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While the Cat’s Away, the Mice Will … Miss Her?

Last day. Donna gets in at 3:40. The doggies and I will be at the airport to pick her up. I had thought she was coming home yesterday. When I blocked out her away days on the computer calendar I shorted the trip by a day, and it wasn’t until double-checking the arrival time before heading to the airport yesterday I discovered the mistake. Plan A was to make dinner so she could unwind, but the extra day’s wait has taken the wind out of my sails and we’re on to Plan B: takeout.

Thus endeth, or at least sloweth down, my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” marathon. I’m into the fifth season, more engaged than ever (if that’s even possible), but with Donna home we’ll be watching other things. Maybe I can squeeze in single episodes late at night, after Donna goes to bed. It really is too bad I couldn’t get her interested in the show.

Little Maxie, the auxiliary dachshund, is Donna’s familiar (as Schatzi is mine). For two weeks Maxie has pined for her, day and night. She’ll be beside herself later today. I can tell Schatzi misses Donna too, because she’s been staying closer to me than ever … wherever I go, Schatzi’s at my side. Maxie only gets close when I sit down in front of the TV with dinner on a tray, as I did on Sunday:

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Schatzi & Maxie

And hey, wait a minute … maybe Maxie & Schatzi think Donna and I are their familiars. Tell you what, if we have souls so do they. How can anyone deny it?

So anyway, a red-letter day. In the good way. More soon.

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Friday Bag o’ Solitude

solitude bagDonna’s been visiting family in California since the 12th. She returns on the 25th, next Tuesday. I’m over the hump now. Today, Friday, is the last long day with nothing on my schedule. Saturday morning I’m going for a short bicycle ride with friends; Sunday a longer ride with local Hash House Harriers; Monday of course is my day at the air museum.

You might think I’m getting short-changed in the vacation department, but I was with Donna on the last California family trip, and anyway I don’t want to fly unless I have to. We’re planning a car trip to California in 2018, this time to see friends as opposed to family. And my son and I have a motorcycle trip next month.

I’ve been occupying my evenings with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and am more infatuated with it than ever. Still, with four seasons to go, I can see how Buffy might become too much of a good thing. “Better Call Saul” is getting near my limit … perhaps if there were fewer commercial breaks it would feel more tightly plotted. Hey, though, another season of “Fargo” kicked off this week, and so far I’m all in. Unaccountably, an entire season of “Hap and Leonard” slipped by without me being aware of it. It must be on a channel I never watch otherwise, because I didn’t see a single ad for it. Oh, well, it’ll be on Netflix some day and I’ll catch up.

A friend asked me if it was legitimate for an A-10 pilot to call herself a fighter pilot, the “A” in A-10 standing for attack and all. Interesting question, not least because of that “herself.” There’s only one woman she could be referring to: retired USAF Colonel Martha McSally, now Congresswoman McSally, representing Arizona’s Second District in Washington DC. Martha did indeed fly A-10s, and was, I think, the first USAF woman to log combat time when she deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. I know Martha a little bit and like her, but didn’t vote for her … she’s well over on the right, particularly on immigration and reproductive issues. I think my friend, the one who asked about fighter pilots, feels the same way.

But yeah, what’s a fighter pilot? The dictionary says a fighter is “a fast airplane that has weapons for destroying enemy aircraft.” The F-15 and F-22, dedicated to the air-to-air mission, are good examples. Dictionaries don’t have much to say about attack aircraft, but in the military everyone agrees they are fighter-type planes designed to deliver air-to-ground weapons, provide close air support, and provide cover during combat rescue missions. The A-10 is such an aircraft. Then there’s an entire class of multi-role fighters that fly both air-to-air and air-to-ground: the USAF’s F-16 and F-35, the Navy’s F/A-18.

In USAF pilot training, all students complete a primary phase in a two-place turboprop. At that point they’re selected for one of three advanced training tracks: fighter/bomber, airlift/tanker, or helicopter. Students selected for the fighter/bomber track, the top performers in the primary phase, will go on to fly the A-10, F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16, F-22, F-35, B-1, B-2, or B-52. Subtract the B-designated planes, which are large strategic bombers, and what’s left are the fighters. It doesn’t matter whether they’re air-to-ground, air-to-air, or both … they’re all fighters, and the men and women who fly them are fighter pilots.

Getting back to Congresswoman McSally, she is absolutely a fighter pilot, a trained steely-eyed killer entitled to all privileges, immunities, and rights pertaining thereto. Would it kill her to be less of a damn Republican?

Related:

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Oh c’mon, the Russians have been routing flights near American airspace and parking surveillance ships off our coasts since at least the Eisenhower administration. It’s a weekly, even daily occurrence. The USAF intercepts and escorts the airplanes (I did my share of it when I flew F-15s); the Navy and Coast Guard shadow the ships. We do the same thing to them. It’s ops normal, no big deal. When it comes to Trump, there’s plenty of real things to worry about.

And then there’s this:

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Whoa, single-bed motel stays and unseemly purchases? Why, whatever do you suppose those two were up to? Enquiring minds want to know!

That poor girl, her face plastered everywhere. She did a dumb-ass thing, running off with that loser, but was it dumb enough to justify ruining her life? What are her options now? A new identity? Facial surgery? That stuff doesn’t come cheap!

Do I need to remind you the pussy-grabber in chief has been accused of forcibly raping a girl who was even younger?

God, I need something to cleanse my palate. More Buffy, less news!

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Battleship! (Updated)

Battleship board gameYou’ve played battleship, right? Aircraft carriers are today’s battleships, and we’re all in the game, trying to guess where they are.

Earlier this month—the 5th of April, a day before we struck Syria—I questioned reports saying an American aircraft carrier was on its way to strike North Korea. People were getting worked up: some were saying the Pacific Fleet was mobilizing for war; others that San Diego was a ghost town, every ship and sub having suddenly sailed for WESTPAC.

I didn’t buy it. Anything on that scale would be all over the news, so I did some checking. The USS Carl Vinson and its carrier group had in fact been in Korean waters, participating in annual US/South Korean military exercises. At the time, though, the Vinson was in port in Singapore, getting ready to sail south to Australia. Additionally, two US Navy destroyers had recently deployed from San Diego to WESTPAC. It all sounded pretty normal to me … we almost always have a carrier group in that part of the world, and if you were planning war with North Korea you’d need more than a couple of additional destroyers.

The next day we hit the Syrian air base with cruise missiles, and a day or two after that Trump administration officials announced the Vinson was deploying back to Korea, its port call in Australia suspended or postponed.

Now it transpires the Vinson didn’t sail north at all. It’s currently on its way to the Indian Ocean and the originally scheduled port call in Australia. The story about sailing back to Korea? Fake news.

Interestingly, just before Trump took office in January, all ten US Navy carriers were in port, an unprecedented move apparently orchestrated by the Obama administration. This was never explained. Nor has the Trump administration explained how it intends to use our carriers … nor should it. We are free to speculate, of course, and many (including me) are doing just that.

A military watchdog group called GlobalSecurity.org tracks the current location of US Navy carriers and task forces. As best I can tell the information presented here is accurate and up to date, and there’s nothing to indicate any kind of mobilization or heightened readiness. As for WESTPAC, the Vinson (as we now know) is sailing south to the Indian Ocean and Australia, and the USS Reagan is at its home port of Yokosuka, Japan.

It’s odd the USS Reagan hasn’t been part of this story. Yokosuka is headquarters of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, home port to an American aircraft carrier. When I was flying out of Okinawa in the late 1980s and early 90s, it was the USS Independence. Today it’s the USS Reagan. North Korea is one of the primary reasons we keep a carrier at Yokosuka.

So what’s going on? Gunboat diplomacy? Nobody in charge? Three-dimensional chess? Who knows? Presumably, nations with military surveillance satellites knew all along the Vinson story was a head-fake. That would include Russia and China, which surely would have kept Kim Jong Un informed.

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow asked an interesting question: did the Trump administration believe its own fake news about ordering the USS Carl Vinson back to Korea? Put another way, did US military commanders countermand orders from the president and secretary of defense?

Wow, that didn’t occur to me at all. It’s pretty much the last thing I would have thought. Although … based on information previously and widely reported, the Pentagon did refuse to go along with Trump when he wanted to turn the inauguration into a North Korean-style parade of military might, with ranks of tanks and missile launchers rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue while jets and bombers streaked overhead. And who knows what kind of strike Trump originally wanted the military to launch against Syria? Maybe the Joint Chiefs talked him down, and the cruise missile attack was a watered-down compromise.

During the campaign Trump asked a senior advisor why, if we have nuclear weapons, we can’t use them, which at the very least suggests a willingness on his part to press the button. I’ve always believed that as long as our country was not being physically attacked by an enemy, military leadership would refuse to go nuclear, whether the orders came from Trump or any other president (as when Alexander Haig ordered military commanders to check with him first if Nixon, in the last chaotic drunken days of his presidency, ordered the use of nuclear weapons).

Maybe Rachel’s question is valid. Maybe not. Probably not. I do think the military would balk if Trump ordered something truly crazy. Ordering an aircraft carrier group into Korean waters is not crazy at all, and if in fact Trump had ordered the Navy to do it, I can’t imagine any military resistance. They would have done it. So the false story about the Vinson must have been intentional.

The question remains, though, why? If Kim Jong Un knew all along the Vinson wasn’t really headed his way (as mentioned, China and Russia would have been tracking its movements and would likely have kept him informed), then what was the point of rattling that particular saber? Hitting the Syrian air base and dropping a big bomb in Afghanistan were real things, more than enough to send a message to the Norks. Why make up an easily fact-checked story about the movements of an aircraft carrier task force?

I don’t get it. And I don’t think Rachel Maddow gets it either, but I’m glad she asked the question, because it’s something we … and especially our military leaders … need to think about.

Update (two hours later): Of course it’s also possible (maybe more than possible given what we know about Trump administration dysfunction) that no one thought to order the Navy to re-task the Vinson. Perhaps Trump and his skeleton staff on the National Security Council thought if they publicly talked about it the Navy would take the hint. And the Navy, absent orders to change its plans, kept mum because they thought the president was pulling a fast one on the North Koreans. In other words, a cock-up. That’s what Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo seems to think, and it’s as good a guess as any.

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My Easter Faith Post

reverend woodford copyIt’s Easter, and my thoughts turn to faith. My faith is humanism. We humans have had one great idea, a universal one that both pre-dates religion and is common to all faiths: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s my religion, and it’s a fine one.

Surprisingly, to me at least, this Passover and Easter season there’s been a deluge of cut & paste atheist posts on Facebook, the mean kind that gratuitously insult the intelligence of believers. I don’t get it. I don’t like it, either.

I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe there’s a god who intervenes in earthly affairs. I don’t believe there’s an afterlife. That makes me an atheist, but I’m uncomfortable with the word. Why? Because I associate it with those who go out of their way to insult people of faith.

Which may sound hypocritical, because I frequently insult people of faith. But let’s be clear: the people I insult are those who claim to be faithful but who scorn the Golden Rule. You don’t have to be an Afghani to be a member of the Taliban: they’re everywhere, and what ties them together is their hatred of humanity: human goodness, human achievement, human understanding, humans who aren’t exactly like them. The racists. The birthers. People who want to round up Mexican and Central American immigrants and load them onto cattle cars. People who want to ban the teaching of science and literature. I will insult their intelligence any time, at the drop of a hat.

If some Mau-Mau Mike Huckabee type asks me why we don’t have a White History Month, I’ll insult him as a disgusting bigot, not as a representative of Christianity … because he absolutely isn’t one. Tribalists aside, I know plenty of fellow humanists who embrace religion. You probably do too. Apart from those we know in our own lives, there are well-known people like Stephen Colbert, Ana Marie Cox, Fred Rogers, Ed Asner, Dave Chapelle. None of these people see any conflict between faith and humanism, faith and education, faith and science. The central tenet of their beliefs … Christian, Jewish, Muslim … is the Golden Rule, and they strive to practice it in their daily lives. I respect and honor that. So no atheist tracts from me, not now, not ever.

Meanwhile, in defiance of available evidence, my faith in humanity remains strong. Happy Easter!

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Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog VII

Is it time for another batch of photos from Pima Air & Space Museum? Let me check. Yes, my overflowing Flickr account says it is!

First up, our newest exhibit, a Supermarine Spitfire Mk XIVe recently acquired from the RAF Museum in Hendon, London.

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk XIVe, Pima Air & Space Museum

The Mk XIV is a late-WWII model of the original Spitfire, fitted with a Rolls Royce Griffon engine and five-bladed prop. The Mk XIVe is a photoreconnaissance variant with large camera “portholes” behind the cockpit. Its wings are clipped to improve performance at low altitude. Some additional photos:

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Good view of the clipped wings

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Side view showing camera port


The Spitfire arrived just two weeks ago and was taken straight out of its shipping crate and reassembled. Up close it’s a bit rough, and I’m told it’ll be taken off the floor for new paint once other projects are moved out of the restoration hanger.

Visible behind the Spit in one of the photos above is our Consolidated PBY-5A Canso, a Canadian version of the Catalina. Restoration staff recently completed building a water diorama beneath and behind the Canso to show it in its natural environment.

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Consolidated PBY-5A Canso, Pima Air & Space Museum

Some time back the museum acquired a Douglas A-24B Banshee, the Army Air Force version of the Navy SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Our Banshee came without wings, but for the last two years restoration has been busy fabricating new ones from factory blueprints. Here’s our Banshee, and I must say it looks ready to fly:

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Douglas A-24B Banshee, Pima Air & Space Museum

One of the museum’s longer-term restoration projects is an IL-2 Shturmovik. This one was fished out of a swamp near Stalingrad, and only the metal parts had survived. In an earlier photoblog I posted photos of IL-2 parts stored in a corner of the main restoration hangar. The engine, for as long as I can remember, has been on display in one of the WWII hangars. Restoration is fabricating new wood wings and a rear fuselage, and soon the old and new parts will come together. I can’t say when the Shturmovik will be done, but it’s great to see it coming back to life.

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IL-2 Shturmovik forward fuselage

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IL-2 Shturmovik wing

I’ll finish with an interesting angle on one of our Vietnam veterans, recently returned from restoration with new paint. Let’s hear it for extra-long selfie sticks!

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McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II, Pima Air & Space Museum

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Wednesday Bag o’ Loneliness

lonely bagIt’s just me and the dogs. Donna left this morning on a two-week trip to see friends and family in San Jose, Sacramento, Oroville, and Pittsburg. No, not that Pittsburg, the one in California. You didn’t know there was a Pittsburg in California? There is, and it’s the town Donna was born in.

I expect to do some writing while she’s away, but we’ll see. Today, it’s personal updates and non-political observations—things I can get my head around, as opposed to the daunting accumulation of appallingness being created by the unelected president and the skeleton staff of amateurs he calls his administration. You can read my last post if you want my thoughts on one tiny sliver of that.

I love “Better Call Saul” and was looking forward to the new season kickoff, which I taped Monday and watched last night. Uh, what’s with all the ads, AMC? I think you’ve been taking lessons from United Airlines, because it seemed like part of the show had been dragged away to make room for additional commercial breaks. I wonder if there was even 30 minutes of content in the hour I sat through last night. I know, there are always lots of ads on cable channel dramas, but this one seems worse.

Probably mentioned this earlier, but I was upset when Netflix dropped “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I came late to Buffy, having missed it the first time around. I watched the first two seasons on Netflix before it disappeared, and by that point I was thoroughly addicted. A Tucson friend offered to loan me her box set, seasons one through seven, and I’m back in business.

I expect to put a good dent in those Buffy DVDs over the next two weeks, since with Donna away I can watch what I want. Why, I might watch two episodes per night, I’m such a wild and crazy guy! But only at night. Underneath my freewheeling exterior there lives a Puritan who cringes at the thought of watching TV during the day. Sinners in the hands of an angry god, and their sin was daytime TV.

My friend Ed borrowed our trailer to tow his newest motorcycle home from Portland, Oregon. It’s a 2010 Goldwing with 3,500 miles on the clock, a basically new seven-year-old. He got back Sunday, but I had museum duty all day Monday, then a dentist appointment and a trip to the base commissary with Donna Tuesday morning, and didn’t get over to fetch the trailer and scope out the new ride until yesterday afternoon.

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Ed with his new ride

I, too, hope to replace my old Goldwing with a newer one, sometime in the next year or two. Big touring bikes top thirty grand new, so slightly used is definitely the way to go (I offer the same advice to anyone shopping for a Harley, Indian, or BMW). Ed’s retina is still healing and he won’t be able to ride for a while, but he’ll stay busy moving accessories from his older bike to the new one, getting it set up the way he likes it, and I’ll probably pitch in to help him with it. Meanwhile, I need to get my own bike ready for a cross-country ride in May.

The other members of the Old Spanish Trail Trash having bailed, Donna and I went by ourselves for a bicycle ride on the east side of the Tucson Loop bikeway, riding from Udall Park down a new section along Pantano Wash and back again. I pumped up the road bike for this excursion, not having ridden it in a while. I’d forgotten how light and fast that bike is … whee!

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I know you didn’t especially want to see two photos of me, but I wanted to show you the cool new archway the county put in at the Udall Park end, visible behind me in the second photo. I like it, but I wonder about its placement. It’s shady at that spot, and it might have been more useful to riders seeking a break along one of the flat desert parts of the bikeway, where the sun beats down with no letup.

I cross-posted an entry to Daily Kos last week (the same one I linked to at the top of this post, but here’s the DKos link. I’ve been cross-posting selected entries to DKos for a couple of years now, and this time got a mean-spirited comment for my trouble.

Whoa, this is a lot of effort to respond to some crazy people who probably wouldn’t read anything using this many words. … I hope you feel better for all the work you did.

The sentiment’s related to the “you must have a lot of time on your hands” cracks I sometimes get on Facebook, usually posted by the kind of person who cuts & pastes but never has anything of his or her own to say. Every DKos member has a profile, so I looked this person up (I’m going to call him a “he”): no surprise, a kibitzer who writes dissenting comments, but who has posted not a single diary* in all the years he’s been a member.

*Early web logs, or blogs, were called online diaries: entries were arranged by date and were often running accounts of bloggers’ lives (as many of my entries are). Daily Kos is one of the early blogs: contributors are called diarists, their entries diaries. There’s also a long tradition of contributor anonymity on the older blogs, and I’m one of the few DKos diarists to use my real name. Which means, I suppose, that if Mr. Anonymous Kibitzer gets angry enough with me for working so hard on my diaries, he can search me out and kill me. Which was pretty much my reaction upon reading his comment: just kill me now.

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Bring Me a Pepsi, This Is Getting Good (Updated)

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This article started making the rounds yesterday. One paragraph catches my eye:

If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.

Hey, wait a minute … I’m a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. I’m also a lifelong liberal. I was still a teenager when I took to the streets with tens of thousands of white people my age to protest the war in Vietnam. That same year the teenager who was to become my wife joined me and several hundred others to pack clothing and food for the Freedom Riders, and a few of our braver contemporaries headed south to join them. White men (and women) my age helped drive Johnson and Nixon out of office. We voted for Carter, Clinton, Gore (and, foolishly, Nader), Obama. We may have split over Bernie v. Hillary, but we sure as hell didn’t vote for Trump. Nor do we read Drudge, watch Fox News, or listen to AM hate radio. We shop at Costco, not Walmart. Add our votes to those cast by women and minorities, and we far outnumber the sorry frightened bubble-dwellers this article talks about.

And anyway, fuck the sorry frightened bubble-dwellers. I’m sick of pundits and journalists trying to get us to understand their benighted tribal beliefs. What’s to understand? They’re stupid and racist and they will never change. The best way to put them back in their box is to make our majority work, to turn out in numbers and vote their representatives out of office. Sadly, even with our majority—should we ever get our shit together—it’ll be an uphill battle. As a result of Republican gerrymandering and Electoral College fuckery (none of which will be undone under current leadership), the approximately 3,000,000-vote majority we gave Hillary Clinton in November was simply tossed out, and I’m more cynical than ever as a result. Short of open revolution, though, voting is all we’ve got.


Last night on Twitter I got into it with a couple of strangers I’d probably feel right at home with if we ever met. One posted that Trump has mobilized the Pacific Fleet for a war with North Korea. Others jumped in with similar reports. I was skeptical. A Google news search turned up nothing on PACFLT, far less anything about mobilization or deployments to WESTPAC. More searching revealed that the USS Carl Vinson task force had deployed in January and had operated in Korean waters, but was now in Singapore, and I seemed to remember that when it was originally deployed it was in response to the Chinese occupation of the Spratly Islands, a long-simmering issue (the US military has been concerned about it, and has been preparing operational plans to respond to it, since I flew F-15s in Japan in the early 1990s).

I pointed some of this out, and several alarmists jumped in to suggest the media was not reporting on it and that whatever “official” information I had found was intentional misdirection. One woman swore that every US Navy ship based at San Diego had sailed in the last few days … she had seen it with her own eyes. Once again, the only hard information I could find was that two destroyers had sailed for WESTPAC in late March. I asked a friend in San Diego to take a look and she said nope, the harbor’s still full of Navy ships.

A telling sign we’re about to do something in Korea would be a buildup of air and ground forces in the Pacific, and there’s no indication anything like that is happening. Sure, we recently conducted a military exercise with our South Korean counterparts (probably why the Carl Vinson task force was there), but we do that every year (and every year the Norks cry bloody murder). Let me know when US-based fighter and bomber squadrons start deploying to Osan, Kadena, and Guam. Let me know when the Army and Marines start to call up the reserves. Let me know when war materiel starts piling up at West Coast ports. Oh, and if you want to know where the Navy’s carriers are these days, how about Googling “Where Are the Carriers?

Look, I’ve been obsessing about Korea since I was stationed in Japan two decades and change ago. I follow defense news closely. I would hope the current administration has put some thought into how to respond to North Korean craziness, but judging by everything I’ve seen, it’s far more likely Trump and his skeleton crew on the National Security Council are, at best, playing catch-up ball. I do not believe for a minute any kind of large-scale mobilization or change in DEFCON would escape the notice of the media, especially those media organizations Trump has labeled enemies of the people. The media has been diligent in reporting on additional American forces being sent to Syria and Iraq, and I’m pretty sure they’d be all over a buildup in the Pacific.

Speaking of Syria, we’ve been conducting airstrikes there since September 2014, airstrikes started under Obama and continuing under Trump. But the airstrikes are directed against ISIS targets in Syria, not against the Syrian government. Obama wanted to go after Assad in 2013 after an earlier gas attack against Syrian civilians, but he wanted approval from Congress and Congress didn’t act, claiming there was no public support for strikes against Assad (in reality, though, they were afraid conservative voters would turn them out if they were seen to have cooperated with Obama on anything).

Still, if Obama had been willing to act without Congressional approval, there was at that time a window of opportunity to take out Assad. The window closed with the arrival of the Russians.

I’m worried the Trump administration may be eyeing a quick and easy war as a way to boost the economy and its own popularity. If that’s the way they’re thinking, they may see a similar window of opportunity with regard to North Korea. Right now, the Chinese aren’t in NK. Neither are the Russians. Strike now and ask forgiveness later, as Obama might have done in Syria when he had the chance. Talk about brinksmanship, though—what if forgiveness is not forthcoming?

Is a game-changing US strike against North Korea even possible, short of attacking with nuclear weapons? Yes, I think so (from the comfort of my ergonomic home office chair): we could neutralize NK air forces and air defenses quickly, then hit Pyongyang and NK military targets with massive conventional bomber and cruise missile attacks. With the leadership decapitated and a lot of its military infrastructure in ruins, remaining NK forces might not march south. We’d have to not give a shit about massive civilian casualties and death, not to mention international opinion. Securing NK is a different story. We’d have to occupy the country afterward, and surely China would intervene. They might not be able to stop us before we destroyed Pyongyang, but they’d run us out of the country afterward. As every general and war planner has ever said, “Never get in a land war in Asia.”

Of course, we could consider deploying a Kardashian to share a cold Pepsi with Kim Jong Un. That might work.

Update (4/7/17): Like everyone, last night I was up watching network coverage of our cruise missile attack on the Syrian air base. A few thoughts this morning:

– Russia helped bail us out of the 2013 impasse when Obama wanted to strike Assad in retaliation for a previous & much larger gas attack, but Congress wouldn’t approve military force. If you remember, Russia brokered an agreement with Assad to hand over his stockpiles of chemical weapons, and we (the US) destroyed them at sea. Clearly, Assad did not act in good faith.
– I don’t know if Obama ever considered it, but before Russia based troops in Syria we could have gone after Assad himself, as we once went after Ghaddafi. That window closed when the Russians came in.
– I suspect what Obama had in mind after the earlier gas attack was similar to what Trump did last night. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pentagon dusted off the original 2013 plans.
– We coordinated with the Russians before last night’s attack? Well, duh.
– We are constrained in what we can do so long as the Russians are there. Hit them, we might as well declare war on Russia. How many easy targets remain, ones where we can damage Assad’s war machine while minimizing chances of Russian casualties?
– What to expect from Russia now? I think strong words but not much else. Trump is their man in the White House, so up to a point what’s good for him is good for Russia.
– If Assad reacts with another gas attack, what do we do next?
– Personally, I think hitting the air base was necessary. Obama should have done it in 2013 without Congressional approval.

Update (4/9/17): Re Korea, have seen several alarmist posts like this on Twitter and Facebook:

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This is the kind of hyperbolic over-reaction I was talking about in the original post, above. We have not “mobilized for war in Korea,” we’re not calling up the reserves, we have not deployed the US Navy to attack Kim Jong Un. We had a carrier task force in WESTPAC. It sailed off Korea last month and was making a port call in Singapore en route to Australia. Now it has been sent back into Korean waters.

This is basically normal. Thousands of American troops and their dependents are in harm’s way on the Korean Peninsula. They have been since the armistice in 1953 ended active hostilities there. US Naval forces are constantly in Korean waters or nearby. Sending the USS Carl Vinson back to patrol off the coast seems prudent to me, but hardly any kind of escalation.

Re Syria: as additional information about the cruise missile strike on the Syrian air base comes to light, I have to say I’m disappointed. I favor strong and decisive action against Assad. This wasn’t it. We warned the Russians beforehand, and the Russians warned the Syrians, and with all we know about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, it looks more and more like something cooked up between Putin and Trump to reverse Trump’s march toward impeachment.

Lotta shit happening, and it’s impossible to stay ahead of it. Waiting and watching now.

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Cyclovia Videoblog

We took our bicycles downtown Sunday morning to ride in Cyclovia, a twice-yearly ride and street party. We’ve participated in six to date and so far each route’s been different, exposing us to parts of Tucson we don’t normally see. This one started at the old Mexican presidio in the heart of downtown and went south through a colorful barrio before doubling back to the start.

I strapped the GoPro to my helmet and recorded most of the ride. The three short clips embedded here are roughly in order, from the start south and then back again.

Here and there along the route organizers had set up activity and information tents, and food trucks were out in force. We passed a portable zip line ride and a climbing cliff. There were live musicians here and there, but mostly DJs playing recorded music. We started early, so at first there weren’t too many other riders on the route. By the time we reached the south end and turned back north, it was starting to get crowded.

Crowded, as you can see, with families on bikes and walkers too, many of them obliviously stopping in bottlenecks. I used to call them oblivitrons, a word I think I made up, but which seems increasingly dated. Should I go with oblivibots?

Most of our serious riding friends won’t do Cyclovias, and I can see why. I quit participating in motorcycle poker and toy runs years ago, partly because of all the unsafe once-a-year riders who come out for them, partly because a lot of the participants are drunk after the first couple of stops. Drinking isn’t an issue with Cyclovia, but unsafe and unskilled riders absolutely are.

Still, we always enjoy the outings, and occasionally I’ll get an idea for a future bicycle Hash House Harrier trail. This time around I was intrigued by that colorful old barrio, but if you look close at the section of the second video clip where I’m riding through it, you’ll see a flour mark on the street … other hashers have been there, and not too long ago.

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