sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, May 31, 2015

String, gum, tape and paper clips

A Disadvantaged Youth

I read an article yesterday about a boy, lamenting that his upbringing began in a mixed-gender home. I'd never heard it put that way before. He meant to say that he was raised by a mother and father...how politically incorrect is THAT? 

I'm thinking of Running

I am feeling a bit lonely these days since the new move is for each and every Republican to run for President in 2016. If I throw my hat in the ring, will Fox News include me in the debates?

The Force Awakens

In the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, due out at Christmas 2015, will the Evil Emperor be married to a Wookie? I'm not predicting, just musing on how sometimes art imitates life. Hope and change always plays big with the Emperor's plans for his people.

A Better Mousetrap


If I start a Center for Environmental Justice, will the Clinton Foundation fund it? All I want to do is tap into some of those big time bribes in a very small way...just to fund my motorcycle hobby and maybe a yacht and private jet hobby that I'd like to acquire. The Clinton Foundation would win too with all of those ocean cruise/environmental studies and private jet flight/atmospheric studies that I'd do. Does that make me a wanna-be Al Gore? 'Cause you know I'm going to sell the center to a bunch of rich Arabs the first chance that I get, and cash out.

Hamburgers

Everyone has their favorites and it's often a matter of taste. Some people prefer the McDonald's basic burger, but most of those people are under the age of 6.

Really?

One month after the race riots that trashed Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that the city would apply for a $20 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to replenish the "rainy day fund" being used to pay for cleanup and police overtime costs in the wake of the mayhem that she herself is on record as encouraging. The Federal Government should not underwrite riots. Is it racist for me to suggest that? Mayor Rawlings-Blake, remember, is the one who lit the fuse by saying, "We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that" — a clear incitement to riot, even as she unconvincingly denied meaning any such thing while Baltimore burned.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Mess in Ukraine

            

Ukrainian forces are engaged in clashes all along the line of separation that divides free Ukraine from Russian/rebel-occupied Ukraine. Despite reports that suggest that a cease-fire agreement is holding, it is only "holding" because the parties involved have a political stake in reporting that. Current military engagements appear designed to gain local tactical advantages rather than armored spearpoints designed to claim large swaths of land. No clashes were reported in the area of Mariupol that might have suggested an intention to expand Russian-held territory in the direction of Crimea.

This map of Ukraine provides some perspective. The area upper right in red 
is the area that is currently being disputed. The area in red in the lower right 
is Crimea and it is firmly in the hands of the Russian Federation, protected by 
Russian troops - and they won't be giving it back.

The diplomatic and propaganda signals that Russian is sending to Ukraine do not include accepting the two southeastern regions in rebellion into the Russian federation. Russia prefers they remain autonomous regions within a federated Ukraine (the break-away region shown as "tan" in the first map, above,  Russia controls as puppets, after a fashion). It's more complicated than the good-guy bad guy scenario that is usually played out in the press because as usual, there are ethnic differences in the break-away region of Ukraine (not including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia) that cause a lot of the difficulties.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko insists that the breakaway regions must remain part of Ukraine. That requirement creates tactical conditions for continued fighting with the Russian-backed rebels, but also for a strategic deal with Russia. Russian leaders have made clear that southeastern Ukraine is not like Crimea. The rebels that they are supporting with money, troops and weapons systems must make the best deal they can. This signals that Putin and the Russian Federation are not interested in expanding through all of Ukraine and that there is an end to their interest in engaging in a protracted civil war/blood feud between Southeastern Ukraine and the rest of the country.

What does all this mean?

The irony in the situation is that the outcome is close to what US policy meddlers wanted more than a year ago, but not in the way they wanted it. Ukraine is an economic basket case with a need for financing that no private bank or institution would risk. Foreign aid that intends to see money reach "the street" is very difficult to manage because things in the nation are so chaotic. 

Ukrainian ties to Moscow that existed before the Russian sponsored "rebellion" have been severed. Ukraine has no recourse but to align with the West. Whatever else Russian President Putin judges that Russian meddling has achieved, it has not prevented Ukraine from focusing on the West. The Russian policies supporting southeastern Ukraine have produced a windfall for the West. NATO and European policymakers could not have engineered this outcome on their own, except for Russian bungling. Ukraine looks West.

Ukraine is relying on NATO assistance for military training and reforms. Russian support for the southeastern Ukrainian rebels has accentuated Ukraine’s orientation towards Europe. As a former socialist republic, however, Ukraine has too much official corruption, too many entitlement programs and too much bureaucratic mismanagement for easy membership in the European Union, not to mention NATO. 

They have to mend their own house and that is not easy in an environment where central government (now destitute) has been the guarantor of nearly everything in the way of means. Building the Ukrainian infrastructure such that it will be self-sufficient will take years of change and a different mindset on the part of the people, who were ruined under the failed Soviet system.

Frankly, I can't understand how Americans, such as President Obama and his coterie, find anything about communism to be appealing except for the notion of increasing their personal power. It failed in Russia and Ukraine and ultimately bankrupted both the nation and the spirit of its people. 
“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” -- Orwell, 1984

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Illusive Jackalope

An endangered Jackalope family
Jackalopes, once abundant in the American West, are being hunted to extinction. Who among you will donate to stop this senseless slaughter? Send your donations to Save the Jackalope Fund: Pay Pal - larry.lambert@mac.com. The money will be put to good use.

I've been told that every environmentalist needs to have a cause and I have chosen this one. Habitat preservation is a key element of the Save the Jackalope Fund. I hope to buy land and set it apart as a Jackalope refuge area. In order to better serve the Jackalopes, I need to construct a cabin on the land, drill a well, and build a shed to store my Jackalope research vehicles.

Pronghorn Jackalope
Hunters in the Rocky Mountain West prize Jackalopes for their fine racks and for their lush pelts (right). There are different varieties of Jackalope. Not all of you may be aware of those subsets of the genus - Jackalopicus Hornicus. Some are more endangered than others and what has the Federal Government done about it? In a word, nothing. I'm trying to pick up the slack and with your help, it can happen.

Once the refuge is in place (if you build it, they will come), I will  provide safe haven for all of these critically endangered members of God's Kingdom.

If you are traveling through Dubois, Wyoming and stop at the Exxon County Store, you can sit astride a genuine, stuffed prehistoric, giant, cave Jackalope, ancestor of the modern Jackalope.

In ancient times, they flourished as far south as Texas, but the Comanche hunted them relentlessly because of their prized racks and pelts. Can you drink the milk of a Jackalope? Rumor has it that the Comanche did and that alone led to their fierce warrior culture.


The Jackalope Ranch Restaurant, Indio, CA - serving farm raised (sustainable) Jackalope

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The End of MEDEA


The Central Intelligence Agency is shutting down MEDEA, a research program that offered classified data to scientists to examine the link between climate change and global security threats. The sense at CIA is that global warming in the context that many in the administration choose to frame it - is "less than completely valid."

Ryan Whaylen, CIA spokesperson, confirmed that the agency had ended its MEDEA program, a 1990s-era intelligence program restarted in 2010 under President Obama. The collaboration gave scientists access to intelligence assets like satellite data to study climate change and inform on how its impacts could inflame conflicts. Coincidentally, DCI Brennan said today that the CIA Director's job should have a fixed term like the FBI Director, who serves for ten years. Brennan doesn't feel that the job should be one of political patronage. I wonder if he's feeling some heat?

The announcement comes just days after President Obama said climate change was a "serious threat to global security" in a commencement address to the US Coast Guard Academy. Climate change, Obama said, "will impact how our military defends our country. So we need to act, and we need to act now." [Read more: Plautz/NationalJournal/21May2015]

I don't think that anyone is opposed to fighting human-caused pollution, and outside of Brazil, stopping the destruction of Brazilian rainforests is a popular and heartfelt cause. The onion has many layers and in the case of the weather, there is no data that indicates that the change in weather in the past 100 years is 'abnormal'. Consider that we drill for oil in the Arctic. AND Oil is produced by long-dead swamps and forests...it might have been warm there once. They are still finding mastodon carcasses in permafrost that is melting, which indicates to some that it may have been warmer in the Arctic, long before man's arrival. And then there was the Ice Age (not influenced by man) and the Global warming that ended the Ice Age (not influenced by man).

Finding a cause-and-effect nexus honestly means that researchers have to remove their political bias from their take on results. And whenever the government is pushing for a TAX to end climate change, you have to take it as the scam that it is.  It's right up there with Secretary of State blaming the Benghazi Massacre on an internet video that none of the terrorists ever saw or heard of...


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grinding Gears

The US and Canada have the largest proven reserves of oil in the world. It's not news. Much of that oil is tied up in shale, and popular wisdom suggests that it was too expensive to extract the oil from the medium that it was in. I believe that one of the only options that we have to reverse the disastrous Obama Years and the massive debt that this administration has created for us is to explore, drill, extract, refine and sell oil. I realize that's not popular with the Green movement, but it's reality. We are tied to oil as is every modern economy. One day that won't be the case but today is not that day.

I kissed all of that angst off yesterday and took the motorcycle out for a run. Check out that journey in the "Diavel Made Me Do It" blog on the sidebar to the left - RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Winners and Losers

President Barack Obama recently said in a speech at Georgetown University that one of the ways of fighting poverty, was to "ask from society's lottery winners" that they make a "modest investment" in government programs to help the poor. I recall President John F. Kennedy suggesting that we ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country.

What amount is a modest investment? Thomas Sowell said, "Most people who want to redistribute wealth don't want to talk about how that wealth was produced in the first place. They just want 'the rich' to pay their undefined 'fair share' of taxes. This 'fair share' must remain undefined because all it really means is 'more.'"

President Kennedy didn't see success as a lottery, a game of chance, where the winners "didn't build their businesses". President Obama does, and we have seen his administration - and others - do what the government does best: take by force. If you don't pay taxes, the penalties can be your home, your property and your freedom.

We saw the Obama Administration take tax money and put into a legion of companies, such as Solyndra, which had contributed to his political future. Almost all - many hundreds of billions of dollars worth of taxpayer invested rewards to his contributors folded in bankruptcy.

It's key to look at the track records of politicians. Hillary Clinton declared stridently that Benghazi was a "long time ago" about three months after the massacre, while she was dodging a Congressional subpoena. What is a long time ago in politics? We know that Obama had a shady record as a human being with hidden college transcripts and sealed records. We know that his social security number is one with a lot of unanswered questions attached to it. This administration wants to keep you focused on the three-card monte game that they're playing in front of you. Which shell hides the pea? And after you've lost, they want you to double-down and bet more. 

None of us have ever worked for a poor person. Poor people don't create jobs. Wealth is the only thing that can create more wealth. And it doesn't work when government takes an unreasonable amount from job creators. Barack Obama's trillion dollar stimulus created NO significant employment. Why is that? The businesses (shills for contributions) that were selected as poster children all folded. Why is that?

And what about Barack Obama's singular achievement: The "Affordable Healthcare Act"? How many hundreds of billions have we spent on that nightmare? Or is it trillions now?

Obama and Hillary Clinton, his minion and heir apparent are clearly the winners and we are the losers.

Monday, May 25, 2015

We do it for Them

Memorial Day is the time that we set aside to remember those who have fallen in war that others may live. The day brings to mind why those brave souls put themselves in harm's way. Irrespective of whether or not blood of warriors was betrayed by politicians, the sacrifice that they made is worthy of memory as is their motivation.


They did it for our homeland, our children, grandchildren and their examples provide the grist for a life of duty and sacrifice.

Photos of three of my grandsons at the Blueberry Farm (near where they live). I've harvested blueberries with the kids, that inevitably make their way into pancakes, for a few years now. Defending them and their future - It's one of those things that we do.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In Search of Modern China

Context and Precedence: A buddy of mine called me last night and invited me to his place in China. He lives in the penthouse of a high rise in Shenzhen (PRC where they fly the Chinese People's Republic flag), across the harbor from Hong Kong (PRC turf where they fly the Hong Kong flag). I usually stay at his place when I visit Southern China because (a) I'm cheap and he offers; (b) It's nicer than local hotels; (c) did I say that I'm cheap? The invitation set off a discussion of where China is going. I thought to share it with a bit of background.

About twelve years ago, I helped him move from the US to China, where he set up a series of businesses. The first made wooden doors. From there he moved to making large plastic palm trees that light up (earning him the nickname: The plastic palm tree king of China) then a  plastic injection molding factory, which he sold. Now a company that makes surfboards. 

He's almost 50 now, making him a bit long in the tooth, but he has come a long way. From being a white American who spoke no Chinese to an ex-pat who speaks rather good Chinese. There have been bumps along the way. He was taken hostage by organized crime once, got sick and experienced the wonders (and horrors) that are a Chinese ER room, and has had a series of Chinese girlfriends, none of whom worked out all that well. Whenever he gets into trouble, he calls me to bail him out, which I do reliably. As a result, I don't feel bad taking advantage of his hospitality, using one of his cars and drivers as if it's my own, and spending the night on Kowloon side at the Intercontinental on his account when I go to "town"(HK).

These days he quotes me liberally where he once thought that I exaggerated horribly and practices what I preached. 
  • The only way to become a millionaire in China is to start out a billionaire.
  • Chinese politics is akin to two chameleons making love.
  • If you have Chinese business partners, the only way they will be content is if you set things up to allow them to steal 10% from you. (because if they can't, they will presume that you are stealing from them and they will be distressed)
What is happening in China? 

He believes that China is tipping on a plunge into a recession, which would create VAST and predictable turmoil with the public, that has grown to expect the average 10% growth rate (1980-2011) and a diminishing growth rate since then. The Chinese government has maintained its legitimacy by promising economic progress. If the promise seems broken, it's hard to know how China's masses would react, but they will not react well.

I suggest that Chinese leaders in the one-party-system will become more nationalistic and aggressive to deflect attention from economic disappointment. In China this is horribly dangerous. Explaining why that is the case takes more room that I am inclined to use on this blog. Those of you who know me can call me on the phone if you want a greater explanation of why I feel that's bad. I'm not a doom-sayer when the Chinese are involved. I've had experience with them. It's bad but they will manage it. What it means for the USA is something else all together.

During the American/European 2008-09 financial crisis China announced a $586 billion stimulus package, almost 13% of GDP, in 2008. But unlike the U.S. stimulus in 2009, which was part of the federal budget, much of China's extra spending was channeled through state-owned banks and local governments. What ensued was a credit boom that has now left a large overhang of unsold housing, surplus industrial capacity and questionable debt. However in China, things work differently than they do in the US and I argue that it didn't hurt them. The housing supply that exceeded the demand is slowing and softening. China's economic predicament resembles America's: It needs a formula for sustainable growth that doesn't depend on repeated bursts of artificial stimulus, whether by deficit spending or prolonged easy credit.

Territorial Expansion based on Military Capabilities

The Chinese military's technical and numerical expansion is unabated. They plan to land men on the moon in the next decade and return them safely to Earth (as a demonstration of technical expertise). As the US contracts, China expands. My buddy and I agree that the social cost of Chinese expansion (increased military spending, etc.) will be offset by territorial gains. Those gains are obvious in the South China Sea but Taiwan is the jewel in the crown.

Will the US back Taiwan or will it fold? The Chinese are betting that we will fold. They've seen our leadership who are emblematic of American internal decline, and feel that they can get away with it.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fishwrap: The Week in Review

Feminizing Boys

Boy Scouts of America has announced a ban on water gun fights and a limit on the size of water balloons allowed at their summer camps. "Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized,” states the group’s 2015 manual. "Water guns and rubber band guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn."

As for water balloons, they must now be "no larger than a ping-pong ball" and must be biodegradable. It's not your daddy's boy scouts anymore.
The change is not sitting well with many, including Andrea Tantaros, who said on "Outnumbered" today that this is another instance of the "feminization of boys."

It's All About the Weather

Charles Krauthammer scooped me this week because he laid out everything that I was going to say: Ramadi falls, North Korea announces new nuclear missile and the President gives speech to the  Coast Guard Academy on climate change (the weather) being the greatest threat to our national security.



Never in my life as an American administration been so woefully wrong on every single issue that confronted it. A broken clock is right twice a day, but the Obama Administration can't even manage that.


On North Korean Missiles and Nukes


The US and India judge that Pakistan has developed a nuclear warhead for its Ghauri intermediate range ballistic missile. The Ghauri is interesting because Pakistan bought its first Ghauris from North Korea, where they are named the NoDong. North Korea sold the technology base so that Pakistan can make Ghauris. The North also provided missile engineers and warhead artificers to assist Pakistan in fielding this missile and adapting it to Pakistani requirements. Pakistan provided nuclear enrichment centrifuges to North Korea.

The prudent judgment for policy formulators and warfighters is to presume that North Korea has nuclear warheads for its three firing units of NoDong ballistic missiles, as the Commander of NORAD testified in the video clip above.
It's also likely that Iran has copies of those warheads in the same way that it has NoDong ballistic missiles. The US never talks about THAT. It would tend to derail Obama's signature legacy deal with Iran...

Political aspirant, Hillary Clinton, seeks to maintain the Obama record of mediocrity. Carly Fiorina appeared on the Hough Hewitt show. Hewitt asked her what questions she would ask Clinton. Fiorina said (among other things), "I would ask is why were you willing to peddle a fiction about Benghazi starting as you stood over the bodies of four murdered Americans and for a month after that?" But at this point, what difference does it make?

At least Hillary isn't lying to us by telling us that her administration will be the most transparent in history. There are some whoppers that even the progressive mavens in the mainstream media would choke on. I'm sure that Chris Matthews feel that old tingle running up his leg, though.


Hobbit


Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon


Context: America buys almost all of its routine consumer goods from China. We no longer have the capacity to compete with them through domestic production. If you shop at Walmart, Target, Home Depot or Lowes, you are buying products made in China. It's hard not to. I do it too.
China no longer buys American debt because it's "junk paper". We now buy our own debt. Thank you Federal Reserve.
Blogging friends, what are YOU willing to give up in order to stand up to China? Or should we stand down?

The News: Yesterday, the Chinese navy warned a US Navy P8 surveillance aircraft eight times to depart Chinese airspace. The P8 replied that it was flying in international airspace, as it overflew the South China Sea islets where China is building runways and basing infrastructure using dredges. 

The warning apparently came from Fiery Cross Reef, which is now an island with an airstrip that can accommodate any Chinese military aircraft. Fiery Cross Reef now hosts a control tower and an early warning radar system, the latest additions to the runway and other infrastructure construction projects.

Yesterday's warning episode is the second Chinese provocation this week. Earlier the Chinese announced fishing restrictions for the entire South China Sea. The Chinese maritime authorities do this every year, ostensibly to conserve sea resources and to assert Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asian states annually protest the Chinese announcement. Their fishing fleets ignore the Chinese declaration, but also try to avoid Chinese patrols. China lacks the military capabilities to enforce its orders in the Spratly Islands, but its intentions are clear. It will enforce its declarations and will deploy the necessary capabilities after the island infrastructure is ready. In that regard, China also is building a second air base on Subi Reef. They intend to fortify the area and the support infrastructure will lead to an assertion of control once they're ready.

Many of the ships in the Chinese fishing fleet are presently armed. That practice is expanding and will soon apply to all Chinese flagged fishing boats. This makes them (small) warships capable of enforcing Chinese fishing rights in addition to commercial vessels.

China is serious about its claim that the South China Sea is China’s territorial waters. The report that an early warning radar is now operating on Fiery Cross Reef means that air defense missiles and modern air defense radars will follow soon. After those systems are operational, China will station fighter/interceptor aircraft at Fiery Cross Reef, at least intermittently, depending on the weather. 

A number of nations claim control of this area, but China is the only nation with the muscle to militarize it to the extent necessary to hold firm control over it. China’s claims are bold and backed by concrete enforcement actions. Those enforcement actions are becoming increasingly more integrated and comprehensive. They mean that eventually transit of the South China Sea will be with Chinese permission. While other claimants and the US dither about international law, the Chinese are successfully asserting ownership of a vast sea area.

The Chinese are vulnerable in that they have asserted claims they cannot now defend. The US and Southeast Asian states prefer to rely on diplomacy and talks to settle disputes, which the Chinese leadership rejects as irrelevant. China will never compromise on issues of sovereignty.

Chinese leaders will send diplomats, who will be deliberately uninformed, to exploit the conflict aversion tendencies of the current US leadership and the Southeast Asians. None of them want a confrontation with China and they mistakenly ascribe the same attitude to the Chinese leaders. 

The Chinese People's Army's Navy (that's what they call it) is no longer a joke as it is turning into a blue water force that can contest US fleet operations anywhere within it sphere. Land based anti shipping ballistic missiles have been deployed and while their effectiveness is not yet known, present estimates rate it as good.

The Chinese have the measure of the USA and find it lacking. Within that vacuum, they are expanding and will back their expansion with military muscle, confident that the USA will back down like an obedient cur. They've seen our leader and have taken our measure. 

This piece concludes tomorrow with thoughts on China -- "In Search of Modern China".

Friday, May 22, 2015

ISIL, Ramadi and What it Means

We watched Ramadi fall to ISIS on prime time (and well within the 24 hour news cycle). The images of first-class American military equipment abandoned in its sheds and in military bases provide demonstrative evidence of failed policies and programs by multiple governments. Iraq is not Vietnam and the analogy ends with the images of trained and equipped forces running away. But the images resonate with the American psyche all the same.

A Mother's Thoughts

This week we saw President Obama giving a speech at the US Coast Guard Academy, stridently warning that climate change was America's biggest military threat. Obama needs to crawl back under his rock in Chicago. He and SECSTATE Hillary R. Clinton, presidential aspirant, made sure that Iraq would stay broken. They succeeded.

While I do not think that the ISIL movement in Iraq is "our war", we need to follow what is happening because it has much broader implications than a bunch of 'earth boys' running, gunning, and beheading in Iraq.


ISIL in Anbar Province/Governate is on the cusp of two threats. The most immediate is the violent breakup of Iraq as a result of fragmentation. Except for a few pockets of bypassed pro-government soldiers, the Islamic State has carved out a Sunni Arab canton in western Iraq. Fragmentation is always centrifugal. Thus in one scenario the Islamic State could make Ramadi a sub-regional power center that challenged Baghdad. 

If the Islamic State does no more than consolidate control of Anbar, it will complete the de facto fragmentation of Iraq. 

The Kurds already have their quasi-autonomous region. The Shiite Arabs have what is left. The one of conflict tends to focus on the northern oil fields and infrastructure, for now at least.

The second dimension of violent threat is centripetal, meaning the capture of Baghdad which constitutes the center of power of Iraq. The Islamic State shows no signs of consolidating its victory at Ramadi. Its forces are too few to build defenses. Their local commanders recognize that the best defense is a good offense, exploiting their forces’ mobility and the panic of the Iraqi government forces.

In this pursuit and exploitation phase, ISIL must take Habbaniyah, which remains in Iraqi government (Shiite) hands. If they bypass it and press the pursuit they might reach the outskirts of Baghdad if they can run the Iraqi government forces to ground before Shiite militias gather strength. ISIL will attack and neutralize, if not capture, Baghdad as part of the long range game plan. Otherwise the Islamic State would leave a Shiite rival power center intact. That creates a long term problem for them that they can remedy. The Islamic State does not recognize an entity known as Iraq. 

Iran is watching ISIL very closely. Should Baghdad fall, it would be an opportunity for the Republican Guard to come screaming out of the Iranian highlands and seize the city (on behalf of the displaced Shiite administration). Should that happen, don't hold your breath waiting for the Iranians to relinquish the city as readily as the United States did. Baghdad will become a satrap of Iran. I say Baghdad because Iraq really only exists on old maps in terms of national boundary.

The country is partitioned based on ethnicity and faith. 

The lesson to the United States is an old one, that we forgot. "Never fight a land war in Asia."

But...at this point, what difference does it make? - Presidential Aspirant, and architect of Obama's failed foreign policy, Hillary Clinton


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Is Afghanistan Lost?

The comment of anyone familiar with history will say that of course it's lost. If the British couldn't hold it in successive wars, and the Russians couldn't hold it, what makes us think that our investment in time, treasure and lives would have a different outcome? 

When President Obama came into office, he declared that the war in Afghanistan was a "good war" and put his stamp on it. I chuckled at the time because war is a racket and I knew that Obama would turn tail and pull out as soon as we'd spent enough money lives in a worthless endeavor. I am not discounting the lives of Americans and Afghan allies. I simply point to the loss of Ramadi, Iraq and the Obama Administration's assertion "at this point what difference does it make?" --- and suggest that the same thing is happening in Afghanistan.

The litmus test for the value of a war is when the sons and grandsons of members of the US Congress, and possibly Chelsea Clinton and her ilk, are sent to the front lines in that war to offer up their lives for flag and country. Until THAT happens, lives and treasure will be freely spilled to no lasting effect...much like Viet Nam.

There are some who say that the long war in Afghanistan was a pay-back for the 9/11 terror attack. The only problem with that is that the attack was generated by Saudis and Saudi Arabia was our "ally" and oil supplier. We couldn't very well go there and root out the Wahhabists, who fulminated the attack and America wanted blood. So, Afghanistan was an acceptable limited conflict that worked until Big Army decided that it needed to be there in a Big way -- forever.

But I digress. On with the news.
On 18 May, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), according to a statement released by Pakistan. The Director General, Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asim Bajwa, tweeted that the MoU includes intelligence sharing as well as complementary and coordinated operations and patrols on the respective sides of the border. 
The MoU and the coordinated border operations appear to update and amend the arrangements that existed between the US/NATO command in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are positive developments, but signify no breakthrough in relations. They cover developments on the periphery of Afghanistan, when the fight has moved increasingly to Kabul.

Open sources attest to the steady progress the Taliban and their allies have made in executing attacks in Kabul. 

Insurgency and insurrection usually are centripetal. That means attacks in the capital are a critical measure for evaluating insurgent progress against the government. If the center does not hold, the insurgents win. The Afghan center – Kabul -- is not holding; it is slowly collapsing. 

Pakistan created the Taliban and militarily supported their initial take-over of Afghanistan. Therefore this is consistent with their moves going back to the mid-1990's. Pakistan is investing so it cannot lose, no matter the outcome. It has never stopped supporting the Afghan Taliban by providing a safe haven for the Afghan Taliban leadership during the past 14 years. The new arrangements with the Ghani government in Afghanistan are attempts to manipulate the Afghan government in Pakistan’s favor. This is a win-win strategy for Pakistan.

Inner-City Zombies

I'm sure that the residents of Baltimore, MD feel much safer now that the police are simply arriving "later" to take reports on crimes as murder, robbery and rape skyrocket. After all, it's the police that the zombies fear. Take that out of the equation and who owns the city? Who needs that thin blue line?

The sad reality is that cities, counties, and states get precisely the police departments that they want. In much the same way that businesses hire better people to make themselves more successful, some communities make that commitment as well. We can all quibble about what makes a "better" police officer but higher standards in hiring generally results in higher standards of conduct by those hired. Who doesn't remember the movie, Beverly Hills Cop, and the stereotypical differences between the fat, poorly groomed, sloppy Detroit cops working out of a run down building and the fit, well uniformed, highly educated Beverly Hills cops working in corporate-looking offices, equipped with the best gear? Stereotypes are only funny because we know they're true.

Police departments directly reflect the nature and will of their constituent populations. And since we know that politicians aren't out there on graveyard shift, picking up the pieces of their failed policies, they naturally expect the police to do it. Inner-city sewers like Detroit, Michigan; Fergusson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland are monuments to the political policies that encouraged dependency and bought votes -- that built them. Expecting police to fix them is unrealistic. Expecting that police officers will accept persecution from their elected leaders and still do a stellar job is laughable.

Crime rates will soar and the cops will simply follow procedure to the letter, thus bogging the system down. But a bogged down system won't lead to their indictments.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Old School Approach

Warning: Graphic Violent Content

In the run up to Memorial Day, I wanted to comment on war, on what war means, before the holiday without the inevitable nostalgia that is connected to our honored dead. 


History: The Hampshire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army. The regiment was formed in 1881 and it existed until 1992. In 1946, due to distinguished service in the Second World War, the regiment became retitled as the Royal Hampshire Regiment.
LL Commentary: Wars are rackets. They're fought for a number of reasons, among those are the need for LONG wars so that those supplying food and equipment can enrich themselves by doing the supplying. Congressional lobbies have long been established for that purpose. As a practitioner of war, I prefer, short, violent, decisive, kinetic conflict where casualties are few, costs are low, the enemy is brought to heel and the world can move on. That is not the general concept in America, despite assertions to the contrary. History is replete with examples. 
Why build inexpensive but highly effective A-10 Thunderbolt 2 aircraft when you can build generally ineffective fast movers like the F-35's at five times the cost? You take my point. Ground support aircraft can't be stealthy because they need to move slow and people can see them. The point is lost on the Air Force, who doesn't want to give the A-10's to the Army or Marines because of prerogatives...
Rant: History has also taught that it's an exceptionally bad idea for foreigners to interpose themselves in a blood feud. The recent Iraq War, the Balkan Conflict and the US involvement in Somalia is instructive. 
The British thought to interpose themselves in the American Civil War/War of Northern Aggression on the side of the Confederacy (see: Scarlet and Gray: A History of the British Secret Service in the American Civil War by LL, out of print). The death of Prince Albert, who favored the intervention, sent Queen Victoria into mourning, thus ending the initiative. The Brits are better off for staying out of that one.
Back to the subject of war, and one example of winning on a very small scale by people who felt that they had some skin in the game.

Context and precedence: In January 1886 the British annexed Upper Burma. In the ugly campaigns to suppress Burmese resistance which followed there were continuing casualties among young officers. 

By 1888, the pacification of Upper Burma, so successfully occupied the previous November, was not proceeding according to plan. Resistance took the form of ambush and sniping, with officers as prime targets. In early June the CMG ran a report that a Lieutenant J. L. O. Armstrong of the Hampshire Regiment and another officer had been shot by unseen snipers as they took an evening stroll outside Mandalayís Fort Sagaing. The response of the native infantry who served under the officers provided grist for Rudyard Kipling's poem, The Grave of the Hundred Head.

The Indian sepoys who served the British army in the late 1880's had a rational take on what measures would solve the present problem, teach a lesson to those who were creating the problem - and get some pay-back in the process. Kipling was a journalist, reporting on the war. Take a moment and read the Grave of the Hundred Head. The annotations are mine.

The Grave of the Hundred Head

Rudyard Kipling

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
A grave that the Burmans shun,
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
Who tells how the work was done.

A Snider squibbed in the jungle,  (Snider-Enfield Rifle)
Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
And the back blown out of his head.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,  (Subadar is a warrant officer/junior officer)
Jemadar Hira Lal,         (Jemadar is a native rank junior to a subadar)
Took command of the party,
Twenty rifles in all,
Marched them down to the river
As the day was beginning to fall.

They buried the boy by the river,
A blanket over his face--
They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
The men of an alien race--
They made a samadh in his honor,
A mark for his resting-place.

For they swore by the Holy Water,
They swore by the salt they ate,
That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
Should go to his God in state;
With fifty file of Burman
To open him Heaven's gate.

The men of the First Shikaris
Marched till the break of day,
Till they came to the rebel village,
The village of Pabengmay--
A jingal covered the clearing,  (Jingal is a native cannon)
Calthrops hampered the way.  (calthrops are spikes that were used to slow infantry)

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
Bidding them load with ball,
Halted a dozen rifles
Under the village wall;
Sent out a flanking-party
With Jemadar Hira Lal.

The men of the First Shikaris
Shouted and smote and slew,
Turning the grinning jingal
On to the howling crew.
The Jemadar's flanking-party
Butchered the folk who flew.

Long was the morn of slaughter,
Long was the list of slain,
Five score heads were taken,
Five score heads and twain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
Went back to their grave again,

Each man bearing a basket
Red as his palms that day,
Red as the blazing village--
The village of Pabengmay,
And the "drip-drip-drip" from the baskets
Reddened the grass by the way.

They made a pile of their trophies
High as a tall man's chin,
Head upon head distorted,
Set in a sightless grin,
Anger and pain and terror
Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.

Subadar Prag Tewarri
Put the head of the Boh
On the top of the mound of triumph,
The head of his son below,
With the sword and the peacock-banner
That the world might behold and know.

Thus the samadh was perfect,
Thus was the lesson plain
Of the wrath of the First Shikaris--
The price of a white man slain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
Went back into camp again.

Then a silence came to the river,
A hush fell over the shore,
And Bohs that were brave departed,
And Sniders squibbed no more;
For the Burmans said
That a kullah's head   (Kullah, a British officer)
Must be paid for with heads five score.

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
A grave that the Burmans shun,
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
Who tells how the work was done.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Credit Inequality

Those evil white men are at it again and the Obama Regime has instituted an amnesty program,  to expand credit to 45 million potential deadbeats — including illegal immigrants — whose credit files are too spotty even to score for risk.
(IBD) In a just-released federal report, the administration portrays these "credit invisibles" as victims of a traditional credit-scoring system. And since most are minorities, it claims that excluding them from the financial mainstream is discriminatory.
Analysts say most of these "unscorables" are not creditworthy, and according to preliminary estimates, their median credit score falls well below the subprime cutoff (535 vs. 620). Public records show many are subject to third-party debt collection and tax liens.

buying votes for Hillary
The ObamaCredit program seeks to give everyone a credit score irrespective of a credit history because failure to do it is sexist and racist - possibly even Islamophobic. The stated program will restore the balance created by "credit inequality". No, I'm not kidding. You can't even make this stuff up.
The Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states, "Our report found that black and Hispanic consumers are more likely than white or Asian consumers to have limited credit records," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press call. 
"About 15% of black and Hispanic consumers are credit invisibles compared to 9% of white consumers (and) about 13% of black consumers and 12% of Hispanic consumers are thought to be among the unscored — compared to only 7% of white consumers." 
Added Cordray, "These consumers face reduced access to credit that continues to hamper their opportunities for growth throughout their lives." 
To remedy the "credit inequality," credit reporting agencies are being pressed to generate scores for this high-risk group based on payments of cellphone and utility bills, as well as immigrant remittances.
And when these deadbeats default on their mortgages, who will ultimately pay for it?? ...yeah.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Is Somebody Lying?

Welcome to the weekly sermonette.

I have been trying to find a Muslim country that doesn't harbor or outright fund a terror group. Maybe Brunei? I think that's about it. Saudi Arabia is home to both Al Qaida (including AQAP) and the 9/11 hijackers, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc. all have their own home grown terrorists that are running around blowing things up and lopping off heads for fun and profit - and they are revered for their piety and adherence to Islam as it fell from the mouth of the prophet.
The Charles Martel option doesn't appeal to the leaders of any of those countries, who, by default or overtly, condone the activities of those cabals.
The enlightened American government asks its people to remain calm, explaining ever so patiently that there is no such thing as a Muslim terrorist.

The FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security don't run training scenarios where Muslim terrorists have blown something up or beheaded a bunch of school children because that would be Islamophobic.  Possibly even racist

The Left, and Barack Obama, its favorite son, approaches Islam as a race instead of a belief system. The Progressive Left (and the mainstream media which are a product of the progressive left) refuses to delve into what the beliefs in that system are. It then arbitrarily imbues Islam as in indeterminate ideology that can be re-crafted into whatever that the MSM wants it to be. The mainstream media does not want to know what it says in the Koran, because that ruins its wonderful fantasy of Muslims as an oppressed race, rather than a creed. It's a convenient lie. And Progressivism was founded and is propped up by a network of those convenient lies.

The media, including Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, has complained in the Garland, TX attack, that assembled cartoonists were irresponsible for sketching Mohammed because they should have known that Muslim terrorists would come to kill them for it. But if the media is right and Islam is a religion of peace, then why should they have anticipated a terrorist attack? And if Islam isn’t a religion of peace, then the media has been irresponsibly lying to us and the noble sketchers have been risking their lives to warn us of that lie.

The lies that are based on what we want to be true are the hardest to disprove. The lies about Islam run into the heart of what the left is. To the left, everything is indeterminate and everything can be redefined based on the expediency of the moment. Because what they want and what is expedient is only a dream, they bring those dreams to life irrespective of the truth of the matter.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fishwrap (the week in review)

It hasn't been the best week for Barack.
  • President Obama suffered a defeat at the hands of his own party on Tuesday, as Senate Democrats blocked a key component of the president's trade agenda.  Never fear, the Republicans are there to help Barack. (riddle me that one, friends)
  • The rulers of most of the Gulf nations have decided to skip a summit hosted by the president at Camp David. While the Saudis and others still want to buy high-tech military hardware from the United States, they really don't care what Barack has to say. So the sheiks are sending in second stringers -- sort of like when we send Joe Biden to advise them.
  • The President' handicap was raised after some embarrassing rounds of golf.

Are you ready for Hillary?

A month after she announced her candidacy she has yet to give an interview. Since she has the Democratic Party nomination sewed up, she doesn't need to speak to the press and when she does, she whines about how broke she and Bill are. In light of the damaging book, Clinton Cash, the Clintonian machine is sending out factotums to spin the story and attack the author. If Hillary were to do it, she'd come of mean and petty...Because she's mean and petty.

The Democrats, when polled, agree that Hillary is a liar who can't be trusted, but they still think that she'd make a great president because she's a woman. Nothing new to report there.


Immigration Reform?

On building a border wall: “People who live in gated communities tell us fences don’t work.”
On welfare: “Today’s immigrants aren’t coming here to breathe free, they’re coming to live for free.”
On how the media shut down the immigration debate: “It can be difficult to discuss America’s immigration policies when it’s considered racist merely to say, ‘We liked America the way it was.’



Buying Votes - one at a time:

There are currently 13 million ObamaPhones in service in America
There are currently 46 million people receiving food stamps in America


Clintonian Attack Disguised

Clinton Shill
This past week, ABC correspondent George Stephanopoulos, who was elevated to national stature by Bill Clinton during his presidency, went on the attack when he interviewed the author of "Clinton Cash". The high-profile book examins potential conflicts of interest behind Clinton Foundation funding -- on ABC's "This Week." 

Stephanopoulos did not disclose his own contribution of $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

There are a lot of people who don't recall the scandal of Stephanopoulos's cocaine use and the forgiveness of the Clintons who let him keep his job in the West Wing. These things set up a situation where people like "Hobbit" (his nickname) owed Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. It removed his objectivity, and credibility. Not that this situation is unique in the mainstream media.



Friday, May 15, 2015

Credible Threat?


Law enforcement sources in California confirm that radical Muslims are planning to go on a rampage in the City of Los Angeles, killing anyone who is a U.S. citizen. 


Police officials fear the death toll could be as high as 9.


ISIS fighters say that if that doesn't get the attention of the infidels, they will target El Paso next...




"An Islamic regime must be serious in every field," 
explained Ayatollah Khomeini. "There are no jokes 
in Islam. There is no humour in Islam. There is no 
fun in Islam."

Too Wild/Wild Two

Comet Wild 2
Our solar system, and other planetary systems, started as a disk of microscopic dust, gas and ice around the young Sun. The amazing diversity of objects in the solar system today -- the planets, moons, asteroids and comets -- was made from this primitive dust.

NASA's Stardust mission returned to Earth with samples of comet Wild 2, a comet that originated outside the orbit of Neptune and was subsequently kicked closer to Earth's orbit in 1974, when Jupiter's gravity altered Wild 2's orbit.

Before Stardust returned to Earth, scientists thought that everything it brought back from the comet would be either this primitive dust or circumstellar grains -- rocks and minerals that formed around other stars. This was not the case.


In a study published recently in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, scientists discovered that the larger-sized dust appears to be similar to rocks found in primitive meteorites called chondrites. The smaller-sized dust, on the other hand, displays the entire range of known oxygen isotopic compositions that have been measured for objects from the inner solar system (from the Sun to the asteroid belt).

This unexpected combination of material has deepened the mystery of Wild 2's past.

A story in every grain of dust

Does the fine-grained dust from comet Wild 2 represent a diverse sampling of many inner-solar-system objects that were transported to the outer solar system, or in fact, the raw starting materials of the solar system?
Ryan C. Ogliore, Kazuhide Nagashima, Gary R. Huss, Andrew J. Westphal, Zack Gainsforth, Anna L. Butterworth. Oxygen Isotopic Composition of coarse- and fine-grained material from Comet 81P/Wild 2. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2015.04.028
Fortunately, the team has a method to address that. Processing of material in the inner solar system should alter the abundance of circumstellar grains and volatile elements in the fine-grained dust.

"If the fine-grained material is enriched in circumstellar grains and not depleted in volatiles, we can say with certainty that we are looking at primitive solar system dust," said Ogliore. "If circumstellar grains are not over-abundant compared to meteorites, and volatiles are depleted, we can say with certainty that we are looking at a very diverse sample of fine-grained inner solar system material in the comet."
Reflecting on the complex life history of comet Wild 2's constituent material, Ogliore added, "The comet's nucleus today is made up of small rocks and ice, separated by fractions of an inch, that originally formed billions of miles apart. Some rocks have seen temperatures above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, but adjacent ice has been kept close to absolute zero for billions of years. Every tiny grain we look at has its own fascinating story to tell."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Whose Face?

Apparently progressives are pushing for an end to Andrew Jackson's face appearing on the Twenty-Dollar Bill. (read here)

I'm not a fan of Andrew Jackson as presidents go, but I take it in a different direction than the New York Times did in the article referenced and a different direction than the liberal elite in America. They want the face of an Indian or an African on the banknote.

I think that Ronald Reagan's face should be on the US $20.

It was Reagan who put America back on a sound financial footing after the disastrous Carter years. It was Reagan whose leadership ended the Cold War, etc. 


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What is Black Liberation Theology?

President Barack Obama was a devoted member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Black Liberation Theology for 21 years. Rev. Wright introduced the future president to the future first lady in his church. President Obama gave over one million dollars in contributions to Rev. Wright.

Reverent Wright's hatred for America and all things American has been documented over-and over-and over. President Obama's disdain for America and Americans is not well disguised.

There is a great deal of information in the public realm that indicates that Liberation Theology (including what came to be known as Black Liberation Theology) was a construct of minds within Soviet Russia. 
(Catholic News Agency) The movement was born in the KGB, and it had a KGB-invented name: Liberation Theology. During those years, the KGB had a penchant for “liberation” movements. The National Liberation Army of Columbia (FARC), created by the KGB with help from Fidel Castro; the “National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created by the KGB with help from “Che” Guevara; and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), created by the KGB with help from Yasser Arafat are just a few additional “liberation” movements born at the Lubyanka -- the headquarters of the KGB...The KGB began by building an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), which was headquartered in Prague. Its main task was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world.
Strangely enough, James Cone (father of the Black Liberation Theology movement) introduced this theology within a year following its creation by the Soviets...
James Cone first addressed this theology after Malcolm X's proclamation in the 1950s against Christianity being taught as "a white man's religion" (This far by Faith from PBS)
Why would Soviet Russia wish to introduce this philosophy onto the American stage?
(Acton Institute) Black Liberation Theology actually encourages a victim mentality among blacks. John McWhorters' book Losing the Race, will be helpful here. Victimology, says McWhorter, is the adoption of victimhood as the core of one's identity -- for example, like one who suffers through living in "a country and who lived in a culture controlled by rich white people." It is a subconscious, culturally inherited affirmation that life for blacks in America has been in the past and will be in the future a life of being victimized by the oppression of whites. In today's terms, it is the conviction that, 40 years after the Civil Rights Act, conditions for blacks have not substantially changed.
If you're interested, it's worth a bit of research. It brings perspective and clarity to some of the perplexing questions that face Americans when they think about who is running the country. Jessie Jackson attended Reverend Wright's church, and the whole society of the grievance within the black community has been his stock in trade. Whether he is aware that he's been a pawn of a seed planted by Soviets or not is something that I can't address.
(Uncle) Frank Marshall Davis, mentor to young Barack Obama, was openly a member of the Communist Party. So were Barack Obama's parents and his maternal grandparents. Naturally, as communists they were also atheists. Barack found faith - a false premise based on a scheme devised by the KGB.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Osama bin Laden (Redux)

Osama bin Laden (OBL) is dead and gone. Time has passed and some people still care about what happened and the events that led up to his death. Seymour M. Hersh gets closer to the truth than the other accounts that I am aware of. No, he didn't shoot bin Laden personally, but that's not the whole story. In fact, that's the smaller part of a very large story. Hindsight helps you do that. There were bits and pieces in motion and a lot of it was not information that nation-states such as Pakistan and the United States was willing to chat about.

The review of the book lays out the essential tenants and is worth reading even if you never buy the book.

I realize that there are people in USGOV who will take some issue with Mr. Hersh's perspective, and it's their right. There are always different perspectives. The book is clearly not pro-American. Hersh has options that clash with mine when it comes to the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques. He thinks that the Obama overtures to Iran are noble. I think that since Iran likely has two or three nuclear weapons in their inventory that the premise is deceptive in the extreme. Sure, we don't want them to build more - but we don't talk about what they have. Do we? Hersh writes about the "secret prisons", or black sites, and cites Diego Garcia (leased from the UK). There may be one there now. I don't know, but there wasn't one when Obama took office...

Still, the book is worth the read. 

(London Review of Books)

The Killing of Osama bin Laden, by Seymour M. Hersh

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

More here 


Monday, May 11, 2015

Is Life Possible on Enceladus?

When we look up at a star filled night sky, the inevitable question turns to life beyond Earth. Whether you consider creation or evolution, the question is still asked. This post is principally for Old NFO and his Sci Fi story. I'm not sure that it's particularly useful, but you never know.

New work from a team including Carnegie’s Christopher Glein has revealed the pH of water spewing from a geyser-like plume on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Their findings are an important step toward determining whether life could exist, or could have previously existed, on the sixth planet’s sixth-largest moon.

Enceladus is geologically active and thought to have a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface. The hidden ocean is the presumed source of the plume of water vapor and ice that the Cassini spacecraft has observed venting from the moon’s south polar region. Whenever there’s the possibility of liquid water on another planetary body, scientists begin to ask whether or not it could support life.

A diagram illustrating the possible interior of Saturn's
moon Enceladus, including the ocean and plumes in
the south polar region, was based on Cassini
spacecraft, courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.
The present team, including lead author Glein, John Baross of the University of Washington, and J. Hunter Waite Jr. of the Southwest Research Institute, developed a new chemical model based on mass spectrometry data of ice grains and gases in Enceladus’ plume gathered by Cassini, in order to determine the pH of Enceladus’ ocean. The pH tells us how acidic or basic the water is. It is a fundamental parameter to understanding geochemical processes occurring inside the moon that are considered important in determining Enceladus’ potential for acquiring and hosting life. 
Christopher R. Glein, John A. Baross, J. Hunter Waite. The pH of Enceladus’ ocean. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2015.04.017
The team’s model, constrained by observational data from two Cassini teams, including one led by coauthor Waite, shows that the plume, and by inference the ocean, is salty with an alkaline pH of about 11 or 12, which is similar to that of glass-cleaning solutions of ammonia. It contains the same sodium chloride (NaCl) salt as our oceans here on Earth. Its additional substantial sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) makes the ocean more similar to our planet’s soda lakes such as Mono Lake in California or Lake Magadi in Kenya. The scientists refer to it as a “soda ocean.”

The model suggests that the ocean’s high pH is caused by a metamorphic, underwater geochemical process called serpentinization. On Earth, serpentinization occurs when certain kinds of so-called “ultrabasic” or “ultramafic” rocks (low in silica and high in magnesium and iron) are brought up to the ocean floor from the upper mantle and chemically interact with the surrounding water molecules. Through this process, the ultrabasic rocks are converted into new minerals, including the mineral serpentine, after which the process is named, and the fluid becomes alkaline. On Enceladus, serpentinization would occur when ocean water circulates through a rocky core at the bottom of its ocean.

“Why is serpentinization of such great interest? Because the reaction between the metallic rocks and the ocean water also produces molecular hydrogen (H2), which provides a source of chemical energy that is essential for supporting a deep biosphere in the absence of sunlight inside moons and planets,” Glein said. “This process is central to the emerging science of astrobiology, because molecular hydrogen can both drive the formation of organic compounds like amino acids that may lead to the origin of life, and serve as food for microbial life such as methane-producing organisms. As such, serpentinization provides a link between geological processes and biological processes. The discovery of serpentinization makes Enceladus an even more promising candidate for a separate genesis of life.”

Even beyond the search for life-hosting conditions on other planetary bodies, the team’s work demonstrates that it is possible to determine the pH of an extraterrestrial ocean based on chemical data from a spacecraft flying through a plume.

To answer SOME of the daunting questions, we may have to wait for Old NFO's new science fiction book.