Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A Japanese oncologist speaks about the explosion in cancer rates after the COVID-19 vaccine


Prof. Masanori Fukushima, a leading Japanese oncologist, discusses the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine on cancer rates, particularly rapid-onset cancers.  Here are some excerpts, posted on Twitter.

I am the most senior medical oncologist in Japan.  I was the first to open a cancer outpatient clinic at Kyoto University, and before that, in Kyoto University, in 2020, I was the head of a section at the Aichi Cancer Center, all positions were at the Aichi Cancer Center Hospital. I established the first course in pharmacoepidemiology at Kyoto University in Japan.


People are saying about what's being called "turbo cancer," a type previously unseen by doctors, characterized by its incredibly fast speed. By the time it's discovered, it is already in stage four, advanced cancer, and such cases are starting to sporadically appear in consultations. Thus, doctors began sharing information about these extraordinary cases that are different from before. So, this has gradually become the situation since last year or the year before that. Indeed, doctors have been sensing from the field that something unusual related to cancer may be happening. They were feeling it on the ground. 


Moreover, the results of our analysis show, surprisingly, that specific types of cancer, in relation to the vaccination, seem to be experiencing excess mortality. Firstly, cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, and then statistically, esophageal and lung cancer. These are, and another one is prostate cancer in men. Such cancers are specifically observing excess mortality. This phenomenon cannot be simply explained by disruptions such as early screenings being unavailable due to the pandemic, or lost opportunities for treatment.


It's as if we've opened Pandora's box and are now encountering all sorts of diseases. We're facing them. Autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and infections. All of these, including rare and difficult diseases, even those rare conditions are happening. Even diseases unheard of are being encountered by ordinary doctors.


This isn't science; it's more akin to faith, hysteria, or even cult behavior, in my opinion. Opposing vaccines doesn't make one a heretic like Galileo; it's become like being treated as a complete outcast. That's the situation. This is madness.


 We really must take these damages seriously and address them earnestly. Any efforts to dismiss these damages as if they didn't happen are, frankly, the work of evil. This is a quintessential example of the evil practice of science.


Therefore this vaccine was from the beginning based on misconception, misconduct, and evil practices of science, totally defective, founded on misconceptions, leading to a totally false production, a false product, I believe.


We must confront this directly again and shine the light of science on it, so the WHO should lead a comprehensive outcome research on this gene vaccine used on humanity on a large scale for the first time, and all countries should cooperate with it. We should never again use such vaccines. This is a shame for humanity. It's a disgrace!

The full video interview with Prof. Fukushima may be found at the link.  It's less than ten minutes long, and is worth your time.

I'm no longer active as a pastor and chaplain, except when individuals ask me for counseling or wish to discuss something.  However, I'm still in touch with those "on the front lines", so to speak:  and unanimously they report a significant increase in the number of people being diagnosed with rapid-onset cancers, appearing almost out of nowhere and progressing at a viciously fast rate.  Some of them are only detected when they're at Stage 3 or Stage 4 (the latter usually meaning survival is unlikely).  I'd love to know why the mainstream media, in the US and elsewhere, is ignoring or censoring this ongoing reality.

In this case, forewarned is not forearmed, because there isn't much one can do about such rapidly progressing illnesses:  but one can at least watch one's health carefully, in the hope of detecting anything dangerous before it becomes unstoppable.  I hope we can all take warning from that.


So did it ever happen?


I was intrigued to read an article at The Aviationist.

65 years ago today on April 24, 1959, legend has it that an aviation stunt so bizarre it defies belief actually took place in the Mackinaw Straits between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.

A U.S. Air Force RB-47E Stratojet reconnaissance aircraft piloted by Strategic Air Command pilot Capt. John Stanley Lappo was said to have flown underneath the Mackinaw Bridge where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron converge. As history records the event, no photos of the aircraft flying under the bridge exist, but the stunt, if it actually did happen, created enough buzz that a legend was born.

According to the thisdayinaviation.com website and the Wikipedia page for the Mackinaw Bridge, fitting a Boeing RB-47E Stratojet under the Mighty Mac was a tight squeeze with little margin for error. The highest place between the water surface in the Mackinaw Strait and the bottom of the Mackinaw Bridge is 155-feet at the center. The tail of an RB-47E stands 27-feet, 11 inches off the ground. If you do the math, that leaves about 127-feet of space between the water and the bottom of the bridge to play with. Considering the RB-47E stall speed in these conditions may have been as slow as 150-190 MPH, the plane would cover that distance in altitude in just over a second or two.

As the story goes, and is told in several media outlets, Capt. Lappo was, “Reported by his navigator” to some higher authority after the bridge fly-under. The legend claims that Lappo was, “charged with violating a regulation prohibiting flying an aircraft below 500-feet”. No great aviation tale is complete without details, and the story is that Capt. Lappo was permanently removed from flight status by the Commanding General of the Eight Air Force, Lieutenant General Walter Campbell.

. . .

Most stories about the alleged fly-under appear on the internet after 2019. Before that, there is no verifiable report of the incident. Given these results, all the features of an urban legend exist here. This is not to say the story is impossible.

There's more at the link.

I can see a fighter or fighter-bomber flying under that bridge, just as has been done to other famous bridges around the world (for example, see the Tower Bridge Incident in London, England in 1968).  However, the much larger, less nimble and maneuverable B-47 bomber would be very difficult indeed to fly through such a confined space.  If it was done, one can only tip one's hat to the pilot in admiration.

The question is, did it ever happen?  There seems to be no conclusive evidence out there.  I would think an incident like that would have attracted attention and headlines from all over, so I'm confused.  Was there an orchestrated cover-up by Strategic Air Command, so as not to encourage any of its other pilots from trying the same trick?

If any reader can shed any further light on the subject, please let us know in Comments.  I'm sure I'm not the only one intrigued by this rumor.


Always they cry "Racist!" instead of accepting the facts


A proposed city separation in Louisiana has all the usual suspects screaming "Racist!" (as usual).

Wealthy white Baton Rouge residents have won a decade-long court battle to split from poorer neighborhoods and form their own city with plans for better schools and less crime. 

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the new City of St George could move forward with incorporation, splitting off from the rest of Baton Rouge. 

St George will have 86,000 residents across a 60-square-mile area in the southeast of East Baton Rouge Parish and will have its own Mayor and city council.

Supporters of the new city say that the existing city-parish government is poorly run, with high crime rates and bad schools. 

Opponents say the movement is 'racist' and will create a 'white enclave' as it separates a wealthy area of the city from the majority Black city and school district.

There's more at the link.

I lived in Louisiana for more than a decade.  I know Baton Rouge reasonably well.  I'm pretty sure you'll find those living in the proposed City of St. George are not primarily whites objecting to sharing the city with blacks.  I'm confident you'll find they're simply sick and tired of paying the highest rates in the city, only to receive exceptionally poor treatment at the hands of the municipality, which has for years (decades!) taken that money and used it to employ, service and subsidize poorer people in the city while neglecting "the goose that laid the golden eggs".  Now that the goose has decided it will no longer put up with that, and instead wishes to improve its lot in life, they're screaming that the problems are the goose's fault - racism, rich vs. poor, haves versus have-nots, and all the rest of the usual slogans.

The same scenario has played itself out in other American cities, notably Buckhead in Atlanta, GA.  In every case of which I'm aware, the same allegations of racism, elitism, etc. have been leveled against those who want to escape the poorer morass that's absorbing their high rates and leaving them with almost no return on their money.  That applies particularly to security.  Criminals from the poorer areas target those living in the rich areas, because that's where the money is - but the city police do nothing extra to protect those targeted areas, often under instruction from the City Council to do so.  It's understandable that the victims of crime feel more than a little aggravated by it, and want something done about it.  They've finally decided to do it themselves, since they can't rely on the city's leaders to do their job.

When will the progressive left learn that if you steal the goose's golden eggs for long enough, it'll take itself off to where it can lay its eggs in safety, free from your rapacious clutches?  Why should the richer suburbs subsidize the poorer without any return for themselves?  If they were treated fairly and equitably, they probably wouldn't mind so much:  but when they're basically robbed blind to pay off poorer areas, they get a mite tetchy about it.  In their shoes, so would I.

I hope the City of St. George will serve as a wake-up call to other Baton Rouges around the country.  Don't push your greed too far, or it may come back to bite you right on your fundamental jujube.


Monday, April 29, 2024

That's the way to do it!


It was a sad occasion, but marked with honor and community support.

You probably remember 17-year-old Cameron Blasek. He's the Indiana teen who refused to take the American flag off his truck when triggered [school] administrators demanded he do so.

If you recall, he doubled down and covered his entire truck with the flag, thanks to a Cincinnati graphic design company.

He hasn't stopped there.

Last Thursday, out of the blue, Cameron got this heartfelt message from someone in Oklahoma asking for a favor. Turns out, it was from the family of Jaxon, a 13-year-old kid who had decided not to continue with chemo after fighting cancer from the age of two.

Jaxon's last wish?

He wanted to ride to his final resting place in Cameron's truck, decked out in the Stars and Stripes.

Without thinking twice, Cameron and his dad hit the road for that long 16-hour haul to Oklahoma. Cameron's mom wrote on Facebook that this is one of those favors you "drop everything you thought was important and say yes to without a second thought."

There's more at the link.

Here's a TV news report about the incident.

Well done, Mr. Blasek and family!  I wish we had more like you in our midst.


When will the Catholic Church ever learn?


I've written extensively about the Catholic Church's clergy sex abuse scandal in these pages.  As regular readers will know, the way it was mishandled led me to withdraw from that Church's ministry.  Today's discussion will discuss the latest development in that scandal.  A word of warning:  I remain Christian, and will provide a believer's perspective on the issue.  If you're not Christian and/or not a person of faith, you might prefer to skip this article.

A report from New York illustrates the core of the Catholic Church's problem, which is with us still, and will be unless and until the hierarchy of the Church returns to its joint and several roots and remakes itself in Christ's image, instead of the world's.

On Tuesday, [the New York State] Appellate court’s First Department reversed a ruling dismissing Chubb insurance’s assertion that its policies did not cover child sexual abuse claims that church leaders enabled and covered up for decades... Chubb insured the Archdiocese of New York, which serves 2.5 million Catholics, and its affiliated parishes and schools between 1956 and 2003.

. . .

The appellate court’s decision affirms Chubb’s position that it shouldn’t have to defend the Archdiocese if the organization “had knowledge of its employees’ conduct or propensities,” the company said in a statement.

“The Archdiocese must now disclose what it knew and when it knew about child abuse perpetrated by priests and employees,” the company contended. “That disclosure is critical to determining whether the [Archdiocese of New York’s] knowledge and cover-up precludes coverage.” 

The Archdiocese called the ruling “disappointing” and “wrongly decided,” claiming, “If allowed to stand, the decision will permit insurance companies to evade the contractual obligations of the policies they issued.”

There's more at the link.

The last paragraph cited above illustrates the core of the problem.  The Archdiocese of New York is not responding to the news as a body of faith, as the Body of Christ on Earth.  It's responding as a business organization, just another corporate entity talking to the courts and other corporate entities on their terms.

This is not what the Church is called to be.  It's definitely not Biblical, it's not Godly, and it ignores the calling of Christ for His church to be His bride.

There are those who'll say that of course the Church must respond to corporate issues in a corporate way;  that to do otherwise would be nonsensical.  However, think about it.  Did Christ ever tell His apostles to establish a corporation?  Hire lawyers and managers and administrators, and actually use ordained ministers of faith in those occupations, rather than as messengers of the Gospel?  What's the priority here?

Bob Mumford, a Pentecostal evangelist, once defined secular humanism as "what you get when the world evangelizes the church".  That was a prophetic definition, IMHO, and we see its results in far too many Christian churches today.  They are run as businesses rather than houses of faith;  secular corporations rather than guardians and beacons and emissaries of Christ's truth.  Christ told us to "preach the Gospel to all nations" - not erect corporate entities that would administer the secular possessions of the Church while, effectively, relegating her Divine mission to second place (if that).

That's also what gave rise to the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal in the first place.  Seminaries were allowed to become secular in focus, concentrating on psychology, sociology, anthropology and other approaches to human life instead of inculcating the transformational, transcendental calling of Christ to his followers in their students.  Worse, the seminaries were staffed by those who shared that perspective, including many who were morally degenerate.  Anyone not sharing it was either not appointed to the staff, or removed as quickly as possible.  Furthermore, students were selected for the seminary according to their conformity with secular perspectives and liberal/progressive "spirituality", and again, those who did not demonstrate this were quickly removed.

For a thorough discussion of those issues, see the book "Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church" by Michael S. Rose, published in 2002.

The book documents everything that I've said about seminaries, and goes into a lot more detail.  It might as well be sub-titled "How Satan Subverted Future Priests", because that was the net effect of such policies on so many students for the priesthood.  I suppose we'll never know how many potentially holy, faithful and apostolic priests we lost thanks to those policies.  I'm betting it was a bunch, and then some.  Even worse, American bishops did nothing to stop this corruption.  It was their responsibility under Canon Law:  indeed, even when the seminary/ies in question were run by religious orders, and nominally not under local episcopal control, the local bishop could have suspended the sacramental faculties of professors, reported the matter to Rome and demanded action, and taken other steps to ensure orthodoxy of teaching.  As far as I'm aware, none did.  I would not like to stand in their shoes at their Judgement . . .

(It's with considerable pleasure that I recently read complaints from some liberal and progressive sources that most priests being ordained today are orthodox in their faith and loyal to the traditional spiritual and theological teaching of the Church.  I hope they're right.  If so, I guess it's the Holy Spirit restoring the church and her clergy to what they should be.)

So, the secular approach to the world epitomized in the Church's seminaries carried over to (and may even have originated in) the Church's administration.  Almost every bishop and his deputies (the Vicars General and Chancellors of dioceses, and other positions) were focused on the Church as a business, as a corporate entity, rather than the Church as the living body of believers.  They spent their time in meetings, writing memoranda, allowing accountants and lawyers to "help them" to conform the Church's structure and administration to "good business practices" - without considering their real and primary calling.  That calling became subordinated to their jobs . . . and that's why things went so appallingly wrong with the Church and some of her clergy.

We see precisely that approach reflected in the Archdiocese of New York's statement after the New York appeal court's ruling:

“If allowed to stand, the decision will permit insurance companies to evade the contractual obligations of the policies they issued.”

Not one word about whether or not the Archdiocese knew about any of the claims over which it's being sued.  It did, and we know it did, because that's come out in innumerable reports over the more than two decades that this scandal has been in the public eye.  Chubb is absolutely correct to try to avoid the costs of those claims, as the appeals court has just ruled.  Its insurance policy/ies contained a liability clause:  in so many words, if its clients knew about a potentially harmful or dangerous situation before the incident(s) occurred, and did nothing to prevent or avoid it, their insurance cover was/is forfeited.  That's a stock-standard clause in any and every liability insurance policy I've ever read.  (I might add that I hold a Master's degree in business, and was a manager and company director before I was ordained a priest, so I know what I'm talking about.)

That's also demonstrated in the public reactions of the Catholic Church in America when the clergy sex abuse scandal broke.  They instantly went into a defensive huddle and called in lawyers, psychologists, public relations specialists, and a host of other secular disciplines to help craft a defensive strategy.  Few if any bishops publicly accepted responsibility for the catastrophe, and those that did . . . well, let's say I doubt that all of them meant it whole-heartedly.  Considering the "inside information" that many priests heard at the time, that was not the impression we gained at all.  Indeed, the national programs implemented to "resolve" the issue reflected that insincerity.  Not a single one of the measures proposed and enforced did anything to deal with the roots of the problem.  Instead, they had the effect of making priests feel that their own bishops considered them to be the source of the problem, and that they were seen as guilty until proven innocent!  I've discussed in depth my reactions to the bishops' measures in an earlier article, so I won't repeat them here.

So now we have the Archdiocese of New York protesting because its former insurer is insisting on enforcing the liability clause(s) in its contracts.  As far as I'm concerned, the Archdiocese appears to be trying to force Chubb to pay for its debts and liabilities, despite the Church having failed to keep its side of the bargain.   To me, that's not only legally wrong, but morally as well.  We know the Archdiocese knew more about these scandals than it ever admitted, until it was forced to acknowledge at least some part of that knowledge in previous court proceedings - yet even now, it's trying to avoid acknowledging that reality by simply refusing to talk about it.  Honesty?  Moral uprightness?  Acknowledging sin?  Where are those Gospel realities in the arguments of the lawyers for the Archdiocese?  Non-existent.

As far as I'm concerned, if the Archdiocese of New York is forced to declare bankruptcy and sell off its physical assets, that might even be a blessing.  Perhaps then the Archdiocese and its priests could get back to living and preaching the Gospel, in season and out of season, rather than focusing on banks and lawyers and accountants and insurance policies more than they focus on the mission God has given them.


Memes that made me laugh 207


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

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Weekend hiatus


This weekend a number of friends of the North Texas Troublemakers (of which my wife and I are members, too) are gathering at our annual invitation-only "Foolzcon" to have fun, eat too much, and generally kick back and relax together.  It's normally held nearer April Fool's Day (hence the name), but this year other events intervened, so we pushed it back a few weeks.

We're going to be involved in the fun and games, and we have house guests who've come here to join us, so I won't be putting up blog posts this weekend.  Normal service will be resumed on Monday.  Meanwhile, enjoy yourselves with the bloggers in the sidebar.  They write good, too!


Friday, April 26, 2024

Freedom, thy name is... clearly not Canada!


A Canadian town has plumbed new depths in the bureaucratic curtailment of individual rights and freedoms.

A Canadian town in the Gulf of St. Lawrence has become the first municipality in the country to officially require a QR code to enter and leave.

Officials say that the requirement of a QR code to enter or leave the archipelago Îles-de-la-Madeleine will only be for tourists, while residents will be required to show their driver’s licence to enter or leave.

The decision to require a QR code and identification for the municipality’s 12,000+ residents came after the municipal government announced they would begin charging all visitors who come to Îles-de-la-Madeleine $30, something which hasn’t gone down well with the locals or their family members who visit them.

Of the many concerns, one that officials sought to address was ensuring that visitors had paid their fees before leaving, hence the introduction of a mandatory QR code to leave the islands. If you don’t pay, you can’t get the QR code and won’t be able to leave.

This was initially intended for residents, too, but following an outpour of criticism, officials backed down and now say that residents only have to show their driver’s licence.

Residents, however, aren’t happy about this either, saying it’s absolutely ludicrous to have to prove their identity whenever they want to leave their homes and go to other places within their own country.

Many have also stated that this is an attack on their Charter Rights, which officials have denied.

There's more at the link.

I can't for the life of me figure out how any city council can dictate to residents and visitors whether or not they may enter and/or leave.  Just who the hell do they think they are?  What happened to individual rights and freedoms?  Where and how do some bureaucrats get the idea that they can be petty dictators like this?  Who gave them the right to insist that the rest of us are at their beck and call?

It's quite amusing to contemplate what would happen in my northern Texas town were our Mayor and Council to try anything similar.  The result would be a short, sharp and somewhat profane discussion between them and the citizens, followed by the use of rails, tar and feathers to indicate to them that they should consider rapid relocation elsewhere.  The local cops certainly would never dream of trying to enforce such an ordinance.  They want to go home after their shifts . . . and they know just how many townsfolk would object, ballistically, to any attempt to apply such restrictions.

Perhaps a bunch of us should plan a visit to Îles-de-la-Madeleine - without bothering to get the QR code on our phones, even if we agree to pay the fee - then dare the local cops to do something about it.  That might make for pay-per-view-level entertainment on local channels.


Not safe for work, but very funny


Australian comedian, actress and model Nikki Osborne has made a series of tongue-in-cheek (or maybe not so in-cheek!) advertisements and videos about Moments condoms, which is apparently an Australian brand of prophylactics.  They're not exactly the sort of thing I can embed here, but they're certainly very funny to those who understand and appreciate the Australian sense of humor.

You'll find them all at this link.

I found particularly eye-opening the one where she lists every nickname for a condom that she's been able to find.  Verily, the mind doth boggle . . . I've clearly been living an overly sheltered existence!


The harsh military reality of the situation in Gaza


Andrew Fox is a former Major in Britain's armed forces, who served three combat tours in Afghanistan.  He posted this tweet a few days ago.  I've taken the liberty of reproducing it in full.

I gave a presentation this morning, partly about Afghanistan. On the drive home it set me thinking.

My hunch is that part of the reason for Western protests about Gaza is a total failure to understand what urban war is, and what it looks like, and people are horrified to see it. Totally understandable. Now couple that to a powerful disinformation campaign that exploits those feelings of horror and tells them what they’re seeing and can’t comprehend (urban war) is something else (genocide).

As a commander in Afghanistan on my first two tours, which were before the “counterinsurgency” era, I saw my job as being to apply maximum violence to kill the enemy legally within rules of engagement. If I had a Harrier or an A-10 or an Apache to call on, I’d use that as a first option. If not, I’d use mortars or Javelin or machine guns if I had them. Only as a last resort would I commit my rifle sections.

That’s war. And that’s what Israel is fighting, on a far more brutal scale. Hamas and the surrounding Iranian proxies are an existential threat to Israel’s existence as a country. It’s that which people in the West fail to understand. We’re used to expeditionary wars of choice on the other side of the world. Israel has kibbutzim 5km from where their troops are fighting. The IDF in Gaza can look over their shoulders and see their home. It’s a totally different perspective on war from the one we in the West are used to. 

Hamas have to be deleted as a fighting force for Israel to survive as a country with safe borders. To achieve that is the single most basic function of government. This isn’t a war Israel wants but it’s one they’ve been forced to fight. They’ve already taken double the fatalities the British did in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. 

If they wanted to, they could stand off with jets, and hit Gaza City and Khan Younis and Rafah simultaneously and level the place - and legally. If it’s a military target and you can justify the collateral damage, the law of armed conflict says that’s legal. That Israel hasn’t done that tells you all you need to know about whether this is a genocide or not.

I don’t blame people for being sucked in by disinformation about Gaza. It’s been sophisticated and effective information warfare. I have no limits to my contempt for those who throw around “genocide” when they know perfectly well it isn’t. The most serious of crimes shouldn’t be debased like that, and shame on South Africa and their allies who have abused international law in this way.

War is horrifying, brutal, and extremely violent. Gaza isn’t a conventional counter-terror campaign. We saw on 7 October how well armed, organised and tactically aware Hamas are. They use human and humanitarian shields. They’ve forced Israel into the only appropriate response, and it’s the innocents in Gaza who suffer. That the numbers of innocents injured and killed is so low is a testament to the IDF using tactics that have incurred far higher IDF casualties than other options on the table.

“War is hell” is a cliche for a reason. But it’s nothing more than a war that we see in Gaza.

That's the military reality of the situation in Gaza at resent.  It's a war.  It's not a "peace mission" or a "genocide" or an "occupation" at all.  Israel was attacked, and now it's defending itself in the only way possible - by removing the attackers and the threat they represent.  That's a very harsh reality . . . but it is reality.  To pretend otherwise is stupid.


Thursday, April 25, 2024

The headline says it all


From Sundance at The Last Refuge:

There's far too much "meat on the bone" for me to quote a lot of excerpts from it and expect them to make sense.  Nevertheless, this is critically important reading if you want to understand how the Department of Justice is abusing the legal system of the United States to fraudulently target a politician.  It makes for horrendous reading.

If you want to sum up the critical point of the article, it's this:

The raid on Mar-a-Lago was a retrieval effort where the DOJ/FBI were looking for evidence of their misconduct that Donald Trump may have taken with him after his time in office.

. . .

The special counsel was looking for documents held by Donald Trump that touched on declassification and/or pertained to John Durham and Crossfire Hurricane.   They were looking for documentary evidence against them that Trump may have held (he did and likely still does).

. . .

Mary McCord, Andrew Weissmann and Norm Eisen are using “national security” as a tool to subvert and control the judicial branch while railroading President Trump.

There's much more at the link.  I strongly suggest that it's worth reading it all.

This is why I've said before, and I'll say again here, that I don't expect a free and fair election this November.  The Democratic Party and the Deep State appear bound and determined to remove former President Trump's name from the ballot through criminal conviction, any way they have to;  and if he does run, they want to blacken his name as a "convicted criminal" to such an extent that at least some of his supporters won't vote for him.  Frankly, I agree with some observers who predict that President Trump may be assassinated by his opponents, rather than allow him to take office again.  They hate and fear him that much.

I might add that I'm not a member of President Trump's fan club.  I have serious doubts over his fitness to fill another term as President;  his age is definitely a factor, as is his brash outspokenness.  However, those factors don't prevent me from recognizing that he is, indeed, being railroaded by the misuse of our criminal justice system.  That's deadly dangerous to our republic.  If the powers that be can do that to President Trump, and get away with it, then what's to stop future powers that be doing it to anyone and everyone else they don't like?


In search of a good canned chili


Readers overseas, and in the northern part of the USA, may not understand that in the southern USA, particularly those states bordering Mexico, chili is not so much a meal as a religion.  With or without beans?  What about this, or that, or the other spice or seasoning?  Pork, beef or roadkill?  What size to cut the meat cubes?  Slow and tender, or fast and furious?  The variations on the theme are endless, as is shown by the many chili cook-off competitions held all over this part of the world during the summer months.  Disputes over ingredients and methods have, I understand, actually led to divorces, not to mention shootouts in the bad old days.

I've learned to enjoy chili, but being from a more, shall we say, temperate part of the world, I can't handle the really hot variety that connoisseurs may find in abundance around here.  I'll eat it, by all means, but I'll usually add sour cream and grated cheese, and maybe some salsa or guacamole, to tame the hot-and-spicy bite and make it easier on my stomach.  There are, of course, those who would call me a wimp for so doing.  (The classic, oft-repeated chili judging joke says it all.)  I also like to taste "alternative" chilis:  turkey, chicken, even fish.  I'm not very good at making them, but I try, and now and then I come up with something quite tasty.

That said, I think canned chili could be a useful addition to emergency supplies.  It comes fully cooked and ready to eat - it doesn't even need to be heated, and can be wolfed down cold from the can.  However, in an emergency we'll want to eat food that's as tasty as possible.  With all the other miseries that'll be going on, we'll need to be cheered up by what's on our plate, rather than depressed!  Unfortunately, I've never found a red meat canned chili that was really tasty.  Most of them have the visual appearance of brown sludge, to say the least:  some might be described in rather more scatological detail (but let's keep this family-friendly, shall we?).  Their taste isn't much better.  "Mediocre" is about all I can say for most of them.  (I have discovered a chicken chili that seems to be a cut above the rest, but it's very hard to find in this part of the world, since it comes from a producer in a northern state not renowned for its chilis.  I buy a few cans as and when I come across them, and I'm slowly building up a stash of the stuff.)

So, dear chili-eating readers, what canned chili can you recommend as being worthy of including in an emergency food stash?  Is there one out there that actually tastes good, and has the right texture, and all that sort of thing?  If you do, please let us know in Comments.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who'll thank you.


All the propaganda that's fit to print


Last weekend the New York Times published an opinion piece titled "Government Surveillance Keeps Us Safe".  It's filled with ridiculous platitudes about how new "safeguards" in the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in particular Section 702, will protect Americans from intrusive overreach while simultaneously protecting us from evil and all that sort of thing.  Those platitudes are nonsensical, as the article itself points out even while spouting them.

Civil libertarians argued that the surveillance bill erodes Americans’ privacy rights and pointed to examples when American citizens got entangled in investigations. Importantly, the latest version of the bill adds dozens of legal safeguards around the surveillance in question — the most expansive privacy reform to the legislation in its history. The result preserves critical intelligence powers while protecting Americans’ privacy rights in our complex digital age.

. . .

It is also true that the F.B.I. has broken the rules around these 702 database checks repeatedly in recent years. Agents ran improper queries related to elected officials and political protests. The wiretaps of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, also involved numerous violations of FISA rules. The Page wiretaps involved traditional FISA orders, not Section 702, but the bureau’s many errors there raised understandable doubts about whether it can be trusted to comply with other FISA rules.

. . .

The bill passed by Congress contains numerous reforms that will dramatically improve compliance. It sharply limits the number and ranks of F.B.I. agents who can run 702 queries, imposes strict penalties for misconduct and expands oversight by Congress and the courts.

There's more at the link.

It's so stupid it would almost be comical, if it weren't so serious.  Yes, we admit that the FBI and other authorities have for years ignored all the safeguards and legal restrictions built into the FISA process:  but the renewal legislation adds more safeguards and legal restrictions, which we're sure the FBI will not abuse this time!  Really!  We promise!  Pinky swear!

We've seen the uncovering of the festering morass of corruption that has come to dominate our intelligence services over the years, turning them into instruments of political oppression rather than public safety.  We've covered some of that information in these pages.  If you've somehow missed it, Sundance has a long and very informative article covering the subject, which you should read carefully from start to finish.  It's all true.

I hate to have to say that, because I too served in the Department of Justice.  I was medically retired almost twenty years ago, at a time when the DOJ still emphasized justice rather than political correctness.  I still associate with others who were "old-school" DOJ, who regarded the constitution and laws of this country as paramount rather than the partisan perspectives of any political party.  However, the DOJ today appears to have almost completely lost that focus.  The persecution of President Trump, and the victimization of the January 6 protesters, are just the best-known examples of how the Department has been politicized and weaponized.  There are many more.

I've said before that "The FBI can no longer be trusted in any way, shape or form".  Tucker Carlson has pointed out that "There's a reason the public's confidence in the FBI has plummeted".  Dozens, if not scores and hundreds, of observers, commenters and experts have come to the same conclusion . . . yet the Gray Lady still has no problem playing the propaganda shill for that organization.

So much for journalistic ethics.  I wonder if the authors of that opinion piece know the meaning of that term?


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

A camera that writes poems???


This report boggles my mind.

At first glance, the Poetry Camera seems like another gadget in the ever-evolving landscape of digital devices. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that this is no ordinary camera. Instead of merely capturing images, the Poetry Camera takes the concept of photography to new heights by generating thought-provoking poetry (or, well, as thought-provoking as AI poetry can get) based on the visuals it encounters.

. . .

At the heart of this innovative device lies a Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized single-board computer that packs a powerful punch. This tiny yet mighty component serves as the brain of the Poetry Camera, enabling it to capture images and communicate with OpenAI’s GPT-4 to generate poetry.

A Raspberry Pi captures the image and then employs computer vision algorithms to analyze the visual data. The AI models then interpret the image, identifying key elements, colors, patterns and emotions within the frame. This information serves as the foundation for the poetry-generation process.

There's more at the link.

Well . . . I suppose, if the AI has been sufficiently trained on enough poetry covering all sorts of topics, issues and environments, it might produce something roughly in sync with the theme of the picture.  On the other hand, it's not going to work very well on fast-paced action shots, particularly if it doesn't know what's going on.

I have a mental picture of using this device to take a photograph of my Drill Instructor during military basic training lo, these many years ago;  screaming insults at me from a range of about six inches, spittle flying everywhere (including all over me), eyes wide and staring . . . although I don't think it could also capture his halitosis and body odor.  I wonder what sort of poem it would produce about him in that scenario?


Compare and contrast: Haiti, El Salvador - and the USA


First, Haiti:

Haiti’s capital has been thrown into further chaos after its top warlord ordered his soldiers to “burn every house you find” – as the nation struggles to usher in a new government.

Notorious gang leader Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier, 47, was heard on social media messages on Sunday inciting his men to clash against police and burn down homes indiscriminately across Port-au-Prince, including Lower Delmas where he grew up. 

“Continue burning the houses. Make everybody leave,” says a man in the audio recordings who is believed to be Cherizier.   

“No need to know which house. Burn every house you find. Set the fire,” he adds, claiming to have sent jugs of gasoline to the gangsters. 

Local residents have verified that houses have been set a blaze in the capital, with Radio Tele Galaxie reporting loud blasts and gunfire echoing across city hall as Lower Delmas has turned into “a battlefield between police and armed gangs.”

Along with the gunfights along city hall and the National Palace, gangsters also looted the State University of Haiti’s medical facility overnight, local Radio RFM reports. 

With officials and human rights groups estimating that as much as 90% of the capital is now controlled by violent gangs, fears have grown that Cherizier has united them in an effort to seize control of the nation during a period of transition.

Sunday’s order to attack came ahead of the installation of a transitional council preparing to establish a new government after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry fled the nation. 

There's more at the link.

As we've mentioned before in these pages, successive Haitian governments (if that's a valid description of them) have allied with various gangs in order to achieve political power, then plunder the national treasury under the guise of governing.  The inevitable result is that the gangs have grown tired of ruling through middlemen, and want to govern directly, without giving up a cut of the loot to politicians.  Tragically, the people of Haiti have never risen up and demanded proper government.  If they had, this could have been nipped in the bud years ago.  They didn't;  so now they're paying the price.

Contrast this with El Salvador, where the people got fed up with the gangs, the corruption and the criminality of their society, and did something about it.

The man who transformed El Salvador from one of the most dangerous countries in the world to one of the safest, President Nayib Bukele, is despised by liberals.

. . .

In 2022, after a gang war resulted in the deaths of 87 people over a period of just three days, Bukele took action against crime. He constructed the country’s largest prison, the Terrorism Confinement Center (Centro de Confinamiento del Terrorismo or CECOT), with a capacity for 40,000 gang members. And he began filling it.

Out of gratitude for restoring peace in the country, voters reelected him with 85% of the vote. Human rights groups, who live in safe, wealthy Western nations, have criticized Bukele for violations of the rights of suspects.

But the logic is flawless. Only gang members have gang tattoos. If anyone else gets a gang tattoo, they will be killed by the gang. The same is true for tattoo artists.

They would be killed for giving gang tattoos to non-gang members. Additionally, part of the initiation to joining a gang is to commit a serious crime, often murder. Once they become a member, their full-time job is to commit crimes. So, logically, anyone with a gang tattoo is a gang member and has committed crimes.

. . .

The state of emergency he declared in 2022, and has renewed several times since, suspends the constitutional rights of the gang members and bypasses the corrupt courts and justice system, which had allowed the criminals to reign for decades. Since then, 75,000 gang members have been arrested, and 7,000 have been released.

Again, more at the link.

Notice how President Bukele's measures completely bypass and render impotent the corrupt liberal institutions of "justice".  You won't find progressive prosecutors letting off offenders with a token slap on the wrist, or setting them free the same day they're arrested after making them promise to attend court when summoned.  Those offenders, under El Salvador's system, are checked for gang tattoos, and video of them outside and inside jail is scrutinized.  One gang tattoo, one flashed gang sign, and they're automatically classified as gang members and imprisoned.  They have the right to argue their detention, and about 10% have been released;  but most can't demonstrate their innocence, and they're still locked up.  The people of El Salvador, delighted to be able to venture outside their homes in safety for the first time in years (if not decades), have just shown whose side they're on by re-electing President Bukele and his party with overwhelming support - to the distress and hand-wringing of said liberals and progressives, who see all their favorite soft-on-crime approaches being ground into the mud.

Now look at the USA.  States and cities where liberal, progressive attitudes are applied are drowning in crime.  Don't believe the "official" crime statistics, either - they're deliberately flawed, biased and under-reported.  Ask the people who live there.  They'll tell you the reality.  Contrast those states and cities with those where law and order takes a higher priority, and see the difference.  People from the first group are migrating to the second group as fast as they can afford to.

Tragically, the Biden administration is admitting millions upon millions of migrants from high-crime, low-trust societies (including Haiti) into the USA, without so much as a background check.  That's going to make our crime situation much, much worse.  It already is in some places.  What will we, the people of the USA, do about it?  Will we demand our own Bukele to rein in the criminals?  Or will we roll over, supine, and let the gangs dominate?

The liberals and progressives do have one accurate point in all this.  Throughout history, whenever a "strong man" appears offering a solution to crime and other ills, he's ended up becoming more or less a dictator, and often has had to be removed violently in his turn.  That's a real danger here in the USA right now.  Tragically, those same liberals and progressives don't seem to realize that their insistence on unfettered immigration from high-crime, low-trust societies is paving the way for such a dictator to arise here too.

President Bukele didn't come out of nowhere.  He rose to power through offering a relatively simple, yet Draconian, solution to El Salvador's crime problem.  How will this nation react if someone offers that recipe here?  Can our constitutional republic survive such an authoritarian figure any better than it can survive chaos and criminal anarchy?  Your guess is as good as mine . . .




From Foxes In Love.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version on the comic's Web page.

Why does this remind me of myself as a child?


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

More about our fragile global Internet


Following our post about the deliberate cutting of Internet cables near Sacramento International Airport in California, disrupting operations there, I came across this article dealing with Internet cables globally, and how fragile they are.  It's frightening and disturbing to read about how fragile this infrastructure really is.

The world’s emails, TikToks, classified memos, bank transfers, satellite surveillance, and FaceTime calls travel on cables that are about as thin as a garden hose. There are about 800,000 miles of these skinny tubes crisscrossing the Earth’s oceans, representing nearly 600 different systems, according to the industry tracking organization TeleGeography. The cables are buried near shore, but for the vast majority of their length, they just sit amid the gray ooze and alien creatures of the ocean floor, the hair-thin strands of glass at their center glowing with lasers encoding the world’s data.

If, hypothetically, all these cables were to simultaneously break, modern civilization would cease to function. The financial system would immediately freeze. Currency trading would stop; stock exchanges would close. Banks and governments would be unable to move funds between countries because the Swift and US interbank systems both rely on submarine cables to settle over $10 trillion in transactions each day. In large swaths of the world, people would discover their credit cards no longer worked and ATMs would dispense no cash. As US Federal Reserve staff director Steve Malphrus said at a 2009 cable security conference, “When communications networks go down, the financial services sector does not grind to a halt. It snaps to a halt.”

Corporations would lose the ability to coordinate overseas manufacturing and logistics. Seemingly local institutions would be paralyzed as outsourced accounting, personnel, and customer service departments went dark. Governments, which rely on the same cables as everyone else for the vast majority of their communications, would be largely cut off from their overseas outposts and each other. Satellites would not be able to pick up even half a percent of the traffic. Contemplating the prospect of a mass cable cut to the UK, then-MP Rishi Sunak concluded, “Short of nuclear or biological warfare, it is difficult to think of a threat that could be more justifiably described as existential.”

Fortunately, there is enough redundancy in the world’s cables to make it nearly impossible for a well-connected country to be cut off, but cable breaks do happen. On average, they happen every other day, about 200 times a year. The reason websites continue to load, bank transfers go through, and civilization persists is because of the thousand or so people living aboard 20-some ships stationed around the world, who race to fix each cable as soon as it breaks.

There's much more at the link, including many graphics and illustrations.  I'd say it's essential reading for anyone who relies on the Internet to do their job(s) every day.  Fascinating, revealing, and worrying all at the same time.


About that critical infrastructure...


An incident in California demonstrates just how vulnerable much of our critical infrastructure really is.

An internet outage that caused massive delays, some hours long, for flights at the Sacramento International Airport (SMF) started after AT&T wires were intentionally cut, officials said.

. . .

"It looks like someone who knew what they were doing," [Sergeant] Gandhi said. "So this wasn't just a couple of teenagers ... ripping some wires out as a prank. [It] looks very deliberate ... like they knew what they were doing."

There's more at the link.

I hate to think what proportion of our critical infrastructure (airports, sewage and water plants, power stations, dams, factories, refineries, rail interchanges, etc.) are dependent on Internet connections for part or all of their operations.  I suspect it's most of them.  Those Internet connections mostly run over cables, or via satellite.  Given how easy it is to take out a major fiber-optic cable (dig down to it, set off explosives, and Bob's your uncle) or use a local EMP weapon (as already possessed by many hostile powers and nations) to interrupt satellite communications in a given area, and all those critical points are suddenly offline.  How long will it take to reconnect them all?  Will it even be possible, if it can't be done in a hurry?  Many of them can't take too much of an interruption before they have to shut down their plant, and once that's done it can take a heck of a lot of maintenance and preparation before machines can be turned on again.  (Just as one example, if you shut down a crucible in a metal plant, the metal still inside it will solidify.  Getting that back to a liquid, and decanting it, can take weeks or months - if it's possible at all.  Another example:  re-energizing an electrical grid.  That takes a lot of power just to restart everything, but if generating plants have all been shut down, where's it to come from?  What about transformers that blow during the process?  Are spares on hand?)

Emergencies aren't just caused by storms or earthquakes.  Determined enemies can create emergencies that take weeks, if not months (and perhaps years) to sort out.  Hence, emergency preparations need to take such elements into account.  If you live near or are dependent on (e.g. for employment) any of those critical infrastructure elements, your emergency preparations should take that reality into account.  Being thrown out of work due to your employer having to shut down operations is just as much of an emergency, in its own way, as having water or power cut off to your house.

Also, consider how much of our daily lives now depend on the Internet.  Home security systems, banking, shopping, entertainment . . . if we lose the Internet, how will we do all those things?  Have you checked where the nearest physical branch of your bank is, and its hours of operation, and how to get there?  It might surprise you to see how difficult it will be to conduct your financial affairs if you have to go there in person, rather than tap at your keyboard.  (That's one reason why keeping a reasonable stash of cash at home, just in case, is anything but overkill.  It may be essential.)


Heroism indeed


Yesterday, reading Larry Lambert's "Virtual Mirage" blog, I came across this quotation from World War II Army nurse June Wandrey.

An eighteen-year-old boy is carried into the shock ward, and he looks up at me trustingly, asking, “How am I doing, nurse?” I kiss his forehead and say, “You are doing just fine, soldier.” He smiles sweetly and says, “I was just checking,” Then he dies. We all cry in private. But not in front of the boys. Never in front of the boys.

That's genuine heroism on the part of those nurses:  to keep going, day in and day out, knowing ahead of time that they're going to lose patients - a lot of patients - yet doing their jobs regardless, being compassionate carers.

That quotation reminded me of an experience I had in southern Africa.  AIDS was (and still is) a major problem in that part of the world, with tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands infected every year.  It's even more tragic because of the warped, twisted, completely inaccurate myths and beliefs of that culture.  For example, a man with AIDS or a venereal disease may believe (and thousands do) that if he has sex with a virgin, the disease will leave him and transfer to her.  However, very few eligible African women are virgins;  so he'll kidnap a child and have sex with her.  Since so many children have been raped, the "targets" of such men have grown younger and younger.  It's no longer unusual to find three- and four-year-old girls (and some boys) who've been abused like that.

I visited a place most people avoided like the plague (a very apt simile, in this case).  It was an orphanage, run by religious sisters, that cared for orphan children infected with AIDS.  In most cases, their mothers had been infected by their husbands or partners, so that the child was born with the disease.  The mother would usually die before the child, having been infected earlier, and the child would be abandoned (sometimes literally, in the bush) to die alone.  These nuns passed the word to the communities nearby that any such baby should be brought to them, rather than be abandoned.  They took them in, fed and cared for them, knowing they were undoubtedly going to lose them.  They believed it was God's work for them to at least let the child die in the midst of a caring community, knowing that it was loved and cherished.

I vividly remember standing on the front porch of their building, watching a nun cradling a two-year-old girl in her arms, tears running down her face as the kid reached up weakly to touch her face.  As I watched, the girl's arm flopped back down, and she took a last, gasping breath, and died.  The nun stood there until it was over, then headed back inside to take the little body to their makeshift morgue . . . and then turn to the next baby or child, and do it all over again.

I've never seen courage like that, before or since.  I certainly don't have it.  To do that, day in, day out, knowing that it will never change, never improve . . . that all your patients are going to die, no matter how cute and lovable they may be . . . and yet being willing to do that, over and over again, so that they can die in whatever peace and love they may find - that you can give - in a world that doesn't give a damn.  That's heroism of the highest possible order, IMHO.

We think too little about the real courage required of our health workers on the front lines, wherever they may be, whatever their circumstances.  In the old days, the Catholic Church used to say that normally, doctors could not be ordained as priests, and priests could not serve as doctors, because both professions were God-given vocations, not just jobs.  They were different and distinct callings, both important enough to warrant being singled out as a lifelong ministry rather than just a career.  I don't know whether that distinction is still made, but it always made a lot of sense to me.


Monday, April 22, 2024

This dog is having way too much fun...


This just made me smile.


Some inflation is nothing more than deliberate price-gouging by businesses


I was cynically amused by the outrage displayed by a shopper at Whole Foods in Boston.

A Boston-based influencer has sparked outrage over inflation after claiming she paid $7 for a single apple at a Whole Foods.

. . .

“Genuinely what economy are we all f–king living in that it costs 7 dollars to buy an apple?” she asked. “I could have sworn that some other like apple that I bought was not 7 f–king dollars. It’s crazy, like 7 dollars for a latte? OK. This apple better be tasting so f–king good.”

There's more at the link.

I agree with her:  that price for a single apple is absolutely ridiculous - but so was her behavior in buying it.  If she'd put it down and walked away, she'd have saved money and the store might have learned a lesson in consumer economics.

Something like this is behind quite a lot of inflation.  Businesses aren't pricing their goods according to what they pay for them, plus a fair and reasonable profit.  Instead, they're pricing them as high as they think they can get for the product.  From a strictly capitalist perspective, of course, they're entitled to do so, because there's nothing forcing us to buy their products in the first place.  We can always look for lower prices somewhere else.  However, that becomes a lot more difficult when the availability of product is restricted (e.g. a breakdown in the supply chain, a natural disaster, etc.).  Under those conditions, products that are critical to life, health and safety may be priced out of the reach of those who most need them.  Is that just?  Is that fair?  "Pure" capitalism says it doesn't matter - that the market determines the price.  Simple human decency (not to mention the teaching of a large number of religious faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam) argues otherwise.  There's no point in debating that here.  Opinions are likely as numerous (and as diverse) as our readership.

Another aspect of that problem is corporations that enter a market offering deliberately low prices, even below cost, in order to gain dominance there.  By doing so, they drive out of business other companies that can't afford to price-match them.  As soon as their competition is gone, they increase their prices to normal levels - sometimes far above normal levels.  Since consumers no longer have anywhere else (local) to go for what they need, they have little or no choice but to pay the now-inflated prices.  I've seen that at work, too.  A few years ago, back in Tennessee, a garbage removal company tried to enter our local market by offering rock-bottom rates.  Our existing service, a small family-owned business, put out flyers to all its customers, pointing out what was happening and saying that if the new entrant succeeded, they'd have to close their doors, because they didn't have the financial resources to fight back.  When a number of us checked, we found that the new entrant had used those tactics in a number of nearby municipalities, and then drastically raised its prices once customers were "locked in" to its services due to the absence of competitors.  Most of us stayed with our existing supplier, and the new entrant, frustrated, took its efforts elsewhere.

In so many words, a lot of the inflation we experience from day to day is actually caused by manufacturers and vendors setting the highest prices they think they can obtain.  They'll cite scarcity, supply chain issues, weather and anything else you can think of - but they won't reduce their prices unless and until market factors force that upon them.  Fundamentally, it's greed at work . . . and greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Unfortunately, many businessmen appear to ignore such factors.

One major exception to the rule is Waffle House, and they deserve a round of applause.  I'm sure most of my readers have heard of the "Waffle House Index", a widely referenced measurement of how severely an area has been affected by a disaster.  I've seen Waffle House at work through several hurricanes in the South, and one thing is very noticeable;  they never gouge their customers on price.  They get their restaurants back up and running as fast as humanly possible, and they maintain their pre-disaster prices no matter how much extra it costs them to bring in supplies over disrupted and sometimes hazardous routes.  Kudos to them for offering their services to survivors and rescue workers who need them very badly.  There are other stores that do likewise, but that's often at the discretion of local store managers.  Waffle House is the only chain I know of that does so as a matter of policy.  (If any readers know of other chains that do business that way, please let us know about them in Comments.)


Memes that made me laugh 206


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

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sunday morning music


A reader sent me the link to this video a few weeks ago.  It made me smile, so I saved it in my Blog Fodder directory until I had a chance to use it.  It's titled "Top 100 One-Hit Wonders", which is self-explanatory.  Unfortunately for the title, a lot of the songs come from performers and groups who had more (sometimes a lot more) than one hit song;  but it's still an enjoyable collection.


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Saturday Snippet: A survivor's story about a modern crisis


We've mentioned Selco Begovic in these pages several times.  He lived through the Bosnian war from 1992-1995, and has written three books incorporating his and others' stories from that war, plus lessons learned that we can apply in other emergency situations.  He's one of the few writers in that field who's "been there and done that", and speaks with the authority of hard-won experience.

This morning's snippet is from his book "SHTF Survival Stories:  Memories from the Balkan War".  I highly recommend it, and Selco's other books as well.

The blurb reads:

There are many books out there on all the different aspects of preparedness and survival that can provide you with information, checklists, and theoretical solutions to potential problems. But no matter how much you read or how well-researched the books you choose are, there’s only so much you can take away from these tomes. Getting your information from someone who has survived a "sh*t hit the fan" crisis will take your preparedness to an entirely different level. Meet Selco, a legend in the preparedness world. He survived in a city that was under siege for more than a year. He had no power, no running water, no stores for supplies, and every day, he ran the risk of meeting a violent death, whether by shells, sniper fire, or a person intent on hurting others. This book is a collection of memories from the darkest days of the Balkan War, where each moment could have been his last. This isn’t a cheerful and uplifting guide to survival. There’s no misplaced optimism. There’s only Selco, the darkness he faced, and the grim reality of an SHTF scenario most of us can’t even fathom. But if you can grasp it all before it happens, you’ll be much further ahead than those who are frozen in shock. Please note that Selco's first language is not English. These stories have been lightly edited for clarity, but they still retain the "accent."

As the blurb says, this isn't light, easy reading at all:  but it's very accurate in describing how civilization can (and does) go to hell in a handbasket when things go very wrong.  I've experienced that in three nations in Africa, and therefore I can verify what Selco says from my own experience.  The misery war brings is pretty much the same all over the world, no matter where it takes place or in what language its stories are told.

I've chosen just one of the stories Selco tells in this book.  This is "Laura's Story".  WARNING:  This discusses brutal violence, rape, and a number of other very dark topics.  If any of those subjects offend or upset you, you should not read further.

“Laura” was 42 years old at the time of the event, a clerk at the local bank, two kids in school, and her husband was a driver for the city bus services.

She is now 64 and the house where we are having this conversation is small and wet. On the floor there are several pots, probably used for catching rain from roof leaks. She looks like she is sick, smoking homemade cigarettes. The smell is awful.

She looks like she has given up, like she is going to kill herself right after our conversation.

She told me her story of the war.

Do you remember the period of hyperinflation when you could buy with credit and when that check came to payment it would be worth maybe 10% of the original value, some few months before killing and chaos started?

Inflation was like a toy for some folks.

Now when I remember that I feel like an idiot because I did not realize that everything was going to shit when something like that is possible.

Women from bank, my colleagues, were bragging how they bought extra stuff that way with almost no money, I was proud because I did not do that.

You know, my father was one of the first who organized an uprising against the Germans here in the big war, a real Communist. He even went as a volunteer in Spanish civil war there, fought against Franco.

He told me a story that once he met Marshall Tito in war, at some Communist conference. It was deep in the Bosnian woods in the winter of 1943, while they were encircled by Italians and Germans.

He told me that he was not like a man, he was an idea, he was the state. The movement that you just need to follow because he knows best.

I was raised to believe in the state, in the communist system, in the ideals of the state for workers and peasants.

When the war started in Croatia, I, just like most of us, believed that somehow someone will recognize that we are all same people, Socialists and Communists, and that we just needed to stick together, and everything would be fine.

But I did not know that the Western world did not want us to have Yugoslavia. We were simply too strong for them. They wanted us to hate each other, and to pull out that old hatred between Yugoslav nations.

And then one day my husband came home earlier from work. He looked badly shaken.

He told me that his coworker was absent from work for two weeks, officially he was ill, with pneumonia.

Rumors were that he was volunteering as a fighter in Croatia. Some people believed and some did not believe.

But when he came back to work, he had golden necklaces around his neck, golden rings, and big smile on his face.

Some folks said that he was bragging around that there in Croatia if you are willing to fight there were a lot of things to plunder, money and gold, and he whispered with sick smile that if you have the will and if you wanted there were lot of “available“ women, too.

Husband said that guy was always bit weird when it came to women and alcohol, but after he returned from that “weekend fighting“ for money, he always had a sick smile on his face, like he had seen that you can get money, gold, and women in much easier ways than standing all day long in a decades-old bus and selling tickets to angry workers and confused school kids.

My husband never was a brave man. He was good man, but he liked to pull back from situations where people used fists or knives.

You could say that he was coward in some way.

After few stories he heard from that colleague, the fear installed in him for real and forever. Anyway, that forever did not last too long.

S*** moved from Croatia to our town pretty soon. One morning I realized that my coworkers who were other nationalities were missing from work.

And I realized too, that their workplaces were empty more or less. While I was talking about how we should stick together in the spirit of socialism, they were organizing how to get the hell out of town.

I still believed in life together between people of different nationalities.

And then one morning my husband came earlier from his job. He told me that people in uniforms came and confiscated the buses in the name of the “Cause” and the state. Nobody said what cause or state, but he saw that they had blood in their eyes, and nobody was willing to ask too many questions.

They told the workers that they need to go home and follow the orders of the local “crisis government.”

In that time there were already several of those crisis governments, each with their own agendas, militias, and orders. People still tried to understand which of those government represented the state.

What they did not understand was that the state was already gone. There were wars between those people too.

My husband finally beat his fear and went to the local criminals to buy a rifle. He gave almost half the money that we had saved for new car for that thing.

When he came home with the rifle, he was even more afraid.

He did not talk too much, but I understood that he was more afraid to use that rifle than to be without it.

He was a weak man. He could not help it.

Somewhere around that day when he bought the rifle, we sent our kids to my sister, some 200 km from our place.

It was the first and probably last time when my husband’s fear was used to make a good decision. I did not want to be separated from my kids, but he just kept on telling me, “Laura, you do not know what is happening, and what are people saying outside. The kids need to go away from here.”

They left town in one of the last of the Red Cross organized convoys. Their small faces were confused behind the glass. While I was waving them at the local market where the transport was organized, my husband was in our backyard trying to kill beer bottles with bullets from his rifle.

Our neighbor was trying to teach him how to operate the rifle. Rumors in town were that this neighbor had some violent history. Some even said that he was in the French Foreign Legion.

My husband was a cook during the basic training in army, and he forgot even the basic stuff that he learned in the army.

After we got word from the Red Cross that our kids got to their destination in good order, we were kind of more relaxed, but silence moved into the house.

For days we listened to the radio on our car battery. Electricity, water, and all other services were gone. We still were trying to figure who was fighting, who was defending who was liberating, and who was representing the law in our city.

And then one night we awakened to strong kicks at the door.

“Police!” they shouted. “Open the door, now!”

My husband shouted at me, “Where is the rifle?”

I did not know of course, and I still believe that he simply forgot where he put it. He was completely lost in fear.

Anyway, he opened the door. They told him that they were newly organized police and that they trying to organize law in the city.

Of course, he believed them.

They had uniforms, helmets, weapon, and authority. He simply was that kind of man. He wanted to trust.

He even remembered where he left his rifle when they asked him. And then they told him that he needed to go with them to the police station and fill out some simple paperwork because that rifle, nothing more.

I never saw him again.

I still remember how he was very calmly putting his jacket on while he was having a conversation with those guys. He had trust on his face. He was happy there was someone finally who he could trust, who would tell him what to do.

What else does a law-abiding citizen need? F***!

I never saw him again.

But I saw those people again the very next night.

They did not knock or yell this time. One of them simply crushed the doorknob with his boot.

When they entered house one of them punched me in the face right away, and he said to me just one word. “Gold?”

He kicked me with his boot few more times before the meaning of that word finally got through my brain and then he kicked me few more times before I caught my breath and strength to tell him where my gold necklaces and rings were.

You are asking me did they do anything more to me? You mean did they rape me?

Yeah, they did. Two of them raped me while the two other guys were collecting interesting stuff in my house.

I still do not remember if the other two guys raped me, or if they did not.

After the second one somehow, I kinda left my body. It was like I was floating next to the ceiling while he was on me.

I remember the words “Let’s just kill this bitch.”

Much later I realized that those words were spoken about me.

Did I want to be killed after that?

No, actually not. In that moment I felt only physical pain, but I still had the will to live. I did not want to die. Not yet.

I survived that, just like hundreds of other women in that time.

I do not remember how I lived the next month or two.

I mean I remember everything in a way: black market, famine, diseases, endless killings, side switching, rumors about peace and everything else.

But from the moment when those guys left my house, everything was blurred. I simply pushed on and on.

I learned how to treat wounded in one of the local militias, I found a man who protected me, not because he loved me or because he was a good man. It was because I was a woman.

I remember endless wounded guys screaming and in pain.

And then one day peace came, I was hearing from all sides that peace has come, and finally everything was gonna be fine.

And that was moment when I broke.

I was an old woman. My husband was dead, but actually officially he was still missing. I could not even get a pension from state because officially he was not dead. He was not founded in one of the thousand improvised graves.

He was probably killed immediately after he was taken from our house, maybe 500 meters from our house. Turned to dust or just pile of bones somewhere in someone abandoned well, or on the bottom of the river.

Where are my kids?

One is in America. She is some kind of small boss in a local fast food restaurant. Whenever I speak to her on phone, I understand her less. Each time she uses more English then our language, and each time I am happier.


I want from her to forget this country, this language. I want from her to forget me, to never come back here, I do not want her to be one day outside her body while some guy is on top of her and another searching her home for gold in the name of state.

My other kid?

Well, he is some kind of musician. Lives in Italy. I think he is homosexual.

What are my feelings about that?

I do not care, as long as he does not come back here. I do not want him to be taken from the house in the middle of the night in the name of the cause, in some future “Balkan conflict.”

Sometimes I have a dream that he might be on the other side in some future war here. What if he was one of the guys who searched for gold and valuables after he killed a woman’s husband?

And next morning when I wake from that dream, I even more want from him to hate everything that is here, country people, system, even me.

Just as long as he does not come back.

What do I do for living?

I do what I learned in that time. I care for sick folks. I have a few older people that I take care of. I wash them, clean them, take care for this disease, and similar.

It is enough for cigarettes and beer and that food that I eat.

I’ll be fine.

Do I trust in living together with harmony between different people?

Hmmm, I do not care for that. I do not give a s***.

Well, there you have it.  A family who had never prepared for the complete collapse of the society in which they lived . . . and paid the price for it.  If you think that can't happen anywhere else, even in America, you're deluded.  I've seen it happen elsewhere, and experienced for myself the consequences.  In some of our inner cities today, conditions very like those Laura describes are a daily fact of life.  I'm not joking.  They really are.

Read, and learn . . . and ask yourself:  "If this happened to my family, tomorrow, how well are we equipped and trained to survive it?"