Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas 2021


A happy, holy and blessed Christmas to all my readers.  Let this music remind us of what we're celebrating today, and give us joy.

And my wish and prayer for all of us this Christmas?

Peace be with you.  There's not very much of the world's peace in evidence this Christmas, but in God's economy, it never runs out.

A reminder:  this blog will be on hiatus until Sunday, January 2nd, 2022.  I'll see you then!


You simply can't take these people seriously any longer


I'm both angry and nonplussed at this report in the New York Post.

In Oct. 2020, Los Angeles resident Bennett Kaspar-Williams, 37, gave birth via caesarean to a healthy baby boy with his husband, Malik.

But in the process of having little Hudson, Kaspar-Williams was troubled by the constant misgendering of him by hospital staff who insisted on calling him a “mom,” the Daily Mail reported.

“No one can ever really know whether having children is possible until you try — being born with a uterus doesn’t make conceiving or carrying a certainty,” the father — who began transitioning in 2014 — said of his parenthood journey. “That’s why it’s so important that we stop defining ‘womanhood’ in terms of ‘motherhood,’ because it’s a false equivalency that all women can become mothers, that all mothers carry their children, or that all people who carry children are mothers.” 

Kaspar-Williams realized he was trans in 2011 and began transitioning in 2014, a process which included getting a $5,000-surgery on the top but not the bottom half of his body.

“It was really liberating,” he said of the surgery to remove his breasts. “I never could have anticipated what a relief it would be to find them gone. It was a huge weight off my shoulders.”

The process of trying to conceive, being successful, and being pregnant were not challenging to his gender identity, he said. In fact the only real cause of unease regarding it was the way medical professionals continually assumed his gender. 

“The only thing that made me dysphoric about my pregnancy was the misgendering that happened to me when I was getting medical care for my pregnancy,” he said. “The business of pregnancy — and yes, I say business, because the entire institution of pregnancy care in America is centered around selling this concept of ‘motherhood’ — is so intertwined with gender that it was hard to escape being misgendered.”

There's more at the link.

That's so ridiculous it's beyond pathetic, all the way to mind-boggling insanity.  Let's get one thing clear.  It's beyond scientific and medical question - absolutely, certainly, irrevocably true - that a man cannot get pregnant or give birth.  A man doesn't have the physical organs necessary to do that, and doesn't have female chromosomes to start with.  Pregnancy is always, everywhere and only a female issue.  I don't care what an individual pretends to be, or wants to be, or is convinced they are - if they're pregnant and give birth, they are not a man.  Period.  (You should pardon the expression.)

If anyone expects me to humor their delusions and refer to them by lying about their sex, that's their problem.  It's not mine, and I won't do it.  "Mr." Kaspar-Williams expects me to enable "him" by calling "him" what "he" isn't.  I won't.

It's long gone time that we stopped this nonsense of pretending that the politically correct, transgendered Emperor has new clothes.  In this case, the Empress is still female, stark naked (metaphorically speaking), and gibbering about it.  Having already lost her head, it's time she lost her crown, too.


Technology changes the game - air warfare edition


Strategy Page notes that (relatively) cheap virtual reality (VR) technology is revolutionizing how combat pilots are trained and made combat-ready.

New technology has made flight simulators a lot more effective and cheaper. Until a decade ago, a realistic combat flight simulator cost about as much as the aircraft it was simulating. While that did reduce the cost (per "flying" hour) of pilots practicing, it was not enough of a savings to make it practical for less wealthy countries to get these simulators and use them heavily. Thus, we had a continuation of the situation where countries could scrape together enough money to buy high performance aircraft, but not enough to pay for all that flight time needed to make their pilots good enough to face aerial opponents (especially the Americans).

The new generation of simulators cost up to a tenth of the price of the aircraft they simulate. Suddenly, countries like China can buy dozens of simulators, and give their pilots enough realistic training to make them a threat in the air, especially pilots from countries that have long spent money for lots of pilot flight time. Each of these simulators can be run about 6,000 hours a year. While a hundred hours a year in a simulator isn't a complete replacement for a hundred hours of actual air time, it's close enough if the training scenarios are well thought out. Add another 40-50 hours of actual air time a year and you have a competent pilot. Add another few hundred hours using consumer grade flight simulators, especially when played in groups via WiFi or fast Internet connections, and you have some deadly pilots.

The Chinese have, since the 1990s, stressed the use of PCs as a foundation for cheaper and more powerful simulators. Now they have an opportunity to really cash in on this insight and have done so. Other air forces, including the U.S. Navy, are particularly enthusiastic about the VR consumer flight simulator tech being adapted for aviator use. One reason is that the riskiest flight situations naval aviators regularly confront are night traps (landing on a carrier at night), especially those carried out in bad weather or if their aircraft has some battle damage or any sort of equipment failure that would not be much of a problem landing at an airbase.

. . .

The cheaper and more powerful simulator technology has made it possible to build simulators for larger aircraft, with larger crews. The U.S. Navy is using a P-8A (maritime patrol aircraft) full-flight simulator that can accurately replace flight training in an actual aircraft. For the last few decades, simulators have been increasingly replacing training in the air. Even the U.S. Army is using such simulators to train the crew of transport helicopters. The navy has built simulation software into its ships combat systems, allowing weapons crews to train together under realistic conditions without firing the expensive missiles they use.

Back in 2010 Israel even formed a training squadron that consisted solely of flight simulators. The eight Israeli-made simulators, each with an F-16 cockpit and all-encompassing video displays, were used to train groups of pilots in combined combat exercises. In these situations, two of the simulators are used to represent enemy aircraft. By having all the simulators in one place, communications problems would be eliminated. For several decades now, simulators participated in these joint exercises, even though each simulator would be in a different location. But this could be disrupted if there were problems with the communications link. This could either be (rarely), the link going down. More commonly, the link would slow down the signals, which meant pilots were out of sync, and the illusion of operating in the same air space was degraded. Israel is also moving all its flight simulators to one air base, both to make maintenance easier and to deal with these communications risks. As a small country, putting all the flight simulators in one place does not put a big travel burden on pilots. Pilots using this system obtain valuable skills cheaply. These new skills are tested and verified the next time the pilots go up in the actual aircraft.

With the VR headsets and current consumer-grade flight sims you can reproduce the 2010 Israeli multi-aircraft sim at a small fraction of the 2021 system cost.

There's more at the link.

There's one aspect of this that Strategy Page hasn't mentioned.  It means that a country's Internet and its computers are suddenly military targets, as well as civilian.  If an enemy can shut down an opponent's Internet and computers, there's suddenly no more networking, no more training, and no more wargaming.  That's a significant tactical advantage in the short term, and a strategic advantage in the long term.  It means that electromagnetic pulse weapons and "hacker" warfare are now front-line tactics, rather than theoretical weapons.

Food for thought.


The English language strikes again!


From Stephan Pastis (click the image to be taken to a larger view at the 'Pearls Before Swine' Web site):


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Heads up: This blog will be on vacation between Christmas and New Year


I've tried hard to post to this blog every day, and mostly multiple times every day, since I started it on January 1, 2008.  I've mostly succeeded, apart from a couple of spells in hospital or while traveling.  However, that's meant I've had less time to do other needful things, and less time to relax with my lovely wife.

Therefore, I'm going to put myself on blog leave from Christmas morning, December 25th, 2021, until Saturday, January 1, 2022, both dates included.  I'll start posting again on Sunday, January 2, 2022.  During my absence, please amuse yourselves in the archives of this blog, or read the other bloggers listed in the sidebar - they write good, too!

Tomorrow's articles will appear as usual, of course.


Be careful when researching your new home - the data may be deliberately incomplete


If you're looking to buy a home, and you research various cities and neighborhoods to determine what might be a good fit for you and your family, be advised that complete information may no longer be presented to you - thanks to political correctness. has removed crime data from its website, and Redfin has decided not to add it out of concerns that it could perpetuate racial inequity.

David Doctorow, the CEO of, said in a company update this week that the crime map layer has been removed from all search results on the website “to rethink the safety information we share on and how we can best integrate it as part of a consumer’s home search experience.”

Doctorow said the removal was part of a company effort to “level the playing field” and scrutinize what safety means to buyers and renters so that it can “reimagine how we integrate safety data” on the platform. has been collaborating with fair housing advocates as part of the initiative.

“At this time of complexity in real estate, our team has been energized by our purpose to simplify real estate choices, especially for first-time homebuyers,” he wrote. “Yet we keep bumping up against one very old and persistent problem: the ability to afford and own a home can be unjustly limited by one’s race, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics.”

“As a relative newcomer to the real estate industry, I’ve been struck by how entrenched this problem is,” he continued. “Stories abound about Black, Hispanic and Asian homebuyers receiving unequal treatment, starting with their ability to see whatever homes they like, and continuing through to the appraisal and mortgage processes.”

On the same day that announced that it was removing its crime data, Redfin came out with a full-throated denunciation of crime data being included on real estate websites. Redfin’s chief growth officer Christian Taubman announced that, after consideration, the company would not be adding crime data to its own platform.

Taubman said that Redfin had been weighing whether to add information about crime because one of the metrics that consumers consider when looking for a home to purchase is how safe the area around that home is. The company concluded that available crime data doesn’t accurately answer that question, and “given the long history of redlining and racist housing covenants in the United States there’s too great a risk of this inaccuracy reinforcing racial bias.”

There's more at the link.

The trouble is, the "inaccuracy" referred to by both organizations is not inaccurate at all.  Official Federal government figures, published for decades, consistently confirm that the distribution of offenders is disproportionate among races, and disproportionate in locality. As a former prison chaplain, I can confirm the reality of those official figures "on the ground", where I had to deal with some of the most hard-core inmates in federal and state prison systems.

I don't have time to go into the subject in a short blog article, but if you're interested, examples of the official figures (interpreted and collated) may be found at these sources:

Go read them for yourself.

What makes me angry about's and Redfin's stance is that it deliberately denies to prospective homeowners important information that they'll need to take into account in selecting a new neighborhood or city in which to live.  Those companies are saying, "We don't want to give you all the facts, because those facts aren't politically correct, so we'll simply deny you information that could affect the safety and security of your family.  Sorry, but that's your problem, not ours."

And if a member or members of your family are victimized, or injured, or even killed, because you lacked that information? and Redfin will deny any responsibility at all.  "You should have done your own research!"  The fact that both companies are primary sources for such research, but are actively denying you the information you need, is obviously neither here nor there as far as they're concerned.

It's enough to make you spit.  I can only suggest that you look for information elsewhere in future when you plan property purchases.


They're setting the scene to steal another election


The propaganda drumbeat about the dangers of the right wing stealing the 2024 election is building up to an early crescendo.  If you've been following the news, you'll have noticed more and more articles appearing, all predicting or forecasting or worrying about right-wingers forcibly "taking power" or overthrowing a "democratic" election result.  A few examples (out of many that qualify):

I'm sure readers can contribute many more.

I suggest the real reason for the sudden brouhaha is that the left has realized the depths of its peril, thanks to its own maladministration of the country in the less than one year since President Biden took office.  They're seeing the consequences of their own ineptness reflected in the growing anger and rejection of their platform by the rest of the country.  Therefore, they're trying to set the scene to keep the power they stole through electoral fraud in 2020, by hook or by crook.

Victor Davis Hanson puts it in perspective.

It is quite simple. The Left expects to lose power over the next two years – both because of the way it gained and used it, and because of its radical, top-down agendas that never had any public support.

After gaining control of both houses of Congress and the presidency – with an obsequious media and the support of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, higher education, popular culture, entertainment and professional sports – the Left has managed in just 11 months to alienate a majority of voters.

The nation has been wracked by unprecedented crime and nonenforcement of the borders. Leftist district attorneys either won’t indict criminals; they let them out of jails or both.

Illegal immigration and inflation are soaring. Deliberate cuts in gas and oil production helped spike fuel prices.

All this bad news is on top of the Afghanistan disaster, worsening racial relations and an enfeebled president.

Democrats are running 10 points behind the Republicans in generic polls, with the midterms less than a year away.

Joe Biden’s negatives run between 50 and 57 percent – in Donald Trump’s own former underwater territory.

Less than a third of the country wants Biden to run for reelection. In many head-to-head polls, Trump now defeats Biden.

In other words, leftist elites are terrified that democracy will work too robustly.

After the Russian collusion hoax, two impeachments, the Hunter Biden laptop stories, the staged melodramas of the Kavanaugh hearings, the Jussie Smollett con, the Covington kids smear and the Rittenhouse trial race frenzy, the people are not just worn out by leftist hysterias, but they also weary of how the Left gains power and administers it.

If Joe Biden were polling at 70 percent approval, and his policies at 60 percent, the current doomsayers would be reassuring us of the “health of the system.”

They are fearful and angry not because democracy doesn’t work, but because it does despite their own media and political efforts to warp it.

When a party is hijacked by radicals and uses almost any means necessary to gain and use power for agendas that few Americans support, then average voters express their disapproval.

That reality apparently terrifies an elite. It then claims any system that allows the people to vote against the Left is not people power at all.

There's more at the link.

I think that gets it said.  The "true believers" (a.k.a. "useful idiots") on the left are panicking because they can see the electoral results of their policies staring them in the face.  Instead of taking corrective measures, they're doubling down on those policies and making the situation worse (something Vox Day analyzed in the second of his seminal three books on understanding the Social Justice Warrior culture).  Simultaneously, they're trying to set the scene to allow them to disregard the popular election result and manipulate the outcome, one way or another, so that they can cling to power by any means necessary.

The frightening thing is, their "true believers" actually believe that the threat is real.  They're persuaded by their own propaganda.  I'm not - not for a moment. I think any right-thinking person (or, for the sake of this discussion, "correct-thinking" person) would want the will of the people to prevail.  I don't see the threat of a right-wing coup as real . . . unless and until the left tries another power grab like 2020's.  Enough of us saw and understood what they did there to be determined that it will not be allowed to happen again.

That's why the left is worried.  Social projection, much?


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

You've got to hand it to China. It's out to exploit everything!


It may be intensely annoying to those of us in the western world to admit it, but China's systematically eating our lunch when it comes to exploiting data:  gathering it, analyzing it, and using it for competitive, military, strategic and geopolitical advantage.  My hat's off to them.

The Wall Street Journal reports (bold, underlined text is my emphasis):

China’s expanding grip on data about the world’s cargo flows is sparking concern in Washington and among industry officials that Beijing could exploit its logistics information for commercial or strategic advantage.

Even cargo that never touches Chinese shores often still passes through Beijing’s globe-spanning logistics networks, including through sophisticated data systems that track shipments transiting ports located far from China. Control over the flow of goods and information about them gives Beijing privileged insight into world commerce and potentially the means to influence it, say cargo-industry officials.

With ports clogged globally and shortages plaguing many industries, shipping data has become an enormously valuable commodity.

Foremost among China’s cargo-data systems is Logink, a digital network that links shippers internationally and describes itself as a “one-stop logistics information service platform.” Logink says it draws on a mix of public databases and information input by more than 450,000 users in China and at dozens of giant ports world-wide, including across the Belt and Road initiative, China’s trillion-dollar international infrastructure project, and as part of what Beijing calls the Digital Silk Road.

Logink’s international reach highlights a field critical to the world economy where the West lags behind China ... Logink’s window into global trade “could give the data holder a treasure trove of intelligence of national security and economic interest,” said Michael Wessel, a commissioner on Congress’s U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which last week launched a study of the system.

“It should be a much higher concern than it has been,” Mr. Wessel said.

The Defense Department sends military equipment via commercial ports world-wide. A spokesman for its logistics arm, Transportation Command, said that through Belt and Road, “China is seeking to enhance its visibility into the global supply chain, including U.S. military logistics.”

. . .

Concerns about Logink are similar to those around Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. : They all carry other parties’ data that Chinese authorities could exploit to China’s benefit or to the detriment of those who communicate over the networks. By crunching data crossing Logink, China could spot and exploit shortages, gluts and trends before others do, say industry officials.

. . .

“In logistics today, the flow of information is as important as the flow of money or goods,” said Inna Kuznetsova, a logistics expert and chief executive of data-analytics company 1010Data in New York.

. . .

“Logink is a masterpiece in technical innovation and would be the envy of other platforms,” said Andre Wheeler, a former logistics executive based in Perth, Australia, and now a consultant, who has analyzed Logink for several years. He estimates Logink is a decade ahead of rival systems, which makes it attractive for other countries to link with, “as they can leapfrog the technical development cycle.”

. . .

Isaac Kardon, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval War College, said Logink’s mix of data processing with sea shipping, all on a global scale, fits with China’s mix of high- and low-tech to strengthen its geostrategic position. “If you control the information, you can move things around without others knowing, or jumble up someone else’s information,” he said.

. . .

Logink’s management by the Chinese government, deeply involved in its nation’s corporate activities, “changes the dynamic,” said E2open Executive Vice President Pawan Joshi. “It’s difficult for free enterprises to compete with an incorporated nation.”

There's more at the link.

As I said, full marks to China for having the strategic vision to see how this system could benefit it in many areas, and for devoting the time, resources and attention needed to build and propagate it.  I may not like anything to do with Communism, but let's face it:  this is a major, major achievement, one that deserves respect, no matter how reluctant we may be to grant it.  Even if the USA and Europe started to build a rival system today, it'd take a decade or more to get it up and running, and in that time China would move even further ahead.

I think this is going to be a critical area of geopolitical influence and geostrategic operations in the years to come;  yet, for most people, it's entirely below the surface of international relations, invisible and ignored.  That needs to change at once, if not sooner . . . but do our diplomats, politicians and leaders have the vision to see that and do something about it?  I fear they don't.


Interesting... an old-is-new-again COVID-19 prophylactic treatment?


SciTechDaily reports:

A pair of over-the-counter compounds has been found in preliminary tests to inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19, University of Florida Health researchers have found.

The combination includes diphenhydramine [a.k.a. Benadryl], an antihistamine used for allergy symptoms. When paired with lactoferrin, a protein found in cow and human milk, the compounds were found to hinder the SARS-CoV-2 virus during tests in monkey cells and human lung cells.

The findings by David A. Ostrov, Ph.D., an immunologist and associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine and his colleagues, are published in the journal Pathogens.

“We found out why certain drugs are active against the virus that causes COVID-19. Then, we found an antiviral combination that can be effective, economical, and has a long history of safety,” Ostrov said.

. . .

Like diphenhydramine, lactoferrin is available without a prescription. Ostrov thought about pairing it with diphenhydramine and ran with the idea. In lab tests on human and monkey cells, the combination was particularly potent: Individually, the two compounds each inhibited SARS-CoV-2 virus replication by about 30%. Together, they reduced virus replication by 99%.

The findings, Ostrov said, are a first step in developing a formulation that could be used to accelerate COVID-19 recovery. It also raises the prospect of further study through an academic-corporate partnership for human clinical trials focused on COVID-19 prevention.

There's more at the link.

Benadryl and its generic equivalents are, of course, well-known.  I was intrigued to read that lactoferrin (freely available in milk at every supermarket) is also known for its antiviral activity.  If they work together so effectively, then this may be a combination everybody can take for pennies a day to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the first place. I'd call that a winner!  I hope the research is vigorously pursued, despite the fact that the medical establishment is bound to be opposed to it.  After all, there's no money to be made out of something so low-cost.




Your feel-good story of the day (click the image for a larger view):

(I presume that's Rome, New York and its Humane Society.)

I call that the spirit of Christmas in operation.  Thank you, Jennifer!


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

When race replaces law and facts in the jury room


I'm angry, but not surprised, to read of the collapse of a murder trial in Florida due to racial issues.

The foreperson of the jury in the murder trial of Dayonte Resiles said three jurors were unwilling to convict Resiles based on his race.

The foreperson discussed on Friday the most recent twist in the trial that ended Wednesday with the hung jury.

“[The three jurors] said, ‘I don’t want to send a young Black male to jail for the rest of their life or have him get the death sentence,'” said the foreperson.

Resiles faces life in prison and possibly the death penalty for the murder of Jill Su, a 59-year-old Davie woman who was killed in her home back in September of 2014.

. . .

After six days of deliberations, the jury came back with manslaughter, but when it came time for the foreperson to confirm the verdict to the judge, she couldn’t do it.

“The whole time I’m staring at the judge and at the clerk, and we’re locking eyes, and I’m looking at each one of them,” said the juror. “They’re just waiting for my verdict of either ‘yes, I agree’ or ‘no,’ and I just couldn’t, and that’s why I said no.”

She said most of the jury was ready to convict Resiles of at least second-degree murder, but the three refused because the defendant is Black.

After they compromised on manslaughter, she said, her courtroom change of heart led to threats from other jurors.

“You guys keep saying ‘a young Black man,’ but I don’t see race. I just see a human being, and you know, one particular person said to me, ‘Hey, if you were outside this courtroom, you would have gotten smacked out in the street for this,'” said the juror.

There's more at the link.

So now, in at least some parts of the country, we have to worry about the justice system being deliberately undermined by jurors who'll reach their verdict on the basis of the race of the suspect(s), rather than the facts of the case.  That's not a justice system at all.  That's a racist system.

That's something to bear in mind if you're the defendant in such a case.  Depending on the color of your skin, you might find some jurors voting to convict you because of that factor, while others might vote to acquit you on the same basis.  You may be justified in your actions under the law, but the law is no longer an unbiased arbiter.  It's subject to the whims of those who must apply it.

The old proverb says, "Better to be judged by twelve (i.e. a jury) than carried by six (i.e. pallbearers)".  Today, that may no longer be good advice.


The best explanation of the supply chain problem I've ever read


Jim Rickards has done us all a great favor by explaining the supply chain crunch in a way that anyone can understand, putting it in clear, unambiguous terms that can't be misunderstood.  Here's an excerpt.

What’s at the root of the supply chain breakdown? That’s a critical question but the answer is almost irrelevant. The supply chain is a complex dynamic system of immense scale. It is of a complexity comparable to the climate as a system.

This means that exact cause and effect cannot be computed because the processing power needed exceeds the combined processing power of every computer in the world.

Most people have some notion of how supply chains work, but few understand how extensive, complex and vulnerable they are. If you go to the store to buy a loaf of bread, you know that the bread did not mystically appear on the shelf.

It was delivered by a local bakery, put on the shelf by a clerk, you carried it home and served it with dinner. That’s a succinct description of a supply chain – from baker to store to home.

Yet that description barely scratches the surface. What about the truck driver who delivered the bread from the bakery to the store? Where did the bakery get the flour, yeast and water needed to make the bread? What about the ovens used to bake the bread? When the bread was baked, it was put in clear or paper wrappers of some sort. Where did those come from?

Even that expanded description of a supply chain is just getting started in terms of a complete chain. The flour used for baking came from wheat. That wheat was grown on a farm and harvested with heavy equipment. The farmer hires labor, uses water and fertilizer and sends his wheat out for processing and packaging before it gets to the bakery.

The manufacturer who built the oven has his own supply chain of steel, tempered glass, semiconductors, electrical circuits and other inputs needed to build the ovens. The ovens are either hand crafted (engineered-to-order) or mass produced (made-to-stock) in a factory that may use either assembly lines or manufacturing cells to get the job done.

The factory requires inputs of electricity, natural gas, heating and ventilation systems, and skilled labor to turn out the ovens.

The store that sells the bread is on the receiving end of numerous supply chains. It also requires electricity, natural gas, heating and ventilation systems and skilled labor to keep the doors open and keep merchandise in stock. The store has loading docks, back rooms for inventory, forklifts and conveyor belts to move its merchandise from truck to shelf.

Every link in these supply chains requires transportation. The farmer relies on trucks or rail for deliveries of seeds, fertilizers, equipment and other inputs. The oven manufacturer also relies on trucks or rail for deliveries of its inputs, including oven components. The bakery and the store rely mainly on trucks for deliveries of their inputs and the finished loaves of bread. The consumer relies on her automobile to get to the store and return home.

These transportation modes have their own supply chains involving truck drivers, train engineers, good roads, good railroads, rail spurs and energy supplies to keep moving and keep deliveries on time.

This entire network (farms, factories, bakeries, stores, trucks, railroads and consumers) relies on energy supplies to keep working. The energy can come from nuclear reactors, coal-fired or natural gas-fired power plants or renewable sources fed to a grid of high-tension wires, substations, transformers and local connections to reach the individual user.

Everything described above sits somewhere in a complex supply chain needed to produce one loaf of bread.

. . .

There’s only one problem. The system is extremely fragile. When things break down, everything gets worse at the same time.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.  You won't be sorry.

Mr. Rickard's article should be required reading for every politician and every administrator who's trying to "govern" or "manage" the supply chain crisis (and - it goes without saying - failing miserably).  It should also be required reading at first-year level in every college and university, to enlighten students as to the real world and how it works.  It would get rid of all sorts of weird socialist handwavium about how centralizing everything in a managed economy would sort out all the problems.

Truly, I think this is a seminal article, one that should be circulated as widely and as quickly as possible.  A whole lot of people simply don't understand the situation, and blame "profiteering" or "capitalism" or whatever for the problem.  After reading this, they'll have no excuse not to realize that it's far bigger than that, and there is no easy or quick solution.

Highly recommended reading.




A reader sent me a link to a Tumblr post in which a user asked this question:

I recall at least one of you guys having worked with livestock animals. Why are cows so damn indestructible while horses keel over and die if mercury is in retrograde or a dog barked in Kazakhstan?

The answers were very funny, particularly the one that began:

My entirely half-assed understanding of Why Horses Explode If You Look At Them Funny, As Explained To Me By My Aunt That Raises Horses After Her Third Glass Of Wine.

Click over there to read them for yourself, and brighten your morning.  Anyone who's been on the receiving end of horsing around (the equine variety, not the human) will appreciate the humor.

(PROFANITY ALERT:  There are a few f-bombs and the like scattered around there, but it's still funny!)


Monday, December 20, 2021

Declaring war on America as we know it


It's clear that's the reason behind the Biden administration's deliberate destruction of border security and active encouragement of illegal alien migration.  There can be no other explanation.  Tucker Carlson lays it out.

But the truth is, nothing like this has ever happened in the United States, and it's important for two reasons: The first is the rule of law. Remember that? So there are people right now still being held in solitary confinement because they trespassed in a building that technically they own — it's called the Capitol of the United States — and they're still there. They're still in jail. But millions of foreign nationals just walk in ignoring our laws completely, and that's totally cool because equity or something?

How can anybody respect the laws of the United States when they are being ignored by the people in charge of enforcing them? There's a massive cost to that. 

And here's the second point to make: You cannot overstate the scale of demographic change underway right now in the United States. It's a direct assault on our democracy. Democracy is the process by which the population elects its representatives. If you change the population, you dilute the political power of the people who already live there. This is an assault on democracy. 

At what scale? Here's an example: Customs and Border Protection caught more than 170,000 foreign nationals crossing into our country from Mexico last month. How many people is that? Well, that's the equivalent of the entire population of Knoxville, Tennessee, in a single month. That's a record. 

But it's happening every month, month after month under Joe Biden. And those are just the people we're catching. So this, and let's not lie about it, is the Democratic Party's reelection plan. New York is already allowing non-citizens to vote. Expect that trend to spread, because equity. 

It has nothing to do with equity or race. It's about politics. It's the whole point of this. Now, in the end, a lot of these people may turn out to have political views the Democratic Party does not expect whatsoever, particularly the Latino immigrants. But purely as an economic matter, this is a disaster. No wise person would do this. 

This country is getting poorer, in part because of inflation. No one wants to face that truth, but it is true. Is this really the time to import millions of low-skilled laborers? Probably not. What are all these people going to be doing for work in 10 years? That's a real question.

There's more at the link.

If the flood of illegal aliens were simply dispersing around the country on their own, that would at least allow us to hunt them down and expel them at some future date.  However, the Biden administration is doing all it can to funnel them through the legal immigration system, scheduling them for appointments before immigration judges who are not elected, but appointed as bureaucrats within the system.  The administration can select anyone it wishes as an immigration judge - and you can bet those it selects are going to implement its policies faithfully.  That means these immigrants may be officially granted permission to stay, and in due course become eligible for green cards.  From there, it's a short step to citizenship and full voting rights, plus the right to (legally) bring in any members of their extended families who want to follow them.

This is a deliberate effort to swamp American conservative and centrist voters with new arrivals who'll vote the way the Democratic Party wants.  It's nothing more or less than the dismantling of the American electorate - and that means the dismantling of our Republic in its present form.  The constitution is being trodden underfoot, not through being repealed, but through being ignored.

The Biden administration has effectively declared war on the American republic and everything for which it stands.

The illegal alien swarm currently crossing our borders is nothing more or less than a hostile invasion.  We need to treat it as such - and we need to do our best, as Americans, to ensure that those who enter our land in this way are shut out of jobs, welfare programs and systems, and the other things to which they have no right at all.

Yes, I say that as an immigrant myself.  I did it legally, acquiring a work visa, entering the country, in due course applying for a permanent residence permit, and (after jumping through many bureaucratic hoops) becoming a citizen.  I'm proud to be an American, and to follow in the footsteps of the many proud Americans before me.  Why would I, having followed all the legal procedures and paid out of my own pocket for the many costs involved, want my taxes to subsidize those who spit on those legal procedures and disdain our laws?


The discoverer of mRNA discusses COVID-19 vaccines


Dr. Robert W. Malone MD, the original "discoverer" of mRNA technology used in many of today's COVID-19 vaccines, has been demonized by the medical establishment for objecting to the safety and utility of the latter.  He's become an outspoken advocate, warning people of the dangers involved and arguing for a better, more appropriate approach to the entire issue.

He recently spoke with Neil Oliver of GB News (whom we've met in these pages before) about his background and concerns.  I highly recommend that you take the ten minutes required to listen to his comments.  You'll be much better informed about the issues.  I've keyed the video clip to start at his interview, and you can listen to the comments of others after his segment finishes, if you wish.

Food for thought indeed.


Memes that made me laugh 89


Gathered from around the Internet over the past week.  Click any image for a larger view.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday morning music


Fans of baroque music will enjoy this morning's offering.  A reader sent me the link to the video below.  It's over 4 hours of concerti by Dutch composers from the 18th century, including many of whom I'd never heard before.  They include Anton Wilhelm Solnitz, Albertus Groneman, Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch, Johann Christian Schickhardt, Pieter Hellendaal, Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer and Willem de Fesch.  The orchestra is the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam, conducted by Jan Willem de Vriend, and Musica Ad Rhenem, led by Jed Wentz.  The collection is available from Brilliant Classics, who appear to have an extensive catalog of classical music releases.  I must spend some time going through their list.

For a full list of the works included in this recording and their timestamps, see the video's YouTube page.

Mellow, relaxing music.  Perfect for a quiet Sunday morning.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Saturday Snippet: The early days of air mail


Dean C. Smith was an American aviation pioneer, one of those responsible for setting the standards for the nascent U.S. Postal Service's air mail service.  He also flew in Antarctica with the Byrd Antarctic Expedition of 1928–1930.  Later, he served as an executive with a number of American aircraft companies during and after World War II.

He wrote about his early flying years in an amusing and entertaining memoir titled "By The Seat Of My Pants".

Here are some of his stories of the early days of flying air mail in America.  It's mind-boggling to think that some of the pilots who flew these missions lived to see the Space Age and men on the moon.  What a contrast!

I asked around about a flying job, any flying job at all. If you were really desperate, I learned, there were two “last resort” jobs. You could get on as test pilot for Doctor Christmas, flying the Christmas Bullet. Doctor Christmas had had three test pilots, his Bullets had made three flights, and the boys had chipped in for three wreaths. But Doctor Christmas paid a hundred a week—not bad while it lasted. Or you could join the Air Mail.

What was so dangerous anyway, I demanded, about flying the mail? True, the Air Mail was all cross-country flying, much of it over hilly, rough terrain. True, too, the planes, mostly DH-4’s and a few Curtiss R’s, all war surplus, had to go in and out of small and unimproved fields instead of military airdromes. Worse, there were only a few mechanics who knew a sparkplug from an aileron, and it was about even money that the pilot would have an engine failure on any given flight.

But worst of all there was the attitude of the Post Office Department. A pilot had to try to get through, regardless of the consequences; he couldn’t cancel without giving it a try. Three or four of their pilots, it seemed, had learned to fly some pretty bad weather; and if those pilots could get through, the P.O. brass figured that the others should do the same. This was not a callous attitude on the part of the Department. It was necessary if effective flying carriers were to be developed, but it did make for short-lived air mail pilots.

I turned to Pop Anglin, who had led the mail pilots’ strike a few months back, when they had rebelled against orders to take off regardless of weather. Although the pilots had won the strike, Pop shook his head solemnly. But he gave me the telephone number of D. B. Colyer, manager of the Post Office Air Mail Service, which had its headquarters at College Park, outside Washington.

Colyer seemed delighted at the prospect of hiring a pilot. He asked if I could fly a De Havilland. I said I’d never had any trouble with the plane. That was true enough since I had never flown one. He told me to hustle down and he would pay the fare.

Even though everyone considered the Air Mail the next thing to suicide, you could at least be comfortable while life lasted. A mail pilot started at $2400 a year; he would get a $200 raise after he logged each fifty hours until he was making $3,600. If assigned to multi-engined planes like the Martin Bomber, he would get still another $100 a month. This added up to good money. This was my rationalization. Besides, what choice did I have?

College Park seemed a most unpretentious show to be the headquarters of the Air Mail Service. There were three or four shack-like wooden hangars, a hut for an office, and an exceedingly small, badly rolling, sod field. I was yet to learn that this was a sumptuous airdrome as compared with the typical Air Mail field. I located D. B. Colyer. As soon as the southbound got in, he told me, the pilot would check me out in a Jenny. If he gave me an O.K., they would put me in a DH, and see what I could do. And if I then got down in one piece, I would be in business. A mechanic showed me the layout, as I quizzed him anxiously about the switches and valves on the DH.

The incoming pilot took little time to check me out. He hustled me into the front seat of the Curtiss trainer, had me take off, make a quick circle of the field, and land. That was all. He gave Colyer a breezy O.K. and was off.

The De Havilland was a challenge, more psychological than actual, but enough to make me nervous as I climbed in for my first flight.

When I was introduced to the JN-4 I had been impressed with the throb of its 90-horsepower engine. The DH had a Liberty engine of 400 horsepower; its roar made the ground shake. But the mechanic’s lesson proved invaluable, and I carefully followed his instructions. Once clear, I taxied to the corner, pointed the plane the long way of the field, and gave her the gun before I had time to change my mind. The plane took off easily. After a few maneuvers, I knew I was flying the plane instead of the plane flying me, and I started getting a boot out of it.

There was an exhilaration to flying an airplane in those days: their slow speed and light wing-loadings allowed short turns, sharp dives, and quick pull-outs that are impossible in faster planes. We did not rely on gauges and indicators; we flew by feel, noting the control pressures on our hands and feet, the shifting weight of our bodies, and the pitch of the singing wires. I was careful with my first few landings, bringing the DH in flat, with a bit of power until I got over the fence. After a dozen landings, I taxied in to find I had become a mail pilot. This was in April, 1920.

The Air Mail operation, initially flying from Washington to New York, had been extended by a route from New York to Chicago and very recently as far as Omaha. After several days at College Park, I was given a permanent assignment based at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, whence I was to fly to Cleveland. Bellefonte lies at the heart of the Allegheny Mountains, in central Pennsylvania. I checked in with a Mr. Tanner, the field manager, and asked him what I was to do. So far as he knew, he said, I had only to fly back and forth to Cleveland. Never having been to Cleveland, I asked him for maps. He smiled. There were no maps. Sometimes on his first trip a pilot would fly behind someone who knew the run.

When Max Miller, the senior pilot of the whole Air Mail Service, showed up, I asked him how to get started. Rand McNally road maps, he explained, were useful, but they didn’t show the landmarks I would use most in flying the run, such as the shape and layout of the towns, the distinctive appearance of the hills and valleys, where the low places were that let you work your way through weather, and the location of possible landing fields. After I came to know my run, Miller said, I’d fly to Cleveland the way I’d walk to the drugstore; I’d know the way.

Miller and I picked up maps of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Then he began to talk. He kept on talking for a long time. From the field here at Bellefonte you head west through the gap in the ridge. Climb as you veer a bit north, passing over the center of this railroad switchback up the side of Rattle snake Mountain, then due west again to clear the top of the ridge at, say, 2,200 feet. After about ten miles you hit the railroad again at Snow Shoe—look sharp, it’s only four or five houses—then follow the railroad on down the other side of Rattlesnake to the valley where you pick up the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, winding along to the town of Clearfield, which you will know by three round water reservoirs just south of town.

Next, you have to get over about thirty miles of plateau to Du Bois. This is pretty high, about 2200 feet, but it is fairly smooth on top and there is a white gravel road cut through the trees straight to Du Bois. As you come into town, you will see the railroad to your right and just south of the railroad a piece of flat pasture you can land on in a pinch. Then the highway leads you for fifty miles through Brookville to Clarion. Each of these towns has a half-mile racetrack.

The one at Clarion is half full of trees, but the one at Brookville is clean and hard, and it’s the best emergency field from here to Cleveland: as soon as you land you will be met by a girl named Alice Henderson, driving a big Cadillac, who will be pleased to look after you. After Clarion, the country gradually gets lower until you cross the Allegheny at Greenville, which you can identify by a big S bend in the river. From then on it’s clear sailing.

And so he went on, naming towns, hills, rivers, roads, factories, racetracks, all the way to Cleveland. The airfield was in East Cleveland, at the Glenn L. Martin plant. It was easy to find, just a quarter of a mile from the lakeshore—or so Miller assured me.

I had expected to make my first trip escorted by one of the Cleveland pilots. But within a few days the westbound came in and there was no pilot except me available to take it on to Cleveland. The weather was far from promising; it had been raining off and on all day, and low clouds were barely clearing the ridges.

However, no one seemed concerned as they transferred the mail to my DH and warmed up the Liberty, so I took off and headed west through the gap in the first ridge. Max’s instructions proved a great help. I made it over Rattlesnake Mountain and followed the river to Clearfield without much trouble. Opaque veils of cloud forced me to twist and dodge my way between them as the squalls grew heavier.

By the time I reached the slope leading up to the plateau, the clouds were so solid that I had to circle back. I hated to give up. Over Clearfield again the sky looked brighter to the north, so I blithely headed that way, happily ignorant that I was flying over some of the wildest country in Pennsylvania, high and rugged, with few houses and no fields for fifty miles around.

I was able to work my way west by heading for openings between the clouds, zigzagging from one to another. I knew I was north of the course, but not how far north; I knew I was working west, but I couldn’t guess at what rate. I was amazed to find I was barely clearing the trees, although the altimeter showed close to 3,000 feet above sea level. The terrain was rushing at me with relentless speed. After a long half hour, the rain eased a bit and the clouds rose. I relaxed a little. I was showing them that a rookie could get through.

Just then, the engine stopped cold. As a rule when an engine fails, it will give some warning. The water temperature will rise, or the oil pressure will drop, or there’s a knocking or clanking. Even if it is only a minute or two, it gives the pilot a chance to look around and head for a field or open place. However, when the timing gear in a Liberty engine fails, one second it is roaring along even and strong, and the next there is a tremendous, loud silence.

I quickly twisted all the knobs and gadgets in the cockpit, but there was no response and the engine stayed dead. While my hands were trying to restart the engine, my neck was stretching and my eyes searching for some sort of field to land in. I was surrounded by heavily forested, sharply rolling hills. To my left was a cuplike basin with a small clearing. It was downwind, but my gliding radius didn’t allow much choice. I went for it.

To reach the clearing required a sharp, almost vertical S turn, first left, then right, while killing just enough speed and altitude to land, downwind, and still miss a nearby cliff. I can even now feel the rain slanting in my face and see that open space rocking and swinging in front of me as I pulled out of the turn. One thing I could not know: the clearing was choked with brush and weeds, hiding a three-foot ledge of rock directly in front of my landing spot. The ledge slammed into the undercarriage as I hit.

The plane snapped like a popper on the end of a bullwhip. I was catapulted into a long head-first dive, like a man shot from a circus cannon. Fortunately, I landed in the brush and rolled to a stop in a sitting position. The padded leather ring that rimmed the cockpit hung from my neck like a lei. I was still holding the rubber grip pulled loose from the control stick. My seatbelt lay across my lap. I felt around to determine that I had no broken bones. The wreckage of the plane was piled in a heap, like crumpled wastepaper.

Except for this lone field, the place appeared to be a wilderness of trees. After some exploration I located a little-used path and started to follow it. It meandered along for about half a mile and turned onto a dirt road that I followed downhill for perhaps another mile before I came to a small cabin. Sitting on a bench before the cabin were an elderly man and woman, barefooted and dressed in work clothes. They smiled and waved.

My first impression was astonishment at how clean they were, their scrubbed faces glowing above the faded calico and denim. I told them about the accident and about my mail pouches, which would have to be taken to a railroad station. They assured me that the rural mail carrier would be along shortly with his horse and rig and would willingly help me. The couple were very solicitous. Almost apologetically the wife brought out a big bowl of tiny wild strawberries, a jug of clotted cream, and a loaf of fresh home-baked bread.

Sure enough, the mail carrier came along in due course, with a sturdy mare pulling an old-fashioned hack. The old man and the mail carrier helped me bring the mail sacks down to the road and load them in the hack. Luckily there were only three or four sacks, hardly a hundred pounds. Westbound airmail was expensive that day.

After my thanks and goodbyes, we drove about ten miles to Pithole, a little town on the railroad, where the stationmaster accepted the mail shipment. I used my Post Office travel commission to get a train ticket to Cleveland. It was quite a trip, my first flight with the mail. I was beginning to understand why the boys at the Flying Club had given me a farewell party.

On arrival in Cleveland from the forced landing at Pithole, I was surprised to hear little comment about my accident. Engine failure, forced landings, and crack-ups were so common on the Air Mail that, so long as the pilot was not killed or seriously hurt, no one gave them another thought. Teams of mechanics, ready for repair and salvage operations, were constantly busy.

. . .

This was still before the days of instrument flying, of radio beacons, and even of weather reports. If a pilot got caught in clouds or fog and lost sight of the horizon, it was not long before he fell, because he was out of control. When the clouds were low, you had to fly close to the ground, close enough to see it; the lower the clouds, the lower you flew, dodging steeples and jumping trees and telephone lines. In the hilly country of the Alleghenies, the pilots sought the low places, passes that would lead them from valley to valley, twisting their way through mountains. The more experienced pilots became extremely skillful, learning the country in precise detail.

Initially we had no en-route weather reports. If it was thick at the take-off, the field manager might telephone through to the destination and inquire how it was there. The replies were limited to such whimsy as “Sunshine and flowers; tell him to come ahead” or, “Pea soup; better cancel.” In doubtful weather, there were some key spots to check along the route, usually in the mountains. After a time we tried calling up farmers who lived near these places and asking about the weather. It proved useless. If the weather was good, they could tell us; but when it was not, their replies were vague. A typical interrogation might go:

“Is it raining?”

“Yup. Pouring.”

“How far can you see?”

“I can see as far as the next man. I don’t wear glasses or anything.”

“What I want to know about is the clouds. How far up can you see now?”

“I don’t know, it’s pretty foggy; about a mile, I guess.”

“Foggy, and you can see a mile straight up! Then the mountains should be all clear, are they?”

“How can I tell? They’re all covered with clouds.”

We gave up these haphazard inquiries and made a survey. Specific farmers were on call, located near a mountainside. Specific objects or landmarks were selected at different elevations; the farmer would report the farthest object he could see. This did prove useful—that is, when we could reach the farmers.

The next step was to employ local people at selected spots to wire us daily weather reports. It was about this time, too, that we started using the terms “ceiling” and “visibility” to describe aviation weather. I think it was probably in 1921 or ’22 that the Air Mail Service leased telegraph wires along the route, expanded the number of reporting stations, hired trained observers, installed radio stations at the main fields, and formed the nucleus that has expanded into the vast aviation weather service of today.

In my earlier days I doubt if the number of completed trips averaged much over 50 per cent. There was hazard enough to suit the most avid adventurer. Not all the forced landings were in fields; there were frequent crack-ups, some of them grim. The years 1920 and ’21 were the worst in the history of the Air Mail. In 1920 we had five fatal crashes, killing nine, a fatal crash for every 130,000 miles flown.

In 1921 there were twelve fatal crashes, killing fifteen, with the average 104,000 miles flown per crash. As a pilot could expect to fly sixty or seventy thousand miles a year, his life expectancy would hardly make him welcome in an insurance office. I remember when Brooks Brothers refused to give me a charge account because my profession was too risky.

By the end of 1921 the record began to improve. Men like Luther Harris and Richard Ingalls, mechanics in name but with the capacity of inventive engineers, devised scores of changes in the Liberty engine that vastly improved its reliability. Weather reporting was in force and parachutes came into use. The surviving pilots had learned something about bad-weather flying and were able to pass some of this knowledge on to new pilots. Fatalities were reduced until, at the end of the Post Office operation in 1927, the Air Mail had averaged but one fatal crash per half-million miles during its history.

. . .

I believe that each surviving Air Mail pilot will tell you that at least once, early in his mail career, he had a brush with death that put the fear of God in him and made him acutely aware thenceforth that even the simplest error in judgment or a few seconds of carelessness might put his life in forfeit. Once a man got past that point safely, his chance of becoming a true professional pilot was much enhanced. I know that my ordeal marked a change in the quality of my work: I became not so much a more cautious pilot, for timidity has its dangers too, but a more thoughtful, careful one.

I was flying east out of Omaha in rainy, dirty weather, trying to make my way through the rolling country beyond Council Bluffs. The clouds were scraping the tops of the low hills. By ducking down into the hollows between the hills it was possible to see a little ahead, but in pulling over the higher rolls the fog would thicken and the ground dim, even with my wheels almost brushing the grass. I knew that in just a few miles I would reach a draw with a railroad in it that was two or three hundred feet lower than the terrain I was in, so I allowed myself to push on farther than I should have.

As I went over one of the low hills the ground faded completely from sight, but I quickly eased the plane down and made it into the next hollow, where I was able to see a little. The hill ahead came at me fast, and instead of turning I was teased into climbing its slope. Again the ground faded from sight, but this time for more than a few seconds. When I eased back down, feeling for the next little valley, I did not see the surface until I banged into it. The wheels evidently hit on a smooth grass field, for the plane, instead of crashing, bounced. Instinctively, I pulled back on the stick, the plane shot up into the fog, and when it leveled off at several hundred feet I was completely in the soup.

While I still had a sense of orientation I tried to make a blind turn, and then leveled off again in what I hoped was the direction back. I turned, but a turn causes the compass to spin and swing; it takes some time before it can give a course indication. I now had no choice but to attempt to fly blind, locking the rudder in neutral, holding the stick in my fingertips, feeling the wind on my cheeks, and watching the airspeed indicator. In this manner, I was able to get the plane under some control and ease it down little by little, until my altimeter read that I was as low as I had been before.

But I was unable to see anything of the ground, and the fog pouring back through my wings remained as thick and opaque as wet cotton. I dared not let down any lower or I would be bound to fly into the side of a hill, so I started to climb, mostly in desperation, for there was only a forlorn chance I could ever get on top of this type of weather.

Now followed a long period of fighting to keep control of the plane while all the time my equilibrium became steadily more confused. I succeeded in climbing to 8,000 feet; then the plane began to get more and more out of control. It lost altitude until I was back down to 5,000 feet. By this time, I felt I had been milling around in the clouds for an eternity, and found myself wondering why I did not run out of fuel.

At last I fell.

The plane stalled and whipped off into a spin, although to my bewildered senses it did not seem to be spinning down, but impossibly up and to the side.

I cut the throttle and held the plane in the spin for a few seconds to be certain I was in a known condition and to force my mind to reorient. When I broke the spin, I couldn’t pull out level from the resulting dive. By the time I got the wires to stop screaming the plane promptly stalled again. The plane floundered through the dark muck in a series of stalls, spins, dives, and pull-outs. I struggled and fought with it all the way down, working with desperate concentration, but that little corner of my mind that detachedly views such things said, “My friend, you are a dead duck.”

The altimeter needle was dropping fast, and I knew I was low as I tried to recover from the fifth or sixth stall and spin. If I’d been in a Jenny I would have let it spin in, but a crash in a full spin in a DH-4 was almost always fatal, so I continued trying to right the plane. The wires were screaming from what seemed a full dive and I was pulling back hard to get the nose up when the tops of trees came flashing by, just below my wings. I was almost level. I rammed the stick forward to hold the plane there, cut both ignition switches, and coasted ahead, expecting to hit but not knowing what.

The plane slid out under the deck of cloud to show me I was only fifty feet high—and over cleared land. We rolled to a stop, the propeller dead. After some minutes I began to tremble. I climbed out of the plane and had taken but two steps when my legs gave way.

. . .

Another danger was the cold. For the first winter or two, I was on the mail, we had no heat in our planes, the windshields were poor, the cockpits had unsealed holes, and we suffered real physical distress.

We had huge bearskin-lined flying suits, sheep-lined boots, fur-lined helmets, and mittens. But they were not enough. I used to have sections of newspapers stuffed inside my suit for more adequate insulation of the upper part of my body. Often, after I had been out an hour or two, I would already be so cold that tears would run down my cheeks. Under such painful conditions a pilot was obviously not capable of exercising his normal judgment.

. . .

I took the regular flight out of Chicago, leaving at dawn. The weather was fine except for a brisk headwind; to avoid the wind I flew just above the treetops and was droning along happily when the engine quit. One second it was throbbing along steadily, the next there was silence—a most depressing silence. The one clearing in sight was dotted with a herd of cattle. The landing would have to be downwind. I made a steep turn that finished in a sideslip, then went into a skid to kill the speed; I was in a dead stall coming over the fence, angling for a lane that would miss all the cows. Too late, an amiable-looking cow walked in front of the plane. The wingtip caught her fair amidships, the impact pinwheeling the plane end over end, wings, nose, and tail all breaking off as we went around, until there was little but me and the cockpit left when we came to rest. I stood up, quite unhurt; the cow did too. But the cow was lopsided, caved-in on one side and pushed out on the other. She gave one reproachful moo, then lay down and died.

Soon there were people and help and excitement. The farmer started to bewail the loss of his cow. Although as a farm boy I would have called it a scrub heifer worth thirty or forty dollars, he insisted it was fine, blooded stock and had been bred to the best bull in the state of Iowa. He later tried to collect $800 from the Post Office Department.

Passers-by helped me to get the mail to the town of Montezuma, where I turned it over to the railway mail clerk. Although I realized I should report to someone, I hardly knew how or to whom. A long-distance telephone call seemed an expense without reason. I sent a telegram instead to the Superintendent of Air Mail, trying to keep it short. It seemed to me to cover the incident. It read: “On Trip 4 westbound. Flying low. Engine quit. Only place to land on cow. Killed cow. Wrecked plane. Scared me. Smith.”

. . .

People often asked me why I liked being a pilot, why I flew the mail and took such chances of getting killed. I would try to explain, but never could find the words to explain it all. I knew that I could fly and fly well, and this skill set me apart from the run of the mill. I certainly had no wish to get killed, but I was not afraid of it. I would have been frightened if I had thought I would get maimed or crippled for life, but there was little chance of that. A mail pilot was usually killed outright. Then, too, sometimes I was called a hero, and I liked that.

One of the most rewarding things about a mail pilot’s job was the high pay and the high percentage of leisure time, which made for a merry life, even if indications were that it might be a short one. As a normal thing we worked two or three days a week, five or six hours a day, plus standing reserve perhaps one day a week, which only meant keeping the field advised how they might reach us. I spent my time as unproductively as possible: learning to play golf, chasing girls, reading omnivorously and indiscriminately; investigating dives and joints in the area; and—an interest that has remained with me ever since—trout fishing.

But what I could never tell of was the beauty and exaltation of flying itself. Above the haze layer with the sun behind you or sinking ahead, alone in an open cockpit, there is nothing and everything to see. The upper surface of the haze stretches on like a vast and endless desert, featureless and flat, and empty to the horizon. It seems your world alone.

Threading one’s way through the great piles of summer cumulus that hang over the plains, the patches of ground that show far below through the white are for earthbound folk, and the cloud shapes are sculptured just for you. The flash of rain, the shining rainbow riding completely around the plane, the lift over mountain ridges and crawling trains, the steady, pure air at dawn take-offs, and the smoke from the newly lit fires in houses just coming to life below—these are some of the many bits that help pay for the tense moments of plunging through fog, or the somber thoughts when flying cortege for a pilot’s funeral. It was so alive and rich a life that any other conceivable choice seemed dull, prosaic, and humdrum.

. . .

On one trip, when I had flown out of such a night into the flame of an autumn dawn, as I neared Chicago the quilted floor of fields and roads was marred by increasing patches of white fog, lying innocently here and there in shallow pools. There was enough visible ground to find my way until I was within a mile of the field, but then all was covered, and the fog stretched solid to the east. The fog was fairly shallow, for I saw the mark of smoke, puddled in the white, from the tall smokestack that sat just west of the flying field.

Circling over, I could just make out the circle of the stack’s tip. Using it as a marker, I could line up with the runway, but when I glided down I could not even see the tips of my wings, and I had to push open the throttle and pull back on top. Circling, I saw that my propeller wash had made a gouge in the top of the fog as the plane dipped in, like a scoop taking ice cream from the top of a can. This gave me an idea: perhaps I could dig out enough fog to see the end of the runway.

It took a long time. I would dip in, then hold the plane’s nose up in a near stall and jazz the engine to send the wash burning behind at a downward angle. After nearly an hour of circling and dipping, I had dug out a ragged trough about three hundred feet deep and could just see the end of the runway at its bottom. Touching down took care, for I had to start the glide beyond the edge of the hole, be blind for a moment, then have a few seconds to set the plane on the runway before I was blind in the fog again.

A DH does not roll far on landing, the Maywood runway was broad and long, and the landing came off just fine. But the fog was so dense I could not see to taxi; men had to come out and guide me to the hangar.

To those on the ground my many circles and dips had sounded as though I was lost in the fog and desperately trying to dive into the field, although no one could understand how I could keep flying in the horrible muck. Dick Ingalls almost worked himself into a heart attack repeatedly climbing the beacon tower to point its beam in hopes it would help me land, then, when he heard the throttle open and the plane start coming his way, frantically scrambling down in fear it would hit the tower. In the hangar, held from taking off by the fog, were the Army round-the-world fliers and their planes, just completed circling the globe and about to start a welcoming tour. They were, I believe, deeply impressed by the weather they saw the Air Mail come through. I did not explain how I had dug my way in.

. . .

Sometimes when the weather was bad but still hopeful, we would hold the mail at Hadley. At night this could make for quite a wait. The main crew and the usual knot of spectators would have gone home; for the pilot there would be nothing to do. We had no lounge or reading room, no place to rest. The pilot could lie on a canvas cot out on the hangar floor, or he could walk a mile down the road to a farmhouse where he could get a bed at a dollar for the night or day. The cot in the hangar was the private preserve of a cat with a highly developed and aggressive sense of private property. At the farmhouse there was the farmer’s wife, more cooperative than the cat about sharing the bed, but far less attractive.

. . .

Today, the vital role of the Post Office Department Air Mail Service in aviation’s history seems virtually forgotten, yet its gallant efforts gave genesis to our present vast system of civil air. Ask the man in the street about the Service and if he remembers anything at all he is apt to mention the famous airmail cancellation when the Army flew the mail with such unhappy results. Yet this happened in 1934 and was concerned with the mail-carrying contracts of the airlines, long after the pioneering I have told about here.

The Service was in existence for less than a decade and was never in any sense large. When I joined the Air Mail in 1920 there were perhaps twenty pilots employed by the Post Office Department. There were forty-three pilots when the Service ended in 1927. During its brief history forty-three had been killed and twenty-three more had been seriously injured.

Those were the days of the pioneers, all right.  It's sobering to think that a letter sent by air mail during the years following World War I bore a price not only in stamps, but also in blood.