August 20, 2014

All Eyes Are Upon the Unrest in Ferguson

So it might behoove us to look at what is happening elsewhere. 


IS (o ISIS or ISIL there is some disagreement on the proper acronym for these fiends) has beheaded  an American journalist ( James Wright Foley) on video and placed another reporter, Time's Steven Sotloff next to Foley's corpse and threatened to behead him unless their demands are met.  

Foley seems to have been quite highly regarded. A brief excerpt of a 2011 interview with him can be seen from 00:33 to 01:58 here. 


It should be noted that the executioner has a British accent, which is not entirely surprising, but is worrisome. Likewise, the fact that Sotloff was taken prisoner in Libya and transported to Iraq indicates an impressive reach and logistical capability by ISIS.

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The situation in the Ukraine has taken a hopeful turn as Russian and Ukrainian leaders representatives are set to meet  negotiations next week. This comes as Ukrainian forces seem to be getting the better of the secessionists. This is a  conflict with some very nasty ethnic components, so a diplomatic solution would be most welcome. 

In related news; Apparently there is a group of American volunteers/mercenaries fighting with the Ukrainians and one of them was just killed

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In response to China's bellicose gestures, Japan is 'modifying' Article 9 of their constitution

Meanwhile, China has sent two survey vessels to survey the Philippines for...future construction. 

The PRC last week also tested a hypersonic (Mach 10) cruise missile. The week prior they tested what seems to have been  MIRVed versions of their old DF5 and the new DF31 ICBMs. China also felt this an opertune time to mention that announcing that the long rumored DF-41 road mobile ICBM was in fact, operational. This was just after.a test of an anti-satellite weapon

The People's Republic also snubbed a US proposal that countries not do things like build outposts in other countries territorial wasters. 

Chinese troops have been moving into an area claimed by India and planting flags

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On the Ebola front, the experimental drug tested on the three missionaries from the US and Spain looks promising. While the Spanish patient died, the two American aid workers seem to be recovering. The few remaining samples have been sent to Liberia, but the drug takes a long time to make, and there are regulatory hurdles. However, accelerated testing is being done of this and other vaccines. 

In Africa however, the situation is still quite dire, with a raid by a mob on an Ebola treatment facility eliciting some concern. Reportedly, in addition to freeing all the patients under quarantine, they stole bloody sheets and other infected items, so it's going to get worse. 

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While all this is going on the military is downsizing. That's not necessarily a dreadful mistake as there is a good bit of waste in the Pentagon. Particularly in the Army, after 10 years of war, one might well consider it good to weed out the people who in that time avoided combat and promote those who displayed out of the box thinking in time of war. One might especially want to retain those with awards for valor. Well, if one thinks that, then one is not in charge of the current downsizing process....

This is terrifying:
 The derogatory information didn't have to be recent. Got a GOMOR as a 2nd Lieutenant for Dumb LT Tricks, eight years ago? Kiss your ass goodbye. Got an Article 15 as a private before soldiering your way back into the Army's good graces, and then getting a ROTC scholarship? You're gone.

A non-GO Memorandum Of Reprimand was also a career killer, if you got it for something the Chief of Staff doesn't like - like carrying a personally owned weapon. That sent one combat-vet with a Purple Heart to the Dreaded Private Sector.

Being overweight, or looking overweight in your photo: killer.

A more trivial career killer, but one the board actually used: having your official DA photo in the old Army Green service uniform, not the new blue Army Service Uniform. 

Purple hearts and bronze stars seem to have no effect on ones assessment.  Having no combat experience is NOT a demerit. This is how you build an Army of bureaucratic wienies. It is how third world dictators set up their armies, with yes-men and those who fear above all taking a chance or trying new things.   

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Just before the unpleasantness started in Ferguson, there were some really revolting anti-semitic incidents including a mob shouting "Jews go back to Birkenau!"...In Boston.  

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As to Ferguson itself...it's probably good to withhold judgement until the facts of the shooting are made public later this week. Like so many recent news stories most of the initial reports were wrong, and that trend seems to continue nightly. The near nightly looting, is, of course, unacceptable and ( conversely) there are many concerns, not unfounded, regards the militarization of police forces. However, I urge you to read Tamara K's thoughts on the issue in full. It makes no judgments but provides important historical perspective. 

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Finally, it should be mentioned that there is another demonstration taking place by individuals who are fed up and seek respect from the police. For some reason, despite being in the media mecca of New York, this is not garnering a lot of coverage...

Who would have thunk it?




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August 03, 2014

100 Years Ago Today

The whole situation in Europe had been deteriorating since the 28th, but there had been an ephemeral moment of hope on August first, whe King George V himself had intervened and was exchanging telegrams with his cousins the Kaiser and the Tsar. There appeared to be some conciliation possible but a report that Russian troops had crossed the Austrian frontier invoked a declaration of war by Germany, While all this was going on Belgium was being discretely asked if they would mind terribly if a million or so German troops were to just, kind of pass through their country...for some reason.


Over the next 24 hours, German troops entered Russia's Polish territory, a German cruiser squadron bombarded the baltic town of Libau and German troops just kind of showed up in Luxembourg Significantly, that night. there were reports of German troops as far as 10 miles inside France and French border guards being killed.

The next day, August 3rd, German aircraft bombed the French city of Lune'ville. Belgium responded to Germany's inquiries with an emphatic "NO!". They then invoked their treaty with the British Empire and requested that London help them preserve their sovereignty. The British responded with a n order for full mobilization.  

Then as German and Russian troops engaged each other on the Polish/Prussian frontier Germany declared war upon France. 

With that, Hell descended upon Europe, and a catastrophe that the world has never fully recovered from began in earnest, 100 years ago today. 










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July 26, 2014

100 years Ago Today

Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire was reasonably satisfied with the Serbian response to his governments demands and ordered the Serbian Chief of Staff to be released with apologies. On the same day and perhaps in response to this act, his Army Chief of Staff and Foreign Minister quietly exchanged letters
 
 Berchtold: "We should like to deliver the declaration of war on Serbia as soon as possible so as to put an end to diverse influences. When do you want the declaration of war? Conrad: Only when we have progressed far enough for operations to begin immediately—on approximately August 12th. Berchtold: "The diplomatic situation will not hold as long as that.”   [/quote] 
(Quote via Wikipedia)

....Meanwhile, the diplomatic heads of both Austria and Russia rejected an offer by Sir Edward Grey (the British Foreign Minister) to mediate the dispute.

In July of 1914, the British Royal Navy was conducting a reserve mobilization drill. This once in a decade endeavor involved calling up reservists and bringing old ships out of reserve, getting them seaworthy and conducting training maneuvers with the active navy which was largely recalled to home waters for the affair. This drill was scheduled to end on July 26th, however, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, ordered all hands to stand fast and the fleet to not disperse as planned.  From this moment the RN was on a full war footing, something that would normally have taken months to achieve.


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July 25, 2014

100 Years Ago Today

Austria-Hungary turned down a Russian proposal to extend the deadline on the terms previously presented to Serbia. Serbia, to everyone's astonishment, agreed to nearly all the humiliating demands by 5:58pm on the 25th. However they did not accede to the demand that Austria-Hungary be given legal jurisdiction and arrest powers inside Serbia's border. Their response was otherwise humble to the point of groveling. At 6:30pm, the Austrio-Hungarian  consulate evacuated their embassy in Belgrade. The Serbian Chief of staff General Putnik, on his way back from consultations in Russia was arrested that evening in Budapest. Taking the hint, the Serbs voted on, and their monarch signed orders for a full emergency mobilization. Most of their government then abandoned the capital and relocated to the more defensible city of Nish. 


It should be noted that Germany's Kaiser was on vacation during this time, golfing cruising on his yacht and was only gradually beginning to understand the gravity of the situation. Likewise, Franz Joseph returned from his retreat where he had been since the funeral of his nephew. He was 84...in 1914. Though he was aware of the negotiations with Germany and the seriousness of the Russian assurances of their Serb allies, he was reportedly quite surprised at the harsh language of the ultimatum sent to Serbia by his ministers. 


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March 14, 2014

A Few More Crimea Links



The BBC has a series of maps that touch on the political and ethnic history of the peninsula.

Businessweek has an interesting overview of the situation that mentions briefly the CO of the Ukranian naval base in Crimea. Massively outnumbered he was offered the option of a commission in the Russian Navy. He lives in Crimea,, speaks Russian, is an ethnic Russian but took an oath to defend Ukraine until his enlistment is up or he is defeated, so he's declined the offer and is preparing to defend the base (and I imagine get his flotilla ready to break for Odessa).

The Tartars suffered under Stalin nearly as much as the Ukrainians did and are not happy with the upcoming referendum.

A few days old, Cdr Salamander's analysis of some of the lessons from this mess still deserves a read.


Pete Zaitcev reports what he's hearing in Russian language circles in the comments of the previous Crimea thread , though no source is included.

Aw HELL no.

UPDATE: Or...what exactly?

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March 03, 2014

On Crimea

Jerry Pournelle has thoughts.

The Wall Street Journal this morning in a lead editorial says flatly that the Russian de facto annexation of the Crimea cannot be allowed to stand. That is because they are crazy...


He goes on from there. It's short but has a good deal of historical perspective so I urge you to read the whole thing.

Brian Wang has an nice collection of links giving a good overview of the problems the U.S. President faces in making good on his threats. One of the biggest seems to be that the sort of divestment and sanctions policy threatened by SecState Kerry is likely to clobber European banks. I particularly note that China is quite vocally supporting Russia. The fact that after making grand pronouncements of red lines and consequences the US did nothing is a precedent that China is no doubt very pleased with as it looks at the territorial disputes it has with its neighbors.

I don't for a minute think that getting involved in any way is a good or wise. I certainly don't think that there is anything the President could have done to stop this, nor was it in our interest to poke the bear over it. I do think that the loud and empty bluster was supremely ill advised.

The Ukrainians suffered greatly under Stalin to the point that they aligned themselves with Hitler against him. There are reportedly still elements amongst the revolutionaries who look fondly at those who did so, though how influential they actually are is unclear.

The Russians are securing Sevastopol, which, being their only warm water European port is as vital to their economy as the pipelines that cross the Ukraine. The Crimea and western Ukraine are ethnically Russian (60% or more) and so the Russian claims of protecting their own are not entirely fatuous.

This is a nasty business and it apalls me that we are involved on any policy level beyond sending some aid.

Then there is this piece that Ace linked to...which just seems rather....odd.

I know there are people who comment here who know a lot more about this than me...have at it in the comments.

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February 06, 2014

This Bodes Ill

Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountans is where the water in southern California, Nevada and to an extent, Arizona comes from.

This is what snowfall in the Sierra Nevada looked like on January 18 of 2013, which was actually a very bad drought year.



This is what it looked like on the same date this year..



There is more here (via)
Forget the agricultural debacle for a moment...water for the cities is going to be a first order calamity. It's already pretty bad.

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February 04, 2014

Jasper Has Passed On

 James Lileks  bids farewell to his friend of 19 years.




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November 09, 2013

All Thouse Hurricanes We Didn't Get

....just hit the Philippines at once.



Haiyan hit the Philippines with sea-level winds of nearly 200 mph scoring a direct hit in Cebu.

All of the Philippine islands are pretty mountainous and with this much rain ( reports of at least ten inches in  a few hours) means mudslides and inland flooding on top of a 20 foot storm surge.



Cyclones of this intensity are rare but not unheard of. However, they rarely hit land at anything like this strength. The last one to do so was Hurricane Camille which hit the southern US back in 1968 and there have been some slightly weaker storms that hit Asia.

The Phillipines gets hit with several typhoons a year, but this is in a category all its own. Worse, this storm comes on the heels of  a major earthquake which softened up the infrastructure and meant many people were still in tents. This is looking to be an almost unreal calamity.

Indeed, things do not look good for Tacloban, the capital of Leyte.


UPDATE: At least 10,000 dead.
UPDATE 2: ...in Tacloban alone....

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November 03, 2013

Central Texas

Wow , Austin got clobbered.








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October 20, 2013

The Root Cause of Our Problem

The Anchoress has found something deeply worrisome. It is all the more so because, as someone who spends a fair amount of time on a college campus, I find bonecrushing historical ignorance unnervingly unsurprising....and yet...



... even by the abysmal standards set by today's low expectations, a couple of the answers here are genuinely mortifying.







...For instance, while it would normally be somewhat heartening to hear a College Freshman know the name Franz Ferdinand, the context in which the name was invoked is rather dismaying.

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May 21, 2013

Footprints of a Monster

I got this grim but interesting image from The Daily Mail, which has some amazing and very sad pictures.of the tornado damage in Oklahoma and Kansas.



It's bad....and there are more storms on the way.
more...

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May 20, 2013

A Bad Day

...to be on Oklahoma or Kansas.



Witchita TV station gets hit


It looks like it just missed Don.


UPDATE:
 It's bad.
It's REALLY really bad.

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April 17, 2013

This Looks Grim

Oh no.

Just got this pic via Galrhan on Twitter, It is said to be of the Fertilizer plant in Waco that just blew up.
UPDATE: KTWX is saying over 60 dead.

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November 16, 2012

Oh Noes!




NOT THE TWINKIES!!!
THE TWINKIES!!!
"sob"


This is as bad as when that herd of butterflies swooped in and threw up on my waffles.

Ummm...what she said.
I think.
In the meantime, it's time to stock up! They'll last forever and with the world ending next month we'll need stuff to barter.

Appalled young twinkiephile is Rin Tezuka from Katawa Shoujo.
more...

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