Saturday, October 21, 2017
To set the scene, I'm sure most of my readers are aware of Gen. John Kelly's remarks to journalists on October 19th, following the controversy over President Trump's alleged remarks to the mother of an Army serviceman killed in Niger. In order to remove any possibility of misunderstanding, here's a video of every word he had to say. I highly recommend watching it in full, if you haven't heard or read his speech already.
Speaking as a combat veteran, albeit in a different country's armed forces, I endorse what Gen. Kelly said. I've buried enough of my comrades in arms to understand his words very personally, at gut level as well as intellectually. (See here for just one example from my own experience.)
I thought that was a profound statement from an honorable man. However, those on the progressive side of the fence seem to view it as anything but that. For example, here's Masha Gessen in the New Yorker.
Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.
. . .
Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one per cent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”
The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one per cent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven per cent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.
The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one per cent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor.
There's more at the link.
Ms. Gessen's personal history makes it clear that she's been shaped and formed by so many influences that are antithetical to our American way of life, and to the patriotism that's evolved in this country over generations, that she's literally incapable of understanding where Gen. Kelly was coming from, and how his words resonate with those of us who share his perspective. (See, for example, her reactions to President Trump's election - they speak volumes.)
We see something similar in the reactions of Rep. Frederica Wilson, who proclaimed with a laugh that she'd become a "rock star" after Gen. Kelly criticized her earlier statement. The fact that she can dismiss, and even be amused by, such heartfelt, sincere reactions, demonstrates that she truly doesn't understand the enormity of the reaction she's stirred up. Of course, I doubt she cares about that reaction, anyway. Those of us who feel that way are not her constituency and are never likely to vote for her. She knows that - so why should she care? Personally, I tend to agree with Karl Denninger's view of her. I regard her as despicable.
However, that points to a wider problem. In general (and subject to all the usual caveats about generalizations), the entire progressive/far-left-wing element of American society appears incapable of understanding Gen. Kelly's words. That's been amply demonstrated by the response of the pundits across liberal media to his words. They've been so brainwashed by the influences to which they've chosen to expose themselves that, in listening to him, all some of them can hear is the threat of a military coup d'état, as Ms. Gessen claims in her article. Others dismiss Gen. Kelly's reactions as those of a "Trump supporter" rather than a military man whose own son became a casualty of war. They don't see the military as a wholesome, or even a necessary, element in society. Instead, they see it as a threat to their utopian dreams, a collection of knuckle-dragging conservatives (the latter word being, in their vocabulary, a pejorative) having no value whatsoever, collectively or individually.
I don't know how one can ever get Ms. Gessen, or those of her ilk, to understand where Gen. Kelly was coming from, or the real, heartfelt, genuine perspectives he was expressing in his words. She, and they, are incapable of understanding that. The gulf between where they are, and where we are, is just too great to bridge.
What, then, is the answer? I don't know. All I do know is, if anyone disrespects my fallen comrades to my face, in the way that Ms. Gessen has just disrespected Gen. Kelly and his fallen son, I won't accept responsibility for my actions. They're likely to be a very direct expression of my . . . ah . . . displeasure.
After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, flooding hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the process, I wrote:
[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.
. . .
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.
There's more at the link.
To my complete lack of surprise, the National Insurance Crime Bureau has just issued the following video clip and press release.
Flooded vehicles have finally stopped arriving at the Royal Purple Raceway east of Houston. Some 23,000 now await processing and retitling to be auctioned off for parts or to be scrapped. That is just one of several insurance industry salvage locations where more than 422,000 insured vehicles damaged by Harvey have been taken for processing ... In addition, more than 215,000 claims have been filed following damage to vehicles from Hurricane Irma in Florida.
. . .
The VIN numbers are entered into the NICB’s VINCheck database, which is free to the public and will indicate the vehicle has been damaged and branded. They are also entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).
Unfortunately, owners of even more vehicles no longer carry comprehensive coverage that covers flood damage and those vehicles are not part of the system. The owner should request a new branded title, but that may not happen. In fact, many flooded vehicles that weren’t insured will be cleaned up and sold with no indication of any damage.
Some unscrupulous buyers will also buy a branded vehicle, clean it up, and take it to another state where they will obtain a “clean” title and sell it with no warning that it has been flooded.
Anyone looking to buy a vehicle in the weeks and months ahead should be on the lookout for hidden flood damage. Here are some tips.
1. Check vehicle carpeting for water damage
2. Check for rust on screws or other metallic items
3. Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains
4. Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage
5. Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence
6. Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture
7. Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water
8. Check the operation of electrical components
9. Check for mold or a musty odor
Again, more at the link.
Please note: those 637,000 vehicles are only the ones that were comprehensively insured - which includes flood damage - and were therefore declared a total loss by insurers. The figure does not include vehicles that weren't comprehensively insured. Those will be disposed of by their owners, many of them by any means necessary - even illegal or dishonest ones.
If, during the next year, you buy any used vehicle, you need to be automatically suspicious of its origins. Follow the above checklist to minimize the risk of problems - and even if the vehicle passes the checklist, I suggest you have it checked out by a qualified, competent mechanic, just in case. The odds of a rip-off are very, very high right now. Many people didn't have comprehensive insurance on their vehicles, and they can't afford to lose the money they had tied up in them - so they'll look to sell you their problem, take your money, and use it to buy a replacement vehicle that works. What's more, they may sell or trade-in their flood-damaged vehicle to a dealer in part exchange for something better, without telling the dealer. Will the dealer do the honest thing, and take it off his lot once he realizes he's accepted a lemon in trade? Or will he decide he can't afford the loss, and look to sell it to the next gullible customer, at a profit, rooking them even harder than he was rooked himself? Given the reputation of used car dealers . . . decide for yourself.
As always, caveat emptor.
Friday, October 20, 2017
A few days ago I wrote about shopping for gym equipment to expand the strength training I can do at home, over and above the "heavy" weight training that Miss D. and I do at Mark Rippetoe's gymnasium three times per week. I couldn't buy "professional grade" equipment - that can be very expensive indeed - but I've bought the best "consumer grade" gear I could afford.
I've just finished unboxing and offloading 325 pounds of weight plates in different sizes from the back of my truck. They're now in my garage, joining a curl bar, two short dumbbell bars, clamps to hold the plates on the bars, and a weight rack to keep everything together. Over the next few days, I'll rearrange my study to make space to store everything in there.
I'm planning to use this home equipment in between writing sessions. I'll set an alarm on my computer, to force myself to take a break every half-hour or so (to avoid my eyes becoming over-strained, or sitting so long in one position that I cramp up). I'll get up, walk around, make a cup of tea, and do other things for five or ten minutes before sitting down again. My idea is that I'll have the two dumbbells and the curl bar set up, ready to use, with the same weight of plates that I'm currently using at the gym. I'll do a "set", or a few sets, of dumbbell and/or curl bar exercises during every break. I hope to do a lot of the simpler exercises at home, perhaps up to a couple of dozen times every day. That'll let me concentrate on the more demanding ones - squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press and so on - at the gym. Hopefully, I'll make progress more quickly like that.
After three months of strength training, two to three times every week, Miss D. and I are very, very impressed with the difference it's made to our bodies. Neither of us is feeling any less pain from our past injuries - I'm afraid nerve damage is permanent, so that's a given - but we're able to move more freely, get up and down from chairs or bed much more quickly and with fewer complications, and accomplish more when working. The improvement in our stance and body posture has attracted approving comments from our friends. Overall, I'd say strength training has already become a life-changer for us. We expect to be doing it for years to come. If you're considering it, but aren't sure whether it's for you, we highly recommend the Starting Strength program in particular.
We'll never be able to lift the weights that younger, stronger athletes can, but if we reach even half their level, we'll be very pleased with our progress. Depending on the exercise, I'm already lifting five to seven times more weight than I could manage when I began strength training. Color me happy!
Regardless of who's responsible for aid not reaching the people of Puerto Rico, it's very instructive to look at what's happening there and learn from it as we consider our own preparations for emergencies. We may not have it as bad as they do . . . but we can't guarantee that. Health care, in particular, is critically important - and critically lacking.
Melted medications. Surgical procedures conducted in sweltering 95-degree heat. Malfunctioning X-ray machines.
This is the reality doctors in Puerto Rico are facing almost four weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
"We're practicing disaster medicine in real life," said Dr. William Kotler, a senior resident in emergency medicine with Florida Hospital in Orlando, who spent two weeks volunteering on the island earlier this month. "We improvise if we have to, with very little resources."
. . .
The physicians have been visiting up to three towns a day, providing care and distributing supplies.
The teams have brought with them dozens of boxes of catheters, insulin, IV antibiotics, portable ultrasounds, X-ray machines and other critical medical supplies. Florida Hospital has been flying in additional supplies to the island every three days since the first medical team arrived.
"Just this [past] weekend, we flew in nearly 2,000 pounds of supplies," said the hospital's spokeswoman Samantha Kearns O'Lenick.
The physicians said they're concerned Puerto Rico could be headed toward a full-blown health crisis.
. . .
Dr. Raul Hernandez, an internist based in San Juan, is bracing for an outbreak -- possibly deaths -- from waterborne diseases. He said Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through the urine of an infected animals such as rodents, is becoming a growing concern.
Due to a lack of safe drinking water, people are drinking from whatever water sources they can find -- rivers, creeks, he said. If that water contains urine from an infected rat, disease will spread, he said.
So far, at least two deaths have been attributed to Leptospirosis.
Hernandez is also worried about his geriatric patients. He has been unable to contact several of them and worries whether his diabetic patients have insulin that hasn't spoiled in the heat and proper nutrition, given the food shortages. He's also concerned his patients won't be able to get prescriptions at pharmacies.
Dr. Miguel Acevedo led the second team of emergency physicians from Florida Hospital ... "They say it could take six to nine months for power to be restored fully in Puerto Rico. No hospital can plan to survive on generators for that long," he said ... What doctors are dealing with in Puerto Rico is a "Mad Max kind of situation," said Acevedo.
"The reality here is post-apocalyptic," he said. "You can't understand the seriousness of it unless you see it."
There's more at the link, and also in this article, which goes into far more than the health care situation. It describes destroyed homes, flattened farms, lack of electricity, potable water, food, sanitation, etc. (A similar situation appears to be affecting the Dominican Republic as well.)
I've heard many people say that things could never get that bad in the continental United States - that things are so much better organized here that we'd soon sort things out. I'm not so sure. If we had two or three major natural disasters occurring days or weeks apart - for example, "the big one" (earthquake) in California, a hurricane on the Gulf Coast, another on the Atlantic coast, and perhaps a volcanic eruption along the Ring of Fire where it crosses Washington state or Alaska (which might very easily be triggered by a major earthquake in California) - the demand for aid from all the affected areas would simply overwhelm our resources, which are not unlimited.
As far as health goes, remember that many of us (including yours truly) are dependent on daily doses of medication to maintain our health. Many of us have suffered previous conditions that might recur under the stress of a disaster (e.g. heart problems, mobility issues, etc.). If health care isn't available for us, those conditions might just kill us - even if health care was not strictly rationed during the emergency, being provided to those considered to have the best chance of survival, while the rest of us, older and/or sicker than "average", would be left to our own devices. That's not something to take lightly - because it's happened before in this country. Remember what happened after Hurricane Katrina?
After reading those articles, I'm going to adjust my own emergency preparations to ensure that I have more supplies of health care essentials, at least 90 days' supply of prescription medications, and more potable water than I think I need. You never know . . .
I participated in sports as a youngster, and enjoyed watching it as a young adult, but I've never been fanatical about it. I've also enjoyed classical music and ballet, and used to go to performances in my country of origin on a regular basis.
However, I've never before encountered a combination of sports and ballet in quite this fashion.
This fall, your favorite childhood game is back—with a twist! Dust off those gym shorts and grab your tutu for this outrageous mashup of ballet and dodgeball at the Westminster Sports Center on Saturday, Nov. 4.
In keeping with the City of Westminster’s slew of unconventional events like Zombie Golf and the Adult Easter Egg Hunt hosted by the deranged Easter bunny, the City will hold an adults-only dodgeball tournament on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 2-5 p.m. at the Westminster Sports Center, 6051 W. 95th Ave.
This is not your average gym class dodgeball game; designed for adults age 21 and over, the event incorporates fun costumes, hilarious rules, and adult beverages. Players begin each match with one hand on a ballerina bar at the back wall, and then dance to the midfield line to retrieve their balls. After retreating back to the ballerina bar and completing a plié, it’s on! Players hit by a special metallic ball must break out their best ballet dance moves until the music stops to rejoin the game. At the end of the night, prizes will be awarded to the winning team.
There's more at the link.
Er . . . OK, if you say so! Now, we need team names. How about the New York Jetés, or the Refugee Arabesques?
(Hey - I never promised to be politically correct!)
Readers will be aware of the problems in San Diego, where an explosion in the transient homeless population has led to an outbreak of Hepatitis A. It appears to be spreading to Los Angeles. It's been called "the largest and deadliest hepatitis A outbreak to hit the US in decades".
Aesop doesn't pull his punches in describing the root of the problem.
A wise historian once said that the story of western civilization's progress boils down to the rise of sanitation, refuse removal, and achievement of running water and indoor plumbing.
And that the most frequent reason for near-area migration was literally a village/town/city moving far enough away to escape the smell and pest problems from their burgeoning trash heaps and dung hills.
Herein, living proof of concept.
San Diego (indeed, all of CA, esp. the coastal regions) is overrun by homeless waste-of-skin douchebags. Frisco's been dealing with the problem for decades, and they even publish poop-avoidance maps in S***istan By The Bay for the feces-averse.
Then, there's the perennial problem of drug addicts carelessly leaving their discards where anyone can get punctured by them. (So, where are all the "Legalize everything!" folks now...anyone? Beuller? Ferris Beuller...?) This helpfully adds lifelong incurable Hep B and C to the treatable Hepatitis A problem. Any large-"L" Libertarians in the audience? Tell me how you deal with near-zero government solutions to this problem. Or does this sort of thing fall inside the lines of Things It's Okay-to-beat-folks-into-submission-to? Just curious.
Rather than run them in for lawlessness, or run them out of town, city governments full of jackholes (San Diego city council, call your office...) let them shoot up, p***, and s*** everywhere, which has real-world public health consequences.
. . .
Hepatitis A (invariably with a fecal-oral vector, meaning someone else's chocolate gets in your peanut butter) ensues.
There's more at the link. It's a profane, but accurate description of the problem. I know it's accurate, because I've seen precisely the same thing, magnified greatly, in several Third World countries where effective sanitation is still a pipe-dream.
Seattle, WA is another city with a left-wing, liberal/progressive government. It, too, has ignored its homeless/transient problem for a long time; and the results have been similar to those encountered in California. Crime, too, has become a burgeoning problem there, as transients steal anything they can get their hands on, allegedly to fund drug abuse.
One company has now had enough.
“I’m moving my business out of Seattle city limits, not only because of the homeless situation, but because of a variety of factors; definitely the tone and tenor of the city hasn’t helped the situation,” Benezra told the Dori Monson Show.
. . .
“I haven’t seen the area look as bad as it looks currently, the homeless problem has become an issue,” he said. “Not just for us, but for all the surrounding businesses. We also own some other properties, as well, down here and it’s a constant problem.”
At Buffalo Industries, people often sneak into the loading dock area where heavy machinery is operating, Benezra said. They go through the trash and he says they frequently kick people out. They also find discarded syringes on the ground.
“We periodically have people defecating in our parking lot; that’s always not a good look,” he said.
Erin Goodman with the SoDo Business Improvement Area says it’s not just Buffalo Industries.
“We have heard in the last month … that while crime in the south precinct overall is down about 5 percent, crime in the SoDo District itself is up about 20 percent,” Goodman said. “This tracks with what we are hearing from businesses as well.”
When it comes to the city, Benezra says, they don’t get much of a response. What businesses do get, he says, are more taxes.
. . .
“They are picking on the wrong people,” Benezra said. “… I just wonder about what people who are coming here to go on cruises think; when they come in town and see all the encampments off to the side of the freeway? Are they going to want to continue to travel here when they have to go through a lot of waste, and aggressive panhandling all over the city? People can make choices about where they want to travel as well. We are spending a lot of money on a new convention center … how likely are we to continue to have those conventions when our city, frankly, looks like a garbage dump?”
Again, more at the link.
The simple answer, of course, is that to the liberal/progressive mindset, the needs of business and those who pay their own way simply don't matter as much as those of the "helpless" or "downtrodden" or "oppressed" (insert whichever politically correct description du jour is appropriate). If the homeless "can't help being homeless", surely it would be wrong to make them clean up their act - and the streets? That would be blaming them for something they can't help.
(That's a very common thread in left-wing discussions of the problem; they blame the lack of public toilets for the feces in the street, rather than the lack of self-control of those leaving them there. Isn't it odd how, in generations past when there were no public facilities for the whole of society, public urination and defecation weren't that much of a problem? It's called common decency - or, at least, it used to be common. Not so much today, it seems.)
I predict that more and more liberal/progressive city administrations are going to be confronted with this dilemma. Be "sensitive" towards the politically correct cause du jour, and have to deal with the health and public safety consequences; or come down on the side of the latter, and be pilloried for being "insensitive" or having politically incorrect attitudes. Unfortunately, I suspect most of them will choose the former option, because they simply can't bear to be considered politically incorrect. Meanwhile, their citizens, many of whom have been brainwashed into the same politically correct mentality, will suffer the consequences.
I remember witnessing how one medium-sized African city dealt with the problem. It was facing serious health and hygiene problems, as the result of an influx of outsiders who had nowhere to stay. It hired groups of men to go around, armed with stout sticks and sjamboks. Whenever they found someone urinating or defecating in public, or a member of the public pointed out someone who'd just done that, they'd whale the tar out of them, without hesitation and without mercy. It took only a couple of weeks for the problem to be almost completely eliminated. Somehow, I don't think that approach would go down well in these United States . . . but I'm here to tell you, it worked.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
CNBC has a very interesting (and, depending on where you live, a potentially devastating) article showing the liability of residents of each state to pay off the current shortfall in that state's unfunded debts, pension shortfalls, and so on. Here's a helpful chart to show where you stand.
There's much more information at the link. It's important and highly recommended reading - and remember, the figures above exclude federal government debt and privately held debt, which together amount to far more. Frankly, if you live in one of the worst-performing states on that list, it may be time to do anything and everything you can to get out of there before things get worse!
Dave Karpf says that "digital inexperience paid off" for the Trump campaign, in a big way.
The 2016 Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, was featured on 60 Minutes last week. Much of the interview focused on the central role of Facebook in Trump’s digital strategy. Parscale shared that he “understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won. …We did [ads] on Twitter, Google search, other platforms. Facebook was the 500-pound gorilla, 80 percent of the budget kind of thing.” He also revealed that the Trump campaign had been closely advised by Facebook staffers who were literally “embedded” within their offices. While this little fact led the news, the truth is that top tech platforms have been offering such services to political campaigns for years. What was news, however, was the revelation that the Clinton campaign had turned Facebook down.
. . .
Back before Trump was being treated as a serious candidate, the 2016 election was supposed to be the one when Republicans finally started to catch up with Democrats in their use of social science experiments in elections. Then Trump happened, and everything got, well, weird. Many Republican digital campaign professionals were active #NeverTrumpers, further isolating the Trump digital team from any established base of digital campaign knowledge.
As a result, the experienced digital politics professionals weren’t in the room for Trump when Facebook arrived with its marketing pitch. The Clinton digital team had seen the experimental results. They had been around for past cycles, and had heard all these bold social media promises before. Facebook was touting its new-and-improved lookalike advertising product and asking for a giant slice of the digital advertising pie. The data from past elections said otherwise. Parscale, meanwhile, effectively responded by saying, “Magic beans?!? Take all of my money!”
Google and Twitter sent embedded staff to the Trump campaign as well. And the Clinton campaign accepted some staff embeds from big tech firms, even if Facebook was not among them. The digital technology firms didn’t just have a seat at the table with Trump’s digital program; they were often the most knowledgeable and experienced voices in the room. That’s generally a terrible way to run a campaign. You’ll get sold a bill of goods more often than not.
Except this time, the beans turned out to actually be magic.
There's more at the link.
That's a fascinating thought. Were the "experts" on the Clinton campaign so over-exposed to "hype" about technology that they automatically distrusted it, or at least some aspects of it? And were Trump's "experts" less expert, and therefore less jaded and more willing to listen to technologically savvy advice? Did that make the difference between victory and defeat?
I'm looking forward to learning more about this as the post-election analysis continues. It may hold interesting implications for future campaigns.
I wonder which Puerto Rican officials are responsible for this? (A tip o' the hat to reader Jason L. for sending me the link to the video.)
Probably some of the same officials responsible for this.
FBI agents in Puerto Rico have been receiving calls from "across the island" with residents complaining local officials are "withholding" or "mishandling" critical FEMA supplies -- with one island official even accused of stuffing his own car full of goods meant for the suffering populace.
The accusations come in the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Maria, which devastated the U.S. territory last month.
“The complaints we’re hearing is that mayors of local municipalities, or people associated with their offices, are giving their political supporters special treatment, goods they’re not giving to other people who need them,” FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told Fox News.
. . .
Some of the claims have come by phone and others have poured in over social media, but the allegations stretch across the island.
Osorio told of one allegation where a party official is accused of pulling his own car around the back of a government building and driving off after loading it full of FEMA supplies.
“We’re going out and investigating these claims,” Osorio said. “We don’t know yet if they’re accurate or not...but yes we have received many similar allegations from people in many different parts of the island.”
The allegations of misconduct come amid a pitched back-and-forth between island officials and President Trump over the federal response to Maria.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, a frequent Trump foil, reportedly accused Trump on Thursday of “genocide” for not doing more to aid in the relief efforts.
There's more at the link.
Perhaps the best disaster relief for Puerto Rico might be to remove from office every state and local government official, and replace them with qualified, competent, honest people from the mainland - perhaps retired businessmen and administrators, who can teach and/or show them how it's done. Many of them need the jobs, and Puerto Rico needs better government, making it a win-win situation. What say you, readers?
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Courtesy of a link at Vox's place, I came across this very troubling article.
Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades.
A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines, owing to so-called immortal cells contaminating other research cultures in the lab.
The problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells, or vice versa, or something else entirely.
If you think that sounds bad, you're right, as it means the findings of each piece of affected research may be flawed, and could even be completely unreliable.
. . .
Serge Horbach from Radboud University in the Netherlands ... and fellow researcher Willem Halffman wanted to know how extensive the phenomenon of misidentified cell lines really was, so they searched for evidence of what they call "contaminated" scientific literature.
Using the research database Web of Science, they looked for scientific articles based on any of the known misidentified cell lines as listed by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee's (ICLAC) Register of Misidentified Cell Lines.
There are currently 451 cell lines on this list, and they're not what you think they are – having been contaminated by other kinds of cells at some point in scientific history. Worse still, they've been unwittingly used in published laboratory research going as far back as the 1950s.
"After an extensive literary study, we believe this involves some 33,000 publications," Halffman explains.
"That means there are more than 30,000 scientific articles online that are reporting on the wrong cells."
There's more at the link.
This has enormous implications for medical research. For example, if the FDA approves a new drug to treat a certain illness, and it turns out that the drug was tested on the wrong cells, its usefulness may be overstated at best - perhaps even overturned entirely. Furthermore, our understanding of certain diseases, like some types of cancer or tumors, might be completely wrong. Doctors and scientists may have to revisit some issues from the ground up, repeating all the flawed research using cell lines that are proven to be correct - a massive, perhaps unsupportable expense.
The potential lawsuits stemming from this might be mind-boggling in their complexity. I suspect medical malpractice lawyers are, right now, setting up urgent conference calls and preparing advertisements. As far as they're concerned, this might just be bonanza time.
I recently tried a pair of Pachmayr Renegade wood laminate grips on one of my snubnose revolvers. I liked them so much, I've just ordered another pair, and I daresay I'll be "re-gripping" a number of my revolvers with them.
They look very attractive, and are usually available in plain or checkered form. Here's a composite image, showing one of each style sized to fit a snubnose revolver.
The smooth finish is very smooth, and seems to be finished in polyurethane. The combination can be slippery if your hand is wet; but that's not been a problem for me, since I make sure to use a firm grip. The smooth finish lets the gun slide easily into a pocket (which is where I usually carry a snubnose revolver). They don't "grab" the pocket material at all, which is a big help. The checkered version offers more traction, which will be useful to control more powerful rounds, but still isn't overly "grabby" on pocket material (unlike soft rubber grips). I think my .357 Magnum snubbies will carry the checkered grips, while my .38 Special snubbies will sport the smooth versions.
The Renegades are a little larger than standard snubby grips, so that the gun fits my hand better (giving a full 3-finger grip) and points very naturally. I find, as I bring it up into line with my target, the front sight nestles almost instinctively into the dovetail of the rear sight. That's handy. However, they're slightly less concealable because of the larger grips; something to keep in mind, and compensate for if necessary in the way one dresses. The gun still conceals well in an ankle holster, too. People with smaller hands may not find the Renegade grips a good fit.
I haven't tried the Renegade grips on larger-frame revolvers yet, but I plan to do so soon. They're available for several models of semi-auto pistols as well. Best of all, they're priced very reasonably, much more so than some other "fancy" wood grips. The rosewood grips look good on either blued or stainless firearms. There's also a charcoal finish that I find too dark for my taste, but I'm sure there are those who'll prefer it.
No, Pachmayr isn't paying me to advertise their products, and I've received no compensation in cash or in kind for mentioning them. I simply like to tell my readers when I find a product I really like, that does its job well. These Renegade grips are worth a closer look, if you're a shooter.
That's the title of a very interesting article by Aaron Clarey, a.k.a. Captain Capitalism. If you've been wondering about Bitcoin (the original "cryptocurrency"), "Initial Coin Offerings" and the like, he provides a great deal of information of which I hadn't been aware. In particular, he highlights the risks involved in dealing in such pseudo-commodities.
... unlike say, a bond, a stock, or a rental property, currencies (crypto or not) do not produce income. They are a tool of economic exchange, a store of value, and naturally forming and evolving economic phenomenon since humans existed. Silver bars do not poop out little silver coins and gold coins do breed to make little gold coins. And since all currencies produce nothing, there is no means by which to value them. The value of currencies are therefore determined by their rarity relative to one another, whether they have intrinsic value (precious metals), utilitarian/commodity value (silver is used in electronics), purchasing power (the Big Mac Index) and the amorphous, whimsical, and impossible-to-measure trust and faith of the entire world's people.
. . .
I'm no economist, but as far as my logic takes me, the world should only need ONE cryptocurrency. Maybe three or four in order to account for the fact people would want to diversify out of being reliant upon just ONE cryptocurrency. But when I did the research for my client...now approaching 4 months ago...there were....(drum roll please)
But wait, it gets better! In those four short months the number of cryptocurrencies has increased by 200!
Do not tell me this isn't Dotcom II all over again.
. . .
Very simply "The We Accept Index" reconnects and measures the only thing that matters with a currency - whether it is accepted as such. Whether you can use that currency to purchase ACTUAL TANGIBLE PHYSICAL THINGS IN THE REAL WORLD. Whether other people deem it to have value. And it is here we find out just how few cryptocurrencies have value.
In all honesty, only two, MAYBE four have value:
Dogecoin (and this was started on a lark!)
The remaining 99.7% of cryptocurrencies, in literal economic terms, have no value.
There's much more at the link.
This is a very informative and useful guide to the area of cryptocurrencies, and the explosively expanding market for them. I'm forced to agree with Mr. Clarey; this looks like yet another bubble, one that may take the fortunes of many investors with it when it (inevitably) implodes. There is no real, tangible value underlying it at all.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
I've written frequently about debt and its effects on our economy. John Mauldin draws the inescapable conclusion about federal government debt, and how it may - almost certainly will - impact our retirement.
The projected total US debt will be $30 trillion within 10 years, using the CBO’s own numbers. But the CBO also makes the rosy assumptions that there will be no recessions and that GDP will grow at a 4% nominal rate ... If you asked me to bet the “over/under” on the debt in 2027, I would bet the over at $35 trillion.
. . .
Note: That ... does not take into account the off-budget deficit that still ends up having to be borrowed. Last year the deficit was well over $1 trillion—but we were told it was in the neighborhood of $600 billion.
If any normal company tried to use accounting like the US Congress does, the SEC would rightly declare it fraudulent and shut it down immediately.
. . .
... looking at the demographic reality of longer lifespans and lower birthrates, it’s hard to believe Social Security can survive over the long run in anything like its present form.
But any major change will mean that the government is breaking its promise to workers and retirees.
And now we come to the really uncomfortable part.
Larry Kotlikoff wrote in an article on Forbes that we would need an immediate approximately 50% increase in taxes to fund our future deficits. That’s what we would need to create a true entitlements “lockbox” with the funds actually in it.
But surely everybody knows by now that there is no lockbox with Social Security funds in it. That money was spent on other government programs and debts. And so when the CBO doesn’t count the trust funds as part of the national debt, they are not only being disingenuous, I think they are committing financial fraud.
The money that will actually pay for Social Security and Medicare down the road is going to have to come out of future taxes, just as for any other debt of the US.
So at some point – even though Republicans are jawboning hard about cutting taxes now – we are going to have to raise taxes in order to fund Social Security and Medicare. I personally think it will have to be done with a value-added tax (VAT), because the necessary increase in income taxes would totally destroy the economy and potential growth.
. . .
But the simple fact of the matter is that no Congress is going to fund Social Security and Medicare through tax hikes. Before they ever go there, they will means-test Social Security and increase the retirement age – which they should.
There's more at the link.
So, if you're expecting to rely on Social Security for any part of your retirement income (let alone a significant proportion of it), keep in mind:
- SS is very likely to become a means-tested program, meaning that only those who lack other means of financial survival will get it (or part of it). No matter how much you, personally, have paid in Social security "contributions" (for which read "taxes"), you are no longer guaranteed a return on that money. It'll depend on your net worth and other financial factors.
- Your tax burden is almost certain to increase, whether by direct or indirect means. Therefore, you may get less than you expected from SS, and you may have to pay out more in taxes - a double financial whammy.
I think the odds of both happening are pretty darn good, as Mr. Mauldin points out. Mathematics is a hard science, not a feeling or an opinion. If the money isn't there, it can't be spent; and if Congress wants to spend it, it has to find more money somewhere. Either way, we're the victims.
I was intrigued to find this video review at The Vulgar Curmudgeon's place.
He's also done an earlier review, on the original, smaller toilet paper "tablets". Those may be found here, if you're interested, while the larger ones may be found here. There are similar products from other manufacturers, too; see some of them here.
I'd never heard of these things, but I have several friends and acquaintances who regularly hike in back-country areas, or go on hunting trips where they travel as light as possible. I asked them whether they'd ever used such products. Three said they had, and recommended them from personal experience. They said they weren't as comfortable as toilet paper, but got the job done, and the saving in weight and space in their backpacks were so impressive as to make the choice a no-brainer.
A fourth friend, however, added a cautionary note. He's from Minnesota, and hunts there in winter; and he's traveled to Alaska to hunt there, too. He reminded me that one has to dampen these things to get them to expand, and pointed out that in sub-zero temperatures, applying a damp piece of cellulose fiber to one's nether regions would be both exceedingly uncomfortable, and a potential health hazard if the damp material should freeze to . . . shall we say, delicate portions of one's anatomy. He reckoned the defrosting process could also be hazardous to one's health, given that the only heat available would be from a fire or camp stove. "What happens if the darned thing freezes to your tush, then catches fire when you try to warm it up to get it off?" he wondered. Once he'd pointed that out, I wondered the same thing!
If you've used these or similar products, please let us know how you found them in Comments. I might have to add some of these to my emergency kit. At least, living in Texas, the freezing hazard is likely to be minimized!