Sunday, October 7, 2018

Whistling...no, partying...past the graveyard.

Perhaps the most bizarre part of the infamous National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) draft EIS is not that it advocates easing up on the emissions standards for American-made vehicles. Comforting business at the expense of the public is, after all, the preferred approach of the Republican Party and the current Administration in particular. The GOP has become not just explicitly the Party of Calhoun but the Party of John D. ("the public be damned!") Rockefeller.

No, it's the part that's buried on page 37 of this sucker. It reads:
"Global mean surface temperature is projected to increase by approximately 3.48°C (6.27°F) under the No Action Alternative by 2100. Implementing the lowest emissions alternative(Alternative 7)would increase this projected temperature rise by 0.001°C (0.002°F), while implementing the highest emissions alternative (Alternative 1)would increase projected temperature rise by 0.003°C (0.005°F) the No Action Alternative."
(NHTSA, 2018)
I want to just stop and think about that for a moment.

This is the U.S. government - and not just the U.S. government, but a U.S. government headed by a man who insists that anthropogenic climate change is some sort of gimmick cooked up with the nefarious yellow Reds to kneecap the Trump Organization's profits - saying casually that the mean surface temperature of the Earth is going to climb almost 4 degrees C in roughly 80 years. Ho, hum. Nothing to see here.

This is not sane or sensible. This is a "What the fucking ACTUAL fuck!?!" moment.

To put this in perspective, historians strongly suspect that considerably more limited climatic fluctuations contributed in large measure to economic and military problems in the Roman Empire in both the Third and Fourth Centuries:
"(t)he crucial development was the severe drought of the fourth century that lasted nearly forty years, one of the worst in 2000 years. Documented by the Dulan-Wulan tree-ring chronology, prevailing drought conditions began in 338 a.d. and continued until 377, when wetter conditions returned. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (enso) Pacific Ocean climate pattern is a candidate as a broader climate system cause.Both the Douglas Fir data from New Mexico and the kauri data from New Zealand are sensitive to tropical Pacific enso forcing,the most geographically pervasive mode of climate forcing on earth. The extent of this drought in time and space suggests that it played a critical role in driving the mobile pastoral federation that coalesced around the name of “Huns” somewhere east of the Don River, to seek pastures and predation farther to the west and south. The dendrodata confirm speculation about an environmental factor in the Hunnic invasion that goes back at least a century. Historical sources indicate that the Huns reached the Don River by the 370s and crossed it c. 375. Their attacks in the area north of the Black Sea drove the Goths to flee into the Roman Empire and ultimately to attack it, destroying an emperor and his army in 378 at Adrianople (now Idirne, Turkey), one of the greatest military defeats in Roman history."
(McCormick et al, 2012)
This drought was probably the result of a slight cooling period that is estimated to have been less than 1-1.5 degrees C.
(from McCormick et al, 2012)

The temperature change offhandedly predicted by the NHTSA EIS, on the other hand, is closer to the lower bound of what we call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which began approximately 55 million years before present. This event is tied to some fairly spectacular changes in terrestrial and marine ecosystems:
"The onset of the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum has been linked to an initial 5 °C temperature rise and to extreme changes in Earth's carbon cycle. Fossil records for many organisms show major turnovers. For example, in the marine realm, a mass extinction of benthic foraminifera, a global expansion of subtropical dinoflagellates, and an appearance of excursion, planktic foraminifera and calcareous nanofossils all occurred during the beginning stages of PETM. On land, modern mammal orders (including primates) suddenly appear in Europe and in North America. Sediment deposition changed significantly at many outcrops and in many drill cores spanning this time interval." (Wikipedia, 2018)"
I mean, we're talking about the rise of an entire ecosystem. The evolution of a small Labrador-sized forest critter into Mister Ed. The emergence of what would eventually become Mitch McConnell and other, intelligent, hominids.

A normal, intelligent-human-being response to this sort of change would be to scream and run around in circles like your pants were on fire.

I honestly have NO idea what a world 4 degrees hotter than this one would look like, but it sure as hell will be different. Wetter, certainly; most if not all the sub-polar land ice will melt, and sea levels will rise some measurable degree. Many major cities, located along the coast or in low-lying coastal plains, will have to be relocated, effectively rebuilt, or be flooded. Coastal structures of all sorts will have to be moved, or protected. Storms will become larger, and more intense, and Infrastructures will have to be hardened to protect from them. Out current global food supply system that provides bananas in the winter and lettuce year-round will have to change in ways it will be difficult to anticipate and may be impossible to sustain.

These costs in money alone will be immense.

Croplands will change; some becoming too wet, some too dry, others simply "migrating" to find climatic conditions suitable for the types of crops, and those may have to change, in some cases dramatically. Some will not be capable of such short-term adjustment, and humans may find that, for example, apples or cherries are luxury items, grown in tiny amounts and offered to a tiny, ultra-rich minority.

Huge portions of the tropics may become effectively uninhabitable, with summer temperatures rising to levels beyond which unprotected humans can reasonably work outdoors. Rainfalls will shift, with some areas getting too much, some too little. Humans will have to move towards, or away, from those areas which can no longer sustain practical agriculture, lack accessible potable water, or are just too hot, too wet, or too dry to live without heroic engineering accommodations.

This is - or should be - a national-emergency-type scenario, a WW2-level sort of national mobilization but against an "enemy" that cannot be defeated. The entire world will change in ways that are nearly impossible to predict with great confidence, other than "it's going to be a really, really big fucking change". Wars will erupt over access to water, or cropland, or DRY land. Entire populations may migrate, with all the associated horrors - Google "mfecane", if you have the stomach for it - and there's no guarantee that any particular military, or political, solution will be effective responding to those migrations. But one would think a prudent, normal intelligent human reaction would be to 1) try and do everything possible to avert the result, and 2) do what one can to anticipate and mitigate the harm if it does occur.

But we are not seeing a normal-intelligent-human-being sort of reaction to this.

The people that run the United States - and I'm not sparing the "liberals" of the Democratic Party here; if they had the sense God gave a goat they'd be running around like their hair was on fire about this - seem uninterested in this coming World War C.

And that, as much as anything else, is what this reminds me of. If you haven't yet, read Max Brooks World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse First, just because it's a cracking fun read, a classic horror tale.

But mostly because of the point that it makes: that human nature hates to look brutal truths straight on. The book is full of "good people" - doctors, soldiers, politicians, scientists - who hide or deny or evade or just refuse to scream for help in the face of what is increasingly obviously a desperately terrifying future. Unlike the Trumpkins, who are simply doing this to make money before the disaster sweeps us away, they all have good reasons; they fear panic, or political collapse, or dictatorship, or being wrong, or causing a backlash. But the book makes the horrible point that, in the words of one of the characters: “Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. That's not stupidity or weakness, that's just human nature.”

The Trumpkins are just the weapons-grade stupid endmember. The entire human race, nearly every human government, seems eager to avoid the inevitable conclusions made evident by this scientific prediction. The collective response seems to be at best a massive yawn, at worst a deliberate fingers-in-the-ears-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you denial.

The entire business is just depressing as hell.
Maybe we'd respond sooner, and better, if it was Huns.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Trump's Guarantee

Trump gives Netanyahu guarantees on the freedom of Israeli operations in Syria.  This comes after Russia starts shipping S300 systems to Syria because of the IL-20M shootdown.   What was specifically guaranteed?  It was not said. 


I am assuming that the Trump did NOT pledge direct American support to future IAF airstrikes against the Hez and/or Iranian weapon shipments to the Hez.  But <i>'assuming'</i> is well known to make asses out of many in the past, myself included.   And the <i>'butthead-in-chief'</i> has been known to make do moronic stuff.   So I for one am hoping that his guarantees to Netanyahu are as meaningless as were his many past promises to  voters, veterans, business partners, subcontractors, etc, etc ad infinitum.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Syrian Air Defense Force

How did a country that used to have one of the better air defense systems in the Mideast turn into such a clown-show?  How do they manage to shoot down a Russian aircraft, their ally, with Russian SAMs?



The reason has to be the civil war.  This forced a major change in the organization of the Syrian Armed Forces and the share of resources.   The primary threat to Syria became jihadi militants and irregulars.  Ergo, the Syrian Air Defense Force ended up at the scheisse end of the priority queue.  Plus the rebels captured several airfields and air defense installations and destroyed or damaged a number of AD systems and killed, captured or converted their crews.  Many of those bases have now been recaptured and are starting to be re-manned with new or upgraded systems received form Uncle Vlad.  But they are still a low priority for a country that is only saved from bankruptcy by the charity of Tehran and Moscow.   Then there is the Israeli Air Force.  They have years of experience going up against Syrian SAMs and seem to be able to take them out easily, which make the SAM crews extremely nervous.  There must be a lot of pressure on them to live up to the propaganda.  And how well trained are they?  There is also a rumor that some of the crews are partially manned by Hezbollah, supposedly to train them for a possible future transfer of systems to Lebanon.

The Russians, after first blaming the French Navy, have finally admitted it was their own allies that 'inadvertently' shot down their ELINT & RADINT capable IL-20M with 15 souls aboard.  But they maintain it was Israel's fault for using the IL-20 to mask their approach.  Maybe so, or not?  We'll see if the radar tracks and timing are ever published.  The S-200VE, 'Vega-E, SAM system that brought down the IL-20 was supposed to have been upgraded with IFF capabilities.  They obviously did not work.  Perhaps due to an ill-trained crew, or perhaps due to Israeli jamming, or perhaps the aircraft IFF transponder was broken or turned off or deliberately using a ghost signal.  I am more inclined to think the SAM crews were in a panic and fired off some missiles on a 'ballistic trajectory' and 'without guidance' like they did back in April for the US/UK/FR missile strike.   The warhead on the S-200 is 217 kilos (478 pounds), approximately half the weight in HE and the other half in 37,000 fragmentation pellets.  It is triggered by either radar proximity fuse or command signal.   I have no clue as to the blast radius.

I am neither a fan of Putin nor Netanyahu.  But I do admire the Russian and the Israeli people, with the exception of the vicious right wing in both of those countries, and in my own country.  Let's hope those yahoos don't get the US into a shooting war with Russia, if Putin or Shoigu decides to retaliate against the IAF with their S-400s they have in Syria and it escalates.  Maybe 'moderate dog' Mattis can keep Trumpkin out of it, but the Congress would want in on it, both parties. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

17 Years

We have been in Afghanistan now for 17 years.  The reason we went in was 9/11, but Seal Team 8 killed the man responsible for that six years ago.  Why are we still there?   This war is older than some of my grandchildren and all of my great-grandchildren.  When do we get out of there? 

Alexander the Great spent less than a year there.  He arrived in May 327 BC and left in March 326 BC after renaming a city after himself (Alexandria of Arachosia).  The name did not stick.  Soon after he left the Pashtuns gave it back its old name, Kandahar.   But he was smart enough to get out of Dodge City in just ten months.   Getting out was something the Brits and the Soviets learned the hard way.   But that is something we haven't learned yet.  We should rename Kandahar, maybe to FlatBush, or Obamaville, or Trumptown and then abandon the place.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Russia's Mil Games (Update)

Mark Galeotti has an article at Foreign Policy magazine regarding Russia's tank biathlon and other military games.   Galeotti was at Alabino to witness the games, or at least those that were held there, as some were held in other Russian cities or overseas in some events.   Galeotti has written several books on the Russian politics, the Russian underworld, and the Russian military.  He has written articles for Jane's Intelligence Review, for War On The Rocks, for The Moscow Times and others.   He has a blog titled In Moscow's Shadows, and is on twitter at @MarkGaleotti.

His trip was sponsored by HBO Sports.  So will HBO broadcast a special? 
A little out of their line I would think, but then the quest for ratings overrules all else no matter the network.  They have been branching out away from their traditional shows on basketball, baseball, boxing, football (both American football and soccer).  They have been doing specials on Trump-hating Scotsmen, wing-suiting, deep sea free diving by poor Austronesian fishermen, child camel jockeys some starting as young as two, crossword biathlons, etc.  So why not tank biathlons.


I don't agree with the title of Galeotti's article in FP.  He, or his FP editor calls the games "Decadent and Depraved".   Makes it sound like the the gladitorial combat in the Colosseum of the Roman Empire.   Yeah, they are a public spectacle, bread and circus for Ivan and Katyusha, but I would not call them depraved.  But the article is worth a read.  Galeotti was there and witnessed it.  He has some insights that never occurred to me in the 26 July post on the biathlon here on this blog.  But I note that Galeotti agrees that one of the key reasons for staging the Russian Mil Games is for arms sales.

The link to Galeotti's article is here:  the-international-army-games-are-decadent-and-depraved


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Following Ho

Bùi Tín died last week.  He was a 90 year old former Việt Minh and later disillusioned dissident who fled to France.  He participated in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ as a political officer.  After the Geneva Accords during Operation Passage to Freedom he continued as a political cadre working to convince North Vietnamese Catholics to remain in the north.  Next he helped to bring northerners and repatriated southerners below the 17th parallel to join the NLF aka the Việt Cộng.  But he found his true calling as a journalist working for both an NVA Army newspaper and then the People's Daily (Nhân Dân), the official newspaper of the Vietnamese Communist Party, formerly famously known as the Việt Pravda.

Tín came to international attention in 1973 when a member of the NVA contingent of the Four Party Commission at Saigons Tân Sơn Nhứt Airbase.   As a journalist himself he became a darling of the Western press and their first meeting with one of their own profession who was from the north.  He understood PR and milked the situation by shaking hands with the last U.S. servicemen boarding a plane to leave country.  And he gave to one of the last, Sgt Max Bielke USAF, a gift package of Ho Chi Minh postcards and a bamboo scroll painting of a pagoda while American TV cameras were rolling.

Tín defected to Paris in 1990 after becoming embittered by many of the policies of those that followed Ho into power in Hanoi, e.g. Đồng, Duẩn, Chinh, & Thọ. - especially their intrigues and infighting and repressive methods in land reform and military/political purges.   He continued as a journalist in France and became an author.  His memoir "Following Ho Chi Minh" published in Vietnamese, French and English.  A good read if you can find a copy.  He testified in front of the US Congress about American MIAs and helped to put to bed the "live-POWs-still-imprisoned" conspiracy theory pushed by many activists and a congresscritter or two at the time.  Following his PR savvy, he took the opportunity while in Congress to greet and embrace former POW John McCain, again while the cameras were rolling.

Back in 1954 at Điện Biên Phủ he was reportedly wounded during a French airstrike.  He was with the 304th Division, which had responsibility for 'Isabelle' the southernmost of the eight French striong points.  Isabelle held the reserve airstrip and was defended by a battalion of Foreign Legionnaires from the 3e REI, plus a battalion of North African tirailleurs from the 1st Algerian Rifle Regiment, two French artillery batteries, and a tank platoon (Chaffee M-24s).  Plus there were about 1500 auxiliaries many of them White Tai highlanders, some of them light infantry, others logistics personnel.  The 304th started light operations against Isabelle in mid February.  It was invested by trenches and isolated in late March and held out until early May before falling.  Tín's unit the 304th was line infantry but they were supported by a bountiful gift of 105mm howitzers that were left behind in Red China when Chiang's Nationalist Army deployed for Taiwan.

Fitting, or perhaps just a coincidence, that he died just a few days prior to the 73rd anniversary of the August Revolution, which is when he first joined the Việt Minh as a young 17 year old.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

This is (One Big Reason) Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Well, it's official.
The president* (as Pierce likes to call him, complete with the Maris Asterisk) signed the "John S. McCain, Jr. National Defense Authorization Act". Unsurprisingly, this monster is loaded with goodies for the armed forces, completely in keeping with the GOP-standard line about how We the People are headed for another Pearl Harbor because we just don't have enough things that can kill people and blow shit up.
(Oh, and apparently there's some pretty appalling idiocy in there handing out pork to GOP pals)
Some of this largesse seems to have some utility - apparently the USN really does have some issues with operational numbers - but the whole thing is just another uptick in the ridiculous "let's-throw-money-at-guns" Washington Rules idiocy that is unquestioned in D.C. and in the public press.

Nobody outside the usual dirty hippies of the Left is asking why the hell, in a remarkably Great-Power-untroubled world, We the People need all this stuff.

And, of course, nobody - no legislators, no cable talking news heads, no cabinet officers, certainly not the man in the Oval Office - is questioning or, perhaps, even wondering, why so much of this stuff will end up chasing raggedy-assed villagers around the mountains of Central Asia or the Horn of Africa or the islets of the Philippine archipelago in an endless pursuit of ideology and resentment grown of the death and destruction caused by last year's blowing-shit-up money.

Somehow poor people getting medical care, or building new highways and bridges, or replacing antiquated power plants with new technologies, are just "not affordable". But all this deadly bling? Hell, yeah! Let's throw MORE money at it!

All this would be a hell of a nonsensical way to spend the public coin even if we weren't in the process of handing our wealthiest citizens a massive tax break. But now?

And, yet, what seems to be the biggest single source of public outrage about this bloated monstrosity of a "defense" spending bill is that somehow the guy with the pen failed to tongue-bath the guy that the monstrosity was named for.

Dear Christ. WASSSSSSSSSSSSF.

Update 8/15: And to remind us again that presidential "signing statements" are one of the most pernicious anti-republican bits of claptrap floating around the Swamp, Comrade President sneaks in a bit of backhander to his pal Pootie:
Included in the bill is "...a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”
"Faithfully execute the laws"? Of course not. That's for the Little People.

And Congress, paper-trained by years of deference to Executive power, and cowardice in exercising their duties as the representatives of We the People, will do nothing but cringe, assuming they even bother to react to this.

This isn't even a Left or Right issue. The Chief Executive's job is to execute; execute the laws as written. If he's got a problem with that he needs to get his party to change the laws in Congress, or rely on the judiciary to strike them down. That We the People accept these nonsensical pronouncements is another symptom of the deep rot that has set into our putative Republic.

But, mind you, engaged and intelligent citizens of a vital republic wouldn't have voted in the millions for a tangerine-hued real-estate grifter that lies like a cow shits - endlessly and everywhere. Or for a party the promises to hurt the vast majority of them. A subtle reminder; if your "No. 1 motivating factor is Second Amendment issues" you are a goddamn moron who should not be trusted with the franchise, let alone a firearm.

But this is your republic, America. This is why We can't have nice things.