Tuesday, June 27, 2017

LibertyCon, here we come!


Miss D. and I are heading for LibertyCon, to be held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, over the coming weekend.  We're both scheduled as speakers, and there'll be other activities to keep us busy.  It's the one convention we really make an effort to attend every year.  It's small enough to be manageable, and there's usually a great bunch of people in attendance.

We'll be driving there over the next few days, and heading home when the convention is over.  Blogging will, of course, be light while we're on the road, and probably while we're at the convention as well.  I'll post as and when I can, and I'll try to queue up a few posts in the evening to pop up during the following day or two, depending on my schedule.  Meanwhile, I'll be grateful if those of you so inclined will say a prayer or two for us, for traveling mercies, a safe arrival there, and a safe homecoming.

Peter

I'm so glad I'm not in the dating market any more . . .


Courtesy of Wirecutter:




Er . . . WTF???




Peter

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sounds like medical miracle goo to me!


I'm happy to read that an experimental treatment for victims of landmine blasts, that was still under development, has produced its first 'save'.

Vets and scientists successfully repaired the leg of a two-year-old Munsterlander named Eva who suffered a serious leg fracture of her right foreleg after being hit by a car last year.

Despite efforts of specialists the difficult 0.7 inch (2cm) wide break would not heal and Eva was left facing the prospect of life on three legs.

But fortunately for Eva she had been taken to the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital where vet William Marshal heard by chance about an experimental new treatment that colleagues were working on to help landmine or bomb victims.

A special putty made of bone flakes and a bone-growth protein was packed into the wound and within just seven weeks the fracture had completely healed.

“We are absolutely thrilled with Eva’s recovery,” said owner Fiona Kirkland, of Lenzie, near Glasgow.

“When we heard about an experimental treatment that might help her, we had no idea it was connected to such an important project.

“It is amazing to think that the treatment used to heal Eva’s leg will help researchers one day repair the bones of landmine blast survivors. I’m very grateful to everyone at the University of Glasgow.”

. . .

Trials on patients were not expected to start for a few more years, but Eva’s situation was desperate. If the new bone-growth treatment was not tried, the only other option was to amputate.

As a last resort before amputation, Mr Marshall took a mixture of bone chips and coated them with PEA and BMP-2 before placing the mixture in the 2cm gap in Eva’s front leg, the first time the mixture has ever been used in a treatment.



Although initially designed to help treat blast survivors, the technology has the potential to be used for anyone who needs new bone tissue.

There's more at the link.

Having seen at first hand, and rather too often for comfort, the effects of landmines on people who stumble across them, I really hope that this success spurs further - and faster - research to perfect the treatment.  It may alleviate the suffering of literally thousands of people every year, not just landmine victims, but anyone with similar bone injuries.

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #964


Today's award goes to an overenthusiastic tank driver in Belarus.

The city of Minsk — the capital of the Russia-aligned state of Belarus — was today preparing for an upcoming military parade.

Columns of military vehicles had taken up position and were practising rolling through the city’s street.

But one tank seems to have been somewhat out-of-place and behind in time.

So the driver poured on the gas and the tracked vehicle leapt down the slick, wet road in the city’s centre.

Social media posts of video and pictures show what happened next.

Hitting the brakes had little effect in slowing the 60-ton beast.

The heavy tank skidded, went sideways — and then demolished a streetside light pole.

Not to mention gouge up the pavement and gutter of the median strip.

There's more at the link.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for sending it to me.

Here's footage of the accident.





That'll probably buff out of the tank . . . but I'm not so sure about the light post, the median strip or the road surface!

Peter

Our new, greatly enlarged back yard


Our contractor has been working hard for the past ten days or so, putting up a new privacy fence around our newly acquired property behind the house, knocking down and removing the old fence that separated it from our home, improving the drainage, and generally putting everything together.  (We're using the same contractor that enclosed our porch to form an office for me before we moved in.)  I've felt very sorry for him and his men, working hard in 100-degree-plus heat, but they seem to have survived it OK, with the help of copious quantities of water and soft drinks.

Here's how the back yard looked previously.  In this picture, the window nearest to the camera (with the air-conditioning unit) is my office.  For scale, the garden shed on the far side is about 7½ feet square.  (Click each image for a larger view.)




Here's the view from the other side of the house, between the corner and the garden shed, looking back towards my office.




Here's how the expanded yard looks.  It's almost three times larger than it was.  The first two pictures are taken from the same positions as the two above, but the expanded yard is too big for my cellphone camera to show it all;  so the third picture is taken from a central point, to show the part that doesn't fit into the previous shots.  You can see the strip of bare earth where the old fence used to stand.  (Most of the houses visible over the fence in the first image below are about 100 yards or more distant, on the far side of a street.  Only the one on the right, visible above the garden shed, adjoins ours.  We have open land to that side and far behind the house, making it feel more rural than suburbia from those perspectives, if you know what I mean.)








The last picture above shows, low center-left, the bare patch where the garden shed used to be.  We've moved it down to the bottom of the newly expanded yard.  It's a home-built unit, knocked together (rather poorly) by the previous owner.  In due course, we'll replace it with a larger, better-built shed, and perhaps also a writing hut for me on the other side of the yard.  Miss D. is also talking about a paved patio, with a fire-pit and pergola, and some raised beds for square foot gardening.  We'll put everything on the agenda for further down the road, when we can afford the next round of upgrades.

I'm very glad we got the opportunity to buy the extra land, particularly at so good a price.  It's transformed our back yard.  Once we've finished with it, it'll enhance the whole property - and it's probably already added three or four times more to our home's overall value than everything we've paid to buy it and fence it in.  It was a very good deal.

Peter

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday morning music


Here's a great rendition of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, recorded in 1990 at the Gasteig Philharmonic Hall in Munich, Germany.  The soloist is the then-sixteen-year-old Maxim Vengerov, and the conductor of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra is Pavel Kogan.





I've always thought that Tchaikovsky, in particular, sounds best when played by a Russian orchestra, conductor and soloist.  There's something about his music that draws out the national character, I suspect.  At any rate, this was a rousing performance.

Peter

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Legalized narcotics and car accidents


I wasn't surprised to see a report this week that correlated the incidence of vehicle accidents with the legalization of formerly illicit narcotics.

According to the HLDI [Highway Loss Data Institute], past researchers haven't been able to "definitively connect marijuana use with real-world crashes," and even a federal study failed to find such a link. "Studies on the effects of legalizing marijuana for medical use have also been inconclusive," said the HLDI.

Instead, the group focused on three states -- Colorado, where legal marijuana retail sales started in 2014, as well as Oregon and Washington, where sales began in 2015 -- and compared them to the collision claims in neighboring states such as Nevada and Utah, parts of which now allow only medical marijuana. It also factored in statistics regarding the three states where recreational use is now legal from before it became available to the general public.



Colorado saw the largest estimated increase in claim frequency -- 14 percent more than its bordering states, while Washington state was 6 percent greater and Oregon had a 4 percent increase. Allowing for the total control group, "the combined effect for the three states was a smaller, but still significant at 3 percent," said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

There's more at the link.

So much for those who claim that the use of such narcotics is a 'victimless crime', affecting no-one but the consumer of the drugs.  Not so much.  We all pay for this in higher insurance premiums, and some of us pay in terms of injuries, pain and suffering, too - if not death, either our own or that of a loved one, killed by a hopped-up driver.

I know some will claim that the situation is no different with legalized narcotics than it is with alcohol.  Both cause the same problem.  Nevertheless, why add to the existing problem by legalizing new ways to become intoxicated?  That doesn't make much sense to me . . .

Peter

Thwarting data-miners and privacy-invading snoopers


I had to laugh at a recent post at Raconteur Report on how to frustrate, thwart and totally mess up those who are trying to mine every detail about you, whether for surveillance or profit.  Here's an excerpt.

Go by the local bookstore.
Collect 50 magazine blow-in subscription cards while you browse.
From political and religiously slanted periodicals, when possible.
Sign up for the magazines using your own name.
No middle initials.
At 17 real addresses you never lived at, all around the country.
Mail them in.
Next month, do the same thing for 5 people randomly selected.
Forward all your junk mail **** to those addresses.
Ideally, by responding to it using those addresses.
(And if you can’t figure out how to pull the same thing off online using dead end g-mail and yahoo addresses, you’re not tall enough for that ride.)

. . .

Send $5 to each of 13 religious organizations. All different than yours.
And three atheist organizations.
And the Flat Earth Society, and the Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
And the NRA, and the ACLU.

. . .

Get some cheap burner phones. (Quantity optional.)
Use them, and a prepaid cash gift card from Visa or MasterCard. Give one of the new phone number(s) out, with your name, every time you’re asked for a phone number that’s nobody’s goddam business, and order different inexpensive oddball crap to yourself.
At each of the 17 addresses you don’t live at.
Bonus: Use Amazon.
Send yourself Mein Kampf at one address, Mao’s Little Red Book at another, Shrillary’s It Takes a Village at a third, and Barry Goldwater’s Conscience Of A Conservative at a fourth address, and so on. Get the cheapest crappiest used copies listed.

. . .

For maybe 200 bucks, you can so **** up data miners, you’ll be listed at a dozen or more addresses you never lived at, and half a dozen phone numbers you won’t ever use, and be registered as belonging to every political and religious group on the planet. If 100 people did it, then did it to half a dozen random strangers, data mining them would be like looking for a needle in a wrecked auto junkyard, with a metal detector. Blindfolded.

. . .

And in case you never read Hayduke’s Revenge books, any time someone asks for a Social Security number that’s none of their goddam business, Richard Nixon’s number is 567-68-0515.

And there’s also a list of more Social Security numbers online, for Kurt Cobain, Walt Disney, etc.  Knock yourself out.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.

Evil, devilish and fiendish ideas . . . but I think all of them may be a lot of fun (from our point of view, that is).

Peter

Friday, June 23, 2017

America's most dangerous cities


Statista offers an interesting infographic, showing murder rates for various US cities per 100,000 residents over the past five years.  The top of the list doesn't surprise me at all.  (Click the image for a larger view, at Statista's Web site.)




Statista notes that the number of homicides in Chicago since 2001 surpassed total US war deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq by November last year.  They provided this infographic last year.




I'll do my best to stay clear of all those cities, thank you very much!

Peter

Why worry? It's just $14 billion of taxpayer's money . . .


. . . plus a few billion more to fix the problems.

The U.S. Navy has a major ship design disaster on its hands with the new EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) catapult that was installed in the latest aircraft carrier; the USS Ford (CVN 78). During sea trials the Ford used EMALS heavily, as would be the case in combat and training operations. Under intense use EMALS proved to be less reliable than the older steam catapult, more labor intensive to operate, put more stress on launched aircraft than expected and due to a basic design flaw if one EMALS catapult becomes inoperable, the other three catapults cannot be used in the meantime as was the case with steam catapults.



Some of the problems with EMALS were of the sort that could be fixed while the new ship was in service. That included tweaking EMALS operation to generate less stress on aircraft and modifying design of EMALS and reorganizing how sailors use the system to attain the smaller number of personnel required for catapult operations. But the fatal flaws involved reliability. An EMALS catapult was supposed to have a breakdown every 4,100 launches but in heavy use EMALS failed every 400 launches. The killer here was that when one EMALS catapult went down all four were inoperable. With steam catapults when one went down the other three could continue to operate.

Moreover it would cost over half a billion dollars to remove EMALS and install the older steam catapults. This would also take up to several years and lead to many other internal changes. The navy is now considering bringing a recently retired carrier back to active service as a stopgap because whatever the fix is it will not be quick or cheap.

This EMALS disaster was avoidable and the problems should have been detected and taken care of before the Ford was on sea trials.

. . .

The EMALS disaster calls into question the ability of the navy to handle new, untried, technologies. That is not a new problem and has been around since World War II. In retrospect not enough was done to test and address what are now obvious problems. The current solution is to delay the moment of truth as long as possible and then conclude that it was unclear exactly how it happened but that measures would be taken to see that it never happen again. That approach is wearing thin because more people are well aware that is just a cover for the corruption and mismanagement that has been developing within the industries that build warships.

There's more at the link.  What's more, EMALS isn't the only problem with the ship.  You'll find a list of some of the more important defects here.  Together, they'll probably cost billions to fix - billions of our taxpayer money.

I don't know what the heck is wrong with the US Navy's procurement process, but it's clearly in a mess.  The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program has been derisively renamed 'Little Crappy Ships', in tribute to the endless problems that continue to plague it;  the San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ships took years to get right, particularly the lead ship;  and maintenance has been shelved or postponed for far too long due to budgetary pressures, resulting in a multi-year backlog.  These and other problems led to a recent headline claiming bluntly that 'The US Navy is screwed'.  The problems with USS Ford are merely another symptom of that reality.

Speaking as a taxpayer, I want to know why multiple heads responsible for these fiascos have not rolled.  If President Trump wants to 'drain the swamp', the Pentagon - and Navy procurement bureaucrats in particular - might be good places to begin.




Peter

Rappelling to get away from a high-rise fire?


I found an article over at FerFal's place, discussing rappelling (a.k.a. abseiling) as an escape technique from a fire in a high-rise building.  It's obviously prompted by the Grenfell tower fire in London earlier this month.  I visit Ferfal's blog regularly, and mostly like what he has to say;  but, in this case, I must respectfully disagree with his advice.

In the first place, here's what the tower looked like as it burned. Look at the flames spurting out of windows all around the building, and the burning insulation (cladding) around the concrete.





Now, imagine dropping a rappelling rope (usually of kernmantle design, made of nylon and/or other synthetic fibers that are flammable) down the side of that building.  What are your chances that the rope will not catch fire?  I'd say slim to none.  Even if it doesn't, what are your chances of rappelling down the side of the structure, safely and uninjured, with so many flames reaching out at you?  Again, I'd say slim to none.  Even if you start down a side of the building that isn't visibly on fire, what guarantee is there that it won't catch fire while you're on the way down?

There's also human nature.  If you're trapped in an apartment, and you suddenly see a rope dropped past your window or balcony, aren't you very likely to seize it and try to climb down it yourself?  Unfortunately, if you're not fit or strong enough, or adequately trained in rope climbing techniques, to take advantage of it, you're unlikely to reach safety by using it;  and, in the process, you're likely to overstress the rope's weight limit (remember, the person who dropped it will also be using it, higher up the building).  Put too much weight on the rope, and it'll probably snap.  Even if it doesn't, the point on the building to which it's anchored may not be able to take the added weight, and might give way.  I'd say many people trapped in a burning building will behave like that, making escape problematic, to say the least.

There's also the need, not just for training, but for ongoing familiarization.  Training in rappelling techniques is widely available, sure enough;  but like any specialized skill, it takes ongoing practice to remain useful.  If you learn how to rappel, but never practice it after that, how much good will that be in a building fire five years later?  Will you remember it well enough to get to the ground in safety?  More to the point, what about your kids?  You may have learned to rappel as a solo climber, or with your partner;  but if you now have one or two small children, have you ever practiced harnessing them to your body, so you can get them to safety as well?  I'd say the odds of that are vanishingly small.

Some (particularly after the 9/11 attacks) have spoken of using a parachute to escape a high-rise building.  They're available, but their use raises at least five issues.  The first is that parachutes, like rappelling, require training and ongoing practice to use effectively.  Next, there's the the proximity of other buildings.  If yours is in a cluster of them, such as a city center, there isn't going to be a lot of empty space for your jump.  The odds of colliding with another building, or getting your parachute caught on an obstruction like a protruding flagpole or fire escape, or hitting power lines or telephone wires on the way down, are pretty high.  Third, the wind in such an environment can be fluky.  It can vary in strength, direction, etc. as it's funneled between the buildings.  That's going to affect the behavior of your parachute.  So will the fourth issue;  updrafts caused by the heat of the fire.  They've been measured at over two thousand feet per minute - a nightmarish prospect.  Winds or updrafts may carry you back against - or even inside - the burning building from which you've just jumped.  Finally, parachutes, like climbing ropes, are made of synthetic materials.  They're not fireproof.  If you have to jump through or past flames to get off the building, and/or your parachute canopy happens to collide with a piece of burning debris, floating in the air (and there are usually a lot of them in a fire like that - just look at video clips to see them for yourself), it may catch fire.  If it does, you're going to drop like a stone.  On balance, I'd say that parachutes aren't a viable means of escape for anyone except trained, experienced sky-divers, and even they will have serious problems in such an environment.

On balance, I think the recommendations I gave in my first article on this tragedy still hold good.  Live as low in the building as you can arrange;  get out as fast as you can, as soon as the warning is received;  have flashlights, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment to hand, so that you can use them to aid in your escape;  and don't rely on emergency services to get you out.  They'll doubtless do their best . . . but they can't perform miracles.

At the time of writing, the death toll in the Grenfell fire stands at 79.  Many of them trusted 'official guidelines', and stayed put, waiting for a rescue that never came.  Don't make that mistake.

Peter

Thursday, June 22, 2017

YAY! Lawdog's book is almost ready!


I'm delighted to hear that Lawdog's first book is scheduled for publication next month.  Miss D. and I have been part of the cheerleading squad urging him to write it, so it's great to know it's about to happen.

Those of you attending LibertyCon at the end of this month may be able to meet him there, if his work schedule permits, and ask him more about it.

Peter

Black culture, viewed through the filter of extremism


Following my previous post, in which a black activist urges his comrades to "Let. [Whites]. F***ing. Die.", I thought it might be worth posting a link to Fred Reed's misgivings about black culture.  Let me say at once that I don't believe what he says applies to all black culture - far from it!  However, I think it does apply to a lot of extremist 'ghetto culture', as found in many inner cities in the USA.  In particular, I think it applies to the so-called 'rap culture', and to activists such as the one quoted in my previous post.

Here's the core of Fred's argument.

Nothing worked and nothing is going to work. There is clarity in this realization, a clarity to admitting what is actually happening. It avoids tortured reasoning to show  that the dysfunction of blacks is due to anything and everything but blacks themselves. One need not make endless excuses for endless bad behavior, for the crime and dependency, the racial attacks, and the degradation of society.

The culture of the ghetto opposes everything usually believed proper in an advanced  society: high academic standards, equality of opportunity, good English, minimal obscenity, equality under the law, low rates of crime, reasonable self-reliance, freedom of speech. Black culture, intensely racist, encourages none of these and opposes most. It is tribal, based on identity, instead of principle.

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading in full.

As I said earlier, I don't believe Fred's argument applies to a large segment of the black community;  but I've seen at first hand how accurate it is when discussing many inner-city 'ghetto culture' black neighborhoods.  I've worked in such communities in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles and elsewhere.  It's hard to call Fred wrong when one is surrounded by institutionalized helplessness.  (If you don't believe me, see movies such as " Get Rich or Die Tryin' ", or "Straight Outta Compton".

Peter

A black radical puts whites in their place . . .


. . . or so he thinks.  Here's an excerpt.

What I propose will certainly have most white/cisgender/heterosexuals who practice bigotry (or do not believe they practice bigotry even when they do) up in their outrageous feelings because they have become accustomed to our worship, rely on our fealty, and receive sustenance from our sacrifice. They want us as Django Unchained’s Stephen, infinitely and perpetually servile, or as the punchline to their malicious humor, laughing along with them.

Our indifference to their well-being is the only thing that terrifies them.

So:

If you see them drowning.

If you see them in a burning building.

If they are teetering on the edge of a cliff.

If their ships are sinking.

If their planes are crashing.

If their cars are skidding.

If they are overdosing.

If their hearts have tellingly arrested.

If they are choking in a restaurant.

If they are bleeding out in an emergency room.

If the ground is crumbling beneath them.

If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other:

Do nothing.

Least of all put your life on the line for theirs, and do not dare think doing so, putting your life on the line for theirs, gives you reason or cause to feel celestial.

Saving the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous.

Let. Them. F***ing. Die.

And smile a bit when you do.

For you have done the universe a great service.

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to bigots.

There's more at the link.

I do strongly recommend reading the article in full.  I'm pleased that such attitudes are openly expressed like this.  It allows the rest of us to know who our enemies are.

If you know, or encounter, people who approve of such sentiments, or express them . . . make a mental note, and - in the event of social unrest - take appropriate precautions against them.

Peter

So, when does the Clinton Foundation investigation start?


It seems to me, with all the feverish enthusiasm in certain quarters of Congress and the Senate to investigate President Trump ad nauseam, that it's time to return the favor.  When does the investigation start into the Clinton Foundation and the many, many allegations of corruption against it over the years?  I'm sure you remember them.  For example:

There appears to be a whole lot more (and more convincing) evidence against the Clinton Foundation than against President Trump.  That being the case, why isn't it being investigated just as enthusiastically - and as vindictively?

I note, too, that private investigators are uncovering a great deal of material that should, I think, be far more widely publicized . . . but the mainstream media are almost completely ignoring it.  For example, consider the work of Charles Ortel.  Last year he wrote:

State, federal, and foreign laws bar public charities from being run for private gain in interstate commerce—which means, by using the mail, telephones or the internet. The Clinton Foundation’s complex operations (it is not just one entity but a web of them) do not comply with this requirement. Nor does the Clinton Foundation ever seem to have submitted its financial records to an independent, properly certified audit by a qualified accounting firm.

Overall I consider the Clinton Foundation to be a charity fraud network.

There's more at the link, and in other entries on his Web site.  He's just one of those who've been digging for dirt about the Clinton Foundation.  Most of those doing the digging appear to have found what they were looking for.

Isn't it time we hauled all that data out into the light, and figured out how much of it is real, and how much is political smoke and mirrors?  After all, if we're doing that with the allegations concerning President Trump, isn't it only fair and even-handed to do it to the other side as well?  (Yes, yes, I know - naive question - but one can still ask it, no?)

Peter

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Ohio ... will see 10,000 overdoses [resulting in death] by the end of 2017"


That's the forecast from a coroner in that state.  (A tip o' the hat to Tamara for linking to the article.)

Overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 — they now claim more lives than car crashes, gun deaths and the AIDS virus did at their peaks.

In Ohio, it has sent the death toll surging. According to data from the Montgomery County coroner, 365 people died of drug overdoses from January through and May of this year; 371 people died of such causes in all of last year.

On any given day, Montgomery County sheriff's deputies respond to multiple overdose calls and are equipped with Narcan, or naloxone, a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of a drug overdose.

Each deputy carries two doses, but that isn't always enough to save lives. One deputy said that more than 20 doses were needed to revive a recent victim and that victims often don't survive.

The death toll has overwhelmed the coroner, who tests for more than two dozen varieties of fentanyl during autopsies, and the county morgue's body cooler is consistently filled with overdose victims.

Coroner Kent Harshbarger estimates that ... the state will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017 — more than were recorded in the entire United States in 1990.

There's more at the link.

That's an absolutely ghastly statistic . . . but in all honesty, what effective means are there to change it?  Prohibition has manifestly not worked.  Since the so-called 'War on Drugs' kicked off in 1971, illegal and prescription narcotics have become much more prevalent, and much easier to get, than ever before.  The 'War on Drugs' has ended in defeat, whether officials like to admit it or not - so why continue it?  Einstein famously defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  By that standard, the 'War on Drugs' is insane.  Period.

Of course, there's another side to the 'War on Drugs' - it makes it much harder for those of us who need prescription narcotics (including yours truly) to get them.  Restrictions on the legitimate prescribing of such drugs have made it more and more onerous and expensive for us to obtain them.  I wrote some years ago about the problems involved in getting them in Tennessee.  Texas is a bit easier, but I still have to see the doctor every three months to get my prescription renewed - and hand over a co-payment every time.  I'm fortunate, because I can afford that;  but I know others who need their prescriptions just as badly as I do, but can't afford such repeated doctor visits.  We have the 'War on Drugs' to thank for that.

I've seen the effect of prolonged drug use on the convicts with whom I worked as a prison chaplain.  Those of you who've read my memoir of those years will recall the self-proclaimed 'Sam the Sex God', who'd fried his brain on PCP when he was a teenager, and now had little or no control over his emotions or feelings.  He was far from alone.  I shudder to think how many there are like him in our prisons - and how many who are not in prison, but walking the streets, with a potentially very dangerous lack of self-control.

From a humane, moral and ethical standpoint, I simply can't recommend letting addicts die of their overdoses, rather than bring them back with Narcan . . . but from a practical standpoint, a number of law enforcement officers with whom I've spoken about the problem have no qualms about recommending such an approach.  One told me that he'd 'jump-started' (his term) one particular addict no less than seven times in the past month.  "Why should I do it an eighth time?" he demanded.  "All he'll do is go out and steal something else, to pay for the ninth high - and then we'll be off to the races again."  I find it hard to argue against that.

Ten thousand deaths this year, in just one state.  How many more in other states?  How many in the USA as a whole?  How long can this insanity continue?  Is it even remotely possible to stop it - and if so, how?

Your guess is as good as mine . . .

Peter

He should have stayed in prison . . .


. . . rather than be shot by his partner in crime.

James Robert Young Jr., 41, of Macon, had been out on parole for less than 10 months when he was fatally wounded after breaking into a woman’s home at 152 Bradstone Circle.

. . .

Young was trying to carry out a big screen TV and dropped it when the woman yelled at the men and they started to run.

The other man fired a gun back toward the house and hit Young, Davis said.

“I’d much rather see one burglar shoot another burglar than an innocent homeowner,” Davis said.

Young died in the threshold of the woman’s front door, Bibb County Chief Coroner Leon Jones said.

The shooter is still on the run.

. . .

Young has been incarcerated at least five times in Georgia prisons for crimes committed in Bibb County, according to the Department of Corrections website.

There's more at the link.

I'm just waiting for cries from his family and friends of "But he was putting his life back together!" and "He dindu nuffin!"  Despite them, I daresay the taxpayers of Bibb County and Georgia owe a collective vote of thanks to the shooter, for saving them the expense of yet more time behind bars for the late Mr. Young.

Peter


Is there any legal way to overturn this?


I'm infuriated to learn that potential evidence in the alleged interception of communications between some members of President Trump's election team has been placed out of reach of investigators.

The National Security Council cannot hand over records relating to former National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s surveillance of Americans, because they have been moved to the Obama presidential library and may be sealed for as many as five years, conservative watchdog Judicial Watch announced Monday.

. . .

Judicial Watch earlier this year filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for those documents, including of communications between Rice and any intelligence community member or agency regarding any Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers, or any suspected communications between Russia and Trump officials.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the group will seek to find out when the records were moved, and warned of legal actions.

. . .

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has argued Rice had no reason to request the unmaskings. Since then, the House intelligence committee has also subpoenaed the intelligence community for information on unmasking requests by Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

There's more at the link.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this transparently duplicitous maneuver was performed precisely to hide illegal monitoring of President Trump's campaign by the Obama administration.  There is no logical reason whatsoever why unmasking requests by Ms. Rice should form part of President Obama's library.  To place them behind that firewall can only be an attempt to prevent them being used in investigations and (possibly) prosecutions.  No other explanation seems possible.

I hope this can be overturned, and the records made available.  If it can't be done under existing law, then I want Congress and the Senate to change the law to make them accessible.  This maneuver was nothing more or less than an obstruction of justice.  It must be overturned, or the rule of law (what's left of it, at any rate) will become nothing more than a hollow mockery.

Oh - and if the Democratic Party is so hot about investigating everything, I presume they'll put their weight behind obtaining these records as well.  If they don't, all their rhetoric will be exposed as meaningless partisan political hackery . . . not that we don't already know that, of course.




Peter

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

One of the simplest, easiest-to-understand descriptions of inflation I've ever read


Captain Capitalism, whom we've met in these pages before, has a new article about tuition fees.  In the process of explaining why they're so high, he describes inflation in very simple, easy-to-understand terms - probably the clearest description of it that I've ever read.  Anyone with even a Grade 5 or 6 education should be able to grasp it without difficulty.

If you've ever wondered why prices go up all the time, the article will answer your questions.  It'll also demonstrate why the Fed's policy of quantitative easing during the recent financial crisis was so potentially dangerous.  Its effects have not yet made themselves felt in full.

You'll find his article here.  Go read.  It's worth your time.

Peter

Nice flying


Here are a couple of US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II's performing reverse landings aboard the USS America.  A reverse landing is when the aircraft is pointing in the opposite direction to the ship, which is moving forward along its normal course.  Effectively, the Harriers have to fly backwards at the speed of the ship in order to remain stationary relative to their landing position on the deck, and descend while maintaining backwards flight.





Some tricky flying there - but they made it look easy.  Nicely done, guys!

Peter

Doofus Of The Day #963


Today's award goes to a herpetophobic couple in Houston, TX.

A small lizard has been safely relocated after a concerned Houston-area residency called Texas wildlife officials about an alligator above their door.



The nearby residents informed Kroboth that their reptile-squeamish neighbors had "freaked out" about a garden snake the previous week.

There's more at the link.

I've heard of herpetophobia, but this is ridiculous!




Peter

Monday, June 19, 2017

Déja vu all over again?


I see Bernie Sanders is at it again.

Democrats gearing up for a new round of battles against Republican efforts to do away with Barack Obama's signature health care law are condemning a US Senate replacement bill being crafted by Republicans behind closed doors.

Senator Bernie Sanders urged Democrats on Sunday to do "everything they can" to oppose a Republican bill that for weeks has been drafted by party leaders in secret.

"My understanding is that it will be brought forth just immediately before we have to vote on it. This is completely unacceptable," Sanders, an independent who is a member of the Democratic party leadership, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program.

"It seems to me that what they want to do, because this legislation is so bad, is keep it secret, keep it hidden, and in the last possible second rush it before the Senate and get a vote within a few hours. That is beyond belief," Sanders said in a separate interview with CNN.

There's more at the link.

Well . . . dare one suggest that those Republicans have learned a thing or two from another senior Democrat, back when Obamacare was first passed?  In March 2010, Nancy Pelosi infamously opined:

But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

I actually agree with Senator Sanders that what the Republicans are doing is unacceptable.  However, if he's so concerned about it, why didn't he object when the Democrats did precisely and exactly the same thing to pass Obamacare, back in 2010?

Democratic pot, meet Republican kettle.  Kettle, pot.  Sauce, goose, gander.  Wash, rinse and repeat.




Peter

Heh


Received via e-mail from multiple sources yesterday (Father's Day):




'Nuff said.




Peter

Are you interested in reading more?


I wrote last Saturday about the Catholic Church's proposal to excommunicate mafiosi in Italy, and commented that it wouldn't work.  I was challenged in a comment to that article by fellow blogger Dad29 (whom I've known about for years in cyberspace via his blog, and I'm sure he's a sincere, committed Catholic).  He felt that I was being unreasonable in my criticism.  Needless to say, I see things differently;  but that's only to be expected, I suppose, given our respective backgrounds.

I'm thinking about posting an article (or a series of articles) analyzing precisely where (and why) I see the Catholic Church as having gone wrong, and failed its members very badly, in recent decades, culminating in the clergy child sex abuse scandal.  I may be unusually well placed to do so, having been an 'insider' at the time, and also being well schooled (at post-graduate level) in organizational behavior and organization development before becoming a clergyman.  Added to that, I have a lot of real-world experience in different organizations and environments.  I think that combination gives me a much broader background than most commentators on the issue, and also a lot of relevant education and experience from which to analyze the issues involved.

The question is, would I be wasting my breath?  Would you, my readers, be interested in learning more about the subject, or would it be boring and uninteresting to you?  I'd like to know before I invest a lot of time and energy in writing about it.  Please let me know in Comments, yea or nay.

Thanks!

Peter

EDITED TO ADD: Apart from those who left comments below (for which, thank you very much), I've had a number of e-mails from readers on this topic. There's a lot to think about, particularly how to frame and structure the matter so as to shed light rather than heat (I really don't want to do anything to damage anyone's faith). I'm going to give it some more thought. I may end up writing a short book-length treatment, rather than just a blog article or two, and go into a lot more detail - but again, I have to be sure it won't cause more harm than good. We'll see.

Terror, counter-terror . . . dystopia?


So, the inevitable has happened.  After several incidents of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in the UK, it appears that an incident of counter-terror, directed against Muslims in that country, has now occurred.

One man has died and 10 others were injured when a van was rammed into worshippers in a terror attack near a London mosque, before the driver is said to have screamed: "I'm going to kill all Muslims".

The van driver - described by witnesses as a large white man - was detained by members of the public after the incident in Finsbury Park early on Monday that police said had "all the hallmarks of terrorism".

There's more at the link.

Let's be honest here.  The response of the UK authorities to the initial incidents of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism was pathetic.  Sure, police swarmed the streets, and there were all sorts of emotional responses (up to and including concerts to benefit the victims), but none of them addressed the real problem - that there are tens of thousands of potential terrorists in Britain, who are there because the government of that nation deliberately allowed them to enter, and allowed their ideology to be propagated unchecked.

By now it's too late to address that problem.  The authorities would find it almost impossibly difficult to trace and deport all of those tens of thousands of radicalized Muslims;  and even if they could, existing laws would prevent them from doing so on the grounds of 'human rights' or other current hot-button buzz-words.  Besides, if they were to be deported, who would take them?  Many of their countries of origin are only too happy to have got rid of potential terrorists.  They don't want them back.  Furthermore, many of the radicalized were born in Britain.  They have no other homeland to which to return.

The authorities won't admit it's their fault, of course.  They'll claim that no-one could have foreseen the extent of the problem when previous generations of politicians allowed mass immigration, virtually unchecked.  They ignore the crystal-clear vision and explicit warning delivered by the late Enoch Powell.  His so-called 'rivers of blood' speech in 1968 was widely derided and rejected at the time, but his views have proved to be prescient.  Here are a few excerpts.

In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London ... Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase.

. . .

We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.

. . .

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word “integration.” To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members ... to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.

We are on the verge here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population – that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate.

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population.

The full text of Mr. Powell's speech can be found here.

Nearly two decades after his death, in 2015, his friend Simon Heffer pointed out:

[David Cameron] is but the latest prime minister to have paid lip-service to the warped ideal of multiculturalism, and all that entails. In case one is unsure what it does entail, let us run through the card. It is an idea that the cultures and values of new, minority communities are the equivalent of the majority ones.

It means the majority culture may not expect those from minority cultures to abide by majority ways. It carries with it an expectation to tolerate attitudes that the majority reject, such as towards women and those professing other faiths. And it abjures interference in those minority cultures, for fears of accusations of racism. That last fetish has paralysed sensible response to multiculturalism for decades, and continues to stop any senior politician giving the right lead today.

. . .

It was not Powell who made this discussion impossible: it was the fear of generations of politicians since him to state the bleeding obvious, that there was a group within Britain’s community of predominantly decent, law-abiding and highly civilised Muslims who were determined to impose a primitivism and savagery first on their co-religionists and then, if they could, on the rest of society.

To refuse to tolerate that was not racism, it was common sense and an appeal for reason and decency; to use what Powell had said as an excuse for doing nothing was simply the expression of a desire for a quiet life.

. . .

If you seek the monument of Powell’s critics, look about you. We are a prosperous, decent country that normally embraces many faiths and outlooks within a strong common culture. Yet we have this malignancy eating away at a part of us: and our political class still fears to take the lead necessary to deal with it.

Again, more at the link.

Since the British government and its security authorities have flatly refused to do anything meaningful about the problem of terrorism that has taken root in their midst, it's only to be expected that at least some of the people of Britain are now going to take matters into their own hands.  All over the world, in every nation where crime (including terrorism) has become a real and crippling problem, people have taken the law into their own hands in dealing with it.  I saw that at first hand in South Africa.  It's happening today in countries like the Philippines (where President Duterte has actively encouraged ignoring the rule of law in dealing with criminals, and allowed Communist guerrillas to fight alongside his forces against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists), and in Venezuela, where criminals are increasingly receiving 'street justice' rather than handed over to authorities whom no-one trusts any more.  Now, it seems, it's beginning to happen in Britain as well.

I don't expect yesterday's attack to be the last.  After the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, I wrote:

The terrorists haven't thought about it, I'm sure, but they're going to produce a similar and even greater tragedy for their own people than they've inflicted on France.  The reaction from ordinary people like you and I won't be to truly think about the tragedy, to realize that the perpetrators were a very small minority of those who shared their faith, extremists who deserve the ultimate penalty as soon as it can be administered.  No.  The ordinary man and woman on the streets of France is going to wake up today hating all Muslims.  He or she will blame them all for the actions of a few, and will react to all of them as if they were all equally guilty.

One can't blame people for such attitudes.  When one simply can't tell whether or not an individual Muslim is also a terrorist fundamentalist, the only safety lies in treating all of them as if they presented that danger.  That's what the French people are going to do now.  That's what ordinary people all across Europe are going to do now, irrespective of whatever their politicians tell them.  Their politicians are protected in secure premises by armed guards.  They aren't.  Their survival is of more immediate concern;  so they're doing to do whatever they have to do to improve the odds in their favor.  If that means ostracizing Muslims, ghettoizing them, even using preemptive violence against them to force them off the streets . . . they're going to do it.

I've written before about how blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is disingenuous and inexcusable.  I still believe that . . . but events have overtaken rationality.  People are going to start relating to 'Muslims' rather than to 'human beings', just as the extremists label all non-Muslims as 'kaffirs' or 'kufars' - unbelievers - rather than as human beings.  For the average man in a European street, a Muslim will no longer be a 'person'.  He's simply a Muslim, a label, a 'thing'.  He's no longer French, or American, or British, no matter what his passport says.  He's an 'other'.  He's 'one of them' . . . and because of that, he's no longer 'one of us'.  He's automatically defined - no, let's rather say (because it's easier to blame him) that he's defined himself - as a potential threat, merely by the religion he espouses.  He may have been born into it, and raised in a family and society and culture so saturated with it as to make it literally impossible, inconceivable, for him to be anything else . . . but that doesn't matter.  It's his choice to be Muslim, therefore he must take the consequences.  We're going to treat him with the same suspicion and exaggerated caution that we would a live, possibly armed hand-grenade.  He's asked for it, so we're going to give it to him.

More at the link.

I think that's at the root of last night's attack.  As Newton posited, 'every action begets an equal and opposite reaction'.  Terror provokes counter-terror.  It's as sure and certain as the dawn.  It's been that way throughout human history . . . and we haven't changed.

In the end, society will either sort out its terror problem, or the whole of society will become dominated by terror.  That way lies dystopia . . . and I really don't want to live in a dystopian nightmare.

Peter

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday morning music


Let's have something different this morning.  Here's French composer François-Adrien Boieldieu's Harp Concerto in C, dating back to 1800-1801.  In this performance, the Lake Sumter Chamber Orchestra is directed by Pasquale Valerio.  The soloist is Elizabeth Hainen.





Peter

Saturday, June 17, 2017

If you've already abdicated moral authority, what's the good of threatening to use it?


I'm cynically amused at the latest news concerning the Mafia in Italy.

The Vatican is looking to develop a new doctrine that calls for excommunicating Catholics for mafia association and corruption.

That's the decision reached this week after the Vatican hosted its first-ever conference on fighting corruption and organized crime.

There's more at the link.

The Mafia has been going strong in Italy for a couple of centuries, despite active opposition from official, legal and Church circles.  If that had no effect on its bosses over such a long period of time, what makes the Vatican think that excommunication will produce better results?

There's also the little point that, while priests who perpetrated sexual abuse on children have been defrocked in many (but not all) cases, the administrators and Bishops who appointed them, and in many cases simply transferred them instead of disciplining them, mostly got off scot-free, despite being accessories to the crime of child abuse, often both before and after the fact.  So much for the Church's moral authority.  It no longer exists for many people . . . so what makes the Church think that mafiosi, many of whom are far more corrupt and evil than the average child molester, will think twice about defying its latest edicts?

No.  Like the much-touted measures against child abuse enacted by the US Catholic bishops, this is pious window-dressing, nothing more.  It will achieve nothing, except to let befuddled Church bureaucrats congratulate themselves that they've "done something".  Same old, same old.




Peter

Food as a means to inspire national unity?


I was very interested to read an account of how Israel used food as a means to inspire national unity, and reconcile different groups to a common sense of identity.  Here's an excerpt.

One of the biggest shocks for many foreign visitors to Israel is the lack of familiar Jewish cuisine. Where are the smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese at breakfast? What about the delis that define Jewish cuisine from Montreal to Los Angeles? Or the kugel (a casserole made from egg noodles or potato), gefilte fish (an appetizer made from poached fish) and matzoh ball soup served at Jewish tables around the world? Time Out Tel Aviv even has a section entitled ‘Where to find the best Jewish food in Tel Aviv’, and the few cafes that do sell Ashkenazi food (like Eva’s) typically emblazon their menus and awnings with the label ‘Jewish food’, something you would never see at a neighbourhood shawarma joint. These are strong indicators of just how spare this kind of cuisine is here.

In reality, Israeli cuisine has long been more closely associated with its immediate environment, a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern traditions and ingredients. The early Zionists eagerly adopted Palestinian dishes, such as falafel, hummus, and shawarma, while in recent years Israelis have developed a more diversified palate. Still, ‘Jewish food’ remains scarce. But very few visitors know the reasons behind the dearth of it in Israel: despite the fact that the early settlers were mostly Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, they forsook traditional Jewish food both because of scarcity but also in deliberate service to the formation of a new national narrative.

. . .

Early adherents to the Zionist project, committed to creating a Jewish state in the territory now known as Israel, sought to abandon vestiges of their past. Just as the European settlers favoured Hebrew over Yiddish and khakis over frock coats and homburgs, they also purposefully chose to eat indigenous foods over Ashkenazi ones. “Many of the first Ashkenazi Jews who came here, the ideological pioneers, were interested in cutting off their roots from the past and emphasizing the newness of the Zionist project,” explained Shaul Stampfer, professor of Soviet and East European Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “One of the ways of doing that [was] through the food.”

The adoption of indigenous food lent the early European implants an air of authenticity. The production of local ingredients – the things that grew well in the desert and along the Mediterranean coastline, and the many dishes adapted from Arab kitchens – became part of the Zionist narrative. Advertisements at the time implored the population to eat locally grown ‘Hebrew watermelons’. The Jewish people had returned to Zion and had the diet to prove it.

Later, as Jewish immigrants from Morocco to Ethiopia began piling in, each with their own unique style of cooking, the creation [of] a national cuisine became ever more important. “They were grappling with people from different cultures and traditions and it was a challenge to convince them that they belonged together,” said Yael Raviv, author of Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel. “They had to use everything and anything to forge this unified nation. Food is so tied to Jewish heritage, laws of kashrut [kosher dietary rules], and the Israeli economy is really driven by agriculture – so it became a very effective tool because it could be used in these various ways.”

There's more at the link.

I must admit, I wouldn't have thought of deliberately using food as a tool to foster national pride and patriotism!  Intrigued, I looked for the book mentioned in the text.




From the blurb:

Yael Raviv’s Falafel Nation moves beyond the simply territorial to divulge the role food plays in the Jewish nation. She ponders the power struggles, moral dilemmas, and religious and ideological affiliations of the different ethnic groups that make up the “Jewish State” and how they relate to the gastronomy of the region.

. . .

Focusing on the period between the 1905 immigration wave and the Six-Day War in 1967, Raviv explores foodways from the field, factory, market, and kitchen to the table. She incorporates the role of women, ethnic groups, and different generations into the story of Zionism and offers new assertions from a secular-foodie perspective on the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. A study of the changes in food practices and in attitudes toward food and cooking, Falafel Nation explains how the change in the relationship between Israelis and their food mirrors the search for a definition of modern Jewish nationalism.

I'm reading the book at present.  It certainly presents a new perspective on how food not only is already an instrument of cultural expression, but can be used as a deliberate tool to redefine, reinvent and propagate a different culture.

I couldn't help comparing the Israeli experience to the foods eaten in different regions, and by different groups, across the United States.  It's intriguing - and amusing - to ponder whether:
we might not accomplish greater cultural unity here too!

(On the other hand, I remember introducing my wife to one of my favorite South African curries . . . not nearly as successful as felafel, I fear.  The heat nearly cooked her from the inside out!)




Peter

Friday, June 16, 2017

Machete versus shotgun - and the machete wins


Today's lesson:  if you want to play the tough guy, make sure you don't take on a really tough guy!

A machete-wielding homeowner confronted three would-be robbers early Thursday morning [in Sarasota, FL], holding one of them for deputies and chasing the others off in a dramatic melee that was caught on surveillance video.

. . .

The home’s surveillance video shows the hooded men burst onto the porch waving a shotgun, machete, and a crowbar.  One of the residents disappears out of view, then returns waving his own machete as the suspects scramble.  Before long, the suspects are scrambling over the fence as other residents and even a small dog chase them around.

The residents disarmed one of the suspects, later identified as Alen Beltran-Vazquez, and held him until deputies arrived.  Deputies soon caught up with the two other would-be robbers in their suspected getaway car at a nearby gas station, along with two more suspects.

There's more at the link.  Here's security camera footage of the encounter.





I don't know whether the shotgun was loaded or not, but the thug holding it certainly didn't use it to any worthwhile effect.  I wonder if the cops and/or the court will let the homeowner keep it as a souvenir of the occasion?




Peter

Reflections on Texas small town life


1.  It's good to live in a town where our contractor, putting up a privacy fence around our newly extended back yard, can leave his trailer parked outside it overnight, with materials and tools in the back, in the confident expectation that everything will be as he left it in the morning.  Petty theft isn't something anyone worries about around here.

2.  It's rather nice to live in a small town where people get to know you.  To get cheery waves while walking or driving down the street, along with a "Hello!" and a smile, is very pleasant.  (Sometimes you'll get those from perfect strangers, too!)  So is walking into the post office, or the bank, or a local store, and being greeted by name.

3.  It's fun to be told by the mailman that "You've won the Amazon prize this week" for the most parcels delivered from that vendor to a local address.  (Said, I might add, with a friendly grimace through a layer of perspiration, as he lugs the latest batch of boxes to our door.  Hey, northern Texas in high summer is hot.  What can I say?)

4.  It's amusing to watch local cyclists training in preparation for the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred race, held in Wichita Falls at the end of August.  The name describes the race very well:  100 miles through high summer heat, usually around 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) or even more.  Locals giggle at the more dedicated cyclists as they go rushing past them, Spandex dripping with sweat - and sometimes running smack into the rear of vehicles ahead of them, because the riders have their heads down and aren't watching for road hazards.  I think it's the local version of light entertainment!  Whizz . . . zip . . . whoosh . . . CRUNCH!  "Thar goes another 'un!  You gotta new dent in your tailgate, buddy!"




Peter

If you're coming to LibertyCon at the end of June . . .


. . . you need to check and confirm your hotel booking ASAP.

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel (the venue for the convention) has installed a new booking system, and the LibertyCon organizers advised that we check our reservation.  Lo and behold, it wasn't in the new system!  We've fixed that, so we're OK for now, but I suspect that folks who don't check in advance may find themselves short of a room when they arrive.  (Some have been moved to the Marriott hotel downtown, as the Choo-Choo has converted one of its blocks to condos.)

If you're coming to the con, please get in touch with the Choo-Choo and confirm your reservation ASAP.  If there are any problems you can't resolve with them, please contact LibertyCon immediately.

Peter

Terrorists are being beaten back in Nigeria


While most news articles focus on the woes of ISIL in Syria, let's not forget that Boko Haram, Nigeria's home-grown fundamentalist Islamic terrorist movement, formally declared its allegiance to ISIL a couple of years ago - which led to a split in the organization.  It looks as if it's having as many problems in Nigeria as ISIL is having in the Middle East.  StrategyPage reports:

The Boko Haram split began in August 2016 when ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) announced that it was replacing Shekau, who was accused of mismanagement, with Abu Musab al Barnawi. ISIL believed Shekau devoted too much effort to killing fellow Moslems (especially civilians) rather than the real enemies of ISIL (local security forces and non-Moslems in general). ISIL leadership was also unhappy with the Boko Haram use of children and women as suicide bombers. That has become an issue in Nigeria because the use of children as suicide bombers has tripled this year (27 in the first three months of 2017 compared to nine in 2016). While the new Boko Haram leader has concentrated attacks on the security forces and non-Moslems he has also used children, especially females, as suicide bombers. Barnawi is a son of Mohammed Yusuf, one of the ISIL founders. Barnawi was appointed chief Boko Haram spokesman in January 2015. Although Barnawi has developed a following in Boko Haram Shekau refused to accept the ISIL decision.

Boko Haram is now split into competing factions which is nothing new as there have always been some factions, but not to this extent. At this point many Boko Haram loyalists regret the 2015 decision to become part of ISIL, which was believed to be an effort to avoid a split in Boko Haram as more radical members declared themselves followers of ISIL or even tried to go to Syria to join ISIL. Few African Islamic terrorists have done that, largely because of the cost and difficulty travelling from Africa to areas where ISIL is (or was) dominant. But in many parts of the world older Islamic terror organizations are fracturing because their more enthusiastic members prefer the ISIL style of ultra-violence.

. . .

In many parts of the northeast (mainly Borno state) ravaged by Boko Haram violence local civilian militias have been the key element keeping the Islamic terrorists from winning or, at this point, rebuilding ... Officially called the Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force or CJTF). There are about 30,000 CJTF volunteers and most are now armed. About two percent of those who joined CJTF have been killed and many more have been wounded or injured while on duty. In effect, about ten percent of the CJTF men have been injured. But the soldiers respect them, the local civilians depend on and support them while Boko Haram has come to fear them.

. . .

By the end of 2014 some CJTF groups were launching attacks on Boko Haram, and usually winning because they knew the area and people better and often were able to launch a surprise attack at night. A major factor in this was that in the more remote areas, like near the Sambisa Forest, the CJTF groups contained a lot of local hunters. These men are professional hunters who thrive in rural areas where there is a lot more game than people. CJTF first demonstrated to the army the skills of local hunters who tracked game for a living. The army noted that the success of CJTF attack units was largely the result of local hunters. Soon the army began to hire some of the hunters who were exceptional trackers as well as offering bounties if they could track down certain Boko Haram men or groups.

There's more at the link.

I submit it's important to keep an eye on what's happening with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism all over the world, because it's likely to draw in US forces to a greater or lesser extent as it develops.  As ISIL is being beaten back in Syria and Iraq, it's sending its forces back to the parts of the world they originally came from, and encouraging them to set up local ISIL 'branches' and continue their terrorist activities there.  We saw that in the Philippines last month, where ISIL motivated local Muslim fundamentalists to try to take over an entire city (a situation which has still not been resolved).  Nigeria is another flashpoint, one that may still blow up in new and deadly ways as ISIL sends more resources that way.  So is Yemen, where Iran (nominally an enemy of ISIL, but which allows the latter to operate from its territory into Afghanistan) has whipped up a full-blown civil war.

Modern fundamentalist Islamic terrorism may have had its roots in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, but its tentacles have spread to many countries since then, and it shows no signs of slacking off.  ISIL's latest calls to its members and sympathizers to attack Western European nations and civilians are merely the latest episode in an ongoing war of attrition.  We'll do well to keep an eye on what's going on around the world, to see from where the next wave of terror may spread outwards to create fresh mischief and mayhem, as 'refugees' from those areas arrive on our shores to claim 'asylum'.  There are already thousands of them in European nations.  If you think that won't happen here, too . . . think again.

Peter