sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Aviation

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of the F-35 Lightning II. I could list my gripes with the whole program (late, over budget and not the best choice) in detail, but that's not the purpose of this blog post.

Japan openly acquired US made (Japanese assembled) F-35A stealth fighter aircraft. Their acquisition of F-35B (short/vertical take off and landing) stealth fighter aircraft for their "Destroyer Helicopter Carriers" is another matter. I've heard that it's 'classified' but it's one of those open secrets that is only restricted to people in government.

Elsewhere, it's talked about.

The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the world's first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. It's seen in the video below taking off from and landing on the USS America, a 'helicopter carrier'.


The addition of a squadron of F-35B supersonic stealth fighters to their four Destroyer Helicopter Carriers is a game changer.

In the video below, it shows F-35B aircraft depicted on a graphic of the JS Izumo, on the deck as part of the ship's compliment of aircraft. As I suggest above, it's not a well kept secret.


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has a number of weapons/configuration options:



One thing that the aircraft (and the US inventory) currently lacks is an effective stand-off anti-shipping missile that can be carried for use against enemy surface craft. The Harpoon and Penguin have outlived their normal lifespans. The smart bombs have the capacity, and stealth may get you close enough to use them - maybe? 

But wait!

The Norwegian's new stand-off anti-shipping missile is being designed with the F-35 in mind. There is also the AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range [stealth] Anti-Ship Missile) currently undergoing testing. That too was designed with the F-35 and the F-18 in mind. Will the addition of those systems give the Chinese pause?  Likely not. The Chinese are full of hubris these days.

Manchester Suicide Bomber

British Prime Minister May confirmed that the explosion was the work of the Muslim, Salman Abedi, a lone suicide bomber. The Prime Minister’s confirmation of a lone wolf attack was crafted to reassure the public that the threat is under control.

"remain calm"

Bomb makers generally do not execute suicide attacks and detonate their knowledge and expertise with their bomb. 

The suicide bomb maker required support for the 20 separate functions that process information, material and energy to operate and manufacture bomb(s).

Some source had to finance the operation, including the purchase of explosives and materials. The explosives had to reach the bomb maker. Alternatively, the suicide bomber had to be instructed by someone in making his own bomb. He lived somewhere and required daily necessities. The timing and location of the blast indicate a pre-meditated and well-planned attack.

British security services are aware of these systemic components of terrorist attacks. Four arrests have been made (including Abedi’s 23-year-old brother, Ismail, according to the BBC)  and there will be more arrests, though the British will not report details of a terrorist cell or cells in Manchester.
(The Guardian) The British army is to deploy about 800 troops around the UK to support police in the aftermath of the Manchester attack. 
The troops will be stationed from later today, replacing police guards at No 10 Downing Street, parliament and Buckingham Palace, and elsewhere around London.
The British Army does have the troops to deploy in and around the UK to support the police, but they are at the lowest staffing point since the 19th Century, and their resources are limited. 

Theresa May said troops would be deployed to provide static guards in England under the government’s Operation Temperer plan to free up armed police officers from guarding duties. Those sites included Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament and foreign embassies in London.

MI-5 (domestic intelligence) was aware that Salman Abedi was part of a Muslim terror cell before the bombing, and they may have been aware of the interlinkage between his cell and others. They now know that there is an active bomb-making system at work. Whether that will translate into action against those cells on a broad basis has yet to be seen, but since the alert status was raised to "critical" in the UK, my sense is that they are taking this seriously.

Political will requires that the UK acknowledge that the enemy consists of Muslim terrorists. The problem that Britain has is that it's allowed millions of Muslims to settle in the UK - and as with elsewhere in the world, the general rule of thumb is that 25% have jihadist sympathies. Of those who sympathize with the jihadists, maybe 10% are willing to carry out attacks and be personally involved. My rough rule of thumb is that means that the British Police have somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 radical jihadis to worry about in the country, most of whom will carry British passports.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Election Tampering in 2016 (a review)

There is a lot of chatter within the lying, mendacious, puerile, corrupt, smug, elite mainstream media about Russian 'hacking'. It's time to take a look at the facts - where are we now - without the 'blame Trump' rant by shrill, nasty commentators and WAPO reporters.

There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts despite what the mainstream media would have you believe. Their effort is to delegitimize the election of President Trump - and the mainstream media behaves as if they were in the pay of the Russian Government, but I digress.

The FBI and DHS released a brief joint report at the first of the year describing “Russian Malicious Cyber Activity.”  You can read it for yourself or you can read my summary, below. All I'm reporting is what the FBI/DHS reported last December 29.
  • The U.S. believes two hacking groups tied to the Russian government are involved.
  • The U.S. has nicknamed the hacking groups “APT28” or “Fancy Bear,” and “APT29” or “Cozy Bear.” APT stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat.”
  • The U.S. believes the GRU, Russia’s military service, is behind APT28.
  • The U.S. believes the FSB, Russia’s counterintelligence agency headquartered in the building of the former KGB, is behind APT29.
  • The U.S. believes the groups accessed “a political party” by sending emails that tricked users into clicking links that planted malware or directed them to Russian servers.
  • The U.S. believes APT29 entered into “the party’s systems” in summer 2015, and APT28 in spring 2016.
  • The U.S. believes APT28 provided the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, which WikiLeaks denies.
U.S. officials allege that hackers employed by the Russian government, stole internal emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary campaign chairman John Podesta and provided them to WikiLeaks. (The U.S. joint report cited above doesn’t mention the DNC, Podesta or WikiLeaks by name.) Essentially, the Russians asked Podesta for his e-mail password, which was "password" and he gave it to them. I realize that this sounds all too simple - but Podesta rolls that way.

Podesta Emails on WikiLeaks
DNC Emails on WikiLeaks

U.S. officials have not alleged that anyone falsified the emails provided to WikiLeaks. The Russians just handed over (allegedly) what they found. Since I'm sure they were certain that "you can't make this stuff up", there was no need to.

U.S. intel officials have named the Russian hacking campaign “Grizzly Steppe.” No mention in the report is made of Seth Rich, the Clinton campaign staffer who was murdered under suspicious circumstances outside of his home at night (and not robbed). We also know that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks. Apparently Team Clinton found that out too... Is Seth Rich comparing notes with Vince Foster in heaven? You be the judge.

There has been no effort on the part of USGOV to date (in open sources), to attach the theft of e-mail to Rich. It doesn't square with the Russian theory. Make what you will of that. WikiLeaks disputes the U.S. assessment blaming Russia for the DNC leaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says: “Our source is not the Russian government… We have U.S. intelligence saying that say they know how we got our stuff and when we got it, and us saying we didn’t get it from a state.” Former British ambassador Craig Murray backs up Assange’s version: “I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.”

The private cyber firm Crowd Strike had determined in June 2016 that Russian agencies were behind the DNC cyberattacks. That doesn't rule out that Seth Rich also provided information tangentially to the Russians. 

And the mainstream media blames Donald Trump.

Geopolitical Thoughts

How is Turkey like North Korea?

On 21 May, Turkish President Erdogan announced that the state of emergency would continue until the country achieved “welfare and peace.” The state of emergency allows President Erdogan and his cabinet to issue decrees without parliamentary oversight or review by the constitutional court.

Erdogan is instituting a perpetual state of emergency. It would seem to make the constitutional referendum in April unnecessary because Erdogan decides when welfare and peace have been achieved.

The North Korean regime justifies its authoritarian restrictions in a similar manner.

As with North Korea, Turkey will begin rewriting its text books to reflect the "new history".

Meanwhile, in the USA, the progressives are busily trying to rewrite the history of the nation to reflect how they would prefer that it reads. Because university professors (elites) are beyond reproach, they are given a free hand in their interpretations.

China's Browbeaten Neighbors

China is causing some interesting changes in the Asian-Pacific geopolitical landscape as small nations are banding together to stand against the hegemon of Asia.

     Japan and Vietnam

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers, JS Izumo and JS Sazanami, arrived at Cam Ranh Bay on 20 May. (See map below)

JS Izumo
The destroyers will join other ships, including the US Navy’s high-speed transport ship Fall River, in joint exercises for humanitarian support and disaster responses. 

The commander of the Izumo flotilla, Rear Admiral Yoshihiro Goka, said the port call shows Japan's determination to make further contributions to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. He also said Japan will improve security cooperation with the member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This is the first time that the JS Izumo has docked at Cam Ran Bay. It is a "helicopter destroyer" that looks like a pocket aircraft carrier and the largest ship in the Maritime Self-Defense Force. It is Japan’s first show of naval force in Southeast Asia since World War II.

On 1 May, the Izumo task group left Japan on a 100-day voyage to Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean countries. In July, it will join the Indian Navy and the US Navy in this year’s Malabar naval exercises in the Indian Ocean.**

     The Philippines

Foreign Secretary Cayetano walked back President Duterte’s words about Chinese President Xi threatening war over the Spratly Islands. Foreign Secretary Cayetano said the meeting between the two Presidents was frank and friendly and the discussion was largely about preventing conflict, not threatening it.
"The conversation was very frank. There was mutual respect, there was mutual trust," Cayetano told reporters. "The context was not threatening each other, that we will go to war. The context is how do we stabilize the region and how do we prevent conflict." 
He said, "I will not contradict the president's words. I am just telling you ... my interpretation: there was no bullying or pushing around, it was not a threat."
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippines was "very clear that we are not giving up our claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights." (sorry, Ernesto, the Spratleys are gone to China - that might not have happened if you'd kept the US as an ally - but that ship has sailed and all of those drilling rights went with it)

Philippine President Duterte was pandering to his audience, the coast guard auxiliary. Many Philippine veterans and Duterte’s political opposition criticize the President for compromising Philippine claims to sovereignty to some of the Spratly Islands. Some have called for his impeachment because of his failure to press Philippine rights, as supported by the findings of the International Arbitral Tribunal.

     Chinese Assertions

In an act of imperialism, China annexed the Spratley Islands,  built man-made islands, laid runways and fortified the islands. Now they 'belong to China' despite (toothless) findings by the UN to the contrary. China will now defend that territory in the South China Sea as if it was mainland China as a matter of law.
We don't know what the Chinese told President Duarte. Chinese President Xi might have said as a statement of law and fact that China will go to war in the sense of use military force to stop a Philippine attempt to drill for oil in the Spratlys. 
Chinese leaders are required by the Anti-Secession Law of March 2005 to prevent by all means, including force, the alienation of any land over which China claims sovereignty. Thus, Taiwan cannot declare itself an independent republic without the certainty of a Chinese invasion attempt. The Uighurs cannot secede from western China without incurring a Chinese ground force invasion. Any attempt by any Spratly Islands claimants to engage in new exploitation of sea and seabed resources without Chinese permission can expect a Chinese sabotage or an attack to prevent it.

NOTES

** A Comparison in fleet size between the UK and Japan. Both are industrialized island nations that depend on trade for their existence.

Japan
4 Helicopter Carriers/DDH
36 Destroyers and Guided Missile Destroyers
17 Attack Submarines

UK
3 Landing ships/Helicopter platforms
19 Destroyers and Frigates
7 Attack Submarines
4 Ballistic Missile Submarines

Monday, May 22, 2017

Geopolitical Commentary


Saudi Arabia

The Burkan (Volcano) 1 missile was launched
towards Riyadh, but was destroyed 180kms/111
miles south of Riyadh.
President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia has been an unqualified success as the Arab nations in the Middle East look to American leadership as key to beating back the Persians/Iranians/Shiia. Barack Obama favored Iran, obviously, and Iran had incremental success throughout the Middle East during his presidency. 

Look to the proxy war in Yemen as a bellwether. The Houthi rebellion is backed by, funded by, and equipped by Iran. In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted a Houthi-launched ballistic missile and destroyed it above an unpopulated area in a place called Al-Rin. (Missile attacks have become fewer, but the Houthis still have missiles to launch.)
“Coalition Air Forces retaliated immediately, hitting the sites of the missile's launching pads,” said the SPA report.
Conditions in Yemen are worsening because of the war and its destruction of national infrastructure. Official sources reported the number of deaths from cholera is now 315. That number will be much higher before this conflict is brought under control.

 There is no significant change in the situation, except for the worsening cholera epidemic.

The Saudis look to the US to help them bring stability to the area. The situation and the fragmentation of Yemen may have gone too far for that scenario to play out anytime soon.

Venezuela

Protesters demanding President Maduro step down and hold elections staged street demonstrations across the country on 20 May to mark the 50th day of protests. Protests turned violent in Caracas when demonstrators and police clashed in a mix of tear gas and exploding Molotov cocktails. One government supporter was stabbed and set on fire. One opposition supporter also was killed.

Since the demonstrations began, 48 Venezuelans have died in clashes, nearly one every day. More than 900 have been injured. Expect the demonstrations to become more violent. 

Venezuela, one of the most prosperous nations in South America with vast national resources, has been turned into a trash heap by the socialists who bungled everything that they touched...as is the way with ever nation that tries to make central government control work. "Food" is one thing that Venezuela should never lack. The place is as rich in agriculture as it is in oil. But they're still starving.

North Korea

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed that the missile North Korea launched on the morning of 21 May was a Pukguksong (Polaris) 2, land-based version of the submarine-launched ballistic missile, Pukguksong-1. What follows is in distilled version of the article:

“Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the Democratic PRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, supervised a test-fire of the ground-to-ground medium-to-long range strategic ballistic missile Pukguksong-2.” 
“The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 was aimed to finally verify all the technical indexes of the weapon system and thoroughly examine its adaptability under various battle conditions, before its deployment at military units for action….” 
“Saying with pride that the missile's rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action.” 
“Now that its tactical and technical data met the requirements of the Party, this type of missile should be rapidly mass-produced in a serial way to arm the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Force, he said.”
Map shows the launch trajectory in February and May 21
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the missile flew about 560kms (350 miles) from a launch site in Pukchang towards the Sea of Japan. 

This Pukguksong-2 missile was launched from the same location as that on 12 February, which was the first successful launch of this missile model. It also was the first ballistic missile test of 2017.

Kim’s remarks indicate that this launch was a pre-production test. North Korea has a missile that its leaders trust. Considering the failures of the other medium range ballistic missile test launches in the past two years, the Pukguksong-2 would seem to be their likely replacement. 

If so, the replacement program would indicate that, for all of this year, the North Koreans have boasted about the strength of their missile capability to cover their lack of a reliable medium range ballistic missile. They will remain in that window of vulnerability until the Musudan’s and other less capable missiles are replaced.

Politically, for South Korean President Moon, the two launches so soon after his election seem to convey North Korea’s rejection of his public overtures for a reduction in tension. They do not necessarily rule out contacts, but they mean that South Korea is the party that must compromise by accepting North Korea as a nuclear armed state with ballistic missile delivery systems.

Deputy North Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim In Ryong said that North Korea welcomes the idea of US talks, but “what is important is not words, but actions,” and that the US needs to back off its hostile policy toward North Korea for the talks to have any value.

 “Ending US hostile policy” means that the US must: 
  • Acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear armed state; 
  • Must terminate annual war exercises with the South Koreans; 
  • Must withdraw US soldiers from Korea; 
  • Must end naval and aircraft deployments; 
  • Must stop its reconnaissance flights along the North Korean periphery; 
  • Must apologize for the Korean War;
  • Must not interfere when North Korea invades South Korea.
Ending the US hostile policy and all the measures that North Korea finds offensive are the pre-conditions for the privilege of North Korea agreeing to talks. When the North’s condition for talks is “ending US hostile policy”, the North Koreans are deliberately proposing a condition that they know is unacceptable to the US. That phrase means they are not serious about talks because they do not want them.

The signal is that the Norks have reached an agreement with China and China will continue its policies as before. It doesn't bode well.

The US response to the situation is very dependent on what the South Korean politicians want. At the moment, it's still a march toward inevitable war. I don't know what will trigger the war, but it's difficult to see a scenario where the North doesn't start one on their terms and at a place and time of their choosing. That doesn't mean that war is imminent. It simply means that they will continue to be bad actors and one day a line will be crossed.

Afghanistan 

Over the weekend, multiple Taliban forces executed the largest wave of attacks this year. They attacked at least six provinces including Kabul. At least 64 policemen died and at least 25 were wounded.

In Kabul, gunmen attacked a guesthouse, killing a German woman and beheading an Afghan guard. They also kidnapped a Finnish woman who worked at the Swedish-run guesthouse.

In Nangarhar Province on the 18th, a policeman shot and killed five of his colleagues as they slept at an outpost. This will ring a bell of familiarity with any US service personnel who served with Afghan troops in-country. It was always useful to keep guns trained in both your allies and on the enemy in Afghanistan.

In eastern Kapisa Province on 19 May, five Afghan policemen were killed in a gun fight with the Taliban. 

In Logar Province, a roadside bombing killed 11 people on the 19th as they were traveling to a wedding. The victims were family members.

In Zabul Province, a Taliban group shot and killed 20 police officers at multiple checkpoints on 20 May. At least 10 others were injured in ambushes.

In Ghazni Province, Taliban fighters launched a coordinated, three-pronged attack on districts in Ghazni overnight on 20 May. One Talib drove a Humvee packed with explosives into the entrance of a district governor's compound during the assault. The objective of this attack was the seizure of a district headquarters. The Taliban failed to take that objective, but two policemen died.

In Zabul on the 21st, a Taliban group attacked multiple security outposts and killed at least 20 Afghan policemen, according to the provincial governor, Bismillah Afghanmal. Fifteen policemen were wounded.

This was a concentrated effort to terrorize the police and to undermine confidence in the local symbols of the national government. These attacks were the first major wave of attacks since the Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive on 28 April. In one sense, the attacks failed because the Taliban gained no ground that they could hold. In another sense, the attacks demonstrated their ability to coordinate attacks over broad areas.

Elections in Iran

President Hassan Rouhani was elected decisively to a second term as president. He obtained 23 million of the 41 million votes cast or 57% of the popular vote. Rouhani is considered to be a 'reformer' in the Iranian political context. The Iranian sense of reform does not signify opposition to the Iranian theocracy. It does signify widespread support for a more relaxed interpretation and application of the restrictive rules of the theocracy

Iranians indicated they want more freedom of expression, a relaxation of the dress code and other restrictions on women, greater economic prosperity and release of prisoners accused of violating harsh religious strictures.

Several analysts suggested that the vote for moderation reflected the impact and influence of modern information systems. They cited television, the internet, freer permission to travel, the spread of higher education and the growth and spread of more secular values, especially in the cities. 

The strong urban turnout for Rouhani, however, means that the conservative people in the countryside risk underrepresentation in a reformist administration. The electoral system has no mechanism for correcting that imbalance. That is one of the guidance tasks of the conservative clerisy, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

There is no reporting that the election outcome means that Iranians voted for a change in foreign policy. Foreign policy issues were not central to the election campaign. 

The Russian media judged that Rouhani’s election ensures continuity and predictability in Iranian foreign policy.


The Last

The Last Man

There can only be ONE NARRATIVE - and the one put out by Last Man Standing wasn't it.

It's not surprising that ABC's situation comedy Last Man Standing was canceled. The show's star, Tim Allen compared being a conservative in Hollywood to being a Jew in Nazi Germany. You know that didn't fly well with ABC (and the liberal Jews who run the outfit).

To be fair, I never watched an episode on TV - only clips on YouTube. But you can look at this and get the gist of the show:


I find that words like "Hillary" and "CNN" are so-called trigger words. The liberal elite doesn't feel the same way. They only want people to run with THEIR trigger words. Isn't that precious?

The Last Robot 
(this will only make sense if you see the film)

I saw Alien - Covenant this past weekend. If you like science fiction and the Alien franchise, I predict that you'll like it. If you don't, then you might want to take a pass. 

Alien Series Lesson: If you're on your way from here to there in space, don't respond to a message that takes you off task...


The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. BUT in space, nobody can hear you scream.

trailer


extended trailer




The next film in the Alien series will be Alien Awakening. Alien Awakening has already been written and is in pre-production. Ridley Scott has hinted at one or two beyond that in the prequel series to the original movie Alien.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Sermonette (Dragging the Sack)


A Plea for Social Justice

Our Annual Drive

A lot of blogs out there have "tip jars" or advertising that is placed to allow you to contribute to the blog to 'keep it going'. I don't really need the money - myself - but I thought that since this is the Sunday Sermonette, I could 'drag the sack' for some charities that you could believe in. Sometimes you just don't know where to send your money. I'm going to solve that for you here and now because that's what the staff at Virtual Mirage does. We say that income redistribution should begin here.

A New Cause

For progressives, there is always a new cause, something absurd to become concerned with. It was global cooling, it changed over a decade of hand wringing to global warming, and when that didn't work, it morphed into a war on the weather. It was income redistribution, re-stated. Now there is another crisis of intolerable cruelty. 
There is a horrible truth behind marshmallow ranches. When they are fat from grazing all summer, they will be slaughtered to make smaller ones, bagged and sold in stores. Some are cut up and held over a fire while still alive!
Something can and should be done. To fight this abominable practice, send your nondeductible donation to this blog in my name and I will see to it that the money ends up in a good place. 

You can make a difference. Give generously.

Invest in America's Future Segregation

needy student
Negro students at the University of California - Los Angeles want segregated areas where only they are allowed to congregate. They want $40 million (as set forth below). If you want to contribute the best place to do that is this blog, but I'm talking cash, not four whole fried chickens and a Coke. I will see that the money ends up in a good place.
(Heat Street) The Afrikan [sic] Student Union at the University of California has issued a list of demands– which include a $40 million endowment, their own “safe spaces” on campus, and mandatory “cultural awareness training” for all students — as compensation for what they call racially insensitive incidents. The demands, listed in an open letter, cite different “racial attacks” on campus.

One such attack was made in the form of stickers that listed the criminal rap sheet of Freddie Gray, the black man who died in Baltimore police custody in 2015. Another sticker said “If only Freddie Gray had followed the damn law, he’d still be alive,” and another said “Stop whining and start following the goddamn law”. 
Another example of racism given by the ASU was a “Kanye Western” theme party held in 2015 during which attendees dressed in baggy clothes or wore padded bottoms to look like Kim Kardashian. The outrage was tempered when Kanye West was outed as a Trump supporter, but it's still considered to be racist.
“Since nothing has been done in recent years, the Afrikan Student Union is DEMANDING that UCLA administrators work with black students towards the development of a more positive campus climate,” the group’s open letter says.
Among its demands is a $40 million endowment, which according to the letter would fund “a comprehensive effort to address the underrepresentation of African-American students, faculty, and staff at our university”.
free housing demands
In addition ASU wants university to establish the position of Black Student Financial Aid Officer that would “advocate for financial aid for previously dismissed/expelled students” and also ensure four years of guaranteed free housing for black students.
The list of grievances and demands is nearly endless and I'm not going to list the outrages all here. I can only encourage you to give generously here on this blog. We will work behind the scenes with your hard earned money. (Where is that donation from George Soros when this blog needs it to stay open?)

(Photos in this posting are taken from booking photos at the Los Angeles County Jail and may or may not actually be members of the Afrikan Student Union at UCLA)

Our Last Cash Drive...

...Focused on saving the habitat for the endangered jackalope. I'd like to tell you that it met with noteworthy success but it didn't. The ability for these noble creatures to run free on America's plains continues to be diminished because of interstate highways - that must be closed NOW. 

If you need to go somewhere, take an airplane. Allow free range jackanapes to remain unimpeded as they prowl America's heartland.

We also take money to preserve the jackalope here at Virtual Mirage.



Friday, May 19, 2017

Ending the Week

From E-Mail

Q - What are you reading these days, LL? 


I just downloaded two books on Kindle: Fields of Fire by James Webb and G-Man by Stephen Hunter. 

A - I recently finished The Malocchio Of Bodie by Jules Smith and Rimworld - Into the Green by Jim Curtis (both of whom comment on this blog from time to time).

Proof of Collusion (finally)


in other Domestic News

The Deep State has a narrative that they want us to swallow. Despite the shrill, hysterical, absurdities spouted by the corrupt, elite, lying mainstream media, I think that they're being ignored. They think so too and it bothers them.

The great and near great are lining up for the 2020 general election. Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and other greats within the Democrat Party are making the circuit to try and get their names out there so you'll put them in charge. The mainstream media will support their efforts. There's even talk of Hillary (reset and improved Hillary) running in 2020 to win what she feels that Donald Trump stole from her.

There are theories that people who aren't attractive or talented enough to be Hollywood actors are drawn to politics. Many are lawyers who can't make it in that profession. Some like Al Franken (D-MN) are failed comedians.  Congressman Hank Johnson (below) is a lawyer. Watch and listen as he explains his concerns about US troop deployments to Guam that might cause it to capsize. He'd make a great talking head on MSNBC or CNN once he completes his term in the House of Representatives. But I don't think that he'll be leaving soon. In 2014, Johnson was named the 18th most effective Democrat in the 112th Congress [out of 204 Democratic members] according to a study by Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia (UVA). Yes, he's among the brightest.


The amazing thing about America is that we do so well despite our leadership.


Expanding the Celestial Empire of China

Is it "imperialism"?

Analysis of imagery obtained in March by the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows that construction on Fiery Cross Reef is nearly complete. The island now features a radar/sensor array; enough hangar space to accommodate 24 combat aircraft and four larger planes, and mobile missile shelters. The 3,000-meter (10,000-feet) runway is operational. 

The aircraft accommodations indicate this is the key Chinese air facility in the Spratlys.

Moving on to Thailand...

The construction of the Thailand-China railway project from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima will begin in 2017, according to the Thai Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport. The line also is to be extended to the Thai-Lao border in the future. 

The project is the Thai part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road project. Construction was to have begun in 2015, but contract negotiations caused the delay.

According to the Malaysian news service, China and Thailand still need to agree on materials for the construction, consulting fees and whether it is necessary for Chinese engineers to get Thai engineering certifications before they come to work in the Kingdom.

China has a 50 year plan and a 100 year plan. Their long term ambitions may not come to fruition. Stephen Hawking -- who survives with the aid of machines -- has predicted that we has a species have 100 years to live before evolved machines take human imperfection as justification for wiping us all out.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fox News Ratings Slip - ANALYSIS

Nobody asked me, but I'm going to comment on this and maybe somebody at Fox will read it. Maybe they won't and I've wasted all of these perfectly good electrons.
(CNN) So far this week, Fox has ranked No. 3 in prime time behind both CNN and MSNBC, which almost never happens.
Fox News has led the cable ratings for as long as most people can recall. Why the slip to #3 behind two channels which pride themselves on making the news rather than reporting the news, partisanship and outright lies?

1. Bill O'Reilly anchored the Fox News line-up. There are people who read this blog who didn't like him. It's not about liking or not liking, he provided the sort of input that many viewers wanted. Now he's gone, Fox threw him under the bus and that's reason one for the decline.
I hope that ratings notwithstanding, it's worth it to get your progressive advertisers back now that O'Reilly is gone.
2. I've watched the new line-up. The new producers for all of the evening shows have the very same stories being told (a little news, a lot of whining) over-and-over-and-over again. Viewers are not tuning into CNN. They're tuning out. Who can blame them?

3. Fox has shifted from telling an unbiased story (fair and balanced) to a hard lean toward the so-called "Deep State Message". Fox - you need to put me or somebody like me on your commentary line up. I'd provide some entertainment - wait for the call-in lines to light up. And I'd only tell the truth.

There are a lot of stories that could be told if you had genuine investigative journalism going on. HINT: Hire Sharyl Attkisson, give her a staff and an open budget. Have her as your lead-off hitter in the O'Reilly slot. Let her bring in people like herself who tell the truth. Allow them to tell the truth, and don't cave into the progressive lobby this time.

But first, get rid of the people who are purveying bad advice to you -- that put you in as #3 and caused your loyal viewers to turn off their televisions - or tune into the cooking channel because they'll get more out of it.

RPG-7's - A Changing Role

US Variant - Carl Gustaf M3A1

Some of you prefer the Carl Gustaf M3A1 (M3A1 is the US version of the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle) to the RPG-7. I'm with you. I've always liked the Carl Gustaf, but were heavy to haul around with you (about the same weight as a .50 Barrett with much heavier ammo).

The new, US demand for a lighter version works brilliantly and only weighs about 8 lbs. The load-out for a SEAL platoon used to require distributed weight of at least 2 and often 4 AT-4 anti-tank launchers (disposable) for missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. That gave you one shot per launcher. Depending on the mission that was enough, but the ammunition was not flexible to give you different options with each round. This is the new way forward for light infantry and SPECWAR troops. One launcher and the distributed weight of ammunition.

OR

There is the RPG-7, now made by AirTronic in the USA. There are very few weapons that are as iconic as the venerable RPG-7, and you can resupply yourself with rockets on any third world battlefield - or on the mean streets of Guadalajara, Tijuana or Juarez, Mexico, if you're so disposed.

US Variant of the RPG-7
The RPG-7 (РПГ-7) is a portable, reusable, unguided, shoulder-launched weapon with a variety of rounds available.  The RPG-7 (Ручной Противотанковый Гранатомёт – Ruchnoy Protivotankoviy Granatomyot – Hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher) is used by drug cartels in Mexico, revolutionaries in Africa and is still being produced in very large numbers by the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (GRAU).

In the news: RPG-7's are being used to halt urban renewal in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Interior Ministry said that a Saudi special forces soldier was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack in the Qatif area of Eastern Province late on 16 May. Five soldiers were injured.

The details of the attack have not been released to the public, but this is the second violent incident in Qatif in a week. Last week one child and one adult were killed and 10 people were injured at the redevelopment site. 

The most important threat element in this story is the use of an RPG to disrupt an urban renewal project. RPGs are weapons of war, not instruments of political protest. They are common enough among the Taliban in Afghanistan and in other countries at war. They are not common in Qatif or anywhere in Saudi Arabia. 

This probably was the first time this type of weapon has been used by anti-government elements in Qatif or anywhere in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The use of this weapon represents an escalation in the outside support for the Shiites activists/terrorists in Qatif. Conversely, it means Saudi security has lapsed badly.

From the Saudi Press: Violence between Saudi security forces and Shiite militants in Eastern Province is commonplace. Authorities are now redeveloping some of the neighborhoods in the area as part of a major development push. The work includes the demolition of nearly 500 structures, including residential buildings, and could be a reason for the recent increase in violence. 

According to the Interior Ministry, suspected terrorists used rockets, explosive devices and land mines to obstruct work at the development project, attacking security personnel and construction workers.

Additional Background: Qatif is predominantly Shiite Muslim and is perennially restive. Iran presumes to act as the protector of the Shiites there. The Saudi government accuses Iran of fomenting unrest, supplying military-grade weapons to and infiltrating agents among Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia.

The disruption caused by the redevelopment project focuses Shiite grievances against the Sunni government. More attacks at the renewal project are likely. More attacks by RPGs mean that Iran has escalated its support for the local terrorists.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mid-Week Thoughts


On the whole, I used to watch the news on television. My preference was for Fox Business or the Fox News Channel. There's not a lot of news there. Most of it is 24 hour cycle cable commentary with endless points and counterpoints. 

Now, not so much. There's not much to learn. 

James Comey disgraced the FBI's reputation, such as it is. The Democrats are running a clown circus and their subsidiary elite, lying mainstream media makes a mockery of politics in general.

If Donald Trump were to run against Hillary Clinton today, polls say that he would beat her all over again - but the shrill sometimes lesbian former candidate is back on the trail again. It's difficult not to tire of all of this.

President Trump is not a particularly good politician. However his political agenda of returning power to the States and to the people with deference to the Tenth Amendment is admirable. To the extent of what he's doing on a daily basis, he's pretty good. The silly tweeting and posturing even in the face of the smug, nasty, lying media is not necessary. In fairness, the deep state is not at all pleased with the president and wants to see things go back to the way they were. On the flip side, President Trump doesn't seem to be able to take a drink of water without his 'loyal' staff leaking it to the New York Times or the Washington Post.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're NOT out to get  you.

My profession calls for an updated view of the world, so I look well beyond the American media (generally a joke) to try and ferret out kernels of truth from the clutter. Thus, I share some of these thoughts for the potential benefit of people who drift through this blog.

Syria

The Russian plan to de-escalate the war in Syria seems to be working. It also is beginning to transform the Syrian civil war. A joint working group on implementation is to be established this week.

Turkey said it was offered the responsibility for monitoring the largest zone, which is Idlib Governate. The Turks contended that the Sunni Muslims in Idlib are close in culture to the Turks. The plan envisions Turkish Army units deploying to Idlib to keep the peace. The Assad government is likely to oppose a continued Turkish troop presence in Idlib, even with a UN guarantee that they will depart. They worked to depose Assad and he will keep that in mind.

Responsibilities for the other areas are still being worked out, based on the dominant rebel group in each zone. The dominant group in Idlib is one that Turkey supported in fighting the Assad government.

In northern Syria, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that they would transfer control of Tabqa to the city council. The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) announced that they would make the transfer after the remnants of the Islamic State were cleared.

The SDF has made additional gains against the Islamic State fighters in offensive operations northeast and northwest of Raqqa. US -led coalition airstrikes support the offensive.

The plan essentially will cantonize Syria. If it works and endures, Syria will de facto become a federal state. Russia, Turkey and Iran are making the important decisions. However, there is little reporting of Iran’s attitude towards the plan. My sense is that (1) they would like to see a larger role for themselves and (2) they will work internally to replace Assad with a radical Shiite eventually. It's a waiting game that they can play

The sixth round of UN sponsored, “intra-Syrian” talks convened on 16 May in Geneva. The Kuwait News Agency reported that the agenda will cover transitional rule, drawing up a constitution, elections and counter-terrorism.

Now the Onion

The parties do not agree on the definition of the terms, For example, the rebels’ idea of a transitional government means a government without President Assad. The Russian idea allows Assad to remain in power, but with rebel influence channeled through the other agenda items. The Iranians have no interest in strengthening the political clout of the Sunni Muslims at the expense of the ruling Alawites, who follow a sect of Shi’ism. The Turks consider the Syrian Kurds terrorists. The Russians do not.

The USA

The US program under President Trump is less concerned with Syria internally and more concerned with eradicating ISIS in Syria (and elsewhere). During the eight years of the Obama Administration, the USGOV was hard pressed to keep its word -- anywhere. The Russians, in particular, found America impossible to cooperate with for this very reason.

The US Defense Budget exceeds that of Russia and China combined and it will be growing under President Trump. Recommitment by NATO countries to spend more on defense further makes the US something to be taken seriously. How and where the US choses to use its military clout is an issue that is discussed in foreign capitals as the philosophy slowly changes with the departure of Obama's factotums and the arrival of Trump's.

President Trump's first foreign visit will offer him some relief from the relentless pounding by the corrupt, elite media.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Commentary on North Korea

North Korea’s missile program is stimulating a weapons race in Northeast Asia. North Korea has the ability to start a weapons race, a war or other unpleasantness, but their finish always rests with the Allies.

In Japan

Japanese Defense Minister Inada told a Diet committee on 15 May that the government will try to improve its ability to intercept ballistic missiles. Inada said the government is researching a variety of options, including “Aegis Ashore”. 

She commented on a proposal by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that the government consider granting the Self-Defense Forces permission to attack enemy bases. She said the government needs to take the proposal seriously and to bolster deterrence through the Japan-US Alliance.

Last November, Inada visited Guam for a demonstration of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. The government favors the Aegis Ashore system. 

What Really Happened?

Japanese press reported on 12 May that on 18 April North Korea notified China, “We will conduct a nuclear test on 20 April.”
According to the press account, China informed the United States that it had received the notification from Pyongyang. China also warned North Korea that it would “close the China–North Korea border for a long time if it went through with the nuclear test.” 
“China confirmed that it had requested North Korea to refrain from conducting a nuclear test. The Chinese also told us that they informed North Korea that China would be taking sanctions action on their own if they did conduct further nuclear tests,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on 27 April. 
China told North Korea that the embargo would be complete, by land and by sea. On the night of 19 April, Chinese border police maintained the highest-level alert along the North Korean border in anticipation of a North Korean nuclear test. It never came.
This is the first open source report that accounts for North Korean behavior in the third week of April. This also is the first time China has exerted such pressure on North Korea and the first time North Korea has changed its behavior because of a non-military threat. China is the only country that can impose a complete embargo on North Korea, which would be unprecedented. China can wreck the North Korean economy. 

The Chinese warning explains the volleyball game at the nuclear test site, which was staged probably for the benefit of Chinese imagery systems. It also explains the shrillness of the 3 May North Korean media rant against China.

As for China’s persistent denial that it has the ability to influence North Korean behavior, that denial has been exposed as false. The Chinese found a way without using military force.

This is a text book case of a successful warning. The nuclear test did not occur because national decision makers received early and sufficient warnings that were regularly updated in time for them to take action to deter the nuclear test. Seldom do analysts obtain this kind of confirmation that warning worked.

The Russia Factor

In a press conference at the conclusion of China’s One Belt, One Road summit in Beijing, Russian 
President Putin said, "I want to confirm, we are against expansion of the nuclear powers club, including the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea."  
He also said, "What we have been observing lately in the world, in particular, outrageous violation of international law and invasion of the territory of foreign states, regime changes and so on, triggers this arms race," Putin said. While nuclear or missile tests are 'unacceptable', the international community should return to a dialogue with North Korea and 'stop intimidating' it."
I repeated Putin’s comments in full because elite, smug, incompetent US news outlets only reported the last line about dialogue and intimidation. 

Brief Conclusions

China has its hand on the North Korean throttle and everyone knows it. The only talks that matter are talks between China and North Korea. The US will defend its allies in Japan and South Korea, but any change needs to come from China and the dog on its leash.

If China wants to further militarize Japan and South Korea, it can. Thus it's protests about THAAD deployment and a mobilizing Japan are hollow. Removing the threat will calm things down and that's 100% a China problem.


A New Tax



It's inherently dangerous and in a nanny state, protecting you is job one for the government. Therefore the Australians have enacted the LOG-YOUR-JOG ordinance. In addition to logging on to file a 'jog plan', you're expected to wear a helmet while jogging. When I heard about this, I felt that it would be likely that the City and County of San Francisco would do the same thing (exempting illegal aliens/wetbacks).

Yes of course, it's a hoax. But it underscores how absurd people are and how likely they are to believe even this sort of patently tom-foolery as credible and even likely to be the case. This is how far we've sunk. In California, things like this are announced all the time and they're not hoaxes. In California there is usually a hefty tax involved. In this case it would be a "jogging tax"...which hasn't been enacted, but who knows. This may give California or its counties an idea.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Here and There (Geopolitical Commentary)

China: One Belt - One Road

We've discussed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor before on this blog. The Chinese concept of "all roads lead to China" is not a new one. It stretches back into antiquity. During the Bronze Age (The period is divided into three phases: Early Bronze Age(2000–1500 BC), Middle Bronze Age (1500–1200 BC), and Late Bronze Age (1200 – c. 500 BC), most of the tin used in the production of bronze was imported to the Mediterranean region from Afghanistan. It was the beginning of the Silk Road. Modern China wants to recreate this to bring new wealth to China.

On 14 and 15 May, 29 heads of state or government gathered for China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure summit in Beijing, and the US press covered it to varying degrees. The corrupt, smug, elite media did a poor job of explaining the historic context and precedence along with the implications of those to take Chinese money to facilitate the New Silk Road.


This is the second major international event in which China has asserted a leadership role as the advocate for world economic integration. The first was President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum at Davos in January. China is laying the groundwork for shifting the focus of the world economy of the future towards the Central Kingdom, China.

The One Belt, One Road project offers the promise of wealth, but most of that will go to China, as Pakistan has discovered. One Pakistani economist found that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) already has increased Pakistan’s national debt by $2.5 billion, with no benefit for Pakistan. 

According to Asia Times, a leading Pakistani industrialist said, “There is absolutely nothing in the CPEC for the local trade and industry; even the labor is coming from China, which will cause a steep escalation in the operational cost of the project.” Pakistan is obliged to grant tax exemptions and holidays to Chinese companies that are doing the actual work and importing the construction materials, not Pakistani companies. Pakistanis guard the Chinese. CPEC is a form of economic indenture.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is probably related to the One Belt, One Road project. 

Yemen

The Yemen government announced an emergency in Sana’a because of a cholera outbreak that has killed 51 people since late April.

The World Health Organization said on 11 May that 2,752 people are suspected cases. Fifty-eight more cases have been confirmed. The war is pointless, but its effects continue to ripple through the civilian population. As usual, disease, hunger and pestilence cause more casualties than combat. The water is fouled. 

The situation is complicated by the different factions, all trying to assert control over Yemen. There are the Saudis exercising heavy pull in the north (along the Saudi Border); the Southern Transition Council in Aden, backed by United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi; The Iranian Houthis; and the various local groups, each of which wants to carve out their own turf and sovereignty.

The war will continue and the decaying degradation of basic human services for the civilian infrastructure will continue and more people will simply die of disease and hunger. It's a familiar refrain to those of us who have seen war.

Turkey

On 12 May, Turkish authorities again extended the purge into the financial world. They arrested 102 stock exchange workers who are suspected of being sympathetic to the coup plotters of last July. Security officials conducted raids in six major cities.

The official story is that a secret clique of stock exchange employees was embedded in the country’s stock exchange – Borsa Istanbul (BIST). The last time the purge executives arrested workers in the financial world was July 2016. 

The reality is that a totalitarian state is being formed from what was once free Turkey. Round-ups such as this will continue as will the genocide against the Kurds. As to the Kurdish situation, murdering Kurds passes for recreation in the Turkish Army.

Central African Republic

The anti-Balaka Christian militias have again attacked UN peacekeepers and Muslims in Bangassou. The head of the UN mission, MINUSCA, said that up to 30 people might have died in weekend atrocities.

The sectarian killings apparently surged after the departure of French and Ugandan peacekeepers. The anti-Balaka attacks against the UN base appear to stem from a belief that the MINUSCA forces are protecting Muslims, which they are...

It's one of the few places in the world where Christians are fighting back against Islam.

However, in Africa, as with most places, it's more about local war lords and control of land and resources than it is about 'faith'.

The USA

The corrupt, lying, elite, smug, mainstream media and their masters in the Democrat Party (though I'm not sure who is really in charge) continue to project a US image abroad of a hopelessly divided nation and of a President who is incapable of governing. Because they have a political agenda and strive to make news (thus to make 'reality') rather than merely report it, nothing that they say can be taken with even so much as a grain of salt. But that's not the image.

Much of the world is perplexed at the near worship of trans-gender behavior, of sodomy and other "culture" in the USA. They need to dig down to the vast portion of the population who voted for Donald Trump to see that most of the nation by geographic measure still operates outside of the corrupt media guidelines and don't take marching orders from "their betters".

A US President lives in a bubble - literally, and I think that for President Trump, it's disconcerting. That notwithstanding, his pace of repealing Obama's executive orders has been remarkable and effective as he strives to make America great again.


And then there are the investigations: