sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Another Brexit

Before it was Scotland, it was Britain. From the first to the fifth centuries, the land beyond Hadrian's Wall (and Antonine's Wall) was part of the Roman Empire. It's remote location in the far western periphery meant that communications with the home office took time. As a result of that geographical situation, there were different Roman commanders who tried to arrange a BREXIT from Rome's dominion. 

During one of these events, in the late third century AD, Britain exited the Roman Empire for a period of around ten years. Because the separation lasted for so long, one can only ask whether it was the first BREXIT?

The Roman Empire in the third century was in a period of economic, political and social change, now known as the “Third Century Crisis” . The period saw intensified disturbances and incursions along its frontiers which drained military and economic resources. It was a period of inflation, coinage was devalued and the old elite order in Rome was being challenged, especially by the military. Since Julius Caesar's coup d'état, ambitious members of the military saw the possibility of a gold laurel around their brows.
Against this backdrop was born the short-lived breakaway Gallic Empire (260-274AD). It was formed out of territories in modern Germany, France, Spain and Britain under the leadership of the usurper Postumus. But Postumus was murdered in 269AD and the Gallic Empire didn’t last much longer without him. But following the rise in the power and influence of Carausius in the 280ADs, Britain again broke away from the Roman Empire – and this time alone.
Enter Carausius

Carausius may have been born in coastal Gallia Belgica, an area which corresponds roughly with Belgium today. He became a military commander and was appointed by the Emperor Maximian to assemble a fleet to help with the problem of piracy in the North Sea. 

The precise circumstances of his fall from favor with Emperor Maximian are lost to history but we do know that he ordered Carausius' death. Historical sources say that to escape death, Carausius made a rather ambitious move – and declared himself emperor in Britain in 286AD. In reality, this is likely to have been a long and gradual process of gaining support and influence, aided by Britain’s remote position on the edge of the empire and its growing dissatisfaction with the workings of Rome. Carausius couldn't have pulled this off without the support of subordinate commanders and influential citizens.

Carausius minted many coins for propaganda purposes, emphasising themes, such as local agriculture and wealth production, which would have been essential for Britain’s survival outside the Roman Empire. But Carausius’ position appears to have been fairly precarious and he was assassinated by his finance minister, Allectus, in 293AD who then also attempted to style himself emperor. (sic temper tiranus) Allectus was killed when Rome came calling to take the place back.

In 296AD Constantius Chlorus led the invasion and reconquered Britain, as “redditor lucis aeternae” (“restorer of the eternal light”) .

Growing discontent in Britain at the time contributed to the opportunism of Carausius, who perhaps successfully appealed to this disquiet. Using modern terms, Britain in the third century was an increasingly unequal society with large villas and townhouses – the grandiose and conspicuous homes of a tiny proportion of the population – appearing for the first time. Then, as now, it is possible that large numbers of people felt overlooked by the ruling “elite” and its links to a European power base. It is likely that convincing the military stationed in Britain was also an important factor.

The majority of the population in Britain are likely to have had fairly grim lives under Roman rule but whether their lives were better under Carausius seems unlikely and is difficult to pinpoint archaeologically. As a self-styled emperor, he would not have had any interest in the majority of the people of Britain. 

The broader Third Century Crisis did result in some substantial changes to the organization of the empire, including a reduction in the size of provinces and an increase in bureaucracy. These changes were unsuccessful. Britain fell out of the empire for good in 410AD and the Western Empire broke up soon after. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

VF-111

I'm not going to belabor my decorating decisions in the den, but I received a couple of e-mails asking for more pictures beyond the snapshot of the picture of "Lee's Old Warhorse".


It's not a shrine to VF-111 (Sundowners), the venerable old squadron that saw service in World War 2, Korea and Vietnam, but it's a picture and a model aircraft (of the picture) with proper squadron markings.

You'll note that I do have a preference for mahogany tables with Italian marble tops. Mia culpa. I can't help it. There are things that I like and things that I don't and if it's going in my house it needs to be right. (right as I define the word)

VF-111 was a flamboyant squadron. Naval aviators are a swaggering, flamboyant bunch but even at that level, the squadron stood out. 

I don't think that it would be politically correct to decorate a helmet this way (left) today. Certainly not any more politically correct than a picture hanging of Lee and Longstreet at Gettysburg. Political correctness demands that we re-write history to serve the particular sensibilities of a class of people that I prefer to avoid.

In any event, that's in the den.

There is also a bust of my grandfather, who raised me and who I adored. He was quite a guy and deserves a place of honor in the room.

I like being surrounded by these things in the den as I read or as I work. The den is now my office and headquarters of my diminutive empire, soon to be relocated from CA to AZ.

As I mentioned, the glory wall has been taken down, all of the hangings are wrapped in bubble wrap and then sealed away in storage boxes - to re-emerge at the White Wolf Mine.



The War of Northern Aggression

There is a brewing controversy here at the homestead with the place going up for sale. I'm getting push-back from Californians over this picture, hanging in my den.


It is "Lee's Old Warhorse" by Mort Kuntsler. AND it's been framed and hanging in my den for at least twenty years. Sensitive people apparently feel that it is an advocation of slavery and it-is-not. If I had a picture of a negro picking cotton, then they might have a point, but I don't.
From Kuntsler: On the morning of July 3rd, Longstreet and Lee rode the line out to the Confederate right. Some sporadic fire from the Hill's artillery broke out in front of Heth's division but died away shortly after noon. The artillery piece nearest to us is a bronze Napoleon. Next is another Napoleon firing. I have used the flame of the explosion to silhouette the artillery officer observing through his binoculars. 
With Lee and Longstreet, of course, are their respective staffs; officers, couriers, flag bearers, etc. Within this entourage, are some recognizable members of both staffs. Above Traveller's head, between the flag bearer and another soldier, is Lt. Col. Walter Taylor, one of Lee's closest aides throughout the war. Immediately to the left of Lee is Lt. Col. James Corely. Lt. Col. W.H. Stevens is to the left of Longstreet, looking at the two generals, watching and waiting. The staffs mingle with each other, conversing and waiting for the last decisions to be made for the final assault. 
The main artillery barrage would begin at 1:00 p.m. and last for two hours. The scene was set for Pickett's Charge!
Gen. Forrest
Furthermore my last house had photos of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Robert E. Lee hanging proudly in the parlor and an Indian family (red dot, not feather) bought the place. The house took one week to sell, which means that I'd priced it too low, but I didn't want to quibble since the new house that I live in now was ready to move into (I had it built too). 

Speed of sale notwithstanding, does a picture of Lee and Longstreet at Gettysburg offend you - the blogging public?

If I had "Bury me in Southern Ground" playing in the background as you toured the house would it make you more or less likely to buy the place?

The house, staged for sale, doesn't include my I-love-me-wall of fame and the rest of the stuff that makes the place look like the Imperial War Museum. It's generic enough to appeal to the average person. I don't have gaudy tastes.

I'm dividing my time between the California residence and the WWM with a lot of my work taking the form of telephone calls while I'm on the road.  There's a 3D view of the plans that I've been walking through and it's one of those time wasters because I keep playing with it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dems Push Nuclear Option

We will see the Senate's rules changed again, completing the journey that corrupt Harry Reid (D-NV) started. There was a time when a qualified Supreme Court Justice could be confirmed by 60 votes without much trouble. That included Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan, confirmed under the Obama regime. That is no longer the case and it is a partisan war that will not serve the nation well.

The Dems revel in the present situation and I wonder if it will serve them well as they expect that it will - or whether the nation will continue to be disgusted with them?

Sticky World

A visitor from Space (think UFO and Illegal Space Alien who may or may not speak English as a second language) would doubtless find conditions on Earth to be different than they may have before they sent spies in and among us with human skins. Cars may not turn out to be the dominant life form with biological organisms seeing to their every need like parasites...etc. You get the point. The "take me to your leader" line doesn't work on a Ford pick up waiting patiently in line at Taco Bell.

This composite image shows an infrared view of Saturn's 
moon Titan from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, acquired during 
the mission's "T-114" flyby on Nov. 13, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL
That also may be true of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the sands are "electrically charged." When the wind blows hard enough (approximately 15 mph), Titan's non-silicate granules get kicked up and start to hop in a motion referred to as saltation. As they collide, they become frictionally charged, like a balloon rubbing against your hair, and clump together in a way not observed for sand dune grains on Earth -- they become resistant to further motion. They maintain that charge for days or months at a time and attach to other hydrocarbon substances, much like packing peanuts used in shipping boxes here on Earth.

The findings have just been published in the journal Nature Geoscience. 
J. S. Méndez Harper, G. D. McDonald, J. Dufek, M. J. Malaska, D. M. Burr, A. G. Hayes, J. McAdams, J. J. Wray. Electrification of sand on Titan and its influence on sediment transport. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2921
"If you grabbed piles of grains and built a sand castle on Titan, it would perhaps stay together for weeks due to their electrostatic properties," said Josef Dufek, the Georgia Tech professor who co-led the study. "Any spacecraft that lands in regions of granular material on Titan is going to have a tough time staying clean. Think of putting a cat in a box of packing peanuts."

The electrification findings may help explain an odd phenomenon. Prevailing winds on Titan blow from east to west across the moon's surface, but sandy dunes nearly 300 feet tall seem to form in the opposite direction.

"These electrostatic forces increase frictional thresholds," said Josh Méndez Harper, a Georgia Tech geophysics and electrical engineering doctoral student who is the paper's lead author. "This makes the grains so sticky and cohesive that only heavy winds can move them. The prevailing winds aren't strong enough to shape the dunes."

To test particle flow under Titan-like conditions, the researchers built a small experiment in a modified pressure vessel in their Georgia Tech lab. They inserted grains of naphthalene and biphenyl -- two toxic, carbon and hydrogen bearing compounds believed to exist on Titan's surface -- into a small cylinder. Then they rotated the tube for 20 minutes in a dry, pure nitrogen environment (Titan's atmosphere is composed of 98 percent nitrogen). Afterwards, they measured the electric properties of each grain as it tumbled out of the tube.

"All of the particles charged well, and about 2 to 5 percent didn't come out of the tumbler," said Méndez Harper. "They clung to the inside and stuck together. When we did the same experiment with sand and volcanic ash using Earth-like conditions, all of it came out. Nothing stuck."

They don't hold together without water.
Earth sand does pick up electrical charge when it's moved, but the charges are smaller and dissipate quickly. That's one reason why you need water to keep sand together when building a sand castle. Not so with Titan.

"These non-silicate, granular materials can hold their electrostatic charges for days, weeks or months at a time under low-gravity conditions," said George McDonald, a graduate student in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who also co-authored the paper.

Visually, Titan is the object in the solar system most like Earth. Data gathered from multiple flybys by Cassini since 2005 have revealed large liquid lakes at the poles, as well as mountains, rivers and potentially volcanoes. However, instead of water-filled oceans and seas, they're composed of methane and ethane and are replenished by precipitation from hydrocarbon-filled clouds. Titan's surface pressure is a bit higher than our planet -- standing on Titan would feel similar to standing 15 feet underwater here on Earth.

"Titan's extreme physical environment requires scientists to think differently about what we've learned of Earth's granular dynamics," said Dufek. "Landforms are influenced by forces that aren't intuitive to us because those forces aren't so important on Earth. Titan is a strange, electrostatically sticky world."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Madness

Where is the Outrage?

The never-ending progressive rant about America building a border wall along its Southern Border hasn't been projected to other parts of the world where similar structures are being erected. Likewise, the People seems to object only to the US Border wall, as he hasn't torn down the walls around Vatican City. Thus Monday Madness focuses on another wall - because we can. Come on, Hollywood, let's hear you denounce Pakistan.

On 25 March, Pakistan Army Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa announced that the Pakistan Army has begun building a fence along part of the northwestern border with Afghanistan to disrupt infiltration by Pakistani Taliban and other anti-government fighters from bases in Afghanistan

Fencing started in Bajaur and Mohmand districts. General Bajwa described both Bajaur and Mohmand as 'high threat zones' which was why, he said, they were being accorded priority in the plan. Banned groups that operate from Afghanistan in the area include Jamaat ul Ahrar and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Addressing troops deployed on the border in Mohmand and Orakzai districts on Saturday, General Bajwa said "technical surveillance means are also being deployed along the border besides regular air surveillance", according to a Pakistani military statement.

Officials also said that Pakistan is building 423 small forts along the 2,430km-long border with Afghanistan--roughly 6 kilometers from each other--for effective border patrolling and monitoring. More than 60 such forts have already been built.

Assuming Pakistan follows through with the plan, it finally looks serious about improving border security. Mohmand is where Jamaat ul-Ahrar terrorists from Afghanistan killed five Pakistani soldiers on 6 March. Mohmand and Bajaur are opposite Afghan provinces in which the Islamic State has a presence or operates.

According to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) web site, FATA is a tribal region in the northwest of Pakistan, lying between the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the north and east, Baluchistan to the south and Afghanistan to the west. The territory is almost exclusively inhabited by various Pashtun tribes. FATA comprises seven tribal Agencies and six Frontier Regions. 

Fencing the border is a politically charged and provocative action because Afghanistan and Pakistan do not agree on the trace of the border. An Afghan politician said that Afghanistan will never allow Pakistan to build a border fence. 

The start of construction could lead to border clashes and has in the past. Last June, Pakistan closed the Torkham border crossing point, west of Peshawar, for construction improvements, including building a new gate. That led to a spike in tension and several days of cross border artillery shelling before the two sides agreed to talk.

Another agenda. Construction of a border fence also supports a government domestic agenda item to incorporate the seven tribal agencies into the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province). 

The agencies have local tribal administrations that are overseen by the office of the President of Pakistan in recognition of the historic autonomy of the Pashtun tribes in the border region. That freedom has included an open border in tribal homelands. The mainstreaming of the agencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would impose tighter control of the tribes as well as alter traditional smuggling and travel practices. The Army’s fence will support the government’s agenda, but the Pashtuns are likely to resist.

What about Canada?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Sermonette

Damned, Horrible Lies

The mirror lies.


When I get up in the morning and look into it, I instinctively ask the question, asked by men since mirrors came into use, "who is that old b@stard?"

I was recently invited to Credenhill, England this coming summer to spend some time with old friends, many of whom I haven't seen in forty years since a secondment to the Brits when I was in the US Navy. My response was, "That's a filthy lie, it can't have been forty years."

Friends, the clock is a remorseless foe and in the end it will kill us all. The moral to this story is, "fight like you're the third monkey on the ramp up to the ark and it's starting to rain." The clock will still kill you, but you'll get your full measure.

It would be a Scandal if she was Black or a Muslim

Luckily for the Tulsa Police Department, she was white and apparently not a Muslim.


The moral to this story is that you can run, but you'll only die tired. 

Prepping

I find the notion of "liberal preppers" to be absurd in the extreme. However their caches of supplies may be of use to the rest of us since they are likely to be easy prey. I saw a liberal discussing his concerns for a Trump Apocalypse on on a news program the other night and --- a liberal person prepping is like a fish riding a bicycle. It's as incredible and outlandish as somebody like Al Franken, a goofy, failed comedian, becoming a US Senator.

Justice

Once again, California made the list of the nation’s top “Judicial Hellholes,” according to the latest rankings of the “most unfair” civil litigation courts by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

On the plus side, California dropped to the No. 2 ranking after previously topping the “Judicial Hellhole” list in 2012, 2013 and 2015. It's incredible that there would be a state that would be worse than California. New York (as one would expect) is No. 3. Which state beat both The Golden State and the Big Apple as the penultimate worst? Missouri. 

ObamaCare Lives?

As crazy as it may seem to some of you, I think this situation is FUNNY. Now the Democrats will have to petition President Trump to save them from the crash of ObamaCare.

For all of the bluster and lies, all of the obstruction and all of the misery that Pelosi and her gang caused - and all of the laughter at the Republicans (gang that couldn't shoot straight), all indications are that they will work with the Republicans to find a way out.

Because as ObamaCare collapses completely, the Progs feel that the electorate will blame THEM. And the first duty of a politician is to get re-elected. I have no idea what the new American Healthcare Act will look like but Trump, the negotiator, will be called upon to broker a deal. 

Uncomfortable Politics

There are other whispers from the Capitol -- that President Obama did generate a situation using signals intercepts (wiretaps) to undermine the newly minted Trump Transition  -- for the purpose of undermining and delegitimizing his presidency. This puts the "party of tolerance" in a difficult position.

They can send their legions in the corrupt, lying, nasty, elite mainstream media to continue the attack, but will the attack backfire.

I realize that the progs are very slow on the uptake, but they've been wrong about EVERYTHING so far as it relates to President Trump. Some in the Donkey Party are worried that they need to dial down the rhetoric in case this ends up being something that shows Obama into prison, and his staff with him.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Settled Science

Global Warming is settled science, right?

So is Global Cooling - there have been ice ages and many learned scientists say that if it was not for human-generated activity we'd be in the middle of an ice age again. --So, you're welcome. Chicago is not under three miles of solid ice because me and those like me are driving gas-guzzling trucks.

Of course the rant had to change to "climate change" because the climate always changes and "weather" because that changes too based on a number of variables which are poorly understood - manly based on both the sun and the regions of space that we are hurtling through. "Climate change" is much easier to prove than global warming/cooling because it changes every year to one degree or another. ("settled science" doesn't predict accurately the degree to which it will change and on which part of the globe)

Nearly 1,000 feet below the bed of the Dead Sea, scientists have found evidence that during past warm periods, the Mideast has suffered drought on scales never recorded by humans. Thick layers of crystalline salt show that rainfall plummeted to as little as a fifth of modern levels some 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago.

Deep below the seabed, drilling revealed thick layers of salt, precipitated out during past warm, dry periods. In this specimen, transparent crystals (right) formed on what was then the bottom during winter; finer white ones (right) formed on the water surface in summer and later sank.
Yael Kiro, Steven L. Goldstein, Javier Garcia-Veigas, Elan Levy, Yochanan Kushnir, Mordechai Stein, Boaz Lazar. Relationships between lake-level changes and water and salt budgets in the Dead Sea during extreme aridities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2017; 464: 211 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.01.043
Thus, in the past,  drought has plagued the desert worse than it does today -- times in the past when there were no humans. However, now that there are humans, the drought has returned to the Middle East and the fault inevitably lies with the United States of America, which needs to make massive financial reparations to the rest of the world. Or so-said Barack Obama, who bowed meekly and accepted the blame on our behalf. Thanks Barack.

The landlocked Dead Sea, straddling Israel, Jordan and Palestinian lands, is earth's lowest spot on land. Its current shoreline lies about 1,300 feet below sea level, and its floor extends down another 900 feet. Fed mainly by the Jordan River drainage, which extends also into Syria and Lebanon, it is a dead end for water, and so is extremely salty; its Biblical name in Hebrew is Y'm ha-Melah, the sea of salt. In recent years, its level has dropped about four feet a year. But hot, dry weather is not the main cause yet; rather, booming populations in the region need more water than ever, and people are sucking so much from the watershed, very little reaches the Dead Sea, where evaporation is outweighing input.

Israel (the country without oil) is meeting its demand by desalinating Mediterranean seawater.

The Arabs (the ones with oil) are sucking the water from the ground and are exacerbating the problem. To alleviate growing water shortages, Jordan plans to break ground next year on a canal to bring in water from the Red Sea for desalination; leftover brine would be dumped into the Dead Sea, possibly stabilizing its level. But the project is controversial, because it could cause drastic environmental changes in both seas, and could still leave much of the rest of the region with inadequate water.

Make of all this what you will. Environmentalists are predicting looming disaster. But then again, that's how they make a living---as they struggle, reconciling 'settled science'. 

The war against the weather continues, however, the funding from the Trump Administration to fight it, has ended.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thoughts on Healthcare Insurance, etc.

Part One

Life is risky. So people have learned to mitigate that risk by paying for insurance, which spreads the risk out like a bookmaker spreads his bets to balance his book (so that he always wins). Healthcare was never an entitlement but Barack and friends elevated it to that status without a way to make it affordable to anyone. Thus the ObamaCare system collapsed just as the Democrats knew that it would. They hoped to install a full socialist healthcare system with death panels for people who were too old to continue to pay in. That's how it worked, it's not a secret. But then the Republicans screwed it up by getting elected to a majority in both houses of Congress and to add insult to injury, President Trump was elected.

When I was young, people who couldn't afford to have a baby in a hospital, had a baby at home. Maybe that was attended by a midwife, maybe not. But babies were born. If there were complications somebody would call a doctor, who would arrive and help with the delivery if he/she could.

Today, the nation feels that it is entitled to Cadillac care, but they don't want to pay for it - having somebody else foot the bill feels a lot better. But as with all socialist programs, you eventually run out of somebody else's money.

Part Two

A response to the Daily Timewaster: The quickest way to put America on a firm financial footing would be for the government to acknowledge that the Social Security Trust Fund was looted by Congress to fund the Vietnam War and that they are repudiating both Social Security and Medicare.

We've all been screwed. But nobody has the courage to admit it including President Trump who ran on a platform of saving Social Security.

USGOV blew $6 trillion on the unnecessary war in Iraq and the partially necessary war in Afghanistan (the first two years were useful). Thanks George W. and Barack. We pumped another $3 billion into social justice welfare programs during the Obama regime to buy votes - but that didn't work out for Corrupt Hillary.

Part Three

Telling people that there are no more free ObamaPhones, no more free cheese and no more goodies is not something that politicians are able to do (any more than they were during the Roman Republic). As soon as the American Healthcare Act has passed, the Democrats will pounce with the aid of the corrupt, nasty, pugnacious, filthy, elite, mainstream media and will denounce it for taking away "rights" to free/subsidized healthcare for voting Americans.

Our nation is a snake eating its tail. Eat up, take a big bite, because we too will eventually run out of other people's money.

As to the present healthcare bill, if the House doesn't pass it and send it to the Senate tomorrow, it's dead. And all of those folks who have it will have to cope with an increasingly collapsed ObamaCare program as the taxes that feed it dwindle and as money is not appropriated to revive it. The states will muddle along as best they can.

What will President Trump do? He'll move on having given it his best shot. There are other things that he needs to deal with as president. If he's fed up enough, he won't run for re-election and will go back to his mansions, his stunningly beautiful wife and his billions.

Tough Love

The federal government's core role is providing for the common defense, making treaties with foreign powers, coining money, and regulating interstate commerce. There's been a lot of slippage. The government owes you protection, some moderate regulation, and so forth -- not a lifetime of financial support, free cell service and healthcare.

Which is to say that people need to take responsibility for their own lives. If they do well, nobless oblige requires that they give to charity to help the poorest among us. Or the states can do that. Our human greed has put us into the hole that we find ourselves in -- like so many experiments with republics, ours has failed. We're a welfare state pretending to be a republic.  How else can you frame 65/300 million people receiving food stamps?

The Corrupt Chicago Machine

America pushed the most corrupt political machine that the nation has seen in recent years into the White House and to oust it would have been "racist". They used the IRS and EPA as attack dogs and they spied on us (see Snowden). Other disturbing information is trickling out about spying on President Trump during the transition and leaking it. They initiated Operation Fast and Furious as a scheme and an excuse to pass harsher firearms control. They stole everything that they were able to - looted the nation three ways from Sunday. They offered as much free as they were able and opened the borders to "high propensity Democrat voters" (illegal aliens) in an effort to retain the dynasty. That failed. But they didn't lose. Not really. They'll be back.

Now, tell me where I'm wrong.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hot Spots

North Korea

US, Japanese and South Korean official sources reported that North Korea attempted to launch a missile on 22 March, but that it exploded seconds after launch. The missile was launched from a location near Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast. No official service or open source reported the type of missile.

The Norks continue to experience reliability issues. As this blog cited previously, the 50/50 standard of launch reliability and guidance to hit in the general vicinity of where the missile is aimed that they're going for -- remains elusive to them. The nightmare scenario for the Norks is that the people's rocket would launch and guide on South Korea, China or Japan without controls. That sort of situation would almost certainly prompt a military response of some sort. Then we're off to the races and who knows where we'll end up.

Syria

On 22 March, Hurriyet Daily News reported that Turkish intelligence sources claim that Russia is building a base in Afrin. A four-vehicle Russian convoy was seen arriving there.

The Russians are sticking to the storyline that they are building a branch center that is linked to the reconciliation center in Latakia. Earlier this week, a Russian spokesman denied Russians were building anything in Afrin.

I have no idea how to comment other than wait, and see. The Russians were invited into Syria and they have done what they did with the permission of the Syrian government.

The fifth round of peace talks on the Syrian Issue will be held in Geneva on 23 March. This will be the first time that the Syrian government and the opposition hold talks on topics on which they have agreed. All parties to the talks expect modest progress at best.

   US Involvement

Military. The US acted openly on the side of the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), on 22 March. US helicopters lifted 500 SDF fighters with US advisors to a blocking position west of Raqqa. They were supported by US Marine Corps artillery fire and by US air strikes.

The operation is proceeding without the assistance of the Turks, whose intervention force and proxy, the Free Syrian Army, are boxed at al Bab, between the Russians and the Syrian Kurds in Afrin and the US and Syrian Kurds at Manbij and encircling Raqqa.

Open sources reported four main areas of fighting on 22 March. One is around Raqqa, mentioned above.

The second and third are Hama and a suburb of Damascus. Groups of fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army are fighting Syrian forces and their allies. The fourth area is in eastern Aleppo Governate where the Syrian army is fighting a pocket of Islamic State fighters in Deir Hafer. 

The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are coalitions of fighting groups. Supposedly these groups all signed up to observe the ceasefire which is monitored by the Russians and the Turks. 

Collectively, they are referred to by the UN and others as the Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs), to distinguish them from the hard-core groups that have not agreed to observe the ceasefire. Those groups include the al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham/Al Nusra Front, the Islamic State, and others.

The FSA groups began offensives at Hama and near Damascus about the time the US clarified its position as backing the SDF at Manbij. Their operations would seem to be ceasefire violations.

These operations have several implications. First, they indicate that the Turks are frustrated by the evolution of developments in northern Syria, where they intended to dominate. They have lost their military edge, lost Turkish soldiers and are no closer to creating a Turkish-protected safe zone now than they were months ago.

The second implication of the FSA offensives is that they demonstrate that Turkey continues to support fighting groups who intend to overthrow the Asad government. Turkish politicians had indicated that Turkey stopped those operations.

A final implication is that these operations area reminders that there are so many armed fighting groups with grievances that consolidation and restoration of normality will be lengthy operations, best left to the locals to manage. Syria will remain overrun with armed young men looking for work for years.

The Arab Summit

29 March marks the beginning of the Arab Summit (2017) in Jordan. There are elements of this event that hold my interest because they touch on a consulting project that I'm engaged with. There was a question as to whether I'd fly there or remain in the US. There seems to be no particularly useful purpose for me to be there personally, and I can fly (first class) and be there the next day if I need to. 

The preparatory meetings begin today and I expect some behind-the-scenes fireworks. I can't discuss my project, however, in a larger context, there is a serious concern about Iran and the expansionist dreams of the Shiia Empire. I don't know what will come of those discussions but the Arabs are often long on talk and short on action where this is concerned because of the Byzantine nature of the Summit (think of twenty-two chameleons making love in the same confined space).





Compendium (a few - Things that tick me off)

Things Swedish

I'm not going on a rant of how much I hate shopping as Ikea, or how Swedish meatballs are inferior to Italian meatballs, but the Swedes are a strange bunch.

Swedish women are known to be some of the friendliest in Europe but will they remain so since they are under siege? Time will tell. 

What happened to the viking blood? Has it all washed away?

Following the US Democrat playbook, they are now blaming Russia rather than accepting responsibility for allowing savage, unemployable, military age Muslim men into their country where they prey on Swedes. There is a much larger threat to Sweden coming from the lawless wolves that they've let in than there is from a Russia. But you wouldn't know it by reading the dishonest, elite, lying Swedish Mainstream Media.

Have at the Russians, Sweden, let us all know what you find. The invasion is upon you (by your own hand) but not the one that you envision.

Electronic Surveillance

Now we know that members of the Trump Transition Team did end up being collected against under a FISA warrant 'incidentally'.  We also know that whichever agency did the collection (FBI), leaked the incidental collection to the corrupt, elite, lying, smug, nasty, untrustworthy, mainstream media.

Somebody needs to go to prison.

My trust level for the integrity of FBI Director James Comey is roughly equal to my trust for the integrity of Whoopie Goldberg and the women of "The View". Maybe Comey could go to work for The View after his term at FBI ends?

Witness if you will how the evil, corrupt, elite, smug, lying, filthy mainstream media spin "wiretapping" into "monitoring". Tonight, MSNBC will focus on the difference between the two words while trying to parse completely different meanings out of them. By the end of the program (if you're a prog), you may believe that a FISA warrant, followed by felonious, unauthorized disclosure is a good thing - so long as it didn't happen to YOU. There will be a bevy of talking heads who nod and agree with this. They will come to the conclusion that President Trump must be impeached. They may even praise the FBI for the leak.

Mohammedan Rampage in London

Nothing new here, folks, move along. The Home Secretary calls for tolerance for savages. More senseless police violence perpetrated against the Religion of Peace. 

If the UK would submit to Islam, if the women stopped driving automobiles and going to school and served only as breeders (who had been subject to genital mutilation) and wore black tents over their bodies with a slit to see through, everything would be perfect. Will British women accept their role as chattel? Additionally, the British homosexuals need to come out of the closet in support for Islam. It will help that they can be more readily identified...

There are a lot of potential causes for the slaughter people going about their daily business. Islam has so many complaints. Is the UK bringing enough human lice from Syria and Sudan, settling them in nice, quiet, respectable British neighborhoods and putting them on welfare? Time to re-evaluate those programs and increase the immigration quotas. Maybe that will pacify the savages. Time for MORE tolerance and political correctness! Only then will the jihadis join hands with the Brits and dance around the May pole in a celebration of Spring.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Polite Discourse

Many Progressive People are Impolite

To test my thesis, watch a few black and white movies, and see how people address each other, or in what language, if you doubt me. Not only were people more polite, but they reacted with more stoic reserve and dignity to lapses of politeness.

In my common and daily interactions, I refer to ladies as 'ma'am' and to men as 'sir'. I do this for the sake of being polite.

My children refer to me as, "dad", and not by my first name. They know my first name, but it's a matter of respect. I've never known a low-life progressive person with the slightest modicum of respect. In fact they are known by being the very opposite, and they cheer themselves on while they behave that way.

If a gentleman holds a door for a lady, or a man refuses to strike a woman in the face, he is a sinister oppressor, and an enemy of women...possibly a misogamist. (though with the new progressive doctrine of "gender fluidity", they may have some difficulty proving it because the door-holder could be a woman for those twenty seconds of holding the door before transitioning back into being a man).

The Left has convinced the world that courtesy is rude. Watch the sitcoms, watch the product of Hollywood's efforts and it underscores my thesis.
Political correctness has politicized courtesy, so that now words found harsh or untoward are matters for lawsuit, or riot, rather than matter for an apology. In political correctness, every nuance of spoken and unspoken thought may at an moment be declared a micro-aggression, so that every ear overhearing your most casual joke might hide an expected enemy with license to attack without remorse, ruin your job, ruin your reputation, ruin your life. This substitution of mutual hatred and animosity for mutual respect was not done overnight, nor easily.
Name-calling, character assassination, rioting, and the suppression of unwanted opinions has not stopped, but the polite and reasoned exchange of opposing views has. Think back: how long has it been since you saw a news program giving both sides of any issue, calmly, reasonably, without interruption?

The Police

I know that a few of the people who read and comment on this blog have had less than charitable things to say about the police. You have a right to your opinion. The truth is that the various police departments around the US tend to mirror the populations that they serve. It's also true that populations generally get what they pay for. Most folks don't get it because they're not close to the issue, but it's true.

There was a time when police officers wore neckties and their uniforms produced a different utilitarian purpose. Note the change and the distinct shift from 'officer friendly' to the quasi-military approach that many law enforcement agencies take to their approach to the population. Ask yourself why that happened (if you wish) and mull over cause and effect. Nobody actually likes law enforcement people. They are distant, and are the only 24/7/365 icon of The State present in our lives. The average police officer has much more discretion (because they need it) than an FBI Special Agent or a Congressman, for example. If the discretion is applied to you, the officer is either a great guy or a jerk, depending on how it works out.  

Black Lives Matter, a group led by social justice warriors, naturally doesn't like the police - unless an officer saves one of them or their family on an individual basis. Then they will concede that there is "one good cop".

Barack Obama, a community organizer, former drug dealer and son of the Chicago political machine, hated the police. It was obvious in everything that he said and did. President Trump feels very differently about them and it will be interesting to see whether polite discourse about the police will mirror its way into a different view.

Treating the police the way you would like to be treated (as with all things) is an interesting litmus test for social evolution.

I don't think that the progressive trend of 'rudeness toward all' will be dampened easily. If we see a lack of abuse toward the police, it might signal a trend. It's worth watching to see whether or not that will be the case.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Few Thoughts

Flynn

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what went on, what's going on and so forth with the Trump Administration. Since everyone (except Dir. Comey) with access has said that there was no collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia, one could conclude that there wasn't. However, the corrupt, elite, smug, nasty, lying mainstream media continues to beat that drum.

A more troubling aspect of this is the matter of LTGEN Michael Flynn. Before I go further, the US Defense Intelligence Agency is a joke in intel circles. It's not Flynn's fault, but it's a joke.

I heard a lot of unflattering chatter about Flynn before he aligned himself with President Trump and maybe some of it is true. That the Trump Administration dumped him suggests that he has some issues that made him unsuitable for public office. I don't know what segment of the allegations against him are true or untrue, but he was cast adrift. Let those chips fall where they may.

Norks in Space? ...soon

No, this isn't an SNL skit - but it would be poetic justice if the Norks nuked themselves.

North Korea plans to launch a satellite (because if they can do that, they can boost a nuke into orbit) soon. That's breaking news on Virtual Mirage, but since nobody listens, I don't expect that anyone will really care. Still, there is some measure of satisfaction with being right and predicting correctly.

The space launch will obscure that it's an ICBM test. The Mouse that Roared wants desperately to build an ICBM that can land a nuclear weapon somewhere on American soil.

On 19 March, the North Korean Workers’ Party daily, Rodong Sinmun, published an account of Kim Jong Un’s guidance of the rocket motor test on 18 March. Excerpts follow.

“Respected and Beloved Comrade Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), and supreme leader of our party, state, and army, watched the ground jet test of our-style high-thrust engine newly developed by the Academy of National Defense Sciences…”

“…The ground jet test of the new-type high-thrust engine was carried out with a goal to validate the overall technical indexes of the high-thrust engine, including features of thrust power in the combustion chamber, accurate movement of the turbine pump, control system, and various valves, and their structural safety and reliability….”

“…The respected and beloved Comrade Kim Jong Un went up to the observation post and gave an instruction to proceed with the test….”

“…The test result proved that the technological indexes of the new-type high-thrust engine designed and manufactured by our national defense scientists and technicians through their own strength and technology completely in our own style -- including those of the starting and stopping features, features of the thrust power in the combustion chamber in the whole course of engine operation, and all systems including the turbine pump and control systems -- accurately met the estimated values and were stably maintained, and also sufficiently guaranteed the structural reliability.”

“The respected and beloved comrade supreme leader said that the success of the test completely rooted out dogmatism, conservatism, and formalism that had remained in the rocket industry sector, as well as the dependence on and imitation of other countries' technology, and that it is a great event with the historic significance of declaring a new birth of the chuch'e-oriented rocket industry, which has been firmly changed into a development-oriented and creative industry both in name and reality.”

“Then he emphatically said that the whole world will soon see what the momentous significance is of today's great victory.”

“The respected and beloved comrade supreme leader said that the logistics industry front continuously achieved unprecedented achievements last year and this year again, adding vitality to the revolutionary grand march of millions of soldiers and people…”

This article has two technical sections. The first explains the goals of the test. The second identifies some of the systems on which the North Korean engineers and scientists were focused. The paragraph in which Kim said the successful test completely rooted out dogmatism, conservatism and formalism hints at programmatic or ideological schisms in the program. The brief mention of other countries’ technology suggests some experts in the program favored following Soviet or Chinese models for engine development. They were rejected.

Kim takes credit for backing the team that produced a successful test and for enabling a revolutionary breakthrough. However, it is possible that the rocket engine team just got lucky, if they were bypassing safeguards and standards used by countries that have established space engine programs. The next test could produce a catastrophic explosion. We've seen that before.

Kim’s comment about the whole world will soon see the momentous significance, etc., amounts to an admission that North Korea does not yet have an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). But they are working hard on one.

The oddest comment attributed to Kim is the remark that “the logistics industry front continuously achieved unprecedented achievements last year and this year again.” In plain language, this means that North Korea had success in bypassing UN sanctions last year and is continuing to have success. This is a deliberate slap at the UN Security Council. In that connection, Kim Jong Un deliberately had his scientists and engineers arrange the timing of this test to coincide with the US Secretary of State’s visit to China and on the day before his meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Progressive Icon vs Trump


ObamaCare

ObamaCare is dead. Everyone knows that including the Democrat Party, but they still bitterly cling to the past and the socialist wet dream of national (rationed) healthcare and two system. One for 98% of Americans and another for the uber-rich. 

I think that the American Healthcare Act will work...not for everyone. People are bound to be dissatisfied here and there, but it should reduce the cost of healthcare and that's the point. Get government out of the way to the extent possible and allow the free market to work. Naturally the leftists are outraged at the very notion of a free market. They feel that collectivism and income redistribution are the way forward. Thankfully, America does not agree.

Are we STILL part of the United Nations?

Why?

Mainstream Media Fools

I realize that if you're a prog, you like CNN and NBC. Good for you.

It would be gratifying to receive actual international news from the American media, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. Outside of somebody with a table cloth on his head denouncing Israel, it's as if the world outside of the Beltway doesn't exist. Even Fox News focuses on the banal (possibly required) rebuttal of fake news promoted by the corrupt, elite, smug, lying mainstream outlets.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Madness

DISAPPOINTMENT IN AFGHANISTAN

(re-post from the Duffle Blog)

Taliban operative and avid Navy SEAL fan Mansour Aminullah says he was disappointed when a raid on his house was conducted by “some pansies from the Ranger Regiment” instead of SEALs, sources confirmed today.

Aminullah, who has countless books and films on the elite naval special operations forces, says being raided by a bunch of guys he had never heard of was a big let down.

"The SEALs are my heroes," said Aminullah, pointing to a poster of the iconic Trident symbol displayed prominently on his wall. "Zero Dark Thirty was just so badass, and bin Laden was a dick anyway."

Aminullah says he prepared for the raid for months, making "welcome" signs for all of his favorite SEAL operators. At the very least, he says, he was hoping to get his copy of No Easy Day signed by someone he had seen on Fox News.

"It's bullshit. SEALs raided my brother's and cousin's houses just last month," he said. "They're probably gonna write books about that shit. And seriously, my mother could graduate from Ranger School with a cloth over her eyes — which there is at all times — because she would be beaten otherwise."

Soldiers who participated in the raid said they tried hard to convince Aminullah that they were just as good as SEALs and that there have been really cool movies made about Rangers, too.

"I happened to have a Black Hawk Down VHS on me, so my Rangers and I led the way into his living room to watch it and see if he would come around," said Capt. Nick Scott, the raid force commander. "He liked Josh Hartnett's acting, but I think we both agreed that Bradley Cooper put in more gym time for American Sniper."

While Aminullah did not have any Army books for the Rangers to autograph, he and Scott agreed to collaborate on an upcoming article for Infantry magazine.

More from Duffle Blog

Congressman Calls For Army Basic Training 
To Match Marine Corps Policy Of Killing Some Recruits

WASHINGTON – A Florida congressman is calling for tough reforms at Army basic training facilities so the service can match the track record of the Marine Corps, which implemented a policy of killing some recruits last year.

The move by the Corps to kill off some of the weak ones to make an example of the others elevated its 13-week boot camp to the toughest training in the nation.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) condemned the recent lack of newsworthy incidents taking place in Army basic training, and promised to hold the powers that be within the ranks accountable moving forward.

Miller, who serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, cited the plethora of unfavorable and sometimes tragic occurrences synonymous with the Marine Corps, combined with the Army’s well-respected track record as evidence of a need for parity.

“Look, we all know the adage about ‘different uniform, same team,’” he said. “However, I’m not one to sit back and watch one branch get all the press, while the other is shoved aside. There needs to be a balance of cruelty.”

Miller said he would spearhead plans for enhanced physical and emotional torture within Army basic training. His hope is that all recruits arriving on US Army facilities will receive the proper chastisement and pummeling by mid-2017.

Miller sought the advice of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) before announcing the call for change – citing the knowledge accumulated at the renowned Hanoi Hilton that makes McCain the literal go to guy for advice on maniacal savagery.

“John was telling me about meat hook suspension and gasoline being poured over open wounds. I guess it shouldn’t go that far,” he admitted. "But we’re still going to explore all avenues training."

Miller said he feels very confident that this type of re-branding would revolutionize the Army, and catapult it to the top of many a post-high school wish list.

“I’m certain that once this thing gets rolling, our Army is going to be making so many headlines, the recruiting offices are going have hordes of eager youngsters begging to get signed up,” he said. “This is an exciting time for us all.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Free Sunday Sermonette

Free Blue Avenger
(Read More Here) It started off as a normal armed stroll to the local Pick 'n Steal, the famous Shamrock filling station that's founded by Irishmen and run by Nepalese.
Where's the due Process? Where is the justice? No justice, no peace!

Blue Avenger is in heavy custody without visitation rights or outside chow... (can't get a McRib sandwich with a file in it or even KFC chicken tenders)... "no take-out", the County lock up says.

Q - "What about bond? This dog is special!!"

A - Hill County: "NO BOND".
Hillsboro is a city in and the county seat of Hill County in Central Texas. The population was 8,456 at the 2010 census.
Fed Ex guys, Mailmen and others who deliver parcels and mail have long been targeted by K-9s. They have a particular hatred of the Blue Avenger (unofficial king of Hillsboro dogs).

Now for the BIG QUESTIONWas Blue Avenger set up?

Does Kim Jong Un have a tiny penis that causes him to compensate with a big missile? Did Barack have the British wiretap Trump Tower? Does Vlad Putin get laid more often than the average blogger does? You have your answer.

Free Advice

Ever since I was a kid, people who were older than I was told me, "Let me give you some free advice, kid."

Was that advice worth anything? It turns out that in most cases, it wasn't, unless it was something obvious like, "don't eat yellow snow", "don't eat Fredd's Aunt Sally's spaghetti because it will chip your teeth", "don't pee on that electric fence over there", "stay away from Crazy Suzy Wong, the rice paddy whore, because she has the clap" or, "sailor, don't volunteer for anything". They could have added, "don't wear a postal uniform in the presence of Blue Avenger" -- if he was alive back when I was young, which he wasn't.

Free Nukes?

There are different approaches that the US can take with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) (Norks).

The Trump Administration has chosen to break with the tradition of Barack and Bush-the-Younger and has said that there will be no payments (ransom) to North Korea and there will be no more multi-party talks that involve the USA.

The single biggest threat to war for the USA is North Korea and giving South Korea and Japan nuclear weapons and delivery systems may be one way to counter the fat little dictator's saber rattling. Or maybe it's time to surgically strike their nuclear production facilities, their missile production facilities and their launch sites? That's what Japan is saying because they are tired of having Norks launch missiles into their economic exclusion zone and toward their country.

Who can blame the Japanese? Certainly not President Trump, who is not amused by China's long suffering coddling of the only fat man in North Korea and his regime's behavior. I realize that by shutting down exports to the Norks, China is responsible for starving people. That's not something that any nation should take lightly, but the Norks put all production toward building missiles and nuclear weapons and have little care whether or not the people starve - or eat tree bark, which is the same thing.

The ball is in China's court. They do NOT want the US to arm South Korea or Japan with their own in-house nuclear weapons. They do not want the US/Japan/South Korea launching military strikes against the Norks and involving THEM in a war. Honestly, when the Norks launch a nuclear tipped missile, there is just about as big of a chance that it will hit the Chinese as anyone else.

Chinese Options: Try to starve the Norks; Regime Change (kill the fat little dictator and his friends); Invade North Korea and put things straight; Do nothing and watch Japan and South Korea gratefully accept nuclear weapons and missiles from the USA.

There is no Free Lunch.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Strategic Saturday

If you listened to John McCain or the radical progressive left (that used to adore Russia), the Russians aren't acting in America's best interests. That may be true - or it may not be true, depending on how you look at it.

Russians in Libya

Armed Forces Spokesman Colonel Ahmad al-Mismari, the spokesman of the Libyan armed forces, which are affiliated with Libya's official parliament based in Tobruk, said that his forces have taken the oil-rich areas of Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Ben Jawad.

He said the armed forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive earlier on the 14th to capture the oil sites that had been seized by the al-Qaeda-linked Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) on 3 March. On 7 March, the BDB handed over control of the ports to the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), which is affiliated with the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA).

On the opposing side, the head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard of the Government of National Accord, Idris Bu-Khamadah, appealed for international support for imposing a no-fly zone over the region. “The air strikes are intensifying,” he said. “We face the risk of the destruction of the petroleum tanks if the international community does not intervene.”

You may recall that Libya has three "legitimate government" administrations. You can't tell the players without a program.

(1) A pro-al-Qaida faction merged with a UN-backed Government of National Accord operates in Tripoli. This national unity government was supposed to help reunify the country, end the civil war and stop the refugee and migrant waves from Libya to Europe. It did none of those tasks. Its control does not extend beyond Tripoli. It has support from some tribal militias in western Libya.

(2) A jihadist regime affiliated with the Islamic State administered Benghazi until recently. Benghazi was the Islamic State’s third major stronghold city.

(3) The internationally recognized Libyan House of Representatives government is installed in Tobruk. For ease of use, we'll call that the Tobruk Government. For a time, it was associated with the Government of National Accord, but ended that association last year.

The Tobruk government appointed Khalifa Haftar (also spelled Hifter), who lived in the US for 20 years, to head the military forces in the east, which included remnants of the Libyan Air Force. Since 2014, when he launched Operation Dignity, most of Haftar’s energy has been devoted to defeating the Islamists and jihadists in Benghazi and taking the nearby oil fields. In late January, Haftar’s Libyan National Army finally gained control of most of Benghazi for the Tobruk government.

In March, the pro-al-Qaida forces affiliated with the regime in Tripoli executed successfully an operation to seize Ras Lanuf and other oil fields in the so-called Petroleum Crescent. In reaction, Field Marshal Haftar mounted the successful operation to liberate the oil fields. 

Haftar is either having a run of good luck or is being provided outside military assistance (by the Russians) sufficient to influence the tactical situation in the civil war. The Egyptians, Jordanians and the United Arab Emirates back Haftar.

A recent analysis argued that Russia is attempting to do in Libya what it achieved in Crimea and in Syria – stabilize the conflict on terms favorable to Russian strategic interests. 

Details: Field Marshal Haftar and the Tobruk government appear to be the beneficiaries of Russia’s new interest. Haftar has traveled to Moscow for meetings three times in the past year. He has met Russians in Algiers at least twice. He was a guest aboard the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetzov on 11 January. Wounded Libyan National Army soldiers are receiving treatment in Russian hospitals. One expert argued that Haftar has plenty of weapons, despite the UN arms embargo. His ally, Egyptian President, former Field Marshal, al Sisi helps with weapons and ammunition. Haftar needs advisors, trainers and technicians. If this is the case, then the Russian special forces, training and advisory operations in Syria would appear to be a fitting template.

The Syrian Model - Applied in Libya

Haftar reportedly compares his situation to that of Syrian President Asad. With a little boost like the Russians gave Asad, Haftar supposedly judges that he can win the civil war. The Russians appear to favor Haftar, but have made no firm commitment.

The Russian intervention is intriguing. Once again, Putin is filling an international leadership vacuum. The Admiral Kuznetsov’s port call at Tobruk signaled some of what the Russians want – access to a mid-Mediterranean port and airfields. The Russian end game appears to be a pro-Russian bloc of strong-man governments that extend from Tripoli to Damascus, in the original analysis. 

Algeria’s role in supporting the Russians and Haftar has been under-reported. The pro-Russian bloc actually would run from Algiers to Damascus. The common goals are the final destruction of the Islamic State and the defeat of Islamic extremists. The formation and management of this bloc would justify Russia’s investment in upgrading the naval facility at Tartus.

There is an appeal to what the Russians are trying to do. Are they worse than the jihadis? My sense is that if the US is too timid to finish the jihadi situation, the Russians are welcome to it. Let them waste blood and treasure and if they're successful, let Vlad keep Robert Kraft's Super Bowl ring. Americans are concerned about civil rights. American judges in Hawaii and Maryland extended the Bill of Rights protection to everyone on the planet last week. That doesn't square well with putting ordnance on target or killing people for a living, which is what the military is tasked to do. Those things don't keep the Russians up at night. They have a different approach that is time tested and it works. 

Astana Talks and the Kurds 

The Syrian government accused Turkey of breaking its commitments to the talks because Syrian rebel groups backed by Turkey boycotted the third round of meetings. The head of the Syrian delegation, Bashar Jaafari, said that, as a guarantor of the ceasefire, Turkey bore responsibility for delivering the rebel delegation.

A political leader in the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army said that Turkey did not push the group to attend the talks. The Free Syrian Army is the primary Turkish proxy fighting the Islamic State in northern Syria.

The non-attendance by the Turkish proxy means that Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Putin failed to reach an understanding on the future of the Syrian Kurds. Russia has steadfastly insisted that they have representation in peace talks. Turkey has been equally insistent that they are all terrorists.

The Turks were determined to liberate Manbij from the Syrian Kurds, who dominate the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Russian, Syrian and US forces blocked the Turks and frustrated Erdogan’s policy.

Erdogan may be relied on to project a tough guy image in the next month because of the referendum on the amendments to the constitution that will create a strong presidency in Turkey. He cannot afford to look subservient to the Russians, or the Americans, before the mid-April referendum. He also genuinely considers the armed Kurds to be terrorists.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

A senior Pakistani military source confirmed that Pakistan has responded positively to a Saudi request for combat troops to assist with operations against the Houthis in Yemen. Planning for the deployment reportedly has begun.

The source stressed that Pakistani troops would "not go across the border" into Yemen. Instead, the source said troops would be kept on standby in case of any major internal security threat or terrorist incident.

This request indicates that the Saudis are in trouble in Yemen. They need more and more effective manpower to defeat the Houthis. The deployment of a Pakistan Army brigade to the border could enable military leaders to shift possibly 5,000 Saudi soldiers from border defense duties to combat operations inside Yemen.

The Saudis also need better leadership for the Yemen operations.

Over the past two years, Pakistan has refused Saudi requests for combat forces, citing Pakistan’s own internal security problems. However, Pakistani leaders, including retired Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, promised Saudi leaders that Pakistan would send combat forces in the event of a threat to the Kingdom. Apparently, the Saudis are calling in that marker.

The brigade deployment might coincide with the arrival of General Sharif as the commander of the new 40-nation Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism. Managing a Pakistani field force near Yemen might be Raheel’s first task and the Alliance’s first mission.

It is doubtful that a single brigade held in reserve will change the situation much. On the other hand, a Pakistani brigade with effective air support probably could capture the Houthi capital at Sa’dah.

Venezuela

Facing a bread shortage that creates long lines the Venezuelan government responded this week by detaining bakers and seizing business establishments.

In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.

The government said the bakers had been selling underweight bread and were using price-regulated flour to illegally make specialty items, like sweet rolls and croissants.
Bakers have been found to be the latest foot soldiers in the economic war waged by the US against the Maduro government. They pose a threat to national stability and the proof is in the sweet rolls and croissants. The Maduro government, however, did not ban bakeries. 
Socialist authoritarian governments always must find someone or something to blame for their incompetent policies. (Animal Farm, Orwell)  The blame game involves climbing and descending a ladder of blame for the inevitable failures in a statist economy. The Maduro administration is on the bottom rung.
The lowest rung of the ladder is people. Things don’t work because the people include unreformed segments of the population and the business community. They are always supposedly venal and in need of indoctrination. They are responsible for the crisis. That is why Venezuelan authorities arrested the bakers.

Bakers are not responsible for the flour shortage, which is the real problem. Thus, arresting bakers for price gouging is good street theater, but avoids solving the shortage problem. That is how authoritarian systems politicize the most harmless acts.

The next rung of the ladder is the administrators of the policy. They get blamed and replaced if things do not improve after the crackdown on exploiters and the ignorant, because the program and the policy are sound. 

The third rung of the ladder is the program. At this level, national leaders tinker with the programmatic features of a bad policy to make it more acceptable or less burdensome. Programmatic changes always require new administrators. Tinkering and high-level personnel replacements are the signs a government has reached the third rung.

The fourth rung of the blame ladder is the policy itself. Few authoritarian leaders ever admit that a policy is wrong because that constitutes a self-indictment. However, Kim Il-sung did in December 1993, when he abolished North Korea’s Seven Year Plan and the planning bureaucracy as failures. He died before he could reform the economy. Lots of socialist planners were sent to other work.

Bad policies seldom die. Kim’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, resurrected the Five-Year Plan and the North Korean planning bureaucracy in May 2016.

National leaders may go up and down on the bottom three rungs of the blame ladder for a long time -- cracking down, tinkering and changing administrators -- before they accept that the policy might need to be changed.

The top rung of the ladder is the system itself is wrong. That realization most often is manifest in popular uprisings, as occurred during the collapse of communist regimes in eastern Europe and Russia. The leaders of the system never admit the system is wrong.

Venezuela is still on the bottom rungs, but no bread riots have occurred to force systemic change. If and when they do, President Maduro will sacrifice some of his minions, but will not change the policies or the system. The economic situation is ripe for a revolution (i.e., systemic change), but Venezuelans still do not seem ready to take the security risks.