High Voice

I was asked yesterday about the “surly bonds of Earth” reference in the post about Neil Armstrong’s death.  There is indeed a story behind that and a very unusual young man.

John Gillespie McGee Jr. was born in Shanghai to a US ambassador, thus was American. His initial school was in Shanghai, “The American School” there — no doubt he was fluent in multiple languages by the time he left around age 10. As a boy in the US in the Rugby School, he became fascinated with poetry. And when war broke out in Europe, he was ready — but the US was not. In 1940, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and wound up eventually in the UK flying Supermarine Spitfires protecting London from bombing attacks.

On December 8, 1941, the US joined World War II officially after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Three days later, McGee and two squad mates were diving together through an opening in the clouds near London, only to have a trainee suddenly appear in their path.  In the collision, McGee’s aircraft was badly damaged, and he was unable to get out before the craft struck the ground. Witnesses suggested that he’d just gotten the canopy open.  He was 19.

Weeks before, across the back of a letter to home, McGee had scrawled this text after a particularly inspiring flight: Continue reading

An amusing take on an odd take on Neil Armstrong’s passing

This is more in the vein of politics, though in the morning I will have one more comment about a person inspired by Neil Armstrong, and a person who inspired Armstrong himself.

In the meantime, President Obama posted an odd image in memory of Neil Armstrong — it was a picture of himself, staring at the crescent moon with nearby star. I was reminded a bit of his gift to Queen Elizabeth II, which included copies of his own speeches.  (To be fair, the Queen’s gift was a signed picture of herself. But President Obama is not royalty.)

The inestimable IowaHawk stepped in to add some words to Obama’s commemorative picture.  Worth a look, and for many will produce a chuckle.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The Isaac Storm

It is saddening to see leftists literally praying for death and destruction to visit the United States, so long as it is aligned with their own prejudices. Here is one of many such supplications I’ve seen:

“Dear God, I promise to believe in you if you will just send Hurricane Isaac to Tampa while the Republicans are there.”

“far out…come on hurricaneeeee wipe out the hall and the lying GOP candidates”

Ah — this article collects some of the supplications and appeals to God and karma and such.  You’ll find a number of references to “Hurricane Isaac” even though it is not yet a hurricane as of this writing.

The state of Florida is a former stomping ground of mine; it was common to have “hurricane parties” where bathtubs were filled with ice (to melt into drinking water) and cans of beer and other drinks to help weather the storm. I once participated in an experiment, in a van with doors tied open like sails, to see how fast we could go in 100 MPH winds.  (We never hit much above 50 with the engine off, but we were also running out of road.)

But of course hurricanes can do lots of damage, from Andrew in 1992 to Katrina in 2005 to the many hurricanes back when they were common in the 1960s, and the earlier cycle in the 1920s.

Hurricane frequency runs in a cycle of a few decades, but some hurricanes form every year.  At the peak of the current cycle back in 2000, there were a couple of years in which no hurricanes made US landfall at all. This apparently encouraged Louisiana and New Orleans officials that it was safe to embezzle tens of millions of dollars of federal funds that were intended for levee reconstruction — a re-routing that had tragic consequences later when the levees collapsed in Katrina’s storm surge, despite that storm’s only Category 2 or so strength at landfall.

Now, twelve years after the peak, Florida has not been hit by a hurricane for seven years. It seems likely that Isaac will break this record, but it’s not clear, as Isaac is likely to still be only a tropical storm when it crosses over the sourthern Florida Keys.  There is a fair chance, though, that it will veer a bit east and come into contact with Florida’s west coast after becoming a hurricane in the next day or two.

And hurricanes can cause horrific death and destruction. One hurricane that is sort of a namesake to this one — it has been called “Isaac’s Storm” long before the idea of naming hurricanes developed — hit Galveston in 1900, one hundred and twelve years ago. It was named after Isaac Monroe Cline, an early hurricane expert who became somewhat notorious (and suffered personal tragedy) due to this hurricane. Continue reading

Drug-Tested Welfare

A friend sent an email last night, asking for my opinion. The email talked about the “traffic jams” of welfare recipients leaving Florida because of the new drug-testing law.  In fact, Florida had implemented this law a year before, and it was stopped by injunction in October of 2011 after being in operation less than five months.  And everyone will tell you that the drug testing didn’t save any significant money:

Snopes says: “The Tampa Tribune reported the following month that 2% of welfare recipients had tested positive under the newly implemented law.

Surely Snopes is unbiased, right?  The Tampa Bay Tribune had more details: Continue reading

Bath-a-Salts

While looking at another topic (check back tomorrow), I stumbled across this odd item.  Remember the “naked cannibal face-eating zombie” in Florida who was allegedly on “bath salts” as the reason for his behavior?  (Later, this was said to be merely marijuana.) I’d not heard of “bath salts” as a narcotic prior to the incident, but subsequently have heard of other (somewhat similar) “bath salt” cases in which “zombie” or “cannibal” winds up being used to describe the suspect.  (Other incidents have been supposedly based on grain alchohol, as in this report about a Chinese man.)  Still, bath salts were suddenly talked about — and I was intrigued.

Ah, but then I saw this article: Florida Governor Rick Scott had signed a bill into law in June 2011, months before the first famous cannibal incident:

Scott also signed a bill that makes it illegal to possess MDPV sold as bath salts. Those convicted could face up to five years in prison. The drugs are being sold in malls, head shops, convenience stores and other retail outlets, often near displays of energy drinks. They can be snorted like cocaine, smoked or injected.

The drug has been likened to LSD and can produce hallucinations, severe paranoia, seizures, aggression, increased blood pressure and kidney failure.

So, this problem was not new.  And in fact this drug website documents it in an article from 2009:

COMMON & BRAND NAMES:MDPV; NRG-1; Bath Salts
EFFECTS CLASSIFICATION:Stimulant
CHEMICAL NAME:3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone
DESCRIPTION:MDPV is an uncommon stimulant with a short history of human use. It is known for its tendency to cause compulsive redosing and some users report sexual arousal as an effect. MDPV has been found in products labeled as “bath salts” and “plant food/fertilizer”.

On the link above are details about the effects as well as the legal status: It was added to the federal Schedule I just last month (July 2012), and about half the states have laws on it, most dating to 2011.  The timing of this indicates that the states saw the rise of the problem a year before — but the Senate voted 96-1 to ban the drug’s components only after the widely publicized (and apparently wrong) attribution of the cannibal attacks to MDPV.

It is possible that I am immune to this drug, as I am to most (perhaps all) narcotics — but I have no intention of trying the experiment. This substance seems extraordinarily tough on its users.  (One of the many listed negative effects is “fiending” — but that’s not quite what it sounds like. The word was new to me.)

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Tea Party and Neo-Nazi Movements

One commenter suggested that these attributes categorize neoNazis in Germany today:

a) extreme patriotism, my country above all others
b) want for military strength of the country
c) appreciation of military structure
d) white (insert country)
e) foreigners should leave
f) illegals should be kicked out
g) beggars are at fault for their fate and should go elsewhere
h) White heritage

You’ll get a YESSSSS for all of the above from any good Neo-Nazi. That’s their primary motivation over here. And they self-identify as “right”, not as the “true left”.

My response: Continue reading

China’s Ownership of US Assets

Business Insider’s politics columns are often surprisingly leftist.  This one, for example: “The Silliest Chart You’ll See In The Paul Ryan Debt Plan

The message he’s trying to convey is clear: More and more the U.S. is going cap-in-hand abroad to fund government spending. The Chinese (whom Mitt Romney has accused of not trading fairly with us) own a huge chunk. Ergo we’re at their mercy.

This is a popular notion, and a candidate running on a scare platform is wise to tell this story, but the story is nonsense on stilts.

China has no financial leverage over the US, and the idea of the government having to go beg foreigners in order to spend U.S. dollars is a myth.

To prove that China’s leverage over US policy is a “myth,” the author links to a PDF file … which proves him wrong, in abundant detail.  It also notes that Obama and Ryan were exactly in agreement about their concerns over China’s ownership:

What are the security implications of China’s creditor status? If Beijing or another sovereign creditor were to flex its financial muscles, would Washington buckle? Many analysts believe the answer to be yes. In December 2008 James Rickards, an adviser to U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, observed that China possessed “de facto veto power over certain U.S. interest rate and exchange rate decisions.”9 Similarly, Gao Xiqing, the head of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), recently warned, “[The U.S. economy is] built on the support, the gratuitous support, of a lot of countries. So why don’t you come over and . . . I won’t say kowtow, but at least, be nice to the countries that lend you money.”10 Whenever sovereign creditors appear to lose their appetite for dollar-denominated assets, it becomes front-page news.

The report goes on to suggest that it would damage China’s interest to exert too much pressure. But as it notes, US policy changes constrained by China’s financial pressure have already happened — and if US officials believe that they must appease China, it doesn’t much matter what academics say. Mutually assured financial destruction is not quite the same as its nuclear counterpart, and the Chinese are thinking every day of how to take advantage of their increasingly powerful position.

Back to the Business Insider article — he shows a chart that looks like China’s investment fluctuates substantially, except that (1) it is only a small part of China’s US holdings, and (2) the graph only shows the top few percent of the value. Far from being “silly,” Paul Ryan’s chart reflects the continuing weakness of the US’s profligate spending habits — and their impact is already being felt.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle