Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Missile technology: reverse-engineering and updating a classic

 

I was intrigued to read about a new Chinese anti-tank missile.  It reminded me of South Africa's entry into that field in the 1980's.


China recently revealed a new ATGM (anti-tank guided missile) which appears larger than earlier ones and uses top-attack warhead technology. It was later reported that [an earlier] version of this new missile had been revealed, called the ATF-11, and better photos were provided. It appears that the larger vehicle mounted missile and the new portable version are the same and are in fact a laser guided version of the American TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided). The ATF-11 was is not the first Chinese missile to use top-attack tech. That showed up in the 1980s when they introduced the HJ-8, which is nearly identical to the American TOW 2 in size, weight, range and, according to the users, performance. The ATF-11 appears to be a laser guided version of the HJ-8. There were American and Israeli laser-guided (wireless) TOW missiles but they never seemed to be worth putting into service.

. . .

The new Chinese missile was not named, but was shown mounted in a multiple cell launcher on an armored vehicle. No performance details were given but it is similar in size to TOW, and presumably capable and probably using “fire and forget” tech as well as an advanced target seekers.

China has been producing copies of Western designs for decades.


There's more at the link.

South Africa was also involved in modifying the US TOW design to produce its own anti-tank missile.  It was a long and complicated story, but briefly, its arms industry bought missile technology from Israel, including that country's not-very-successful laser-guided adaptation of the US missile, and proceeded to make it work.  The result was the ZT3 Ingwe missile, the world's first production laser-guided anti-tank missile.  It was used in combat in 1987 against Soviet-built tanks in Angola, with considerable success.  South Africa built on that foundation for its subsequent Mokopa missile (a clone of the US Hellfire weapon).

China has done the same thing, first with its HJ-8, then with the ATF-11, and now with its new missile.  Similar copycat technology is visible in missile systems of many other nations.  Once the "technology cat" is out of the bag, it's very hard to prevent other countries from getting examples of a new weapon, by hook or by crook (usually a lot of crookery), and reverse-engineering them.

That's how Russia got its Vympel K-13 short-range air-to-air missile in the 1960's, reverse-engineering the US AIM-9B Sidewinder, which was obtained when at least one Sidewinder fired by Taiwanese fighters stuck in the fuselage of a Chinese MiG fighter without exploding, and was recovered intact.  The K-13 was so exact a copy that Russian and US missiles could be loaded and fired from the same rails on Western fighter aircraft, using the same avionics and software.  Later versions were upgraded using information obtained via espionage.  Here's an interesting short documentary on the Soviet achievement.



South Africa bought a hundred AIM-9B's in the 1960's to equip its Canadair Sabre Mk. 6 fighters.  It also reverse-engineered the AIM-9B, producing the "Voorslag" demonstrator missile, which went on to blend local ingenuity and French technology to evolve into the V3A and V3B Kukri missiles, and later the V3C Darter.

Peter


A culture clash leads to airline safety complications

 

I was intrigued to read about an airline safety issue caused by different cultures and the assumptions they produced.  In this case, no accident resulted, but it highlights an important conflict.


Investigators have traced a take-off weight error on a TUI Airways Boeing 737-800 to a flaw introduced to a reservations system by international differences in the manner that female passengers are addressed.

. . .

... the programming upgrade had been carried out in a country where the title ‘Ms’ was used for adult women while ‘Miss’ referred to a female child.

When adult female passengers in the UK checked in for the flight from Birmingham using the term ‘Miss’, they were automatically classified as a child and allocated the standard child weight of 35kg rather than the standard female weight of 69kg.

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch says 38 female passengers were misidentified as children and this meant the loadsheet generated for the flight to Palma de Mallorca, on 21 July last year, was more than 1.2t below the actual aircraft weight.

. . .

Although incorrect take-off weights were used, the thrust level employed was slightly higher than that required for the conditions.

“This meant the safe operation of the aircraft was not compromised,” says the inquiry.

But it states that the 737 involved (G-TAWG) was the first of three aircraft to depart from the UK on the same date with inaccurate loadsheets caused by the same issue.


There's more at the link.

This isn't the first time that differences between countries, standards and cultures have produced airline safety issues.  Perhaps the best known happened in Canada in 1983.


On July 23, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767–233 jet, ran out of fuel at an altitude of 12,500 metres (41,000 ft) above MSL, about halfway through its Montreal to Edmonton flight. The flight crew was able to glide the aircraft safely to an emergency landing at an auto racing track that was previously RCAF Station Gimli, a Royal Canadian Air Force base in Gimli, Manitoba.

The subsequent investigation revealed a combination of company failures and a chain of human errors that defeated built-in safeguards. The amount of fuel that had been loaded was miscalculated because of a confusion as to the calculation of the weight of fuel using the metric system which had recently replaced the imperial system for use with the 767.


Again, more at the link.  For aviation fans, here's a 30th anniversary retrospective video about the so-called "Gimli Glider".



I'm glad to hear the most recent issue has been resolved without incident, but it highlights an ongoing problem.  If software is outsourced to and coded in nations with different cultures, what impact might those cultures have on consumers in the nation using the completed system?

Peter


A long overdue reform to our tax laws

 

Wolf Richter reports on a proposal by Janet Yellen, President of the Federal Reserve.


Large corporations – and there are only a few dozen to which this would apply, according to the proposal – should pay income taxes on the inflated and puffed-up income they report to their shareholders under ... GAAP [Generally Accepted Accounting Principles], rather than paying no taxes, or even getting paid tax benefits, on the losses they report separately to the IRS under the tax code.

Small corporations ... use the same accounting principles for earnings and for taxes, or vice versa, and we have no illusions, and there is no reason to inflate income.

But Nike reported $4.1 billion in pre-tax income to its shareholders over the past three years and had a three-year effective tax rate of minus 18%, meaning the IRS paid Nike large amounts of money, the so-called “tax benefits,” instead of collecting taxes from Nike, according to a report by the Institute of Taxation and Policy. There were 55 companies of this type in the report.

. . .

If large corporations have to pay 15% minimum income tax on their profits as reported under GAAP, it could possibly bring some honesty and reality to financial reports because, under the 15% minimum tax on book income, companies that inflated and puffed up their income would have to pay 15% taxes on that inflated and puffed-up income. This would be a costly disincentive to inflate and puff up income.

It would make CFOs think twice. In theory, GAAP financial statements could become more honest, policed by the threat of having to pay 15% in taxes on puffed-up income. And that could be a game changer – when there are suddenly tax incentives to be realistic with financial reporting. And that’s why Wall Street will fight furiously to sink this thing.


There's more at the link.

This is long overdue.  Big corporations have "bought" the tax code for decades, using lobbyists to pressure politicians to pass amendments that favor them at the expense of all other taxpayers.  That's how most major corporations pay minimal or no tax on their billions of dollars in annual profits.  However, they all effectively use two sets of books:  one they present to their shareholders, usually showing very healthy profits, and the other that they send to the IRS, showing tax losses in every direction thanks to the convoluted intricacies of the tax code.

If corporations are forced to pay tax on their claimed profits, the Treasury will be much better off, and we as a nation will be able to afford a much better balanced budget.  However, as Richter points out, those corporations will kick and scream and protest to the heavens, and do their best to prevent such a tax from being implemented.  Will our politicians force them to pay up, or will they succumb (yet again) to corporate bribery in the form of "contributions to their re-election fund"?  Your guess is as good as mine . . . and mine's not very hopeful.




Peter


Monday, April 12, 2021

"Nothing the Democratic Party advocates for is more dishonest than gun control"

 

That's the opinion of Tucker Carlson.  In this case, I entirely agree with him.  I strongly urge you to watch the 16-minute segment below;  or, if you don't have time to watch it, or prefer to read, click here for a transcript of what he said.  It's important information, and right on the money.



Mr. Carlson concludes:  "They're not trying to control guns. They're trying to control you."  Again, he's absolutely right.  This isn't about guns.  This is about control - of the populace and the country, and the suppression of any and all ability by the people to resist that control.  An armed populace can't be suppressed.  A disarmed one can.  It's as simple as that.

L. Neil Smith put it in a nutshell years ago.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.


What I've chosen, in a world where there's never enough time and energy, is to focus on the one political issue which most clearly and unmistakably demonstrates what any politician -- or political philosophy -- is made of, right down to the creamy liquid center.

Make no mistake: all politicians -- even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership -- hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it's an X-ray machine. It's a Vulcan mind-meld. It's the ultimate test to which any politician -- or political philosophy -- can be put.

If a politician isn't perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash -- for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything -- without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn't your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn't genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody's permission, he's a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude -- toward your ownership and use of weapons -- conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn't trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

If he doesn't want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?

If he makes excuses about obeying a law he's sworn to uphold and defend -- the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights -- do you want to entrust him with anything?

If he ignores you, sneers at you, complains about you, or defames you, if he calls you names only he thinks are evil -- like "Constitutionalist" -- when you insist that he account for himself, hasn't he betrayed his oath, isn't he unfit to hold office, and doesn't he really belong in jail?

Sure, these are all leading questions. They're the questions that led me to the issue of guns and gun ownership as the clearest and most unmistakable demonstration of what any given politician -- or political philosophy -- is really made of.

He may lecture you about the dangerous weirdos out there who shouldn't have a gun -- but what does that have to do with you? Why in the name of John Moses Browning should you be made to suffer for the misdeeds of others? Didn't you lay aside the infantile notion of group punishment when you left public school -- or the military? Isn't it an essentially European notion, anyway -- Prussian, maybe -- and certainly not what America was supposed to be all about?

And if there are dangerous weirdos out there, does it make sense to deprive you of the means of protecting yourself from them? Forget about those other people, those dangerous weirdos, this is about you, and it has been, all along.

Try it yourself: if a politician won't trust you, why should you trust him?


There's more at the link.  Essential reading in the gun control debate, IMHO, and highly recommended.

For those who, even today, argue for "compromise", for meeting the gun-grabbers halfway . . . we've done that for years, and it's gotten us nowhere.  My friend Lawdog settled that argument in fine style several years ago.


I hear a lot about "compromise" from your camp ... except, it's not compromise.

Let's say I have this cake. It is a very nice cake, with "GUN RIGHTS" written across the top in lovely floral icing. Along you come and say, "Give me that cake."

I say, "No, it's my cake."

You say, "Let's compromise. Give me half." I respond by asking what I get out of this compromise, and you reply that I get to keep half of my cake.

Okay, we compromise. Let us call this compromise The National Firearms Act of 1934.

There I am with my half of the cake, and you walk back up and say, "Give me that cake."

I say, "No, it's my cake."

You say, "Let's compromise." What do I get out of this compromise? Why, I get to keep half of what's left of the cake I already own.

So, we have your compromise -- let us call this one the Gun Control Act of 1968 -- and I'm left holding what is now just a quarter of my cake.

And I'm sitting in the corner with my quarter piece of cake, and here you come again. You want my cake. Again.

This time you take several bites -- we'll call this compromise the Clinton Executive Orders -- and I'm left with about a tenth of what has always been MY DAMN CAKE and you've got nine-tenths of it.

Then we compromised with the Lautenberg Act (nibble, nibble), the HUD/Smith and Wesson agreement (nibble, nibble), the Brady Law (NOM NOM NOM), the School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvement Act (sweet tap-dancing Freyja, my finger!)

I'm left holding crumbs of what was once a large and satisfying cake, and you're standing there with most of MY CAKE, making anime eyes and whining about being "reasonable", and wondering "why we won't compromise".

I'm done with being reasonable, and I'm done with compromise. Nothing about gun control in this country has ever been "reasonable" nor a genuine "compromise".


Again, more at the link, and very important reading.

Nothing in President Biden's gun control proposals and edicts will solve the problem, because - as we've pointed out all too often, most recently just a few days ago - the problem is not guns.  It's people who have evil intentions, and act on them.  If they don't have a gun, they'll use something else - but the evil is in them, not in the instruments they use.

By disarming innocent people, all one accomplishes is to render them unable to defend themselves effectively against rampant evil.

Peter


Memes that made me laugh 53

 

Here's last week's harvest from the Internet.  Click any image for a larger view.















































More next week.

Peter


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sunday morning music

 

The term "skiffle music" is almost unknown to most youngsters today (and by "youngsters" I mean most people under 40 years of age!).  Nevertheless, it was the foundation of rock 'n roll in the 1960's, and many of the great names of the latter era (including the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc.) grew up in the skiffle era, played it, and were greatly influenced by it.  To set the scene, here's an interview with British rocker Billy Bragg about that era and its effect on later generations of musicians.



One of the best-known skiffle musicians was Lonnie Donegan.  I used to giggle at his songs in my younger days, because my father played or sang them to us kids at night, to our great amusement.  I've chosen three of his songs to represent his music.  They are, of course, very heavily British in their lyrics, so Americans sometimes find it hard to catch cultural references.

Let's start with my personal favorite of all his tunes:  "My Old Man's a Dustman".



To illustrate how Donegan kept pace with the times, here's a live version of the same song recorded a few years later.  He brings in the space age and other elements to rework the verses.



Next, Donegan asks one of the great (?) existential questions.



Finally, Donegan invites us to "Have a Drink on Me".



You'll find more of his songs on YouTube.

It seems like a vanished era, a different age . . . but many oldsters remember skiffle with affection.  I particularly like how it poked fun at itself, its fans, and the world in which it arose.  We seem to have lost that sense of self-deprecating humor in today's music, more's the pity.

Peter


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Saturday Snippet: A different world, with tongue firmly in cheek

 

The late Barry Hughart started what he wanted to be a series of seven novels, but didn't get beyond the first three.  Wikipedia says of him:


During Hughart's military service [in Korea] he began to develop his lifelong interest in China that led him to plan a series set in "an Ancient China that never was". His connection to China continued after his military service, as he worked with TechTop, a military surplus company that was based in Asia, from 1960 to 1965.

. . .

Barry Hughart's writing career started with his novel Bridge of Birds, published in 1984, which won the 1985 World Fantasy Award for best novel and also won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1986 ... He intended to write seven novels about the adventures of Li Kao and Number Ten Ox, but his writing career was cut short due to issues with his publishers.

. . .

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox is a series of three books about Li Kao, an ancient sage and scholar with "a slight flaw in his character", and his client, later assistant, the immensely strong peasant Number Ten Ox, who narrates the story. The series blends Chinese mythology—authentic and imagined, from several eras—with detective fiction and a gentle, ironic humour. The first book Bridge of Birds was published in 1984, the title derived from "The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl" myth. It was followed in 1988 by The Story of the Stone and in 1990 by Eight Skilled Gentlemen. No further books followed, although Hughart had planned a series of seven novels. In the last of these, Li Kao and Number Ten Ox would die facing the Great White Serpent (a conflict alluded to in Bridge of Birds). They would then become minor celestial deities who would continue to cause problems for the August Personage of Jade. An omnibus edition, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox was first published in 1998.


There's more at the link.



I have the omnibus edition.  I like all three books very much, and found it difficult to choose just one chapter to introduce you to them.  In the end, I gave up and decided to use the first chapter of the first book in the trilogy.


The Village of Ku-fu

I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.

My surname is Lu and my personal name is Yu, but I am not to be confused with the eminent author of The Classic of Tea. My family is quite undistinguished, and since I am the tenth of my father’s sons and rather strong I am usually referred to as Number Ten Ox. My father died when I was eight. A year later my mother followed him to the Yellow Springs Beneath the Earth, and since then I have lived with Uncle Nung and Auntie Hua in the village of Ku-fu in the valley of Cho. We take great pride in our landmarks. Until recently we also took great pride in two gentlemen who were such perfect specimens that people used to come from miles around just to stare at them, so perhaps I should begin a description of my village with a couple of classics.

When Pawnbroker Fang approached Ma the Grub with the idea of joining forces he opened negotiations by presenting Ma’s wife with the picture of a small fish drawn on a piece of cheap paper. Ma’s wife accepted the magnificent gift, and in return she extended her right hand and made a circle with the thumb and forefinger. At that point, the door crashed open and Ma the Grub charged inside and screamed: “Woman, would you ruin me? Half of a pie would have been enough!”

That may not be literally true, but the abbot of our monastery always said that fable has strong shoulders that carry far more truth than fact can.

Pawnbroker Fang’s ability to guess the lowest possible amount that person would accept for a pawned item was so unerring that I had concluded it was supernatural, but then the abbot took me aside and explained that Fang wasn’t guessing at all. There was always some smooth shiny object lying on top of his desk in the front room of Ma the Grub’s warehouse, and it was used as a mirror that would reflect the eyes of the victim.

“Cheap, very cheap,” Fang would sneer, turning the object in his hands. “No more than two hundred cash.”

His eyes would drop to the shiny object and if the pupils of the reflected eyes constricted too sharply he would try again.

“Well, the workmanship isn’t too bad, in a crude peasant fashion. Make it two-fifty.”

The reflected pupils would dilate, but perhaps not quite far enough.

“It is the anniversary of my poor wife’s untimely demise, the thought of which always destroys my business judgment,” Fang would whimper, in a voice clotted with tears. “Three hundred cash, but not one penny more!”

Actually, no money would change hands because ours is a barter economy. The victim would take a credit slip through the door to the warehouse, and Ma the Grub would stare at it in disbelief and scream out to Fang. “Madman! Your lunatic generosity will drive us into bankruptcy! Who will feed your starving brats when we are reduced to tattered cloaks and begging bowls?” Then he would honor the credit slip with goods that had been marked up by 600 percent.

Pawnbroker Fang was a widower with two children, a pretty little daughter we called Fang’s Fawn and a younger son that we called Fang’s Flea. Ma the Grub was childless, and when his wife ran off with a rug peddler his household expenses were cut in half and his happiness was doubled. The happiest time of all for the team of Ma and Fang was our annual silk harvest, because silkworm eggs could only be purchased with money and they had all the money. Ma the Grub would buy the eggs and hand them out to each family in exchange for IOUs that were to be redeemed with silk, and since Pawnbroker Fang was the only qualified appraiser of silk for miles around they were able to take two-thirds of our crop to Peking and return with bulging bags of coins, which they buried in their gardens on moonless midnights.

The abbot used to say that the emotional health of a village depended upon having a man whom everyone loved to hate, and Heaven had blessed us with two of them.

Our landmarks are our lake and our wall, and both of them are the result of the superstition and mythology of ancient times. When our ancestors arrived in the valley of Cho they examined the terrain with the greatest of care, and we honestly believe that no village in the world has been better planned than the village of Ku-fu. Our ancestors laid it out so that it would be sheltered from the Black Tortoise, a beast of the very worst character, whose direction is north and whose element is water and whose season is winter. It is open to the Red Bird of the south and the element of fire and the season of summer. And the eastern hills where the Blue Dragon lives, with the element of wood and the hopeful season of spring, are stronger than the hills to the west, which is the home of the White Tiger, metal and the melancholy season of autumn.

Considerable thought was given to the shape of the village, on the grounds that a man who built a village like a fish while a neighboring village was built like a hook was begging for disaster. The finished shape was the outline of a unicorn, a gentle and law-abiding creature with no natural enemies whatsoever. But it appeared that something had gone wrong because one day there was a low snorting sort of a noise and the earth heaved, and several cottages collapsed and a great crack appeared the soil. Our ancestors examined their village from every possible angle, and the flaw was discovered when one of them climbed to the top of the tallest tree on the eastern hills and gazed down. By a foolish oversight the last five rice paddies had been arranged so that they formed the wings and body of a huge hungry horsefly that had settled upon the tender flank of the unicorn, so of course the unicorn had kicked up its heels. The paddies were altered into the shape of a bandage, and Ku-fu was never again disturbed by upheavals.

They made sure that there would be no straight roads or rivers that might draw good influences away, and as a further precaution they dammed up the end of a narrow little valley and channeled rivulets down the sides of the hills, and thus produced a small lake that would capture and hold good influences that might otherwise trickle away to other villages. They had no aesthetic intent whatsoever. The beauty of our lake was an accident of superstition, but the result was such that when the great poet Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju passed through on a walking trip five hundred years ago he paused at the little lake and was inspired to write to a friend:

The waters are loud with fish and turtles,
A multitude of living things.
Wild geese and swans, graylags, bustards,
Cranes and mallards,
Loons and spoonbills,
Flock and settle on the waters,
Drifting lightly over the surface,
Buffeted by the wind,
Bobbing and dipping with the waves,
Sporting among the weedy banks,
Gobbling the reeds and duckweed,
Pecking at water chestnuts and lotuses.

It is like that today, and Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju was not there in the season to see the masses of wildflowers, or the tiny dappled deer that come to drink and then vanish like puffs of smoke.

Our wall landmark is far more famous. It is only fair to point out that there are many different stories concerning the origin of Dragon’s Pillow, but we in Ku-fu like to think that our version is the only correct one.

Many centuries ago there was a general who was ordered to build one of the defensive walls that were to be linked into the Great Wall, and one night he dreamed that he had been summoned to Heaven to present his plan for the wall to the August Personage of Jade. At his subsequent trial for treason he gave a vivid account of the trip.

He had dreamed that he had been inside a giant lotus, and the leaves had slowly opened to form a doorway, and he had stepped out upon the emerald grass of Heaven. The sky was sapphire, and a path made from pearls lay near his feet. A willow tree lifted a branch and pointed it like a finger, and the general followed the path to the River of Flowers, which was cascading down the Cliff of the Great Awakening. The concubines of the Emperor of Heaven were bathing in the Pool of Blissful Fragrances, laughing and splashing in a rainbow of rose petals, and they were so beautiful that the general found it hard to tear himself away. But duty called, so he followed the path as it climbed seven terraces where the leaves on the trees were made from precious stones, which rang musically when the breeze touched them, and where birds of bright plumage sang with divine voices of the Five Virtues and Excellent Doctrines. The path continued around the lush orchards where the Queen Mother Wang grew the Peaches of Immortality, and when the general made the last turn around the orchards he found himself directly in front of the palace of the Emperor of Heaven.

Flunkies were waiting for him. They ushered him into the audience chamber, and after the three obeisances and nine kowtows he was allowed to rise and approach the throne. The August Personage of Jade was seated with his hands crossed upon the Imperial Book of Etiquette, which lay upon his lap. He wore a flat hat rather like a board, from which dangled thirteen pendants of colored pearls upon red strings, and his black silk robe rippled with red and yellow dragons. The general bowed and humbly presented his plan for the wall.

Behind the throne stood T’ien-kou, the Celestial Dog, whose teeth had chewed mountains in half, and beside the Celestial Dog stood Ehr-lang, who is unquestionably the greatest of all warriors because he had been able to battle the stupendous Stone Monkey to a standstill. (The Monkey symbolizes intellect.) The two bodyguards appeared to be glaring at the general. He hastily lowered his eyes, and he saw that the symbol of the emperor’s predecessor, the Heavenly Master of the First Origin, was stamped upon the left arm of the throne, and on the right arm was the symbol for the emperor’s eventual successor, the Heavenly Master of the Dawn of Jade of the Golden Door. The general was so overcome by a dizzying sense of timelessness in which there was no means of measurement and comparison that he felt quite sick to his stomach. He was afraid that he was going to disgrace himself by throwing up, but in the nick of time he saw that his plan, neatly rolled back into a scroll and retied, was extended before his lowered eyes. He took it and dropped to his knees and awaited divine censure or praise, but none was forthcoming. The August Personage of Jade silently signaled the end of the interview. The general crawled backward, banging his head against the floor, and at the doorway he was seized by the flunkies, who marched him outside and across a couple of miles of meadow. Then they picked him up and dumped him into the Great River of Stars.

Oddly enough, the general testified, he had not been frightened at all. It was the rainy season in Heaven, and billions of brilliant stars were bouncing over raging waves that roared like a trillion tigers, but the general sank quite peacefully into the water. He drifted down farther and farther, and then he fell right through the bottom, and the glittering light of the Great River receded rapidly in the distance as he plunged head over heels toward earth. He landed smack in the middle of his bed, just as his servant entered to wake him for breakfast.

It was some time before he could gather enough courage to open his plan, and when he did he discovered that the Emperor of Heaven—or somebody—had moved the wall 122 miles to the south, which placed it in the middle of the valley of Cho, where it could serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

What was he to do? He could not possibly defy the mandate of Heaven, so he ordered his men to build a wall that led nowhere and connected to nothing, and that was why the general was arrested and brought before the Emperor of China on the charge of treason. When he told his tale the charge of treason was tossed out of court. Instead the general was sentenced to death for being drunk on duty, and desperation produced one of the loveliest excuses in history. That wall, the general said firmly, had been perfectly placed, but one night a dragon leaned against it and fell asleep, and in the morning it was discovered that the bulk of the beast had shoved the wall into its current ludicrous position.

Word of Dragon’s Pillow swept through the delighted court, where the general had clever and unscrupulous friends. They began their campaign to save his neck by bribing the emperor’s favorite soothsayer.

“O Son of Heaven,” the fellow screeched, “I have consulted the Trigrams, and for reasons known only to the August Personage of Jade that strange stretch of wall is the most important of all fortifications! So important it is that it cannot be guarded by mortal men, but only by the spirits of ten thousand soldiers who must be buried alive in the foundations!”

The emperor was quite humane, as emperors go, and he begged the soothsayer to try again and see if there might not have been some mistake. After pocketing another bribe the soothsayer came up with a different interpretation.

“O Son of Heaven, the Trigrams clearly state that wan must be buried alive in the foundations, but while wan can mean ten thousand, it is also a common family name!” he bellowed. “The solution is obvious, for what is the life of one insignificant insignificant soldier compared to the most important wall in China?”

The emperor still didn’t like it, but he didn’t appear to have much of choice, so he ordered his guards to go out and lay hands on the first common soldier named Wan. All accounts agree that Wan behaved with dignity. His family was provided with a pension, and he was told that heaven had honored him above all others and he was given a trumpet with which to sound the alarm should China be threatened, and then a hole was cut in the base of the wall and Wan marched dutifully inside. The hole was bricked up again, and a watchtower—the Eye of the Dragon—was placed upon the highest point of Dragon’s Pillow where Wan’s ghost could maintain lonely vigil.

The emperor was so sick of the whole affair that he refused to allow that cursed stretch of wall, or anyone connected with it, to be mentioned in his presence. Of course that is what the clever fellows had been planning all along, and their friend the general was quietly set free to write his memoirs.

For nearly a century Dragon’s Pillow was a favorite of sightseers. A small number of soldiers was detached to maintain the wall, but since it served no purpose except as a watchtower for a ghost it was eventually allowed to fall into decay. Even the sightseers lost interest in it, and weeds grew and rocks crumbled. It was a paradise for children, however, and for a few centuries it was the favorite playpen of the children of my village, but then something happened that left Dragon’s Pillow abandoned even by children.

One evening the children of Ku-fu were beginning one of the games that had originated somewhere back toward the beginning of time, and suddenly they stopped short. A hollow, bodiless voice—one boy later said that it might have been echoing through two hundred miles of bamboo pipe—drifted down to them from the Eye of the Dragon. So strange were the words that every one of the children remembered them perfectly, even though they took to their heels as soon as their hearts resumed beating.

Was it possible that poor Wan, the most important of all sentinels on the most important of all watchtowers was sending a message to China through the children of the humble village of Ku-fu? If so, it was a very strange message indeed, and sages and scholars struggled for centuries to wrest some meaning from it.

If my illustrious readers would care to take a crack at it, I will wish them the very best of luck.

Jade plate,
Six, eight.
Fire that burns hot,
Night that is not.
Fire that burns cold,
First silver, then gold.


I'll leave it to you to read more of the book for yourself.  If you enjoy gentle, whimsical humor (with occasional side-splitting elements of slapstick) and a fantasy world to match, I recommend it.

Peter


Friday, April 9, 2021

Quote of the day

 

Watching the chaos being unleashed on this country by the Biden administration, it's hard to keep one's cool.  Consider:

  • Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are being not just admitted to this country willy-nilly, but actively encouraged to cross our borders.
  • The Federal Reserve is creating trillions of dollars out of thin air with no economic reality underpinning them, a sure recipe for inflation.
  • Billions upon billions of dollars, ostensibly intended for "stimulus" or "infrastructure", are being wasted on pet projects and political cronyism.
  • Assaults on constitutional rights like the Second Amendment (despite the President's denial) are increasing.
  • A biased justice system seems determined to punish conservatives while letting progressives get away (sometimes literally) with murder.
  • A visibly senile, incompetent President is attracting the scorn of the rest of the world, and provoking threatening actions by other powers who seem confident that the USA is no longer capable of responding effectively under his leadership.

We're not just sliding, but accelerating down the slope to disaster, and nobody in authority seems to care.  Add to that the threats of progressive activists, and our future looks worse by the day.  When leaders like this get elected to run some of America's largest cities, promising to overturn the old order while offering nothing worth having in the new, what else can we expect?

In that light, I found Larry Correia's latest quip on MeWe to be grimly relevant:


I used to think America was heading for a Bosnia style civil war. But that was me being too optimistic. Now I suspect we will wake up one day and it’ll be Rwanda.


I saw what happened in Rwanda.  God forbid I should ever see that again . . . but in a fractured, tormented nation, even in the First World, it's not impossible.

Keep your powder dry, friends.  We may yet need it.

Peter


Why work, when unemployment pays better and is more fun?

 

I had to stop myself gritting my teeth in frustration when reading this article.


Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, Melissa Anderson laid off all three full-time employees of her jewelry-making company, Silver Chest Creations in Burkesville, Ky. She tried to rehire one of them in September and another in January as business recovered, but they refused to come back, she says. “They’re not looking for work.”

Sierra Pacific Industries, which manufactures doors, windows, and millwork, is so desperate to fill openings that it’s offering hiring bonuses of up to $1,500 at its factories in California, Washington, and Wisconsin. In rural Northern California, the Red Bluff Job Training Center is trying to lure young people with extra-large pizzas in the hope that some who stop by can be persuaded to fill out a job application. “We’re trying to get inside their head and help them find employment. Businesses would be so eager to train them,” says Kathy Garcia, the business services and marketing manager. “There are absolutely no job seekers.”

. . .

There’s some evidence for the conservative argument that generous unemployment benefits discourage people from seeking work. Anderson, the jewelry maker, says her ex-employees told her they preferred to stay unemployed—even though you’re not supposed to collect jobless benefits if you’re turning down work. The American Rescue Plan that Congress approved last month provides an extra $300 a week in jobless benefits through Sept. 6. “There still will be some people who say, ‘I’m glad to take my $300 to $400 a week and stay home, rather than go out and work and earn $500 a week,’” BTIG LLC analyst Peter Saleh, who covers the restaurant industry, told Bloomberg in March.

. . .

Plus, some would-be workers may have lost their gumption. “I’m worried that after all this time that’s gone by, it’s going to be very hard for a lot of people to come back full time. It’s just asking an energy level that people haven’t had in a while,” says Garcia, the job counselor in California. She says a full-time job “used to be the gold standard,” but now employers are parceling out the work into part-time jobs to lure applicants.

Alienation from work is most common among the young. A Pew Research Center survey in October found that 53% of those ages 18 to 29 who are working remotely because of Covid said it was difficult for them to feel motivated to perform their duties. Only 20% of those 50 and older said the same.

On the social network Reddit, which skews young, a forum called r/antiwork has 264,000 members. It’s filled with comments such as: “You’re telling me I have to enslave myself to all these applications for hours on end, competing with my fellow man and woman, giving up my dignity just for a chance to enslave myself further so I don’t literally die? I’m not having it.” One Redditor posted a video of a home computer’s mouse that’s connected to a swiveling fan so it slides back and forth, making it appear the person is working.


There's more at the link.

Dare I say that the problem is, people today aren't raised with a work ethic?  My father started us young.  From the age that we were able to understand money and basic math, we had to earn our pocket money every week.  He "paid" us five cents for every year of our age (which, back then, was actually worth something).  Each of us had domestic chores to accomplish - mine were things like washing the dog, mowing the lawn (after removing canine land-mines), washing the car, and so on.  I could earn extra by doing extra chores.  Every time one of my chores wasn't done, or done satisfactorily, Dad would deduct a "fine" from my pocket-money.  It didn't take long for me to figure out that if I wanted money, I had to earn it!

The same went for my higher education.  My parents retired soon after I entered military service.  Dad and Mom made it clear that while they would help where they could, they couldn't afford to pay my way through full-time university studies.  No problem - I completed my university qualifications through correspondence studies, and paid for them out of my earnings.  It took me ten years to complete my first degree (I was being called up periodically to fight a war, as well as working in the civilian world and dealing with major civil unrest, all of which were more than a little disrupting to my studies), but I got it in the end, followed by three more part-time and correspondence university qualifications.  I daresay my lack of full-time college experience didn't do me any harm, and saved me a heck of a lot of money.  I also learned the value of time management and hard work.  If I didn't get them right, I didn't pass my assignments or exams.  Failure can be a salutary lesson!

Thus, when I read comments like those above from unemployed people who don't want to go back to work, or Redditors who don't want to "[give] up my dignity just for a chance to enslave myself further" . . . I find them infuriating.  How is it possible that these people have never learned the reality of employment?  The Biblical standard is and remains, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food", and "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat".  What makes these entitled idiots think that anything's changed?  When their benefits run out, and employers who've tried (and failed) to get them to come back to work find them applying for jobs once more, why should they take them back when they've already demonstrated their contempt for the work ethic?

I don't know.  Maybe I'm just out of touch with the modern generation . . . but I suspect I'm rather more in touch than they are with cold, hard economic reality.

Peter


Er . . . oops?

 

I don't know whether to laugh or grimace.  Found on MeWe:



(Click the image for a larger view)


Could one call this "uncanny canning"?  Or is it an amphibious pickle?  Did the frog take the place of a shirkin' gherkin, perhaps?  Either way, it's des-pickle-able . . .



Peter


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ancient Rome, summarized for a modern generation

 

George Santayana famously said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Sadly, many today know very little about history, and how so many of our institutions - including the US constitution - are based on historical lessons and realities.

Courtesy of The Burning Platform, I came across this 20-minute video summarizing the history of Ancient Rome.  It's very informative, even though it skips most of the important details in favor of a high-speed pass through an empire that lasted for over one and a half millennia.  In particular, note the parallels between Roman history and our own.  They're striking.



I hope the producers of that video go on to make more along the same lines, summarizing other great civilizations of history.  We're starved of good modern material about them, particularly in "bite-size" chunks that can be easily digested by a post-literate society that gets most of its information from TV.

Peter


Yet again, they're blaming "the Jews"

 

I'm getting awful tired of those who blame the Jews for any and every evil that afflicts us.  Anti-semitism is an age-old shibboleth, something brought out of the closet whenever activists for whatever cause need a scapegoat to explain away their particular obsession.  Adolf Hitler is the best-known example, but he was only one in a long, long line of anti-semites who've infested history with their poison.

Now comes Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, blaming Jewish pressure in part for the drive to reopen schools (which she and the AFT oppose).  She's nominally Jewish herself, but like many progressive extremists, she disregards that minor anomaly.


Union leader Randi Weingarten criticized Jews as "part of the ownership class" dedicated to denying opportunities to others in an interview released on Friday.

Weingarten—who is herself Jewish and draws a six-figure salary as head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—took aim at American Jews in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. When asked about parents critical of the AFT's resistance to school reopening, Weingarten took aim squarely at Jewish critics.

"American Jews are now part of the ownership class," Weingarten said. "Jews were immigrants from somewhere else. And they needed the right to have public education. And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done."

"What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it," she said.


There's more at the link.

The AFT is a thoroughly progressive-infiltrated organization.  It joins many others in expressing anti-semitic ideas and tendencies.  The mainstream news media have ignored Black Lives Matter's anti-Semitic tendencies, shown in brutal harshness during riots in Los Angeles, threats in New York City and encounters in Philadelphia, among others.  One wonders whether the media are refusing to cover such incidents because of political correctness, or because they agree with the sentiments expressed?  It's a good question.

Basically, when I hear or see anyone blaming "the Jews" for anything, simply because they're Jews and with no other evidence, I instantly write off the speaker(s) and their organization(s) as utterly lacking in credibility and unworthy of respect.  They're merely repeating the tired old prejudices of many generations before them.  They have no originality, no foundation for their prejudices - just resentment that's looking for a target on which to focus.

I guess we can add the AFT and Ms. Weingarten to the list of those lacking credibility and unworthy of respect.

Peter


"Woke" companies may become worse than the Biden administration

 

We've all seen how "woke" companies and corporations have bent the knee to progressive left-wing ideologies, and are actively working to promote them.  The antics of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies before and after last November's election are too well-known to require comment.  Last week saw Coca-Cola and other big companies bend the knee to progressive pressure and condemn a new Georgia voting law that is more genuinely democratic and pro-free-election than many others in this country.  However, the corporations didn't care about that - only about the politically correct talking points they were spoon-fed by their political masters.

Now, as Phil at Bustednuckles notes, it looks like private companies may be fiercer promoters and adopters of COVID-19 "vaccine passports" than the government itself.  He quotes a news article.


The White House said Tuesday that the Biden administration will not support a system requiring Americans to carry so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

. . .

“Let me be very clear on this. I know there’s been lots of questions,” Psaki said during the press briefing Tuesday. “The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.”

Psaki went on to say that “there will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

“As these tools are being considered by the private and non-private sectors, our interest is very simple from the federal government,” Psaki continued.

. . .

“I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who also serves as President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told the Politico Dispatch podcast on Monday.


There's more at the link.

This is yet another example of a Chinese-style "social credit system" being introduced willy-nilly in the USA.  The government won't have to formally build such a system if its private sector lackeys are prepared to do so on its behalf.  If you're noted as refusing a COVID-19 vaccination - or owning a gun, or smoking, or expressing the "wrong" political opinions, or whatever - you'll get a black mark against you in one or more databases.  The government can (and does) buy access to those databases on a commercial basis.  It doesn't have to spy on us - it simply uses our lack of digital privacy against us.  What's more, it won't have to exert unconstitutional or illegal pressures against dissenters if its corporate allies are willing to do so on its behalf.  Matt Bracken goes so far as to call this a "digital gulag".  Go read his article for yourself.  If you value your constitutional rights, it's chilling.

If your opinions and actions make you ineligible for a home mortgage, or vehicle finance, or travel on an airline . . . what are you going to do about it?  You can't sue the government for violating your rights, because it isn't doing so;  and you can't sue a private corporation for violating your constitutional rights, because those rights bind the government, not private entities.  It'll be the same with a COVID-19 "vaccine passport".  If you can't fly, or take the train, without one, and if hotels won't allow you to stay without one, you're effectively being coerced into getting one whether you like it or not.

Naomi Wolf points out:


Vaccine passports sound like a fine thing if you don’t know what those platforms can do. I’m CEO of a tech company, I understand what this platform does. It’s not about the vaccine, it’s not about the virus, it’s about data. And once this rolls out you don’t have a choice about being part of the system. What people have to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.

They’re trying to roll it out around the world. It is so much more than a vaccine pass. I can’t stress this enough. It has the power to turn off your life. Or turn on your life. To let you engage in civil society or be marginalized. It’s catastrophic. It cannot be allowed to continue.

And what that means is it can be merged with your PayPal account, with your digital currency. Microsoft is already talking about merging it with payment plans. Your networks can be sucked up. It geo locates you everywhere you go. Your credit history can be included. All of your medical history can be included.


Again, more at the link.

I'm not anti-vaccine.  If I know for sure that a vaccine is safe and effective, I'll be first in line to get it.  However, in the case of COVID-19 vaccines (which aren't vaccines at all, as far as I can tell, but gene therapies) they are not yet fully tested and have produced some nasty side-effects, including fatal ones.  I don't yet trust them - and their manufacturers can't be sued if anything goes wrong, because they've been granted immunity against such lawsuits.  The entire responsibility for the consequences has been dumped on our shoulders.

Take note.  Big Brother now has lots of smaller private sector siblings, and they're all ganging up on us.  Talk about a dysfunctional family!

Peter


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Lessons learned from a recent war

 

Last year I wrote about the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabak enclave.  At the time, I said:


The startling thing, to me, is the graphic evidence of how the modern battlefield has changed.  In my days in uniform, sure, we were under constant threat from Soviet-supplied aircraft of the Angolan air force;  but they weren't well flown, and missed most of the time.  Smart weapons weren't usually encountered until the latter days of the Border War.  As long as we camouflaged our positions well, and took basic precautions such as digging foxholes and slit trenches, we were more likely than not to emerge unscathed from Angolan air raids.  Indeed, South African artillery operated for months well inside the Angolan air umbrella, and didn't lose a single gun or crew to air attack.

Nowadays, things are very different.  Here's a video clip provided by Azerbaijan, showing how its Turkish-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles and the missiles they carry can interdict any group of Armenian soldiers they can see.  It's literally the truth for Armenia's troops that to gather in a group, even in the protection of a slit trench or under other cover, is basically a death sentence.  No matter what they do, they can be seen;  and if sensors can detect them, they can be killed.  There's no longer any place to hide.  Even camouflage won't conceal them from modern sensors that can see through or around it.


There's more at the link, including the embedded video.

Now comes an article in Small Wars Journal titled "What the United States Military Can Learn from the Nagorno-Karabakh War".  The authors make the same point, along with several others.  Here's an excerpt.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.


This latest war lasted 44 days and left Azerbaijan in control of nearly one-third of the territory in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Unlike previous skirmishes and cease-fire violations, the warfare that erupted in September 2020 included post-modern characteristics and multi-domain combat operations. At only six days into the conflict, Azerbaijan already claimed to have destroyed 250 armored vehicles, a similar number of artillery pieces, and 39 air-defense systems, including a Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system. Armenian forces faced a persistent threat of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that could attrite traditional defenses and minimize their overall defensive capability.

. . .

Systems Employed

Azerbaijan leveraged [its] economic windfall to field several different types of UAS in the conflict. Among the deadliest and most effective was the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 which carries four MAM (Smart Micro Munition) laser-guided missiles. The Azeris developed an imposing UAS arsenal composed of Israeli loitering munitions, also known as “suicide” or “kamikaze” drones that included the Harop and SkyStriker. They also deployed a locally-made version of the Israeli Orbiter-1K small kamikaze drone and converted a number of their old Russian AN-2 biplanes into ISR or suicide UAS. By contrast, Armenia’s UAS fleet consisted of smaller, indigenous systems focused on reconnaissance missions and is generally recognized as less capable than Azerbaijan’s fleet of foreign UAS.

Tactics

The armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia highlighted the continued use and effectiveness of unmanned platforms in low-intensity conflict and its ability to transform smaller, less-funded militaries into more lethal warfighting organizations. The use of UAS, particularly by Azerbaijan, included a range of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, as well as unmanned aerial attack operations involving a variety of different platforms and munitions. The resounding success of UAS in the Nagorno-Karabakh War marks what many consider to be a turning point in modern warfare. For the first time in recorded history, nearly all battle damage was inflicted by unmanned platforms. The attrition of forces and equipment by UAS led to a decisive Azeri victory.

Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD)

At the onset of the conflict, Azerbaijan leveraged Soviet-era AN-2 biplanes to deceive and expose Armenian air defenses. Though decades old and intended to serve as traditional manned aircraft, the biplanes’ conversion to unmanned decoys allowed Azerbaijan to conduct low altitude flights into the highly contested environment—and more importantly—into the weapons engagement zone (WEZ) of Armenian air defenses. These improvised UAS were repurposed as decoys and flown to the front lines to force air defenses to give away their location and enable targeting by TB2s. When the Armenian air defenses targeted, engaged, and destroyed the perceived threats, they inadvertently broadcasted their positions to Azeri unmanned aerial attack platforms that flew at higher altitudes—enabling the Bayraktar TB2 and kamikaze drones to destroy higher-payoff targets like the Armenian air defense systems.

These tactics are reminiscent of Vietnam-era “Wild Weasel” or “Hunter-Killer” concepts, where a bait aircraft would fly at low altitude in an attempt to gain enemy contact or draw fire, and a separate trail aircraft maintained enough lateral and/or vertical separation to immediately engage enemy forces that exposed themselves. By leveraging these tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) with an unmanned fleet, Azerbaijan was able to destroy the vast majority of Armenian air and missile defense equipment and establish tactical air superiority with minimal risk to force or mission. It is worth noting that traditional rotary wing assets were not used during these attacks. The high density of ADA systems across the battlefield presented too great a risk for more expensive manned aviation assets.

. . .

In addition to the apparent lack of Armenian counter-UAS (C-UAS) capability, the strikes clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of more advanced air defense systems when faced with an overwhelming UAS threat.

Fire and Maneuver

A number of reports indicate that Azeri special operations teams, also referred to as “saboteur groups” by both Baku and Yerevan, infiltrated Armenian territory and occupied vacant houses days before combat operations began. Ethnic Armenians in the local area verified these reports and highlighted that “strange men, not Armenians” had established a presence in the town. After initial UAS strikes decimated Armenian positions and opened gaps in defensive lines, the small groups of Azeri operators were able to seize key terrain with minimal resistance. With the use of UAS, the Azeri saboteur groups were then able to call-for-fire, directing accurate rocket, artillery, and air-to-ground fire onto designated targets. It is currently unknown whether these saboteur groups leveraged any type of manned-unmanned-teaming platform (i.e., a One System Remote Video Terminal equivalent) to receive live video, identify targets, or conduct battle damage assessments. These tactics demonstrated a variety of similarities to NATO operations in Afghanistan, where U.S. Special Operations Forces use unmanned platforms and laser range finder/designators to direct laser-guided and precision munitions onto targets, or sparkle targets to aid in directing unguided munitions onto target.

In the highly mountainous terrain of Nagorno-Karabakh, where movement by dismounted troops is slow, cumbersome, and restrictive for large military equipment like tanks, UAS serve as an equalizer that limits the advantage provided by elevated terrain and the cover and concealment it offers. The inhospitality of the terrain is amplified when small areas of low ground within the rising terrain provide little vegetation for concealment. Outposts and fighting positions in mountainous terrain can be identified and destroyed by UAS outfitted with modern sensor payloads and organic weapons. This is particularly applicable to fighting positions without appropriate passive defense measures (i.e., camouflaging, target hardening, etc.). When UAS do not have organic munitions and another UAS or manned platform is unable to support a remote engagement, UAS can transmit highly accurate grid coordinates to artillery or multiple launch rocket systems, enabling immediate “fire-for-effect” capability that yields accuracy to within ten meters of the intended point of impact.


There's more at the link, including a useful analysis of lessons learned.

Once again, I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to military tactics, techniques and technology.  Our war in southern Africa was a whole lot less sophisticated (although no less deadly) than the modern battlefield has become.  Effectively, the era of massed troops is over on the high-tech battlefield.  Large numbers of troops have become nothing more than large numbers of targets to an enemy equipped with the latest technology.

The USA has always relied on its technological edge to give it operational superiority over opponents.  The Nagorno-Karabak conflict demonstrates that even a minor power can now buy off-the-shelf systems and weapons that can match US capabilities, and render the result on the battlefield a lot less certain than it used to be.  Imagine if Iraq had had such systems when we invaded there in 2003 . . . we'd have paid a much higher price in blood than we did, even if we eventually won.  Whether or not modern American people would stand for that is questionable.  We've grown a lot softer as a nation since our grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought World War II.

Peter


We may be standing on part of another planet

 

I was a bit mind-boggled to read this article.


Scientists seeking to explain a series of seemingly inexplicable formations deep within the Earth’s surface may have found an explanation: They came from outer space.

Researchers with Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration said in a recently published paper that the “continent-sized Large Low Shear Velocity provinces” identified in Earth’s mantle—essentially giant formations of rock the origins of which scientists have struggled for decades to explain—may have been formed by Theia, the proto-planet thought to have slammed into the ancient Earth billions of years ago. 

The collision between Earth and Theia is hypothesized to have ejected a significant portion of Earth into outer space; those fragments would have eventually coalesced under Earth’s gravity to form the Moon.


There's more at the link.

I'm no geologist, but given the temperatures in and beneath the earth's mantle, I'd assumed that any bits and pieces of another planet would long since have melted and combined with Earth's own planetary material in an unidentifiable slag.  Looks like I was wrong.

The thought that we may be standing (at a few miles' remove, of course) on the remains of another planet, one that formed our Moon out of the ejecta caused by its collision with Earth, is . . . somehow surreal.

Peter