Posts for March, 2014
I think a number of analysts and reporters are missing the point when it comes to the current antics of Vladimer Putin regarding the Russian incursion into the Crimean Ukraine and Ukrainian border areas. Based on long personal observation of Russian/Soviet actions going back to World War II, I think I have some slight understanding of the Russian mystique.
Russia was a feudal cripple prior to the Communist revolution and a world non-entity afterwards, that is until WW II. The ill-considered Nazi invasion, engineered almost solely by a psychologically crippled--after grievious injury in an assassination attempt by his own high military officers--Adolf Hitler, inspired massive Allied assistance and eventual German defeat thanks to dogged resistance by outgunned Russian/Soviet armies and incredible suffering by the Russian populace and, of course, the brutal Russian winter. This monumental achievement began the ascendency of the Soviet Union on the world stage. Continued massive aid, largely from the U.S., helped the now Soviet Union, consisting of Russia in the lead and including the star--the Ukraine--and other lesser lights, achieve world status.
At the end of WW II, the U.S. was the sole nuclear power. However, it is not well known that Nazi Germany had a very active atomic bomb development program reputed to be in advance of our own. It was detected by underground agents and subsequently bombed to rubble by the British. Hitler decided not to reconstitute it. [Thank you, Lord!] Both the U.S. and the Soviets grabbed off German nuclear scientists, with The Soviet Union getting most of them along with a bunch of rocket scientists. (Remember the V1 and V2?)
Much of the Soviet nuclear program was the result of extremely effective espionage led, you guesssed it, by the KGB, against a feckless U.S. Consequently, the Soviet Union became a nuclear superpower in competition with the U.S. in what was called the Cold War. Russia/Soviet Union was now a major player on the world stage, a heady experience for what was and still is a depressing, mostly gray country. The Russian people loved their new-found, unfamiliar status as a feared entity.
Then came Reagan, Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980's. This largely was the result of an obsession with military hardware without an economic infrastructure to support it. There are many Russians today who regard those Cold War days with nostalgia, perhaps foremost our friend, Vladimer Putin, former head of the KGB. He has publically stated his ambition to be the architect of the reconstitution of the Soviet Union. The Ukraine, former star member, is his first target.
Having observed weakness, incompetence and indecision in the American executive branch and confident in his immunity from meaningful consequences, I believe he has decided to make his move. Crimea, a strategic region with fine all-year seaports which Russia lacks, is simply the first shoe dropping. Be prepared for more footwear thumps.
Either our Administration is oblivious to what is going on or has not the guts to take meaningful action or, sadly very likely, we do not presently have the military capacity, especially air power, to engage in any major action due to depletion by several unwise and protracted Middle-Eastern wars, followed by extremely unwise budget cuts and downsizing. The Syrian diplomatic/military flop was, I believe, the cardinal event in emboldening Putin to make his move. He is probably unstoppable, particularly because he has the support of much of the Russian public who yearn for the heady days of yesteryear.
Economic sanctions will be ignored by stalwart, long-suffering Russians, for whom suffering is an art form. Such is the consequence of weakness, real or perceived.
In the words of the Lone Ranger, we return to the days of yesteryear. Should be interesting to watch.
I have long made a practice of prognosticating and commenting on issues involving aviation by virtue of my background as a former jet fighter and transport (C-130) pilot. But I must admit this one has me stumped. There is no doubt Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 was hijacked, probably but not necessarily by one or both flight crew members--pilot and/or co-pilot. The problem is not what happened, but why.
The what is clear because the aircraft transponder and a flight data reporting system were turned off 12 minutes before the final voice transmission from the pilot. The key equipment was the transponder or SIF. A transponder is a device that replies to an interrogation with data. The SIF, which stands for Selective Identification Feature, responds with a selectible four-digit code when interrogated by a radio frequency signal. It is used by Air Traffic Control to uniquely identify various aircraft. The response codes are displayed on the ATC scopes.
As a matter of interest, this system dates back to World War II and the advent of radar early in that conflict. The problem was telling the good guys from the bad so you didn't shoot down a friend. This problem was solved by the development of IFF, which stood for Identification--Friend or Foe. The early IFF's used a two-digit code, 00 to 77. Why 77 is lost in the murk of history, but probably had something to due with the octal numbering system favored by IBM. The codes would be changed daily.
After the war, the system was adapted for civilian use, the code set expanded to four 0-7 digits to allow for the unique identification of many aircraft under ATC monitoring. A unique application incorporated later was a special hijack code, which was 7777. What was neat was the fact that code digits were selected by thumbwheels set close together so that all four could be rotated upward, selecting all 7's, by sliding the palm of the hand forward. It was not necessary to look.
I'm sure modern airliners have equipment considerably different from what I was used to in the planes I flew umpteen years ago, but the principle would be the same.
In the case of MH370, the hijack 7777 code was not activated, suggesting crew complicity. What is equally mystifying is the flight path, identified by line of position (LOP) determination by a satellite. This identified the likely flight path as either circular northward over parts of India and possibly China into the southern Arabian peninsula, or southward over water toward Australia. The northern route is unlikely due to probable detection by ground radar. The southward path was largely over the Indian Ocean to nowhere.
Some large pieces of possible wreckage have been detected by visual satellite west of Australia, approximately at the limit of the aircraft's fuel. It seems likely to me that MH370 flew southward overwater to nowhere and ran out of fuel, crashing into the ocean with the loss of all aboard.
This whole scenario makes no sense, as there is no apparent motive. If this was a suicide effort, why fly for hours and hundreds of miles? If it was a hostage incident, where were they going? There were 160 Chinese citizens aboard out of 229 total. What nation or terrorist group would want them? Certainly not Iran, the home country of both pilots. China is a friend to a number of the Middle Eastern terrorist-supporting countries, especially Iran who certainly would not want to antagonize their Chinese friends. And what would the Taliban or Hezbollah do with that mess?
I'm sorry, but for the first time in my memory, I have no plausible theory, except an act of irrational and evil insanity. There is little doubt that MH370 and its crew and passengers are lost. The hours-long flight must have been an horrific experience for the passengers. I suppose in this secular paradise of an un-Christian world anything is possible. We may never know the real reason why.
I have not previously commented on the monumental train wreck commonly referred to as Obamacare because much has already been said ad infinitum and I have little to add. However, I am impelled to throw out a comment or two.
One: When dealing with politics, a truism is that nothing is as it seems. Everything has a hidden agenda. Two: Politicians know next to nothing about health care, an extremely complex system. Three: Politicians know even less about computer software systems. Notwithstanding all this, they--all Democrats--fashioned a ridiculously complex, 2000+ page law purporting to revamp and control the American health care system, ostensibly to provide health care to 46 million uninsured, currently reduced to 7 million, or is it five? This involved a computer software system consisting of millions of lines of code created by an inexperienced foreign vendor.
Are you getting a picture here? This contraption was never intended to work. The "hidden" purpose was to move eventually into a single-payer health care system, commonly known as Socialized Medicine. I am not going to go into the merits or demerits of socialized medicine. There are a number of these behemoths clanking along in other countries, evidencing various degrees of ineptitude and disfunction, all at costs far exceeding the wildest pre-predictions.
It is an apparently irrestible impulse of the left-wing to state goals far in advance of implementation. It has been clearly stated by several lefties, including our esteemed king--I mean president. Single-payer was and is the clearly-stated goal. Obamacare is intended to be a disfunctional stepping stone to that end, riding in like the proverbial white knight to save us all from the current mega-cyborg clanking loudly towards functional oblivion.
How, you ask, will this work? Won't it be even more of a mess than the current one? Not really. It already is in place. It's called Medicare. All that is needed is to expand it to cover everyone instead of us lucky folks over 65. Gobs of money will be required, but then the Chinese seem to have an inexhaustable supply to lend us, or maybe the Federal Reserve can just create the money out of thin air like it already is doing to pump up the stock market. All it takes is a simple computer keystroke. "How may trillion did you say you wanted?"
So, be of good cheer, folks. The Cavalry is coming to save us all. Except folks like me who are already there. Lucky us.
Bet y'all can't wait.
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