Thursday, December 31, 2015
2015 is almost over. I can't say I'll miss it. It hasn't been a great year for us, although we're very thankful to have overcome health hassles and be back on track after their disruption. 2016 offers us a host of new challenges, moving to Texas during January, then settling in and writing like mad to catch up with my backlog.
Thank you all for tagging along on this blog during 2015, and particularly to all of you who've bought and read my books. Thank you for helping me to earn a living once more, standing on my own financial feet instead of having to depend on disability income. That means a very great deal to me, and I'm very grateful to you all.
I'm sure the New Year will offer new challenges and opportunities to all of us. My best wishes and blessings to all of you in all of them.
You may remember that a few weeks ago, I put up a post about a Japanese company that's making wrapped chocolate slices, just like cheese slices.
It seems reader Scott K. took pity on me, and on Miss D. He's just returned from a trip to Japan. Guess what he brought back, and mailed to us when he got home?
Thank you so much, Scott! That was very thoughtful of you. The chocolate slices taste delicious on fresh sourdough bread. (You've ruined our diet for today, but we forgive you!)
My sister sent me a link to this Facebook post by Chris Bassett, who's Chaplain of the Deputy Joint Forces Headquarters of the Washington National Guard, and also Chaplain to the Bonney Lake Police Department and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Those of you who aren't Christian probably won't find much in it to interest you, but I hope those who are will appreciate his points.
We live in difficult and confusing times. Have you noticed?
We are told that we can have Christmas without Christ, which is like having a breath, only without the air.
We are told that police are racist and evil, while we are shown marches in support of known felons who died while attacking the police.
We are told that a cop killing a black criminal is an atrocity, while a dozen blacks killed over a weekend in the inner city by blacks is utterly ignored.
We are told that we cannot criticize the anger and violence of Islam, for fear that we might make them angry and violent.
We are told not to insult Islam's prophet or even draw a picture of him. But a Crucifix in urine, or a portrait of Mary in feces, is art.
We are told that selling baby body parts after destroying the child in utero is not a problem, but homeschooling a child is extremism.
We are told that Muslim truck drivers don't have to deliver alcohol because of their religious beliefs, but Christian bakers and florists must serve and celebrate a gay wedding, regardless of theirs.
We are told that our long-time ally, Israel, is a terrorist state for trying to defend their nation from imminent suicide bombings and mortar and rocket attacks on their inner cities - all while we bomb nations that MAY pose a threat to us by suicide bombings and mortar and rocket attacks.
We are told that Israel must cede lands that they won by conquest, which give them military advantage against their enemies, while their unrepentant enemies continue to plan and publicly espouse Israel's demise.
We are told that we must treat all religions equally, that they are all paths to the same God, yet we deny the very doctrines of those religions that make them mutually and utterly incompatible, and their gods of such vastly different character that the only remaining understanding of God could be that He has multiple personality disorder.
We are told that men of perverse disposition have the right to shower with women and young girls, if they please. But we are told that if you disagree with this, you have no rights to privacy or safety for your children.
We are told that a man who wants to dress like, and even become, a woman, is a hero, while men who set aside their concerns for sex sacrifice themselves on our streets and in foreign lands for the cowards that embrace immorality.
We are told we have a right to free speech. Unless you disagree with the prevailing, liberal oligarchy. And then you will be shouted down, called names and even assaulted by government institutions.
We are told that we can have sex without consequence, and that if we point out the consequences, such as divorce, disease or dysfunction, we are merely old fashioned, out of touch with the times, and possibly sexually repressed.
We are told that marriages are merely contracts, not covenants, and that they are easily disposed when they become inconvenient - much like our children.
We are told that our rights come from government, not from God, and that we can trust the government to protect those rights. Despite thousands of years of historical evidence to the contrary.
We are told that we can spend money in deficit without end, as a government, but if you do that as an individual you'll quickly come to financial ruin. But don't worry, we are told, it won't happen to us. We're too big to fail.
We are told that corporations are evil and control our lives - by the same people who win political office with corporate money.
We are told that the same government who created many of our existing problems will fix those problems, if only you'll give them more money and more power to do so.
We are told that "affordable" health care means that you will have to pay more to afford it and that if you cannot afford it you'll be charged a "fine" for not being able to afford it.
We are told that pharmaceuticals are the answer, even though pharmaceutical companies' most profitable business practice is to create palliatives that actually keep us from the answers.
We are told that we can have a world of true morality without God. Even though without God there is no true morality.
We are told that we are saved merely by being good people. Even though in a god-free society we have no true way of assessing what is "good".
We are told that Jesus was a good, moral teacher, but that he could not be God. Even though His good, moral teachings included claims to be God, making Him either insane or a liar, but not good.
We are told that we can know more about ancient history than the ancients themselves knew, because we can carbon date, make assumptions from archaeological digs, and read their writings with better understanding than they had.
We are told that God is dead, yet we apparently still have to blame Him for every evil under the sun committed by the hands of men.
We are told that a child in a manger cannot save the world, so like Herod, we lash out at all children, all the while saying that we desire to come worship Him. We're told, "It's for the children."
It is a confusing world. That is why I advocate not being a friend of the world or loving any part of its philosophies. In it our thinking becomes futile and our foolish hearts are darkened. There is no capacity for rational thought, in the end, without God. And there is no access to God without Jesus. And there is no knowing Jesus without celebrating the Truth of who He was and is in the Christmas prophecies and the Christmas story.
2000 years ago, the world did not make sense either. But true, pure rationality, along with pure love, came into the world in the form of a baby. Until we acknowledge Him, we will remain confused. Until we acknowledge Him, not only will love be impossible, but so also will simple, rational, logical thought.
If you get nothing else this Christmas, get Jesus. He is the only reason for the season - the only one that makes sense.
I think that says it very well. May all of us take heed in this New Year of grace.
I've been struggling to formulate a rational response - rather than an angry, frustrated "Not again!" - to an op-ed published in the New York Times on Christmas Eve. It was titled 'Dear White America'. Here's an excerpt.
You may have never used the N-word in your life, you may hate the K.K.K., but that does not mean that you don’t harbor racism and benefit from racism. After all, you are part of a system that allows you to walk into stores where you are not followed, where you get to go for a bank loan and your skin does not count against you, where you don’t need to engage in “the talk” that black people and people of color must tell their children when they are confronted by white police officers.
As you reap comfort from being white, we suffer for being black and people of color. But your comfort is linked to our pain and suffering. Just as my comfort in being male is linked to the suffering of women, which makes me sexist, so, too, you are racist. That is the gift that I want you to accept, to embrace. It is a form of knowledge that is taboo. Imagine the impact that the acceptance of this gift might have on you and the world.
Take another deep breath. I know that there are those who will write to me in the comment section with boiling anger, sarcasm, disbelief, denial. There are those who will say, “Yancy is just an angry black man.” There are others who will say, “Why isn’t Yancy telling black people to be honest about the violence in their own black neighborhoods?” Or, “How can Yancy say that all white people are racists?” If you are saying these things, then you’ve already failed to listen. I come with a gift. You’re already rejecting the gift that I have to offer. This letter is about you. Don’t change the conversation. I assure you that so many black people suffering from poverty and joblessness, which is linked to high levels of crime, are painfully aware of the existential toll that they have had to face because they are black and, as Baldwin adds, “for no other reason.”
Some of your white brothers and sisters have made this leap. The legal scholar Stephanie M. Wildman, has written, “I simply believe that no matter how hard I work at not being racist, I still am. Because part of racism is systemic, I benefit from the privilege that I am struggling to see.” And the journalism professor Robert Jensen: “I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. Every time I walk into a store at the same time as a black man and the security guard follows him and leaves me alone to shop, I am benefiting from white privilege.”
. . .
Perhaps the language of this letter will encourage a split — not a split between black and white, but a fissure in your understanding, a space for loving a Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Jones, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald and others. I’m suggesting a form of love that enables you to see the role that you play (even despite your anti-racist actions) in a system that continues to value black lives on the cheap.
There's much more at the link.
I don't have space or time to write a fully detailed rebuttal to this op-ed, but I'd like to hit a few high points.
To start, this entire 'letter' is filled with a Marxist understanding of society - 'race' substituting for 'class', but nevertheless it's fundamentally Marxist. It's a false delineation of the 'fault lines' in society, and it suffers accordingly. I've commented many times that to judge anyone on the basis of their group identity, rather than their individual conduct, is nonsensical. There are good and bad Blacks, Whites or Asians; Australians, Americans or Germans; English-speakers, French-speakers or Russian-speakers; Christians, Hindus or Muslims; and so on. The group cannot predict the behavior, or define the worth, of the individual. A Muslim can be a US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (as one is, of my online acquaintance), or save the life (repeatedly) of a Christian worker for the endangered in society (as one did for me); or he can be a terrorist and a suicide bomber. His religion has little or nothing to do with his individual 'goodness' or 'badness'. The same applies to race. The color of one's skin doesn't determine - or even indicate - whether one's a good or a bad person.
Next, I'd argue that the negative responses of whites to blacks that the author identifies aren't so much based on the color of the black person's skin as they are on the experience of how far too many black people behave. I worked as a prison chaplain in State and Federal institutions for more than a few years. I'm here to tell you, the proportion of black people behind bars (relative to their race as a constituent of American society) is ludicrously high, compared to every other race in this country. I utterly refuse to believe that they're in prison solely because of the color of their skin. They're there because they broke the law. We can argue whether those laws are justifiable or not. We can argue whether the criminal justice system judges blacks more harshly than whites, and allocates longer sentences to the former than to the latter. Those debates are worth having, and I think there's a lot of truth to the questions raised about those issues. Nevertheless, the simple fact remains that in general, one doesn't end up in prison unless one has done something to deserve it.
The cruel, brutal fact of the matter, confirmed by impartial sources such as the FBI's crime statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and others, is that the average black person is statistically several times more likely to commit crimes than the average person of any other race or ethnic group in the USA. It's not racist to say that. It's simple, measurable, empirically verifiable fact, and impartial US government statistics confirm it irrefutably. As a result, the average white person is more suspicious of the average black person, and the average security guard in a store will be more suspicious of a black shopper than a white one. They're not doing it because of racial discrimination, but because of criminal statistics and their experience of what those mean in reality. If the author of this letter and others like him want to see a change in white attitudes towards blacks, I respectfully suggest that the criminal reality I've just highlighted will have to change, and demonstrate sustained, ongoing improvement, before such attitudes will change.
Another problem is that the grievances of many black people have become institutionalized reverse racism, rather than a genuine attempt to address the issues. A well-known example is President Obama's intervention in the case of Professor Henry Gates. The President didn't bother to confirm the actual facts of the matter - he came out with a knee-jerk response citing the "long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately". Many people - including myself - were angered by this 'rush to judgment' without waiting to confirm the evidence of what actually took place.
We're seeing it again in the current 'Black Lives Matter' protests. I agree that there are cases of police shootings that are at best legally dubious, and at worst amount to nothing less than murder under color of law. I agree that those police responsible for such crimes should be tried and punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, what we have today is a 'rush to judgment' where every time a black person is shot by a white policeman, it's automatically assumed that racism was at least a factor in, if not the primary reason for the shooting. This is absolute nonsense, and the 'Black Lives Matter' movement discredits itself every time it does this. Furthermore, I argue that all lives matter, not just black lives. Any time anyone is shot by police, I want the same care, diligence and attention taken in the investigation. To say that the shootings of black people require more careful investigation than those of members of other races or ethnic groups is racist in itself.
Finally, I want to express real sympathy for the author. I understand his frustrations in a way that relatively few white people can or do. I come from a country (South Africa) where to be black was to be oppressed from birth, in a way that few black people in the USA can understand from experience. I've written about it several times before (try this article for a start), and I did my best to work against it. I was (and am) proud and honored to have played a small part in the destruction of the evil that was apartheid. Nevertheless, facts trump feelings. If we're to address the realities of racial friction in the USA (or anywhere else), we need to start with facts and remain firmly rooted in and grounded on reality, not perceptions or interpretations of that reality.
If white people have to take off their rose-colored spectacles to see reality, so, too, black people have to take off their racially charged spectacles and acknowledge that much of what they perceive as racism is, in fact, nothing more than an entirely logical, rational reaction by others to the actual behavior of many members of their race. (For the most recent example, see the closing of a Louisville, KY shopping mall last weekend following a disturbance provoked by well over a thousand people. The media described them simply as 'youths', but photographs and video footage showed very clearly that they were all of one race. Guess which race that was? And guess what reaction their behavior engendered among members of other races who were present at the time?)
If such reactions by whites to blacks were truly caused by racism, they'd be extended to every other racial group as well . . . yet they're not. There's a reason for that. Look for that reason in reality rather than resentment. That's where you'll find it.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
I was amazed to read this report of a visiting giant squid in Japan.
A giant squid that wandered into a Japanese port has been guided back out to sea almost a week after it was spotted, giving enthusiasts and experts a rare glimpse of the mysterious creature.
The massive invertebrate, 12ft in length, was discovered by fishermen on December 24 at a port in the city of Toyama on Japan's northwestern coast.
New footage has emerged showing the squid - known as "Heck" - swimming inside the port, taken by someone looking down from above the water.
The squid was later guided by a diver into deeper seas.
"Its suckers were so strong that I felt some pain," Akinobu Kimura, who runs a dive shop in Toyama, said on TV Asahi.
"Even though I was trying to let it escape (from the port), it wrapped around my body and clung to my arm."
There's more at the link.
Here's video of the diver helping the squid find its way out of the harbor. The animal makes its appearance at about the 35sec. mark.
Darned if I'd want to swim with a critter whose tentacles were longer than I was . . .
Yesterday I put up a list of things that were different 100 years ago. Reader M. M. sent me a link to a USA Today article about how money and costs looked that long ago. Here's an excerpt.
Take-home pay in 2015 vs. 1915. Census Bureau data show that the median household income, measured from 2009 to 2013 (the most recent data available), is $53,046. Back in 1915, two years after income tax came on the scene, you were doing about average if you were making $687 a year, according to the Census. That is, if you were a man. If you were a woman, cut that number by about half. Today, that $687 would be comparable to earning $16,063 a year, according to an inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website. So Americans' buying power has improved considerably in the last century.
Buying a house in 2015 vs. 1915. Today, the median home value in the U.S. is $177,600, according to the Zillow Home Value Index. In 1915, purchasing a house would have typically set you back $3,200, according to Census records.
Buying a car in 2015 vs. 1915. If you buy a car today, expect to pay $31,252 on average, according to August 2014 data from TrueCar.com, a car dealership. In 1915, the journal Motor Age indicated that a typical car's sticker price was $2,005 ($46,879 today).
Filling up your car in 2015 vs. 1915. As of late December, the average price for a regular unleaded gallon of gas was $2.29, according to AAA. In 1915, you would have paid somewhere around 15 cents a gallon. As is the case today, what you paid to fill up depended on your location. For instance, according to a 1917 report by the Federal Trade Commission, if you lived in Massachusetts, you were paying 15 cents a gallon in January 1915 but 23 cents a gallon by December 1915. In California, the rates remained steady, starting off the year at 12 cents a gallon and ending at 14 cents.
There's more at the link.
I suspect the conversion to allow for inflation isn't quite right. I think the article doesn't provide a realistic correlation between prices then and prices now, certainly not when I compare it to resources such as 'The Value of a Dollar' (which I have in my reference shelves). Nevertheless, it's a usable comparison. Also, it can't take into account the added functionality of modern products for which we pay extra. A vehicle in 1915 would have no power assisted steering or brakes, no air-conditioning, no radio (let alone a CD player, MP3 compatibility, or a Bluetooth link to your smartphone), be a lot less comfortable and a lot less safe, and so on. There's no way to factor that into a direct price comparison.
Neighborhood Scout has just published a list of 'the Top 30 Murder Capitals of America' for 2015. It makes interesting reading, particularly if one goes down the list and checks out the party affiliation of the Mayor of each city (which I've just done). From 30th to 1st place, the list reads like this:
30 - Baton Rouge, LA - Mayor Kip Holden (D)
29 - Youngstown, OH - Mayor John McNally IV (D)
28 - San Bernardino, CA - Mayor R. Carey Davis (R)
27 - Oakland, CA - Mayor Libby Schaaf (D)
26 - Barberton, OH - Mayor William Judge (D)
25 - Poughkeepsie, NY - Mayor John C. Tkazyik (R)
24 - Cincinnati, OH - Mayor John Cranley (D)
23 - Petersburg, VA - Mayor W. Howard Myers (D)
22 - Wilmington, DE - Mayor Dennis P. Williams (D)
21 - York, PA - Mayor Kim Bracey (D)
20 - East Palo Alto, CA - Mayor Donna Rutherford (D)
19 - Jackson, MS - Mayor Tony Yarber (D)
18 - Wilkes-Barre, PA - Mayor Thomas M. Leighton (D)
17 - Birmingham, AL - Mayor William A. Bell (D)
16 - East Point, GA - Mayor Jannquell Peters (D)
15 - East Chicago, IN - Mayor Anthony Copeland (D)
14 - Compton, CA - Mayor Aja Brown (D)
13 - Baltimore, MD - Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake (D)
12 - St. Louis, MO - Mayor Francis G. Slay (D)
11 - Harvey, IL - Mayor Eric J. Kellogg (D)
10 - Newark, NJ - Mayor Ras J. Baraka (D)
9 - New Orleans, LA - Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D)
8 - Trenton, NJ - Mayor Eric Jackson (D)
7 - Detroit, MI - Mayor Mike Duggan (D)
6 - Flint, MI - Mayor Karen Weaver (D)
5 - Saginaw, MI - Mayor Dennis Browning
4 - Chester, PA - Mayor John Linder (D)
3 - Gary, IN - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson (D)
2 - Camden, NJ - Mayor Dana Redd (D)
1 - East St. Louis, IL - Mayor Emeka-Jackson Hicks (D)
Notice anything? I did. 28 out of the top 30 'murder capitals' - and all of the top 24 - have mayors who belong to the Democratic Party. They say that correlation is not causation, and in general I agree: but that degree of correlation between the dominant political party in each city, and the crime rate in each city, is hard to explain away, IMHO. Draw your own conclusions.
. . . is still registration - and registration, historically, has usually been the first step towards confiscation. That's why most US gun owners are opposed to it. Nevertheless, with the Obama administration reportedly preparing to require at least some, possibly all, private gun sales to go through the same background check process as dealer sales, we're looking at a de facto registration process. After all, how will law enforcement be able to determine whether or not a background check was conducted before transferring a weapon without being able to check the firearm's serial number against a database of such transfers?
(Yes, I know Congress has mandated that the records of firearm transfers conducted through the NICS instant background check system should be discarded and destroyed within 24 hours . . . but if you believe that a copy isn't being kept somewhere, then I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC that I'd like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills. Do you really think those who seek to exercise ever greater control over us will allow such useful information to be discarded, the intentions of Congress be damned? Consider that the Supreme Court has insisted we have a constitutional right to privacy. Tell that to the US government, why don't you?)
Many firearms owners have gone to great lengths to ensure that their primary defensive battery is not registered or 'papered' to them. They've done so through private purchases; some have also exchanged their own 'papered' weapons at swap meets for similar firearms owned by other individuals, so that both parties now have guns that they didn't buy and aren't recorded as having been transferred to them. I think this has been a worthwhile precaution in the light of attempts by anti-gun forces to impose greater restrictions on the transfer of firearms. If any agency now attempts to interrogate gun owners on the basis of, "You're on record as having bought this firearm, of this make and model, with this serial number, from that dealer on that date. Where is it?", the owner can legitimately answer that he sold it or otherwise disposed of it some time ago. No, he didn't bother to record the name and address of the purchaser, or the date and location of the transaction. He wasn't legally required at the time to record such information, so even if a retroactive requirement to do so is mandated, it won't be practically possible to fulfil it. Too bad. So sad.
I'm also expecting attempts to make it more difficult to buy ammunition in bulk, either over the Internet or at stores, and probably to reimpose magazine capacity restrictions as well. I think the current Administration will probably try to stretch executive powers to the limit in bypassing Congress to impose such restrictions, as well as requirements for the transfer of firearms. I'd normally hope that Congress would balk at such measures and refuse to approve them . . . but after the current majority 'caved' and allowed a disastrously spendthrift budget to pass for the coming fiscal year, I'm not so sure they won't 'cave' again and simply accede to the Administration's plans. It's up to each of us to prepare accordingly.
Gun owners simply have to accept the reality that the majority of the US population now lives in urban and suburban areas, where ideas of freedom and constitutional rights are greatly eroded under the stress of communal living and a necessarily more intrusive local government structure (without which those areas would probably be impossible to govern or run efficiently). That colors their attitude towards firearms as well. The average resident of a liberal/progressive city such as Chicago, or New York, or Boston, probably doesn't attach any great importance to the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Those of us who do are fighting against demographics, trying to maintain the supremacy of constitutional rights against an increasing number of people who believe in majority rule irrespective of what the constitution says. It's going to be an uphill battle, particularly as millions of immigrants and illegal aliens are admitted who don't share our constitutional perspective, because they've never had it outside our borders. We'd better be prepared for that reality.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Since the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks, I've been watching developments and thinking about how those attacks fit into the social dysfunction that can be seen in both countries. In France, some banlieues (particularly those dominated by Muslim immigrants and their offspring) are virtually ungovernable, forming a 'safe haven' for terrorists and criminals. In the USA, some inner city areas (particularly those riddled with gangs and crime, and those that are havens for political correctness such as the 'Black Lives Matter' movement - often one and the same, of course) also provide a 'safe haven' for criminal activities, and are often places where police won't go alone or in small numbers. In both countries, the political 'establishments' have (until recently, at any rate) acted and spoken in favor of those living in such areas, and of the 'culture' they've established there - even when law enforcement authorities have diametrically opposed views. Political correctness had trumped reality and practicality . . . until events forced a re-evaluation of the situation, which is still ongoing.
I was struck by some recent comments from other bloggers. First, Herschel Smith pointed out that military-style counter-insurgency and stabilization tactics are coming to dominate inner-city policing.
... what the Marine Corps couldn’t accomplish is fixing millennia-old hatred over rights to succession between Sunni and Shia. What they couldn’t do is fix the seed of hatred and violence inherent in Islam. Thus, the root problem remains today. And this is the point of analogy between COIN in Iraq, stability operations in Israel and stability operations in Chicago.
While we aren’t dealing with millennia-old problems, we are in fact dealing with at least fourth or fifth generation entitlement, with fatherless families, SNAP payments, welfare, “free” medical care, and so on. Just enough government largesse to keep the inner city blacks on a leash, not enough (yet) to create revolution against it. And therefore the elites get their voting bloc, which is the intended outcome all along.
But the monster this created is ugly and difficult to control. I’ve read comments about the rioters in Ferguson, to the extent that any protest against “the man” (or the state) is a good thing and they must be our ally (I’m not sure who “our” is). Such a view is a sign of lack of attention to detail, immaturity and weakness of mind. Most of the rioters in Ferguson would sooner gut you groin to throat with a knife and then rape your wife and daughter as to look at you. Anyone who feels an alliance with the rioters in Ferguson is a fool.
This is a monster the government and effete urbanite elitists created. The hive is coming apart at the seems, and the only way to keep it together is harsher and harsher stability operations. Make no mistake about it. The Chicago Mayor knows all about the tactics in use in Chicago and approves of them. The firing of the chief of police was a sacrifice to the masses.
The lesson for us is that police departments are more and more using stability operations as a model or paradigm for their work, with the approval of those in charge. As these tactics want to work their way into the fabric of American society like a cancer, one goal will be to kill the cancer before it takes over the host. This battle will be gradual, fought initially on the fields of town hall meetings, boards, blogs, and so on. If the battles are lost there, it will expand, and if lost entirely, dystopia (and maybe insurgency) will come to the American countryside.
The wars for the inner city cannot be won. America is going broke and the largesse cannot continue forever. Sooner or later, the riots will expand. The more important thing will be what happens to the medium and smaller towns of America? Stability operations can lead to COIN if not successful (and couple this with Islamic terrorism and the influx from South of the border, and the potential for success seems bleak), and neither COIN nor stability operations is an acceptable model for this country.
There's more at the link. Highly recommended reading. Note, in particular, how he identifies the welfare system and the creation of controllable 'voting blocs' with urban 'ghettoes'.
In the latest edition of his 'Woodpile Report', commentator Ol' Remus has this to say:
If you want to know what collapse looks like, look around. We're living in an ongoing collapse—civil, economic, military and moral. Everything's political, acquiescence is mandatory, dissent is a crime . We have fallen far. We shall fall much further. Emergencies and disasters follow each other ever more closely, each more astonishing than the last. Sociopaths and madmen—the mainstream, the real lunatic fringe—have neither the capability nor the will to fix them. And so we fall. The collapse will end when we can fall no further.
. . .
The "Ferguson Effect" is everywhere now. It's rank extortion , and violence is an accepted part of the process. When an unruly mob (wink wink) invaded the library at Yale, threatened and criminally assaulted students at their study, Yale apologize for being Yale and humbly caved to their demands, a lesson fundamentally different from what had been taught since 1701. What was unbelievable is unbelievable no more. In turn, the unbelievable will give way to the unthinkable, the unthinkable to the unimaginable. Violence works. It works because we are in collapse.
Again, more at the link.
In his classic analysis of so-called 'Fourth-Generation Warfare' (found in the September-October 2004 edition of Military Review, pp. 12-16), William S. Lind observed:
In Fourth Generation war, the state loses its monopoly on war. All over the world, state militaries find themselves fighting nonstate opponents such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Almost everywhere, the state is losing.
Fourth Generation war is also marked by a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict.
. . .
Nor is Fourth Generation war merely something we import, as we did on 9/11. At its core lies a universal crisis of legitimacy of the state, and that crisis means many countries will evolve Fourth Generation war on their soil. America, with a closed political system (regardless of which party wins, the Establishment remains in power and nothing really changes) and a poisonous ideology of multiculturalism, is a prime candidate for the homegrown variety of Fourth Generation war, which is by far the most dangerous kind.
. . .
Fourth Generation [warfare] is not novel, but a return—specifically a return to the way war worked before the rise of the state. Now, as then, many different entities, not just governments of states, will wage war, and they will wage war for many different reasons, not just “the extension of politics by other means.” They will use many different tools to fight war, not restricting themselves to what we recognize as military forces. When I am asked to recommend a good book describing what a Fourth Generation world will be like, I usually suggest Barbara Tuchman’s 'A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century'.
. . .
The fact that no state military has recently succeeded in defeating a nonstate enemy reminds us that Clio, the patron goddess of history, has a sense of humor; she teaches us that not all problems have solutions.
More at the link.
When you put those three excerpts together, and look at our situation in their light and from the perspective of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks . . . it makes you wonder. Have our feckless leaders created the breeding-ground for fourth generation warfare in our own inner cities, through pandering to 'the mob' there, creating an entitlement society that's no longer capable of functioning (or even surviving) without such assistance, and denying the reality of crime and violence even as it affects more and more people?
I'm not sure I'd equate current policing trends in our urban areas with military counter-insurgency operations. I'm trained and experienced in the latter, and I don't see a lot of parallels between the two environments . . . at least, not yet. If our inner cities become 'no-go areas', ungovernable except by those living within their borders and shutting out normal administrative and law enforcement authority, that may change. At that point, it'll be a choice between letting them become the US equivalent of some French banlieues (which God forbid!), or taking them back the hard way. I doubt that any 'middle way' will be feasible in reality, even though the politically correct talking heads might try to insist that it'll work. I'm here to tell you, on the basis of many years' experience, that it won't. You can take that to the bank.
What say you, readers?
. . . things were very different! I first came across this at PandaWhale, but it's also appeared at a large number of sites around the Internet, so I have no idea who to acknowledge as its originator. Click on the image for a larger, more readable view.
I'm already past the average male life expectancy back then . . . long may that continue, at any rate!
I've seen some strange movies come out of the Far East, but this clip is one of the weirder ones. A tip o' the hat to reader M. T. for sending me the link.
Ye Gods and little (star)fishes . . . !
I recently re-read John Barron's book 'MiG Pilot', about the defection in 1976 of then-Lieutenant Viktor Belenko in his MiG-25 fighter from Siberia to Japan.
Intrigued to learn more about what happened to Belenko in later life, I went online and searched for more information. One of the returns was a 1996 interview with him in Full Context. This excerpt made me laugh.
When I became U.S. citizen with American passport I travel around the world. My first trip was actually a business trip with U.S. Air Force. I went to England. I did not speak English when I came to U.S., and I learn American-English. When we went to England I thought well English is English. After my arrival I heard very strange English. It was British-English. I had very hard time to understand them. But the British do speak English. Customs are almost the same, except British cows give tea instead of milk. Also they're driving on the wrong side of the road! And they do serve warm beer; it's ridiculous. I noticed, after my experience in U.S., that there was not warm reception for you, as a stranger, when you walk into their pubs. Later I complain about that to my friends in Wyoming. And they said, "Viktor, Brits love cowboys." I said, "Really?" Next trip I had cowboy hat, cowboy boots. I show up in their pubs; they look at me with astoundment. "Are you cowboy?" I say, "Yup." My vocabulary was very limited: Yup and Nope. But I did notice that they accept American cowboy with respect. And not only in England, in Europe and other countries as well. So I do advise my friends, who are traveling abroad, wear cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and act as a cowboy. American cowboys belong to the world!
There's much more at the link.
It's a remarkable interview with a remarkable man. In conjunction with Mr. Barron's book, it lends new insight into the mind of a man who wanted to be free, and took drastic steps to achieve that. I'm honored to be his adopted countryman.
Today's award goes to an unnamed Polish cyclist.
CCTV video shows the 26-year-old cyclist going over the lowered barriers oblivious to the Pendolino locomotive, which can reach speeds of 180mph.
Just as his bike’s front wheel is about to touch the track the blue and white liveried train tears by, sending the cyclist spinning and tumbling through the air.
He lands in a crumpled heap by the side of the track some 12ft from the point of impact.
. . .
Despite being hit, he was fined £90 by police for ignoring the red light, and the lowered barriers, at the crossing. Blood tests showed he had not been drinking and was sober when hit by the train.
. . .
A photograph posted on natemat.pl, a Polish news website, also showed damage to the train, with a number of bars broken on a radiator grill.
There's more at the link. Here's surveillance video of the incident.
What an absolute obliviot! He didn't even look! I can't understand why he didn't hear the train, even if he didn't see it; but I suppose he might have had earbuds in his ears, listening to music, or something like that. At any rate, he's both the biggest idiot and the luckiest man to be alive that I've seen in quite some time . . .
Monday, December 28, 2015
You may remember that some months ago, I mentioned a fund-raising campaign to pay for long term care for Andy M. Stewart, former lead singer for Scottish folk group Silly Wizard. Sadly, he died yesterday from the effects of his long illness and failed surgeries. The Herald reports:
Born in Alyth, near Blairgowrie in Perthshire, Stewart emerged as a passionate singer and upholder of traditional songs as a teenager when he formed the group Puddock’s Well with singer, songwriter and fiddle Dougie Maclean and bassist Martin Hadden.
Invited in the mid-1970s to join Silly Wizard, who needed a Scottish singer to lend weight to their fiery instrumental sound, Stewart became known across Europe and particularly in the US with the band as an authoritative singer and an entertaining raconteur.
His original songs including The Queen of Argyll and the Valley of Strathmore became staples of the band’s live concerts and he toured with them until they broke up in 1988.
. . .
He was inducted into the Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame with Silly Wizard in 2012.
There's more at the link.
I'm personally saddened to hear of Mr. Stewart's passing. His voice was golden, and his interpretation of Scottish folk and traditional music, exemplified in his own compositions, was superb. To commemorate his contribution, here are three examples of his work. First, 'The Queen of Argyll', his own composition.
Next we have a non-Silly Wizard performance: 'Fire in the Glen', performed with Manus Lunny and Phil Cunningham.
Finally, the classic 'Donald McGillavry' (a curious piece which we discussed at some length earlier). This recording was the last song of Silly Wizard's farewell concert in Atlanta in April 1988, and it's therefore a fitting way to "play out" Andy Stewart. May his soul rest in peace.
There are many more of Andy's and Silly Wizard's performances on YouTube.
Thank you so much for your music, Mr. Stewart. You will be missed.
Regular readers will recall Weekend Wings #23, in which I discussed the involuntary round-the-world flight of a Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper airliner at the start of America's involvement in World War II. It's a story that's long fascinated me.
Now, courtesy of an e-mail from reader Jacob, we learn of another look at this pioneering flight, in much greater detail than my single article. This one's in three parts, titled 'The Long Way Round'. You'll find them at these links:
There's also a book about the flight by Ed Dover titled 'The Long Way Home'. It can be read free of charge by Kindle Unlimited members at Amazon.com. I've already downloaded the e-book version for future reference.
The flight of the Clipper is a fascinating story from the days when international air travel was a major undertaking and a real adventure - sometimes a dangerous one. The articles and the book are highly recommended reading for aviation and military history enthusiasts.
If you're a registered voter in the USA, it looks like your personal information has been compromised.
A whitehat hacker has uncovered a database sitting on the Web containing various pieces of personal information related to 191 million American citizens registered to vote. On top of the concomitant problems of disclosing such a significant leak to that many people, no one knows who is actually responsible for the misconfiguration that left the data open to anyone.
Researcher Chris Vickery ... has his hands on all 300GB of voter data, which includes names, home addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, party affiliations, and logs of whether or not they had voted in primary or general elections. The data appears to date back to 2000. It does not contain financial data or social security numbers.
. . .
Right now, thanks to someone’s carelessness, it’s free to anyone who can find what Vickery did. That means anyone in the world can find out where a person in the US lives and what political beliefs they may have. If they can find the database, scammers and marketing folk alike will likely benefit most.
There's more at the link.
I fear that in the age of the Internet, personal privacy has become nothing more than a contradiction in terms . . .
As regular readers will know, Miss D. and I are moving to Texas at the end of January. For the past three months I've been undertaking the unwelcome but overdue task of sorting through everything we own, getting rid of all the junk (most of it mine), and reducing our possessions to what we really want or need in preparation for the move.
Yesterday I finished going through our small storeroom here at home. It was the smallest bedroom in the little duplex we rented almost a year and a half ago. We deliberately chose a small unit because we wanted to force ourselves to cut back on our possessions. It turns out to have been a good idea, albeit difficult and cramped at times. That room was so filled with bits and pieces we couldn't see most of the floor! It's taken me two weeks of hard work to go through every box, bag and container, check what they contain, throw out all the junk, put the 'good stuff' aside for donation to charity, and pack what we're keeping for shipment to our new home. I finished the last box yesterday evening. It's amazing to rediscover that there really is a carpet in that room!
Looking back over the last several months, I'm pleased with how much we've accomplished. We tackled my books, getting rid of more than two-thirds of them (involving no less than seven pickup loads taken to a local used book store); then we cut down from a big storage unit to one less than a quarter the size (including two pickup loads donated to a local thrift store, three pickup loads of garbage taken to a local dump, and a number of bags of trash added to a nearby dumpster); then we tackled our duplex and got rid of excess stuff in here. All that's left to do is a small outside shed, about a quarter of which contains boxes and bags we brought here when we moved. It shouldn't take more than a few days to get them sorted out . . . and then we'll at last have consolidated our two households into one (more than five years after we married!), and be ready to move what we're keeping to our new home in Texas.
It's been a huge amount of hard work, lightened by some funny and poignant moments as we find things we'd forgotten we had. (Miss D. was amused by a picture of a much younger, apple-cheeked me in uniform.) Most of the excess stuff was mine, because Miss D. is much better organized than I (as well as used to keeping possessions to a minimum, thanks to growing up as a military brat who had to move often). I've been surprised to find out how many bits and pieces we have for things that we no longer own, or things we still own for which we're missing essential bits and pieces.
- How did we end up with so many battery-powered tools that require a specific charger - but no charger for them? Where did they go? The damn things are worse than socks!
- How - not to mention why - did we accumulate almost a dozen tubes and bottles of glue of one variety or another . . . all of which have dried out and hardened to the point of being completely useless?
- How did parts for Miss D.'s aircraft end up in the same box with some of my ammunition and gun cleaning gear? And how (if at all) do I get a bronze bore brush out of the hole it's bored for itself in an aircraft engine oil filter?
- Why do I still own ammunition in several calibers and cartridges that I no longer shoot, and magazines for no less than eleven firearms I no longer own - not to mention two firearms I've never owned? (I'm going to take the magazines to the next local gun show and dicker with a dealer there. I'm hoping he'll exchange about twenty magazines I no longer need for about half that number I can use in guns still in my collection.)
I can see I'm going to have to repeat this exercise more often, even if we aren't preparing to move. If I do it every couple of years, it'll be a lot less hard work!
Sunday, December 27, 2015
(EDITED TO ADD: The accessories are sold pending funds.)
I'm trying to raise money for another firearm for a disabled student. I have in my hot little
- Three 5-round magazines;
- Three 10-round magazines;
- A 10-round magazine adapter kit, with all screws, etc. required for installation;
- A black leather Steyr-supplied Ching Sling for the Scout Rifle, manufactured by Turner Saddlery in Alabama.
Price for all of the above will be $350 or best cash offer. I'll cover shipping via USPS.
Alternatively, I'll swap the entire package for a Ruger SR22 or S&W M&P22 Compact pistol, which I'll pass on to my student. I'll also consider a Ruger 10/22 rifle for student use, plus cash if it's a basic model without enhancements. A face-to-face deal in or near Nashville is preferable to save costs; if the firearm comes from outside Tennessee, we'll have to follow all legal formalities and requirements, of course.
If you're interested, send me an e-mail (my address is in my blog profile - click my name under 'About Me & Contact Info' in the sidebar) and we'll discuss. If you don't own a Steyr Scout Rifle, but know others who do, please send them the link to this blog post in case they're interested.
Today's award goes to the pilot of a small executive jet that landed (sort of) in Telluride, CO a few days ago.
A small plane crashed at the Telluride Airport on Wednesday afternoon. The airport was closed for snow removal at the time of the crash ... the plane landed and collided with a snowplow on the runway. The San Miguel Sheriff said the pilot did not radio the airport before landing.
There's more at the link.
The pilot didn't radio the airport before landing; he obviously didn't check NOTAM's that would have warned him that the airport was closed; and he missed seeing a bloody great snowplow at work on the runway! Where, precisely, was his head during the landing? Where was he looking?
Oh, well . . . at least he won't be flying that jet out of there. Pictures at the link show it's missing its right wing. I suspect it won't be flying anywhere again. (Indeed, I daresay the missing wing might soon be hung on the wall of the garage for the airport snowplow - as a trophy!)
The Song of Roland is a very well-known medieval epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778. It inspired many subsequent writers, poets and musicians.
While browsing through YouTube this morning, I was intrigued to come across a Norwegian ballad, dating from about the 12th century, retelling the saga of Roland from a quasi-Viking perspective. It's in Norwegian, of course, but a translation has been provided as it plays. It's illustrated with medieval- and Renaissance-era portrayals of the battle. It's a rousing battle tune, well suited to the Vikings who would have sung it.
Now there's an interesting historical twist . . . a Viking interpretation of a medieval Christian fable! It's sung by the Trio Mediaeval as part of an entire album of Norwegian medieval folk songs. I think I'm going to have to buy it - it's cheap enough to be affordable, and if this song is anything to go by, it'll be interesting listening.
That's the headline of an excellent article by Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal. Here's an excerpt.
Murders and shootings have spiked in many American cities—and so have efforts to ignore or deny the crime increase. The see-no-evil campaign eagerly embraced a report last month by the Brennan Center for Justice called “Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis.” Many progressives and their media allies hailed the report as a refutation of what I and others have dubbed the “Ferguson effect”— cops backing off from proactive policing, demoralized by the ugly vitriol directed at them since a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., last year. Americans are being asked to disbelieve both the Ferguson effect and its result: violent crime flourishing in the ensuing vacuum.
. . .
Critics of the Ferguson-effect analysis ignore or deny the animosity that the police now face in urban areas, brushing off rampant resistance to lawful police authority as mere “peaceful protest” ... Now cops making arrests in urban areas are routinely surrounded by bystanders, who swear at them and interfere with the arrests. The media and many politicians decry as racist law-enforcement tools like pedestrian stops and broken-windows policing—the proven method of stopping major crimes by going after minor ones. Under such conditions, it isn’t just understandable that the police would back off; it is also presumably what the activists and the media critics would want. The puzzle is why these progressives are so intent on denying that such depolicing is occurring and that it is affecting public safety.
The answer lies in the enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the “root causes” theory of crime. The Brennan Center study closes by hypothesizing that lower incomes, higher poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment are driving the rising murder rates in Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis. But those aspects of urban life haven’t dramatically worsened over the past year and a half. What has changed is the climate for law enforcement.
. . .
To acknowledge the Ferguson effect would be tantamount to acknowledging that police matter, especially when the family and other informal social controls break down. Trillions of dollars of welfare spending over the past 50 years failed to protect inner-city residents from rising predation. Only the policing revolution of the 1990s succeeded in curbing urban violence, saving thousands of lives. As the data show, that achievement is now in jeopardy.
There's more at the link. For those who don't have a subscription to the WSJ, do a Google search on the article's title to get behind the paywall. Also, here's another discussion of the report in the American Thinker.
Let me say at once that I agree with much of Ms. MacDonald's analysis: but I think she's left out two major elements of the equation that together shed additional light on the situation.
First, consider that the Obama administration has consistently taken an anti-police position when it comes to law and order and their enforcement. From the infamous Prof. Gates arrest controversy to his most recent dismissal of the so-called 'Ferguson effect', the President has set an anti-law-enforcement tone. Coming from a former 'community organizer', this is perhaps not surprising . . . but it's adding to the problem. When protesters on the street believe that they have the backing of the highest office in the land, and can therefore disregard, disrespect and disobey law enforcement officers at will, we have the makings of a very dangerous situation indeed.
Second, distrust of law enforcement is widespread, and for good reason. Look at how many police officers have overstepped the bounds of what is properly considered 'law enforcement' and have become oppressors of the community, rather than its protectors. The 'Ferguson effect' didn't arise in a vacuum, but in a situation where police were seen as tools of an oppressive, discriminatory local government rather than impartial enforcers of the law. Similarly, all too many cases of police brutality, overreach and authoritarian disregard for Constitutional and legal principles have made many people (including myself) profoundly suspicious of law enforcement in general. Of course there are 'good cops' out there: I number several among my personal friends, and I'd trust any of them with my life or that of my wife. However, there appear to be more and more 'bad apples' in law enforcement that are rendering the entire profession suspect. The list of recent issues is almost endless. To name only a very few:
- Albuquerque, NM police are sued for millions following an illegal and medically invasive drug search;
- Homan Square in Chicago is the scene of countless police violations of rights and legal procedures, including widespread torture;
- Maryland police allegedly target out-of-state motorists for excessive and seemingly illegal searches on the basis of whether or not they hold concealed weapons permits in their home states;
- The widespread and sometimes out-of-control militarization of US law enforcement, exemplified by the proliferation and over-use of SWAT teams, which can sometimes lead to disastrous consequences such as the tragedy of Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh (and the unbelievably crass response of the Habersham County Sheriff);
- The allegedly excessive use of lethal force by police officers and agencies, for which very few officers are ever charged and even fewer convicted, despite statistical analysis that indicates prima facie that something's very far wrong;
- The widespread use of law enforcement agencies and personnel to raise funds, issuing tickets for violations and imposing charges not as a safety measure, but to raise revenue for their agencies and the municipalities and counties employing them;
- The use of Federal agencies (including their law enforcement arms) to enforce unpopular and sometimes allegedly illegal intrusions on the rights of citizens, exemplified by incidents such as the Bundy standoff, the alleged Federal 'land grab' along the Red River in Texas, the use of the IRS to intimidate political opponents of the present Administration, and so on.
I could go on for page after page after page detailing every such incident, but what's the point? The reality is that American law enforcement officers and agencies in general have to an ever-increasing extent forfeited the trust of the people they're supposed to 'protect and serve'. They are no longer seen as impartial and fair in their approach. I find this very sad indeed, given that I've served in two law enforcement agencies; but even I now automatically trust only those officers whom I've come to know personally. Those with whom they associate, and their agencies, also get a pass from me on the basis that I don't think honorable, upright peace officers would be part of an organization where they could not be true to themselves. Others, however . . . I'll adopt a 'wait-and-see' approach, and exercise due caution.
When you add those two elements to the 'Ferguson effect', you get a picture of a law enforcement function that's in widespread disarray nationwide, across many agencies, local, state and federal. I don't pretend to know what the answer might be . . . but the problems are far more widespread and far deeper rooted than mere public distrust of police. The rot has set in very deep, and to excise it might take more will and determination on the part of police and political leaders and administrators than their conduct to date has demonstrated.
After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, I analyzed the lessons to be learned from it by armed citizens. Among other things, I emphasized the value of discretion in our response.
One aspect that moves right to the top of our concerns must be the public response to any perceived attack. I stress the word 'perceived'. There may or may not be an attack in progress; but stimuli such as the sounds of what might be gunfire (but might also be a nail gun from a nearby building site, or a car backfiring, or the like) may cause some people to leap to the conclusion that an attack is in progress. (In other words, they'll panic.) This holds great dangers for those of us who are lawfully armed. If we reveal our weapons in any way - not necessarily drawing them or holding them in a ready position; merely exposing them by careless movement, or someone detecting them by bumping into us - this might trigger an assumption that we are either terrorists, or their accomplices.
What if a bystander calls 911 and breathlessly informs the dispatcher, "Shots fired at my location! There's a man with a gun! He looks like this! He's dressed like this!" You may be sure that after San Bernardino and other such incidents, responding officers will be hyper-alert to possible danger. They may not be willing to proceed slowly and calmly to verify our bona fides. Instead, they may cover us with their own weapons, and open fire at even the slightest hint of non-compliance or any delay in our unquestioning obedience to their orders.
There's also the risk that other legally armed citizens may react too strongly to a perceived threat, whether or not that threat is real ... If we prepare for trouble, including drawing our weapon, will others around us recognize what we're doing . . . or will they perceive us as part of the problem, and their own legally-carried weapons as a potential solution to the 'threat' we appear to offer?
I think it's more important than ever to re-emphasize the need for discretion in our response ... if we're not in the immediate vicinity of an attack or criminal incident, it may be the soundest response to simply evacuate the area as quickly as possible, taking our loved ones with us. There will doubtless be those who regard that advice as cowardly, and who want to intervene to save innocent lives. To them I can only say, read my comments above. Any outsider trying to intervene runs the very considerable risk - if not the near-certainty - of being mistaken for one of the 'bad guys', and treated accordingly.
There's more at the link.
The truth of that was borne out by an incident at Disney World this Christmas.
Crowds spending Christmas night at Downtown Disney stampeded to safety after false reports of a shooting.
A reported altercation at a restaurant led some to believe that shots had been fired — a rumor quickly dispelled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Nevertheless, in the moment, crowds panicked and ran for their lives.
Again, more at the link, including many tweets from those caught up in the panic, spreading the false rumor that shots had been fired.
Think how much worse that situation might have become if individuals had drawn their (legally owned and carried) concealed weapons, or even displayed them at their waists in their holsters. When a mob panics, common sense vanishes. It's certainly worthwhile to get oneself and one's loved ones out of the line of fire, and as far away from the scene of the problem as possible; but it's not at all worthwhile to add to the panic unless it's absolutely necessary and unavoidable to do so. What if fleeing people suddenly see you produce your firearm and they start screaming, "There's another man with a gun!" Can you imagine how security personnel would respond to that outcry under the circumstances? Yeah. Me too.
Food for thought . . .
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Found at The Lonely Libertarian:
In my own life, I've found this to be true so many times that it's not even funny any more. The Romans had their own version of the idea. Whichever philosophy you follow, they're words to live by.
It seems a Greek consortium wants to recreate one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
The Colossus of Rhodes dominated the ancient port until it was destroyed by an earthquake more than 2,000 years ago.
Now architects plan to build a new monument, albeit one five times larger than the original.
The new Colossus will straddle the two outer piers of the harbour. Facing the Aegean, it will clutch a huge beacon in its raised right hand which will be visible not only to passing ships, but as far as the Turkish coast, 35 miles away.
Its beacon will not only act as a lighthouse, but also contain a viewing platform. Ships will sail between the statue’s legs.
Costing €250 million [about US $275 million], the statue will rise more than 135 metres (443 feet) above the harbour, about one and a half times the size of New York’s Statue of Liberty.
There's more at the link.
If they're going to sail cruise ships through that thing's legs, I hope they make sure its loincloth is closed underneath . . . otherwise cruise ship passengers who've had one too many are going to be climbing the masts to tickle its fancy on the way through!
Received via e-mail from David C., and quoted with his permission:
You don't trust a street thug who approaches you in the parking lot, but he is just the retail branch of the business the government does wholesale.
Gunsmithing is an interesting field, from the well-meaning efforts of amateurs trying to 'enhance' their personal weapons (frequently with disastrous results) to highly-trained and experienced bespoke gunmakers manufacturing a firearm to order for well-off individuals. A 'real' gunsmith commented once, in my hearing, that the amateur variety should be banned from owning Dremel rotary tools and others like them, because of the damage they've done to guns with them. His boss, another 'real' gunsmith, immediately disagreed, pointing out how much (very profitable) work their shop took in to repair the efforts of the amateurs! Chuckling, the first gunsmith was forced to agree.
Be that as it may, English professional gunsmiths and bespoke gunmakers have always been highly respected in the world of firearms. One of them, William Roper, died recently, and his obituary sheds light on some of the misadventures involved in a gunsmith's work.
He [learned] his craft in old mews workshops in Birmingham, where he was intrigued to find that most members of the gun trade seemed to prefer snuff to cigarettes. All became clear when he was told of how his mentor “Pop” Dudden had once blown the contents of his workshop into the mews when his burning cigarette had come into contact with a pile of gunpowder.
On one occasion, Roper and his fellow apprentices decided to celebrate November 5 by turning an old gun barrel into a Roman candle, with the help of some disassembled signal cartridges. On lighting the touchpaper in the courtyard of Hellis’s shop, they saw their creation soar over the roof and disappear in a trail of smoke. Hopes that their indiscretion might have gone unnoticed were dashed when a policeman, on point duty in Hyde Park, came into the shop and deposited the mangled barrel on the counter.
. . .
Roper also became the first gunsmith to refurbish a wildfowler’s punt gun – an immensely powerful shotgun used for bringing down a large number of waterfowl in a single blast – and through this found himself working with countrymen such as Jack Hargreaves to refine the sport. Among other projects, Roper helped to develop a new gun known as “The Wolverhampton Monster”, which failed its safety tests in spectacular fashion by blowing the louvres out of the roof of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers’ London Proof House in Commercial Road.
On another occasion, Roper was trying to free the slide of a customer’s semi-automatic pistol by holding it between his knees and heaving back on the slide, when the gun, which he had assumed was unloaded, went off. At the time he thought that the bullet had buried itself in the floor and it was only some time later, when he had an X-ray after falling off a ladder, that the projectile was discovered lodged in his knee. Some years later, by which time the bullet had begun to cause him discomfort, Roper decided to have it removed. Rather than go to the hospital he persuaded a medical student friend of his son’s to remove the missile while Roper was sitting at his desk at an office party.
Another time, Roper’s left hand got caught in the gear train of his rifling machine, causing a friend looking on to faint with shock. Roper had to reach over and reverse the machine to extricate his hand, then wake his companion up and get him to drive him to the local hospital. Doctors told him they might have to amputate, but Roper refused. After skin grafts the hand proved perfectly functional.
Occasionally customers caused accidents. One picked up what he took to be two “snap caps” or test cartridges from Roper’s shop counter and loaded them into his shot gun, only to find, on pulling the trigger, that they were actually brass-cased cartridges. The resulting blast narrowly missed Roper’s head, blowing his glasses off his head, and his shop door into the street.
There's more at the link.
Mr. Roper appears to have had a pithy sense of humor. In 2002, commenting on the poor operational performance of Britain's SA80 service rifle, he observed:
The seal of approval should surely come from Afghanistan. If the local tribesmen haven't yet stolen any for their own use, it can't be any good.
Sounds like Mr. Roper had an adventurous, noisy and sometimes dangerous career! May his afterlife be more peaceful.
Friday, December 25, 2015
As regular readers will know, when a vendor goes out of its way to render good service and put things right for its customers, I like to acknowledge that. I encountered that this week with two companies: Impact Guns and FedEx.
I'd ordered some handgun magazines (the kind that hold ammo, not the printed variety!) from Impact Guns, but the order was partly mis-filled. Instead of one of the items I ordered, I received one for a gun I don't own. I called Impact on Wednesday, explained the problem, and asked what they could do to fix it, as I'd intended the missing item as a Christmas gift for a friend. The people at Impact went out of their way to solve my problem. They shipped out the correct item immediately, complete with a return shipping label for the incorrect one, and sent it via FedEx's overnight service. Great customer service in the middle of their busiest period of the year. Full marks to Impact Guns.
FedEx also went out of their way to get the magazines to me. While some are complaining that their shipments weren't delivered on time, I can only marvel at how many were delivered in time for Christmas. I suspect those that didn't make it are a tiny minority (probably measured in fractions of one per cent) of those that did. (Besides, everyone knows - or should know - that last-minute shipments at the height of the Christmas rush may not make it on time. Order earlier!) FedEx tried to deliver the package early yesterday evening, but Miss D. and I weren't at home; so the driver left a slip informing us that he'd tried, and telling us that we could collect it today, Christmas morning, if we wanted to drive to the nearest FedEx office. I did so, not because I desperately needed the magazines right away, but to thank those on duty for giving up their Christmas morning to help others. I took them a dozen donuts as a gesture of appreciation. They seemed to like the gesture - they perked right up. So, full marks to FedEx, too, for going the extra mile.