Sunday, April 21, 2019

Moon Over Tripoli

Eight years ago we had quite a conversation around this joint (as well as some amusement, if such a thing can be had about people killing and dying...) about the goin's on in the North African desert.

What surprised me at the time was that a handful of the barstaff here - principally our long-gone and lamented seydlitz - were in favor of the military intervention (he makes the case in the comments here, and laid out his case in more expansive terms here) and had hopes that giving Gadaffi his conge' would mean better times for Libya and, by inference, for the southern Mediterranean rim.

Well...that didn't work out very well. Libya has, since 2011, devolved into a semi- (or completely, depending on your definition) failed state. So far as I can tell there is a "government" in the old capital of Tripoli, but this "government" is, in most parts of the country, purely notional and those parts are in the best post-colonial, post-dictatorial tradition swarming with outlaws, rebels, armed insurgents, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

Among these goofs is one of those ridiculously-comic-self-parodying-but-still-murderous caudillos of the Moon Over Parador variety who calls himself Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar (or Hifter). This joker was tapped by the "government" to run the shambolic Libyan Army back in 2014 and has, as you'd expect from someone who dresses up like this -
- declared himself Grand High Mufti Emperor For Life (or something) and has been prosecuting the civil war against the "government".

Having been involved in this rotating clusterfuck eight years ago and seen the worthlessness of the expense of cash and high explosive you'd think that the United States would have the good sense to stay out of this goat rodeo and, almost surprisingly, that was the case until last Friday. The official position was the Libya's problems are Libya's, which seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable position for the US to take.

But I had not reckoned with the Very Stable Genius in the Oval Office, who Friday blarted out his love and support for this Haftar jamoke: "The President recognized Field Marshal Hifter’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

The "democratic system" nonsense is utter crap, of course. This goon wants to be Field-Marshal-President-for-Life, and that's the most Trumpy thing about him; Orange Foolius luuuurves him some dictators, and this dude is just the latest in the long string of jackbooted lovers the tangerine-hued shitgibbon has taken.

The only good news? It doesn't appear that the US will waste any actual blood and treasure on backing the Alfonse Simms of Tobruk.
But, the hell do you run a country with a doofus like this at the wheel?

Friday, April 19, 2019

April Warbirds

I've been out of touch.  Plus have been busy trying to keep up with the grandchildren.  And the grandchildren's children, ages from two to nine, amazing to me is where they get their energy.

Anyway, shown below is an Me-262A-1 Schwalbe (Swallow) of Adolf Galland's legendary Jagdverband 44.  This particular picture of it sitting on the tarmac at München-Riem is courtesy of Wolfgang Muehlbauer:

This specific ME-262, with the number five shown, is legendary itself.  It was flown by Unteroffizier Eduard Schallmoser and it lost its tail rudder during a close encounter with a USAAF B-26 "Martin Maurauder" somerwhere near Memmingen on 20 April 1945.  According to aviation author Robert Dorr, the pilot Eduard Schallmoser, parachuted to safety.  "Schallmoser said later that he landed in his mother’s back yard with an injured knee. Before heading back to the base and then a hospital, he enjoyed a plateful of her pancakes."

Lots of photos, artists renditions, and models of old number five.  Some autographed.  Seems fantastic.  Did it happen?   I love the story so I vote yes.  My grandson's father-in-law, a former jet jock is doubtful.  He surmises Eduard landed elsewhere and went home to see Mom before returning to duty?  Who could blame him?  What my great grandson wanted to know was did he get the Apfelküchle or the Kaiserschmarrn?  Below is a photo of Eduard next to his mother in the family garden. Photo courtesy of Downed Warbirds twitter account:

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Kuznetsov Retiring?

No, not Yevgeny, so you hockey fans of the Washington Capitols do not have to worry.  The speculation is that the Russian Navy may decommission their only Aircraft Carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.  She was launched 34 years ago and named after the Admiral of the Fleet and Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II, Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov.  She was built in a Ukrainian ship yard.  Her sister ship, the Varyag, was sold to the Chinese Navy and is now the Liaoning. 

The Kuznetsov has had a troubled history.  While on her last deployment to Syria she had to be accompanied by an ocean-going tugboat in case of propulsion failure.  During that transit she belched out huge plumes of black smoke.   After returning to her home port at the Northern Fleet Base in Severomorsk she was transferred to a ship repair yard in Murmansk.  Plans were to replace her power plant and completely modernize her electronics suite.  Work was supposed to be completed by late 2020.  However, with the failure and sinking of drydock PD-50 in which she was being retrofitted, that may not happen.  In fact there is much discussion in the Russian press as to whether the retrofit is worth it and several have called for her to be decommissioned.

So, if she is decommissioned, the question in my mind will be:  Do the Russians know something we don't about the effectiveness and vulnerabilities of carriers in the 21st Century considering current state of the art in A2/AD weapon systems?   Maybe not.  They have proposed and reportedly started early design and development of a super-carrier of their own, the Shtorm or 23000E.  That carrier has been postponed by Putin.  But it is still part of the Russian State Armament 10-year plan.  Russian officials quoted in Sputnik claim construction on it will start sometime after 2024.  And they are talking of possible exports to India.

Too bad about the Kuznetsov.  The guy she was named for was an interesting sailor.  Born and raised in a small village near Arkhangelsk, the son of a Serbian immigrant father.  He lied about his age and enlisted when he was 15 as an able bodied seaman during the Russian Civil War.  He served with a Red Flotilla on the Dvina River.  I have to wonder if he saw action against Detroit's 339th Infantry during the North Russia Intervention?  Or against Brits, Canadians, French, and Italians who were also there?   22 years later as People's Commissar of the Navy he disregarded orders from Stalin and put the Navy on battle stations several hours before the start of Operation Barbarossa.  The Soviet Army and Air Force were caught with their pants down because of Stalin's paranoia that the British, perfidious Albion, were trying to get him in a war with Hitler and refusing to respond to Luftwaffe recon overflights. Some claim that Kuznetsov saved the Soviet Navy from destruction by that alert.

Kuznetsov was later (1947 and 48) put on trial by Stalin and demoted, then eventually rehabilitated.  In 1955 Zhukov removed him from his post.  Not until 14 years after his death was he exonerated of all charges, reinstated to his former rank, and perceived as one of the most brilliant men in the history of the Soviet Navy.  He has been praised for providing the ideas and concepts for building up a blue water navy during the 60s and 70s.  Even though those ideas were carried out after his fall from grace by schmoozer and political Admiral, Sergei Gorshkov, who had the influence with the Communist Party's Central Committee to pull it off.   To the left is a photo of Kuznetsov at the Yalta Conference in 1944 standing with CNO/COMINCH US Fleet, Admiral King.

UPDATE:  Kuznetsov was a prolific writer writing many books and articles on naval tactics and strategy.  And long after his death, his widow turned over much of his later writings to the press.  Unfortunately the only book of his translated into English that I know of is historical:  "Memoirs of Wartime Minister of the Navy" by Progress Publishers.

There are a few excerpts on the internet, for example:

UPDATE #2Looks like they will not put her out to pasture. 
Yesterday Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that repair and modernization of the aircraft-carrying cruiser "Admiral Kuznetsov" will be completed next year.  “At the moment, work is being carried out in accordance with the master plan schedule. Technical readiness of the cruiser is 25%. Its repair and modernization is expected to be completed by the end of 2020, ” Shoigu said on Tuesday at a conference call at the Russian Defense Ministry.   He also mentioned several other Naval projects:  Two new Ivan Gren Class amphibious Assault ships, ten new stealthy Derzky Class corvettes, and two new Admiral Gorshkov frigates.

Monday, April 1, 2019

President Baldrick's Cunning Plan

As part of the massive GOP performance art project to convince their idiot rubes base that the patrie is en danger of being overrun by hordes of illegal flesh-eating zombie immigrants (or something) the Trump Administration has announced that it will cut off all aid to three Central American (or, "Mexican", as we MAGAts like to call them) nations; Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
We can save a lot of time and nonsense by beginning this discussion with the acceptance that there is no actual "border crisis", that immigration is not an existential threat to the United States, and that anyone who attempts to convince you that #1 and #2 are actual things is trying to sell you something rather like a bridge, or some Nigerian oil minister connections.

The thing about this, though, is that given the conditions on the ground in central America this is either the stupidest Stupid Trump Thing Ever or perhaps the most cunning of Steven Milleresque Cunning Plans.

Life in much of Central America is pretty Hobbsean; nasty, brutish, and short. We, the People, own a shitload of the responsibility for that, given our repeated and malicious meddling in Central American affairs ranging from the support of loathsome caudillos from Arias through Somoza to Rios Montt all the way back to the diddling of American corporations such as United Fruit and the filibustering of William Walker.

One of the main reasons there ARE troubles south of the US-Mexican border is because the U.S. has helped ensure that conditions in those places - never conducive to good government and social stability to begin with, given their Spanish-colonial and post-colonial history - have made it difficult for the locals to simply survive.

When I talked about this almost ten years ago I pointed out the obvious:
"The real issue - the one Which Dare Not Speak Its Name - is that the institutional poverty, misgovernance and social maladjustment of most Latin American countries is so profound and so destructive that to address it would take every penny that the U.S. has spent on poorly planned foreign adventures and more. Much more.

So instead we get this idiotic argument that all we need to do is fence these little heatherns out and everything wil be Good. God will once again be White and in His Heaven, the food will magically get harvested, processed, cooked and served by Real (i.e. white) Americans who will suddenly, magically, want to work for the pittance we want to pay for these jobs to prevent our food, clothing and service costs from reflecting what it would cost to pay humans actually living wages to do these things.

As Hadrian himself might have said: Nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.

It is your business when your neighbour's house is on fire."
If, indeed, your neighbor's house is on fire it would seem the heights of ignorance to turn off the little garden hose you've been using to help wet down the flames.

But that would be assuming that you WANT to put out the fire.

As I've also said here before; the GOP in its current incarnation has nothing substantive to offer the non-plutocrat/non-theocrat constituency. Its entire policy agenda consists of returning the U.S. to the social, political, and environmental conditions of 1899. A New Gilded Age, in other words, with everything that implies for those of us not Rockefellers, Goulds, or Carnegies.

So, if the GOP is to gain power in a representative polity it MUST present the temporarily-embarassed-millionaires with another reason to vote Republican. Hence the booga-booga scares about tricksy transgender ladyboys lurking in the girls' bathroom. Hence the frantic insistence in the God-given right to Own Every Semiautomatic Weapon Ever Made. Hence the - as here - insistence that the Browns are Coming To Kill Us All.

And I think this is what this is.

If you treat it as actual foreign policy it's blindingly moronic. You have internal problems in neighboring nations, so you ensure that the relative pittance you've been devoting to helping those neighbors ameliorate the problems doesn't get used as a lever to try and force their dysfunctional governments into being more functional, but simply goes away. You're not trying to solve anything with it. You're just pulling it out from under them.

But...if you treat it was a sort of stupid-person's-idea-of-a-smart-idea that's really intended to ensure that those problems continue and provide you with your immigration Reichstag fire?

That's actually a stupid kind of cunning. You're making trouble for your nation, but making political gains for your party.

And that, my friends, is the State of the Nation.


Friday, March 22, 2019


Interesting story on the history blog regarding Herodotus, who some called the world's first historian.  Others apparently called him a fabricator.  And I have to admit that when I first read the story of 'gold-mining-ants' in his Histories I suspected he may have had one too many cups of grape.

And his description of  Egyptian 'baris' boats on the Nile that had no ribs, and dragged a two-talent (~52 kilograms) stone behind them on the river bottom, and were made of thorn trees took a lot of ribbing by those doubters who didn't believe such a craft ever existed.  But he has at last been exonerated by archeologists.  They excavated such a craft in the Nile Delta at Thonis-Heraclion.

Troop carriers perhaps?  Maybe not as they would have had to be towed upriver.  But going downriver that stone drogue being dragged behind would have made it a stable platform, slowed it down, and kept it in the main channel.  I've seen drift boats on the Wynoochee and Cowlitz rivers do something similar dragging a heavy chain on the bottom when fishing for salmon or steelhead.  Illegal as hell, and subject to heavy fine, but it's done anyway.

And the 'gold-mining-ants'  turned out to be somewhat true also - just a bad translation of the old Persian word for "marmot" with that for "mountain ant".  According to French ethnologist Michel Peissel anyway.  He says that local people in northern Pakistan have collected gold dust for many generations that had been inadvertently brought to the surface by marmots when digging their burrows.  

So I am confident that in the future there will be verification of some of Herodotus' other not-so-tall tales.  Maybe some budding archeologists can find traces of Phoenician sailors circumnavigating Africa two millennia prior to the Portuguese?

Or of Massegetae Queen Tomyris beheading Cyrus the the Great of Persia?   That may be a tough one as Cyrus' tomb was raided for grave goods and has lain empty of his bones for probably hundreds of years.   Plus Iran's Supreme Leader and his ayatollahs certainly won't allow any historical investigations about some female warrior besting  the man who has played such " a crucial role in defining the national identity of modern Iran."   Regardless, I'm waiting for the movie about Tomyris, starring the lovely and exotic Kazakhstanka Almira Tursyn.  To be released soon by KazakhFilm.

Update:   Xenophon claims Cyrus died peacefully in his sleep.   But he had no first hand knowledge, only what Cyrus the Younger told him.  But Cyrus the Younger was five or six generations removed and had an interest in vindicating the family name.  Sounds like a biased source to me.   I'll stick with Herodotus and the Kazakhs.

Monday, March 11, 2019


I honestly don't know what to say.
"Under White House direction, the administration is drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil -- plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them, according to a dozen administration officials and people briefed on the matter."
Every time I think "Jesus, this HAS to be the stupidest thing this idiot can do." it's like he rubs his tiny hands and burbles "Here, hold my bucket of KFC!".
WTF? Seriously? If I was the chancellor of Germany or the Prime Minister of Japan, I'd be drafting a memo that translated "Well, don't let the door hit you in the ass" into nice diplomatese. If this fucking idiot intended to stop farkling about the globe killing people and breaking things? Fine. Let's shut up shop and go home. But he hasn't, and he won't. Christ, he couldn't get a couple of thousand jamokes out of Syria. How the hell is AFRICOM going to manage without Ramstein, or Landstuhl? How do medivac flights manage to go direct from Baghram to Dover AFB? How the fuck does Seventh Fleet manage without Sasebo?

Jesus wept, this guy.

Oh, but Hilary was going to start WW3.

Sorry, I forgot.

Update 3/12: Fred Kaplan has a worthwhile dissection of the latest piece of stable genius to come out of Trumpworld; the new defense budget. Packed in with all the other pork is this bit of special brilliance:
"For much of this century, ever since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, presentations of the defense budget have been divided into “Base” (the routine requests for weapons, research and development, personnel, etc.) and “Overseas Contingency Operations,” also known as OCO (the costs of fighting wars). The Budget Control Act, passed by Congress in 2011, set a cap on the Base but, for obvious reasons, gave the Pentagon flexibility in managing OCO.

However, in this year’s budget, the Pentagon has come up with a third category: “OCO for Base,” which the comptroller’s report defines as supplies, equipment, and other defense items that it’s including in the OCO budget “in order to comply with the Base defense caps in current law.”

In other words, the Pentagon’s senior budget official is admitting that he’s cheating. It is as if a dietician set a cap on how many calories a patient can consume—only to hear the patient say that he ate an extra tub of ice cream after dinner, but that’s all right because he’s not counting it as “calories.”

The scale of cheating is pretty extravagant. The budget’s request for Overseas Contingency Operations—the legitimate expenses of fighting in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere—is $66.7 billion, a slight reduction from last year’s $68.8 billion. But the “OCO for Base” request is $97.9 billion.

The Pentagon’s senior budget official is admitting that he’s cheating." (italics mine)
Cheating by having the balls to tell the people - the taxpayers - to their faces what you're cheating them out of?

If that's not pure Trumpian ballsiness I don't know what is.


These idiots DON'T know how to play this game.

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Tens of thousands of Daeshi brides and children have streamed out of the last caliphate stronghold in Baghouz.  And also hundreds of surrendering Daeshi fighters.  Many appear to be unapologetic, unashamed of their allegience, and still radicalized.  Some of the brides in refugee camps are chanting "<i>Islamic State is great, Islamic State will stay."</i>  Some of the surrendered ethnic Turkmen Daeshi fighters are asking for asylum in Turkey with <i>"brother Erdogan"</i>.

Per CINCCENT General Votel:   <i>“Observations by our men & women on the ground highlight that the ISIS population being evacuated from the remaining vestiges of the caliphate largely remain unrepentant, unbroken & radicalized”</i>... <i>“what we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families & preservation of their capabilities”</i>