Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sunday morning music


My parents introduced their children to classical music from an early age.  All of us had our favorite pieces.  In my pre-teen years, mine was unquestionably Camille Saint-Saëns' whimsical work "The Carnival of the Animals", composed in 1886.  It comprised 14 short movements, each describing in musical terms a particular animal.  The music may have been whimsically inspired, but it's actually very well written, and has stood the test of time.  It remains immensely popular worldwide.

In 1949 the American poet and satirist Ogden Nash wrote a series of tongue-in-cheek amusing poems for each movement, which were used on a new recording of the work conducted by Andre Kostelanetz.  British dramatist, author, composer and entertainer Noël Coward recited the verses on the recording, which became instantly popular.  My parents bought it, and introduced me to the work by playing it so often that the LP record wore out and they had to buy another.

You can imagine my delight when, more than half a century after I first heard it, I found a copy of that very recording on YouTube.  Hearing the American comic verse of Ogden Nash performed with the stiff-upper-lip English accent of Noël Coward is giggle-worthy in itself.

Here, for your enjoyment, is that first-ever recording of "The Carnival of the Animals" with Coward's rendition of Nash's verse.  Enjoy!

Oh, the childhood memories that brings back . . .


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Saturday Snippet: The lighter side of secret agents


During World War II, Roger Hall joined the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of today's Central Intelligence Agency.  He spent some time instructing agents in the USA, then underwent agent training himself before deploying to Europe.  There he had the interesting experience of being dropped by parachute behind enemy lines - only to find out that General Patton's troops had advanced more rapidly than expected, so that he and his team were actually dropped behind Allied lines.  Notwithstanding this farcical introduction to combat, he proceeded to do good work elsewhere in Europe.

In 1957 he published a book about his experiences with the OSS titled "You're Stepping on my Cloak and Dagger".

It was (and remains) extremely funny, poking an irreverent middle finger at traditional "military men" and filled with misadventures and the lighter side of military and clandestine operations.  In his foreword to a new edition of the book, Adam Bernstein commented:

I met with Hall and told him that many people admitted his book was the only one they had ever stolen from the library. That cheered him for hours. He had previously heard that young Central Intelligence Agency recruits were warned, book held high, “We don’t want this to ever happen again.” Hall loves that story and anything else that seems to confound convention. His favorite tale of wartime spying occurred in Nazi-occupied France. A colleague in the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime precursor to the CIA, had been asked to destroy a German tank sitting at a key crossroads. No one in the French Resistance could get close enough. Dressed like a French peasant and fluent in German, the OSS man approached the tank and yelled, “Mail!” When the tank lid opened, he tossed in two grenades. Mission accomplished.

OSS founder William “Wild Bill” Donovan had sought just such “glorious amateurs” for clandestine work. He was interested less in formal military expertise than in recruiting agents who could use their wits and find innovative ways, in sticky situations, to win the war. The OSS seemed an ideal match for Roger Wolcott Hall, who joked that he otherwise was destined for execution by firing squad in the regular Army.

The book is howlingly funny in parts, and is one of the most enjoyable memoirs of World War II - or any war - that I've had the pleasure of reading.  I'll probably put up more of it in future editions of "Saturday Morning Snippet".  Here, to begin with, are some of then-Lieutenant Hall's early experiences with the OSS, first as an instructor in military matters, and then as a student of clandestine warfare.

MY NEW station, Area “B”—the letter reputedly stood for “By God, it’s a long way from nowhere”—was lost and gone up in the mountains of western Maryland. It could claim proximity to one thing, President Roosevelt’s retreat, “Shangri La” [today known as Camp David], which was farther up the road and considerably less accessible, being surrounded night and day by a battalion of trigger-happy Marines. They seldom fired more than twice before yelling “Halt!”

The Marines were only joshing most of the time. They knew about us and whenever we got close enough to remind them we were all on the same side, the stock answer was, “You ain’t got a thing to worry about, doggie. We fired over your heads.” This hardly improved anyone’s peace of mind, and most of our taller men developed a posture problem.

It all went to make the field problems more realistic, though, giving new meaning to the instructor’s “behind the lines” spiel. It also caused an alarming dearth of applicants for the jobs of scout or observer. I heard some touching farewells after saying, “Sergeant, send a man up that tree to have a look around.” And I saw some rapid and daring descents, including high dives, at the sound of a rifle shot fired by a playful comrade.

What we wanted to do was shoot back at the Marines, firing high of course, which would most certainly have brought civil war back to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our commanding officers couldn’t quite see their way clear to declaring open season on the President’s bodyguard, so we kept prowling the countryside, the Marines kept throwing lead all over the place whenever we got within an extremely variable distance they called “range,” and the fact no one was sent home in a box bordered on the miraculous.

Then there was the sunny day when the President and his Secretary of State came within an instant of being mock-ambushed by one of our patrols out on a problem. A quick-thinking corporal kept his O.S.S. tigers from swarming out of the bushes and trying to stop that particular car, which is probably just as well. I doubt if the Secret Service would have asked questions first.

* * *

One of the critiques I handled came after two of the groups had made a complete botch of their previous night’s problem. They had been surprised, while setting up an ambush, by two armored cars. They did the right thing by blasting their way out with dummy grenades, but in the excitement only six men out of nineteen remembered to pull the pins out of their grenades. The other thirteen might as well have thrown rocks. I had to make that abundantly clear in a way they’d never forget, but not at the expense of the men who had goofed.

I rearranged the classroom for this particular critique, setting my platform and desk near a side door. On the desk I placed a grenade which had been specially doctored for the occasion. It looked real enough, but actually it was a dummy with the identifying stripes painted over. Its detonator, however, was genuine. What it amounted to was a grenade which looked and acted real until the last instant; then, instead of exploding, it popped like a firecracker.

The Italian Operational Groups marched in and took their seats. They were on edge, officers as well as men, and obviously expecting the worst. I’d gotten along fine with them during their training, but news of what had happened on the problem had spread through the area, and the working over they’d been given by the other groups had them ready to burst into flames.

I stood behind the desk watching them. Their eyes were riveted on the grenade. Then I picked it up and let them have another long look. There wasn’t a sound in the room. Suddenly I pulled the pin and placed the grenade back on the desk. As I let go, the safety handle flipped off, and it started to splutter. I had five seconds.

“That, gentlemen, is how to pull the pin on a hand grenade.” Three seconds. The O.G.’s were frozen in place. I counted “One” to myself, then whirled and stepped through the side door, slamming it behind me. A moment later there was a sharp “crack” in the classroom. I opened the door and stepped back behind the desk. The grenade lay there, smoke curling from the hole in the bottom where the cotton plug had blown out. The O.G.’s looked as though they were starting to breathe again, but it was still deathly quiet.

“Any questions, gentlemen?”

There were no questions, only a sudden wave of applause. They cheered, too.

* * *

By the end of the third day, the staff knew all they wanted to know, which was fortunate, since the class was orry-eyed from all the tests. So they wound things up with a party. Hercules and I were playing a delightful parlor game which involved knocking a small wooden ball into a cage with a series of paddles fastened on twirling sticks. We’d been playing every spare minute we could find, and this was the championship match. Bucephalus insisted on being the referee, a job he fulfilled with stupefying incompetence, all the while reminding us, “I can be bought.”

In the midst of a furious exchange, we heard glasses tinkling and bottles banging. The staff paraded into the recreation room bearing booze, ice, and glasses. While Hercules stood there, stunned, I slammed home the winning shot, and headed for where I thought they’d set up the bar, his howls of protest ringing in my ears.

“This is a farewell party, given by the staff for the class,” said one of the instructors.

“How very nice,” said I, grabbing a fifth of Scotch.

We settled down, the Director made a brief and charming speech, telling us we had been an excellent group, we’d done well, and we’d earned a little relaxation, so go to it. We went, and in less than an hour, a goodly number of my comrades fell slightly drunk. The staff was lapping it up with us, and chatting merrily with everyone. everyone. Then one of the instructors casually asked, “What do you think we should do with the hard-core Nazis after the war?”

This started a general discussion, with the staff leading the way. Then members of the class arose, most of them swaying a bit, and delivered themselves of various opinions. Arguments started, theories were expounded. My friends and I were off in a corner, listening to the alcoholic chatter and keeping quiet for a change. It must have dawned on all three of us at the same time. I nudged Bucephalus.

“This whole deal is as queer as a Chinese flag. Most of the class is fractured, but every man on the staff is cold sober. It’s a fix.”

“I was just noticing that. They’re all drinking out of the same bottles, too, must be tea. Why those foxy bastards,” he said admiringly. “This is no party, it’s as much a test as anything else has been.”

“I been waiting for you guys to realize it,” said Hercules. “They want to know how we handle ourselves after gazing upon the wine while it is red.”

“Then you’d better hurry up and get loaded,” I told him. “You’re a total failure this way.”

The “what to do with the hard-core Nazis” debate was in high gear now. Some of the talk was intelligent, some was largely unintelligible, some showed the liquor had dulled the speaker’s mind to the point where he was likely to say anything. I counted seven cover stories which were blown sky high. The staff took it all in. They also noted the way we were staying out of things, which was highly unusual. One of them asked, “How do you feel about this, Hercules?”

Our boy hauled himself erect, but before he could answer, Bucephalus muttered, “Now for Christ’s sake don’t embarrass us by admitting you don’t know what ‘hard core’ means.” Hercules went right back down, roaring.

Before they could come after us again, a student leaped to his feet shouting, “Castrate ’em all in the morning.” He then fell flat on the floor, evidently gathering strength for his next address. While they were lifting him into a chair, Hercules giggled, “I don’t wanna talk about large-bore Nazis. Let’s sing.”

This seemed a splendid idea, so we launched into “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” substituting freely in the lyrics, “conscript” for “Christian” being particularly well received.

The Director made a final, direct plea. “Aren’t you fellows going to enter into this discussion at all?”

Hercules finished that angle forever by insisting on absolute quiet while he sang something he devoutly described as “my mother’s favorite hymn.”

“I am Jesus’ little lamb.
He has made me what I am.
He will wash me white as snow.
What a dirty little job for Jesus!”

Everyone collapsed, and the staff gave up. The happiness boys had evidently ascertained the liquor reaction of everyone but us, and since ours was apparently not to be had, they broke down and got blind for real.

Later, much later, we adopted the Director, who finally had to be led upstairs happily singing our newest song, “Oh, God bless you and keep you, Mata Machree!”

We tried the paddle game once more, but the contest ended abruptly when the referee fell through the table. It was obviously time for bed, so we ricocheted upstairs to our room, with Hercules bringing along three empty bottles under the mistaken notion that they were dear friends who had gone on to bliss eternal.

“And I was with them when they died,” he announced reverently.

Next day, those of the staff who could navigate came out to wish us Godspeed. We caught a brief glimpse of the Director waving feebly from an upstairs window, and Hercules asked, “Was he that color last night?”

* * *

One Saturday night we had Mock Court. A student would be brought into the room and questioned, in front of the class and staff, by two other students. The object was to break the defendant’s cover. The pair of interrogators could use any and all methods except physical force. We all had a crack at both sides. Each case lasted ten minutes, and the class voted to express their opinion as to who had won the case, prosecutors or defendant.

I had the good fortune to go up against a couple of dim bulbs, Homer and Raymond by name, and didn’t have much trouble. They started off in an eminently predictable manner by asking about my family background, so I claimed I was a bastard, and had absolutely no idea who my father might be. Gordon added to the confusion by roaring, “Bastards all!” every time anyone paused for breath.

Then Ossian and I teamed up to wreak havoc on Student Earl, an obnoxious little bundle of conceit who was Gordon’s pet hate. My partner disclaimed any previous legal training, which may or may not have been the truth, but he would have made one hell of a district attorney. All I had to do was add volume to the proceedings. Ossian had Earl on the ropes in five minutes, and then managed to knock two large holes in his cover. We won the case hands down, our only trouble coming from the irrepressible Gordon, who would start a popular demonstration of approval each time we scored a point. I was about to have him thrown out for obstructing justice when our time expired. Upon investigation, we found that certain light-hearted elements had smuggled three cases of beer into the courtroom.

By the time Gordon’s turn to be questioned came around, one of his prosecutors had the good sense to charge him with being drunk and disorderly. That passed by acclamation, which disappointed the defendant. He had planned to plead guilty. Since the back benches were resounding to the chorus of a well-known drinking song, the staff, which was doing most of the singing, called off further litigation.

There was still time for Gordon to make an eloquent speech demanding death in the gas chamber for Earl. Most of the jury was out on the lawn playing touch football in the moonlight, but one of those remaining took it upon himself to remind the orator, “Fine idea, but we have no gas chamber.”

Gordon’s reply was characteristic: “Then build one—that man has got to go!”

There's lots more to enjoy in the book.  I'll put up further snippets from it in due course.


Friday, January 29, 2021

So much for the Constitution and our privacy . . .


It seems that the intelligence (note that I do not say intelli-gent) side of the US government thinks it can get away with defying a Supreme Court order, and ignoring the constitution.

The [Defense Intelligence Agency]'s justification for its warrantless spying is breathtaking. It argues that because it is not law enforcement, it is not subject to the constitutional restraints imposed upon law enforcement as interpreted by the Supreme Court. This is an argument that the court has never accepted. The DIA, apparently, thinks it is a law unto itself.

It also claims that because it can purchase the [cellphone] tracing software commercially, it can use it freely, just like any other purchaser. Such a rationale utterly defies the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Private purchasers are not bound by the Fourth Amendment -- but the government is.

. . .

The DIA and other domestic American spy entities -- there are 16 that the government acknowledges it operates -- have taken the view that because the tracking software is available commercially, and because the domestic spies are intelligence and not law enforcement, they need not obtain a warrant. Stated differently, because the DIA did not seek to use its powers to compel a warrantless search of phone records, but rather stole phone signals, it committed no wrong!

This is a profound and direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, which was written for the very purpose of upholding the quintessential American right -- the right to be left alone.

. . .

The Fourth Amendment serves a dual purpose. The first is to prevent fishing expeditions -- such as the very acts the DIA now admits it utilizes -- in violation of the natural right to privacy. The second is to compel the government to focus its resources on those suspects as to whom it has a judicially recognized probable cause of crime.

The depth of the government’s admissions are staggering. Its architecture is a decrepit three-legged stool on which sits totalitarianism, arrogance and lawlessness.

One leg of the stool upholds a self-crafted immunity from compliance with the laws of the land. The second leg supports ways to avoid constitutional norms while still appearing licit in the eyes of the public. And the third and weakest leg offers its interpretation of the Constitution -- separate and apart from what the Supreme Court has ordered.

This stool should be cast into the dustbin of history. It was built by those who have been unfaithful to their oaths to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States -- the very same Constitution that is only as valuable as a safeguard to freedom as is the fidelity of those into whose hands we have reposed it for safekeeping.

We have put it into the hands of madmen.

There's more at the link.

To put it as simply as possible, we can no longer trust our government with power.  It's become drunk on the fumes of its own arrogance.  Let Thomas Jefferson remind us of the peril that creates.

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

The man was a prophet.


I wish this were just a joke - but I've worked for companies like this


Scott Adams' Dilbert cartoon strip is usually funny, and sometimes very near the bone.  That was the case with yesterday's comic.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at Dilbert's Web page.

There are any number of companies who, in the past, in response to social and political pressures, hired "token women" or "token blacks" or "token whatever" to give the public impression of complying with contemporary requirements.  However, those appointments were essentially meaningless.  No real transformation took place;  instead, they were a cloak to hide "business as usual".

The cartoon is funny, sure, and I laughed when I read it;  but it's also painfully true.  If you impose artificial requirements from outside, companies will meet them artificially, rather than in reality.  It's all a con game, from both sides at once.  It's all about giving the right impression, to get pressure off their backs.  After that, who cares?

Expect something similar in response to the Gamestop fiasco, which we discussed earlier this morning.  "Oh, dear!  Something terrible happened!  Let's appoint a commission of inquiry - but make sure it doesn't breathe a word about the real problem.  Let's put measures in place to stop it happening again - but they'll just be window-dressing."  Meanwhile, the people behind it will go right on making money any way they can, and ignore fairness, equity and the law - because the only thing they care about is the money.  The Teds of this world will be used, then discarded as soon as they're no longer needed or useful.


The Gamestop fiasco reveals our ruling oligarchs at their worst


A week or so ago, I quoted Prof. Angelo Codevilla's view that America is now an oligarchy.  That's become even clearer in the current imbroglio over short-selling of Gamestop shares.

The hedge funds that usually make fortunes at this game were caught off-guard by "ordinary folks" like you and I, who organized on Reddit and began their own short-selling campaign to force the hedge funds into closing out their short positions at far higher costs.  The result was that Robinhood, a popular trading app, restricted trading in Gamestop yesterday, and some of its members even had their purchases reversed without permission or authorization - all so that the hedge funds and other financial oligarchs could close out their short positions at lower cost.

That's flagrantly illegal, of course - but the financial "powers that be" don't care about that.  They don't even care that it was so visible that it can't be hidden or denied.  They reckon they're above the law.

Tucker Carlson covered the situation in depth in his program last night.  It's a vitally important issue, far more so than just about the stock market, because it shows the same pattern of disregard for the law and the will of the people that we saw in November's elections.  Basically, the oligarchs said, "The people can't be trusted to vote in the politicians we want, so we're going to sabotage and manipulate the elections to get the results we want."  Now they've done exactly the same thing to the stock market, shutting out ordinary people in order to get the result - and the profit - that they want.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, you'll find a transcript of most of Tucker's discussion here.  However, I do strongly urge that you either listen and watch, or read, or even both, because this is vitally important.

EDITED ON 01/30/2021 TO ADD:  Well, well, well.  Guess what?  YouTube has taken down, or made private (and hence not embeddable) every video of Tucker Carlson's broadcast about the Gamestop affair.  Big Tech is (yet again) censoring news it doesn't want us to hear.  Fortunately, you can still see the video (or most of it) at the Fox News link in the preceding paragraph.  I highly recommend that you click over there and watch it for yourself, or read the transcript.

As one poster on Gab summed it up:

They killed Epstein and told us it was suicide and every normal person knew it was bull**** and it didn’t matter, and then they blatantly rigged the election, and then blatantly rigged the stock market. They don’t care anymore.

I couldn't have put it better myself.  They don't care anymore that we see their manipulation in action.  They think they can do as they please and get away with it.  After all, they stole an election, didn't they?  What's a little stock market shenanigans compared to that?  They think we'll forget about it soon enough, and things will return to normal - that is, their normal.  We'll still be screwed.

This is why I said it was so important to oppose the electoral fraud that was so obviously in play last November.  Those behind it successfully manipulated the courts into refusing to actually examine the evidence of fraud, and allow the purported results to stand.  As a result, we now have an illegitimate Administration in Washington.  As the Gamestop imbroglio illustrates, we also have an illegitimate financial system, rigged in favor of the oligarchs who control it - and now that the Trump administration is gone, Washington D.C. encourages and tolerates that.

What those oligarchs appear to have forgotten is that all their machinations are only going to work as long as most people don't get fed up enough to take action.  The Redditors who've just watched themselves blocked - and in some cases impoverished - by the financial powers that be, are not going to go away.  They're going to be angry as ****, and rightly so.  If they, and others like them, decide to burn down the entire financial system by causing so many disruptions that it can't operate normally, there isn't much the oligarchs can do to stop them, except stop all public trading and perform their machinations "out of sight and (they hope) out of mind".  That won't work - not in today's integrated, automated, online world, where every secret is one leak away from being exposed.

The veil is being torn away.  Everybody can now see for themselves that "the Emperor has no clothes" - and instead of "going with the flow" and pretending that he does, they're mocking and pointing fingers.

Our society is becoming dangerously destabilized, and those at the top are responsible, because they've become so larcenous that their greed - for money, for power, for control - is unbalancing everything.  From the politicians who enter office as ordinary middle-class Americans and leave it as multi-millionaires, to the financiers who pay themselves six- and seven-figure bonuses every year for fleecing ordinary investors in the markets;  they're all in bed with each other, and all determined to make out like gangsters.  They've lost all discretion.  They want it their way, and they're determined to get it by hook or by crook;  but in doing so, they've exposed themselves, and that makes them vulnerable.

They may think they can use the courts, and the law, and the trappings of officialdom, to protect their ill-gotten gains.  However, that won't stop angry Americans from finding out who's behind this (who's benefited from it, who's made money, who's shafted everyone else), and going after them personally, as individuals.  I won't be surprised to see some of those behind this fiasco suffering very direct consequences from it - and I won't shed a single tear for them if they do.  It'll be no more than they deserve.


EDITED TO ADD:  Brian Niemeier has similar thoughts, even more cogently expressed, and forecasts more fiscal (and other) mayhem to come.  Go read.  He also traces the trail right back to the White House.  This could be catastrophic for the Biden administration.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Hoo boy . . . 2021 is not off to a good start


I hope the rest of 2021 goes better than the first month has done.  Miss D. and I just got back from Bob's memorial service, and now I've learned that another friend is in dire straits and needs financial help to keep body and soul together.  That's the tenth such friend in as many months, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown that has destroyed many small businesses;  and I daresay it won't be the last.

How are you and your friends coping, dear readers?  We might all benefit from hearing how others are experiencing the current economic (not to mention political) mess, and steps they're taking to survive.  Let us know your situation in Comments.

I think we'll all have to band together with those of like mind, and help each other make it through the dark times that are currently upon us.  They may get worse before they get better, too.  It's at times like these that one's "tribe", the people with whom one will choose to stand or fall if necessary, becomes a vital part of survival - mental, spiritual, and of course physical too.  As Benjamin Franklin said in another context:

I guess I'll be selling another rifle and some ammunition at the local gun show this weekend.  Fortunately, I have one I can spare.  These are the times to use what one has stored up during the "plentiful years", to help oneself and one's tribe to get through the "years of famine" (cf. Genesis, chapter 41).


New Army helicopters make progress, as do their tactics


In August 2018, and again in December of that year, I raised some tactical issues about the competitors for the US Army's Future Vertical Lift program.  I noted:

From a purely tactical perspective, looking at the likely size of available landing zones, and the ability to set down and lift off as close as possible to the fight, I'd say the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 concept is going to be a lot more flexible than the Bell V-280.  I'm not knocking the latter's capabilities, of course;  I'm sure it'll be a very good aircraft . . . but that's not necessarily the only consideration.  From a combat utility standpoint, I think its sheer size will impose limitations.

There's more at the link, including diagrams of the size of the landing area taken up by each design.  The images of each aircraft below are courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bell V-280 Valor

Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant

Sikorsky-Boeing have just released details of the proposed production variant of their SB-1 Defiant, called the Defiant X, after having flown the prototype for over a year.  They're making the same point.

Pitted against the production version of the Bell V-280, which has an advantage when it comes to maximum speed due to its tiltrotor design, the Sikorsky-Boeing team argues that the Defiant X will be better suited during the final approach phase.

That is partially due to the Defiant X’s reversible pusher propeller, which can rapidly reverse pitch and act as a sort of air brake to slow and then stop the rotorcraft in a hover. The companies also argue that the smaller rotor diameter of the co-axial helicopter, compared with the V-280, will allow it to fly in tighter formations and will enable more aircraft to fit in a landing zone.

In fact, the Defiant X fits within the same footprint as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter that it is intended to replace, says McBryan. That means the US Army won’t have to make many changes to accommodate the new aircraft, she says.

“It requires limited changes to tactics, techniques, procedures, also limited changes to training and infrastructure,” says McBryan.

Again, more at the link.

I was interested to see the emphasis on landing flexibility, of course, after my own (limited) exposure to that issue.  However, an announcement by the US Army, only 24 hours after the Defiant X report, raises a number of other tactical issues - some of which I hadn't seen coming at all.  Landing flexibility may not be the only, or even the primary consideration in selecting a new medium-lift helicopter.

China poses several awkward challenges for the US Army.

First, the US Army is a land-based military service and China is an ocean away. Second, the wide-open spaces of the Pacific Ocean would seem to make it more difficult to hide in-bound helicopters and tiltrotors from radar.

Nonetheless, the US Army is making the case that its Future Vertical Lift aircraft, combined with clever tactics, can bring something unique to the Indo-Pacific region. The service thinks its in-development Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), a replacement for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter, and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), to replace the retired Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter, will create new dilemmas for the Chinese military.

New flight automation technologies will enable these rotorcraft to fly faster and closer to the surface of the ocean than ever before, it says. New missiles and loitering munitions will increase the aircrafts’ lethal reach. Tactics, techniques and procedures to match will create a new dimension to joint warfare within the US Indo-Pacific Command, says Brigadier General Walter Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team within US Army Futures Command.

The challenge is that the Pacific Ocean offers few obvious places to hide. Over land, rotorcraft can hide from enemy radar in river valleys, behind hills or between buildings. The featureless expanse of the ocean seemingly makes spotting, targeting and firing at rotorcraft much easier for units armed with surface- or air-to-air missiles guided by radar or infrared sensors.

The US Army acknowledges there are fewer obvious places to hide over the ocean, but insists there are ways to avoid detection and enemy fire.

. . .

There isn’t going to be a single cloaking agent for US Army rotorcraft. The service has outlined a plan to use radar hiding techniques, in coordination with an overwhelming joint force, decoys and electronic warfare, to protect aircraft. “You’re seeing the army and Army Aviation come into a space with electronic warfare that it hasn’t been in since the Cold War,” says Rugen.

Novel air-launched effects, a sort of multi-purpose drone launched from FARA, will act as reconnaissance platforms, decoys, radar jammers and even loitering munitions many miles in advance of FARA. For example, in August and September 2020, during its Project Convergence exercises, the service practiced using the Area-I Altius-600 air-launched effect, which has a range of 238nm.

Ultimately, the US Army wants FARA and FLRAA to be closely integrated into a joint force that includes the US Navy, US Marine Corps and US Air Force. All of the services plan to practice futuristic concepts later this year as part of the Project Convergence 2021 exercises, says Rugen.

More at the link, going into a lot more detail about the concepts mentioned.

If high-speed approaches from seaward are part of the US Army's envisioned mission mix, that may well change the equation for selection of its new helicopters.  The disadvantage of the larger landing zone needed by the Bell V-280 Valor might be offset by its increased speed relative to the Sikorsky-Boeing Defiant X.

I'm long out of the loop when it comes to military aircraft design and tactics, despite my earlier exposure in that field.  I must admit, I'm fascinated to read about the off-the-wall, way-out-there theorizing being done as to how aircraft can be used in new and novel ways to accomplish missions that would never have been dreamed of during my military service.

I suppose it's a bit like the early days of commercial computer usage.  If one computerized too fast, one risked automating an existing administrative disaster (as many companies found out to their cost).  It made sense to wait, given the size and complexity of the investment required - but then technology overtook that.  As mini- and micro-computers proliferated, it became dangerous not to computerize, because of the advantages offered by the new technology.  If you didn't use them in your business, but your competitors did, they'd destroy you in the marketplace as customers sought out the most efficient, effective suppliers.

In military terms, the same tipping point appears to have been reached over the past couple of decades.  It used to be that a competent, well-trained military could deter attack or mount an efficient defense even if it didn't have the latest and greatest equipment.  Now, as we saw most recently in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan last year, technology is a game-changer.  The side with the best technology is most likely to win, because it can destroy the enemy without them being able to stop it - even if the enemy's armed forces are larger and (on paper) more threatening.

The US Army appears to be adopting a similar approach to its new helicopters, and all its other weapons systems too.  It can't match China in numbers, and it has to deal with geographic limitations in any potential conflict;  so it's reorienting its technology to take account of those limitations, and overcome them.  Similarly, the US Marine Corps is radically reorganizing itself in the light of those same realities (often to the distress of former Marines, who fear their beloved Corps is becoming a pale shadow of its former self - but they may not be taking new strategic and tactical realities into account).

This will bear watching.


When political correctness fertilizes crime and promotes violence


I've been fielding comments from a number of my law enforcement contacts about the deteriorating situation on the streets of America's cities.  Without exception, they report greater crime, more violence, less safety and security for "regular" citizens and residents.

The Wall Street Journal describes the reasons.

The year 2020 likely saw the largest percentage increase in homicides in American history. Murder was up nearly 37% in a sample of 57 large and medium-size cities. Based on preliminary estimates, at least 2,000 more Americans, most of them black, were killed in 2020 than in 2019. Mainstream media and many politicians claim the pandemic caused this bloodbath, but the chronology doesn’t support that assertion. And now the criminal-justice policies supported by President Biden promise to exacerbate the current crime wave, while ignoring its actual causes.

. . .

Eighteen people were murdered in Chicago on May 31—the city’s most violent day in six decades, according to University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell. Other American cities saw similar spikes in mayhem, all tied to the street violence unleashed by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The political and media response to Floyd’s death amplified the existing narrative that policing was lethally racist. The ensuing riots received little condemnation from Democratic leaders and a weak response from the criminal-justice system.

Cops now face a poisonous environment. Since the summer, they have been shot in the head, firebombed and assaulted with lethal projectiles. An officer providing first aid at a crime scene may be met with a hail of rocks and bottles. Resistance is now the norm. Officers believe they face a political and legal environment that is eager to sacrifice them in the name of racial justice.

As a result, the calculus for engagement has changed. An Oakland, Calif., officer who has arrested dozens of known murderers and gang members over his career tells me he is scared for the first time, “not because the criminals are necessarily more violent, even though they are.” But if he has to use force on a resisting suspect, he could lose his career, his life, or his liberty, he says. A “simple cost-benefit analysis” recommends simply responding to calls for service and collecting a paycheck. “All cops now understand this.”

“Every day you have to decide whether to get out of your patrol car and do something or do nothing,” a veteran Chicago detective reports. If you opt for real police work, you may end up in jail or without a job if an interaction goes off script.

“Proactive police work is dead,” says Lt. Bob Kroll of the Minneapolis Police Department. The data bear him out. In Minneapolis, police stops fell more than 50% over the summer. The number of police-civilian contacts plummeted in Philadelphia, Oakland, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Across the country, specialized police units that got guns off the street were disbanded, since they were said to have a disparate impact on African-Americans. Police chiefs and prosecutors have refused to enforce low-level quality-of-life laws for the same reason.

The consequence: More gang members are carrying guns, since their chances of being stopped are slim. They are enthusiastically killing each other and innocent bystanders out of opportunism, not economic deprivation or existential angst.

The anarchy of 2020 has continued into 2021. Shootings in South Los Angeles rose 742% in the first two weeks of the year. In Oakland, homicides were up 500% and shootings up 126% through Jan. 17. In New York, murders were up 42% and shooting victims up 15% through Jan. 17. Carjackings, already up 135% in Chicago in 2020, are spilling into the city’s suburbs. On Jan. 16, a woman was pulled from her car in Aurora, Ill., and shot in the back by carjackers who had already stolen two vehicles earlier that day. Four other Chicago suburbs were hit that weekend. In Chicago proper, there have been 144 carjackings through Jan. 21, with 166 guns recovered.

There's more at the link.

There's clear evidence that police were ordered by their political bosses to pull back and not maintain law and order during the riots of the past year or so.  For example, "Minneapolis police officers testified they could have done more to protect the city if local officials hadn’t tied their hands".  The same pattern was visible in many more cities.

For three days, police in Minneapolis and St. Paul were ordered to stand down as rioters destroyed their cities. In New York City and Washington, D.C., on Monday night, police stood by as looters destroyed parts of those cities.

The same politicians who ordered police to stand down and released prison inmates are the same people who want to ban guns. These politicians prevent citizens from protecting themselves, at a time when police protection cannot be depended on.

. . .

Across the country, police have had orders to stand down.

“Tonight, I watched Seattle burn. Seattle is dying, by fire, looting, weakness of the political leadership,” wrote Seattle KVI radio talk-show host Kirby Wilbur. “We watched on TV as our law enforcement stood by while vandalism, looting, assaults, pure chaos reigned in the streets of our downtown business district.”

Again, more at the link.

As a result of this nonsense, a great many police officers are either resigning and seeking employment in less politically correct departments, or taking early retirement.  It's a pattern visible in many cities.  The residents of those areas are going to find their situation deteriorating even further, because there'll be fewer police available to uphold what law and order still exists there.

I said last year that "I fear vigilantism and 'lynch law' are about to make a comeback, because in the absence of the even-handed, objective rule of law, there's little alternative".  There have already been incidents reported in several US cities that, I'm told, appear to fit that pattern - although the authorities have carefully said nothing in public about that.  Nevertheless, my police contacts in those cities are less hesitant to draw conclusions among themselves.  The term "public service homicide" has been used more than once.

Friends, if you live in a city where crime and violence have spiked over the last year or so, please consider moving to a safer environment if that's possible.  This situation isn't going away, and is likely to get much worse before (if!) it gets better.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Headed homeward


Yesterday we attended the memorial service for our friend Bob.  It was held in a community hall in a very small Colorado farming community, attended by several dozen family and friends.  It was a simple ceremony, nothing special in the liturgical sense, but all of us who knew and loved Bob had the chance to remember him together, and celebrate all he meant to us.  Several of his former law enforcement colleagues also attended, in uniform.  It was good to see one older man, of Bob's and my vintage, wearing a well-worn 1911-style pistol in a drop holster as his duty weapon.  From the shine on the grip and grip safety, it had been well-used for a long time, and I'm sure he can wield it as effectively (or more so) than any modern "plastic fantastic".  Jeff Cooper would have been happy to see it.

A fair number of Blogorado regulars came out here for the occasion, and offered love and support to Bob's wife and daughter.  As always with our crowd, everybody brought food;  and the local farming community seems to operate on the same principle that "Food is love.  Eat!  Eat!"  At one point, when a late arrival texted to ask whether he should bring anything, the response was to threaten them with bodily harm if they brought any more food.  I think the family will be eating the leftovers for several weeks yet!

It snowed yesterday, seemingly heavily to those of us from non-snowy climates, but dismissed as "nothing to worry about" by those who experience it more regularly.  Driving back to our hotel from the farm yesterday evening, in the gathering gloom, was an interesting experience for me as a driver.  I asked Miss D., who learned to drive in Alaska, to give me pointers as I drove, because I'm very much a novice at driving on snow and ice.  I may have given her a few white-knuckle moments, but generally there were no problems, and we made it back to the hotel unscathed.  I learned the hard way to double (or more) my braking distance, because traction on slippery snow isn't what I expected.  Fortunately, on country roads with no other traffic in sight, I learned that lesson the easy way.  (Also, traction on dirt farm roads is, oddly enough, better in the snow than on tarred roads - the dirt doesn't freeze over as much as snow melting on tarmac, meaning there's less ice to worry about.)

We'll be heading for home today, along with most of our crowd, after another delicious breakfast at the Obligatory Cow Reference.  Please keep us in your prayers for traveling mercies.  I hope normal blogging will resume tomorrow.


That gets it said


The inimitable Kim du Toit has a message for those seeking to lord it over Americans.

Oh, here’s a charming little piece.  The post heading reads:

The Seditionists Need A Path Back Into Society

…and it’s all about how the Left can make accommodations to learn to live with us, the poor misguided 75 million people who actually voted for Trump in 2020.

Whom she charmingly calls, “Seditionists.”

Now I’m not going to fisk the whole article because I’m trying to keep my breakfast pint of gin to only one per day, but let me just make one observation.  Here’s an example of Applebaum’s towering condescension:

Not all Republicans are seditionists, nor is everyone who voted for Trump, nor is every conservative: Nothing about rejecting your country’s political system is conservative.

Here’s a tip for The Atlantic  and its writers:

We’re not rejecting our country’s political system.  We’re protesting the fact that our votes were nullified by massive injections of fraudulent ballots in states which would otherwise have gone overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. 

Or, put another way:  if our political system — the one that the Left seems to have installed — is now going to systematically allow wholesale criminal alterations of voting preferences by the addition of fraudulent ballots:  then **** yes, we’re going to reject it.

Until such time as you understand this, there will never — never — be any kind of accommodation towards the Left by us conservatives.

What happened at the Capitol wasn’t an “insurrection”, it was a protest.  If you want to see an insurrection — and I promise you, you don’t — just keep squeezing us:  keep calling us names such as “seditionists”, keep preventing us from getting jobs because of our political philosophy, keep talking about “re-educating” or “reprogramming” us and our children into obedience to your foul Marxist doctrine, keep shutting us out of social media, keep muzzling conservative voices, keep trampling all over our First Amendment rights in general, keep trying to infringe our Second Amendment rights, and in short, keep trying to push us out of the American society and polity.

You Marxists think that the protest at the Capitol was the bite of a savage dog (you know, the one that keeps getting teased until it snaps).  It wasn’t a bite — it wasn’t even a nip.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

I can't help but laugh out loud at attempts by progressive leftists and their mainstream news media lackeys to portray the Capitol Hill protests of January 6, 2021 as an "insurrection" or "domestic terrorism".  I know both terms intimately, through long and bitter personal experience of what they really mean.  January 6 had about as much to do with either term as I have to do with the sex life of the Polynesian parrot - namely, zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nothing.  (And that says nothing about the increasingly proved "false flag" actions of leftist extremists who tried to use the protests to manufacture "evidence" of right wing "domestic terrorism".  Here's the latest example.  Yes, I'd classify him as a wannabe domestic terrorist - but of the left wing, not the right.)

The wokescolds who are trying to bully everybody into compliance with the progressive left-wing agenda, and/or exclude from society everybody who does not or will not conform, had better wise up.  Some Americans are already at the point where their patience has run out.  Others, including myself, are trying very hard to remain peaceful in our approach . . . but such an aggressive, hyper-politicized approach by progressives will beget its own reward.  "As you sow, so shall you reap" remains as true today as it's ever been.

The Biden administration and its hangers-on are not in control of the situation.  They're too radical for almost all conservative and constitutionalist Americans, and not radical enough for their own progressive far-left-wing faction.  They're neither fish nor fowl to the average American.  They may do the bidding of their oligarch masters . . . but those masters are themselves unable to control the entire population, despite their efforts to make the mainstream news media and social media into their lockstep boot-licking propaganda lapdogs.  An increasing proportion of the population are no longer prepared to be told what to think, and no longer willing to "go along to get along".  If you want to know how that ends up, ask past dictatorial leaders like Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.  Unfortunately, you'll need a Ouija board to do so.

Thanks be to God, the United States is not and has never been that savage in changing its administrations.  However, that does not mean it can never be like that.  Desperation and fury are best not provoked . . . but at present, that's precisely what the progressive left seems to want to do.

Bad idea.

Bad, bad idea.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A chilly drive to Colorado


Miss D. and I, and many of the usual suspects from our annual Blogorado gatherings, made it safely to southern Colorado yesterday to prepare for Bob's memorial service this afternoon.

It was an uneventful journey, but a strong headwind wrought havoc with our vehicle's fuel consumption.  Only halfway there, I had to stop to refuel, as the gas gauge was dropping like the proverbial stone.  I couldn't figure it out, until I got out at the gas station and had to fight the wind to fill the tank.  It must have been gusting well over 30 mph, and the car had been driving straight into the wind all the way.  When we turned north at Amarillo, the wind was now on our left side, and the vehicle was buffeted for the next few hours until we arrived.  Not fun.

A funeral or memorial service is seldom a light-hearted affair, and Bob's is no exception.  His family are clearly feeling his loss very greatly, which is entirely understandable.  Nevertheless, I can't help feeling that he's still very much alive, both in his wife and children, and in all of us who've gathered here.  To a very great extent, Bob helped to make Blogorado the fun, rejuvenating gathering it's become for all of us;  and his spirit lives on in everyone who's been part of it.  I felt his presence strongly as we gathered at the farmhouse yesterday afternoon.  If there's an afterlife, as the Good Book promises us, I hope to see him there;  but even if there isn't, he's still very much alive in each of us who remembers him and honors his example.  That's a legacy of which anyone can be proud.

Miss D. and I took the opportunity to stop at a local store to buy warmer clothing than we can usually find around our home.  Colorado being a lot colder and snowier than north Texas, they stock the "good stuff" here.  I was sorry to see that the current ammunition drought has struck here, too.  The store normally has a long shelving unit filled with ammo for various firearms that farmers and ranchers find useful.  This time, it was reduced to a single six-foot shelving unit, very sparsely populated.  The staff said they hadn't had an ammo shipment in weeks, as this store is at the end of their parent company's supply chain in this state, so all the good stuff gets siphoned off before the truck gets here.  I may have to ship ammo supplies to the Farm Family to keep them going.

This morning we'll gather at the Obligatory Cow Reference (our name for a local eatery that has a cow in its name) for a hearty breakfast.  I think I hear their breakfast burrito with huevos rancheros and green chile sauce calling my name!  The memorial service will be held this afternoon, after which we'll gather at the farm again for a less formal send-off.


Monday, January 25, 2021

On the road for Bob's funeral


I told you about Bob last week.  Miss D. and I are on the road today, traveling to attend his memorial service.  That means blogging will be lighter than usual.  I'll try to put up something every day, but I can't guarantee to do that;  so please have patience with me, and if you run short of reading material, try the bloggers listed in the sidebar.  They write good too!

We'd appreciate it if those of you who are so inclined will pray for traveling safety for us.  We're headed for Colorado, where it's a lot colder and snowier than we're used to in north Texas.  An African boy like me still isn't used to snow and ice on the roads, so I'll be driving very carefully, but accidents can (and do) still happen.

All being well, we'll be home by Wednesday evening.


Memes that made me laugh 42


Last week's harvest from the Internet.

More next week.


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sunday morning music


I'm running very late this morning, with lots to do before Bob's funeral next week:  so here's a very abbreviated Sunday Morning Music.

Having published excerpts from Adam Plantinga's two excellent books on police life and work over the past two Saturdays, it seemed appropriate to celebrate police life in song (sort of).  Who better to do so than Gilbert & Sullivan in their operetta "The Pirates of Penzance"?

And, just to show a policeman's lot may not be happy, but can be funny, here's a parody of police advice to criminals being transported.  It's not musical, but it's still giggle-worthy.

Have a great Sunday!