Fifty Years Ago: Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968. I watched it happen live on television in the early morning hours.
In his book, Now, 'Let Me Tell You What I Really Think', Chris Matthews - who gets more liberal/crazy with each passing year - wrote that Jack Kennedy's death "had a certain terrible beauty but Bobby's was a tragedy without grace." Huh? Jack Kennedy's head getting blown off in Dallas - and the scene getting replayed over-and-over-and-over thanks to Mr. Zapruder and his little film - was a shocking, brutal moment in American history. It was completely unexpected - and took all of us aback. Assassinations were a thing of 19th Century American history - or the stuff of unstable foreign governments. At the time, we thought that we (and our leaders) were invincible. JFK's death was a horrible wake-up call.
Bobby Kennedy's death, while tragic, paled by comparison. First, he wasn't a sitting President - just a candidate with a famous, martyred brother. Second, by 1968, we were more jaded. It was a violent year, beginning with the assassination of Martin Luther King. Death without grace? No assassination is "graceful." Just bloody. "Terrible beauty?" I don't think so. Bad choice of words, Mr. Matthews.
I remember Bobby Kennedy's funeral train very somberly passing through Philly as it headed down the four-track corridor from New York to Washington. There was a lone black GG1 electric locomotive running as a pilot followed by the train itself, which was pulled by two big black GG1s in freshly-painted Penn Central livery. I spent the weekend driving across the Street Road railroad overpass, as I moved small, fragile items from our apartment to our new home in my 1967 Beetle. Every time I looked down at the railroad tracks there was a crowd of people lining the tracks waiting for the funeral train pass by.
Paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, RFK often said, "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" Could a President Robert Kennedy have fixed what ailed America in the late 1960s? We'll never know.
Robert Kennedy's murder cast a pall over the presidential election. The violence at the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention was appalling to watch. In November, I voted with great reluctance, feeling that I was choosing between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. (posted 6/5/18, permalink)
The Internet Of Cows: Connecterra, a Dutch Company, has developed IDA (The Intelligent Dairy Farmer's Assistant) to bring the cow shed into the 21st Century.
"IDA uses a motion-sensing device attached to a cow's neck to transmit its movements to a program driven by AI. The sensor data, when aligned repeatedly with real-world behavior, eventually allows IDA to tell from data alone when a cow is chewing cud, lying down, walking, drinking or eating.
Those indicators can predict whether a particular cow is ill, has become less productive, or is ready to breed - alerting the farmer to changes in behavior that might otherwise be easily missed."
What if extended exposure to Artificial Intelligence produces smarter, self-aware bovines? What will they do when they realize we're making burgers, briskets and steaks out of 'em? Will they revolt in a twisted, real-life version of a Gary Larson cartoon? Why, they could make us dig our own graves in a McDonald's ball pit. Or stampede us into a Ruth's Chris and burn the place down, while the French Laughing Cows sneer at our suffering while chain-while smoking Gauloises. This could be another unexpected consequence of meddling with primal forces.
Nevertheless, I am reminded of the story of two cows standing next to each other in a field. Daisy said to Elsie, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," replied Elsie. "It's true, no bull!" exclaimed Daisy. (posted 5/8/18, permalink)
Awesome Potato Chips From The Emerald Isle: Keogh's Crisps, are "hand cooked on our Family Farm" in County Dublin in Ireland. "The Keogh Family believes that good things come from Mother Nature and that is why we've been farming the fertile lands of North County Dublin for over 200 years." Post-famine, thankfully. I don't think blighted potato chips would be any good.
The potato chip was invented around 1817 - listed in an English cookbook.
One of the bags I had was cooked by Darren, whose photo is on the firm's website. The caption under his picture exclaims, "As Manager I make sure everyone is working hard to make a great quality crisp in every flavour!" So there.
I checked out the field where my bag's potatoes were grown, using SpudNav: "Malahide also known as Mullach Íde in Irish looks out on the Irish sea, because this field gets the sea air which means we can grow early crops here. We grow Lady Claire, Lady Rosetta, Taurus, Edony potatoes in this field which are a perfect potato variety for making crisps."
In 1997, we visited the 12th Century Malahide Castle, which once housed the Fry Model Railway - a 2,500 sq.ft. O-gauge model train layout. The railway is expected to return permanently in 2019.
Keogh's Crisps taste great. But I may be biased due to my Irish heritage. Nevertheless, if you like potato chips, try 'em. I found mine at World Market. (posted 4/12/18, permalink)
War - What Is It Good For? Blogger Cdr. Salamander, a military guy, wrote that "we cannot afford the military we think we need - even if we could, we shouldn't." He continued, "We need to finish up the wars we have. Give our friends enough notice to get their defenses in place, as we need to come home.
Let me a repeat again what I have put out for over a decade; remove all land-based maneuver forces from overseas. Maintain a few combined bases with allies for training, logistics, and the occasional surge exercise. No forward deployed TACAIR (tactical air support). Exceptionally limited forward deployed naval forces, if any.
We are a maritime, air, and space power. That is our competitive advantage. We were not designed to sustain, nor do we need, a large standing Army. We need to demobilize and shift to a largely balanced towards National Guard and Reserved land forces. If our rich friends are under threat from ground forces, then they should reflect that in their military investments. We can augment them from the sea, air, and space - and if needed, begin to mobilize land forces.
Our military spending could, and should, be 30% less than it is right now if we really believe that we should be a mercantile republic. ... Do you want to be a citizen of a republic blessed with relatively good neighbors and large oceans - or an empire that desires and is expected to bleed blood and gold to protect people who won't protect themselves, or to rule people who have no desire to be ruled?"
Cdr. Salamander makes sense to me. Sadly, the only 'war' we won after WWII was the 1983 invasion of Granada, the tiny Caribbean island with a population of 90,000 or so. Within a few weeks, U.S. forces deposed the Commie-inspired radicals, restored order and reestablished a pro-democracy government. Free elections were held the following year. And we went home.
Other wars - not so much:
• The Korean War, which was proxy war with China, ended in a 'truce' and, 65 years later, is still not over. Over 36,000 Americans lost their lives in Korea.
• The Vietnam War was also a proxy war with China. The U.S. abandoned the country to Commies in 1973. Over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam.
• The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are best described as quagmires after many years, dollars and American soldiers' lives expended (close to 7,000 at this writing). Most of the Middle East mini-wars are proxy wars with Iran.
During the Obama years, Charles Krauthammer noted that Iraq "is now a client state of Iran." He posited that President Obama "abandoned Iraq. It was a won war, the level of violence was historically low, the civil war was over and Al Qaeda wasn't only defeated, it was humiliated. The Muslim, the Sunni Muslims of Anbar joined with the infidels in defeating Al Qaeda, and now it's revived, it controls large swaths of Iraq, and Syria, and for the first time it is active and dominant in the heart of the Middle East." Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "disliked many of Obama's staffers and observed that the Barry O's noncommittal attitude toward Afghanistan - "his heart didn't seem to be in it" - was disturbing." A president shouldn't be sending our soldiers into lethal situations if his heart isn't in it.
The surge in Iraq was successful until bungling 2009-10 negotiations by the State Department/White House level annulled its effectiveness.
The failure to win can be laid directly at the feet of politicians and senior military officials. Recent presidents have failed to develop a coherent objective (desired outcome), fail to consider the proxy war issue and never address the question, "What do we do if we win?" Military people then develop nuanced objectives of their own, based on use of assets (guns, drones, missiles, etc.) without considering the shape-shifting, low-tech-mixed with low-cost hi-tech, guerilla nature of the enemy. And the consequences of victory.
Our attempts to turn the tribal, inbred, lawless mess known as Afghanistan into a functioning country have been futile after 17-plus years. This barbarian wasteland, run by corrupt politicians, should have been, as columnist Kathy Shaidle once wrote (hopefully with more than a dash of hyperbole), that Afghanistan should have been "nuked no later than 2:00 pm EST on September 11, 2001."
Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. But, in the end, we didn't, really. And, along the way - sadly - many brave soldiers gave their lives trying to fix what's wrong with the Middle East. Just as valiant American soldiers gave their lives in Vietnam and Korea - both mismanaged engangements.
World War II was the last big war we won. We did so because we engaged the 'real' enemy directly. Every war since then has been a proxy war, with us fighting the puppet state of the real enemy. Whenever we fight proxy wars, we don't win.
Fight wars we can win. Know what to do after we win. Don't get into a proxy war unless we are prepared to attack the sponsoring overlord(s) - and defeat them.
Summary: Never forget - war is about winning - as quickly as possible. (posted 4/6/18, permalink)
In Search Of Excellence: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is taking heat for allegedly telling staffers he would focus on "excellence" and finding the "best people" to work at the department, not "diversity." Good for Mr. Zinke; I want the most talented people hired with my tax dollars - not some Rainbow Coalition morons.
"Zinke's lack of concern over "diversity" at the Interior Department angered some staffers, who rushed to tell CNN." Because CNN revels in such drivel and has become angrier than a drag queen who's run out of duct tape.
Diversity is crap - as I've written before. The quest for diversity may have caused the recent deadly pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University.
Imagine Smokey Robinson telling The Miracles, "Now fellas, I know we got a tight group but the people are complainin' that its not diverse, So Ronnie and Pete, I've got to let you two go. I'm bringing on a tone-deaf Asian and a fat white flannel-shirted Lesbian to replace you."
You don't build success on diversity. You build success on talent and a single-minded focused performance from your team. That's how miracles are created in business. Just ask Smokey. (posted 3/29/18, permalink)
Social Media Meltdown: Facebook is not having a good week - deservedly so - because people's personal data has been harvested and sold. The surprise is that it took so long for the public to realize this.
At The Federalist, Robert Tracinski wrote, "What strikes me most is the contrast between this and the Internet era before social media, before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube swallowed up everything. I'm talking about the 2000s, the great era of the blogs. Do you remember what that blog era was like? It felt like liberation."
"The era of blogging offered the promise of a decentralized media. Anybody could publish and comment on the news and find an audience. Guys writing in their pajamas could take down Dan Rather. We were bypassing the old media gatekeepers. And we had control over it! We posted on our own sites. We had good discussions in our own comment fields, which we moderated. I had and still have an extensive e-mail list of readers who are interested in my work, most of which I built up in that period, before everybody moved onto social media."
"But then Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube came along and killed the blogs." Well, not so much. Blogs are smaller in number these days but many good ones remain alive and well. Don't forget, you're reading this posting on a blog.
Tracinski noted that "we now have a social media economy mostly controlled by three big companies: Twitter, Facebook, and Google. So we get shadowbanning, arbitrary Twitter suspensions, and Twitter throttling the traffic of people they don't like and controlling what articles you can tweet links to. We traded the old mainstream media gatekeepers for new, worse, less publicly accountable gatekeepers in Silicon Valley - a new breed of pinch-nosed Puritans with pink hair, piercings, and tattoos, who will shut us down if we don't use the right pronouns."
Social media companies profit off posters' labor while they treat them like garbage, owning and arbitrarily editing content, while also gathering and selling posters' data. I wrote a few years back that I have, "no Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, RSS feeds or podcasts - too much of a pain in the ass, in my opinion." I also don't own a smartphone, so I'm not constantly "connected." I am dismayed that 40% of millennials (ages 18 through 34) use the news feed at Facebook's social media site as their source for news. Facebook is a well-known source of fake news, especially of the anti-Trump variety.
Last July, Facebook blocked more than two dozen conservative Catholic pages in a 24-hour period, some with millions of followers, saying only they were "suspected of suspicious activities." Sounds like the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s. Or the Devil. "Facebook seemed to target only conservative Catholic pages with a significant following, since almost all had between hundreds of thousands and up to six million followers." If Jeff Zuckerberg did this to two dozen Muslim pages, his throat would probably be slit within a week.
A full 84% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 49 use Facebook, according to Pew Research. I have no presence on FB and no longer read anyone's postings. When Facebook debuted, it became quickly apparent that I had no interest in handing over my life and my work product to a company so they could splatter it all over the web. Furthermore, I do not want 'Facebook friends'. If you want to be a real friend, fly out here and buy me a few drinks.
I'll give the last word to God, who tweeted, "Mark Zuckerberg is one of the last people you should trust, and I mean that both literally and alphabetically." The Lord has a Twitter account - who knew? (posted 3/23/18, permalink)
The View From The Back Deck: It has been an interesting time lately, since the city of Battle Ground is tearing up the golf course behind our house in order to construct a sewer line connecting to a new housing development about a mile south of us.
Our neighborhood already has sewers and Battle Ground can't connect from our street since we are outside the city limits. The course owners don't care about losing golf revenue; they seem more interested in real estate development than golf. (posted 2/13/18, permalink)
Strawmagedon: California's Democratic majority leader Ian Calderon wants restaurateurs to think long and hard before giving you a straw. He has introduced a bill to stop sit-down restaurants from offering customers straws with their beverages unless they specifically request one. Under the proposed law, "a waiter who serves a drink with an unrequested straw in it would face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000."
"We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans," said Calderon.
Once, at the Meercat Cafe (located inside the Living Desert Zoo) in Palm Desert, California, I asked for a straw for my Diet Coke. I was given a look of mock horror mixed with sanctimoniousness as the reply was delivered: "We don't supply straws ... for the sake of the animals." WTF?!
I was hungry and not interested in a debate with a counter clerk so I walked away, although I was pissed that I paid $2.50 for a soft drink and didn't even get a #$@% straw. I later Googled 'drinking straws animal deaths' but found nothing.
Yes, I know that every time an Escalade drives down the street, a polar bear dies. And Fur is Murder. Blah, blah, blah. But I hadn't heard of the panda population being decimated by drinking straws. I mean, straws are made from extruded polyethylene, not bamboo.
Are the plastic extruders operated by animals? If so, maybe they just work themselves to death or something. Too much overtime, maybe. Oh, wait. Maybe it's about the Straw That Broke The Camel's Back. (posted 2/1/18, permalink)
"There's Somethin' Happenin' Here; What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear ..." One of the nation's most prominent Christian leaders said he fears President Trump is facing a grave domestic threat by forces who want to take over the White House.
"I believe we are in a coup d'etat," Franklin Graham said recently. "There are people in this country who are wanting to destroy the president and take over the government by force."
Graham revealed his concerns as congressional Republicans ramp up accusations that deep state actors within the FBI and the Justice Department may have been plotting against the president. The evangelical leader did not name names, but he suggested the mainstream media was complicit in the silent coup.
Here's the thing: Franklin Graham is a middle of the road, quiet conservative. He is not given to alarmist, radical pronouncements. If Reverend Graham is worried, all of us should be worried too.
Consider this commentary from Howie Carr in the Boston Herald: "The 'Secret Society', as the plotters call themselves, is now desperately trying to cover up how they attempted to rig a presidential election on behalf of the most corrupt candidate in American history, Hillary Clinton, using Kremlin-generated disinformation that Hillary Clinton paid millions for to violate the civil rights of American citizens.
And now the G-men claim they've "lost" the evidence, just like the Deep State "lost" Hillary Clinton's 33,000 e-mails and IRS crook Lois Lerner's hard drive. It's time to put the FBI out of business, throw as many of these corrupt G-men into prison as possible, raze the J. Edgar Hoover Office Building in D.C."
Howie is a master of overstatement but his heart is in the right place. There is something very wrong in the power centers of DC; our democracy is at risk in ways I've never seen in my lifetime. (posted 2/1/18, permalink)
Kirk Van Houten Better Start Worrying: Kirk is a character on 'The Simpsons'. He's Milhouse's dad. Milhouse - for those of you who don't follow the show - is Bart Simpson's best friend and near-sighted foil.
At first, Kirk Van Houten was a mid-level executive at his father-in-law's cracker factory. But, as soon as Kirk and wife Luann got divorced, he was fired. Since then he's had a bunch of setbacks and loser jobs, the most recent was as a sign spinner, directing people to a new condo development.
Now the spinner industry is under fire from technology. Two weeks ago, I was driving along on Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, when I spotted two sign spinners within two blocks. Both were department store mannequins with animated arms.
I did a little research and found that a company called Mann-E-Spin sells these devices. It is claimed that they will run up to 18 hours on a single battery charge. While I see some immediate problems with this first generation of robospinners (easily stolen, mannequin durability and weatherability issues), I suspect that this idea will take off, especially since Washington state just raised its minimum wage to $11.50/hour.
Recently, the ever-prolific Z Man wrote, "When the (unemployment) numbers swell as automation eliminates the need for human labor in wide swaths of the economy, it will be impossible to dismiss the idle. When many of the idle are people who formerly occupied office jobs or semi-skilled laboring positions, blaming their condition on a lack of ambition is not going to be possible. The current labor participation rate is about 63% right now. This is about where it was in the Carter years. In the coming decades, that number will fall below 50% due to automation and demographics."
He suggests that a revised immigration policy may offer a partial solution. "When 80% of today's immigrants end up on public assistance, the immigrants of tomorrow will be nothing more than useless people to police, feed and house. Japan is the model to follow. They have no immigration and their population levels are about to drop in the coming decades."
All joking about The Van Houten Dilemma aside, the rise of automation means a grim future for the unskilled, the semi-skilled and the incompetent. (posted 1/18/18, permalink)
New Wine In Old Bottles: The latest over-hyped mass transit fad is the e-Bus, an electric bus. Major U.S. transit companies are unimpressed and keep buying diesels.
"Despite a surplus of cities seeking ways to reduce air pollution, electric buses haven't taken off in the United States as expected ... out of the more than 65,000 public buses currently on U.S. roads, only about 300 are electric ... they do require reliable charging infrastructure and a larger-than-average initial investment."
The first buses powered by electric motors appeared in the early 1920s. Known as trolley buses or trackless trolleys, they got their electricity from overhead wires via trolley poles. But there were those pesky and unsightly overhead wires.
In the 1950s, the Swiss used to have a flywheel-powered bus. It recharged (spun-up the electric motor) from electrical poles along the route - took 30 seconds or so. Zero pollution. No overhead wires either. It was the Gyrobus, made by the Swiss firm, Oerlikon.
The Gyrobus had a 3,300-pound, steel flywheel located beneath the floor spinning at 3,000 rpm. The flywheel spun the motor's armature, turning it into a generator. The electricity it produced powered a second electric motor, which drove the bus wheels. Every three to four miles on the route there were posts where the flywheel was recharged - three poles on the bus were raised to make contact with a three-phase alternating current source.
There were 27 Gyrobuses in Yverdon, Switzerland and, later, 17 in Leopoldsville, Zaire. Other flywheel buses have been tested recently in Hong Kong and Australia, using a more high-tech flywheel. And a flywheel-powered trolley has been in service in Bristol, England since 1998. There are no overhead wires. It draws power from low voltage electric charging points at passenger stops. The electricity powers an electric motor that spins a 1,000-pound flywheel. The vehicle, which has 20 seats and room for 14 standing passengers as well, can travel up two miles before it needs to recharge its flywheel.
I think much of the spending on mass transit makes no economic sense. And is a waste of tax dollars. In smaller, less-population-dense cities, public transit is 'pushed' by Greenies with a political agenda. Or politicians with an Eco agenda. But, in their quest for more energy-efficient, earth-friendly transit systems, why aren't these people looking at flywheel-powered solutions?
Bring back the Gyrobus. (posted 1/2/18, permalink)