Please bookmark Orders of Battle as a backup in case site is inaccessible.
We began after September 11, 2001 as America Goes To War. With the US out of Iraq and leaving Afghanistan, we now cover whatever interests the Editor.
New: Pakistan 2011 (27 pages) 1/2/2014
Taking Back Kashmir: Replaying Brasstacks, Checkboard,
Taking Back Kashmir: Replaying Brasstacks, Checkboard, and Trident
Available as E-book on Amazon
Thursday 0230 GMT April 24, 2014
· Ukraine The only sort-of-interesting thing that happened yesterday is that the Ukraine Security services say they seized 12-tons of rifle ammunition http://tinyurl.com/luruhjz Patrick Skuza sent us the news, he has been following Ukraine closely, having family ties to Poland. We asked him what it all meant. Are the Ukrainians say they captured 12-tons of Russian ammunition? Mr. Skuza says its American. So are the Ukrainians being stupid – and this would be high grade stupidity. Or is it infiltrators in the Ukraine security services seized this to say “Oh look, those bad, bad Americans are arming the Ukraine rabble.” Either way it’s quite confusing.
· Editor did a quick check of USAF pages to see how many fighter wings the US has in Europe. He got 31st TFW at Aviano, Italy, 36th TFW at Bitburg, Germany, and 48th at Lakenheath, UK. But – there’s always a but these days with US forces – there seem to be only six fighter squadrons with these three wings. Only 48th seems to be at anything like normal strength, with 3 x F-15 squadrons. Bitburg has 2 x F-16 squadrons, and it looks as if Aviano has been reduced to just a single F-16 squadron. We have no clue how many aircraft there are in a USAF fighter squadron these days. Used to be 3 x squadrons of 25 each, or 4 x squadrons of 72 each. Instinct says the European squadrons are not 25 each. They might be 18 + 2 trainers. Even though the trainers are combat capable, its better to assume just 18. Anyone with a better idea, please write in.
· Meanwhile, on that deployment of US troops to Poland and the Baltics. It seems as if 2-503 Airborne Infantry Regiment from 173 Airborne Brigade is the unit, with three companies (and therefore the battalion HQ) in the Baltics, and a company in Poland. Moreover, it doesn’t look s if 1273 Brigade has been reorganized to the new 3 maneuver battalion plus 1 weak RSTA Squadron organization, up one battalion from the standard BCT US has been using these last 10+ years. And even in the brigades that have converted, we don’t know if they are three company or four company battalions. In which case the net gain would be just one company and a medium artillery battery. Wouldn’t put anything past these Pentagon planners.
· So we’re going to bite our tongue and not make sarcastic comments about the airpower situation, but it looks pathetic. Of course more aircraft can arrive in 24-hours, but that isn’t the point. Two brigades (one is a cavalry regiment) and six fighter squadrons is not going to impress Putin.
· Two points. First – okay, this is valid – we all thought the Cold War was over and we went home. Probably before Crimea there was no real need for more than the forces in Europe today. US forces Europe now cover Africa, as well, BTW. Second, and in our mind this is not valid, US is likely deliberately keeping down redeployments so as not to aggravate the Bad Tempered Bear. We use the word redeployment because there is no reinforcement: all that is happened is troops/aircraft from US’s European garrisons have been moved closer to the Russian front.
· Our views have been articulated ad insanitum, which is we need to go into Ukraine and make that the new front line with Russia. With the one-eyed, one-yellow-feathered types who do US foreign/defense policy today, there is no chance of this happening.
· Still, war is about preparation more than actual fighting. If you’ve prepared well, there may be no need to fight. SO we think the US should immediately reactivate 170 and 172 Mechanized Brigades that it stood down as the Iraq war unwound, and send them back, one to Poland and one to the Baltics. Next, stand up 8th Mechanized Division in no more than two years, and restore HQ V Corps. You can’t have 66,000 troops in Europe and the fighting part of it is five maneuver battalions and 6 fighter squadrons. After that, stand up 24th Mechanized Division. Add preparations to fly in send two more divisions to Europe - preposition their equipment in Germany. Boost the fighter strength to four full wings. We don’t think this is still enough, but at least it will give Putin pause.
· By the way, just to tell how messed up everything is: the US battalion is NOT deploying as part of NATO. It is a bilateral US move. The Euros refused to provide alliance coverage for fear of upsetting the Czar.
Wednesday 0230 GMT April 23, 2014
· The Russians made sure US gets the point by staging another provocation after the attack on a pro-Russia militia post killed three, and according to Russia, allegedly done by “ultranationalist” Kiev militia. Only problem with this thesis is that Kiev has been totally passive in its “crackdown” on separatists, doing everything possible to avoid aggravating the Russians, including handing over the armored vehicles and ammunition and rifle firing pins to civilians who swarm Ukraine troops. The Geneva agreement was supposed to give relief to Kiev, there is no earthly reason why of a sudden Kiev would take the offensive.
· So the second provocation is that a pro-Ukraine politician and another man were found tortured to death. This time – as far as we know – Russia hasn’t even bothered blaming Kiev, because even in the insane world of Russian Agit-Prop, there is no way you can blame Kiev.
· Kiev reacted exactly as planned by Russia: it called off the “truce” and said it will “resume” operations. If it resumes operations - which so far has meant surrendering without a shot, Putin will have the excuse he is waiting for and could invade. Since Kiev knows this, and has opted for appeasement ever since NATO/EU made clear they are not getting involved in a shooting war with the Russians, the Kiev reaction is utterly meaningless and suits Russia to the utmost. Now Russia will say ”Ukaine broke the truce, we are acting in blameless self-defense. Indeed, we marvel at our own restraint. Goes to show much we love peace and the hateful west loves war”.
· What a farce. It needs noting that the West is yapping like a feisty Pomeranian because spring has arrived. The demand for Russian gas for heating will plummet. But the demand for Russian gas for industry and power-generation remains the same. And by the time September rolls in, five months from now, Europe’s temperatures will start falling.
· Editor is not blaming the West for going poopy-pants. The Russians are nowhere near the equal of US troops, but they will reach Kiev so fast the elite won’t have time to run. They will thrash every single NATO country except the British – who are excellent at making symbolic last stands – and the Americans, who have one parachute brigade and a Stryker armored cavalry regiment in Germany. Why are we saying the French won’t fight? Because they don’t want to. They are doing the solidarity thing with NATO, but they absolutely do not agree on sanctions. Why won’t the Germans fight? Also simple. The Allies so defanged Germany after 1945, and so banged demilitarization and pacifism into the heads of Germans, the Germans actually sincerely believe this stuff. Their Army is not ready to fight in any case because of defense cuts. The only question in Editor’s mind is: will the Germans even fight for Germany? Doubtful. They are not going to fight for Poland, and as for fighting for Ukraine, the odds are the same as them fighting with the Japanese against the Chinese.
· So what about NATO airpower? After the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, it is well tested, capable, and ready. Well, with the exception of the Americans the others are sort of ready. Probably run out of ordnance by Day 3. But even if everyone was ready, there is the big existential problem which is like a T-Rex or even a Diplodocus taking up the couch, hogging the TV and the beer and the snacks. Do you really want to kill Russians when they have 1500 strategic N-warheads and likely thousands of tactical nukes they can likely activate at short notice?
· Editor would say: the Russians are not crazy. As long as you kill them to the west of the Ukraine border, they are not going to go nuclear. In fact, they will not go nuclear east of Ukraine either, any more than the US will go nuclear if the Baltics or Poland are attacked by the Russians.
· The problem with Editor’s thesis is also simple. What exactly are the stakes that the American people will permit their leaders to take these risks? For Americans, the stakes are zip. To make an analogy, would the Russians be willing to nuke the US if the US invaded Cuba or Venezuela. No, and there is no more to it.
Tuesday 0230 GMT April 22, 2014
Why aren’t Americans fed up being made fools of by Kerry/Obama?
· First off, this is not a partisan rant. Editor could care less is the US foreign policy duo is named John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, or Twinkletoes, or Biff and Baff, or whatever. Editor could care even less if the duo is Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Free Thinker, Socialist, Anarchist or whatever. This is strictly an attack against these two particular people.
· But wait a minute, doesn’t journalist protocol forbid ad hominem attacks? We are supposed to criticize peoples’ ideas, not them personally. The ad hominem fallacy happens when you criticize an idea based on some irrelevancy. So to say this idea is stupid because Kerry/Obama are ugly is ad hominem. But we can legitimately say Kerry/Obama keep coming up with stupid foreign policy ideas which make the US look like a rudderless ship of fools, and we can ask why Americans are not objecting more strongly. The original sin lies with these two, but their sin becomes our sin because we continue to put up with them.
· Sorry, at this point we must make a diversion, and it’s a relevant one (for a change). The other day some talking head wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post pointing out that Obama has been giving America the foreign policy its people want, but instead of being happy, Americans are unhappy with him. The implication is we are conflicted blithering morons. There is a lot to this argument. For example, Americans don’t really want to get involved in the Syrian civil war, but when Obama keeps us out of it, we get angry at him. What we are saying is that in the case of Ukraine/Russia – as also the case with Israel/Palestine – there is no solution that the US is prepared to underwrite and for which it is willing to take the consequences. So simple wisdom says we should just keep our mouths shut and not go flapping our fat mouths all over the place. Mr. Obama, Mr. Kerry, that is YOU we are talking about.
· What has attracted Editor’s venomous ire? The so-called peace agreement signed in Geneva last week to de-escalate the East Ukraine crisis. Huge surprise: the agreement didn’t last over the weekend. The pro-Russia militias refused to disarm, throwing the agreement into the trash bin. They didn’t want to disarm because Putin does not want them disarmed. The US has finally got around to saying that a number of these so called people’s militias are actually hard-core, highly-trained Russian troops and intelligence personnel. We all knew that from the start, so congrats to the US for finally acknowledging reality. Such is the game of “diplomacy”. When you’re hoping to get an agreement, you don’t point out inconvenient truths about the person with whom you want an agreement.
· So naturally, Putin has to stage an incident so he can blame Kiev for the refusal of the militia to disarm. So his gentlemen shoot up a checkpost of his gentlemen, killing 3 or 5 depending on which story you believe. ”This is an outrage!” cries Putin “This is why I have to reserve my right to intervene in Ukraine!”. At exactly the same time as US is releasing photographic evidence that right from the Kiev protest days Russian intel/military personal have been causing trouble – the same people keep showing up – Putin produces a member of the ultranationalist militia that, he says, staged the attack. This gentleman is either all of 5-feet tall, or his captors are 7-feet tall, he is so small. What about weapons? No problem, someone produced a World War 2 rifle. (Pooty, my dawg, you are falling down on the job. Editor would have produced an M-4 rifle traceable to US armories in Germany. Editor is available as a consultant, dear smart, handsome, infallible Mr. Putin, sir.)
· To wrap this up. Everyone and his yellow rubber ducky knows that compared to Russia, the US has minimal stakes in Ukraine. Putin is ready to fight to keep Ukraine. We are ready to send MREs to the Ukraine Army. That says everything that needs to be said about our relative priorities.
· Knowing this, what was the point of Obama/Kerry signing a de-escalation agreement with Russia? No one believed for a minute that the agreement was anything but another fraud by Putin to justify himself and make the US look like blunderbusses with soaking wet powder and no flints. We are told Kerry is of the “Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” school. His entire justification for his pathetic, failed, miserable Mideast efforts – at which everyone else has also failed – is that someone has to try. Actually, Professor Kerry, that’s where you are wrong. If trying and failing involving zero cost or perhaps even earns America merits, go ahead. But when your tries put the prestige of the United on the line, your failures do have a very big impact. They further expose the US to hooting laughter and disdain, more among our friends than among our allies. The prestige of a nation is banked capital. Mr. Kerry is spending our prestige like a shop-o-holic gone mad with his credit cards.
· The sole purpose of this agreement was a futile, doomed effort to boost the prestige of two men, Obama/Kerry, and the US can go to heck or beyond for all they care. In making fools of themselves, they have made fools of America – again. Are we Americans going to make this stop or are we going to reach for another cold one and a fresh bag of snacks?
Monday 0230 GMT April 21, 2014
· Open letter to President Putin Dear Toots, you need to know we are absolutely fed up of writing about Ukraine. It is an enormous misery because nothing seems to happen. The media makes matters worse by blowing up every little bit of news, forcing us to parse your every burp. By our estimate, there are perhaps a thousand activists, half of them your men, involved in this alleged crisis. This is not a crisis, but a bit of amateur hour play-acting. The number of casualties is so small one needs a magnifying glass to make out the numbers. Make than a microscope. The number of shots fired is less than what one good ol’ American bubba might fire off for practice on Saturday, in between beers. Your opponents in Kiev seem be competing for the Klasse Klowne award for 2014. Kiev’s soldiers seem to have neither fuel nor food, and are being fed – we are told – by the locals they have come to suppress.
· You seem to be participating in a Woody Allen movie. Or perhaps a Peter Sellers movie. Maybe even a Tweety and Sylvester short. Please have some diginity a la Mel Brooks in “Blazing Saddles” and end this absurdity. Please invade and take over Ukraine. You have a better historical claim to Ukraine than we Americans have to California and the South West. Watching the Euros going poopy-pants will at least be amusing. While you’re at it, why don’t you just take back the Baltics, Belarus, Moldova and so on. You know NATO is not going to do a thing. Please: you say you are a man of action. So how about some action? Give the Editor a reason to live before he dies prematurely due to sheer boredom.
· Oscar Pistorius took acting lessons alleges a South African media person http://nypost.com/2014/04/20/pistoris-took-acting-lessons-before-crying-on-stand/
· Credit card interest rates Thank you, New York Post for making us feel a bit less persecuted. Alas, due to totally unexpected auto and air conditioning expenses, and the end of Editor’s second job because the media person is having money issues, Editor has been carrying a balance on his credit card. The interest rate has been so mind-boggling Editor doesn’t want to look at it anymore – he just pays what he can when he gets an alert from his credit card company. Last he saw it was 21% - probably higher now. Editor was wondering why he was being singled out. Turns out he is not. The average rate for fair credit has gone up to 21%, while the card companies are borrowing at next to nothing rates. http://nypost.com/2014/04/20/credit-card-companies-lure-in-customers-with-low-teaser-rates/
Friday 0230 GMT April 18, 2014
· Pamphlet tells Donetsk Jews to register themselves and all their property, says USA Today http://tinyurl.com/pxcv4z8. Now, it’s unclear who is behind this. It could be a Ukraine nationalist provocation, it could be some pro-Russia types acting on their own, or it could be something worse. But on the evidence at this time, it is a very serious development and Mr. Putin had best (a) find and punish those responsible; and (b) very publically disavow this action. If he does not, he will be in big trouble for no gain.
· One reason this might be a Ukraine nationalist provocation is that it can quickly draw in the west on Kiev’s side and against Russia’s side. Threats against European Jews are the fastest way to get the West involved because the pamphlet brings up bad memories of what happened in Europe 75-years ago. Much of the West is quietly anti-Semitic, but that does not mean countries like the US, UK, and France don’t feel guilty about what Germany did. And not to speak of German guilt. And also not to speak of what happened in Poland. Poland lost 20% of its population in World War II. Three million were Christians, and three million were Jews. In many ways, the Holocaust was a Polish Holocaust. Poland is a player in the Ukraine crisis, albeit a low-key one. The Pope has no divisions, as Stalin once sardonically noted, but all Christian churches, not just Rome, will throw their considerable moral weight into a fight out of which, so far, most everyone has tried to keep.
· The least likely possibility is that Moscow has something to do with the pamphlet. He gains nothing, and stands to lose a great deal, from this development. It could be that local hoodlums are seeking to unite Eastern Ukrainians behind their cause by stirring up historical antagonism. This is why Putin must move quickly to squash this.
· Meanwhile, Putin has effortlessly won another round in his war against the West. Yesterday’s meeting in Geneva was held ostensibly to defuse tension in Ukraine. But the West agreed that force should not be used to resolve the dispute. This means Kiev is shackled in its attempts to regain control of the East. Putin has said he hopes that he will not be forced to intervene in Ukraine. Classic blaming the victim: “Give me what I want, or I’ll be forced to hit you, and it will be your fault.” As for this Geneva thing, perhaps Kiev should kiss Putin’s behind for having saved Kiev from complete embarrassment, given how totally pathetic the “crackdown” has been. If the people of Ukraine themselves have no heart to keep their country united, what exactly is the US/West supposed to do?
· Until the events of the last 48-hours Editor’s position was that Putin would not invade Ukraine, that he was seeking only to force Kiev to ally with him, rather than with the West. But our instinct says that Putin may have made an opportunistic change in his plans. Seeing how utterly feeble is the West’s response, he may have decided to just go for the Ukraine East and South. If he is thinking the West will not intervene, it is becoming increasing clear that it will not, especially if the tanks start rolling. The notion that NATO airpower is going to go into action against Russian armor is implausible, to say the least, if only because Mr. Putin is sitting on 1500 nuclear warheads, and everyone understands Russia has more to lose if Putin does not act than the west has to lose if Ukraine returns to the Russian fold. As for sanctions, that is just stuff. After its outrage is spent, the West will go back to business-as-usual. Money, after all, is thicker than notions about democracy. After all, we freely trade with China The Tyrant. Why should we refuse to trade with the new Czar of Russia?
· Letter from reader KV on yesterday’s post about Narinder Modi, the next Indian PM I agree that Indian so-called liberal intellectuals wearing denigration of their own culture as badge of pride. I had many personal experience especially a jarring one where a Christian friend asked whether I joined a fanatical Hindu militant organization VHP just by spotting a copy of Bhagavat Gita on my desk. There seems to be some kind of unsaid understanding where Hindus are supposed to be closeted about being Hindus in India. This may be because exposure to standard Indian education system originating from Macaulay.
· Editor’s response I think most Indians are proud to be considered secular. But now many Indians are saying that secularism does not mean refusal to take pride in one’s own religion, in this case Hinduism. Secularism means accepting the other fellow too has a right to be proud of his religion. Let us meet peacefully and discuss our religions; let us leave firm in our own belief but with the total conviction that each has the right to practice his belief without interference.
· When westerners talk of “Hindu nationalism”, they are confused in part because we Indians have not been too clear. Hindu nationalism is mainly nationalism, plain and simple. Westerners are not used to nationalistic Indians, because their experience of us – correctly – that we can be kicked around by everyone and his dog. No one is calling Russians or Americans “Christian nationalists”, because we all understand nationalism extends beyond religion. It is the same for us Indians. It is true that Modi’s party, the BJP, has long appropriated religious symbols to advance its nationalistic agenda. But all the BJP may be saying is that nationalism does not presuppose atheism. When I write this, I am aiming as much at American intellectuals who denigrate Christianity. Why cannot one be a patriotic AND religious American? It is the same with the BJP.
· Ask for a moment why the BJP has, from the start, embraced religious symbols. For nine hundred years Indians – which meant Hindus – were crushed by foreign oppressors. First by Muslims, then by Christians. Bad as the Christian oppression was – and contrary to the Anglo-centered view of Indian history the Christian oppression was neither benign or uplifting – it pales in comparison to the Muslim oppression which ravaged India, its culture, its religion, its history. The Mongols devastated Eastern Europe but they left. Central Asian and Turkish Muslims destroyed India and stayed behind to feast off India’s corpse.
· Am I saying Islam is wicked? Of course not. No religion is wicked, it is the way it is practiced. Jesus taught the way of peace and brotherly love, his followers for the better part of two millennia used his name to use violence against anyone who stood in their path. Obviously Christianity was not wicked, its practioners were. It is the same with Islam. Indeed, the Sufi version of Islam is possibly the most enlightened and humane religion in the world.
· When Independence came, Indian Muslims created an us-versus-them situation – I acknowledge many Indians leaders made mistakes here, but that did not justify the bloody Partition based on religion that was forced by Muslims. Indians, like the Hebrews, have very long memories. The atrocities committed by Muslims against Indians – including Muslims – are permanently etched in the collective consciousness of Indians. Partition only reinforced those bad memories. And worse, since 1947 Muslims now living in what is called Pakistan, have spent their time trying to hurt India. But even this is not all. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has hit India badly. And now Islamic fundamentalism has taken root in Bangladesh. For nearly seventy years foreign Muslims have been in a state of war with India.
· All that the so-called Hindu nationalists – I prefer the term nationalists with some on the Hinduvata fringe – are saying is: “Leave us alone. You have pushed us too far, too many times. We will not remain passive any more”. This doesn’t make Modi and his party Muslim haters. The BJP has ruled India before. What anti-Muslim actions did it take? None. And it turned out not to be particularly nationalistic either because honestly, us Indians tend to be passive. Nationalism requires asserting ourselves. We Indians would rather just see the day through peacefully, sleep in the assurance we will be alive tomorrow, live and let live. Peace toward all, ill-will toward none. That is real humanism.
· Please note I have said “Indians” and not “Hindus”. I believe I articulate what every Indian feels, regardless of his religion.
Thursday 0230 April 17, 2014
India’s Next Prime Minister
India’s Next Prime Minister
· A reader asks why we haven’t commented on India’s giant election and the next Indian prime minister. So here is our comment on the size of the election: India has 850-million voters, which is more than the entire OECD. That’s kind of obvious, given India at 1.2-billion people has more folks than OECD. What Editor finds interesting is that given the chaotic manner in which India functions, it is remarkable how smoothly its elections go. Doubtful they would meet the highly critical standards the American press demands of its country’s elections, but by any standard, remarkable for a country that consists of 1.2-billion anarchists and non-conformists. It’s worth noting that India has biometric ID cards for its population. Your data changes at age 15, otherwise, your card is valid for your lifetime.
· Okay, so what about our comments on India’s next Prime Minister? We do not have any, sorry about that. Why? Don’t know anything about the man or about Indian politics. Nonetheless, we can make a few general statements.
· First, there is this business about the next PM, Narinder Modi, being anti-Muslim. This is based on two factor: his party is not ashamed to stand up for India’s majority religion, Hinduism. If secularism means being ashamed of your heritage – and it means that among Indian intellectuals just as denigrating your heritage is a mark of American liberals – then Modi is not secular. In reality, Hinduism is a vast, sprawling house, which accommodates the most amazing differences. Everything one can say about Hinduism can be immediately contradicted five times over by other Hindus. Hinduism is a state of mind, it is not really a religion in the sense of Christianity or Islam, there is no one prophet, one book, or one doctrine. Hinduism is so broad a tent that many Indians have no trouble accepting Christ as an avatar of Indian gods – sorry if this offends more orthodox Christians, but that is the way of Hinduism.
· Next, Modi is charged with being communal based on events that took place in his state 12-years ago. If Editor has this right, Hindu pilgrims were returning from a visit to a temple that was erected on top of a demolished mosque. The train stopped at a railway station. Someone locked the door of the passenger carriages, and a Muslim mob set the train on fire. 60 Hindus died. In the resulting reaction by Hindus, it is said that 1000 Muslims died. Editor would be unsurprised if the figure was twice that – Government of India deliberately downplays riot deaths so as not to aggravate the situation. Modi is said to have encouraged this violence, given orders to the police to stand aside while Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods.
· The problem is that Modi was acquitted of involvement by the courts. Indian courts have no problem in finding the highest in the land guilty. You either believe in the rule of law or you don’t. If you do, you have to accept the courts’ verdict.
· As for the police standing aside, Editor needs to let readers in on a big secret. When big trouble erupts, Indian police make themselves scarce. They are neither numerous enough, or trained, or equipped, to take on Indian mobs. This is not like black folk burning downtown Detroit in 1968. This is like ten, twenty, thirty, fifty thousand people racing through narrow streets and alleys, mowing everything down in their past –including any policeman stupid enough to stand in the way. The only way you end a big Indian riot is to call in the Army, give shoot-to-kill orders, and let the Army do exactly that – it shoots to kill, and it kills in pretty large numbers that are never reported. Seeing hundreds of your fellow rioters shot down has a sobering effect on rioters. Especially as the Army starts combing through the neighborhoods and shoots anyone defying curfew. It is brutal. And it is only way South Asians can be handled when they go berserk. American cops are rightfully know to be very tough, aggressive, and belligerent. They wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance against an Indian mob.
· So what kind of leader will Modi make? Editor has no idea except to say governing 1.2-billion anarchists is never going to be easy. Modi and his party are definitely pro-business and pro-growth. But they are owned by vested interests, the same as any Indian party – and the same as American politicians. There are limits to what they can do. For example, Modi’s party is said to be the party of the small businessperson and small shopkeeper and small trader. It is natural these groups are protectionist and want to limit investment in India if it hurts them.
· One thing will not change. The acquisition of private land for public purpose is one of the biggest blocks to Indian growth. Because India is a land of law unlike China the Government cannot simply appropriate land. Those threatened will tie up the government for decades in court. It is not as if people are just determined to pull India down by refusing to sell their land. It is because they are almost universally short-changed by the Government , which needs to deliver cheap land to its interest groups. If Modi adopts a free market approach and makes business pay market price, this block can be broken. We are told, BTW, that market price often means $100,000 and up per acre for farm land. Modi comes from a state of entrepreneurs – Gujarat and neighboring Maharashtra have a record of relatively efficient government and this helps. During Modi’s 12 years, the state economy has grown by 10% compounded. We’re talking China here, considering all the obstacles the Center puts in the way of growth. Of course, people say Gujarat has been a top performer well before Modi came to office. This is true, but at least he comes from the right background if you want growth.
· Modi’s party considers itself tough on defense. Personally, we are dubious. To fund defense properly requires cutting the huge subsidies lives with – mostly these go to folks who are NOT the very poor. This is SOP in any country. Cutting subsidies is a sure way to cutting your political throat. Modi may be more open to cash payments, which generally have the benefit of going to folks who need them. Forward thinking Indian economists have estimates that cash payments would save 2/3rds of subsidy cost and free several GDP percentage points for defense and for infrastructure. Oddly, someone was telling us the same thing about America – that direct payments would cut 60% of America’s subsidy bill.
Wednesday 0230 GMT April 16, 2014
· India does not need 30% increase in defense spending to match China, but 300% We wish folks would consult us before making bizarre statements such as one by an Indian official saying India needs a 30% increase in defense spending to match China http://tinyurl.com/lpd8bxe Doubtless the official is well-meaning, but the 30% figure is pulled out of nowhere.
· Consider for a moment that China has a defense budget that will soon be four times that of India. In 2014, China’s budget is $131-billion, compared to India’s $36-billion. China’s budget is growing by 10% a year, India’s is actually falling as a percentage of GDP and likely not growing after inflation is accounted for. So by FY 2015, China-India should be at a 4-1 ratio.
· Now, it is true that China aspires to be a global power whereas India aspires to be a regional power. But – and this is a very big but – India has also to face Pakistan, which has one of the world’s largest army. India is first with 1.3-million (or approaching); China is next with 850,000; Pakistan is third with 700,000+ Editor’s estimate is that India needs to spend $100-billion/year to match China.
· Let’s take a few examples. India needs to go up to an army of 1.8-million for a true 2-front capability. Moreover, pay and allowances have to drastically increase to attract the high quality of officers and men (all three services have severe officer shortfalls) required by today’s military environment. This alone would likely take up the entire 30% the Indian official proposes.
· Look at fighter aircraft just as one example. India needs 30 squadrons worth of new fighters; some will be to start replacing the first Su-30 squadrons by 2010. Though the Indian Air Force uses a figure of 21 aircraft per squadron (16 first-line, 2 combat trainers, 3 wastage), at the very minimum 30 aircraft are needed to provide for 20-year peacetime attrition and war replacements. That’s 900 fighters. At $100-million dollars per fighter – likely a low-ball estimate, plus 125% for spares, ordnance, extra engines, mid-life rebuild and so on, we’re looking at $200-billion worth of fighters alone. Just this one item takes care of the 30% increase for 20-years. Indian GDP will grow, but the cost of major weapons systems escalates much faster than inflation. No mention of ground-based air defense, transports, airbase modernization and protection, tankers, ECM, ELINT, and recon
· India needs to replace darn near ALL its army equipment, including vehicles, helicopters, AFVs, air defense, Soldier 21st Century, artillery and so on. Then there has to be increases in number of tanks, IFVs, helicopters, UAV, net-centric warfare and so on. The Navy, to match China’s growing capability, needs 100 major warships by 2030. By major we mean 4,000-ton frigates and above, and frankly, anything smaller than 6,000-tons will very soon not qualify as capable. Are we done yet? No, just starting, actually. There are the strategic forces – what qualifies as minimum deterrent today will not as China’s warheads increase. There are ABM defenses, which will have to be extensive as India is about 1.4-million-square-miles. The border forces, including the Coast Guard, need to be completely reequipped. The border road and rail infrastructure needs to built.
· Consider helicopters. In today’s environment, it’s hard to see how a division can make do with less than 60 – 24 gunships, 6 light, and 30 troop carriers. This is particularly the case for India’s mountain forces, which include troops in Kashmir. China is certainly going to get to that figure by 2030 or so as it modernizes. For India that would mean a buy of 3000 helicopters including 33% for war and peace attrition. A nice gunship like the AH-64D likely costs about $100-million over 20-years, if not more. That’s $3-billion per division over 20-years. And India has lots of divisions, plus it needs more.
· The truth is that China, which already has an $8-trillion GDP compared to India’s $2-trillion, will likely have a $20-trillion GDP at some point in the 2030s, allowing for reduced growth. India will have perhaps $10-trillion GDP – you can debate all these figures; we are only doing a back-of-envelope for the sake of discussion. If China decides to spend 4% GDP on defense, which it will have to do to be the world’s number 1 power (though even then its overall capability may not exceed the US’s) by the 2030s its defense budget could be $800-billion. Nothing unreasonable about this; US spends 4% of its GDP on defense. India would have to spend $600-billion/year to stay even with China. That’s 6% of 2030s GDP.
Tuesday 0230 GMT April 15, 2014
· US deficit to fall to low 2.6% before expanding again to 4% says the Congressional Budget Office. In 2015 the deficit will be $469-billion. Then it will start increasing gain to hot $1-trillion by 2024. Mandatory programs such as social security, Medicare, and Medicaid will jump from 9.5% of GDP (2013) to 11.5% (2024). So it looks like it’s the good old entitlements again as the culprit. If Americans decide they want to live in a socialist nation, that’s fine with Editor. But for gosh sake’s, then raise taxes so we don’t run deficits and know what we actually pay for the entitlements. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/14/us-usa-healthcare-premiums-idUSBREA3D1KQ20140414
· Oh yes, please no one write in saying that the GOP is against entitlements. First, it supports entitlements for the rich as in the tax code; second, Republicans are as fond of Government handouts as Democrats. It’s got nothing to do with ideology. Suppose the Government man comes to your door with a check for $5,000, no obligation in return, free free free, is a Republican going to say no? Obviously not. Even Editor who advocates the ice floe theory for old folks will take that money.
· Meanwhile, even Robert Samuelson says he does not know what is the answer to the long-term unemployed problem. In fairness to Samuelson, we have to say it’s a credit that he is frankly saying he has no clue what to do about the unemployed, which seem to encompass a growing number of older persons. Nonetheless, what good are these economists if they cannot get solutions to basic problems? Samuelson writes for the Washington Post among other media, and is the son of the famous economist, Paul Samuelson. Another strike against Robert is that he graduated with a degree from that bastion of putrid blown-up egos, aka Harvard College. Editor has always wondered how much damage graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton have done to America. Would be interesting to do a study.
· Can readers stand it if Editor gives his own theory of what went wrong? When he was growing up in these parts, half-a-century ago, families had a decent middle-class standard of living with one family member working. People had secure retirements, so they sure were not looking for work in their sixties and seventies. Last, we didn’t have this giant inflow of immigrants. The capitalists first realized that if they could get more women into the labor force, the cost of labor would fall as supply expanded. Then when the majority of women were working, the capitalists got the bright idea of bringing in immigrants. Again the capitalists hit a plateau. Next step was globalization, which had Americans competing with folks that made $1-3/hour.
· The truth is that there are probably good jobs – which we define as those that give a middle-middle class living to a 1-earner family – for only half of the American work force. The rest of us have to take what work we can get at whatever the offered wage, which is obviously going to be low. It doesn’t have to be that way: the Australian, for example, have a prosperous country with a minimum wage of around US$15-16. When you add benefits, labor in Japan and Germany costs more than in the US, but they have no trouble running up huge export surpluses. Germany has a 5% unemployment (February 2014) to our 7%, but of course we don’t know what their U6 rate is. It may turn out our 13% is much higher than Germany’s. And they have a social safety net to reduce the hardship of people without work. Japan has an unemployment rate of 4%. And our 13% rate is artificially depressed because many people have simply dropped out from the labor force because they feel they will never get a job.
· The great news, folks, is the robotics revolution, much advertised for decades, is only now getting underway. There’s tens of millions more will lose their jobs in the next 20-years.
· Can capitalism survive? Will Marx turn out to be right? Can democracy survive?
Monday 0230 GMT April 14, 2014
· Ukraine Kiev has given rebels in the city of Slaviansk, Eastern Europe until today to disarm, or face military action. http://tinyurl.com/nwn8jg3 Russia says action would be criminal.
· Now, while we understand Moscow’s imperatives in keeping Ukraine as a buffer between itself and an expansionist NATO, we do wish Moscow could talk sense and speak rationally of its national interests. Instead, it seems to have adopted the hyper-moralistic style of the US. There is nothing to commend the US style, because when morality collides with US national interest, guess who loses. Hint: it is not the national interest. This leaves the US open to charges of hypocrisy, and the beating the US takes in the world serves only to diminish its reputation.
· Ditto for Russia. Here we have an empire created by force, and held together by force. We are not referring to the old USSR, but to Russia, which despite the divestments after 1990 still remains the world’s largest empire – ever. Look at what Russia is doing in the Caucuses, particularly Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingustia.
· A few thousand folks are staging the protests in East Ukraine, a good percentage of who are likely to be real Russians, as opposed to ethnic Russians who are Ukraine citizens. If you have money to spend, it is likely you could get a few thousand people together demanding independence or merger with another country in any US state. It’s difficult to take the protests seriously.
· So please, Russia, can the hypocrisy. Just say you require a demilitarized, neutral Ukraine, and you will go to war if you cannot have that. That will give NATO the message you want. It will work, too: it works in Finland. Or, at least it has for seventy years.
· PS to Russia: Editor supports your effort to crush the Islamic rebellions in your country. Last thing we in the west need is another bunch of independent Islamist states.
· Libya So the US work to overthrow Gaddafi and liberate Libya. The result three years on? Complete, total, utter chaos, gangsterism and violence run amok. There is no development, there is no peace, there is no justice. http://tinyurl.com/4h5wovr The US, at least, has the decency to avert its gaze and pretend Libya doesn’t exist. What else can you do when you are a leader in such a giant snafu?
· Libya should serve as a reminder to those who wanted the US to intervene in Syria. Actually, we think that some of the lesson might have sunk in. The appetite for a Syrian intervention has decreased in America. When the Americans realize there is nothing they can do to improve a situation, but can do much to make it far worse, we may optimistically assume that a new era is dawning.
· Sigh. Another brilliant idea for reforming K-12 education Why have Spring Break, asks a letter writer to the Washington Post. Why lose educational time? Besides, is it not better the kids are in school rather than lounging around at home?
· Well, Editor could say a lot at this point, but as he two finals and three term papers to hand in over Spring Break, he will decline on grounds to time. But he will ask the letter writers and others who might agree: is not 2-weeks paid vacation the standard for professionals? For teachers the 2-weeks are Christmas and Easter – sorry, Editor refuses to call it “Spring Break” and “Winter Break”, and go ahead and sue him.
· But about summer, many a person has asked Editor? Don’t you get 2-months off in the summer? Of course we do. But it isn’t a vacation. It’s a layoff without pay. So if you want to hold school during Easter Week, you should pay teachers double for that time, because they are working during vacation time.
· Hey, as far as Editor is concerned, he’s all for school 365-days a year. As a substitute, he gets paid only for days he works. Extend the school day by 4 hours, and pay time-and-a-half for the extra hours beyond 2000/year. That should make parents very happy, having their kids in school 12-hours a day. At which point someone will ask: are you nuts, you want to work 4400/hrs a year?
Friday 0230 April 11, 2014
Seems most of
what we know about teaching K-12 is wrong - surprise. Not.
- surprise. Not.
· Epistemology is the study of how do we know what we know. In K-12 education, it seems we think we know much, but actually know little. For example, we all know computers are critical to school learning. Except it turns out that computers do not contribute much. Then, we know that teacher centered education is bad, and student centered education is good. Except it turns out that teacher centered education delivers the best results.
· We learn this from Larry Cuban’s blog. http://tinyurl.com/m5msnh7 He taught for 14 years, was a superintended for seven, and has been a university professor for many years. He discusses research done by John Hattie at the University of Auckland. Hattie has, over the years, studied 200,000 studies, covering 50+ million students (Phew). His method of quantifying gain in student learning over a year is to put a standard deviation of 0.1 to mean the method had very little effect on student learning; whereas a deviation of 1 means almost a full-year jump in student learning.
· “To compare different classroom approaches shaped student learning, Hattie used the “typical” effect size (0.4) to mean that a practice reached the threshold of influence on student learning “. So here we go. Class size = 0.2, meaning the learning meter barely move. Direct teaching, where the teacher teaches and the students write notes and ask questions, given an effect of 0.6; teacher feedback = .7; teacher-directed verbalization strategies = 0.7; teaching meta-cognition strategies = 0.7. Teacher feedback includes grades, verbalization strategies include “repeat after me”.
· What about computers? Distance education was 0.1, again meaning no improvement worth mention; multimedia methods 0.2; programed instruction 0.2; computer-assisted education 0.4.
· In other words, toss the computer out, toss the “student-directed learning” strategies out; focus on the teacher doing things the old-fashioned way, and the needle moves significantly. How utterly boring. The latest casualty of this study will be the Common Core standards, which have been accepted by 45 states. Common Core is student-directed, meaning the teacher facilitates while students figure things out for themselves.
· Editor has spent the 2013-2014 school year with the Common Core curriculum for Algebra 1. Let him state straight off the Common Core is a lot of fun – if you already know Algebra 1 or are one of those super-bright students. But if you are just a typical student, falling 34% on either side of the mean, or worse a student who falls below 34% of the mean, student-directed learning is the assured way to failure. No evidence will change Common Core – at least not till the Next Big Fad In Education, because American education is driven by politics, not by research.
· What astonishes Editor is that education policy folks assume that – say – when a student comes to 9th Grade, he is at a 9th Grade level. In a lower-income school, s/he is most definitely not. Editor has had 12th Graders that cannot read at 6th Grade level. He has had Geometry students (10th Grade) who cannot do 6th Grade math. Forcing these students to digest material several grades more advanced destroys what little self-confidence they have.
· One of the biggest shortcomings of US K-12 education is that instead of teaching students a few things they can learn to do really well – the basics – we want to teach them a little of everything. Imagine training engineers, doctors, professors, lawyers in this fashion. You’d be laughed off the court.
Thursday 0230 GMT April 10, 2014
· Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial The trial will soon end; the accused is under cross-examination by the prosecutor. The defense says it is a case of mistaken identity, in that Mr. Pistorius thought an intruder was in the bathroom; he fired four shots before realizing his girlfriend was not in his bed. Through the trial, Mr. Pistorius has engaged in serious histrionics, including daily fits of weeping and throwing up. He seems to be trying to establish he loved his girlfriend so much, and is so upset at killing her, that he could not have killed her deliberately.
· We are unsure why anyone should think why the two separate facts are incompatible. It’s evident from the testimony and his behavior in court that the gentleman is highly emotional and unstable. He also seems to have a perverted love of guns. Why couldn’t he have killed her after flipping because he thought she was unfaithful and might leave him?
· What kind of man hears sounds from his bathroom, and without checking if it might be his girlfriend, bounds off his bed to fire four shots? And at that he lives in a high-security gated community. We don’t know what are South African laws on self-defense, but as far as we know British law is that you can only shoot if your life is in imminent danger. Thus, you cannot shoot a man who is running away, even if just a few moments earlier he was trying to kill you. A person running away is no longer a threat. Even if you think an intruder is in your house, you cannot a priori assume your life is in danger and shoot him. It may not be first-degree murder, but its murder. South African law may also draw on Dutch laws, not just British, in which case perhaps our assumption is wrong, and the accused is guilty only of manslaughter.
· Our point in bringing this up is that whether this was manslaughter or what in America might be called unpremeditated murder, what this young man has done is wrong. You cannot take the life of a woman because you are jealous.
· Another murder case in South Africa There is a second case in South Africa, involving a man and his new bride, honeymooning in South Africa. The man is of Indian origin, his wife is from Europe but also of Indian origin. His wife was killed in a so-called botched robbery attempt when their taxi strayed into a bad area. The problem is that the South African police caught the killers and they said the man had paid them to murder the woman. Why? No one is coming right out and saying this, but it appears the man’s sexual interest does not extend to women. Like most “good” Indian boys he could not come out to his parents when they arranged a marriage for him.
· Americans might find this scenario absurd. Indian parents, however, usually have a very strong influence on their children, and for all that the man was living in the UK, it is indeed possible he was frightened to tell his parents of his sexual preferences. But what possible reason is there to pay to have your new wife killed because you cannot face your parents? Oscar Pistorius did something heinous, but this Indian man has gone beyond heinous because what he did is not in the heat of the moment, but planned. What kind of human being is it who so lacks empathy for another human being that he would rather have her killed than quietly say to her, before the engagement, that he could not marry her? This man is a monster. South Africa has managed to extradite him to the country. And honestly, we hope he is executed.
· Indian parents can be quite a trip. Very recently, in the US, there have been two case where adult children have disappeared and the parents refuse to take any responsibility for the events. Instead they are blaming the police and everyone else they can, insisting their children were perfect.
· In the one case, a 20-year old girl had been lying to her parents that she was enrolled in college as per normal. On the last night she was known to be alive, she told her mother she was studying in the college library. It turns out that the dad may have given her a check for the fall term (or the whole year), but she did not enroll. This means for several months she was lying to her parents. She was found dead in her car, after having inhaled poisonous gas. The parents, instead of showing any introspection, say they are unhappy that the police did not work harder to find her. Well, she was of age, and the police cannot automatically file a missing person report because she has not returned home. Moreover, they did find her, except she had committed suicide. What is that would drive a child to lie to her parents about being in college when she was not and kill herself rather than face them? The answer and the fault lie with the parents, not the police.
· In the other case, a young man, apparently in college, disappeared on a vacation break. His body has not been found. What sense the police can make of the event is that there was an one-shore party, the young man ingested LSD, went into the water, and the rest needs no reconstructing. The boy’s mates all said they saw nothing or knew anything. The parents say how is this possible, that their son should disappear and none of approximately 20 people say they know nothing about it? And they maintain some is fishy because their boy did not do drugs. Might it occur to the parents that when potential witnesses either slip away quietly or tell the police they know nothing because they don’t want to get themselves into trouble? Do they think America is India and they, the parents, are so influential that the police must pick up the other young people and torture them until someone says something?
· As a schoolteacher, Editor has heard too many parents say: “Oh, I know everything my child does”, and “My child would never lie to me”, and “My child and I have such a great relationship s/he will always come to me if there is a problem”. Without exception, the parents are deluding themselves. Editor is no better: until his youngest went to college, even all through high school, Editor made sure the boy was never alone at home. Editor and his boy would talk about anything and everything. But there were certain things his boy felt he could not share, and Editor too was misled.
Wednesday 0230 GMT April 9, 2014
· Ukraine: Well, this is a surprise Ukraine government has sent troops to two cities who claimed they had become independent from Kiev and wanted to join Russia. Because Kiev was doing precisely nothing about this, we figured it would continue to do nothing. We were baffled by the declarations as only a few thousand people seemed to be involved in demonstrations leading to the declarations. These days, however, things are so topsy-turvy in Eastern Europe that to us it seemed conceivable Kiev would not intervene, a fake referendum would be held, and the Russians invited in. We thought that despite our analyses Russia would take no more of Ukraine, that Russia might just step in.
· So Kiev has been firm. Likely, it was encouraged by the lack of support for the separatists. We shouldn’t be deceived by maps that show Eastern Ukraine as having sizeable Russian speaking minorities. A lot of folk may not want to join Russia even if Russian is their primary language.
· Also, Russia kind of put a damper on things when a Russian official said that Moscow could not send peacekeeping troops to eastern Ukraine without UN authorization. Which, of course, is not going to happen. So, you may ask, where was the UN authorization for Crimea? Two things. Crimea is Russian majority. And the Russians have key bases in that country, access to which might be lost if Ukraine is sucked up by the west.
· But, as they say, stay tuned. Its possible many more dramas will take place before this matter is settled one way or the other.
· Reverend Al Sharpton an FBI confidential information for 30 years we’re unsure what to make of this news. http://tinyurl.com/lw9vggv On the one hand, we dislike hypocrites, and the good Rev certainly qualified as one even before this news. On the other hand, using Freedom Of Information Act to get details sufficient to identify the CI is not just dangerous for the CI, it is a breach of trust on the part of the Government. And no, the public’s “right to know” – which usually means the media’s “right to make money, public be darned” – does not trump the CI’s rights and safety. Particularly as the Rev was taping conversations with a Mafia family.
· The FBI, as is often the case, caught the Rev having conversations 30 years ago with an undercover federale about making cocaine available. The federales suborned him into cooperating. No sympathy from us regarding the suborning. If you don’t want to be forced into doing something you don’t want to do, better you don’t discuss supplying cocaine to a federale.
· Everyone will have questions about this. Some will ask if the Rev was paid. Normally CIs are paid. Others wonder if the Rev’s popularity with the Prez and Mrs. Prez will take a hit: will he banished from the royal presence and the palace? Our question is, what other subjects might the Rev have been informing on.
· Look at the irony. Rev. Sharpton has made an entire career bashing the White Man. And for 30 years he has worked for the same White Man in clandestine fashion. It isn’t just people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. As a general principle its best not to throw stones at anyone, because who knows when your time to be judged comes.
Tuesday 0230 GMT April 8, 2014
· Before we comment, we need to list a long list of caveats. This is not a screed against the President. Broader health care coverage has been a goal of both political parties for at least two decades; the argument has been what form is best and who is to pay for it. Insofar as Obamacare channels tax dollars to the private sector, the GOP needs to stop playing silly buggers and admit it has won a huge victory. GOP has no problems with government giving for-profit sector tax dollars for K-12 education and social security retirement, so why precisely is GOP complaining about getting tax dollars for private sector to provide health care? When the man is doing what you want, and you are still screeching like a vulture forcibly separated from its meal, you are not acting rational.
· Editor accepts the need for universal health care, the US being the only developed nation without. Editor does not accept the way Mr. Obama has structure his plan, because Editor wants a minimum plan for the uninsured, and those who want better care can pay a premium.
· Editor accepts government figures of 7-million newly insured. He accepts that opponents saying 6-million lost their insurance so there is almost no net gain are plain wrong – and they know it. Most of the 6-million lost their plans because the Government deemed them inadequate; they are enrolled in better plans. So there is a big net gain.
· Editor accepts the people want health care for the uninsured because who in their right mind is going to reject a critically needed good when the government is picking up 80% (or whatever) of the cost. He accepts Obamacare is not going to be repealed, either in the courts at the polls. When the GOP has made 50 attempts to repeal, and failed in each one, and insists it is going to keep trying, all we can say is, these folks badly need medication and a lot of it. If you or I repeated something 50 times believing we are assured of victory, we’d be taken off by the little men in white coats and not seen again.
· So why is Editor saying Obamacare is a failure?
· Reason One: forcing people to give up plans they were satisfied with for what some politicians and bureaucrats consider these people’s better good is Nanny Statism run amok. It is totalitarian, not democratic. If I choose insurance that suits me but is less than optimal, I should be left alone to pay the consequences. Also, we are told 1-million of those who lost coverage have no gotten any new coverage. Also, people were supposed to keep their own doctors if they wanted. So what we get is lie piled on lie piled on lie. Goodbye US Constitution, hello Stalin and Mao and Hitler.
· Reason Two: no one has told us how the additional subsidies for health care are going to be paid. All we’ve been told is “Trust us, we will make enough savings from existing, inefficient health care to pay for the new subsidies.” Excuse us, please, but is the government saying it will be more efficient than the private sector? Har De Har Har. Now, a priori there is no reason why the government cannot be more efficient – Medicare, a huge, huge program, is run at less cost than anything the private sector can manage. Also, we accept the US health care system is a dark morass of inefficiency. Americans pay twice as much per capita and get worse outcomes than the other developed countries.
· But the reason it is this way is that these inefficiencies are actually profits for many companies. You can’t call a system inefficient when it is designed for a particular purpose and is most excellently delivering on that purpose. The government cannot get health care costs down because politicians need money to get elected, and health care folks are giving that money to the politicians. Besides which, no one is pretending that expanded Medicare – which has insured 3-million people – will do anything except cost more. If government expenses go up, so should taxes. We have not heard any calls to raise taxes to pay for the additional health care.
· Last, after adding tens of billions to public exchequer’s out-go, almost certainly to be paid for by deficit financing, Obamacare has managed only to get the number of uninsured down to where it was when Mr. Obama was first elected, in 2008. See http://tinyurl.com/lo2a4dz and then tell us how Obamacare can be said to have succeeded.
Monday 0230 GMT April 7, 2014
· Phew! Income equality is a natural condition of capitalism So we can all stop worrying about growing income inequality unless one does not like capitalism. This discovery, is by economist Thomas Piketty in “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”. The reason Editor is going “Phew” is that like many, he has been bugged by growing income inequality in the US and takes it as an another sign that The End Is Near. Piketty, however, has studied tax returns in Britain and France going back about 250-years, and every major capitalist nation going back 100 years. He finds that the lot of the general population improves by 1% a year, whereas that of the rich capital holders improves by 4-5% year. So wealth becomes increasingly concentrated. Before the Industrial Revolution, wealth in the hands of a very few was the norm anyway. This did not change even after that.
· In the 20th Century there were five things happened to reduce inequality. The two world wars and the Great Depression wrecked European and American fortunes. After the Depression, governments stepped in with the New Deal and social democracy. And high productivity – presumably Piketty refers to 1945-80 – resulted in more money for all of us.
· In the 1980 policies pursued by Thatcher and Reagan began to increase inequality again. Someone reminds us not to omit Clinton from this tally. Following the dictates of Treasury Secretary Rubin, who came from Wall Street and unashamedly pushed his class interests, the US deregulated the financial sector. As we all know, it is the colossal wealth gains of the financial sectors that have made the US very rich even richer.
· So what is the solution? Piketty’s solution of more government intervention does not make Editor, at least, too happy. It may not even be feasible because the rich, regardless of their politics, already own the Government. With the Supreme Court recently all but destroying campaign contribution limits, fairly soon one hundreds families will own the government. Theoretically at the polls a homeless, unemployed man’s vote counts as much as that of Soros or each of the Koch brothers. In actuality, media shapes American reality. Sure, the candidate with a million to spend can win against the candidate who has ten or a hundred million. But its not an equal probability in real life. So Editor does not see Government straightening out anything in favor of the little people – which is become not the 99%, but the 99.9%.
· Editor is now off to his garage to look at his pitchfork. It needs to be cleaned of rust and nicely oiled. We should all look after our tools, should we not? Pitchforks are tools. If massive income inequality is the result of capitalism, and of capitalism works better than any other economic system, and if the process is natural, the only way to change things is via another natural process. This one is called revolution.
· On the other hand, the super-capitalists will soon figure out Editor’s weak point. Chocolate. If they leave at his door 360 bars of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate every year, permitting Editor to triple his chocolate consumption, you can take it for granted Editor will not be leading any revolutions. He will be sitting on couch, happily zoned out. Sorry about that.
· From reader Herman Danzi on scantily dressed women There is a simple way of dealing with your problem: If you are offended, don’t look. You seem not to have visited your home country lately. Traditional women’s dress leaves very little to the imagination from the waist up. From the waist down the women frequently dress very tightly – also leaving little to the imagination. Indian movies, print advertisements, and web sites universally depict women in soft pornographic ways. Yet you criticize western women. This seems hypocritical.
Editor’s response Reader
Danzi misunderstands us. Editor is old but not yet dead – to the
best of his knowledge. He appreciates scantily clad ladies as much
as the next person. And of course if one is offended one need not
look. Editor was simply complaining about Rhapsody Internet Music
flashing him when he is listening to the music that interests him.
And yes, Editor has not been back to India in the last 25-years.
Accordingly, he doesn’t have to deal with the way Indian women dress
– or not dress as the case might be .
Friday 0230 GMT April 4, 2014
· Department of Irony: Ft. Hood, Again The nation against witnessed the unedifying sight of soldiers at one of America’s largest military bases calling 911 for the police, cowering in place, or running for their lives. The cause: an Iraq War veteran who is said to have had mental problems. He killed three and wounded 16, and killed himself after being engaged by military police.
· Our non-American readers will say: “Wait a minute – at a base with 42,000 soldiers no one but the assailant had a gun?” For practical purposes, this is the case. Firearms cannot be carried. We’re unsure about the position pertaining to the MPs and sentries. The reason for the ban is an early 1990s fear that soldiers would go “postal” and shoot up colleagues, as had happened at workplaces including those of the US Postal Service.
· So the assailant had a gun, purchased at an off-base civilian store – the same store used by the jihadi shooter of 2009 who killed 13 and wounded 30. If we recall right, at that affair the first responders were a police SWAT team, not the military.
· We know at this point our gun-control friends will say: “Well, this just proves the need for tight restrictions on guns.” At which point our 2nd Amendment friends (and Editor) will say “gun control means the bad guys will have guns, the good guys will be helpless.” Then the gun-control advocates will say: “This was tragic, but it could have gotten much worse if everyone had pulled out their guns and started a shooting match with the soldier.” Problem is, we do not know that the outcome could have been worse. We do know that without guns to defend themselves, the soldiers became victims.
· Crimea and the Russian Navy Somehow in the last month writing about the Ukraine-Russia crisis, we have forgotten to even once mention how important it is for the Russian Navy to have full control of the Black Sea and to occupy the naval base at Sevastopol. This is critical for Russian access to the Mediterranean. Without the access, the Russian Bear is confined to land on his southern flank. Which is where he should be confined as far as we are concerned. But then no one pays us any attention.
· Did we hear someone mumble “Odessa”? Good point. The Russians also need Odessa. And they also need land access to the Crimea. So does this mean Editor has reconsidered his position that Russia is not going to invade more of Ukraine, at least for now? No. He still believes Russia will not use overt military force right now. We had mentioned the purpose of the Russian buildup is now to make Ukraine rethink its plans for hugging the west. The Russians may also offer “concessions” to Ukraine in exchange for land access to the Crimea. All we are asking is that if NATO is really thinking of going into Ukraine, it should avoid a “Tiptoeing Through The Tulips” approach. Go in in full recognition that we are advancing into the Grouchy Bear’s play space. It is never a good idea to aggravate Grouchy Bears while armed with limp dandelions. Go with a force capable of defending itself and Ukraine. Otherwise stay home.
· Americans, the Big Fat Liars, Again We have from time to time commented on the American way of lying, which is fundamentally dishonest. Other folks lie, they know they are lying, and if you challenge the, they will acknowledge they are liars. Americans lie while convinced they are the most truthful people in the world, then get very angry when other folks accuse them of lying. Here we give another example of America At It, Bare Naked Liars.
· So we are watching a BBC video story about the US sending 10 F-15s to the Baltics. Naturally the first question we ask ourselves is: is this a reinforcement to the six sent earlier or a rotation that will slightly increase the force? We don’t know the answer yet. Then we notice one of the jets has the air base identification “LH”, and we wonder, which US airbase uses “LH”? Okay, so we haven’t updated ourselves on tail codes in a long while, but LH makes no sense. One of the pilots has a jacket patch for 493rd Fighter Squadron. That’s easy, Google and you shall receive the information 493 TFS is part of 48th Fighter Wing. Which as anyone knows is at Lakenheath, UK, for decades.
· So this is no reinforcement. It is a shift forward of assets already in Western Europe. Reinforcement means the aircraft should come from bases outside Europe. So then a suspicious Editor decides to learn where the 12 F-16s recently sent to Poland come from. Surprise: they are from Aviano, Italy, which last we heard is also part of Europe. We have already noted that the bold land/sea exercises the US plans with Ukraine as a response to the Crimea invasion are simply part of an annual series that goes back 15-years and involves a few hundred soldiers/sailors.
Thursday 0230 GMT April 3, 2014
· Another day, another disaster First Editor learns he is not making $135/day as a certified substitute teacher, he’s making $125. May not sound like much of a difference, but after taxes that’s $1000/year, which makes a huge difference. Then Editor arrives home and there is a polite notice from IRS, saying that Editor did not enter 50% of his social security as income for 2012 and now owes $665 in taxes. Well, Editor did his taxes on E-File, recommended by IRS. So what does he do now, go to Small Claims and sue E-File for $665? The joy never ends, because the same problem is going to come up on the 2013 return, where instead of getting $700 refund, Editor will be lucky to get $200.
· But wait: there is even more joy to report. Car tailpipe was rattling, Editor figured it was loose. He hied over to the trusty mechanic. Trust mechanic informs (a) the entire muffler assembly is rusted, the tailpipe was rattling because rust had eaten through and the next pothole Editor hit would have broken off the tailpipe; BTW, muffler assembly was replaced three years ago; (b) engine head gasket is leaking; (c) brakes are shot; (d) bunch of other stuff not worth mentioning because its less than $100 an item. Total bill: $1700 after old valued customer discount.
· So, Oh Mama, Can This Really Be The End? Apparently not, because earlier in the month the furnace stopped working. If you recall, it was a bit on the cold size. Oil tank is empty. Okay, you say, oil tanks do get empty, why the shock and awe? Because just three weeks ago Editor had filled it to the top, $1000 with taxes for 200-gallons of heating oil. In cold weather, the tank should have run 8 weeks, not three. So the mechanic arrives and charges $164. To fix the furnace? No. To put 10-gallons of heating oil until the tanker arrives a couple of days arrives. The tanker delivers a full tank, 200-gallons. Another $1000. Editor happened to be in the yesterdaybasement. Even with the warm weather of the last ten days, 3/4s of the tank was empty. Editor called the oil company. Were they interested to work out the problem? Of course not. Total disinterest because they are selling more oil. Oil company helpfully says the fuel gauge must be bust, $176 to replace. Editor says gauge is working fine because tapping the tank shows it is mostly empty. Can’t help you says oil company. We suggest a new furnace, we have a cheap type for $3000 installed, and we can put it on monthly payment. Thank you, says Editor, you may have notice that I have been paying off the excess oil used on installments, I’ll have that paid off by December. True, says company. We’ll install the furnace then. Editor says “then I won’t have money to fill the tank. Oil company goes “Ha ha” in that “oh, you’re such a kidder” way. Editor says “I am not kidding, I have proof I am the 10th poorest homeowner in the City of Takoma Park. If you’re really poor and a senior citizen they come and trim your yard for free to protect property values on the street, and I am on that program.” Oil company is laughing so hard that my phone line is snorting like a steam kettle about to erupt.
· Just another month in America. Before you go “Hey, we’d like a deal where the city comes to trim our yard for free,” Editor must hasten to mention that his city levies 50% extra tax above and beyond the county. It provides great service for that extra money, but an extra $2000/year is not a joke. So, you ask, did nothing good happen this past month? Sure it did. School has been extended by two days due to an excess of snow closings. Editor is 100% sure to get work for both days because thousands of teachers who have already made plans are simply going to take leave. So instead of losing $1250 gross for the ten missing school days on account of snow, Editor will now lose only $1000.
· See, if Editor were a citizen, he’d be busy organizing the Revolution. But it’s different for him and you. You were born here. So have a right to revolt. Editor came as a guest, his own choice. Even though he pays taxes same as you, he does not have a moral right to revolt. Leaving aside the reality that your residency permit can be cancelled and you can be deported if you get convicted of a crime with more than 365-days sentence – doesn’t matter if it is a non-violent offence or if the entire sentence is suspended you spend a day in jail. Sure, if you have no family in your country of origin and your whole family is here, you can appeal. You likely will be accepted. But there’s no assurance.
· What’s aggravating about all the mess Editor continually finds himself in is that he cannot get a job except as Wall Mart greeter on account of age. People have told him, okay, so forget about teaching and get a job doing something else. Well, Editor is qualified as an academic and as a teacher. He became a teacher because he couldn’t get an academic job. That was more than 20-years ago when he was turning 50. So he’s going to get a job when he’s turning 70? Doesn’t seem likely. And incidentally his friends in academia have been trying to get him a job for all these years, without success.
· Does all this moaning and groaning and whining mean Editor is backing off on his schtick about every American has to be self-sufficient and if you cannot make it, just have the decency to die quietly? Not at all. Editor came back here for many reasons including reunifying the family and giving the family the opportunity for a better life. That has worked out excellently. While undoubtedly helped by Editor, through her own efforts Mrs. R. IV has made a successful life for herself as teacher. Her pension, social security, 403 will give her the same money on retirement as she earns now. Junior makes a low six-figure income as a software engineer at a job that pays less but doesn’t require him to work insane hours. Eldest has a respectable job with the Federales. Okay, he makes a third of what he would in the private sector. But he’s proud to serve his country, and Editor is proud he has chosen the public sector. Mrs. R IV, of course, decided to leave the year she was paid enough to maintain her own household, but that is the breaks.
Wednesday 0230 GMT April 2, 2014
· Vlad the Bad for Saturday Nite Live? We don’t know if President Putin has received an offer, but we, at least, think he would make a great comedian. Yesterday we mentioned that Mr. Putin had announced the withdrawal of some troops from the Ukraine border. He did this to try and persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he is a peaceful guy and she should go kissy-faces with him. So we figured the troops have been in the field for many weeks, some probably for months, and they need relief. The real test would come if the troops were replaced at some point. Then we learned that Vlad the Bad has withdrawn one battalion. We do not know what type. Russian battalions used to be 2-400 men, we suspect in the rebuilt army they may be bigger, but at any rate it is likely the battalion represents at most 1% of the troops that are giving the EU/NATO dyspepsia.
· Meanwhile, the Ukraine parliament approved 235-0 a series of exercises with NATO members including Poland, Rumania, the US, and Moldovia. We were prepared to be mildly impressed with the US, although dubious, given American wimpiness of late. That we checked and found that one exercise, Sea Breeze, is a multinational training in the Black Sea, and has been conducted for 16 years http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=75504 . To quote the US Navy on the 2013 exercises, “This year's participants included Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and U.S., along with France, Libya, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, as observers.” Libya as an observer? What was the US doing, trolling the main drag and offering ten bucks to anyone who would join the exercise?
· The land version, called Rapid Trident, ran for the eleventh time in 2013; in 1998-2002 it was called Peace Shield. http://www.eur.army.mil/news/2013/20130719_RapidTrident_closes.html The following participated: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the U.S. . Serbia, really? This massive multinational exercise involved 1300 soldiers, with countries contributing individual platoons, which were formed into a battalion. That must have really scared the Russians, a whole battalion made up of individual national platoons. So what next, the 2014 exercise will have soldiers from 40 nations each contributing a rifle squad? Is it too much to ask the US to have some dignity and forgo staging public relations exercises in favor of real exercises?
· This exercise thing is just another example of the US/EU/NATO limp wrist posture. Of course, the hand attached to the limp wrist holds a lady’s lace hanky, but who is going to get scared by that? It all sounds so ferocious: Exercises to be held in Ukraine. Ooooh, we all go, the US is so strong, so tough, so macho. But if you read between the lines, what the west is defiantly really saying is: “We aren’t going to cancel exercises we’ve been holding for the last 15 years just because the Russians are on Ukraine’s border.” Ooooh, the US is so strong, so tough, so macho. Now please excuse us while we barf our guts out on the highly polished shoes of the US national security establishment. This reminds Editor of an American friend who used to admire himself in the mirror, casually pull out a pair of shades, and go: “I’m so good looking I blind myself.” He, at least, was joking. These “exercises” blind the US with its good looks, and the US is not joking.
Tuesday 0230 GMT April 1, 2014
· Dear Rhapsody Internet Music, please keep your naked ladies off my screen Just to be clear: Editor is a curmudgeon and he is reaching the age when describing him as a “senior citizen” is to put lipstick on a pig, because the only way to describe him is “old”. Last he heard, however, he is not dead. At least he thinks he is not dead. With all this talk about the universe being a computer game, maybe he is dead but the instructions have not yet reached him yet because the part of the universal internet that controls him is jammed up due to a Denial Of Service attack or something. After all, who knows how the universe really works. Or if it even works. Maybe a perfect universe contains nothing, because anything can distort perfection. Maybe we have a terribly messed up universe where the gamer saw everything getting of control, and went off to play another game without deleting this one. So it just gets more messed up with each passing 10 raised to the power minus 43 second, or Planck time. That is supposed to be the shortest possible measureable length of time. Anyway, Editor is wandering off again.
· Editor was saying he appreciates naked ladies as much as the next old guy. Don’t young men appreciate naked ladies, you may want to ask? Of course they do. But in a different way. Young men can actually express their appreciation in – um – tactile ways. Us old guys can only express with words or grunts or eye-blinking or silently expiring of a heart attack, if you understand what Editor means. Editor has the same reaction to naked ladies real or in photographs as young people, which is “Surely your mother did not let you out of the house without proper warm clothes”, followed by attempts to find a German Army greatcoat to get the naked ladies warm again.
· So before you can understand Editor’s objection to Rhapsody, the question must be answered: why is Editor listening to Rhapsody. To listen to (1) sacred music; (2) gospel; (3) classical music; (4) arias; and (5) American folk . If you have the Rhapsody window open, for example, while you are waiting for one item on you playlist so finish so you can skip to another, the music service advertises its new albums by scrolling the latest six covers in a loop. One would think that Rhapsody is intelligent enough to give the user albums in the genres to which he listens. After all, you have only to fart and Google will flash a message: “You need to go poopy in 6-minutes and 18-seconds, be sure to have precisely 15 sheets of toilet paper of (advertised brand) handy”.
· Then people complain about US NSA’s intrusion into our private lives. All NSA is interested in is messages like: “I have arranged for the Bird of Paradise to drop a load on the President as he speaks in the Rose Garden.” Then the NSA triggers several alerts. One causes a robot to arrive where the Secret Service is passed out to administer injections to neutralize the hard stuff that the SS has been imbibing all night. Another robot arm simultaneously puts money in the SS’s wallet so they can pay the – er – ladies of flexible virtue their fees and leave unmolested. As reserve, another robot arrives to open an umbrella to protect the President. Occasionally NSA fails to appreciate the Bird of Paradise has actually deposited its load in the umbrella and folded it neatly ready for the robot to pick it up. But one can only aim for perfection, one can never achieve it. If one could achieve perfection, then obviously it isn’t perfect. The NSA also dispatches SEAL Team Square Root 6 to get you, no matter where you are hiding. Square Root 6 is, by the way, an irrational number, which opens up many debates, but they are highly classified, as is the existence of SEAL Team Square Root 6. By the way, don’t waste your time asking Jay-Sock to confirm the existence of this team. They will admit only to the existence of SEAL Team Integer 6.
· This team arrives at its target and proceeds to dress the wanted terrorist in a pink tutu, at which point the terrorist’s colleagues all die laughing because their idol has not shaved his legs. The terrorist then kills himself for shame. This is called real precision attack without collateral damage. Except for the team members who are passed out because the terrorist leader hasn’t had a bath in six years, but that is another story. Collateral damage doesn’t count casualties to own side. But we digress.
· Our point is at least NSA is not telling you to make sure you have 15 sheets of toilet paper, as Google does. The real shame is when Google says: “You are about to make a poopy in 6 minutes and 18 seconds, but don’t bother with any sheets of toilet paper because you won’t succeed since you didn’t eat (advertised bran fiber cereal)”. That’s pretty intrusive.
· So Editor will have the Rhapsody window open, and a picture of a lady dressed in a transparent shift that ends to her belly button and nothing else. This lady is called Kylie Minestrone – odd sort of name. The photog wants her to look like she is pouting in sultry fashion, but you quickly realize she is in pain because the photog has posed just where her hemorrhoids will hurt the most. This kind of ruins your appreciation of “Shalfendes Jesukind”. Then you are listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Holy art thou” and up pops an album cover with someone called Kriman who wears a coat that covers her shoulders and nothing else. This is pretty upsetting. It would be far better the young lady covered up everything else but her shoulders. Back in Editor’s day, bare shoulders could really get a guy drooling. When was this day? To explain, Editor would have to tell you how old he really is, and then you would be so devastated you’d shoot yourself. Once, during Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in G, Editor was flashed with a picture of someone called Shikara. This puzzled rather than appalled, because everyone knows shikaras are Kashmiri boats that ply lakes, and they’re quite well-covered up, thank you. This Shikara person certainly did not look like a boat. Maybe there is some deep symbolizing here…
Monday 0230 GMT March 31, 2014
· Russia will not invade Ukraine We normally do not make categorical predictions for obvious reasons. This time, however, we can assure readers there will be no invasion of Ukraine. Our source of information? Vlad the Bad. Have we lost our minds? No.
· Vlad the Bad Boy has no reason to invade Ukraine. He simply does not want it to join the west. If you accept balance-of-power theory instead of being ideologically driven (as is Editor in common with most Americans) you have to accept that Russia’s determination to keep Ukraine as a friendly buffer between itself and Europe is quite reasonable. By friendly we mean a compliant government, which is what Russia had before the recent “revolution”. (We have to use quotes because there are lot of questions about if this was really a people’s revolt, as opposed to special interests using the people. Of course, you could say all people’s revolts are actually fronts for special interests. But if the choice I between democratic and authoritarian special interests, obvious we Americans should favor the first.
· If Russia invaded after multiple assurances it will not, Mr. Putin’s credibility would be destroyed. Credibility is important, even for tyrants. Expansionist powers are not prone to lie needlessly. Hitler and Stalin in the past, and modern imperial China today, did not/do not tell fat fibs for no reason. They make it clear they are claiming X, Y, or Z, and they will get X, Y, or Z.
· Who the question “why would Putin tell the truth?” has to countered with “Why would Putin lie when he hasn’t so far?”. Behind his “I will not invade Ukraine” lies a not-so-subtle threat “But I can and I will if you, NATO/EU, don’t cooperate”. That is not lying because he is not saying piously “I will never invade Ukraine.” In global affairs best never to say never.
· So far the west is giving him no reason to carry out his threat. The west has not moved troops into Ukraine and has no intention of so doing. Indeed, one of our readers pointed out to us the other day that NATO’s rules on not incorporating countries with territorial disputes preclude Ukraine from joining NATO. These rules are reasonable, because no one wants a new ally that then drags you into a war. That’s so 1914, if you get our drift.
· The other problems is that it’s fine to talk about Eastern Ukraine’s ethnic Russians, but there not a whole lot of them. Before Crimea was taken by Putin, 17% of the population of Ukraine was Russian. Now it would be a bit less, since 1.5-million Russians in Crimea have gone to Russians, say about 16%. Now that could still be significant if the Ukraine population was divided between many ethnicities, such as is the case for Transdenistra. But almost 80% of Ukraine is, well, Ukranian. At best Putin could grab a few eastern counties if he used the ethnic card (we are using the term counties to provide a US comparable measure). Without a proper ethnographic map, it is hard to say if these counties are co-terminal to Russia. It is not much use if the city of Donetsk, for example, says it wants to join Russia but there is no clear geographical access to the city. We don’t think the Russians want to get into a reverse Berlin 1945-1990 situation.
· There are other reasons the game may not be worth the wager. Taking a bit of Eastern Ukraine is not much help if Finland and Sweden join an anti-Russia alliance. Hough both nations have been talking about NATO as a possibility, the High North alliance is also under debate. Of the four High North alliance – five if you want to include Iceland – two are NATO members. Sweden and Finland were, along with Yugoslavia and Switzerland, active proponents of the citizen army. The three West European states each could mobilized 600,000 to 750,000 troops in emergency. True Finland and Sweden have gone squishy like all of the western nations, US included. But even 150,000 wartime strengths for each, backed by a few brigades from Norway and Denmark (it would have to be a few, because even after mobilization these days there will be no more than 3-4 available – but then not many are required).
· Something new from Area 51? A great mystery is why Area 51 has not produced any new aircraft in recent years. As Bill Sweetman, the famous air correspondent, notes in http://tinyurl.com/lfwrv9l it seems the US stealth aircraft machine factory has been going full blast for years but nary a sighting of an actual product.
Friday 0230 GMT March 28, 2014
· The Poltroons, Morons, and Idiots strike again Your national security elite at work messing up further: http://t.co/Wv1T4Tcr3G This New York Times story tells how several AQ fighters and mid-level officers have left Pakistan for Syria.
· So let’s just run through this again, to refresh memory. We have AQ, an extreme Islamist group which originates in Saudi Arabia. Being our terrifically loyal ally, Saudi makes a deal with AQ and other anti-Saudi groups: do your thing outside the country, and we will even support you. Where ever we look, we see Saudis arriving with suitcases of money for extremist groups. Saudi, of course, supports AQ and other extreme interpretations of Islam – just not at home. What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. So here we have Saudi funding a global war not just against the west, but also against South Asia, Southeast Asia, North/West/East Africa, and the Middle East.
· Are we bombing Saudi Arabia? Are we invading to overthrow this deadly regime of which we are a sworn enemy? No. We are smooching Saudi butt in a refined manner only the American elite can master. The stink doesn’t bother our elite. Doubtless it would get along well with desert camels.
· Instead we spend our time chasing Saudi’s ground troops from one country to another. We chased them out of East Africa and they went to Afghanistan. We chased them out of Afghanistan. We chased them out of Afghanistan and they went to Pakistan. We attacked them in Pakistan, they established themselves in Somalia, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria and then in Syria. So what exactly is it we have achieved after 13 years of war against AQ and various other nasty people?
· Well, we killed the ideologue who is said to have created AQ, a certain Mr. Osama Bin Laden. That’s cost us only a trillion or more dollars. There have been no attacks worth mention on the US mainland. How much that has cost Editor does not know, but he won’t be surprised if that’s another trillion dollars so. But has anyone noticed that the World Trade Center attack was a one-trick pony? Osama doubtless gave his blessing and probably a few tens of thousands of dollars to the organizers, as he has also given relatively small sums of money to many operations. But to say he is the man behind the 9/11 attacks is to deliberately lie to the American people.
· He neither originated, organized, or managed the attacks. In fact, he didn’t claim responsibility for two years, after the US repeatedly said he was The Man. Has anyone in the US Government ever explained why this alleged mastermind would not immediately start boasting about the most successful attack every made against the US? Pearl Harbor saw only 2400 US dead, by comparison.
· Now, while the US and mostly Europe has been safe from attack (with the exception of the Madrid 2004 bombings which left 190 dead and was claimed by AQ), the threat from AQ and other Islamist groups is growing. You have only to look at Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq to understand that jihad is spreading. Hundreds if not thousands of these jihadis are white Europeans. There are also thousands of Russian Islamists who are white. It seems to Editor just a matter of time before these chickens come home to roost.
· Basic military doctrine requires striking at the enemy’s heart, not nibbling at his peripheries. US/West should be working on destroying the Saudi regime and independent terror actors like Qatar (another American Best Friend Forever). We have heard all the arguments about how to attack these countries will wreck global economies because of the loss of up to 15-million barrels/day of output. And think of the whacking great losses to Western oil companies and their shareholders. All these arguments are bogus.
· For example, one trillion dollars of US/European taxpayer money used as capital could be leveraged into three trillion dollars of new power producing sources such as North American/European oil, gas, and nuclear. We haven’t done the calculations, but figure that should be enough to offset half of the 15-million bbl/day of lost Mideast output – which would last only a few years until the oil infrastructure is rebuilt. What about the other half? Well, Japan and the EU have a GDP of $22-trillion. They can pitch in.
· After a 10-year program of building alternate sources we could go in and destroy the rotten heart of the New Evil Empire. BTW, it won’t escape anyone’s notice that for 3-trillion dollars US can probably build 15-million bbl/day of new oil/gas capacity and replace Saudi Arabia and its like-minded terror friends entirely. We’re assuming $200,000 capital costs per barrel. US has several trillion barrels of shale oil and gas. Sure despite best efforts there will be environmental damage. Will it be the same as a 2, 3, or 5 nuclear warheads placed in US cities by these crazies? It won’t happen in 2020. But by 2030? Do we want to take that risk?
Thursday 0230 GMT March 27, 2014
· Big Day: Editor accepts he is crazy People having been saying so since his pre-teen years. Editor merely smiled and marched on, convinced everyone else was crazy and not he. Today was a big day for Editor: he realized, and accepted, everyone is right and not him. Has the Truth Made Him Free? Hardly. He feels a bit sick to his stomach but that likely is the usual every-2-month attack of bronchitis he has endured, also since pre-teen days. But after all these decades, what alternative is there except to continue course, Bashing On Regardless, so as to speak?
· The specific aggro is that for three solid days, he has spent every available hour trying to reconstruct Indian Army deployments for the Battle of Chushul 1962. Historically minded readers will know that the war that began on October 21/22 was only the first phase. In the Ladakh sector the war saw the Chinese overrunning Indian penny-packet outposts, some of which had all of five men. Great civilian and military leadership. Not. The second phase began November 20, 1962, and lasted only a few days. The Chinese used the interim period to push their roads/tracks, supplies, and troops forward, and then forced the Indians to withdraw from all positions east of China’s 1960 claim line before calling a ceasefire. These lines keep changing, usually further west, but that is another story.
· Okay, so what was the deployment for the second phase? Indian 114 Infantry Brigade (Chushul) had four battalions (1, Jat, 5 Jat, 1/8 GR, and 13 Kumaon). But after searching and searching ancient sketch maps and the enigmatic US Army Engineer 1:250,000 series dating back the 1940s, Editor has come to realize for the very first time that actually only two battalions – 1/8 GR and 13 Kumaon – were engaged in the battle for Chushul. 5 Jat was north of Pangong Tso, protecting approaches to Chushul from the east. 1 Jats was northwest of Chushul, at Thakung, also to protect the approaches to Chushul.
· Editor is unable to find Thakung, except it is on the shores of the lake. But where? Moreover, why were the approaches to Chushul from the north vulnerable? No account he has seen explains that. The problem is that we Indians are not much into history. And we hate detail. So is too much to expect someone to produce a single map showing the location of 114 Brigade down to companies? Apparently yes. There are sketch maps in a book by Major General SV Thapliyal. But getting the book costs money. He wrote an article for the USI Journal, which has two sketches. Except these are not reproduced in the web version.
· The US Army Engineer serious is enigmatic because it is too large scale. The area is cover by NH-49 and NH-45, which are available online courtesy of Perry-Castenada Map Library at the University of Texas. You cannot see the maps together because they are too large. And it seems to Editor that details are fuzzy between the top maps. There is another problem. There are many ways of spelling Ladakhi names. When the Indians write, they cheerfully assume you understand perfectly where X village is and Y village is. Okay, if you have been there you know. But what, if like the vast majority, you have not been there?
· There are many reasons to want to know the rationale behind 114 Brigade’s deployment. Chief among them is that you cannot understand the battle without the rationale. Naturally one wonders what was going on that the brigade was split 50-50 between the northern and southern approaches to Chushul, but why did the Chinese focus only on the southern? Why could India not have moved troops from the northern end to the southern end before phase 2? The most likely explanation is that for lack of reconnaissance, we had no detail for the Chinese deployments, and had to assume an attack from the north was as likely as one from the south.
· It is known that 114 Brigade asked for one more battalion before phase 2 opened. It is also known that the higher command was anxious to provide a strong defense of Leh, which is a considerable distance westward, and did not want to weaken the brigade there (163 Brigade). But why? Presumably commander 114 Brigade would have used this extra battalion to strength the two at Chushul, which could have changed the outcome. Now, while we can guess at the whys, Editor at least does not know and there is no historical record available. Thirty-five or so pages in the official history, much of which are devoted to political and geographical issues, do not suffice as a detailed history. The Indian Army has very detailed histories of its World War II campaigns. But then, of course, it was the British-Indian Army, and the British, like most westerners are historically minded.
· Okay, so readers will say. But why does Editor need this material? First, only by being clear about the past can we have the knowledge to go into the future. Second, here is the Certifiably Crazy part. Someone wants for publication an alternate history of the 1962 War, analyzing what needed to be done to have things turn out differently. They wanted it in four weeks, but with a full-time job, half-time college, the blog, and the simple mechanics of life without servants, four weeks is out of the question. You can see why Editor is so grouchy about having lost 12 hours just trying to clarify the 114 Brigade deployments.
· Okay, readers will retort. Someone wants a book from you, what’s wrong with that? Here’s what’s wrong. The last book took seven months part-time to finish, and Editor had to put aside two other manuscripts. This last book has sold 17 copies. When you’re financially hanging on by the tips of your nails, how does it make sense to write a book that sold 17 copies just because Editor thought it was important to write? And how does it make sense to accept another book, which may – because it will be promoted by the publisher – sell 1000 copies giving Editor perhaps $500 in royalties?
Wednesday 0230 GMT March 25, 2014
· Editor refuses to take responsibility for missing 8-year area girl A Washington Post columnist, in an excess of what Editor calls Liberal Self-Flagellation Syndrome (LSS), says we have all failed this little girl. If the columnist wants to assume the guilt, she should feel free. Editor is not a mean person; he would never deny anyone who wants to wallow in assumed guilt just to prove how non-racist and sensitive they are. Please go right ahead, ma’am. Just leave Editor out of your LSS. This syndrome has not yet made it to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as evidence by the most recent version, DSM IV. Editor will push to see it included in DSM V, of course, he will need vast funding for the required campaign. All you rich conservatives, you have Editor’s e-mail.
· Before we continue, we should tell you that DSM IV has added new mental disorders. One is that if you grieve for a loss beyond a period the manual sets, you have a mental disorder. If you are shy in public, you have a mental disorder. We are mildly surprised that the compilers of DSM have not added a new mental disorder, which should be termed “DSM Compiler Disorder”.
· Back to the story. This nice gentleman works as a janitor (Editor prefers “custodian”) at a Washington DC shelter. He is known for showing up and showering presents and cash on the children in the shelter. This man surely qualifies for the Mother Teresa Award. One 27-year old woman with four children has an 8-year old daughter. The custodian made the 8-year old his special friend, and had the mother’s permission to take her home. Yes, we know you are already sick to your stomach, but bear with us.
· About four months ago, the girl disappeared. Apparently the mother says she believe her daughter was safe with a family friend. Then the custodian’s wife was murdered, and police are looking for him, and of course, for the little girl. Now we are going to reproduce a longish quote from the WashPo correspondent, and please do have your barf bag ready for immediate use. You will need it.
· I understand that (the mother) has probably made some horrible decisions in her 27 years. Beginning a family of four children in her teens, with little sign of stability, was one of them. Handing her child over to the janitor at a homeless shelter who was known for handing out $20 bills and gifts to other little girls was another one.
· But this isn’t about (the mother), and this isn’t a debate about the life choices of poor mothers and whether they deserve our sympathy and assistance. Say what you want about homeless parents — many are victims of a whiplash economy and an affordable-housing crisis, many others are just plain careless — but their children didn’t ask for this life.
· It is up to us to help these kids, to do everything we can to give them a better life and a better future. Ask yourself: Have we done that?
· Before we continue, please to note that the columnist cites a lady who confronted the custodian when he tried to give a $20 bill to her daughter. So for the one lady who – let us not mumble our words – sold her 8-year old to the man, there is another whose need is also acute, but who told the man where he got off when he approached her daughter.
· What the columnist is saying that because the child did not ask to be born, we the people, we as a society, should look after the child as if she was our own daughter. Would this columnist agree to laws that require parents to pass several tests before having children? Or is it her position that we all have a right to do what we want by calling it our private business, but society must clean up after the dysfunctional parents, making their private business our business?
· If the latter, all Editor can say to columnist is “Fuggedabhatit”. You feel guilty because you are white and the missing girl is of color; you want to prove you are not racist because you are advocating on behalf the girl, you want us all to know how sensitive a human being you are. You’re quite welcome. You talk about the decent life the missing girl deserved. Simple solution: you’re a WashPo staffer, you make – by Editor’s standards – good money, why don’t you go to sdhelter to adopt four unfortunate kids of color and give them a decent life?
· The columnist wants a nationwide search on the scale of that for the missing Malaysian jet because the little girl deserves it. Every missing child, and every missing adult, also deserves an all-out search. Every victim of a murderer, rapist, inflictor of physical violence on the weak and the helpless also deserves an all-out search. There is, however, something called Life. Most of us deserve a lot more than we get, and in many of our cases, being shortchanged despite doing our best also makes us victims. But does that mean we are entitled to demand the state owes us what we feel we deserve? Editor does not think so.