last two weeks.
. . .
... here’s a simple test to see if the media are driving the recession or if the recession is what economists would call a… well, a recession:
(a) Do you understand the reason for the recession?
(b) If not, it’s media-faked.
. . .
If you can’t explain what’s causing a current recession, the media can’t, either. They’re making it up.
Tanking the economy is pretty easy if you control the message.
. . .
It’s all about Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. There’s no actual trigger for these recessions—the real ones, like 2007, last for years. These smaller ones are intended to hurt the majority of American just long enough to switch to a Democratic vote. And that’s plenty easy.
There's more at the link.
I'd say that's about right. The fundamentals of America's Main Street economy are pretty good right now. The Wall Street economy - big money, investors, the moneyed class - isn't doing as well; but then, they don't care about the Main Street economy unless they control it and are making money out of it. They're also not Trump supporters, for the most part. They're on board with taking down the Main Street economy, and using the crisis to take over as much of it as they can get their hands on.
It's pretty transparent. One hopes, for the sake of this country, that it fails.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Here's a fun video of a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter closing in on a light cargo plane that was being used for air-to-air photography. The big fighter simply can't fly slowly enough to keep in formation with the slower plane, and eventually has to break away - but in the process, the photographers get some spectacular shots.
I'd have been rather nervous, watching that fighter closing in on me like that!
Following my blog post yesterday morning on the selection of concealable firearms, I had a number of comments and e-mails about my ammunition recommendations for .38 Special snubnose revolvers. I said that I used Buffalo Bore's full wadcutter load. I was criticized for this, because it's not an expanding load (i.e. a hollow point or soft point bullet), and therefore might lead to overpenetration.
Folks, there's a very important point to remember. Bullet expansion is a function of two things: bullet velocity and target composition. The last factor is something we can't control, except by aim, and even that isn't guaranteed. If you shoot someone in the torso, and it's mid-winter, and your bullet has to penetrate a down outer jacket, then a jersey, then a shirt . . . by the time the bullet reaches flesh, its hollow point may already be clogged with cloth and other materials. In that condition, it can't be guaranteed to expand properly, even if fired from a long enough barrel to impart sufficient velocity. This is why some manufacturers (particularly Hornady) prefer to pre-fill their hollow point bullets with some sort of soft polymer, to prevent them filling up with extraneous material, and preserve their expansion capabilities as they pass through clothing into flesh. Such bullets can work very well; but some of them may take longer to expand than conventional hollowpoints, leading to overpenetration. You pays your money and you takes your choice . . .
I mentioned Hornady in the preceding paragraph. That company uses a pre-filled cavity in its bullets to aid in proper expansion, but it also constructs bullets differently for the law enforcement and civilian markets. You can read a detailed explanation of the differences here, and I highly recommend that you do. It explains the criteria for each intended purpose very clearly. Hornady's 175-grain .40 S&W Critical Duty load was selected by the FBI in 2017 as its standard-issue ammunition in that cartridge. That doesn't necessarily mean it's equally optimal for civilian purposes, of course, but it's an important endorsement for Hornady. However, there are many other top performers available from other manufacturers. In 9mm. Parabellum, for example, a number of police departments (including the LAPD) prefer Federal's HST ammunition, in 124gr. +P and 147gr. bullet weights (as do I). For recoil-sensitive shooters carrying lighter, smaller firearms chambered in 9mm., my buddy Lawdog recommends the Hornady Critical Defense "Lite" load, offering a much more controllable recoil impulse. I'm going to test it soon.
The other variable in expanding ammunition performance is the velocity at which it's fired. A shorter barrel simply can't propel bullets as fast as a longer one, because there isn't time for all the propellant to be burned. Some ammunition manufacturers design certain rounds for short barrels, with faster-burning propellant, and designate them as such (for example, Speer's "short barrel" .38 Special load). However, even this doesn't guarantee expansion.
In a very well documented series of tests using shorter-barreled pistols chambered for various cartridges, Lucky Gunner tested almost every available defensive round. You'll find the details here. They're well worth your time to read in detail, and look up the results of your favorite load. I quote from the test results; bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
As expected, .380 ACP turned in the weakest overall performance of the four calibers we tested, but a few loads fared surprisingly well. Most loads showed either good penetration but no expansion, or decent expansion with sub-par penetration. Only a couple of loads managed to show decent numbers for both.
There were several 9mm loads showing adequate penetration with a decent amount of expansion as well. Some of the loads became partially clogged with the heavy fabric which prevented complete expansion and led to slight over-penetration in the 18-22 inch range. Only a few loads completely failed to expand on all five shots, and the fragmenting bullets were among the few to fall shy of the FBI’s 12-inch penetration depth minimum.
The majority of the .38 Special loads showed consistent penetration depth into the ideal 12-18” range, though most were at the lower end of the range. Bullet expansion was not as encouraging. Out of the 18 loads we tested, 12 of them had at least one bullet become clogged with fabric and completely fail to expand. Five loads were unable to expand with any of the 10 rounds fired. The extra velocity of the 4-inch barrel improved the performance for a few loads compared to the 2-inch numbers, but in general, the poor performers yielded unimpressive results regardless of barrel length.
Under-penetration was very uncommon for the .40 S&W loads. On the other hand, some of the bullets had trouble with the heavy clothing barrier, leading to expansion failure and penetration that exceeded the 32″ maximum depth of our dual gel-block setup.
As with .40 S&W, some of the .45 ACP loads became clogged up in the heavy clothing and showed severe over-penetration, but the loads that expanded successfully did so with impressive results.
That's why I've chosen to use the Buffalo Bore wadcutter round in my .38 Specials. It's already delivering a full-caliber "punch" without the need to expand, and its performance in combat is well-proven (consider, for example, the legendary Jim Cirillo's preference for it in the New York Police Department's "Stakeout Squad", where he "survived more gunfights than Wild West legends Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and 'Wild Bill' Hickok combined"). I have no doubts about its effectiveness, even without expansion being a factor. As for the risk of overpenetration, I'll accept that in return for its known combat effectiveness. YMMV, of course.
For the same reason, I don't carry an expanding bullet in my .380 ACP pistols. I use Buffalo Bore's hard-cast solid bullet, which relies on me to put it where it needs to go, and offers solid, dependable penetration once I do so. I can't rely on most .380 rounds to expand, given environmental variables; therefore, I'm going for a known performer, that I can depend on to penetrate deep enough to reach vital organs. Buffalo Bore says of this load, and of standard .380 rounds in general (CAUTION - they don't mince their words, and are very graphic in their description of injury):
The 380 auto inhabits a valuable and useful place in our society, mostly because of the easily concealable, tiny pistols chambered for it. However, because of the very limited size of the cartridge, it is plagued with limited power and therefore most of the existing ammo in 380 auto suffers from not being reliable as a man-stopper. We've studied and played with nearly all of the existing available 380 ammo and find it wanting as a reliable means of self-defense, especially against a large, insane, drugged up/pain-free, determined attacker.
Here's the problem:
The current 380 auto frangible ammo delivers a large amount of surface trauma but lacks serious penetration. For example, if you shot me or another sane man in the face with modern frangible 380 ammo, it would blow off a big portion of my cheek and send a few teeth down my throat, I would undoubtedly fall to the ground in shock and pain, but I would be very much alive and functional if I could get past the shock and pain as that frangible bullet would have stopped somewhere inside my face, never making it to my brain. However, if you shot a drugged up maniac in the face with that same frangible 380 ammo and blew half his cheek off, he would keep right on coming because he is insane and is not thinking like you or I. Plus, he is likely pain free and fear free and won't know that half his cheek is missing and if he did know, he would not care. So whatever 380 ammo you shoot him in the face with, had better go through his face and blow his brain stem out the back of his head, because only a CNS (central nervous system) hit with a 380 is going to stop him. Likewise, a torso hit to the sternum needs to penetrate deep enough to blow all the way through his spine in order to shut him down spontaneously. If you fail to shut him down instantly, you and your loved ones are going to have to find a way to survive while you wait for him to bleed out and pass out. The best chance of survival for you and your family is to shut down the attacker instantly. So, we've designed a few 380 auto standard pressure loads to keep you and your loved ones alive under the worst of scenarios.
. . .
You can expect 20+ inches of straight-line penetration in flesh and bone with this load. If you are worried about over penetration with this load, DON'T! You chose to carry a tiny under-powered 380 auto pistol and the trade-off is that you are now going to have to stay alive with that pistol and over penetration will be the least of your worries if you end up needing this gun to save yourself or your family.
I agree with Buffalo Bore's comments. In firearms chambered for more powerful rounds than .380 ACP or .38 Special, I'll carry expanding bullets with greater confidence in their performance.
I highly recommend reading the information provided at the links above, particularly the different criteria for law enforcement and civilian self-protection ammunition, and the results of detailed ammunition testing. You'll learn a lot.
Monday, August 19, 2019
I'm obliged to N4RFC.com for putting up this Australian video debunking the alleged role of carbon dioxide in global warming. It illustrates, as nothing else does, the insanity - and outright lies - of those pushing this fraud. It's very short, and well worth watching.
Next time someone wants to impose a "carbon tax", show them that, and demand that they explain themselves.
. . . an exploding maritime convenience!
Paul, Dammit!, who blogs over at Hawsepiper, tells the gruelling tale of cleaning up after the ship's head (or toilet, for those who don't speak nautical) exploded over the weekend. Go read all the gory details for yourself.
When cleanup involves a Tyvek isolation suit, a respirator, a hose, and bleach by the gallon, I think we can safely say it's rather worse than the average backed-up domestic toilet!
After the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, one thing should have become clear to every American: there are no "safe spaces" in which shootings will not occur. Anywhere can be chosen by some deranged maniac or warped, twisted deviant to express his feelings by shooting a few (or a few dozen) people.
That being the case, the question arises of personal preparedness for such events. I've addressed personal safety concerns in a previous blog post. This morning I'd like to address the need to be armed and ready to defend ourselves and our loved ones. This article is directed primarily at those readers who haven't previously considered this, or who haven't had enough exposure to handguns to be familiar with the field.
During the heat of summer, it's not likely that many of us will be dressed in such a way that we can conceal a full-size handgun easily. The concealment aspect is very important, as noted previously, because if there's a "man with a gun" call, and you're visibly armed, you may find yourself targeted without a second thought. You need to carry your gun in such a way that it's not visible unless and until it has to be, to defend yourself. That means carrying something smaller and more concealable than a full-size handgun. It may mean carrying, not just a compact, but a sub-compact firearm. What's the difference?
A polymer (plastic) framed, sub-compact firearm may be so small and so light that it's very difficult to aim and fire it accurately and effectively. If you train often and long enough, you can overcome that problem, of course: but it takes hard work. I see a great many people carrying tiny firearms like the Ruger LCP or LCP II, or the Kel-Tec P32 or P3AT, who have never fired their guns. They find their mere possession comforting. Little do they know! I've owned all those models, and still own and carry the LCP, so I speak from experience when I say that even as a trained, experienced shooter, I find them very hard to use compared to larger, more ergonomic guns. The recoil is magnified, control is hard due to a minuscule grip surface, and the trigger pull isn't easily mastered if you have big hands. In particular, given my older eyes, I find their tiny sights almost impossible to use accurately. In fact, I won't carry any of those four models unless it's equipped with a laser sight, and I've confirmed on the range that it's sighted in for accuracy with the ammunition in the gun. To my mind, such tiny firearms should be regarded as backup guns rather than primary weapons. YMMV, of course.
The same applies, to a lesser extent, to small snubnose revolvers. They're larger than the ultra-miniature pistols listed above, but still small and light compared to their larger brethren. They can fire any type of bullet available in their cartridge and caliber range, offering greater flexibility, and they're combat-proven in performance. I sometimes carry a .38 Special snubnose revolver, usually loaded with Buffalo Bore's full wadcutter rounds, and I'm confident it'll do the job if necessary. However, their sights are still rudimentary compared to those on larger firearms, and their recoil is harder to control given their small size and light weight. Regular practice is necessary if one's to make the most of them. A laser sight is a valuable accessory.
It's increasingly common to encounter sub-compact single-stack semi-auto pistols specially designed for concealed carry. Examples include the Glock 42, 43, 43X and 48, the Springfield Armory XD-S, Ruger's LC9S and (very affordable) EC9S, Smith & Wesson's Shield, and others. I'd consider these the minimum serious concealed carry weapons out there. Even though I'm no longer actively involved in training disabled shooters, I have examples of most of the above models, and I train often enough to be able to use them effectively. They offer better sights than smaller weapons, plus in most cases the opportunity to fit better aftermarket sights if so desired. (Trijicon's HD XR range are a good example of the latter, and I like them very much. I find them clear and sharp, even if my eyes aren't!) Extended magazines are sometimes available if required, although the quality of some aftermarket offerings isn't always good enough to rely on for serious work.
I respectfully suggest that a firearm similar to those mentioned in the preceding paragraph should be the minimum we carry nowadays. If it's possible to conceal a larger firearm, with more rounds in the magazine, so much the better; but that's not always the case. I highly recommend trying as many of the above models as possible, choosing the one that best fits your hand, and training with it until you're satisfied you can put your rounds where they'll do the most good at ranges out to 15-20 yards, rapidly and effectively. (Most defensive encounters will be at much shorter ranges than that, but one can't rule out the need for a longer-range shot.) Remember, you'll be held legally accountable for every shot you fire. If you use your defensive firearm and hit an innocent bystander, it may go hard for you if it turns out you were never trained, or not trained adequately, in its use, and never practiced with it.
There's also the question of how and where to carry your gun. This is a vast subject in its own right, and I can't possibly do it justice in a short article like this. I strongly recommend on-body carry rather than off-body (e.g. in a purse or handbag), because it's too easy for a thief to rip a bag out of your hands and run off with it. A good holster is also essential, for your own protection as much as anything else. Greg Ellifritz had a good article about that recently; I strongly suggest you read it in full, and take note.
What's my personal choice? Until recently, when it came to pocket or deep-concealment carry, I used Springfield's XD-S. However, having been introduced to Glock's Model 48 and 43X pistols (the latter using the former's frame, but the half-inch-shorter slide and barrel of the Model 43), I'm beginning to make the switch to the 43X. Based on the firearms I've personally handled and used, I think it's the best compromise between concealment, controllability and magazine capacity currently on the market. However, others may hold different opinions, and that's OK. I'd certainly trust any of the other sub-compact models mentioned above to protect my life if need be.
Whatever you carry, practice with it, and make sure you know how to use it effectively if the need arises. Nowadays, there are no safe spaces - so be prepared, every time you enter the unsafe world out there.
(EDITED TO ADD: As a result of some comments and e-mails concerning this article, I've added a second dealing with ammunition selection. You'll find it here.)
Sunday, August 18, 2019
I'm not a big fan of jazz music. I'll listen to a little, and tolerate a little more, but it soon palls on me, and I'll go looking for something more tuneful and melodious.
Nevertheless, I had to do a double-take when my wife sent me a link to jazz artist Gunhild Carling performing live, with bagpipes. Bagpipes as a jazz instrument? This I had to hear!
She's also noted for playing up to three trumpets simultaneously.
For those who enjoy jazz more than I do, here's a complete performance with her own band and the Harlem Hotshots.
Hope you enjoyed it, jazz fans!
Saturday, August 17, 2019
I'd initially planned my latest fantasy novel, "Taghri's Prize", to be a stand-alone work, without sequels. However, a large proportion of the reviews on Amazon.com have hinted, suggested, or plain outright demanded that I write more in Taghri's universe. I know when I'm beaten! If I want to be a successful writer, earning a living, I have to give my readers what they want - and you clearly want more Taghri.
I've begun working out a plot for Taghri 2. It's going to involve theft, plots against a King, skullduggery on the high seas, and city-states competing against each other for power and influence. I'm already laughing as I envisage the complications that may ensue.
The third Ames Archives Western novel, "Gold on the Hoof", is preparing for publication right now. I'm busy writing the third and final volume of the Laredo War trilogy. Next will be the sixth volume in the Maxwell Saga. Coming soon, possibly even before Laredo 3, will be the first Maxwell Omnibus: the first 3 Maxwell books, plus a new short story set in that universe, to give people an incentive to read it. I'm also working on a joint novel with another author, and a short story with a short-term deadline for another anthology. That'll keep me busy for the rest of 2019 and into early 2020.
When most of that is out of the way, look for Taghri 2, Ames 4, a preparedness handbook (which we discussed in these pages earlier this year), and at least one science fiction novel in 2020.
They do say there's no peace for the wicked!
. . . or so the petroleum industry used to say, back in the 1970's. That's proving true in the maritime shipping industry right now, as major change looms next year. We don't think much about an industry that's "out of sight, out of mind" for most of us, but it has a huge impact on global pollution, and changing that is going to require major changes to the way we fuel the ships that fuel the world's economy. Forbes reports:
A United Nations mandate on the shipping industry to remove up to 85% of the sulfur content from its fuel to cut 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions could throw the industry into massive disruption.
Some analysts argue it could lead to fuel supply and demand imbalances and arbitrage opportunities that could extend crude oil price volatility.
. . .
In 2016, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) gave the global shipping industry four years to make sure the 90,000 vessels at sea burn 85% less sulfur by Jan. 1, 2020.
The IMO standard requires ships to produce a maximum of 0.5% in sulfur emissions rather than the present 3.5% limit.
“Implications go beyond shipping and refining. Changes will be felt in the entire commodity landscape, including petrochemicals, road fuels, and airlines,” said Aftab Saleem, KPMG’s director of its risk analytics advisory, which helps a large swath of the global shipping industry comply with the standard. “Costs are going to go up. This has huge, huge implications across the supply chain, all the way back to producers.”
. . .
Oceana says if global shipping were a country, only the U.S., China, Russia, India and Japan would emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the global shipping industry.
KPMG Global says 15 of the biggest ships emit more sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide than all of the world’s cars combined, and one million cars emit as much particulate matter as one cruise ship produces.
There's more at the link.
If you're interested in global economics, it's worth reading the Forbes article in full. Consider that well over 80% of global trade moves by sea, and you'll get some idea of the impact of the current changes. They have to be paid for, so freight rates will have to be adjusted, and that in turn will influence the price of goods and services worldwide.
What's more, a major part of the world's merchant fleet (particularly that concentrated in the Third World) won't have completed the necessary mechanical and engineering changes in time for the implementation of the new standards. What's going to happen? In theory, at least, they'll be barred from most, if not all, First World ports - but there won't be enough carrying capacity for world trade without them. Pollution control is going to run headlong into economic practicality, as far as many ships are concerned.
The cost of installing fuel scrubbers is plus-or-minus $1 million per ship - and many older merchant vessels aren't worth that much. Will they be scrapped? The cost of replacing them will be far greater than the cost of a scrubber. And what about open-loop scrubbers, which take the pollution out of the funnel smoke, only to discharge it into the sea? Are we to replace air pollution with sea pollution? Many First World ports have banned open-loop scrubbers for that reason . . . but many ships are nevertheless going to be equipped with them, as the only available option in the short term. If the regulations are strictly applied, will there be enough "clean" ships to meet the new requirements? I suspect not, for at least the first few years.
This is going to get very interesting and very complicated. It'll be worth paying attention, because we're all going to feel the after-effects in our wallets.