Thursday, March 31, 2016

The joys of simple foods

Lawdog and his lady came over for supper tonight.  I was feeling in the mood for something vaguely Teutonic, so I nipped over to a local specialist butchery (expensive, but by far the best meat in town) and asked whether they had German savory sausage.  Mirabile dictu, not only did they stock it, they were right then and there stuffing casings with it in the back of the store.  A short wait, and eight great big fat sausages emerged (each weighing on average a third of a pound - they were huge!).  They followed me home, along with German-style Spätzle egg noodles, four cheese pasta sauce and beefsteak tomatoes, all courtesy of Aldi.

This evening I fried the sausages in a little beef lard, adding a chopped onion for the last few minutes of cooking.  The spätzle noodles simmered until they were al dente chewy, whereupon I drained them, returned them to the pot and added the four cheese sauce.  Sliced beefsteak tomatoes waited on the counter, and a jar of Polish sauerkraut sat on the table.  Suffice it to say, we stuffed ourselves.  The combination of flavors and textures was absolutely delicious.  (The bottle of Beachaven Chardonnay that accompanied the meal added considerably to the feast.)

We're all thoroughly enjoying these get-togethers every few days.  It's one of the nicest parts of Miss D.'s and my move to Texas.


The spin-doctors are hard at work

I'm more than a little bemused by the frantic attempts to spin Donald Trump's candidacy in any and every negative way possible.  There's very obviously a concerted attack from the political establishment on both left and right, desperate to derail him before he becomes the official Republican nominee.

Consider the latest screed in the Washington Post.

For almost five years, ever since state legislatures and commissions finished drawing the new congressional districts for this decade, the Republican stranglehold on the House has been taken for granted because of the precise targeting that fortified GOP-held swing seats to seemingly withstand the toughest political climate. Even leading Democrats, just two months ago at their annual issues retreat in Baltimore, declined to predict anything close to winning the 30 seats they need in November to reclaim the majority.

Then Republicans started voting in their presidential primary, with Donald Trump taking a commanding lead.

By last week, as House Democrats showcased several dozen top recruits on Capitol Hill and at K Street fundraisers, the tone had finally begun to shift. Trump has become so unpopular among key constituencies, including the growing suburbs that are home to several dozen Republican members, that some independent analysts, political strategists and a few Democrats say that anything might be possible come Election Day.

There's more at the link.

Oooh!  Talk about big-time scare tactics!  Republicans, if you nominate Trump, you might lose your majority in Congress!

Compare and contrast that to this article in the Philadelphia Enquirer.

When Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Donald Trump square off in Pennsylvania's April 26 Republican presidential primary, they will find themselves competing for votes from a rapidly changing base.

At least 128,000 voters statewide have changed their registration since Jan. 1 to join the party. Nearly 85,000 of them had been Democrats; 42,000 were independents or third-party voters. The GOP has also racked up 55,468 more first-time registrants.

. . .

Droves of voters' switches to the GOP are likely motivated - positively and negatively - by Trump, Madonna said.

That theory was borne out by interviews with several newly minted Republicans on Monday.

Joan Albert, 70, of the city's Somerton section, was blunt when asked why she switched after years as a Democrat.

"I don't like Hillary Clinton," she said. "I'd rather vote for Donald Trump."

Her husband, Marvin Albert, also 70, said he and his wife appreciate Trump's freewheeling speeches, drawn to what they see as his unusually candid nature.

"He tells you what's on his mind," Marvin Albert said. "He's not always right with what he says, but at least he speaks with what he feels."

Diana Albano, a 77-year-old retiree from South Philadelphia, has also been persuaded to support the outspoken businessman, even though she had been a registered Democrat who voted for President Obama.

"I like that [Trump] says what he believes," Albano said, admitting that she finds his bluster off-putting sometimes. "I'm not crazy about his approach, but I just like his honesty."

Again, more at the link.

I have no particular feelings for or against Mr. Trump, and I have no idea whether or not he might make a good President.  I will, however, say these two things for him:

  1. Anyone who's got the establishment as riled up against him as Mr. Trump has, must be doing something right.
  2. Whilst I can't predict whether Mr. Trump will be a good president, he can't possibly be a worse president than any other candidate in the race.  As far as I'm concerned, none of them are inspiring and none of them appear convincing.

Your mileage may vary, of course . . .

I just wish those with strong political opinions would voice them more politely.  When one can't have a discussion of (or between) the candidates without it degenerating into personal attacks and insults, it says a great deal about the state of the American body politic - more than it does about the candidates, in fact.


Tropical Storm Katie hit Düsseldorf airport this week . . .

. . . and the resulting landings were interesting, to say the least. Watch in full-screen mode for best results.


A judge tells it like it is

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge gets it said.

A Manhattan judge on Tuesday lashed into a Harlem man convicted of attempted murder — telling him that “black lives don’t matter to black people with guns” before tossing him in prison for 24 to 26 years.

“Black lives matter,” Justice Edward McLaughlin told defendant Tareek Arnold, 24, as he sentenced him in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“I have heard it, I know it, but the sad fact is in this courtroom, so often what happens is manifestations of the fact that black lives don’t matter to black people with guns.”

Arnold, who is black, shot rival Jamal McCaskill, also black, four times at close range in the summer of 2015. He also has a prior gun possession conviction.

. . .

Defense lawyer Mark Jankowitz requested the minimum sentence of 10 years, arguing that Arnold’s 1-year-old son would be without a father.

McLaughlin demurred: “Do not ask a judge in this room, in this building, or in this system to somehow make amends for the people who commit violent acts and who by their violent acts wind up leaving people orphaned, abandoned, fatherless, etc.”

There's more at the link.

I'm surprised - and pleased - that in a blatantly 'politically correct' setup like New York City's justice system, a judge can be so outspoken - and so truthful - in his remarks.  I wish there were more like him, particularly in other cities wracked with black-on-black violence (like Chicago, for instance).


Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I have no idea whether or not this is true - certainly, in all the years I flew with KLM and passed through Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, I never saw one of these critters.  Nevertheless, it's cute and funny.

Nice to hear Dutch again, too.  I recall (with a grin) a police dog (a Belgian Malinois) that had been acquired at great expense by a sheriff's department near me, some years ago.  It had been trained to respond only to commands in Dutch, to prevent bad guys giving it orders that it might obey.  The handler's chagrin was epic when I started giving it orders in Dutch, too, and it was happy to obey me!  (Perhaps the treats I was holding out to it at the time had something to do with that . . . )


Doofus Of The Day #896

Today's award goes to a British man who climbed on top of his compost bin to get to the roof of his garden shed.  Unfortunately . . .

Yes, that's his wife laughing her ass off!  I daresay he'll take a while to live down that one . . .


Rethinking COIN air support

We've spoken recently of the reintroduction of the OV-10 Bronco in the Middle East on a trial basis, and the use of Embraer's EMB-314 Super Tucano light strike aircraft by Afghanistan and other countries for counter-insurgency warfare.  Now it seems that Textron has its eyes on the same market (amongst others) for its Scorpion light jet (shown below), which we first met in these pages in 2013.  See the earlier article for a full description of its features.

Textron is mounting a big push to sell the aircraft in the Third World, and is currently exhibiting it at the FIDAE 2016 exhibition in Chile.  Janes reports:

First revealed in September 2013, the Scorpion has been developed to suit mission sets including counterinsurgency (COIN), border patrol, maritime surveillance, counter-narcotics, and air defence, in a package set to cost no more than USD20 million to procure and USD3,000 per hour to operate.

Textron AirLand has built the platform around a 2.3 cubic meter [about 81 cubic feet] payload bay in the centre of its fuselage that can accept a variety of sensors and weapons systems, depending on the mission. The Scorpion also has six underwing hardpoints - three on each side - to carry additional sensors, fuel, or weapons such as the Textron G-CLAW and Textron/Thales Fury guided glide munitions.

. . .

For cash-strapped Latin America, the Scorpion is a particularly attractive option, given that it can perform the vast majority of tasks that regional air arms usually demand on their combat fleets, but at a fraction of the procurement, operating, and sustainment costs of more advanced types.

There's more at the link.

That's an intriguing thought, particularly when compared to the turboprop OV-10 or EMB-314.  The latter costs about $10 million a copy, while an upgraded, modernized OV-10 would probably cost twice that - or about as much as the Scorpion.  The turboprop planes would be slower, but could loiter for longer due to lower fuel consumption.  On the other hand, the jet could get to a trouble spot faster, and probably carry more (and more effective) sensors and weapons than the turboprops (at least in their present configuration).  There are trade-offs either way, of course.

I'm sure the Scorpion could handle maritime surveillance easily enough, as long as it wasn't a long-range multi-hour patrol, but could it carry weapons suited to maritime interdiction?  I suppose short-range missiles like Hellfire or the South African Mokopa would be feasible.  As for submarines, it certainly wouldn't be able to carry sensors to detect them underwater, but it might be able to drop small short-range torpedoes like the European MU90 or the US Mark 54.  If it patrols over or near an array of underwater sensors (something like the US SOSUS network, but optimized for shallow-water littoral use, perhaps deployed to monitor the approaches to a major port), it could drop such torpedoes on a target identified by the array.  That opens up some interesting tactical options.

Here's a video clip of the Scorpion at the British RIAT air show last year, including shots of its maritime surveillance tests.

What's most impressive to me is the aircraft's cost structure.  At a per-unit cost of about $20 million, plus operating costs of about $3,000 per flight hour, it's far more affordable than a typical fourth-generation strike aircraft like the F-16 (acquisition cost about $60-$70 million for current production versions, plus about $21,000 per flight hour in operating costs).  As for something like the F-35, the comparison is mind-boggling.  The latter costs upwards of $120 million per copy, and its operating costs are close to $50,000 per flight hour.  A small air force can buy and operate an entire squadron of Scorpions for no more than the purchase and operating costs of a single F-35 over a year!

I think Textron may be onto something good here.  Let's see if they can find a launch customer.  I can think of a couple of dozen air forces that would be logical targets for their sales efforts.  I might pick up the phone and talk to a couple of former colleagues in South Africa, while I'm at it . . .


The man who sold out his city

Regular readers will recall my long series of posts made during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.  I was involved in the relief effort at the time, and gathered together many of the experiences and 'lessons learned' by myself and others in an effort to make them available to those who might go through something similar in future.  Many people have called them 'essential reading' to prepare for any natural disaster - and perhaps a few man-made ones, too.  I think they're certainly among my most useful articles.

Now CNBC is preparing to show a documentary on New Orleans' mayor at the time, Ray Nagin, as part of its 'American Greed' series.  I loathed the man.  He failed utterly to prepare for the hurricane's arrival, leaving tens of thousands of people in the lurch through his administration's inefficiency.  He then turned corrupt during the rebuilding effort, taking kickbacks, obstructing those who were trying to work without graft, and generally treating the place as his personal fiefdom.  I wasn't in the least surprised when he was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for his crimes.  Of course, we had to wait for the Federal courts to do that . . . he controlled the local criminal justice system well enough to make sure he didn't get into trouble there.

Here's the trailer for the documentary.

I urge you to watch it, if you have access to CNBC.  Nagin and those like him (and there were, and still are, many corrupt officials in New Orleans, both elected and appointed) are the city's biggest problem.  (For example, the New Orleans Police Department still has the unhappy distinction of being the only PD in the country to have had two of its officers incarcerated on Death Row simultaneously.)  To this day, I'd put New Orleans in the same league with Chicago, St. Louis and other hell-holes of corruption.  It's a very sad thing that the citizens of that city can't seem to elect honest politicians who'll clean up the place.  It's long overdue.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Aviation Oops!

C & T Auctions in England will be selling a photograph album from the First World War at its 'Printed Paper, Ephem[e]ra and Photographs Auction' tomorrow.  The pictures were apparently taken by an unidentified pilot of the Royal Naval Air Service at Cranwell airfield.  Amongst other things, they document a number of accidents to the trainee pilots there.  Here are a selection of them.

At least those early aircraft flew slowly enough that one had a chance of surviving a crash, despite the lack of safety equipment!


Carver: a blast from my aviation past

Regular readers will recall Weekend Wings #40, in which I discussed South Africa's Carver tactical fighter program.  I worked on one of the subsystems that would have been used in the aircraft.  In that article, I provided this photograph of a model of the Carver displayed by Atlas Aircraft Corporation at a South American arms exhibition.  This represents the original, single-engined, lightweight design iteration.

As I noted in the article:

By 1988 the Carver design was almost ready to proceed to the construction of a prototype. Many of the composite components that would have been used on production aircraft weren't yet available, but for the prototype they would have been replaced by aluminum or other lightweight alloy parts. This would have made the aircraft heavier, but not by so much that it couldn't have undertaken aerodynamic and other tests. However, without warning, everything suddenly changed.

The then-Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant-General Dennis Earp, was a veteran of the Korean War, where (as described last week) he flew F-51D Mustangs with No. 2 Squadron as part of the USAF's 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing. As a former 'fighter jock', he'd been a strong supporter of a lighter, more agile, more maneuverable Carver. However, in 1988 he retired, and was replaced by Lieutenant-General Jan van Loggerenberg. According to what we were told at the time, the latter had flown the SAAF's large, twin-engined 1960's-vintage Buccaneer S.50 strike aircraft, the few survivors of which were at that time tasked with delivering South Africa's nuclear weapons, if necessary. They also carried the country's newly-operational 'smart weapons'.

If Lt.-Gen. van Loggerenberg could get only one type of aircraft out of the Carver program, he wanted one able to deliver a greater weapons load over a longer range. It's not for me to question why and how his strategic and/or tactical judgment differed from that of his predecessor. He was now operationally responsible for the program, and I presume he acted in what he thought were the best interests of the SAAF. Nevertheless, given the limitations of the Atar 09K50 engine, the Carver didn't have a hope of meeting his requirements as a single-engined design. To do so, whilst retaining even minimally acceptable performance, it would have to have two engines . . . which brought everything to a grinding halt while the design team went back to the drawing-board.

There's more at the link.

I knew in rough outline what the proposed twin-engine design would have looked like, and provided a line drawing of one option in my earlier article.  However, to my surprise and delight, Denel Aviation (the successor to Atlas Aircraft Corp.) has now put on display in South Africa a model of the twin-engined Carver configuration.  I knew of the model's existence, but due to stringent security precautions I'd never been allowed to see it during the life of the program.  I can only presume that after the passage of two and a half decades, someone's decided that such strict security is no longer necessary.

My thanks to reader E. M. for sending me these images of the model.

As you can see, it's superficially similar to the earlier single-engined design, but significantly enlarged, with two engines, a tandem two-seat cockpit, a much bigger wing, and aerodynamic changes.

Carver's ancient history now.  Given the geopolitical changes at the time, its cancellation was unavoidable.  Nevertheless, I wish it had flown, particularly in its first, single-engined design.  I think it would have been a sweet bird, not dissimilar in characteristics and performance to the Northrop F-20 Tigershark (which was one of its inspirations, and which also never entered production).

Lots of memories there . . .


Bank 'bail-ins': you are sheep to be sheared

We've spoken of bank 'bail-ins' in these pages on several occasions, dating back to the Cyprus crisis.  Basically, it involves depositor funds being confiscated to refinance struggling banks and other financial institutions.  Here's a selection of some of my past articles on the subject:

Now Canada appears to be heading down that road as well.  Inquisitr reports:

The federal Canadian government unveiled its stimulus Budget 2016 on March 22, which included information about the majority Liberal party’s intention to implement a banking “bail-in regime.”

“To protect Canadian taxpayers in the unlikely event of a large bank failure, the Government is proposing to implement a bail-in regime that would reinforce that bank shareholders and creditors are responsible for the bank’s risks—not taxpayers. This would allow authorities to convert eligible long-term debt of a failing systemically important bank into common shares to recapitalize the bank and allow it to remain open and operating. Such a measure is in line with international efforts to address the potential risks to the financial system and broader economy of institutions perceived as ‘too-big-to-fail.'”
. . .

It is thought that these bail-in proposals would not affect investments, such as bank deposits up to $100,000, and sometimes more, protected by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), as previously featured by the Inquisitr.

The problem with this, as has been discussed with Press For Truth, who describes the CDIC as a “Ponzi scheme” and points out that in 2013, the corporation only had $2.5 billion set aside to cover investor losses, up to just over $3 billion in 2015. Three billion dollars covers 30,000 accounts worth $100,000 each.

The CDIC reports that in 2015, they insured $684 billion of Canadians’ savings; with $3 billion. A situation that is described as the CDIC not being able to “cover all Canadian deposits.”

So, Canadians need to understand that only CDIC-insured investments are protected by the government, and savings above $100,000 may be subject to bail-in events where a certain amount could disappear. And to keep in mind that the CDIC only has enough to cover about 0.004 percent of existing insured investments. And keep in mind that this process is already well underway in Europe.

There's more at the link.

Do, please, note the point about deposit insurance above.  I commented on the same reality in the USA in an article in January this year, and outlined what I was doing to protect myself.

"But," you object, "my savings account and CD's are insured by the FDIC.  Even if the bank took my money, the US government would have to repay me!"  Oh, yeah?  Sure, there's insurance on your deposits . . . but it says not one word about when you'll get back your money, or in what form.  Say a bank needs recapitalization, and seizes your deposit(s) as part of the process.  You immediately apply to the FDIC for compensation.  After a long delay (during which you can't access your money), that agency says loftily that yes, it'll refund your money - but only in the form of bonds issued against the bank's capital, or shares in the new entity that replaced it.  (That's the 'bail-inable long-term debt' that Mr. Fischer was talking about - see above.) The FDIC or another government agency will determine the value of those bonds or shares, not you - and their valuation may have little or nothing to do with reality.  Furthermore, you'll only be allowed to sell or otherwise convert them after a suitable period - say, five years?  Ten years?  Twenty-five years?  Whatever it is, you're still S.O.L. and broke - but hey, the insurance policy worked!  By strict legal definition, it covered your losses!

. . .

How can we protect ourselves against that possibility?  There's only one way I can see - keep as much as possible of your savings in a form that will be hard to confiscate.  I'm trying to slowly build up to the point where I have two to three months' actual expenditure in the form of cash, securely stored in a safe place - but not in a bank account or deposit box, where the banksters can get their greedy hands on it.  I'm also putting what I can into precious metals - gold and silver coins.  I'm a very small investor indeed, which means I can't get the best prices on such assets, but I do what I can.  If I had a hundred thousand dollars in savings today (I wish!), I'd have a quarter of it in precious metals, a quarter in cash, and the rest divided between savings accounts in two or three different financial institutions, just in case.  That way, if one or two assets 'went bad' or were confiscated, I wouldn't lose everything.  YMMV, of course.

Again, more at the link.

I should also note that the FDIC has about $25 billion available, but insures bank accounts in the trillions of dollars.  An excellent graphic illustration of just how inadequate the FDIC's coverage really is may be found hereI'm not joking or exaggerating when I say it's scary as hell.

I can only urge my Canadian readers to take appropriate precautions - and my US readers to read the signs of the times, and react accordingly.  If you think your money is safe in a bank during these trying economic times, you're living in cloud cuckoo land.  We don't have any choice but to use banks, of course - our economy's set up that way - but we can, at a minimum, take precautions to make sure that at least some of our hard-earned cash and assets are protected against government greed and bankster rapaciousness.


Monday, March 28, 2016

That 'craft' whiskey may not be very craft-y

I wasn't surprised (but I was still annoyed) to learn that many so-called 'craft' or small-distillery whiskies and other spirits may be mass-produced in a single factory.

Lawrenceburg, Indiana (not to be confused with bourbon-locale Lawrenceburg, Kentucky) is home to a massive brick complex that cranks out mega-industrial quantities of beverage-grade alcohol. The factory, once a Seagram distillery, has changed hands over the decades and was most recently acquired by food-ingredient corporation MGP. It is now a one-stop shop for marketers who want to bottle their own brands of spirits without having to distill the product themselves. MGP sells them bulk vodka and gin, as well as a large selection of whiskies, including bourbons of varying recipes, wheat whiskey, corn whiskey, and rye. (They also make “food grade industrial alcohol” used in everything from solvents and antiseptics to fungicides.) Their products are well-made, but hardly what one thinks of as artisanal. And yet, much of the whiskey now being sold as the hand-crafted product of micro-distilleries actually comes from this one Indiana factory.

Upstart spirits companies selling juice they didn’t distill rarely advertise the fact. But there are ways to tell: whiskey aged longer than a distillery has been in business is one of the telltale signs that the “distiller” is actually just bottling someone else’s product.

. . .

“I have purchased hundreds of barrels of rye and bourbon from them,” John Bernasconi admits when asked about the Indiana factory. A principal in the New Mexico company, Bernasconi says that purchasing whiskey from MGP and bottling it is “a means to develop a brand and help fund the next step” of actually distilling a unique product. It may be a sensible enough business strategy, but as whiskey writer Charles Cowdery points out, “There’s no reason to think anyone knows how to make whiskey or can learn how to make whiskey based on buying whiskey.” Cowdery has been railing for years against the proliferation of what he calls “Potemkin distilleries,” many of which own shiny new copper stills to wow visitors, but actually sell factory-made spirits they’ve acquired in bulk.

. . .

Dozens of new brands are packaging whiskey bought in bulk from Indiana. But it isn’t the only source. Some recently launched whiskey brands, such as the much-hyped WhistlePig Rye (which touts the product as “hand-bottled” on a Vermont farm), get their product from a factory distillery in Canada. Others are picking up cast-off barrels from high-volume Kentucky “macro-distillers” who occasionally find themselves with more whiskey than they can sell under their own labels.

There's more at the link.

I was particularly angry to find out that some well-known small distilleries (including top brands) are named in the article as sourcing at least some of their products from mega-factories like that.  Why should I waste my hard-earned money on premium spirits that aren't premium at all?  I'm surprised it's even legal to allow such sales without full disclosure of where the product comes from.

As of right now, I won't be buying any 'craft' spirits unless I'm absolutely certain that I'm getting what I'm being asked to pay for.


Slip slidin' away . . .

A few days ago I put up a video of a Boeing 737 being pushed around by the wind at an icy Siberian airfield.  In a comment to that post, Chuck Pergiel linked to this video of Russian Ilyushin Il-76 transports on an ice runway in the Antarctic.  The slipping and sliding starts at about the 5-minute mark.  (Apologies to Paul Simon for the title of the post!)

It's impressive to see a couple of hundred tons of fully-loaded aircraft sliding around like that!  It must have been an 'interesting' assignment for the flight crews involved.  I noted with interest that during one landing, initially all four engines were put into reverse thrust;  but within a few seconds, the inside engines' thrust reversers were shut off, and only the outer engines' reversers used to slow the aircraft.  I wonder if that produced less sliding?


Sheep to the slaughter?

Last week I put up a post titled 'A Nation of Sheep - Belgium Edition'.  I pointed out that writing messages in chalk on the sidewalk in support of those killed by terrorists would do absolutely nothing to stop further terrorist attacks.

It seems to me we should call New York a city of sheep as well.

New York City has seen a 20 percent increase in stabbings this year compared with last, and police say they don’t understand why it’s happening or what to do about it.

While most of the attacks are part of domestic disputes in homes, random assaults without apparent motives are on the rise. As of March 13, police recorded 809 incidents, up from 673 last year.

. . .

The stabbings may be symptomatic of a breakdown in civility in areas of the city where police have scaled down their enforcement of minor offenses, said Heather MacDonald, a research fellow specializing in crime at the Manhattan Institute, a policy research organization that has been critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiatives to reduce police stop-and-frisk tactics in minority neighborhoods.

“The same strategies aimed at getting guns off the streets, including stop-and-frisk, should apply to knives,” she said. “The public feels like the streets are getting out of control, and it’s hard to talk to anyone in the city who doesn’t feel there’s been an increase in street homelessness, litter and a general sense of order breaking down.”

There's more at the link.

New York City has some of the harshest restrictions on the right to own and/or carry a handgun of any city or state in the USA . . . yet the authorities haven't made the connection between that and the relative impunity that knife-wielding attackers apparently feel there.  Let's face it;  if you're a criminal and you know the odds are that any victim you select may be well enough armed to not only stop you, but kill you, you're going to be a whole lot more circumspect about your activities!  These stabbings aren't happening in cities where citizens are allowed to carry weapons in their own defense.  If anyone tried it in northern Texas, where I now live (or, for that matter, in Nashville, where I lived until January this year), they'd be shot sooner rather than later, and they know it:  so they don't do it.  Not so New York City.

As the late, great Jeff Cooper once said in another context:

The proper solution to armed robbery is a dead robber, on the scene.

I daresay he'd have agreed that the solution to random knife attacks is very similar.


Are all these drone near-misses accidental?

Back in 2014 I asked whether small drone aircraft were being contemplated as a terrorist weapon against commercial aviation.  I speculated that the growing number of near-misses between drones and airliners might be a deliberate tactic.

That number has now become a torrent.  As far as I can tell, not a single day goes by without a potentially dangerous incident occurring somewhere in the world . . . usually more than one.  A simple Internet search turns up over half a million returns.  Here's the latest report I've noticed, this one from Britain.

A dangerous drone owner almost brought down an airliner by flying his remote controlled craft within 10 feet of the jet in pitch darkness.

Normally, aircrews can take avoiding action if they spot one of the unmanned drones nearby.

But this is thought to be the first time there has been a near miss at night - and was seen only because it was caught in the plane’s landing lights.

The drone was so close only “providence” prevented a collision with the Boeing 777, carrying hundreds of passengers, says a report.

The incident, classed as a category A risk - the highest short of an actual crash - marks a terrifying escalation of the dangers posed by drones, currently at a record level.

There's more at the link.

I simply can't believe that all these incidents are caused by uncaring and/or unthinking drone owners flying their aircraft where they shouldn't.  Statistically, that would seem to be impossible.  Given the sheer volume of such incidents (which grows every day), I believe at least some - probably more than a few - must be caused by would-be terrorists trying to bring about a collision between their drone and an airliner.

Damaging or bringing down a commercial aircraft with a drone would have an enormous impact, affecting air travel throughout the world as worried passengers canceled their flights.  It would garner enormous publicity for the organization responsible.  What's more, the guilty person(s) would have a very good chance of escaping scot-free, ready, willing and able to do the same thing again.  You don't need a fanatic willing to die for his or her cause.  There are so many unregistered drones out there that I doubt the person or persons responsible would ever be traced, unless they were caught in the act.  The impact between a drone and an airliner isn't likely to leave very much forensic evidence, particularly if the former is sucked into an engine of the latter.

More than ever, I'm glad I don't have to fly commercially very often.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

ISIL plans terror attacks across Europe

It seems ISIL's leaders have planned widespread terror attacks throughout Europe.  The Guardian reports:

Nine days before the Paris attacks, Islamic State leaders gathered in the Syrian town of Tabqah to talk about what was coming next for the terror organisation ... In what marked a critical phase in the group’s evolution, there was to be a new focus on exporting chaos to Europe, the assembled men were told. And up to 200 militants were in place across the continent ready to receive orders.

. . .

The move marked a decisive shift away from putting all the organisation’s efforts into holding on to lands it had conquered in Syria and Iraq – a cause it acknowledged could not prevail against 14 different air forces and the omniscient eavesdropping powers of its foes.

Instead, the group now had the capacity to take the fight to the heart of its enemy. The means to do so had always been there through Europe’s porous borders, which had often facilitated the original journeys. However, the migrant route that had ferried hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis fleeing persecution had also allowed a small number of Isis members to blend in, and head back the other way.

In essence, Isis had begun to prioritise controlling populations over geography. While it hadn’t given up its grip on the large swath of Iraq and Syria it had seized at the expense of each sovereign state, the original area it controlled was now less important than the faraway societies it could influence.

. . .

Isis now contends that geography was a means to its ultimate ends, which were always to spread its influence far and wide. The group’s most senior leaders, among them the still recuperating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, are implacably ideological, convinced of their role as custodians of an ultra-radical reading of Islamic teachings and compelled to fight anyone who does not submit to their world view.

Isis leaders believe that European societies are easily weakened through savagery. One of the group’s members said its senior officials had a deep understanding of the European political architecture and of the fears of its people.

. . .

While the group is clearly on the back foot militarily in some corners of its “caliphate”, its strategic goals are now perhaps more in reach than ever before.

“They think a lot about this. They think they know you better than you know yourselves.”

There's more at the link.

This makes a lot of sense from ISIL's point of view.  The organization has been thrown into military disarray by the beefed-up attacks against it from Syrian, Iranian and Russian opponents, as well as US-supported efforts by Jordan, Iraq and the Kurds.  However, if it can ramp up terror attacks in Europe, it'll remain in the forefront of Western consciousness and force extensive - and very expensive - security precautions and disruptions to normal society.  Those disruptions will, in turn, be noted in the Islamic world, where they'll be taken as evidence that ISIL is still the foremost opponent to Western 'imperialism' and 'Crusader aggression'.

The danger is very great that such attacks will also extend to the USA.  Frankly, I'll be astonished if we don't see at least one mass casualty event in this country within the next six months.  We know that ISIL has many sympathizers in America, and our southern border has been deliberately (for political reasons) rendered almost defenseless against the onslaught of a wave of illegal aliens.  I'm sure terrorists have already infiltrated using that route;  after all, Iran, Hezbollah and other extremist nations and organizations have established enclaves in Latin America.  They aren't doing so for no reason at all.

I think tourists will do well to avoid popular centers in Western Europe this summer;  and those of us in the USA should be on our guard as well.


Easter in Dachau concentration camp, 1945

On this Easter Sunday, let us remember those who have longed to celebrate the feast, but been unable to do so due to wars, unrest and disruption of one kind or another.  Perhaps one of the most moving accounts of being able to celebrate the Resurrection, after years of being denied that right, comes from Dachau concentration camp in 1945.  Gleb Rahr, one of the prisoners, left this account.

The news comes in: Hitler has committed suicide, the Russians have taken Berlin, and German troops have surrendered in the South and in the North. But the fighting still rages in Austria and Czechoslovakia ...

Naturally, I was ever cognizant of the fact that these momentous events were unfolding during Holy Week. But how could we mark it, other than through our silent, individual prayers? A fellow-prisoner and chief interpreter of the International Prisoner's Committee, Boris F., paid a visit to my typhus-infested barrack — "Block 27" — to inform me that efforts were underway in conjunction with the Yugoslav and Greek National Prisoner's Committees to arrange an Orthodox service for Easter day, May 6th.

There were Orthodox priests, deacons, and a group of monks from Mount Athos among the prisoners. But there were no vestments, no books whatsoever, no icons, no candles, no prosphoras, no wine ... Efforts to acquire all these items from the Russian church in Munich failed, as the Americans just could not locate anyone from that parish in the devastated city. Nevertheless, some of the problems could be solved. The approximately four hundred Catholic priests detained in Dachau had been allowed to remain together in one barrack and recite mass every morning before going to work. They offered us Orthodox the use of their prayer room in "Block 26," which was just across the road from my own "block."

The chapel was bare, save for a wooden table and a Czenstochowa icon of the Theotokos hanging on the wall above the table—an icon which had originated in Constantinople and was later brought to Belz in Galicia, where it was subsequently taken from the Orthodox by a Polish king. When the Russian Army drove Napoleon's troops from Czenstochowa, however, the abbot of the Czenstochowa Monastery gave a copy of the icon to czar Alexander I, who placed it in the Kazan Cathedral in Saint-Petersburg where it was venerated until the Bolshevik seizure of power. A creative solution to the problem of the vestments was also found. New linen towels were taken from the hospital of our former SS-guards. When sewn together lengthwise, two towels formed an epitrachilion and when sewn together at the ends they became an orarion. Red crosses, originally intended to be worn by the medical personnel of the SS guards, were put on the towel-vestments.

On Easter Sunday, May 6th (April 23rd according to the Church calendar)—which ominously fell that year on Saint George the Victory-Bearer's Day—Serbs, Greeks and Russians gathered at the Catholic priests' barracks. Although Russians comprised about 40 percent of the Dachau inmates, only a few managed to attend the service. By that time "repatriation officers" of the special Smersh units had arrived in Dachau by American military planes, and begun the process of erecting new lines of barbed wire for the purpose of isolating Soviet citizens from the rest of the prisoners, which was the first step in preparing them for their eventual forced repatriation.

In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945. Greek and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon wore the make-shift "vestments" over their blue and gray-striped prisoner's uniforms. Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to Slavonic, and then back again to Greek. The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheras—everything was recited from memory. The Gospel—"In the beginning was the Word"—also from memory.

And finally, the Homily of Saint John Chrysostom—also from memory. A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live. Saint John Chrysostomos himself seemed to speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well! Eighteen Orthodox priests and one deacon—most of whom were Serbs—participated in this unforgettable service. Like the sick man who had been lowered through the roof of a house and placed in front of the feet of Christ the Savior, the Greek Archimandrite Meletios was carried on a stretcher into the chapel, where he remained prostrate for the duration of the service.

There's more at the link.

On April 29th, 1995 - the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Dachau - a memorial Orthodox chapel was opened at the site of the concentration camp.  Inside it is this icon of Christ opening the gates of Dachau.  (Click the image for a larger view.)

As we celebrate the feast, let's remember all those who were not able to in the past, or can't do so today for whatever reason.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Remembering the Easter Rising

One hundred years ago, during Easter Week of 1916, the so-called 'Easter Rising' began.  It was an armed rebellion attempting to free Ireland from British rule.

It was probably inevitable, given the tormented history of the English and Irish peoples stretching back over many centuries.  Nevertheless, it left a lasting bitterness, and led directly to the Irish War of Independence a few years later.  That, in turn, led to the partition of Ireland and gave rise to the Troubles in Northern Ireland in more recent years.

Let's remember all who died, on whatever side.  There were few men of genuine goodwill willing to seek honorable solutions.  Fanaticism reigned supreme, and its bitter fruit is still with us today.


Doofus Of The Day #895

The video speaks for itself.

Idiots with explosives . . . sheesh!


Of Land Rovers, dam walls and four wheel drive

This week, in an e-mail group to which I belong, there was an interesting discussion of this advertisement from Land Rover in England, dating back to 1995.

That led (perhaps inevitably) to this episode of Top Gear.

I've driven many thousands of miles in Land Rovers (the tough, rugged Series 1, 2, 2A and 3 models, not the upmarket Range Rover variants).  The short-wheel-base early models in particular were ubiquitous in Africa, much as Jeeps are in the USA. Those of you who remember the movie 'The Gods Must Be Crazy' will recall (with a giggle, I'm sure) the Land Rover that found itself winched up into a tree, and having adventures with gates while having no brakes.  I know that model particularly well;  in fact, my butt and lower back wince in sympathy whenever they see one, in movies or in real life!

Land Rover sponsored the Camel Trophy for most of its two-decade existence, showcasing its vehicles and their off-road capabilities.  Here's a video of the 'Land Rover Years' of the trophy.  It's long - about 1½ hours - but great viewing for off-road enthusiasts.

I must admit, I never drove a Land Rover in such tricky conditions.  I had more sense!


Friday, March 25, 2016

An interesting aviation challenge

I was approached recently by an old acquaintance from central Africa.  He's active in the missionary and disaster relief fields, and asked an interesting question:  "What aircraft would you recommend for a small, unsophisticated country's air arm, to encompass the roles of initial and advanced pilot training, general observation duties including game management, transporting people and supplies to small, unprepared airstrips, and providing emergency assistance during disaster or relief situations?"  Money was specified as being tight, so that more sophisticated (and therefore more expensive) aircraft would be out of the question.

I had an enjoyable few days thinking about the problem.  I came up with the following recommendations.

1.  Basic pilot training, observation duties and light transport:  I'd opt for the Zenair ST-801HD short takeoff and landing aircraft.  It's extremely economical, being offered as a kit for home-builders.  This means that it could be assembled in-country (much as Nigeria did with its kit-built Vans RV-6A training aircraft), using the opportunity to teach locals how to maintain it when in service.  It can carry a useful load of 1,000 pounds, with seats for four people and limited baggage capacity.  It's available with dual control sticks, making it suitable for training.  It can take off and land on short, unprepared runways, and has proven to be very rugged in service.

2.  Transporting people and supplies:  I'd recommend two types.  First would be a single-engined turboprop light transport such as the Cessna 208 Caravan, the Pilatus PC-6 Porter or the Quest Kodiak.  The former two are ubiquitous in bush flying all over the world, and the latter is rapidly making inroads into that market.  They can seat 8-10 people or carry plus-or-minus a ton of cargo.  (However, if money was very tight, I'd forgo the single-engine transport and buy only the slightly larger twin-engined ones listed below, as they're more versatile.)

For heavier loads or more passengers, I'd suggest a light, tough twin-turboprop transport with short takeoff and landing capabilities.  My first choice would be the Polish PZL M28 Skytruck, based on the earlier Soviet Antonov An-28.  It's designed to be almost impossible to stall, and uses tried and true Canadian PT6 turboprop engines which have proved very reliable in service.  It can carry up to 3 tons of cargo or 19 passengers.  Alternatives with similar capacities would be the Czech LET L-410, the Chinese Harbin Y-12 or the Spanish CASA C-212.  I've flown in all of them except the Harbin Y-12.  On the basis of its design features, I think the M28 wins out by a short head over the competition, with the C-212 as second choice.

I'd hesitate to recommend larger aircraft in the early stages, because they're more complex and require a greater degree of sophistication in terms of maintenance, infrastructure and trained personnel.  If they were required, I'd skip the 5-ton level of transport (such as the CASA CN-235 or equivalents), because they can carry only up to twice as much as the smaller transports.  Instead, I'd go up to the 10-ton level:  planes such as the CASA C-295 or Alenia C-27J that can carry four times as much as the smaller transports named above.  However, they'd require a much higher (and much more expensive) level of support, so I suspect it would probably be more economical at first to charter them from outside companies on an as-needed basis.

For the same reason, I'd hesitate to recommend helicopters to a small, inexperienced air arm.  They tend to need more (and more sophisticated) maintenance than fixed-wing aircraft, and demand a higher level of piloting skill than might be available (at least initially) from local personnel.  However, if helicopters were needed very badly, I'd go for a simple, rugged design that's proven itself over time.  I'd suggest refurbished UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) helicopters, which became famous during the Vietnam War.  Used helicopters are available from US Army reserves and might be made available for very low (or no) cost under foreign aid programs, which might also pay for their refurbishment (which Bell is already performing for overseas customers).  Spare parts are freely available, many helicopter maintenance personnel all over the world have experience on them, and they've proven their ability to operate for extended periods out of primitive, unsophisticated facilities.  If helicopters are essential, I don't think there's a more practical, cost-effective option out there, with the possible exception of the much larger Soviet-era Mil Mi-8 and its later development, the Mil Mi-17.  Used examples are available, but they tend to have been 'ridden hard and put away wet';  and refurbishment is seldom a cost-effective option outside Russia, where they were built.

So, that's my recommendation.  ST-801's for training, light transport and observation duties;  single-engine and/or lighter twin-engine turboprops for heavier transport duties.  I'd start with the smaller planes and work up to bigger ones as local aircrews and maintenance personnel gained experience.  If larger aircraft were needed immediately, I'd hire outside pilots and use them as instructors to train local personnel over time.  More sophisticated aircraft and/or helicopters would wait until a sufficient base of experience had been built up, using charter services if necessary as an interim option.

What would you recommend, aviation-minded readers?  How would you equip a small, unsophisticated air arm for such duties?  Let's hear your views in Comments.


That's quite a wind!

Footage from Alykel airport in Siberia shows a Boeing 737 of Nordstar being spun around by a very strong wind.  It's caused by the 'weathervane effect', which in this case was enough to overcome the inertia of the aircraft and move it over the ice.

Considering that a fully fueled and loaded Boeing 737 can weigh up to about 90 tons, depending on the model, that must have been a pretty strong wind . . .



One of Miss D.'s favorite Web comics is The Devil's Panties.  Their cartoon for today made me smile.  Click it for a larger view.

If you haven't tried The Devil's Panties yet, you might find it amusing.  Miss D. and I find plenty there to laugh about.


Has Ted Cruz shot himself in the unmentionables?

The National Enquirer has reported that Ted Cruz has had affairs with at least five women.  Other commenters claim to have identified at least two of them, possibly three, with one of them a consultant to the Fiorina campaign - to which a Cruz PAC donated half a million dollars not too long ago.  Hush money, perhaps?  You can read more about the allegations here, here and here.

However, despite the fact that they're already a day old, I haven't seen any coverage at all of the Enquirer's allegations by the mainstream media.  Why is that, do you suppose?  Are they just being cautious (because the Enquirer is, after all, a tabloid)?  Or are they trying to cover for Cruz in the hope that he can still derail Donald Trump's campaign?

I don't think the Enquirer would have published such detailed allegations if it didn't have at least some 'meat on the bones' of the story.  After all, it's exposed shenanigans by such former political luminaries as John Edwards, Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson.  Is Ted Cruz about to join the ranks of politicians it's "helped" to retire?

I have no idea as to the truth or falsity of the allegations;  but already confirmation appears to be coming from a Washington Times reporter and one from Breitbart (which is alleged to have 'sat on' the story last month, rather than publish it).  If so, this looks like developing into a truly explosive exposé.  As Karl Denninger appended to his blog post on the purported scandal:

PS: Three of the alleged mistresses have been ID'd. Two of them are ugly, if true, considering their connections. This could easily go Supernova, consuming anyone within the blast radius; there's both (media) influence, peddling of BS and money potentially involved here.  Oh yeah, this is going to get good.  Just remember, ladies, what you posted on the Internet is forever; you cannot escape it -- or the consequences.

PPS: I know the Democrats don't care about sex, even illicit sex and affairs, but when you run as an evangelical, anointed heir to the Presidency, well, it might be just a wee bit different thing.....

PPPS: The curtains are on fire, Ted.....

Pass the popcorn, please. This is turning into a more interesting election campaign than I'd anticipated.


USS Minneapolis, battle damage, and coconut logs

Among the books I'm reading at the moment is 'Beans, Bullets and Black Oil', a history of US Navy logistics operations in the Pacific during World War II.

As a student of military history, logistics has long been of interest to me.  It's an old but true saying that 'Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics'.  (There are some great quotes about logistics from military leaders [link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format] at the Air University Web site.)  I'm therefore enjoying the book very much, and learning a lot about what went on behind the scenes during the Pacific war.  (As Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King allegedly put it, "I don't know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.")

One of the activities involved in fleet support is the repair of battle damage to ships.  In the first couple of years of the Pacific war, before resources had been built up and bases established, sometimes ships were lost simply because there weren't enough support vessels to tow them to safety, plug holes or shore up damaged bulkheads.  Those that could be patched up often had to be content with makeshift work using whatever materials were available.  One such ship was the heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis, severely damaged during the Battle of Tassafaronga in 1942.  She was struck by two torpedoes, one blowing off her bows and the other severely damaging a fireroom.  Details of her battle damage may be viewed here.

Here's how Minneapolis' bows looked before repairs were attempted.  (Click each image for a larger view.)

Makeshift repairs were made at Tulagi by her crew, with the help of some Seabees from a shore base. In the process, an explosion caused by a welding torch caused her bow to sink another seven feet, which necessitated even more repairs before she could proceed to a naval base for proper attention. Here's how her bow looked after that explosion. Note the size and strength of her internal structures; they're all that kept the ship afloat after the torpedo hit.

After cutting away the damaged steel, divers riveted and welded plates over the openings below the waterline.  A temporary bulkhead of coconut palm logs was constructed above the waterline.  More logs shored up the welded plates below.  These makeshift repairs enabled the ship to limp slowly to the US forward base at Espiritu Santo.

At Espiritu Santo a temporary, short and very blunt steel bow was constructed to cover the opening, allowing the ship to proceed slowly to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. There, construction had already begun on a new bow for the cruiser, which would be almost ready by the time she arrived.

At Pearl Harbor the new bow was fitted, whereupon Minneapolis left for San Francisco for a major overhaul and upgrade at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. She would not return to action until late 1943.

Saving Minneapolis and getting her fighting fit once more is a remarkable story of determination and hard work in the forward areas, with very little support or materials.  Later in the war, dedicated engineering, depot and repair vessels were on standby in forward anchorages to make such repairs much faster and easier.  We're accustomed to thinking of logistics in terms of the supply of oil, food, ammunition and other necessities of war, but repairing battle damage and keeping ships in the fight is just as important a support function.

I recommend RAdm. Carter's book to all students of military and naval history.  If you'd like to know more about logistics in the Pacific war, here's a very good overview of the subject covering all the combatants.  Britain's Royal Navy had to deal with the same challenges;  how they did so is described in this forum thread, while John Winton's excellent book 'The Forgotten Fleet' (which I have in my library) also has a lot of information.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Doofus Of The Day #894

Today's award goes to a distracted driver in Baltimore.

Just before 9 a.m. this morning, Baltimore County Police and Fire personnel responded to the 100 block of Allegheny Avenue in Towson for a crash.

An Audi Q5 fell out of the fourth floor of a parking garage and landed upside down on the sidewalk. The driver, a woman in her early 20s, was in the car when it fell, but she was not seriously injured. She was transported to Sinai Hospital for treatment.

There's more at the link.

Here's security camera footage of the accident.  You only need to watch the first 30 seconds or so - the rest is just people trying to help. There's no sound, so don't adjust your speakers' volume.

I'd say the young lady was very lucky not to be more seriously hurt.  Hopefully in future she won't confuse her accelerator with her brake, or forward gear with reverse . . .


Personal security in an age of terrorism

A number of readers have contacted me, asking whether there's anything extra they should be doing in terms of their personal security precautions, to prepare for the risk of terror attacks.

My immediate answer is that one can't (and shouldn't) make specifically anti-terrorism preparations.  One can (and should) prepare in a general sense, so that one is equipped, trained and ready to defend oneself, one's family and one's home and possessions against crime.  From that perspective, terrorism is just another form of crime.  In general, one should be careful of where one goes, when one goes there, and how one conducts oneself.  I've discussed this in several previous articles, including (but not limited to) these ones:

Terrorists are likely to target public areas where large groups of people can be targeted:  airports, railway stations, bus termini, shopping malls, sports stadiums, etc.  All of these have been attacked before, and they will be again.  For that reason, I strongly recommend minimizing the amount of time one spends in such places.  Be on the alert when you simply have to visit one;  spend as little time there as possible;  and at all times be aware of your surroundings, potential exit routes, choke-points, and so on.

Unfortunately, there's nothing one can do to protect oneself against a random suicide bomber.  One can keep a look-out for people behaving suspiciously, but one person's suspicious behavior is another's perfectly normal behavior.  Consider, for example, the fact that Tuesday's suicide bombers in Belgium wore a black glove on their left hands.  In future, will everyone wearing a single glove automatically be suspected of being a suicide bomber?  I hope not!  I can just see Johnny Rambo dramatically pulling out his gun, shooting them through the head, and proclaiming loudly over the body that he just stopped a suicide bomber . . . only to find out that his victim had injured their hand and was wearing a glove over the dressings, so as not to be embarrassed by them in public;  or that they'd just taken off the other glove to fish in their pocket for something, and were about to put it on again when they were terminally prevented from doing so;  or something like that.

In an age of terrorism, I think the best defense is not to go where terrorists are likely to be encountered.  If you must go to malls, choose smaller shopping centers.  Choose supermarkets that are not part of larger complexes that make more tempting targets.  Remain alert, keep your head on a swivel, and if you see something potentially threatening, move away from it.  If it proves to have been a false alarm, you've lost nothing by your caution and may, at most, suffer a little embarrassment.  If it's not a false alarm, you'll be as far away from the threat as possible, giving you more time to make a hasty exit and/or defend yourself if necessary.

Finally, I strongly recommend that you be armed at all times, and that you train with your chosen weapon until you can use it effectively.  That means seeking out quality training (not fly-by-night ninja wannabes who talk a good fight, but have no real-world credentials at all - and military experience is NOT necessarily a credential in and of itself!).  Once you're trained, keep in practice.  If you're not expending at least 50-100 rounds of ammunition every month in practice plus at least a hundred draw-and-shoot dry-fire presentations, all over various ranges and scenarios, you're not practicing enough.  Period.


USS Conestoga found after 95 years

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that a previously unidentified shipwreck on the seabed near the Farallon Islands, off California, has been confirmed to be that of the USS Conestoga, a US Navy oceangoing tug that vanished in 1921.

USS Conestoga in 1921

Conestoga was the last US Navy surface ship to be lost during peacetime.  The wreck was found in 2009 during a sonar survey of the area, and identified during an exploratory mission in 2014.

USS Conestoga today - composite image

The NOAA has discussed the discovery in a press release, including several downloadable images.

I think we should also remember the 56 crew members of the tug, all of whom vanished with her.

Their loved ones never knew what had happened to them.  May they and their families rest in peace.


Fred on Trump

Fred Reed brings the snark in his own inimitable fashion.

Once upon a time there was a fairy kingdom that lived inside a place called The Beltway, and was surrounded on all four sides by a land called America. The Beltway was aligned with another kingdom called Manhattan, inhabited by disembodied heads that spoke from the walls of bars, and with with yet another closed kingdom called Hollywood, the abode of  half-educated narcissists. These kingdoms were in eternal political syzygy, and spoke not with the people of the surrounding lands, of whom they knew nothing. The following is a chronicle of what befell them, and why.

. . .

Now, until the Trump Monster appeared, the America was ruled by a pseudo-democracy of one bicephalous party with two names. The Only Party consisted of blackguards and Quislings and pickpockets bought and paid for by the plutocratic oligarchy of large corporations, AIPAC,  and the. very rich. These told the two halves of the One Party what to do. Every four years there was played  a great tournament in which candidates of the Two Names of the One Party engaged in the most savage combat imaginable.  This was to distract the people outside the walls . Afterwards nothing changed and all went on as before, though the division of the spoils shifted a bit.

And in their ignorance and pride the Three Kingdoms engendered a monster called Trump, and it bit them.

. . .

One of the Two Names of the One Party, the Democrats, sent forth a dreadful creature called Hillary to fight in single combat with the Trump Monster. Her very visage turned men to stone, it was said. She was held to be of one blood with Boadicea, Jean d’Arc, Lucretia Borgia, and Bonnie Parker.

The Three Kingdoms were at one with her, as she was corrupt, mendacious, criminal, and ugly, as well as suffering coughing fits and dizzy spells. Surely, said the scribes and oracles, any monster must fly screaming from her mere presence.

Yet it seemed that the Trump was no common monster. Every time he was beset by the scribes and oracles of the Beltway, he grew stronger, and a sulfurous smoke breathed from his mouth. With drawn swords the Trump Monster and the crumbling ruin yclept Hillary circled each other.

There's more at the link.

As I've said before, I have no idea whether or not Mr. Trump would make a good President;  but he's making a damn fine candidate, IMHO, by scaring the hell out of the establishment.  That's a good start!  Perhaps he'll yet carve this epitaph of the political class on the walls of the Capitol Building:

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I think Jefferson and Jackson would approve.