Chateau Gaillard

Early in my childhood I read of the exploits of Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), son of Henry II, and always fantasized about his building of Chateau Gaillard and its famous role in its future siege.

From Wikipedia:

Château Gaillard is a ruined medieval castle, located 300 feet (90 m) above the commune of Les Andelys overlooking the River Seine, in the Eure département of Normandy, France. It is located some 95 kilometres (59 mi) north-west of Paris and 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Rouen. Construction began in 1196 under the auspices of Richard the Lionheart, who was simultaneously King of England and feudal Duke of Normandy. The castle was expensive to build, but the majority of the work was done in an unusually short time. It took just two years and at the same time the town of Petit Andely was constructed. Château Gaillard has a complex and advanced design, and uses early principles of concentric fortification; it was also one of the earliest European castles to use machicolations. The castle consists of three enclosures separated by dry moats, with a keep in the inner enclosure.

Château Gaillard was captured in 1204 by the French king, Philip II, after a lengthy siege. In the mid-14th century, the castle was the residence of the exiled David II of Scotland. The castle changed hands several times in the Hundred Years’ War, but in 1449 the French captured Château Gaillard from the English for the last time, and from then on it remained in French ownership. Henry IV of France ordered the demolition of Château Gaillard in 1599; although it was in ruins at the time, it was felt to be a threat to the security of the local population. The castle ruins are listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. The inner bailey is open to the public from March to November, and the outer baileys are open all year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chateau-Gaillard

Clandestine Operations

There is a tremendous amount of things I cannot go into on this blog due to the general nature of it. I reserve my more incisive and relentless commentaries on more delicate issues for a secret blog that is published anonymously. The chances are you’ve never run across it and never will. And that’s fine by me.

However, from time to time I lean on my impression that those few people who do follow this blog are above average in intelligence and imagination, and have the ability, whole or in part, to at least reason in an honest way about matters of the world.  So here we go…

25% of people are 1-dimensional thinkers. About 60% (the vast majority of all people of all races, gender, class and in all nations) are 2-dimensional thinkers—they flatten complex ideas down to the point of least offense or in support of some idealogical bias. Only about 15% of people who ever lived or will live are 3-dimensional thinkers—they consider the entire argument and tailor responses, remedies and reactions according to the actual problem.

For example, the political issue of Gun Control.

1-dimensional: There is no such thing as evil, therefore people are intrinsically good. However, guns, being inanimate objects, are intrinsically evil. Therefore all guns should be destroyed. The paradox in this line of reasoning is instant and indicting—and by the way, this is a real argument that was made to me by a close high school friend. The logical fallacy is obvious and immediate. If evil cannot exist, then guns cannot be “intrisincally” evil (his terms).  Inanimate objects are exactly that—in (meaning not) + animate: they are not animated. Part of animation, by human definition, is moral animation.

Your average 1-dimensional thinker is a outright fool.

2-dimensional: Criminals use guns to threaten, injure, maim and kill people. Therefore all guns should be banned or destroyed.  Like all 2-dimensional arguments this not a line of reasoning, but a line of emoting. This response treats the argument emotionally, and provides an emotional answer. The fact the answer is false seems to bother 2-dimensionsal thinkers very little.  Why? Because “2-dimensional thinking” is an oxymoron. They are in fact 2-dimensional feelers. They are trying to offer a feel-good solution to a complex problem.

Further, the argument falls flat on its face when examineed in the clear water of history. Long before man invented gun (of any variety: drone, automatic, sem-automatic, rifle, pistol, musket, blunderbuss, muzzle loaded, breech loaded, matchlock, wheellock, snaplock, snaphance, miquelet, cartridge, etc.) the human race was doing a marvelous job of murdering each other with daggers, swords, lances, maces, clubs, axes, glaives, slingshots, bows and arrows, crossbows, trebuchets, etc.

2-dimensional thinking responds to the abuse of a right(s) by a minority by stripping the right from law abiding majority as well. Remember in grade school when the teacher would penalize the entire class because one student did or said something she didn’t like?

Well, it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.

Your average 2-dimensional thinker is a half-mind caring only for his or her half of the argument that brings them perceived emotional comfort.

3-dimensional: The “right to bear arms” (lets go ahead and use Constitutional language simply because most people are familiar with it) is a right, or privilege. People who abuse that right by threatening, injuring, maiming or killing someone else should have that right taken away, either temporarily or permanently. These people are correctly labeled as criminals. The remainder of the population that lawfully and wisely observe the rules for owning, transporting and discharging a firearm should keep their right.

This is 3-dimensional thinking.

The problem is neither with the object (in this case a lawful material, unlike child pornography which is an unlawful material), nor the entire population of this or any other nation. The problem is with a minority of people, criminals, who do not obey the law.  The solution should be strategically and precisely attentuated to address those persons who are violating the law, not those who are obeying it.

The 3-dimensional thinker is a whole intellect, nourished by analysis, balance and a lack of fear that empowers them to consider all the sharp corners of any argument.

To say this is obvious is tantamount so saying the sun is bright. It is an axiom, one recognized by any sane, clear-minded individual.

Moving on…

Now, knowing what we know now, let’s consider a popular target:  the conspiracy theory.

1-dimensional: There no such thing as a conspiracy; therefore, the phrase explains something that doesn’t exist.

2-dimensional: They’re are conspiracies, but they are rare and often conducted by people wearing black cloaks, masks who meet at night and have secret handshakes to identify fellow conspirators. And most conspiracies occurred in the 1400-1500’s.

3-dimensional: They’re are conspiracies, but by their very definition, they are difficult to prove.

Again, only 3-dimensional thinking approaches the question of a conspiracy properly. Here is the definition of “conspiracy.”

con·spir·a·cy [kuhn-spir-uh-see]
–noun, plural –cies.
1. the act of conspiring. 2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot. 3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government. 4. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act. 5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

After accumulating a quick list of ten people who regularly ridicule the idea of conspiracies as “absurd” I asked the same ten people if the founding of America constituted a conspiracy. Unanimously, all ten said the establishment of America by our founding fathers “did not in any way” constitute a conspiracy.

Thankfully, true 3-dimensional reasoning takes into consideration the fourth dimension, time, and perspective. I then asked the same ten people the same question, only rephrased:

Do you think George William Frederick considered the founding of America as having begun by conspiracy?

If you can believe it, all ten either said “no” or “who is he?”

Because I am pathologically thorough, I asked the same question a third time:

Do you think George William Frederick—King George III of England during the American Revolution—considered the founding of America by rebellion and colonial secession from Great Britain as either a conspiracy, or having started as one?

Astoundingly, three still said “no” and the other seven said “yes.”

By any of the five definitions listed above for “conspiracy” the American Revolution was a conspiracy, if only from the British perspective who considered the rebellion, well, a rebellion, or the unlawful throwing off of legitimate British government. A successful rebellion as it turned out, one that allowed me to write this blog, but a conspiracy nonetheless.

Its never a conspiracy when its in favor of what you want unless you are brave enough to admit it. It is only a conspiracy when someone else is doing it. By definition 5 (shown above) it can anything: partisan and political strategizing, corporate take-overs, lovers trying to conceal their adultery, military coups, etc.

I am struck by this fact because I once watched an internationally famous female television journalist inquiring about some events, and her tone in asking whether or not the events discussed would rise to conspiracy was absolutely mocking. Though she did not discredit a conspiracy outright, it was patently obvious from how she said it, her body language, her inflections and eye rolls that a conspiracy (of any kind, apparently, by her attitude) was on par with the credibility of the Keebler elves.

Now, I said all that to say this…

Call it suspicious, paranoia or even good old fashioned skepticism, but there is a part of my brain that is receptive to the uncomfortable premise that many things that seem totally random, are in fact clandestine evaluations.

McAfee recently had its antivirus program create havok by deleting critical operational files that it mistook for viruses.

An accident? Entirely and most feasibly so.

A clandestine shock assessment to measure the global impact of a purposefully delivered viral attack coordinated by McAfee, or any secret agency with which it is aligned? Probably not.

Personally, I think it is number 1.5.

If anything other than 1, this is how you do it: a deeply invasive estimate of world-wide security standards masked as a clerical error.

Governments, and obviously corporations, are not and never have been above using their own populations and client bases as unwitting test subjects and/or victims to gain credible intelligence they would defend as within the parameters of “national security.”

Just ask Ivan the Terrible or anybody at the CIA.

And let me say for the record: yes, I believe we landed on the moon.  And no, I don’t think George Bush and his fantasy cabal of war-mongering theocratic Neo-cons spent years secretly wiring the World Trade Centers to implode.

Question everyone and everything, even when they tell you to stop.

Yourself and your motives most of all, even when you tell yourself to stop.

Ottorino Respighi & I pini della Via Appia

Ottorino Respighi (1879 – 1936) was a great Italian composer, conductor and talented music theorist.  Probably most famous for his orchestral Roman trilogy including Fontane di Roma (“Fountains of Rome”), Pini di Roma (“Pines of Rome”), and Feste Romane (“Roman Festivals”).

The Pines of the Appian Way was first composed in 1924 in Rome by Bernardino Molinari.

The final I pini della Via Appia reflects the morning crescendo of a approaching Roman legion.  The score requires actual ancient trumpets called buccine, which are often replaced with flugelhorns.

The peal and arch of B-flat trumpets at 2:47 into the final score is one of the most beautiful and perfectly constructed swells in all music, classical or otherwise.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

fighter

Okay, while we’re at it…

I could easily turn this blog into a World War II fan blog if I wanted to — certainly not because I am glad we had to find a war as devastating as WWII, but because of the mechanized beauty that was reluctantly required to win it and save the world from a most heinous enemy.

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Easily in my top five war planes of WWII… up there with the P-51 Mustang and the Chance Vought F4U Corsair.

Aesthetically, the P-40 Warhawk it is my favorite… by a margin.

If you need me to explain to you the sheer sexiness of this plane, then you are in the wrong dimension.  Contact your local chapter of the Dr. Who Fan Club and get back to where ever it is you belong.

General Characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 31.67 ft (9.66 m)
Wingspan: 37.33 ft (11.38 m)
Height: 12.33 ft (3.76 m)
Wing area: 235.94 ft² (21.92 m²)
Empty weight: 6,350 lb (2,880 kg)
Loaded weight: 8,280 lb (3,760 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 8,810 lb (4,000 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Allison V-1710-39 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,150 hp (858 kW)

Performance

Maximum speed: 360 mph (310 kn, 580 km/h)
Cruise speed: 270 mph (235 kn, 435 km/h)
Range: 650 mi (560 nmi, 1,100 km)
Service ceiling: 29,000 ft (8,800 m)
Rate of climb: 2,100 ft/min (11 m/s)
Wing loading: 35.1 lb/ft² (171.5 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.14 hp/lb (230 W/kg)

Armament

Guns: 6 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns with 150-200 rounds per gun
Bombs: 250 to 1,000 lb (110 to 450 kg) bombs to a total of 2,000 lb (907 kg) on three hardpoints (one under the fuselage and two underwing)

My god — what a beautiful plane.

P-51 Mustang

P-51 Mustang 10

No admiration of the vintage warplanes of World War II would be complete without a starched salute to the distinguished P-51 Mustang, easily one of the most effective fighters of the second world war. Though she started out as the NA-73X (for the August 1940 deadline for the British) she quickly became an American legend.

General Characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)
Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m)
Height: 13 ft 8 in (4.17 m)
Wing area: 235 ft² (21.83 m²)
Empty weight: 7,635 lb (3,465 kg)
Loaded weight: 9,200 lb (4,175 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 12,100 lb (5,490 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Packard V-1650-7 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12, 1,490 hp (1,111 kW) at 3,000 rpm;[104] 1,720 hp (1,282 kW) at WEP
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0163
Drag area: 3.80 ft² (0.35 m²)
Aspect ratio: 5.83

Performance

Maximum speed: 437 mph (703 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
Cruise speed: 362 mph (580 km/h)
Stall speed: 100 mph (160 km/h)
Range: 1,650 mi (2,755 km) with external tanks
Service ceiling: 41,900 ft (12,800 m)
Rate of climb: 3,200 ft/min (16.3 m/s)
Wing loading: 39 lb/ft² (192 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.18 hp/lb (300 W/kg)
Lift-to-drag ratio: 14.6
Recommended Mach limit 0.8

Armament

6× 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine guns with 1,880 total rounds (400 rounds for each on the inner pair, and 270 rounds for each of the outer two pair)
2× hardpoints for up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs
10× 5.0 in (127 mm) rockets

Again, its Wikipedia, so cross-check your facts: P-51 Mustang

B-24 Liberator

A few years ago I wrote a devlishly mean script called Hellsreich, a horror film set in the closing days of World War II, and it didn’t take long to realize one of the perks of such a film would be the chance to fly in some of the great planes from that great war.

At the Cavangaugh Flight Museum (founded in 1993 by businessman Jim Cavanaugh) is a restored Consolidated (Model 32) B-24 Liberator which I have arranged to use for the film on financing.  The ugly Liberator is nonetheless a remarkable relic from a distant  age.

And now, some stats:

Characteristics

Crew: 7-10
Length: 67 ft 8 in (20.6 m)
Wingspan: 110 ft 0 in (33.5 m)
Height: 18 ft 0 in (5.5 m)
Wing area: 1,048 ft² (97.4 m²)
Empty weight: 36,500 lb (16,590 kg)
Loaded weight: 55,000 lb (25,000 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 65,000 lb (29,500 kg)
Powerplant: 4× Pratt & Whitney R-1830 turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (900 kW) each
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0406
Drag area: 42.54 ft² (3.95 m²)
Aspect ratio: 11.55

Performance

Maximum speed: 290 mph (250 kn, 470 km/h)
Cruise speed: 215 mph (187 kn, 346 km/h)
Stall speed: 95 mph (83 kn, 153 km/h)
Combat radius: 2,100 mi (1,800 nmi, 3,400 km)
Ferry range: 3,700 mi (3,200 nmi, 6,000 km)
Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (8,500 m)
Rate of climb: 1,025 ft/min (5.2 m/s)
Wing loading: 52.5 lb/ft² (256 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.0873 hp/lb (144 W/kg)
Lift-to-drag ratio: 12.9

Armament

Guns: 10 × .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 4 turrets and two waist positions.

Bombs:
Short range (˜400 mi): 8,000 lb (3,600 kg)
Long range (˜800 mi): 5,000 lb (2,300 kg)
Very long range (˜1,200 mi): 2,700 lb (1,200 kg)

It’s Wikipedia, so cross-check your facts:

B-24 Liberator

Gold

Following is in interesting article on gold by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. president of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute.

It is a refreshing read.

As with all matters of investment, everything is clear in hindsight. Had you bought gold mutual funds earlier this year, they might have appreciated more than 100 percent. Gold has risen $60 since March 2001 to the latest spot price of $326.

Why wasn’t it obvious? The Fed has been inflating the dollar as never before, driving interest rates down to absurdly low levels, even as the federal government has been pushing a mercantile trade policy, and New York City, the hub of the world economy, continues to be threatened by terrorism. The government is failing to prevent more successful attacks by not backing down from foreign policy disasters and by not allowing planes to arm themselves.  These are all conditions that make gold particularly attractive.

Or perhaps it is not so obvious why this is true. It’s been three decades since the dollar’s tie to gold was completely severed, to the hosannas of mainstream economists. There is no stash of gold held by the Fed or the Treasury that backs our currency system. The government owns gold but not as a monetary asset. It owns it the same way it owns national parks and fighter planes. It’s just another asset the government keeps to itself.

The dollar, and all our money, is nothing more and nothing less than what it looks like: a cut piece of linen paper with fancy printing on it. You can exchange it for other currency at a fixed rate and for any good or service at a flexible rate. But there is no established exchange rate between the dollar and gold, either at home or internationally.

The supply of money is not limited by the amount of gold. Gold is just another good for which the dollar can be exchanged, and in that sense is legally no different from a gallon of milk, a tank of gas, or an hour of babysitting services.

Why, then, do people turn to gold in times like these? What is gold used for? Yes, there are industrial uses and there are consumer uses in jewelry and the like. But recessions and inflations don’t cause people to want to wear more jewelry or stock up on industrial metal. The investor demand ultimately reflects consumer demand for gold. But that still leaves us with the question of why the consumer demand exists in the first place. Why gold and not sugar or wheat or something else?

There is no getting away from it: investor markets have memories of the days when gold was money. In fact, in the whole history of civilization, gold has served as the basic money of all people wherever it’s been available. Other precious metals have been valued and coined, but gold always emerged on top in the great competition for what constitutes the most valuable commodity of all.

There is nothing intrinsic about gold that makes it money. It has certain properties that lend itself to monetary use, like portability, divisibility, scarcity, durability, and uniformity. But these are just descriptors of certain qualities of the metal, not explanations as to why it became money. Gold became money for only one reason: because that’s what the markets chose.

Why isn’t gold money now? Because governments destroyed the gold standard. Why? Because they regarded it as too inflexible. To be sure, monetary inflexibility is the friend of free markets. Without the ability to create money out of nothing, governments tend to run tight financial ships. Banks are more careful about the lending when they can’t rely on a lender of last resort with access to a money-creation machine like the Fed.

A fixed money stock means that overall prices are generally more stable. The problems of inflation and business cycles disappear entirely. Under the gold standard, in fact, increased market productivity causes prices to generally decline over time as the purchasing power of money increases.

In 1967, Alan Greenspan once wrote an article called Gold and Economic Freedom. He wrote that:

“An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense—perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire—that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other. . . . This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights.”

He was right. Gold and freedom go together. Gold money is both the result of freedom and its leading protector. When money is as good as gold, the government cannot manipulate the supply for its own purposes. Just as the rule of law puts limits on the despotic use of police power, a gold standard puts extreme limits on the government’s ability to spend, borrow, and otherwise create crazy unworkable programs. It is forced to raise its revenue through taxation, not inflation, and generally keep its house in order.

Without the gold standard, government is free to work with the Fed to inflate the currency without limit. Even in our own times, we’ve seen governments do that and thereby spread mass misery.

Now, all governments are stupid but not all are so stupid as to pull stunts like this. Most of the time, governments are pleased to inflate their currencies so long as they don’t have to pay the price in the form of mass bankruptcies, falling exchange rates, and inflation.

In the real world, of course, there is a lag time between cause and effect. The Fed has been inflating the currency at very high levels for longer than a year. The consequences of this disastrous policy are showing up only recently in the form of a falling dollar and higher gold prices. And so what does the Fed do? It is pulling back now. For the first time in nearly ten years, some measures of money (M2 and MZM) are showing a falling money stock, which is likely to prompt a second dip in the continuing recession.

Greenspan now finds himself on the horns of a very serious dilemma. If he continues to pull back on money, the economy could tip into a serious recession. This is especially a danger given rising protectionism, which mirrors the events of the early 1930s. On the other hand, a continuation of the loose policy he has pursued for a year endangers the value of the dollar overseas.

How much easier matters were when we didn’t have to rely on the wisdom of exalted monetary central planners like Greenspan. Under the gold standard, the supply of money regulated itself. The government kept within limits. Banks were more cautious. Savings were high because credit was tight and saving was rewarded. This approach to economics is the foundation of a sustainable prosperity.

We don’t have that system now for the country or the world, but individuals are showing their preferences once again. By driving up the price of gold, prompting gold producers to become profitable again, the people are expressing their lack of confidence in their leaders. They have decided to protect themselves and not trust the state. That is the hidden message behind the new luster of gold.

Is a gold standard feasible again? Of course. The dollar could be redefined in terms of gold. Interest rates would reflect the real supply and demand for credit. We could shut down the Fe
d and we would never need to worry again what the chairman of the Fed wanted. There was a time when Greenspan was nostalgic for such a system. Investors of the world have come to embrace this view even as Greenspan has completely abandoned it.

What keeps the gold standard from becoming a reality again is the love of big government and war. If we ever fall in love with freedom again, the gold standard will once more become a hot issue in public debate.

Song of Solomon

@photonaija 12

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee. I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents. I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi. Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.

Continued…

Original article: Song of Solomon