Tuesday, December 1, 2009
As I see it, there are three broad categories to hunting: Trophy hunting, meat hunting and varmint hunting. To my mind, the latter two categories are honorable, the first is not.
Meat hunting is honorable, far more honorable than going to the supermarket and buying a shrink-wrapped portion of a critter. The hunter, at least, is intimately familiar with where his or her meat is coming from, as opposed to the supermarket shopper, who usually has barely an idea of what a steer even looks like, let alone how the steers are treated. In some rural areas, the only meat that appears on the kitchen table was taken by hunting.
Varmint hunting is done to control population levels or to stop predation. It can be combined with meat hunting, such as in areas where the numbers of deer have exploded. There once was, and may still be, a predator control law in Vermont that was passed in the 1850s, when the state was a major producer of wool. It allowed farmers to kill predators by any means other than nuclear weapons, which were not permitted only because they didn't exist back then.
I have problems with trophy hunting. It would seem to me that going out and deliberately removing from the population the fittest adult male members of any species is counter to the long-term health of that species. It would be like identifying the smartest students in a college and then killing them so that someone could have a collection of the heads of valedictorians.
I've done varmint shooting to control predators and pests. Not much to say about that, it's what needed to be done at the time. Electric fencing around the chicken coop worked well, too, and was far more reliable.
Opening Day of whitetail season in some states is an unofficial holiday. I lived in one of those states for a time and would go back for years afterwards. We'd meet at the house of a friend who lived adjacent to a forest. It would be full dark, around 5:30 AM. Eggs, bacon, toast and coffee were what was prepared and served up in copious amounts. Everyone pitched in to help prepare, cook and clean up, so that the pans and dishes were washed and the kitchen was clean when it was time to go into the woods. (For those hunters who did not have a place to go for breakfast or who didn't want to make one, the volunteer firehouse served a hunters' breakfast on Opening Day, beginning at 4:30.)
As soon as it became light enough to see, we would make our way into the woods to where each one of us wanted to be and wait for sunrise, which was just after 7AM. Usually, nobody would see a buck, only does. I've had does walk right by me and look at me as if to say "we know you can't shoot us." Every few years, somebody would manage to shoot a buck, which would be dressed out, taken to the game-check station and then butchered.
The bucks were smart as hell. You wouldn't seen them out in the fields during the day from just before the beginning of bow season, through rifle season and then to the end of muzzle-loader season. After hunting season was over, you'd see bucks during the day. One year, I was out in the woods several days after Opening Day. I managed to get a glimpse of a buck and he saw me at the same time. He ran for a few seconds, bounding through the woods, and then dropped to the ground, completely invisible against the leaf litter, rocks and sticks. I tried walking him down, but whenever I got close, he'd bound up and run, weaving through the trees. He seemed to know how long it would take me to bring up the rifle and get a bead on him, for just as soon as I managed to swing the front sight onto him, he'd drop to the ground and disappear. That buck, a six-pointer, also seemed to work it so that the one time I had a clear shot, there was a house down in a valley which was in the line of fire. I gave up then, it was almost sunset.
Another year, it was cold, lightly snowing, and I was in the woods with a Garand. I had been sitting on a fallen tree, which had come to rest against another tree, with the rifle in my lap. It was sort of out of the snow and it was pretty comfortable. A red squirrel's curiosity overcame its caution and it came out to investigate me. It walked down that log, jumped up onto the handguard of the rifle and looked me over. I guess it was satisfied that I posed no threat to it, for it jumped back onto the log and sauntered away.
Snow in November is almost magical, as it often falls with still air. The flakes of a Fall snow are usually fat ones that drift down among the trees and deposit the first coat of white of the season. There is little traffic noise out there, just an occasional vehicle on a paved road over a mile in the distance and the falling snow muffles even that sound. The quiet is only broken by the faint whine of a passing airliner, six miles above. The woods are second or third growth, that entire area was clear-cut in the 18th and early 19th Centuries for sheep and crop farming. The woods began to come back after the Civil War and the building of the railroads, when farmers went to the Midwest to farm land that was neither hilly or filled with rocks. Now there are probably more woodlands in New England since the time of the Revolution.
Several minutes after the squirrel left, I heard heavy steps in the leaves on the floor of the woods. (By Spring, the leaves would have composted themselves and one could move through the woods silently, but that was almost impossible to do in the Fall.) I shifted around, pointed the rifle in that direction, keeping my finger out of the trigger guard. It was a buck and one of decent size, a six pointer. I snugged the butt of the rifle into my shoulder, quietly disengaged the safety and settled the front sight on his chest. As I took up the slack of the two-stage trigger, the thought came to me, or something spoke to me, but either way, the message was clear: "You don't really need the meat." I took my finger off the trigger, thought "bang, I've got you" and clicked the safety on, making no attempt to hide the metallic snick. The buck whirled his head around, saw me, and took off.
The times I went deer hunting after that were for social reasons. I left the Garand at home and carried a 6" Smith Model 29, telling everyone: "Hell, I never see a deer anyway, so I might as well carry something light." But the real reason was that since I wasn't going to shoot anything, the revolver was just for show.
I had some five-round clips for my Garand, which made it legal to use.
Yes, I know, you're supposed to verify your target before you point a gun at it. But if you make that much movement in those woods within eyeshot of a deer, it will see you and be gone before you can fire.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I think the Afghan War was winnable. I say that in the past tense, as I am not at all certain that it can be won now.
A successful insurgency has three principal legs of support. They are: 1) A base of operations that the government cannot reach; 2) support of a foreign entity; and 3) popular support. All three are required in order for the insurgents to win.
The base of operations is necessary for the insurgent forces need a place where they can rest, regroup, train and rearm. Before the rise of air power, that base could be within the territory under dispute. It had to be remote enough that the government forces could not reach. During the American Revolution, the British could not or did not exercise control over the entirety of the thirteen colonies. The rebels could operate everywhere else. Nowadays, the rebels need a neighboring nation that is either sympathetic, in part, to the rebels or is so weak that they can do nothing about the presence of the rebels.
Insurgencies, like any other armed force, need arms, money, and supplies. The American Revolution would have probably failed without the support of nations in Europe, primarily the French, who were interested in stirring up trouble for England. French arms, gunpowder, shot and even several battalions of troops bolstered the cause of the rebels. The French fleet fought the Royal Navy to a stalemate in the Battle of the Chesapeake, which stranded General Cornwallis’s army and led to the surrender of the British at Yorktown.
Popular support does not mean the support of the majority of the population or anywhere near close to it. A minority is enough, maybe 20% or so, provided that an overall majority is not on the side of the government. If, when added to the supporters, enough of the population is indifferent so that the total of the supporters plus the indifferent is a clear majority, that is enough. In the American Revolution, probably no more than a third of the population were active supporters of the rebellion. At least that many were indifferent and only wanted to be left alone. Possibly a quarter to a third of the population were Loyalists.
The battlefield in an insurgency (and in a counter-insurgency) is the people. It is not the lowlands of South Carolina, the farms of Eastern Massachusetts or, for that matter, Helmand Province. It is the people. If one is going to prevail against an insurgency, and truly prevail, not just kick-the-can down the road for another decade or a generation, the government forces must win over the people. This involves something that is very difficult to accept, much less carry out: The government must take a hard look at the grievances of the population which is supporting the insurgency and honestly address them in order to drain the rebellion of the support for a violent insurgency. One can only imagine how history would have been different if the British government in the 1760s had forthrightly addressed the rising tide of grievances being expressed by the Colonists.
The government has to provide the sort of basic services that people expect from a government. Good roads are one, so are education, clean water, security and, where possible, electricity. The government has to provide an honest and fair legal system, one where people have a chance for justice, not one where law enforcement and the judiciary are wholly corrupt and in the pocket of the wealthy. The government itself cannot be overly corrupt. And last, but by no means unimportant, government has to provide a mechanism whereby people’s complaints about the government itself are dealt with in a fair manner.
The problem most governments face is a reliance on conventional armed forces to defeat an insurgency. Armed forces are designed to go into hostile places and break things, to defeat a hostile force on a battlefield, where it is of little import if the battlefield is torn up and devastated by the fighting. But in an insurgency, the battlefield is the people.
Conventional military actions almost always result in civilian casualties. If a man with a rifle hides behind a family’s house and shoots at a government patrol and, in response, the government forces call in an airstrike which destroys the house and the neighboring homes, those families who were displaced will probably blame the government forces. If family members died in the destroyed houses, it is more likely than not that the young men of those families will go to fight for the insurgency. Indeed, it is a tactic of insurgents to provoke government forces into causing civilian casualties.
Armed forces promote officers who are good fighters and who are successful at leading soldiers in combat. A commander may receive a medal or a good evaluation based on a combat action against an insurgent force. Commanders are not given medals for providing potable water to a village. They are not given awards for building and staffing schools. Commanders are not relieved because in an action against insurgents, two villages were destroyed. The destruction of those two villages create more anger against the government and provide fertile soil for the insurgency.
Northern Ireland is, so far, a case study in how to do it right. The Catholic minority had real grievances against the British. The insurgency ended when the British government began to seriously address those grievances. The British have taken pains to make sure that the Catholics feel that they are stakeholders in the governance of Northern Ireland. By doing so, they have drained the support from the Irish Republican Army. There are still some radicals from the IRA who are committing acts of murder and terrorism in order to provoke a heavy-handed response by the British against the Catholic population. So far, the British have not taken the bait.
Sri Lanka is an example of the defeat of an insurgency by denying it a safe haven. The problem for the Sri Lankans is that the government has not addressed any of the grievances of the Tamil minority and indeed, by the actions taken against the Tamil people, have provided the soil for the rise of another insurgency in a decade or a generation. Like the French in Algeria, a victory against a rebel group may lead to ultimate defeat.
We cannot crush the Taliban's bases in Pakistan. We cannot widen the war into Pakistan without inflaming the Pakistani people. Pakistan's army is incapable of doing so. Worse, the Taliban may be funded by Pakistan's intelligence service, which views the Taliban as a counterweight to India, which has provided some support to the current Afghan government. If the Afghan War is to be won, the Afghan people must be won over.
The Afghan War may have been winnable, at one point, but it almost certainly has slipped from our grasp. The current Afghan government is wholly corrupt and thoroughly incompetent. President Karzai has been derided as the “Mayor of Kabul.” There are persistent allegations that his brother is one of the major heroin traffickers in the country. The Afghan police are notoriously corrupt; they have a track record of setting up checkpoints which function mainly as places for the extortion of bribes from travelers. Seven years into the creation of the Karzai government, the Afghan Army is seriously understrength. Afghanistan has several million more people than Iraq, yet the current Iraqi Army is several times larger than the Afghan Army.
The time to make a serious push to bring some development and improvement in the lives of the Afghan people was between 2002 and 2005, but this was almost completely ignored by the Bush Administration. Worse, the Bush Administration and the Karzai government cut deals with various Afghan warlords to provide some level of nominal national flag control over the nation. The result of that was that the warlords were, of course, adverse to any development which strengthened the power of the central government.
Underfunding and underresourcing the security efforts against the insurgents resulted in an unhealthy reliance on air power. There is no such thing as a "surgical strike", air power is a blunt instrument. Dropping bombs on people almost always results in civilian casualties. In a tribal society, where ancient notions of honor and vengeance run strong, killing civilians creates more enemies. Brutal and heavy-handed tactics result in areas where the people are, if not anti-government, unwilling to cooperate with the security forces.
Rampant corruption of both the Karzai government and the local warlords have opened the door to the Taliban. The Taliban are not popular, they were and are a brutal bunch, but their former government provided some things that the Afghan people prized: The Taliban regime was not noted for its corruption, there was reasonable security and there was a rough, albeit brutal form of justice.
We cannot win if our goal is to prop up a kleptocracy. Until the corruption of the Karzai government is dealt with, until the corruption of the Afghan security forces is dealt with, until the warlords are dealt with, then sending more troops to battle the Taliban will be a fool’s errand. The cost of which will be paid for with the blood of American and NATO soldiers and with the blood of the Afghan people.
Their descendants make up the bulk of the GOP and the viewership of Fox News.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Alabama Electric Cooperative Inc. - Washington County - 28,400 tons
Alabama Power Co. - Mobile County - 282,900 tons
Alabama Power Co. - Etowah County - 34,100 tons
Alabama Power Co. - Walker County - 304,900 tons
Alabama Power Co. - Greene County - 211,900 tons
Alabama Power Co. - Jefferson County - 61,500 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Colbert County - 29,200 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Jackson County - 407,600 tons
Arizona Electric Power Cooperative Inc. - Cochise County - 33,000 tons
Arizona Public Service Co. - Navajo County - 258,000 tons
Domtar Industries Inc. - Little River - 40,300 tons
Southwestern Electric Power Co. - Benton County - 19,400 tons
Platte River Power Authority - Larimer County - 5,700 tons
Gulf Power Co. - Bay County - 70,300 tons
Tampa Electric Co. - Hillsborough County - 200 tons
Georgia Power Co. - Bartow County - 93,300 tons
Georgia Power Co. - Putnam County - 416,300 tons
Georgia Power Co. - Heard County - 536,700 tons
Georgia Power Co. - Monroe County - 470,600 tons
Savannah Electric & Power Co. - Chatham County - 10,000 tons
Savannah Electric & Power Co. - Effingham County - 15,000 tons
Ameren Energy Generating Co. - Crawford County - 31,000 tons
Ameren Energy Generating Co. - Morgan County - 48,000 tons
Ameren Energy Generating Co. - Jasper County - 109,000 tons
Dynegy Midwest Generation Inc. - Randolph County - 116,000 tons
Dynegy Midwest Generation Inc. - Mason County - 86,000 tons
Dynegy Midwest Generation Inc. - Putnam County - 20,800 tons
Dynegy Midwest Generation Inc. - Vermilion County - 13,700 tons
Dynegy Midwest Generation Inc. - Madison County - 14,200 tons
Springfield City of - Sangamon County - 72,100 tons
Ameren Energy Resources Generating - Peoria County - 52,000 tons
Ameren Energy Resources Generating - Fulton County - 63,000 tons
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. - Warrick County - 241,900 tons
Hoosier Energy R E C Inc. - Pike County - 39,800 tons
Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp. - Jefferson County - 21,700 tons
Indianapolis Power & Light Co. - Marion County - 175,900 tons
Indiana Michigan Power Co. - Dearborn County - 140,600 tons
Indiana Michigan Power Co. - Spencer County - 11,800 tons
PSI Energy Inc. - Vermillion County - 210,900 tons
PSI Energy Inc. - Knox County - 11,500 tons
PSI Energy Inc. - Floyd County - 125,600 tons
PSI Energy Inc. - Vigo County - 192,100 tons
PSI Energy Inc. - Gibson County - 897,800 tons
Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co. - Warrick County - 35,600 tons
Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co. - Posey County - 165,750 tons
Interstate Power & Light Co. - Allamakee County - 24,000 tons
MidAmerican Energy Co. - Pottawattamie County - 104,500 tons
MidAmerican Energy Co. - Woodbury County - 50,200 tons
MidAmerican Energy Co. - Louisa County - 23,000 tons
Kansas City City of - Wyandotte County - 10,200 tons
Westar Energy - Pottawatomie County - 184,100 tons
Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. - Boone County - 172,900 tons
East Kentucky Power Cooperative Inc. - Clark County - 60,000 tons
East Kentucky Power Cooperative Inc. - Mason County - 4,300 tons
Kentucky Utilities Co. - Mercer County - 140,500 tons
Kentucky Utilities Co. - Carroll County - 634,700 tons
Kentucky Utilities Co. - Muhlenberg County - 30,600 tons
Kentucky Utilities Co. - Woodford County - 18,900 tons
Louisville Gas & Electric Co. - Jefferson County - 37,100 tons
Louisville Gas & Electric Co. - Jefferson County - 64,700 tons
Louisville Gas & Electric Co. - Trimble County - 150,900 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Muhlenberg County - 125,700 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - McCracken County - 61,100 tons
Western Kentucky Energy Corp. - Henderson County - 12,300 tons
Western Kentucky Energy Corp. - Webster County - 21,800 tons
Kentucky Power Co. - Lawrence County - 298,300 tons
Cleco Power LLC - De Soto Parish - 51,900 tons
Louisiana Generating LLC - Pointe Coupee Parish - 139,400 tons
Mirant Mid-Atlantic LLC - Montgomery County - 3,000 tons
Allegheny Energy Supply Co. LLC - Washington County - 25,100 tons
Consumers Energy Co. - Bay County - 108,800 tons
Consumers Energy Co. - Bay County - 69,900 tons
Consumers Energy Co. - Monroe County - 3,400 tons
Detroit Edison Co. - Monroe County - 482,000 tons
Lansing City of - Eaton County - 5,100 tons
Allete Inc. - St Louis County - 20,200 tons
Allete Inc. - Itasca County - 163,400 tons
Northern States Power Co. - Dakota County - 4,800 tons
Northern States Power Co. - Ramsey County - 10 tons
Northern States Power Co. - Hennepin - 6,700 tons
Northern States Power Co. - Sherburne - 355,700 tons
Mississippi Power Co. - Harrison County - 39,100 tons
Weyerhaeuser Co. - Lowndes County - 60,000 tons
Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. - New Madrid County - 109,200 tons
Empire District Electric Co. - Jasper County - 53,500 tons
Independence City of - Jackson County - 29,750 tons
Kansas City Power & Light Co. - Platte County - 16,400 tons
Sikeston City of - Scott County - 11,300 tons
Ameren UE - Franklin County - 250,000 tons
Ameren UE - St Louis County - 111,000 tons
Ameren UE - St Charles County - 102,000 tons
Ameren UE - Jefferson County - 96,000 tons
PPL Montana LLC - Rosebud County - 963,600 tons
Arizona Public Service Co. - San Juan County - 461,700 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Buncombe County - 106,000 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Chatham County - 101,300 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Wayne County - 106,100 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Person County - 46,300 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - New Hanover County - 166,000 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Robeson County - 47,000 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Person County - 212,800 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Gaston County - 143,400 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Rowan County - 121,900 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Cleveland County - 96,900 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Rockingham County - 28,500 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Catawba County - 33,500 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Gaston County - 93,100 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Stokes County - 41,400 tons
Basin Electric Power Cooperative - Mercer County - 194,800 tons
Cardinal Operating Co. - Jefferson County - 490,400 tons
Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. - Clermont County - 76,700 tons
Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. - Hamilton County - 224,300 tons
Columbus Southern Power Co. - Coshocton County - 21,200 tons
Columbus Southern Power Co. - Pickaway County - 10,600 tons
Dayton Power & Light Co. - Adams County - 653,300 tons
Dayton Power & Light Co. - Adams County - 252,600 tons
Ohio Power Co. - Washington County - 143,400 tons
Ohio Power Co. - Gallia County - 90,700 tons
Ohio Valley Electric Corp. - Gallia County - 231,500 tons
Western Farmers Electric Cooperative Inc. - Choctaw - 16,560 tons
Pennsylvania Power Co. - Beaver County - 568,400 tons
PPL Corp. - Northampton County - 37,300 tons
Sunbury Generation LLC - Snyder County - 500 tons
Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. - Darlington County - 62,200 tons
Duke Energy Corp. - Anderson County - 63,500 tons
South Carolina Electric&Gas Co. - Colleton County - 101,100 tons
South Carolina Electric&Gas Co. - Aiken County - 12,500 tons
South Carolina Public Service Authority - Berkeley County - 10,900 tons
South Carolina Public Service Authority - Horry County - 7,000 tons
South Carolina Public Service Authority - Berkeley County - 34,900 tons
South Carolina Public Service Authority - Georgetown - 8,950 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Anderson County - 22,400 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Sumner County - 180,500 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Hawkins County - 10,000 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Humphreys County - 53,700 tons
Tennessee Valley Authority - Roane County - 325,900 tons
Topaz Power Group LLC - Goliad County - 63,500 tons
Lower Colorado River Authority - Fayette County - 39,910 tons
Southwestern Electric Power Co. - Harrison County - 120,000 tons
TXU Electric Co. - Milam County - 314,400 tons
Los Angeles City of - Millard County - 96,700 tons
Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. - Salt Lake County - 34,300 tons
Appalachian Power Co. - Giles County - 5,800 tons
Virginia Electric & Power Co. - Fluvanna County - 85,000 tons
Virginia Electric & Power Co. - Chesterfield County - 322,600 tons
Virginia Electric & Power Co. - Chesapeake County - 34,800 tons
Appalachian Power Co. - Putnam County - 391,900 tons
Appalachian Power Co. - Kanawha County - 1,600 tons
Appalachian Power Co. - Mason County - 9,500 tons
Central Operating Co. - Mason County - 137,100 tons
Ohio Power Co. - Marshall County - 48,700 tons
Ohio Power Co. - Marshall County - 307,400 tons
Wisconsin Power & Light Co. - Columbia County - 11,000 tons
Basin Electric Power Cooperative - Platte County - 79,100 tons
PacifiCorp. - Lincoln County - 119,000 tons
PacifiCorp. - Campbell County - 28,000 tons
Sunday, May 31, 2009
But in thinking on this more, I am convinced that there is a threat to the United States that is wrapped up in the so-called Global War On Terror. That threat is internal and it comes from the political Right in our own country. That may sound provocative to some, but bear with me here.
The first threat to Americans (and by that, I mean the dominant Judeo-Christian types) was that of being wiped out by the indigenous peoples (from here on out, I'm going to refer to them by the term we grew up with: Indians. Sue me.). That threat was greatly eliminated by a fact that the first Europeans probably did not appreciate at first, which was that because people from second millennium Eurasian stock had a degree of resistance to a large number of rather nasty diseases; diseases that had arisen over a few thousand years because Eurasians had been living in close proximity to a large number of species of domestic animals. Those animals were unknown to the Americas, so the Indians had no resistance at all to those diseases. Smallpox apparently spread like wildfire and wiped out communities that had not seen a European and did not first see a European for a very long time afterwards.
(By the way, if you are wondering why the "bird flu" is giving nightmares to the infectious disease specialists, this is one of the reasons why.)
So when the Europeans arrived in significant numbers, the Indian population had already been greatly reduced. The Europeans had better weapons, better numbers and massacred the Indians that put up any resistance, which was what conquerors traditionally did. The Indians indeed were a threat at times, the Norsemen in the 1000s were not able to establish a permanent settlement, but once the Europeans showed up with guns, the Indians were never able to push them back into the sea. There were small-scale wars for almost four hundred years, but the Indians lost on the battlefield.
The most significant threat to what was to become the USA came from the mother country, England. England could have crushed the American rebels, but they had other fish to fry in that both a few of the other European powers took the opportunity to make some trouble for England and the French provided critical support. The French supplied weapons, funds, training and the intervention of the fleet of Comte de Grasse, which prevented the Royal Navy from evacuating the British forces pinned down in Yorktown. The British threat returned during what we call the War of 1812, they did burn a good chunk of Washington, D.C., but the War of 1812 was still a bit of a sideshow for the British when compared to the ongoing Napoleonic Wars.
I'll skip over the Civil War, since that was basically a family fight.
What was the next external threat? Maybe Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II, but probably not. The U-Boats were an issue for international trade, but it's hard to argue that Germany could have launched a trans-oceanic invasion. Without America's intervention in World War 1, the Germans might have been able to bring the U-Boat campaign to a successful conclusion and force Britain to sue for peace. Without the British in the war, France might have indeed fallen to Germany or at the very least been forced into an armistice under conditions far more favorable to Germany than the one that ended that war. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empires may have survived a bit longer. But still, there was no serious threat to the Western Hemisphere.
World War 2 was different to some degree. Germany may have eventually developed the technical ability to launch direct attacks on American soil, but it's hard to see how Germany would have been able to conquer the US. They had their hands full dealing with Russia. Maybe they would have pushed deeper without Germany having to prepare for and defend against attack from the Anglophone nations, but Russia is a huge country. Could they have conquered Russia, occupied it and then gone on to invade and conquer North America? I doubt it. Even without direct entry into the war against Germany, the US would have still poured supplies into Russia. And let's not forget that the Russians themselves made over 50,000 tanks.
Japan had the capability to mount an invasion of the Hawaiian island chain and possibly a larger chunk of Alaska than the two islands they took. Xenophobic hysteria aside, however, Japan did not have the capacity to invade, much less occupy, the rest of North America. They were already occupying a large chunk of China, which required hundreds of thousands of troops, if not a million or more. They didn't have the troops to take and hold both China and North America.
Probably the most serious threat to the US since the War of 1812 was posed by the Soviet Union. If a war had begun, the Soviets likely had the forces to be able to occupy the same European footprint that Germany had held. Absent nuclear weapons, they might have been able to carry out a Red Army version of Operation Sealion and invaded Great Britain. But executing a transoceanic invasion without a large base of operations near the point of invasion is a huge undertaking, even if they tried coming through Alaska. Even crossing the English Channel against an enemy whose bulk of its military forces were unavailable was a tough endeavor. The threat to the US was not from invasion, but from massive destruction by nuclear attack. But that would have resulted in a similarly massive retaliatory strike against Russia and neither side was too thrilled at the prospect of being obliterated. So while proxy wars were waged and much propaganda exchanged, a rough peace lasted for decades.
China may pose a threat in the far future. And whether Vladimir Putin can succeed in his quest to stamp out what democracy currently exists in Russia and re-form the Soviet Union remains to be seen.
Which brings me to the present day.
Al Qaeda clearly has the capability of mounting attacks on US soil. They succeeded in 1993 and 2001. They tried at least once, maybe more often, between the successful attacks, but those attempt(s) were foiled. (By the way, don't hold your breath while you wait for the Right to give any smidgen of credit to the Clinton Administration.) What al Qaeda cannot do and cannot hope to do is invade the US. They pose a threat that is beyond a nuisance, but clearly is not a mortal threat.
Remember what bin Ladin saw in the 1980s: The Moslem Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, with material assistance from the US, tied down and bled the Red Army to the point that the Russians gave up. What I suspect that bin Laden hoped to achieve by 9/11 was to provoke the US into a massive invasion of Afghanistan, one that could be used to rally the Moslem world to his cause. The US did not oblige him, but not because the Bush Administration saw the trap and avoided it. No, the Bush Administration had another war in mind and in invading Iraq, managed to put our troops into the situation bin Laden likely envisioned for Afghanistan. It probably was a dream come true for bin Laden as it probably has been far easier for al Qaeda to get propaganda out of Iraq and jihadists into Iraq than it would have been for Afghanistan.
But that still isn't a serious threat to the US.
The Right seems to often be of the opinion that the sole arbiter and instrument of American power is the military. Military power is significant, but if they think that's the driving factor, they are delusional. America's influence throughout the world come as much, if not more, from our economy, our freedoms, our civil liberties and our popular culture. I don't know of anybody who tuned into Radio Moscow to catch the music concerts, but the jazz programs on the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe were popular throughout the nations of the Warsaw Pact. American cultural influence continues to this day. American music, clothes, and movies are to be found around the globe. Less tolerant nations try to stop these influences with no real success.
Where we lose our influence is in many of the actions or inactions of our government. It is not a real stretch to say that overseas, democracy is something that we inflict on our enemies. If a nation is our friend or is useful, we tolerate all sorts of less-than-democratic forms of government. Only a coked-out drunk would even think of Saudi Arabia as being anywhere close to a democratic nation. Egypt held a sham presidential election a few years ago with no more than a "tut-tut" from the Bush Administration. Pakistan, until very recently, was led by a military dictator who dabbled with democracy, but tried not to let it go too far (with the support of the Bush Administration). Algeria crushed its democracy without a peep from the West when a fundamentalist party won the last election well over a decade ago. The CIA's overthrow of the Iranian government and re-establishment of its monarchy over fifty years ago has had unpleasant reverberations to this day. Chile. Argentina. Greece. The Bush Administration was happy to have bases in Uzbekistan until the fact that its leader had a penchant for torturing people by boiling them alive came to light. Even so, a state that practiced brutal torture was useful to a nation that styles itself as a beacon of liberty.
As I understand it, one of bin Ladin's arguments is that American commitment to democracy ends as soon as there is anything in it for America. Bin Ladin may also hope to prove to the world that the US is just another thug state and that its true commitment to democracy and liberty within its borders is a tenuous as a soap bubble. In this, his unwitting ally was George W. Bush. By running secret prisons, by engaging in and outsourcing torture, Bush took an attitude that respect for human rights is something for lessor nations.
The Right is largely complicit in this. The Bush Administration defended its right to torture people, the Right applauded. The Bush Administration worked to gut the protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Right seconded with the cry of "only the guilty need fear anything", a line that could well have been mouthed by the Gestapo. The Bush Administration moved to limit free speech by making sure that Bush never heard a peep of dissent and the Right stayed silent. Massive datamining. Monitoring telephone conversations and e-mails. Engaging in domestic spying on dissidents by the Army and the FBI. Maintaining an enemies list that was far larger than Nixon’s. Trying to set up a "spy on your neighbor" program. Terror threat alerts that seemed to be suspiciously tied to the 2004 election cycle. The Right applauded all of this as the Bush Administration sought to live up to Ben Franklin's dictum concerning liberty and security.
To be fair, not all of the Right marched in lockstep with the Bush Administration. There have been true conservatives who became alarmed at the power grabs of the Bush Administration. But they were few and far between. We have a written Constitution because the Founding Fathers did not believe in the "we know what is best, trust us" form of government. But that is what Bush kept saying, in effect, that we should all shut up and trust him. And the Right went merrily along with that. Even now, Dick Cheney is publicly arguing, in essence, that the only way to keep the country safe is to have a system of elected tyrants, where the president is above the rule of law and can do whatever he wants.
Bin Ladin cannot destroy or even cripple the US. We, however, can do it to ourselves and what bin Ladin may be trying to do is create the conditions where that comes about. The far Right's call to "round up all them ragheads", if carried out, would be a propaganda gold mine for al Qaeda. But we do not have to go that far, sacrificing our rights and liberties is enough to prove the point. In the formerly designated Global War on Terror, the Right became the "useful idiots" of al Qaeda.
It goes further than that, of course. The Right’s view of what course this country should take took a major blow in the 2006 and 2008 elections. The response of the Right has been from holding “tea-bagging” protests (largely orchestrated by Fox News) to suggestions from some Southern politicians that succession is an option to dark mutterings about a second civil war. It is clear, at least to me, that the Right’s devotion to democracy only lasts as long as they win (or steal) the elections. For when they lose, they, like the intellectual brats they have proven to be, are all too willing to destroy this country.
The Right is indeed the most dangerous threat to this country that now exists.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I see that the DVD for the opening of the next series "Caprica" has been released. Frak that shit. I'm not going to trust those putzim again.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I was riveted by the final episode of Battlestar Galactica, right up to the point that the Galactica came out of her last jump and moved past the Moon over to Earth. Our Earth, not the Earth of the Thirteenth Colony. After that? Ecch!
It has been clear all along that the show had an undercurrent of divine intervention. But this was a little much for me. I understood that the Six inside Baltar's head and the Baltar inside Caprica Six's head were angels. Starbuck as an angel, though, seemed a bit much. So did the idea that all 38,000 Colonials and skin-job Cylons would willingly abandon all technology and become Stone-Age farmers and hunter-gatherers on a planet that has small groups of human hunter-gatherers, who are genetically-compatible with the Colonials/Cylons.
I guess the point that within a year or two, 95% of those people will have probably starved to death didn't make it into the cheeriness of the final episode.
It just doesn't sit right with me. Battlestar Galactica has spent just over five years (the miniseries aired in December, 2003) as one of the darkest SF shows around. It began with a surprise attack on the Twelve Colonies that killed tens of billions of people; from there it explored themes of hard-edged survival, occupation, resistance, medical experiments on people, torture, suicide bombings, rigged elections, and so on and so forth. The last hour of the show felt as though a pack of writers from Star Trek had parachuted into the show to bring light and love to the ending.
Compared to the darkness that permeated the show (miniseries, Razor and 73 episodes), the last episode was like dragging the needle arm across a record. So we have the hand of the Almighty bumping a dead Raptor to nuke the Cylon colony (presumably wiping out most of the remaining ones, fours, fives and eights) and making resurrection impossible for them and, in another bit of divine intervention, angel-Kara enters the numbers she derived from the Cylon-Song, which were the coordinates for our planet, into the jump computer. Plus, the idea that, after all that had gone on before, John Cavil ate his gun was a bit unbelievable.
And, of course, the Dying Leader Knew the Truth of the Opera House. Not to mention that Hera Agathon is the "Mitochondria Eve," the Great(x 7,500) Grandmother of us all.
Look, I expected the Colonials to find a habitable planet. But dropping onto our world 150,000 years ago, agreeing to abandon all technology, and acting as the spark to take humans on this planet from loose tribes of non-speaking hunter-gatherers to eventual civilization is a bit too much for me to swallow. In essence, the Colonials are acting as the Black Rectangular Stone from "2001, a Space Odyssey".
I expected the last hour to, well, be in tune with the rest of the show and not be so frakking cheery. I will probably watch the last three hours again to see if I still feel this way.
For now, color me "disappointed."
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The Raptor scout mission which found the Cylon main base did so by sweeping it on dradis. Unless there is some weird effect on the Cylon EW detection suite, Cavil knows that he has been found and that an attack may be in the offing.
Next Friday's conclusion to the series should be very interesting.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
This is a shot of the USS Spruance in drydock. Ticonderoga-class cruisers were pretty much built on the same hull form. The big bulge at the bottom of the bow is the sonar dome. On a Tico, the bottom of the dome is 33' underwater.
This is a sonar dome for a SQS-53 sonar. A rubber window, which is a very large radial rubber belt, goes in the gap. The metal base underneath is known as the "banjo." Those black squares are transducer elements.
This is one of the screws from an Arleigh Burke class DDG. The Burke class uses the same engine as the Ticos, the LM-2500 gas turbine, so odds are the screws look about the same. ("Screws" are what you might call "props.")
Look closely at the base of the blades and you can see that they can be rotated. Unlike steam turbines, gas turbines cannot be reversed (the LM-2500 is, at the core, a jet engine from a jumbo jet), so if you want to back up, you have to twist the blades. Indeed, from 0-12 knots or so, the turbines rotate at the same speed; so at slow speeds, the ship's speed is controlled by the pitch of the screws. When the ship goes faster than that, the turbines speed up and the pitch stays the same.
The Port Royal went aground in 22 feet of water. A Tico cruiser has a displacement of over 9,000 tons. Take 9,000 tons of ship, run it into hard ground that is 11 feet shallower than the depth of water that the ship draws and Bad Things are going to happen.
Really bad things.
This is the aft vertical launcher for a Tico cruiser. Under each of those doors is a silo for a SM-2/3 ER missile. The missiles are just a skosh over 26 feet long.
If you were to twist the hull a lot, as you might in a grounding, you could twist the launcher doors out of true. That is a Bad Thing.
Last night, I posted that "officials" said that the screws were damaged and that the tips were"'sheared off." Those blades, as you can see, are one-piece right down to the hubs.
What I am told is this:
The blades for the screws were not damaged, they were destroyed. The screw blades were sheared off. The shafts were bent enough that the shaft bearing, which probably are large babbit-bearings, were damaged. The stern tube seals were damaged and the ship was taking on water into the shaft alleys. The base of the rudders were also grounded, driving the rudders up or twisting them. The reduction gears (between the gas turbines and the screw shaft) may have been damaged. One or more of the gas turbine engines might have been damaged. I don't know if there is a shear coupling in the power train between the gas turbines and the shaft; there could be, but it would have to be a huge-ass thing., so I tend to doubt it.
As you might imagine, the sonar dome was toast. The banjo was bent up, the transducer itself is probably badly damaged.
The twisting of the hull reportedly damaged at least one of the vertical rocket launchers and cracked the firemain system. A number of bulkheads throughout the ship were twisted and buckled. A number of fuel tanks leaked, though apparently not into the sea. Hull members (I-beams welded to hull plating) are likely twisted, cracked and/or buckled.
The firemain system is composed of piping that is pressurized with seawater; it is used for cooling as well as fire-fighting. When a ship runs around, the firemain can get clogged with bottom debris. The firemain on the Port Royal supposedly is clogged with sand and coral debris. Coral and sand are extremely abrasive, so the firemain pump(s) that were online at the time of the grounding probably will need to be torn down. The valves throughout the firemain may all need to be checked and the piping itself will have to be flushed.
Seawater is also used for cooling. The air-conditioning units on the ship (there are several large units) use seawater for cooling and those are probably all clogged with sand and coral. There is a lot of other damage to the ship that in other circumstances would be a serious "oh, shit," but now are almost minor in comparison.
The Port Royal was in her first day of sea trials after spending two months in drydock. She will be back in drydock for a very long time. The damage doesn't stop there, as the long-range scheduling committments for the ship will have to be filled by other ships, which will find their deployments extended and/or moved up. Maintenance work on other ships will be deferred or delayed, both because the Port Royal is occupying a drydock and because the work will suck up dollars already allocated. Given the amount of work that may be required to fix her up, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Navy may decide to patch her up for now to make sure she doesn't sink, decommission her, refloat her, store her along a pier and fix her up later once money and resources are identified. (That's what the Navy did when the USS Belknap burned in the 1970s.)
And, of course, a number of the officers of the Port Royal had better start thinking of what they are going to do next, as their careers are over.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I would not have been surprised if the attempted coup by Zarek and Gaeta had been used as a way to terminate the show early, that the "ten episodes" of Season 4.5 turned out to be a deception. That would probably have been too dark for the show's writers.
Admiral Adama is now back in command of his ship and in command of a crew, a good number of whom he cannot trust. The Fleet is divided between ships that would have followed Zarek and ships that remained loyal to President Roslin. Eleven of the twelve members of the Quorum of Twelve, the legislature of the Colonial Fleet, were killed on Zarek's orders, only the representative of the survivors of Caprica, Lee Adama, remains alive. Zarek and Gaeda were summarily shot by a firing squad commanded by the Admiral.
There is no effective representative government left. Roslin now has basically a dictatorship; Zarek's objective was achieved, but his enemies got the benefit of it. Roslin and the Admiral could easily sink into a fair degree of paranoia, creating secret police from known loyalists and imprisoning known or suspected traitors.
They are also on the verge of running out of fuel and supplies. They took nothing from Earth, the planet was too radioactive. Since they restocked on their fuel "Tylium" in the first season, there has been no mention of further supplies, so they have to be running low now. There is also the rest of the Cylon fleet to contend with; the rebel Cylons of Twos, D'Anna (the one surviving Three), Sixes and Eights are apparently down to one battered BaseStar.
The Colonial Fleet is, in the old aviation saying, running out of altitude, airspeed and ideas at the same time.
Six episodes to go.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I was wrong, of course on both counts. But not by much for Gaeta. Once Gaeta aligned himself with Zarek, their fates were tied to each other. The rebel forces fell surprisingly fast. Once word spreads around the Fleet that Zarek had the Quorum of Twelve shot, his memory will be cursed forever.
And you just know that Admiral Adama had to have taken no small pleasure in personally commanding the firing squad that shot both Gaeta and Zarek.
Monday, February 2, 2009
First off, I have to love Starbuck. When it comes to fighting, she is one cool woman. Apollo had been captured by a group of rebels; when she ordered them at gunpoint to release him and they refused, she shot two of them them and then said: "I can do this all day."
(Those pistols don't seem to have much killing power for the ball round. I don't know what they are, but they definately aren't .45s.)
Gaeta's forces took Admiral Adama and Col. Tigh; who overpowered their guards and escaped. As the episode ends, it appears that Adama and Tigh are going to go all "Butch Cassidy" against a large group of Colonial Marines.
I don't see the uprising ending quickly, but I am reasonably sure that it will end with Tom Zarek fleeing in a ship or a small group of ships. Felix Gaeta will probably wind up with Starbuck either putting a bullet in his head or shoving him out an airlock.
Still, in my opinion, the best hour of TV during any given week.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The best answer, and the one that shut everyone else down, was: "I'd shoot him in the back from 500 yards away with a .375 H&H." When asked why, the answer was two-fold: The .375 has a good sectional density, so it is highly accurate at long ranges, and more importantly, it would not be possible to call in an air strike on his ass.
I offer that story as a lead-in to this lengthy post.
I have made little comment on Israel's attack on Gaza for a few reasons.
First, war is not something done by the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. The only thing that matters about a war is who prevails and who does not. Playing nice and losing is for suckers.
Second, I am of the opinion that if Hamas had fired a barrage of missiles and hit an elementary school with a bunch of kids inside and killed several score of them, the reaction in the Arab Street would have been somewhere between silence and gloating. There would have been no storm of protest, no outrage. The comments from a lot of people in this country would have been along the lines of "that is truly a shame, but..." with the "but" being the prelude to reasons why such at attack is to be expected from Hamas and why they would be justified in killing Israeli children.
Third, I am Jewish. When Hamas issues a threat to kill Jewish children (not only Israeli children), yes, I tend to take that personally. It also makes me a little less interested in standing up to the lazy-ass Wingnuts who conflate terrorists with all Muslims. Stuff such as this, which when it occurred in this country after 9-11 and was widely condemned, passes without a peep from the apologists for the Palestinians.
Fourth, and I shout this out to all of the rest of the world:
Just What the Fuck Did You Really Expect of Us?
That is a serious question.
For centuries, Jews have tried to fit in wherever you ("you" as in "the rest of the world") would have us. If all you would let us do was farm, we became peasants. If you let us into business, we became bankers and merchants. If you let us attend universities, we became doctors and lawyers and scholars and scientists. Where you let us assimilate, we assimilated. For the most part, we stayed away from the profession of arms, usually because the local rulers wanted only "good Christian soldiers." In large measure, for century after century, we turned the other cheek and, when things got too gritty, many of us fled for another land. Those of us who stayed behind and tried to fit in, even converting to the local religion, often got killed off anyway.
For century after century, we tried to be good, to not make a fuss, and for our pains, we endured cycle after cycle of settlement, integration (as much as was permitted), discrimination, expulsion and murder.
Then came the 20th Century. I won't give you a recital of the horrors of the Holocaust, but only to observe that even in countries where Jews had been living for centuries, where some were fully assimilated, the Jews were rooted out and exterminated. People whose only connection to the practice of Judaism was by ancestry, people who spoke not a word of Hebrew or Yiddish and who had never set foot in a synagogue or touched a Torah were, nonetheless, packed into boxcars and set to their deaths. After it was all over, when many Jews who survived sought to go home, the locals killed them. Poland was probably the worst example of that.
You taught us a very hard lesson at a great cost: The only power that earns respect in this world comes from the barrel of a gun. We gave up, finally, on nonviolence. That shit only works when the powers that be have a conscience, which, as was shown in virtually all of continental Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, they did not. So we did what you have done for millennia: Find a place to call our own and, if the people who are already there do not want us there, fight them for it.
The land of Israel was our home a very long time ago and we went back in large numbers, mainly because no other place on the motherfucking planet would have us. You did not see the US, for example, offer to throw open its borders and take all of the people in the Displaced Persons camps after the war, did you?
Most of the Jews who survived the concentration camps went to the land of Israel and, although Europeans nowadays might like to pretend otherwise, they were more than happy to see the Jewish refugees leave Europe. As much as the Arab countries may hate Israel, they took full advantage of the existence of Israel as a reason to expel, to Israel, their local population of Jews, many of whose families had been living there peacefully for over a thousand years.
You taught us this lesson, too: No land that is not controlled by Jews will ever be wholly accepting of Jews. We may live there a decade, a century, a millenia, but sooner or later, you will try to wipe us out or push us out because you regard us as "filthy Jews."
The people of Israel understand how the game is played in the Middle East: The strong thrive, the weak are hammered. The Sunni Muslims have discriminated against the Shi'a Muslims in most Arab lands with little protest from the rest of the world. The Kurds have been struggling against oppression for centuries. That is the way it is. The people of Israel know that should the Arabs ever gain the upper hand, they will push every Jew into the sea to drown. You might take note of the fact that a goodly percentage of the Jewish population of Israel came from Arab counties; you won't find too many voices among those Jews calling for peace with Hamas.
We Jews also know this: That, to the world, the phrase "never again" is an empty one. Rwanda. Cambodia. Bosnia. Sudan. Genocides and mass-murders have occurred since 1945 and the reaction of the rest of the world has been mainly limited to hand-wringing. Saddam Hussein had the Kurds gassed, killing thousands, and nobody did anything about it. Europe did jack-shit about Bosnia until the US stepped in to stop the fighting, possibly the only example of a genocide being stopped, mid-way, but only because Bill Clinton was likely haunted by his failure to intervene in Rwanda. The Bush Administration, being not so haunted, has done little to curb the genocide in Darfur, other than flapping their gums at it.
That all the rest of the world ever does is to flap their gums and wring their hands in the face of genocide is no surprise to Jews. It was true before, during and after the Holocaust. Hell, most of the world won't even recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the one that gave Hitler the idea he could get away with it, because the nation which perpetrated the genocide is an influential nation in a sensitive region of the world. Move it up two decades: How many people can name the location, let alone the perpetrators, of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians in a single city?
The lesson of modern history is clear: If your people are unarmed and are being slaughtered, nobody will come to your assistance in a meaningful way. You might get some food and medical aid, but nobody will intervene to stop the bloodshed.
"Never again" to the Jews means that we will no longer perish without weapons in our hands and our enemies' blood being shed in copious amounts. If you do not like the idea of a heavily-armed Israel, of armed Jews in the world, then get over it. We tried playing nice before. Look what it got us.
Israel will negotiate, but when the Palestinian Arabs continue to press claims to *all* of Israel, to endorse the use of terrorism against the civilian population of Israel, you tell me: What is there to talk about? What is there to talk about with an enemy that regards negotiation as a step-by-step process to gain what it cannot gain on the battlefield?
The Jews are not leaving Israel. Until the Arabs, and that includes Hamas, understand that, until they understand that the state of Israel will not go away, then Israel will continue to play by Chicago Rules, rules that every party in the Middle East understands.
One final comment: Lots of people, as did I, thought that Israel screwed the pooch in going after Hezbollah and smashing much of the infrastructure of Lebanon to bits in 2006. But for all of the speeches and sloganeering and chest-beating by Hezbollah since that war, to my knowledge, Hezbollah has not fired a single Katyusha rocket into Israel, nor have they conducted any more cross-border raids to kidnap more Israelis. Hezbollah knows what it cost them to pick a fight with Israel and they seem to be very reluctant to repeat the experience.
That is, after all, the Chicago Way.
(UPDATE: Seems someone in Hezbollah may have gone off the reservation.)
(You probably came from here)