Friday, May 31, 2024

Declining intelligence = declining country


We've examined the topics of IQ (theoretical and applied), education and ability on several occasions in these pages.  If you'd like to read the earlier articles:

Higher education and IQ

IQ, countries, and coping skills

IQ and potential, both individual and national

Karl Denninger warns that the flood of lower-IQ migrants across our borders threatens to lower our national competence to cope with issues and problems.  (WARNING:  He uses more profanity than usual in his article.)  Here are some excerpts.  Emphasis in original.

You won't like this and I don't care.

You're going to die if you don't take this to heart, or even worse your kids will die.

What am I talking about?

Quite simply its this: You need about a 115 IQ to build and maintain modern civilization.

Examples?  Too many to count.  How about Flint's water system?  It poisoned a bunch of kids, remember?

Why didn't it poison kids for the previous 80 years?  It had been there that long, with the same lead service lines, but didn't poison anyone ... The 115+ IQ people who built and ran the water plant at Flint all those years knew this, and knew how to keep it safe.  They drank out of the same lines and so not only did they know how they had plenty of incentive to not screw up -- and as professionals who were smart, they didn't screw up.

Then Shaqueena, or her analog with a <115 IQ took over.  And changed the water source.  And, at the same time, didn't check and make sure the chemical and pH balance remained correct because the intellectual firepower to do so was simply no longer there.  The result was a bunch of poisoned kids.

. . .

Why do I bring all this up?

Because if we do not stop destroying the incentives for those on the right end of the IQ bell curve to have kids it will not be all that long before you go to flush the toilet and it won't, your stove, heat and A/C won't work either because there's no power or gas and virtually everything we rely on in the modern world will either kill you or simply not function at all.

Its much worse when people who simply don't have the intellectual chops for a given task are passed in school and given credentials they didn't earn.

. . .

Those who built all these things we enjoy today and in fact are the reason we can have several billion people on this planet -- most of them created by white men, and all of them by persons of >115 IQ -- are going to die.  We all die; it is inevitable.  If we do not stop demonstrating to those who are of higher intelligence that the only reason to have kids is their own hedonism, and by doing so for hedonistic purpose they will screw their offspring as those kids will have a s***ty future said people will choose not to breed as they are choosing right now.  The data is clear in this regard -- those who are of higher intelligence are choosing not to have kids and since they are of higher intelligence it is obvious that they are capable of reasoning out the incentives and disincentives, weighing both for themselves and what they perceive as the future for any children they might choose to produce -- and that analysis, once complete, is unfavorable as they see it.

People often claim that as societies advance the people tend to have fewer children.  That's a true statement but did you notice that the "why" is never discussed?  As societies advance inevitably people are led to believe, often by active fraud peddlers, that you can have something for nothing and the more-intelligent discern that it is likely their children will get ****ed by this pattern.  Said persons have no means to stop it peacefully as they're out-represented (by definition > 115 IQ is at least one standard deviation out on the right side and thus they're out-voted roughly 6:1) so they simply choose not to have children at all.  This inevitably results in the average of the curve shifting leftward unless it it is stomped on hard.

There's more at the link.

Like Mr. Denninger, I and many others have warned that "If you import the Third World, you become the Third World".  We're seeing that in action right now.  Despite the progressive left's demonization of IQ as a First World approach that automatically reduces equality and diversity in our workforce, IQ remains the single best indicator of whether or not a nation, or a city, or an organization, can and will prosper.  Higher IQ = better chances of that happening.  Lower IQ = lower chances of that happening.  It's as simple as that.


More lessons about electricity from the Houston storms


I've been in contact with friends and acquaintances in the Houston area since major storms hit that city a couple of weeks ago.  Most of the "lessons learned" in coping with a disaster are ones we've already discussed in these pages.  However, a number of folks had bought or installed power stations, whether stand-alone or "whole home" solutions, and they had interesting things to report.

First of all, these things are expensive.  A minimal setup to run a small home would be something like Bluetti's AC500, coupled with two B300S battery packs (that's just an example - there are equivalent systems from many other manufacturers and vendors).  That can produce up to 5,000 watts of power (double that for a startup load), and supply up to 6,144 watt-hours of power - enough to run most common electrical appliances for a couple of days, if one is judicious about not running too many of them at once.  Such a system typically costs $4,000 to $5,000, or a bit less if one looks for the frequent sales offered by such vendors.  That's far more expensive than a generator.

However, despite their cost, power stations offer advantages.

  • The system can plug into a main electrical switchboard, using a connector that shuts off mains power when the backup is in use and vice versa.  That means one doesn't need extension cords running all over the place to be plugged in at a central location.  One can simply use the house's existing wiring and plugs.
  • One doesn't have the constant noise, fuel consumption and inconvenience of a generator that requires relatively constant attention.  A small- to medium-size generator can be run once a day to charge the power station, and/or one can plug in solar panels (if necessary, together with the generator) to do the same thing.  I'm informed that 3-6 hours of generator use per day was enough to keep such power stations running.
  • The relative lack of generator use meant that the house was not so noisy (and therefore noticeable to thieves and looters).  There was the usual rash of low-lifes trying to steal generators from homes that announced (by the noise) that they were running one.  Without that noise, there was less to alert them.  In a longer-term disaster, one could make sure that one's windows were "blacked out" so as not to reveal light at night, making it even safer.  (If one used solar panels exclusively, not running a generator at all, that would be even quieter.)
  • Some of my contacts didn't have large power stations, but had one or two smaller ones, 500W to 2,000W (the sort one can take on a day trip, or camping, or to run a travel trailer's electrics).  They reported that while their smaller units could not run the whole house, they were nevertheless very useful.  One took a 550W unit into his garage, where he had two freezers, and ran them for an hour or two twice a day, which was enough to keep the food inside them safely frozen.  He recharged the small power station with a portable solar panel.  Others used them at night to power CPAP machines and the like.
  • On the other hand, some people with large, immovable power stations (such as the Tesla Powerwall) reported that as the waters rose, they came up to the big battery packs mounted on the wall.  For fear of electrocution and other problems, they switched off their installations and did without power for as long as it took for the water to recede.  I know Tesla claims its installation is proof against up to two feet of water, but if I were in those owners' shoes, I'd also be wary of trusting that completely.  Those with more portable power stations simply wheeled them out of harm's way (losing power in the process, of course, but preserving them against future need).
Overall, those with such systems reported that they made life much easier - at least, easier than the generators they previously used.  A power station backup is still much more expensive than a stand-alone generator, but compared to the cost of a whole-house backup generator (e.g. Generac), it can be much cheaper (or as expensive, depending on the size you need).  Worth considering, at any rate.  I won't be surprised to find such power stations becoming a default solution over time.


The Trump verdict


I note that President Trump has just been found guilty of posing an existential threat to the progressive left of American politics.  That's all yesterday's verdict amounted to.  A more rigged, biased, unfair trial I've never seen before - and I've seen some in the Third World that would curdle your whey.  This wasn't just a kangaroo court - it was the rule of menagerie law, a bunch of monkeys screaming themselves hoarse and flinging dung in all directions.  The entire American justice system is diminished by it.  One can only hope that appellate courts - and, if necessary, the Supreme Court - will undo the damage Judge Merchan has done . . . but they'll never remove its stain from our judicial record.

Tucker Carlson put it in a nutshell.

If President Trump is incarcerated, I think there will be an attempt to "do unto him" as was done unto Jeffrey Epstein.  The left simply dare not permit him to win re-election, because they know all of their sins of the past election and all the damage they've done to America since then will be visited upon their heads, and then some.  He is too dangerous to them for them to allow him to be re-elected.

If President Trump does die behind bars, or is otherwise assassinated . . . all hell may break loose.  Brace yourselves - and pray for his safety and security.


Thursday, May 30, 2024

If this is available in China, why can't US manufacturers sell similar vehicles at affordable prices?


It looks as if Chinese vehicle manufacturers are leading the way in affordable transport.  Bloomberg reports:

BYD Co. unveiled a new hybrid powertrain capable of traveling more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) without recharging or refueling, intensifying the EV transition competition with the likes of Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG.

The upgraded tech, which aims to put more distance between BYD and its rivals, will be launched in two sedans immediately that cost under 100,000 yuan ($13,800), the automaker said at an event live-streamed Tuesday evening from China.

The longer range means some of BYD’s dual-mode plug-in electric hybrid cars can cover the equivalent of Singapore to Bangkok, New York to Miami, or Munich to Madrid on each charge and full tank of gas.

There's more at the link.

I've said for a long time that unless a vehicle can run 500 miles fully loaded, with air conditioner or heater running, through the most extreme weather, without needing time-consuming recharging, I'm not interested:  therefore, electric vehicles have been a no-no as far as I'm concerned.  Hybrids do better, but again, they're not built to carry heavy loads for long distances (something I do fairly often), so I haven't bought one.  BYD's approach marks the first time I've been seriously interested in a hybrid vehicle;  and at that price, it's very affordable.  (Ten will get you one that it won't be that low-cost if it ever reaches the USA.  Our bureaucrats and the Big Three will throw every obstacle in its path that they can to prevent that.)

Frankly, if BYD is that far ahead of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler Stellantis, it deserves to eat their lunch.


Recognize this plane?


If you said it was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, you'd be wrong.  It's actually a Tupolev TU-4, an early Soviet-era carbon copy of a B-29, right down to a few combat scars that were slavishly copied from the three B-29's the Soviet Union had available when Josef Stalin ordered its development.

The story of how the Soviet Union copied the B-29 is a long and fascinating one.  You'll find all the details at the "WWIIafterWWII" blog.  Here's an excerpt.

The Soviet Union developed any number of highly effective fighters, ground attack planes, trainers, and twin-engined tactical bombers during WWII. One effort where the Soviets were far behind by the end of the war was strategic bombers. During WWII the USSR had only one (relatively) modern four-engined strategic bomber, the Pe-8.

Less than 100 were completed during WWII. They achieved little while suffering horrendous losses. By the time of Japan’s surrender in September 1945 there were only three dozen Pe-8s remaining. When NATO formed in 1949, they were considered so insignificant that they never even received a reporting name.

Throughout WWII, Josef Stalin sought to obtain American strategic bombers via Lend-Lease; with no success. As soon as Soviet intelligence became aware of the B-29 Superfortress, that type was requested as well. In 1944 the USA rejected the request, along with another attempt later that year and a third request in 1945. The USA considered the Superfortress such an advanced weapon that the requests were barely even given consideration.

. . .

The Soviet Union interned three B-29 Superfortresses during WWII. Until August 1945, the USSR had a non-aggression pact with Japan. Under international law, warplanes of warring parties landing in a neutral third country are required to be interned for the rest of the conflict.

“Ramp Tramp II” landed near Vladivostok on 29 July 1944, after taking an AA hit during a mission over Manchukuo. The damage was not severe but bad enough to make a return home impossible.

“General H.H. Arnold Special” landed at Tsentral’naya naval airbase on the USSR’s Pacific coast on 11 November 1944, after a storm blew it off course during a raid on the Omura aircraft factory in Japan.

“Ding Hao” landed at the same place ten days later after a Japanese AA round hit one of it’s engines. Of the three, it was the most significantly damaged.

All three of these B-29s were airworthy.

. . .

The idea for reverse-engineering the B-29 came not from Andrei Tupolev’s bureau, but rather from Vladimir Myasischchev, who ran his own aircraft design bureau. After the third B-29 was secured during WWII, Myasischchev suggested to Stalin that it would be both feasible and advantageous to reverse-engineer it. Stalin agreed, but for whatever reason, assigned the effort to his rival Tupolev in June 1945.

There's much more at the link, including many photographs.

I'd known about the TU-4 copy of the B-29 for a long time, but this article went into far greater depth than anything I'd read before.  It makes fascinating reading for aviation and military history buffs.  Recommended reading.


Sometimes the jokes write themselves...


News headline yesterday:

Does that mean the Czech is in the Mail?


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A car chase that might as well be a commercial for the vehicle


This car chase video made me laugh.  Considering the punishment taken by the pickup being pursued, from both its driver and the police chasing it, it might as well be a video advertisement for the toughness of the truck!

I'm glad they took that driver off the road, but I daresay he'll be back . . . more's the pity.


An effective treatment for bird flu?


Bird flu has been in the news a lot lately, with concerns about how America's poultry production (both eggs and meat) may be devastated if it continues to spread.  There's also speculation that if a strain of bird flu, or H5N1 as it's technically known, adapts to humans, the resulting epidemic could kill thousands.

What puzzles me is the insistence by the medical establishment of pushing "cures" such as Tamiflu or Relenza to treat H5N1.  Yes, they offer some hope, and may alleviate minor doses of the flu:  but there's another option that's been widely used in the Third World for years.  That's chloroquine, as well as its derivative hydroxychloroquine.  You'll doubtless remember their being advocated as a treatment for COVID-19 during the pandemic.  Many, including myself, believe it's because of the existing widespread use of hydroxychloroquine (as a prophylactic medication against malaria infection) and ivermectin (as a treatment for river blindness and other illnesses endemic to the continent) that prevented COVID-19 from gaining a foothold in Africa.  So many potential victims were already dosed with an effective treatment that the disease simply couldn't take root.

Unfortunately, the medical establishment is largely ignoring the fact that chloroquine has been claimed by some researchers to be a highly effective treatment against H5N1.

Yan, et al studied H5N1 infection in the laboratory and demonstrated that physiological relevant concentrations of chloroquine inhibited viral entry and damage to human cells. Additionally, when given as treatment and not prophylaxis, chloroquine reduced pulmonary alveolar infiltrates and improved survival in mice after a lethal dose of H5N1 from zero to 70%.

There's more at the link.

Hydroxychloroquine is freely available in the USA, and ivermectin is becoming more so.  (Here's one source of supply;  I think their price is ridiculously high, but there are others if you shop around, often less expensive.)  If you're worried about the possible crossover of the H5N1 influenza virus to the human population, I strongly suggest that you try to obtain some of each, and keep it in your emergency reserve supplies.  (I'm not being compensated in any way for linking to one supplier;  I'm doing so only because I know readers sometimes have difficulty finding a local source of supply.)

I no longer trust the medical profession to speak the truth about epidemics and illnesses - not after they made such a dog's breakfast out of COVID-19.  I'd rather investigate potential threats myself, obtain what information is available, and prepare accordingly.


Health status update


Yesterday I saw the specialist for a follow-on consultation.  The good news:  X-rays, urine tests and other indicators show that the surgeries so far have been successful.  The hydronephrosis from which I was suffering appears to be in retreat;  the swollen, misshapen kidney is shrinking, getting rid of excess fluid, and slowly reverting to normal;  and the nasty bits removed in two previous procedures are not reoccuring.  So far, so good (particularly given that, if no improvement had been visible by now, kidney failure would have become more likely than not, requiring removal of that organ).

The not-so-good news:  it's going to take at least a month more to finish this off.  I have another surgery scheduled for June 17th, followed by another week or so with a new stent (replacing the one already inserted).  If X-rays show that the kidney has shrunk to normal size, and tests show that it's creating urine normally and sending it on its way, the stent will come out, and I'll be officially cleared.

Assuming all goes well, it'll be a full eight months since the hydronephrosis made itself known (in ouchy fashion) before it's cured.  The first four months of that time were spent in tests to find out what the problem was, followed by six weeks of trying to find a specialist to treat it.  I refused to work with the first one, as his practice treated me like a spare appendage who would do nothing but "put up and shut up" - something I don't do very well.  The second, current specialist has not been what I'd call great at communication, but at least I have the opportunity to state whether I like what I'm hearing or not, and ask for more in-depth explanations when I feel they're needed.  I suppose, in today's medical marketplace, that's a win - sort of.

I found the process of booking my June 17th surgery to be . . . worrying, I guess.  I was present as the scheduler called the hospital and tried to make a booking.  Date after date was turned down, either because there were no operating theater openings available, or because my specialist had other commitments that prevented him using the time slot that was available.  I asked whether the hospital was shutting down some of its operating theaters, laying off the staff that had worked there, and trying to run the remainder at an increased tempo.  I got the distinct impression that I wasn't supposed to ask that question:  I was to be a polite little patient and do as I'm told and not question the system.  Again, I'm not very good at that.  I'd say the odds of my being correct about that are probably a lot higher than even, judging by the defensive response I received.  Food for thought . . .

Anyway, so far, so good.  I'm in the process of preparing a fundraiser for the major back surgery I'll need later this year, and I hope to launch that later this week (or next week at the latest).  I'm just checking with accountants and lawyers about the tax implications, which appear confusing:  answers vary depending on who's giving them.

Thanks again to everyone who's kept me in their thoughts and prayers, and one reader who - out of the blue, having never met me or even spoken to me - was extremely generous in helping my wife and I cope with the expenses involved in these procedures.  He wishes to remain anonymous, but I hope and trust God will reward his faith in action.


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The current state of the Ukraine war


Recently Tucker Carlson interviewed Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, in an extended dialog over the Ukraine war and several related issues.  It's almost two hours long, but it's very worthwhile to take the time to listen and think about it.  You'll find the entire podcast here.  Highly recommended.

Real Clear Politics published part of the podcast, Erik Prince's views on the Russia-Ukraine war, that I found very sobering.  I daresay Mr. Prince is far more accurate in his assessment than most of the talking heads we're seeing in the mainstream media.  Here's an excerpt.

TUCKER CARLSON: So, yeah, I mean, he's a child, obviously. And like an angry destructive child. But what happens? Like, where does this go? We send another $60 billion to Ukraine.

ERIK PRINCE: Most of that money goes to five major U.S. defense contractors to replace at five times the cost, what the weapons cost that we already sent the Ukrainians. Meaning, you know, if we send them something that was built 10 years ago, well, now it's gonna cost four and five times as much. So, again, it's a massive grift paid by a Pentagon that doesn't know how to buy stuff cost-effectively. It doesn't change the outcome of the battle.

As the fields dry, it's May now, coming up on tank season. Weather still matters in warfare. If you have a wet, snow-covered farm field, it's very muddy, very gooey. Not great for tanks, mud season, I think the Russians call it the great slush. That's done now.

As June comes, it'll be game on and I think the Russian bear is hungry, and they're gonna have a time. So the war should have been ended. It never should have started. They should have made a deal, and froze the lines six months into it. But the Biden administration believed that all this American weaponry would have saved the day.

It hasn't. And it's ugly. And you know, the Russian commanders are not idiots. They know their history. The Battle of Kursk, which happened just North of where the fighting is now was the largest tank battle in history. It was the last offensive effort of the German army against the Soviets. They tried to push from the north and south on this salient. It was a bulge and the Russians knew they were coming. So they built lots of lines of defenses. It's the same thing they've done now, that they did last summer, which ate up all that equipment.

And now the Ukrainians are very thin. They've had a lot of corruption issues. All the defenses that were supposed to be built by the Ukrainians are much smaller or non-existent. So now it's allowing maneuver and especially as the tanks, as the fields dry and you can maneuver, it's gonna be a very ugly summer.

TUCKER CARLSON: What do you think the Russians want?

ERIK PRINCE: I'd say now they want to absolutely humiliate the West and make sure that they never have a problem with Ukraine again.

TUCKLER CARLSON: And that seems achievable. So, what happens to Ukraine?

ERIK PRINCE:I don't know if it survives as an independent country. If they take Odessa, if they take the ability for Ukraine to export its grain, that really threatens the long-term economic viability.

Maybe it goes back to -- look, Western Ukraine used to be part of Poland, right? Eastern Ukraine used to be part of Russia. Maps move depending on you know, military victories drive diplomatic breakthroughs. And right now the Russians are winning and they're going to have a very good summer.

TUCKER CARLSON: Is there anybody who is knowledgeable on this subject who believes Ukraine can "win," which is to say, push Russian troops all the way back to the old Russian border?

ERIK PRINCE: I didn't really believe it ever. I don't know who's advising the White House at this point or who they're listening to, but they probably need to change out their advisor list.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading, and even more recommended is to listen to the entire podcast.  It's worth your time and attention.


Even small fuel canisters can be deadly


I'm sure many readers saw on TV news the violent explosion of a small SUV in Los Angeles last week.

An SUV parked in a Van Nuys parking lot on Thursday night suddenly exploded after the driver lit a cigarette next to some propane canisters he stored inside. 

Firefighters and police rushed to a supermarket parking lot in the 7200 block of Van Nuys Boulevard after receiving a call about an SUV that exploded around 10:30 p.m., police said. When first responders arrived, the man told them he had been trying to light a cigarette when the explosion happened. Investigators said he was living in the vehicle during the explosion. 

He suffered minor injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Pieces of the parked vehicle flew in every direction, one of which lodged into a nearby tree. The explosion left the Toyota SUV mostly in mangled pieces.

There's more at the link.  Here's what it looked like.

I was interested in the report because I've had a lot of experience with explosions (some of them assisted by me, others not).  The damage to the SUV was impressive, but not as great as I'd expect if a typical 20-pound propane tank - the sort used to fuel most outdoor gas barbecue grills - blew up.  That would probably have entirely demolished the vehicle.  I reached out to a couple of contacts in the Los Angeles area, and after some sleuthing, they informed me that the culprit was almost certainly a butane or propane fuel canister for a small camping stove, the sort many of us own for picnics or emergency cooking.  Both are illustrated below.

It's possible, they tell me, that more than one of those cans was present, and went up by sympathetic detonation in the explosion.

That illustrates the very real danger of using such fuel canisters in confined spaces.  They're as bad as a hand grenade if they go off.  If the victim had been inside the vehicle, rather than standing next to it, he probably would not have survived - or, if he had, the pressure injuries to his internal organs might have proved fatal in due course.

That made me roust out my canisters of fuel and check them.  To my annoyance, some of the small butane canisters showed quite a lot of rust - something I hadn't expected, because they'd been stored in climate-controlled conditions inside a plastic tote to keep out dampness.  You can bet your boots I discarded them at once (or, rather, put them aside to be handed in to our local dump as hazardous waste), and I'm going to replace them with new canisters (and check the replacements more often for any recurrence of the problem).  A rusted canister of gas under pressure simply can't be trusted.  (That's why higher-pressure propane cylinders are legally required - in the USA at least - to be tested after 10 years, and discarded after 15.)

So, for those of us using or storing such equipment, let this be a wake-up call.  They can be very dangerous if misused or poorly stored.


The legal shenanigans being employed to convict President Trump


The partisan political nature of the prosecution of President Trump on so many charges, in so many venues, is beyond any doubt whatsoever.  That's made clear by the preliminary instructions to the jury in New York.

To find Trump guilty of felony-level falsification of business documents, the jury must unanimously find that Trump falsified the documents in order to commit or conceal a separate crime. But the jurors do not all have to agree on what that separate crime was, Justice Juan Merchan ruled.

. . .

In other words: If some jurors believe that Trump falsified business documents solely to cover up a tax crime, while others believe that he falsified business documents solely to cover up an election crime, the jury can still convict Trump on the felony-level falsifying-documents charges, despite disagreeing on the predicate crimes.

There's more at the link.

This is beyond belief.  It demonstrates beyond any doubt whatsoever the complete and utter disregard for the law that we see in Judge Merchan's courtroom.  Consider:

  • In order to be convicted, one must be found guilty of a specific crime.
  • The jury instruction above tells jurors that they don't have to agree on what specific crime was committed.  In other words, President Trump might not be convicted of a specific crime at all (because that would require a jury verdict to that effect).
  • However, despite there being no specific conviction, the jury will be allowed to find President Trump guilty of falsifying documents in order to conceal a specific crime.
  • But . . . if no specific crime was committed (and, in the absence of a jury ruling to that effect, that will be the legal reality) then how can President Trump be convicted of falsifying documents to conceal a crime?  If the act is not specified, and no conviction is handed down, then in legal terms he is not guilty of any crime, and therefore there is no crime to conceal.

This is so bizarre it defies belief.  Any half-way competent lawyer can see that in a heartbeat.

The judge's conduct is well summed up by former Professor Alan Dershowitz:

This judge has committed more reversible errors in the one day I was in the courtroom than I’ve seen in years and years of practicing law. It’s just an outrage,” Dershowitz stated.

I think that if President Trump is convicted by this kangaroo court under such pretexts, it will virtually guarantee his victory in the November 2024 elections . . . if his enemies allow him to live that long.  If he's incarcerated on such flimsy grounds, one can only assume that it's to create the conditions under which he might suffer a terminal "accident" or "assault" in prison, to finally remove any possibility of his winning re-election.  Frankly, I wouldn't put that past his political enemies.  Their desperation to derail his campaign is beyond clear.

As always, I note that I am not a fan of President Trump, and I'd prefer a more balanced candidate in November.  However, that's beside the point.  Whatever one's views of President Trump, the fact that he's being treated like this by our so-called impartial, balanced judicial system is cause for the deepest concern.


Monday, May 27, 2024

Two very narrow escapes by/from light aircraft


I think several people have every reason to celebrate this weekend.  First off, in Australia, a light aircraft carrying a family experienced engine failure, and made a skin-of-their-teeth landing at a local airport - missing trees and rooftops by literally inches.  (A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Andrew for sending me the link to this video report.)

The pilot appears to be a former South African, like myself - his name and accent are unmistakeable.  Kudos to him for a remarkable (and very fortunate) piece of piloting.

Next, closer to home, a skydiving flight narrowly avoided tragedy.

A pilot and six passengers on a skydiving flight jumped from a small plane just before the aircraft crashed in a Missouri field on Saturday, according to federal authorities.

The single-engine Cessna U206C crashed at about 1 p.m. near the Butler Memorial Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

The agency said preliminary information indicates the plane was flying a “skydiving mission,” and that the pilot and all passengers escaped the plane before the crash.

. . .

Paramedics treated the pilot and passengers at the scene before they were all released, the sheriff’s office said.

First responders found the aircraft wreckage in a hayfield east of the airport’s runways, according to the sheriff’s office, which described the plane as a “total loss.”

There's more at the link.

This accident surprised me because the pilot was wearing a parachute.  Skydiving pilots often don't wear one, partly due to space considerations (they typically cram as many skydivers as possible into the aircraft, leaving minimal room for the pilot) and partly because it usually takes time to get all the skydivers out of the plane, so that in an emergency, the pilot might not have time to get out himself.  (To illustrate, a recent Swiss skydiving aircraft accident killed the pilot.)  Congratulations to all concerned on their survival, and to the pilot on being more than usually safety-conscious.

I've flown many thousands of miles in single-engine light aircraft, bopping around the African continent;  and my wife learned to fly in Alaska, and knows what it's like to land on sandbars, moraines, tundra and other "interesting" surfaces.  We both have a lively appreciation for the dangers and difficulties involved in using small aircraft.  In both these cases, we're very glad that nobody was harmed.


Memes that made me laugh 211


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

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sunday morning music


Here's a treat for the older farts among us.  Who can forget the Chad Mitchell Trio and their satirical take on life, the universe and everything?

Their best-known song is almost certainly Lizzie Borden, concerning a young lady accused (but later acquitted) of murder.

Remember that the Trio was performing during the 1960's, when the draft for military service was a very hot topic of discussion.  All sorts of excuses were put forward in an effort to evade the draft.

The sporting world did not escape their satire.

And, of course, political issues of the day reared their ugly heads in some of their songs (only to be disemboweled with satirical glee).

They also performed many traditional folk songs and sea shanties.  A great many of their songs may be found on YouTube.


Saturday, May 25, 2024

Healing: two steps forward, one step back, rinse, repeat


After two kidney procedures so far, my state of health is definitely improved;  but there's still a ways to go, including at least one more procedure (probably late next week or early the following week).  The pain level bounces higher after each procedure, then gradually diminishes over time.  Last Monday, after the second procedure, and through Tuesday, my pain levels were very high, so much so that I was popping some serious pain pills like they were M&M's.  By Wednesday it had retreated to a point that I felt able to do light work around the house once more, and at present (during the small hours of Saturday morning) it's bearable with over-the-counter analgesics rather than prescription medication.  That varies on an hourly basis, of course.  I daresay by this evening I'll have hit the hard stuff at least once.

While my kidney is the main focus at present, there's also the deterioration in my spine to deal with.  That's going to be a lot more complicated, and a lot more expensive, thanks to disputes between Workers Comp and my medical insurance provider over who's responsible for paying for it.  Lawyers will almost certainly have to get involved.  In order to get things moving, I'll probably have to pay for the surgery myself, and then recover what costs I can as matters progress.  If I wait for the lawyers, I'll never get it done!  I'm preparing a GiveSendGo campaign to raise funds for that, which I'll kick off next week.

It's taken me a couple of years to get to this point, and it won't be resolved overnight;  but the kidney procedures are dealing with one major problem, and the solution to the second (and more serious) problem is in sight, pending funds to pay for it.  My way of dealing with it has been to keep chipping away at the legal and medical facade of the professionals who handle this sort of thing, insisting on their keeping me informed, demanding copies of all test results (which illustrate all too well that they sometimes tell you verbally things that are not confirmed or borne out by the tests), and generally insisting that my health is first and foremost in my hands, not theirs.  (For some reason doctors don't like that perspective!  They seem to regard such patients as "pushy".  Well, when you've had as many encounters with medical professionals as I have, you learn the hard way that they don't necessarily have your best interests at heart, but rather what's best for the medical profession.  To overcome that, judicious application of the old idiom "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" is the only way to respond.  Squeak louder!)

I'll try to get back to regular blogging hours next week, until the next procedure, which will require another interruption to our regular schedule.  Hopefully that will be the last for a while, until the next surgery in a few months' time, if all goes well.  Thanks for sticking with me, and for all your thoughts and prayers.


Friday, May 24, 2024

The last resting place of a submarine legend


I was astonished - and pleased, of course - to learn that the final resting place of the submarine USS Harder, sunk in 1944, and of her legendary commanding officer, Sam Dealy, has been discovered.  Here's an extended video report.

Cdr. Dealey became famous in the Submarine Service (and probably equally notorious to the Japanese) for his deliberate attacks on escort vessels, taunting or luring them into approaching his submarine and then firing a "down the throat" attack right at their bows.  He sank at least five, and possibly six, Japanese destroyers in this manner, as well as his other victims.  His posthumous Medal of Honor citation attests to his success.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Harder during her 5th war patrol in Japanese-controlled waters. Floodlighted by a bright moon and disclosed to an enemy destroyer escort which bore down with intent to attack. Comdr. Dealey quickly dived to periscope depth and waited for the pursuer to close range, then opened fire, sending the target and all aboard down in flames with his third torpedo. Plunging deep to avoid fierce depth charges, he again surfaced and, within nine minutes after sighting another destroyer, had sent the enemy down tail first with a hit directly amidship. Evading detection, he penetrated the confined waters off Tawi Tawi with the Japanese Fleet base six miles away and scored death blows on two patrolling destroyers in quick succession. With his ship heeled over by concussion from the first exploding target and the second vessel nose-diving in a blinding detonation, he cleared the area at high speed. Sighted by a large hostile fleet force on the following day, he swung his bow toward the lead destroyer for another "down-the-throat" shot, fired three bow tubes, and promptly crash-dived to be terrifically rocked seconds later by the exploding ship as the Harder passed beneath. This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Comdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.

Cdr. Dealey was one of the star performers in the Submarine Service, and his loss - and that of his submarine and crew - was a severe blow.  They were commemorated with the launch of the Tang class submarine USS Harder in 1951.  I hope the discovery of the wreck of the USS Harder will be an opportunity to remember their deeds anew.




Courtesy of The Free Press's newsletter this morning, a cartoon by David Mamet (clickit to biggit):

So much for sustainability!  Now what about eatability?


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Artificial intelligence and cybercrime


In a recent issue of his regular Global Macro Update newsletters, Ed d'Agostino of Mauldin Economics interviewed Karim Hijazi, a cybercrime expert, about the current state of that field and the growing involvement of AI.  It's a long, multipage newsletter, so I won't even try to go into all it says.  Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Ed D'Agostino:  What is AI's role in all of this? Has it impacted effectiveness of bad actors at all?

Karim Hijazi:  It has. I hate to say it. AI has probably been most embraced in terms of its creativity and its use by nefarious actors or threat actors because as usual, unfortunately, because it affords them the ability to force multiply themselves. That's the number one reason. What they would otherwise need a bunch of people to do they can do... one person can do a whole lot of work with an AI tool that generates an incredible amount of not only the narratives for a phishing email that we talked about, but also the malware itself. It'll actually write the code for the malware that is generally pretty well written. And there's a few tweaks here and there, but what would take weeks or months is done in days.

Ed D'Agostino:  Can you talk a little bit, Karim, about what's at stake here? I mean, we talk about me sitting here in my remote solo office, I get a phishing email. I'm not hooked up to a big company network. Maybe I lose a little bit of data. I think that's how people think of it. Really what we're talking about is the country's critical infrastructure is at risk. What does that look like and how is it at risk?

Karim Hijazi:  Exactly. The everyday person doesn't feel like it can affect them. A lot of where individuals are worried about when it comes to hackers and threats is their identities, maybe their credit card information, their social security number, back to identity. But what's interesting is that in the world we're in now, the interconnectivity between even your computer and mine, by definition, there is one, right? You're looking into your screen and I'm looking into my screen, my camera's picking up my image and sending it to you. There's effectively a link between us. So if you want to think of it from that perspective, right now we're connected. And so if there is, in theory, something on my machine, God forbid, and it wanted to sort of figure out, "Who's Ed?," and it goes into my email and it lurks around and it goes, "Ooh, Ed's got a lot of connections on LinkedIn," or, "He's got a really great follower base on YouTube. He's a good target for me to proliferate myself even further to his audience." So you think about it, that's the first step in terms of its reconnaissance risk. When you start thinking about yourself as a non-player when it comes to why you'd be interesting to a threat actor, you'd be surprised.

The second thing that's really interesting is this is just a micro version of the macro problem, which is supply chain. Supply-chain and third-party ecosystems are the number one challenge that we're having today because a small company leads to bigger company. A bigger company leads to government or critical infrastructure. The pathway, the daisy chain, if you will, is small company, bigger company, critical infrastructure. And from that small company… it could be a work-from-home individual that never left home after COVID because that was the policy of the company but because there's no security protocols at home, they're the easiest targets in the world to get into. The VPN is simply a hypodermic needle into the corporation. The corporation is now access to many other organizations and so on. That's just the super small taxonomy or treeing out of essentially the connections out all the way from the individual to government or critical infrastructure, unfortunately.

Ed D'Agostino:  I think you'd mentioned that some really big cutting-edge technology has been bled out of corporations through this sort of process. Quantuum was one that we talked about yesterday. I thought that we were... I was sitting here looking at IBM thinking, "If IBM gets Quantuum right, this stock is going to go into the moon, maybe we should be looking at it. They seem to be the leaders." And then I spoke with you and you're like, "Well, China's already got all that."

Karim Hijazi:  Unfortunately, China as a nation-state actor has focused heavily on intellectual property theft for years. That's definitely not a new agenda of theirs. It's been their focus for a very long time. I think we all know that from headline news. The problem is they've done it in a multipronged approach. They did it with implants of people, long-term "coverts" through academia that they've had planted for very long periods of time. They've augmented it with things like software and access to environments, through harvesting information electronically. And they've conned people into sharing information as well. That's the other part of this is that they've done a really good job with that. The other thing that's interesting is what people fail to recognize is that nation-state adversaries aren't islands unto themselves. They tend to cooperate. If a Russian or North Korean or Iranian nation-state actor has an initial access into something, they'll broker it to another country for a price. There may be one group in a nationstate adversary that has much better access to something than the other group does, but the other group can pay them for it, and they'll get in.

Unfortunately, there's been an onslaught onto our country in such a way that makes it very difficult for us to sort of manage all those beachheads. And so the asymmetry is very challenging, and it ties back to your AI conversation, which is how has that added to it? Just that, it's added this extra level of pressurization onto the systems that we believe were protecting us, and they are indeed failing. Sorry to be doom and gloom, but...

There's much more at the link.  The entire newsletter is well worth reading if you're interested in computer and information systems security.

It's startling to realize how widespread and prevalent cybercrime has become.  It's far more than just "phishing" e-mails or attempts to listen in on communications channels.  It's now become an exercise in how to kinetically affect an entire nation or sector of a national economy.  In another part of the interview, Karim Hijazi notes:

There's things like water treatment facilities that can have water levels… the pH change or the potability change just ever so slightly that'll cause a mass dysentery effect. Then you've got a flood onto the pressurization of a hospital environment in a specific location. And then as we've seen over the course of the pandemic, you conduct a ransomware attack and put the hospitals in a pressurization state where they can't function unless they pay a ransom, and you can really cause a cascading effect. And that's the doom and gloom scenario, of course. But you're completely right, the big concern is if there's that much access to these environments, what can they effectively do? And how much have we given to technology to take over?

And unfortunately, I know I said AI for the third time in this conversation, but here again is where our reliance on it and our over-excitedness to deliver the responsibility over to it, may be a little foolhardy at this point because once it's in the hands of something that really doesn't have any kind of emotionality or ability to identify... For example, in my company, I do employ a lot of automation and AI, but I also use human intuition and experience and talent to identify these problems that simply, at this point, can't be done through technology. And unfortunately for cost savings and a variety of other reasons, people are choosing to go in the direction where it's all automated. And automation's fantastic when there's nothing coming at it to use it maliciously, but when it can be leveraged against you, you’ve got an issue.

Worrying thoughts.  Again, if you want to learn more about this field and how it might affect any or all of us, I highly recommend reading the full interview for yourself.  I also suggest you subscribe to the newsletter (it's free).  Mr. d'Agostino comes up with some very interesting and useful insights.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A few disaster recovery considerations coming out of Houston, TX


I'm sure most of my readers are aware of the storm that hit the Houston, Texas area last week.  Power transmission pylons crumpled as if they were so much tinfoil, and hundreds of thousands of people are still without electricity.  Floods have complicated travel over much of the region, and haven't drained off yet.  Spare a thought and a prayer for those affected.

Talking to friends in that area, I've been struck by the additional problems being experienced by people with breathing difficulties - asthma, COPD or the like.  I'm hearing reports that those conditions are being aggravated by the humidity down there, which is about as high as it gets in the continental USA (and still is not at its full summer height).  I'm told some patients have had to be admitted to hospital for breathing assistance, while others who rely on electrically powered technology like HEPA filters and CPAP machines are finding it very difficult to cope without them.  Many are using generators, but after several days are running short of fuel for them - and fuel isn't yet reaching local gas stations in the quantities required.  My comments in earlier posts about emergency preparations, suggesting that we add gasoline to our supplies, are confirmed, I guess.

Of interest is that small camping-style "power stations" with solar panels for recharging are proving very effective indeed, more so than I would have believed.  I expected whole-house backup solutions with high-capacity power stations would work well, but I thought the smaller versions wouldn't provide enough power to be useful for long-term outages.  Turns out that's a matter of quantity.  Because the small power stations are relatively low-cost, some people have three or four of them, plus one or two solar panels for recharging.  They can use one to power a HEPA filter, another for a CPAP device, and have one or two in reserve, either being recharged from solar power or standing by ready to replace one already in use.  That's good to know, and good for our budget as well.  There are some real bargains in smaller power stations right now (see, for example, at the time of writing, this 1400W Ecoflow DELTA mini for $549, or this 800W Bluetti EB70S for $399), if you need one.  The larger units, putting out thousands of watts, are also getting cheaper over time;  for a whole house backup or the ability to run fridges and freezers, washing machines, air conditioners, etc. is important, they're still a lot more expensive than generators, but don't need fuel and are whisper-quiet.  Those can be real game-changers, particularly for longer power outages.

A darker side to the power outages in the greater Houston area is that I'm hearing about prowlers, sometimes gangs of them, making their way through darkened neighborhoods, looking for what they can steal.  Assaults have been reported, and attempts to steal generators (because houses using them can be easily identified by the lights, exhaust fumes, etc.)  I'm informed that local cops are, in some cases, tackling the bigger problems around them and ignoring cases where home-owners defend their families and property.  This is Texas, after all, and people are generally pretty self-reliant.  As long as there are no bodies untidily littering the landscape, attracting unwanted attention, there's no harm and no foul.

Part of that security problem, of course, is the lack of working security systems and external lights.  A lot of people rely on burglar alarms, break-in detectors, security lights outside their home, and so on.  None of them work in the absence of power.  I understand some homes that stood out in times past thanks to their security systems (after all, why invest in such systems unless you have something valuable to protect?) have been targeted by gangs after the power went out.  One hopes they had good manual backup defensive and protective systems.  (Again, this is Texas, so that's not unlikely.  I'd hate to estimate how long gang-bangers would last on my street if they tried anything.  I daresay they'd be dealt with in a very short time.  Neighbors here look out for each other.)

Anyway, things are slowly getting back to normal in the Houston area.  Let's hope they have a respite this hurricane season, so they don't have to do it all over again a few months from now.


The dilemma: get more lithium for favored EV's - but at the cost of increased oil fracking


I had to laugh at this report.

Almost two centuries after California's gold rush, the United States is on the brink of a lithium rush. As demand for the material skyrockets, government geologists are rushing to figure out where the precious element is hiding.

In September 2023, scientists funded by a mining company reported finding what could be the largest deposit of lithium in an ancient US supervolcano. Now public researchers on the other side of the country have uncovered another untapped reservoir – one that could cover nearly half the nation's lithium demands.

It's hiding in wastewater from Pennsylvania's gas fracking industry.

Lithium is arguably the most important element in the nation's renewable energy transition – the material of choice for electric vehicle batteries. And yet, there is but one large-scale lithium mine in the US, meaning for the moment the country has to import what it needs.

. . .

Expanding America's lithium industry, however, is highly controversial, as mining can destroy natural environments, leach toxic chemicals, and intrude on sacred Indigenous land.

At the same time, however, lithium-ion batteries are considered a crucial technology in the world's transition to renewable energy, storing electricity generated by the wind and the Sun. Finding a source of lithium that doesn't cause more environmental destruction than necessary is key, but a clean solution is complicated.

Pennsylvania sits on a vein of sedimentary rock known as the Marcellus Shale, which is rich in natural gas. The geological foundation was deposited almost 400 million years ago by volcanic activity, and it contains lithium from volcanic ash.

Over vast stretches of time, deep groundwater has dissolved the lithium in these rocks, essentially "mining the subsurface", according to Justin Mackey, a researcher at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pennsylvania.

Mackey and his colleagues have now found that when wastewater is dredged up from the deep by fracking activities, it contains an astonishing amount of lithium.

There's more at the link.

Looks like the irresistible force is about to collide headlong with the immovable object, in environmental terms.  The US government and the tree-huggers want to eliminate as much fossil fuel as possible, and are therefore pushing electric vehicles as the solution.  On the other hand, if they want to do that, they have to have lithium for the EV's batteries:  and a major source for lithium now appears to be the fracking technologies they've been trying to ban for years, on the grounds that they're a major source of pollution and other problems.

Which do they want most?  Abundant batteries?  Or abundant gasoline as a derivative of abundant batteries?  Will they do without the latter, even though it means that obtaining the former will be more difficult and much more expensive?  Or will they fuel the vehicles of those of us who reject EV's as being insufficiently developed to be practical, in order to have more EV's to sell to those who want them?

Oh, the irony is delicious . . .


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Those pesky unintended consequences again...


It turns out that re-scheduling marijuana to a lower drug classification has left the trucking industry with a big problem and few options to solve it.

The trucking industry is raising concerns about President Joe Biden downgrading marijuana to a lower level of drug classification — especially how the move could threaten highway safety.

The American Trucking Associations’ and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s questions about reclassifying cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug include how it would affect carriers’ ability to test drivers for the substance.

“Absent an explicit allowance for continued employer marijuana testing of safety-sensitive workers, this change may have considerable negative consequences for highway safety and safety-sensitive industries,” the ATA said in a letter to three federal department heads.

There's more at the link.

It really is a big problem.  Marijuana can affect one's reflexes, concentration, etc. just as badly as alcohol, particularly when it comes to synthetic marijuana or a high-strength varietal.  Cops I speak to tell me it's already a very large problem in big cities, where the majority of drug users are to be found, and even in smaller towns it's making its presence felt.

I don't know how they're going to handle testing and disciplinary requirements.  If marijuana is officially no longer considered as dangerous, can drivers be fired for using it?  They (or their lawyers) could argue that if using it is not against the law, the drivers cannot be punished for using it.  And how does one measure the actual level of intoxication?  The alcohol content of blood can be measured, providing an objective result that can be used in court if necessary, but I'm not aware of any similar measurement that can quantify the "level of marijuana" one's smoked or eaten.

It's all very well to "liberalize" marijuana legislation to cater to society's changing views on its use, but if it adds (or makes worse) more danger on the roads, that's anything but OK.  It's yet another worry when one's behind the wheel . . .


Still here...


I'm alive, although not kicking - that would hurt too much!  The procedure yesterday turned into a marathon session, and there will have to be a third in a couple of weeks' time, because things were rather nastier than had shown on X-rays, CT scans and ultrasound.  Nevertheless, progress was made, and I'm assured by the specialist that given time, all should be well.  If he's right, great:  if not, I'll lose that kidney before the end of the year.  We'll see.

Otherwise, I'm in a great deal of pain, moving very slowly, and trying to possess myself in patience.  That's not easy!  I expect I'll be moving more freely by the end of the week.

Blogging will be occasional for the next day or two, depending on how much energy I can find to get up and how long I can sit at my computer.


Monday, May 20, 2024

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Still no Saturday Snippet while health issues continue


As for the past couple of weeks, my pain levels preclude sitting for hours transcribing part of a book, or even reading a lot.  My next medical procedure is on Monday, May 20, and I guess I'll need a couple of days to catch my breath before picking up normal blogging again.  I hope the specialist will get done everything he wants to do during that procedure, but he's already warned me that if there are too many complications, he'll do a partial job and go back in a third time to finish it.  Let's hope and pray that won't be necessary!  I'm already tired of this . . .

Anyway, please amuse yourselves with the bloggers listed in the sidebar.  They write good, too!



Friday, May 17, 2024

Buyer beware (yet again)


To my absolute lack of surprise, I learned that cruise lines have been carefully failing to inform their customers of additional fees, charges, imposts, etc. on top of their advertised prices.  For once, California is doing the right thing by forcing them to disclose these charges.

Starting July 1, operators including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises will include the cost of port expenses, taxes and other fees in the price that potential passengers see. The additional charges can tack on more than $100 to the fare, or even double the cheapest base price on some short itineraries.

The changes kick in when California’s “Honest Pricing Law” goes into effect, restricting companies that do business in the state from advertising a price that is lower than what a consumer will ultimately have to pay.

. . .

For now, cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean promote bargain sailings, such as a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise “starting at” an average of $437 per person. But that number does not reflect the nearly $164 more that’s required for taxes, fees and port expenses and displayed in smaller print. A four-day Mexico cruise from Long Beach, Calif., shows the cheapest cabin for $234 - but the additional charges are an additional $240.

“The current ‘drip pricing’ technique where you show a low price and then tack on a lot of the extra fees later is a great attention disrupter but very misleading,” Doug Parker, founder of the podcast and news site Cruise Radio, said in an email.

Gratuities are also extra for most mainstream cruise lines, but tips will not need to be advertised up front. Cruise lines also offer optional drink or dining packages, shore excursions, and other add-ons that would increase the cost of a trip.

Parker said the cost of a seemingly inexpensive cruise can balloon with taxes, depending on the itinerary. He said the new policy will give families “a better idea on what the vacation will actually cost.”

There's more at the link.

I've been infuriated more times than I can tell to find unexplained, unauthorized charges tacked on to a bill or invoice.  Hospitals are particularly egregious offenders.  "Your procedure will cost you $4,999.99 out of pocket - your insurance pays for the rest!"  Yeah . . . and then comes the anesthetist bill, the rehab bill, the clean sheets every day bill, and all the rest of it.  Together they can add thousands of dollars to our costs, unforeseen and unbudgeted.

I'm glad this particular cesspool of financial chicanery will be drained;  but I'm willing to bet the cruise lines will find new and innovative ways to screw yet more consumer dollars out of us.  In their eyes, we're sheep to be sheared, and they're very good at shearing.