Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A fascinating resource for foodies

If you enjoy good food and drink, and like to try something new every so often, the BBC's Travel section has a regular column on Food and Hospitality.  Some of their topics are fascinating.  Recent entries include:

There are many more at the link.  Be warned:  you can spend hours reading about interesting foods and how to prepare them.  It's a time-sink . . . but a delicious one!


Beware the COVID-19 hype

H. L. Mencken famously said:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

The mainstream media are throwing around the hobgoblin of increasing infections with the COVID-19 virus, and trumpeting warnings that our hospitals are about to be overloaded.  For example, here are the headlines listed by the formerly somewhat balanced, but now pathetically partisan Drudge Report this morning:

Here in Texas at least, those warnings are overblown, according to the hospitals themselves.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Health officials in Texas are logging every single COVID-19-positive hospital patient in the state as a COVID-19 hospitalization, even if the patients themselves are admitted seeking treatment for something other than the coronavirus.

That policy may be serving to artificially inflate what ostensibly seems like a significant COVID-19 surge in the state. Texas has lately been the focal point of national anxiety over concerns that a "second wave" of the coronavirus has begun there after the state began reopening nearly two months ago.

. . .

Lindsey Rosales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services ... said the state does not keep track of the patients hospitalized with the coronavirus versus those hospitalized specifically because of it.

. . .

Queries to multiple Texas hospital officials this week went unanswered. But leaders of several major hospitals in Houston this week urged the public to remain calm, suggesting that the extent of the outbreak has been overstated.

At a virtual press conference on Thursday, the chief executives of Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann Health System, St. Luke’s Health, and Texas Children’s hospitals stated that their hospitals are well-prepared to handle an even greater increase in patients than that which has emerged over the past few weeks.

The number of hospitalizations are "being misinterpreted," said Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom, "and, quite frankly, we’re concerned that there is a level of alarm in the community that is unwarranted right now."

"We do have the capacity to care for many more patients, and have lots of fluidity and ability to manage," Boom said.

He pointed out that his hospital one year ago was at 95% ICU capacity, similar to the numbers the hospital is seeing today. "It is completely normal for us to have ICU capacities that run in the 80s and 90s," he said. "That's how all hospitals operate."

He noted that around 25% of ICU patients are COVID-19-positive. But the hospital "[has] many levers in our ability to adjust our ICU," he said, claiming that the hospital capacity regularly reported by the media is "base" capacity rather than surge capacity.

Texas Children's Hospital CEO Mark Wallace added that his facility has "a lot of capacity" ... "There is not a scenario, in my opinion, where the demand for our beds ... would eclipse our capability," he continued. "I cannot imagine that. I just cannot."

There's more at the link.

Sure, the hospitals may be putting the best possible face on it, and things may not be as healthy (you should pardon the expression) as they claim.  Nevertheless, the breathless doom-gloom-and-disaster prognostications of the mainstream media should be taken with several large pinches of salt.  They appear to be blowing this out of proportion, as usual, to use it as a club with which to beat on President Trump and his administration.

We should not let them get away with that.

There's also the very good question posed by Heather Mac Donald.

Where are the deaths?

The coronavirus doomsayers could not even wait until the fall for the apocalyptic announcements of the dreaded second wave. Because the red states recklessly loosened their lockdowns, we are now told, the US is seeing a dangerous spike in coronavirus cases. ‘EXPERTS SKETCH GLOOMY PICTURE OF VIRUS SPREAD: FAUCI TELLS OF “DISTURBING” WAVE, WITH A VACCINE MONTHS AWAY,’ read the front-page lead headline in the New York Times on Wednesday. ‘VIRUS SPREAD AKIN TO “FOREST FIRE”’ read another front page headline in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, quoting Michael Osterholm, one of the media’s favorite public health experts. Osterholm had told NBC’s Meet the Press: ‘I’m actually of the mind right now — I think this is more like a forest fire. I don’t think that this is going to slow down.’

The ‘this’ is an uptick in daily new cases from 19,002 on June 9 to 38,386 on June 24. The high to date in new daily cases was on April 24 — 39,072. Since April 24, the daily case count started declining, then began rising again after around June 9. What virtually every fear-mongering story on America’s allegedly precarious situation leaves out, however, is the steadily dropping daily death numbers — from a high of 2,693 on April 21 to 808 on June 24.

. . .

There are no crises in hospital capacity anywhere in the country. Nursing homes, meat-packing plants, and prisons remain the main sources of new infections. Half the states are seeing cases decline or hold steady. Case counts are affected by more testing; the positive infection rate captured by testing is declining. The current caseload is younger, which is a good thing. The more people who have been infected and who recover, the more herd immunity is created. Meanwhile, daily deaths from heart disease and cancer — about 3,400 a day combined — go ignored in the press.

But the drum beat to halt the still far too tentative reopenings gets louder by the day. It should be resisted. The lockdowns were a mistake the first time around; to reimpose them would be disastrous for any remaining hope of restoring our economy. The damage that has been done to people’s livelihoods and future prosperity will continue to outweigh the damage done by the coronavirus. The only vaccine against poverty and resulting despair is a robust economy.

Again, more at the link.

Basically, as with so many other issues, what we read in the mainstream news media is biased, slanted and untrustworthy.  They're working to their own agenda, which is to magnify every problem and minimize every success until the elections, when they hope to eject President Trump from the White House.  We need to view their prognostications through that lens - and distrust them entirely.


Staying afloat in an economy running aground

Amid all the shouting and tumult of the current protests and riots around the country, it's easy to lose sight of the sobering economic reality all around us.  That's dangerous.  Our economy is in a very poor state indeed, and it's getting worse, not better.  We need to be alert to what's happening, and take what steps we can to protect ourselves.

The first point to remember is that financial authorities around the world are basically losing control.  They're guilty of what Einstein defined as insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  We aren't yet seeing all the effects of that in our day-to-day buying and selling and earning:  but it's rapidly getting to the point that we will.  What goes on beneath the surface affects everything happening on top, as we're about to find out.

In the USA, the Fed is pumping trillions of dollars into the bond and securities market, but it's doing no more than barely keeping the ship afloat.  It's pumping out just enough water to balance that flooding in through the leaks - but the leaks are getting larger and larger.  As David Stockman points out:

Here’s an eye-opener to put this madness in perspective. Annual federal outlays posted at $3.896 trillion in 2014 and were the product of 225 years of relentless expansion by the Leviathan on the Potomac.

But it now appears quite certain that the annual deficit in FY 2020 will actually be larger than the total spending level that took more than two centuries to achieve.

That’s right. Owing to the mushrooming coast-to-coast soup lines hastily erected by Washington in response to the collapse of jobs, incomes and business cash flows brought on by Lockdown Nation and the evaporation of tax revenues, Uncle Sam will borrow more this year than the total spending just six years ago.

Stated differently, back in the day, we struggled to keep total federal spending during 1981 under $700 billion. By contrast, the Donald has borrowed nearly 4X that in the last 90 days!

So, yes, perhaps Trump’s one truthful boast is that he is indeed the king of debt.

Needless to say, there is nothing remotely rational, plausible or sustainable about an FY 2020 budget that’s going to end up with revenue south of $3 trillion and spending north of $7 trillion.

That’s not even banana republic league profligacy; it’s just sheer stupidity and madness, bespeaking a bipartisan duopoly in Washington that has had its collective brains turned into sawdust by the relentless, egregious money pumping of the central banks.

For want of doubt, just consider what has happened since March 11 on the eve of the Lockdown Nation’s commencement.

The public float of federal debt has soared from $17.85 trillion to $20.24 trillion, gaining $2.39 trillion;

The Fed’s balance sheet has exploded from $4.31 trillion to $7.17 trillion, gaining $2.86 trillion.

The Fed has, therefore, effectively monetized 119% of the gain in the publicly traded Treasury debt.

There's more at the link.

President Trump is not the sole arbiter of such nonsensical spending, of course.  He's being guided by the "experts" at the Federal Reserve and other financial institutions, who are doing all they can to protect themselves and the nation's banks.  Often they're acting independently in doing so, without asking the President's permission at all.  They aren't interested in what might happen to the rest of us in the process.  They did the same to President Obama, and President Bush before him.

There are two nations on earth whose Gross Domestic Product exceeds $2.86 trillion dollars, namely the USA and China:  yet the Federal Reserve has increased its balance sheet (and the debt owed by the US taxpayer) by that amount in less than four months.  That's beyond insane.  It's so catastrophically horrible that I don't have words to describe it.  We're all on the hook for that expenditure, in the name of the "full faith and credit of the United States" - yet it's been manufactured out of nowhere, digital binary ones and zeros in a computer somewhere.  There's no economic output to generate it, no business and commerce to justify it.  It's just numbers - but those numbers are burying us, because we'll have to repay them sooner or later, and we can't.  They're so large it's not humanly possible to do so.

What's more, if the dollar should lose its status as an international reserve currency because of this debt overhang, what will replace it?  Gold?  The Chinese renmimbi?  Neither looks very sound in the light of yesterday's news.

... one market which seemed stubbornly immune to any counterfeiting was that of physical gold in China, which was odd considering that over the past decade China had emerged as the world's biggest counterfeiter of various, mostly industrial metals used to secure bank loans, better known as "ghost collateral", and which adding insult to injury, would frequently  be rehypothecated meaning often several banks would have claims to the same (fake) asset.

All that is about to change with the discovery of what may be one of the biggest gold counterfeiting scandals in recent history.

. . .

... more than a dozen Chinese financial institutions, mainly trust companies (i.e., shadow banks) loaned 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) over the past five years to Wuhan Kingold Jewelry with pure gold as collateral and insurance policies to cover any losses. There was just one problem ... at least some of 83 tons of gold bars used as loan collateral turned out to be nothing but gilded copper. That has left lenders holding the bag for the remaining 16 billion yuan of loans outstanding against the bogus bars. And as Caixin adds, the loans were covered by 30 billion yuan of property insurance policies issued by state insurer PICC Property and Casualty and various other smaller insurers.

. . .

The 83 tons of purportedly pure gold stored in creditors’ coffers by Kingold as of June, backing the 16 billion yuan of loans, would be equivalent to 22% of China’s annual gold production and 4.2% of the state gold reserve as of 2019.

In short, more than 4% of China's official gold reserves may be fake. And this assume that no other Chinese gold producers and jewelry makers are engaging in similar fraud (spoiler alert: they are.)

Again, more at the link.

That's just one company out of thousands - perhaps tens of thousands - of investment companies, private banks, and other corporations that fund the day-to-day operations of China's economy.  If you think it's the only one to engage in such massive fraud, you haven't been reading Chinese economic news over the past few years.  There have been scores, perhaps hundreds of them.  Follow these links for just a few examples:
China's "economic miracle" may be resting on very shaky foundations indeed - and whether we like it or not, China has become the main manufacturing engine of the world's trade.  If it falters, everyone suffers.

That danger is confirmed by a good hard look at Chinese economic figures.  They show, not just private, but official fraud and economic obfuscation.

World trade ... had already taken a hit starting in late 2018, as tariffs, counter-tariffs, and threats of tariffs jiggled supply chains around. By December 2018, the index was down 1.2% from a year earlier. Year-over-year declines became a regular feature starting in June 2019. Then in March, the index dropped 5.4% year-over-year, and in April 16.2% year-over-year. This brought the index down 18% from the peak in October 2018, and back to where it first had been in January 2008.

. . .

The CPB obtains the data for the World Trade Monitor and for the individual countries from the official statistical data releases by each country. The exports of all major regions and countries plunged in March and April. There is one exception: China. In China, based on the official data released by the Chinese government and used by the CPB, neither imports nor exports ever really got hit this year at all.

This contradicts absolutely everything else we know about trade with China, including what major container carriers have said, and how they have slashed capacity to and from China as trade between China and the rest of the world spiraled down. But miraculously, it doesn’t show up in China’s official data.

China’s data has always been whatever the government wants the world to think it is. But the pandemic elevated China’s data to new and unprecedented levels of deep-fake status all around.

With imports and exports, however, cheating invariably comes to light: China’s exports show up as imports by other countries, and China’s imports are other countries’ exports. When global trade goes to heck in a straight line ... but only China’s imports and exports pretend nothing has happened, then we have to wonder: Who exactly was China trading with? The Martians?

And this puts forward a second thought: Given that China’s import and export data were fake during the pandemic, and should have been a lot lower, the overall World Trade Monitor, which includes China’s fake data – and with China being a massive factor in global trade – should have been a lot lower in reality as well.

More at the link.

All the reports I've cited above are looking at economic conditions below the surface of normal business and commerce.  They're the underlying reality on which our everyday economic activity is based.  If that underlying reality is a lie;  if it's based on fiscal jiggery-pokery, and falsified gold and monetary reserves, and inaccurate and unreliable economic data, then we have no sound foundation at all on which to base our decisions.  We're forced to operate "by guess and by God" - and anybody's guess is as good as anyone else's.  Unpredictability becomes the order of the day.  How can any business know what's "safe" to make, or sell, or buy, if none of them know what tomorrow may bring?  How can any consumer plan their budget if they don't know whether the job(s) on which they rely to bring in their income will be there next week, let alone next month?

That being the case, it behooves all of us to prepare for the struggle ahead.

  • Get out of short-term debt as far as possible, and minimize long-term debt repayments to the lowest possible level (if necessary by refinancing debt).
  • Build up a reserve fund of cash on hand, not in the bank, but stashed somewhere safe.  If banks shut down, you need to be able to access your money.  I strongly suggest saving up to three months' expenses;  six months is better;  a year provides very useful peace of mind.  Most of us can't afford anything like that, but we can at least build up a few weeks' reserve.  That's better than nothing.
  • Build up reserves of essential foodstuffs and domestic supplies, so that if cash becomes tight, you can live off your reserves for at least a period.  I think a minimum of 30 days' reserves is essential;  three months is better;  and you should extend that as far out as is practicable, depending on your storage space and your budget.  I don't think a year is excessive, although it may be unaffordable for many of us.
  • Build a network of friends and acquaintances who can help each other through the hard times.  If one is good at plumbing, he can do that for the others in exchange for help with maintaining his vehicle.  Another can offer electrical repairs in exchange for work in his garden.  A third might clean out gutters in return for a meal for himself and his family.  Barter goods and services with each other, and also consider working together to secure your homes and neighborhoods.  In tough economic times, the riots we're already experiencing will turn into "feral youth shopping expeditions".  Be prepared to deal with them.
  • Stand ready to support each other financially, if necessary.  If a breadwinner loses his or her job, that family may find itself in really difficult circumstances.  Be willing to help them out, in the knowledge that when your turn comes (as it probably will), the same help will be available to you.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  It works.
  • By all means, take advantage of any and every government program to help in economic hard times.  You'd be a fool not to do so.  We can see what's coming, so let's grasp every lifeline available, and make the best use of it.  However, in doing so, never let the government seize control of your future.  Keep it at arm's length.  Remember President Ford's warning:  "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have."

Keep your powder dry, friends - economically and in every other way.


Monday, June 29, 2020

My library is now a blog meme?

I had to smile to see that our friend Cedar Sanderson has immortalized (or should that be pictorialized?) my library on her blog.

She and her husband, Sanford, were our guests a few days ago, and she found our bookshelves fascinating.  I had to tell her that they were far fewer in number than when we lived in Nashville.  I disposed of two-thirds of my collection of books before we moved down here, largely for logistics reasons, and I now try to keep things within the bounds of our existing bookshelves.  If we outgrow them, I cull books until they all fit into them once more.  It's a hard discipline to follow for book-lovers, but it's vital if we're to live in the same house as our books!  Fortunately e-books don't take up space, so our electronic library grows by leaps and bounds.

If you click over to Cedar's article, you'll note that she was particularly taken with my "Don Camillo" books, dating back to the 1950's.  They chronicle the life, times and (mis)adventures of a country priest in Italy.  They're beloved favorites, and had a big influence on me from my childhood.  Don Camillo may have had more than a little to do with why I became a pastor.

To my great pleasure, all the original books, plus a lot of new material, are now available as e-books as well as print editions.  I highly recommend them.  I think I'll do an excerpt from them for the next Saturday Snippet, to whet your appetite.


We've created our own worst enemies - and they've backed us into a corner

I was listening to a conversation this past weekend.  Two older men were discussing the current riots and unrest across America, and fulminating against the (largely) young people who seem to make up the majority of protesters.  One complained, "Dammit, we brought our kids up to know right from wrong! Where did these ****heads we see in the streets come from?"

I didn't say anything.  It wouldn't have been productive.  However, I sorely wanted to point out that "these ****heads" came from our schools and our social programs, which we'd put in place so that parents didn't have to parent any more - they could leave much of that responsibility to the "nanny state".  How many children come out of broken homes, versus stable families?  How many, from their earliest days, see Mommy and Daddy at home together most evenings, taking - making - time to do family things together, letting the kids know they're valued and wanted, instead of both parents coming home from work exhausted, cranky and just wanting to get the kids fed and put to bed, so they can have a few drinks before doing the same themselves?  How many kids get most of their understanding of right and wrong from schools (that don't teach it properly), instead of from their parents, from whom they would traditionally have learned those things?

It's one of the oldest rules in the book.  It can be expressed in many ways, but the outcome is the same.
  • "As you sow, so shall you reap" (from the Bible:  Galatians 6:7)
  • "You get out of life what you put into it"
  • "As you give, so shall you receive" (from the Bible:  Luke 6:38)
  • "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (from the Bible:  Proverbs 22:6)
If we'd listened to those admonishments, we'd have made sure to raise our children better.  Because many of us did not, our kids reflect that.  Young children are sponges, eager to soak up whatever they can, learning from everything said and done and going on around them.  If we don't give them wholesome, healthy, upright food for their minds and souls, they'll take whatever else they can get from their environment.

The enemies of our culture knew this.  That's why they launched "the long march through the institutions".  They sought to fill our children's minds with left-wing propaganda - and they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  The chaos now breaking upon on our streets is absolute proof of that.  As Charlie Daniels points out:

This is anarchy, plain and simple and the laxity of the curriculum we have allowed to be taught in our schools and the doctrine that socialist university faculties have drummed into the heads of our young people is coming home to roost, as deceived twenty-somethings cause havoc for a cause they have no way of understanding, under the impression they are in a struggle for justice, when all along they are joining the battle to dismantle their whole way of life.

There's more at the link.

Far too many parents were too busy working to pay any attention to what their kids were being spoon-fed at school.  They didn't bother to do homework with them, or ask questions about what they were learning, or become active in the running of the schools.  No, that would be too much work on top of both parents pursuing their careers and grabbing for every dollar they could, because "keeping up with the Joneses" in our consumer society was more important - so they were told, and so they believed - than their children's future.  As a result, their children grew apart from them from an early age, and that never stopped.

Harry Chapin memorably sang about it - but it wasn't just fathers who were at fault.  Many mothers were just as guilty.  Do please take the time to watch this video, and listen to Chapin's wife and son talk about how that song has affected them - and others.

And so we poured all sorts of resources into our kids . . . except ourselves.  We were too busy to do that.  As The Diplomad notes, the results speak for themselves.

No other civilization comes close to the West in the amount of resources, praise, and devotion poured into its youth. What has all that expenditure of public and private resources and emotional investment gotten us? We have before us the most pampered, ill-mannered, and arrogant generation in Western history.  Notice how many of them seem to have no problem living in highly expensive and tony metropolises such as New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and London. Many, if not most, seem to engage in no known labor, but yet have the time and resources to preen, prance, and play at revolution, all the while, as noted, recording themselves on their expensive "smart phones." These are not the grubby sans-culotte of 1780s France. Not even close. These mobsters are well-fed, nicely clothed, quite healthy and wealthy cretins--yes, highly privileged and violence-prone cretins, bird brains, ravens.

These cretins repeat empty-headed slogans, and screech about oppression from their perches of privilege to working-class cops, many black or hispanic, and other ordinary folk who seek only to go to work to feed their families. Yes, indeed, the majority of those screaming about white racism and the need to tear down white supremacy, and who feign offense over statues, road names, and Aunt Jemima syrup labels are white kids--most notably white women full of inchoate feminist resentment and rage. They have had their heads filled with a crude cultural Marxism; they live in a world almost completely devoid of facts and historical knowledge. Violent emotion rules.

The mobsters, for example, feel tormented, even driven crazy, by the dictates of the cult of pseudo-science, eaten alive by the certainty of global climate change caused by capitalism and by the "mutability" of gender. No definition, no standard can hold up. All is fluid. Nothing is certain except that the West is evil, and our history must be erased. Back to Year Zero! Pol Pot, call your office.

Again, more at the link.

Fred Reed sees little hope for the resultant future of our society.

A liberal education was once the mark of the cultivated, being deep in languages, literature, philosophy, the sciences, history, mathematics,. Universities once had, at least among the better students, a love of open minded curiosity, thought, and debate. No more. Future historians will notice the shift, but those within it will not. We are left with a nation of morons who will not know they are morons.

. . .

We have done what Marx couldn’t: Achieved communism, a true dictatorship of the proletariat, of a rabble jacquerie of much noise and no wit, the rule of the unfit. It is a rule only of the culture. The moneyed would not grant it power over anything else. Yet rule it is. We shall hear much of the authenticity of the illiterate, the purity of ghetto urges, the wisdom of the people, the need to lay low the pretensions of the mansion.

. . .

As a philosophic emollient one may reflect that all empires and civilizations must end, and ours is. America will remain as a place, a military bastion, a large if declining economic force. It will never again be, even by the low standards of humanity in such things, a relatively free and vigorous society. The world will not again credit its charades of moral leadership. The rot, the tens of thousands of derelict people living on the sidewalks, the looting and fire setting, the censorship, are now visible to the entire earth. Oh well. It was a good thing while it lasted.

More at the link.

I know many readers by now are shaking their heads and saying, "But I didn't do any of that!  I tried to bring up my kids in the way they should walk, just like the Bible says!  They don't have any of those problems, and they aren't out on the streets rioting!  Why are you saying I'm responsible?"  To them I can only say, we're all responsible for the kind of society we allow to grow up around us.  Actions speak louder than words - and inaction is, by definition, an action in itself.  If we did nothing to stop the creeping paralysis of our education system, to halt the gradual indoctrination of our kids by iniquitous and pernicious Marxist propaganda, then we're as guilty as those who perpetrated and supported those atrocities.

So the question becomes, what are we going to do about this?  Charlie Daniels again.

Already the signs of pushback, the serious kind, are showing up.

. . .

Gun sales are through the roof and America is locked and loaded to protect their families and their neighborhoods.

If things are allowed to fester and spread, in my opinion, and at least amongst the people I am familiar with and the area I live in, they will not allow their cities to be occupied, their businesses destroyed nor their lives interrupted without a fight and almost everybody I know has guns and knows how to use them.

I hope and pray that cooler heads will prevail and bloodshed can be avoided, but, as things stand, that’s exactly where this thing is headed.

So, America, in the next few months you’re going to have to make a choice, about how far you’ll be pushed, the priorities of your vote, the kind of world you want your children to grow up in and which side of this debacle you stand on.

Stand tall or crawl, those are the choices.

What do you think?

More at the link.

I think we have one last chance to stop this peacefully, at the ballot box in November this year.  If we elect Congressional representatives, Senators and a President who will take strong, direct action to stop this nonsense in its tracks, there's still a chance that we can remove the worst of the agitators from our midst and begin to restore order and balance to our society.  However, if we don't, all bets are off.

If the progressive left wing of US politics takes control, they'll do nothing to stop the present anarchy - in fact, they'll whip it up even further, because fear is a weapon they can use to force our society to obey their edicts and dictates.  What's more, they'll stop the rest of us from protecting ourselves against it.  Ask yourself - who wants to disarm citizens, defund police, and spend billions upon billions of dollars on the same progressive, socialist, Marxist nonsense that we hear proclaimed on our streets every day during the current unrest?  Not conservatives.  Not the right wing of US politics.

"If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it."  Those are the exact words of Hawk Newsome, Black Lives Matter leader in New York City.  What clearer indicator could we want of what these protests are all about?  It's not about police brutality as such, or racism, or anything else.  It's a power grab, pure and simple.  Progressive forces have not been able to take power (yet) through the ballot box - so they're trying to do so through intimidation and violence.  They hope they'll literally scare enough voters into supporting them that they'll take power in November.  If they do, I doubt they'll ever again let go of it by peaceful means.  We've seen that in every left-wing revolution in history, from France to the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany (yes, Nazi was an abbreviation for the National Socialist Party - something the left would rather we forgot about), to Cambodia under Pol Pot, to China today.

If the left takes control, they'll ride roughshod over the desires and beliefs and aspirations of anyone and everyone who won't get with their program.  Don't believe me?  Consider that under the Obama administration, dozens - scores - of groups and individuals were considered "potential terrorists" in official US government classifications.  Were/are you among them?  Consult the full list, follow the links to the source documents, and see for yourself.  You might be unpleasantly surprised.  Basically, if you're a God-fearing Christian, and/or a supporter of the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution, you're in the lists somewhere.

I fear Charlie Daniels is right.  Under a far-left-wing progressive government, there'll be only one way to stop those things from happening again, and even worse.  That way will lead, inexorably, to another civil war - unless we take action now to re-establish civilized control, while we can still do so without too much bloodshed.  There are no signs that many of our pusillanimous, left-wing-dominated city and regional governments are prepared to do that.  They're kowtowing to the demonstrators, not dealing with them as the law requires.  In so many words, they're setting the table for the revolutionary feast they see coming.

I'll let Aesop have the last word.

That stinging sensation for some folks just now is the bear trap jaws of Reality closing on their tender bits ... You're watching the Cold Civil War heat up, as intended.

As the election approaches, it'll get worse.

If OrangeMan wins, it'll get worse.

If OrangeMan loses, it'll get worse.

Nota bene the lack of other options there, according to our Magic Eight Ball.

Plan and prepare accordingly, and hope for better times eventually, but for some reason, the phrase which keeps coming up in most contexts is "Rivers Of Blood". The open question is whether we're talking on a timeline of fruit flies, or geologic strata formation.

But that which cannot continue, economically, politically, socially, or any other which way, won't.

"How did you go broke?"
"Gradually. And then all at once."
If you would not be a puff of smoke at the bottom of a canyon in the Painted Desert, do your best not to follow Wile E. off the cliff to the point that gravity is about to kick in wickedly.

Safety. Shelter. Water. Food. Medical. Energy. Allies.

This is the Do Re Mi of those who intend to see the other side of where things are headed.

That's good advice for all of us.


Memes that made me laugh 13

Seen around the Internet over the past week:

More next week.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday morning music

A couple of Sundays ago I put up a bluegrass/country song titled "Seven Hillsides".  It meant a lot to me, touching as it did on several points near and dear to this retired pastor's heart.  I also admitted in that post that I didn't listen to much music in those genres.

One reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) thought it was time I broadened my horizons.  He'd seen how I've put up Pink Floyd videos in the past, so he sent me a link to a bluegrass version of their album "Dark Side of the Moon".  This is by a northern California group calling themselves Poor Man's Whiskey, and they title their version of the album "Darkside of the Moonshine".

Here's the full album. I found it a lot of fun.

The group has put out several albums.  I'll have to listen to more of their music.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday Snippet: Lest we forget!

Given the parlous state of our nation in these troubled times, I thought we all might benefit from a reminder that all our worldly power, and energies, and ambitions, will eventually lead to our decline and fall - just as they have always done in human history.  Only if we "lift our eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh our help" will we learn humility and a better way.

Kipling put it well in his poem "Recessional".  It was written for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, when the British Empire was at its zenith.  We aren't an Empire, but we're nonetheless guilty of just as much hubris in presuming that what we've built in this country cannot be destroyed.  Right now, it's being undone before our very eyes, largely due to our own folly in allowing things to get to that point.  I think we, too, need to be reminded of the passing nature of our lives and times, "lest we forget".

God of our fathers, known of old,
  Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
  Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
  The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
  An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away;
  On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
  Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
  Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
  Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
  In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
  And guarding calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

You might also enjoy contemporary commentary on the poem when it was first published.


Friday, June 26, 2020

What if I can't get enough ammunition for my defensive rifle?

I recently wrote a three part series of articles about the defensive rifle, focusing on the AR-15 rifle or carbine as the most common weapon in this class.  In the third article, I went into detail about what ammunition was most suitable for defensive use.

I've had a couple of readers query me about that.  They point out that in their localities, it's very hard to find any 5.56x45mm ammunition at all, because many gun shops are sold out of it.  Supermarkets that used to sell it (e.g. Walmart) no longer do so, for politically correct reasons.  Some states restrict ordering ammunition by mail, making it difficult to order in bulk.  What are they to do?

Obviously, one alternative is to have weapons available that use different cartridges.  A lever-action rifle firing .30-30, or .44 Magnum, or .357 Magnum ammunition will still be effective in your defense, and you should be able to find ammo for it relatively easily.  However, let's assume you want to use your AR-15, and need ammo.  What then?

There are a number of alternatives.  The first one I'd try is to contact family and friends in areas where ammunition is still available.  If they can buy some for you, and hold it until you can collect it or they come to visit you, that's quick, easy and simple.  If you need it in a hurry, that may not suffice;  so, if it's legal to send you ammo directly, they can make an ORM-D shipment by private contractor such as UPS or FedEx (NOT the Post Office!).  Note that it will have to travel by ground transportation, due to regulations.

The second alternative is to have different upper receivers available for your weapon, chambered for different cartridges.  The standard 5.56x45mm cartridge case has been used to produce different chamberings such as 6x45mm, .300 AAC Blackout, and others (see here for a list of them).  One AR-15 lower receiver (the licensed part of the firearm) can therefore have upper receivers in any of the above rounds.

If one changes the bolt carrier group and magazines, one can shoot even more cartridges through the AR-15 platform.  The Russian 7.62x39mm round, famous in the SKS and AK47 rifles, can easily be accommodated, as can the .350 Legend, .458 SOCOM, .450 Bushmaster, etc.  The latter three rounds may be hard to find on store shelves, but they're usually available online.

If one needs to use a particular upper receiver for a given situation (e.g. hunting restrictions that forbid the use of 5.56x45mm ammo, but allow a larger round), one can use the appropriate receiver and ammunition, then swap it out for a more general-purpose one when the hunt is over.  That's very convenient, and often cheaper than having a rifle for each cartridge.  One can also repurpose an upper receiver by swapping the barrel for one chambered for a different cartridge, and if necessary replacing the bolt carrier group and magazines.  It's not difficult.  That sort of flexibility is worth having, IMHO.


This is why you don't fly in Third World nations...

... unless you have at least one First World pilot in the cockpit.  That's been a hard-and-fast rule of mine for decades, and I think it's one of the reasons I survived living and working in the Third World for as long as I did.  I know I'm far from alone in observing that precaution, too.  Many of my friends and colleagues did likewise.

From CNN:

More than 30% of civilian pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses and are not qualified to fly, the country's aviation minister revealed Wednesday.

Addressing Pakistan's National Assembly, Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 262 pilots in the country "did not take the exam themselves" and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.

"They don't have flying experience," he said.

Pakistan has 860 active pilots serving its domestic airlines -- including the country's Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flagship -- as well as a number of foreign carriers, Khan said.

PIA has grounded all its pilots who hold fake licenses, effective immediately.

There's more at the link.

It's not just Pakistan.  There are incompetent and/or inadequately-trained and/or completely untrained pilots in many Third World countries, where a bribe to the examiner can ensure that you pass written tests and check flights with little or no difficulty.  The results are obvious if you examine accident statistics for those countries.  The number of accidents put down to "pilot error" is phenomenal - and in many cases it wasn't error so much as incompetence.

Even pilots who are qualified may not fly in a way that we regard as competent.  The number of Third World pilots who "fly a checklist", heads down in the cockpit, never looking outside to see what's going on, is astonishingly high.  Note, for example, the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco in 2013.  The pilots basically flew the aircraft into the ground, because they were too busy with their heads down in the cockpit, not looking where they were going!  (Even First World airlines and pilots aren't immune to such incompetence.  Look at the crash of Air France Flight 447, where one pilot constantly held his stick back even as another was trying to push his forward.  The conflicting stick inputs meant the aircraft literally fell out of the sky and crashed, because the flight computer couldn't figure out whose stick to obey.)

That's why pilots from most Third World nations, coming to the USA to upgrade their licenses, must start the gamut of qualifications all over again, from private pilot, through instrument rating, through commercial license, and only then be allowed to sit for an airline pilot's rating.  I know this causes immense resentment among those of them who really are qualified, and may have thousands of hours flying experience in modern airliners - but they're hamstrung by the multitude of unqualified, incompetent pilots among them.  The US aviation authorities dare not assume that everybody from Nation X or Country Y is, indeed, qualified, because they've learned from bitter experience that many of them are not.

Please keep that in mind when you fly overseas.  It may save your life.


When our government abandons us to the mob

God bless Tucker Carlson.  He's one of the few voices of sanity remaining in the mainstream media.  Last night he played a tape of a 911 call in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in which the dispatcher openly said to the caller that the cops couldn't help her.  She was on her own, because the city had given permission for the rioters to do their thing.  Hear it for yourself, and please take time to listen to the entire four-minute-or-so segment that I've chosen to include.  (If you want to listen to the entire 15-minute report, so much the better, IMHO.)

(EDITED TO ADD:  If there are playback problems, watch the video on YouTube, from 6m. 48sec. to 10m. 29sec.)

So what would you do, dear reader, if you found yourself in that woman's position?  What would you do if rioters were running rampant through your neighborhood, with police simply driving past and doing nothing about it?

I know what I'd do.  I know what I will do, if it comes to that.  I have to accept that defending myself and my neighborhood will carry consequences with it, because the authorities in places like that are likely to paint me as the criminal for defending myself, rather than the rioters, looters and thugs who are attacking me and mine.  That sort of discrimination goes with the territory, I'm sorry to say.  When you take a stand, you make yourself a target for those who are spineless cowards seeking only to ingratiate themselves with the enemy and appease their hunger for violent retribution.  However, that does not mean you should not take a stand.

I don't believe in appeasement.  I'll let Rudyard Kipling explain why.

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: –
"We invaded you last night – we are quite prepared to fight,
 Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: –
"Though we know we should defeat you,
we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!"

That's what far too many liberal, progressive, left-wing local and state governments are doing right now.  They're "paying the Dane-geld" by pandering to the mob, rather than cracking down on its criminal conduct.  That can have only one future, as the mob grows more and more emboldened.

Frankly, I don't know how police in those areas can stand to look at themselves in the mirror every morning.  They're abandoning the people they've sworn to protect and serve.  By consenting to officially imposed inaction, they're making themselves part of the problem, not of the solution.  If, in future, they come to be regarded as part of the oppressive system that needs to be resisted, they will have no-one but themselves to blame.  My law enforcement friends and contacts are uniformly disgusted by what they're seeing and hearing.  Many of them are discreetly passing information to those who can do something more active about defending their families, homes and neighborhoods, ensuring that they're not caught unawares.  I'd say that's the least all cops should be doing right now - at least, all cops who take their oath of office seriously.

I told readers some weeks ago what was needed.  I can only repeat that advice, even more strongly.  You, and you alone, are your own and your family's and your neighborhood's first line of defense.  Accept that responsibility, equip and train yourself to fulfil it, and stand ready to do so - because you can't rely on anyone else, even the police, to do it for you.  It's that, or be a victim.  The choice is yours.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Did the Viking Age begin 2,000 years earlier than we thought?

The BBC has a very interesting in-depth look at new archaeological and other discoveries, suggesting the existence of what it calls a "first Viking Age" starting about 3,000 years ago in Norway.

People who lived in Norway 3000 years ago were far less primitive than many have imagined. They were not hunters who still lived a Stone Age kind of life.

The ships built by Norwegians, Swedes and Danes during the Bronze Age may have had a crew of over 50 men. People from Scandinavia went to England in ships like these. They probably made their way down the great rivers in Europe.

They may have used the ships to travel to Finnmark in northern Norway.

And perhaps to Italy in the south.

. . .

Today archaeologists know that ships, houses, weapons, clothing and many other things from long ago look very much like similar objects from the Viking Age. People primarily used bronze and gold when they needed metal. The Vikings also used iron.

Shipping, trade, animals and farms, violence and looting, the construction of large burial mounds, and large-scale sacrifices involving jewellery and weapons — all these from the Bronze Age, 3000 years ago, are surprisingly similar to what we think of as the Viking Age. At least that is the picture that archaeologists are now starting to put together.

“Bronze Age and Viking Age societies in the Nordic countries were very similar,” Kristiansen says. The most striking resemblance was that both were maritime societies.

An amusing fact is that the first Norwegian researchers who took an interest in the ships found in petroglyphs thought that Vikings must have carved these images.

Because the ships looked like Viking ships.

. . .

The Danish Hjortspring boat is almost 2,500 years old.

It was excavated in 1921 from a wetland and is very similar to the vessels that are depicted in petroglyphs. The Hjortspring boat is the only example known from the Nordic region of a fairly complete vessel that dates almost from the Bronze Age.

The Hjortspring boat was found with weapons and equipment for many soldiers. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that it was a warship.

The Hjortspring boat had room for ten paddlers on each side and the vessel had a steering oar at each end. Thus, the vessel probably had a crew of 22 men.

This was a light vessel where most of the strength lies in the frame. The wooden planks on either side are laid over each other and sewn together. Thwarts give the vessel stability.

It’s clear that the Hjortspring boat derived from a long boatbuilding tradition dating from considerably earlier than 2,500 years ago. Some of the construction methods can be seen in Norwegian boatbuilding right up to today.

The boat was paddled with long and narrow canoe-style oars. A copy of the boat reached a speed of 8 knots.

There's much more at the link, examining trade routes, culture, farming and many other aspects of "first Viking age" life.  I found it fascinating.

The modern replica of the Hjortspring boat, named Tilia Alsie, performed very well during trials.

I was unable to find any video of the trials.  However, a replica of a Bronze Age boat found in Britain, one of the so-called Ferriby Boats, has also been built and tested.  It's of very similar size and construction.  Here's video of those trials.

It's fascinating to think that paddlers might have moved such craft, and traded with them, throughout much of western Europe three thousand years ago.  I think our distant forefathers were tougher men than we are!


"Obeying The Law Is For Suckers"

So says Derek Hunter, who makes several almost unanswerable points.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

If you watch the news, national or local, there is a disturbing percentage of our fellow Americans doing whatever the hell they want to do with little or no concern for the law. And the law has little or no concern for itself, at least when it comes to those charged with enforcing it.

Across the country, charges are being dropped against rioters and looters. Why? Many of those people in position to prosecute the guilty have no interest in doing so. Hell, many of them ran on the idea of not prosecuting people. What kind of idiot would vote for a district attorney who promised to let people get away with more? Well, from San Francisco to St. Louis, they did just that.

I wouldn’t mind it so much if the piles of human garbage being given a pass stayed within the boundaries of the jurisdictions electing these morons to not enforce the law, but the idiots who do cast those ballots inevitably flee to sane areas, those not overrun by mutants like them, because who wants to live in a place where stealing anything valued at less than $1000 is no big deal?

. . .

It’s so out of control that at this point you’d almost have to be an idiot to follow the law. Like the movie I mentioned, there are no consequences to disobeying the law ... With police ordered to stand down, or pulling back on their own, the mob has gone off the rails. Why shouldn’t you? If your store is raided, hope you have good insurance. If you’re randomly attacked, hope you fall safely.

What are we paying taxes for? Democrats in these mob run areas are not only turning a blind eye to lawlessness, they’re cheering it along. But I bet they’d bring down every bit of the law on us if we didn’t pay property or income taxes. A tax protest would be beyond the pale, but break into a store, steal a TV bigger than your car, or pummel someone for not appreciating it with a brick and you’re a hero exercising your First Amendment rights. Don’t cut a check to Big Brother and you’ll find out just how tolerant the left is, even if you say you’re doing it in the name of “social justice.”

All this might not be a sign of “the end of the world,” but it’s the end of something. The people who produce are paying, the people who don’t are benefiting. The people paying the bills are trampled while the mob is cheered and protected. Democrats cheer, Republicans are either mumbling or silent. No country can survive long with circumstances like that. And no government – local, state, or federal – that allows it to continue deserves to.

There's more at the link.

The only drawback to following Mr. Hunter's suggestion is that, if we abandon the rule of law because others are doing so, we make ourselves subject to the same penalties and consequences as they do.  If we - and they - no longer have the protection that the law offers to the law-abiding, we - like them - have to suffer the consequences.  That's worth thinking about, because those consequences can impair us for the rest of our lives;  and the rest of our lives might not last long.

The law was intended to be a structure within which almost everybody could function, provided they followed its precepts.  When that structure breaks down, anarchy results.  In anarchy, the strongest come out on top, and there's no guarantee we'll be among them.

The fact that others appear to have abandoned the rule of law doesn't mean we should let them get away with it.  There's no moral or ethical reason not to defend ourselves, our loved ones and our property if necessary.  Sadly, though, in many jurisdictions that have twisted the law to suit their own ends, we may be prosecuted for doing so.  That being the case, there appear to be only three possible courses of action from a law-abiding perspective.
  1. Force the authorities to do their job and uphold the rule of law.
  2. Replace the authorities with others who will uphold the rule of law.
  3. Leave where you are, and move to an area where the authorities still uphold the rule of law.
Sadly, all of those steps carry costs, sometimes severe, and are probably not viable for many of us.

Therefore, in the absence of any practical, viable alternative, Mr. Hunter's prescription becomes more and more attractive.  When the law won't protect people, why should they be bound by it?  That certainly opens new possibilities for potential responses to the lawless;  a good deal more practical, and much less restricted, particularly if those employing them can remain unidentified while doing so.

I suspect the law-abandoning authorities haven't thought that through yet.  They should.


I want one!

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis has a good idea for a shopping bubble.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the "Pearls Before Swine" Web page.

A "social distancing enforcement mallet" . . . sounds like it'd be a lot more effective than a mask!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Two interesting articles about the Russian Front in WW2

I recently came across two articles at the Warfare History Network, recounting the experiences of German servicemen on the Russian front during World War II.

From the Luftwaffe: Joachim Benz on the Eastern Front

After a seven-day journey through East Prussia and Lithuania, we reached Newel. Then we were off-loaded and drove through bitter cold and a snowstorm eastward to our assigned position. We soon discovered our equipment was unsuitable. The roads were as smooth as glass and the tractors were completely worthless. The iron tracks slipped on the smooth roads. The bolts on the treads came off, and the tractors were left stranded on the road without treads. Our “Lanz” tractor that was supposed to help us out in difficult situations was also useless. It had ironclad wheels and could not keep to the roads. We had to leave these brand-new tractors sitting in the ditches. Thanks only to our Opel all-wheel-drive trucks, which performed excellently in all weather, were we able to reach our destination to the south of Welicke-Luki.

We had just arrived at the front when the guns were immediately positioned and aimed, and we had to start firing. The Russians welcomed our forward observers over a megaphone, saying, “You half-trained Luftwaffe soldiers straight from Munsterlager repo-depot, we’ll whip your asses in no time!” This showed how well informed Ivan was!

Our computing section was quartered in a farmhouse only a few meters behind the guns. At the first salvo, the window pane blew out on our card table, and the battery commander was lying on the ground shouting, “Direct hit! Take cover!” Then we found out that the damage had been caused by the reverberation of the recoil of our own guns.

A Tale of Two German Snipers

The three Soviet T-34 tanks edged forward slowly as the drivers scanned for the concealed Germans that lay ahead. The lead tank suddenly clanked to a stop and swung its long barrel around ... Suddenly, the lead tank’s hatch opened about 10 inches and a head appeared with binoculars to scan the scene. Sniper Josef “Sepp” Allerberger brought the Soviet tanker’s head into the center of his scope, and at some 500 feet he squeezed off a round. A splat of blood hit the hatch as the head sank into the bowels of the tank.

The battle might have gone the other way had it not been for the young 19-year-old Austrian sniper who singlehandedly changed the course of the engagement by likely taking out the commander of the three tanks. His timely, well-aimed bullet negated the Soviets’ heavy initial advantage in firepower and maneuverability.

. . .

Allerberger and Matthaus Hetzenauer, another skilled Austrian sniper in the same division, were officially credited with killing more than 600 enemy soldiers during the Soviet advance toward Berlin in the latter stages of World War II. And their sniper totals did not include scores and scores of Soviets who fell to their rapid-fire machine pistol efforts during numerous determined and often foolish Russian frontal assaults.

Both young Austrians received the prestigious Knight’s Cross for their efforts, and unlike most snipers they left rather detailed descriptions of their work on the Eastern Front. Most snipers, like Finland’s Simo Hayha—dubbed “White Death” for his more than 505 confirmed kills in the Winter War just prior to the start of World War II—were reluctant to discuss their work which many considered underhanded or unmanly.

Both articles are interesting reading for military history buffs.  Recommended.