The idle musings of a former military man, former computer geek, medically retired pastor and now full-time writer. Contents guaranteed to offend the politically correct and anal-retentive from time to time. My approach to life is that it should be taken with a large helping of laughter, and sufficient firepower to keep it tamed!
An Australian astrophysicist put himself in the hospital last week after he got four magnets stuck up his nose while trying to invent a device to stop people from touching their faces during this pandemic.
. . .
He explained that he put a magnet inside each of his nostrils, and then attached a magnet on the outside of each nostril — but once he removed the outer magnets, the two magnets inside his nose stuck together, and refused to come out.
So then he tried to use his remaining magnets to extract them, and ended up with all four in his nose.
“At this point I ran out of magnets,” he said.
And when he tried to use (metal) pliers to pull them out, the pliers also became magnetized. “Every time I brought the pliers close to my nose, my entire nose would shift towards the pliers and then the pliers would stick to the magnet,” he said. “It was a little bit painful at this point.”
So his partner took him to the hospital “because she wanted all her colleagues to laugh at me,” he continued. Two doctors were able to manually remove the magnets from his nose after treating him with pain-numbing anesthetic spray.
I'm so glad to find I'm not the only one who thinks most frou-frou coffee shops are fanciful and pretentious. It seems Stephan Pastis feels likewise. (Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web page.)
Before I get into this subject, I'd like to establish my credentials to do so (just in case anyone thinks I'm scare-mongering or making this up).
I worked in situations of unrest, war, social chaos, etc. in the Third World (specifically sub-Saharan Africa) for a number of years, seeing at first hand what the disintegration of normal social structures and conditions can (and will) do to people.
I've seen war and combat, both in uniform and as a civilian.
I've worked with law enforcement at local, regional and national levels in a support capacity, in two nations on two continents, for a total of almost twenty years. I retain many of the contacts I made during that time, and they keep me informed of conditions "on the ground" in their area(s), as readers will be aware from recent blog posts.
I'm drawing on all that background to write this article.
The coronavirus pandemic is already causing social unrest and deprivation in many parts of the world. For examples, click on any of these headlines:
Unemployment, impoverishment, and despair are frightening outcomes in themselves. They're also a recipe for social unrest that will afflict even those of us who weather both the pandemic and the accompanying economic storm.
That's exactly right. I've seen precisely that happen in many nations and cities under the impact of catastrophe, whether natural or man-made. We've seen it in the USA too, many times. Consider the looting in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or the impact of the blackout in New York City in 1977, summarized in this TV news report.
Former SEAL Matt Bracken wrote an article back in 2012: "When The Music Stops – How America’s Cities May Explode In Violence". If you haven't read it before, I recommend you do so now. It may be over-the-top . . . but then again, it may not. I've seen very similar scenarios to those he portrays in other countries, and the consequences were just as dire as he foresees (including the retaliation of those trying to defend themselves and their neighborhoods). It can happen here too: and right now, with so many people out of work, kids out of school, jobs lost, essential goods in short supply, people confined to their homes without any relief from family and other pressures, and the overall stress of a sudden, massive change in the way we live, I'm expecting social unrest in the USA in many forms. This can and will impact our personal security in many ways.
In the event of urban rioting and violence, I expect the authorities to concentrate their law enforcement efforts on what they perceive as worth defending. They will effectively abandon more violent neighborhoods (and those living in them) to their own devices, seeking instead to protect more peaceful areas from being dragged into the downward spiral. This is a cold, hard calculation based on the resources available. Each city has only so many security personnel available. If they get too thinly stretched, the only answer is to pull them back into a defensible perimeter around trouble spots and let the fires burn themselves out, so to speak. The USA is not alone in adopting that tactic. For example, a French official has effectively conceded it'll happen in some of that country's banlieues as well, infamous as they are for their insularity and crime levels (much like inner-city American ghettoes). Residents of the banlieues are already disregarding quarantine regulations, and actively resisting security measures.
For that matter, many of us in the USA (but not all of us) are fortunate that we live in a reasonably stable society, with support networks available to most of those who need them. The Third World is much worse off. For example, to see what the coronavirus pandemic is doing in a city in the Philippines, read the last couple of weeks' entries on the blog "Come and Make It". Seriously - click over there and read them. They're eye-witness accounts, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Poorer neighborhoods in some US cities are not unlike that place. I won't be surprised to see similar developments, and similar reactions.
If you live in or near a major US city, particularly one with a large homeless population and/or a serious inner-city crime problem, you need to be aware that you're at greater risk of exposure to such problems. If you doubt that, consider that retailers in those cities are already preparing for it. (Some claim that's only because their insurance companies insist on it. Well, why do you think they insist? Isn't it because they have a fairly good idea of what to expect?) Here are recent pictures of landmark stores in, respectively, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco. Notice anything similar?
If those stores (and/or their insurers) see good reason to prepare for trouble, why aren't we doing what we can to prepare as well?
Consider, also, the stresses and strains on a population that's become accustomed to using recreational drugs as a "safety valve" to escape the realities of their environment. As we've already noted, those drugs are in increasingly short supply, and becoming more expensive, too - just when people are out of work and can't afford them. That's going to be a major source of social pressure in and of itself. Addicts don't care about consequences, only about their next "fix". I'm expecting that to grow worse as time passes.
I've written extensively about emergency preparations, and about firearms and self-defense. You'll find a selection of my articles in the blog sidebar. I urge you to read those that seem relevant, and to read more widely as well. There are many voices to teach us, and much to learn. However, the first step is to analyze your own situation.
What can you do to better protect yourself and your family against criminal predators and social unrest?
Look at your home, your surroundings, your neighborhood. What are the risks, and where will they come from? Can you resist them from where you are, or is your position basically indefensible, requiring you to move to a safer one? If the latter, can you move to a safer place quickly if the situation gets worse? If not - for example, if intervening streets may be blocked - then consider moving now, before it's needed.
Can you defend yourself and your loved ones? If you don't have the tools and knowledge needed to do so, it's never too late to start learning and equipping yourself. I don't mean only weapons, either. Fire extinguishers, personal protective gear like masks, gloves, etc., hard helmets to protect your head if things are being thrown, etc. - they're all useful and important.
One thing of which you need to be very cautious is forming any sort of neighborhood group for mutual self-defense. If you're in a jurisdiction where you can clear that with police, and do it with their knowledge and approval, that's good. I was part of something like that in Louisiana in 2008, after Hurricane Gustav, and I live in a community today where self-reliance will probably be officially encouraged, if necessary. (That's one reason I live here!) However, in large cities with big populations, it's very unlikely that law enforcement authorities will permit or tolerate anything of the kind. If you find it necessary to do that, keep it to yourself, and make sure you don't recruit Rambo types to your security team. They'll stick out like a sore thumb, make the rest of you look like uncontrolled vigilantes, and draw all sorts of unwanted attention to you, from law enforcement and criminals alike. You don't need that. Work with solid citizens who can be relied on to do only what's necessary, and not take things too far. If you don't know people like that, or not enough of them, now's the time to look for them, before they're needed.
Remember, too, that many larger cities have technology to detect crime and respond to it. Street cameras, a "shot-spotter" network, and other devices can pinpoint trouble and photograph those involved within a matter of seconds. That can help to keep crime under control; but if you have to defend yourself, it might also pinpoint you as a threat. Imagine the radio call to responding officers: "Man with a gun on 23rd Street! Shots fired! Two people on the ground! Suspect is running away!" What if the suspect is you, and you've just defended yourself against two muggers, and are trying to get away from their friends? The cameras won't know that - and as a result, the police might assume you're a fleeing felon, and treat you accordingly. Be aware of those factors, and take them into account in your preparations. Try not to put yourself in a position where you become a suspect. That's not a healthy place to be!
In the final analysis, you're the first responder for your own security and that of your family. Do what you have to do to protect yourselves from harm. That's the bottom line. If worse comes to worst, there's always the 3-S approach. It may not be ethical, or moral, or legal - but there may be times when there's no alternative. How do I know this? Trust me. I know this.
There have been many developments in the coronavirus pandemic over the past few days. I'll try to summarize them in point form, with links to supporting articles. They range from local, to national, to international politics, health care and geopolitical implications.
1. US business and politics.
(a) Food production is becoming affected by the pandemic. Bloomberg reports:
To be clear, the food from a plant where infection pops up doesn’t pose health concerns because by all accounts Covid-19 isn’t a food-borne illness. Supplies from a farm or a production plant with a confirmed case can still be sent out for distribution.
And it’s important to note that so far there’s been no major interruptions to food supplies. Inventories are still ample, and major bottlenecks have not yet developed in the supply chains, which tend to react quickly to changing situations.
Still, there is a risk to continued production. When a worker gets sick, the employee and every person they’ve come into contact with has to be quarantined. That could mean limited impact in some cases, like at the Sanderson factory, where the infected individual’s work was contained to one small processing table. But the more employee mingling there is, the bigger the threat to production.
This will bear watching. I hope it will mean that jobs will open up for many of those recently laid off from other companies and industries; but that will depend on whether they're conveniently located to take advantage of the openings.
(c) Certain economic sectors have been much harder hit than others. The Wall Street Journal reports:
More than 90% of the announced U.S. job cuts tied to the coronavirus were at restaurants and other entertainment and leisure businesses ... For many who retain their jobs, tips and commissions have evaporated. Working at home isn’t an option, nor is sick pay ... There are more than 34 million people in this pool of the most vulnerable workers, or about a quarter of the private workforce.
The big - and so far unanswerable - question is whether many of these jobs will return in the short to medium term. Nobody knows as yet, but prospects don't look good. The automotive industry is a good example.
As a result of the coronavirus lockdown and beginning on March 6, [a major dealership owner] said that overall U.S. vehicle sales volumes began to significantly decrease, and are currently down 50-70 percent from normal expected March volumes. Additionally, the company said that based on discussions with its OEM partners, this sales decline is consistent with that experienced by other dealers ... And like many other companies, they are being forced to take drastic steps to try and shore up their business during this difficult time. Among other things, the company has been forced to furlough 3,000 U.S. operating and staff employees for a 30-day period with an option for a second 30-day period...
The entire US auto industry has been built around a dealership model, with a sales outlet supporting its own service and repair facilities. If some - perhaps many - dealerships have to close their doors, what will that mean for the manufacturers? Might this herald a change in the sales model, moving from dealers to a direct consumer relationship, as Tesla is trying to do? And what will that do to those employed in or by the present system? How will we get our vehicles serviced in future if there are fewer brand-specific dealers? Will there be enough independent service facilities to take up the slack?
The news media are also hard hit. Buzzfeed notes that "The Coronavirus Is A Media Extinction Event", while the New York Post observes, "$349B stimulus comes too late to save many newspapers". Personally, I'm not sure that many US news media are worth saving, given their ever-increasing and more strident bias; but many still rely on them as their primary source of news and information about day-to-day events. Local news sources, for sure, are going to be very heavily impacted, because they can't draw on a regional or national advertising base to keep them afloat.
The “Blue Plague” is an intentional effort by various interests to create fear-porn amid the American population by intentionally hyping a mass hysteria about the coronavirus. In many ways the Blue Plague is exponentially more dangerous than COVID-19 itself.
Yes, it is that dangerous. When you can't trust the information you're being given, how can you make rational, informed decisions? The New Neo calls it "distortion and fear". That's a pretty accurate description of what the mainstream media are doing, IMHO.
2. International relations and geopolitics.
China's economy was the first to feel the impact of this pandemic. It's now into what Bloomberg calls the "Second Virus Shockwave".
As the virus ravages [in Europe] from Spain to Italy, the shutdowns there are cutting off orders to Chinese factories just as they were beginning to get back on their feet. It’s a story playing out across the country.
“It’s a complete, dramatic turnaround,” lamented Gao, estimating sales in April to May will plunge as much as 40% from last year. “Last month, it was our customers who chased after us checking if we could still deliver goods as planned. Now it’s become us chasing after them asking if we should still deliver products as they ordered.”
This emerging pattern poses a grave risk to the chances the world’s second-largest economy can repair the damage from the closures in February to curb the virus ... “It is definitely the second shock-wave for the Chinese economy,” said Xing Zhaopeng, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. The global spread of the virus “will affect China manufacturing through two channels: disrupted supply chains and declining external demand.”
Mish Shedlock goes so far as to predict, "China has Suffered Permanent Damage. The chinese economic miracle is done. Those who thought China would surpass the US are mistaken." I'm not sure I'd go that far, but there are some who think as he does. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Western companies who "bet the farm" on moving their manufacturing to China are now feeling the burn of the economic disruption there. Adding to their woes are pressures to bring manufacturing back onshore, and reduce national and international dependence on China as a supplier. The Last Refuge offers its usual piercing analysis of the situation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the biggest stakeholder of U.S. multinational companies doing business in China. The Trump administration has been warning them for years to put America First in their business plans; and now with the Chinese Pandemic showing just how dangerous it is for critical manufacturing to be made in the U.S.A, chamber President Tom Donohue is pleading to keep the U.S. dependent on China.
. . .
The CoC were the primary architects of Clinton, Bush and Obama trade agreements including the insufferable TPP. All three previous administrations sub-contracted the writing of trade agreements to Donohue and his corrupt Wall Street corporate cronies.
The CoC is by far the largest lobbying group in Washington DC and they spend tens of millions trying to retain their Chinese investments.
President Trump is issuing "Buy American" orders for efforts to counter the pandemic; but suppliers who've become dependent on China, and who don't want to invest in local production, are resisting his efforts. The pharmaceutical industry is a prime example.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is hitting back at a group of Big Pharma lobbyists, medical organizations, and free trade groups for opposing President Trump’s proposed ‘Buy American’ executive order reshoring the medical supply chain.
Navarro [said] that Big Pharma’s opposition to the executive order, which would require government agencies to purchase pharmaceutical products made in the US, because it wants to ‘preserve its offshore oligopoly’.
. . .
Navarro continued ... ‘Even if Big Pharma’s offshore operations want to send America what we urgently need, the foreign governments of the countries where their supply chains and plants are located are already forbidding the export of critically needed items. Ten of the top 20 countries exporting medicines to the US, including four of the top five, have already imposed some form of restrictions.’
A report from the Associated Press traced major supply shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) back to China. The Chinese government initially shut down pharmaceutical manufacturers after the coronavirus outbreak, and when those plants reopened, China strictly limited exports to save supplies for its own medical providers.
After what this pandemic has revealed, I certainly wouldn't trust China to be the sole supplier of anything critical that we might need.
Chinese dictator Xi Jinping told fellow G20 leaders in a teleconferenced speech on Thursday that China intends to increase its manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to “keep global financial markets stable.”
Xi demanded that the rest of the world help keep the world’s markets — currently monopolized by the Chinese Communist Party — “stable” amid growing demands that countries reconsider having nearly all their necessary goods sourced from the communist regime.
. . .
Xi’s statement ... focused greatly on “cooperation” among member nations to contain the pandemic while emphasizing that China must lead all joint actions.
“We need to better coordinate financial regulation to keep global financial markets stable. We need to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable,” Xi said. “What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international market.”
. . .
To benefit what Xi depicted as charitable actions by China, he demanded that “all G20 members take collective actions” that would benefit the Chinese Communist Party’s economy, such as “cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade.”
Xi also proposed a “global network of control and treatment,” also led by him, that would grant China full access to all medical data, presumably also including intellectual property related to the manufacture and development of medical technology.
The way I read Xi's statement is that China is going to offer more and more pharmaceuticals at rock-bottom prices, to make it unaffordable in economic terms for countries to re-establish their own manufacturing facilities for such products. Nevertheless, from a national security point of view, such local manufacturing of essential supplies has been revealed as an absolutely critical need. Therefore, if local industries can't compete on price with cheap Chinese products flooding the market, governments may have to subsidize them and/or restrict the flow of such imports. Free trade, long a "sacred cow" of international commerce and industry, is likely to take a knock in the process.
There's been a lot of discussion about the impact of the pandemic on hospitals. I think the best resource for that remains Aesop, who's an ER nurse and on the front lines of the fight. He's in California, but references other states as well in his frequent articles and updates. Some of his recent posts (all must-reads, IMHO) are:
You'll find many more on his blog, Raconteur Report. Read his archives over the past couple of months to learn more about how this thing has progressed.
There's a growing concensus, despite official disapproval, that wearing masks is a viable and potentially important method to reduce the infection rate. Here are some of the articles I've found informative:
After reading those articles, I've decided that from now on, I'm going to wear a surgical mask and nitrile gloves when I go to supermarkets and other crowded places. (I'm pleased to see that supplies of both are now more freely available, at least online - follow the links for more information.) I think those are worthwhile precautions that may preserve me from infection (and, equally important, help me to avoid infecting others, if I'm carrying the coronavirus without being aware of it). I recommend the same step to my readers. (I'm fortunate that I routinely kept surgical masks in my emergency supplies, along with other needs. When this pandemic erupted and one suddenly couldn't buy them for love or money, I already had what I needed. That was a big comfort! I've been able to share some of my supply with friends who needed them.)
That's all for now. I'm preparing an in-depth article on how the pandemic is affecting the security and stability of our social structures. That looks pretty scary to me. More later.
Since we're all in a dither about the coronavirus pandemic, I thought it might be fun to laugh at our symptoms (medical and otherwise) with some musical medical humor.
Let's start with a song that's only a few days old, inspired by the current pandemic. I think it's a great response to all the fuss. It's called "Quarantine", by Mat Best (co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee Company, with which Miss D. and I have a monthly subscription to keep ourselves caffeinated) and Tim Montana.
An even older folk remedy, dating back to the mid-1870's, was brought to us by Lydia Pinkham. It was immortalized in song as early as World War I. "Lily the Pink", the best-known modern version, was performed by The Scaffold. It reached the top of the charts in England in 1968.
Of course, you may not be sure whether or not you've caught the coronavirus, particularly giving the initial testing debacle in this country. Just remember - don't look up your symptoms on the Internet! The answers can be . . . complicated. Henrik Widegren, a Swedish doctor, explains musically.
And, last but not least, this has nothing to do with the coronavirus, but it's still one of the funniest medically-themed songs I've ever heard. Therefore, just because I feel like it (and besides, it's my blog, so there!), I'm going to play it anyway. We've seen and heard it before in these pages. It's Bowser and Blue with "Colorectal Surgeon".
There's not much to laugh about in these troubled times, but every little helps!
Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix III served in the US Navy from the 1890's until the 1920's. He recorded an amusing, absorbing account of his service in his private journals, letters, etc. Later, his son, well-known author Daniel P. Mannix IV, took those documents and used them to write "The Old Navy", a record of his father's life and naval career.
Here's a selection of excerpts from Admiral Mannix's early years in the Navy, from his time as a cadet at the Naval Academy in the 1890's to his naval service in Europe prior to World War I.
Although we didn't realize it we were witnessing the end of an era - the era of Sails and Spars; of Wooden Ships and Iron Men. To the old-timers in the Navy who ran things, it seemed incredible that the time would come when sails would be completely abandoned. Even the warships of the period still retained their masts and carried sails and spars so if the engines failed, the ships could proceed under sail as they had since the beginning of seafaring. Each summer the cadets took a cruise on a full-rigged ship across the Atlantic to Funchal, Madeira, off the West Coast of Africa. I took two of these cruises on the [USS] Monongahela. Her only means of propulsion was her sails; there was no machinery of any kind on board. There was no steam or electricity to do the heavy work; it was all done by the muscles of the crew.
The sailing ship seamen averaged twice the age of the modern twenty-year-olders. They were much more primitive and caused more trouble ashore than do the modern crews. They were simpler minded and not nearly as well educated as the modern men. Many of them signed the payroll by making a cross, but in physique they were vastly superior.
As an example, the "captain of the maintop" was a petty officer of many years' service; he was probably forty years old and weighed at least a hundred and eighty. I have seen him go hand over hand up the main topsail sheet (a vertical rope, perhaps two inches in diameter, running from the fife rail on deck up to the main yard) and, when he was high above the deck, let go with his left hand and "chin" himself three times with his right. Mind you, he wasn't holding on to anything horizontal like a bar in a gym, but to a thin vertical rope. Think of the grip necessary!
Mannix volunteered for service during the Spanish-American War, interrupting his Academy studies to do so, and was assigned to the USS Indiana, a battleship in the blockading squadron off Cuba.
This evening there occurred an event which has not been given its proper place in history. The hero of this exploit was the redoubtable Juggy Nelson. Personally, I think it surpasses Hobson's feat with the Merrimac.
Juggy was serving on the New Orleans and was given picket duty on the ship's launch. As it was a hot night, he and the fireman of the launch stripped themselves and went swimming. Not content with that, they swam ashore and started walking along the beach. Their white bodies shining in the moonlight attracted the attention of the Spaniards who, although they had grown reconciled to seeing our pickets close inshore, obviously considered this as going too far. They rushed to the attack from all directions, firing their rifles and even throwing a barrage of stones, bottles, and every other missile they could find. Juggy and the fireman fled down the beach stark naked with the Spanish Army in hot pursuit. As the enemy began to gain on them, they plunged into the surf, followed by rifle bullets, brickbats, and curses in choice Castilian. When Juggy got back to his ship, his captain, who had no sense of humor, put him under suspension for ten days.
As the destroyers advanced against us the fire of our secondary battery and the starboard 8-inch turret guns was shifted from the cruisers to them and at the same time we sent a signal to the Gloucester, "Destroyers coming out". This signal was misunderstood (perhaps purposely). [The Gloucester claimed later that she thought our signal was "Gunboats close in".] She headed for the Spaniards at full speed running directly into our zone of fire and, before "Cease firing" could be transmitted to the secondary battery, we barely missed sinking her. Just before the order was obeyed one of our 8-inch shells struck the Spanish destroyer Pluton, and she disappeared in a great cloud of flame and smoke which, as it dissipated, showed a few of her people struggling in the water.
. . .
From my station on the bridge I could look aft down the entire length of our ship. The broadside guns of the secondary battery were mounted along the superstructure rail high above the deck, so high that the crew manning them stood on swinging gratings at least eight feet above the deck level. They had no protection whatever, not even gun shields, and a fall from that height would have been serious under any circumstances. The men were stripped to the waist and the tremendous exertion which they were putting forth emphasized the splendid muscular development of their arms and chest. They made me think of gladiators in a Roman arena.
. . .
Because we had no smokeless powder in those days, after a few salvos everything and everybody were in the midst of a dense cloud of thick white smoke. It frequently became necessary to sound "Cease firing" to permit the gun pointers to see their targets.
This certainly didn't add to efficiency in gunnery but it did add tremendously to the spectacle. At one stage of the battle we saw what seemed to be a great cloud of smoke traveling at high speed on the surface of the water. The advanced part of the cloud became disturbed and we could see the white foam of a bow wave. Then out of the smoke, breasting the wave, came the bows of a great ship, the Oregon, starting the famous race in which she, a battleship, actually ran down a fast cruiser, the Cristobal Colon.
As a Lieutenant (junior grade), Mannix was aboard the battleship USS Kearsage when it led a squadron of US Navy vessels on a visit to Europe in the early 1900's.
While the Kearsage was stationed off Pensacola, we had staged a series of drills with our 8-inch guns. Ever since the Battle of Santiago, gunnery had been a hobby of mine and I had worked hard to train my gun crew. I was in command of the afterturret and we were able to score ten successive bull's eyes in five minutes, firing at a target 1,600 feet away, while the ship was moving at the rate of ten miles an hour. This proved to be a world's record and Admiral Taylor, chief of the Bureau of Navigation, personally commended us.
. . .
Ashore [in Kiel, Germany] there was a large number of attractive outdoor cafés, each with its own band or orchestra. We went to the most pretentious and I had my first experience of what real beer is; the stuff we had been drinking in the States was only a pale imitation. Von Müller had a stein with a music box concealed in its bottom; every time he raised it from the table it commenced playing a tune. He supplied me with a similar stein which played a rousing march ...
One [orchestral] selection I remember in particular was called, "March of Heralds' Trumpets". A dozen men with long coach horns lined up in front of the band proper and introduced trumpet calls through the music. I was anxious to have this repeated and von Müller, observing that I must begin to learn German, told me to ask the head waiter for an encore. I didn't know a word of German except "Ich liebe dich" which would hardly have done so when the waiter came over, I raised my closed fist to my mouth and said sonorously, "Ta-ra-ta-ra" delighted at my ingenuity. The waiter, with a beaming smile, nodded intelligently and said "Ja, ja, bier!" and filled my musical stein to overflowing.
Mannix was called upon to meet a delegation of German officers who demanded that a Kearsage midshipman fight a duel with an Army officer he had unwittingly insulted. This was, of course, legal in Germany at the time, but entirely illegal for US Navy personnel.
This was a facer. I had no idea how to proceed.
Then I had a happy inspiration: one of the few that has ever come at the right moment. I explained that it was an American custom before fighting a duel to drink to one's adversary. The Germans looked rather surprised at this but concurred politely. I had our mess attendant make up a lot of especially potent cocktails called Earthquakes, which were passed around. To my relief, our guests found them delightful. After we all had drunk to Germany, it was then obligatory on their part to drink to the United States. We then drank a toast to each of the Prussian officers individually. To return the compliment, they insisted on drinking individual toasts to the entire mess.
I am a little foggy about the rest of the afternoon. I seem to recall a chorus of "Ach, du lieber Augustine" being sung to the tune of "Oh, Susannah" and a spirited polka danced by all hands, although looking like it might also have been a Tennessee hoe-down. At some point, the mess attendant brought in a bowl of fruit, including a number of apples, and it was unanimously decided that this called for another round of drinks.
Finally, when the proper moment seemed to have arrived, I asked the officer of the deck for the steam cutter to take our distinguished visitors ashore. When the boat was ready we escorted them to the gangway and saw them safely embarked. As the cutter cleared the ship's side, the three arose, gave a snappy salute and a resounding "HOCH!" I was just congratulating myself on the happy termination of the affair and admiring the Germans' martial bearing when to my horror I noticed that impaled on each helmet spike was a large, red apple.
The rest of the book is equally entertaining. It's a great read.
The YouTube channel Chasse Embarquée hosts numerous videos of French Navy Rafale fighters aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Here's the latest in their series, released just a few days ago. It contains some of the best air-to-air photography I've seen for a long time.
Looks like French fighter pilots enjoy themselves just as much as any other nation's.
If you're running low on TP, be thankful you still have some, and don't have to use an old sailor's method. The always interesting Old Salt Blog reports:
Sailors in the Age of Sail used tow-rags. What is a tow-rag? As can be seen in the video below, close to the ship’s head — the toilets in the bow or “head” of the ship — there was a long rope ending in a short rag that hung over the side into the water. After using the head, the sailor could then clean his backside with the wet rag then drop the rope back over the side. The rag would then be cleaned either by being literally towed by the ship under sail or to be washed by the action of wave and current if at anchor.
The word “tow” may refer to the process of the rope being towed underway but is more likely to be the type of hemp woven rag used at the end of the rope, referred to, even today, as tow.
I've been struck by how many pressure groups are doing everything they can to get their clients included in federal government bailouts following the coronavirus pandemic. They defy logic and reason while appealing to emotion, patriotism, naked self-interest ("Our people won't vote for you unless you include them!") and everything else they can think of.
The governors of America's 50 states are far from the least guilty. Anyone would think they were helpless, unable to cope unless they got billions and billions more dollars from the federal government. In reality, of course, that's not how America is governed. The states are supposed to be largely financially independent, standing on their own two feet, so to speak. Many smaller, weaker state economies are supported by annual federal government payouts, because some contribute more to the central government in taxes than they receive in services, or don't have enough of a tax base to be economically self-sufficient. Nevertheless, in general terms the states are supposed to "cut their coat according to their cloth", and not spend money they don't have. One of the reasons so many state budgets are wasteful and filled with pork is that they already receive too much money from the central government. It's a huge drag on our national economy.
Our Founding Fathers set strict limits on what the federal government's responsibilities would be, and how it should spend national revenues. Those limits have been honored far more in the breach than in the observance for many decades, if not centuries, so that central government has become a leviathan dominating this country - precisely what the Fathers feared. This current crisis is further eroding what the constitution dictates. In one sense, it's hard to argue against that, because the need is so great: but in another sense, it's extraordinarily dangerous, because it gives central government yet more leverage and control over the states, and over the lives of individual Americans. That's antithetical to liberty, to put it mildly. Remember the late President Ford's prescient warning: "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." I fear greatly that we may find that out the hard way in the not too distant future, if the socialist wet dreams of so many of our aspiring politicians come to fruition.
The corporate world is no better. Industry pressure groups and their lobbyists are frantically trying to make sure that their losses are paid for by the US taxpayer, rather than out of their profits. That's equally unconscionable, IMHO. The list of groups holding out their hands for a bailout is almost unbelievable: airlines and casinos, private jet operators, even cruise lines - the same cruise lines that register themselves in foreign countries to evade strict US maritime safety standards, to say nothing of avoiding paying taxes in the USA! As Skift notes:
While about half of the cruise industry’s roughly 30 million yearly passengers are American, few of them realize that once they leave a U.S. port and territorial waters, they are no longer protected by the country in which they live or booked the ticket. Health, safety, labor, and other issues on board are governed by flag states — usually countries like Panama, Malta, and Bermuda — which have less resources and regulatory might than the U.S.
Critics have said for years that this structure means cruise ships have lax health and safety attitudes when compared to other industries, like aviation, and that labor practices on board — crew commonly work seven days a week, for months at a time — are in grave need of reform.
I see no reason whatsoever why the cruise shipping sector, legally based outside the USA and exempt from most US taxes, should be bailed out by the US taxpayer. Let them see to their own needs, or approach the governments of those countries in which they're headquartered and/or in which their vessels are registered.
Finally, let's remember that the entire bailout package is going to be financed by deficit spending. This isn't money we've got in the bank, just waiting to be used. No, it's going to be added to the already incomprehensibly large national debt, which will one day have to be repaid. The larger the bailout, the greater that debt will become and the more difficult impossible it will become to pay it off. That should worry every American taxpayer. The politicians who put together the bailout package aren't going to pay for it. No, the cost of this bailout is going to be shuffled off onto our shoulders. That's a very scary thought - and a very good reason to limit the bailout to true essentials, and minimize the pork barrel spending it will inevitably contain (because politicians can't help themselves, and are fundamentally untrustworthy).
The prospect of a bailout of a scale without precedent has set off a rush to the fiscal trough, with businesses enduring undeniable dislocation jostling with more opportunistic interests to ensure they get a share ... While the halls of the Capitol are eerily quiet, lobbyists are burning up the phone lines and flooding email inboxes trying to capitalize on the stimulus bills moving quickly through Congress.
. . .
The conditions for a lobbying blitz are ideal. Concerns about costs and deficit spending largely have been moved to the back burner. The process is being rushed, with legislation being written in private and rushed toward votes without much scrutiny of the fine print. Both parties are under intense pressure to deliver for key constituencies.
“The only industry that hasn’t been slowed down by the virus is the lobbying industry,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California.
I wonder if we could include a provision in the bailout forbidding companies that receive funds from it to hire lobbyists to pressure Congress for more funding or legislative favors? I'd vote for that in a heartbeat!
As regular readers will know, I suffered a heart attack (my second) late last year. I'm recovering fairly well from it, but with one ongoing problem. The extra medication I've been prescribed in the short term (added to the other pills I take for other, long-term problems) is messing with my creative mind. I'm finding it very hard to produce fiction of a quality acceptable to me (let alone my readers). I hope that'll solve itself after mid-year, when I stop taking the problem medication, but until then it's a pain in the proverbial.
I need the income I derive from my books to keep body and soul together. (I've avoided monetizing this blog, for example; there are no advertisements, and I don't have a "tip jar" icon in the sidebar.) However, if I'm not writing books, I can't earn income from them. It's going to be a good four or five months before I'm in a position to publish one, I think. You see my problem.
I'm trying to think of ways to get "over the hump" financially, so to speak. One that I'm considering would be to mount a fundraiser, asking loyal readers to "buy ahead" and give me money up front for a certain number of books. A small donation would entitle the donor to a free copy of the next book; a larger one to the next two or three books; and an even larger one to paper, as well as electronic, copies of the books. I could also include some "stretch goals", where a sizable donation would entitle the giver to have their name (or names) used as the hero and/or villain in a future book.
What do you think, readers? Would this interest you? If so (or even if not), please let me know in Comments, so I can judge whether or not this is a good idea.
I can also put a "tip jar" button in the sidebar, of course. I'm a little reluctant to do that, but times are tight. I don't want to ask for outright gifts: that would be wrong, I think. However, minor donations at the whim of a reader, in return for the information and entertainment offered by this blog, won't offend my sense of ethics, because I won't be asking for "something for nothing". What do you think of the idea? Again, please let me know in Comments.
How many times have we tried to explain that a tool - like a gun, or a knife, or a hammer, or a motor vehicle, or whatever - is not to blame for its misuse? It has no moral volition of its own, no ability to choose. Those reside in the person using - or misusing - it. Blame them for the problem, not the thing they're using!
Here's how the British cops took down moped- and motorcycle-mounted crooks. No word yet on whether they'll use the same tactics against bicycles.
The thing is, they're tackling the tools used by the thieves, rather than the problem of theft itself. It's like banning guns. If criminals can no longer easily obtain guns or ammunition, they'll switch to knives, bows or crossbows, spears, machetes, clubs (including otherwise legal sporting implements like baseball or cricket bats), and so on - but they won't stop their crimes. That's the nature of the beast.
Take vigorous action against criminals on mopeds, and they'll turn to other means of transportation. It's as simple as that.
On March 20th, my beloved wife and mother of my children, unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest. She had never presented any symptoms prior to then.
On March 21st, her doctor informed me that her brain was no longer functioning and there was no chance of recovery.
On March 22nd, in accordance with her wishes outlined in her living will, I authorized the medical staff to remove life support. She passed away peacefully at 8:48am central time while I held her hand. She will be missed.
March 23rd would have been our 18th anniversary.
There's more at the link. If you read his blog, please click over there and leave a supportive comment, along with many of his other readers.
Let this also be a wake-up call to the rest of us. "In the midst of life, we are in death", as the time-honored funeral service reminds us. None of us know when our time will come. Let's do what we can to make the necessary arrangements, so that if it should come, we've expressed our wishes for medical care and made arrangements for what's to be done after we die. That's important for those we leave behind. They'll be deep in grief at losing us. The last thing they need is to have to cope with unfinished business as well.
A few hours ago I posted about how crime was increasing in many jurisdictions due to the release of felons from prison, thanks to concerns over the spread of coronavirus. I also mentioned other factors contributing to the rise in crime, including that many police forces are no longer responding to, or even recording, what they consider "minor" or "non-violent" crimes. Sucks to be told the law enforcement that your taxes pay for isn't going to help you if you're a victim of crime, doesn't it?
During the coronavirus outbreak and beginning Tuesday morning, Cincinnati police officers will no longer respond in person to the following reports: criminal damaging, dog bites, lost property, lost or stolen license plates, phone harassment, property damage or found property.
Police will no longer respond to assault reports, unless a suspect is still present or the victim requires medical attention, breaking and entering reports unless a suspect is still present, menacing reports "unless suspect is expected or threatens to return or is part of the elements of domestic violence" or theft reports "where there is no possibility of immediate apprehension".
Police are asking victims to report those crimes through the online or telephone reporting system.
Cincinnati thus joins the long, long list of cities and jurisdictions that have abdicated their crime-fighting and civil protection responsibilities. Therefore, I can only recommend that you, dear reader, take steps to ensure that you don't need the assistance of the police who are so willfully neglecting their obligation "to protect and to serve". If they will no longer do so, feel free to protect and serve yourself and your loved ones by any legal means necessary, then call the cops to clean up any resulting mess. After all, if you do it thoroughly, the suspect will, indeed, still "be present" and offer the "possibility of immediate apprehension". However, he'll (hopefully) no longer be in a position to commit any more crimes, at least in the short term.
Another big problem is the unintended consequences of government policies to address the pandemic. For example, many local and state governments are releasing lower-level inmates from prisons, to alleviate overcrowding and forestall the spread of COVID-19 in such close quarters. That's a legitimate health objective . . . but it disregards public safety issues. Those inmates are going to have to start earning a living on the street again, just when almost all businesses have been shut down under quarantine. What are they going to do? You know as well as I what they're going to do - they're going to revert to a life of crime. I expect a massive increase in petty crime, and perhaps more serious offenses as well, as the newly released try to get money any way they can. Even worse, some jurisdictions - for example, St. Paul, Fort Worth, Philadelphia, San Francisco, etc. - are no longer giving priority to lower-level offenses. They might as well issue licenses to criminals to commit them! It's no wonder panicking people are trying to get their hands on guns, by hook or by crook. The odds are pretty good that some of them will need them, sooner rather than later.
It's good to have independent confirmation that my law enforcement sources were telling it like it is. I often hear things from them a week or more ahead of any mention in the news media, because cops and agents are much closer to events "at the bleeding edge" of crime than are journalists. I'll have to send beer money to my buddies as a "Thank you!" gesture for keeping me ahead of the game.
I've been chatting to those same law enforcement sources since posting that yesterday, thanking them for the good information they gave me on the drug situation. They have interesting things to say about a growing crime wave in many major centers - one that's going unreported by both the authorities and the mainstream news media.
To summarize it briefly, many of those who are accustomed to buying drugs with the proceeds of panhandling, begging and minor crime are finding their usual fields of endeavor have become barren. With most people staying at home, there aren't nearly as many drivers, pedestrians, shoppers, etc. to approach for money; and many stores are also closed, making shoplifting of higher-value items almost impossible. Supermarkets are overcrowded and under-stocked, and besides, stealing a jar of mayonnaise or a tin of peas isn't exactly going to bring in a lot of money. Therefore, many of the aforementioned drug buyers are turning to residential and property crimes to fund their habit. They're snatching anything left out in gardens; ringing doorbells and aggressively begging for - or, rather, demanding - money; stealing parcels that are delivered on doorsteps and left unattended; and breaking into cars parked on the street, looking for valuables left inside them. There are also reports of threats of violence to homeowners and others who try to stop them.
The gangs who have, until now, made a living from selling drugs in the "hood" are also hurting, because (as noted yesterday) there aren't as many drugs available to sell. They're trying to compensate by increasing their prices - but, as noted above, many of their regular clients can't afford even their regular prices any longer. Other buyers are taking the quarantine seriously, and no longer venturing into the shadier parts of town to buy drugs. Therefore, the gangs are also turning to other forms of crime to make up the shortfall in their income. Many of those newly released from prison, most of whom have no other way to make a living, are said to be doing the same.
Finally, with the closure of schools, large numbers of urban youth are wandering the streets. They don't have a stable nuclear family to keep them at home, and the one parent they have (if they're lucky) doesn't have enough money to buy them what they want in the way of entertainment. They also have no pocket-money or other discretionary income. Result? They're looking for cash any way they can get it. Shoplifting in some cities is becoming endemic, with "flash mobs" of kids looking for whatever they can score; and even closed stores are being broken into. As the Second City Cop blog comments about Chicago's feral youth:
Those [stores] aren't boarded up because they've been looted. Those are boarded up to protect the empty stores from crowds of otherwise unoccupied CPS students who are out of school for the next thirty days.
Groot's CTA is giving them easy access to an empty Mag Mile....and that is going to further stretch already thin CPD resources, because the governor's and mayor's declaration to stay home is falling on deaf ears and empty skulls.
All this is said by my contacts to be fueling a significant rise in crime against families and their homes; but they warn that you won't read about it in the press, because the police aren't keeping official track of what they consider to be minor offenses. (See the links provided in the first quoted paragraph above for details.). Besides, it would be politically incorrect for their politician bosses to have to report that. Second City Cop notes that the grasshoppers are raiding the ants, in this case attacking shipments of goods arriving at stores (they're referring, of course, to Aesop's famous fable, and also to its modern reshaping). Little, if anything, is apparently being done to apprehend those responsible. (That job is made more difficult, of course, by the number of police personnel also affected by coronavirus infection and/or quarantines.)
An ancient conundrum is to ask, "If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody around to hear it, does it make any sound?" Well, if crimes are committed, and nobody records or reports them, is any crime actually committed? You and I know darn well it is - but it's not politically correct to say that in these "enlightened" times.
I strongly suggest that we should all look to our homes and our neighborhoods, and be prepared for any low-life "grasshoppers" that come around looking for easy loot. Thanks to all the criminals being released from prison over concern for the spread of coronavirus, there are a lot more of them out there than usual. The authorities that are releasing them don't want to talk about that, of course. It's a very inconvenient truth.
EDITED TO ADD: Cincinnati, Ohio, has just joined the long list of cities and jurisdictions whose police forces are no longer responding to a laundry list of what they consider to be minor crimes. Sucks to live there if you're the victim of those crimes! Click here for more information.
The Last Refuge recently published an article analyzing why we're experiencing shortages of certain goods, and why the consumer supply chain is disrupted. It's one of the best explanations I've yet read on the subject. Here's an excerpt.
Most consumers are not aware food consumption in the U.S. is now a 50/50 proposition. Approximately 50% of all food was consumed “outside the home” (or food away from home), and 50% of all food consumed was food “inside the home” (grocery shoppers).
Food ‘outside the home’ includes: restaurants, fast-food locales, schools, corporate cafeterias, university lunchrooms, manufacturing cafeterias, hotels, food trucks, park and amusement food sellers and many more. Many of those venues are not thought about when people evaluate the overall U.S. food delivery system; however, this network was approximately 50 percent of all food consumption on a daily basis.
The ‘food away from home‘ sector has its own supply chain. Very few restaurants and venues (cited above) purchase food products from retail grocery outlets. As a result of the coronavirus mitigation effort the ‘food away from home’ sector has been reduced by half of daily food delivery operations, possibly more. However, people still need to eat.
That means retail food outlets, grocers, are seeing sales increases of 25 to 50 percent, depending on the area. This, along with some panic shopping, is the reason why supermarkets are overwhelmed and their supply chain is out of stock on many items.
There is enough food capacity in the overall food supply chain, and no-one should worry about the U.S. ever running out of the ability to feed itself. However, the total food supply chain is based on two segments: food at home and food away from home.
The seismic shift toward ‘food at home‘ is what has caused the shortages, and that supply chain is not likely to recover full service of products again until the ‘food away from home’ sector gets back to normal. No need to panic, but there will be long-term shortages.
At the top of the food supply there is ample product and capacity. Its the diversion of customers to the retail grocery sector causing the shortages.
At the end of the article, the author asks, "What do things look like in your neighborhood? Are things improving?" As I write these words, 493 readers had responded, giving details of how things were in their neck of the woods. Their feedback makes very interesting reading, particularly comparing rural areas with urban, and the crowded coasts with less populated inland areas. It's definitely worth clicking over there to read their feedback, if you have the time.
I'm very impressed by Tucker Carlson's rigorous analysis of situations and his insight into their deeper implications. He's one observer of our way of life to whom I'll listen carefully and with great interest. I'm beginning to regard him in the same light as Victor Davis Hanson and others of his ilk. What's even more important to me is that Carlson doesn't appear to be an ideologue. His analysis is based on logic and reason, and he doesn't push either a right-wing or a left-wing agenda. He'll criticize both sides equally if the need arises. That's rare in these troubled times.
Last night he hit one out of the park with this commentary. I think he's absolutely right. This is one of the most thought-provoking analyses I've yet encountered of where we are right now with the coronavirus pandemic. I recommend it very highly as food for thought. (If the video doesn't run, or runs too slowly, you'll find it on YouTube at this link: or you can read a summary of his views in this report.)
The most important part, to me, is his conclusion. From the transcript:
As we do all we can to fight this pandemic, we should make sure we don't lose the most important part of our birthright as Americans ... the right to think and say what we believe is true.
Freedom of conscience may be undervalued right now, but it underpins everything we have. It is the foundation of a free and decent society.
It's not a small thing. It's a trend, collusion between big multinationals and authoritarian governments to make you obey. That's not paranoid talk. It's real. And you should worry about it.
Good points and good questions. Thank you, Mr. Carlson.
I'm hearing interesting things from [my law enforcement friends] about the supply of illegal drugs in our major metropolitan areas. Basically, that supply is being cut off at the knees by the slowdown in world trade. I hadn't realized how much the drug trade was dependent upon Chinese chemicals and precursor materials to process coca leaves into cocaine, or to make methamphetamine or heroin. Also, apparently most of the synthetic marijuana (a.k.a. "spice") on the market comes from China, or is made with ingredients supplied from there.
This is apparently resulting in a severe shortage of illegal narcotics on the street in many cities.
Disruptions to global supply chains due to the spread of the coronavirus is hampering production of methamphetamine and fentanyl by Mexico’s cartels, according to VICE sources.
Sinaloa cartel operatives in Mexico told VICE this week that importing the chemical precursors they need to make methamphetamine and illicit fentanyl has become harder and more complicated, which is creating a shortage and pushing up prices.
“Now we are all struggling to get the chemicals to Sinaloa from China,” one drug trafficker told VICE from Culiacán, Sinaloa. Production of methamphetamine and fentanyl is still happening, he said, but at lower rates than usual.
“We haven't stopped producing, but the price of meth is getting pushed up because of the scarcity of chemicals from China….transporting them this far is also getting much more expensive,” the cartel operative said.
China has historically been the main supplier of precursor chemicals and illicitly manufactured fentanyl to Mexico’s cartels. Much of this has been supplied in bulk in cargo rather than via the postal system. The chemicals are often mislabeled to conceal what they are, and shipped to major ports in Mexico such as Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacán and Mazatlán in Sinaloa. Some of the substances are not controlled, such as ammonium chloride and formaldehyde, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), making them easier to source through legitimate companies in China to legitimate or front companies in Mexico.
It's good to have independent confirmation that my law enforcement sources were telling it like it is. I often hear things from them a week or more ahead of any mention in the news media, because cops and agents are much closer to events "at the bleeding edge" of crime than are journalists. I'll have to send beer money to my buddies as a "Thank you!" gesture for keeping me ahead of the game.