Saturday, December 31, 2011

31 December 2011 Circling the star, watch your speed!

          Millions of dollars are being spent as cities around the globe launch fireworks skyward in celebration of the planet’s completion of another voyage around the star we call “the sun.”  This orbital completion is easily described as:
          “The sidereal year is the time taken for the Earth to complete one revolution of its orbit, as measured against a fixed frame of reference (such as the fixed stars, Latin sidera, singular sidus). Its average duration is 365.256363004 mean solar days (365 d 6 h 9 min 9.76 s) (at the epoch J2000.0 = January 1, 2000, 12:00:00 TT).
          The earth is revolving around its North/South axis.  At the equator, the circumference of the Earth is 40,070 kilometers, and the day is 24 hours long so the speed is 1670 kilometers/hour ( 1070 miles/hr). This decreases by the cosine of your latitude so that at a latitude of 45 degrees, cos(45) = .707 and the speed is .707 x 1670 = 1180 kilometers/hr. You can use this formula to find the speed of rotation at any latitude.  Simultaneously the planet is orbiting the sun at Average orbital speed of  29.78 km/s   or, 107,200 km/h. 
          The sun and its planets are simultaneously orbiting the center of the Milky Way galaxy.  The Sun lies between 25,000 and 28,000 light years from the Galactic Centre, and its speed within the galaxy is about 220 kilometers per second, so that it completes one revolution every 225–250 million years. This revolution is known as the Solar System's galactic year.  At present, we do not celebrate this event. 
            Given the immense distances in the Milky Way and other galaxies, the possibility that we may never find another sentient species is quite high.  These distances make interplanetary war and intra-galactic war likely to occur only in the pages of science-fiction novels.  
            That provides us something to celebrate here in our own little corner of the universe.  Fireworks are not necessary, just an appreciation for the laws of physics that govern the universe’s functions.  Therefore, to anyone who may be reading the assorted lunacies that I post, thanks for riding along with me, and Happy New Year.  May your 2012 bring you health and happiness.
            Tonight’s menu:  Oven-roasted prime rib roast
                                    Baked russet potatoes
                                    Brussels sprouts braised in heavy cream and nutmeg
                                    Ice cream
Lift your glasses!

Friday, December 30, 2011

30 December 2011 What really changed over the past year?

Election campaign- no change – interminable since the day after Election Day 2008
Foreign policy – no change from last December
Domestic policy –
          Teavangelists - teavangelists still have too much control of Congress
          Global warming – POTUS candidates still deny it exists
          GOP candidates – same band of incompetents in thrall to extreme Christian right
          Occupy Wall Street – new since last winter, no clear goals.    
          Education – Still very poor schools – largely due to “local” control by right- wingers
          Health care – insurance companies still raking it in and denying care t many Americans.
Iraq war – Over except for mercenaries and other private contractors.
Afghanistan war – no real change, no real hope of change
Iran – heating up at several levels
Arab “spring” – those revolutions that deposed dictators are now likely to install new dictators.  Names change tribalism and sectarian fights continue

Thursday, December 29, 2011

29 December 2011 2011 best, worst, lists, this, that, and other.

          Every network news program, every local station news team, and every print journalist has assembled and published in some form the inevitable list of something for year’s end. 
          I can think back over the year and list memorable bowls of soup, best walks with the dog, darkest black humor political cartoon, best steak, best seafood, and many other items.  I’ll spare anyone who might read this. 
          By far, the weather extremes that we experienced were the worst of the year.  27-28 April’s tornados were the worst event and “absolute low point” for the year, locally.  Other regions of the nation may vary as to date and event.  Weather, however, and its direct consequences, takes the bottom rung. 
          Fortunately, we survived the tornados with minimal discomfort, minimal inconvenience, and no personal harm.  That ranks high in any list I can compose. 
          The high mark for the year is that Gloria and I remain happily, joyfully passionately in love and solidly married.  We began 2011 in that condition and will begin 2012 in the same state. 
          Perhaps the best thing about the year’s end is that we have only 10 months of political campaigning left before the next Presidential election.  The year has been awash with the idiocy of Palin, Bachman, Perry, Gingrich, and Paul.  Each one has been trying to outplay the others at the social conservative/religious mania component of the campaign.  The evangelicals/GOP/teavangelists are all trying to Christianize the nation and remove any citizens who won’t kiss someone’s cross, bible, or segregation/deportation plan. 
          The hope for 2012 is the removal of Grover Norquist (doomed to abjectivity by his very name) from his control of the GOP/teavangelists. 
          Pho for dinner tonight. 
          The day is clear, chilly, and will cool down markedly tonight.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

28 December 2011 Iranian submarines equipped with screen doors

Analysis: Saber-rattling in Strait of Hormuz
By Tim Lister, CNN
updated 9:25 AM EST, Wed December 28, 2011

“…Today, after decades of sanctions, Iran does not have the naval power to block the strait, and its aging air force would be no match for U.S. and gulf state fighter jets. But military experts say Iran could wage "asymmetrical warfare" -- involving mines and attacks by Revolutionary Guards' patrol boats. It has also developed a class of small submarines, three of which were launched last month, according to the Iranian naval commander quoted by the Fars news agency.

Iran launches 3 new submarines
Islamic Republic expands fleet which according to estimates now sports 14 Ghadir-type submarines
11.26.11, 18:03 / Israel News

Iran has expanded its fleet launching three new Ghadir-classsubmarines, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced on Saturday.

"All parts of these submarines, including their body and their advanced radar equipment and defense systems, have been designed and manufactured by our country's defense experts and with the help of the Defense Ministry," the admiral said in a press conference.

Iranian submarine. As advanced as Western vessels

It is estimated that Iran now has at least 14 Ghadir-class submarines which are said to be as advanced as Western vessels.

The submarines are armed with torpedo missiles and were manufactured according to the geographical and climate conditions and specifications of Iranian waters.

Earlier Saturday, Iranian military officials hinted that Ghadir-class submarines improve the navy's ability to defend Iranian territorial waters.”

                “Reportedly being mass produced [reportedly at a cost of $18 million each], the first of this class, Ghadir, has been paraded for the press. Although usually described as a mini-submarine, it is rather larger than Iran's other mini-subs. The Ghadir, with a displacement estimated at between 120 tons and 500 tons, is probably better described as a coastal or littoral submarine, similar in concept to the Italian Sauro class though significantly smaller. Photographs indicate it has a pair of bow torpedo tubes which appear to be 21" allowing them to fire typical heavyweight torpedoes. It could thus serve as a launch platform for the infamous Shkval rocket torpedo, which has been transfered to Iran.

Cassi Creek:         The submarines in the Iranian fleet are more akin to the 2-man suicide boats used by Japan in the 2nd World War attack upon Pearl Harbor than to any vessels in a modern blue-water navy.  They remind me of the drug-smuggling submersibles in use by South American drug cartels than first line of battle submarines.  If they are equipped to fire torpedoes and Surface to surface missiles, they will have little reload capacity. 

It looks to be more of a high school home-coming float that a real warship.  How many boxes of lentils must sacrifice their tops to buy this boat?

          As for the rocket-torpedo “shkval”, the Iranians would do well to remember that the Soviets never deployed that beast to the fleet.  It is likely that the “Kursk” was sunk by a hot-running unintentional ignition in an on-board “Shkval.”  The Soviets and the follow-on Russians have no real regard for the Iranians and often sold them 3rd tier “monkey copies” of their technology; just as we did with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in less hostile times, Iran. 
          The U.S. Navy has declared that the straits of Hormuz will remain open and that no civilized nation would attempt to close that waterway.  
          The gauntlet is  thrown, armed conflict in the middle East is all but certain.  Iran has committed the folly of believing its own bombast and lies. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

27 December 2011 I’m on my 2nd cup of coffee

          Gordon Lightfoot penned a lament concerning his need for a 2nd cup of coffee to clear the previous night’s, and most likely, the approaching night’s ethanol fumes from his brain and body.  I’m sipping at my 2nd mug this morning.   I would happily have slumbered later this morning.   The culprit leading toward my apparent fatigue is the wind. 
          I pulled maintenance and battery replacement on my weather station yesterday.  I began about 1230 under partly cloudy skies and finished about 1430 under overcast skies.    When I took Loki out at 2200, there were no stars visible and the wind was beginning to rise.  By midnight, the wind was clocking at ca. 10 mph. 
          The rest of the night featured gusting winds, howling in the wires and driving rain against the house.  This morning we topped out at about 25 mph sustained with gusts of 30-35.  We gained about 0.17 inches of rain as this current front came through.  The storms of last April 27th still gnaw at us when the wind blows heavily in the dark. 
          I have no difficulty facing the day.  I wake up happy to be alive, and have for the last 19 years.  What a difference a day makes. 
          Currently playing: “Dawg after dark.”  Nicely composed acoustic work by David Grisman and played by the DG Quintet.  Various canine soloists not named.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

26 December 2011 “Weather 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles…”
Cassi Creek:         The year 2011 CE has been a year of weather extremes.  Ocean temperature fluctuations, current shifts, polar ice caps melting nearly rapidly enough to measure visually.   Global warming has diminished the Arctic ice pack by about 44% compared to only decades previously.  The long sought for Northwest Passage is there if the vessels are powerful enough, heavily armored enough to withstand compression of ice without popping seams; and if there are sufficient and powerful enough icebreakers. 
          The U.S. Navy has no icebreakers available for active duty.  The U.S. Coast Guard has one on active duty.  Most other nations bordering the Arctic Ocean have multiple icebreakers or are building them as rapidly as possible. 
          The United States Navy typically becomes rapidly underfunded, under-equipped, and is forced to catch up at the onset of any demand for increased naval services.  Given the plans to develop Arctic resources by Arctic nations, we may well be facing a “sea of troubles.”
          This afternoon was spent doing maintenance on my weather station.  It should be all right for the next 6 months now.  
          Dinner last night was Larb, a Thai salad/entrée featuring chopped meat, lime juice, cilantro, mint, and shallots, served in lettuce leaves.  It was a common menu item when I was in VietNam.  We served it along with grilled shrimp and satay sauce.  Tonight will be much simpler fare, hotdogs and beans.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

25 December 2011 Up the long ladder down the short rope

(April in Saigon, December in Baghdad)
          What I dread developing is a situation with corporate contractors and mercenaries being captured by one of the Iraqi factions, or becoming snared in the legal system of Iraq for their actions.  While I will support the extraction of all our men and women in uniform from Iraq, I firmly believe that the corporate employees have no right to expect such support from the U.S. government.  Halliburton and the latest Blackwater manifestation are responsible for cleaning up that mess.
          American armed forces, as with the troops of nearly all nations, have a longstanding tradition of leaving no wounded or dead behind.  This is important as a means of motivating those who carry the guns and carry out the orders from above. 
          Obviously, no one wishes to be wounded and left to the more or less tender mercies of the opposing forces.  The quality of medical care provided enemy wounded, the practice of withholding medical care as a means of obtaining information about the enemy’s forces, positions, status, morale, logistics train, and other information; these things matter greatly to the combatants. Wounded troops are already in physical pain and mental anguish.  If left behind and captured by forces that make use of torture as an interrogation tool, or even worse, for recreation among the captors, their ability to resist such treatment is greatly lessened.
          In many cultures, the religious and other rites associated with death in battle are also extremely important to the men and women most likely to be numbered among the dead.  Some cultures demand interment within 24 hours of death.  Others require elaborate final rites. 
          The troops, their compatriots, and their families are provided comfort by these rituals and by their belief that no one will be left behind. 
          The matter becomes more problematic when the use of “contractors” and mercenaries clouds the status of who remains in combat zones after the real troops have been withdrawn.  I don’t believe we have any obligation to expend men and women or resources to rescue or extract the employees of private armies or contractors.  Haliburton and the rest of the “contractors” have had sufficient warning of our military exit to secure the safety of all their employees and to plan for their withdrawal.  Any person or corporate entity choosing to stay in Iraq in order to keep their “contractor” income stream flowing has only their selves to blame for any harm that may come to them at the hands of Iraqi citizens or irregulars seeking to foment further battle and to challenge the power and intent of the U.S. government. 
          There should be no final helicopter from the embassy roof, no mob of Europeans, North Americans, or Iraqis trying to catch the last flight out.  There should be no frantic GOP/teavangelist propaganda showing Halliburton workers blindfolded and led away from looted and non-functional infrastructure.  And there should be no “contractor” families insisting and demanding that the U.S. government become involved in the recovery of “contractors” from captivity by irregulars/terrorists or imprisonment by the current semblance of Iraq’s government. 
          Mercenaries and “contractors” chose to exchange personal risk for corporate employment.  Excluding those medically discharged from active duty, they either chose to leave government service to work in a private army for hire to the highest bidder, declined to join the U.S, military, or were for some reason not eligible to join the U.S. armed forces.  The corporations that employed them are responsible for their lives in the combat zones where they are employed.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

24 December 2011 It’s the calendar’s fault!

The Christmas effect: How Hanukkah became a big holiday
By Justin Moyer, Published: December 22

                If George Bailey had been Jewish, “It’s a Wonderful Life” could have had a very different last act: Jimmy Stewart rushes home to light the last candle on the Hanukkah menorah, spin the dreidel with Zuzu and celebrate her recovery from a fever with a bit of chocolate gelt. Sound strange? Perhaps no more so than a minor Jewish holiday marked by an extravagant eight days of gift-giving only because, according to a 2010 study, it falls close to Dec. 25.

“The importance of Hanukkah among American Jews is driven by its proximity (in the time dimension) to Christmas,” Ran Abramitzky, Liran Einav and Oren Rigbi write in “Is Hanukkah Responsive to Christmas?” a study published in the Economic Journal. “Many American Jews use Hanukkah as a way to provide their children with an exciting alternative.”
In Israel, for example, Hanukkah doesn’t garner much attention. The holiday, which does not appear in the Old Testament, celebrates the ancient Israelites’ rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its desecration by Syrian King Antiochus IV more than 2,000 years ago. A big deal? Not to the study’s authors, who are Israeli emigres…”
          The competition with Christmas does not help the belief that Hanukkah is “Jewish Christmas.”  One of our downstream neighbors can’t understand why we don’t put up lights and celebrate Christmas.  Several attempts, including inviting her for a dinner of latkes along with lighting the hanukkia has yet to bring sufficient light to bear or understanding to the front. 
          To change the subject to more important matters.  Trudeau brings a lot of light to bear today.  However much the similarity, I would not send U.S. troops to extract Haliburton and Blackwater contractors.  Their lives are in the hands of their contract owners, not Uncle Sam.

‘nuff said.

Friday, December 23, 2011

23 December 2011 Couldn’t happen to more deserving people.

Cassi Creek:
          The true nature of the GOP emerges on camera.  Here’s hoping that they have dug their selves a deep enough hole to keep them exposed during the coming elections.

Cassi Creek:
          I’ve written a lot about the mercenary corporations growing fat from this war while our troops are under-paid and under-valued.  If the corporate contractors and the private armies now find they are targeted by Iraqis, I have no sympathy.  The mercenaries have put their selves in positions that they thought removed them from legal action by Iraq.  So sorry, guys, your greed and your willingness to let international corporate pirates use you may well be your downfall. 
          If you wind up in some Iraqi prison, Uncle Sugar has no reason to come to your aid.  You built your bunkers…

Drug testing for welfare, unemployment insurance, workman’s comp – State legislator wants these to “reduce fraud.”
Cassi Creek:
          I have serious concerns regarding this proposal.  Most likely the legislator in question has no idea of how expensive accurate drug testing, from sample collection through final reporting is; and how inaccurate improperly performed drug testing is.  
          This is not a quicky drugstore yes or no procedure that can be taught to a high school dropout office temp.   If done properly the collection process will be observed and a valid chain of custody initiated.  The serious nature of this process should demand that any such analysis for abused drugs should conform to those regulations already in place for workplace injuries, incidents, and employment by transportation agencies.  Anything less is simply wasting money by allowing essentially worthless procedures by un-trained and un-licensed employees. 
          The myth of millions of people not working due to government money allowing them to stay stoned at taxpayer expense is just that, a myth.  What’s next, required church attendance?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

22 December 2011 celebrating the winter solstice at Bonefish Grill

          Gloria and I met 19 years ago.  We’ve always tried to commemorate the meeting by dining out.  Our location, our physical conditions, and the ability of of local dining establishments to provide a genuine high quality meal have all been factors in our ability to keep our tradition active. 
          We’ve had some good meals, some mediocre meals, and the rare, truly atrocious meal.  The worst meal, at a Zagat-rated restaurant on Siesta Key was probably the worst dining experience I have ever had. 
          Last night we dined at Bonefish Grill in Johnson City TN.  We had the foresight to make reservations.  When we arrived, the parking lot was full, the line to be seated quite long, and wait times approaching an hour.  We were seated within 10 minutes. 
          Bonefish Grill is a chain.  They serve a limited seafood menu that varies with seasons.  The servers were polite, attentive, not overbearing.  They knew the menu items, could tell us how each was prepared and how it would taste.  The house has an extensive wine list.  Once they knew we didn’t want wine they never pushed the bar items. 
          We had two appetizers to share, our entrees came with a well-prepared winter squash, green vegetables, and several carbohydrate option.  We dined at a leisurely pace and brought food home with us. 
          As she almost always is, Gloria was disappointed at the lack of a sugar-free dessert.  Other than that difficulty, it was a great night out and we enjoyed our celebration of 19 years as a pair. 
          Tonight we will convert 2.27 kilograms of potatoes, 4 eggs, 2 onions, and some matzah, into that most traditional Ashkenazic poor folk’s nostalgia food, latkes.  While we’ve never lived in a shtetl, our road is not that unlike one if one takes away the electricity.
          We’ve invited our neighbor, Mike, an actual MOT, and another downstream neighbor who thinks Hanukah is “Jewish Christmas” and who can’t understand why we don’t hang lights and celebrate Jesus.  We will try to explain the reason for the festival of lights tonight.  It’s a good thing to do.  Otherwise we would surely wind up in trouble for trying to add a mohel to the nearby churches’ mangers scenes.  Winter Brissim, anyone?  Don’t sit in the front row!
          In a mild break from tradition, I’ve made a leek-onion-balsamic marmalade to serve with the latkes.  I doubt it will venture far from my plate.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

21 December 2011 We have to destroy the Constitution in order to save it

          One of the lasting demonstrations of the idiocy that was the VietNam war:
“One of the  famous quotes of the Vietnamese 1968 Tet Offensive:
“We Had To Destroy Ben Tre In Order To Save It
          Everywhere the GOP/teavangelists campaign for office, it is certain that someone will claim that the Constitution must be preserved from “liberals who want to eliminate “our freedoms.”  This usually centers on the 1st, 2nd, 14th, and 10th amendments of the Bill of Rights. 
          One of the highlights of our foundation is the separate and equal tri-partite construction of our national government. No branch can over-rule the others to become the center of power.  The ability of our courts to assure the constitutionality of laws and other actions by the legislative and executive branches without the courts’ functions being overturned is among our greatest contributions to the “rule of law.”
          Gingrich, hoping to keep the teavangelist base, is willing to destroy the tri-partite nature of our government by destroying the intent and reality of our Constitution. 
          This lust to re-write the document that made us unique at our inception is highly akin to the destruction of Ben Tre.  If the ideological crazies are allowed to preserve by destroying we will lose that which we will never be able to recover.  As a professed “historian”, Gingrich should be fully aware of this.  But Gingrich is a child of the teavangelist south, sucked into the Reagan mythology and unable to see the gaping black hole at the innermost core of teavangelism.  Not only is he unable to see it, if he should ever discover it he will find its tenets of segregation, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and protection of only the wealthiest of our citizens at the expense of the poor and middle classes, to dove-tail easily into his lust for power and greed. 

Ruth Marcus wrote of the danger posed by Gingrich beliefs in today’s Washington Post.
            “As precedent for the supposed mainstream nature of his proposals, Gingrich likes to point to Jefferson’s signing of the 1802 Repeal Act, abolishing a set of judgeships that the rival Federalists had pushed through on the eve of leaving power.
This history lesson is not as dispositive as Gingrich would have you believe. As Ed Whelan and Matthew J. Franck have argued on National Review’s Bench Memos blog, it’s not clear that the Repeal Act was constitutional and, even if it was, “what was done then is not a precedent for what he is considering doing now” — “an unconstitutional end run around the permanent tenure of federal judges,” as Franck put it.
Gingrich acts as if the Repeal Act was uncontroversial in its day. But here is Federalist Alexander Hamilton, inveighing against the measure at an emergency meeting of the New York City Bar: “The independence of the judges, once destroyed, the constitution is gone; it is a dead letter; it is a vapor which the breath of faction in a moment may dissipate.”
In this age of endless faction, Hamilton’s warning is timely — and chilling.
          Who am I to argue with Hamilton, at least today!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

20 December 2011 How does that song go?

20 December 2011  How does that song go?
          Often associated with The Grateful Dead’s “Uncle john’s Band,” it pops up more often than I care to admit.  The memory I’ve always relied upon to win trivia games and to pull arcane from the black holes of long-ago textbooks and lectures, is beginning to look more like Emmentaler than like densely packed and deeply structured Cheddar.  I keep hoping to be picked for Jeopardy.  I take all the online tests, monitor the official website, and yet I am forced to admit that should I be chosen to play I might find myself less able to compete than previously.  Of course, a category about sports (team athletics), Opera, or theater would likely do me in without any self-driven assassination.  Those questions all have only one shared answer – “that Russian.”
          Of course, during yesterday’s interview I passed the short-term recall (remember these four words) portion of the day’s activity.  I also provided spatial-temporal awareness information upon request and passed the neurological count forward/count backward/ name these forward and backward. 
          Today’s Herculanean labor was to scoop out a 2-foot deep hole to set the new mailbox post.  Using a short shovel and a VietNam era E-tool, I made the necessary hole in the former rock-filled creek bed that is our land.  I’m still about 4 inches to shallow but it may be easier to remove those 4 inches from the new post than to deepen the hole any further.  Both shoulders are protesting the activity already. 
          In passing, Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Monday, December 19, 2011

19 December 2011 Dark and cold at 0500

          The 0500 alarm was brutal this morning.  I had a VA appointment that required an 0800 check in.  The parking lot dance added a 15-minute penalty to the arrival time.  I found a spot just meters from the check in office (2nd floor Bldg 8 very steep steps), presented myself at the appropriate desk t.  The clerk took 45 seconds to log me in and point me down and out.  Hike to Bldg 160.  Join the check in queue and check in again.  Off to the waiting room, Fox News blaring.  Surprise!
          The old blue team check in and waiting areas are being renovated. Wait, Wait, Wait.
          PTSD interview.  Wound up giving the psychiatrist a steer to a knish bakery that will send them to him here.  Never hurts to have common food interests.  We both miss pastrami. 
          Interview over, hike to main hospital and stand in line to get compensation for travel form.  Fill out form and stand in line to exchange it for cash.  Not quite the group W bench – no pencils and I look to be the healthiest person standing.  Hike back to car, drive to library, drop books.
          The Earth Fare freebie is a chicken salad that Gloria likes.  Later this week we’ll go back and look at another rib roast; they’re on sale for about 4 more days. 
          The rest of today is scheduled for fire wood relocation, stove cleaning, and trying not to doze off at the wrong time.  Tomorrow is penciled for mailbox repairs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18 December 2011 Good-bye Iraqi war, hello _____ war!

Posted at 09:51 AM ET, 12/16/2011
What to make of GOP debaters’ silence on Iraq war

The cruel war is over, and Iraq very soon will be on its own. It has cost the American people about 4,500 lives and about $1 trillion and faith in our institutions and the good will of many in the Arab world and the advantage we once had in Afghanistan — hard to be in two places at once — and so much more. But in the Republican debate last night, the war was hardly mentioned. On to Obamacare and Newt Gingrich’s weird scheme to crack both the courts and the Constitution in one blow by allowing Congress to subpoena judges to have them account for their decision. The man is a Rorschach: If you think he’s sane, then you are not.

     But on to the war. It lasted nine years. This is longer than World War II, and it cost us a bundle, and we are now, more or less, broke. We certainly could use the $1 trillion that went into the war, and we certainly could hold George W. Bush accountable for not raising taxes and for squandering Bill Clinton’s surplus. The biggest crater created by the war is at the Treasury Department. This is worth noting…
   But little of this was noted in Sioux City, Iowa. The Party of the War, the Republican Party, breezed past the last nine years as if nothing much had happened. The candidates did not rue their support of the war — as I do and did — and they did not say what they had learned from their mistake, and they did not bewail the lies and exaggeration or Dick Cheney and the jaw-dropping incompetence of President Bush and the stunningly wrong statements of Condoleezza Rice.
     Appropriately enough, the debate was sponsored by Fox News and broadcast on that network. Fox was the semi-official voice of the Party of War, the enforcer of political conformity when anyone doubted the wisdom of the cause. Their correspondents naturally enough did not question the candidates on the war nor, for that matter, the role their own network had played in the debacle. This was Roger Ailes’s war, and in all fairness he should take a bow.
Just one question would have sufficed: What did you learn from the war, Newt? — or Mitt or Rick or Michele or Jon or Ron or Rick again? Is there a lesson there for the rest of us? Does it make you cautious about promising war with Iran and aligning yourself too closely with Israel’s right-wingers? Have you learned something about the limits of air power or about upsetting the balance of power? Have you visited the amputee ward of a VA hospital and seen the pain — the constant, throbbing pain? Have you looked into the eyes of a wounded man or woman and said, “Sorry, we’re moving on.”
     This cruel was is over, and now we have to debate whether Newt Gingrich was or was not a lobbyist.

Cassi Creek:
          Like Cohen, I must admit some early support of the Iraq war.  I allowed my concern for the continued security of Israel (mostly because of the numerous Scud attacks launched at Israel by Hussein’s command during the Gulf War) to override my distrust of Bush, Cheney, and the theocons who stood to profit from a war.  I believed sufficiently in the mental instability of an Arab dictator to discount the depth of greed and stupidity driving the demands for an invasion of Iraq.  I owe a fervent apology to the families of our dead, to our wounded, and to the troops who spent multiple tours of duty trying to build a nation out of Iraqi ruins while our nation decayed due to the GOP’s utter lack of concern for anything but further enriching the rich. 
          The Iraqi war troops are now out of a war that kept them gainfully employed.  They are coming home to search for jobs that no longer remain, to families that are ill equipped to deal with combat veterans and their peculiarities, and to a Veterans Affairs department that is woefully underfunded to care for them and their injuries, apparent and/or concealed.  The funding is controlled by a GOP that couldn’t wait to send them off to fight but which also could not be bothered to fund the war and its aftermath. 
          As a veteran, I find it inconceivable that any modern government would treat its troops so poorly.  But there is a decided lack of concern for the troops, partly because, so very few of our elected representatives and officials have actually worn the country’s uniform, and even fewer have been under fire. 
          So many of the GOP’s elected have neither family members in the military or any other contact beyond shaking hands with the hastily cleaned up troops during a “fact-finding” trip that is usually little but a re-election photo shoot. 
          So, young in age, old in experience troops, your bit of this war, the Iraqi war, is over.  There’s every chance you’ll visit fun, fascinating Afghanistan before it ends.  The economy, featuring outsourced jobs and no more social safety nets, may make 30-year men and women out of you if the Pentagon’s funding isn’t cut. 
          However, as Cohen notes, there is a madness among the GOP/teavangelist candidates that combines greed, anti- Islam behavior, and an over-abundance of stupidity into drumming up a new Crusade.  Iran, sadly all too likely to give them another attack as a rallying point like the attacks of 11 Sept 2001 is likely to be our next theater of operations.  It won’t be our best troops against Hussein’s politically reliable.  Iran’s armed forces will be better trained, better equipped, and will be certain that Allah is on their side.  
          Until the next crusade, driven by the teavangelists and other groups eager to start a world war over religion, succeed in pulling you back into the dirty end of things, Welcome home, troops!  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

17 December 2011 Cold, windy, and a perfect setting for a bluegrass son

          The Dillards recorded and performed a song, “I’ll Never See My Home Again.   Like many bluegrass songs, it deals with cold winters, homesickness, and people who have wandered too far from their comfort zone in the course of their lives. 
          “As years go by and seasons pass away,
          That ol’place keeps returning to my mind.
          I miss the ones who always were so dear to me,
          And that hollow in the woods I left behind.”
                    “Oh, I left it in the springtime when the flowers were in bloom,
                   And told the folks I’d be back in the fall.             
                   But the road keeps stretching onward from the cradle to the tomb,
                   And I guess I’ll never see my folks at all!”
Many musicians have made a living, of sorts, singing about the emotional distress wrought by time and distance, complicated by famine, disease, infidelity, and necessary murders.
           We currently have pillars of morality screaming about “honor” killings among Muslims, claiming this makes them somehow unfit to live in the modern world.  I make no exception for religion-driven murders.  Murder is murder no matter which deity’s garbled words interpreted by an un-schooled preacher demanded it The U.S. has had more than its share of “honor” killings.  “She done him wrong” is just as deadly as “____” demands!”  And it is no more moral or right in avenging tribal honor as in avenging family honor.  But those crimes of passion make great grist for bluegrass singer-songwriters.
          In today’s U.S., we have murders over clothing with some over-paid, under-educated jock’s name on it.  We have murders over how one person looked at another, or at the other person’s escort for the hour or weekend.  If we step outside our vantage point as U.S. citizens, we don’t do much more to protect the rights and well-being of women than do the tribal societies that our bible thumpers insist we force to change.  Many women born into fundamentalist, evangelical Christian families are just as much at risk of dying due to religious stupidity and at the hands of a violent family member as are Women born into Islam.  The environment may be a bit cleaner, flush toilets and hot water perhaps.  But the view of women as brood stock and chattel property is just as pervasive and just as deadly. 
          The major difference is that we have a music industry that makes a profit from such behavior.  I wonder what bluegrass pickers will be singing about in 2111?

Friday, December 16, 2011

16 December 2011 Gray, Grim, And Grouchy

          Be advised that these adjectives do not apply to Gloria.  She has a smile that can light of one of the gloomiest of places, and airline terminal in winter.  My visage is more likely to be mistaken for a kobold or troll, perhaps on a rare good day, a silkie.
          I wound up traveling to Greeneville yesterday to get a 48 “ 4x4 treated post and a bucket of quick crete to anchor the post.  By the time I was half way to Lowes, it was raining.  It rained steadily until I returned.  The expanse of mountains from highway 107 looking southeast was shrouded in rain and looked grim and foreboding with a promise of a harsh winter yet to come.
          Today dawned thickly overcast with rain sliding in from the west by 0830.  The mailbox is still standing, shakily until I can replace its main support post.  I’ll need to dig a hole 2 feet deep in a rocky creek bed.  The installation page calls for a post-hole digger.  I don’t have one or access to one.  I’ll be moving a lot of dirt that doesn’t need to be moved.  But I seriously doubt I could use a post-hole digger and then have any shoulder function left.  I hope to get the hole dug and the post installed properly sometime after the 19th
          I must confess that I half-way expected to find the mailbox damaged again this morning.  I suspect that the driver who hit it was DUI on ethanol or other substances had no insurance, and probably no valid drivers’ license.  That is, of course, supposition on my part.  But given the incidence of traffic stops that yield DUI/no insurance/no valid license (suspended, revoked), it may well be valid.  
          I will have to remove the 4 foot-long post from the Pathfinder tomorrow.  I don’t like driving around with an unsecured ballistic projectile aimed at my skull.  I’m charging the cordless drill batteries now to use in replacing the mailbox and for another project or two.  We bought this drill when we moved here.  Now, the batteries don’t hold a charge well and the cost of replacing them, as always, equals or exceeds the cost of a new drill.  I thought about getting one yesterday but decided to hold off and hope for sales next week.
          Back to physical appearances, demeanors, and behaviors.  I’ve posted enough images to allow us to be recognized by anyone who really cares to do so.  If we appear together, Gloria is the one smiling and laughing.  I’m the much more reserved one of us.  Smiles and laughter are much less common originating from me.  In all honesty, I did neither until I met Gloria.  My older son claimed, about two years after Gloria and I married, to have never heard me laugh.  I believe it is true.
          Gray aptly describes facial and head hair.  Grim, describes common demeanor adequately.  Grouchy is common and inherent to my nature. 
          Glib and garrulous could be attached to a description of me without falling far from the x ring.  Gravelly and grating can be applied to my vocalization. 
          That covers the obligate seven characters that must be included in any collection of minor dwarves that serve to define the heroine of any Grimm’s tale.  If you need more, please feel free to add them. 

Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

15 December 2011 The mailbox in the middle of the road, and other wonders of civilized life in the mountains of N.E. TN

15 December 2011  The mailbox in the middle of the road, and other wonders of civilized life in the mountains of N.E. TN
          Today, in addition to being Thursday, and thus trash pickup morning, is also the Ides of December.  So in order to have the trash at the pickup point and to gird myself for the morning hike with Mike, I arose at 0630.  I put Loki on lead, grabbed my touring pole, and headed for the road, dragging the trashcan behind me. 
          There seemed to be some unusual item visible in the dim morning light.  I turned my headlamp on and discovered that the object was our mailbox.  I dragged the trash across the road and immediately had to start pulling Loki into position, as she wanted to mark that entire stretch of ground that other dogs have already marked.  The mailbox was next; I dragged it into the driveway and looked for the doors that were no longer in place.  The newspaper was left in the driveway by the carrier who had no other place to leave it.  Fortunately, the wind dropped enough that the paper stayed intact and in place long enough for me to retrieve it. 
          My first thought was that the mailbox fell secondary to age and decay.  The wooden 4x4 was unevenly damaged.  When I couldn’t find the doors, it became apparent that vandals had visited. 
          Our neighbor, Darryl, reported other damage down valley.  Mike and I noticed several mailboxes that had been damaged.  The most damage occurred when the vandals hit a large trashcan and split it entirely from top to bottom, hurling trash everywhere.  There was broken auto glass at that location and more of it at our driveway.  I think our damage happened first and the follow-on happened as the culprits drove down valley.  DUI is a safe assumption as the skid and braking marks seem to indicate control problems. 
          Our mailbox will need to be reset with a new 4x4 post and concrete for stability.  Currently, I have it jerry rigged pending a trip into town.  I found to engineer stakes pounded them in, and lashed the mailbox to them.  It’s poorly done, temporary at best, and unsatisfactory.  However, unless the vandals return, it will stand for several days.  One door was retrieved from our driveway.  The other door was at the bottom of a 20-foot deep ditch that borders the road, the old creek bed.  The banks are steep, unstable, and the bottom filled with foot traps and other leg-damaging bits of trees and rocks.  Getting down to the bottom and back up again was sufficient vertical loss and gain today beyond the hike with Mike.
          Therefore, we called the Sheriff’s office, filed a report, pointed out the broken glass, and figured the rest of the day would pass in relative quiet. 
          An alert from our bank notified us that one of our credit cards had been counterfeited and used for several high dollar purchases this morning.  Fortunately, the bank picked up the irregularities.  We’re not out anything and they’ll send us new cards for a new account.  But the fact is that we just underwent an attempted robbery, and the unease is very real and very discomforting.  The list of people I’d happily escort up the long ladder and down the short rope has grown by an indeterminate number. 
          I guess I’ll go into Greeneville tomorrow, to buy the material to make permanent mailbox repairs.  Or, I may go yet today and save the travel time for work time tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

14 December 2011 There are drones and there are drones.

Ahmadinejad: Iran has 'been able to control' U.S. drone
December 13, 2011|By the CNN Wire Staff
Ahmadinejad: Iran can control U.S. drone
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that his country has "been able to control" the U.S. drone that Iran claims it recently brought down, Venezuelan state TV reported.
Can the world live with a near-nuclear Iran?
By Mohammed Ayoob, Special to CNN
updated 12:44 PM EST, Wed December 14, 2011

Editor's note: Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Michigan State University and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
(CNN) -- Some analysts have attributed the recent downing of a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel high-altitude reconnaissance drone in Iran to that nation's increasingly sophisticated capability to launch cyber attacks. Others have dismissed the idea that Iran was capable of bringing down an RQ-170, arguing that Iranian air defenses do not have the capability to track an aircraft with radar-evading technology.
Either way, the incident clearly demonstrates American concerns regarding Iran's nuclear capacity, as the drone was likely sent over Iranian territory to spy on its nuclear program.
I find the argument that Iran is engaged in developing a nuclear weapons program credible. I am also convinced that Iran will not test a device, but rather will acquire the capability to produce a weapon quickly if its strategic environment deteriorates to such an extent that it feels it must.

Captured Drone May Have Limited Benefit For Iran

Iranian officials have crowed they are mining "priceless technological information" from a CIA spy drone that went down days ago inside Iran's borders, broadcasting triumphant images of what they said was the craft on state TV.
But many experts say the loss of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone — like the U-2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 — may have more value as propaganda than as a treasure trove of technological secrets.
"Even if the Iranians have possession of a drone, that doesn't mean they will be able to exploit its technology," says Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based military and security think tank.
Iran says its technicians will use "reverse engineering" to produce an Iranian version, and that Russia and China are both vying to inspect the so-called unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. The U.S. says the drone went down because of a malfunction and has urged Iran to return it, which Iran has refused to do.
Thompson says countries such as Russia and China already have a fair understanding of the basic principles of stealth technology: the use of radar-absorbing materials and of computers to fly the inherently unstable craft. It's learning how to track stealth aircraft that remains the hardest part of the equation, he says.
"It's not clear that they or any other adversaries we might face in the future will be materially advantaged in terms of being able to counter the stealth," Thompson says. "It's just intrinsically hard to track using radar."
The Sentinel also might not necessarily represent the most cutting-edge technology because such systems can take years from inception until they are operationally viable, says Thomas Donnelly, director of the Center for Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
In addition, defense planners likely took into account that the Sentinel would be operating in hostile territory and might fall into enemy hands, Donnelly says.
He says that's the same reason why U.S. military planners are careful about using more sophisticated military hardware, such as the F-22 Raptor, which also has stealth capabilities, for combat patrols over Afghanistan.
"It's a capability that is excessive for the mission," Donnelly says. "You save the crown jewels for when you really need them. The RQ-170 probably falls someplace in the middle of our technological capabilities."
When an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter was shot down over Serbia in 1999, it was feared to be an "unmitigated disaster," says Jonathan Reed Winkler, a professor at Wright State University who specializes in foreign relations and military history.
But Winkler points out that the U.S. military had already been flying the craft for nearly two decades.
"These particular military technologies are not the most cutting edge. They are simply the ones that are operationally useful, and so are out in the field," he says.
Even so, suspicion persists that Beijing either temporarily acquired or at least got to study the F-117 wreckage and then used the information to help build a prototype stealth fighter, the Chengdu J-20. More recently, pieces of a U.S. stealth helicopter used in the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden were left behind in Pakistan despite attempts to blow up the wreckage. China has denied reports that Pakistan allowed it to examine the wreckage
Cassi Creek:
          We’ve all become familiar with the RQ-170 UAV.  The old nomenclature for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was “drone.”  They were remotely controlled obsolescent air frames used for target practice by the men and women who fly the manned aerial vehicles.  They were big fat targets, essentially boring to fly remotely.  Now our UAVs are armed with more than flashing lights.  They are used for combat missions in high-risk areas.  They can and do strike fear and terror into the enemy camps.  But their long-dwell times and the resultant long missions can still render them boring in use on real-time missions.  Drones can be boring. 
          Enter the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Long a practitioner of bombast and braggadocio, he seems to believe that his boasts and brags somehow become truth when he utters them.  While he may think that his political capabilities will somehow rebuild the ancient Persian empire with Teheran as the Caliphate’s seat of power, the truth is that he is a small man in way over his head and slaved to the religious dictators that control life in Iran.  Ahmadinejad is the mouthpiece for the mullahs and the religious shock troops of the “Islamic Republic.”  They trot him out to make endless boring, speeches that numb the minds of those unable to walk away from the drone of his voice.  And it seems appropriate to update yet another function of the word, “drone” at this point.  “Drone – male bee used only for breeding purposes and then discarded as useless.”  The President of Iran is slated for discard by the mullahs who run the hive mentality central government of Iran.  He has no power beyond the power to drone endlessly and bore terminally. 
          The state of relations between the U.S. and Iran is at best akin to the behavior of adolescent males in a locker room, posturing and showing off to establish a following of the less powerful.  Iran brags about “capturing and bringing down the RQ-170 they have on display.  In doing so it hopes to shift the balance of power in the Middle East and in South Asia.  The mullahs want the Saudi holy cities under their control.   They want their search for nuclear weapons to be supported by their neighbors and by more remote Islamic nations.  They want to be feared, as was the ancient Persian empire. 
          Iran is going to achieve nuclear weapons control.   It will engineer and construct or it will buy them quietly from other nuclear states with greedy men in control of fission warheads.  They most likely will manage to deliver one or more of their warheads onto U.S. soil and detonate it in such a manner that the trail will lead away from Iran.  There are sufficient anti-American terrorists still active that finding a pool of martyrs will be easy.  If they succeed in detonating two or more nuclear devices against the U.S., then most likely the mullahs will be sufficiently emboldened to implant a device in Tel Aviv.  The world will do nothing beyond commiseration and condemnation of attack Iran will admit carrying out. 
          The likelihood of that scenario is higher than I care to calculate.  We spent the better part of a decade in Iraq, initially hunting non-existent nuclear weapons while failing to block Iran’s acquisition of warheads.  We spent years trying to construct an Arab army in Iraq while Iraqis blatantly used Iranian-manufactured weaponry against our troops.   We’re doing much the same in Afghanistan while Pakistan cooperates with Iran’s hunt for nukes and attacks our troops. 
          The war-mongering, oil-grubbing Bush-Cheney theocrats did next to nothing about Iranian nuclear development when it was possible.  Now, the Obama crew worries about offending everyone and does little to end the growing threat. 
          Still, there is some petty action that even the Obama people can undertake.  If Iran actually downed the RQ-170, then it should be able to power it up and fly it around Iranian airspace.  If they won’t and don’t, they can’t.  They can be caught in a major lie and exposed on the public stage in such a manner that it will decrease their status compared to the Saudis.  All it takes is a schoolyard boast and challenge issued loudly and publically. 
          Let’s see that drone fly, boys, or admit that you didn’t bring it down.  And I’d be very careful plugging into any com or data port.  Stuxnet sound familiar?
Drone on!