May 10, 2016
Nope, no terrorism here. No Islamic extremism, either. Nothing to worry about; go on about your business. All is well.
A man with a knife attacked a train station in Germany. One man dead (alas, not the attacker) and three others wounded. The attacker has been captured. While he was attacking he shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and "You infidels must die!".
German authorities are perplexed about his motive (it definitely is a mystery, isn't it?), but one thing they're absolutely certain of is that it had nothing to do with Islamic extremism. Nope, nothing like that here.
This always happens. The only thing the authorities seem to be concerned about is preventing backlash. I guess it's a bit more understandable for Germany right now, given that it's occupied by a huge Muslim invasion. If there was actual backlash it could escalate massively, leading to war in the streets.
That would obviously be a tragedy, but it would also be a major source of schadenfreude...
Back in the 1970's, during the ill-fated push for the Equal Rights Amendment, a running joke in some circles was that "ERA" stood for "Earned Run Average".
I'm running into something like that now. Every time I see "BLM" I think "Bureau of Land Management" instead of "Black Lives Matter".
Here in Oregon the Bureau of Land Management is a pretty big deal because it owns about a quarter of the state. The Feds own about half the state total, and the part that BLM doesn't own mostly belongs to the Forest Service. (There's also one moderate size National Park, and a rather large reservation under the nominal control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.)
Now most of what BLM operates could accurately be called "God-forsaken wasteland"; it's basically the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin Desert and a bunch of other deserts. Letting the Feds own it is not a real burden because no one else would want that land. (Not even the Indians, because there's no water there, or not very damned much.)
But BLM has been around for decades and in the western part of the US it's a big deal nearly everywhere. Wikipedia says that BLM controls 1/8 of the landmass of the US, fully a million square kilometers and nearly all of that is in the western states. So it bugs me a bit when eastern know-it-alls usurp that acronym for a transient political movement which will be consigned to the history books within ten years.
May 09, 2016
I guess that means it's OK for all of us to pretend we're Japanese.
Pretend? Pretend? We are Japanese, by damn!
May 05, 2016
Well, not in this post. Sorry. It's really depressing.
Obama's real goal in his presidency was to end the "American Century". The goal was to reduce the United States from being "the last remaining super power" to being just one nation among many, no more important or influential (or rich!) than any other. His foreign policy has been to damage our allies and build up our enemies, to try to level the playing field, and let the world know they cannot rely on us for anything from now on. His domestic policy has been to weaken our economy so that we are no longer the 600 pound canary in world trade.
And though he hasn't totally succeeded at this, he's left behind a huge time bomb that's going to finish the job in one year or ten or twenty: a $20 trillion national debt.
Debt service is no joke. Right now it's affordable but only because the Fed is keeping interest rates at 0%. If interest rates return to something like historical norms, say about 5%, the US Government will owe a trillion dollars a year just on debt service, before it does anything else.
That isn't economically possible on a balanced budget without ridiculous tax hikes beyond even the dreams of the most avaricious socialist, so it means that immense budget deficits will never end, which itself is a cascading failure since increasing the total debt in turn increases each year's debt service payments. And there will come a time when that is also no longer possible because no one will bid at the T-bill auctions. So the Fed will have to run the printing presses -- which in fact they're already doing, calling it "quantitative easing".
The Fed has actually been doing some of this for decades. When the board of governors think they need to increase the money supply, the way they do it is to create new money out of thin air, and use it to buy T-bills on the open market. But starting with the Great Recession, the rate at which they've been doing this has drastically increased. Part of the reason they did that was that they were trying to prevent Deflation, and they mostly succeeded. But now they can't stop or even crank back on doing this, and it's going to backfire eventually.
In the long run what this means is that the US dollar will collapse. The only question is how long it's going to take. And when it happens, it will complete the job Obama has begun, no matter who is president or which party is in power or what they think their foreign and domestic policy should be. America will suffer runaway inflation, and nothing can prevent it.
After which, the dollar will no longer be a "reserve currency" anywhere in the world, and international trade will no longer be done primarily in dollars, and there will be a lot of other consequences like capital flight, a total disruption of American foreign trade (both selling and buying), and, probably, political unrest. I'm not sure it leads to a revolution but stranger things have happened. It's not impossible it could lead to one or more wars.
The only thing I'm sure about is that it won't be pleasant, and for most of the population it will be more painful than the Great Depression was. The majority of Americans will go through a substantial decline in living standard.
By the way, the US government can't repudiate its debt. The 14th Amendment includes this:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
The US has to keep paying interest on the debt, and in the long run the only way that will be possible is with massively inflated dollars.
Anyway, this catastrophe pretty much can't be prevented. And sad to say, this is part of why I think this year's election isn't really as important as a lot of people do. We're already past the point of no return, no matter who gets elected.
UPDATE: So what should individuals do? Buying gold isn't any answer; that won't be liquid enough, for one thing. If we reach the "wheelbarrow of money to buy a loaf of bread" stage, there is one thing that will be liquid enough to be used as an alternative to cash.
Everyone should buy one or more guns, and in particular stock up on ammunition, and keep stocking up, faster than you are using it. When we reach the point where no one will accept $billion dollar notes for anything, they'll still accept a handful of 9 mm cartridges in barter. Because the utility and value of cartridges will be obvious to everyone in an environment where traditional law and order are breaking down.
I can see a time when that becomes the only useful currency in this country and the more boxes of it you have in your closet, the better off you'll be.
And if I'm wrong, you'll still be able to use that ammunition yourself or sell it to friends for whatever we will be using for money by that point.
May 04, 2016
I have to admit I'm having fun reading all the weeping and gnashing of teeth by conservatives about the fact that Cruz and Kasich just dropped out of the race, leaving Trump unopposed.
Me, I can't say I ever supported Trump. Actually, the candidate I wanted was Walker, but he dropped out last summer. But I don't think Trump is quite the full-scale disaster a lot of other people think. His bad aspects are legion and obvious and I won't bother talking about them because lots of other people will be doing so. But there are good things here, too. Let's take a look.
1. He can beat Hillary. Hillary is an astoundingly weak and vulnerable candidate and Trump hasn't let loose with the big cannons on her yet. He's saving his ammunition (and there is plenty of it) for the general election campaign. Her problems start with the FBI investigation but they don't stop there.
2. If Trump wins, he won't be in thrall to big contributors.
3. Trump is willing to fire people if he thinks they aren't performing well. Don't underestimate how important this is.
4. Trump doesn't care about bad press. He's been getting wall-to-wall negative press coverage since the campaign began and if anything it seems he loves it.
5. If Trump is elected, heads all over Europe will explode.
6. Trump is a capitalist. Yeah, he's said things about raising taxes on the rich and so on; that's the zeitgeist. But unlike someone like Sanders, Trump works for a living and has spent his whole life in the business world. Maybe he's not the best businessman on the planet (he's gone bankrupt twice, isn't it?) When it really comes down to it though, that's where his mind is.
7. Unlike Obama, Trump wants America to be strong. Obama's foreign and domestic policy during his presidency was to end the "American Century", to reduce America to being just another nation in the world. Obama wanted to strengthen enemies, weaken friends, and bring about a level playing field in the world. Trump won't do that; he likes winning and sees nothing wrong with that.
8. Trump is totally politically incorrect. He doesn't care about safe spaces or micro-aggressions; he thinks that political correctness is stupid. He says what he thinks even if it offends someone. He's willing to insult people. SJW heads will be exploding, too. I think 4 years of Trump will kill off that movement.
9. The Republican establishment is about to take it in the teeth. The voters are pissed at them and Trump is going to deliver the message to them. This was as much a vote against RINOs as it was a vote for Trump.
10. And finally: they say you can know a man by his enemies. Trump has the right enemies, as far as a lot of voters are concerned.
April 30, 2016
I'd love to try this but I don't think I could maintain a straight face. (Shamelessly stolen from Ace of Spades.)
And this is for Lewis Hamilton, who is having a world-record run of miserable luck this season in F1.
"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's enemy action." -- Auric Goldfinger
Watch your back, Lewis!
April 28, 2016
A bomb threat isn't really funny no matter when or where it happens, but some are more bizarre than others.
In Baltimore there is (as I type this) a man wearing a panda suit who is threatening to blow up the building which contains the studios of the local Fox-TV affiliate.
So obviously he's a fruitcake, and it's unlikely he really has a bomb, but still the cops have to play it straight. Here's hoping no one gets shot before it's all over.
UPDATE: Apparently the worst is over. He got shot and has been taken to a hospital. There was a "device" and it's being investigated by the bomb squad.
UPDATE: His "bomb" was candy bars with wiring and a random circuit board. The flash drive he was trying to proffer turned out to contain tinfoil-hat info about astronomy.
He was shot several times by the police but hasn't died and isn't expected to.
Latest info is on this Twitter account, for the moment. At this point I would say this guy goes into the "lone nutcase" folder.
April 26, 2016
Thunderstorms bearing hail as big as grapefruit and winds approaching hurricane strength lashed portions of the Great Plains on Tuesday, but arrived without the destructive tornadoes that many had worried about for days.
We get hail here sometimes but it's never like that! Ours is the size of peas or smaller. Hail the size of a grapefruit is a weapon of mass destruction; cars parked outside can be destroyed. Buildings will be damaged; holes in roofs, windows out. A person hit by one of those can be injured or even killed.
This is "head for the storm cellar" weather even if there aren't any tornadoes.
April 17, 2016
I'm no automotive engineer. (These days I'm not really much of an engineer of any kind.) But I had a strange thought last night: how would an F1 car do if it was four-wheel-drive?
Right off the top, I came up with this:
-- It would be less reliable. Every component of a machine has a failure rate, and the more components, the greater the chance that something will fail. However, the increase in the failure rate might not be enough to matter.
-- It would make the car heavier, and thus it would not accelerate as well on straights.
-- It would corner better. If the front wheels are turned and are pulling the car, it's going to be possible to go faster through a turn. That's not so much a question of picking up time, it means the car would corner like softs when it was wearing intermediate tires. So you could get away with fewer pitstops because you spend most of your time on tires which last better.
-- And finally, there's probably a rule against it, or there soon would be. Every time anyone comes up with an interesting feature (like the six-wheel car and the vacuum cleaner car) the spoilsports at F1 outlaw it.
April 14, 2016
I was just rewatching part of Mouretsu Pirates and saw a computer display that included the word "overdrive". It made me wonder how many young people today know where that term came from?
No, it doesn't refer to an electric guitar saturating its amplifier, or anything to do with electronics. That usage came later.
I remember it being used by James Blish a couple of times to refer to FTL travel, and that's how it was used in Mouretsu Pirates. But it had a real meaning in the 1940's and 1950's and it didn't have anything to do with space flight, or electric guitars.
And if you know what it was, I think that means you're old, like I am...
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