Friday, May 29, 2015

Quote of the day

From the Independent in the UK, in an article titled 'Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb':

More than half of our young people who are classified as Neets (not in education, employment or training) are not the slightest bit interested in working. They have no qualifications. They are illiterate and innumerate. They can’t hold a conversation and they are unemployable. Each one can be saved. But they have to give up their phones during the hours it is going to take for someone to sort them out. They should be assigned an adult mentor, nurtured and helped to re-enter the real world of work. These Neets are the human detritus washed up by the smartphone epidemic. They can play idiot computer games and can use all manner of apps, but they can’t actually form a sentence.


It doesn't apply to everyone, of course - I know plenty of smart kids with smartphones - but there's an element that seems to regard their smartphone and its apps as a replacement for reality.  I know, too, that several employers around here who look every year to hire hundreds, even thousands of temporary staff for peak season, and then select the best for permanent employment, complain that they simply can't find enough people with both an active, engaged intelligence and the willingness to work hard.  The sense of entitlement, of "I can do what I like!", appears to be overwhelming - and yes, even when they're not allowed to take their smartphones into the workplace, they'll still try to do so, then spend half the working day texting and apping.  Then they wonder why they're fired.


Forensics, 1880's style

Massad Ayoob has an article on his blog, referring to his latest column in the current issue of American Handgunner magazine, about Elfego Baca, the famous (or should that be notorious?) New Mexico lawman, lawyer and all-round badass.

Mas recounts an incident where - I'm sorry, I can't resist putting it like this - "Baca used caca" to help convict a wanted man.  I won't spoil the details by repeating them here.  Go read his article, and then his column.  Both are interesting and informative.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Doofus Of The Day #835

Today's award goes to two drunken teens in Ukraine.  It seems they were part of a group clowning around on the roof of the Globe shopping center in Independence Square, Kiev.  Overcome by teenage foolishness (and alcohol), they decided to slide down the sloping roof.

WARNING:  Serious injuries result. If you're squeamish, you might prefer not to watch.

It seems one broke his coccyx and the other was admitted to intensive care with concussion and a fractured skull.  It's reported both will be OK, but their recovery will take some time.  Personally, I think they're both damned lucky to be alive!


"War stuff cut in half"

That's the title of a very interesting photo essay over at War History Online.  It has pictures of everything from a British .303 armor-piercing round (note the cordite propellant used instead of powder):

to an entire German Leopard 1 main battle tank:

(Click either image for a larger view.)

There are many more images at the link.  Interesting viewing for military and firearms buffs.


Looks like I was right about Mad Max

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that 'Feminism ruins Mad Max remake'.  A number of commenters suggested that I give the film the benefit of the doubt, and wait and see.  Unfortunately, many reviews have since confirmed what I feared.  This one, from the Telegraph, can speak for all of them.

A movie that was meant to be glorifying male recklessness and brute force turns out to be a celebration of female strength and resilience. The film’s true hero is not the eponymous Max (the wonderful Tom Hardy), but its female lead, Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron in a daringly unvain, shaven-headed performance that will have her bosses at Dior wondering what the hell happened to their beautiful blonde brand ambassador.

With a gaze containing more steel than her prosthetic arm, Furiosa is helping five slaves, imprisoned by the evil Immortan Joe to bear his children, to flee a desert citadel. Theron spends most of the film behind the wheel of the War Rig – half truck, half belching black dragon – pursued by a posse of testosterone-fuelled crazies. Put it this way, Furiosa would struggle to get her Girl Guide Road Safety badge.

The scene where the five “Wives” emerge from the truck, wearing garments that Victoria’s Secret might find a tad scanty, is standard fare for your typical blockbuster where girls are served up as delectable hors d’oeuvres. But the joke is on the salivating guys as the young women use everything – including a defiantly flaunted pregnant belly – to thwart their pursuers.

Add to that the Vuvulani, a group of weathered matriarchs who ride motorbikes and are handy with a howitzer, and you have a gleeful trashing of the time-honoured template where helpless woman waits to be rescued by brave man.

At a critical moment in the action, Max has just one bullet left to kill the baddie; he pauses, hands the gun to Furiosa and offers his shoulder as a rifle stand. No fuss, no loss of face. The woman is simply the better shot and that’s that. Yes, when Max washes his bloodied face in the only available fluid – mother’s milk – something symbolic is going on, but the film is having far too much fun to pull over and deliver a lecture.

. . .

Mad Max manages to do for the menopause what Lassie did for collie dogs.

There's more at the link.

Uh-huh.  As I said in my earlier article, I've seen enough of real dystopia to be in no doubt about what it means in reality - and in that reality, 'girl power' isn't.  Period.  End of story.  Suspension of disbelief is all very well, but when one has to suspend scientific, cultural, historical and practical reality as well . . . no.  Just no.


A car that helped the Allied war effort

I had to shake my head at a report in the Telegraph this morning.

Known by the Allied forces as their "secret weapon", the Czechoslovakian-manufactured Tatra 77a and 87 automobiles inadvertently became Nazi-killing machines. In fact, more high-ranking Nazi officers died driving these models of the Tatra – which had a top speed of 100 miles per hour but were rear-engined and heavy to handle – than in active combat.

Speaking at the Hay Festival on May 27, author Steve Cole said: "The Tatra 77a [and 87] was pretty sleek and pretty stylish. Hitler saw the car and believed it was the car of the future; it was the car he wanted to see people driving on Germany's roads."

Tatra 87 (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

"Following the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the Thirties, it became very popular with high-ranking Nazi officers," said Cole, who last year released the Young Bond novel, Shoot to Kill. "They were all seen driving these things. The cars were designed to be very aerodynamic with the fin at the back and the wheel arches filled in order to stop the wind dragging.

"These high-ranking Nazi officers drove this car fast but unfortunately the handling was rubbish, so at a sharp turn they would lose control, spin out and wrap themselves round a tree killing the driver more often than not. The Allies referred to the Tatra cars as their secret weapon against the Nazis.

"More high-ranking Nazi officers were killed in car crashes in the Tatra 77 [and 87] than were killed in active combat. It goes to show that being too flash doesn't get you anywhere and will leave you dead."

There's more at the link.

I'm sure most of the subjugated Czechs would have been happy to know that . . .


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How ISIS took Ramadi

Last week a 'senior State Department official' gave a background briefing on ISIL's conquest of the remainder of Ramadi a few days ago.  Many of us, including myself, had wondered how ISIL could have overwhelmed the Iraqi defenders of the city so easily.  Turns out it wasn't that easy at all.

I think it’s important to remember that ISIL first moved in to Ramadi in force on January 1st, 2014, so that was six months before Mosul. The city has been contested for 18 months. Half the city had been under control of ISIL for some time. You might remember Fallujah fell immediately in January of 2014. The Iraqis have been fighting in Ramadi constantly for 18 months, and it was a very vicious, bloody fight. They suffered thousands of casualties over these 18 months.

Our assessment of ISIL all the way back last summer – well, and we’ve said this publicly – is that ISIL as an organization is better in every respect than its predecessor of AQI; it’s better manned, it’s better resourced, they have better fighters, they’re more experienced. And we know what it took for us, the best military in the world, to get a handle on AQI, so I think that also puts things in a little bit of context.

We’ve been working with the Iraqis to hold the center of Ramadi for some time, and I think the last time I spoke with you one of you asked me what keeps you up at night or something. I said look, this is a really formidable enemy; it’s going to have surprises and that’s going to happen over the course of this, what will be a very long, multiyear campaign.

Over the course of 96 hours in Ramadi, and what we’ve been able to collect looking at different things, about 30 suicide VBIDs in Ramadi and the environs of Ramadi. Ten of them, I’ve been told, had the explosive capacity of an Oklahoma City type attack. So just to put that in perspective.

QUESTION: Each of those 10?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Each of those 10. I can’t confirm that, but that’s what I’ve been told. And if you look at the pictures that ISIL has put out of the explosions – I mean, I have some of them – it’s just they took out entire city blocks. And the death toll of the Iraqi Security Forces is not entirely clear, but they lost some leaders, and it was just a really psychological impact of the security remnants that were remaining in Ramadi.

What happened on Sunday is the Iraqis sent – tried to send a reinforcing column into the center of the city, which immediately came under fire; retreated, which then began a broader retreat from where the security forces were holding. And we’re still trying to piece together exactly what happened there.

I think it’s important to note first extremely serious situation. Nobody here from the President on down is saying that this is something that we’ll just overcome immediately. It’s an extremely serious situation, and I’ll talk about the Iraqis’ response as well because they’re seeing it the same way. But it is not the Mosul collapse and disintegration of units. In fact, the units that retreated, retreated, consolidated, and they’re now moved – I won’t say where they are, but they moved to three different points to consolidate, to refit, to regroup, to re-equip. And those units are – the units that retreated remain pretty much intact.

We’ve been working over the last about 96 hours constantly around the clock with our team in Baghdad and our team here to work with the Iraqis to hold – because we all remember the experience from Mosul, where you just had a domino collapse – to hold their lines, consolidate, and just basically hold together, begin to consolidate and think about how to counter-attack. I think the silver lining here is – again, it remains a very serious situation – is that the lines more or less have held. And I’m not going to say exactly where, but you don’t have, again, a Mosul situation of a collapse.

There's more at the link.

Assuming the State Department's information is to be trusted - I'm sure many of us remember its handling of the 2012 Benghazi debacle, and consequently take anything State says with multiple pinches of salt - then that does put a rather different perspective on the fall of Ramadi.  The Oklahoma City bomb destroyed a skyscraper and inflicted hundreds of deaths and injuries.  Ten of those, relatively close to each other, would be like a massive close air support strike, probably using 20-30 JDAM's or equivalent weapons.  Effectively, ISIL used its suicide bombers in the same role as strike aircraft.  That would blow a hole through almost any urban defenses I can think of.  If its ground forces were prepared to immediately follow up the explosions and exploit the resulting panic and confusion, it's not surprising that they were able to take over the half of the city they didn't yet control.

The question is now, can ISIL keep what it's taken?  According to State, the Iraqi Army is regrouping to re-assault the city, and Iranian forces are massing in their support.  ISIL can't keep expending suicide bombers like water - by definition, there's a limited supply of such fanatics.

I'll be keeping an eye on developments in and around Ramadi over the next few weeks.  Things are going to get 'interesting' there.


NYU - Poster child for waste in higher education?

If you want to be mind-boggled by an egregious example of higher education waste, excess and cynical money-grubbing, it sounds as if NYU might qualify.  Naked Capitalism reports:

Under Chairman of the Board Martin Lipton and President John Sexton, New York University has been to operate as a real estate development/management business with a predatory higher-education side venture. A group of 400 faculty members at NYU, Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP), have been working for years against what Pam Martens has called “running NYU as a tyrannical slush fund for privileged interests.” FASP just published a devastating document, The Art of the Gouge, which describes how NYU engages in a mind-numbing range of tricks and traps to extract as much in fees as possible from students, while at the same time failing to invest in and often degrading the educational “product”.

There's more at the link, including links to all three sections of the report that was the source for this article.  Infuriating reading . . . but eye-opening.


Violent crime in liberal/progressive US cities

Note these recent headlines from a number of US cities:

What's the common denominator in all these cities?  They've all suffered under liberal and/or left-wing and/or progressive administrations for years, some of them for decades.  They've had billions of dollars in Federal and State subsidies thrown at them, none of which has had the intended or desired effect.  They're hotbeds of ghetto crime and wasted lives.  Nor are they the only examples - there are many more, almost all of which share those common denominators.  Just do an Internet search on 'ghetto crime USA' and see for yourself.

If you live in or near any city so afflicted, I think the time has come to seriously consider moving somewhere safer.  Things aren't going to get any better anytime soon - rather, the opposite, IMHO.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"When did we decide women should shave their legs?"

That's the title of an article in Australia's 'Daily Life'.  Here's an excerpt.

Before the First World War, virtually no woman in the West shaved her legs. And yet by 1964, 98 per cent of them under the age of 44 did so. What happened in between?

Advertising happened, that's what.

Christina Hope researched the evolution for her 1982 paper titled 'Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture'. Through surveying ads in old issues of Harper's Bazaar and McCall's magazines, she could track how women were progressively browbeaten into going hairless via an extreme marketing assault.

At the turn of the century, women – and men, presumably – didn't particularly care about body hair as long sleeves and floor-grazing skirts concealed most of the body.

According to Hope, things began to change in 1915. As sheer sleeves and Greek- and Roman-style dresses came into fashion, ads in Harper's Bazaar started to target underarm hair, informing American womanhood of a problem it had but didn't know existed until now. "The Woman of Fashion Says the underarm must be as smooth as the face," read a typical pitch. "Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair," said another.

Beauty writers jumped onboard, too, ushering in a vogue for body hair removal. Cue, a whole new outlet of female hang-ups for advertisers to exploit!

There's more at the link, including many advertisements illustrating the point.

I must admit, I've never been bothered at the thought (or the reality) of body hair on women.  Of course, I come from a continent where shaving legs and arms was a luxury reserved for the wealthy few, and women in rural (and particularly tribal) environments would have laughed at the thought.  I'm informed by Miss D. that this is also the case in large parts of Alaska.  She's quipped before, "Ah, Alaskan women - skin like porcelain, legs like Chewbacca!"  It always makes me grin - but in so cold a climate, I find it perfectly understandable.


Here's one to send warbird enthusiasts into ecstasies

This is a bit like the Holy Grail legend as far as warbird enthusiasts are concerned.

Ken Scholz bought N5416V in 1973. How much was it flown? Good question. I have no photos of it running or in the air. It was stored outside for several years, then moved inside his hangar where it sat - rarely touched. Ken, regarded as a nice and approachable man, passed away in 2004 and then his wife Marlene in 2012. The P-51 along with an extra Packard-Rolls Merlin are up for auction.

To participate, you will need a $25,000 deposit. The winner will have to be approved by the courts and have final money ready by June 9 2015. How much? That depends on the bidding war that might erupt trying to acquire a piece of history. Bidding is online June 2-4 2015.

There's more at the link.  Details of the auction (if you're interested) may be found here.

Here's a video of the plane in its present condition.

She'll need a lot of restoration, but to find an unrestored P-51D Mustang today in any shape or form is just about impossible.  I expect a huge amount of interest from the warbird community.  I wonder if Murphy's Law is counting his pennies already?


I think they're missing the point

Yet again, we've seen fighter jets dispatched to 'escort' aircraft to US airports after threats were made against them.  Yet again, we've heard travelers and others remark how "comforting" the presence of those aircraft is to them.

They clearly don't understand that those fighters are there for one reason and one reason only . . . to shoot down the aircraft if it has, indeed, been hijacked or otherwise turned into a danger to cities and installations on the ground.  The fighters can't possibly intervene in a hijacking inside the cabin, and can't stop whatever's on board from manifesting itself.  Their only function is to stop that aircraft threatening anything or anyone else.  That's what their missiles and cannon will do in the last resort.

If I were on board one of those airliners, I wouldn't find the presence of fighters "reassuring" or "comforting".  I'd find it bloody terrifying!


Murphy was a bicyclist . . .

The following video clip shows a bicyclist in London who zoomed through a red light and went headlong into the side of a bus.  Fortunately, he wasn't seriously hurt. Watch it in full-screen mode for best effect.

The photographer initially thought that the cyclist had deliberately run the light.  However, after he posted the video on YouTube, the cyclist commented:

"It was me.  Thought I'd just get the lights, hence the speed.  Realised it wasn't happening, squeezed the front brake.  Cable snapped.  Not enough time to lose speed on back wheel in the wet.  Not fun."

That's a very worthwhile reminder that we may do everything right, but still be caught short due to a mechanical failure or someone else's mistake.  In the cyclist's case, his brakes let him down.  Another friend of Miss D.'s and mine had a very narrow escape on an Interstate highway just a few days ago, when a driver being pursued by the police cut in front of him and wrecked.  He just missed him, but at the cost of flat-spotted tires and burned-out brakes, costing him four figures to repair.  He wasn't happy about that, to put it mildly!

Driving defensively means accepting that whatever can go wrong, sooner or later will go wrong.  The better we drive, the lower the chance that Murphy will kill us.  I'm grateful for the reminder - and that it came cheaply, without anyone getting hurt or killed in this case.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Gay marriage and the Catholic Church's loss of moral authority

I'm sure many readers have noted the overwhelming vote in favor of 'gay marriage' in Ireland last weekend.  Yahoo! News reported that the result had 'unnerved' the Catholic Church in that country.

The once-dominant Catholic Church in Ireland was trying to come to terms Sunday with an overwhelming vote in favour of gay marriage, saying it needed a "new language" to connect to people.

As jubilant "Yes" supporters nursed their hangovers after partying late into the night following Saturday's referendum result, the faithful attended mass to hear their priests reflect on the new social landscape in Ireland.

"The Church has to find a new language which will be understood and heard by people," Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, a senior Irish cleric, told reporters after mass at the city's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral.

"We have to see how is it that the Church's teaching on marriage and family is not being received even within its own flock."

He added: "There's a growing gap between Irish young people and the Church and there's a growing gap between the culture of Ireland that's developing and the Church."

There's more at the link.

It's reported that Italy may be the next domino to fall.  Both countries were staunchly Catholic in their society, culture, and social policies for centuries.  What's happened to produce such a rapid change?

Some commentators have blamed external factors.  For example, Tim Stanley says of the Irish referendum:

First, foreigners spent a lot of money to get this passed. Both sides have accused each other of relying on outside cash, but nothing could really match the scale of that poured into a Yes vote. Second, the Irish were told that saying No might damage their economy. Third, almost the entire Irish political establishment rallied around the gay marriage issue: it enjoyed the backing of politicians in Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. Finally, the press was biased. One election-eve study found that Irish papers had carried three times more Yes articles than No articles.

However, he goes on to admit:

It used to be that Irishness was defined by affection for the Catholic Church and resistance to European liberal trends. So stubborn was this identity that the country took longer than the rest of Western Europe to embrace secularism. But the paedophile revelations of the 1990s rightly rocked faith in the Church as an institution, while a series of recent scandals shook faith in its actual theology. The latter set of outrages were, frankly, distortions of the facts. It was wrongly claimed that a woman had been allowed to die because Catholic doctors would not give her a life saving abortion (no such thing even exists). It was falsely charged that a Catholic children's home had dumped the bodies of hundreds of unwanted babies into a septic tank. Never mind that both stories crumbled under scrutiny – the popularity of them spoke to a growing sense that everything wrong with Ireland was due to the imported tyranny of Catholicism. Shake off the last remnants of traditional religious authority, it was reasoned, and Ireland could finally join the 21st century. Au revoir, Father Ted.

To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It'll require a lot of hard work and prayers.

There's more at the link.

Mr. Stanley is quite right that some of the accusations leveled against the Catholic Church were based on false premises and were overblown by a rampantly speculative (and secular) media.  However, he ignores the reality that far too many people (including a great many who still consider themselves Catholic, whether or not they're active in the Church) have seen for themselves the utter and complete lack of sincerity in the institutional Church in response to the clergy pedophilia scandals in recent decades.

I've written extensively about my own experience of the issue (see the list of 'Articles on the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal and related issues' in the sidebar).  To me, the ultimate test of the Catholic Church's attitude to this problem is based on their actions.  Remember the old proverb, 'Actions speak louder than words'?  Well, the Church's words may have been regretful, but its actions have said something else entirely.  While the authorities have dumped every priest even suspected of pedophilia (sometimes based on flimsy evidence), almost all the bishops, administrators, etc. who:

  • allowed the problem to arise;
  • did nothing to resolve it in its earliest stages;
  • and covered it up for years;

have never been disciplined.  Large numbers of them have retired to enjoy their pensions;  many others are still in office, their careers unaffected by their errors.  Furthermore, the measures they've put in place to prevent such problems in future are almost entirely window-dressing.  They'll have no practical effect.  They can have no practical effect, because the institution that has (nominally) implemented them will resist reforming itself by might and main.  I saw that resistance at first hand.  It destroyed a large part of my life, and has left a gaping hole in my soul to this day.

I find myself with a new and deeper understanding of Mary Magdalene as she went to the Tomb on the morning of Easter Sunday (John 20:11-13).

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.  Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

That's the way I feel about the Church in which I was raised.  Its prelates and administrators have taken it away, and I do not know where they have laid it.  All I know is, the institution I served for many years, and in which I had faith, is no longer there . . . and it's a cold, lonely place without it.

I think many Catholic and formerly Catholic voters feel the same way.  I think that's why so many of them finally lost patience with their former spiritual home, and voted in favor of gay marriage.  I don't think it's because they believe the latter is necessarily morally right.  I think it was a protest vote.  The problem is, the Church will probably refuse to recognize that reality, and do what it should have done years - decades! - ago.  Too many of its leaders are clinging to their positions of power.  They won't give them up, because that would mean sacrificing their worldly status and privileges.

They're more in love with the institution of the Church than they are with the person of Christ - and that leaves the rest of us out in the cold.

You have no idea how it saddens me to have to say that last sentence . . . but I believe it's true.

May Almighty God have mercy on all of us.  We're surely going to need it.



I had to laugh at this report in the Telegraph.

Handyman Thomas McCormack was puzzled when Paddy his pet followed him on his train to work one morning.

The four-year-old labrador-collie cross had trotted after him to the local station before boarding the same carriage and leaping onto a seat beside him.

Mr McCormack, 34, could not understand how he had got out of the fenced-in garden where he had been left him for the day.

He had also been wondering how it was that Paddy had started waiting for him to return from work - sitting outside his front door.

The mystery was solved when neighbours told him they had seen the dog bounding on the trampoline to get over the fence just after Mr McCormack left in the morning.

There's more at the link.

Here's the guilty party.

That's a dog with a brain, all right!


"His taint is now a non-skid surface" . . .

. . . according to Paul at Hawsepiper.  Go read the whole thing for a good laugh!