sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

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.