Monday, November 11, 2019

The Armistice from 500 feet over No Man's Land

Eddie Rickenbacker looks back on eleven o'clock.  You forget that the planes flew as slow as cars go today, and he had time to observe things as he flew slowly by.

Troop Greeters

This Veteran's Day, I'd like to point out some folks from the Home Front that made a difference.  The country is full of people who thank veterans; this is the story of two groups who went above and beyond the call of duty.

The North Platte Canteen

Troop trains would stop in North Platte, Nebraska.  The engineers would lubricate the wheels and top off the water in ten minute stops.  The women of North Platte would bring food - at first cookies and later in the war full meals and even birthday cakes - to the trains.

Every single train for the entire war.

Six million troops stopped in North Platte, and every single one was fed.  The government donated exactly $5 of this, and it was a check sent by Franklin Roosevelt when he heard about the effort.  The people who organized this raised almost $140,000 (in 1940s dollars).  The food was gathered during a period of rationing.  The soldiers and sailors who went through North Platte never forgot that day.



The Bangor Troop Greeters

Bangor, Maine has the easternmost international airport in the United States.  Originally built as Dow Air Force Base, the runway once hosted B-52 bombers.  This makes it a great refueling stop for troop flights returning from overseas.

A group of people in Bangor heard that soldiers returning from Desert Storm were going to be stopping.  They showed up with coffee, cookies, and cell phones for the troops to call their loved ones.  A million and a half troops have stopped in Bangor, and they're met at all times of the day or night.  The US Government hasn't had to pay a dime - this is an all volunteer effort.



These people make me proud to be their countryman.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Screw Germany

The German Foreign Minister (!) says that the US had no impact on Germany reunification:
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for more solidarity among European nations in an article published in media outlets across 26 European countries on Saturday. He also thanked Europeans for their contribution to German reunification.
"German unity was a gift from Europe to Germany," Maas wrote in the editorial. "And that was at the end of a century in which Germany brought unimaginable suffering to this continent."
So  Europe did it for Germany, all on their lonesome.  Screw you, Fritz.  We should ditch NATO and set up a replacement alliance with countries that want to be, you know, allies.  And it's not just the Foreign Minister; Germany's damned President took a swing, too:
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the United States to be a "mutually respectful partner" and reject nationalism, in a clear salvo aimed at US leader Donald Trump as Germany on Saturday marked 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Recalling the United States' key role in helping to bring down the hated Wall separating communist East Germany from the capitalist West, Steinmeier said he still hears the late American president Ronald Reagan's cry of "tear down this wall" at the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

But in a swipe at Trump's America First policy and his insistence on building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, Steinmeier voiced a yearning for a return of the transatlantic partner of the past.

"This America as a mutually respectful partner, as a partner for democracy and freedom, against national egoism - that is what I hope for in the future too," said Steinmeier.
Two words were not spoken by either of these gentlemen: Gail Halvorsen.

Germany's gotten so used to sitting at our Stammtisch that they've forgotten that's a privilege, not a right.  What the hell are we doing with troops in Europe?

Thirty years after the Berlin Wall

The Usual Suspects® are ignoring the anniversary, but that's to be expected.  After all, pas d'enemies a gauche, n'est-ce pas?  But the cold reality of that monster regime is ever green, with explicitly socialist presidential candidates and large numbers of this Republic's youth thinking that socialism - and even communism - is the bee's knees.

I wrote this ten years ago on the 20th anniversary of the fall, hard on the heels of the Newsweek Cover story "We're all socialists now".  The Useful Idiots® are still idiots today.  They're also useful, to some.


Originally posted November 10, 2019.

The Line


The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.
- Cicero

I used to be a leftist, proudly "progressive."  No more. I no longer have the stomach to sleep with evil, even evil in the name of the greater good. In all of the retrospectives about the fall of the Berlin Wall this score of years ago, something is missing. Recognition of tyranny is there (mostly). Recognition of how (mostly) the once unfree populations have embraced freedom is there, too (mostly).

What's missing is any description of the depth of evil that was our enemy. Col. Jeff Cooper saw it, and wrote of it in To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak The Truth:

Starting at its western edge, The Line is composed of several strata. First comes the actual linear boundary, surveyed and marked to the centimeter. There is no fence here. Free people can walk right up to it - but they do not step across it. Death looms. Some ten paces beyond the marked boundary, to the eastward, is the outside fence. It is a single barrier some ten feet high, electrified and sown with directional mines set to fire along its inside surface. Beyond the outside fence is a band of dead ground some 100 meters in width, cleared of life and planted at random with pressure-release anti-personnel fragmentation mines. When the snow melts in winter thaws these go off erratically in the sunshine - "Lenin's serenade."

At the inner edge of the dead ground are the dogs - German shepherds chained to an overhead trolley that allows them to run parallel to the inner fence but not back into it (electrocution) nor forward away from it (explosion). ...

At intervals watchtowers loom fifty feet into the air, manned and equipped with enhanced-vision devices, cameras, weapons, and release controls for packs of killer dogs which can be set free at command behind the inner fence. ...

Behind the inner fence lies a belt of Zombie-land five kilometers deep. No one moves here except those whose duties demand it. The fields produce. Roads and roofs are mended. There is an occasional dilapidated vehicle in motion. At first glance it seems a viable countryside. On closer inspection, however, it is death-in-life. There are perhaps two lighted windows where there should be scores. Such villages in which there are lights are inside electric fences. The sickening effect grows as the sun sets. ...

With exquisite cruelty the very existence of The Line is concealed from those it contains. The east border of the 5 km Zombie zone is marked - from the east - simply as the border. Good slaves do not cross it, not because it is fearful to behold, but because they are good slaves. Bad slaves sometimes do cross it, but because they do not know what they face they usually die.

My staff sergeant guide on this occasion told me of a case he witnessed. A young woman, apparently driven to desperation, dared to cross the eastern 5 km line and lead her small child west towards liberty. As she approached the inner fence, the orcs in the watchtower loosed the dogs.

"I stood there with a rifle in my hands, but I was not allowed to shoot." He said, "I hear those screams every day. The mother's were louder than the child's. They were long and very high. They drowned out the growling of the dogs.

"For a while."
The worker's paradise was not above selling its slaves to the west:
Between 1964 and 1989, 33,755 political prisoners were ransomed. A further 2,087 prisoners were released to the West under an amnesty in 1972. Another 215,000 people, including 2,000 children cut off from their parents, were allowed to leave East Germany to rejoin their families. In exchange, West Germany paid over 3.4 billion DM – nearly $2.3 billion at 1990 prices – in goods and hard currency.[117] Those ransomed were valued on a sliding scale, ranging from around 1,875 DM for a worker to around 11,250 DM for a doctor. The justification, according to East Germany, was that this was compensation for the money invested by the state in the prisoner's training. For a while, payments were made in kind using goods that were in short supply in East Germany, such as oranges, bananas, coffee and medical drugs. The average prisoner was worth around 4,000 DM worth of goods.[118] The scheme was highly controversial in the West. Freikauf was denounced by many as human trafficking but was defended by others as an "act of pure humanitarianism";[119] the West German government budgeted money for Freikauf under the euphemistic heading of "support of special aid measures of an all-German character.
I'm thankfully not the only one to notice this strange amnesia, and judge. And to find today's leftist intellectuals to be wanting:
The first person shot dead at the Berlin Wall was 24 year old Gunter Litfin, as he tried to swim across the Spree River on August 24, 1961. A year later, East German guards shot 17 year old Peter Fechter as he tried to scale the wall, and left him to bleed to death in that barren and desolate area of open land east of the Wall.
The last person known to be killed at the Wall was 20 year old bartender Chris Gueffroy, shot ten times for good measure on February 5, 1989. 
...
I find it obscene that [New Zealand] National Radio broadcasters Geoff Robinson and Lloyd Scott this morning recalled the Berlin Wall, its twenty-eight years of bloodshed and the 1200 slaughtered East Germans, with wistful nostalgia. They even appeared to excuse the East German secret police, the Stasi, as people just doing their jobs.
Not just judged to be morally void, but intellectually as well:
In 1922 Ludwig Von Mises explained that socialism would eat itself and the people whom it enslaved – that it couldn’t plan, it couldn’t produce, that it couldn’t calculate -- that it was and always would be both morally depraved and economically unsustainable. Sixty-seven years later he was proven emphatically correct when the illusion that was socialist Eastern Europe collapsed, and the symbol of its totalitarian state was torn down.
The barest minimum qualification for an intellectual is to examine and test your first premises. To reject them, if they do not model the world effectively. Philosophers all the way back to Plato would hold today's left in contempt, with their hope that some how, this time it will be different.


Here's a different way of saying the same thing:




Such a strange forgetfulness by the Moral Titans of the left: chattel slavery, Schießbefehl ("Order to fire" - shoot to kill), thousands of dead, the souls of millions crushed. For their own good, of course. The People must be protected from the people.

So strange that the left cannot take this moment to reflect on actual evil, and to condemn it without mistakes were made and for a noble cause excuses, without clinging to that most slippery word "but". They believe - and I generally concur - that they are good people, motivated to do good. But they flinch from examining the actual truth. They are behind their own mental Iron Curtain, trapped by an unexamined world view. Behind their own, intellectually-imposed Line. 

The east border of the 5 km Zombie zone is marked - from the east - simply as the border. Good slaves do not cross it, not because it is fearful to behold, but because they are good slaves.
Tear it down.


He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

François Couperin - Les Barricades Mystérieuses

Image de la Wik
Louis XIV was the world's toughest music critic, famously muttering "Le critic de musique, c'est moi" (well, I'm pretty sure I heard that somewhere).  The Sun King held the most splendid court outside of China, and so demanded the very best in everything.

François Couperin was Court organist, so we know that Le critique de music thought he was pretty darned good.  The rest of France simply called him Couperin le Grand.

We have a ton of his music, since he was given carte blanch to publish whatever he wanted to.  This made him influential all across Europe, and no less than J. S. Bach corresponded with him.  Later generations much admired his work, notably Brahms and Ravel - whose Tombeau de Couperin we have seen here before.

Long time reader and friend Libertyman suggested Couperin some time ago.  Since today is the composer's birthday it seemed fitting.

November 10th, 1775

Happy 224th Birthday, Marines. Semper Fidelis.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Riley Green - I Wish Grandpas Never Died

All music genres have a formula.  Rock has rebellion, the Blues has your woman did you wrong (or vice versa), Hip Hop has - well, I'm sure it has something but I couldn't tell you what it is if my life depended on it.  Country has family.

The danger of Country's overt sentimentality is that it strays into the maudlin, becoming a self-parody  Remember the ending of Harry Chapin's "30,000 Pounds Of Bananas"?  How he tried to write a country ending and so he added his Mom because the song already had a truck?  It was funny because it's true.

But when Country is on, it is dead on.  I wrote about this once, a few years after Dad's death and how one song captured her grief - to paraphrase Shakespeare a grief so profound that like the Bay of France it had no bottom.*

And so to today's song, which does the same.  You will have to go read it at American Digest where Gerhard van der Leun writes about the memories triggered by this simple piece of formula that rises above the trope.  The simple becomes deep, aye like the Bay of France which has no bottom.

It made me remember my own Grandpa.  I think he might have liked this song.

Go and read.  This is the finest thing you'll see all day, other than your family.  Oh, and if you don't know the lyrics to Mama Tried, you can find them here.

* In olden times sailors would navigate by, among other techniques, casting a sounding lead - a weight on a long string.  If the weight hit the bottom, you would pull it up counting how much line it took (this is the water depth).  The Bay Of Biscay off of France was notorious for being so deep that the weight would never hit, thus it "had no bottom".

Friday, November 8, 2019

NTSB: Uber pedestrian fatality happened because autopilot software didn't understand that someone might jaywalk

Last year an experimental self-driving car from Uber hit and killed Elaine Hertzberg in Tempe, AZ.  The NTSB has completed its investigation and said that the cause of the crash is that the software did not classify her as a pedestrian because it could not handle the idea that a pedestrian might jaywalk:
Radar in Uber's self-driving vehicle detected pedestrian Elaine Herzberg more than five seconds before the SUV crashed into her, according to a new report from the National Safety Transportation Board. Unfortunately, a series of poor software design decisions prevented the software from taking any action until 0.2 seconds before the deadly crash in Tempe, Arizona.

FURTHER READING: Uber manager in March: “We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles”

Herzberg's death occurred in March 2018, and the NTSB published its initial report on the case in May of that year. That report made clear that badly written software, not failing hardware, was responsible for the crash that killed Herzberg. 
... 
Two things are noteworthy about this sequence of events. First, at no point did the system classify her as a pedestrian. According to the NTSB, that's because "the system design did not include consideration for jaywalking pedestrians." 
Second, the constantly switching classifications prevented Uber's software from accurately computing her trajectory and realizing she was on a collision course with the vehicle. You might think that if a self-driving system sees an object moving into the path of the vehicle, it would put on its brakes even if it wasn't sure what kind of object it was. But that's not how Uber's software worked.
I don't find this even a little hard to believe, but you should click through to read the whole article which is simply horrifying.  Computers are really good at some things (like adding up long columns of figures) and really bad at other things (like identifying random objects in real time).  One thing they are terrible at is "common sense" - they don't have any that the programmer doesn't write into the code.  Things like a pedestrian might cross a road somewhere other than at a crosswalk.

I've said for some time that I'll never ride in one of these things, but now I need to expand that - I don't want any of these on the roads where I might be.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

No, we can't just invade Mexico to go after the drug cartels

Well, I mean that we could, but that there is precisely zero chance that we would succeed.

Folks are talking about this and I want to throw my two cents in.  Sure, we would initially blow away the cartel's armored vehicles and heavy weapons, but the initial success would be fleeting.  There are a million reasons for this, but here's a quick summary:

  • The cartels would hole up in rough terrain, just like Pancho Villa's forces did in the early 20th century.  Sure, we have helicopters which mitigates the lack of roads but the last two decades in Afghanistan do not give confidence in quick military success in mountainous regions.
  • The Pancho Villa expedition in 1916 was called off because the Mexican military intervened to oppose American intervention.  Most Americans don't really realize just how viscerally Mexicans would react to US forces on their soil in numbers.
  • Since the cartels have bought off most Mexican politicians ("silver or lead" - take the payoff or a bullet) the last point becomes even more relevant.

So it's not a question of whether we'd inflict a lot of damage on the cartels.  Of course we would.  But ultimately we'd leave with our tails between our legs and this would make the situation worse than it is today.

And don't think that we would be safe, north of the Rio Grande.  The size of the drug market is unknown but RAND says that just the US black market for drugs was over $100B in 2010.  Add in the EU, Asia, the Anglosphere, and South America and this is certainly half a trillion dollars a year.  That's a lot of money.  The cartels have used this to purchase heavy weapons and armored vehicles, submarines and airplanes.  But that isn't where the threat ends.

Consider how much computer hacking $50M or so could buy.  We know that the power grid is already compromised - the hope is that it is by nation state actors.  But what if it is Black Hats for hire?  It's entirely plausible that if the cartels face a truly existential threat from the US military that they could take down big parts of our critical cyber infrastructure.  This threat has been pretty clear for a decade; I've been beating this drum for that long, although I've mostly given up by now since it's getting worse not better.  Someone in the cartels will have noticed this.

And so while the idea of "let's go blow the cartels away" sounds good on the surface, it's an enormously bad idea.  We'd be fighting a 3rd generation war while the cartels would escalate to a 4th generation one - and we are entirely unprepared for this.

I'm at an all day meeting, so more thoughts on just how fragile our cyber infrastructure is will have to wait.  But it's not just bad, it's worse than you can possibly imagine.

You want to hurt the cartels, then you dry up the cash flow.  You end the war on drugs, legalize everything, and give the drugs away for free.  They can't compete with free.  Anything short of this and you're just going to get a lot of people killed and end up right back where you started.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Oldest Iwo Jima veteran reports to final muster

Semper fi:
MACOMB, Ill. — The oldest known surviving Marine from the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II has died.
John Moon, of Macomb, passed away earlier this week, Western Illinois University confirmed. He was 103 years old.
Ave atque vale.

Hat tip: The Queen Of The World.

IMR Powder Recall

IMR 4007 SSC powder is under a recall. An immediate and apparently serious problem with the powder exists. Here the official announcement:

IMR Legendary Powders is officially announcing a product safety warning and recall notice for IMR 4007SSC smokeless powder. All lots of powder are included in the recall. IMR has received reports that this particular powder, sold in 1 pound and 8 pound containers, could become unstable due to possible rapid deterioration. Use of this product may result in combustion, fire damage and/or possible serious injury.
What to do:
1. If you are in possession of IMR 4007SSC, STOP USING THE PRODUCT IMMEDIATELY! Fill the powder container with water, which will render the product inert and safe for disposal.
2. Mail, email or fax a copy of the powder label with the lot number to the contact information below, and include your name, address, phone and email.
3. You may select a replacement IMR smokeless powder product of your choice, which will be shipped to you at no charge.
4. If you have loaded the powder subject to this recall into ammunition, we recommend that you pull the bullets, remove the powder and wet the powder with water for safe disposal.
IMR deeply regrets any inconvenience this may cause, but we believe in safety first.
Contact information: Hodgdon Powder Company, Inc., 6430 Vista Drive, Shawnee, KS 66218, email help@imrpowder.com, imprpowder.com, call 1-800-622-4366 or 913-362-9455 and fax 913-362-1307.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Weekend Canoe Trip

We only had two days this fall.  So we put in on the Cashie River in Windsor, N.C. last Saturday and made the most of it. Perfect weather, clear, high 60s. We camped on one of the platforms that the Roanoke River Partners have built in the area.

 A lot of years and a lot of trips makes for easy paddling and good meals.