sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Local Crisis

Photo of the back yard. Note moisture.
It's not really that much of a crisis. In Southern California, crisis can best be defined by temperatures below 60 at night and any measurable amount of rain. Since the local news is defining it as a winter storm crisis, I thought that it might be worth blogging about. You will note that in the photo (right) a battle lantern has been laid out on the table.

If the chairs are wet, how can I bar-b-que my steak and enjoy it there in nature? Ok, the more that I think of it, the more that it's turning into a crisis. We will convert the filet into stew meat and will eat soup at the hacienda tonight (since nobody in SoCal goes out in the rain unless they are pressed to). Here, the freeways turn into parking lots, much as one would expect from a zombie apocalypse, except that there are no zombies afoot -- that I know of. There are Muslims, but they seem to be staying in.

If it rains like this next weekend, the outdoor BBQ Super Bowl party will
be placed in jeopardy. I wonder if we would qualify for Federal Disaster
funding through FEMA? Note, the wind knocked a pool chair over.
Some of you are asking yourselves whether or not I've gone off my rocker. I assure you that I have, but that's beside the point. People in Southern California are looking for your pity that we must deal with rain.

There are many differences between living in the city and living in the country. One of them is mud. Even if I go out now, in the rain (and naturally it would be brave of me to do so), I'd just be walking on concrete pavement, an asphalt street or grass. No mud. No need for mud rooms in a home. Winter clothes are the same as non-winter clothes here.

It's a day to stay in, write creatively and make warm soup.


Sunday Sermonette

It's important to take the road less traveled from time to time.

Sometimes it's smooth sailing and then sometimes you get stuck. It's a metaphor for life (thus the sermonette). It's always good to have recovery gear to get out of the mess you put yourself into. It's also nice to have friends help pull you out. But sometimes you're on your own.


Sometimes, despite my best efforts, the rig sinks in mud and the laws of physics take hold. This is the Virgin River near Kanab, Utah and things were going so well until I learned the hard way that the river went underground this time of year. This recovery required substantial winching (attached to cottonwood trees off photo to the observer's right. It doesn't look that stuck but on the other side of the rig, the door touched the mud.




There are also times when you drive across a "dry" lake bed and should
go down to the axels and get stuck but by some miracle, you don't.


A photo taken of me taking a photo.




Saturday, January 30, 2016

Building a Legacy

Future Fossils
There is nothing more disheartening to me than to travel to a strange and exotic location, walk on a sandy beach, and find it covered with plastic bottles, washed up on short. As with many men, the concept of a tropical location, palms, balmy breezes, an umbrella drink, plentiful fresh food and willing nubile women with loose morals appeals. That unrealistic and improbable vision's bubble is popped immediately by the human refuse that flows around on and in the world's oceans, and ending up on the beaches. 

I'm not a global warming enthusiast but I am a conservationist and environmentalist by nature. In a nut shell, don't kill all of the animals, birds and fish. And don't leave your garbage around for the rest of us to have to deal with.

Instead, plant a tree or a dozen trees.

Sometimes it's possible to forecast the view that people in the future may have of us. If not people, aliens on a star trek, who try and fathom what happened...

Unfortunately, Earth's oceans and lands will be buried by increasing layers of plastic waste by the mid-century due to human activity, according to research led by the University of Leicester.

A new study, which has been published in the journal, Anthropocene, examines the evidence that we now live in the Anthropocene, an epoch where humans dominate the Earth's surface geology, and suggests that the surface of the planet is being noticeably altered by the production of long-lasting human-made materials, resulting in us entering an 'Age of Plastic'.

Jan Zalasiewicz, Professor of Palaeobiology from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology explained: "Plastics were more or less unknown to our grandparents, when they were children. But now, they are indispensible to our lives. They're everywhere -- wrapping our food, being containers for our water and milk, providing cartons for eggs and yoghourt and chocolate, keeping our medicines sterile. They now make up most of the clothes that we wear, too.

"Plastics are also pretty well everywhere on Earth, from mountain tops to the deep ocean floor -- and can be fossilized into the far future. We now make almost a billion tons of the stuff every three years. If all the plastic made in the last few decades was cling-wrap, there would be enough to put a layer around the whole Earth. With current trends of production, there will be the equivalent of several more such layers by mid-century."
Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N. Waters, Juliana Ivar do Sul, Patricia L. Corcoran, Anthony D. Barnosky, Alejandro Cearreta, Matt Edgeworth, Agnieszka Gałuszka, Catherine Jeandel, Reinhold Leinfelder, J.R. McNeill, Will Steffen, Colin Summerhayes, Michael Wagreich, Mark Williams, Alexander P. Wolfe, Yasmin Yonan. The geological cycle of plastics and their use as a stratigraphic indicator of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.ancene.2016.01.002
Plastics can travel thousands of miles, caught up in the 'great oceanic garbage patches', or eventually being washed up on distant beaches. Plastics can eventually sink to the sea floor, to become a part of the strata of the future.

The rise of plastics since the mid-20th century, both as a material element of modern life and as a growing environmental scourge, has been widely described. Their distribution in both the terrestrial and marine realms suggests that they are a key geological indicator of the Anthropocene, as a distinctive stratal component.

At last, there is something enduring that we will be remembered for.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Review

REPUBLICAN  DEBATE  THOUGHTS

It feels as if this debate last night was debate number 100 for the Republicans, on the eve of the Iowa Caucus.  It's a broken record as the media flogs the business for ratings.

There was a lot of ego on that stage.  But it bored me. The news wasn't who was up there, but who was not. Let me first say that I think that Donald Trump had a legitimate complaint about the bias against him by a debate moderator. Fox should have taken that obvious bias into account before they arranged the moderator line-up but they didn't. Up to them/business decision. Trump boycotted and it won't hurt him.

The only times I've heard Ted Cruz speak, it sounded as he was delivering a sermon in a cathedral. Trump speaks to people directly and that's why he's ahead. Rubio (who may end up as Trump's VP) still looks like a young boy scout. He debates well but he looks a lot like a little boy and it hurts him.  I didn't watch the whole debate (see 'boring' above), but Jeb! did better than he usually does without Trump to slap him like an unwanted step-child.

Trumps absence at the debate made sense to me. The move had been calculated. He had nothing to gain from attending and everything to lose.


THE  OLD  BOOT vs SANDERS

Possible new Bernie Sanders logo.
American College students don't grasp
the significance - then again many
can't sign their own names.





There are discussions reported in the mainstream media wherein President Obama and others in the present administration are cozying up to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). It's difficult to know whether that is true, but it would make sense that President Obama would want somebody to carry on his legacy once he's left office. He's been jonesing for jobs: UN Secretary General and Supreme Court Justice so that he can continue to inflict pain once he's been made redundant. With the potential indictment of fmr SECSTATE Hillary (The Old Boot) Clinton, it may be someone other than she who would carry the Obama banner forward, trumpeting the glory that is the ObamaNation.

Or maybe not? It's difficult to tell what will happen this election cycle.


TURKEY vs THE KURDS

The Turkish government said Turkey would boycott the Geneva III peace talks on Syria if the Syrian Kurds have representation. The Russian Foreign Ministry admitted to confusion about the Turkish boycott threat because the Turks are not a party to the talks. "I don't understand. Ankara is not a party to the talks like Moscow, Washington and Riyadh. Ankara has nothing to do with it," the Russian special president's representative and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview.
Digging down, and placing it in the vernacular, Turkey refuses to crash the party. Thanks, Turkey, I guess.
The implication of the Turkish threat is that even if the Syrians, including the Kurds, can agree on a ceasefire or the terms of a settlement, Turkey would not respect it.

President Erdogan has vowed to exterminate the Kurdish insurgency and the Kurds in general at a time the UN talks would be giving Syrian Kurds both stature and respectability because of their battlefield effectiveness against the Islamic State. The Russians and Americans like the Kurds. The Turks do not. It's an old grudge that has only become sharpened with time.

Kurdish Intentions

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia and its local allies are planning an offensive to seize the final stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border that is held by Islamic State fighters, an unidentified YPG source on 28 January. The plan includes crossing the Euphrates River to attack the Islamic State-held towns of Jarabulus and Manbij, plus Azaz, which is held by other insurgent groups. I don't know when this will take place, but expect the move sooner than later.

With US and reportedly some Russian air support, the Syrian Kurds and their allies have taken control of the Syrian side of the border from Iraq to the east bank of the Euphrates River. The distance from the Euphrates River to Azaz is about 100 kms. The fighting would be hard. Russian and US air forces might need to coordinate air support operations. If so, it would show a lot of common sense on the part of both Russia and the US. There is a common enemy in ISIS, and the Turks support them.

If this offensive is successful, the Syrian Kurds could link up with the Syrian Arab Army which has been sealing the border north and east of Latakia. The Islamic State would have no major line of communications from Turkey.

This move by the Kurds (supported by both the US and Russia) is certain to provoke a Turkish response. So is the Iraqi Kurds’ trial balloon about holding an independence referendum by November.

Turkish President Erdogan and other Turkish leaders have said that Kurdish expansion west of the Euphrates River is a “red line.” They did not say what Turkey’s response would be, but Erdogan’s plan to establish a safe zone near Jarabulus appears likely to be overtaken by events. Russia has an axe to grind and if the US helps them grind it, Turkey is put in a very difficult vice.



DATELINE  DENMARK

A 17-year-old girl who was physically and sexually attacked in Sønderborg will herself face charges for using pepper spray to fend off her assailant.
The teenager told police that she was attacked in central Sønderborg on Wednesday at around 10pm by a dark-skinned English-speaking man, believed to be a refugee newly relocated from Syria. She said the man knocked her to the ground and then unbuttoned her pants and attempted to undress her.
The girl was able to save herself from further assault by using pepper spray on the attacker, but now she may be the one who ends up in legal trouble. 
“It is illegal to possess and use pepper spray, so she will likely be charged for that,” local police spokesman Knud Kirsten told TV Syd. 
The case has sparked a backlash among some Danes who point to increasing reports of sexual harassment in Sønderborg and other Danish cities at the same time that police say they are stretched too thin to properly carry out their duties
Numerous readers wrote in the comments section on TV Syd’s story about the incident that they would be willing to pay the girl’s fine, which will most likely be 500 kroner (about US$85.00) 
The Muslim man who attacked the 17-year-old fled from the scene and has not been charged.

TAIWAN  FLEXING  MUSCLE?

The Republic of China's (Taiwan) newly elected, President Ma Ying-jeou, has announced a planned trip to Itu Aba Island in the Spratly Islands.  You will recall that the OTHER China has been busily building their own islands on top of what were previously 'reefs' and then building air strips on those islands for the purpose of flexing military muscle and claiming the Spratly Island chain (and the oil under it) for the People's Republic of China (Beijing).

The People's Republic of China's reaction goes like this: "extremely unhelpful" and won't do anything to resolve disputes. “We are disappointed that President Ma Ying-jeou plans to travel to Taiping Island (Itu Aba)."
Ma's office announced that he would fly to Itu Aba yesterday, on Thursday, the 28th, to offer (Chinese) Lunar New Year wishes to residents on the island and usher in the "Year of the Monkey" in style. A coast guard unit from Taiwan and environmental scientists live on Itu Aba.
Itu Aba is the only island in the Spratlys that has  proved to be an economic resource – guano. 

Vietnam and the Philippines also claim the 110-acre island, but Chinese nationalists have maintained a permanent presence since the end of World War II.

The (communist) People's Republic of China claims the (nationalist) Republic of China's island, Itu Aba as part of their "One China Policy". The Republic of China in Taiwan doesn't see it that way, and by all accounts, has the only legitimate claim to any of the "Chinese" Spratley Islands in the region based on continuous occupation and economic use.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Stroll down Memory Lane


Monica Lewinsky, former White
House intern and presidential
stress reliever.
Close to twenty years ago now, I was at a political smoker in Georgetown where about three dozen people were present. The guest of honor was President Willam J. Clinton (POTUS). Then Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) invited me. Senator Kerrey received the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam were he had been  grievously wounded before he began his political career. The Senator and I were acquainted because we both served in the world's finest Navy.

I usually didn't move in those circles but I thought that it might be fun, and it was. I stood back from the elephants in the room, wallpaper, while the great and near great in the Democratic Party held a party. I recall one statement that the guest of honor made. I've never heard it reported. But it's worth mentioning just because it is. I normally don't "kiss and tell" but it's the new normal and Hillary wants to fill Bill's shoes...

To frame it, the Monica Lewinsky scandal had not yet broken. Kenneth Star (special prosecutor) was investigating President and Mrs. Clinton on other matters, including the Whitewater scandal, the White House FBI files controversy, and the White House travel office controversy. Bill Clinton had not yet been impeached for perjury for lying to Congress. Fine single malt flowed like tap water and people present felt no pain. The heavy hors-d'oeuvres had been prepared by the finest chefs using the finest ingredients and you could tell.

Hillary Clinton - before doctors stretched her skin so that she
could be more presentable in her run for the Presidency.
Somebody, and I don't recall who, asked the President something innocuous about the First Lady, Hillary Clinton. The President replied, "You know some men prefer an old boot because it's all broken in...but I don't." After that moment, whenever I see I Hillary, I think "the old boot".  Make of that encounter and moment as you may.

It's a good thing that voters are not reminded by the mainstream media of all of the scandals, filthy deals, dead bodies and women that Bill (and possibly Hillary) soiled and raped in their march to political greatness in America. They'd run the 'old boot' and her husband out of town on a rail after covering her with tar and feathers (Secret Service detail notwithstanding).



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Should the USA reward Stupidity?

Yes, I know that promoting stupidity within the ranks of government is simply what happens (Peter Principle - Thanks to Lawrence J. Peter for making it somehow respectable.). I understand that many bonuses are handed out to lazy drones who work for government. It justifies even larger bonuses for those who are in-charge and are lazier and more wasteful.

BUT - 

Should America try to free STUPID citizens who were seized by hostile regimes when they went to "visit"? 

If you are a Bible thumper and you bring the good book with you to Iran, you can expect to be arrested and held as a hostage in a cold, damp prison without bacon, for twenty years. It's not that they need that much cause to arrest you and hold you in a prison for twenty years. They can plant the Bible in your luggage. It begs the question why anyone would go to Iran and expect to be allowed to leave.

The same is true of North Korea.

Otto
(Time) On 22 January, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that it had arrested Otto Frederick Warmbier, a student tourist, for “carrying out a hostile act against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the tacit connivance of the US government and under its management.” The announcement did not specify the hostile act.
The actual arrest occurred in late December, according to one source. It is typical of North Korea’s police style to make the arrest at the airport as an accused boarded an aircraft for departure.
Almost anything could be a hostile act in North Korea. When the US had Department of Energy inspectors at Yongbyon, an inspector was almost killed in a fight because he had folded the North Korean newspaper so that the fold creased the front page picture of Kim Chong-il. A North Korean engineer attacked the American engineer because he had defiled Kim’s image and that is a capital offense. 

Nevertheless, the North can overlook such offenses when it is in its interest. The US engineer received a warning and instruction about North Korean laws. He was not expelled or arrested.

Suggesting that the fat little fuck who they call "Dear Leader" is anything but the divine ruler of the universe carries with it a sentence of death. Violation of any of thousands of obscure laws in the peace loving Democratic People's Republic of Korea brings with it a sentence of death. All that being the case, why would an American visit the worker's paradise--EVER? And having done something that STUPID, why is it in our interest to do anything other than send Otto's parents a Darwin Award (honorable mention since he's not dead yet)? And maybe a fruit basket or something purchased at taxpayer expense, to express condolences. (I'm not completely heartless)

When North Korea, Iran or any of those miserable hell holes gets into a diplomatic dispute with the U.S. government, they like to grab any American they can find and use them as bargaining chips. Why do we allow any US citizens to travel there? A travel ban for other than approved diplomatic purposes should receive a disclaimer: Abandon Hope all yee who enter here!

Monday, January 25, 2016

What Passes for Life

Sunday I watched the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots in what turned out to be a remarkably good football game. I went into my daughter's home with her in-laws present in large numbers and the place was awash in blue (red and white trim) jerseys. Her husband and his family are from Boston. And they show a dedication to their regional teams at a level that I find is -- a bit over-the-top. Naturally, I favored the Broncos and had to tread softly when they won. It's not as if fists would have flown (I suspect they fear that I would prevail against five men and their angry wives - my daughter would have sat a fight out). The in-laws/outlaws are all former Navy or Marine Corps, not that it matters. 

Since New England won't be in the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks, I invited my son-in-law to my house for the big game. At least one other son-in-law will be at the house. I'll BBQ burgers and dogs. He said that he had to get over the Patriot's loss and that it would take a few days for him to clear his head. He is serious about that. Serious as a heart attack. I love football. I should be the coach. If they listened to me (sitting at home on a couch), things would go MUCH BETTER for any team. I just don't make bonehead mistakes the way the people in the stadium do at times. For the record, if I was the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, they would win the Super Bowl. The fact that they're not even close this year is mute testament of how much they need me to take charge from my armchair.

Logo of the Lake Elsinore Storm
Baseball Team
I'm not a regional sports team fan. I don't "support" (whatever 'support' is supposed to mean) teams because they are local. I like the Chicago Blackhawks for ice hockey, and while Chicago is one of the truly great eating cities in the world, I don't want to live in Chicago. I roll like that when it comes to sports teams. I do like going to watch the Lake Elsinore Storm (AA baseball) play because the stadium is small, and the players turn over as they are sent up to or down from the majors. AA players make more mistakes and seem a bit more human than the rock-star major league players. Any seat is about $5.00. The dog and soda are another fiver.


The Man in the High Castle (review)

Amazon.com has done what Netflix did with House of Cards  (season four of House of Cards due out April 2) when they produced their own series, which can be viewed on their website (or on Netflix). The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history series based on the Philip K. Dick novel. It explores a version of 1960’s America in which the Axis powers  won the Second World War and occupied the United States as conquered territory. The story followed the exploits of resistance fighters and intelligence agents from the Japanese-occupied Pacific States in the west to the Greater Nazi Reich in the east.

I planned to watch the series when it first came out but it's taken me this long to watch it. The production was very well done and that's why I'm reviewing it here. Amazon is currently filming the second season (no release date has been made public).


Philip K. Dick was one of those science fiction writers who was very under appreciated while he lived. Now that he's dead, Hollywood has adapted MANY of his books, short stories and novelettes into films. One of the most famous was Blade Runner, followed his short story, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (Screenplay by David Webb Peoples).  Minority Report is another.

It's one of those series that has very deep characters and a somewhat complex plot, set in the dystopian past where things went a different direction than the history you are familiar with. Dick, and the writers of The Man in the High Castle series treated the topic with a serious respect. It speaks to the sci-fi themed alternate realities timelines (to some extent theorized as possible by quantum mechanical theory - which will bend your mind if you study it). In the film series and book, Germany developed a nuclear weapon before the US did and used it to win the war. Japan still has no nuclear technology and their alliance with Germany reflect their 'junior status', which is a heavy burden on Japanese hearts.

I highly recommend this series and give it an 8.5 out of a possible 10. The acting, writing and cinematography are all first rate. This is not some cheap, slapped together production.

The map of the world, as depicted in the film series




Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Sermonette

When discussing racially charged issues, I first ask myself, "What would Al Sharpton do?" He's Barack's racial toady. Sharpton has denounced the Academy Awards as an exercise in racism because the fix is not in for a negro to win anything this year. 

Ask me if I care. Go ahead.

No, I couldn't give a rat's ass about it.

If  black people want to vote for a black presidential candidate this year, they must become Republicans. Oh, how that must burn? Do you think that Spike Lee will vote for Dr. Ben Carson?

Whatever.  I don't care about that either. Moving on.

The shrill, dumpy old lesbian, Hillary Clinton, is whining on all of the talk shows about how she is an outsider and Bernie Sanders is an insider.  The nasty old crone has been an insider for the past thirty years, as senator, secretary of state and first lady. Give me a f-ing break. The pay-to-play back room deals have made she and Bill wealthy. And that's only the small portion of the fortune that we are aware of. Who knows how much rainy day money they have stashed off-shore. The Byzantines practiced a form of execution when a high official stole from the kingdom. They melted the stolen gold and poured that down the throat of the perpetrator. The Constitution protects the Clintons and Obamas from cruel and unusual punishment, however fitting it might be.

Truth be told, Barack will pardon her and she'll keep her ill gotten gain, and will live on it as a bitter, mangey, shrew until the Grim Reaper comes calling.

And in other news:



Regional Review

The mainstream media no longer reports the news. MSNBC reports on the glorious long march of the Democrat party and all of the cool things that candidate and yet unindicted felon Hillary Clinton is doing - going to Chipotle to buy a burrito to prove she's just like the little proles who adore her, etc. Fox does a better job than the others, but there is no time to get into the nitty gritty. That's why I blog on all this from time to time. Some of you don't care, others do. I find that keeping up helps me with some of the projects that I become involved with in my consulting realm.

DON'T CALL IT A BASE

Establishing a "base" in a country five thousand miles from home is not consistent with Mao's great vision for China nor that of the People's Liberation Army's Navy. So please call it something else. They are communists, not imperialists. That's the Chinese story and they are sticking with it for domestic consumption. Since 'great powers' have foreign bases, the Chinese want some too.

We will get to the "base, which you may refer to as an installation," later. First the Chinese footprints in the Middle East in the vacuum created by US complacence.

On 21 January, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to help Egypt improve its infrastructure by aiding in the construction of about $15 billion worth of projects.

I prefer to think of the $15 billion as a bit of the interest on debt that the US paid to China this past year...part of the Obama Administration's rampant borrowing that left the US $19 trillion in debt. But I'm a cynic. Back now to President Xi Jinping.

Xi said the projects, which range from the energy to transportation sectors, are intended to increase Egypt’s industrial capacity. Some already have been started and others are still under review. Xi made the announcement at a joint news conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.

Egypt is the second stop of Xi’s first trip to the Middle East as China’s President. Chinese generosity to Egypt seems to put China on the side of the Saudis in the confrontation with Iran. It also is consistent with China’s policy of promoting regional stability. Xi’s statement indicates China supports Egypt in doing more to stabilize regional affairs and China is willing to help.

In Saudi Arabia, Xi and King Salman signed an agreement on creating a strategic partnership as well as 21 other agreements. Security issues almost certainly were discussed in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has a ballistic missile unit based in the southwest. Technical open sources report that it is equipped with Chinese DF-21 (CSS-5) medium range ballistic missiles. 

I don't know whether Pakistan or China (which are closely allied in the field of nuclear weapons technology and ballistic weapons) will be the first to sell nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. You can toss a coin. In the absence of US assurances, the Saudis must take their friends where they find them. 

Now to the base. A Chinese spokesman said of the proposed Chinese base in Djibouti, “In recent years, China has dispatched naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden and to the waters off Somalia to conduct escort missions. As we have met many real difficulties including rest and recreation, food, fuel supply for officers and men in the course of executing missions, it is necessary to have highly-efficient logistics support in nearby areas.”

“China and Djibouti carried out consultations on building logistics facilities and reached a consensus, which is helpful for the Chinese troops to further execute well their escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability. The nature of the relevant facilities is clear, that is, provision of logistics support for escort vessels in the Gulf of Aden and off the waters of Somalia.”

Other press services reported that Djibouti has approved China’s request for banking facilities and for creating a trade zone in Djibouti.

They don't like the word 'base". The operative words in the spokesman’s comments are “…and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.” He corrected the impression that the installations were only to support the anti-piracy and ship escort missions. 

China has been sending three ship task groups to the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia since 2008. The increase in sustainment and time at sea afforded by a logistic support facility will enable Chinese ships greater flexibility in supporting regional policy and more opportunities to show the Chinese flag, including in the Mediterranean Sea.  

SYRIAN UPDATE (INTERNATIONAL SHIFTING)

Press reports during the past week indicate several nations are shifting their military forces around in the touchy Syrian zone of conflict. The changes portend increased fighting and tension along Syria’s northern border.

Turkey doesn't care much about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)  but they really hate the Kurds. 

America allegedly (under Barack's rule) likes the Kurds, but we do almost nothing to support them in their fight against ISIL. We also like the Turks, our NATO allies.

Turkey has a complex relationship with the USA, to put it mildly. On one hand they are a traditional bulwark against Russian expansion and are a member of NATO. On the other hand WERE a secular Muslim nation - but aren't anymore, thus 'death to the infidels'.

Turkey is now making good on President Erdogan’s vow that the Syrian Kurds must be halted at the Euphrates River. Turkish press reported the presence of Turkish soldiers in Jarabulus, a Syrian border town just west of the Euphrates. The town has been held by ISIL , but the Turkish soldiers entered unopposed. 

Other press services reported observing Turkish mine clearing operations near Jarabulus, removing mines laid by ISIL, again without opposition.

A cynic might point to  a degree collusion between Turkey and ISIL. I don't suggest that they are in lock step, but they talk.

Turkish border forces stopped a humanitarian relief convoy bound for Kobani. The Turks said the convoy was illegal because it aided a terrorist organization, the Syrian Kurds who beat ISIL to regain control of Kobani last year. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), to be terrorists. The US declared that the Kurds are allies, but have betrayed them to the Turks over and over and over again.

Turkish air forces this week bombed Tal Abyad, another town recently liberated by a mixed force of Arabs, Assyrian Christians and Syrian Kurds. Casualties and damage are not known.

The Turks objected to an invitation to Syrian Kurds to send a delegation to attend the international peace talks which are still set for 25 January. The Turks oppose any action to legitimize the Syrian Kurds.

The Turks claimed that their military deployment to Jarabulus is to improve their capability to fight ISIL. There are few signs that the Turks in Jarabulus will fight any group but the YPG who control Kobani and Tal Abyad. 

The Turks have failed to get widespread support for their plan to create a buffer zone or protected area along the border for the Syrian opposition groups that Turkey supports and for refugees. The Turkish government appears to have decided to go ahead on its own, but probably with Gulf state assistance. In creating a buffer zone, the Turks would fuel the crisis with Russia because that airspace would be denied to the Russians and the Syrians. The zone would also act as a block to any move by the Syrian Kurds to expand their area of control west of the Euphrates.

Russian Expansion? Two usually reliable press services reported that Russian military engineers and surveyors were observed at the Syrian air force base at Qamishli. They noted that virtually identical behavior preceded the Russian air force’s arrival at Humaymim air base outside Latakia. The Russians have released no information about an expansion of their air presence to the Syrian interior. The logistics of such an undertaking would seem to be challenging and costly.  They have a budget.

This is not the first report that the Russians explored alternate basing options. A report last year said that the Russians were investigating whether to use an air base near Homs as a forward operating base. As careful planners, they would survey other airstrips.

US forces have secured access to and will soon be operating from Rmelan airfield provides an explanation for and lends credibility to the report that Russia is examining the suitability of Qamishli as a forward operating base. It is located 70 kms west of Rmelan. The YPG controls Rmelan. The Syrian air force controls Qamishli.

Yes, this does constitute some US "boots on the ground" but the way it lays out, much of the defense in depth of the air field will be provided by Kurds, and elements of the 82nd ABN Division will handle point defense and the air defense artillery. It's not a combat ground force in the traditional sense as presently envisioned. It's a force which will defend US air craft and ground support for those aircraft. I can't see that role expanding much in the near term given the Obama Administrations past conduct of military moves in the area.
The details of the military moves are not confirmed. No major forces have moved. The early indicators point to an increase in fighting along the northern Syrian border and increased involvement by outside military powers. 
The fighting will become much more complex because the national forces are in closer proximity to each other and have completing and contradictory goals. For example, the US forces at Rmelan would be operating from an airfield formerly controlled by Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units. They are the sworn enemy of the Turks.

Russian operations are clearly aimed at preserving the Syrian government. Starting in December, the Russians actually boasted about their support for the Syrian Kurds to whom the Russians say they are providing military assistance. Russian operations from Qamishli, close to the Turkish border, would provoke the Turks.

The risks of “inadvertent” clashes and “accidental” air attacks will increase. The Russians still have a bone to pick with the Turks (occasional American allies) for shooting down their aircraft and President Putin has said that the Turks need to be punished. Whatever your opinion of Putin, he usually does what he says, unlike "Old Red-Line, the American President".



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Red Mist (part three)

Red Mist (part three)

a fictional short
Olga Shearer handed Staff Sergeant Alan Frazier a sheaf of papers that required his signature. When he began examining the small print, Bryce Lawson said, "sign on the tabs and let's get this show on the road. You're separating from the US Army under honorable circumstances, you will receive a $100,000.00 separation bonus from the US Government for unspecified services, should you survive the next six hours, and you are being read-in to a special access program that even the Commander-in-Chief doesn't know the specifics of, well above top secret. Technically he would have access if anyone told him about it, but the handful of people involved don't tell him."

"And if I don't sign?"

"Walk back into the CHU and look at the rain on the window with your friends. You can lapse back at this point if you work at it, and you'll never truly wake up. Or charges will be filed alleging violations, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Security detail will take you into custody, you'll have your day before a military tribunal, you will be convicted and you will spend the rest of your life in prison in solitary confinement. You can't be left running around knowing what you now know, spreading panic."

"I don't know that much."

"What we are offering is an alternative career path for you, money, and a good life if you accept it. Or we'll put you on ice as humanely as possible."

**

Frazier likes the offer and is intrigued by the totality of what he has experienced, but just signing without reading goes against his instincts. That reluctance notwithstanding, he signs.

Lawson and Frazier put on heavy hard-shell armored suits with reflective surfaces, aided by the helpful Olga, who had to sign  much the same paperwork as Frazier did. Frazier thinks of them as Space suits designed for exceptional heat and he's not far from wrong. Lawson has given him a crash course on lava, magma and the Earth's crust. "When lava first erupts from these particular volcanic vents, the temperature is between 1,300 (F) and 1,600 (F). The vent lava has different thixotropic characteristics. In a nut shell, that means that it is even less viscous than the lava one would find in a volcano's caldera. More like heavy soup in consistency than molten rock." Even though Frazier's suit doesn't quite fit him, the seals are solid and it's functionally good-to-go.

They will not touch the lava because it is not necessary to do that. They are on a different sort of mission, and it's something that Frazier had never considered possible. The suits are designed to keep them alive and comfortable in the immediate presence of red mist.

**

"Their first weapon of choice is psychotropic, and it's effective once. You saw work on your friends, but it won't work on you again because you brain adapted, and the copper mesh layer of the suit helps defeat the weapon." Lawson's confidence calmed Frazier. "The second weapon in their bag of tricks is a type of magnetic force projection. That's what hit your captain. It also throws rocks and lava out when it discharges, and that's what tore up your armor plate."

"Are  you saying that we were attacked by extra-terrestrials, Mr. Lawson?"

"Call me Bryce."

"Well, Bryce? What gives?"

"No they're not ET's. As near as we can tell, which means as nearly as they can tell, they are originally from Earth. They live deep beneath the surface in the magma. A very few of their number are explorers and scientists who make their way to the surface through faults and fissures in the surface and the tunnels that they construct are filled with lava. It's similar to us being in our atmosphere. Deep in the planet where pressures are formidable, they have a more substantial presence. They prefer to explore vents in the deep ocean where pressure is intense but as you'd expect, they don't learn the same things. When they explore here, they look a bit like concentrated red mist held together by magnetic fields that are projected up the pipe or vent. How did you do in math and physics?"

"Solid C-. This body is built for sex and violence, not science, Mr. Lawson -- Bryce."

"You'll learn. A magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude or strength. The term is used for two distinct but closely related fields denoted by the symbols B and H, where H is measured in units of amperes per meter. B is measured in teslas and newtons per meter per ampere. B is the Lorentz force that it exerts on moving electric charges."

"You lost me at B."

Lawson lifted an armored hand and shook his head. "Schools focus more on diversity than learning these days. Magnetic fields can be produced by moving electric charges and the intrinsic magnetic moments of  elementary particles associated with their spin. In Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, electric and magnetic fields are two interrelated aspects of a single object, called the electromagnetic tensor.  These beings need the electromagnetic field to keep their bodies, for want of a better word, intact and together in the low pressure environment that we live in normally. They can't go far from the vent, which is their conduit to the power to keep things together. Under pressure they swim in liquid rock after--a fashion."

"And you know this how?"

"We communicate with them -- with some of them. We have no common language but we both use mathematics to find that joint playing field. It works well enough now and we get more kinks out of the process all the time. It's important that we don't misconstrue or misinterpret. They have factions just as we do. Their politics can be contentious.  We don't chat with all of them, which is why this incident happened. They viewed you as a threat. The grenade that you lobbed must have destroyed a few of them. They're very vulnerable on the surface. And they are waiting for us to communicate again despite the unfortunate encounter. I know this because the vent over there has not closed up."

"But they scrambled our brains."

"They learned to do that hundreds of thousands of years ago when they first came to the surface. It's learned behavior. The magnetic force weapons are a recent development as they measure time."

"Back to the whole communication thing?"

"They are most concerned with underground nuclear weapons testing. It's why there are strict international rules about announcing those sorts of things. When a nation lights one off, if they're not well clear, it can kill millions of them. The electromagnetic pulse that the nukes generate disintegrates them. For now, the best thing for you to do is to jump in the deep end of the pool. We'll go to their cauldron and let them talk to us. I have to warn you that it's weird."

"Bryce, my weird-o-meter is pegged."

"They may employ their psychotropic weapon if they don't like what we say. They can be capricious.  This time it won't be the shock that it was the first time, and you will be in hard armor insulated against it. It attacks the limbic system, the portion of the brain that controls basic human emotions and drives. It's not the most primitive portion of the brain, but it's been part of homo sapiens make-up from the beginning. I have no idea how they developed their capabilities, but these entities are advanced and they are clever."

"Do you talk to them all the time, like this? I wanted to say face to face, but I don't think they have faces."

"Oh, no. That's not what I do for the CIA. Not usually. I have the suits available just in case and I'm lucky that it fit you. I'm a problem solver. In this case, the red mist problem is our problem because we're here and so are they. You and I have to go to the vent and find out what they want from us. They're going outside normal channels of communications that we have established though hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor. That means that it's important."

"But you have spoken with them before? In person?"

"On three occasions before this one, and spoken is not the word one would use. You're going to need to un-shield the helmet with this lever." Bryce pulled on a toggle on the side of the helmet." So that they can communicate. It's like having a rat claw its way out from the middle of your brain. It's unpleasant but it leaves a rare and precious gift behind. You'll see. You're going to fit right in at CIA."

"The computer will translate what we say. I have disabled your ability to speak to them, but you will be able to hear both sides of the conversation."

"And that rat clawing from the inside of my brain?"

"You don't need to experience it, but it's something not to be missed. It will change how you process information. You'll go from using 10% of your brain to something over 23% of your brain in a few seconds."

Friday, January 22, 2016

Note to Hillary Clinton

Hillary 2016
If you're able to rewrite history, history doesn't matter. Unfortunately when you go and do that, you shouldn't hire a moron to erase the drive you keep classified information on in your basement.

Friday Update

FINDING A RUNNING MATE FOR HILLARY

Before you haters jump to conclusions, I've given this a lot of thought. Who would be a perfect book end to Hillary Clinton and a worthy progressive American Vice President?  What about Jane (Hanoi Jane) Fonda?

When you think about it, she might get plump, pear shaped Hillary to the gym so she won't have to wear those silly clown costumes anymore. 

Would you despise Hillary more if Hanoi Jane was her running mate? I'm thinking no...so there isn't a down-side for Hillary. Hanoi Jane is an outsider, and if Hillary should stumble, Hanoi Jane could carry on with Hillary's legacy. Jane Fonda should have spent life in prison, and Hillary is clearly an unindicted felon as well, so they share that in common.

LSP suggests that Yoko Ono would be the perfect running mate for Hillary. I reject that because it would end in a cat fight between Huma Abedin and Yoko for Hillary's affection. That would impact the decorum of the Oval Office.

Somebody call Debbie Wasserman Schultz 
and get Hanoi Jane on the ticket!


CULTURALLY JUSTIFYING RAPE (Update)


Imam Sami Abu-Yusuf, leader of a Salafist mosque in Cologne Germany is now warning women against “adding fuel to the fire”. He said the victims of the New Year’s Eve attacks in that city were themselves responsible for their sex assault, by dressing inappropriately and wearing perfume. 

There is a general belief among male Muslims that women all have a secret desire to be raped by a bearded, unwashed Muslim man on the street. Wearing perfume and exposing their hair to sunlight are provocations that can not be passed up by your average military age Muslim male, apparently.

Imam Sami Abu-Yusuf
I get his point. In a faith that characterizes women who don't dress in tents as "whores", it's natural for the 800,000 military age Islamic males who arrived in Germany as "guests" from Syria to conclude that all women in the west are "whores". And apparently the same behavior is underway in Sweden and throughout the European host nations who have taken in Muslim refugees.

It also begs the question of how many Syrian military age males that the US should allow in. I have a number in mind and that number is ZERO. Three year old orphans are one thing. Military age males and females are quite another.  There is more >HERE< from the front lines of immigration and refugees in Germany. The first hand account is compelling. Germany will serve as warning to all to leave the savages in the hell that they live in and not bring them to civilized nations. The Poles, Hungarians and Czechs have the right idea, but the progressive press is damning them.


RED MIST

For those of you reading the series, Red Mist on this blog, part three will be available soon (possibly on Saturday). Yes, John Coffey, you must wait for the conclusion. Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought him back.


WILL 13 HOURS (Film) HURT HILLARY'S CHANCES?



OPERATION FAST AND FURIOUS REDUX

Isn't it interesting that Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman Loera had one of the guns that ATF sold the cartels in his hacienda when he was arrested? The best reporting on this scandal was done by Sheryl Attkisson.  She concluded that the order to undertake these firearms sales to drug cartels by the Obama Administration - as high up as the Attorney General and likely the President, himself, was to use the murders committed by these firearms that came from the USA as an excuse to impose gun control (in violation of the Constitution).

You will recall that Attorney General Holder was accused by Congress of perjury as it pertains to this matter. Naturally it didn't matter to the President.

Now a judge has ruled that President Obama doesn't have executive privilege in regard documents dealing with Operation Fast and Furious. The White House is appealing the decision. Barack needs a Democrat in the White House after him to clean up all of his skulduggery. Trump or Cruz would have a field day with the "Obama Legacy".


TALK OF RUSSIA AND MOLDOVA

Russia seems to have swallowed all that it can for the moment. I am speaking of its economic capacity to expand. This is an interesting thing to me since Moldova seems to be "road kill" easy for Russia to take -- but it doesn't want to.

I realize that somewhat dry discussions of these sorts may not interest all of this blog's readers, but I do try and keep up on this if for no other reason than it's a habit. It's like reading message traffic first thing in the morning (for you who have been in the biz). It's what you do. Making sense of it is more complicated than just reading because you ask 'why'. Anyway, here's information that is already arcane. It would matter to you if you were trying to answer the question of Russian capacities and intentions.

Moldova's Parliament has been deadlocked for months about forming a new government between pro-European and pro-Russian parties. An announcement that the members had agreed on a government right before the deadline for new early elections seems to have sparked significant protests. On 20 January, between 5,000 and 7,000 protestors outside the parliament building in Chisinau decided to storm the building.

Some of the protesters reportedly believe the new government is a compromise solution which will not tackle endemic corruption and undertake reforms. Others oppose a pro-European government and think Moldova should remain more closely allied to Russia.

Moldova is a Slavic country and a former member of the Soviet Union. It declared independence in 1991. It is primarily agricultural and still relies on Russia and Ukraine for its energy resources. It was the first of the former Soviet countries to elect a communist as president, who led the country from 2001 to 2009. A coalition of Pro European opposition parties governed after 2009. In 2014 Moldova entered an association agreement with the European Union. 

Its population is just over 3.5 million, whose GDP in 2014 was $17.78 billion. Remittances by Moldovans in other countries account for $1.6 billion. It is one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Its eastern region, bordering Ukraine, is known as Transnistria. Its half a million people are predominantly Russian and Ukrainian and look to Russia for protection. A Russian army regiment remains based there.

During the crisis in Crimea, Transnistria sent a delegation to Moscow to request admission to the Russian Federation. It was turned away.

Russia has shown no signs of wanting to assume the burdens of another dependency, especially because of its commitment of the Russian expeditionary force to Syria. 



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Red Mist (part two)

Red Mist (part two)

a fictional short
OV-22 Osprey
"They say that it's raining, Mr. Lawson." Olga Shearing told the boss as he stepped out of the OV-22 Osprey with no markings, that had just landed. "They're combat ineffective."

Lawson folded the briefing papers that Olga cabled to him earlier in the day. He put them in his pocket and looked up at the clear, blue sky through dark aviator sunglasses, absently running his fingers through his white hair. "Raining?"

"That's what they say."

"All of 'em?"

Olga shrugged a 'yes'. Bryce Lawson had been around The Company for a long, long time. Rumors abounded that it was Lawson himself who'd deflowered the Virgin Mary. Others suggested that he'd held the cloaks of the Romans while they pounded the nails into Jesus-on-the-cross. Some said that he pounded the nails himself giving the Roman executioners tips while he did so. A lot of people feared Bryce Lawson but she didn't know anyone who understood him beyond the legend that grew up around him. He looked so normal, just an old guy -- but still the guy who gave advice to Eve in the Garden.

Olga had never met him before and the man she walked next to didn't impress her with any of those allegedly well-deserved reputations, but there was something about him that she couldn't quite put her finger on. Maybe it was confidence? In a world of uncertain people, Lawson screamed certainty.

Olga worked with one of his ex-wives, also a Virginia Farm Girl, when she was state-side assigned to Global Targets Division. Sylvia Lawson, the ex, never said a single word about him. Not even when she was drunk on grapa and raving. Olga asked whether or not Sylvia's refusal to comment was due to fear. Sylvia, a Rhodes Scholar and former Miss Florida said, "no, it's respect."

Olga followed in Lawson's wake as he spoke to a few of the Agency's contractors, who provided security now that the egg heads who created the goat-fuck by sending in the Army had departed. She fervently hoped that she would not be held accountable for a NASA decision. There was the natural worry that Lawson would simply make a phone call and have her relieved short of tour and sent back to headquarters, where there would be a desk, and the trite, meaningless tasks as a cog in the great machine. That's how it happened when things went horribly wrong. There would be the inevitable whispers and gossip within the bureaucracy, but her career would be finished. Lawson had the power to do that to her with nothing more than a grunt and a sideways glance. Her recourse, given the nature of what happened, consisted of resignation, suicide or both.

It had been one of those incredibly strange things and Olga didn't know quite how the sequence of events had landed her there. Iceland called NASA, and the NASA people were mostly ex-Air Force. One of their people encountered 'something' in the steaming, burning caldera and they panicked, grabbing the Special Forces A-Team who was training on the other side of the nation-island. It had nothing to do with her, nothing to do with the Agency.

And as with so many things which had happen in the course of screw-ups, it defaulted to the Central Intelligence Agency to try and determine what-in-the-heck was going on. As the "nation's first line of defense", it had that role, even in Iceland if the Icelanders, and Denmark, had handed it off to the US to deal with. The director sent his favorite fireman, the ancient of days, Bryce Lawson.

He took off his sun glasses and looked at Olga, "Ms. Shearer, shall we go in?" Bryce Lawson tried to be polite. She trailed Lawson as he sauntered slowly into the Containerized Housing Unit (CHU) and looked at what remained of ODA5116. "Frazier. Staff Sergeant Frazier."

Frazier turned his gaze from the window to Lawson. Lawson turned to Olga. "He's the one who carried the decapitated captain out? Fireman's carry?" Olga nodded. "That's why he's drenched in blood?" Olga nodded again. "Walk him into the shower, strip off his clothes yourself, then take yours off and wash him down. He needs a woman's naked body next to him under hot water."

Olga's eyes bugged and she wanted to say something, but she didn't. She did precisely what Lawson asked because he was Bryce-fucking-Lawson, and his will was too great for her to resist. That and he spoke with such great compassion that she wanted to do what he directed her to do.

The scalding water cascaded over them in the shower and Alan Frazer sensed that he was being washed. All of him. The fog lifted ever so slowly, as her nipples touched his back and she gently scrubbed his hair and massaged his scalp. He became aroused and she stroked and pulled until he released. More hot water, more soap and he opened his eyes as she led him from the shower and handed him a towel.

Seeing Olga almost for the first time, toweling off next to him, Alan covered himself and blushed. "Where the fuck am I?"

"Here, sergeant, let me put some bandages on your face." Olga sat him down on a wooden bench and unashamedly dressed his wounds.

____


Alan Frazier presented himself to Lawson who sat on a crate in the cargo bay of the Ov-22, eating a tuna sandwich and drinking from a dark amber bottle. Frazier wore clean, pressed khaki clothing that Olga handed him, and felt very different from the way he had an hour before. His memory of the stupor he'd been in faded to the point where he wasn't all together sure that he'd been in a stupor at all. "Who are you and where's the bus that hit me-----sir?" He looked back outside and said, "isn't there a destroyed village out there? There's nothing as far as the horizon except the CHU and that command trailer with the NASA logo on it."

"Are you hungry?"

"Oh God, Yes." Olga told him that the old man's name was Bryce Lawson and that he wanted to speak to him. Nothing more.

He pointed to a blue and white plastic flip top cooler lashed down to a palate with other equipment in the cargo bay. "There's a bowl of tuna, green onion and pickles, light mayo, a bit heavy on the mustard and pepper. Throw that between a couple slices of bread, grab a beer and some chips." He pointed to one of the canvas sling chairs attached to the aircraft's bulkhead. "Then sit and we can talk. You're feeling weak aren't you?"

Frazier nodded. Then he assembled a sandwich, sat on the cooler instead of the sling-chair and took a bite. "It's good." The beer, Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout, was a brand he'd never seen before. He sampled it and said, "That's good too."

"I made the tuna this morning, though I must confess, when I did, I never thought that I'd end up here today. The beer is a Norwegian. I was there -- in Norway, this morning."

He took another bite, chugged half of the bottle. Then he took another  bite, tore open the bag of potato chips and ate a few of those. Alan finished the beer and felt ready to talk.

"It's Loki's fire." Lawson pointed off in the distance to the plume of smoke. "The Norse attributed what you experienced to the god, Loki, the trickster and lord of fire. Fire can warm you, save you, cook your food, comfort you and burn you to death in your house with all of your children around you screaming. All from the same pile of sticks burning in front of you. When it happened in antiquity, they attributed it to Loki and his unpredictability."

"You believe that, Mr. Lawson?"

"Of course. They did think that it was Loki."

"Are you pulling my chain?"

"Certainly. Have another beer and toss me one while you're at it."

Alan Frazier dug through the crushed ice in the chest and retrieved two bottles. He tossed one to Lawson and opened the other.

"We are aware of other times that this situation that you found yourself in has happened. The Chinese or the Russians may have had encounters like yours but they buried it just the way that we did, so there's no knowing there.

"The first that we have a solid record of involved an encounter with the Delaware State Police in 1928. They killed themselves afterward and the only accounts we have are all contemporaneous to the event but I'm convinced that they faced the same thing that you did. There was another situation in Alaska with an oil drilling crew. Only one of them survived. A young man who'd just returned from combat in Vietnam with the Marine Corps up on the DMZ. He'd been wounded near Phu Bai and when he left the Corps, he gravitated to roughnecking. After the encounter, he found other work. And then there is you, here in Iceland."

"We're in Iceland? No shit?"

"I shit you not."

"And the woman who, uh, showered with me."

"Resurrected you, yes, she works for the same alphabet agency that I work for. She is very good at what she does, but she doesn't know why she is. Don't worry about that. She did her job."

"It was raining." Frazier looked at the clear sky.

"You think so? Go back into the CHU and the men in there will claim that it still is."

"Captain Sanchez?"

"Dead. Same with sergeants Broadmoore and Kelly. If you waked into that CHU, you'd swear that Sergeant Tarrell is there sitting on a bunk, looking at the rain, but he's not. He's dead too, laid out in a body bag in the shade between Sanchez and Kelly."

"Were we attacked?"

"Absolutely."

"By whom?"

"You mean, 'by what'? Now that is the question isn't it? Do you remember the encounter?"

"No. I don't recall much. The last thing that I remember we were in Kentucky -- Fort Campbell, and there was a training evolution we had geared up for. The details are -- I don't remember much of even that. What will happen to the rest of them, my friends?"

"They're insane now. They will remain like that. Maybe in the psych ward at Walter Reid, eating pudding, looking at the rain on the windows. You are different because you picked up your captain and carried him out. They panicked and ran."

"How do you know that they panicked and I didn't?"

"You're here talking to me and they are still in there." Lawson shifted subjects, "Iceland has a bureau that deals with volcanoes because they have a lot of them and they study them. They're very good at what they do, so when they saw that caldera forming," Lawson pointed to the plume of smoke," they sent a team, but it wasn't like any volcano that they'd ever seen. They thought that it might have been a meteor strike, so they called NASA. They thought that it didn't look right. They were correct.

"NASA came, screwed around with it, panicked, called your team which happened to be handy, and when things went to pot with you all, they split. Somebody called me, and here we are."

"And who exactly are you," Frazier asked?

"It really doesn't matter. What does matter is that you're going back there and this time I'm going with you."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Red Mist (part one)

Red Mist

a fictional short


How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange 
roof, thinking of home. - William Faulkner


In spartan room with bare bunk-beds, Alan Frazier, 28, sits on a lower bunk, shirtless. Rain pounds on a window that looks out into a stormy sky over the godforsaken ruins of what must have been a very nice town. He can't recall how he got where he is or precisely who he is. There is a worn OD green duffle bag by his feet. There is a name, FRAZIER, A; SSG; XXX-45-5277; ODA5116; US Army, and it is hand stenciled, maybe by using a template and a sharpie. He knows what ODA5116 means. He understands that he means that he's assigned to Alpha Company, First Battalion, Fifth Special Forces Group.

Looking away from the rain on the window that has hypnotized him, there is a mirror hanging from a wall and he stares at an unshaved man that he doesn't recognize, all the time suspecting that he's looking at himself. There are scars and bruises of varying age. Fresh, unstitched cuts stretch from his hairline all the way down to the bottom of his ear. They are not deep, but they bled a lot are still weeping. There is another cut, lower on his face, stitched. It distorts his lip slightly. Other scars, much older form an inkless tattoo carved onto his upper chest, 'de oppresso liber'. He knows what it means and in probing his memory he realizes that he does not speak Latin. He turns in the mirror to see an ink tattoo on his shoulder. Crossed arrows. He knows what that represents as well. It's the details of how, who, where and when that remain fuzzy. You can't survive certain experiences. But sometimes despite the odds, you do and afterward you don't fully exist precisely because you failed to die.

Death brings with it a sense of authenticity that Alan Frazier does not feel. He is disturbed because in a strange way he is inauthentic. That lack of sense of self embraces him coldly.

He's not the only man in the room. There are others, wearing t-shirts, Crye Precision BDU's, and there are plate carriers spread here and there. Some of the armor appears to have been hit more than once and is in a state of disrepair. Their firearms are on the bunks, very close at hand. Many have green tape here or there on them to perform some personalized function. A man sitting on a bunk across from Frazier is methodically field stripping his rifle, and then reassembling the component parts, oiling, wiping off oil, stripping oil, swabbing the bore. There is a small mountain of cleaning rags around him and he smells of solvent and oil.

"Patrick, knock that shit off." Patrick ignores him and begins to tear down his rifle for the eighth or twentieth time. Frazier doesn't know how many times its been.

The rain plays in sheets across the glass of the only window in the room that serves as a temporary barracks. The others either stare into space or they watch the rain beating on the windowpane. Patrick is the exception and it has become unclear to Alan whether he is a robot or SFC Patrick O'Donnell, 18B, Special Forces Weapons Sergeant. Doc Coulter, SSG Malcolm Douglas Coulter, 18D, Special Forces Medical Sergeant should help if it's a human problem, not a robotic issue, but he is watching the rain on the goddamned window along with everyone else. Coulter is not completely motionless. He's dragging a plastic safety razor over his bald scalp - again. That inattention to Patrick O., further underscores the concern that Patrick is a robot.

There is thunder in the distance and flashes of light play across the window. Frazier, Alan R, can't tell whether it's artillery or thunder, but as he resolves what he just heard against his memory, it's thunder and lightning. It lacks the crack of high explosives. The flash of lightning is different too with its flickering intensity.

Nobody flinches when a big door opens and pale light streams in. Her shadow precedes Olga, a woman of thirty-five who is attractive, but not in a glamorous way. Hers is a natural beauty, worn with intelligence and dignity.

Blank eyes turn toward her.

"We need you all to gear up and go back into the cauldron."
Rain slashes Alan's face as he runs, his eyes staring vacantly ahead as his legs pump evenly, his feet chopping through mud, jumping over rocks, solid footing despite the landscape. His uniform looks as though he climbed through razor wire. His armor has taken hits and we can see through the camouflage fabric into the ballistic plate below. He carries his rifle with a practiced ease and slides one magazine out, replacing it by rote. He runs toward the threat without fear or rancor, slinging the rifle, sliding a hand grenade out of it's pouch. He pulls the pin as he runs, allows the spoon to release, counts one-two, throws and drops. BANG!
None of the men move except for SFC Patrick O'Donnell, who stands and looks for more cleaning rags, ignoring Olga completely. Doc Coulter has moved his razor from his scalp to his cleanly shaved face.

Olga now faces WO2 Jason Miles, 180A, Assistant Detachment Commander. Something in Frazier's memory triggers. CAPT Carlos Sanchez, 18A, Operational Detachment Commander, had his head blown from his shoulders. Frazier's brain recorded the event from behind Carlos. There was a loud pop and the captain's head burst like a balloon. It happened in the caldera, that Olga is calling the cauldron. That means that Jason is now the boss. 

But Jason's attention turned from Olga back to the rain on the window.

"Warrant Officer Miles, I'm addressing you directly. Your men need to gear up and recon that  target site again. We need to know what's going on and you are the only ones who can do it." Olga isn't in Jason Miles' chain of command. She's a spook, CIA case officer. Even if she was the Army Chief of Staff, it wouldn't have had much impact on Jason.

The warrant officer's hand moved from his knee to the zipper of his trousers and he reached in, pulling out his meat and began to pound it softly, in an absent, almost asexual way -- watching the rain.

Pat O'Donnell has found more cleaning rags and he's back on his bottom bunk hard at work.

Staff Sergeant Frazier, Alan R., has returned his gaze to the window and the rhythmic sheeting rain.

(continued)