Thursday, August 31, 2023

Why the sriracha shortage... isn't


Like many others, I've noticed how hard it's become to find Huy Fong-branded sriracha sauce in supermarkets these days.  I initially understood, from cursory glances at news articles (like this one from last year, for example) that it was due to a shortage of hot peppers (caused, of course, by the dreaded and hyped-to-death "climate change" - what else?).  However, the reality appears to be rather more complicated.

Strained supplier relations coupled with adverse agricultural conditions have left Huy Fong Foods’ sriracha out of stock at many grocers nationwide. Bottles of the hot sauce were going for as much as $52 on third-party sellers such as Amazon as of Thursday.

Underwood Ranches, a farm owned by Craig Underwood based in Ventura County, California, supplied Huy Fong Foods’ peppers for 28 years. Underwood told CNBC that he could have kept up with demand if he were still the company’s supplier.

After a dispute between the two parties led to a legal battle that began in 2017, the long-term relationship between the manufacturer and supplier ended.

Huy Fong Foods claimed it overpaid Underwood Ranches for its crops from the 2016 season.

“We had been investing in the next year’s crop and crop beyond. So we felt that was really our money. But [Huy Fong founder David Tran] decided to sue us for that. And when he did, we countersued,” said Underwood.

Meanwhile, the company began contracting with new farmers, even though it already had made an agreement with Underwood Ranches for its 2017 crop supply.

“In the end, Craig Underwood won a $23 million judgment from a jury that was in Ventura County, in his backyard. But he also had to pay David Tran back the $1.5 million that Huy Fong says they overpaid,” said CNBC special correspondent Jane Wells, who covered agriculture in California.

There's more at the link, and in the extended video report below.  It makes interesting viewing.

I'm a little taken aback by peoples' insistence on buying Huy Fong-branded sriracha.  The sauce is not exclusive to them:  it's a well-known Thai sauce that's been around for decades.  Huy Fong marketed its brand very well, and came to dominate the US market, but it's by no means the only choice.  Other brands are still relatively freely available, because they didn't get crossways with their pepper suppliers as Huy Fong did, and have thus been able to continue production.  I've tried a couple of those other brands, and they taste just fine.

On the other hand, some people have made good money out of the shortage of Huy Fong sriracha.  One acquaintance read about Huy Fong's 2020 warning of a shortage of chili peppers and began stocking up on the stuff.  She built up a stash of about three hundred bottles, and when the price exploded due to the shortage (at one point I saw online prices as high as $65-$75 per bottle), she began listing them on eBay, Craigslist and other markets.  She reckons she made over $10,000 from her accumulated supply - a very nice return on her investment.  I asked her how she'd been able to foresee such wild demand, and she just shrugged and said that American consumers knew the Huy Fong brand, but not many of the other sriracha sauces out there.  She relied on consumers continuing to demand the brand they knew, without realizing that "sriracha" isn't a brand name as such, but a generic name for all sauces of that type.

I don't use much sriracha, and that mainly as an ingredient in curries and other spicy foods (and very sparingly at that).  I don't like to put it directly on my food, because I find it overpoweringly spicy-hot as a condiment.  (On the other hand, a blend of Tabasco hot sauce and sriracha makes for an interesting flavor combination, if used sparingly - I say again, sparingly!!!  I tried some last night, and it works for me.  Purists who like either sriracha and/or Tabasco don't seem to like the combination, but that's a matter of taste, I guess.)


Ominous warnings from Tucker Carlson - assassination and war


In recent interviews, Tucker Carlson has come out flat-footed and predicted what I believe will be catastrophic developments for the USA, in terms of both internal politics and external relations.  The reaction of the left has been predictable - debunking his "crazy" and "weird" theories, dismissing him as a kook, all the usual stuff.  Nevertheless, from my reading of the current situation, I believe he's far more likely to be right than wrong - and that scares the hell out of me.

He predicts that, rather than let Donald Trump win the next election, he will be assassinated if that looks likely.

Not content with that, he predicts that the progressive left will deliberately provoke a war with Russia so that they can assume war powers and thereby prevent any danger of their rule being overthrown in the next election.

I'm afraid I agree with Tucker Carlson on both points.  I believe the powers that be, those "gray eminences" behind the Biden administration, are more than willing to commit both crimes if necessary rather than relinquish their hold on power.  If they get their hands on war powers, look for the First and Second Amendments to be gutted, with massive nationwide crackdowns on any political opposition and the imposition of a dictatorial regime the like of which has never before been seen in this country - although those of us with foreign experience have seen it all before, over there.

Can this be stopped?  Possibly . . . but not certainly.  It depends on whether the average American will be willing to stand up and say, "Enough!  So far and no further!"  Will that happen?  That's debatable.


A fascinating exercise in aeronautical engineering


Boeing and NASA are teaming up for an interesting experiment.

Boeing has moved an MD-90 to the site in Palmdale, California where it plans to modify the former passenger jet into NASA’s X-66A truss-braced-wing demonstrator aircraft.

Boeing MD-90 (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Boeing is now gearing up to begin the process of equipping the airframe with the truss-braced wing.

(Image courtesy of Boeing)

“Modification will begin soon, and ground and flight testing is expected to begin in 2028,” Boeing says.

The X-66A is part of NASA’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator programme, an effort to study technologies that will improve aircraft efficiency.

Boeing plans to replace the MD-90’s low, swept wing with a longer wing mounted atop its fuselage and supported by trusses – a configuration it calls the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW).

The long, thin wing will generate less drag than that of a typical airliner, potentially allowing an aircraft equipped with a truss-braced wing to cut fuel consumption by 10%, according to NASA.

There's more at the link.

I'm finding it hard to visualize how a cantilever low-wing 1970's-technology airliner can be transformed into a truss-braced high-wing airliner using 2020's technology.  I'm sure it can be done, but it's going to be a radical transformation of the aircraft's basic structure, so much so that it'll end up as, effectively, an entirely new plane.  I don't know how much of the original airframe will remain.  There's the engines, too:  switching from two tail-mounted turbofans to two wing-mounted units of a type and design yet to be finalized - perhaps even a hybrid electric propulsor.

We're all familiar with truss-braced wings, of course;  anyone who's seen a high-wing Cessna single-engine monoplane can't help but notice them.

Cessna 172 (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

However, until now they've always been on relatively low-performance, smaller airframes.  Translating that simple braced structure to something that can withstand the aerodynamic and other pressures on a higher-speed airliner isn't going to be easy.  To make matters even more interesting, the long, thin truss-braced wing will be designed to fold, so that the aircraft can fit into a standard airport bay for loading and unloading - a feature that's not found on small aircraft.

I don't know whether I'll live long enough to fly on one of these aircraft (or even if it will be successful enough to produce in quantity), but it's going to be interesting to watch developments.


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Looks like golden skullduggery in Southern Africa


Two stories are making headlines around the world, although US news media appear to be largely ignoring them.

First, Al Jazeera (which is an excellent source of world news except for its coverage of Israel and the Middle East, where its regional and religious bias shows) has uncovered what it calls a "Gold Mafia".

An investigation by Al Jazeera has revealed some of Southern Africa’s largest gold-smuggling operations, exposing how these gangs help criminals around the world launder billions of dollars while aiding governments in circumventing international sanctions.

Gold Mafia, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) based on dozens of undercover operations spanning three continents, and thousands of documents, also shows how government officials and businesspeople are profiting off the illegal movement of gold across borders.

The investigation reveals how billions of dollars’ worth of gold is smuggled every month from Zimbabwe to Dubai, allowing criminals to whitewash dirty money through a web of shell companies, fake invoices and paid-off officials.

The investigation also shows how Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is systematically using gold smugglers to get around the chokehold of Western sanctions imposed on the country. The money laundering and gold-smuggling schemes involve one of Zimbabwe’s most influential diplomats, and go all the way up to the president and his circle.

The smugglers include millionaires, one of whom was accused of almost bankrupting Kenya through a similar, corrupt scheme also involving gold.

There's more at the link.  South Africa is said to be investigating possible links to the matter.

Next, the BBC reports on a mysterious aircraft that landed in Lusaka, Zambia, bearing millions of dollars in cash and "fake gold".

Everyone knows the aircraft flew from the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and landed a fortnight ago in Zambia, but that is where the certainties stop. So far nobody in Egypt or Zambia admits to chartering the plane or owning its contents ... [Zambian police documents] reportedly named three Egyptian military officers and a senior police officer among those arrested ...

. . .

Several of the officers who entered the plane are now being investigated for allegedly receiving up to $200,000 each from the Egyptian nationals aboard the plane. It is claimed this was their reward for allowing the plane to take off without arresting anyone.

When word somehow got out that wads of money on the plane were allegedly changing hands, another group of security staff charged on to the aircraft and arrested those inside.

Presumably the suspects had trouble explaining what they were doing with millions of dollars in cash, several pistols, 126 rounds of ammunition and what looked like more than 100kg of gold bars.

The gold bars were particularly puzzling.

It turned out that, as well as gold, they were made from a mixture of copper, nickel, tin and zinc. All that glitters is clearly not gold.

. . .

The Zambian lawyer acting for one of the 10 arrested men said another mystery was why the security forces seemed so bad at maths.

Makebi Zulu told the BBC that at first police said they had found $11m in cash. This, he went on, was later downgraded to around $7m before finally settling on the sum of $5.7m.

Again, more at the link.

A few thoughts on the case, based on my very extensive knowledge of Africa in general:

  • Nobody admits to chartering the plane or owning its contents?  Say it ain't so!  The big money men behind this have all ducked for cover, and are letting "lesser people" take the blame.  Don't expect that to change.
  • "another group of security staff charged on to the aircraft" - to make sure they weren't left out of the deal, perhaps?  As for arresting the first group, that's probably a "Share - or else!" gambit.
  • $11 million at first, then $7 million, and finally $5.7 million?  I'm willing to bet the first figure was a lot more accurate than the subsequent two - at least, until light-fingered officials got their hands on the money.  I wonder how many Zambian politicians, bureaucrats, police officers and criminals shared the "missing" $5.3 million?

A writer could have a lot of fun following up on both of these news reports, and taking notes about the details.  If you see a future novel (or series of novels) from me about a similar theme, set in space perhaps, don't be surprised.  That's how my "Cochrane's Company" SF series began:  making accidental, unplanned contact with a "heavy" who was fairly unmistakably involved with the Albanian mafia.  The entire trilogy popped into my mind as my wife and I drove home after that incident.

(Of course, the use of gold to disguise payments and launder money to and from other parts of the world is nothing new in Southern Africa.  The international arms embargo against South Africa from the late 1970's to the early 1990's was rendered largely toothless by that country's willingness to pay for what it needed in gold or any hard currency the seller desired, swapping gold for currency whenever necessary through Middle Eastern exchanges.  At the time South Africa was by far the world's largest gold producer, so the yellow metal was readily available for the purpose, and the untraceable Krugerrand dominated the international gold coin market.  There were parts of the world where South African gold purchased all sorts of difficulties for that country's enemies.  Gold speaks a universal language that's readily understood.)

I can feel another book coming on . . .


"Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things."


I'm still a bit mind-boggled after reading this report.

New details have emerged after a shooting injured two women at Guaranteed Rate Field during a Chicago White Sox game on Friday night.

On Tuesday, ESPN Chicago reporter Peggy Kusinski said that the gun was snuck into the stadium by one of the women who was hit. The shooting was "an accidental discharge" by the woman whose injury was previously identified as "a graze wound."

"She reportedly snuck the gun in past metal detectors hiding it in the folds of her belly fat," Kusinski said in a post on X.

Police previously said that a 42-year-old woman "sustained one gun-shot wound to the leg" and a 26-year-old woman "also sustained a graze wound to the abdomen."

There's more at the link.

I'm not surprised at the way she tried (and apparently succeeded) to conceal her firearm.  I've worked in prisons, remember?  Most prisons these days have body orifice security scanners (like this one, for example).  They're essential equipment because of the many weird and wonderful things inmates try to conceal in body cavities (including shanks and small firearms, and no, I'm not joking about the latter!).  If the lady (?) in question had great big rolls of body fat, they'd work to conceal a small firearm just as her body's orifices would.  It's a yucky, nasty thought, and I'd hate to have to handle that firearm afterwards ("Double gloves, STAT!"), but it happens.  (I wonder whether body orifice security scanners will have to become standard equipment at stadium entry points?  If this goes on, they might . . . )

Nor am I surprised that the gun went off.  She was probably fiddling with it, adjusting how it was nestled into her body fat to make it more comfortable.  (I don't see how it would have gone off through the working of her body fat alone, unless she had muscles in her fat rolls that the rest of us are lacking.  That's a mental picture I didn't need!)

What does surprise me is that she felt it necessary to sneak a gun into a baseball stadium in the first place.  If she felt that seriously threatened by potential attackers, she shouldn't have been exposed in a public place at all.  She should have been hunkered down in a more secure location.  Besides, carrying the gun in that way meant she probably couldn't have got it out in a hurry, possibly having to remove some of her clothing in order to draw it:  so it wouldn't have helped much if she'd needed to defend herself.  Its presence also exposed her to potential arrest by cops summoned by security personnel if they'd found it, which is a needless risk.

No, carrying it into a baseball stadium, and particularly in that way, just doesn't make sense . . . but then, people who'd do things like that seldom make sense.  Logical thinking is foreign to most of them.  That's why so many of them are in prison.  Sadly, now that the story has come out, I suspect we'll see more people try to do the same thing.  They don't need a reason except that "Hey, if LatorraShaniquaHoneychile can do it, I can too!"

I suspect we may have to add sports stadiums to the list of what John Farnam calls "stupid places", as in his time-honored advice:  "Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things."  The lady (?) in this incident broke all of his rules, and probably a few more besides - and she'll doubtless inspire others to do the same.



Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Great Train Robbery - comedy edition


Here's another comedy sketch from "Beyond The Fringe", part of the series we began yesterday.  At the time, the Great Train Robbery had just occurred in Britain, and dominated the news headlines for weeks.  This was the comedians' take on the subject.

British policing (or the ineptness thereof) has long been a favorite subject of comedians in that country.  I'll have to dig up a few more sketches on the subject.


When the State decides it, not you, "owns" your children


Last week I published an article titled "You can no longer entrust your children to the state".  In it, I highlighted how warped and deviant sexual mores and practices were being effectively imposed on families and children by State educational and health care authorities.

The latest development in this nightmare comes from Massachusetts.

In June 2023, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) unveiled the draft of its new “Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Curriculum Framework” document ... Note that this is officially just “guidelines” for schools. But don’t be fooled. The clear intent down the line is for the legislature to mandate these guidelines.

. . .

The idea of “trauma-sensitive” and “safe and supportive” schools reveals the education establishment’s attitude that schools are equally, if not more, concerned about a child’s safety and emotional support than parents. (And, that the home may not be a safe place.)

The new “equity” emphasis relates to pushing ideas on supposed discrimination (re: race, ethnicity, economic status, and LGBTQ+ identities).

. . .

Throughout the document, sexual orientation and gender identity are treated as valid and legitimate “identifications” which cannot be disputed or challenged in any way. (No alternative moral or scientific perspective is mentioned.) Likewise, systemic discrimination and inequities are presented as fact.

Students will be given resources for support in pursuing LGBT identities, STD testing and treatment, birth control, or abortion, and instructed in how to get help from others if their parents are not in agreement.

Other topics to be addressed in the classroom include rape, sexual consent, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, trauma, domestic violence, dating violence, illicit drugs, community standards, and public and school policy.

There's more at the link, including many examples of such policies and their implications.

In all seriousness, if you take your children's upbringing seriously;  if you want them to adhere to the moral and ethical standards and norms that a traditional (particularly a Christian) upbringing espouses;  if you don't want them exposed to the moral filth that permeates modern society;   then you cannot risk exposing them to the cultural environment being deliberately created and promoted in many State school systems.  The report above refers to Massachusetts specifically, but similar policies are being proposed and implemented in many other states as well.  (To name just one example, see what's happening in Maryland right now.)  The education departments in many states have been infiltrated and overwhelmed by those with ulterior motives and radical progressive agendas, and they're targeting our children.  Even private schools, such as those run by churches, are often forced to follow (or willingly adopt) state curricula including such subjects.  They can no longer be blindly trusted.

It's reached the point where I'm recommending to friends and those who reach out to me for advice that they should not put their children into state-run schools, or those that use a state-approved curriculum, without first checking and double-checking that the curriculum doesn't include this moral trash.  If it does, don't send your kids there!  Home-schooling is fortunately still an option for most Americans, and it's fast becoming the only one where you have a say in what your kids are taught and how they are raised.

I'm aware of a number of families that are banding together to homeschool their children as a group, hiring a trusted teacher (paying partly in cash, partly in kind) to oversee their learning, sharing the burden of supervising them at a central location each day, and planning joint extra-curricular activities.  They see it as defending their kids - and I can't disagree.  I only wish more families were following their example.


Credit cards are flashing danger signs for the economy


A couple of weeks ago we had to spend an unexpectedly large amount on repairs to one of our vehicles.  Not a problem, financially speaking:  we had a reserve fund adequate to meet the need.  However, I dislike carrying around large sums of cash, so when I went to collect the car, I paid by credit card.  So far, so good:  I've done that before any number of times.  However, things have changed.  When I pulled out the card, the nice lady at the counter informed me that there would be a 3% surcharge if I used a credit card.  When I protested that there had never been such a charge before, she pointed me to a small, unobtrusive sign on the door stating that the dealership was using a new credit card processing firm, and that they, not the dealership, would charge the 3% fee.  Since I had no alternative if I wanted to drive myself home, I paid, grumbling loudly.

Of course, it was the dealership that was the problem, because they had chosen to stop absorbing such charges (previously a normal cost of doing business) by switching to the new processing company.  They didn't do so for any reason other than that credit card surcharges have become onerous, and they wanted to remove that burden from their bottom line.  They simply chose to do so in such a way that they could blame someone else.  I've protested to their general manager, pointing this out, and I'm waiting to see what happens - but I don't hold out much hope of getting a refund.  I'll keep pushing, and we'll see what happens.

I've noticed more and more small businesses also trying to avoid credit card surcharges.  I'm informed that the big processors have increased their charges recently, so much so that it's become a real burden.  When the corner coffee shop offers free product if you pay cash for ten coffees over time (using a clip card to track your purchases), it's an interesting twist.  They're not offering the free coffee for purchases, but for using cash instead of a credit card.  That says a lot about what credit card fees must be costing them.

Why are the fees going up so much?

Macy’s sounds the alarm on credit card delinquencies

Macy’s is warning of a spike in customers who are failing to make credit card payments, adding to the evidence of mounting financial stress on consumers.

The iconic department store had anticipated delinquencies would climb following a post-Covid lull. But Macy’s management has been caught off guard by the magnitude of the uptick.

“The speed at which the increase occurred for us and the broader credit card industry…was faster than planned,” Adrian Mitchell, Macy’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, told analysts during an earnings call on Tuesday, adding that this problem “accelerated” in June and July.

. . .

More concerningly, new credit card and auto loan delinquencies have now surpassed pre-Covid levels, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

This is especially a problem for smaller banks.

Why the "financial stress on consumers"?

Household debt is at an all-time high

In the second quarter of 2023, total credit card debt surpassed $1 trillion for the first time ever, which helped bring total household debt to $17.06 trillion, also a fresh record, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

. . .

The average credit card rate is now more than 20% on average, another all-time high.

At nearly 20%, if you made minimum payments toward this average credit card balance, it would take you more than 17 years to pay off the debt and cost you more than $8,366 in interest, Bankrate calculated.

“Consumers are not financing purchases at 20% interest because they’re flush,” McBride said. “The rising balances and increasing number of households carrying balances are signs of the financial strain millions of households are feeling.”

That's why credit card processing fees are increasing:  because more and more consumers can't afford to pay the monthly minimum amount owed.  They're effectively broke.  A manager at a local bank told me that the old desperation measure of using one credit card to pay another card's bill each month is becoming more widespread again.  Credit card issuers and processors are the ones most at risk from this, so they're trying to anticipate losses by increasing their fees to cover them.

And what effect is this having on the US economy as a whole?  Here's one.

Home Purchase Applications Plummet To 28 Year Low As Nobody Can Afford To Buy A Home Anymore

"Applications for home purchase mortgages dropped to their lowest level since April 1995, as homebuyers withdrew from the market due to the elevated rate environment and the erosion of purchasing power," said Joel Kan, MBA's vice president and deputy chief economist. "Low housing supply is also keeping home prices high in many markets, adding to the affordability hurdles buyers are facing."

The MBA’s overall gauge of mortgage applications, which also includes refinancing, fell to 184.8, near the lowest level since 1996.

The reason for the collapse is simple: with housing affordability at or near the lowest on record, the average monthly mortgage payment - based on a median home price and average 30Y fixed-rate mortgage, assuming a 20% down payment - has exploded to a record $2,322m more than double from pre-covid levels.

. . .

And it's about to get even worse: according to Mortgage News Daily, borrowing costs have continued to rise so far this week and on Tuesday the 30-year fixed rate hit almost 7.5%.

Don't let anyone tell you the economy is in good shape.  If you're the recipient of government largesse in stimulus money or any other program, you're probably doing fine.  For the rest of us . . . not so much.  This is a time to batten down the hatches, watch spending like a hawk, and figure out how best to survive economic stormy weather.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Vintage 1960's comedy - still as funny as ever


A comedy stage revue called "Beyond The Fringe" debuted at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival.  It featured Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore, and was a smash hit, touring Britain and then coming to Broadway in New York City.  It followed in the footsteps of earlier British radio comedy shows such as The Goon Show and Hancock's Half Hour, and predated later shows such as Monty Python and I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again.

The sketches in Beyond The Fringe are often very funny, in a warped, twisted British humor sort of way.  I grew up on that sort of humor, so I enjoy them very much.  I thought I'd inflict a few of them on you this week, so that you could share my suffering enjoyment.

Here's Dudley Moore and Peter Cook in their classic sketch "One Leg Too Few".



The Nord Stream pipeline sabotage: was Ukraine the guilty party after all?


A very long and complex article in the German periodical Der Spiegel suggests that Ukraine was behind the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage attacks last year.  The original article is behind a paywall, but an archived (i.e. non-paywalled) copy is available.  It's far too long to summarize here, but the core findings are as follows.

Officially, politicians and the Office of the Federal Prosecutor are still holding back with any conclusions. Currently, it is not possible to say "this was state-controlled by Ukraine," Federal Prosecutor Otte says. "As far as that is concerned, the investigation is ongoing, much of it still undercover."

Behind the scenes, though, you get clearer statements. Investigators from the BKA, the Federal Police and the Office of the Federal Prosecutor have few remaining doubts that a Ukrainian commando was responsible for blowing up the pipelines. A striking number of clues point to Ukraine, they say. They start with Valeri K., IP addresses of mails and phone calls, location data and numerous other, even clearer clues that have been kept secret so far. One top official says that far more is known than has been stated publicly. According to DER SPIEGEL's sources, investigators are certain that the saboteurs were in Ukraine before and after the attack. Indeed, the overall picture formed by the puzzles pieces of technical information has grown quite clear.

And the possible motives also seem clear to international security circles: The aim, they says, was to deprive Moscow of an important source of revenue for financing the war against Ukraine. And at the same time to deprive Putin once and for all of his most important instrument of blackmail against the German government.

But crucial questions remain unanswered. From how high up was the attack ordered and who knew about it? Was it an intelligence operation that the political leadership in Kyiv learned about only later? Or was it the product of a commando unit acting on its own? Or was it a military operation in which the Ukrainian General Staff was involved? Intelligence experts and security policy experts, however, consider it unlikely that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was in on it: In cases of sabotage, the political leadership is often deliberately kept in the dark so that they can plausibly deny any knowledge later on.

. . .

Few in Berlin want to think right now about what action should be taken if the involvement of Ukrainian state agencies is proven. On the one hand, Germany couldn't simply brush off such a serious crime. But suspending support for Ukraine in its war against Russia also wouldn't be an option. "Everyone is shying away from the question of consequences," says one member of parliament with a party that is a member of the German government coalition.

The fact that politicians who normally might at least speak off the record are remaining silent and simply ignoring inquiries is an indicator of just how delicate the situation is ... the perception among investigators is that the will to solve the case is not particularly pronounced in the capital. Politically, it is easier to live with what happened if it remains unclear who is behind the attacks. The process is not being hindered, but neither is there much support from the overarching government ministries. Meanwhile, it is clear to career-oriented ministry officials that there is no glory to be had with this case. If only because the culprits will likely never have to answer for their actions in Germany. Even if they could be identified, it's very unlikely they would be extradited.

So Berlin is looking away, and that is definitely being registered in agencies where staff is constantly in short supply and procedures have to be prioritized. All of which leads to the investigation falling down the priority list.

There's much more at the link, including what looks like compelling evidence of Ukrainian involvement.

There's another reason why Ukraine would want to hide its involvement (if any) in the attacks.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) policy is that an attack on the critical infrastructure of any one member is an attack on all members, and calls for a united diplomatic and (if necessary) military response.  If Ukraine were proven to be behind the attacks, it would almost automatically forfeit NATO military support in its war with Russia, and its efforts (and the efforts of neocon warmongers in the USA) to demonize Russia would be dealt a critical blow.

I have no idea about the truth of the situation.  I suspect very few people do.  Nevertheless, the Spiegel investigation appears pretty thorough, and their arguments seem to hold water.  I wonder if we'll ever learn the truth from official sources?  Your guess is as good as mine.


Memes that made me laugh 174


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

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sunday morning music


Here's something different to start your Sunday:  a so-called "glass harp".

A glass harp (also called musical glasses, singing glasses, angelic organ, verrillon or ghost fiddle) is a musical instrument made of upright wine glasses.

It is played by running moistened or chalked fingers around the rim of the glasses. Each glass is tuned to a different pitch, either by grinding each goblet to the specified pitch, in which case the tuning is invariable, or by filling the glass with water until the desired pitch is achieved. Adding water causes the pitch to go down. Each glass model may have its pitch lowered by a fourth or even larger interval.

GlassDuo is a partnership between Polish musicians Anna and Arkadiusz Szafraniec.  They've performed all over the world, and have had several pieces of original music composed for them.  Their repertoire is eclectic, from classical to pop to rock music, and including pieces from different countries and musical traditions.

Here are several pieces by Glassduo, solo or accompanied.  I like all of them.

You'll find lots more of their music on their YouTube channel.


Saturday, August 26, 2023

Saturday Snippet: More maxims


A few months ago I put up selections from an anthology of sayings collected by Richard Wabrek.  I've been paging through the book since then, finding more and more useful nuggets.  It's the sort of book one can read for a year or more whenever one has a free moment, a page or two at a time.

I thought you'd enjoy a few more pages from the collection.

“The Republic was not established by cowards, and cowards will not preserve it.” — Elmer Davis, American journalist (1890–1958)

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” — Walter Lippman, newspaper columnist (1889–1974)

Lippman was referred to as “the Father of Modern Journalism,” with all that implies about the manufacture of public opinion.

“Equality, in a social sense, may be divided into that of condition, and that of rights.  Equality of condition is incompatible with civilization, and is found only to exist in those communities that are but slightly removed from the savage state.  In practice, it can only mean a common misery.” — James Fenimore Cooper, author of The Last of the Mohicans (1789–1851)

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” — Goethe, German polymath (1749–1832)

“Why of course people don’t want war.  Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?  Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor England, nor for that matter Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to damage.  It works the same in any country.” — Herman Goering, World War I fighter ace, the second most powerful man in NAZI Germany, convicted, WWII war criminal (1893–1946)

Goering is right.  Who would have thought that the American public would support a war conducted by the incompetents who so recently displayed their talent during the Afghanistan withdrawal?

“You can do anything in this world if you’re prepared to take the consequences.” — W. Somerset Maugham, English author and playwright, educated as a physician (1874–1965)

“It’s a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.” — H.L. Mencken, American journalist and commentator (1880–1956)

“There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, And that is to have either a clear conscience, or none at all.” — Ogden Nash, American poet (1902–1971)

“Lex malla, lex nulla” or “An evil law, is no law.” — Thomas Aquinas, Italian saint and philosopher (1225–1274)

Four on the theme of stupidity:

“Evolution stops when stupidity is no longer fatal.” — Anonymous

“Evolution reverses when stupidity is rewarded.” — Anonymous

“There will always be a death penalty for stupidity.” — R. Wabrek

It just isn’t applied uniformly. All of us behave stupidly at times.  If we’re fortunate and do not persist in our stupidity, we may survive our lapses. Heinlein took a different view.

“Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation.  Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can’t help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.” — Robert A. Heinlein in his book, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

“Self‑defense is not only our right, it is our duty.” — Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the US (1911–2004)

“We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.” — Dwight Lyman Moody, American evangelist, founder of the Moody Bible Institute and Moody Publishers (1837–1899)

“We certainly can’t give students a quality degree, not with class size growing geometrically and our 30-to-1 [student-faculty] ratio, but at least we can encourage our students to have fun and root for our teams while they’re here... Football Saturdays are great here and so are winter basketball nights.  In our Admissions Office literature, we have stopped saying that we provide a good education; our lawyers warned us that we could get sued for misrepresentation, but we sure promote our sports teams.” — An anonymous administrator at a Sunbelt university quoted in Beer and Circus by Murray Sperber

I recommend Beer and Circus for an accurate depiction of higher education in the US around the new millennium. It might give you second thoughts about the value of higher education for all.  Murray Sperber was an English prof at Indiana U.  Shortly after the firing of IU Basketball Coach Bobby Knight for thuggish behavior, Sperber received death threats because earlier he had penned an editorial critical of the coach’s behavior.

“A .30–06 is sufficient to kill a lion.  It may not be sufficient to stop the lion killing you.” — JRB, The List

“I am always content with what happens; for I know that what God chooses is better than what I choose.” — Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher and former slave (50–135 AD)

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” — St. Augustine of Hippo, Berber Christian theologian and philosopher (354–430)

“When you have nothing left but become aware that God is enough.” — A. Maude Royden, lecturer, author, and suffragette (1876–1956)

“If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking.” — General George S. Patton, commander of the 7th US Army in World War II, and the 3rd US Army in France and Germany after the Allied invasion of Normandy (1885–1945)

“Back in the ‘20s, Will Rogers had an answer for those who believed that strength invited war. He said, ‘I’ve never seen anyone insult Jack Dempsey’ (world heavyweight champion at that time).” — Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the US (1911–2004)

“I wish they would remember that the charge to [Saint] Peter was ‘Feed my sheep’, not ‘Try experiments on my rats’, or even ‘Teach my performing dogs new tricks’.”  — C.S. Lewis, British writer and Christian apologist (1898–1963)

“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations.” — Elton Trueblood, American Quaker author and theologian (1900–1994)

“Death comes with a crawl
Or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It’s not the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only – How did you die?”
— Edmund Vance Cooke, Canadian poet (1866–1932)

“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up your remains,
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldier.”
— Rudyard Kipling, English author and poet (1865 –1936)

Kipling was born in India when it was under control of the Brits.  You may be familiar with his stories: The Man Who Would Be King, The Jungle Book, and Kim, all of which were rendered as films.

In Latin America US President Jimmy Carter had the nickname, “La mujer bionica, the bionic woman—because he had a lot of power and no balls.” — Anonymous, but probably from Gunsite Gossip

“When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen’s constitutional rights, it acts lawlessly and the citizen can take matters into his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all.” — William O. Douglas, associate justice of the US Supreme Court (1898–1980)

“I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.” — Sir Thomas Moore in the film, A Man for All Seasons (1966)

“When the man said ‘Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’, I just naturally assumed he was making a delivery.” — Anonymous

“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.” — Confucius or perhaps a Celtic proverb

“The best toys are the ones that you can put an eye out with.” — Anonymous

“We may see the small value God has for riches by the people he gives them to.” — Alexander Pope, English poet and satirist (1688–1744)

Another. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” — Alexander Pope, in An Essay On Criticism

“The right of revolution is an inherent one.  When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, whether by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable.” — Ulysses S. Grant, most successful US Army general in the Civil War and 18th president of the US (1822–1885)

If that one doesn’t surprise you, how about this? “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.” — President Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address

“If you don’t have a metal detector, I don’t have a gun.” — Anonymous

“Character, not circumstances, makes the man.” — Booker T. Washington, American educator, author, orator, and advisor to several presidents of the United States (1856–1915)

“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.” — General Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general during WWII and subsequently the 34th president of the US (1890–1969)

The voice of experience.

“No indulgence of passion destroys the spiritual nature so much as respectable selfishness.” — George MacDonald, Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister (1824–1905)

“Never undertake anything for which you wouldn’t have the courage to ask the blessing of heaven.” — G.C. Lichtenberg, German physicist (1742–1799)


“It is almost impossible to bear the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing somebody’s beard.” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Notebook G

“Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator ... This will of his maker is called the law of nature.” — Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, a legal classic in Britain and the USA (1723–1780)

“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.” — Charles Lamb, English essayist (1775–1834)

“I hate violence!  I hate it so much I am willing to kill anyone who tries to use it against me.” — Mike Waidelich, Bakersfield, CA Police Department Rangemaster (1942–2021)

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mike Waidelich; my loss.  He was responsible for training the BPD to such an exceptional level that Los Angeles officers were known to say: “Oh. You’re from BAKERSFIELD. Our bank robbers go there to get killed.” The hit-ratio statistic for Mike’s students was an unheard-of 85% in an era when the national figure was approximately 15%.  Mike’s quote appeared in a letter to the editor in The Bakersfield Californian, May 7, 2012.

“...there are two ways of fighting: by law or by force. The first is the way natural to men, and the second to beast. But as the first way often proves inadequate one must needs have recourse to the second.” — Niccoló Machiavelli, Italian diplomat, author, philosopher, and historian; best known for his political primer, The Prince, in the same (1469–1527)

“Fight back!  Whenever you are offered violence, fight back!  The aggressor does not fear the law, so he must be taught to fear you.  Whatever the risk; and at whatever the cost, fight back!” — Jeff Cooper, Lt. Colonel of Marines and the father of modern practical shooting (1920–2006)

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” — Ecclesiastes 9:11, The Bible

Mr. Runyon offered the following modification to the Biblical observations.

“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” — Damon Runyon, American newspaperman and author (1880–1946)

“Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms...the right of the citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government and one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.” — Vice President of the US Hubert Humphrey, “Know Your Law Makers”, Guns Magazine, Feb. 1960

The late Senator Humphrey was a pro-gun Democrat, an extinct species at this writing.

“A personal commitment to fighting one’s way through to the end is necessary for any successful warrior. Fighting, once initiated, is a job from which one cannot resign.” — Anonymous

“If you sit, just sit. If you walk, just walk. But, whatever you do, don’t wobble!” — Yunmen Wenyan, founder of a major sect of Chinese Zen (862–949)

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.  The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” — Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, statesman, soldier, and writer (1874–1965)

“If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.” — David Hackworth, highly decorated US Army colonel (1930–2005)

“If you find yourself in a fair fight...your tactics suck!” — Anonymous

This is an updated (coarser) version of Col. Hackworth’s quote.  It has been attributed to so many that I cannot specify a source with any confidence.

“D.R.T. = Dead Right There” — a term of art from Randy Cain, firearms instructor

“I refused to attend his funeral.  But, I wrote a very nice letter explaining that I approved of it.” — usually attributed to Mark Twain, but more likely first stated with minor variation by E. R. Hoar, American politician, lawyer, jurist, and US attorney general (1816–1895)

There are thousands more in the book.  Excellent browsing material, and often highly informative and educational.  (If you missed my first set of excerpts from "Deplorable Wisdom", you'll find it here.)


Friday, August 25, 2023

You can no longer entrust your children to the state


Two reports caught my eye over the past few days.  First, from Germany:

Several daycare centers in Germany are reportedly considering or have already implemented "sexual exploration rooms" where children can engage in sexual games and discover what they find pleasurable.

When asked for comment by the German newspaper Die Welt, the North Rhine-Westphalia children's ministry, headed by Green Josephine Paul, said the "sexual behavior by children" could not be "prevented" and said they had no intention of contacting the daycare centers.

Die Welt reported that one daycare in Kerpen offers children the "freedom to try out childish sexuality." The daycare also said that sexual self-pleasure on its property is of "great importance," insisting that "masturbation is normal."

. . .

Parents voiced concerns about the "exploration rooms" in June when the news outlet BILD published an email from an Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) daycare center in the Hanover region of Germany ... "My daughter is five years old. I don't want boys groping her. I have another child in another daycare center [where] there is no such thing [as an exploration room]," one father told BILD.

There's more at the link.

Next, from Divemedic:

I got a call from my sister. Her 14 year old daughter, my niece, is being sexually harassed at school. There are a couple of boys who are being very descriptive in what they want to do to her. She told them that what they were doing is sexual harassment, but the boys responded with “You women are just too sensitive.”

Two weeks ago, she emailed the school counselor. Who did nothing. It has continued to happen.

So yesterday, she went to the counselor’s office and complained. The counselor said that there is nothing she can do but move my niece to a different class.

I told my niece that this is unacceptable. She is the victim and shouldn’t have to move, plus this won’t stop the boy from simply seeing her somewhere else and continuing the behavior. I told her that the way forward is to go to the principal (or have her mother do it) and ask that administrator if he is going to take action. Point out to him that he is required by law to take disciplinary action against the boy, and if he doesn’t, she will contact the county school board’s title IX officer and make it an official complaint. Trust me, it won’t go that far.

My niece doesn’t want to do that because she is afraid that, if the boys get in trouble, they are going to bring a gun to school and shoot her.

This is what the left is doing to young women- they have them so afraid of the almost nonexistent threat from school shootings that are black swan events, that these young girls are being sexually harassed and afraid enough that they are having to take it.

Again, more at the link.

These come on top of earlier reports that a Virginia school district is refusing to follow the Governor's (conservative/traditional) guidelines on how transgender issues should be handled, and California is "investigating" school districts that don't follow (extremely liberal/progressive) State guidelines on transgender kids.

Folks, we can no longer trust any educational entity in the country to recognize parental rights over children, and to rein in progressive efforts to brainwash our kids into their warped, twisted way of thought (and life).  Some will object that the report from Germany, above, doesn't apply in the USA:  but it does.  Go read the "fact sheet" from the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth, and see for yourself.  Those guidelines are being used by school districts all over this country.  It's only a matter of time until formal "classrooms" for such behavior are established here, too.

It's not just education, either.  Almost every state department and/or institution is being weaponized to be "politically correct", to be "woke" when it comes to dealing with families, parents and children.  The traditional family is being demonized as the source of problems, rather than the solution to them.

It's becoming more and more clear that we need to keep our kids out of any and all state institutions (including schools) that treat them as commodities to be exploited and brainwashed.  I think home-schooling is probably the only way forward for any family wanting to preserve traditional values.


Our skin may actually cause ageing


The BBC reports:

The latest research suggests that our skin is not just a mirror for our lifestyles – reflecting the effects of years of smoking, drinking, sun and stress – and hinting at our inner health. No, in this new upside-down-world, the body's largest organ is an active participant in our physical wellbeing. This is a strange new reality where wrinkles, dry skin and sunspots cause ageing, instead of the other way around.

In 1958 ... [a] major project was quietly conceived. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study was to be a scientific investigation of ageing with a daring and rather unorthodox premise ... The research followed thousands of adult men (and later, women) for decades, to see how their health developed – and how this was affected by their genes and the environment.

Just two decades in, scientists had already made some intriguing breakthroughs, from the discovery that less emotionally stable men were more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease to the revelation that our problem-solving abilities decline only slightly with age.

But one of the most striking findings confirmed what people had long suspected: how youthful you look is an impressively accurate expression of your inner health. By 1982, those men who had been assessed as looking particularly old for their age at the beginning of the study, 20 years earlier, were more likely to be dead.  This is backed up by more recent research, which found that, of patients who were judged to look at least 10 years older than they should, 99% had health problems.

It turns out skin health can be used to predict a number of seemingly unconnected factors, from your bone density to your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases or dying from cardiovascular disease. However, as the evidence has begun to add up, the story has taken a surprise twist.

. . .

As the largest organ in the body, the skin can have a profound impact. The chemicals released by diseased and dysfunctional skin soon enter the bloodstream, where they wash around, damaging other tissues. Amid the ensuing systemic inflammation, chemicals from the skin can reach and harm organs that seem entirely unrelated, including your heart and brain.

The result is accelerated ageing, and a higher risk of developing the majority of – or possibly even all – related disorders. So far, aged or diseased skin has been linked to the onset of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cognitive impairment, as well as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

. . .

... there is direct evidence that [using sunscreen and moisturizing the skin] does reduce inflammation – and that it may help to prevent dementia ... adding moisture back is not particularly complicated, whatever cosmetics adverts seem to suggest. And in the field of ageing, this simple intervention is showing remarkable results.

There's more at the link.

I'm intrigued by this research because, like many others, I was exposed to particularly harsh conditions for my skin during my military service.  When you're deployed, nobody's going to provide sunscreen or moisturizer for your skin - at least, no military organization of which I've ever heard has done so.  You provide your own, or get sunburned and wizened like a dried-up prune.  (Yes, there are other similes.  No, I'm not going to mention them in a family-friendly blog like this!)

When I look at my catalog of health problems in later life (it's a depressing list), and read this article, I find that many of the illnesses and conditions it identifies are among my issues.  I wonder if there's a correlation between years of one's skin being baked and fried and rained on and frozen in the field, and health in later life?  It sounds as if there may be.  Might veterans be able to use this evidence to get more medical assistance for such issues as they get older?  How would one prove the connection?

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say . . .


Is the quest for "authenticity" going too far?


I was struck by this report about the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

After a 2019 fire destroyed part of its roof, walls and spire, officials in France decided to reproduce the church exactly as it had been built some 800 years ago.

It's an undertaking that requires meticulous attention to detail.

To know what types of axes to make, Soumia Luquet, the director of the Maison Luquet, a traditional workshop near Munster, France, and her team analyzed the markings that remained on wood oak beams salvaged from Notre-Dame. They also looked at old engravings that showed workmen of the time hoisting axes and using tools.

It was a forensic investigation, of sorts, as they tried to create axes which, in the hands of modern craftspeople, would leave the same marks on the wood as those of the 13th century. 

They decided on five models of axes — some built for chopping, others for finer, finishing work. But to make enough for the team of craftspeople, they needed to make multiple replicas of each axe, 60 in total. 

Given that it takes nine to 14 hours to make one axe, Luquet knew they needed additional manpower.

Enter Collette, who, in the world of toolsmithing, is seen as a master. 

Toolsmithing "disappeared from history" with industrialization Luquet said, "and Mathieu is one of the first of this generation who chose to go to that job."

Collette arrived in France in October 2022 and, for weeks with little sleep, he worked alongside a small group of toolsmiths. Shoulder to shoulder, working in the 50 C heat of the forge, surrounded by fire and the noise of hammers striking iron, they fashioned raw iron ore into the axes, which upon completion, were sent to the carpenters.

"I think that we still can't believe what we have done," Luquet said. "You know in a way that you left a part of you in history."

There's more at the link, and in the video report below.

That's all very well, and I'm sure it takes great craftsmanship and skill to recreate medieval tools like that.  My congratulations to all involved.  However, I have to ask:  for a major rebuilding and restoration project like this, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, is it a wise use of the budget to take years longer over the restoration by recreating such tools?  Time is money.  How much money would be saved by simply cutting the new trusses and other parts using modern tools and equipment?  It's not as if people are going to visit the restored cathedral to "Ooh!" and "Aah!" over tool marks on the wood.  They're going there to experience the totality of a medieval cathedral.  In that context, I suggest that the extra cost and time needed to restore it the old-fashioned way aren't so much "authentic" and "artistic" as they are a waste of time, money and resources.

Am I out of line?  Does historical authenticity trump time and money in a project like this?  Isn't it wasting money to make a faux restoration more convincing, despite the fact that everyone who walks into it will know it's not the original, authentic article?  Why bother?

Let us know what you think in Comments.  I'd like to hear how many share my view.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Oh, how painfully true!!!


This was posted on Gab this morning.  It made me agree, vehemently, out loud.

The so-called "generations of warfare" are often taken as Gospel truth by academic military theorists.  On the other hand, those of us who've been "up the sharp end" know full well, from often-bitter experience, that anyone can be killed by any enemy, no matter what the degree of sophistication on either side.  I nearly died when a primitive African tribesman armed only with an iklwa hid behind the corner of a building, waited until I came around the corner, and lunged at me.  His spear point pierced my thick leather belt, and I only survived because the belt resisted further penetration.  As he pulled back his weapon to try a little higher up, I "took care of business" and made that step redundant.  It was the closest call I ever had in combat.  I still bear the scar left by his spear point.  The fact that I'd been trained and equipped by a first-rate army by African standards didn't intimidate him in the slightest, and didn't do a darn thing to save me from a tribesman who'd probably never handled a firearm in his life.  It was pure luck that allowed me to live.

The same goes for people who claim that there's no point in civilians resisting a government, that the former need an F-15 fighter or a nuclear weapon to succeed.  Nope.  When push comes to shove, it's the fight in the man that counts.  Rudyard Kipling's "Arithmetic On The Frontier" put it well.

Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.

All the might and glory of the British Empire couldn't conquer the Afghan tribes in more than a century of warfare.

(A superb history, and highly recommended)

America learned the same lesson in the same country rather more recently.  Technological and educational sophistication only count for so much.  People talk about the new era of drone warfare, where the individual fighter is outclassed and outmatched by artificial intelligence and technology that he can't resist . . . but we deployed that to the Nth degree in Afghanistan, and look where that country is today.  In the end, it came down to the willingness to fight, and to sustain the fight until the end, no matter what the cost.  In Afghanistan, the Taliban had it.  America's leaders did not.

There are lessons we should all learn from that.


Folk wisdom that remains timeless


This folk wisdom has been circulating on the Internet for years.  I was reminded about it via e-mail the other day, and enjoyed re-reading it:  so I thought some of my readers might feel likewise.

Advice from An Old Hillbilly:

  • Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
  • Keep skunks, bankers, and politicians at a distance.
  • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
  • A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  • Forgive your enemies; its what GOD says to do.
  • If you don't take the time to do it right, you'll find the time to do it twice.
  • Don't corner something that is meaner than you.
  • Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.
  • It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
  • You cannot unsay a cruel word.
  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  • Don't be banging your shin on a stool that's not in the way.
  • Borrowing trouble from the future doesn't deplete the supply.
  • Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
  • Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
  • Silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Don‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin' you none.
  • Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
  • Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
  • The biggest troublemaker you’ll ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and most of that comes from bad judgment.
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
  • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  • Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  • Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.
  • Most times, it just gets down to common sense.

Advice for the ages, and most of it good, IMHO.