Thursday, October 31, 2019

The money quote on the impeachment resolution


So the Democratic Party has used its majority in Congress to ram through an impeachment investigation resolution that's seriously deficient in fairness, transparency and integrity.  What else did we expect?

Ace of Spades points out:

The "impeachment" resolution slated for today gives the Democrats carte blanche to go after Trump, his business dealings, family and allies in almost every area of his past public and personal life. As if to rub salt into an open wound, one of the people, biologically anyway, who sits on the rules committee and crafting the guidelines for impeachment is none other than Alcee Hastings. Alcee-*******-Hastings. For those not aware, Alcee Hastings was a federal judge from Florida who was impeached, convicted and removed from the bench on charges of bribery, one of only eight judges IIRC who have ever been removed from the bench in US history. You'd think that that would be enough to send one into the wilderness to avoid the scorn and derision of the public as well as to attempt to repent and atone. Well, you'd be wrong as Alcee Hastings actually ran for and won a House seat and has been there since 1993. Meh, forget Hastings; what does that say for his constituents? Yeah, I know.

There's more at the link.

I think that little fact reveals a great deal about the impeachment authorization resolution.  It's a corrupt endeavor, by corrupt politicians, to undo the results of a democratic election.  I have yet to hear of one single "high crime" or "misdemeanor" allegedly committed by President Trump for which there is any convincing evidence and/or no convincing explanation or justification.  If one exists, proceed with impeachment.  If one doesn't - and, to date, one has not emerged out of all the fuss and bother and smoke and mirrors the Democrats can throw up - then why the hell are we wasting time on this nonsense?

The answer, of course, is obvious.  This isn't about high crimes or misdemeanors.  It's about partisan politics.  May all those who voted for it today receive condign punishment for their mendacity at the hands of voters during the next election.




Peter

Wound treatment: a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing


Aesop brings us a timely reminder that what may look like a simple medical problem might be a whole lot more complicated than we suspect.  He's not talking about a minor cut or scrape, but wounds that may conceal something a lot more serious.

The problem with [a wound closure kit], like everything else, including the laceration, is multi-fold:

Do you know which lacerations to close, and which to leave open?
Do you know why?
Are you sure that's a lac, and not the evidence of an open fracture?
How would you know that without an X-ray?
Did you clean and debride the wound first, with surgical thoroughness?
How did you do that without any local anesthesia?
What structures underneath the skin were affected/damaged?
Did you repair them correctly? With what?
Would antibiotics be appropriate?
What about tetanus prophylaxis?
The supplies necessary to close a lac, in every ER I've ever worked in, comprise enough material to fill a military-sized footlocker, and 95% of them are RX only.

It is not, ever, one alcohol wipe, one gauze pad, a zip-tie gadget, and a big band-aid.

. . .

More importantly, you need a Masters-program level Physician Assistant instruction to cover all the medical knowledge and precepted training by board-certified MDs you don't get in that kit. (That's 3-4 years after college, kids.)

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

I was forcefully reminded, reading his article, about our first aid training at St. John Ambulance in South Africa during the 1970's.  I was never a full member of the organization, just a school student who trained with them to assist at sports meetings.  Nevertheless, I ended up as a volunteer on some of their ambulances over one holiday season, using that training to get people to the hospital.  I've never forgotten the emphatic voice of a doctor, briefing us before we started duty, telling us very sternly that our first responsibility was not, repeat, NOT to do anything that might endanger the patient.  Only after that were we to do what we could to stabilize and transport them.  In particular, we were not there to treat their injuries.  That was the job of the emergency room.  Our job was to get them there, preferably still alive.  To that end, we were to control bleeding, immobilize them for transport and to prevent them injuring themselves again, and otherwise LEAVE WELL ALONE!

Of course, emergency medicine (particularly in the USA) is far more advanced today than it was then.  We didn't have such classifications as EMT or paramedic.  We were, in hindsight, more glorified amateurs than anything else.  Still, that basic instruction prevented us making a lot of mistakes.  I remain grateful for it.

There was also the lighter side of emergency treatment . . . I trained in basic military first aid, like many troops, because in the operational area medical assistance might be a long way off.  One of the stranger treatments was for spitting cobra venom.  We had a snake called the rinkhals that would spit venom at the eyes of its enemies, with considerable accuracy.  If it hit them, the victim would go blind in fairly short order.  The treatment was to wash the eyes out right away with sterile fluid - but sterile fluid wasn't always easy to come by in the bush.  The solution?  Urine from an undiseased bladder emerges as close to sterile as one can get from the human body;  therefore, we were advised to pee into the eyes of the afflicted person, so that the poison would be diluted to the point that it would no longer cause permanent blindness.

This worked, but it tended to produce strong reactions in the one being peed on.  I'm reminded of one occasion on which a large, strong soldier needed that treatment.  The field medic in charge kept on telling him that the poison wasn't yet sufficiently diluted, and he needed more treatment.  Only after about a dozen soldiers had peed into his eyes, completely soaking his uniform in the process, did he begin to suspect that this was going a bit far . . . The sight of him, bleary-eyed, smelly, dripping wet and furious, chasing the medic around several nearby thorn bushes (and throwing him bodily into one when he caught him) was enough to reduce the rest of us to hysterics!  (The snake got away in the confusion.)

Ah, yes . . . medical memories . . .




Peter

Karma. Dogma. Self-assembling, in the long run.


Charles Hugh Smith recently examined dogma versus karma, and pointed out some inevitable truths.  He spoke from an economic perspective, but his words apply equally well to our nation as a whole.

Karma covers a lot of ground, but it boils down to consequences: consequences not just from your actions but from your convictions, schemes, obsessions, and yes, dogmas.

The reason why Karma runs over Dogma is that nobody clinging to a dogma sees themselves as dogmatic. The true believer never sees their conviction as dogma, but as Revealed Truth, as self-evident, a view that is buttressed by all the other True Believers who surround the believer, reinforcing their conviction and soothing any nagging doubts by mocking, "debunking" or marginalizing heretics and critics.

In our society, the mass media serves as a soothing echo-chamber of dogmas. It must be true, the news anchor said it on TV, etc.

Dogmas generate power and profits. Trillions of dollars flow into a few pockets because people believe the dogmas that "you need a college diploma to succeed" and "America's healthcare system is the best in the world."

As evidence-based doubts seep in, those at the top of the "faith" who have the most to lose become increasingly fanatical and rabid, pushing an increasingly restrictive Orthodoxy on true believers and establishing an Inquisition to excommunicate or eliminate any heretical doubts or dissenting views.

As the increasingly detached-from-reality leadership senses their power waning, they double-down, exhorting the faithful to support the orthodoxy even as the orthodoxy reaches new heights of fanaticism.

As moderates drift away (or sneak away, loudly proclaiming their fealty to cover their escape), the leadership triples down, demanding unwavering loyalty of the remaining believers, who themselves triple-down by reassuring each other that they really are on the right track and the world is about to awaken to the correctness and righteousness of their cause.

The problem with dogmas is that they are detached from the real-world consequences of dogmatic convictions.

. . .

Military dogmas get discredited on the field of battle, often in dramatic fashion. Financial markets (unless they're manipulated, of course) also provide painful real-world feedback. Those predicting one side of the trade will eventually be proven correct or incorrect.

To an alarming degree, the U.S. is dominated by dogmas that benefit the few at the expense of the many, and by leaders who are doubling or tripling down to defend the dogma and their power ... The leaders, safely protected from the consequences of their elitist dominance and fearing the loss of their wealth, power and prestige, ramp up the time-honored strategy of increasing demands for loyalty and public virtue-signaling, jacking up media propaganda in support of the orthodoxy, and moving to ban, shadow-ban, suppress, punish, discredit, demoralize, de-platform, demonetize and marginalize critics, i.e. heretics who challenge the status quo's foundational dogmas.

. . .

Dogmas collapse first in the minds of believers, when they slowly awaken to the reality that the dogma no longer serves them, it only serves to prop up the wealth, power and prestige of their increasingly fanatic leaders. Propping up a failed system doesn't actually fix what's broken; it only guarantees the banquet of consequences will include shackles: the option to escape the consequences will no longer exist.

There's more at the link.

What worries me is that I'm seeing both sides in the American political divide concentrate on dogma to the exclusion of karma (reality).  Both sides are absolutely convinced they're right, and the other is wrong.  Both sides are proceeding on the assumption that "their" right will triumph, and the other side's "wrong" will be defeated.  There's no effort to compromise, no effort to look at things through the other side's spectacles for even a moment and concede that maybe, just maybe, there's another valid opinion out there.

When two dogmas collide and shatter, the "true believers" will always blame the other dogma for their failure.  They'll never pause to consider that perhaps reality is to blame, because they refused to take it into consideration . . . and because of that, they'll double and triple down on their dogma, willing to plunge the nation into civil war rather than admit there can possibly be an alternate reality to that which they perceive.

We live in dangerous times.

Peter

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

An oldie, but still funny as heck


I noticed this video at the Feral Irishman's place the other day.  I posted it on this blog back in 2016, but it made me laugh all over again to see it once more:  so I thought you might enjoy it again, too.





Somehow I don't think that relationship lasted . . .




Peter

New York City exports its homeless problem


This doesn't surprise me, and it's hardly confined to New York City;  but the sheer brazenness of the bureaucrats is mind-boggling.  "Let's dump our problems on other cities, without bothering to tell them what's on the way!"

New York City generously shares its homeless crisis with every corner of America.

From the tropical shores of Honolulu and Puerto Rico, to the badlands of Utah and backwaters of Louisiana, the Big Apple has sent local homeless families to 373 cities across the country with a full year of rent in their pockets as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Special One-Time Assistance Program.” Usually, the receiving city knows nothing about it.

. . .

Families who once lived in city shelters decamped to 32 states and Puerto Rico ... The city also paid travel expenses, through a separate taxpayer-funded program called Project Reconnect, but would not divulge how much it spent. A Friday flight to Honolulu for four people would cost about $1,400. A bus ticket to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the same family would cost $800.

Add to the tab the cost of furnishings, which the city also did not disclose. One SOTA recipient said she received $1,000 for them.

. . .

Not only are officials in towns where the city’s homeless land up in arms, but hundreds of the homeless families are returning to the five boroughs — and some are even suing NYC over being abandoned in barely livable conditions.

There's more at the link.

A nice, convenient, and relatively cheap way for New York City to get rid of some of its problem children . . . only to dump them, without so much as a "by your leave", on another community that doesn't know they're coming, doesn't want them, and probably can't afford to deal with them.  One wonders how long it takes those homeless people to run through New York's largesse, and turn to their new cities to demand similar support, financial and otherwise.  I suspect it's a lot less than a year.

If NYC bureaucrats think they can get away with this, what else are they getting away with that we don't (yet) know about?  And how many other cities are doing likewise?

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Peter

The contempt of the ruling class for the ruled


If you've read the proposed "impeachment inquiry resolution" offered in Congress, you'll understand just how profound is the contempt of the current majority there for the Constitution and laws of the United States.  They're using those laws as levers to undermine the Constitution on which they're based, and they have no problem with treating Congress as a partisan political fulcrum with which to try to lever a legitimately elected President out of office.  They're not interested in whether it's right or wrong to do something - only if they can twist words to call it legal.  "Legal" has supplanted "right or wrong" in US politics.  To call that "scandalous" or "disgusting" is only to scratch the surface of what's going on.  If a Republican Congress had tried to do the same to President Obama, the shrieking and condemnation from the left and the mainstream media would be deafening.  However, because this is the other way around . . . crickets.

Recently Professor Angelo Codevilla, whom we've met in these pages several times before, gave a very long interview to a correspondent for the Tablet.  The resulting article is titled "The Codevilla Tapes".  It's a wide-ranging perspective on American politics, culture, the "Deep State" and the so-called ruling or political class.  I think it's essential reading for anyone, left- or right-wing, who's concerned about the partisan divide that's currently destroying our nation and our society.  The man knows whereof he speaks, and his analyses are brilliant.

To provide just one example from a very long essay, here are Prof. Codevilla's views on US intelligence agencies and how they've come to dominate, and even subvert, the proceedings that are supposed to oversee them.  I found it particularly relevant in the light of the increasingly clear and undeniable role of those intelligence agencies in trying to undermine and get rid of President Trump.  The interviewer's questions are in bold, underlined text.  Prof. Codevilla's answers are in regular text.

How do you understand the seemingly unchecked growth of this globe-spanning American surveillance apparatus, and how do you understand the danger of that apparatus being turned to domestic political purposes?

There’s always danger inherent in secrecy. And you know secrecy of course is central to intelligence operations. Secrecy most often is used not for the good of the operation, but to safeguard the reputations of those who are running the operations.

The agencies, like all bureaucracies, have always tried to aggrandize themselves, build their reputations, in order to make and spend more money. Get more high-ranking positions. Get more post-retirement positions for their people in the industries that support them. They’ve done exactly what bureaucrats in other agencies have done, neither more nor less.

But the business they’re in, which involves surveillance, is uniquely dangerous, because surveillance is inherently a political weapon. Inherently so. And there is never any lack of appetite for increasing the power of surveillance, and for increasing the reach of surveillance.

Fortunately, especially in my time on the Hill, we had pretty good resistance against bureaucratic attempts to increase the reach of government surveillance over the rest of the country.

Then along came 9/11, and congressmen, senators, who didn’t know any better, were rather easily persuaded, and for that matter Presidents—George W. Bush being exhibit number one—were very easily persuaded, that giving the agencies something close to carte blanche for electronic surveillance would help to keep the country safe. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 2008 to accommodate the practices which had evolved extralegally under George Bush, which essentially allowed the agencies to wiretap at will, so long as they claimed that this was for foreign intelligence purposes. In this regard, they claimed that what they were doing was within the spirit, if not the letter, of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which stated that any warrantless collection of electronic intelligence, bugging and other means of collection in finding intelligence, could capture the communications of U.S. persons, only incidentally in the course of capturing the communications of foreign targets.

The 2008 amendments legalized this practice, and added the capacity of the agencies to compel communications companies to help upstream collection of emails etcetera, which would then be recorded. The act, rather the amendment, contains an even longer list of apparent restrictions on how these intercepts of Americans may be used. But these restrictions are basically for show because, essentially, once the foreign intelligence surveillance court authorized a particular operation the practical means of judicial review of what has happened, of how it is being carried out, are so complicated as to be unworkable. And besides, what the hell do judges know about the substance of these things?

Therefore, to get to the point of your question, this increased power and lax attitude conserving it posed a temptation to use these tools for the convenience of the administration in power, which was made much more likely by the increasing identification of the senior ranks of the intelligence community with your ruling class. To the point that these people, being ordinary sentient human beings, believe what the people at the top of their class are saying about the opposition.

We are good, and they are bad.

We are good and these opponents of ours, which mean to take over our positions, are bad people, they are dangerous to the country, and therefore why not look for every possible means of keeping them out of office?

There's much more at the linkVery highly recommended reading.

On a related subject, Prof. Codevilla recently (a few days ago) addressed the call by retired Admiral McRaven, former head of Special Operations Command, to oust President Trump.  The Professor doesn't spare his criticism, and it's very trenchant.  Example:

At the very least, McRaven called for impeachment ahead of an election, or perhaps for a coup, and pretended to do so on the military’s behalf. In fact, his was just one more voice from an establishment that has squandered the public’s trust, senses that it can no longer win elections honestly, and is pulling out all the stops.

It pretends to be trying to take down Donald Trump. In fact, it is trying to do something much bigger: Invalidate the votes of the “deplorables” who oppose them.

I suggest that the just response from self-respecting Americans to McRaven and others like him is: “Who the hell do you think you are?”

Go read.  It's powerful stuff.

Republican or Democrat, this should concern you very deeply.  If these clowns succeed in subverting our constitutional republic (and they've come terrifyingly close), then none of us have any security going forward.  Neither does our nation.

I've been in the midst of civil war, on more than one occasion, in more than one country.  I don't want to see it again, particularly not in my home nation.  However, the ruling class and their hangers-on may render that desire moot.  If they do . . . I'll know who to hold accountable.  So will you.

Ace of Spades sums it up nicely.

Peaceful transitions of power and free elections do not happen in countries where one faction gets it in its head to start weaponizing law enforcement and intelligence against their opponents.

. . .

Our super-elite totally-meritocratic Ruling Class has given us one last gift as they go: a possibly violent civil war and a class war we avoided for 300 years.

And no, I don't think we're voting our way out of this.

I wish I could be more confident that he were wrong.

Peter

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Er . . . if you say so!


Sent in by reader H. S.  Click the image to be taken to its Twitter page.




That certainly puts asses' milk in its place as a beauty treatment, doesn't it?




Peter

I like his attitude


From Stephan Pastis last Sunday (click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web page):




I wish more people thought like that!  A little kindness goes a long way . . .

Peter

Headline of the week


Sent in by several readers:




The report is as mind-boggling as it sounds - certainly beyond my ability to summarize!  Click over there for a good laugh at the insanity (not to mention inanity) of some of our fellow denizens of this orb in space.

Weird . . .

Peter

Monday, October 28, 2019

Oh, my itchy trigger finger . . .


Yesterday Miss D. and I went to the Guardians of Freedom Air Show at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls.  It was a lot of fun, with a surprisingly good range of aircraft for a training base, including the F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation combat aircraft.  There was a decent-size crowd, too.

While we were walking from the parking lot to the entrance to the display area, our attention was caught by a silver dart-like aircraft zooming low over the runway, quite close to us. I don't know what I looked like to my wife, but I could feel the tension right away as I recognized it. I must have showed that somehow, because she stopped in her tracks and said, "What is it?"

I replied, through partly gritted teeth, "It's a MiG."  It was - a MiG-17, to be precise, operated by Fighterjets Inc.




She burst out laughing.  "Why do I think you're itching to get your hands on a ground-to-air missile right now?"

I was.  In fact, the last time I saw a MiG-17, in the 1980's, it was through the sights of a former Soviet ZPU 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun, a captured weapon that we were using for local air defense in the African bush.  (I missed.)

Seeing an old enemy flying the peaceful skies near my home, with nobody shooting at it . . . for a long moment, that was a truly weird sensation!

Peter

Well, what did they expect?


Australian reader Snoggeramus brings us another example of bureaucrats living in a dream world - that backfires on them.

Two social workers at Melbourne's controversial safe injecting room are facing drug trafficking charges.

A 49-year-old man and 36-year-old woman were arrested on Thursday, along with six others, following raids at North Richmond Community Health and several homes.

The centre has been the site of Victoria's first safe injecting room since 2018, as part of a two-year trial.

The pair, who work as counsellors, are accused of supplying drugs to addicts who use the service and have been stood down following their arrest.

Those living in the area say the neighbourhood has become a notorious crime hot spot since the safe injecting room opened.

There's more at the link.  Here's a TV news report.





I worked with the homeless in Cape Town, South Africa as a volunteer at a Church-run shelter for a while.  I had more exposure to it in the USA during visits to such shelters, and ran into the consequences of some such places during my service as a prison chaplain.  In all of them, there was a common denominator.  If you set up a place where substances can be legally abused, with the police turning a blind eye to them, criminals will take advantage of the opportunity.  It's just about a gold-plated guarantee.

As for the "community service workers" who were arrested, who ran the background checks on them?  I'm willing to bet that some bleeding-heart social justice doofus decided that former drug abusers would be perfect for the job, because they'd "understand" the challenges facing those still abusing them.  Talk about an open door for further abuse!

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .




Peter

Truth is hard in a special-snowflake world


Film screenwriter, director and producer Christopher McQuarrie sent a string of tweets a few days ago that encapsulate how he sees the industry, and how to achieve success in it.  He's blunt (almost brutally so) about how nobody's going to do the work if you don't, and how you can't expect the Success Fairy to alight on your shoulders and sprinkle you with magic dust, or something like that.  Here's an excerpt.

1.  I‘m receiving a lot of questions from writers asking where to submit scripts or how to sell them. Others ask how to sign an agent, attach directors or producers, etc.

You won’t like the answer, but here it is:

You’re asking the wrong questions.

2. I spent seven years - AFTER winning an academy award - asking the same questions. My career stalled (and I still have scripts that no one will make despite subsequent commercial successes).

. . .

5. “How do I sell my screenplay” is a question at the heart of the screenwriter’s mindset and is the essence of why writers are treated the way they are. We are trained to think that way. The system depends on our dependancy.

6. The subtext of that question is “where do I go for permission to sign away my dream?” It also asks “what is the shortest route to my career?”

7. After twenty five years in the craft, I’ve learned the secret to making movies is making movies - starting with little movies no one will ever see.

The secret to knowledge is doing and failing - often and painfully - and letting everyone see.

8. The secret to success is doing what you love, whether or not you’re being paid. The secret to a rewarding career in film (and many other fields) is focusing entirely on execution and not on result.

9. There are countless valid arguments against everything I have just said. They don’t change the fact that the lottery is a lottery.

There's more at the link.  Blunt and to the point, and very useful for deflating special-snowflake egos.

I find this sort of honesty very refreshing, and very useful when dealing with those who want to "make it" overnight in the creative world (or any other, for that matter), and be the Next Big Thing without putting in years of effort or improving their skills and abilities.  There's a surprisingly large number of them.  They don't like it (or me) when I point out that for every standout success in a field like that (or like writing, or any creative field) there are hundreds, perhaps thousands who never make it, who aren't sufficiently gifted or skilled or hard-working, or who perhaps just don't get the break that might have catapulted them to success.  However, those who do make it tend to be those who work very, very hard and earn their success over time.  (As my late father used to tell me, "In my life, the harder I worked, the more luck I had!")

Today, when anyone can publish a book, I get questions from wannabe authors almost daily, asking how they can achieve success.  I don't know why they're asking me that, because I'm hardly a Stephen King or a Tom Clancy, but they do.  Most are not very happy when I tell them that the only "secret" I know is hard work and dedication.  Write a book.  Get it critiqued by friends and family, and tell them to be brutally honest.  (Don't, please don't, ask more successful authors to critique it.  We have to write our own books, and if I agreed to every such request, I'd never have a moment's time to do so!)  Learn from your mistakes.  Write another book.  Wash, rinse, repeat . . . until maybe one day you have something worth publishing, to see what the market thinks about you.  (And don't throw away the "mistakes".  I have more than 30 manuscripts in my archives that will never be published, because they're not good enough.  That doesn't mean I can't mine them for ideas and scenes that I can re-use.)

Note that I haven't said a single word about creativity or quality of story-telling.  Those have their place, sure;  but if you don't lay the foundation to support them, they won't get you anywhere.  Einstein reportedly said that "Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work".  The older I get, the more I realize he was spot on.

Also, writing a book is only half the battle;  maybe less than half.  There's editing, marketing, cover design, blurb, promotion, and a host of other elements that you have to do yourself, because no-one's going to do them for you (unless you pay them, in which case you're richer than I am!).  You'll have to work your backside off for success in today's independent publishing marketplace.  If you're not prepared to do that, don't even start.

The same, of course, applies in every profession.  In general, the harder you work, the better you'll do.  From janitor to boardroom, anything else is puffery.

Peter

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday morning music


The advent of so-called "progressive rock" in the late 1960's and 1970's added a whole new category to modern music, which spurred innovation and excess in almost equal dimensions.  It was my musical milieu of choice in my younger days, and many of the groups and performers of that era remain standard-bearers in my personal collection.  (In other words, I'm a stick-in-the-mud, musically speaking.  Yes, guilty as charged.  Get over it!)

One of the super-groups of that time was Renaissance, from Britain.  They combined elements of the hippie culture, drugs, folk music, rock, and even orchestral, classical influences, making them almost impossible to categorize except in terms of themselves.  I can't say I liked their music as much as other performers like YesMike Oldfield, Jethro Tull and others, but they certainly developed a major international following, which has remained faithful to this day.

Here are three of their songs, two chosen because of their major success, and the third because I like the Arabian story cycle "One Thousand and One Nights" and I've enjoyed much of the music based on it.  We'll begin with their hit "Carpet of the Sun".





Another hit for Renaissance was "Ashes are Burning".





Finally, from their album "Scheherazade and Other Stories", here's the title song that took up the entire second side of the LP, "Song of Scheherazade".  Section titles and themes may be found at the link above.  This is a live performance from Carnegie Hall in 1976.





It was a different time, then, I guess, compared to today . . . but its music has lasted.  I wonder how popular it'll remain when the last of us who grew up in that era have passed?  It's not the sort of thing that attracts many young people in our era.  (There again, their music isn't the sort of thing that attracts me, so fair's fair!)

Peter

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday snippet: the opening battle of the Red River War in 1874


Today's snippet is taken from the autobiography of legendary Western scout and Indian fighter Billy Dixon, as recorded by his wife during the last year of his life, and completed by her after his death in 1913.  It's titled "Life of Billy Dixon, Plainsman, Scout and Pioneer".




Dixon (shown below) was one of the great figures of the Indian Wars and the Old West. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the Buffalo Wallow fight of 1874, shortly after the events narrated here (one of only eight ever awarded to civilians).  Due to his status as a civilian scout, rather than a "properly" enlisted soldier, the award was later revoked, but Dixon refused to return his medal, feeling that he'd earned it fairly and the hard way.  It's hard to disagree with him!  His sentiments were vindicated when, in 1989, many years after his death, the award was posthumously reinstated.




Dixon was one of those involved in the clash that started the Red River War of 1874-75, the attack by Comanche and Kiowa warriors on a buffalo hunting settlement.  It later became famous as the Second Battle of Adobe Walls.  Here's how it began, according to Dixon.

About 2 o’clock in the morning Shepherd and Mike Welch, who were sleeping in Hanrahan’s saloon, were awakened by a report that sounded like the crack of a rifle. They sprang up and discovered that the noise was caused by the cracking of the big cottonwood ridge pole.

This ridge pole sustained the weight of the dirt roof, and if the pole should break the roof would collapse and fall in, to the injury or death of those inside. Welch and Shepherd woke up a number of their companions to help them repair the roof. Some climbed on top and began throwing off the dirt, while others went down to the creek to cut a prop for the ridge pole.

This commotion woke up others, and in a little while about fifteen men were helping repair the roof. Providential things usually are mysterious; there has always been something mysterious to me in the loud report that came from that ridge pole in Hanrahan’s saloon. It seems strange that it should have happened at the very time it did, instead of at noon or some other hour, and, above all, that it should have been loud enough to wake men who were fast asleep. Twenty-eight men and one woman would have been slaughtered if the ridge pole in Hanrahan’s saloon had not cracked like a rifle shot.

By the time we had put the prop in place, the sky was growing red in the east, and Hanrahan asked me if I did not think we might as well stay up and get an early start. I agreed, and he sent Billy Ogg down to the creek to get the horses. Some of the men, however, crawled back into bed. The horses were grazing southeast of the buildings, along Adobe Walls Creek, a quarter of a mile off.

Turning to my bed, I rolled it up and threw it on the front of my wagon. As I turned to pick up my gun, which lay on the ground, I looked in the direction of our horses. They were in sight. Something else caught my eye. Just beyond the horses, at the edge of some timber, was a large body of objects advancing vaguely in the dusky dawn toward our stock and in the direction of Adobe Walls. Though keen of vision, I could not make out what the objects were, even by straining my eyes.

Then I was thunderstruck. The black body of moving objects suddenly spread out like a fan, and from it went up one single, solid yell—a warwhoop that seemed to shake the very air of the early morning. Then came the thudding roar of running horses, and the hideous cries of each of the individual warriors who engaged in the onslaught. I could see that hundreds of Indians were coming. Had it not been for the ridge pole, all of us would have been asleep.

In such desperate emergencies, men exert themselves almost automatically to do the needful thing. There is no time to make conscious effort, and if a man loses his head, he shakes hands with death.

I made a dash for my saddle horse, my first thought being to save him. I never thought for an instant that the oncoming Indians were intending an attack upon the buildings, their purpose being, as I thought, to run off our stock, which they could easily have done by cutting in ahead of them. I overlooked the number of Indians, however, or else I might have formed a different opinion.

The first mighty warwhoop had frightened my horse until he was frantic, He was running and lunging on his rope so violently that in one more run he would have pulled up the stake pin and gone to the land of stampeded horses. I managed to grab the rope, and tie my horse to my wagon.

I then rushed for my gun, and turned to get a few good shots before the Indians could turn to run away. I started to run forward a few steps. Indians running away! They were coming as straight as a bullet toward the buildings, whipping their horses at every jump.

There was never a more splendidly barbaric sight. In after years I was glad that I had seen it. Hundreds of warriors, the flower of the fighting men of the southwestern Plains tribes, mounted upon their finest horses, armed with guns and lances, and carrying heavy shields of thick buffalo hide, were coming like the wind. Over all was splashed the rich colors of red, vermilion and ochre, on the bodies of the men, on the bodies of the running horses. Scalps dangled from bridles, gorgeous war-bonnets fluttered their plumes, bright feathers dangled from the tails and manes of the horses, and the bronzed, half-naked bodies of the riders glittered with ornaments of silver and brass. Behind this head-long charging host stretched the Plains, on whose horizon the rising sun was lifting its morning fires. The warriors seemed to emerge from this glowing background.

I must confess, however, that the landscape possessed little interest for me when I saw that the Indians were coming to attack us, and that they would be at hand in a few moments. War-whooping had a very appreciable effect upon the roots of a man’s hair.

I fired one shot, but had no desire to wait and see where the bullet went. I turned and ran as quickly as possible to the nearest building, which happened to be Hanrahan’s saloon. I found it closed. I certainly felt lonesome. The alarm had spread and the boys were preparing to defend themselves. I shouted to them to let me in. An age seemed to pass before they opened the door and I sprang inside. Bullets were whistling and knocking up the dust all around me. Just as the door was opened for me, Billy Ogg ran up and fell inside, so exhausted that he could no longer stand. I am confident that if Billy had been timed, his would have been forever the world’s record. Billy had made a desperate race, and that he should escape seemed incredible.

We were scarcely inside before the Indians had surrounded all the buildings and shot out every window pane.

The hunters managed to hold out for several days.  On the third day of the fight, Dixon made a shot that's gone down in the legends of the Old West, using a .50-caliber Sharps buffalo rifle to hit a Comanche brave at an enormous range.  After the battle, when relieving forces arrived, then-Col. Miles of the US Army had the distance surveyed, and it measured out at 1,538 yards (just over nine-tenths of a mile).  That's a stupendous range for a blackpowder weapon.  Dixon, a renowned marksman, never claimed any special credit for that hit, referring to it as a "scratch" shot.  It certainly demoralized the attackers, who pulled out shortly thereafter.

Some years after his death, Billy Dixon's body was reinterred at the site of the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, where his grave may still be seen.  His Medal of Honor is preserved at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, which is well worth a day of your time to tour.




The museum has a remarkable collection of artifacts from frontier days and the early oil industry in Texas (including a very extensive firearm collection, much of which is not on display;  if you're fortunate enough to be granted admission to their basement, there are more guns there than there are in the museum above).  I've visited it several times, and expect to do so often in the future.  It's one of the better museums I've encountered, big enough to offer variety and hold your interest, but small enough to be very professionally curated and administered.  Recommended.

Peter

Friday, October 25, 2019

Rodentiferous!


Orkin's annual survey of the "rattiest" US cities was released a few days ago.  It makes interesting reading.

Orkin released its Top 50 Rattiest Cities list today, and for the fifth consecutive time, Chicago takes the top spot. New to the Top 10 cities this year are Minneapolis and Atlanta, holding the eighth and tenth spots, respectively.

Orkin ranked metro regions by the number of new rodent treatments performed from September 15, 2018 – September 15, 2019. This ranking includes both residential and commercial treatments.

1. Chicago
2. Los Angeles
3. New York
4. Washington, DC (Hagerstown)
5. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
6. Detroit
7. Cleveland-Akron (Canton) (+1)
8. Minneapolis-St. Paul (+3)
9. Philadelphia (-2)
10. Atlanta (+5)

There's more at the link.  Click over there to see if your city is mentioned, and if so, at what rank.

This is a useful piece of information, and potentially important for your safety.  In the event of any major disruption caused by weather, or natural disaster (earthquake, volcano, whatever), or social disturbance, the rat is a major disease vector.  If you live in or near any of the cities listed, you should expect problems with that, and equip yourself with the necessary means to keep rats and mice under control in or near your residence.

Third World residents are used to doing that, of course, but in the First World we've largely forgotten the risks posed by rodents.  Think of the Black Death bubonic plague outbreak in the 14th century, just for a start.  Spread by rats and the fleas they carried, it killed up to half of the population in some parts of Europe.

Peter

Flatness is as flatness does


Courtesy of a commenter at Alma Boykin's place yesterday, I was led to this informative (?) article.

In a survey conducted by the American Geographical Society, almost a third of all respondents said that Kansas was the flattest state. Some people even call it “flatter than a pancake.” But what does science have to say about that?

The first, and only, study that we know of that directly compared the Sunflower State to a pancake was done by a trio of geographers in 2003. For their tongue-in-cheek analysis, they acquired a pancake from IHOP, cut out a sample slice and made a topographic profile of it using a laser microscope (assuring us that they would “not be daunted by the ‘No Food or Drink’ sign posted in the microscopy room”). They then compared their pancake to an east-west profile of Kansas taken from a 1:250,000 scale digital model of the state’s elevation data, and calculated flatness estimates for each.

A flatness value of 1.000 would indicate “perfect, platonic flatness.” The pancake was scored as 0.957, which the researchers said is “pretty flat, but far from perfectly flat.” The value for Kansas, meanwhile was ~0.9997, or “damn flat,” as they said.

“Simply put, our results show that Kansas is considerably flatter than a pancake,” the team concluded.

But that’s not the whole story. When the playful study first came out in the Annals of Improbable Research, Lee Allison, then the Director of the Kansas Geological Survey, quipped that “everything on Earth is flatter than the pancake as they measured it.”

Clarifying Allison’s retort in a paper from earlier this year, geographers Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell explain it like this:

“The pancake measured in the article was 130 millimeters, and its surface relief was 2 millimeters. Apply that ratio to the east-west dimension of Kansas, approximately 644 kilometers, and the state would need a mountain (2/130 x 664,000 meters) 9,908 meters tall in order not to be flatter than a pancake. Since the highest mountain in the world is 8,848 meters tall, every state in the U.S. is flatter than a pancake.”

There's more at the link.

I daresay it's an interesting comparison for geographers.  My question is, how many bottles of pancake syrup would be needed to cover Kansas in a suitably uniform layer of the stuff?  And would one need to add butter, or would the state's dairy herd suffice?  And what would that do to interstate drivers while passing through it?




Peter

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ridiculous!


I had to laugh at an article headlined "The 25 Most Absurd Job Titles In Tech".  Examples include:

  • Innovation Evangelist
  • Dream Alchemist
  • Time Ninja
  • Security Princess
  • Software Ninjaneer

There are plenty more at the link.  Go read, and boggle your mind at the pretentiousness of it all!

Peter

It's a bittersweet feeling . . .


Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers are paying an official visit to South Africa at present.  They landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria yesterday.  Here's video of one of them on final approach, escorted by two South African Air Force Hawk trainer aircraft.  I know the area where the photographer was standing very well;  I've stood there myself more than once, watching aircraft arriving and departing.





It was a bittersweet sort of feeling for me to watch that video, for two reasons.

The first is that, back in the days of my active military service, any such Russian (i.e. Soviet) aircraft showing up within striking distance of South Africa would have been attacked with everything the South African Air Force had at its disposal.  I wonder how many ex-servicemen living in the vicinity of Waterkloof felt their fingers itching for a man-portable air defense missile as they watched that bomber fly overhead?  I did, even in Texas, thousands of miles away.

The second is that in my day, during the Border War, the South African Air Force was the most powerful in sub-Saharan Africa, by a very long way.  It had scores of supersonic fighters and strike aircraft, and a rich history of combat success.  Today . . . not so much.  It doesn't have enough pilots for its relatively few allegedly "operational" Saab Gripen fighters, and even if it did, it doesn't have enough technicians and mechanics to maintain them properly, and it can't afford the spare parts.  The visiting Russian bombers had to be escorted by training aircraft, because the SAAF couldn't muster even a couple of proper fighters for the job!  It's a terrible reflection of how the South African Defense Force in general, once the best in Africa, has become a pitiful shadow of its former self, and a sour, acid joke to those of us who knew it in its heyday.

Like I said . . . bittersweet.

Peter

Ukrainegate in a nutshell


I think Robert Bridge does a good job of summarizing our current political brouhaha.

Just as Russiagate was a conspicuous effort on the part of the Democrats and their lapdog media to deflect attention away from the contents of Clinton’s emails, not to mention the identity of the leaker (as opposed to the ‘Russian hackers,’ that is), Ukrainegate is a desperate attempt to focus attention on a harmless phone call between two state leaders so as to bury the news of corruption at the highest levels of the Obama administration, up to and including not only Joe Biden, but former Secretary of State John Kerry as well. In other words, we are talking about obstruction of justice on a mind-boggling scale, and which could only be pulled off with the full support of the mainstream media. A free-thinking, independent journalistic community would have called foul on such shenanigans long ago.

Lest anyone forget, the Democrats have been under investigation by Attorney General Bill Barr and federal prosecutor John Durham. These two are currently traveling the world in an effort to determine “the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election,” Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement on Sept. 25.

In fact, Barr and Durham’s ‘mission’ kicked off back in May, long before the smoke and mirrors of yet another Trump ‘transgression’ took front and center in living rooms across the country. Indeed, while every American has heard of the impeachment inquiry, few realize that the Democrats are under investigation for far greater crimes should they be found guilty, that is. Now, in the event that Barr and Durham attempt to present their findings to the public, the Democrats will scream in one persecuted voice that Trump is attempting to ‘obstruct justice,’ which will certainly be the greatest irony considering the source.

In other words, there are two vehicles – one filled with Democrats, the other Republicans – careening towards an intersection at a high rate of speed, and neither looks willing to yield to the other. This is the situation confronting America at the present time: a smashup of epic, deadly proportions, quite possibly on par with its first civil war. Such a seemingly inevitable event, however, would never have been remotely possible had the media been a fair and just provider of news and information as opposed to being an instigator and provocateur of the first order.

Now, should the Democrats get the impeachment they’ve been dreaming about ever since they lost the 2016 presidential election, at least 50 percent of the American public will understand full well that the scales of justice are tilted against them. That will be the moment when the United States is forced to confront its worst crisis in many years, simply because the Democrats have become so terrified of a longstanding political technology known as ‘free and fair elections.’

There's more at the link.

I repeat what I've said many times before:  I'm not a fan of President Trump.  I didn't support him in the previous election, and I don't think he's the best available candidate for the Presidency.  However, I have to admit that he's the best candidate for the Presidency who's actually running at present.  He's shown courage, persistence and fidelity to his campaign promises.  What's more, he's achieved remarkable (albeit limited) success in the face of the most concerted, inimical, "bitchy" opposition that I think any President in modern memory has had to endure.  We need a person like that in the White House, irrespective of their political affiliation.  We don't need someone who'll bend with every prevailing wind, and try to accommodate every shade of opinion.  We need someone who will say, unapologetically, that they were elected to lead America, not the rest of the world, and who will then get on with that job.

Equally, I don't support any political party in America.  I regard all of them, particularly the two major parties, with suspicion, and I believe they put their own partisan interests ahead of those of this country at every possible opportunity.  I don't think the truth is in any of them.  Therefore, if given the choice between candidates for any office in an election, I'm going to vote for the person, rather than the party.  If it should emerge that the Republican candidate, despite a reputation for being a believer, a conservative, and a leader, turns out to be a morally hollow person, I'm going to vote for his opponent, provided that person is not morally hollow, even if I disagree with their politics.  I'd rather vote for Jill Stein than Mitt Romney, because I know she's a lot less likely to be two-faced and mendacious than he is.  If both candidates are suspect, I'll probably hold my nose, swallow hard, and vote for the least immoral among them, on the grounds of choosing the lesser of two evils.

I think the overwhelming opposition to President Trump, on both sides of the political aisle, is very helpfully revealing those who put America first, versus those who put political, or social, or economic ideology ahead of their country.  (Why do they hate him so much?  Victor Davis Hanson has some suggestions, that I recommend you read.)  I regard a Republican like Mitt Romney as no less culpable in that regard as Democrats like Adam Schiff or Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.  I shudder to think that Mr. Romney actually ran for President himself.  It begins to look like his loss was the best possible thing for America, even if it inflicted another four years of Obama upon this poor, long-suffering nation.

So, no matter what his faults and failings, it looks more and more like President Trump is at present the only way forward (rather than downward) for America.  If that's what his opponents continues to demonstrate, every day, by their actions and by their words, and if that's what their lap-dog media continue to propagate, I think they'll find out that the American people will get the message, and respond accordingly.

Peter

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pain can do that to you . . .


I was saddened to read that a Belgian athlete has chosen euthanasia as the only way she could see to end her pain.

Belgian paralympian Marieke Vervoort, who won gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics and silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, died by euthanasia Tuesday, officials said.

Vervoort, 40, suffered from incurable, degenerative spinal pain. She said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro three years ago that she only got about 10 minutes of sleep some nights and described the pain that caused others to pass out from just watching her. She said sports kept her alive.

“It's too hard for my body,” Vervoort said in 2016. “Each training I'm suffering because of pain. Every race I train hard. Training and riding and doing competition are medicine for me. I push so hard — to push literally all my fear and everything away.”

Vervoort, a strong advocate for the right to choose euthanasia, spent her final evening with close friends and family. Before she died, she said signing the euthanasia papers gave her control and allowed her to put “my own life in my hands.”

There's more at the link.

Ms. Vervoort wouldn't have been interested in my opinion, of course, which is based on my religious faith.  I believe that since life is God's gift, we don't have the right to decide when to end it (with obvious exceptions such as the right to self-defense, etc.).  Nevertheless, I can sympathize very deeply with her position, because I understand it from personal experience.

I've been in constant, non-stop, 24/7/365 pain since my spinal injury on February 13th, 2004.  It led to two surgeries and a spinal fusion, and left me permanently partially disabled, with pretty severe damage to my sciatic nerve.  I have to use pain-killers almost every day.  If it weren't for them, I certainly wouldn't be able to cope with the situation.  I'm very fortunate that I can still get a prescription for what I need, and that lower-level narcotics still bring me relief.  I know people who need heavy-duty opiates for their pain, who can't get prescriptions any more, thanks to the War On (some) Drugs.  They're in a terrible way as a result.

I'm not a suicidal type of person, particularly because of my faith;  but I can tell you, there've been times, during days of very great pain (which affect me sometimes), when I've understood with great clarity how some people just decide that they can't take any more, and they'd rather be dead than endure it any longer.  I've never taken such a decision . . . but there are days when I've thought about the pain, and my hopelessness at knowing it was never going to stop, rather longer than I like to admit.  It's been scary, sometimes.

If you know someone living with pain every day, spare him or her a thought, and do what you can to help them.  It's no fun at all to have to go through that, knowing there will never be any relief.  Tomorrow's going to hurt just as much as today, if not more so.  If you aren't strong, it'll grind you down for sure. 

I'm very sorry Ms. Vervoort chose to end her own life.  I pray her family and friends may find what peace they can in her passing;  and I pray that her sins will be forgiven, and that she will be happier in the afterlife than she was in this one.

Peter

Sometimes the jokes write themselves


A headline from last week:




Typical politician.  Going with the flow.




Peter

A serious warning about firearms security


It's long been the practice among security-conscious firearms owners to obscure the serial numbers in any photographs of firearms they put up on the Internet.  This is because unscrupulous characters have been known to note the serial numbers, report "their" firearm stolen (with that same serial number), and claim the loss against their own insurance policies.  The insurance company/ies then keep the firearm on the stolen property lists, and if there's ever an inspection (for example, you're stopped while driving, and the policeman checks your firearm serial number against his database), you may find yourself in trouble.  Alternatively, if you buy a gun from a private seller and it turns out to be stolen, the same procedure may find you accused of the theft.  It's happened to two people I know.

Now it emerges that Google and Facebook (and possibly others) are using optical character recognition to index the serial numbers of firearms in photographs posted or stored on their services.

Google and Facebook have now made it possible to find photos of firearms by simply typing a serial number into the search box.  Earlier today, the automotive website Jalopnik published a story showing how license plate numbers are evidently scanned using optical character recognition (OCC) on Google images, allowing them to be searchable using text queries. Using the OCC hypothesis, TFB wondered if this image data mining technique might be able to be used to search for firearm serial numbers. Using images posted previously on TFB with serial numbers displayed on firearms, we tested the serial number search technique.  As you can see from the results below, firearm serial numbers are in fact part of this apparent large-scale data mining operation by companies like Google and Facebook.

There's more at the link, including examples of such searches.

If you've ever put any photograph of your firearm(s) online that shows its/their serial number(s), you're at risk from this.  It's not just a risk from unscrupulous characters, either.  If you own a firearm for a while, and then sell it (legally, at a gun show, or something like that), and a future owner uses it to commit a crime, the serial number lookup may associate you with that crime in the eyes of law enforcement.  This is not a good thing.

Forewarned is forearmed - and a useful hint not to put up any more photographs of your firearm(s) unless the serial number(s) have been obscured.

Peter

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Elections, incumbents, and democracy


Looks like Congress is the opposite of "democratically elected" when you take this into account.

How is 97 percent of Congress able to get re-elected each year even though only 17 percent of the American people believe our representatives are doing a good job?

It’s called an incumbent protection system. Taxpayers have a right to know how it works.

Recently, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com mashed up the federal checkbook with the congressional campaign donor database (source: OpenSecrets.org). We found powerful members of Congress soliciting campaign donations from federal contractors based in their districts.

We followed the money and found a culture of conflict-of-interest. The confluence of federal money, campaign cash, private employment, investments, prestigious committee appointments, political power, nepotism, and other conflicts are a fact pattern.

Furthermore, members of Congress own investment stock in, are employed by, and receive retirement pensions from federal contractors to whom they direct billions of taxpayer dollars.

Moreover, members sponsor legislation that affects these contractors. The contractor’s lobbyists then advocate for the legislation that helps the member and the contractor. Oftentimes, the contractor’s lobbyist also donates campaign cash to the member.

Here are five case examples detailing the conflict-of-interest among five powerful members of Congress...

There's more at the link.

It's easy to talk about term limits and similar steps to help fix our broken system of government;  but I daresay the entrenched interests that have corrupted it, and the systems they've put in place, would find a way to corrupt newly-elected representatives almost as soon as they set foot in the door of the Capitol.  We have to find a way to break the stranglehold of special interests before we can fix our democracy . . . and short of creating new offenses for which a heavy prison term can be levied, I don't see how.  Any practical suggestions, readers?

Peter

What's really going on in Mexico - and threatening the US


Three articles have shed a great deal of light on what's really happening in Mexico right now.  They're essential reading, particularly because the mainstream media simply aren't covering that country in anything like sufficient detail.  To call Mexico a "failed state" is being charitable, as this news report makes clear.





The first article is from The Federalist, titled "A Drug Cartel Just Defeated The Mexican Military In Battle".

The battle of Culiacan marks a turning point in the collapse of the Mexican state. There is now no doubt about who is in control of Sinaloa, let alone the rest of the country. Cartel forces seized a major regional capital city in broad daylight and defeated the national armed forces in open battle.

Violence is rampant across Mexico. Earlier in the week, more than one dozen police officers were massacred in a cartel ambush in western Mexico. A day later, 14 suspected gang members were killed by the Mexican Army. Homicides in Mexico this year are on track to surpass last year’s record total of more than 29,000.

Understand that the fighting in Culiacan is not just another episode in the “drug war,” nor is it merely an incident of organized crime. What’s happening Mexico right now is more like an insurgency. Yes, drug-trafficking is one of the things the cartels do, but it doesn’t nearly describe what they are or what role they’re playing in the disintegration of civil society in Mexico. Indeed, over the past decade cartels have diversified their economic activities to include everything from oil and gas production to industrial agriculture to offshore commercial fishing.

In other words, it’s fair to say that Mexico is now on a trajectory to become a vast gangland governed more by warlordism than by the state. The last time this happened was a century ago, during the decade-long Mexican Revolution, which eventually triggered the invasion and occupation of northern Mexico in 1916 by the U.S. Army, including the mobilization of the entire National Guard and a call for volunteers. Before it was over, U.S. forces attacked and occupied Nogales, Sonora, in 1918 and Ciudad Juarez in 1919.

There's more at the link.

The second and third articles are by Larry Lambert, blogging at Virtual Mirage.  He knows the situation in Mexico intimately, and has had extensive experience there.  Here's an excerpt from the first of his articles.

The cartels have run Mexico since the days of Amado Carrillo Fuentes. It didn't happen overnight, but in the model before Amado Carrillo, each state in Mexico had an army general who oversaw the state for the PRI Party. They each received the tax/mordida/bribes for allowing drugs to flow through the state and they spread the juice. For the past thirty years it became even more institutionalized.

Let's talk about the recent presidents of Mexico: In the case of President Vincent Fox Quesada, formerly an executive for Coca Cola, his wife, Marta Shagun (and her children) handled the bag for the cartel money. You could say that he made a token effort to distance himself. In essence, Fox and his family "licensed" certain states in Mexico to certain cartels in exchange for a fixed amount. There were some ripples with the Zapatista revolution in Chiapas (left over from the Zedillo presidency), etc. but it was managed.

President Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa took a different approach to the situation, selling the licenses to deal in narcotics more than once (selling the same horse several times to different buyers). This led to a massive drug war since each cartel felt that it had the rights to the states that it bought. During this administration the Catholic Church in the diocese of Morelia (Michoacan) created its own cartel, Los Cabelleros Templarios, which dealt primarily in methamphetamine. The Archbishop took his cut.

Again, more at the link.

Larry's second series of comments on that country may be found by scrolling down at the link to the section titled "Mexico".  They're also well worth reading.

Knowing all that, how anybody could dispute the need for a border wall between the USA and Mexico is utterly beyond me.  Right now, that sort of institutionalized criminal chaos is being exported wholesale to the USA - because the cartels are running the illegal immigration networks, and putting their own people in place inside our borders.  The tighter we can insulate ourselves from that revolutionary chaos, the happier I'll be!




Peter

Doofus Of The Day #1,057


Here's a graphic illustration of why you shouldn't use gasoline in combination with matches to clear an ant or termite nest out of your back yard.





Must have been fun explaining that to his wife!

A common practice in many parts of Africa was to soak the offending nest with a couple of gallons of gasoline, but then leave it alone for the gas to penetrate fully and kill off the ants or termites by poisoning them.  We didn't toss lighted matches at the gas-soaked ground, for obvious reasons, as illustrated above.

I can still recall (with some glee) the friend who duly expended three gallons of gas in soaking three separate patches of ant-infested ground in his back yard (which was, fortunately, much bigger than that shown above, and the infestation was a lot further away from the building).  He duly left it to soak, and I helped him put away the gas cans.  As we came out of his outbuilding, however, another friend arrived, smoking a cigarette.  At my friend's somewhat urgent request to "Put it out, quick!" he simply tossed the lighted butt off to one side.  The result was a considerably larger explosion than that seen in the video, some well-excavated patches in the yard, and some interesting language from my friend!

Peter

Monday, October 21, 2019

A blast from the (fashionable) past


Australian reader Snoggeramus, who's contributed many candidates for our Doofus Of The Day award, drew my attention to this 1997 report.

George Alexander of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports that attorneys for Oleg Cassini phoned, saying how dare JPL put the fashion designer’s name on its Saturn probe without permission.

JPL’s lawyers replied that the Cassini spacecraft was named for Jean Dominique Cassini, an 18th century astronomer.

“There was a long silence on the other end of the phone,” Alexander said, “followed by an ‘Oh.’ ”

Talk about an argument lost in space.

Yes, that would have left egg on the lawyers' collective faces.  I wonder if they were even aware, before this happened, that their fashion idol boss was named for someone rather more historically famous than he'll ever be?  It's probably too late to give them a Doofus award, but I reckon they deserved one!

Peter

An amazing find in naval and military history


I was amazed to read about a recent discovery in England.

A sketch hand-drawn by Admiral Lord Nelson showing his plan for victory at Trafalgar has been discovered tucked inside the pages of a scrapbook after nearly 200 years.

The map was found by Martyn Downer, a historian who is an expert on Nelson, in a book dating from the 1830s which was recently sold at auction.

It shows his plan for splitting the Royal Navy fleet into three divisions to break and destroy the enemy French and Spanish lines coming out of Cadiz harbour.

Lines representing wind direction also appear on the attack plan, showing Nelson’s intention to attack across the wind to take advantage of increased speed.

The drawing, which has been donated to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, was found alongside an address leaf bearing Nelson's signature and is dated September 5 1805.

. . .

Professor Dominic Tweddle, the museum's director general, said: "This is an astounding discovery, it shows that Nelson had thought deeply about how he would defeat the combined French and Spanish fleets long before he ever set foot on HMS Victory.

"We are immensely excited to add this find to our rich collections."

There's more at the link.

I wonder how it ended up in "a young lady's scrap book" from the 1830's?  The sketch must have come back to England with Admiral Nelson's effects after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but how did it end up, a quarter of a century after that, where it was found in the 21st century?  I don't suppose we'll ever know, but I wish that sketch could talk!

Peter

Fake news - shooting sports edition


"Don't believe everything on the Internet" is an overworked statement, but remains as true as ever.  It was proven again by a 2017 forum post, which is making the rounds in the shooting community at present (example).

This guy and his co workers were discussing whether a steel toe boot would withstand a round from a .45, so what do do you think would be the best way to test this theory? YUP, you guessed it.



Good thing he wasn't testing his hard hat.

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

The only thing is, it's not true.  The same pictures of the same perforated foot were circulated in 2009, showing the aftermath of an accident (or, rather, dumb stupidity) with a shotgun.  I published the story on this blog at the time, with links to the photographs.  If you look at them, you'll see they're identical to those published in the forum post and news report above.

I don't know why people feel it's a good thing to copy a picture and compose their own story to go with it, but I'm afraid it's all too common on the internet.  The old saying that "the camera doesn't lie" is now comprehensively disproven, because the people using its output are all too prone to lie!

Let the reader beware.

Peter

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday morning music


Alessandro Scarlatti was one of the major Italian baroque composers, with a prodigious output, particularly early operas.  However, his instrumental pieces are nothing to sneeze at.  I've picked two of his shorter works this morning;  you'll find many more on YouTube if you like them.

First, here's his Sonata for Flute, Strings and B.C. No.22 and No.23.





Next, here's a live performance of his Concerto Grosso No. 3, played by the La Spagna baroque orchestra.  You'll note how much smaller a baroque orchestra is compared to a modern one, and how many instruments didn't exist in those musical times.





I hope you enjoyed the change of pace.

Peter

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Saturday snippet: Sam the Sex God


Some years ago I published "Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls", a memoir of my service as a prison chaplain.




Many of the realities of prison life are grim and unappealing, but there are flashes of humor even inside the walls that can relieve the tension.  Here's one incident, as narrated in that book.

A large proportion of the hardened criminals in high-security institutions are mentally unstable, to say the least. Some are downright psychotic. We have psychologists who constantly monitor our inmate population, treat those who need it, and advise the rest of us on problem areas. Inmates whose condition is severe are incarcerated in special medical facilities. Others who have been stabilized through medication are assigned to the general prison population. We have our fair share of them in this facility.

It’s interesting that most of the inmates, even the most violent and predatory among them, generally don’t bother those whom they call the ‘bugs’ or the ‘crazies’ (or less complimentary terms). If they lose control, things can get very interesting, very quickly: and since they can be as violent as any other inmate, and have few inhibitions and less self-control (including not knowing when to stop), others tend to leave them alone. Of course, as long as they’re taking their meds, all is well. Unfortunately, every now and again one of them will decide that he’s feeling fine, he doesn’t need them and he’s going to stop taking them. That’s when things can go downhill in a hurry.

Sam, the self-proclaimed Sex God, is a good example. Let me tell you about him. Sam was on a cocktail of meds for a range of psychiatric and psychological issues, but had the annoying habit of stopping taking them now and again — whereupon he’d go stark staring bonkers within days. The authorities at his prison tried to avoid this by making him take them under supervision, but he learned to conceal pills in his cheeks or under his tongue, so that it only appeared as if he’d swallowed them. When the supervisor turned away, he’d spit them out and dispose of them. (That’s one reason why many prisons try to give medication in liquid form whenever possible — it’s harder to fake swallowing it.)

I witnessed Sam’s most memorable breakdown, the one that earned him his glorious title. He left his residential unit one day with a vacant look on his face, humming and jiving to himself. His Unit Officer, nobody’s fool, recognized the signs of ‘bugging’ and called a psychologist to investigate. Unfortunately for her, the psychologist on duty that day was a rather attractive young lady. She hurried over and confronted Sam, who decided the fact that she’d approached him must surely mean that she had the hots for his magnificent body. He reached out and tried to embrace her. She backpedaled frantically and hit her body alarm.

Next thing you know, Sam had stripped off his clothing (and I do mean all his clothing) and was being pursued around the yard by a reaction squad of half a dozen puffing, panting Correctional Officers. He was a fit, strong man (he’d obviously done a lot of gym work and body-building before his incarceration), and he wasn’t hampered by boots, trousers and the like, so he was able to keep comfortably ahead of them. As they ran, inmates boiled out of the adjacent housing units, shouting ribald encouragement to Sam, who was screaming at the top of his lungs, “I’M A SEX GOD! ALL THE WOMEN WANT ME!”

A number of staff (including yours truly) gathered at a nearby window to observe proceedings. The comments by some of the ladies concerning Sam’s naked athleticism and his self-asserted divinely priapic status were of a nature rendering them entirely unfit for reproduction here.

Eventually Sam spotted his presumed light o’ love trying to creep away down the walk, and made a sharp right-angled turn across the yard towards her. This proved to be his undoing, as the pursuing posse ‘cut the corner’ on him and piled on, six deep. Sam disappeared beneath a heap of heaving, thrashing bodies. Judging from his whinnying cries of excitement, he must have thought that all his wildest fantasies were being fulfilled.

At last Sam emerged from a cloud of dust, handcuffed behind his back, still naked as a jaybird. One of the Correctional Officers clearly wished to spare the blushes of the female staff, because he took a handkerchief from his pocket, unfolded it, and draped it gently over Sam’s all-too-obvious maleness. As Sam was led away to the medical unit, cooing gently to himself, the handkerchief fluttered and bobbed like some sort of weird fishing lure (giving rise to even greater hilarity among his fellow inmates). The poor psychologist returned to her office looking a little glassy-eyed, and was not very polite in response to our proffered suggestions as to how she might better have handled the situation. (Then again, they may not have been the most helpful of suggestions.)

Who says prison work is always boring?

Ah, yes.  Memories . . .




Peter