Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama and illegal aliens

So, as expected, the Lightbringer has announced executive action to allow up to five million illegal aliens to obtain legal temporary residence in the USA.  I believe his actions are unconstitutional (based as much on his own reading of the law as anything else, as we'll see in a moment), but fortunately they're not as damaging as they might have been.  Dr. Jerry Pournelle has a succinct analysis of them over at Chaos Manor - it's worth reading.

The biggest problem, to me, is that President Obama has deliberately, callously and cold-bloodedly chosen to ride roughshod over the constitution and laws of the United States.  His Justice Department has produced a 'justification' for his actions (the link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), but his own words belie it.  No less than 25 times in the past few years, he's made this clear.

He even (in so many words) admitted it during his speech last night:

And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama's rhetoric, Congress has already passed a bill - more than one of them.  They currently form the law of the land.  Mr. Obama really means that he wants another bill, one that conforms to his actions.  I doubt very much whether he'll get it.

I think Mr. Obama's words last night demonstrated very clearly his contempt for the constitution and laws of this country, the legislative and judicial branches of its government, and the voters who - two weeks ago - handed an almighty shellacking to his policies and his party, a gigantic vote of no confidence in anyone's language.  Clearly, he doesn't give a damn about any of them, and he's set course for a gigantic confrontation with all of them.  As fellow blogger Murphy's Law has pointed out, what he's really saying is:

... it's not like I care what Congress wants or does. I mean, they just represent and speak for peons, and I, Barack Obama, am the leader and sole decider of what will or will not happen in this country.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

It's my personal belief that President Obama now represents a clear and present danger to the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution in these United States.  The same applies to all who support his misguided and unconstitutional policy changes announced last night.  He, and they, must be stopped.  If the new Republican majority in Congress and the Senate fails to do so, they'll have branded themselves not only utterly ineffectual, but complicit in the danger he and his policies pose.  Unfortunately, I expect nothing better from them . . . as I've said many times in these pages, I trust neither Republicans nor Democrats to put the interests of this country ahead of their partisan political objectives.

I won't be surprised to see some individuals and groups, who (justifiably) feel abandoned by their government, turn to more direct actions to deter the presence of illegal aliens.  Under the circumstances, I can hardly blame them.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Small drone aircraft as a terrorist weapon?

I'm growing more and more concerned about the increasing number of near-misses between commercial airliners and private, so-called 'hobby' drones - small unmanned aerial vehicles that can be bought freely and operated by anyone with a smartphone.  Bloomberg reported today that there have been three recent sightings near JFK Airport in New York, and a quick Internet search turns up many reports of near-miss encounters between airliners and drones.

Simply forbidding the use of drones by civilians is a non-starter - there are too many of them already in private hands for that to work.  They're freely available at very low cost, too:  for example, has an entire 'drone store' listing dozens of models, many selling for well under $100.  Sure, the smaller models probably aren't capable of flying very high or very fast, and may not be big enough to cause serious damage to a big jet if they hit it;  but even minor damage will cause the air travel industry to throw a mega-fit.  It might also be very costly for airlines if an engine ingests a drone, because that will probably mean expensive repairs.  A turbofan engine as found on most modern airliners costs anywhere from $2 million to $15 million, depending on size and power, and spares and repairs are priced accordingly.

What worries me most is that terrorists can't be blind to the possibilities of this technology.  They must surely have among their members and sympathizers many individuals capable of controlling these small drones in flight.  What if they deliberately began launching them into the approach and landing patterns of major airports, seeking to cause a collision?  Even worse, what if they succeeded in seriously damaging or even destroying an airliner?  Can you imagine the panic among air travelers?  It'd shut down US air travel for a much longer period than 9/11, because there are literally thousands of these things out there, and no-one could be sure when one might not be launched from cover such as a clump of trees, or a city rooftop high above traffic, or something like that.  There'd be no way to trace it back to its launch point or locate the person controlling it.

As an avenue of attack, this looks to be both ridiculously simple and potentially catastrophic in its effects - and, from a terrorist perspective, turning drones against the USA in this way would be a very appropriate 'payback' for US drone airstrikes against them in the Middle East.  For that matter, some freely-available larger drones even advertise their cargo capacity (see, for example, this Volantex unit).  What if a terrorist were to load one up, not with a camera and batteries, but with a couple of pounds of Semtex and a contact detonator?  That way it could be directed against ground targets, not just against airliners;  and if launched at night it'd be as near to invisible as makes no difference, preventing many countermeasures from being effective.  What if one were to hit the windows of an airport control tower, or a fuel truck refilling a gas station's tanks, or a critical component of an electrical substation?

We've already seen Hezbollah and Hamas use drones in the Middle East, both armed and unarmed, ranging from small hobbyist models to professional military types.  What's to stop other terrorist groups using the same technology here in the USA, where it can be bought over the counter or by mail order?  I can't see any easy answers to this threat.  What say you, readers?  Any ideas?


World's luckiest pedestrian?

Needless to say, it's in Russia . . .

I'd love to know what was going through his head after that!


A morning with Operation Migration

Last night Miss D., living up to the name of her blog, expressed a sudden desire to visit the launch of today's leg of Operation Migration, the project that trains young whooping cranes to fly behind ultralight aircraft, then leads them south for the winter from Canada to Florida.  (She's been interested in them for some time, and buys one of their T-shirts every year to support the migration.)  Nothing loth, I agreed, so at 3.30 a.m. the alarm went off and we struggled out of bed.  Warmed by hot tea, we set off westward.

Starting out in the early morning (image courtesy of Operation Migration)

This year's migration group overnighted about two hours away, near Huntingdon, TN.  (You can see a Google Map of the location here.)  We got to the prearranged viewing site (off a road a couple of miles away) shortly before sunrise, and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more.  They try to get off the ground about ten minutes after sunrise, which this morning was at 6.35 a.m., but the young cranes were clearly in a bolshie sort of a mood.  After all, it was below freezing, and their overnight bedding ground was doubtless a lot more comfortable!

Heading south (image courtesy of Operation Migration)

Eventually they got airborne, and wafted past us - only to have to come back, because one crane after another decided that enough was enough and turned determinedly towards their overnight stop.  They clearly weren't interested in getting started so early.  We had a grandstand view as the lead ultralight turned and twisted, trying to get ahead of the gaggle and 'persuade' them to follow it once more as it turned south;  but eventually the pilot had to give up.  The last we saw, shortly before eight, they'd headed back towards their temporary bedding ground, and would probably try again later in the morning when the air was warmer.  (Considering that I was pretty chilled after an hour outside, even wearing a heavy jacket and gloves, I can't say I blame the birds!)

Miss D. and I had a fast food breakfast on the way back to I-40, then headed east again, getting home a few minutes ago.  We're tired, but it was an interesting early morning jaunt - and we got to see one of the rarest and most endangered bird species in North America, which made the very early start to our day worthwhile.

Whooping crane (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Perhaps next year we'll see the cranes get well on their way.

(If you, like Miss D. and I, are interested in wildlife and conservation, you might wish to consider supporting Operation Migration.  They depend on people like you and I to continue their work of increasing the breeding pool of these highly endangered birds.  You can find more information at their Web site.)


(EDITED TO ADD:  Looks like they didn't get much farther today.  Oh, well - at least we managed to see multiple fly-pasts!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The ditz of the dog world!

I dearly love Golden Retrievers.  They're about as family-friendly a breed as one could wish, and willing to play at the drop of a hat (and drop it themselves if no-one will do so for them).  Nevertheless, I have to admit that when it comes to 'serious' dog work, they're not necessarily the best choice.  They're easily distracted by anything edible or play-able ("Ooh!  Shiny!").  Proper and intensive training can overcome that, but it's more difficult with them than with other 'working breeds', in my experience.  Miss D. calls them (with great affection) 'the ditz of the dog world', and I'm forced to agree with her concerning most of the Golden Retrievers I've met.

The Lonely Libertarian put up this video clip of a dog obedience competition that had me rolling in the aisles.  I couldn't resist re-embedding it here.

The ditz of the dog world, indeed!


National Ammo Day feedback

I went down to my favorite local gunshop this morning to invest a few hard-earned dollars in lead, copper, brass and propellant in honor of National Ammo Day.  I came away with 800 rounds of .22LR:  500 rounds of CCI MiniMag 40gr. LRN, and 300 rounds of Winchester's Hyper Speed 40gr. JHP round.  (I'm very glad to report that the shop always seems to have .22LR in stock.  Right now they've got upwards of 10,000 rounds on their shelves - at reasonable prices, too.  That's one of the reasons I keep going back there.)

The Winchester round was apparently introduced in 2009, but I'd never seen it before - and it's no longer listed on Winchester's Web site, so it may already have been withdrawn or superseded.

It is/was their attempt to match the CCI Velocitor round, which it claims to do exactly in both bullet weight (40gr.) and velocity (rated at 1,435 feet per second).  The Velocitor has for years been my #1 recommendation for defensive use in .22LR (see my earlier article on that subject), as it propels a full-weight 40gr. projectile at a considerably higher velocity than standard, giving it better penetration than the (lighter but faster) CCI Stinger load.  Since no .22LR is going to deliver much of a shock to a human frame, the deeper penetration is needed, IMHO, to get through bone and bulk to vital organs.

I'm going to test the Winchester load over the next few weeks.  If it performs as well as the CCI Velocitor, and if it's still widely available, it'll become a recommended alternative to the latter load.  Having not found it on Winchester's Web site, however, I'm worried it may have been discontinued.  There have also been quality control problems with recent Winchester bulk rimfire ammo, which I hope won't carry over to its more expensive lines.  I guess we'll have to find out the hard way.  Oh, bother . . . testing ammo . . . what a chore . . . (NOT!)

So, what did you buy for National Ammo Day?  Let us know in Comments.


Ken Block - behind the scenes

Ken Block's latest Gymkhana video is out - the seventh in the series - and has already amassed almost ten million views on YouTube.  (You'll find it here if you've missed it so far.)

However, I've long wanted to know more about Ken Block himself, and how (and why) he does such lunatic things with motor vehicles.  Turns out that James May of the BBC's Top Gear television series spoke to him in an extended interview at an old airfield in California, and was treated to an in-car demonstration of what he does so well.  Watch it in full-screen mode for the greatest effect.

Remind me never, ever to ride with that guy . . .


Ferguson - protester popsicles?

I'm amused by Massad Ayoob's suggestion.

Many more observers, looking at the frigid weather in the Ferguson/St. Louis area – which many of us “in the business” believe may be a factor in the announcement being delayed this long – are of the opinion that fire hoses could come into play if extreme mob violence has to be contained.

I’m not recommending fire hoses, mind you, but given that the police in Ferguson have been shot at repeatedly since this whole thing began, and to the best of my knowledge the cops haven’t thrown anything but gas and rubber back, if things go violent a Night of the Frozen Ice Protesters might be preferable to another Kent State.

There's more at the link.

I'm particularly amused because the use of fire hoses by police doesn't appear to violate the 19 'rules of engagement' that protest leaders have asked the authorities to accept (with only limited success).  Apparently the organizers hadn't anticipated that during the current cold snap, their special snowflake freebooters followers might be turned into special snowflake popsicles.  One hopes Mother Nature will continue to co-operate . . .


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tomorrow is National Ammo Day

November 19th is National Ammo Day.  (Click the image for a larger view.)

The event's Web site explains:

The goal of National Ammo Day is to empty the ammunition from the shelves of your local gun store, sporting goods, or hardware store and put that ammunition in the hands of law-abiding citizens.  Make your support of the Second Amendment known—by voting with your dollars!

There are an estimated 75 MILLION gun owners in the United States of America.  If each gun owner or Second Amendment supporter buys 100 rounds of ammunition, that’s 7.5 BILLION rounds in the hands of law-abiding citizens!

The gun/ammunition manufacturers have been taking the brunt of all the frivolous lawsuits, trying to put these folks out of business.  Well, not if we can help it!  And we CAN help it by buying ammunition on November 19!

There's more at the link.

I submit that it's particularly important to send this message in the light of the new, underhanded tactics being tried by the anti-gun lobby.  The recent passage of initiative 594 in Washington state is a classic example.  No Lawyers - Only Guns And Money has an excellent two part summary of what it means for shooters there.  He points out that Washington was the first state in which this approach has succeeded, but if Bloomberg and his ilk have anything to say about it, it won't be the last.  Such laws make it legally impossible to introduce anyone to the shooting sports, because they make it illegal to allow them to touch, inspect or shoot any firearm unless and until it's been transferred to them.  That's iniquitous - but it's probably exactly what the anti-gunners intended all along.  Go read Part One and Part Two of his essay.  It's chilling.

Let's send a message tomorrow by buying bullets, rather than firing them.  If enough of us do so, we'll be heard . . . and I'd far rather be heard through my wallet than through the muzzle of a rifle.  There's no turning back from that.


"How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico"

That's the title of an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor.  In brief, Eisenhower mounted a big deportation push, whereupon hundreds of thousands of those not (yet) detained and deported beat feet on their own, rather than wait to be arrested and lose all they'd accumulated.

Of course, the numbers of illegal aliens were much smaller then . . . but given enough of an effort, and the political will to make it work, I think we could do it again.  Time for pressure on the new Congress and Senate, perhaps?  And on Republican candidates for the Presidency in 2016?

Go read the article.  It's food for thought.


When police are corrupted by political correctness

It looks as if Britain is suffering from the same plague of under-reported crime statistics as we've experienced so many times here in the USA.  The Telegraph reports:

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread “fiddling” it said there was an “undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces” and “wrongful pressure” by managers.

It means violent criminals and even rapists are not investigated, potentially allowing offenders to strike again.

In all, the report estimated 800,000 crimes reported by the public every year are wiped out of official figures.

Overall, almost a fifth of crimes failed to appear in the figures for England and Wales, the inspectorate concluded, but in some forces the proportion was as high as a third. Overall, police failed to record a quarter of rapes and a third of violent crimes across England and Wales.

There's more at the link.

Of course, we have precisely the same problem here.  Many big-city police departments deliberately under-report crime, perhaps to placate local politicians who want to "look tough on crime" and therefore don't want the true extent of the problem to become known, or perhaps to meet incentives built into the police budget.  Reports from Los Angeles, Milwaukee and New York illustrate the problem, but it's far more widespread than just those three cities.

A far more disturbing aspect of the problem (at least to me) is the deliberate downplaying of racial tension as a factor in many crimes.  We've spoken of it here before in terms of flash mob attacks, most recently in Memphis.  Here are a few worthwhile reports on the subject, listed in alphabetical order by headline.  I strongly urge you to read them in full, and follow the links provided in the first one.

There's also the very important book 'White Girl Bleed A Lot', which is a searing examination of black-on-white racial violence in the USA.  It's not politically correct, of course, which is why it's not much publicized;  but its documentation of facts is unanswerable.  It's a reality that makes personal security a much more complicated matter than merely defending oneself.

Our police forces are largely complicit in this under-reporting (or non-reporting) of aspects of crime (such as race) that are not considered 'politically correct'.  Personally, I regard this as a gross betrayal of trust on their part.  They are, in effect, lying by omission rather than commission.  In doing so they are deliberately deceiving those who rely on them for accurate reporting of the crime threat in the cities, towns and suburbs where they live.  However, they no longer answer to the people, but to entrenched political interests.  We're all the poorer for that.

I suspect we're about to see the reality of racial tension in crime in and around Ferguson, MO when the grand jury verdict into the death of Michael Brown is announced.  If so, remember the links above, and the reality of racial tensions in this country - and listen carefully to how the resulting crime situation in Ferguson is reported.  See how many reports mention racism as a motivating factor for the criminals, rather than as an attempt to foster 'politically correct' racial 'guilt'.  I suspect you'll find it eye-opening.


Monday, November 17, 2014

The latest news on the economy

I've deliberately avoided writing any doom-and-gloom articles about the economy recently, because I get the feeling not many people want to read them or are listening to the harsh realities knocking at our collective front door.  Nevertheless, the decline continues, and the head of steam continues to build in the economic boiler.  I only hope the safety valve can cope with it, because if it can't . . .

Here are some recent headlines, with brief comments about them.

The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?  That's a very good question, and one that has never been answered.  This article looks behind the scenes.

Tim Geithner reveals in the raw how Europe's leaders tried to commit financial suicide.  Revealing financial and economic history behind the mess that is Europe's economy right now.  I found it intriguing to see that the economic powers that be knew what was coming, yet proceeded to do all the wrong things - thereby making it worse, as Jeremy Warner points out in a very good article:  'Europe: the storm clouds are gathering once more'.

Europe's bond yields lowest since 15th century Genoa:  'Bond yields have fallen to the lowest level in modern history in Germany, France and the eurozone’s core states, signalling a high risk of deflation and mounting concerns about sanctions against Russia'.  And this is a surprise... how?

Cameron: world facing second economic crash.  The British Prime Minister lays it on the line.  I fear he's right.

Take Cover Now—They Don’t Ring A Bell At The Top.  Distinguished financial commentator David Stockman agrees that the stock market's looking very dangerous right now.  He warns that any unexpected blow could cause a collapse.

Russell Napier Declares November 16, 2014 The Day Money Dies.  He warns that under new IMF rules, "bank deposits are just part of commercial banks’ capital structure", and can therefore be seized and used to offset debts in the event of a bank failure.  This was widely forecast after Cyprus did it to its depositors -  we discussed it here, if you recall.  Now it's official international monetary policy.  If you needed a good reason to keep at least part of your savings at home, in cash, you now have one.  (I already do so as an emergency reserve, but after reading this report I'm going to significantly increase the amount I keep on hand.  I trust my local credit union, but they may not have any say in what happens to deposits.)

US and China on brink of bitter trade war.  China's still producing half the world's steel, and refuses to cut back even though its internal demand has greatly declined.  Instead, it's dumping its surplus production on world markets, adversely affecting producers in other countries.

Giving up: 40% women, 28% men, 39% youth don't want a job.  The job market is so bad that it actively discourages those who've been looking for employment for a long time.  Furthermore, easy access to study loans and unemployment benefits acts as a disincentive to look for work, where the return per hour of labor is often less than can be obtained through non-employment means.  (You might recall it was pointed out earlier this year that Obamacare is also a disincentive to work.)

If you're under 30, bad luck. You're screwed.  The article's from a British perspective, but it applies just as much to the USA and other countries - particularly in light of the article immediately above.  Baby Boomers have feathered their own nests, but in doing so they've taxed younger workers to pay for the benefits they currently enjoyed, and have spent their childrens' economic future on themselves.  Could this spark a taxpayer revolt?

Report: 25 Percent Of Connecticut Households Above Federal Poverty Level But Struggle To Meet Basic Needs.  I take this report with a hefty pinch of salt, because it claims (among other figures) that 'A single mother with three children would need to have a combined $64,689 in wages and child support to get past what the agency characterizes as a "survival budget".'  I don't know what they've been smoking, but to most families $65K per year would be a very healthy income, thank you very much!  (After all, U.S. real [inflation adjusted] median household income was $51,939 in 2013.)  Nevertheless, I can accept that 25% of Connecticut households are 'struggling', as are nearly half of Florida households.  Most of us are struggling, if it comes to that.

Manipulating the Consumer Price Index: Hedonic Quality Adjustments.  How the government manipulates the inflation rate to 'prove' that it's low, when all the time those of us who have to spend our hard-earned money on essentials know the politicians and bureaucrats are lying through their teeth.  Again, we've been through this before - see here and here.

The Fed’s Paint-By-The-Numbers Delusions About The Labor Market.  David Stockman points out that the labor market is at the same level as 1999, according to one key measurement.  What's happened to the tens of millions who've joined the workforce since then?  Most of them are working part-time, or have been hired at much lower wages and salaries to replace more expensive, more highly qualified older workers - who are now struggling to survive.  Basically, he concludes, government statistics about the labor market are just smoke and mirrors.  I agree.

Guess who's coming for your job?  CNN concludes it'll be robots and artificial intelligence, as I've warned before.  Europe's no better - the Telegraph warns:  'Ten million jobs at risk from advancing technology'.

Fear Your Platinum American Express Card.  Dennis Miller advises that if you want to accumulate enough money to retire one day, you've got to start by reducing your debt load as much as possible - and that includes getting out of the 'credit card culture'.  Good advice, IMHO.  Miss D. and I share one credit card account between us for regular use.  We pay it off in full every month, never carrying over a balance to the following month.  It's a good discipline.

California Faces Death by Pension.  What happens when the unions control everything?  The individual worker and taxpayer gets screwed.  Again, we've already discussed the problem here.  Nor is California alone:  Illinois Pension Debt Soars To $111 Billion.

That should be enough to keep you reading for a couple of hours.  I do recommend that you read those articles in full, if you have the time.  They may be depressing, but they're factual, and facts about the economy are hard to come by from official sources.  Remember, 'forewarned is forearmed' - and the powers that be don't want you to be forewarned, because then you'd blame them for landing us in this mess.


He's definitely got a head for heights . . .

The Telegraph reports:

“The sport of free-soloing is easy to understand,” explains rock climber Cedar Wright. “He went up this giant base, without a rope. If he falls, he dies.”

The 'he' Wright is referring to is Californian free climber Alex Honnold, who recently became the first man to climb the 2,500ft-high Central Pillar of El Toro at Potrero Chico in Mexico using only his bare hands and some chalk. Wright helped film his friend's sweaty-palm-inducing feat for the short film El Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path), which is screening this weekend as part of the European Outdoor Film Tour.

Here's a preview of the film.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

The Telegraph has an interview with Mr. Honnold at the link.  Interesting reading . . . although I still think he has to be a little nuts to risk his life like that!  You can learn more about him at his Web site.


"40 quotes about life (for a pessimist)"

That's the title of a photo essay in the Telegraph.  Some of the quotes are dark and gloomy, but others are amusing - my preference, of course.  They include:

  • "Always borrow money from a pessimist, he won't expect it back" - Oscar Wilde
  • "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to" - Dorothy Parker
  • "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that" - George Carlin
  • "Trust your husband, adore your husband, and get as much as you can in your own name" - Joan Rivers

There are many more at the link.  Entertaining and frequently funny.