Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Understanding the tyrannical mind


Brandon Smith does an excellent job of outlining the mind of a tyrant.  A tyrant need not be a dictatorial warlord like Genghis Khan;  he or she can be a low- to mid-level bureaucrat or supervisor in business, or an elected or appointed official in local, regional or national government.  The common factor in all of them is that they want power, and are willing to do whatever it takes to gain and retain power.

Here's an excerpt.

[There is] a specific human element that is obsessively attracted to control, not because they are afraid, and not because they want comfort, but because they enjoy the feeling of power. They are addicted to it. I’m speaking specifically about narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths; they are members of our species but they are lacking the key psychological traits that make us human, such as empathy, conscience, imagination, love and shame. In almost every case of government gone wrong it is because these types of people were able to slither into positions of authority and take advantage.

. . .

At the core of tyranny is the removal of choice. Centralization is all about eliminating options for the public while telling them their lives will be streamlined, easier and safer. If people have options outside the establishment system or ideology then they might question the validity of the power structure. They might ask themselves “What if there is a better way than this?”

And, since there is always a better way than fear and slavery, tyrants have to engage in a constant war with all alternative ideas and principles. The only way they can be sure that people won’t rebel someday is to erase the existence of choice. Not only that, but they have to convince the masses that to even suggest another choice is sacrilegious and dangerous. The system must become absolute in all things and in every area of daily life.

. . .

As noted, tyrants are usually psychopathic personalities, and a part of this mindset is the compulsion to expand and devour. Like a growing amoeba, or that creature from the movie ‘The Blob.’ Their hunger for control is never sated, they will always want more.

. . .

There will be people out there that make the common ignorant argument that all of this is an exercise in futility because it doesn’t “address solutions.” There are many solutions to authoritarian systems, I have been writing about them for over 16 years now. We can talk all day about decentralization and localism and organization and revolution, but none of this matters unless we understand how our enemies think and the tactics they use. If we do not know them we cannot defeat them.

They are not complex and they are not necessarily ingenious but they are relentless. Underestimating their obsession with control would be disastrous. That said, the one thing they value more than power is their own lives, and until these people are made to understand that their lives could be the cost of their compulsions they will never stop. There is no reasoning with them. There is no diplomacy or compromise. There is no middle ground. They will continue to take, or they will be disrupted. Knowing their mindset brings us several steps closer to shutting them down.

There's more at the link.  It's well worth reading.

On a national and international level, examples of tyranny are legion.  Take the Biden administration in the USA, the Trudeau government in Canada, the German government and its horde-mentality bureaucracy, the World Economic Forum and its prescriptive approach to the future . . . they all exhibit clear hallmarks of tyranny.  (Klaus Schwab of the WEF is an excellent example of the breed, as are Governor Whitmer in Michigan, Governor Newsom in California, and many others.  They'll masquerade under the banner of democracy, but in reality they're as much tyrants as anyone's ever been.)  So long as we submit to them and let them get away with it, the worse things will become for all of us.

Tyranny is also a besetting trait of the "woke", the politically correct imbeciles who currently infest our society.  As C. S. Lewis so wisely put it:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Fortunately, it looks like more and more people are becoming aware of the problem, and of those responsible for it.  The next question is:  "How do we get rid of them?"  They're not going to give up and go away of their own accord.  They'll have to be ejected - and that's going to take a real struggle.


In memoriam: Mikhail Gorbachev


Reams have already been written about the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union before its collapse.  I think one of the most appropriate thoughts comes from the blogger at HMS Defiant:

Two men encompassed the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan could not have accomplished the peaceful end without the grounded Russian realist who saw very clearly what the future held if the Cold War went on.  Mikhail Gorbachev must have seen not just the hand writing on the wall but the oceans of blood if the War went on as the Soviet Unions red star faded into the mist. He accepted reality.

There's more at the link.

I can't say much about Gorbachev as a person or leader.  I don't know enough to comment.  Nevertheless, his death sent my mind way back to November 1989.  I was sitting in my apartment in Johannesburg, South Africa, when an urgent TV news flash interrupted regular programming.  Before my stunned, startled eyes, the image cut away to crowds of people demonstrating on both sides of the Berlin Wall in Germany.  As I watched, the protesters hammered at the wall with their fists, then with sledgehammers, then with commandeered construction equipment.  I watched as a group of protesters hauled themselves to the top of the Wall, hoisted others up to join them, then jumped down on the West Berlin side to embrace those gathered to meet them.  Cheers and tears were the order of the day.  It was euphoric.

What stunned me was that the East German border guards, who had killed and maimed literally thousands of would-be border crossers over the decades, sat back and did nothing.  Erich Honecker, as tyrannical a dictator as one could wish, would have shot down the demonstrators by the hundreds and thousands without a single qualm of conscience;  but he was no longer in power, having been removed only weeks before in an attempt by the East German regime to soften and improve its image.  They could not have done so without the tolerance (probably carefully verified beforehand) of the Soviet Union and its leader.  In other words, Gorbachev had deliberately chosen to restrain former Soviet instincts and strategic imperatives, and allowed the Berlin Wall to fall.

Understand, I'd been active in South Africa's border war (and extended variations thereof) for a long time.  It was one of the hotter aspects of the Cold War.  I still bear the scars of those years in my body and mind.  I was accustomed to thinking of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact as the big, bad enemy, a major, terminally dangerous threat to my country and myself.  Suddenly, there was a new possibility;  the potential to resolve our external war peacefully, which in turn could possibly lead to an internal settlement of the national obscenity of apartheid as well.

I'd accepted for years that I was living on borrowed time.  The scars on my body reminded me of that anytime I forgot it.  Now . . . now, suddenly, I might have a future.  I might live to my next birthday, and even beyond.  Maybe I wouldn't become just another casualty of the Cold War.

That was mind-blowing.  It was genuinely shocking.

And I owe that, in very large measure, to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.  One kept up the pressure and refused to be cowed.  The other succeeded to an office and a system that were both hopelessly compromised, but had the sense and the grace to understand that.  Gorbachev could have kicked against the goad like all his predecessors.  He could have sent the Cold War down to ruin in a last spasm of bloodshed and cruelty, as those who later rose up against him would have preferred.  Instead, he let his humanity overcome his politics, and rose above tyranny to allow people to "vote with their feet".  Perhaps more than anyone realizes, he was the man who allowed the Cold War to end peacefully . . . and that has a lot to do with why I'm still alive today.

For that, Mr. Gorbachev, thank you very much.  May your sins be forgiven you, and may you rest in God's peace.


I've had days like that...


Stephan Pastis does it again.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the "Pearls Before Swine" Web page.

How does he manage to so often put his finger on the zeitgeist of our current messy existence?  However he gets it right, I'm glad he does!  We need something to laugh at.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Michael Yon and Tucker Carlson issue blunt warnings


We've heard a lot from Michael Yon in these pages recently.  That's because I think he's one of the few observers of the international scene who truly understands what's going on beneath the surface, where the writ of governments and authorities and figureheads runs out of steam.  Yesterday he warned:

Bangladesh collapsing. I did a recon there and Sri Lanka about five years ago. Bangladesh very significant. I was checking routes to Thailand in case of famine in India/Bangladesh. Refugees can swarm across Burma to Thailand.

To readers in Thailand, be prepared to face swarms at the border. Might take months or a year but at this rate can happen suddenly.

Meanwhile, Iraq. Presidential Palace and US Embassy evacuated. Sadrists swimming in the Presidential Pool, a place I remember well. Iran chomping.

Energy and food implications are severe locally, regionally, and globally.

You know you are in [a] war when something new and serious happens every hour, 24/7. We are there. We have reached the conditions we warned about.

From here out, nobody can stop it. This will go until it burns out. Nobody is in control but we do control ourselves. Tribe-up.

Please stop and focus on your preparations. This is no time for vacation unless you are very prepared.

You may be asking, "Why is Yon warning us about this when it's all about Bangladesh or Pakistan?  That won't affect us here!"  Well, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but it will.  If hundreds of thousands of refugees flee those countries, they'll destabilize the nations to or through which they flee.  Many of them will end up on our southern border, trying to cross into this country, because it's the safest place they can think of.  (They're wrong about that, but they won't be in any mood to listen to arguments.)  Furthermore, international agreements and treaties will come under pressure to deal with the diaspora;  and supplies of food and other essentials will be disrupted as population patterns change.  In our modern, interconnected world, any country is more and more interdependent on every other nation.  That's a fact of life.

In his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises", recognized today as one of his greatest works, Ernest Hemingway put these words into the mouths of his characters:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

The international scene feels very much like that to me at present.  Over the past few years we've seen a slow but steady escalation in tensions, problems, difficulties . . . call it what you will.  The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated that, making things much worse, very quickly - but initially, governments kept a lid on the mounting pressures.  Now . . . now it seems the lid is about to blow off.  Energy prices, shortages, social unrest and conflict, wars, famine - they're all coming to a head.  Every day we read about, and sometimes encounter, new and more difficult issues.  Few, if any, can be solved easily.  Many can't be solved at all.

As far as many nations are concerned, and international relations between them, I think we've reached the "suddenly" part of "Gradually and then suddenly".  Things are about to go out of control in much of the world.  "About" can mean weeks or months, but I no longer think we're talking about years.  Just look at how an unstable country can affect others.

  • Pakistan has nuclear weapons - reportedly at least a hundred of them - plus delivery systems for them.  What if the political unrest there combines with the pressures caused by current flooding to produce an upheaval in government?  What if, taking advantage of that, the Pakistani Taliban move to seize control of those nukes?  What if some jihadist leader gets his hands on one or two of them and launches them against whichever nation he regards as most evil?  There can't be any good ending to that at all . . .
  • China needs an external distraction to take its citizens' minds off their internal economic problems.  What if it launches an invasion of Taiwan?  That would drag every major Asian nation into taking sides, and probably pitch the USA into war.
  • What if the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine hits a crisis point at which Russia believes it has nothing to lose, and launches a nuclear warhead against a Ukrainian target?
  • What if, as winter sets in, people across Europe rise in literal revolt against unaffordable energy prices?
  • What if a new wave of impoverished invaders from the Third World swarm across the borders in Europe and the USA, desperate to get away from the famine and poverty and destruction they're encountering everywhere else?
I could go on, but you get the point.  I can only emphasize one paragraph from Mr. Yon's warning.

You know you are in [a] war when something new and serious happens every hour, 24/7. We are there. We have reached the conditions we warned about.

I agree.  So, from a different perspective, does Tucker Carlson, who warns:  "Things are falling apart very quickly".  If you'd like to read his remarks rather than watch this video clip, a transcript may be found here.

Again, I agree.


If you use cooking oils, it's time to stock up


The drought that's plaguing many US farmers and states is also hitting Europe's agricultural sector very hard.  Among other crops, olives and sunflowers are being hammered.  The BBC reports:

The fertile plains full of olive trees that stretch across southern Spain have made this country the world's biggest producer of olive oil, accounting for around half of the global supply.

But devastated by its worst drought ever recorded, Spain's so-called "green gold" is becoming rarer. This year's yield is down by around a third already - and there's still no sign of rain.

. . .

Spanish farmers have been planting more sunflowers since the start of the year, in an attempt to offset the loss of sunflower oil from Ukraine - the world's largest producer, where the war has led to a drastic drop in production.

But a flower that worships the sun also needs the blessing of rain - and there is none, leading to a mass of shrivelled crops producing neither seeds nor oil.

. . .

A recent report by the Global Drought Observatory concluded that Europe is suffering its worst drought in 500 years.

There's more at the link.

Almost every nation and culture on Earth relies on oils and fats to cook food, or add to food in the form of salad dressings, etc.  Well, half of the world's supply of olive oil is now under critical threat in Spain, and it's not the only producer facing drought.  Sunflower oil is being hammered as well, initially because of the war in Ukraine (that country and Russia being the world's largest producers of sunflower oil) and latterly because sunflower crops in other parts of the world are also being threatened by drought and other factors.

Other oils can be used instead, but they're not as healthy as olive oil, and they also face supply constraints.  In addition, there are environmental impacts, such as the destruction of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations.  Basically, the loss of major sources of olive and sunflower oil means that such constraints and impacts are only going to increase, and get worse.  More "exotic" oils, such as those derived from coconuts or avocados, are likely to see increased demand - but their supply is already limited, and their (already relatively high) price will rise accordingly.

I strongly suggest that if you use oils for cooking and food preparation, you should lay in a stock of your favorite brands/types at once, before the price skyrockets and/or their selection and availability becomes much more restricted.  In this country, with its relative wealth, I'm sure we'll continue to have such oils available;  but I won't be surprised to see their price double or triple within the next year.  Given that other prices will also continue to rise, it may come to the point where they're almost unaffordable for the average consumer.  The same might well happen to shortening (e.g. Crisco), lard and tallow, all made from animal fats - animals that are being slaughtered in mass quantities right now because the drought has restricted the amount of grazing available.  If herds are drastically reduced, when the drought breaks it'll take years before their numbers can be built up again;  and during that time, animal byproducts are going to remain in short supply.

(Edible oils and fats have a limited shelf life, so if you want to store them for the longer term, I suggest freezing them.  For example, I've kept olive oil in a freezer for up to two years, and noticed no ill effects when I defrosted and used it.  Just make sure their container allows for changes in volume as they freeze.)


Doofus Of The Day #1,095


Today's award goes to a sadly (?) departed (and certainly misguided) thief in Ghana.

The authorities in Ghana are investigating after a man was mauled to death by a lion after he climbed into a zoo enclosure in the capital, Accra.

The man, described as middle-aged, died from his injuries after Sunday's attack, officials say.

Wildlife authorities suspect he may have planned to steal two rare white lion cubs which have become a big draw since their birth last November.

The victim's body was retrieved from the zoo and taken to a local morgue.

. . .

A lion, a lioness and their two white cubs were in the enclosure when the incident happened.

"The lions have cubs so if you come too close they may feel you are trying to take away their babies," Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources Benito Owusu Bio told journalists.

"We ask the public to desist from doing anything like this," he added.

There's more at the link.

Based on my decades of experience in Africa, one explanation springs immediately to mind, based on several similar incidents of which I'm aware.

The would-be thief may have been a shaman, or witch doctor, or whatever local name is given to animist spiritual leaders.  The blood and body parts of white or albino lions are regarded as among the most powerful ingredients for muti, or juju, or whatever they call animist herbal/magical concoctions in that part of the world.  I won't be surprised to learn that this witchdoctor brewed up a potion to make himself invulnerable or invisible to lions, then worked his way into their enclosure to steal their babies.

I gather from the result that his protective potion... er... wasn't, and that Mommy and Daddy Lion had decided feelings (backed up by an abundant supply of teeth and claws) about their children staying right where they were, thank you very much.

Africa wins again . . .


Monday, August 29, 2022

Self-defense warning: the "knockout game", a.k.a. "polar bear hunting", is back


Regular readers will remember the so-called "knockout game" (sometimes called "polar bear hunting") craze of the early twenty-teens.  Young men, at that time usually black and often aspiring gang members undergoing initiation rituals, would randomly assault pedestrians, usually white, aiming to knock them unconscious with a single blow.  Here are a few contemporary headlines.

Summary Of “Knock Out” Attacks

Vicious 'knockout game' racial hate crime captured on camera

Hunting the Domestic Polar Bear

Well, it's back.

Four recent, unprovoked sucker-punch attacks across New York City — the latest on a 74-year-old woman — have signaled the return of the insidious “game,” a sicko street challenge where thugs attempt to render an unsuspecting innocent unconscious with a single blow, a law enforcement expert told The Post.

“Knock-out games are back. The attack on New Yorkers is very real. We have to keep our heads on a swivel,” said Michael Alcazar, a retired NYPD detective and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It’s not only the mentally ill who are committing these assaults. There are individuals who are angry, bored and brazen, who know they are not going to be prosecuted.” 

. . .

While the NYPD said it doesn’t track such “knockout”-type assaults specifically, this year there have been closer to 20 “sucker-punch” incidents, media reports show.

. . .

Whether the attacks are being carried out by the mentally ill or thugs with bad intentions, the state’s controversial bail reform laws are emboldening attackers, law enforcers said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a game or not. It’s just the way the streets are now,” said one veteran Brooklyn cop. “Perps think they can get away with anything, and most of the time they’re right. We arrest them and they get right back out.”

Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton — who served the city from 1994 to 1996 and again from 2014 to 2016 — said the incidents are not confined to the Big Apple, and are happening “all over the country.”

There's more at the link, including some very unpleasant surveillance video clips.

I've said often enough that if you can move out of/away from big cities, you should do so now.  Things are not going to get better.  If you can't, then this is one more security problem for you to think about.  You're going to have to walk the streets with far greater situational awareness than you might have used up until now.  Keep your head on a swivel.  Don't assume you're safe.  Don't look at your smartphone or get involved in a long telephone conversation.  Look around you all the time.  See who's approaching who might be a threat.  Even if someone doesn't look like a threat, he/she can turn into one at the drop of a hat (and they may drop it themselves).

Also, don't forget that this type of assault can be potentially lethal.  If you fall unconscious from an unexpected blow, and hit your head hard on the pavement, concussion is the least injury you can expect.  It might also cause bleeding in your brain, leading to a stroke and even death.  It's happened often enough before.  For example, see these articles:

Chilling video shows knockout punch that killed man in Brooklyn

Teen Will Face Charges For Sucker-Punch That Became Fatal

Frankly, if someone tries such an attack on me and I have enough warning to evade it at first, I'm going to treat it as an immediate and otherwise unavoidable threat to my life, health and safety, and I'm going to respond accordingly, to the full extent permitted under local laws.  Fortunately, I live in a town, county and state where one's right to self-defense is affirmed by the law.  Not all are so fortunate.  If you're among them, you might want to think about moving before things get any worse.


"You ain’t seen nuthin’, yet"


That's how Neil Oliver opens his latest opinion piece.  He's writing from Britain, but the points he makes are just as valid here in the USA - just change the politicians' names as needed.  He points out that all the headlines in the news media are nothing but an attempt to disguise the reality underlying them all.

Ultimately this is all about wealth and power. Not money, remember. Money is to wealth as a menu is to a steak. One’s a worthless bit of paper, the other something that will keep you alive. This is about actual wealth and its acquisition. It’s about the already super-rich getting hold of even more of the real things. Land, buildings, natural resources, gold. While we are supposed to be frightened out of our wits, squabbling among ourselves, and just hoping that one day it will all be over, a relative handful of others are hoovering up all the wealth, as planned.

Whichever way you slice it, an economic and societal shock on a scale that has not happened in lifetimes, if ever, is on its way. The world we live in is built in its entirety upon unimaginable, and now unsustainable, levels of debt. Trillions … quadrillions of dollars worth. There is always much more debt in the world than money – so that it is never possible to settle the debt. Now that debt, all that created money, is about to come crashing down.

There's more at the linkHighly recommended reading.

If you prefer to listen to him, here's the video version.

I've been saying many of the same things for a long time.  It's nice to hear more and more mainstream figures saying them too - even if that won't change the disaster bearing down on us.  It's too late for that now.


Memes that made me laugh 123


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

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sunday morning music


Today our musical entertainment is as much visual as auditory - and, in one case, very funny.

The musical "Riverdance" was initially the brainchild of Moya Doherty, Executive Producer of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest final in Dublin, Ireland.  She commissioned the titular piece to be performed during the interval of that show.  It ran for just seven minutes, but electrified the audience, who gave it a standing ovation.  That was enough inspiration to develop it into a full stage show, which launched just nine months later.  Since then, it's been performed all over the world, and is as popular today as ever.

Here's that original, seven-minute performance of what was to become the centerpiece of the full musical performance.  The principal dancers (who also co-choreographed the performance) were Jean Butler and Michael Flatley.

Riverdance went on to become an international musical phenomenon, being performed in many countries.  It's still staged to this day, and has produced fan performances such as the world record for the longest line dance.  Sadly, Flatley left Riverdance soon after the show became a smash hit.  It appears he felt that his contribution to its creation had not been adequately acknowledged.  He also allegedly wanted to be the - as in THE!!! - star of the show, whereas Butler and others regarded its success as a team effort.  Butler spoke about the rift some years later.

Flatley's public reputation was tarnished by the split and a subsequent lawsuit.  Undaunted, he went on to develop a new show titled "Lord of the Dance", in which he was unmistakeably the sole star of the performance.  It later evolved into "Feet of Flames" and "Celtic Tiger".  Here's the eponymous number from "Lord of the Dance", to show how his dancing style - and insistence upon being the central focus of the show - had developed.

Flatley certainly dominated the Celtic dancing performance scene for many years, despite his abrasive personality.

Some years later, Simon Cowell developed the concept for a TV talent show series titled "Britain's Got Talent".  It later expanded throughout the world, with dozens of countries having their own versions of the show.  The 2009 third series produced this extremely funny parody of Michael Flatley and Celtic dancing from a Greek father-and-son duo calling themselves "Stavros Flatley".

Stavros Flatley went on to win fourth place in the 2009 competition, and reappeared in a couple of later series.  Look them up on YouTube for more videos of those performances.

I enjoyed (and still enjoy) the music from "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance";  and I still laugh aloud at the performances of Stavros Flatley.  Long live parody!


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Saturday Snippet: One of the legends of the Victorian era


Following last Saturday's look at Jingoism and the poetry of Sir Henry Newbolt, I've had several requests from readers for more from that period.  I'm happy to oblige.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era and the entire 19th century.  He was Poet Laureate of Britain for most of Queen Victoria's reign.  Many of his poems became national classics and are still commonly read to this day, such as "The Charge of the Light Brigade".  I've chosen two of his poems that I'm sure will be familiar to many readers, perhaps not as a whole, but because of some well-known excerpts that have become almost idiomatic in the English language.

To begin, here's "The Revenge:  A Ballad of the Fleet".  It refers to the first ship of that name in what became the Royal Navy, which was lost in an unequal fight with a much larger Spanish fleet during the Battle of Flores in 1591.  At the time, Revenge was under the command of Vice-Admiral of the Fleet Sir Richard Grenville.

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
And a pinnace, like a flutter'd bird, came flying from far away.
‘Spanish ships of war at sea! We have sighted fifty three!'
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: ‘'Fore God I am no coward;
But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of gear,
And half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty three?'

Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: ‘I know you are no coward;
You fly them for a moment to fight with them again.
But I've ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.
I should count myself the coward if I left them, my Lord Howard,
To those Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.'

So Lord Howard past away with five ships of war that day,
Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer heaven;
But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from the land
Very carefully and slow,
Men of Bideford in Devon,
And we laid them on the ballast down below;
For we brought them all aboard,
And they blest him in their pain, that they were not left to Spain,
To the thumbscrew and the stake, for the glory of the Lord.

He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and to fight,
And he sail'd away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight,
With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.
‘Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
For to fight is but to die!
There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.'
And Sir Richard said again: ‘We be all good English men,
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the devil,
For I never turned my back on Don or devil yet.'

Sir Richard spoke and he laugh'd, and we roar'd a hurrah, and so
The little 'Revenge' ran on, sheer into the heart of the foe,
With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety sick below;
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen,
And the little 'Revenge' ran on thro' the long sea-lane between.

Thousands of their soldiers look'd down from their decks and laugh'd,
Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad little craft
Running on and on, till delay'd
By their mountain-like 'San Philip' that, of fifteen hundred tons,
And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning tiers of guns,
Took the breath from our sails, and we stay'd.

And while now the great 'San Philip' hung above us like a cloud
Whence the thunderbolt will fall
Long and loud,
Four galleons drew away
From the Spanish fleet that day,
And two upon the larboard and two upon the starboard lay,
And the battle-thunder broke from them all.

But anon the great 'San Philip,' she bethought herself and went
Having that within her womb that had left her ill content;
And the rest they came aboard us, and they fought us hand to hand,
For a dozen times they came with their pikes and their musketeers,
And a dozen time we shook ‘em off as a dog that shakes its ears
When he leaps from the water to the land.

And the sun went down, and the stars came out far over the summer seas,
But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three.
Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built galleons came,
Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her battle-thunder and flame;
Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with her dead and her shame.
For some were sunk and many were shatter'd, and so could fight us no more--
God of battles, was ever a battle like this in the world before?

For he said ‘Fight on! Fight on!'
Tho' his vessel was all but a wreck;
And it chanced that, when half of the short summer night was gone,
With a grisly wound to be dressed he had left the deck,
But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly dead,
And himself he was wounded again in the side and the head,
And he said ‘Fight on! Fight on!'

And the night went down, and the sun smiled out from over the summer sea,
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay around us all in a ring;
But they dared not touch us again, for they fear'd that we still could sting,
So they watch'd what the end would be.
And we had not fought them in vain,
But in perilous plight were we,
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain,
And half of the rest of us maim'd for life
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate strife;
And the sick men down in the hold were most of them stark and cold,
And the pikes were all broken or bent, and the powder was all of it spent;
And the masts and the rigging were lying over the side;
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride,
‘We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory. my men!
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore,
We die--does it matter when?
Sink me the ship, Master Gunner--sink her, split her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain!'

And the gunner said ‘Ay, ay', but the seamen made reply:
‘We have children, we have wives,
And the Lord hath spared our lives.
We will make the Spaniard promise, if we yield, to let us go;
We shall live to fight again and to strike another blow.'
And the lion there lay dying, and they yielded to the foe.

And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore him then,
Where they laid him by the mast, old Sir Richard caught at last,
And they praised him to his face with their courtly foreign grace.
But he rose upon their decks and he cried:
‘I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant man and true;
I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do:
With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Grenville die!'
And he fell upon their decks and he died.

And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant and true,
And had holden the power and the glory of Spain so cheap
That he dared her with one little ship and his English few;
Was he devil or man? He was devil for aught they knew,
But they sank his body with honour down into the deep,
And they mann'd the 'Revenge' with a swarthier alien crew,
And away she sail'd with her loss and long'd for her own;
When a wind from the lands they had ruin'd awoke from sleep,
And the water began to heave and the weather to moan,
And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew,
And a wave like a wave that is raised by an earthquake grew,
Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their masts and their flags,
And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shatter'd navy of Spain,
And the little 'Revenge' herself went down by the island crags
To be lost evermore in the main.

I remember reading that poem in primary school in South Africa, and the impression it made upon me.  "Sink me the ship, Master Gunner" found an echo in me somewhere, and I've never forgotten those two lines.

Another very famous Tennyson poem is "Ulysses", in which the legendary Greek hero of that name reflects on his life now that he is an old man.  He is determined not to sink into his dotage, but to go adventuring one last time, to die as a man rather than enfeebled by age.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
⁠This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
⁠There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Again, this was a standard schoolroom text (although for older children), and I absorbed it eagerly.  The last fifteen lines have been quoted almost endlessly ever since they were written, and some have become mottoes and slogans for countless individuals.

Tennyson's poetry has been said to be too florid and emotional for modern tastes (such as they are), but I still enjoy his work very much.  I hope you do, too.  He left us a rich legacy of poems that will reward investigation.


Friday, August 26, 2022

"Confessions of a Marine Corps sensitivity trainer"


Courtesy of Martin van Creveld's blog, I discovered an article with that title published in 2000.  It made me laugh out loud, both for the incongruity of its title (after all, the Marines are known for breaking things and killing people, neither of which requires exceptional sensitivity!) and for its humor.  Here's an excerpt.

Back then, there was racial tension. Lots of racial tension. So the Marine Corps decided that everyone should have Human Relations (HumRel) instruction, 20 hours worth, spread over five mornings. Unfortunately, I was hanging around the battery office, looking for my early-release papers, when the quota for a HumRel trainer came in. So they shipped me off to a weeklong instructors course. I graduated first in the class, having gotten a 98 on the true-false test, and they sent me back to teach the gun bunnies what was to become known as sensitivity.

We had a text. Actually, an “Our American Values” quasi comic book. In the 1960s, most basic manuals had gone comic book, including the M-16 rifle disassembly and maintenance guide (Chapter One: “How to Strip Your Sweet 16”), but that's another story. First four sessions, we sat around a conference table and reacted to the drawings and balloons.

“What do you think, Private Smith?”

“Dunno, sir.”

“What do you think, Corporal Jones?”

“Oh, I agree with Private Smith.”

Fridays were different. That's when we discussed conditions at the local base, including self-segregation, interracial sex, dapping (elaborate black-power handshakes), et cetera. When we got to the dating stuff, the scrawniest brother at the table made a comment about white male sexual prowess, as explicit as it was uncomplimentary. The nearest Caucasian immediately reached over and began acquainting his head with the tabletop, and there ensued several minutes of mass violence and general bad manners.

Once was nasty enough. When it happened the second cycle, I figured there was a pattern emerging. So did my captain. So did my colonel. So did a general or two, who suggested via the chain of command that a bit more decorum, and no more incident reports that had to go to headquarters, might be nice. Especially if I wanted to avoid being held on active duty for the investigations, which might take forever. So Thursday evening before my final class, I called the area guard shack.

“This is Lieutenant Gold. I'll be teaching sex education tomorrow and would like the reaction force standing by.”

Next morning, 20 or so Marines sat around the table, revving up. I announced the subject, then opened the door. In marched a dozen Marines in riot gear. They surrounded the table and made not a sound, save for a discreet tapping of their batons on the wall behind them.

We had a fascinating seminar, an open, genuine, and informative exchange of views. I subsequently spent 14 years as a college professor. Would that all my classes had been so… well received.

There's more at the link.  It's well worth a read, and will amuse you.

Odd thing, though . . . based on a number of Marines of my acquaintance, from the armed forces of three different nations (USA, Britain and South Africa), I'd have thought the last area in which they needed instruction was sex education.  In fact, I'd have thought (to judge by their comments) that most of them were pretty well qualified to serve as instructors in the field!  Oh, well . . .


A new book, and a new career


Two friends have important announcements today.

First, Old NFO, a.k.a. Jim Curtis, has just released his latest book, the second in his Western series "The Bell Chronicles".  It's titled "Ranching in Colorado".

The blurb reads:

Back in Texas he might be The Rio Kid, but at the other end of a long cattle drive in Fort Collins, Rio Bell is now struggling through his first year as a Colorado rancher. With his new wife, old hands, and a few mountain men, he's learning fast as they deal with winter weather and stubborn cattle.

The killing cold and deep snows bring all new challenges to calving and just getting in supplies, but tempers can run hot as ever. Not everybody wants to see him succeed... or even survive.

They're about to learn he's no greenhorn when it comes to taking care of business, regardless of what that particular business may be.

I had the pleasure of beta-reading Jim's manuscript, and enjoyed it very much.  He writes convincingly about the minutiae of everyday life on a cattle ranch, the details that so many "thud-and-blunder" Westerns ignore because they can't be sensationalized.  If that sort of thing interests you as much as it does me, I think you'll like it.

* * * * *

Next, one of my meatspace acquaintances, Ben Olsen, is trying to rebuild his life and start out in a whole new career direction.  Ben became extremely ill with COVID-19 and complications thereof last year, to the point that most of us thought he was not long for this world.  He spent weeks in an induced coma, to try to give his body a chance to fight back without distractions.  Almost miraculously, he pulled through.  He's still working through physical therapy to address some of the long-term effects of his illness, but he's made a remarkable recovery.

Now Ben's mounting a fundraiser to convert his hobby of knife-making into a full-time occupation.

I've seen and handled his knives, and also the hair sticks (a.k.a. "stabby sticks") he makes for ladies who may need to point out (you should pardon the expression) to aggressive individuals that they need to be elsewhere, pronto.  Ben does very good work.

He writes:

Yeah, I'm that guy who's crazy enough to try to go straight from crippling illness to self employed maker, and I would like your help to do that.

I am a knife maker, I can do mobile sharpening, and I have my own design of light but strong hairsticks for the ladies in all sorts of pretty colors. Funding will be used first for immediate goals to start the business, and anything left over will be put toward my longer term goals to expand it.

There's more at the link.

I'll be contributing to his fundraiser.  If you, like me, support those trying to rebuild their lives after life gives them lemons, and make lemonade with them, I hope you'll do likewise.  Ben deserves it, after all he's been through.  Full marks to him for wanting to actually earn a living, rather than demand disability and other support from Big Brother.  We need more people like that!

Another of my friends has known Ben for much longer than I have, and supported him even as an amateur bladesmith.  She writes on social media (no direct link available):

He makes absolutely beautiful knives and gorgeous hair sticks that are made from G10. I have like 12 pair of the hair sticks and probably refer another woman to him every couple of weeks. They're light, strong, will stick in any hair type, and will definitely get the point across to anyone who needs active physical encouragement to be elsewhere. I also have a couple of his knives.

I bought the very first knife he produced for commercial sale and commissioned his very first set of hair sticks. He actually made the G10 ones for me to try because he felt like the steel ones I ordered would too heavy for long term wear (and he was absolutely correct about that). The first knife I bought from him is as sturdy today as it was the day I bought it several years ago, and I have been wearing that same pair of basic black G10 hair sticks for over 5 years. They're rock solid. I only have so many pairs of them because he started making them in so many colors, and I have no impulse control for pretty and pointy things.

He's only gotten better at his craft since then, and I can't recommend him or his products highly enough. If anyone deserves a hand into making his dreams of being a full-time craftsmen into a reality, it's him. Please help out if you can, and share the link around as widely as possible.

Thanks in advance for your support for Ben's dreams.


Quote of the day


From Sarah Hoyt, on her blog:

We don’t need a national divorce. We already have that. We’re a separated couple, sharing the same house, avoiding each other at every chance and interpreting the noises we hear as being something exciting like rains of spiders or giving birth to snakes, when really the ex just slipped on a pool of cat vomit, and is now thudding around the house in a cast.

That's not a bad description of our current political divide, if you ask me . . .


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Apropos of all the crime...


... that I've mentioned in several posts, most recently yesterday, Stephan Pastis offers this consolation (?).  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the Pearls Before Swine Web page.

Yep.  That'll do it!


More evidence of how inflation is destroying America from within. Is it deliberate?


A recent headline reads:  "A ‘Tsunami of Shutoffs’: 20 Million US Homes Are Behind on Energy Bills".

The Nice household is one of some 20 million across the country—about 1 in 6 American homes—that have fallen behind on their utility bills. It is, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (Neada), the worst crisis the group has ever documented. Underpinning those numbers is a blistering surge in electricity prices, propelled by the soaring cost of natural gas ... more and more people are facing a choice among food, housing, and keeping the power on. “I expect a tsunami of shutoffs,” says Jean Su, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks utility disconnections across the US.

. . .

The average price consumers pay for electricity surged 15% in July from a year earlier, the biggest 12-month increase since 2006. Regulation of electricity rates makes it hard for providers to immediately pass on higher fuel costs, so the recent hikes may be just the start ... US households owe about $16 billion in late energy bills, double the pre-pandemic total, according to Neada. The average balance owed has climbed 97% since 2019, to $792. “The bills just aren’t affordable,” says Mark Wolfe, Neada’s executive director. “People on the bottom, they can’t pay this.”

There's more at the link.

My wife and I are noticing the same thing.  We're paying about 30% more for electricity at present than we were a year ago.  I'm sure most of our readers have noticed the problem.  It's not confined to the USA alone, either - it's all over the world.  The price of natural gas, essential for the generation of electricity, has skyrocketed, and as a result the price of the electricity produced using it has done the same.  Here in the USA, the local price of natural gas has done likewise, because producers have redirected much of their natural gas to the European market, where they can get much higher prices and make a much larger profit.

Sundance points out:

Already struggling with a doubling of gas prices, massive food price increases at the grocery store and the pain of all costs for goods far outpacing any rate of wage increase, this type of uncontrollable increase in price of electricity is going to hit the middle class hard.

Steve Cortes calls this the backside of the Biden created inflation hurricane.  The backside of a hurricane is the worst because it hits from the opposite direction upon already weakened infrastructure.

The hurricane metaphor is apt because any increase in energy costs will be accompanied by the simultaneous arrival of another wave of food inflation, as the massive increases in field and crop prices start to feed into the food supply chain headed to our forks next month.

. . .

One in six U.S. households, that is tens-of-millions of Americans, are now facing having their electricity turned off due to lack of payment.  It is certainly understandable how this horrific outcome would happen. Joe Biden’s energy policies are destroying working class families with unsustainably higher prices.

20 million households is a catastrophic level of utility default.  This is a serious issue with major social implications created by the desperation of those families.  Middle- and lower-income families cannot survive this level of financial pressure.

Rents are behind. Mortgages are behind.  Car payments are behind. And now this report on utility bills.

Again, more at the link.

And, in the middle of all this, the Biden administration has just committed $300 billion (which we don't have - it'll all have to be borrowed) to pay down student loan balances.  A more fiscally ridiculous, budgetarily insane, economically short-sighted decision would be hard to imagine... and just think of the inflationary pressures it will release on its own, even without considering other examples of government overreach and irresponsible expenditure.

Financial site Quoth The Raven observes that "Inflation Is Quietly Stripping Us Of Our Private Property Rights".

I had to look no further than my own personal circle to find recent examples of grown adults who were having difficulty making ends meet due to rising prices. These people had some money saved up, but still could not keep up with the price of rent and housing, and ultimately wound up giving up on having their own place and moving back home with their parents ... everyone is having the same problem: they simply can’t afford things anymore and, with inflation at between 8% and 9%, the value of their savings is collapsing.

In just 3 years, things cost between 15% and 20% more than they did when many savers were putting away a majority of their money - before the pandemic. The purchasing power of the dollar is down by about 20% over the same time.

Those who are still working on a wage that isn’t 20% higher than it was just 3 years ago are losing significant ground. Those who have stopped working and are either on a fixed income or are living off savings have been hit even worse...

. . .

We hear the news talk about a slowdown in spending all the time when economic times get tougher - it’s one of the dynamics that creates recession and de-leveraging cycles. But what happens when it’s the cost of shelter (i.e. rent and housing) and real estate that are also getting too expensive for everyday buyers. This is talked about far less, so let’s quickly think about what it could mean for the future ... everything will be communal and shared. The focus will be taken away from private property and private property rights.

Inflation helps this narrative greatly. If you have less purchasing power to buy discretionary items then, by proxy, you have less private property.

. . .

I now can’t help but think of inflation as a way to help strip away people’s individual private property rights. When you take away a person’s private property, private property rights don’t hold the same meaning to them ... If you could afford 8% more “stuff” last year with the same dollar, what type of mental gymnastics do you need to perform to convince yourself that your rights to private property aren’t being whittled away and taken out from underneath you?

More at the link.

Remember Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum?  This is their vision of a future Utopia.

Just imagine how unaffordable electricity could play into making that happen.

"You can't afford power?  Well, we, the benevolent State, can supply you with all you need!  However, we'll decide how much you need, and if you exceed that limit, we'll cut you off.  Still, let's not worry about that.  All that's needed is your obedient submission to our dictates."

Fancy that?  No, I didn't think you would - and neither do I.

International Man notes that many of these concepts can be directly traced back to Nazi and Fascist ideology.

For many years following the war, Nazi concepts remained under the radar, but in recent years, they’ve become a major force within not only the US, but also US ally states: Canada, Australia, the UK and, most notably, the EU.

The basic concepts are perennial in their attraction to those who seek to dominate:

1.  Create an uber class of those who are highly positioned in both industry and politics.

2.  Cripple the middle class economically, so that they no longer have the power to make their own life decisions.

3.  Offer dramatically increased dependency on the State as a relief from the economic hardship created by the state.

4.  Remove freedoms, in trade for the promise of largesse from the State.

5.  Institute a police state and totalitarian rule to ensure that the new paradigm will be lasting.

6.  Once controls are fully implemented and the populace has become dependent on the new system, begin to remove the promised entitlements.

The idea behind this final bullet point is that, once the population is thoroughly dependent upon the state, they will have lost the power to object or rebel if entitlements are removed. They are then fully dominated.

More at the link.  It's well worth reading their article in full.

Note the emphasis I provided for points 2 and 3 above.  Do the drastic increase in our electricity bills, and our inflationary environment in general, have any correlation to that?  I think they do.


EDITED TO ADD:  As if on cue, via links at Instapundit we find these two articles:

Rent Forever and Love It

Looks like I'm not alone in seeing the trend . . .

The mausoleum of Genghis Khan - found at last?


Archaeology World reports:

Construction workers employed in road building near the Onon River in the Khentii province of Mongolia, have discovered a mass grave containing the remains of many dozens of human corpses lying upon a large rudimentary stone structure.

Forensic experts and archaeologists were called to the site, which was revealed to be a Mongolian royal tomb from the 13th century that the scientists believe to be Genghis Khan’s.

The team of scientists affiliated with the University of Beijing has concluded that the numerous skeletons buried on top of the structure were most likely the slaves who built it and who were then massacred to keep the secret of the location.

The remains of twelve horses were also found on the site, certainly sacrificed to accompany the Great Khan in death.

A total of 68 skeletons were found buried together, almost directly over the top of a rather crude stone structure.

The content of the tomb was scattered and badly deteriorated, presumably due to the fact that the site was located beneath the river bed for hundreds of years until the course of the Onon river changed in the 18th century. The remains of a tall male and sixteen female skeletons were identified among hundreds of gold and silver artefacts and thousands of coins.

The women are presumed to have been wives and concubines of the leader, who were killed to accompany the warlord in the afterlife. The amount of treasure and the number of sacrificed animals and people immediately led the archaeologists to consider that the site was certainly the burial site of a really powerful Mongol warlord.

After realizing an extensive set of tests and analysis, they were able to confirm that the body belonged to a man aged between 60 and 75, who died between 1215 and 1235 AD. Both the age, the date, the location, and the opulence of the site seem to confirm that the tomb does indeed belong to Genghis Khan.

There's more at the link.

I find it a convincing detail that the tomb site was covered by the Onon River until it changed direction in the 18th century.  That fits one of the early legends about the burial of Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan likely died after either falling from his horse or because of wounds sustained in battle. In accordance with the customs of his tribe, he asked to be buried in secret.

Legend has it that his grieving army carried his body home to Mongolia, killing anyone it met along the way to hide the route, before later dying by suicide themselves in order to fully conceal the secret of his place of rest. When he was buried, the army rode 1000 horses over the ground to conceal any traces of their activity.

. . .

There are numerous legends as to where Genghis Khan’s tomb is. One states that a river was diverted over his grave to make it impossible to find.

Again, more at the link.  If the diverted river was that known today as the Onon, it makes sense;  as does the fact that the Onon changed course again some centuries later.  It's like the Mississippi River here in the USA.  The Army Corps of Engineers tries to keep it in its man-made waterway, but the river keeps trying to break out and carve a new channel for itself, as it seems to have done every few centuries since it began to flow.  Rivers do things like that, and I guess the Onon is no exception.

I guess now we'll find out whether the legends of curses placed on the tomb of Genghis Khan have anything to them.  Rumor has it that the curses on Tamerlane's tomb (he occupied the throne of Genghis Khan more than a century later) were enormously harmful to the Soviet Union.  Perhaps those on Genghis Khan's tomb might prove... unfortunate... for the Chinese Communist Party, which authorized the excavation?  (Tongue firmly in cheek, of course - I don't believe in that sort of superstition - but others are less phlegmatic.)