Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I bet that got dust up his intakes . . .

An Algerian Mig-29 made an extraordinarily low pass over Mecheria airfield a few days ago.  If he'd towed a lawnmower behind him, I reckon he'd have got a full bag of grass cuttings in no time at all . . .

The heavy smoke from the engines is a hallmark of the Mig-29, just as it was for the F-4 Phantom II. The later development of the MiG-29, the MiG-35, is better in that respect, but the smoke is still visible.


Crime, reform, and partisan politics

It looks like the administration in Seattle is doing a terrible job of controlling crime in that city.  Two reports by local business associations highlight the problems they're facing as a result. I'm obliged to the good people at Bearing Arms for putting together this summary of the situation. I'll quote it at length, because it deserves attention - and it's symptomatic of the situation in so many of our larger cities at present.

In fact, in Seattle, crimes like rape, homicide, and aggravated assaults are the highest recorded in over a decade ... A new report commissioned by business associations in Seattle reveals that the criminal justice system is suffering from a systemic failure that’s leading to tens of thousands of wasted hours by law enforcement and a city attorney’s office that is dismissing a staggering number of cases. The report is called “System Failure 2: Declines, Delays, and Dismissals”, and builds off of an earlier report issued in February of this year that documented the staggering number of criminal cases stemming from the actions of just a few prolific offenders. As the new report claims, one of the reasons why some of these offenders are so prolific is that they so infrequently face any real consequences.

In 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available), the City Attorney’s Office filed only 54 percent of all non-traffic criminal cases referred by police. According to data from the City Attorney’s Office, the rate at which misdemeanor prosecutors declined cases increased dramatically over the past decade from 17 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2017. Most of that change is driven by the City Attorney’s Office not filing 65 percent of out-of-custody cases (when the suspect is not in jail) that Seattle police refer for prosecution.

Almost half of all misdemeanor charges are dismissed outright by the City Attorney’s office? Why should the police bother to make an arrest if half the time the City Attorney’s office isn’t even going to bother to prosecute? As the report notes, this means that literally tens of thousands of hours of on-the-clock policing is taken up by engaging in an utterly futile exercise.

... data from Seattle’s misdemeanor criminal justice system shows that there is a significant disconnect between the City Attorney and other criminal justice system actors on how Seattle’s laws should be enforced. The result is that Seattle police churn thousands of misdemeanor case referrals every year, only to see them declined, delayed or dismissed. Prolific offenders know they are unlikely to be held accountable, even when arrested. Police know that most of their hard work is discarded. And repeat victims understand that there is little relief in sight for the daily grind of crime.

The report also notes something very important; as residents and business owners become aware that nothing of consequence will happen if they report a crime, they stop reporting crimes. That means that Seattle’s crime problem may be even worse than the official statistics suggest, as KOMO-TV recently reported.

The case of Seattle’s Uwajimaya on 5th Avenue South is a representative example of what is, and isn’t happening within a broken system.

In 2018 the supermarket stopped reporting any theft cases, that’s in spite of the fact that they continue to be decimated by theft.

“I would say thousands a week, tens of thousands every month, every few months,” said Uwajimaya CEO, Denise Moriguchi.

. . .

From January to September of 2018, before they stopped reporting, Uwajimaya reported 261 theft cases. These are cases in which they actually caught the shoplifter red-handed or had video of the theft.

Of those 261 cases, 166 of them, 63%, were held by the Seattle Police Department. In other words, nothing happened.

The reason the cases were held, the amount that was stolen didn’t reach the $25 threshold set by the city attorney’s office. They weren’t worth dealing with.

Of the remaining 95 cases referred to the city attorney’s office, 44 of them were declined. Or, simply never filed. So nothing happened.

Another 28 cases are pending with bench warrants outstanding. In other words, nothing happened.

It’s not just non-violent crimes like shoplifting. The report found that it’s taking the City Attorney’s office almost seven months, on average, to file charges in assault cases, and in the meantime many of these suspects will be arrested again on similar charges.

There's more at the link.

The scary thing is, many larger cities are now following the same policies, resulting in the same law enforcement failures.  To cite only a few examples (click the links for more information):
And therein lies the problem.  If, as the Seattle report suggests, the number of crimes being reported has dropped because victims have no confidence that the judicial system will solve them or protect the victims of crime, that does not mean that the actual crime rate has dropped.  It's simply being under-reported.

We should also understand that these measures are part of a deliberate effort to change the US justice system at the local level, after attempts to do so at federal and state government level had largely failed.  Progressive, left-wing money is funding the election campaigns of many of these DA's, and their policies reflect that.  This isn't so much a new judicial approach as a partisan political perspective on society as a whole, and an attempt to re-shape that society in accordance with the views of the sponsors of these elected officials.

That's scary . . . and because so few voters pay much attention to local politics, it appears to be succeeding.  It may also be an attempt to undermine the influence of more traditional/conservative judges.  If a case never reaches their court, they can't rule on it, can they?


Doofus Of The Day #1,056

Today's award goes to the member of Congressional representative Brian Mast's staff who posted this tribute on Twitter to the US Navy.  (I presume it wasn't composed by Mr. Mast himself - he's a combat veteran, and, given that background, hopefully knows enough about the navies of world powers not to make this mistake.  Even so, it went out under his name, so he owns it.)

Sadly, the tribute was misplaced.  That picture shows the Russian battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy, not a US Navy ship.  The original tweet has since been corrected, and now shows a US Navy carrier task force.  Still, it was fun while it lasted, and attracted more than a few negative remarks from other denizens of Twitter.  I daresay some hapless communications intern or assistant has since received counseling as to his or her choice of images!


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Flying through the water - literally

Here's a fascinating video taken earlier this month of thousands of Mobula rays in the sea off Baja California.  They look like birds flying, but they're swimming, using a flying motion.

You can read more about the event here.  I'd love to see that in the flesh.


Propaganda versus fact

As an exercise in judging the torrent of political propaganda that's spewed at us from all sides in these tenuously United States, here are two articles covering the same subject;  President Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from the area of Syria near the Turkish border, to avoid getting involved in a shooting war with the Turks over the Kurds.  (We've spoken of his decision before, here and here.  Basically, I think it was correct.)  They offer very different perspectives.

The New York Times thinks the President got it disastrously wrong, and has endangered US prestige, policies and security as a result.

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the generous description of a senior American diplomat — probably will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

. . .

Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on Washington and signing up with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a man the United States has called a war criminal for gassing his own people ... And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials. Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages.

There's more at the link.

It's worth noting that the NYT classifies its own article as "News Analysis" rather than a news report.  An analysis can bring in extraneous opinion, and isn't limited to the facts - something useful to propagandists, who know that readers may not find it easy - or may not even bother - to distinguish between the two categories.

Also, I find it curious that the NYT article mentions the nuclear weapons based in Turkey.  They're assigned to NATO, so to a certain extent, the US can't act independently in moving them;  we have to consult with our treaty partners.  They've been a question-mark in NATO's relationship with Turkey for some time, but so far no-one has suggested that they're a political trump card (you should pardon the expression) for either side.  I don't think they are.  It's too easy to disable them by removing key components;  in fact, I'll be very surprised if they're stored in a ready-for-use configuration.  I'm willing to bet some critical components have been removed, and may already be out of the country.  What's more, there's nothing about those weapons that is new or top-secret.  They're all decades-old designs, well-known to friend and foe alike.  I think that the NYT mentioning them is nothing more or less than a red herring, designed to provoke a knee-jerk reaction to President Trump's policies from the anti-nuclear-weapons crowd.

Be that as it may, The Last Refuge, generally a pro-Trump source, has a very different perspective on his policies toward Turkey.

President Trump has played this out perfectly.  By isolating Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and effectively leaving him naked to an alliance of his enemies, Erdogan is now urgently asking for the U.S. to mediate peace negotiations with Kurdish forces.

This request happens immediately after President Trump signed an executive order [See Here] triggering the sanction authority of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  Erdogan called the White House requesting an urgent phone call with President Trump.

After President Trump talked to Kurdish General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, President Trump then discussed the options available to President Erdogan.  As a result of that conversation, Erdogan requested the U.S. mediate negotiations.  Vice-President Mike Pence announces he will be traveling to the region with National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to lead that effort.

Again, more at the link.

Who to believe?  Who's got it right?  Who's telling the truth about President Trump's policies in Syria and towards the Kurds, and who's lying?

The answer is, of course, that neither article has it completely correct.  A great deal of the information coming out of the Middle East is suspect, heavily influenced by partisan perspectives there and here.  However, there are three important elements to watch for when trying to determine what's propaganda, and what's fact.

  1. What's the pattern?  Has a source been consistently reliable, accurate and truthful in its reporting about a person or subject, or has its coverage been generally biased and one-sided?  If the latter, its trustworthiness takes a knock.
  2. Does the source's reporting match what's happening on the ground?  This can be difficult to determine in real time, so it may be necessary to look at past reports and analyze whether they matched the facts as they emerged.  Again, if a pattern of accurate reporting takes shape, that's good.  If it doesn't, that's bad.  In general, one should suspend judgment until the facts are clear.  In this case, the facts on the ground are murky, to say the least, and are not helped in the least by deliberately false reports in local and international news media.  (ABC News, take a bow.  If that report was "mistaken" or "inaccurate", I'll eat my hat.  No, it was deliberate propaganda, and you were caught red-handed.  You even edited out from the video people holding cellphones, so it would look more realistic!  You deserve the egg on your face.)
  3. Is the language objective, or subjective?  Is the way in which the incident(s) and/or person(s) is/are described factual, unbiased and neutral, or is it designed to evoke a particular emotion, attitude or reaction?  What descriptive words and phrases are used, and what is the author's and/or editor's intention in using them?  That, in itself, tells us a lot.

Obviously, in the two examples above, both have elements of propaganda in them.  However, when analyzed according to the three principles above, it's clear that one is more propaganda than reporting, while the other is more factual.  There's also a consistent pattern of that in both outlets' reporting, where one prefers to offer opinions without specific references to prove them, while the other backs up its opinions with references whenever possible.  I don't fully trust either outlet, but I certainly trust one more than the other, based upon that evidence.  Nevertheless, I'll double-check both, just to be sure.

We simply can't trust the mainstream media, and much of the alternative media, to be completely honest and trustworthy any longer.  It's up to us to be far more discerning in accepting the "news" and "facts" with which we're bombarded, and reserve judgment until we have enough of a factual foundation to make one.

(BTW, for another, somewhat contrarian perspective on what's going on in Syria and the results of the US withdrawal, see here.  It's interesting - and again proves my point about judging carefully.)


Blogorado 2019, Day 5

Yesterday (Monday) saw the end of our gathering for this year.  Some folks had to leave on Sunday, due to work commitments, but the rest of us gathered for a final breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference before heading out in all directions.  I tackled their Western Omelet, which was as delicious as everything else on their menu.  Their breakfasts are a highlight of our get-togethers, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone complain about their quantity or quality.

Miss D. and I headed south to Amarillo, where we met up with Alma Boykin and Old NFO for lunch.  As always, it was a pleasure to see Alma again.  She's good people.  After the meal, we continued south, through heavier traffic than we're used to on US Highway 287;  perhaps the Columbus Day long weekend had proved more popular than usual for a last pre-winter vacation.

We were followed southward by Ambulance Driver, who stayed at Blogorado for a few hours longer to get in some more testing on a firearm he's reviewing.  He's now on his way home to Louisiana, and occupying our guest room for the night.  The cats are overjoyed to have us home again, but not sure about this stranger who arrived shortly after we did.  One can almost see their minds working - are we planning to go away again, leaving them at the mercy of yet another temporary daddy or mommy?  They'll get over it.

Normal blogging will resume today.  Thanks for your patience while I was on the road.  It was good to see old friends and recharge my batteries.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 4

Another fine, sunny day, with temperatures in the 70's, much nicer than when we arrived!  We gathered for our usual breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference.  (To explain its name:  the restaurant isn't actually called that, of course, but has a cow-related name.  Early in our Blogorado history, someone remarked that it was like an obligatory cow reference in a town that was, after all, founded towards the end of the great cattle drive period of Old West history.  The name stuck.)  I treated myself to their breakfast tacos and a short stack of flapjacks, which I couldn't finish - they were very large flapjacks indeed!

One of the reasons I like coming to Blogorado is that one is surrounded by bloggers of every ilk, most with a shared interest in firearms.  It's a great place to share views, exchange ideas, help with publicity for each other's books, and so on.  I found that again yesterday, when I was struck by an idea for a new Walt Ames western novel.  I've already got the next three plotted out in some detail, but this idea will probably change the next two, one in minor ways, the other very much.  I'll noodle on it over the next few months.  Anyway, the idea was sufficiently interesting for me to leave the others to have fun on the shooting range, while I headed back to the hotel to make notes for future reference.

Much fun was had bringing down the ramshackle old barn before which the happy couple had exchanged vows yesterday.  It's been derelict and falling down for years, and FarmDad decided that since he had all these muscular strong geriatric old men around, we might as well help him get rid of it.  A chain was duly wrapped around a couple of uprights and fastened to a pickup truck, which slowly reversed until they snapped.  It took several tries to remove enough supports, but eventually the old barn collapsed sideways with lots of creaking and groaning.  FarmDad will set fire to the remains as soon as there's been enough rain and/or snow to make it safe to burn, without creating a larger fire hazard.

Yesterday evening was our last supper together for a while.  Jeff made a very tasty chili, while a local lady produced three large pans of oven-baked enchiladas.  We stuffed ourselves, as usual.  Miss D. and I are afraid of what our bathroom scale will reveal when we weigh ourselves back home.  If we've put on less than five pounds apiece, I'll be very surprised!

This morning (Monday) we'll gather for a final breakfast, then go our separate ways.  Miss D. and I hope to be home by late afternoon.  Regular blogging should resume tomorrow.  Please say a prayer for us for safe travels.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 3

We kicked off Saturday, as usual, with breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference.  I renewed my acquaintance with their chicken-fried steak, topped with a generous helping of their spicy chili verde.  Accompanied by cottage fries and a couple of eggs, it was delicious.

We headed out to the farm, where a couple of hours was spent preparing for the wedding celebration that afternoon.  Two of our long-term associates have decided to tie the knot, using another of our members to officiate.  FarmDad has welded together an entrance arch for the bride out of wheels from antique farm implements (which are apparently worth quite a lot of money to collectors, but he refuses to sell them, because he has "projects" in mind).  That done, the group headed to the shooting range, where much fun was had by all concerned.

The wedding took place in late afternoon, and was lovely.  The bride and groom are of the less conventional sort, so they made up their own wedding vows, which were original, moving, and sometimes very entertaining.  The ceremony over, lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we adjourned to the barn, where the grills were fired up.  Every year we all contribute to buy an entire cow, which is traditionally named "Sir Loin".  T-bone steaks of enormous size were duly grilled, while FarmMom deployed pans of her famous garlic mashed potatoes.  We struggled to eat our way through the food, but we're a motivated bunch, so we eventually triumphed.

One of the fascinating things about belonging to such an eclectic group is the number of conversations on various and sundry topics that can be overheard by just wandering around.  Yesterday evening, as an example, there was a discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of a particular firearm;  the raising and breeding of cattle;  prospects for farmers in this part of the world after a pretty miserable growing season and a very poor harvest;  the political situation in the USA;  the trials and tribulations of emergency medical responders and fire departments (complete with "it happened to me!" real-life stories, some hair-raising, others funny);  and a conversation about books and copyright law, and dealing with plagiarism.

We were both pretty tired, so we left mid-evening to return to our hotel room and get to bed.  Tomorrow should be more of the same, God willing.

Some thought-provoking reading for you, gleaned from surfing the Web in the small hours of the morning when my back would let me sleep no longer:


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 2

The cold snap left very cold temperatures in its wake.  When I got up yesterday (Friday) morning, the thermometer read a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit!  Needless to say, with that sort of cold, nobody did anything too strenuous on Friday.  We waited for the warmth to return.  We spent the day at the FarmFamily residence, eating, drinking and batting the breeze.

Two of our number are getting married at this year's Blogorado.  Farmdad has assembled a triumphal arch for them, with the aid of a number of old steel wagon wheels and his trusty welding torch.  It was moved into place next to an old, tumbledown barn yesterday, and other preparations were made.  Later this afternoon the Big Moment will be celebrated by all of us.  Farmdad's also laid in a few antique weapons (a double-barreled shotgun, a Winchester rifle, and a Springfield rifle, all 19th-century) to serve as props;  and he has a white-painted Mossberg shotgun, so we can officially designate it as the "wedding shotgun" for a shotgun wedding!

The abundance of German food we provided was devoured with gusto yesterday evening.  It was the right meal for a chilly evening;  German sausage, potato salad and sauerkraut have a very warming effect.  We'll have to do that again, one of these years.

Today's going to be warmer, so after our usual communal breakfast at the local hostelry known, by Blogorado tradition, as the Obligatory Cow Reference, we're going to head out to the shooting range on Farmdad's property and convert a large number of dollars into spent brass, loud noises and muzzle smoke.  It should be a lot of fun.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Blogorado 2019, Day 1

We had an interesting drive from North Texas to Colorado yesterday.  The massive Arctic weather front that dropped temperatures by over 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Colorado yesterday had moved well into Texas.  Miss D. and I ran into it just outside Chilicothe, where she took this amazing picture while I was driving.  It isn't wide enough to tell the whole story.  (Clickit to biggit.)

Those are four massive roll clouds in close formation, extending from one horizon to the other in an otherwise clear sky, as far as the eye could see. We were just under the first of them when she took that image.  When we left home, the temperature was a humid 79 degrees.  Within moments of hitting the cold front, demarcated by those roll clouds, the thermometer plummeted by 30 degrees.  Last night we were well below freezing . . . not a happy contrast with home!

We stopped in Amarillo, along with Old NFO and aepilotjim, to have lunch with Alma Boykin, who's always a joy to be with.  At her recommendation, we visited Thai Arawan, which served us a tasty meal.  After filling our vehicle's tank as well as our own, we headed north to Colorado.  That leg of the trip got a lot colder;  temperatures were below freezing by the time we arrived at our destination.  We had decided to wait to buy some warmer clothing until we got there, because what's sold in our home area to deal with north Texas cold doesn't do an adequate job in still colder climes.  Miss D. bought a winter hood and some gloves, while I was lucky enough to find a heavy-duty Carhartt hoodie big enough to fit over my back brace (which I wore for the journey).  It won't be adequate for serious cold, but it'll be fine for daytime temperatures down to freezing point.  For colder weather, I packed a parka.

We dropped our luggage at our hotel (which in local terms means a rather nondescript motel, without much in the way of creature comforts - there are no "name-brand" hotels at all in town), and headed for our Blogorado rendezvous at a farm half an hour outside town.  FarmDad, FarmMom and FarmDaughter were there to greet us with hugs and warm words, as were several other early arrivals.  More people trickled in as it got dark and the fires were lit in the barn.  There's a bumper crop of new farm kittens this year (at least a dozen of them), and they're unusually friendly, so most of us were kept busy scritching and stroking them, keeping them out of the fires (which they'd never encountered before), and generally enjoying their antics.  The fires, built in sort-of-kind-of chimeneas home-made by Farmdad with a welding torch out of old vehicle wheel hubs, were a great cat success.  Several kittens, after testing the hot metal curiously, settled down to sleep as close to the warmth as they could get. (No, we're not taking another kitten home with us.  One Ashbutt is enough for now!)

Last night's supper was beef pot roast with vegetables, accompanied by boiled and shredded lobster brought by one of the visitors.  It was a great start to what's normally a very filling weekend, with an over-abundance of outstanding food served over the duration.  Tonight (Friday) Miss D. and I, assisted by some of the others, will lay on a German-style meal with all the trimmings.  That's going to be fun.

I'll post again (or try to) tomorrow morning about today's events.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

On the road to Blogorado 2019

Miss D. and I left this morning on our journey to Colorado, where we'll join a group of fellow bloggers, writers and shooting enthusiasts for our annual Blogorado gathering.

We're not looking forward to the weather!  Yesterday the temperature at our destination dropped by almost 60 degrees (Fahrenheit), and tonight it's supposed to be in the teens.  In contrast, here in north Texas we've had days in the mid- to upper 80's for the past week or two, and pleasantly (but not excessively) cool nights.  We're not packing our open-toed sandals for Colorado, but rather warm shoes, heavy jackets, gloves and other anti-shivering devices.

We normally spend our days out on a shooting range established by our hosts on part of their farm.  I suspect there'll be less of that this year, particularly for Thursday and Friday, because the wind whistling down the grasslands from the Arctic Circle and Canada is enough to freeze bits that you really don't want frozen.  If things warm up enough, we'll get some shooting in on Saturday or Sunday.

We've already packed two coolers with all the food we bought the other day.  We'll be cooking supper for the gathering on Friday night, with the eager assistance of several other visitors.  I think a good German meal will drive away the early winter collywobbles very nicely.

Blogging will be sparse for a few days.  I'll try to post a daily update on how things are going, but there won't be more than that.  We'll be back home by Monday evening, God willing, so normal service will be resumed on Tuesday.

Say a prayer for us for traveling mercies, if you're so inclined.


Not so much a flypast as a blowdown

It seems an Indonesian Mil Mi-35 gunship (an export version of the Mil Mi-24) recently made an unexpected and very low flypast during rehearsals for a military parade in the Natuna Regency, in the Riau Islands.  That proved to be not a good idea . . .

I hope they had backup copies of those billboard posters.  I suspect the originals were probably damaged beyond repair.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Tugboat meat in a dockyard sandwich

A tip o' the hat to GCaptain for finding this video clip of a harbor tug in San Francisco being ground between Pier 27 and the cruise liner Star Princess.

They'll have to inspect the pier for damage, as well as the tug.  Did you see how far its stern went underneath the pier?  I reckon that will have taken out more than a few uprights and the bracing between them.  The building on top of that section might be a bit rickety for a while . . .


Hypocrisy, much?

The so-called "Extinction Rebellion" protests that have swept Europe in recent months came to Germany's capital, Berlin, on Monday.  A camp was set up in a park to accommodate hundreds of protesters.

Unfortunately for the holier-than-thou, "pure" Extinction Rebellion activists, who (among other things) are protesting the use of fossil fuels such as gasoline or diesel, the camp needed electricity.  Did they use batteries?  Like hell they did!  A Twitter user caught their hypocrisy on video, for all the world to see.

Yes, that's a generator!  They came to protest fossil fuels, among other things, and then proceeded to burn such fuels themselves so they could keep their phones charged.  They clearly knew they were betraying their own principles, because they tried to hide the generator underneath several pallets, so it wouldn't be noticed.  Rather than live up to their principles, they took the easy way out.

Hypocrisy, much?


A remarkable man

I recently came across a video interview of a British Army veteran who, at the age of 94, jumped into Normandy, France, as part of this year's 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day Landings in 1944.  It surprised me to see it, because I'd met him before, more than 30 years ago.

This interview with Mr. Hutton was filmed a few years earlier.

Little did the cameraman and reporter know that Jock Hutton was far more than just another D-Day veteran.  He was - and remains - a living legend in the Special Forces community.

Former Squadron Sergeant Major of the Rhodesian Special Air Service is quite a man, and a bit of a legend to say the least.  During World War Two, Jock attempted to join the British military but was too young initially. At 18, he joined the British paratroopers prior to D-Day and jumped in to Normandy. On that 6th of June in 1944, Jock saw action fighting the Nazis near the Orn river. He was injured a few weeks later and evacuated back to the UK, later returning to again fight the Germans in Ardennes. Jock was captured by the Nazis and then escaped, again jumping into combat in 1945 in Germany. The good Sergeant Major also has an impressive post-war resume, including operations in Palestine (45-48), Cyprus and Egypt (49-52), as well as Malaysia, Singapore, and Java (52-54).

In 1955, Jock participated in the first Selection course for the Rhodesian SAS. In 1957, Jock took the reins from another notable World War II veteran, Stan Standish, as the Squadron Sergeant Major of C-Squadron, Rhodesian SAS. He remained in Rhodesia until the conclusion of the Bush War, and joined South Africa’s 5 Recce in 1981.

I met Mr. Hutton in passing on a couple of occasions in northern Namibia during the mid-1980's.  We were never formally introduced, or anything like that;  but all those who pointed him out to me sounded as though they were in awe of him.  He had quite the reputation, thanks to his vast combat experience, and reportedly took no nonsense from anybody, no matter what their rank.  He must have had well over 40 years military experience by the time he eventually retired;  perhaps closer to 50 years.  That's something very few veterans can boast.

Frankly, I'm amazed he's still alive, but I'm very pleased to see him still so active.  He apparently wanted to jump solo for this year's D-Day celebrations, but the British organizers ruled he was too old;  so he had to tandem-jump with an instructor.  I can only assume they didn't know his military record very well.  If he'd had any trouble, I daresay he would have beaten the earth into submission with his feet while coming in to land!


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Saved from the scrap heap of history - for now, at least

I was interested to learn that one of the ancient crowns of Ethiopia's emperors has been saved from looters.

After 21 years tucked away inside a Rotterdam flat, a priceless 18th century crown is finally being repatriated to Ethiopia with the help of a Dutch art detective.

For more than two decades, the crown has been guarded by Dutch-Ethiopian national Sirak Asfaw in a secret location in his Netherlands home.

A former refugee, Sirak fled Ethiopia during the “Red Terror” purges in the 1970s. Over the ensuing years, he hosted Ethiopian pilots, diplomats and refugees as they passed through the city. He unexpectedly became the guardian of the crown in April 1998, after one of his guests left behind a suitcase.

Sirak said he "looked into the suitcase and saw something really amazing and I thought 'this is not right. This has been stolen. This should not be here. This belongs to Ethiopia'".

Sirak refused to let the unnamed suitcase owner regain possession and instead hid it from the regime that had allowed it to be stolen in the first place. “I knew if I gave it back, it would just disappear again”, he told AFP.

One of Ethiopia's most important religious artefacts, the crown is one of only 20 created and is one of the most valuable of those. Made of gilded copper, it features images of the Holy Trinity and Christ's disciples.

. . .

Sirak initially sought advice about what to do with the crown from fellow Ethiopians in an online forum, without revealing the specifics of his discovery. What followed was 21 years of pressure from his compatriots, who suspected what he possessed, and nightmares about the well-connected thieves who had smuggled it into Europe to begin with.

His guardianship finally concluded last year when Sirak contacted Arthur Brand, a Dutch art detective often described as the "Indiana Jones of the art world", for support. He felt that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking office in Ethiopia signalled sufficient changes in the country and it was time for the crown to go home.

There's more at the link.

It's certainly a cultural artifact of immense importance, but Ethiopia is hardly the world's most stable country.  If it goes back there, I'm afraid it'll get ripped off again - and this time, the thieves will take rather better care of their loot until they can dispose of it.  So many ancient treasures have disappeared that way . . .

Looking at the crown (click the picture above for a larger view), I can't help wondering how (un)comfortable it must have been to wear it for extended periods.  I hope the Emperors of Ethiopia had strong neck muscles, and plenty of hair to serve as padding!


The President's decision in Syria, and the cost of war

Following President Trump's decision to pull back US forces from a potential conflict with Turkey in parts of Syria, he's come in for fierce criticism from many quarters.  I support his decision, as I stated yesterday.  In that article, I said:

I've been on the front lines of a war like that - a war that the political masters on both sides kept going for years longer than it need have lasted, solely because of their intransigence and blinkered vision.  Many paid for those shortcomings in blood;  but it was never the politicians who paid.  It was always the men in uniform.  I don't want to see any more American service personnel have to pay such a futile, pointless, yet permanent and irreversible price.

A few days ago, the Washington Post published an extraordinarily painful and poignant article describing the price paid by the families of servicemen for such adventures.  I think it adds weight to President Trump's decision.

I was 22, married only two years and gingerly rubbing my beloved's stump as we watched "Sopranos" reruns from a box set that Rudy Giuliani had given us on one of his visits to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, where Cleve was being treated. We'd been living at hospitals on and off in the three months since he had been wounded. I thought about how we'd gotten there. Both of us had come from families who were too busy working to help us with schoolwork and too broke to pay for college. We'd done the best we could with the options given to us, and this was the result: a war hero and his caregiver, two young people who had chosen to serve their country. Or at least that's how the military wanted us to think of ourselves. The reality was much more complicated. Yes, we were proud of his service. But ending up in that hospital, me feeding him cans of Ensure as he lay in his bed after surgeries, felt more like a stumble than a choice. We huddled into each other, and I felt around for bone spurs - fingerlike growths that commonly form at the end of amputated bones. It was soft like dough. "Does it hurt?" I asked, and he told me he'd just taken an OxyContin. "I can't feel anything anymore," he said.

. . .

Three years of pain medications - Dilaudid, morphine, Lortab, Percocet, OxyContin, fentanyl - meant he became an addict, which isolated him further. For me, his addiction quickly became scarier than his war wounds. When the military couldn't figure out what to do with him after his first overdose, in the fall of 2008, and then a failed rehab attempt, in the spring of 2009, they retired him: Let Veterans Affairs figure it out. Where the doctors were skilled at treating gnarly wounds, they seemed ill-equipped to treat the addiction that many experienced as a result. Less than a year after his retirement, Cleve died.

Technically, he died of an overdose, but I also think it was isolation and loneliness. It was the summer of 2009, August or maybe July, when he finally retired. It had been two years since the amputation of his leg and a little more than three since the bomb. By January 2010, he'd grown violent. Without the comfort of the hospital and the friends he'd made there, he seemed to have lost his ability to control his temper, a symptom of PTSD that had shown itself in waves since he was wounded. He was pushing me away. In an attempt to save our marriage, he went to what we thought was an inpatient PTSD facility called Project Victory in Houston. There, he was kept in a hotel room across the street from the hospital. In it, he decided to smoke the medicine on his fentanyl patch. I assume he was bored. Maybe he craved the feeling of being high. There was no one there to stop him. He died there, alone.

. . .

I imagine myself as a little girl, born to a young woman and her soldier husband who struggled to make ends meet. Pink cheeks, large blue eyes and loose brown curls to my shoulders, I wait a year at a time for my father to return home from Korea and watch as my mother struggles to feed and clothe us. I say to my little-girl self: "One day, you will have all the money you ever wanted, but it will come at a price." I am angry for her, at this country for sacrificing us, for sacrificing the working class, to wars and deployments for unclear reasons.

There's more at the link.

Cleve, a Marine, served in Iraq.  As of June 2016, there had been 4,424 US military deaths in that country, and 31,952 wounded in action.  Many others served in Afghanistan, where to date, 2,433 US personnel have been killed.  The dead all had families who mourned their loss, and mourn them still.  The question has to be asked:  were their deaths worthwhile?  Was their suffering, which in many cases is ongoing, justified?  I have to answer that it wasn't.

Both countries were "liberated" from sadistic, vicious regimes, but in neither case was there a plan - or the political will to pay the price - to rebuild them and "win the peace".  As a result, both countries are still chaotic, disorganized, riddled with terrorists, and catastrophically unstable.  The sacrifice of so many US lives and service personnel has accomplished very little for the people of those nations, and done relatively little to keep us safe at home.  Oh, one can argue that by fighting over there, they prevented terrorism from becoming an entrenched problem over here;  but that's impossible to prove.  It's a panacea argument, advanced by those with an interest in "exporting war" as a means to the end they want to accomplish.  General Smedley Butler (who was awarded two Medals of Honor for heroism in combat) would have spat on them in contempt.

War is costly, in lives and broken families as much as any other way.  Despite that, there are times when it's necessary;  but that should be determined in every case by asking, up front, whether the cost is sustainable and worthwhile.  In some wars (e.g. World War II) that's pretty clear, right from the start.  In others (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq) it's anything but;  and the sober hindsight of history demonstrates that all those who died or were maimed in those wars, and their families, paid a terrible price for wars that could not be won, and were not worth winning even if we had.

Once again, I think President Trump made the right call - and I speak as one who still carries the scars of war on his body, and some of its shrapnel deep in his flesh.  If his critics can't say the same, or have not served in combat, let them shut up.  They're playing games with American lives.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Well, just what the hell do they expect?

So President Trump, after a long conversation with President Erdogan of Turkey, decided to pull US troops back from the area of Syria where Turkey wants to establish a "buffer zone" or "neutral zone".  In doing so, it may expose some elements of Kurdish forces - elements already recognized by the USA as terrorists - to Turkish retaliation or aggression or whatever you want to call it.  Now, neocons and other right-wing voices are raised in righteous condemnation, calling President Trump's decision a "betrayal" or a "mistake" or a "blunder" or whatever.

Just what the hell did they expect?

Would somebody please tell me what, in that part of the world, is worth one more US life?  What is the compelling reason driving the United States to get involved in yet another shooting war, thousands of miles beyond its borders?  Which of our national security interests are involved there?  For the life of me, I can't see even one.

I think President Trump's explanation summed it up succinctly.

Trump defended his decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

There's more at the link.

Commander Salamander, with his usual clarity of thought, puts it in perspective.

I can argue both sides, but if the option is to garrison N. Syria until the crack of doom, or let Turks, Persians, Babylonians, Israelis, Kurds, and Arabs do with each other what they have been doing since the dawn of civilization in that area without our help, I'll go with the latter.

. . .

Syria has never been in the USA's sphere of influence. The Kurds cannot hide behind the USA forever and we cannot house and feed the European based captured ISIS fighters forever.

Unless you support our forces there indefinitely, then accept that there will never be a good time to leave. If there is never a good time, then the best time is now.

. . .

I know empire is a habit, time to start breaking it.

Again, more at the link.

The United States can no longer afford the burden of being the world's policeman, and it certainly can't afford to impose its will on everyone around the globe.  Those days are long gone.  "Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best", as Bismarck pointed out.  It was no longer possible to maintain the status quo in Syria;  therefore, President Trump made the judgment call to pull our forces back, rather than risk their lives in yet another war that cannot be won.

I've been on the front lines of a war like that - a war that the political masters on both sides kept going for years longer than it need have lasted, solely because of their intransigence and blinkered vision.  Many paid for those shortcomings in blood;  but it was never the politicians who paid.  It was always the men in uniform.  I don't want to see any more American service personnel have to pay such a futile, pointless, yet permanent and irreversible price.

I think President Trump made the right call.


Food. Ye Gods and little fishes . . . food!

Our annual Blogorado gathering is coming up next weekend, and Miss D. and I have volunteered to provide supper on Friday night.  We therefore hit the road to Muenster, TX this morning, to Fischer's Meat Market, which I've mentioned in these pages before.  It's a truly magnificent German-style meat market, which breeds its own cattle, slaughters them itself, and processes the meat to produce all sorts of delectable goodies.

We probably shocked the counter staff by ordering so much.  Thirty-odd bratwurst, thirty-odd bockwurst, eight pounds of coarse-ground peasant-style Braunschweiger, twelve pounds of German potato salad (the kind you eat warm), six pounds of sauerkraut, several pounds of onion and smoked cheddar cheese, two pounds of German herbed mustard, a jar of dilled garlic cloves, a little of this, a little of that . . .  The total came to just under two hundred and fifty dollars, which we gladly paid.  This sort of quality simply can't be had for love or money except at a traditional German operation like this, and whilst we don't go to Fischer's often, when we do, we don't begrudge the money we spend.

The shopping's now been decanted into three separate fridges and freezers.  Wednesday evening we'll put it all into a couple of cooler boxes, along with ice, and that should keep it safe until Friday afternoon, when we'll start cooking.  This should be a meal to remember!


A fascinating piece of history

A reader sent me this photograph of the ceremonial axe of Pharaoh Ahmose I (c. 1549–1524 BC) of ancient Egypt.  Click the image for a larger view.

According to the Egyptian Museum:

This axe was executed to commemorate the liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos. The copper blade together with its cedar wood handle is entirely covered with gold and ornamented with precious stones. The inlaid decoration of the axe is divided on each side into three compartments, all decorated with motifs alluding to the expulsion of the Hyksos and the re-unification of the country by Ahmose. The side shown here is ornamented with the royal cartouche, a scene depicting the king killing an Asiatic enemy and a representation of the king as a griffin symbolizing the war god Montu.

It's fascinating to look at that axe and realize that, about 3,500 years ago (give or take a century), someone envisioned it, someone else designed it, another crafted it, and it was presented to the ruler of Egypt . . . and we're still looking at it today.  I wonder how many of our modern works of art will last that long?


Democrats are also getting fed up with Congress crying "Wolf!"

A week ago, I noted that politicians on both sides of the aisle had been crying "Wolf!" for so long that the ordinary people of this country were becoming jaded, cynical and downright disgusted by their antics.  That process appears to have been accelerating.  I'm now seeing lifelong Democrats, who've been loyal to their party for decades (if not generations in their families), openly saying that the Democratic Party in Congress has gone way too far, and is destroying itself and this country.  I'm even finding such comments in far-left-wing and progressive Web sites - not many of them, to be sure, but they're there.  The Democrat base appears to be fragmenting.

On the other hand, the Republican base appears to be solidifying in the face of the unprecedented threat to law and order posed by Democratic Party shenanigans in Congress.  Even left-leaning outlets such as The Hill are now publishing articles pointing out that the so-called "impeachment inquiry" is nothing of the sort, and has no legal standing as such.  It's nothing but an attempt to bypass normal procedures and shut out Republicans from participation in the process.

What is portrayed as an “impeachment inquiry” is actually just a made-for-cable-TV political soap opera. The House of Representatives is not conducting a formal impeachment inquiry. To the contrary, congressional Democrats are conducting the 2020 political campaign.

The House has not voted as a body to authorize an impeachment inquiry. What we have are partisan theatrics, proceeding under the ipse dixit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It raises the profile, but not the legitimacy, of the same “impeachment inquiry” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) previously tried to abracadabra into being without a committee vote.

Moreover, there are no subpoenas. As Secretary Pompeo observed in his fittingly tart response on Tuesday, what the committee chairmen issued was merely a letter. Its huffing and puffing notwithstanding, the letter is nothing more than an informal request for voluntary cooperation. Legally, it has no compulsive power. If anything, it is rife with legal deficiencies.

. . .

But standing committees do have subpoena power, so why not use it? Well, because subpoenas get litigated in court when the people or agencies on the receiving end object. Democrats want to have an impeachment show — um, inquiry — on television; they do not want to defend its bona fides in court.

. . .

If Democrats truly thought they had a case, they wouldn’t be in such a rush — they’d want everyone to have time to study it. But they don’t have a case, so instead they’re giving us a show.

There's more at the link.

I won't waste time publishing extracts from other articles here:  I'll merely publish their headlines, which are links to the articles concerned if you're interested enough to follow them.  If you have time, they're worth reading.

What's more, the impartiality and neutrality of the so-called "whistleblower" who brought the latest allegations against President Trump is now being called into question.  That being so, I wasn't in the least surprised by the alleged emergence of a second so-called "whistleblower" over the weekend.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again . . .  (BTW, Scott Adams suggests the existence of a third whistleblower.  It's a hoot!)

The sheer scale of the visible desperation of the Democratic Party, to throw enough mud at President Trump for some of it to stick, is mind-boggling.  They've essentially given up attacking him on policy, because too much of the electorate (from their perspective) either agrees with him or isn't energized enough to oppose his policies.  Instead, they're trying to attack him personally, in the hope that he'll become unelectable.  It's the ultimate political ad hominem argument.

I'm neither Republican nor Democrat.  If evidence exists - genuine evidence, not political theater - that President Trump has acted illegally, immorally or unethically, then by all means let that evidence be made public, investigated, and followed to its logical conclusion.  However, up until now, all we've had are suspicions, innuendo, gossip, allegations and mud-slinging.  That's no way to convince anyone that the current brouhaha is anything but an exercise in partisan politics.  All it's doing is to damage the internal stability of this nation.

On the other hand, that might be exactly what some people want.  Alinsky certainly thought so, and his book has become a road map for too many left-wing and progressive politicians today.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunday morning music

I don't know whether to call this morning's selections "upbeat" or just plain "offbeat", but I decided to have a little mixed classical/modern/rock/metal fun, with a few wild cards thrown in.

Jean Sibelius' tone poem "Finlandia" has, since its first performance in 1900, been beloved by Finns.  He later reworked its final section into the stand-alone "Finlandia Hymn", which has been performed in many ways on many instruments, used as the melody for a number of hymns and anthems, and has become iconic in its own right.

Let's begin with a performance of the entire piece by the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the 100th anniversary celebration of Finland's independence from Russia in 1917.

Let's continue with a number of different renditions of the "Finlandia Hymn", descending gradually from the musical to the farcical.

Here's a performance of the piece by Jason Carter on a harp guitar, a rather strange instrument combining both of its musical "ancestors" into a unique offspring.  I must admit, it sounds attractive.

Want something a little more unusual for a classical piece?  Here's Finnish goth/heavy metal group Nightwish with Uillean pipes performer Troy Donockley.

I'm not sure what Sibelius would have thought about the long hair and headbanging!

Next up, here's Finnish symphonic metal group Apocalyptica with Lauri Porra.

There's a one-man band in Finland calling himself "Megaraptor", and classifying his music as "Folk metal - Industrial metal - Melodic death metal - Power metal - Symphonic metal - Technical death metal - Metal".  Sounds schizophrenic to me, but still . . .  He's produced this version of the Finlandia Hymn.

The Red Army Choir and Orchestra produced this version of the Finlandia Hymn in 1994.  This recording isn't a full version, unfortunately, but it's the only one I could find.

Another solo Finnish performer is Sam Zimon.  He's produced this techno version of the Finlandia Hymn.

And last, and probably least (!), here's the Finlandia Hymn performed on four electric toothbrushes!

There you go.  From the sublime to the ridiculous!


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday snippet: A doofus in Africa

This isn't your typical "Doofus Of The Day" incident.  It's a tale from about forty years ago, when yours truly was still young, sweet and innocent.  (That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it!)  I came across it while re-reading the late Brigadier-General Dick Lord's excellent book "From Fledgling to Eagle: The South African Air Force during the Border War".

The story made me laugh just as hard as it did the first time I heard it, so I thought you might enjoy it, too.  It became something of a legend among troops on the border between South West Africa - now Namibia - and Angola, in the category "Don't be like that guy!"

An army patrol urgently required a helicopter to airlift a section member to hospital and we immediately tasked a Puma to fly to the scene. Casevacs were daily occurrences during the war and always received top priority. I considered it important to receive feedback on patients in order to inform the aircrews who had carried out the various flights.

At the order group the next morning I asked the doctor about the condition of this particular casevac. He told us that just about everything that could have been broken in the soldier’s body had been broken. The good news was that, being young and fit, the patient would recover fully after a lengthy period of rehabilitation. The doctor then explained exactly how the injuries had been inflicted.

The youngster was only nineteen years old. He had started his national service straight from school and, like me, was on his first bush tour. He was a city boy, raised in the bright lights of Johannesburg. Being in the PBI (‘poor bloody infantry’) his introduction to the war was as a member of a ten-man section assigned the laborious task of patrolling a designated area of the border. The novelty of being in the bush, similar to the anxiety associated with a first live patrol, soon palled as they trudged kilometre after kilometre through the sand and heat, to be replaced by the fatigue only foot soldiers really understand.

Silence is a prerequisite for a patrol. No metallic clinking or other noises are permitted. The enemy must not be forewarned—surprise being a principle of war. Towards noon the sun’s heat was nearing its maximum, exacting its toll on the stamina of the soldiers. Walking quietly in a tactical-spread formation, they entered an area of thick bush looking for a place under the shade of the trees where they could take a much-needed rest.

‘Sol’ or ‘Spike,’ as the sun was referred to by the troops, also sapped the energy of wild animals and they too sought refuge from the burning rays. With the same thought in mind as the soldiers a lone elephant had found an ideal spot in the shade of a kameeldoring tree and gone to sleep. Unlike humans elephants sleep standing upright, only the slightest to-and-fro sway of their enormous bodies indicating their state of repose.

Approaching soundlessly, the soldiers discovered the elephant had obtained first choice of the available shade. Not wanting to awaken the slumbering behemoth the patrol leader made signs for his men to withdraw, which they duly did. Once out of audible range the soldiers discussed their discovery. They knew that no enemy could be in the vicinity and they could relax for a while. During their break our ‘casevac’ produced an automatic camera from his rucksack. Cameras were forbidden in the operational area, for security reasons, but our city boy wanted to record his experiences for posterity.

He decided he wanted a photograph of the pachyderm but desperately wanted to be included in the picture. Mother and the girlfriend were bound to be impressed. He asked one of his buddies to hold the camera and, not wanting to awaken the elephant, asked him to take the picture only when he mouthed the word ‘now’.

Approaching from the rear he crept towards the creature, ensuring he remained downwind. The midday heat is intense in those latitudes and Jumbo was sound asleep. Excitement among the rest of the soldiers was reaching fever pitch as our boy moved closer and closer. He reached a position that was, in the eyes of the rest of the section, much too close for comfort, or safety; they were unable to shout a warning for fear of disturbing the animal.

The excitement and success of his stalk aroused the daring spirit of our boy. To the dismay and horror of the rest of his section, while turning round to pose, he lifted the elephant’s tail and silently articulated the word ‘now’. I agree it would probably have made a wonderful snapshot, but I wasn’t there. However, the elephant was and disagreed with the whole silly idea; he awoke immediately his tail was lifted. Presumably, this very rare occurrence has that effect on wild animals.

The elation of the moment was spoilt by the spiteful reaction of the elephant; it proceeded to extract revenge on the would-be model. The rest of the soldiers, firing into the air, chased the animal back into the bush but not before the beast had broken “just about everything that could be broken”.

I can report, with relief that not only was my first ‘casevac’ successful but the doctor’s prognosis of a “full recovery” was correct.

I'm glad he made it - he was very lucky indeed!

If you enjoy military history, and/or are an aviation buff, "From Fledgling to Eagle" is a very interesting book, covering an Air Force, a war and a period of history that's not often discussed outside the countries where it happened.

Of further interest to US readers is that Brig-Gen. Lord served in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as a carrier pilot before he joined the South African Air Force.  He did well enough to be given a tour of duty as an instructor at the US Navy's famous "Top Gun" aerial combat school.  There, he helped write that service's manual on Air Combat Manoeuvring.  He brought all that knowledge and experience to the South African Air Force, where it was welcomed with open arms.  He wrote about his life and military service in another book, "From Tailhooker to Mudmover: An Aviation Career in the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm, United States Navy, and South African Air Force".  That one's also worth reading.

Brig-Gen. Lord died in 2011.  May he rest in peace.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Quote of the day

From Diogenes' Middle Finger, commenting on the Trump impeachment imbroglio:

It's becoming quite obvious that dems pulled the trigger on impeachment before they had the goods.  This attempt is truly desperate: poorly planned from the beginning, and so poorly executed that every one of the conspirators, especially Adam Schiff, CNN’s Fredo Cuomo and Jake Tapper, MSNBC’s Ricky Maddow and Larry O’Donnell sound like used car salesman with one day left to hit their monthly quota.

Used car salesmen?  Owwww . . . but so fitting!


I resemble that remark

Stephan Pastis does it again.  Click the image to go to a larger version at the comic's Web page.

I think I need that app . . . it might be the most compelling reason to own a smartphone that I've ever seen!


A very interesting statistic from the Israeli Air Force

The Israeli Air Force is renowned as a ferociously effective defender of its country.  Its pilots are amongst the most professional in the world, and it operates the most up-to-date aircraft it can afford.  Therefore, I was struck by an interview given to Breaking Defense, revealing a very interesting statistic.

“Last year 78 percent of the IAF’s operational flight hours were performed by UAS [unmanned aerial systems]. This year the number jumped and is 80 percent,” Lt. Col. S. told me at the Tel-Nof Air Force base, where the largest Israeli drone, the Heron-TP flies from.

The Heron, the squadron commander said, is performing a long list of missions, including many that were performed until recently by manned aircraft. The IAF has already replaced some manned squadrons with new UAS squadrons to perform the same missions. Reflecting this shift, the number of Herons, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, has grown by 50 percent recently. Its flight hours have soared by more than 25 percent since the beginning of 2018. “Some of the force’s manned squadrons, can perform similar missions to the ones we perform, but we have the advantage of long endurance,”  Lt. Col. S. said.

. . .

“Most of our missions require long endurance and high altitude. The max operational altitudes of the UAS is up to 45.000 feet,” the squadron commander said. “The high degree of redundancy put into this UAS enables very long, uninterrupted missions, some times under very complex conditions.”

. . .

These drones are deployed on many missions, including persistent surveillance of areas such as Syria where the Iranians are upgrading rockets to be used by the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sinai desert.

There's more at the link.

For an air force like Israel's, which trains its pilots constantly, to use only 20% of its flying hours for manned operations, says a great deal.  I'm sure part of that is the longer-range missions its UAV's undertake, such as surveillance of Iran, areas of Africa such as Sudan, and persistent loitering observation of Lebanon and Syria.  Transit time to and from the areas of operations takes up many flying hours, and turning circles over an area of interest for 24+ hours even more.  Nevertheless, it's still eye-opening to realize just how often, and how long, its UAV's are in the air.  It must be one of the most intensive operators of such missions in the world, rivaling even the US Air Force or other first-line competitors.  Certainly, I'd guess it's in the top three worldwide.

This also highlights how operationally essential such missions have become.  One simply can't keep pilots aloft for such extended periods.  The human body can't take the strain.  There's also the danger factor;  the loss of an unmanned UAV costs money, but not lives, whereas a pilot would be at much greater risk over some of the areas where the IAF operates.  Without UAV's, Israel simply could not monitor areas of interest to the extent that it requires.

That, of course, raises the question of arming UAV's for air strikes.  The USAF has done so for decades in the so-called War on Terror, but Israel hasn't been very forthcoming about its operations with armed pilotless aircraft.  The Heron-TP is certainly capable of that;  it's been sold to India in an armed version.  The trouble is, in the absence of an on-scene pilot to make a judgment call, there's always the potential for "collateral damage", where civilians are injured or killed.  The USA is said to have killed hundreds of innocent persons in the course of UAV airstrikes against targets judged to be legitimate.  Has Israel done likewise?  Nobody knows, or, if they know, they're not saying.

Has the USAF ever released statistics about what proportion of its flying hours are carried out by UAV's?  I haven't found any.  Readers?


Why can't - or won't - the media get their facts straight?

Yesterday saw yet another example of why the mainstream media are destroying their own credibility over their opposition to President Trump.  In this case, it's Shepherd Smith of Fox News.

In a comprehensive, powerful show open on Thursday’s edition of Shepard Smith Reporting, the Fox News anchor spelled out the potential ramifications of President Donald Trump asking China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

“The president asked Ukraine and China to investigate his political rival on television for all the world to hear,” Smith said. “Fox News knows of no federal investigation of his rival for any violations of any American law. If it is determined that the president made that request to help his campaign for reelection, President Trump may have violated federal law. It is illegal to ask a foreign national or foreign country for any political assistance. To our knowledge, no president before President Trump in American history has publicly asked an adversary in to investigate a rival.”

There's more at the link.

As I noted last week, Joe Biden is not currently in an electoral contest with President Trump.  He may be competing for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, but he has not yet secured it.  Therefore, President Trump has not asked anyone, or any nation, to investigate his "rival" or "opponent" in an election, because Biden is not currently his electoral opponent.  He's just another US politician at this point.  Biden's only electoral opponents right now are his rivals for the Democratic Party nomination.  Given that undeniable fact, would someone please explain to me how President Trump has breached US law in any way concerning this matter?

In particular, please show me how asking foreign governments for help in investigating openly admitted corruption can be equated to helping President Trump's campaign for re-election.  It's part of a President's job to see to it that crimes are investigated and, if sufficient evidence is gathered, prosecuted.  The evidence of Joe Biden's crime is as plain as a pikestaff.  He's openly admitted it on television.  Therefore, I have absolutely zero qualms about President Trump asking foreign governments for help in investigating the situation.  If he did not do so, he'd be derelict in his duty.

As I've said on previous occasions, I don't like President Trump's personality, or the way he conducts himself in office.  I'm not a member of his fan club.  Nevertheless, I give him credit for being a very effective President in many ways.  Could any other "normal" politician have so effectively confronted the corruption and entrenched sense of entitlement that's manifested itself in our political class, and in "the Swamp" that is Washington D.C.?

President Trump comes from a background of dealing with trades unions, bureaucratic city officials, and Mafia mobsters in New York City and New Jersey.  (I've heard him described as a "New Jersey goombah", which is not a word I'd heard before, but seems to convey something to those who know that part of the country and its people.)  He's learned his trade in the school of hard knocks.  He gives as good as he gets, or better.  He's used to ugly in-fighting, and he's so far proved to be better at it than his political opponents.  Right now, that may be exactly what this country needs in its chief executive.