Sunday, March 31, 2024

Sunday morning music


I'm sure just about all of my readers are familiar with Charlie Daniels' 1979 mega-hit in country music, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia".

In the 45 years since its first release, the song has maintained its popularity.  It's also inspired a number of parody versions, some of which are sort-of, but others of which are very funny, particularly if one's familiar with the place and/or people and/or culture being mocked.

Johnny Cash and friends performed a follow-up titled "The Devil Came Back To Georgia".

Here's a twofer:  Travis Meyer's "The Devil Went Down To Jamaica", performed by The Muppets.  Sadly, the video can't be embedded here, but click on the "Watch on YouTube" link below and you'll be able to enjoy it.

KMC Kru did this DJ-ish/rap-ish version titled "The Devil Came Up To Michigan".

The Adam Ezra group countered with "The Devil Came Up To Boston", complete with the correct accent.  LANGUAGE ALERT:  There's a fair amount of profanity in the song (just as there is in Boston!).

And finally for this morning, it seems the song has hit the Star Wars universe as well.  Here's "The Jedi Went Down To Tattooine".

There are a few parodies of the song out there, if you look for them.  I daresay the late Charlie Daniels might be waiting at the Pearly Gates for when their composers and/or performers get there, tapping a hickory stick in his hand and muttering "That's not what my song was about!"


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Saturday Snippet: More deplorable wisdom


Back in May 2023, and again in August of that year, I put up a selection of excerpts from Richard Wabrek's excellent collection of "Deplorable Wisdom" - quotations from all over about anything and everything that had caught his fancy over 30 years of collecting them.

I continue to enjoy the collection on a regular basis.  It's the kind of book where you dip into it during free moments whenever you feel like it, and you're sure to find something to amuse or interest you, or make you think.  It's a great collection, and I'm grateful to Mr. Wabrek for compiling it.

Here's another selection from the book.  Enjoy!

“A product demonstrator at the Las Vegas SHOT Show was speaking of a competitor’s product: ‘When their part was installed, the guns went civil service in under 1,000 rounds.’  After he used this term a few times, an audience member asked what he meant.  The instructor replied with a smile: ‘The gun went civil service. That means it won’t work, and you can’t fire it’.” — Anonymous

“Andersen’s (?) Law of Survival for Low-Level Managers: “Never be right too often.” — Anonymous

“Blair’s (?) Observation: The best-laid plans of mice and men are about equal.”

A variation on a verse by Robert Burns in his poem, To a Mouse: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley.”

“Those who have given themselves the most concern about the happiness of peoples have made their neighbors very miserable.” — Anatole France, Nobel-Prize-winning French author (1844–1924)

“The angels take no interest in the sports of man, save archery.” — Persian saying

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” — Aldous Huxley, English writer and philosopher (1894–1963)

“If you are guided by opinion polls, you are not practicing leadership—you are practicing followship.” — Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom, known as “The Iron Lady” (1925– 2013)

“Just be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” — Will Rogers, American vaudeville performer, actor, columnist, humorist, and social commentator (1879–1935)

“Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession.  I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” — Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the US (1911–2004)

“When there is lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.” — Herbert Hoover, American politician and engineer, 31st president of the US during the Great Depression (1874–1964)

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” — Greek proverb

“When liberty becomes license, some form of one‑man power is not far distant.” — Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the US, author, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and pioneering conservationist (1858–1919)

“Give the vote to the people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich, who will be able to buy them.” — Gouverneur Morris, the author of the Preamble to the US Constitution and Founding Father (1752–1816)

“Scientifically, a raven has seventeen primary wing feathers, the big ones at the end of the wing.  They are called pinion feathers.  A crow has sixteen.  So, the difference between a crow and a raven is only a matter of a pinion.” — Anonymous

“Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot about puppies.” — Gene Hill, American author and outdoors columnist (1928–1997)

“I’m all in favor of the democratic principle that ‘one idiot is as good as one genius,’ but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that ‘two idiots are better than one genius’.” — Leo Szilard, Hungarian-German-American physicist and inventor, holder of the patent on the nuclear fission reactor, collaborator with Albert Einstein (1898–1964)

Szilard was one of the five, Jewish-Hungarian scientists known as “The Martians.”  Someone once remarked that the only explanation for five geniuses originating from the same small part of Hungary at the same time was that they were all really Martians and chose Hungary because the language was about as intelligible as Martian.  I first read this anecdote in The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes et al.  Highly recommended.

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it.” — Charles Spurgeon

“Never argue with an idiot.  They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” — Mark Twain, American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer (1835–1910)

“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is—try to please everybody.” — Herbert Bayard Swope, American editor and journalist (1882–1958)

“A recent traveler returning from Pakistan reports that there is no racial discrimination in that country—only a good deal of ethnic homicide.” — Jeff Cooper, Lt. Colonel of Marines and the father of modern practical shooting (1920–2006)

“Masculine republics give way to feminine democracies, and feminine democracies give way to tyranny.” — Aristotle, Greek philosopher and polymath (384–322 BC)

In a similar vein:  “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.” — Aristotle

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” — G. Gordon Liddy, American lawyer, FBI agent, talk show host, actor, and convicted felon (1930–2021)

Liddy was the chief operative in the Nixon administration Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Nixon.

“What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.” — Edward Langley, British mathematician and author (1851–1933)

“The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” — Will Rogers, American vaudeville performer, actor, columnist, humorist, and social commentator (1879–1935)

“Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.” — Baltasar Gracian

“There are more things on this planet with fangs, claws, poisons, and scales than there are things that are warm, fuzzy, and full of love.  It’s a simple fact.” — Master at Arms James Albert Keating

“The problem with ‘post-modern’ society is there are too many people with nothing meaningful to do, building careers around controlling the lives of others and generally making social nuisances of themselves. They justify their meddling by discovering ‘social problems’ and getting the media to magnify them out of all proportion.” — Graham Strachan, attorney and author

“If the automobile had followed the same development as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year killing everyone inside.” — Robert X. Cringley, the pen name of technology journalist, Mark Stephens

“I do benefits for all religions.  I would hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality.” — Bob Hope, British-American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, and film star (1903–2003)

“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” — Stephen Hawking, English theoretical physicist and cosmologist (1942–2018)

“Under capitalism, man exploits man.  Under communism, it’s the opposite.” — J.K. Galbraith, Canadian-born, American economist, diplomat, and public official (1908–2006) 

“What is a communist?  One who hath yearnings
For equal division of unequal earnings,
Idler or bungler, or both, he is willing,
To fork out his copper and pocket your shilling.”
 — Ebenezer Elliott, English poet (1781–1849)

There you are - your compendium of thoughts for today, and the coming week.


Friday, March 29, 2024

How many kids start out this way today? Not enough, I fear.


Matt Bracken, former SEAL and author of several books, has written about his sense of connection to the Francis Scott Key Bridge disaster.  He helped to build several bridges in that area during the 1970's as a teenager.  I found his description of the hard work involved very impressive.

I worked on the 95 and 395 "flyover" bridges over the same river ... I was at the bottom working down in a cofferdam. My working area looked like the artist's rendition on top. Square, with a barge and crane by it. The bottom working area looked like in the photo, but we were not near anything and did not have a foot bridge. We were out in the middle of the river. We were brought to the barge on work boats, and lowered down into the bottom of the river bed in a "man basket." We jack hammered the bed rock to make about 100 holes in a pattern, put dynamite into them, covered it all with a giant steel mesh blanket, (lowered by the crane), then we got far away. The steel blanket would fly up into the air above the cofferdam but it contained all the rocks and rubble.

Then we'd go back down and put all the rocks into an empty cement bucket lowered down to us by the crane. Anything too big to lift by hand had a steel wire choker put around it for the crane to lift out and put on other barges for removal. When all the rocks and boulders were out, we did the jack hammering again. We'd have to change the jackhammer drill bits for longer ones as we went down. 2', 4', 6'. That was heavy work. It took several men to lift the jackhammers out of the holes with the long bits on them.

The dust and noise was unbelievable. Just yellow foam earplugs. Pumps on the barge running 24/7 to keep the river out because the cofferdam's interlocking steel planks were not watertight. When we had a new pattern of 100 or or so holes, all drilled to the same level depth, we did another demolition charge with dynamite the size of paper towel tubes down each hole. I eagerly worked with the demo-man as his assistant, nobody else wanted to be near cases and cases of dynamite! Before I was ever a SEAL, I had personally put blasting caps into probably a thousand dynamite charges, about 100 per "shot."

The wires were wrapped around the charges and that's how we lowered them down each hole, by their blasting cap wires. Pea gravel was poured down each hole to "tamp" the explosions for maximum power. Then they were all wired together for one big blast. I was alone at the bottom of the cofferdam with the demo man for all of that charge preparation and placement and wiring. All the other older construction workers wanted nothing to do with demo, but I loved it! Then the crane would lift us up and we'd be taken far away. I would be standing next to the demo guy, and I got to push the button a few times. BOOM! Then repeat the process deep down into bedrock under the Patapsco River with jackhammers. Those supporting piers are STRONG. I think of the 395 as "my bridge."

Always very high decibels. Giant pumps running, and a half-dozen jackhammers going all the time down in a steel box! Injuries like cuts were wrapped in pieces of t-shirt and duct tape until the end of your work day. The workers were very tough men. West Virginia hillbillies, Vietnam vets and ex-convicts. Working with them down in the cofferdam and on other Baltimore mega-construction jobs in the 1970s gave me the confidence to become a SEAL. Other summers I also worked on big highway and land construction projects down in Dundalk, but working at the bottom of the Patapsco River stands out in my mind above them all.

I think I was 16 or 17 at the time. I was a card-carrying member of International Union of Laborers. If you said you were 18, and looked like you could work, you were good to go. In those days, driver licenses and union cards were not laminated, and did not have photos on them. I showed up for my first construction job with a beat-up hard hat, a dirty tool belt and dirty work boots and was hired at a construction trailer in the pre-dawn dark. My dad and J had told me what to do and say and it worked. I was hired and never looked back. I was making $ 5.50 an hour when the minimum wage was about $ 1.50. I was making triple what my high school friends made at pizza joints.

J also worked the big concrete pours high up on the 40-story Transamerica Tower in downtown Baltimore. I did nothing even close to that. We never worked the same jobs, but for all of them, we took several buses in the dark in our hardhats and work boots with our tool belts to get to the jobs, and we came home filthy. But everybody on the buses had great respect and deference for construction workers back then. We were "the hard hats" who were visibly building up Baltimore and the whole port area month by month and year by year!

There's more at the link.

Thing is, Mr. Bracken and I are very close in age, and we both left school earlier than usual and immediately started hard work in different fields.  (I enlisted in the military very shortly after I turned 17, and was in the field before I turned 18.)  We learned early and often that we could count on nobody but ourselves to make our way in life, and that hard work - sometimes brutally hard work - was part of that.  There was precious little cosseting or cuddling by touchy-feely workmates and colleagues.  You did your job, and carried your share of the weight, or you were "dealt with".  (You needn't ask me how I know this!)

Nowadays, if you had someone of that age start such a difficult, dangerous occupation as Mr. Bracken's, or enlist in the military at a younger-than-usual age, the Karens of this world would scream their heads off about child labor abuse, or undue pressure on unformed minds, or something else ridiculous.  They ignore the reality that not so long ago, people in their mid-teens were already embarked on their careers, often married, sometimes about to give birth to their first child.  Life was like that back then.  Your life expectancy wasn't great to begin with, so you got on with living as early and as hard as you could.  (US life expectancy at birth in 1900 was only about 48 years.)

I don't think Mr. Bracken or myself suffered any harm through being "kicked out of the nest" younger than usual, or having to work hard to make our way.  I daresay it did us good.  How many youngsters of today get the same opportunity, or learn the same life lessons, as we did?  And is the younger generation today any better for that?


Building a reserve supply of prescription medications


Yesterday I said, when speaking about a Canadian forecast for foreseeable problems over the next few years:

For several years I've seen to it that my wife and I have a six-month supply of every long-term prescription medication we take.  I'm now doubling that, to a year's supply, and adding to it a selection of antibiotics that we've used in the past for common conditions and that we might need again.  I think I'd be irresponsible not to do so when the health care system can't guarantee their availability.

In a comment to that article, reader coyoteken48 asked:

One question though, where do you get the stockpile of prescription drugs?

This article will try to answer that question, as far as US residents are concerned.

First off, there are legal ways to accumulate such a stockpile, and there are illegal ways, in terms of US law.  I am not, repeat, NOT advocating that my readers break the law.  It would be irresponsible for me to do that, and it would make me an accessory before the fact to any crime any reader might choose to commit in that regard.  Therefore, if anyone decides to skirt the edges of the law in dealing with this . . . you're on your own.  Don't blame me.

That said, let's look at a couple of legal solutions.  The simplest (although it takes quite a long time) is to refill your prescriptions on the very first day that your health insurance will agree to pay for them.  Typically, the insurer will pay for a refill between 7 and 10 days before the old prescription runs out.  You can then stash the last few pills of the old prescription, and begin using the new one.  Over time, as you do this, your reserve supply grows - but, as I say, it's a very slow way to achieve that.  Mark on your calendar the day on which you obtained a refill of every prescription, and then ask the pharmacy for the date on which your insurer will cover the next refill.  Mark that on the calendar too, and the day before, call the pharmacy and arrange to pick up the refill on that date.  It's not difficult.

There's a faster, easier and more convenient way, if you can afford it.  You have to ask your healthcare provider to give you one or more additional prescription(s) for your medication(s), in quantities sufficient to build up your stash.  Many of them will not do this, for reasons that doubtless seem good to them:  but others are OK with it, provided you explain not only what you want, but why you want it.  Our health care provider was more than willing to help, particularly because many of their patients had experienced delays in getting their hands on critical medication(s) thanks to supply chain and other issues.  We were able to get extra prescriptions for an extra 90-day supply of our medications, which we filled, and then got another prescription and filled it in the same way.  It took about a year, but doing it that way provided the reserve supplies we needed, and did so legally.

Next, to fill those prescriptions, pay cash - don't charge them to your medical insurance.  The latter may consider it fraudulent for you to build up your reserve supply of medications at their expense, because they budget to pay only for an ongoing supply on a regular basis, not a reserve supply.  Also, your regular pharmacy may or may not be willing to fill extra prescriptions, even if you're paying cash, because they don't want to get crossways with your health insurance if the matter ever becomes public knowledge.  We chose to use a different pharmacy for our cash purchases, and paid in cash - not by credit card - to avoid any complications that might ensue.  Since we had a legal, legitimate prescription on every occasion, there were no problems.  (You'll have to ask your health care provider to phone through the extra prescriptions to the alternate source, not your primary pharmacy, but there are normally no problems with that if you have an understanding doctor or nurse practitioner.)

(Rotate your reserve supply of medication to use the oldest pills first, and reserve the newest ones for your stash.  However, don't be put off by expiration dates on a prescription bottle.  Many medications remain effective for a very long time..  For example, I'm using a pain medication pill right now that was prescribed for me in 2007!  The container was stored in a box and forgotten for many years, and I recently rediscovered it.  It still works well, and is effective at treating my condition.  I'm not complaining!  If you're in any doubt about the safety of using older medications, check with your health care provider or pharmacist;  but the practice is widespread, even official.)

Those are the legal options.  If you can follow them, I highly recommend doing so.  However, there are those whose health care providers won't cooperate, or who have other difficulties in getting what they need.  There are other options for them - but they involve breaking US law.  As I said above, I do NOT recommend these measures;  I'm just telling you about them for information's sake.

One approach, no longer generally available, used to be to purchase pharmaceutical-grade medications from suppliers of veterinary medicines.  However, it's illegal to sell animal medications for human use;  and there's also the problem that many agri-businesses have misused antibiotics, dosing animal herds with vast quantities of them and thereby encouraging the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of various illnesses or infections.  The authorities have therefore made it very difficult to obtain such medications online or by mail.  I understand some people have friends who are farmers or ranchers, with prescriptions for their businesses, and get some medications from them;  but again, this is illegal, and could result in big trouble for both seller and purchaser.  I don't recommend it.

It's illegal for individuals to import their own scheduled (i.e. regulated) medication into the USA.  That doesn't stop literally hundreds of thousands of people doing it by visiting Mexico, across our southern border, as day tourists.  Many Mexican towns, particularly those with heavy tourist traffic, have pharmacies that are only too happy to take visitors' money and supply them with what they need, with or without a prescription, often at prices far cheaper than those charged in the USA.  Entire busloads of "pharmacy tourists" cross the border in places like San Diego, California, every day, and US customs officials often turn a blind eye to what they're carrying when they return.  It's official tolerance for something they couldn't stop even if they tried, because too many people are doing it.  Businesses in Mexico even advertise to Americans for their custom.

A slower and more complicated route, if you can't cross the border easily, is to order from pharmacies in other countries.  Some Canadian and Indian pharmacies are well-known for their willingness to assist US customers, and there are other countries doing the same thing.  Many will not ask for a prescription from their customers.  There are risks involved in ordering from a Third World pharmacy;  one can't be sure of the quality or purity of the medications involved, which can be actively dangerous to your health.  On the other hand, there are pharmacies who derive most of their business from such orders, and who take great care to "keep the customer satisfied", because if they don't, they'll go out of business.  Customers who take care to patronize only the latter, and who check references with other customers online, have generally had good experiences.  Read this article for a good summary of what's involved.    (During the height of the COVID-19 epidemic, thanks to often misguided and ill-informed official restrictions, medications such as Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine were often only available to US consumers through such sellers.  That introduced many new customers to such pharmacies, who've done a roaring trade with them ever since.)

As to which international pharmacy to choose, do your own search, something like this example.  You'll find plenty of results online.  I obviously can't recommend any particular provider, partly for legal reasons (because I can't and don't advocate breaking the law), partly because I never recommend any supplier I haven't used myself and therefore have reason to trust.  I understand there are forums online (here's one example) that discuss such pharmacies and their merits or flaws.  Some Web sites also recommend certain providers in their responses to reader questions (for example, here or here.)

Bear in mind that if US Customs detects medication being imported from foreign countries, they may confiscate it;  and, if they're not in a forgiving mood, they may investigate further and prosecute the person importing it.  I understand this happens very seldom, but that doesn't mean it never happens.  Caveat emptor.

Well, there you are.  Ways and means to build up a reserve supply of essential medications.  Let me close by saying again that you should not break the law, and I'm not recommending that you do so.  Don't blame me if you choose to disregard that!


Thursday, March 28, 2024

Remember what I said last week about water supplies?


I wrote about the need for reserve supplies of water just last week.  It's emerged that my country of origin, South Africa, appears set to become a laboratory for emergency water supplies - what works, what doesn't, and how to cope when the taps aren't working.

(That photograph also illustrates what I said earlier about using five-gallon buckets as water containers.)

Two articles summarize what's happening in two of South Africa's largest cities.  I won't post excerpts from them here, but I recommend you follow the links below and read them for yourself.

In case you were wondering whether something like that could happen here, it already has in at least two cities over the past decade:  Flint, Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi.  There may well be others of which I'm not aware.  If readers can provide more examples, please do so in Comments.

Anyway, if you're still hesitant about the need to provide at least some reserve water supplies for your family, I hope these reports will convince you.  It's not a theoretical risk:  it's very real.  As our elderly, creaking infrastructure breaks down more often, we're going to see it more often, too.




I laughed out loud when I read this report.

A wildlife rescue that took in what was thought was a baby hedgehog found it was actually caring for a bobble from a hat.

It was brought to the Lower Moss Nature Reserve and Wildlife Hospital by a well-meaning rescuer last week.

On arrival they discovered the hoglet was in fact a "faux furry friend", a volunteer for the animal charity said.

There's more at the link.

I almost posted this as part of our intermittent "Doofus Of The Day" series, but it's too cute for that.  One can just imagine some member of the public (perhaps a little old lady, or an excited child) bringing in the "baby hedgehog" to be cared for, and being so disappointed when they found out what it really was.  (One must admit, too, that from some angles the bobble really does look like a baby hedgehog!)

Anyway, I thought it was cute - and funny.


As in Canada, so in the USA???


It's emerged that a couple of years ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) did a deep dive into potential future challenges in the light of then-current circumstances in Canada.  The report was not publicized until very recently.  I'm going to leave out the politically-correct "climate change" stuff, because I'm far from convinced things are as bleak as the "woke" like to paint them:  but the rest of the report (the parts that have been released, anyway) makes interesting reading.

Here's how the RCMP sees social and political developments over the next few years in Canada.  Could we see the same thing here in the USA?  Frankly, I'll be surprised if we don't.

The report paints a bleak picture of what the RCMP — and Canada — could have to face over the next several years.

. . .

"Emergency management planning should be considered by law enforcement decision makers to ensure continued levels of service delivery. Capacity building through the attraction and retention of qualified staff remains a challenge to law enforcement."

Political polarization and resentment, coupled with the threat of an economic recession, will also present a challenge, the report predicts.

"The coming period of recession will also accelerate the decline in living standards that the younger generations have already witnessed compared to earlier generations," says the report.

"For example, many Canadians under 35 are unlikely ever to be able to buy a place to live. The fallout from this decline in living standards will be exacerbated by the fact that the difference between the extremes of wealth is greater now in developed countries than it has been at any time in several generations."

Populists have been capitalizing on a rise in political polarization and conspiracy theories and tailoring their messages to appeal to extremist movements, the report says, adding that authoritarian movements have been on the rise in many liberal-democratic countries.

"Law enforcement should expect continuing social and political polarization fuelled by misinformation campaigns and an increasing mistrust for all democratic institutions," says the report.

New information technologies, including AI deepfakes, quantum computing and blockchain, could also present challenges, says the report.

"Law enforcement should anticipate that criminals will leverage technological innovations to gain profit and influence," the report says. "Law enforcement should also continue to contribute to policy change related to the privacy of personal information, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, quantum computing, digital ledger technology and more."

. . .

Christian Leuprecht, a Queen's University and Royal Military College professor who specializes in defence and security, said the section of the report on the challenges posed by new information technologies — and the suggestion that law enforcement should "contribute to policy change" in response — stood out for him.

"That's a highly unusual statement," said Leuprecht. "This is a hint that clearly there is a sense that the policy framework in this country is not adequately set up for the challenges of everything from safeguarding personal information ... artificial intelligence, the connectivity of the Internet of Things … the privacy challenges and others presented by quantum computing and blockchain technology, and the accelerant that has proven for all sorts of criminal activity in this country."

Leuprecht said the report also points to some threats that are often overlooked, such as problems with global supply chains and the need to improve emergency management planning.

"What we see is some of the disconnect between the strategic threat assessment ... and the resources, capacities, capabilities and political will to posture Canada effectively for what is clearly going to be a very difficult future for this country," he said.

There's more at the link.

I daresay most of us can identify many areas where American society and politics are just as screwed up (if not more so) than Canadian.  The key issue, as noted in the highlighted passages above, is that our systems of government and politics are simply not capable of responding to such pressures in anything like a satisfactory manner.  Too many of our state and national leaders are out to use any opportunity that arises to arrogate more power to themselves and/or their political parties, rather than work for the good of the people of that state or our nation as a whole.  That applies across the aisle - it's not just a left-wing or right-wing problem.  Our leadership has become stultified, atrophied, insular.  The rot runs so deep that flexibility and responsiveness are largely conspicuous by their absence.

This, of course, makes it all the more urgent for us, as individuals and like-mined "tribes" or self-selected small communities, to prepare ourselves for these disruptive factors.  That's not just in terms of stockpiling food and basic essentials, either:  it's educating ourselves to provide as many as possible of the services we need from within our own ranks, rather than relying on our local, state and national authorities to provide them.

I think a very good example is health care.  I'm facing multiple surgeries this year, and frankly I've been horrified by the deterioration in professionalism and competence that I've observed in the past couple of months, compared to what it was even five years ago.  The bureaucracy and administrative orientation (rather than patient and health orientation) is mind-boggling - so much so that I've already refused to continue with one major medical practice, and asked to be referred to a different specialist for a forthcoming surgery.  If things are that bad inside "the system", we need to make ourselves as independent as possible of that system by improving our fitness and personal health, ceasing unhealthy habits, and stockpiling the medications we need to deal with our present and likely future health problems.  For several years I've seen to it that my wife and I have a six-month supply of every long-term prescription medication we take.  I'm now doubling that, to a year's supply, and adding to it a selection of antibiotics that we've used in the past for common conditions and that we might need again.  I think I'd be irresponsible not to do so when the health care system can't guarantee their availability.  (That doesn't even consider the frightening possibility that China, which supplies the vast majority of all medications sold and/or prescribed in the USA, might restrict their availability as a geopolitical pressure tactic.  Imagine where that might leave us!  People might - almost certainly would - die as a result.  How would we, as a nation, respond?  How could we respond in any effective way that would solve the problem?)

One final note.  If the RCMP has produced this report for the Canadian government, it's just about certain that US law enforcement agencies and/or the Justice Department have produced something similar for US policymakers.  The question is, what does that US equivalent report say?  What measures does it suggest to "control" the situation (i.e. control the population)?  How many constitutional rights and freedoms may be trampled underfoot in the process?  Judging by the way the COVID-19 fiasco was handled, more than a few may be at serious risk.


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Paying for the Key Bridge is going to be expensive


It's too early to speculate, but the destruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is going to be very expensive to insurers, according to Lloyd's List.  (A "club", mentioned in the report, is a consortium or syndicate of insurers.)

According to the IG database, Dali [the ship that struck the bridge] is entered with Britannia, a London-based marine mutual. Britannia has been approached for confirmation.

The largest element of any payout will be the value of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which was built in 1977 at a cost of $60m at the time, equivalent to over $300m today.

However, construction inflation has far outstripped consumer price inflation over the intervening period, and the replacement cost could be substantially higher.

No deaths have yet been reported, but fears are growing for the seven people still missing.

The lives of US citizens are deemed to be worth far greater compensation than the lives of third-world seafarers. P&I clubs generally offer single-digit million dollar payouts to victims' families, preferring the certainty of a quick settlement to costly protracted litigation in the US.

Delays to other vessels are not a P&I liability, although prudent shipowners will have delay cover. P&I clubs often offer delay cover as a sideline and will find themselves on the hook for much of it.

Britannia will be responsible for the first $10m of any claim on its own account. Once the bill exceeds this layer - as is certain to be the case with Dali - it is shared among IG affiliates through the pool scheme.

In the simplest possible terms, the other 11 members will chip in pro rata for the $10m-$30m tranche, after which liability is reinsured through Bermuda-based captive vehicle Hydra.

The general excess of loss programme, known as GXL in industry jargon, kicks in at the pool ceiling of $100m. GXL, which is funded by shipowners through a levy imposed per gross tonne, provides an additional $2bn of reinsurance in a three-layer structure.

A further $1bn of reinsurance cover - known as 'the collective overspill' - is purchased by the IG to provide protection in respect of claims exceeding the upper GXL cover limit of $2.1bn.

Major marine casualties are long tail events and it is often years before the full cost can be assessed.

There's more at the link.

The cost isn't limited to the ship and the bridge.  Business Insider reports:

Baltimore is among the busiest ports in the nation, seeing more than a million shipping containers pass through each year. The collapse — which closed the port to all maritime and most road traffic until further notice — is already beginning to wreak havoc on the supply chain.

The cost of building the bridge back fast enough to offset diversions as much as possible could saddle the government with a more than $600 million bill, David MacKenzie, chair of engineering and architecture consultancy COWIfonden, told Sky News.

The container ship, the Dali, is owned by a Singapore-based firm. The ship's charterer, Maersk, confirmed to Business Insider that vessel company Synergy Group operates the ship. 

However, the companies with cargo aboard the Dali will ultimately be responsible for the ship's damages and cargo costs.

. . .

An ancient maritime law known as "general average" dictates that companies with even a single container aboard a ship have to split the damages pro rata based on the number of containers, ensuring all the stakeholders benefiting from the voyage are splitting the risk, Petersen said.

The principle dates back hundreds of years and was originally meant to ensure sailors on board a ship weren't worried about specific cargo if a disaster required them to start throwing containers overboard, according to Petersen.

The majority of the financial fallout is likely to lay primarily with the insurance industry, according to media reports.

Industry experts told FT that insurers could pay out losses for bridge damage, port disruption, and any loss of life.

The collapse could drive "one of the largest claims ever to hit the marine (re)insurance market," John Miklus, president of the American Institute of Marine Underwriters, told Insurance Business.

He told the outlet that the loss of revenue from tolls while the bridge is being rebuilt will be expensive, as will any liability claims from deaths or injuries.

Again, more at the link.

If you add up all those costs and expenses, it's not impossible that insurers could be staring down the barrel of a $3-$4 billion dollar payout, perhaps even higher.  One hopes the insurers "laid off" at least part of the risk onto reinsurers, or some of them might end up bankrupt.


A warning about red yeast rice dietary supplement


I know several people who take red yeast rice as a dietary supplement, to aid in the control of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  However, it may also be dangerous if mishandled, as this report out of Japan demonstrates.

A major Japanese drugmaker has said it is investigating a death and dozens of hospitalisations that could be linked to its red yeast rice pills.

At least 76 people were admitted to hospital after taking the beni kōji fermented rice products, the firm says.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical ... said it suspected that the problem may have come from previously undetected toxic substances in moulds used in production.

. . .

Affected customers had reported symptoms such as changes in the colour of urine, swelling in their limbs and fatigue.

There's more at the link.

Red yeast rice is also used as a coloring agent in some foods;  therefore, even if you don't take it in "raw" form as a dietary supplement, you may still be at risk.

This illustrates yet again that unregulated dietary supplements may be hazardous to your health.  Sure, there are hundreds, probably thousands of them out there, and most of them won't cause any problems at all.  Nevertheless, every now and then, a problem arises, often because such supplements aren't as tightly regulated or supervised as medicines.  By the time it's identified and localized, it may be too late for some of those affected by it.

This is a particular problem in terms of interaction with some prescription medications.  I'm on several prescriptions, and I have to be careful to avoid certain foods (and certain dietary supplements) that are known to reduce the effect of those medications, or even negate it altogether.  I daresay many of my readers are in the same boat.


Preparing for crises: to whom is our greatest responsibility?


I'm sure everybody who makes preparations for potential problems, no matter how small, has run into the sort of friend who says, "If disaster strikes, I'm coming over to your place.  You have enough to take care of us, too!"  My response to that is usually less than polite, to put it mildly.

This has led to accusations of being "un-Christian", in terms like "I'm your neighbor!  The parable of the Good Samaritan means you have to take care of me!"  The freeloaders will find all sorts of Scriptural quotations to justify their relying on you to take care of them in an emergency, rather than doing it themselves.  They don't seem to like it when I quote the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in reply.  They object, "But that's taking it out of context!  That's for when Christ returns, not a disaster!"  When I point out that, in the event of a disaster, they may be meeting Christ a lot sooner than they'd otherwise planned, they don't seem to appreciate it...

Arguments about context notwithstanding, I think the parable of the wise and foolish virgins is very applicable to preparing for difficult situations.  The "oil in our lamps" is what we need to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive and safe - well, as safe as possible - during hard times.  If we have "oil", we'll probably make it through the problems.  If we don't, it'll be a lot more difficult (and possibly more dangerous), and we may not make it through them.  It's as simple as that.

That being the case, for whom are we building up our emergency supplies?  It's not for every Tom, Dick and Harry who demands them.  I daresay none of us are wealthy enough to stockpile an almost infinite amount of goodies "just in case".  Most of us find it difficult enough to build up sufficient supplies for our own family, which must have first claim on them.  If we're fortunate enough to have a local "tribe" or extended family, people we know we can rely on in an emergency, they too may have a legitimate claim on us, just as we might have the same claim on them:  they help us, we help them.  It's a two-way street.  However, outside that sort of relationship, do we owe anything to those who have suddenly been left to their own resources when trouble comes, and realize they have none?  Do they have a tertiary claim on us?  I would argue they don't, at least not to any great extent.

Here we run headlong into the attitudes of society as a whole.  You can bet your last penny that in a disaster situation, the authorities will rely on local ordinances that empower them to confiscate anything and everything they need to help their people survive.  That will almost certainly include declaring preppers to be "hoarders" - thieves, in so many words - rather than prudent householders, in order to justify confiscating their preparations for the benefit of others.  If you have equipment or buildings that might be useful, expect to have them appropriated as well.  They won't ask your permission - they'll tell you, and if you object, you'll probably be arrested.  In larger cities, the welfare-dependent portion of the population will doubtless demand that the authorities do that, and do so themselves if they won't (yet another reason not to live in big cities).

Even if the authorities don't get that overbearing, my experience in the Third World during disasters is that local "strong men" will try to "organize" a street, or a neighborhood, or an area.  They'll send their followers to "inspect" people's homes and confiscate whatever they declare is needed to maintain order and look after the needy.  (Generally, of course, they'll keep what they confiscate for themselves, and/or demand payment in cash or in kind if you want some.)  If you object, you may be beaten up or worse;  you'll certainly be threatened and browbeaten.  (Think of the local "strong men" as an involuntary HOA, laying down rules and regulations that you may not like, but you'll be forced to follow if you want to live there.  It's just that this HOA is less likely than most to tolerate disagreement, and may be armed to enforce its will.)  Don't expect sweet reason and understanding from such folks.  In a disaster, "Karens" are all too willing to tell others what to do, and to force them to obey if they get half a chance.  (There are far too many of them in government as it is.)

This is why I and others suggest that you split your emergency preparations.  Part can be more visible, perhaps in the form of an "extended pantry", a larger-than-usual supply of canned and dried food in or near your kitchen.  If people demand to know what preparations you've made, and you're not in a position to refuse to show them, you can let them see that.  If they insist on confiscating some of it, by all means object (but not strongly enough to endanger your safety and/or that of your family).  Meanwhile, you should have more (perhaps most of) your emergency supplies hidden elsewhere, out of plain sight, either on your property and/or in a remote location like a storage unit or a friend's place that's less likely to be visited by such marauders, official or otherwise.  (Storage units may not be safe in such a situation.  They're likely to be looted, so plan to get important items out of them as quickly as possible if an emergency arises.)

Finally, expect such situations to arise in the event of a disaster or disruption.  There will be those who've made little or no preparation to endure such events, and who will turn to others such as yourself to tide them over.  It'll take firmness and determination to tell them "No", and you may have to back up words with actions if push comes to shove.  Your family is your primary responsibility, and comes first;  your extended family or "tribe" comes next as your secondary responsibility.  People who are not in those categories may ask for help, but have no right to demand it.  You have every right to refuse them if that would threaten your ability to help your primary and secondary responsibilities.

As a Christian, I do believe it's our duty to help those less fortunate than ourselves.  That's why I keep some extras in our emergency preparations, so that I can contribute at least something to those who may ask for help.  However, when those extras run out, that's it.  If others won't accept that and get pushy, then it's time for me to get pushy right back at them.  (There are those who believe one shouldn't help at all, because that will only encourage those one helps to demand more when the initial help runs out - a potential threat to our safety.  I guess that's a decision for each of us to make, based on our own consciences.)

What say you, readers?  Let us know your thoughts in Comments.


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A feel-good moment more than 80 years in the making


Courtesy of James Higham at Nourishing Obscurity, I came across this touching video.  It seems there's only one surviving airworthy Hawker Hurricane fighter from the Battle of Britain in 1940.  The mechanic who worked on that aircraft during the Battle is still alive, at 102 years of age, and was recently reunited with the plane.

A WWII RAF veteran had the chance to fly alongside the aircraft he helped maintain during the heroic Battle of Britain in 1940.

Jeff Brereton, who celebrated his 102nd birthday earlier this year, took to the air in BE505, the world’s only two seat Hurricane, with R4118, the only remaining airworthy Mk 1 Hurricane to have taken part in the Battle of Britain, and the aircraft Jeff worked on, flying alongside.

Jeff, who lives in Evesham, Worcestershire, said: “I have great memories of the plane. Of all the aircraft I dealt with, that was the one that stuck in my mind. It was unbelievable to be able to see that aircraft again, that it had survived.”

There's more at the link.

Here's a video report, including mid-air images.

I found the story particularly moving because my father was also an aircraft mechanic during the Battle of Britain.  I wrote about his World War II service some years ago.

It's nice to come across a good news story like this in our turbulent, not-so-good world.


The Baltimore bridge collapse and supply chains


By now I'm sure we've all heard that the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, collapsed last night after being struck by a container ship.  Casualty figures are as yet unknown, but are almost certain to be in double figures.  Our sincere condolences to all involved.

However, the real impact of this bridge collapse is likely to be on supply chains serving the most populous part of the USA.

The bridge collapse has paralyzed a large swath of the largest inland port on the East Coast. The port is ranked 9th for total dollar value of cargo and 13th for cargo tonnage among US ports.

. . .

The bridge spans the Patapsco River and carries an estimated 11.5 million vehicles annually. In this collapse, the only shipping lane in and out of the port was severed.

Baltimore is the most inland port on the East Coast and is connected to the I-95 highway network. With no commercial vessels sailing in and out of port anytime soon, this is catastrophic for port operations and could spark supply chain snarls in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

. . .

According to the Maryland government's website, the Port of Baltimore handled over 52 million tons of international cargo valued at more than $80 billion last year, ranking it as the ninth busiest port in the United States. The data shows that the port handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any US port. The port also handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum, and coal.

There's more at the link.

It's not just ships that will be affected.  With so major a road transport artery shut down, trucks will be severely delayed by having to detour around the affected area (and, of course, by greatly increased traffic congestion due to everybody else having to take the same detour).  Our supermarkets rely on truck transport to receive food and other essentials every day.  This incident will almost certainly have a serious impact on consumers in north-eastern states.  It'll take years to rebuild this bridge, and heaven knows where the money will come from.  It'll almost certainly have to be borrowed, adding to our already excessive national debt.

Given all the existing pressures on supply chains, this is very bad news.


And the winner is...


I'm obliged to Dr. Grumpy for this reminder of what some might consider the world's greatest newspaper headline.  Clickit to biggit.

I never have been able to find out the backstory behind the headline . . . can any reader oblige?


Monday, March 25, 2024

Another tragic mistake that took an innocent life


I've said several times before that if you're carrying a firearm in a pocket or purse, it needs to be in a holster to avoid things catching in or on the trigger, which might cause a tragedy.

Well, it just happened again.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Police said the mother of a teen daughter who was shot Saturday night reports the gun that killed her fired off accidentally ... The victim was taken to the hospital, where she died of a single gunshot wound.

Police said the teen’s mother told detectives her unholstered .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol was inside her purse and accidentally fired while she was attempting to grab her keys. Charges have not been placed.

There's more at the link.

Anti-gun activists will doubtless seek to portray this as yet another incident of "gun violence", and blame the gun - the instrument - for the girl's death.  They're entirely wrong.  The gun was not at fault.  Careless and negligent handling of the gun was at fault.

Tragically, that mother will have to remember for the rest of her life that her daughter is dead because she was careless and/or negligent.  This death was her fault, nobody else's.  I wonder how the rest of her family will handle that?

May we, at least, learn from her bad example, and not make the same mistake.


Great deal on Winchester .22 rifles


If you're in the market for a .22LR semi-auto rifle, CDNN Sports has a great deal for the next couple of days on the Winchester Wildcat.

I like the Wildcat as, basically, a cheaper clone of the very well-known Ruger 10/22.  It even accepts magazines for the latter rifle, including Ruger's 25-round BX.  It's not as customizable as the 10/22, but as a plinker and all-round useful .22LR rifle, it's more than adequate out of the box, without add-ons.  I've used them to introduce disabled students to rifle shooting, with considerable success.  If you'd like to learn more about them, Shooting Times' review is here, and Guns & Ammo's review is here.

CDNN is offering a discounted price, plus on top of that there's a $25 rebate from Winchester - but the latter is only valid until March 26th, so if you want it, you'll have to move fast.  They have three models available;  click each link to take a closer look.

Wildcat with olive drab green stock:  $174.99 after rebate

Wildcat with Truetimber Strata camo stock:  $174.99 after rebate

Wildcat with black stock and Reflex sight:  $199.99 after rebate

I'm not being compensated in any way by CDNN or Winchester for recommending this:  in fact, they don't know I'm doing so.  I just like to pass on to my readers good deals that I find.  I'm certainly going to take advantage of this one for myself, too.

Remember, you have to order by tomorrow to get the Winchester rebate.


Memes that made me laugh 202


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

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Sunday morning music


OK, here's something completely different:  an orchestra of elephants!

The Thai Elephant Orchestra is, remarkably, just what it sounds like. At a conservation center in Thailand, made for former work animals with nowhere to go, a group of elephants has been assembled and trained to play enormous percussion instruments, holding mallets in their trunks and sometimes trumpeting along.

David Sulzer — known in the music world as Dave Soldier — is a neuroscientist at Columbia University, a composer and the co-founder of the orchestra.

"Elephants like to listen to music: If you play music they'll come over, and in the morning when the mahouts take them out of the jungle, they sing to to calm them down," Sulzer tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. "So what we came up with was, well, maybe if we made ergonomic instruments that would be easy for elephants to play — for instance, marimbas and drums that are giant — perhaps they would play music."

Among those instruments is a sort of oversized xylophone that Sulzer built in a metal shop in Lampang, using the music he heard locally as a guide.

"The idea here was to get the instruments to sound like traditional Thai instruments, and make music that sounds like Thai music," he says. "That instrument ... is using a Thai scale, a northern Thai scale. And when Thai people hear it, they say, 'Oh, that sounds like some of the music that we play in the Buddhist temples up north.'"

The Thai Elephant Orchestra has produced three albums.

There's more at the link.

The elephants certainly seem to be getting into the swing of things.  Here's a live performance.  Don't just listen to the discordant elements (of which there are plenty):  listen to see if you can detect an underlying theme or sequence.

When transcribed into musical notation, the underlying theme comes out more clearly.  Here's a chamber orchestra playing one of the elephants' compositions.  The YouTube notes read:

The Composers Concordance Chamber Orchestra conducted by Thomas Carlo Bo premieres Dave Soldier's Thung Kwian Sunrise at the Dimenna Center in New York City on December 7, 2012. The piece was originally improvised by the Thai Elephant Orchestra , an orchestra of up to 14 improvising elephants founded by Dave Soldier and Richard Lair in 2000, and is on their first CD. 

It  was transcribed from the CD by Wade Ripka and arranged  by Dave . At the end of this premiere, the conductor asked the audience to guess the composer: they guessed Alan Hovhaness, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Milica Paranosic: no one guessed that it had been improvised by elephants.

Here's the original piece, played by the elephants:

And here's the transcribed version, played by the orchestra:

That's pretty amazing.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Saturday Snippet: Sanctions-busting the hard way


One of my heroes was Jack Malloch, a World War II Spitfire pilot from Rhodesia who went on to dabble in all sorts of shadowy aviation corners for the next thirty years or more.  He had the reputation of being a "pirate of the air", very much in the mold of Sidney Cotton or Jan Zumbach.  I don't know if they ever met, but I'm sure the three would have recognized kindred spirits in each other, and probably in the buccaneers of the Spanish Main a few centuries earlier.

Jack was involved in sanctions-busting on behalf of Rhodesia and South Africa for many years, and also undertook clandestine flights in support of military and intelligence operations for both countries.  I first met him when he flew a group of people, including yours truly, in a clapped-out old Douglas DC-7 freighter to a place we never were to do something about which we know nothing, if you get my drift.  He was truly a character, and somewhat awe-inspiring in real life to a young wet-behind-the-ears type like myself.  I never knew him well, of course, only in passing:  but I count myself privileged to have met him.

Jack was killed in an air crash in 1982 while test-flying a Spitfire Mk. 22 that he'd restored (one of a squadron's worth that he and others had ferried to Rhodesia from Britain back in the 1950's).  A documentary movie was filmed describing the restoration and the aircraft's first flight, which I've embedded below.  Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy it.

Jack was pretty much unique in my (admittedly limited) experience.  I've never met anyone else quite like him.  I was therefore very pleased to find that a biography had been written about him, published a couple of years ago.  It's titled "Jack Malloch:  Legend of the African Skies".

It was difficult to decide on which excerpt to bring you today.  I settled on some of his military missions during the Rhodesian war, these using very old, worn-out aircraft that no self-respecting airline would have touched with a bargepole.  Nevertheless, he made a success of it, and his efforts helped keep Rhodesia alive for longer than anyone would have expected.

With the upsurge in fighting along all three of Rhodesia’s hostile frontiers, the war was putting a heavy strain on the military. In a move to boost its manpower, in January 1977 it was announced that conscription would be increased by three months and men over the age of thirty-eight needed to register for training and service.

As part of this militarisation Jack, at the age of fifty-seven was called up as a reservist to the Rhodesian Air Force. He was given the rank of Flight Lieutenant and was seconded to Number Three (Transport) Squadron. Although the authority and respect he was given far exceeded his lowly ‘official’ rank. Jack quickly realised that the Air Force, which were limited to a collection of old Second World War-vintage Dakotas, had a critical need for larger transport aircraft. As he now had the CL-44, Jack offered to loan one of his old DC-7s to the Air Force. This arrangement became more or less permanent from early April 1977.

On these military missions the DC-7 was given the Air Force registration number 7230. Interestingly it was also given a South African Defence Force registration number, TLT 907, for exclusively South African military missions. On these assignments Jack would usually fly with George Alexander who was the Commanding Officer of Number Three Squadron.

To begin with much of this flying was shuttling planeloads of Rhodesian soldiers down to Bloemfontein in South Africa to undertake parachute training as Rhodesia focused on building up its airborne assault capability. With these crack paratroops Rhodesia began to make ever larger and more ambitious raids into neighbouring countries to cripple the insurgents’ training, and supply facilities. But with this strategy economies of scale started to came into play and the Air Force needed to be able to deploy an ever higher volume of paratroopers. But in the face of modern anti-aircraft weapons, the slow DC-3s were just no longer sufficient.

Jack wondered if the DC-7 could be up for the job. The first challenge was that the DC-7 manufacturer categorically stated that the aircraft was impossible to fly with the side door open which would be a necessity for parachutists. But Jack wasn’t too concerned about operating regulations. He had the door removed and took the aircraft for a test flight. It was certainly more challenging to fly, but it wasn’t long before he got used to the handling.

Next, he needed some particularly brave soldiers to try jumping out of the DC-7 to see what would happen. There were some terrifying learnings to begin with as Charlie Buchan recalls, “With the DC-3 we jumped using a roof cable, but with the DC-7 the parachutes flipped round the edge of the wing and caught the tail piece, so we moved the cable from the roof to the floor. The first time we used the floor cable we got the full blast of the engines up our arses as we came out. We then ran the cable down to the corner of the doorway with a longer static line so that the parachute opened well beneath the tail.”

This was reiterated by one of the Parachute Jumping Instructors who later recalled, “The door was huge compared with the Dak. Drop speed for the Dak was ninety-five knots but the DC-7 would run in at about one hundred and fifteen knots. When we jumped we really felt the blast. Exit position had to be good or you would finish up turning in the slipstream which would cause twisting of the rigging lines during the parachute deployment. This meant wasted time kicking out the twists on the way down, and you had little enough time anyway from the operational drop height of just five hundred feet.”

Once these issues had been resolved a training exercise involving a planeload of sixty SAS commandos was organised. After ten run-ins dropping six men at a time the door dispatchers were well versed in how to work within the cargo-configured interior and confirmed they were ready for combat. Jack now just needed an actual operation to test the concept under real battlefield conditions.

Then, suddenly the war became very personal for Jack and the Malloch family.

In June 1977 Blythe’s eldest son Dave Kruger was killed along with three other young soldiers when their vehicle hit a landmine in the Binga area. He had been serving with 3 Independent Company of the Rhodesian Regiment. It was the second child that Blythe and Ted had lost so tragically. Then in early August urban terrorism hit Salisbury when a bomb exploded in Woolworth’s department store. There were almost one hundred casualties, mostly women and children. With the death of his nephew and the blast in the heart of Salisbury’s shopping centre, Jack realised that they were all now on the frontline. Although he was never one for revenge, after this Jack took a much darker view of the war and the need to not just defend themselves, but to start really fighting back.

. . .

With the success of his parachuting experiment, a couple of the military planners asked Jack for his opinion on an ambitious plan they were working on. The challenge was that once communist terrorists had infiltrated into the country they spread death and destruction and had to be hunted down individually. It was a classic ‘war of attrition’ tactic that was grinding down Rhodesia’s military resources. Just to sustain themselves Rhodesia needed to maintain a kill ratio of ten to one, but this was difficult. Rhodesia needed to cut the insurgents off at their source where they were concentrated and vulnerable.

The two largest Zanla training and ‘staging’ camps in Mozambique were Chimoio, ninety kilometres inside Mozambique and Tembue, which was another one hundred kilometres beyond it. These distances made an attack almost impossible and from the outset the decision-makers at Combined Operations rejected the idea as being far too risky. But Jack strongly believed in the SAS slogan ‘who dares wins’ and, along with the planning committee felt that with the right deployment of their air assets and a good dose of courage, a successful raid could be made. The distance and audacity of the plan also meant that neither Zanla nor Frelimo, Mozambique’s national army, would seriously expect an attack so far from Rhodesia’s border. As a result the enemy forces were concentrated in a very tempting target zone.

Eventually, after numerous persuasive presentations the operational plans for both Chimoio and Tembue were finally approved. Jack’s role in this was pivotal and according to one of the planners, “…without Jack’s personal interest and participation Operation Dingo could not have been undertaken. He was a key player.” This is high praise indeed considering the attack on Chimoio and Tembue would end up being one of the most successful cross-border raids of not just the Rhodesian War, but, of any war.

By late October 1977 intelligence reports estimated that the number of fighters at Chimoio had risen to eleven thousand with another four thousand at Tembue. This was five times the number of CTs (communist terrorists) already operating within Rhodesia. If this army of eager insurgents were all to make it across the border there was a real likelihood that the onslaught would overwhelm the country. Jack started work on the intricate logistics and started stockpiling extra munitions. The bombs, missiles and rockets for the air force were brought up from South Africa in the DC-8. These flights were off-loaded at the bottom of the runway by a small team of trusted senior ground staff and taken directly into New Sarum via the ‘bottom gate’ far away from prying eyes.

The attack had to be made quickly – and before the start of the summer rains as low cloud or stormy weather would compromise visibility and potentially ground the aircraft. Due to sanctions, Rhodesia didn’t have access to satellite imagery of the regional weather patterns. These images were beamed down to the Intelsat receiver in Europe and was then transmitted to a network of official receiver stations. Someone in Salisbury, using his own home-made equipment, was able to access this coded signal and download the images, dramatically enhancing the ability of the planners to predict the weather. How Rhodesia was able to pull off this early hacking back in 1977 is unknown, but desperation certainly led to innovation.

. . .

While Jack’s attention was being divided between the war and the commercial needs of the business, the Rhodesian Special Air Service were having remarkable success in the northern Tete Province of Mozambique. In light of this, Rhodesia’s military planners decided to redeploy them into the volatile southern Gaza Province, where, according to US Intelligence, Zanla were being trained by more than a thousand Cuban, Soviet and East German military advisors. This accounted for the area having been given the nickname, ‘The Russian Front’. The challenge was getting the special forces into the area. It was exactly the type of mission Jack had been waiting for. He suggested a free-fall HALO drop out of the doorless DC-7.

Once again there were reservations. It would be the biggest free-fall operation that the Rhodesians had attempted and just being able to find the right location for the drop was deemed to be almost impossible. That was Jack’s role. He had to find the Landing Zone and drop twenty-four men and their heavy equipment in exactly the right spot deep over enemy territory at the dead of night with no moon. Jack, who had an incredible intuition when it came to flying, knew he could do it. At three o’clock in the morning of October 11th, 1977 the twelve-thousand-foot jump was made. The men landed within a few kilometres of the LZ which was described as “an incredible achievement on the part of the pilot.” The undercover SAS teams remained in the Russian Front, effectively harassing the enemy until the end of the war. According to Kevin Milligan who was on most of these dangerous parachute deployments, “all the times I worked with Jack I found him to be a terrific character and a privilege to work with. The more challenging the mission, the more he seemed to enjoy it!”

. . .

With the success of his first SAS mission the commanders started taking Jack’s plans for Operation Dingo more seriously. To inflict the maximum number of casualties the Rhodesians wanted to strike the main training camp when all the recruits were lined up on the parade-ground. But the high-pitched whine of the approaching jets would compromise the element of surprise. They needed something to mask the sound. Jack suggested a slight change to the DC-8’s incoming flight path, timing it to overfly the camp just a few minutes before the strafing jets were scheduled to hit. Over time the residents in the camp “had become accustomed to the sound of the high-flying aircraft because this had been going on for weeks. All homeward bound Air Trans Africa flights had been specifically routed over the Chimoio base in a deliberate move to lull its inhabitants into accepting the sound as routine.”

The eventual attack was launched early on November 23rd, 1977. It involved almost every single Air Force aircraft, and almost every single member of the elite Special Air Service, along with almost one hundred hand-picked Rhodesian Light Infantry soldiers. Soon after midnight the helicopters began to assemble. The coordinated attack was due to start at seven minutes past eight, five minutes after Jack’s DC-8, to give time for the soldiers to reform in their tightly packed parade ground standing order. At about quarter past seven the massed armada of helicopters, weighted down with shock-troops and extra ammunition, took off. They crossed the border and headed down into the Mozambican plain via a steep-sided river valley.

According to one of the men, “All the helicopters descended to the low ground, initially over abandoned Portuguese farmlands, for the run to target. With helicopters all around and flying low over exquisite countryside, it was hard to fully comprehend that all hell was about to break loose. Halfway to target I saw the DC-7 cruise past on our port side looking quite splendid against the African background. Almost immediately it turned to commence orbits behind the formation of helicopters.”

Meanwhile, “The idea of using one noise to cover another worked perfectly. The Zanla men were taking up their places on the parade ground as the Hunters dropped down to release their golf bombs and the Canberras came in fast and low with their Alpha bombs. The helicopter gunships arrived on the scene just as this first wave of attack aircraft had gone through the target.” Seconds after the first wave of strikes the Hunters and old Vampire jets followed behind the Canberras attacking with their front-guns, rockets and frantan [napalm], devastating buildings as the circling helicopter gunships raked the kill zone.

According to Group Captain Peter Petter-Bowyer, “We did not see the air strikes going in southeast of us but landed to prepare to receive the DC-7 drops. The rotors had not yet stopped turning when I spotted the big aircraft already running in from the east. It was two minutes too early, yet the Admin Base protection troops were already peeling out of the huge cargo door before I had chance to call Squadron Leader George Alexander, who was flying second pilot for Captain Jack Malloch. The DC-7 lumbered past and rolled into a slow starboard turn to re-position for its second drop being the fuel drums and palettes of ammunition. On the ground and out of sight five hundred metres away, the troops were gathering up their parachutes.”

Meanwhile the first jets, refueled and rearmed, returned to start taking on the growing list of targets. At times there were as many as four targets lined up for near-simultaneous attention and the whole area was rocked by continual bomb blasts, cannon and anti-aircraft gunfire. The attack went on for a full eight hours.

By the end of it even the Rhodesians themselves could hardly comprehend the extent of their victory. By the Zanla High Command’s own admission, for the two Rhodesian soldiers killed in the attack the final kill ratio was one thousand to one, while the ratio of injured was about seven hundred to one. For the loss of just one Vampire jet, the devastating attack established the Rhodesian’s reputation of near invincibility on the battlefield. With this success, over the next two and a half years thirty more cross-border raids were made by the Rhodesians as they desperately tried to hold back the swelling tide of invasion.

But Jack’s role was not over. Twenty-four hours later, after quick repairs to their battle-damaged aircraft, the Rhodesians struck Tembue, codenamed ‘Zulu 2’ this time two hundred kilometres into enemy territory. During this phase of the attack soldiers were dropped from Jack’s DC-7 and retrieved by the Air Force helicopters. But they were right at the limit of the helicopters’ range and several couldn’t make it home so had to land wherever they could. One ran out of fuel while trying to cross the expanse of Lake Cahora Bassa and landed on a small remote island. Jack was back in the air an hour before first light the next morning. He dropped sixteen more RLI paratroopers to defend some of the scattered helicopters and dropped drums of fuel down to the helicopter that was stranded in the middle of the Mozambican lake.

Through this action Jack had firmly established his reputation as not just a fearless combat pilot, but also as a remarkable military tactician. He was now firmly entrenched into the military establishment, as Nick Meikle so eloquently describes, “ATA was at the forefront of Rhodesian sanctions-busting activities. Even though it was essentially a civilian airline, it displayed a military efficiency in the performance of a strategic role enacted with sublime tactical flexibility. It was rather like Rhodesia’s Strategic Air Transport Command.”

For these clandestine missions Jack’s ground-crews would repaint the DC-7 in dark olive green and black camouflage. “We painted the DC-7 with ordinary black-board paint, and it quite unexpectedly turned out to be excellent for anti-strela.” As they had to use large industrial brooms as brushes, the efforts were very rudimentary. Yet they always ensured that the first big black patch just behind the cockpit was in the distinctive shape of the local dark brown ‘dumpie’ beer-bottle.

. . .

At the end of July the Rhodesians launched another attack against Zanla’s Tembue base in northern Mozambique which had been rebuilt after the devastating attacks of Operation Dingo a year earlier. This attack involved both Jack and his nephew Mike Kruger. Mike was piloting his Alouette III helicopter, attacking targets and deploying ground troops, while Jack was captaining the DC-7, flying in fuel and supplies. The battle had included not just Zanla, but a large contingent of Frelimo soldiers who joined the fray firing a steady barrage of RPG-7 and Strela warheads at whatever aircraft they could see.

Those heat-seeking missiles were particularly dangerous for Jack’s big slow DC-7 which was certainly not designed for war. According to Group Captain Peter Petter-Bowyer who was the Admin Base Commander coordinating the attack, “What horrified everyone each time the DC-7 passed two hundred feet above us was the bright flaming of its ringed exhaust system that could not possibly be missed by a Strela in the fast-fading light.”

. . .

In late 1978 [Jack] had another challenging ‘live’ consignment – a huge pack of Irish foxhounds which the Selous Scouts wanted to try out for tracking terrorists. According to the Scout’s commanding officer, “I had a vet and he had connections in Ireland so Special Branch gave him a forged passport and off he went to find us some dogs. In the end he got seventy-six, all for free. The Irish donated them to us. Of course, it was Jack Malloch who flew them back for us in the back of his DC-8.”

. . .

In addition to developing an alternate source for weapons imports through the Comoros and securing a haul of critical fighter and bomber parts out of the Middle East, Jack had also become very involved in fighting the war itself. He personally participated in cross-border raids and had become a highly respected military strategist who, from late 1977, was involved in many of the High Command’s most audacious plans and proposals. In recognition of this in mid-September Jack was informed that he had earned the Independence Commemorative Decoration ‘for rendering valuable service to Rhodesia.’ Less than a month later he was recommended to become a Commander of the Order of the Legion of Merit. Although Jack appreciated these awards he was completely distracted by the next big cross-border raid that was being planned.

It was Operation Gatling and it was launched on the morning of October 19th, 1978 with simultaneous attacks against three large ZIPRA terrorist training camps in Zambia. This raid was a reprisal for the downing of the civilian Viscount six weeks earlier. Every single member of the Special Air Service took part, as did Jack’s nephew Mike Kruger, several members of Affretair’s flying crew, including Captain Chris Dixon who gained international fame as ‘Green Leader,’ and of course Jack himself who was at the controls of the DC-7 deploying special forces. As two of the three camps were within just twelve miles of the centre of the Zambian capital, the Rhodesians were worried that the Zambian Air Force, who now also had MiGs, would intercede. To make sure this didn’t happen ‘Green Leader’ in a fully loaded Canberra bomber circled the main control tower at Lusaka airport, thus commandeering Zambian air space for the duration of the battle.

By the time Jack got back from his four-hour trip to Lusaka and back, news of the attack was breaking. He quickly changed into his ‘civvies’ in preparation for the inevitable visitors. As Nori Mann explained, “To illustrate just how much of a hub we had become in the military circles, when the aircraft landed at New Sarum after the Green Leader raid, everyone, including the pilots, came straight to Jack’s office. They then played the audio recording of what had happened to everyone who gathered there. There was Norman Walsh who was the Director General of Combined Operations, Peter Walls who was Head of the Armed Forces and Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Slatter amongst others. That was the first time anyone had heard the details of the raid. There was a lot of swearing on the tape though and halfway through Jack apologised to me and said that I did not have to stay. He was such an old-school gentleman.”

The final tally for Operation Gatling was fifteen hundred ZIPRA combatants killed and thirteen hundred injured. This, for the loss of one SAS soldier killed and three airmen wounded when a helicopter was hit by cannon fire and downed. Although Rhodesia couldn’t afford to lose neither man nor machine, on balance it had been a good day.

. . .

[In 1979 South Africa] reinstated almost unlimited military support and the military planners in Salisbury readily took anything they could get, even integrating the South Africans into their next cross-border raid. This ended up being a joint attack against the Gaza Province of Mozambique. Designated as Operation Uric by the Zimbabwe-Rhodesians and as Operation Bootlace by the South Africans, the aim of the operation was to sever key transport bridges in the province and destroy a major staging point for the Zanla insurgents.

. . .

The Rhodesians launched Operation Uric on September 1st and the battle lasted almost a full week. It was one of the largest external operations of the war and it significantly changed the dimension of the conflict. With the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian and South African armies on one side and Zanla and the Mozambican army and police on the other, Uric internationalised the Rhodesian War. The deep incursion inflicted a high number of FRELIMO casualties and significant infrastructure damage which dramatically impacted the Mozambican economy. Although the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian negotiators at Lancaster House did not realise it at the time, Mozambique could not sustain this degree of punishment and Samora Machel insisted that Mugabe either negotiate a settlement or vacate Mozambique.

In total Jack flew three DC-7 missions in support of Uric, starting the day before launch when he flew twenty-five South African ‘Recce’ special forces (designated as ‘D Squadron SAS’ to disguise their origin) to their staging post at Buffalo Range near the eastern border. By the time the operation was wrapping up Jack was already into the detailed planning of his next daring mission. This time it was Operation Cheese and the plan was to down the longest road and rail bridge in Africa. It was located in northern Zambia and was being used to transport military supplies down from Tanzania. This ‘Tan-Zam’ rail link was also crucial to the Zambian economy as the only other option was the southern trade route through Rhodesia, and that would only be made available if Zambia stopped providing sanctuary to Nkomo’s insurgents. It was hoped this attack would force Kaunda and Nkomo to the negotiating table.

The logistics for this audacious attack were tricky though as the rail bridge was almost eight hundred kilometres north of Salisbury, well beyond helicopter range. This Chambeshi Bridge had been identified as a strategic target since 1976, but it was considered too far away and too complex to be achievable. But desperate times called for desperate measures.

While there was no way of getting the team of saboteurs out of the target area, a HALO drop from the DC-7 was the ideal way of getting them in. In early September while the battles of Uric were still raging Jack did a couple of night reconnaissance flights over the bridge to find a suitable drop zone. Once he confirmed the DZ the training for the jump began. The first team of four men were due to be dropped on the night of September 12th, just two days after the start of the Lancaster House talks. Kevin Milligan takes up the story, “As the owner of the DC-7, Jack could make sure he was on all the important missions with it. He thrived on it. He had been on the crew for the training jumps and we were in very good hands. Jack, a well-built man, oozing a quiet confidence, was a legend in his own right and had carried out many daring exploits in his time. Nothing phased him and the men found him considerate and amusing.” Unfortunately by the time they got over the target zone after midnight it was obliterated by heavy haze and they were forced to abort the mission. As they needed a clear full moon they had to wait almost a full month for the next suitable opportunity.

. . .

On September 27th Jack’s nephew Mike Kruger was called upon to evacuate an operational casualty. It was a hazardous operation requiring the casevac to be done right in the midst of an ongoing firefight. As Mike managed it successfully with no regard for his own safety he was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia. A week later with the full moon on October 3rd, 1979 Jack again flew the four-man SAS ‘freefall’ team back to the Chambeshi bridge.

According to Kevin, “I was very aware that the DC-7 must have sounded very noisy at eight thousand feet. We were already pushing our luck. I frantically peered out for any sign of the river and the crucial bend, but to my great disappointment, again, nothing. With a very heavy heart I told George to abort. I was so angry and frustrated, but had a final look out of the door. It was like something out of a movie. At just the right time and the right angle, I saw the moon glinting on the river bend that I was looking for, just as it was on the reconnaissance photo. There was little time for the normal flat turn corrections on run-in as I called to George “Come left, come left, harder – steady” then “Go! Go! Go!” and off they went. Straight into the storm. Full flap and undercarriage down to slow the aircraft.” It was one thirty in the morning on October 4th.

Paul French, who was leading the initial recce team remembers, because of his heavy kit, just flopping into the slipstream, the brief smell of the engines and then the silence of the free fall. As he turned to face the box of canoes and equipment he could clearly see the reflection of the moon and the dark shapes of the other men. He followed them down to ‘pull height’ and opened the parachute at two thousand feet as he wanted to be close to the box. Strangely the box was never found and the team, with their reduced kit had to improvise. When considering Jack Paul recalled that “Jack Malloch wasn’t young anymore. He was slightly overweight and seemed slow to move, but he exuded a calm confidence born of experience, risk-taking and success. He was a motivated man who appeared to be accustomed to getting his own way.”

. . .

Five nights later, a South African C-130 Hercules dropped the full twelve-man team of SAS commandos and all their equipment over the Chambeshi DZ. According to Kevin, “Someone in high places had obviously pulled strings and it was in South Africa’s interests too to have Kaunda reined in.” At two o’clock in the morning of October 12th the bridge was successfully severed and all sixteen commandos were able to hijack a couple of trucks and drive their way to a designated pick-up spot where the helicopters could reach them.

. . .

[At the end of the war] Along with the Commonwealth Monitoring Force the world’s news media also flooded into Rhodesia, each trying to find a unique newsworthy story from within the closed, war-torn little country. Remarkably the Daily Express chose to tell the story of “Captain Jack – Hero without a medal.” In their editorial they said, “Captain Jack Malloch was the doyen of the Rhodesian sanctions busters, the link man of the intricate spider’s web of commercial cross-deals which somehow kept Rhodesia alive for 14 years of economic isolation. Many believe that without Jack Malloch, Rhodesia would not have survived. Until now, Malloch, cloaked his usual life in silence. A small airline venture was the beginning of a career that was to turn him into perhaps the most notorious adventurer in the rugged world of African aviation.”

There you have it.  A remarkable record of achievement by a remarkable man.  Those who knew him, no matter how fleetingly, will not forget him.