Thursday, April 17, 2014

A smokescreen as home security device?

I'm sure many readers have heard about smoke generators used as anti-theft devices in some stores.  Here are a couple of video clips to illustrate the concept.  First, a demonstration of a device in England.

Next, an actual armed robbery in South Africa, foiled by the smoke generator.

Of course, both videos were provided by suppliers of these devices, so there may be failures that they prefer not to publicize.

I've had a couple of people ask me whether I thought it was a good idea to install something like this in one's home, to drive burglars or home invaders out without their being able to steal anything.  I'm not sure it is.  If there's a need to evacuate the home (for example, if a fire starts, or the intruders begin shooting wildly) the smoke might prevent one finding one's own way out of the danger zone.  However, if you know your home well, you can probably navigate around the corridors and to the front or back door by touch if necessary.  Intruders presumably won't have that same level of knowledge, so you might be able to get away from them.  (On the other hand, if they're fumbling around blindly and you walk into them, who knows what might happen?)

What say you, readers?  Good idea, or a complicating factor?


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why our economy is as screwed as our politics

I know this article from CNS News has been highlighted on the Drudge Report today, and mentioned on a number of blogs, but I think it's worth mentioning it here too.  It demonstrates, clearly, concisely and in irrefutable arithmetical fact, precisely why our economy - and our politics - are neck-deep in the dwang.  What's more, they're going to stay there until our feckless politicians stop making promises they can't afford to keep, and start living within the nation's means.  I don't foresee that happening with any of the current crop in Washington.

Here are a couple of key quotes from the article.

86M Full-Time Private-Sector Workers Sustain 148M Benefit Takers

. . .

The 86,429,000 Americans who worked full-time, year-round in the private sector, included 77,392,000 employed as wage and salary workers for private-sector enterprises and 9,037,000 who worked for themselves. (There were also approximately 52,000 who worked full-time, year-round without pay in a family enterprise.)

At first glance, 86,429,000 might seem like a healthy population of full-time private-sector workers. But then you need to look at what they are up against.

The Census Bureau also estimates the size of the benefit-receiving population.

. . .

There were 108,592,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2011 who lived in a household that included people on "one or more means-tested program."

Those 108,592,000 outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private-sector workers who inhabited the United States in 2012 by almost 1.3 to 1.

. . .

There were 49,901,000 people receiving Social Security in the fourth quarter of 2011, and 46,440,000 receiving Medicare. There were also 5,098,000 getting unemployment compensation.

And there were also, 3,178,000 veterans receiving benefits and 34,000 veterans getting educational assistance.

All told, including both the welfare recipients and the non-welfare beneficiaries, there were 151,014,000 who "received benefits from one or more programs" in the fourth quarter of 2011. Subtract the 3,212,000 veterans, who served their country in the most profound way possible, and that leaves 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers.

The 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private sector workers 1.7 to 1.

How much more can the 86,429,000 endure?

As more baby boomers retire, and as Obamacare comes fully online — with its expanded Medicaid rolls and federally subsidized health insurance for anyone earning less than 400 percent of the poverty level — the number of takers will inevitably expand. And the number of full-time private-sector workers might also contract.

Eventually, there will be too few carrying too many, and America will break.

There's more at the link.  You really should read the whole thing.

Those of us who understand reality had better be preparing now for what will happen when it bites us all in the ass - because it will.  Mathematics is an exact, precise science.  The figures cited above are mathematical reality.  So is their inevitable consequence, no matter how much our politicians might like to ignore reality and pretend it'll never happen.


More fallout from the Nevada standoff

I'd like to recommend two articles to your attention.  Both have been spreading around the blogosphere today.

The first is a long, but very thought-provoking post over at Taxicab Depressions.  It's titled 'The Pig Trap', and uses that analogy to describe what the unelected bureaucracy running the federal government appears to be trying to do to us.  I'm not sure whether or not I fully agree with the author's perspective, but I certainly agree with parts of it.  Highly recommended reading.

Second, National Review Online has an acerbic take on the response of the US government to the Bundy standoff.  Money quote:

One can be a supporter of the rule of law and still recoil in anger and disgust from the militarized display of force by the federal government toward Clive Bundy ... The appalling contempt this government has shown toward its citizens and the rule of law is the context in which the Bundy-BLM confrontation is playing out. It’s a context that further diminishes, rather than enhances, Americans’ respect for the rule of law.

More and more I'm getting the impression that the Bundy standoff may prove to have been a turning point in the way Americans relate to their government.  I certainly hope so.


Doofus Of The Day #763

This one's courtesy of Autoblog.  The video is self-explanatory.

If that's how they tried to get it out, would anyone care to speculate how they got it in there in the first place?


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 'last wishes' of a venerable VW vehicle

I'm sure many of my readers have driven (or been driven in) a VW Kombi, or Microbus, or van, or whatever it was called in their country.  (In South Africa it was first called the Kombi, then the Microbus for the variant with the updated body.)  I drove both types for thousands of miles up and down the country, ferrying people and supplies here and there.

The Kombi came onto the market as a derivation of the legendary VW Beetle, and was launched in 1950.  It's been manufactured in Brazil since 1957, and that country was also the last to make it.  The production line shut down at the end of last year after producing a final 600 vehicles in a special 'Final Edition', shown below.

To commemorate 63 years of production of the Kombi, Volkswagen produced this nostalgic advertisement guaranteed to appeal to old-timers like me.  YMMV, of course.

Clever, cute and nostalgic.  What's not to like?


"When Los Angeles was a rustic village"

That's the title of a photo essay in the Telegraph, featuring images dating back to the 19th century.  Here are a couple of them to whet your appetite.

Visitors to Santa Monica Beach in the 1880's

San Fernando Valley in the 1890's

Looks a bit different today, doesn't it?  There are many more images at the link.  Interesting viewing for history buffs.


Special price on "Take The Star Road" - two days only!

If any of my readers haven't tried my novels yet, and would like to, I'm currently running a promotion through Amazon's Kindle Countdown Deals.  My first novel, 'Take The Star Road', is on special at 99c for the next couple of days.  The deal ends on Thursday evening.

I've publicized the promotion through BookBub and other services, and so far it's going very well.  I've sold almost 1,500 copies since it kicked off on Sunday evening.  Of course, because the price is heavily discounted I make much less money per book sold, but that's OK - I hope to gain a large number of readers who otherwise wouldn't have tried it at all, and who will (I hope) go on to enjoy my other books.

Finally, an appeal:  if you've read any of my books and have not yet left a review on, please, please do so!  It helps prospective readers decide whether they'd like to try it, and it helps me when it comes to arranging promotional deals like this - one factor that organizers take into account is the number and quality of reviews a book has attracted.

Thanks very much to everyone who's already bought one or more of my books.  You're a blessing.


Too cute for words!

Here's an utterly charming video, compiled from numerous clips, of youngsters recognizing their fathers as they come home from work.  It's irresistibly cute!

I know kids are an enormous amount of work, but this is one of the compensations.


Why I'm happy to pay taxes this year

Sounds odd, doesn't it?  Why should anybody be happy to pay taxes?

For me the story goes back to 2004, when I suffered a crippling injury at work.  Two surgeries later it became clear that I'd be permanently partially disabled, and I had to accept medical retirement.  A neurosurgeon told me bluntly that due to issues with pain, physical endurance, etc., I'd never again be able to work at a 'normal' 9-to-5 job, so I'd simply have to accept living on a disability pension.

My immediate reaction was, "To hell with that!"  My parents raised me to believe that a man looks after himself and his family;  pays his own way;  and relies on the assistance of others only when there's no alternative, and even then for as short a time as possible until he can stand on his own two feet again.  I was hampered, of course, by the fact that few employers would hire someone who couldn't do a full day's work for a full day's pay.  This grew even worse after the current recession hit in 2008;  with so many able-bodied workers desperate for a job, partially-abled folks like me weren't even considered most of the time.  Nevertheless, I had a plan.

In 1984, when I was 24 years old, my first book was published.  It dealt with prayer and wasn't commercial in orientation, but it proved (to me, at any rate) that I could write in a way that was interesting to others.  Several articles in professional journals had preceded it, and more followed until South Africa's civil unrest got in the way of further writing activities.  Therefore, after hearing that skeptical neurosurgeon in 2005 (and biting my lip to hold back a rude retort), I made up my mind to work hard at learning the craft of fiction writing and to try to make a living that way.  After all, my physical limitations wouldn't stop me writing whenever and wherever I could.

When pain woke me (as it often did, and still does) in the small hours of the morning, instead of taking another painkiller, I went to my study and wrote.  The pain wasn't fun, but it spurred me to harder work.  I found I could do a surprising amount while the rest of the world was asleep, even if I had to catch up on my rest during the day.  I wrote almost two dozen partial and complete novels over the next eight years, totaling a couple of million words.  None of them were very good:  but I learned from each failure, and worked harder, and the results got better and better.  (I wrote about the process at greater length last year.)

The publication of my first novels last year was the culmination of almost a decade of hard work.  I'm not earning a full living from them yet, but I made enough in 2013 for Uncle Sam to want a chunk of it.  I was happy to pay it.  It's concrete evidence to me that I'm contributing once more to the upkeep of the society in which I live, instead of just being a burden on it.  I'm once again a producer rather than a parasite.  That makes me all sorts of happy.  If I continue to work hard, and you continue to enjoy what I write, I hope to be fully self-supporting within another year or two.  I'm looking forward to the day when I can cancel further payments on my disability pension.

It's a good feeling.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Thoughts on the Nevada standoff

I've deliberately refrained from comment on the Nevada incident between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a rancher, his extended family and a few hundred (some say more than a thousand) supporters from around the country.  I've been trying to find out more information than has been discussed on blog posts, partisan news sources and a few mainstream media outlets.  There's a lot more to this than meets the eye, and I suspect it's a long way from over.

Here are a few points to ponder.

1.  Most sources of information were/are completely unreliable.

There was an awful lot of wrong information, deliberate disinformation, and outright lying going on.  Sources of 'news' such as Alex Jones' Infowars site (no, I'm not going to link to it), a number of III Percent blogs, etc. were utterly irresponsible in peddling information without double-checking it, reporting rumor as fact, and generally whipping up emotion (even hysteria) over the issue.  Anyone who trusts any of these sources for information is at best deluded (and that's putting it mildly).  They're poisoning the debate by their very presence.  I know we have freedom of expression, but if this is the way they're abusing that right, they surely don't deserve it.

The few thoughtful voices were almost drowned out by those clamoring to score political, philosophical and emotional points off the issue.  I suspect some of the latter would actually have been pleased if the rancher and/or some of his family had been arrested (or even killed) by BLM agents or other officials.  It would have become a rallying cry for them to whip up further emotion.

This is a very dangerous situation indeed for all those who love liberty and the rights recognized in our Constitution.  Legitimate defense of those rights is one thing.  Manipulation of issues to force confrontation, even armed conflict, by those who have taken a one-sided, highly partisan and emotional position about those rights is entirely another.  We need to ask ourselves, very simply, "Is this issue worth dying for?"  To do that, we have to be very clear about what the issue really is - something that wasn't always evident in this situation.  (I don't propose to answer that question here - each of us will have to do that for ourselves.)

2.  The problems with the BLM go back decades.

I've seen very few references to the fact that the BLM appears - I emphasize, appears - to have been trying to drive ranchers off public lands for several decades.  The origins of Mr. Bundy's conflict with the BLM are described in this very interesting contribution by a fellow rancherI strongly recommend that you read it in full.  If the information he provides is correct - I've been able to find other references that appear to support it, but not yet sufficient to say for sure that I've verified it - then it looks very much as if, two decades ago, the federal government and its agencies began arrogating to themselves powers, rights and privileges that they had never before elucidated or enforced.  It's apparently at that point that Mr. Bundy refused to pay further fees to the federal government, because he refused to recognize their 'rights grab'.  (I understand he continued to pay fees to his county government.)  However, Mr. Bundy also appears to hold certain opinions that are simply not in accordance with the facts - something that makes it more difficult to defend him.  He's certainly not blameless in this matter.

3.  There appears to be corruption and political influence-peddling behind this crisis.

Others have commented at length about the involvement in this crisis of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, his son Rory, his former aide, Chinese company ENN Energy, and other 'interested parties'.  Perhaps the most comprehensive overview of their alleged collusion has been provided by Newsmax.  Again, I urge you to read that report in full.  There's also the very interesting question of how, during a lifetime of elected political office, Senator Reid has managed to amass so much wealth for himself.  Some details may be found here.  If you think it happened solely because he made wise investments or 'got lucky', there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you . . .

If the allegations in those reports are correct, then I suggest the old proverb applies:  "There's no smoke without fire".  There's been so much smoke generated by and from this crisis that there's got to be a bloody great conflagration behind the scenes!  Furthermore, Senator Reid doesn't sound like he's giving up:

“Well, it’s not over,” Reid, D-Nev.,  told KRNV-TV in Reno on Monday. “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

4.  There's a serious risk of further escalation of this conflict.

If I were rancher Cliven Bundy, I'd be preparing for a raid on my farmhouse by armed federal agents, probably not just BLM but also including FBI, US Marshals, and possibly ATF and other agencies.  Alternatively, the authorities may try to arrest him while he's running errands in town, or on the road.  They probably assume that if they can remove him from his property and get him out of the state within an hour or two, that will remove the focal point around which resistance can gather.  I think they're wrong in that assumption . . . but they've become accustomed to the arrogance of power.

I also think that some in the III Percent community are spoiling for a fight.  They'd welcome any excuse to strike back at what they consider to be an overreaching federal government, hoping to use an incident to inspire further resistance - even an all-out rebellion.  I think they're wrong about that, but no-one can be sure.

The Nevada stand-off has become an ongoing flash-point.  I hope and pray the authorities have the sense to realize that, and to let it de-escalate over time to where further developments can take place in the courtroom, where saner heads may yet prevail.  If an arrogant politician like Senator Reid gets involved, or authoritarian bureaucrats in the BLM and/or other agencies try to insist on doing it their way, all bets are off.  Bloodshed remains a very real possibility.

5.  This incident has implications for all Americans everywhere.

Remember this?


A city may designate areas for protesters in an effort to avoid conflict and/or confrontation between rival groups;  that's a legitimate method of 'keeping the peace'.  However, in the wide open spaces of Nevada, with only one group engaged in protest, that consideration doesn't apply.  This was nothing more or less than an attempt to silence protest and stifle dissent.  It didn't work - for which let's all be duly grateful.  However, I'm sure it won't be the last time it's tried.  (Did you ever wonder how the BLM just 'happened' to have those signs all pre-printed and ready for use?  I wonder how many more of them are waiting to be deployed during the next crisis?)  I confidently predict that federal authorities will continue to try to override the constitutional rights of Americans.  I fear that if they push too hard, or go too far, the answer will be bloodshed.

As a law enforcement officer I swore to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic' and 'that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same'.  Although I'm now retired, that oath did not (and never will) retire.  I continue to uphold it, and I will not stand by idly while other sworn officers deliberately and callously violate the very constitution they've sworn to support and defend.  I know many feel as I do - perhaps many more than the authorities might wish to admit, both serving and retired personnel.

The Nevada standoff is a wake-up call to all of us that the time may come when we have to stand up and be counted . . . or surrender our rights forever to an unelected, arrogant bureaucracy that's gotten too big for its collective boots.

I think a younger Ronald Reagan put it well.



Tongue in cheek, probably NSFW, but very funny!

I have to admit, I laughed out loud when I heard this.  Thanks to E. D. for sending me the link.

Classic double entendre!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Around The Blogs 2013-04-13

I didn't do an Around The Blogs feature last weekend, so here goes with two weeks' worth of entries.

# # #

Reason's Hit & Run blog points out that in ten years, the national debt has increased by ten trillion dollars, or over 145% from its starting point.  If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, economically and politically speaking, I don't know what will . . .  As the author notes:

At some point, you have to think that it's going to occur to people that the United States government seems neither willing nor able to stop borrowing, and to start paying the sum down, even a little bit.


# # #

Two bloggers seem to have come up with similar concepts over the past few days.  C. W. Swanson brings us 'The daily routines of famous scholars and artists', while The Art Of Manliness brings us 'Libraries Of Famous Men' (a so far incomplete collection).  Both were interesting articles.

# # #

Speaking of C. W. Swanson, he made me laugh out loud with two posts recently.  One concerned a US Marine with a serious lack of negotiating skills, while the other announced a historic record attempt.  He says he'd pay to watch it.  So would I!

# # #

Earthbound Misfit considers the conclusive evidence of the use of torture by US intelligence and other agencies, and asks 'Do we have the integrity to start criminal proceedings against our own torturers and enablers, or are we going to wait, like the Germans, until our resident war criminals are in their 90s? Or do like the Japanese, and pretend that it never happened?'  I entirely agree with her.  By any and every legal precedent you can think of, this was a war crime.  If we capture people who did this to our citizens and servicemen, we put them on trial (that is, if they survive that long in the first place).

Every single US politician, official, bureaucrat or operator who approved and/or ordered and/or carried out and/or covered up such torture needs to face prosecution.  No exceptions.  Either we are a nation of laws (laws which specifically and explicitly prohibit this sort of thing), or we're merely a slightly larger and richer version of Papa Doc's Haiti.

I know what I'd prefer us to be . . . but so far, given the absence of any official action against those concerned, I fear we're rapidly trending towards the other.

# # #

Speaking of official misconduct, Firehand has two articles that are cause for thought - and anger.  In the first he looks at the lack of accountability and punishment for law enforcement officers, officials and government bureaucrats who step out of line.  In the second, he examines the case of a New York man freed after 24 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a crime, due to the deliberate withholding of exculpatory evidence by prosecuting and law enforcement authorities.  He concludes:

Let's see, perjury, paying for fake testimony, hiding evidence, knowingly putting an innocent man in prison... f*** suing them, HANGING is too good for the bastards.

I can't argue with that.

# # #

The Lonely Libertarian tickled my funny-bone with two recent posts.  One is why a certain well-known blogger shouldn't text love messages.  The other is why an Eagle Scout still has a lot to learn about some things . . .

# # #

Dr. Brian Mattson has an intriguing explanation of the inspiration for Darren Aronofsky's new movie 'Noah'.  He points out the Kabbalistic and Gnostic influences on the director, which explain why and how the film differs from the Biblical, Sumerian and Akkadian mythological narratives.  I found it very interesting.  Recommended reading, particularly for Christians who don't know the origins of the Biblical story.

# # #

The New Rebellion University takes a look at a video hit-job titled 'The Five Worst Weapons Still In Use'.  I've seen all of those weapons in a combat zone - and let me tell you, I was delighted to have them on my side!  When the enemy used some of them against us, it wasn't nearly as much fun.  As the author points out, they may be politically incorrect, but they work.  He nominates five other 'Worst Weapons' preferred by progressives, that are far worse.  I'm inclined to agree with him.

# # #

Jay G. has an article about the diamond-shaped warning placards found on transport vehicles, advising what they're carrying and the dangers it poses in the event of a leak or an accident.  He links to some very useful information.

In less useful but very funny vein, he brings us a video clip of some of Darth Vader's most memorable sayings, read by the actor who voices Winnie the Pooh.  I never thought I'd hear the Dark Lord end a line with "Oh, bother!"  Star Wars will never seem the same again . . .

# # #

Warren Meyer fulminates against feel-good legislation that can and will achieve nothing whatsoever except to expand the scope of bureaucratic overreach and impose additional administrative burdens on already hard-pressed businesses.  As an example, he links to what California expects businesses to post for their employees.  It's a mind-bogglingly long list of bureaucratic inanity.

# # #

Cap'n Bob illustrates why scare headlines in the mainstream media aren't always something to worry about - particularly when the 'science' behind them isn't science at all, but the droppings from an overimaginative and underinformed journalistic hive-mind.

# # #

Borepatch brings us 'a good lesson for a lot of people'.

# # #

Exurban Kevin provides some interesting statistics to demonstrate that 'You’re not paranoid for wanting to own and carry a gun. You’re just better at math than most people.'  In another post, he makes the case for preparing an evacuation plan for your home in case of fire or any other emergency.  Both articles are worthwhile reading.

# # #

Sarah Hoyt looks at the problem of what we owe children:  'specifically, what is owed the children of people who have them solely to extort a living from the well meaning and caring in society'.  It's a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion.

In a comment to her post, fellow author Casey Neumiller examines the problem of helping those who don't have the understanding or will to help themselves, using Haiti as an example.  It's an interesting corollary to and case study for the points Sarah makes.

# # #

CenTexTim has an interesting take on the war between the sexes.

# # #

Herschel Smith examines the multiple onslaughts on the middle class in America today by groups treating it as a host upon which they are parasites.  He concludes:

With multiplication of the parasites the host cannot survive, but that doesn’t stop the parasites ... Eventually the host becomes very sick and perishes ... That the parasites no longer have a host isn’t in the calculus.  Parasites have no conscience and do not plan ahead.  But we can and should plan ahead and see the current sickness for what it is.  It is an existential battle for life as we know it.  The parasites – the totalitarians and their allies – are among us, and the host has precious little time left.

Sobering words, but he makes a strong case.  Recommended reading.

# # #

The anonymous blogger at 'Arms Are The Mark Of A Free Man' brings us an interesting article examining the involvement of the medical profession in gun control efforts.  He points out that they mostly have as little expertise in the field of firearms as most of us have in the field of medicine.

Firehand (with tongue firmly in cheek) makes a similar point with a fun graphic, concluding that 'Children are much better suited to crew served weapons'.

# # #

Sean Linnane reminds us about 'The Greatest Raid of All', a British naval and commando assault on St. Nazaire dockyard in 1942.  He links to an hour-long documentary about the assault.  Highly recommended for all military history buffs.

# # #

American Mercenary analyzes the economics of coffee, particularly for preppers.  Amusing and interesting.

# # #

That's all for this two-week stretch.  I'll try to get back to the normal weekly schedule next weekend.


A narrow escape and a dramatic rescue

Nautically-minded readers will be aware that the latest Clipper Round The World Yacht Race is under way at present, with much of the fleet having arrived in San Francisco after completing the 6th leg of the race from Qingdao, China.  It's a unique event, with a dozen identical yachts supplied by the organizers and crews sponsored by various businesses, groups and other organizations.  You can read more about it at the race Web site.

Needless to say, there are dangers involved in pushing relatively small sailing craft to the very limits of their design, performance and safety limits in a race around the world.  Andrew Taylor found that out the hard way at the end of last month when he fell overboard while changing a sail.  You can read the details here.  His recovery from the sea was filmed by a crewman, and makes dramatic viewing. I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

Once safely back on board, he spoke about his experience.  You can tell from his voice how shaken he is.  He's a very lucky man to be alive.

Kudos to the crew for locating him, just over an hour after he went overboard.  He was in the water for about an hour and a half.  The weather was pretty rough, as the video demonstrates, with 35-knot winds.

On arrival in San Francisco a couple of days ago, Andrew was taken to hospital.  He's suffering from very deep bruising in his leg, which may affect his chances of completing the race - there's no point in his trying to act as a crew member when he's not up to the physical demands of the job.  Regardless, let's hope he makes a full recovery.