Thursday, August 31, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #974


Today's award goes to the pilot of a French Canadair CL-415 fire-fighting aircraft, who didn't pay enough attention to his course while refilling his tanks with water.  This happened on the Rhone river in Nimes, France, a few days ago.





That'll cost a fair amount to repair the wing, and the barge . . . not to mention the laundry bills for the crew's underwear!




Peter

Of strength training, disability, and coaches


About six weeks ago, Miss D. and I began strength training at the gymnasium owned by Mr. Strength Training himself, Mark Rippetoe.  He put us through a lengthy interview beforehand, checking our health histories, current state of body and mind, and so on, before deciding that yes, we were suitable candidates.  (He's very choosy about that.  If he doesn't think he can help you, or if he doesn't think you're serious, you won't be accepted as paying members of his gym.  It's refreshing to meet a man who puts principle above money.)

In the six weeks since then, we've made what is, for us, amazing progress.  Bear in mind that I have a fused spine and a permanently damaged left sciatic nerve, and I'm in pain 24/7/365.  Miss D. has suffered several shoulder dislocations (a genetically-inherited weakness she'd as soon do without), and a few years ago, her right knee was the meat in a two-car sandwich, resulting in it being not so much broken as shattered.  Neither of us is in very good shape physically, and following doctors' advice and prescriptions over the past few years has made us worse, not better.  We both struggle with weight issues (me in particular), and as for physical therapy . . . let's just say neither of us was satisfied with the results we were getting.

Our personal coach, Carmen, has been working with us for one to two hours a day, three days every week.  We've more than tripled the weight we're lifting in the various exercises, and she's been very good indeed about working with (and around) our respective disabilities, trying to get us the maximum benefit from the exercises we can do, and putting off until later those we simply can't manage for the time being.  She's also modified exercises to accommodate our weaknesses.  For example, given my damaged nerve and fused spine, and the balance issues they cause, I simply can't do squats in the textbook fashion;  so she's having me do box squats (demonstrated by Mark Rippetoe in the video below), using a stool as a halfway point.  (The gymnasium shown in the video is where we train.)





For deadlifts, I can't bend forward far enough (partly due to my fused spine, partly due to my over-large belly getting in the way!), so Carmen's having me do a modified rack pull instead, where the bar is supported on cross-rails, meaning that I don't have to bend so far.  I'll try progressing to the full deadlift if and when my flexibility and balance have sufficiently improved.  (The rack pull is illustrated here:  skip forward to 8m. 10s. to see it in action.)

I'm finding it interesting to compare traditional strength training approaches to the modifications needed to accommodate my disabilities.  I doubt very much whether I'll ever approach the weights lifted by those who've done these exercises for years, because I expect I'd have bits of titanium straps and screws erupting out of my back if I tried!  Nevertheless, I can work up to a lower weight limit, then do more repetitions at that level, instead of trying to constantly increase the weight.  In the same way, I'm going to combine dieting with strength training, so as to shed weight faster.  That's anathema to most strength training coaches, because they point out (quite accurately) that building muscle mass and tone is the opposite goal to weight loss, and incompatible with it.  Well, I have to do both, whether I like it or not, so I'm going to have to modify my program accordingly;  but if I'm careful, and plan intelligently, I should be able to accomplish both things over time.  It'll probably work out to one week every month using a liquid (water) fast, and the rest of the month, eating a protein-heavy diet to promote muscle mass gain while doing strength training.  We'll see how it goes.

Suffice it to say that Miss D. and I are very pleased with the progress we've made so far.  I'm already seeing improvements in the way I sit, stand and move.  My pain levels have not decreased, and I don't think they will;  but if I can increase my core stability to the point where I can move more freely, that'll be a big plus in itself.

If you've never considered strength training before, I highly recommend that you look into it.  You'll find a lot of material, including video clips, at Mark Rippetoe's Web site.  I highly recommend taking some time to visit there and browse through the material.  From my own experience, I think the discipline offers real benefits to those prepared to invest their time and energy in it, and take it seriously.

It doesn't matter how old or out-of-condition you may be.  To illustrate that, here's 91-year-old Virginia Rizen, who trains at the same gym as ourselves.  (Her coach, Carmen, is our coach too.)





Peter

Elect politicians to spend money (on you) that you haven't got, then demand a free ride


That appears to be the situation in Puerto Rico at present.

Hundreds of Puerto Ricans took to the streets of the island's capital on Wednesday to protest austerity measures as anger builds over an unrelenting economic crisis that has hit the working class especially hard.

Protesters clutched posters decrying austerity measures including new taxes, increases in utility bills and looming furloughs and cuts to a public pension system facing nearly $50 billion in liabilities.

"They're taking advantage of us poor workers. We did not steal. We are not corrupt," read one poster held up by 70-year-old Eva Feliciano, a retired government worker who said she sometimes cannot afford to buy the groceries she and her husband need.

There's more at the link.

The trouble is, those protesters refuse to recognize that they bear the ultimate responsibility for Puerto Rico's economic shambles.  For decades, they voted for politicians who borrowed money (i.e. issued bonds) to pay for essential services, rather than tax the residents of the island.  Those residents were more than happy to take the services and keep their money . . . but eventually, as always happens, the bills came due.  For various reasons (mostly blamed by Puerto Ricans on the US government, rather than their own spendthrift ways), Puerto Rico's debt has ballooned.  The New York Times summarizes:

Puerto Rico’s public debt has ballooned because of a failing economy and an inefficient government that has spent more than it has taken in for years, often borrowing to close the gap.

Much of the borrowing is in the form of municipal bonds. As the size of the debt grew, so did the complexity, with some branches of government issuing bonds on behalf of others, or backstopping each others’ debts, until it became nearly impossible to keep track of it all. Even then, demand for Puerto Rico’s bonds was strong because they pay interest that is tax-exempt in all jurisdictions.

In addition, Puerto Rico owes billions more in pensions to retired public workers.

1990s

The government created a health insurance program for low-income people in 1994, but did not establish a way to pay for it. In 1996, Washington started phasing out a tax break for American companies with subsidiaries on the island, removing a significant driver of economic growth.

2000

Bond debt: $24 billion.
Unfunded pensions: $7 billion for the three main funds, for teachers, judges and general employees.

2014

Bond debt: $72 billion.
Unfunded pensions: $34 billion.

The island’s credit was downgraded well into junk range. Even so, Puerto Rico managed one last bond sale, oversubscribed at $3.5 billion.

May 2017

Bond debt: Still about $72 billion, because Puerto Rico has lost market access.
Pensions: $49 billion.

Again, more at the link.

It's perhaps comforting to think that Puerto Rico's problems are unique . . . but they're not.  More than a few US states are in equally dire financial straits.  They appear either unwilling or unable to do anything about them, too.  For example, just this week, Kentucky was warned that its state pension system was in terrible trouble, and had to be fixed now, rather than patched up yet again.

An independent consultant recommended sweeping changes Monday to the pension systems that cover most of Kentucky’s public workers, creating the possibility that lawmakers will cut payments to existing retirees and force most current and future hires into 401(k)-style retirement plans.

Echoing a message often repeated by Governor Matt Bevin, the PFM Group told the Public Pension Oversight Board that lawmakers must make dramatic changes to fix one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country.

“This is the time to act,” said Michael Nadol of PFM. “This is not the time to craft a solution that kicks the can down the road.”

The group, which was hired by Bevin, offered only recommendations. Any changes to the pension system would come during a potential special legislative session in October.

If the legislature accepts the recommendations, it would effectively end the promise of a pension check for most of Kentucky’s future state and local government workers and freeze the pension benefits of most current state and local workers.

. . .

Nadol said changing the benefits of current employees and retirees is the only way to significantly reduce Kentucky’s pension liability.

“All of the unfunded liability that the commonwealth now faces is associated with folks that are already on board or already retired,” he said. “Modifying benefits for future hires only helps you stop the hole from getting deeper, it doesn’t help you climb up and out on to more solid footing going forward.”

More at the link.

Kudos to Kentucky's governor, senate president and house speaker, who commissioned the study and said bluntly, "We will not kick the can down the road. We were elected to fix this problem and we will. The fiscal abuse of Kentucky’s retirement systems is over."  However, (unsurprisingly) the recommendations met instant resistance from state workers and pensioners, and from state politicians whose elections depend on the votes of those workers and pensioners.

Many other US states are in similarly dire financial straits.  The Mercatus Center at George Mason University provides annual fiscal rankings for all 50 states, and rates Kentucky as 47th out of 50;  but that still means three states (Massachusetts, 48;  Illinois, 49;  and New Jersey, 50) are in worse shape.  You can read the rankings here, with details for each state.

Puerto Rico is one of several fiscal 'canaries in the coal mine'.  We can mock its citizens for protesting a situation for which they're largely responsible, but there are far too many US states in a similar mess.  I don't know what the outcome for Puerto Rico will be, but I'm pretty sure that at least some US states will be effectively bankrupt before very long.  That's not going to be pretty for those living there, who are going to see their taxes rise, services become less efficient and less available, and the economy of the state in general take a pounding.

Peter

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A song of the weather . . .


. . . for those getting blasé about Hurricane Harvey.  This is from British entertainers Flanders and Swann.





There.  That should cheer up Houstoners!




Peter

Wow!


My thanks to several readers who sent me the link to a tweeted picture from Ken Webster Jr.  Here's a reduced-size version of it, and of a comparison image from the same thread.  Click each image for a larger view.  They show Interstate 10 near Winnie, Texas, between Houston and Beaumont, near the location shown by the red icon on the map.








I know that road very well.  I traveled it many times when I lived and worked in Louisiana, between 1997 and 2009.  Looking at that water . . . it's mind-boggling.  That's not just standing flood water.  Those are waves, like one would expect to find offshore!  It looks as if the whole of the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge is under water.  There won't be much wildlife left there by now . . .

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey have now come ashore once again on the Texas-Louisiana border, and are expected to track north-east across the state into Mississippi and Tennessee over the next couple of days.  Alexandria/Pineville, where I used to live and work, appears to be right in the path of the storm, and they're expecting heavy rain there over the next couple of days.

Prayers for all concerned.

Peter

Hurricane Harvey and the US auto industry


Last month, in two posts, I noted that the US auto industry was in terrible trouble.  In the second post, I quoted the Detroit News from late last year:

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

Hurricane Harvey might solve that problem, at least in the short term.  CNBC notes:

They seem to be in almost every picture or video of flooded neighborhoods in and around Houston.

There are scores of cars and trucks with water up to their windows and in some cases over the hood and roof.

In fact, the flooding is so extensive, Cox Automotive estimates a half-million vehicles may wind up in the scrap yard.

. . .

With so many vehicles in the flood zone, auto insurers will be busy handling claims and cutting checks so flood victims can buy another car or truck.

Auto dealers are expecting a surge in business once Houston gets back on its feet.

There's more at the link.

With estimates of lost or damaged vehicles ranging from a quarter to half a million, that should soak up the excess inventory nicely . . . but it'll bring with it a new set of problems.  The article goes on to observe:

The resale of repaired flooded cars is not illegal, as long as the flood damage is disclosed on the title to buyers. After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of rebuilt flood vehicles were sold to unsuspecting buyers with titles that had been washed or reissued in a different state.

"We didn't see this on a huge scale until Hurricane Katrina," said Scafidi. "Since then the public awareness of the problem is greater, but with thousands of flooded vehicles it's hard to prevent this from happening."

I remember that happening after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Tens of thousands of Louisiana vehicles were 'exported' to other states, and sold there by their owners on the original title, with no mention made of flood damage.  In many cases, owners insisted that they'd evacuated in their vehicles, which had therefore not been flooded at all.  Only after time had passed did the inevitable damage show up . . . and by then the previous owners were long gone.

(Another aspect of the post-Katrina problem was that many dealer lots were not flooded;  but their owners, and those who worked there, could not get to them for days or weeks, due to evacuations and/or flooded streets.  Meanwhile, local thieves had hot-wired the cars [or just plain stolen the keys from the dealership], forged temporary short-term registration certificates using the dealer's stock of such paperwork, and driven the vehicles out of town - sometimes with the collaboration of less honest local cops.  There were reports of hundreds of new Cadillacs, Lincolns and other high-end cars being driven north or west, on their way to resale in other states.  As far as I know, few if any were ever recovered.)

I can only advise my readers to be very, very careful when buying any used vehicle coming out of Texas for the next few months.  It's not just private sales, either.  Entire vehicle dealerships have been flooded, and they may not be fully insured.  They're in a position to have quick repairs done, then ship their inventory to other dealers for resale, thereby avoiding having to take the loss.

Get an in-depth report on any Texas-sourced vehicle from Carfax or similar sources, and look for any insurance payout linked to its VIN.  You might be buying a soggy lemon.

Peter

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

If you wanted proof that Antifa is the enemy of the USA . . .


. . . here it is, from the demonstrations in Berkeley last weekend.





After seeing that, I'm forced to conclude that anyone who supports or encourages Antifa and its ilk has thereby self-identified as an enemy of the USA, of our constitution and laws, and of our future as a nation.

I, for one, plan to respond accordingly.  I recommend the same to my readers.




Peter

"How a slave made off with a Confederate war ship"


That's the title of a very interesting article in the New York Post.  I'd never heard of this particular snippet of Civil War history.

The unlikely story of this remarkable man is told in Cate Lineberry’s thoroughly researched new history “Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero”.



Smalls was the Planter’s wheelman, essentially its pilot, responsible for guiding it through the complicated waterways around the harbor. Although he was its most knowledgeable sailor, he could not operate the ship alone. He convinced his fellow black crew members to go along with the getaway — and swear to secrecy.

The crew waited for Smalls’ sign, for that moment when the white officers would be gone. That moment came on May 12, 1862.

. . .

In the early morning hours of May 13, Smalls and his crew unmoored the Planter from its berth in Charleston’s Southern Wharf. Their first stop: to pick up several other escapees, including Smalls’ wife, Hannah, and their children.

Their next hurdle was Fort Johnson, a Confederate stronghold. As the Planter paddled its way past the fort, the mood on board was fraught. Smalls and his group knew they had crossed a critical threshold. If at any point they were caught, they had all agreed, they would join hands and jump to their watery deaths.

If they could not be free, they would not live in slavery, either.

Somehow, they made it past Johnson.

Finally, and perhaps most terrifyingly, Smalls had to avoid the suspicion of the night watch of the famous Fort Sumter. Tense minutes ticked by as the Planter crept past the heavily armed fort.

By this point, the Planter’s Captain Relyea realized that his ship was gone and was asking questions back in the harbor. But he failed to raise the alarm in time, and the Planter was able to slip past Sumter and into the channel leading to the Atlantic. As soon as they were in the clear, the crew lowered the Planter’s Confederate flag and raised a white sheet in its place.

In the foggy early dawn, the Planter was intercepted by the clipper Onward, part of the Union blockade of Charleston Harbor. Initially thinking the Planter was a Confederate ironclad bent on ramming his ship, the captain of the Onward trained his ship’s guns on the escaped steamer. Then he saw the white flag.

. . .

So impressed were Union officials by Smalls’ courage and intelligence, that he was brought to meet President Lincoln. He continued to prove himself a highly skilled, brave member of the Union cause, and was rewarded for his efforts by becoming the first black captain of a Navy ship. That ship was none other than the Planter.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

It's a truism to say, "Come the hour, come the man" - but in my experience, that's been true very often indeed.  In the darkest times of strife or unrest or danger, the unlikeliest heroes would emerge to strengthen, stabilize, and even rescue their communities, while those one would have expected to be strong, capable leaders (even those in leadership positions) often failed in their duties.  Sadly, after the crisis, all too often the latter would try to reassert themselves, while the former were content to sink back into anonymity and get on with their lives.  It would often, I think, have been better had they continued to lead - as Mr. Smalls did, becoming the first black man to command a United States warship, and (after the Civil War) founding the Republican Party of South Carolina, and serving as a Congressman for five terms.

He sounds like a very interesting man.  I'd have loved the chance to meet him.

Peter

Bullet testing in flesh and bone


You see a lot of articles about testing bullets in ballistic gelatin, using it as a simulacrum of human tissue.  It's not an ideal medium from which to extrapolate bullet performance in human flesh, because flesh differs in density (e.g. fat, muscle tissue, internal organs, etc.);  and bones are much harder to penetrate than flesh, but this factor isn't present in ballistic gelatin.  Nevertheless, gelatin is a worthwhile medium to compare bullet performance against other bullets.  Its uniform consistency, and the ability to place barriers between the firearm and the gelatin, means that we can compare offerings from different manufacturers to see how they perform.

Sometimes the results are surprising, and tend to disprove a lot of manufacturer hype.  Greg Ellifritz published an interesting article last week in which he compared bullet performance from small 'mouse gun' pocket pistols and revolvers - and found almost all of them wanting.

You’ll notice that I didn’t provide any expansion data.  That’s because NONE of the .380 or .38 special rounds expanded at all!  All of the bullets except for the two 9mm rounds could have been reloaded and fired.  They had no expansion whatsoever.

. . .

Many knowledgeable handgun instructors have noted that there really isn’t much significant difference in stopping power between most of the rounds people shoot at criminals.  Is there any wonder?  Look at the .38 and .380 rounds we tested.  All penetrated the same distance and remained .35 caliber.  Bullets with identical performance in gelatin should have similar performance in human bodies as well.  It just doesn’t make much difference what round you carry in your “mouse guns.”

. . .

The bottom line learning point for me was that one should not rely on a bullet’s expansion out of a short barreled pistol.  When shot through clothing, all the bullets remained remarkably unchanged with no expansion whatsoever and penetrated to a similar depth.

There's more at the link.  (I noted much the same thing in two articles published earlier this year, which also make interesting reading.  Mr. Ellifritz's article confirms my thinking on the ammunition recommendations I made in the second of those articles.)

A few days later, Mr. Ellifritz published an even more interesting article, this one comparing defensive ammunition performance in hog tissue.  Here's an excerpt.

The human body is not a consistent medium.  Muscle, fat, organ, and bone all have different mass, density, hardness, and flexibility.  In general, a bullet will penetrate much deeper in gelatin that it will in human flesh.

The primary reason for the diminished penetration in an actual body is the presence of skin and bone.

Skin is very elastic.  A bullet uses up a lot of energy stretching the skin before the skin actually breaks.  Most ballistic experts believe that the skin itself is equal to one to two inches of gelatin penetration.

Bones also tremendously slow bullets and limit their penetration.

We want a bullet that penetrates 12″-18″ of gelatin.  That translates to roughly 6″-10″ of human flesh, depending on the structures hit.

. . .

Ten days ago, I participated in a ballistic laboratory of a different sort at the Paul-E-Palooza Memorial Training Conference.  Instead of shooting gelatin, we shot (dead) pigs instead.  It gave us the ability to actually see how bullets performed in real flesh and bone.



Keep in mind, all of the pigs were less than twelve inches across.  Every load tested penetrates deeper than twelve inches in gelatin.  How many rounds do you think penetrated through and through on the pigs?

If you guessed NONE you would be correct.  Not a single round (including the rifle and shotgun rounds) fully penetrated the pigs.  Most wound channels were six to eight inches deep.  Those that hit larger bones terminated even earlier.

Again, more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

I continue to recommend a larger, heavier-caliber handgun as a better defensive platform than a small 'mouse gun' or pocket pistol.  It's worth the extra effort to 'dress around the gun' to carry it concealed, in exchange for the better performance available from it.  Larger handguns are typically easier to control, hold more ammunition (an important consideration when multiple attackers and/or mob violence may be a factor), and fire a more effective round.  (Shotguns and rifles are even better performers, but they're a bit difficult to carry concealed!)

I'll continue to carry small pocket pistols and revolvers, but almost always as a backup to a larger primary weapon.  I'll also load them in accordance with my earlier recommendations, to maximize their effectiveness in a defensive situation.

Peter

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rebuild after Harvey? Sure - but not on our dime!


I'm getting frustrated (again) at claims by those who've been washed out of house and home by Hurricane Harvey that they're going to rebuild - in the same place.  The same thing was said (and done) after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Hurricane Gustav in 2008, both of which I experienced.

Have we learned nothing from such natural disasters?

The one thing we should not be encouraging is to allow people to rebuild right smack bang in the middle of the devastated area, where the next hurricane that comes along will do the same thing to them, all over again!

I'd like to see a threefold approach to this mess.
  1. If you want to rebuild in the same storm-affected area, you can do so;  but once you do, you're on your own.  There will be no storm- or flood-related insurance offered on your property, and FEMA and other government agencies will offer no compensation whatsoever if and when it's damaged or destroyed again by strong weather.
  2. Existing government-subsidized insurance programs (e.g. the National Flood Insurance Program, which is already more than $24 billion in the red) should be modified.  Obviously, one can't suddenly cancel the insurance of existing policyholders;  but there's no reason why the policies can't be modified.  In the event of a claim, it should be a condition of payout that the insured use the money to rebuild elsewhere, in a safe location that is not within a flood danger zone.  If they insist on rebuilding where they were, then their flood insurance will be summarily canceled after the payout, and their property will never again be eligible for any subsidized insurance policies.  (Also, see point 1 above.)
  3. Insurance companies should be prohibited from using the premiums paid by policyholders in 'safe' areas to subsidize the premiums of those in 'unsafe' areas.  If you choose to live in a hurricane or flood danger zone, or near an active geological fault that can produce earthquakes, or close to an active volcano, you will have to pay a premium that accurately reflects the risk to the insurer.  Those living in safer areas should not have their premiums 'aggregated' with those in more dangerous areas, so that the former are effectively subsidizing the latter.  If it's too expensive to get insurance in one area, you'll just have to carry that risk yourself - or move to a safer area.  (Perhaps one-off, partial subsidies might be offered to encourage the latter.)

I suspect that, if those measures were put in place, we'd see a whole lot less people insisting on rebuilding in an area that's bound to be hit again by another such storm, sooner or later . . . costing all of us money.

Peter

Lies, damned lies, photographs, and the truth


Just to demonstrate how even "photographic" evidence can be so tampered with as to make it the opposite of what actually happened, consider this image from the Charlottesville riots, which I posted in an article a couple of weeks ago.




It was taken from a gallery of images provided here (and linked at the time).

This is what it was turned into by a pro-Antifa supporter, using Photoshop or a similar program.




Details of how it was altered may be found on this Reddit discussion page.

Now, if you hadn't seen the original, would you have believed a claim that the 'doctored' image above proves that neo-Nazis were using flamethrowers on innocent, non-violent left-wing counter-protesters?  I bet you would have . . . but it would have been a lie from start to finish.  The original photograph, at the head of this article, is the real one, showing the exact opposite.  The moral of the story:  always, always fact-check extremist claims.

As Sarah Hoyt points out, this sort of false propaganda is so widespread in left-wing politics right now, particularly in the mainstream media, that it's beyond ridiculous.

Sure, Trump occasionally misspeaks, and sure people can get bored with a speech.  But more importantly, the press is so relentlessly and insanely biased towards anything Trump says or does that it’s sometimes impossible to figure out what they’re reporting on, other than whatever is inside their heads, pre-packaged and ready to “report.”  From offhand comments on Russia, to his comments on what happened in Charlottesville, it’s near impossible to divine what Trump says from how it’s written about.  He could say the sky is blue and get coverage along the lines of “by not mentioning the white clouds, Trump encourages white supremacy.”

. . .

You’d think that Trump’s victory, so stunning that it surprised even those of us who wanted anything but to see Hillary win, would have caused a media wake up, something along the lines of “wait, if this could happen, maybe things aren’t the way we expected” or “maybe there is a defect in our thought.”  Or perhaps even “technology has made it so that we can no longer present a unified front in news, without people being able to see and judge for themselves.”

However,  that is not what seems to have happened ... It’s like the media has been in an enchanted sleep, as though a particularly ugly Snow White had fallen asleep under a spell and failed to note how the world changed around her as she slept.

. . .

And yet instead of reassessing, they just keep trying more of the same, or, by wildly projecting, saying that Trump supporters might harm them, this while deep-sixing coverage of the attack on Scalise by an anti-trump leftist because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

It’s as though they think if they only attack with enough force and vigor they’ll get the result they always got.

Like lab mice in a long deserted lab, they keep pushing with their noses on the pellet dispenser, sure eventually it will dispense just what they want. Only they’re not as smart as lab rats.  Lab rats adapt and learn.  The biased press can only do the same thing over and over again, until all you can think of while watching them is: How long before they starve or starting eating their fellows?

There's more at the link.

Food for thought . . . and a worthwhile reminder to be on our guard.  What you see isn't always what you get, and "all the news that's fit to print" isn't always the truth, let alone real news.

Peter

Christian norms in a post-Christian society


The onslaught against Christian norms of behavior - not to mention Christian theology - is becoming a drumbeat of intolerance.  The tragedy is that, in some cases, Christian theology and disciplinary norms have lent themselves to conduct that is simply intolerable, and have thereby become their own worst enemy when it comes to defending them.  It becomes a matter of the rule of faith versus the rule of law.  It's the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.

My thoughts on the matter were sparked by an Australian article about how the confessional became an emotional and spiritual haven for a priest to continue his sexual offenses against children.

On the one hand, we have the Catholic Church maintaining it will make no change in its protocol about the sanctity of the confessional. And it maintains that, despite the fact that – as just revealed by the Criminal Justice report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – it has presided over cases like the one in Rockhampton where Father Michael McArdle was forgiven no fewer than 1500 times by 30 of his fellow priests for raping children in his care.

"I was devastated after the assaults, every one of them," Father McArdle affirmed in a 2004 affidavit, quoted in The Australian on Tuesday. "So distressed would I become that I would attend confessions weekly. [After every confession], it was like a magic wand had been waved over me."

Now, as not a single one of those priests called the police – sanctity of the confessional and all that – McArdle continued his atrocities for decades, devastating the lives of ever more children.

And, on the other hand, we have the Catholic Church waving a flag upon what it sees as the moral high ground, warning the rest of us of what will happen to society if we vote for marriage equality. And its warnings include the dangers to children of gay couples.

I ask this seriously. How long can we, as a society, BEAR this?

There's more at the link.

The author deliberately conflates the confessional seal with faith-based arguments against same-sex marriage, which is not the same thing.  Nevertheless, the question remains:  how long, and to what extent, can a secular, post-Christian society permit and/or tolerate Christian views, and vice versa?

In the case above, the opposing arguments are a head-on clash of legal and moral cultures. The rule of law generally states that one cannot hide one's knowledge of a crime.  By doing so, one becomes an accessory after the fact of the perpetrator's previous crimes by not revealing them, and (arguably) an accessory before the fact of the perpetrator's subsequent crimes by not providing information that the authorities might have used to prevent them from occurring. On the other hand, the confidentiality of the relationship between a penitent and a minister of religion (sometimes referred to as 'priest-penitent privilege', which dates back to the earliest systems of Canon Law), is still recognized in most Western secular legal systems as a qualifier to the law of evidence.  In most such jurisdictions, a clergyman cannot be compelled to testify concerning sins (which may or may not be crimes according to secular law) revealed to him by a penitent who has approached him in his capacity as a minister or pastor, and is therefore not guilty of concealing a crime if he does not discuss them with police.

Priest-penitent privilege has, in the past, generally been accepted as overriding the accessory provisions of the rule of law.  Whether or not that will continue is a matter of serious debate in the legal profession at this time, and the outcome is not certain.  It's not the only faith-based issue creating serious concerns within systems of secular law.  Let's look at a few examples from recent headlines.

The Ontario government in Canada recently passed the 'Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017'.  According to one article, it:

... gives the state more power to seize children from families that oppose the LGBTQI and gender ideology agenda, and allows government agencies to effectively ban couples who disagree with that agenda from fostering or adopting children.

. . .

Bill 89 ... adds “gender identity” and “gender expression” as factors to be considered “in the best interests of the child.”

At the same time, it deletes the religious faith in which the parents are raising the child as a factor to be considered, and mandates child protection services consider only the child’s own “creed” or “religion” when assessing the best interests of the child.

Again, more at the link.  The article, written for a pro-faith audience, is naturally very concerned about the denial of religious freedoms that this is claimed to represent.  Breitbart claims that "Some Christians have reacted strongly to the new bill, calling it a violation of parents’ primordial rights to educate their children and a direct assault on Christian beliefs."  It's easy to understand such a reaction . . . but at the same time, the reality is that the legislation is the product of a post-Christian society, in which faith-based norms are no longer dominant.  Neither side is willing to consider that the other may have a point.  The arguments are based on diametrically opposed world views.  There is no possibility of reconciling them, short of one or both sides making concessions that are anathema to their beliefs and perspectives.

Such laws also directly and immediately impact which social services providers are permitted to handle foster care, adoptions, etc.  In recent years, several major US cities - even entire states - have effectively forced the Catholic Church to shut down its adoption services, due to legislation banning 'discrimination' against same-sex couples.  The Church does not regard such relationships as satisfactory parenting environments, for theological and other reasons, and therefore will not provide adoption services to them, which directly conflicts with secular law.  To avoid that conflict, many otherwise suitable couples of faith have now been denied access to faith-based adoption services.  (Similar situations have arisen overseas, for example, in Northern Ireland.  Recently, the harrowing story of how British [secular] foster care authorities forced a child of Christian origin into foster care with Muslim families, and the difficulties that resulted, has aroused controversy.  It's far from the only such case.  Note that the authorities have refused to apologize, and will not make any public commitment to any considerations of faith or belief when planning further such placements.)

I can't pretend to have any easy answers.  As most of my readers are aware, I was a Catholic priest.  I believed in and supported (and still do) the priest-penitent privilege and the seal of the confessional.  Nevertheless, when I read articles such as that one from Australia, I can absolutely and fully understand the outrage of the author.  If I were in his shoes, I'd probably feel precisely the same way.  It's similar to the reactions of Church authorities and 'organization men' to the priest child sex abuse scandal some years ago, about which I've written at length.  They could not understand that their blinkered, head-in-the-sand approach would no longer suffice in a post-Christian society.  Civil and political society, long since secularized, are simply no longer prepared to cut the Church any slack when it comes to conflict between secular and religious belief.

When it comes to a situation such as that described above, where the seal of the confessional was clearly and inescapably a major factor in the perpetrator getting away with his crimes for decades, affecting dozens (possibly even hundreds) of innocent victims . . . how is it possible to defend that faith-based right, in a non-faith-based, secular, post-Christian society?  I don't know.  In secular human terms, I can't defend it.  It's as simple as that.  In the eyes of society, and (I submit) even in the eyes of most people of faith, the right of innocent children to be protected from sexual predators overrides and supersedes any claim to religious exemption or protection.  How can it be otherwise?  Don't ask me.  I don't have a magic wand, that I can wave to come up with all the answers.

I offer these thoughts as a starting-point for my readers to discuss the issue.  Please let us know your thoughts in Comments - but please, do so with respect for those who may not agree with your position.  Insults, accusations and dogmatic insistence will generate more heat than light, and won't advance the discussion one iota.

Peter

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday morning music


Let's have a bit more classical music, shall we?  I'm sure not many of my readers have heard of Jiří Ignác Linek, a Czech composer of the 18th century.  He produced over 300 pieces, including his Symphony Pastoralis in C major.





Very much in the Mozart tradition, wouldn't you say?

Peter

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #973


Today's award goes to a parent in Atlanta.

Police say a boy found a gun in a dressing room at an Atlanta mall and it fired when the mother pulled the trigger to see if it was real.

News outlets report the mother and son were inside a dressing room at the Adidas store in Lenox Square on Wednesday when the 10-year-old boy found what he thought was a toy gun under a bench. Atlanta police spokeswoman Stephanie Brown says the mother took the gun from the boy and pulled the trigger "to see if it was real." A single shot was fired.

There's more at the link.

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . . Surely the logical way to find out whether or not a gun is real, is to ask someone who knows about such things?  Instead, she pulled the trigger - and found out the hard way that yes, it was real.  By the grace of God, no-one was hurt, but what if it had been aimed at someone?

They say some people are simply too stupid to be allowed to own firearms.  Sadly, stories (and people) like this are grist to the mill of the gun-banners.

Peter

When cinema meets political correctness - and people die


I'm disgusted to read that a stuntwoman's death was entirely avoidable, if only the production company hadn't been riddled with political correctness.

The death of stuntwoman Joi "SJ" Harris on the set of Deadpool 2 is tragic. It's even more heartbreaking as we've learned that the that crew members on the set consider her death to have been preventable.

"She was improving, but I was watching her and, oh my God, I thought, ‘It’s just a matter of time before she crashes into a wall or runs somebody over," a source tells The Hollywood Reporter. This source had been training Harris to perform the stunt, and noted that another member of the stunt staff had spoken to producers about their safety concerns. Harris had endured two previous crashes during the practice stunts.

. . .

It appears that the producers did not take the stunt team's worries seriously, and were adamant that the stunt be performed by an Afrian-American woman in order to more closely resemble the character Domino, played by actress Zazie Beetz. Joi Harris had previously never performed motorcycle stunts on film, and was primarily a road racer. According to Deadline, Harris was not wearing a helmet during the take, because Domino wasn't wearing one in the scene.

"The producers put pressure to have somebody of the same sex and ethnicity in a position she wasn’t qualified to be in," stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano told THR. "The stunt coordinators caved to the pressure."

There's more at the link.

In days past, before political correctness came to rule the entertainment industry so completely, it would have been common practice to have a stunt double wear makeup to simulate the correct skin shade, and perform like that.  Apparently that wasn't a sufficiently "authentic" solution for the production team in this case . . . so a less qualified, less competent stuntwoman was used - and she died for it.

One wonders whether a charge of (at least) manslaughter (or, to be politically correct, personslaughter) wouldn't be appropriate.

Peter

"Art" be damned - it's hatred and intolerance of religion


I was disgusted to read reports of a TV series that (graphically) depicts Jesus Christ having sexual intercourse on the night of the Last Supper, and conceiving a child.  Unsurprisingly, protests about the scene have met with a delighted reaction from the producers, 'with co-producer Seth Rogen simply tweeting: "If this isn't a good endorsement of [the series], I don't know what is".'

I understand there are those who believe that this is nothing more than artistic freedom of expression in action, and not intended as an attack on Christianity and Christian believers.  They are, of course, naive to the point of moral and intellectual blindness.  As proof, I offer this simple test:

Would that series, or one like it using the same production team, depict Mohammed in precisely and exactly the same way?

Of course it (and they) wouldn't.  They wouldn't dare, because they know the outraged reaction from the Islamic community would probably result in their deaths.  Similarly, no TV network I know of would dare broadcast such material, for fear of a similar reaction.

That makes the situation clear.  This isn't artistic expression at all.  So-called "artistic expression" that denigrates only one faith, and would not countenance denigrating another in the same way, is nothing more or less than bias.  The only reason such material is developed and broadcast is because of anti-Christian animus among all involved.  There is no other reason.  Period.

As a Christian, I'm profoundly offended that anyone would produce such material.  However, my reaction will not be one of violence against them.  Instead, I'll pray for them, that perhaps what small shreds of conscience they have left may yet awaken them to the reality of their deeds, and lead them to remorse.

Nevertheless, I shall also exercise my rights as a consumer, and ensure that not a penny of my money goes to the acting and production team in any way whatsoever, in this series or in anything else they may make.  The same applies to any outlet offering air time to this travesty of entertainment.

I hope and trust that all Christians will adopt the same attitude.  If they wish to denigrate our faith so openly, and so disgustingly, the least we can do is see to it that they pay a price for it.  Note their names, and act accordingly.

Peter

Friday, August 25, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #972


Thanks to several readers who sent in this and related links, we discover a particularly egregious variety of doofi.

Nurse Practioner Trish Patterson at Prestige Urgent Care said ... they haven't had any patients with damage from looking at the eclipse, but they've had a few customers experience pain after they put sunscreen in their eye Monday since they did not have protective glasses.

"One of my colleagues at moonlight here stated yesterday that they had patients presenting at their clinic that put sunscreen on their eyeball, and presented that they were having pain and they were referred to an ophthalmologist," Patterson said.

There's more at the link.

They put what on their what?

I . . . words fail me.  Sunscreen as a means to stare at the sun?  Is education - not to mention common sense - completely dead in this country?

I mean . . . really?




Peter

RCOB moment, coming right up


Kim du Toit (who has returned to blogging after a long absence) coined the acronym RCOB, standing for 'Red Curtain of Blood' (i.e. before the eyes), to describe the furious reaction that a particularly stupid or evil event, suggestion or policy could produce in him.  Since I have similar reactions to similar things, I'll gladly appropriate it for this complete and utter crap from the Social Justice Collective Weekly flyer at the Colorado Springs campus of the University of Colorado.  Click the image for a larger view.




(A tip o' the hat to Gab user Ellis Novak for posting it.)

A few highlights:

"... the problem lies in their socialization into the military culture that is that of a white supremacist organization.  They have been permanently tainted, and are no long(er) fit for a four-year university."

Clearly, whoever wrote this crap has never been in the military.  White supremacist?  In an integrated military, with a higher percentage of people of color in uniform than exists in civilian society?  Are you s***ting me?  As for being 'permanently tainted', oh, boy . . . say that to my face, boy, and let me show you my taint!

"Veterans usually have an overwhelming presence in the classroom, which can distract other students.  This is usually true for vulnerable individual such as LGBTQQI2SAA, who have been known to be the butt of insensitive jokes made by veterans."

No s***, Sherlock!

"This is not to say that veterans should not be allowed an education.  Veterans should be allowed to attend trade schools, or maybe even community college.  But, in order to protect our academic institutions we must ban veterans from four-year universities."

I've got a better idea.  Let's make it compulsory for aspiring university students to serve their country first, before being allowed to enter.  One year of military service, or two years of service in other organizations such as the Peace Corps, equates to one year of university courses.  Thus, after a four-year military hitch, or double that in a civilian service organization, you'd be allowed to register for a four-year degree.  Sounds fair to me.  How about you, readers?

I think thousands of current and former service personnel would love to get hold of the author(s) of this screed, and edjumacate them in the realities of life.  I'm a bit far from Colorado Springs to do anything about it myself, but I'll gladly contribute to the beer fund!




Peter

This is how I used to rally . . . sort of


Back in my misspent youth, as I've mentioned before, I was peripherally involved in the sport of rally driving.  I was never a major competitor, of course;  strictly an enthusiastic amateur, driving a lightly modified second-generation Ford Escort in regional rallies in South Africa.  These cars weren't the 'works' rally Escorts, which won several world championships during the late 1970's;  they were merely ordinary 'civilian' Escorts with a few home-brewed modifications such as better suspension, tires, exhausts, etc.

I haven't been able to find much footage of 'amateur' rally Escorts like those I used to drive.  However, there's footage of the 'works' professional rally Escorts, which gives you some idea of what they looked like.  They had much more power than our vehicles, which gave them much better performance, but we used to throw ours around just as enthusiastically (albeit often less successfully) as the 'works' drivers.  (African scenery was usually less green, and the roads less muddy and more dusty, than those shown in this clip.  Rear-wheel-drive in a lot of loose dust and gravel could produce some spectacular 'wiggles' during a turn!)





Aaahhh . . . memories!

Peter

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Clearly, they don't believe in democracy


I offer this information on the basis of "know your enemy" - not our personal enemy, but the enemies of democracy, and of the constitution of these United States.

For the benefit of those who may not have thought about it, let me rehash a few historical facts.

  1. The Constitution of the United States was drawn up by delegates from every State, and then submitted to those States for acceptance and approval.
  2. Each State called for elections for a 'Federal Convention' to ratify the new Constitution.  In other words, every voter in every State had the opportunity to vote for delegates who would either support, or reject, the new Constitution.
  3. The Federalists supported the proposed Constitution;  the anti-Federalists opposed it.  The process of elections was fraught with controversy, debate and discussion.  Out of that dialog, the so-called 'Bill of Rights' emerged, which was added to the Constitution.
  4. The Constitution was eventually adopted after eleven of the original thirteen States had ratified it by means of the above process.  The remaining two States ratified it later.

In other words, the structure of our nation - which is technically defined as a constitutional Republic - was established by means of a thoroughly democratic process, in which all voices were heard and a great deal of discussion took place.  The democratic will of the people was clearly expressed, and implemented by everyone, even by those who disagreed with its choice.

Our modern system of elections, and the Electoral College, continues to implement the decisions reached democratically by our Founding Fathers and the first American voters.  All those who bitch and moan about the 'popular vote' versus the Electoral College are missing the point.  Americans chose the Electoral College system, freely and democratically.  The fact that some among us may not like it, is irrelevant.  What's more, its opponents have an approved, democratically ratified method to change it, anytime they wish - provided they can get the American people to agree.  It's called a Constitutional Amendment.  Anytime they want to introduce, pass, and ratify such an amendment, they're free to do so, provided they comply with the Constitution in the process.  Some opponents of the Electoral College are attempting to bypass Constitutional safeguards by promoting the so-called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, because they don't think they can muster enough support to pass a constitutional amendment.  To me, that's a cop-out, an attempt to ignore the Constitution altogether.  As such, I cannot and will not support it.

With this in mind, it's noteworthy that the latest call for action in opposition to President Trump doesn't even pay lip service to the will of the people, as expressed through the most recent election.  The Revolutionary Communist Party and Refuse Fascism, among other organizations, are promoting national action, to begin on November 4th.

The Revolutionary Communist Party Web site proclaims:

Millions of people agonize over every move of the regime and they worry about the specter of worse to come. They feel trapped in the kind of nightmare from which you desperately need an escape—desperately hoping to wake up so as to put the terror behind you ... What people don’t know, and need to know, is that THEY ARE THE WAY OUT OF THE NIGHTMARE, if they join together and act outside all the normal avenues that they expect society and government to provide for redress of their concerns—outside the ways that they would normally think of to act themselves for remedy. Waiting for investigations, waiting for the Democrats to act, thinking that Trump will implode, hoping for 2018 Congressional elections, even protesting each abuse—as righteous and part of people raising their heads as such protest is, these are all acting within the normal frameworks that people have grown accustomed to thinking and acting within for change in policy and direction. But change, even under “normal” times, rarely comes without ferocious struggle if it is not change in the interests of at least some of those in power. BUT EVEN MORE, THERE IS NOTHING NORMAL ABOUT THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME. FASCISM IS NOT NORMAL.

. . .

Christian fascism runs through this regime, from Steve Bannon’s world apocalyptic view of a war for Western (read white) Judeo-Christian civilization on through the Trump cabinet with Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and that vicious nut job now on the Supreme Court—Neil Gorsuch. This is a REGIME—that word matters—it is an amalgam of all the strains of fascism that have run through America’s history which have become forged over the last decades and now, in the context of the huge problems this country and system faces, has come to power. It may have shocked all or some of these fascists movements that Donald Trump is the vehicle that they are riding, but they have recognized it, and now it is so. Bannon and the Nazi Rudy Giuliani have said: THIS is our last chance (even as they have left unsaid, but made clear) to consolidate fascism.

. . .

November 4, 2017, we begin. Why have we set this date? Because without the kind of mass determined opposition of millions of people being in the streets day after day night after night, there is little chance of the whole regime being removed before they are able to cement into place a fascist re-ordering of society. By setting the date, we focus our attention and that of the whole society on the form of political protest that is required.

The author specifically emphasizes the following two paragraphs:

The Democrats, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, etc., are seeking to resolve the crisis with the Trump presidency on the terms of this system, and in the interests of the ruling class of this system, which they represent. We, the masses of people, must go all out, and mobilize ourselves in the millions, to resolve this in our interests, in the interests of humanity, which are fundamentally different from and opposed to those of the ruling class.

This, of course, does not mean that the struggle among the powers-that-be is irrelevant or unimportant; rather, the way to understand and approach this (and this is a point that must also be repeatedly driven home to people, including through necessary struggle, waged well) is in terms of how it relates to, and what openings it can provide for, “the struggle from below”—for the mobilization of masses of people around the demand that the whole regime must go, because of its fascist nature and actions and what the stakes are for humanity.

There's more at the link.

Refuse Fascism fulminates:

ON NOVEMBER 4, 2017:

We will gather in the streets and public squares of cities and towns across this country, at first many thousands declaring that this whole regime is illegitimate and that we will not stop until our single demand is met: This Nightmare Must End: the Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

Our protest must grow day after day and night after night—thousands becoming hundreds of thousands, and then millions—determined to act to put a stop to the grave danger that the Trump/Pence Regime poses to the world by demanding that this whole regime be removed from power.


Our actions will reflect the values of respect for all of humanity and the world we want—in stark contrast to the hate and bigotry of the Trump/Pence fascist regime.

Our determination to persist and not back down will compel the whole world to take note. Every force and faction in the power structure would be forced to respond to our demand. The cracks and divisions among the powers already evident today will sharpen and widen. As we draw more and more people forward to stand up, all of this could lead to a situation where this illegitimate regime is removed from power.

Again, more at the link.

Read the above, and you will know the enemies of our constitutional republic - at least, those on the left.  Note that no-one has elected them to be spokespeople for 'the masses' or 'the electorate' - they've assumed that responsibility as of right, without any real 'right' to speak of.  They do not legitimately represent anything or anyone, except the fevered political aspirations of their leaders, and - more importantly - of those hidden forces and individuals behind them.  George Soros (among others), take a bow.

(Yes, there are enemies of our constitutional republic on the right, as well.  We'll speak of them in due course.)

Peter

"No reviews, no revenue"


I know some readers find it frustrating when independent authors, such as myself, ask readers of their books to leave reviews on Amazon.com.  They don't like to be bombarded with such pleas.  I try very hard not to issue such appeals too often:  but reviews are important, as the New York Post explains.

No reviews, no revenue.

That’s the key takeaway from a new study published in Psychological Science, which finds that if two similar products have the same rating, online shoppers will buy the one with more reviews.

. . .

The study concluded that consumers see products with more reviews as being more popular, and they’re more comfortable having what everyone else is having, regardless of quality.

“[When] faced with a choice between two low-scoring products, one with many reviews and one with few, the statistics say we should actually go for the product with few reviews, since there’s more of a chance it’s not really so bad,” wrote researcher Derek Powell of Stanford University, lead author of the report. In other words, when there’s only a handful of reviews, a few bad ones break the curve and bring down the overall rating.

“But participants in our studies did just the opposite: They went for the more popular product, despite the fact that they should’ve been even more certain it was of low quality,” he wrote.

Matt Moog, CEO of PowerReviews, previously conducted a study with Northwestern University that drew from an even larger data pool of 400 million consumers, which also found that the more reviews there are of a product, the more likely it is that a customer will purchase that product. “Around 20 [and running up to 50] is the optimal number of reviews for a product to have to give consumers the confidence that this product has been tried enough by enough people,” he told Moneyish.

. . .

Most online shoppers (97 percent to be exact) say reviews influence their buying decisions, according to Fan & Fuel Digital Marketing Group, which also found that 92 percent of consumers will hesitate to buy something if it has no customer reviews at all.

And 73 percent of shoppers say written reviews make more of an impression on them than the star or number ratings, according to Deloitte.

There's more at the link.

I guess that shows why writers beg, plead and grovel for reviews!  I always tell people to leave an honest review, too.  If you didn't like my book(s), feel free to say so, and why;  but if you did like them, please say that, too (and why).  It not only helps me write better in future (and I do take such feedback seriously), but it also helps potential readers assess my books and decide for themselves whether or not they'd like to 'take a chance' on a new-to-them author.

Interestingly, even negative reviews can help sell products to people who know what they're looking for.  For example, one of my wife's favorite cookbooks was bought because of a one-star review.  The reviewer complained that it was nothing but a selection of the best recipes from four previous cookbooks by the same author.  She felt cheated, because she owned the other books, and would not have bought this one if she'd known that.  My wife, on the other hand, read the review, and realized that by buying one book, she'd get the best parts of four others.  Sold!  Another example;  several readers, of varying political persuasions, have told me that they've sometimes bought a book in that field because of negative comments from reviewers of an opposing point of view.  If a left-wing reviewer attacks a right-wing book, a right-wing reader might buy it because of that, and vice versa.  I've never done that myself, but it makes sense to me.

So, dear readers;  if you've read my book(s), and haven't yet left a review of it/them on Amazon.com, please do so.  Thanks!

Peter

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pick your enemies carefully . . .


. . . because they may have weapons more powerful than you think.

Antifa has disrupted political and cultural activities across the USA for months now.  Here's a brief overview.





Now it's apparently decided to take on a major Internet opponent.  According to a post on Gab yesterday, Antifa has decided to try to disrupt 4chan's activities.  This infographic was provided to explain their plan of attack.  (Click the image for a larger view.)




No sooner had they released this, than 4chan struck back through another 'friendly' message board, 8chan, commonly known as the GamerGate board.  It's reported:

From the organizers of BAMN to the organizers of Refuse Fascism, to just your typical Antifa member has allegedly been doxxed. 8chan has released the first and last names of all of them and promises to be releasing the personal info of all of them.

We checked out some of these and a lot of the ones we can confirm actually check out to be true.  We couldn’t go through them all of course because there are thousands and thousands of names. Here is the 8chan link with the names.

Just in case for some reason this link gets taken down, we have had the pleasure of saving all of these for re-release if such a thing happens.  The OP of the post also promises to post additional personal info of the members.  And if you're an Antifa member checking out this site, maybe see if your name is there.  They are all in alphabetical order by last name.

Some of them who attended Charlottesville and committed violence have also been doxxed with pictures and personal info including Facebook page, home address as well as some other information.

There's more at the link.

It's going to be a bit difficult to be a strong, motivated 'warrior' against the right wing, when your name, address and other identifying information are known beforehand to every law enforcement organization involved (not to mention those on the other side).  Methinks Antifa has just done more damage to itself than it knows how to handle.

It couldn't happen to nicer people, of course.




Peter

"King's Champion" is published!


I'm very pleased to announce that my first fantasy novel, "King's Champion", is now available for sale.  It's currently in Kindle e-book format, and a print edition is well advanced, awaiting only the arrival of the proof copy before I release it for sale.  The dead tree edition should be available within two weeks.




Regular readers will recall that, late last year, I asked you to choose which of two fantasy novels I would write.  You did so, voting with your comments and e-mails after reading excerpts from early drafts of both books.  Last month, I published another excerpt from the project you selected, which you can read here if you're interested.

The blurb reads:

After decades of peace, war is threatening the Kingdom of Avranche. Its old foes are stirring, in a new alliance with darker powers. Black wings bring death and torture in the night.

Owain, former King’s Champion, hears rumors of sorcery. Visiting the grave of his sword brother, he stumbles into a deadly raid, and uncovers coded orders for a larger plot.

The kingdom’s enemies know Owain is now their greatest danger. He must race against time to find and deal with them… before they deal with him!

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this one, particularly because I chose to write in the tradition of epic, sword-and-sorcery fantasy, with which I grew up, rather than the modern trend towards urban fantasy. I don't know whether I could do justice to urban fantasy (although I might surprise myself and try it someday, just to see what happens).  At any rate, I'll be very interested to hear what you, dear readers, think about this book.

My usual plea:  when you've read the book, please leave an honest review on Amazon.com.  Reviews are the lifeblood of independent authors like me.  They're the best way for other potential readers to learn about our work, and give them an unbiased opinion about it.  We don't have publishers and distributors advertising on our behalf.  We're utterly dependent on word-of-mouth to sell our books, so you're vitally important to us.  (In the same vein, if you like the book, please spread the word about it through your social media accounts;  blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever.)

Thank you all for your encouragement and early feedback.  Now you get to see whether your enthusiasm was justified!  I hope you'll find that it was.  If you like the book, I think I might develop the second project I mentioned last year into either another stand-alone fantasy novel, or perhaps a three-book series.  We'll see what happens.

Peter

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Double "Heh!"


I don't normally do two "Heh!" posts in a day, but this is irresistible.  Found on Gab (click the image to go there for a larger view):




Talk about tossing lit matches at an open gunpowder barrel . . . the left is creepily obsessed with Steve Bannon.  This would really set them off!




Peter

Heh


From Stephan Pastis' cartoon strip Pearls Before Swine, yesterday:




(Click the image for a larger view at the strip's Web page.)




Peter

Superstition and murder. Africa strikes again.


In my Foreword to Lawdog's latest book, 'The Lawdog Files:  African Adventures', I noted:

The thing most Westerners fail to realize is that Africa – the real, deep, dark, “bush” Africa, not the faux-touristy Africa so often portrayed in movies or on TV – is... different. It’s so different, it’s almost impossible for one not raised there to comprehend it. Even urbanized, allegedly “modern” Africa is different. To illustrate: until recently, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was situated on Diagonal Street in that South African city. Every morning, one could watch black stockbrokers on their way to work. Almost all had Bachelors degrees, and many had post-graduate qualifications. They’d stop at the stalls of street sangomas (shamans, witch-doctors) and solemnly buy a little packet of dried herbs and parts of animals’ bodies, called muti (“medicine”), to bring them luck for the day. Sometimes they’d pay a little more for some extra-strong muti, guaranteed to bring bad luck to their rivals. No matter how educated and worldly-wise they had become, the hold exercised over their minds by animist beliefs and tribal culture could not be gainsaid.

I once sat out a severe thunderstorm on the porch of a farmhouse in the Northern Transvaal. With me was a school-teacher from the local town, a man with a Bachelors degree and a post-graduate Diploma in Education. He solemnly informed me that the animist spirits of the trees were at war, and the spirit of that tree – the one that had just been struck by lighting – had lost his battle. He was an educated man, who knew all about, and daily taught, physics and chemistry to school pupils… but he was also a product of his tribe and his culture. He really believed what he’d just said. He absolutely was not joking. When I tried to argue, he told me openly that he pitied me, because I was so blind to the spiritual reality that could be seen, plain as a pikestaff, right in front of my eyes.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Africa is different. Most of her people are different. They think, behave, and react differently. That’s not a racist statement; it’s just the way it is.

That difference has just been demonstrated yet again in the sleepy South African farming town of Estcourt (or, at least, when I knew it in the 1980's and early 1990's, it was still a sleepy farming town - things may have changed since then).

A rural village in Escourt‚ KwaZulu-Natal‚ is abuzz with allegations of black magic‚ muti and cannibalism after four men‚ one of whom is a traditional healer‚ stand accused of murdering a woman and eating parts of her body.

The group made a brief appearance in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on Monday facing charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Their arrests followed the confession of a man who walked into the Estcourt police station at the weekend‚ declaring to officers that he was tired of eating human flesh.

When officers questioned his outlandish statement‚ the man produced part of a human leg and a human hand.

. . .

Ward councillor Mthembeni Majola said that the community had been shaken after hearing about the macabre discovery by police and held a meeting on Monday morning.

“There was a community meeting because I wanted to find out their position on this and the extent of the involvement of the accused. They came from our ranks. Their families confessed that they knew about the killings ... It cannot only be one body. When the police were following this matter they discovered eight ears in a pot where one man was staying. That means there is much more to this‚” Majola said.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

If the report alone doesn't boggle your mind, consider that the families of those committing the murders knew what they were doing, but did nothing to stop them.  That demonstrates the power sangomas, or traditional healers, have over the credulous tribespeople who 'believe' in them.  Furthermore, there must be families in the region who have lost loved ones to these criminals . . . but they did not report their missing loved ones to the police.  Again, they would have been prevented from doing so by the fear that the sangoma(s) in question would have used their spiritual 'powers' to retaliate against them - perhaps even putting them on the menu, so to speak.

I'm sure this mess will turn out to be much worse than it appears from the initial report above.  I have little doubt that the death toll will increase as more evidence is uncovered.  This sort of thing is not new in Africa.  There are many who still believe that muti containing human body parts is particularly powerful and effective.  Some of them can afford to (and do) pay large sums for it.  Where there's a market, someone will satisfy the demand.  That's as good as a law of nature, in economic terms.

Some human bodies, particularly those affected by albinism (and, among them, children in particular, because of their perceived 'innocence') are considered particularly efficacious for muti - so much so that in Tanzania, where that belief is rampant, many albinos have to live in separate villages or 'safe houses' (that aren't always safe enough), guarded for their protection against gangs of criminals seeking to kidnap them for sale to local witch-doctors.





And so the sleepy farming community of Estcourt, that I remember well, has been thrust into the glare of the national and international spotlight, all because of rampant superstition.  I'm sure many of the locals are cursing those responsible . . . but it'll likely happen again.  Tribal culture and animist beliefs are too deeply rooted to be suppressed for more than a short time.  They'll be back.


*Sigh*


May the souls of the victims, through the mercy of God, rest in peace;  and may those they leave behind receive what comfort they may.

Peter