Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Amazing aerobatics in Moscow


This is the aerial display by the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter at the MAKS 2017 air show in Moscow, Russia, last week.  The aircraft has very powerful engines, giving a thrust-to-weight ratio much better than 1:1, and also boasts thrust vectoring nozzles, allowing it to use engine thrust to augment its already impressive maneuverability.  Its agility puts most other aircraft in its class to shame.

Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.





I'd say the Su-35 is probably the best kinetic-energy dogfighting aircraft out there today . . . although that's not necessarily a war-winning attribute, in an age of stealth technology, long-range air-to-air missiles and active electronically-scanned radar arrays.  Nevertheless, if it comes down to knife-fighting range in future aerial combat, the Su-35 would seem to have a great many advantages.

Peter

We can't spare President Trump. He fights.


So says Evan Sayet.  Here's an excerpt.

The Left has been engaged in a war against America since the rise of the Children of the ‘60s.   To them, it has been an all-out war where nothing is held sacred and nothing is seen as beyond the pale.  It has been a war they’ve fought with violence, the threat of violence, demagoguery and lies from day one – the violent take-over of the universities – till today.

The problem is that, through these years, the Left has been the only side fighting this war.  While the Left has been taking a knife to anyone who stands in their way, the Right has continued to act with dignity, collegiality and propriety.

With Donald Trump, this all has come to an end.  Donald Trump is America’s first wartime president in the Culture War.

During wartime, things like “dignity” and “collegiality” simply aren’t the most essential qualities one looks for in their warriors.  Ulysses Grant was a drunk whose behavior in peacetime might well have seen him drummed out of the Army for conduct unbecoming.  Had Abraham Lincoln applied the peacetime rules of propriety and booted Grant, the Democrats might well still be holding their slaves today.   Lincoln rightly recognized that, “I cannot spare this man.  He fights.”

General George Patton was a vulgar-talking, son-of-a-bitch.  In peacetime, this might have seen him stripped of rank.  But, had Franklin Roosevelt applied the normal rules of decorum, then Hitler and the Socialists would barely be five decades into their thousand-year Reich.

Trump is fighting.  And what’s particularly delicious is that, like Patton standing over the battlefield as his tanks obliterated Rommel’s, he’s shouting, “You magnificent bastards, I read your book!”  That is just the icing on the cake, but it’s wonderful to see that not only is Trump fighting, he’s defeating the Left using their own tactics.

That book is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – a book so essential to the Liberals’ war against America that it is and was the playbook for the entire Obama administration and the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis.   It is a book of such pure evil, that, just as the rest of us would dedicate our book to those we most love or those to whom we are most indebted, Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer.

Trump’s tweets may seem rash and unconsidered but, in reality, he is doing exactly what Alinsky suggested his followers do.

. . .

So, to my friends on the Left – and the #NeverTrumpers as well -- do I wish we lived in a time when our president could be “collegial” and “dignified” and “proper”?  Of course I do.   These aren’t those times.  This is war.  And it’s a war that the Left has been fighting  without opposition for the past 50 years.

So, say anything you want about this president – I get it, he can be vulgar, he can be crude, he can be undignified at times.  I don’t care.  I can’t spare this man.  He fights.

There's more at the link.

Oscar Wilde said that "You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies".  Well, given that President Trump's enemies are, in the main, politicians, that's not very high quality at all;  and given that they're from across the political spectrum, that can't all be laid at the feet of leftists.  Nevertheless, to annoy, outrage and just plain piss off so many politicians and liberals is quite an achievement in itself.  Methinks Mr. Sayet has a point.

Perhaps we should adopt another of President Lincoln's reactions to the problematic General U. S. Grant.

After the failure of his first experimental explorations around Vicksburg, a committee of abolition war managers waited upon the President and demanded the General’s removal, on the false charge that he was a whiskey drinker, and little better than a common drunkard. “Ah!” exclaimed Honest Old Abe, “you surprise me, gentlemen. But can you tell me where he gets his whiskey?” “We cannot, Mr. President. But why do you desire to know?” “Because, if I can only find out, I will send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.”

It would, of course, have to be Trump-branded single malt whiskey. A man's got to make a profit, after all.




Peter

Lawdog goes dead tree!


'The Lawdog Files', which blasted its way into bestseller territory upon its release in e-book format less than two weeks ago, is now available in paperback.




I couldn't be happier for Lawdog's success.  He's been a friend for the best part of two decades, and to see his work so popular is warm, fuzzy happiness for his buddies.  He's hard at work right now, finishing some new material for the second volume, 'The Lawdog Files: African Adventures'.




I'm sure his fans will be delighted to learn that Brigadier-Captain Azikiwe, the anti-hero of the infamous Ratel Saga, will feature in the new material.  Lawdog's told us a few stories about him, over and above those that appeared on his blog, and some are now being prepared for publication.

The second volume is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and should be released early next month.

Peter

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quote of the day


From friend in meat- and cyberspace, fellow author and blogger, Daddybear:

If the people inside my head would learn to wait their turn, I’d be a lot more productive.

I know exactly whereof he speaks . . .

Peter

And now for something alcoholically different


Youtube has a large number of videos purporting to show Irish people trying various things from other countries.  Some are very amusing, including this one, where they try half a dozen varieties of American moonshine.  Love the reactions as their alcohol level rises and their inhibitions fall!





Given that Ireland's the home of potheen, and the source of uisce beatha, I'd thought they'd have liked moonshine more.  Oh, well . . .




Peter

Photographic evidence of the auto industry's dilemma


In a comment to my previous post, reader 'A Texan' pointed me to the blog of a lady in California.  In recent weeks she's photographed several parking lots, at defunct shopping malls and offices, that are being used as storage areas for a glut of unsold new vehicles.  Here's just one example.




Here are her blog posts, with pictures and (frequently snarky) comments:

She mentions how many of the cars have been standing there for up to a year, perhaps longer.  Their protective plastic coatings have weathered away, and they're extremely dirty.  My concern is that they haven't been run in all that time, either.  How many times have we seen mice, squirrels and other critters making nests in idle engines - and chewing their way through cables, pipes, tubes and wiring in the process?  How many engines can handle standing idle for that long, never being turned over, without risking damage when they're finally put into service?  Finally, just think of the financial burden represented by all those photographs.  There are hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in those overstocked vehicles in her part of California alone.  How much is tied up across the nation?

It's not just the USA, either.  Some years ago, Business Insider ran a photo essay titled 'Unsold Cars Around the World'.  Here's just one image from it, showing thousands of new cars being stored on the runway and taxiways of an unused Royal Air Force base in England.




There are many more photographs at the link.  They make sobering viewing - and the situation has gotten considerably worse since they were taken.  Late last year, the Detroit News reported:

At the end of November, the U.S. auto industry had nearly 4 million vehicles in inventory, or a 72 days supply, according to IHS. Automakers typically want to see a healthy level of between 60 and 65 days supply, IHS says.

The industry has 250,000 or 260,000 units of excess inventory “that kind of needs to be weaned from the system,” said Joe Langley, IHS principal analyst for North America light vehicle forecasting.

Again, more at the link.

The inventory and over-production situation has gotten significantly worse this year.

The imbalance was especially acute at General Motors, which entered March with a 123-day supply of cars and an 81-day supply of light trucks. Its Buick Division had an overall 167-day supply, the most of any U.S. brand. Buick's car stocks jumped to 239 days vs. 79 days a year earlier.

By comparison, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler US have sharply trimmed production of slow-selling cars in the first quarter. They were the only two of the seven best-selling automakers to reduce total March 1 inventory units from Feb. 1. Compared with a year ago, Ford's March 1 inventory fell 77,200 units to 678,300 and FCA was down almost 100,000 to 578,800 units.

In units, industry inventory stands at 4.1 million, up almost 300,000 from a year ago and the highest for any month since July 2004.

More at the link.

In other words, General Motors could sell cars for 123 days - a third of a year - at its normal rate without manufacturing a single new vehicle.  How much money is tied up in that inventory?  Think billions of dollars.  What's more, that overhang in new vehicle supply is going to be made far worse by the glut of vehicles coming off-lease over the next few years, all of which must be re-sold as used vehicles - over and above getting rid of the glut of new cars.

I stand by what I said in my previous post.  The US vehicle industry is in dire straits, and I don't see how it can survive in its present form.

Peter

Proof the US auto industry is in serious trouble


"Follow the money" is one of the oldest truisms.  Sooner or later, if you want to know the truth about something, or someone, or some industry, find out where the money is going, watch how it's being raised, see how it's being spent . . . and draw your own conclusions.

We've already seen how the US auto industry (and Europe's, too, for that matter) is threatened by a tidal wave of vehicles coming off lease over the next few years, as well as technological obsolescence.  Used car prices are predicted to drop by as much as 50% over the next few years, which will undoubtedly force new car prices to decrease as well - otherwise few will be willing to pay them, since the new-to-used differential will be so great.

There's another reason why vehicle prices are going to have to drop.  It looks as if many of us are struggling to afford them at any cost.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported:

The average price of a new car is now $31,000, up $3,000 in the past four years. But at the same time, the average monthly car payment edged down, to $460 from $465—the result of longer loan terms and lower interest rates.

In the final quarter of 2012, the average term of a new car note stretched out to 65 months, the longest ever, according to Experian Information Solutions Inc. Experian said that 17% of all new car loans in the past quarter were between 73 and 84 months and there were even a few as long as 97 months. Four years ago, only 11% of loans fell into this category.

Such long term loans can present consumers and lenders with heightened risk. With a six- or seven-year loan, it takes car-buyers longer to reach the point where they owe less on the car than it is worth. Having “negative equity” or being “upside down” in a car makes it harder to trade or sell the vehicle if the owner can’t make payments.

There's more at the link.

Jalopnik elaborates that there's a significant downside to longer-term loans.

These extra-long car loan terms seem good for new car buyers because they help keep the payments down, ideally under $500 a month. But as the story notes, it takes buyers much longer to reach the point where they owe less on the car than it is worth.

In the meantime, you're spending all that money each month for years at a time on a depreciating asset when it could be better spent on other things, like a mortgage or building up a savings account. You also may end up paying a ridiculous amount in interest over those years.

Again, more at the link.

Think about it.
  • 73 months = 6 years, 1 month - 50% longer than most people spend in high school, or to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree.
  • 84 months = 7 years - even worse.
  • 97 months = 8 years, 1 month - twice as long as most people spend in high school, or take to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree.

That's an awful long time to burden oneself with an auto loan, on top of existing debt such as study loans, credit cards, lines of credit, etc. (to say nothing of a housing loan).  What if you want to get married during the term of your auto loan?  You now have to carry that expense into your new (and hopefully lifelong) relationship, burdening your partner with it, even though the vehicle you bought may not be suitable for a couple (particularly if they plan to have children).  If you need a more suitable vehicle, as Jalopnik warns, you may be 'upside-down' on your loan (i.e. owe more than the vehicle is worth), and therefore have to take out an even larger loan to buy what you need.

There's another factor to consider.  I've written on many occasions about the real rate of inflation, as compared to the 'official' rate (which is deliberately understated to a ridiculous extent, so as to hold down mandated-by-law increases in entitlement costs).  The inflation-adjusted cost of a motor vehicle is claimed to be relatively constant over time.  (Click the chart for a larger view.)




However, average US incomes have not kept pace with the real level of inflation over time.  Even using the deliberately-skewed, politically-correct, understated 'official' inflation rate, the bottom three quintiles show a decline:




When one uses a more realistic measurement of inflation, as we discussed last year, the inflation rate - and the resultant decline in effective household income - is far greater.  Put in its simplest terms, most US households currently have significantly less disposable income, in terms of the buying power of their money, than they had in previous decades.  Therefore, while auto prices may have held reasonably steady in inflation-adjusted dollars, the incomes of those who buy them have not.  They're now effectively much lower.  (If you doubt this, do your own measurement.  Compare the cost of typical groceries and supplies for your household in 1997, in 2007, and this year.  I guarantee you, the cost difference will be much greater than can be accounted for by the official rate of inflation!  My wife and I reckon our expenses for normal household groceries and supplies have more than doubled over the past ten years;  yet our personal incomes have not grown to anything like the same extent.  I'll be surprised if you haven't seen something similar.)

That's why the duration of auto loans has had to increase.  People no longer have sufficient disposable income to afford both their normal living expenses, and the monthly payments on that auto loan over a more 'conventional' term.  That's also why many US cars are now sold through short-term leases rather than auto loans - because  loan payments are simply too high.  To take a wider perspective, it's also why most housing mortgages have stretched from fifteen to thirty years, in most cases, and why most people can't afford to put down a deposit of more than one or two per cent on their homes - and therefore are very, very vulnerable to another housing downturn.  (When Miss D. and I bought our house in Texas, a year and a half ago, I was told by the bank official handling our loan application that we were the first couple in six months to have taken out a 15-year loan, putting down a 20% deposit.  This is, apparently, simply impossible for most couples today.  That's a very scary thought!)

Putting all those factors together, I'd say the US auto industry is in very serious trouble indeed.  Many of its customers simply can't afford its vehicles at their current price levels;  and even those who can, often have to stretch out their auto loans to unconscionable lengths to reduce the monthly payment, thereby crippling themselves with additional interest charges (and affecting their ability to access other forms of credit, for the duration of the auto loan).  In order to sell cars to those who can't afford even such extended payment terms, the industry has hamstrung itself by leasing millions of vehicles.  As those short-term leases expire, they will vastly increase used-car inventories, making it impossible to both resell them all, and simultaneously sell more new cars, all at present, inflated prices.  The industry has been hoist on its own petard.

Herbert Stein famously said that "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."  I rather suspect that's about to happen to the US auto industry in its present form.  Unless it changes, it'll simply price itself out of its own market . . . and that'll leave it nowhere to go.

Peter

Monday, July 24, 2017

They're at it again!


Lots more rally action here, after last week's two videos on the subject.  A lot of this is inside-the-cab video, which gives a new and very scary perspective on just how fast things can go wrong.





Oops!

Peter

Charlie Gard: the inevitable result of a post-Christian world


I'm sure my readers have been following the sorry, tragic saga of Charlie Gard.

The real issue here is, who has parental authority over a child?  Is it the infant's natural, physical parents?  Or are they merely acting as custodians for the State?  In a post-Christian world, the latter view appears to be in the ascendant - and that should trouble not only Christians, but anyone who favors individual rights, freedoms and liberties over the authority of the 'nanny State'.

Charlie’s parents, Chris and Connie, have raised over a million dollars to bring Charlie over to America for an experimental treatment. But England’s health service seems to believe they know better than Charlie’s own parents. The National Health Service, NHS, told his parents he should be left to “die with dignity.”

Socialized medicine takes the human element out of health care and looks at illnesses and diseases in a strictly cost-based, quantitative view. If the likelihood of survival is low, the “national health experts” won’t take the “risk” with treatment. Never mind that the parents have already made plans to take the risk somewhere else.

However, the Charlie Gard case speaks to the ... redefinition of marriage in a broader, cultural sense. And this immorality affects medical care and health insurance, which leads to a socialized medicine with a subhuman view of man, while bestowing deity-like prominence on the State.

It isn’t just about denying parental rights in the medical treatment and health care of Chris and Connie’s child. It is denying they are even Charlie’s ultimate parents at all.

. . .

Charlie Gard isn’t just an example of the failures of socialized medicine. You’re thinking too small. It is the denial of true liberty.

There's more at the link.

This case is a direct, immediate warning to Americans of the likely consequences of single-payer health care.  The Chicago Tribune points out:

Why does the British government have such wide authority over Charlie's treatment? One big reason: Because the government funds a single-payer health system, picking up medical costs for British citizens.

We imagine many Americans reassure themselves that this country's largely private system of health insurance would never be so dismissive of a parent's right to make decisions about a child's health care. Or deny a parent the right to take a child home to die.

But this medical drama, no matter anyone's opinion, foreshadows the difficult decisions to come if America converts its medical insurance system into a single-payer model. (Note that "single-payer" is a euphemism for government-controlled health spending and care.)

The prospect of single-payer here isn't far-fetched: Medicare and Medicaid already account for about 38 percent of U.S. health care spending. Democratic politicians have floated the notion of lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55, or of a broader Medicare-for-all. Before Obamacare became law in 2010, there also was talk of a so-called public option — a government-run plan — to compete with private plans on market exchanges. That was widely seen as a Trojan horse for single-payer.

. . .

Bottom line: Single-payer is no panacea. Free treatment isn't free. Somebody — everybody — pays. To which proponents of single-payer would retort: Private insurers aren't models of generosity: Sometimes they pay for costly new treatments, sometimes they don't.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates probably never thought they'd be in this predicament, arguing with the British government about whether they could take a child home to die. Nor could anyone predict that a critically ill infant far from U.S. shores would provide one more reason for Americans to remain wary of a single-payer system.

Again, more at the link.

When Obamacare was introduced, there was much talk about so-called 'death panels'.  Opponents of the law warned of them;  supporters derided the very idea.  Well, the case of Charlie Gard demonstrates conclusively that in the absence of a morality that values human life as worthwhile in and of itself, even in the absence of any reference to a Divinity;  that sees human life as intrinsically valuable, rather than measuring that value in terms of dollars and cents . . . death panels are inevitable.  The British courts are, right now, functioning as a death panel in the case of Charlie Gard.

As a retired pastor, you'll understand that my own position on this is clear.  Others will doubtless differ.  Nevertheless, I pray most sincerely that God will protect young Charlie Gard from those who would see him dead, rather than allow his parents to spend their own funds and those donated by supporters, to give him a chance at life.  If his death is inevitable, let it occur;  but let it not be dictated by bureaucratic fiat, or imposed by a godless, indifferent State, overriding the wishes of his parents.

For the rest of us . . . the case of Charlie Gard illustrates the perils of allowing the State to dictate what health care we may, or should, receive.  "He who pays the piper, calls the tune":  and if we allow the State to pay the piper, we should not be surprised to find that we have no say at all in what he plays.  I'm absolutely certain that in time, this will extend to telling older people that they may no longer consume the lion's share of health care dollars, as they have in the past.  It's more cost-effective to let them die, because their utility to society is less than that of younger, more productive, less unhealthy people.  If you think that won't happen, explicitly or implicitly, there's this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell to you.  Going cheap!  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

We have been warned.

Peter

End of a long-drawn-out death


Readers will recall the saga of the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Italian coast in 2012.  It was raised from its watery grave in 2014, in what turned out to be the largest and most complex marine salvage operation in history, and towed to Genoa, where dismantling began.




The Ship Recycling Consortium has announced the completion of their task of scrapping the Costa Concordia.

Less than three years have passed since the arrival of the Concordia wreck in Genoa, on July 27th 2014. Below some of the most significant numbers of this project since the beginning of the operations:
  • Workforce employed: up to 350
  • Total effective hours worked: approximately 1 million
  • Companies and suppliers involved: 78 (98% of them are Italian)
  • Total recycled material: approximately 90%, equal to over 53,000 tons for almost 4,000 trips to recycling facilities in Italy
  • Total dismantled material: 8,000 tons with over 850 trips to dismantling facilities.

There's more at the link.

It's a sad farewell to a ship that should never have sunk, but for the tragic and criminally stupid actions of her Captain.  He began serving a 16-year prison sentence for his crimes in May.

Peter

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday morning music


Regular readers will know that I've been a lifelong fan of the music of Jethro Tull and its leader, Ian Anderson.  He's far more than just a rock or pop musician.  He's composed in genres ranging from pop, to disco, to folk, to hard rock, and any number of combinations thereof.  He's also transcribed many of his compositions for orchestra (and a number of classical orchestral works into rock songs, too!).

I thought you might be interested to see how his orchestral adaptations have worked.  Here's just one example from 'The Orchestral Jethro Tull', which is one of my favorite Tull/Anderson albums.




First, from the legendary 1971 album 'Aqualung', in the 40th anniversary remastered edition issued in 2011, here's 'Mother Goose'.





Now, here's the orchestral version, featuring a much older band, with lots more musicians.





I find it a whimsical, light-hearted and interesting variation on the original rock version.  You might like to check out the other orchestral renditions on the album (you can listen to samples at the link, and if you subscribe to the Amazon Unlimited music streaming service, the full album's available there at no additional charge).

Peter

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #966


Today's award goes to a biologically clueless pet owner in Britain.

An unsuspecting pet owner had the shock of his life when he thought caring for his two new little female guinea pigs would be a breeze.

It turned out that he couldn't have been more wrong. He'd accidentally bought a male and a female, which began multiplying "faster than he could react".

Before he knew it, the babies had mated with one another, and he had 160 little guinea pigs running around in his garden in Gosport, Hampshire.

There's more at the link.

I'd have thought that when the first litter of guinea-piglets appeared, that would have been what the professionals call A Clue . . . but to wait until he had 160 of them before figuring it out?  Verily, the mind doth boggle!




Peter

Is there a maritime jobs crisis in the USA?


I'm asking because two fellow bloggers have complained about the situation for US merchant seamen and officers in recent weeks.

First, Captain Jill is having a very hard time finding work.

I spent most of every day this week still trying to find work. Filling out online applications (again), for all the same places that I’ve already filled them out for. Calling everyone I could find to call. Still getting the same results...

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So, I broke down and went to Houston on Wednesday to see about joining the SIU. The unlicensed seamans union. I’ve been an applicant with the AMO (licensed officers union) since at least December and have had 1 (yes only 1) possible job. That job was gone before I could even return the phone call! Since then, they don’t answer the phone, they don’t return calls, I’ve pretty much lost hope that they actually have any work.

Of course I would rather use the license I’ve spent 30+ years and $50,000+++ to earn! But if I have to sail as a deckhand, I’m perfectly willing to do that too. Anything out at sea is better than working at McDonalds or Domino’s, which seem to be the only jobs open to me on the beach.

S***! 2 college degrees and 30 years of experience to earn the highest license there is out there, and what does it get me? NOTHING! Not a damn thing!

Yeah, I’ve had it pretty good up until the last couple of years. I was able to save a few bucks. I was able to travel and enjoy life. I did really love a few of my jobs. Never really hated any of them. But after almost 2 years of unemployment and unable to find ANY work that will even come close to paying the bills, I have to say I am getting more than a little bit pissed off.

Yes. Pissed off! Frustrated. Angry. Depressed. Un-motivated. I could go on...

There's more at the link.

Then, Paul, Dammit! informs us that the fuel sector of the US maritime industry is in a bad way.

There's a serious morale issue throughout the ports of NY/NJ fuel barge crew. My company is not immune there. Oh, we're doing fine compared to the poor bastards down in the Gulf of Mexico, where even master mariners are working as able seamen and thankful when there's even that for work. While you're not seeing massive savings at the pump anymore thanks to the suits in the futures markets who're really cashing in, efficiencies have led to companies being able to get oil out of the ground cheaper on land, which is competitive with offshore oil, even given the disparities of distribution costs. Jobs have shifted for now, and both shale oil and offshore oil have plenty of wells just waiting for the price index to rise enough to be worth kicking the drills in gear. In the meanwhile, while the low-hanging fruit is being brought to market, there's lots of hungry bellies.

Morale is pretty low in the US maritime fuel transport sector, at least in many parts. It seems like medium-parcel movements are down, too, but not to the extent that I've seen in the small boats.

Unfortunately, I lack the ability to read crystal balls, and I don't have enough chatty friends in the marketing sector for fuel transport to really put together a more complete, coherent synopsis for what's going on, but I can say that the coconut telegraph among friends and shipmates and acquaintances online, there's an awful lot of this time is different in terms of riding out the slowdown.

Well, we'll see.

Again, more at the link.

Does anyone know whether these problems extend throughout the US merchant shipping industry?  Are they on both the East and the West Coasts?  What are the reasons for the downturn?  How bad is it here compared to elsewhere in the world, where I note that some articles complain about a skills shortage?

I'd like to know more.  If anyone can provide further information, or post links to relevant articles, I'd be grateful.  Thanks.

Peter

Friday, July 21, 2017

The REAL housewives of ISIS . . .


. . . according to the BBC - with tongue firmly in cheek!








Peter

More rally thrills, spills and chills


Here's another great video of things that can - and, all too often, do - go wrong in rallying.





After watching that, there's no way any rally team could pay me enough to drive a Smart Fortwo, or something equally tiny, in such events.  There's not nearly enough metal, crumple zones and space around the driver to be safe!




Peter

Robert Stacy McCain brings the smackdown to LGBTBBQWTF


Following my essay on gender and sex last Wednesday, I was intrigued - and felt vindicated - to find that Robert Stacy McCain has his own views on the subject, very similar to mine.

In January 2014, when I first wrote about the controversy between radical feminists and transgender activists, it seemed to me a bad joke. “The Competitive Victimhood Derby,” I called it — two rival tribes of left-wing nutjobs vying for the coveted Most Oppressed Award. Subsequent research, however, convinced me that the radical feminist nutjobs were actually right on the basic issue — being male or female is a fact of science, not subject to politically motivated revision — and transgender activists were wrongly seeking to hijack “gender identity” (and feminism, along with it) in a way that amounts to Female Erasure, to quote the title of a recent radical feminist anthology on the subject. “Facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams said, and there is something fundamentally dishonest about the ideology of the transgender cult.

Young people are becoming seriously confused by the transgender cult. Or perhaps the causation works the other way, and confused young people are magnetically attracted to the cult belief that, with the “treatment” of synthetic hormones and surgery, they can escape their adolescent woes by “transitioning” into the opposite sex. Feminists have identified the factor of social contagion in what they call “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.” Through the influence of peers, and also through online recruitment by transgender cultists, many teenagers are quite suddenly convinced that they were “born in the wrong body.” In a matter of months or even a few weeks, an otherwise healthy teenage will develop an obsession with “gender transition” and demand that parents not only accept their new transgender identity, but often threaten suicide unless parents support them in seeking hormone “treatment” immediately. This kind of emotional blackmail is part of the transgender cult’s ideology, as activists claim that anyone who opposes them is effectively sentencing teenagers to death by denying them acceptance and “health care.”

. . .

Identity politics produces a demand for government programs, and universities are training the future bureaucrats who will run LGBT programs and who, of course, will be employed at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile, there are career opportunities in “journalism” and “political activism” (insofar as these are still separate fields of endeavor, e.g., the editors of Teen Vogue promoting anal sex). If “the personal is political,” as feminists declare, then politics turns into nothing but a constant stream of demands for an ever-increasing number of government programs to provide “solutions” to an ever-increasing number of personal problems, based on the assumption that taxpayers will pay the bills.

. . .

We don’t have enough lunatic asylums in America to house all these weirdos and nutjobs, and there’s not enough money in the world to pay for all the outpatient treatment they’ll need. The next time you’re debating health care, remember this: Crazy is a pre-existing condition.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading, because he analyzes what the 'other side' is up to in their attempt(s) to force us to pay for their phobias, complexes and delusions.

Peter

We've got to do something - even though it'll never work!


I see politicians are up to their usual shenanigans again.  This time it's in formerly great Britain.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "We are announcing new measures to combat knife crime and the devastating impact it has on families, individuals and communities.

"We are going to be consulting on new legislation so that people can't buy knives online without having their identity checked.

"At the moment you have to do it by the click of a button. What we are proposing is that if you want to buy a knife online it has to be collected from a place where you have to show your ID.

"We have evidence that young people have been able to buy knives without verifying their ID and I want to stop that."

. . .

The new drive will also aim to close off a loophole that means police can be powerless to act if they discover knives in someone's home.

A ban on the possession of outlawed weapons such as zombie knives and knuckledusters on private property would mean officers can seize them and make arrests.

Any restrictions will be drawn up so that those who keep weapons for a legitimate purpose, such as cultural items or antiques, are not penalised.

There's more at the link.

I've written about this utterly worthless approach on several occasions, particularly as it relates to firearms.  Back in 2009 I pointed out:

You can't stop criminal actions by banning things. You can only stop them by stopping the people who commit them. The tools used are basically irrelevant.

. . .

Cars don't cause accidents: they're caused by road conditions, or mechanical failure, or flawed driving technique, or an impaired driver, or a combination of these factors. Aircraft don't cause plane crashes: they're caused by weather conditions, or mechanical failure, or pilot error, or an impaired pilot, or a combination of these factors. Guns don't cause massacres: those are caused by human beings deciding to commit murder. Whether they do so with a gun, or a bomb, or a fire, or an axe, or a knife, is basically irrelevant. In every case, the driver, or pilot, or murderer, may be sane or insane, impaired or unimpaired, rational or irrational: but there's always a human involved. The car, or plane, or gun, is simply a tool in their hands.

. . .

Again and again and again, the instrument is not the cause of the problem; the instrument is not guilty of the problem; and banning the instrument won't solve the problem!

Again, more at the link.

Politicians realize that to be re-elected, they have to make people feel that they're in control, and the country is safe in their hands;  so they act, and react, and posture, as soon as a problem reaches the public eye.  The fact that the measures they propose will do absolutely nothing to solve the real problem - human nature - is neither here nor there.

If criminals can't get their hands on one tool, they'll find another.  Witness the recent spate of acid attacks in the UK - a crime that was vanishingly rare until very recently.  I'm willing to bet a large part of it can be laid at the door of 'knife control'.  Denied access to their former tool of choice, some criminals simply turned to acid instead.  Ban or control acid?  They'll turn to gasoline, tossing a cupful of it at a passerby, followed by a lighted match.  Ban or control gasoline?  Good luck driving your vehicle!

Prisons are one of the most rigidly controlled environments in human society, an authoritarian's wet dream;  but even there, knife regulations, even total bans, don't work.  I've worked in prisons, and recovered so-called 'shanks' from inmates and their cells.  They make their knives out of toothbrush handles, bits of wire, stolen air-conditioning vent covers . . . anything they can find.  We had to order feeding trays and drinking 'glasses' for the inmates made out of a specially brittle plastic, that would break up rather than take an edge if you tried to sharpen it.  I've seen a very deadly shank, used in a prison murder, that was made out of an eight-inch length of rebar.  The convict stole the metal from a work site within the prison, then spent close to a year rubbing it furtively against concrete, bricks, and other masonry every opportunity he got - except in his cell, of course, where the damage might have led to a search.  After a lot of hard work, his rusty bit of scrap steel had a deadly sharp point on it . . . as one of his prison enemies found out to his (terminal) cost.

Controlling a thing cannot and will not work.  Those with evil intent will always find another thing, another way.  The Home Secretary must surely know that . . . but she doesn't care.  She's a politician.  She knows she has to be seen to be doing something - no matter how useless she knows it will be.  The latter is the least of her concerns.

Why anyone votes for conniving, lying grifters like these, irrespective of party or policy, I just don't know . . .




Peter

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Good Lord, this makes me feel old . . .


The Feral Irishman has posted a long series of photographs of "old-time" goods, equipment, and technology.  Here are just a few examples.



A hard-boiled egg slicer.  I used those as a kid to help Mom in the kitchen . . . and sliced my thumb on the sharp wires more than once!  (Hint:  shell the egg first.  What's more, if you slip a regular egg in among the hard-boiled ones, and your sister tries to shell it, and gets egg all over herself and the counter, your mother will not be amused . . . and your backside will smart!)



Liquid glue for school projects.  The rubber caps seldom stayed intact.  They got brittle with age, and cracked, letting the contents leak all over the place (unless you managed to pry one loose first, in which case the glue turned up in all sorts of . . . interesting places!



My second car - a 1971 Chevrolet Firenza, bought used in the early 1980's - had two keys that looked exactly like those;  one for the door, one for the ignition.  Why they couldn't have made them use the same lock, I'll never know . . .



Oh, heck, yes!  Mom used to wrap our sandwiches in wax paper if their filling was sufficiently gooey that it might leak all over the other things in our school lunch boxes.  I must have used up miles of the stuff.



My mom's washing machine was the spitting image of this beast when I was a young child.  Every week, the outside "laundry room" would reek of steam and Sunlight green laundry soap, shaved into it from great big bars.  (Believe it or not, even in an age of modern detergents, you can still buy Sunlight laundry bars in South Africa.  Old habits die hard, I guess!)  The tub would be filled from a hose attached to a nearby hot-water tap.  Clothes would be agitated in the soapy water, then fed through the mangle rollers above the tub to press out as much liquid as possible.  The tub would be drained (pumping out its contents through an exhaust hose into a sink), then refilled with cold water.  The laundry was tumbled in the fresh water, to rinse it, and re-mangled:  then it was hung on a series of drying lines tied across the back yard.  You could play wonderful games, stalking each other up and down the lines of laundry . . . provided you didn't get them dirty in the process.  If you did, your backside smarted!



Candy cigarettes!  I wish I had a dollar for every one of those things I "smoked" . . . I could retire!

Lots and lots of memories in those photographs.  Click over to Irish's place and look at the rest for yourself.  I recognized each and every one of them.  Am I an old fart, or what?

Peter

The oldest aircraft design meets the newest aircraft technology


I'm fascinated to learn that a carbon fiber version of the 70-year-old Antonov An-2 biplane has been developed in Russia.  It made its first flight just last week, and is now being exhibited in Moscow.

The Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SibNIA) plans to certificate the new model ... within two years, then promote the aircraft to passenger and cargo operators, says Oleg Parfentyev, adviser to the chairman of SibNIA for aviation projects ... Parfentyev describes how Russian carriers now fly four-engined Antonov An-12s from Moscow to Novosibirsk, where the payload is redistributed to smaller cities. A fleet of TVS-2DTS aircraft would allow the same operators to fly direct to the secondary cities, bypassing the hub stop at Novosibirsk, he says.

In addition to newly-composite structure, the TVS-2DTS features Honeywell TPE331-12 turboprop engines and new interiors.

There's more at the link.

The original An-2 first flew in 1947.  It used the forward fuselage of a Douglas C-47 transport (license-built in the Soviet Union as the Lisunov Li-2), shortened, with a single radial engine in the nose, and biplane wings covered in cloth.  It could carry up to 12 passengers, or up to about 2¼ tons of payload.




A turboprop version was developed in the 1980's as the Antonov An-3, but didn't attract much customer interest.  Hundreds, possibly thousands, of the original An-2 model are still flying in Russia and China, particularly in regions with rough-and-ready airstrips (or no airfields at all).  It's a quintessential "bush aircraft".  North Korean special forces use it as a raiding platform, because its wood and canvas construction doesn't show up very well on modern radar, and it flies so slowly (cruising speed is about 100 mph) that modern fighter aircraft can't fly slow enough to keep station on it, and shoot it down.

SibNIA began developing its 'Westernized' version of the An-2 a few years ago.  In 2012 it flew an aircraft with a Honeywell turboprop engine and a 5-bladed modern propeller.  This proved successful in flight tests, and the Institute decided to modernize it further, in the hope of attracting interest from the owners of hundreds of An-2's still operating.  They first developed a fully composite wing, made of carbon fiber, which they flew attached to an original fuselage fitted with the Honeywell engine and new propeller.  Here's a 2015 video showing it in flight.





The latest version, now on display in Moscow, adds a carbon fiber fuselage to the wing, meaning that the entire aircraft is now of composite construction.

Whether or not this ultra-modern edition of a 70-year-old biplane can achieve commercial success remains to be seen.  Nevertheless, I have a feeling that, somewhere up there, the shade of Oleg Antonov is smiling.

Peter

Revenge rears its ugly head in Mosul


Strategy Page notes that we can expect a wave of revenge attacks in Mosul, Iraq, recently liberated from ISIL control.

Many families from Mosul, both those who fled and those who stayed to the end, are demanding that the families of Iraqis who joined ISIL or worked for them must be punished. This is a tricky situation because most of the suspects are Iraqi Sunni Arabs, many from prominent Mosul families and clans. Because some 900,000 people (nearly have the Mosul population) stayed in the city there are plenty of witnesses to the many locals who, because of belief, greed or fear, worked for ISIL. Many of the survivors know that well-connected (from prominent families) and wealthy (often from doing business with or for ISIL) will be able to bribe their way out of any prosecution and punishment. So there will be a lot of murders and disappearances (because of murder or slipping away into exile) in the next month or so.

The list of avengers is long and includes many non-Moslems (Christians, Yazidis and others) and non-Moslems (Kurds, Turks, Assyrians and so on). Many members of the army and commandos who liberated Mosul had lost family (and now soldiers) and not all of them were able to refrain from instant vengeance on captured ISIL men. Since this sort of thing has happened so many times in the past there is a certain informal protocol that is observed. For a brief period the incoming security forces will ignore the revenge killings but after a few months the vengeance will be drifting away from punishment towards extortion and other gangster motivation. So by the end of the year Mosul will settle down to its usual simmer of angry religious, ethnic, tribal and political feuds.

This will be a time when many secrets can be revealed because of the chaos and desperation. Experienced intel operatives, both foreign and local, know this. The American Special Forces specializes in making the most of situations like this. It’s like a brief flash of light in a dark cave of secrets. Yet few of the secrets will be particularly shocking because this routine has played out in this area so many times over the last few thousand years. This time the difference is the impact of mass media and the movement of so many foreign volunteers to ISIL and the dispersal of ISIL survivors back to their homelands. Groups like ISIL have been a feature of local life for over a thousand years but exporting that form of madness to the non-Moslem world is a new angle. Another novel feature is the large number of landmines and explosive devices rigged to explode when disturbed that have been left behind. ISIL hid away lots of weapons, ammo and explosives. All this stuff will keep the death toll from the Battle of Mosul increasing for years to come.

There's more at the link.

I'm informed by some friends over in that part of the world that the Yazidis in general, and Yazidi women in particular, are particularly ruthless and vengeful in their attitude.  After all, ISIL tried to exterminate the Yazidis root and branch, massacring their men and children, and forcing their women into sex slavery.  Many of the women escaped from their captors, and have formed their own armed units to fight back against ISIL (including an entire battalion fighting alongside Kurdish forces).  One contact tells me that when Yazidi women find an ISIL fighter, the results are, as he puts it, "usually long-drawn-out and messy" for the latter unfortunate.  One is inevitably reminded of Kipling's famous dictum . . .

Austin Bay also points out that there are valuable urban warfare lessons to be learned from the fight to liberate Mosul.

"Mega-cities" -- think Tokyo, Seoul, Los Angeles, Berlin, Lagos, Cairo, Mumbai -- are 21st century political, economic and infrastructure realities. Urban combat in a mega-city will occur.

Mosul has some of the features found in mega-cities. The U.S. and its allies should conduct thorough and candid after action assessments of Iraqi and coalition operations in the liberation of Mosul.

Food for thought, indeed.

Peter

Lawdog Volume 2 is on the way!


Following the smashing success of the first volume of The Lawdog Files, Castalia House is responding to overwhelming public demand (as expressed in the reviews) and accelerating the publication of Volume 2:  'The Lawdog Files - African Adventures'.




Click the image above to be taken to the book's pre-order page on Amazon.  It's already (as I write these words) ranked at 3,095 in the Kindle Store (out of well over 5 million items for sale there), and it's still almost three weeks before publication!  I predict another runaway best-seller for the Dawg.

We might also see a Volume 3 of The Lawdog Files before long, depending on how many readers keep on screaming for more.  Castalia's very good like that - they're small enough to 'turn on a dime', so to speak, and interrupt their existing schedule to respond in a hurry to reader demand, yet also big enough to have all the staff and skills needed to get a new book published very quickly.

Stand by for loud cackles of laughter from all sides on August 10th!

Peter

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gender, schmender. The chromosomes have it.


I see the gender-fluid brigade is at it again.

The issue with gender-reveal parties in particular is: Aren't they potentially damaging to said tiny humans?

For starters, gender-reveal parties don't actually reveal gender—they reveal anatomy. Gender is a wholly different thing, inextricably tied to the social constructs around it ... A gender reveal conflates the two.

. . .

Projecting gender perceptions onto a fetus becomes especially thorny when you take into consideration that, globally, one in every 1000 to 1500 children is born with a visible form of Difference of Sex Development (DSD), which means being neither entirely male nor female, since the chromosomal/genital makeup falls somewhere in between—an enlarged clitoris capable of erections, for instance. (Broader definitions of DSD put this number closer to 1 in 100 children.) Then there are the millions of kids assigned a sex at birth with which they don't align: 150,000 American teenagers identify as transgender. In a ritual that celebrates only a binary way of thinking about identity, we're leaving a cross-section of the population out, adding to a culture of trans and intersex shame.

There's more at the link (although why anyone in his or her right mind would want to read it, I can't say).

I disagree emphatically that gender, as a concept, is distinct from sex.  That's a modern construct that was never, repeat, NEVER a major issue until the rise of the feminist and LGBTBBQWTF brigades.  In order to be precise, let's look at a dictionary definition (the Free Dictionary, in this case) of the term 'gender'.  (Click the image for a larger view.  See, in particular, the 'Usage Note' provided.)




Contrast that with the Free Dictionary's definition of 'sex'.




On the basis of those definitions, about the only thing I have against gender-reveal parties is that they should more accurately be called sex-reveal parties . . . but I can understand the potential confusion that might engender (you should pardon the expression).

The author tries to assert, in the excerpt shown above, that the condition known as intersex is more common than scientifically accepted.  It's a real condition, and I have the greatest sympathy for those born with that handicap;  but it's vanishingly rare - less than one-tenth of one per cent of the human race, according to every authentic, objective, medical-evidence-based, non-politically-correct study of which I'm aware.  Intersex can't be used as an excuse by those who have some sort of psychological or psychiatric hangup about their sexuality (as distinct from the reality of their physical sex), and want to project that onto the rest of us, and force us to play-act accordingly.  The overwhelming majority of them are not intersex.

As far as I'm aware, from the perspective of medical science, with the sole exception of those afflicted with one or other form of intersex syndrome, one's sex is determined by one's chromosomes.  If you're XX, you're female.  If you're XY, you're male.  That's it.  You may feel you're a different gender, such as a man trapped in a woman's body, or vice versa;  you may believe that you're not what your sex organs say you are;  you may want to identify as any one (or more) of the 58 gender options offered by Facebook;  but you are, inescapably, a man or a woman, according to your chromosomes.  End of story.

So-called 'gender reassignment' treatment, even including lifelong medication, can't change that fundamental reality.  Stop taking the medication and, hey presto!  Your natural chromosomes will reassert themselves.  (Of course, if you've undergone surgery as part of gender reassignment treatment, that's pretty much irreversible, so your chromosomes will be S.O.L.)

For gender-reveal parties to operate on the basis of medical and scientific reality, rather than wishful thinking, seems to me to be no more than a recognition of the real facts of life.

Peter

Thrills, chills and spills - rally edition


Here's a great compilation of recent rally racing crashes, near-crashes and exciting antics.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.





In my younger days, I used to enjoy rallying, driving a slightly souped-up second-generation Ford Escort in South Africa.  However, it was highly unusual for us to hit more than 70-80 mph on the farm and country roads we used.  Today's highly specialized rally cars seem to hit double that as a matter of course, and even faster on occasion.  I doubt I'd ever have been a good enough driver to handle them.

Peter

The great Cottingley Fairies hoax, one hundred years ago


An article in the Telegraph reminded me of the great Cottingley Fairies hoax of 1917.  It fooled a great many people.  Here's an excerpt.

... the house in Main Street was occupied by Arthur and Polly Wright and their only daughter, Elsie. Arthur was an electrical engineer and keen amateur photographer, the proud owner of a Midg quarter-plate camera, an expensive piece of kit for the time. Also living with them, temporarily, were Polly’s sister Annie Griffiths and her daughter Frances, who had made the perilous wartime sea journey from South Africa.

By 1917, Elsie was 15 and Frances nine. The girls became firm friends and played together in the dell, often coming home soaking wet and covered in mud.

It was Elsie who first started blaming fairies for their dishevelled appearance, and an amused Arthur indulged them with the loan of his precious camera to allow them to “prove” the Little Folk were real.

The girls duly obliged and returned the Midg with two glass plates ready for developing in the darkroom Arthur had built for himself in the cellar. He was somewhat taken aback to see the images slowly emerging of Frances, wearing a string of flowers in her hair, watching a quartet of dancing, winged fairies on a tree stump in front of her, and another showing Elsie sitting in the grass, greeting what the girls said was a gnome.



Arthur’s Midg camera resides in the National Science and Media Museum in nearby Bradford. The museum’s head of collections, Michael Terwey, reverently holds it up, explaining how it held a magazine of glass plates covered with photographic emulsion.

“People wanted to believe in the photographs,” says Terwey. “The very idea that these beings had apparently been captured by a camera gave an air of scientific credibility. There were constant references made to the trustworthiness of the family, the fact they hadn’t done it for money, so why would they make it up?”

Looking at the photographs now, with a sophisticated 21st-century eye, it seems incredible that anyone was taken in. It’s obvious the fairies are what they were indeed later revealed to be: drawings by Elsie cut out and stuck in the ground with hatpins.

But perhaps the horrors of the First World War meant people were desperate to embrace something more positive, more spiritual. Terwey says “spirit photography”, and the belief that cameras could capture what the human eye could not see, experienced a great boom in the years surrounding the end of the Great War, as desperate families clung on to some slim hope that those they had lost in the conflict could be contacted on “the other side”.

Still, the first two photographs weren’t taken wholly seriously by the Wrights and might have remained a family joke but for Elsie’s mother, Polly, who attended a meeting in Bradford of the Theosophical Society, the organisation set up in the 19th century to discuss and debate matters spiritual, religious and unexplained.

The talk was on fairies, and Polly showed the speaker the photographs Elsie and Frances had taken. The Theosophical Society was instantly captivated, and displayed the pictures some months later at the society’s annual meeting.

From there, to use modern parlance, they went viral, earning the clear stamp of approval from photography experts who declared them genuine, and eventually coming to the attention of Conan Doyle, who had been commissioned to write a feature on fairy lore for The Strand magazine.

Conan Doyle secured permission from the Wrights to use the two photographs, and made a gift to the girls of a Kodak Cameo camera to obtain further “evidence”, which they duly did, producing three more images of Frances smiling at a leaping fairy, a fairy offering a posy of harebells to Elsie, and another captioned “The Fairies and Their Sun-Bath”, all of which were published in 1920.

There's more at the link.  You can read more about the hoax here.

It's an amusing tale.  One would hope we wouldn't be taken in by it if it happened today;  yet, given today's weird fascination with UFO's, a non-existent "Planet Nibiru" and its threatened apocalyptic disaster, and so on, it looks like we're just as credulous now as the experts were a century ago!

Peter

The American people aren't deaf, dumb and blind - but the mainstream media doesn't believe that


The Daily Wire explains why the American mainstream news media is now hoist on its own petard.

The very same media that shrugged when Hillary Clinton set up a secret server, deleted 33,000 government emails, BleachBit'd whatever remained and then literally took a hammer to the devices — the media that set that precedent now wants us to get all worked up over Trump's tweets?

The very same media that buried Bill Clinton's perjury and his numerous victims of sexual abuse — the media that set those precedents now wants us to consider an Access Hollywood video a disqualifier for the presidency? Now wants us to freak out over an awkward handshake?

. . .

The very same media that covered up the fact that Democrats and Team Hillary worked with the foreign government of Ukraine in the hopes of digging up dirt on Trump, the media that itself has used opposition research from the Russian government (the Golden Showers dossier) in the hopes of destroying Trump — the media that set those precedents now want us to turn on Trump because his son hoped for the same?

There's much more at the link - and all worth reading.

The mainstream media gave President Obama a pass through the eight years of his two administrations, never questioning the most questionable actions, tactics and decisions, always a sycophant, never a watchdog.  They failed miserably to safeguard the democracy they proclaim so loudly.  However, as soon as President Trump came along, he could do no right.  They've spent almost every moment of his administration complaining, carping, denouncing, objecting and obfuscating.

The so-called "credibility" of the mainstream news media isn't even a joke any more.  It's an obscenity - and it's clearly visible to anyone with half a working brain cell.  One would think, to judge by their behavior, that the mainstream media really believes it can get away with its partisanship and bias.  However, I think a large slice of the American people have seen through it.  If they haven't, there's so much evidence of it, emerging on a daily basis, that it'll get through, sooner or later.

When the Washington Post proudly airs its new slogan that "Democracy dies in darkness", it fails to mention that the Washington Post itself has been the source and the cause of a great deal of that darkness over the past decade or so.  By selectively reporting what it considers to be "news", and downgrading, bad-mouthing or just plain ignoring anything that doesn't fit its partisan political agenda, it has made itself part of the problem, rather than helping to solve it.  The WaPo is hardly alone in that - offenders are legion.  It's merely one of the most visible, and the most in contempt of its own much-ballyhooed slogan.

As I said right through the election campaign last year, I was not and am not a Trump disciple or acolyte.  I didn't vote for him.  Nevertheless, things have reached such a pitch that, when the mainstream media launches yet another attack on him, or "finds" yet another scandal to throw at him in the hope that some dirt will stick, my reaction is to yawn.  For that matter, if he can make so many lying newshounds froth at the mouth so often, maybe he's doing something right!  It sure seems that way to me, and, I think, to many others.  Why else would there be so much news media "sound and fury, signifying nothing"?

For all their scandal-mongering, the news media have utterly failed to uncover one single shred of real evidence that the Trump administration, and/or any members of the Trump family, have broken even one of the laws of the United States.  Sure, some of what they've done appears to have been distasteful and/or unethical and/or morally questionable.  Sadly, one has come to expect that of almost all politicians, of every party, in this day and age.  However, one does not (or, rather, in the past, did not) expect that the self-appointed guardians of democracy, the mainstream media, should be equally (or more) distasteful, unethical and morally questionable in their actions.

Watergate was a wonderful example of the mainstream media reporting the facts, exposing a genuine scandal, and safeguarding our democracy.  Trumpgate (whichever one is the flavor du jour) is merely a temper tantrum by news media who can't accept that, by their own actions and choices, they've lost all credibility.  They've gone so far down the rabbit-hole of innuendo, suggestion and smears that I sincerely doubt they can find their way out again.

Peter

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

And to think people have to breathe that!


Courtesy of Daily Timewaster, here's a fascinating video clip showing passing steam trains setting fire to coal dust in the air as they pass a coal mine in China.  The last couple of trains, in the deepest darkness, produce the most spectacular effects.  I highly recommend watching it in full-screen mode.





It's unnerving to think that anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people - workers at the coal mine, those passing on the railway line, and families living in the area - actually breathe that dust every day, just by being nearby.  I wonder what their lungs look like?

(On the other hand, perhaps it's best not to know!)




Peter

An "anti-pervert flamethrower"? Oh, this could be fun . . .


I'm amazed to learn that Chinese companies are selling "anti-pervert flamethrowers".



A flame-thrower that can hurl a stream of fire half a metre [almost 20"] long is being marketed in China to help women fend off unwanted advances.

The device is being billed on shopping websites as a must-have "anti-pervert weapon" that can be discreetly carried in a ladies’ handbag.

Some are shaped like a cigarette lighter and emit small flames, while others hurl fire for 50cm with temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Celsius (3,300 Fahrenheit).

The flame-throwers sell from about £10 to over £30 [US $13 to over $40] on e-commerce sites, and one vendor boasted to local media how they can "scald or even disfigure an attacker.”

. . .

There is concern that the flame-throwers could become the latest dangerous gadget to become popular in China, following a fad among some children for tiny crossbows which can shoot toothpicks or needles.

Concerns have also been raised that the devices can cause injury to the person carrying them, as the switch can be accidentally turned on while it is in a handbag.

There's more at the link.

I can think of so many ways that would be useful . . .
  • Assailed by a gangsta thug with his trousers already halfway down?  Talk about an inviting target, right there!
  • Jumped at a traffic light by someone trying to stick his hand through your partly-open car window?  Those fingers are very vulnerable to a well-placed flame.
  • I wouldn't use it for home defense, though.  Too much risk of setting your house on fire . . . and you just know your kids are going to get hold of it, somehow, and have all sorts of dangerous fun with it.

As for accidentally lighting it in your handbag or pocket . . . well, you won't make that mistake twice, will you?




Peter