06 July 2015

Upate no.707

Update from the Heartland
No.707
29.6.15 – 5.7.15
To all,
            Road trip!  This week’s version entailed the Combat Air Museum (CAM) at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas.  Thank you, Don, for illuminating the museum’s existence.  The CAM is a privately funded facility with a broad range of mostly, well-maintained, military aircraft including a rare EC-121 Constellation surveillance aircraft. As with virtually every museum, I learned more about a profession and industry of which I hold considerable passion, and fortunately for me, remains involved in or a subject of my writing.  This is another example of a museum that is worthy of at least a few hours, if not an afternoon or even a day’s visit.
Combat Air Museum
[file: CAM display.JPG]
OK, pop quiz!  What are the four (4), foreground aircraft in the above image?  One should be easy; two may be a little more difficult; and, one will be definitely on the difficult end of the spectrum.
            The day was perfect for a leisurely bike ride.  I departed Wichita just after dawn.  The air temperature was a moderate 72ºF (22ºC), which made it pleasantly cool at road speed.  The sky was crystal clear blue with nary a cloud in the sky.  Virtually all of the wheat crops had been harvested, except for one fragmented field that was in process.  One wheat stubble field had already been burned in preparation for the next crop.  The cornfields were growing well, with most of them relying upon rainfall for water.  Of the cornfields that incorporated large, above ground, self-propelled, circular, sprinkler array, irrigation systems, only one was actually in operation.  Soybean fields had spouted and were growing well.  All is well on the Great Plains of Kansas . . . well, except for our governor, attorney general, secretary of state and legislature . . . but hey, I guess we cannot have everything.
            As is my usual modus operandum, I utilized less traveled, back roads.  My route outbound used US-50, KS-99 to Admire, Kansas, and then US-56 and US-75 to Forbes Field, which is a former Air Force base on the south side of Topeka.  A genuine surprise was a bona fide roundabout in the form so common to Mother England; this example at the junction of US-50 & US-77; and then, as if that was not enough, another roundabout at US-50, near I-35 in Emporia.  Will wonders ever cease?  I have always appreciated the traffic flow benefits roundabouts offer over traffic signals and stop signs.  The rolling, Flint Hills offered new scenery and a closer horizon than is common to Western Kansas.  I am always impressed by the rich, dark brown soil that proves to be so bountiful in this part of the country.  On a new route, I continued to be fascinated by barns, silos, sheds and residential homes, ranging from dilapidated, abandoned, Depression-era shacks, to single wide manufactured homes and a magnificent, multi-story, stone mansion that comes about as close to a castle as we have on the Great Plains.  These bike rides are always stimulations for the senses – all of them.  The ride home was harder work and less pleasurable – hot (more breaks), on the turnpike (more traffic), higher speeds, less sightseeing, and less stimulating.  Nonetheless, all in all, this was another great road trip.

            On Friday, 3.July.2015, Solar Impulse II landed safely in Kalaeloa Airport (formerly, NAS Barbers Point) [KJRF], Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii, after a five-day transit of the eastern Pacific Ocean from Nagoya, Japan – the longest, non-stop, solo flight in history – all without any fossil fuel, all with renewal solar-generated electrical power.  The aircraft took off on 9.3.2015, from Abu Dhabi [691], on its around the world, solar-powered attempt.  With a top-speed of 50 mph, the aircraft does not do anything fast.  Yet, the only fuel the aircraft needs it the Sun during the day, to charge its one ton of Lithium batteries.  Congratulations to the Swiss team on their accomplishment and godspeed and following winds for the remainder of their adventure.

            An amazing Women’s World Cup championship final match in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada!  We watched the entire match from start to finish.  The National Team of the United States of America decisively beat Japan, 5-2.  Four goals in the first 15 minutes of play . . . incredible!  And, then, there was Carli Lloyd’s midfield line shot for one of her hat trick goals . . . so exciting!  To be candid and frank, I was also disappointed the team was not able to preserve their shutout streak, allowing two goals.    Oh well!  Congratulations, ladies!

            Well now, ain’t that a clot in the churn.  The first official projection from Greece's Sunday referendum voting, based on early counting, was reported to be at least 61% of Greeks voting "NO" to creditors' demands.   The Prime Minister apparently convinced sufficient Greek voters the rejection would improve the government’s negotiating position with the Troika – EU, ECB & IMF.  I have a hard time seeing how this vote was a good thing.  With the Greeks thumbing their nose at the European Union, the reaction will be interesting to watch.  I hope the Greeks will be happy with the outcome.

            The opinions in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges [576 U.S. ___ (2015)][706] keep rollin’ in.  This week’s version comes from good ol’ Cal.
“Same-sex marriage ruling just the beginning”
by Cal Thomas – Tribune
Wichita Eagle
Published: JUNE 30, 2015
Dear ol’ Cal wrote, “That the majority threw a bone to religious people, their churches and institutions, saying they could continue to preach and teach that homosexual marriage is wrong, will almost certainly be challenged by gay activists and secularists whose goal is to drive religious people, and especially Christians, out of the public square.”  He further added, “Given their political clout and antipathy to Christian doctrines, some gay activists are likely to go after the tax-exempt status of Christian colleges that prohibit cohabitation of unmarried students, or openly homosexual ones, as well as churches that refuse to marry them.”
            At the bottom line, I find Cal’s words rather offensive, intentionally antagonistic and inciteful.  He seeks to fuel a perceived culture war.  We have tried to discuss this issue and other related issues in this forum.  As with so many social issues of our day, the question boils down to the clash of perspective, ideology and interpretation.  There are indeed many non-heterosexual citizens who are good, devoted Christians (as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and any other religious belief).  So, the notion espoused by dear ol’ Cal that somehow this is the Christians versus the homosexuals is just flat wrong and verging upon outright bigotry.  The real offensive part of Cal’s words, for me, is his presumption that it is perfectly acceptable for Christians to dictate personal and private conduct to all other citizens, while at the same time decrying any potential impositions upon those very same Christians.  This blatant dichotomy of reasoning (if I stretch the allowable meaning of the word) is really what is the most destructive element of this debate.  “Gay activists” as he uses the term may well seek retribution for the generations of oppression they have endured.  However, in my mind, those “gay activists” have no more right to impose upon homophobic Christians than vice versa.  This is wholly about an individual citizen’s fundamental right to “Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness,” and that works both ways . . . not just one-way, as Cal implies.
            Lastly, only in passing, I note that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has acknowledged that he is in no hurry to comply with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which in reality means, he will endeavor mightily to see that the state throws up every possible obstacle they can think of and dream up to deny equal rights to a minority of the population.  This question is not and never has been about the religious freedom of the majority, but rather entirely about the fundamental freedom of choice of every citizen, not just the majority and regardless of religion.  His small-mindedness is frankly disgusting.

            For the aviation enthusiasts among us:
“Controversy Flares Over F-35 Air Combat Report”
by Bill Sweetman
Aviation Week & Space Technology
Published: Jul 2, 2015
The leaked flight test report that lead to this article was not particularly encouraging.  The abridged, succinct version . . . the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter did not perform well in contact combat maneuvering against an older F-16 fighter.  One of the primary reasons for performing flight tests is to determine performance, so that it can be improved.  The control gains of augmented flight control systems are usually tuned down until more is known about the aerodynamic performance of a new aircraft.  This leaked report (for reasons likely intended to discredit the F-35, and diminish or eliminate the program) was simply a snapshot of the aircraft’s development and not likely a representation of the end-state.  Second, I must say, in this day and age, such performance for a modern fighter aircraft is disappointing and rather sad.  I expected, or perhaps I should say I hoped, the F-35 would or could perform air combat maneuvers that were unique and distinguishing compared to all other known or projected fighter aircraft.  Perhaps someday.  Then again, some are pronouncing the F-35 may be the last manned fighter to be produced, so we had better make it good.  Lastly, modern fighter design and tactics are intended to win early, to avoid the contact fight, canopy to canopy, so we must keep these snapshots in perspective; the aircraft has many other mission roles beyond the dogfight.

            News from the economic front:
-- The U.S. Labor Department reported nonfarm employment rose a seasonally adjusted 223,000 in June.  However, they also revised the May numbers down to 254,000 from an initially reported 280,000, and the April numbers down to 187,000 from a previously reported 221,000.  The unemployment rate fell to 5.3% in June, from 5.5% the prior month.
-- BP agreed to pay US$18.7B over 18 years to settle all federal and state claims with Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Texas, as well as claims made by 400 local government entities, arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [436, 442, 456, 471], ending a significant portion of litigation still outstanding from the deadly accident [20.4.2010].  As part of the deal, BP agreed to pay a civil penalty of US $5.5B under the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) [PL 92-500; 86 Stat. 816; 18.10.1972], payable over 15 years.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.706:
Comment to the Blog:
“Today’s interchange on spying and leaked documents was unintelligible to me due to the spy jargon and to your ‘friend, colleague and contributor’s’ incoherence and poor use of language. I’m sure France will ‘get over it’ if that suits their government’s interests.
“My contribution on this topic is to point out again that secrecy is no longer practical. Regardless of one’s moral views on spying and secrecy, technology has made it impossible to keep secrets. Like it or not, the 21st Century will be different that way.
“Let me be direct: Dylann Roof’s parenting cannot be held responsible for his actions. I know of no report or even conjecture that they participated in his actions or instructed him to take any actions resembling what he did. The study of parenting in early childhood might well lead to societal progress, but an individual of legal age is held responsible for his actions for good reasons. A child’s character stabilizes (or congeals) well before adulthood. From then on, his or her influences are largely a matter of circumstance. To hold parenting responsible for the specifics of an adult’s successes, failures, or directions merely takes away legitimate individual responsibility.
“The flags of defeated nations rarely fly except in museums and history books, classrooms, or websites, which are the appropriate ways to preserve those flags’ history. In particular, battle flags of defeated forces symbolize only the defeat. The Confederacy lost that war 150 years ago. Their (in some cases) descendants need to let that go.
“My position on Greece is pretty much summed up in/by the article I sent:
I agree with the writer that Greece has nothing left to lose by exiting the European Union. Perhaps the EU might learn to take a different approach if that happens. I note in your writing on this the phrase “push the socialist government further down the road to Russia.” The Cold War is long over. As far as I know, Russia is no longer Communist. Perhaps we need to give up seeking out enemies. We have made plenty already.”
My response to the Blog:
            Re: intelligence & secrecy.  Without secrecy, intelligence will be of little value.  If a potential adversary knows everything we know, then they can easily find the path for them to injure or hurt us.  I simply cannot fathom intelligence without secrecy.
            Re: parental accountability.  Dylann did not learn his racial hatred in the last three years of his (adult) life.  You are correct; I’ve seen no hints or clues his parents participated at any level in his crimes.  My point is, he did not just become what he became.  His parents created him by their direct teaching, by their complacency, by their neglect, or any combination of bad parenting.  Yes, a child’s character congeals well before adulthood; some actually believe a person’s character is set by 5yo.  I acknowledge that legally hold the parents accountable is NOT possible.  In circumstances like the Roof case, they should be subjected to intense scrutiny to at least make the public aware of those traits that made Dylann what he is.  If we do not shine a very bright light on those parents, we will continue to suffer these crimes perpetrated by bad people who have no respect for other human beings.  The parents do not deserve immunity from public scrutiny, and despite Gosnell’s proclamation, they are NOT victims in the Charleston tragedy.
            Re: CSA flag(s).  The point is not the public display of the flag, but rather the State’s display of the flag.  If a private citizen chooses to display the CSA flag (without disrespecting the U.S. national flag), that is their freedom of choice.  That flag no longer belongs on any state objects, documents, property, or anything that reflects or represents the State.
            Re: Greece.  The government chose not to collect taxes due, or collect other revenues due the State.  Yet, they somehow thought borrowing money to pay for their socialist programs was a sustainable policy.  I have absolutely nothing against the people of any nation choosing socialism; that is their choice.  What I cannot tolerate is that government asking creditors to forgive their obscene debt to pay for their choices.  The Greeks have no right whatsoever to think the rest of Europe should pay for their socialism.  The people of Greece, or at least some portion of the population, benefitted from all that borrowed money; those who benefited should suffer the consequences of those bad decisions and ridiculous largesse.  We are not seeking out enemies; we have always preferred customers to enemies.
 . . . Round two:
“I understand that the end of official (and personal) secrecy is difficult to process, especially for people in the business of secrets. All the same, events demonstrate that covert information and actions have become impossible.
“Most of those who have spent lifetimes studying the subject believe that a person's character is set by the age of 5 or sooner than that. On top of that, medical science continues to uncover genetic, biochemical, and neurological causes of behavior, none of which are influenced by parenting in any direct sense. Explaining human behavior requires a great deal more than accusing parents of failure.
“Your statement about the CSA flag is reasonable. Incidents such as the Charleston shootings are making it abundantly clear to private parties what the rest of us think about that particular flag. If people voluntarily present themselves as bigots, so be it. We have seen, however, that major corporations may not want to sell that image. And as you state, government use of that particular symbol is another matter.
“Some portion of the Greek population may have benefited from the bailout. They have since paid a high price for any such benefits they received. Such moralizing, however, will not influence anyone's decisions. We may hope the Greeks do what is best for the Greeks. The European “Union” is clearly not part of that, and never was.
“You may claim what you like, but the United States' allegations about terrorism and whatever other explanations we have used to take hostile actions worldwide have made plenty of enemies. Even those who began as customers are bled dry by the corporate interests that have taken over our government, and those targets are not stupid enough to keep believing. Remember that out here in the real world, stated intentions mean nothing unless the results match them.”
 . . . my response to round two:
            Re: secrecy difficult to process.  OK, right back atcha.  Why is it so hard for some folks to recognize secrecy is mandatory for intelligence to be of any use whatsoever?  I continue to probe for a solution to your aversion to secrecy and the national security requirement to collect action-able intelligence to enable national security.
            Re: parenting.  Well put, actually.  I acknowledge there are other elements beyond just parental teachings in the formation of a person’s character.  Further, to that end, parents are the primary source or observers of anomalous behavior; their complacency regarding bad behavior is suffered by innocent people.  I do not know anything about Roof’s parents, thus I am incapable of making accusations, which is precisely why they and their son’s childhood should be subjected to intense scrutiny.  I highly doubt he was infected with that degree of inhumanity in the last few years of his life before his horrific crime.  I would love to be proven wrong, but based on what we know so far . . . I doubt I am.
            Re: CSA flag.  Every citizen has a fundamental right to believe as they wish to believe including racism, bigotry, homophobia or any other belief.  That individual has NO right to act upon those beliefs in the public domain or to cause injury to another citizen.  The State is the agent of the public domain, and as such cannot even implicitly or passively espouse of support divisive ideologies.
            Re: Greece.  You may be correct, although I suspect not.  The Greeks would not have received the tolerance of the EU, IMF and ECB without the EU.  I suspect they well not have received the loans they did without the EU.  I hold little sympathy for what the Greeks have done to themselves.
            Re: actions speak louder than words.  Indeed.  I agree.  Let’s examine the good as well as the bad, rather than just the latter.
 . . . Round three:
“I have difficulty conveying to you that most of what I say is not moral judgments but observations of reality. Moral judgments have little place in my outlook on life. What I am trying to convey is not, in this instance, about my ‘aversion’ (your term) to secrecy. The simple fact is that secrecy is no longer a real possibility. There have always been people who objected to torture and many other spy activities. Technology has made it possible for them to expose spies' activities to many others who also object with real evidence rather than mere accusations. I'm not as interested in whether that is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as I am in the simple fact that a new factor has entered the government equation. Never in history has it been impossible for a government to keep secrets. That is truly historical. Thus far, governments have not adjusted.
“The Greeks would not be in this situation without the Euro. That the troika (International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, European Union (EU)) presents its case as righteous and even claims to be helping Greece conceals from nobody the profitability of its scheme or the ongoing poverty harming the Greek people. Greece will not escape its current crisis via the EU so long as one Euro remains to any of them. You and the EU may present the central issue as a moral obligation of the Greek government, but the suffering Greeks will never see it that way. From where they stand, it's pure greed on the part of the troika. If that situation leads to major changes in the EU, so much the better. The German and French individuals who are profiting from the pain of the Greeks (and Italians, Spaniards, and Irish) are the only ones who benefit from the EU as it stands. I note here that one purpose of the EU is to compete economically with the U.S. and China, so perhaps Americans ought not to be as enthusiastic about the EU's profits as they appear to be.”
 . . . my response to round three:
            Re: secrecy.  OK.  I think I understand what you are trying to say.  Yes, you are correct in a sense.  However, despite the breaches by Manning and Snowden, I think it safe to say, they have not betrayed all of the classified material held by the USG.  There are a myriad of levels of material from unclassified but restricted, confidential, secret and top secret; on top of those levels, special compartmented information (SCI) further breaks up information, so that only individuals with established access AND need to know can see it.  I think it also safe to say, Manning and Snowden, as well as other spies like Walker, Pollard, Ames, Hanssen, et al, did NOT have access to all TS-SCI material.  Those ‘traitors’ did not compromise all classified material.  Secrecy of our intelligence material is still in place and will remain so.  And, I might add, all of the ‘traitors’ have been tried, convicted and incarcerated . . . except for Snowden, but there is still hope he will join the others in time.  The USG has a very long memory and reach.  Further, I dare say, after Snowden’s betrayal, things within the IC have been tightened up.
            Re: Greece.  No, the Greeks would not be in their situation if the leaders of three governments ago had not signed multiple documents, taking out obscene loans they had no means to repay, and by no means, I mean they continue to refuse to collect taxes due from their citizens, while they expect their creditors to forgive their debts and their incompetence.  No, I do not blame the Greek citizens specifically.  They accepted generous pensions that the government had no prayer of paying for; accepting a gift horse . . . well, who are we to judge, but where is the line drawn.  Is it the banks problem or the person who takes out the loan they cannot pay for?
 . . . Round four:
“Re Greece, I still have not made my point. You and others may see a great moral issue here. The people voting could not care less about that. They are concerned with the disasters that are occurring in their lives. I do not have much interest in the morality play either. I concern myself mainly with whether the experiment in a new scale of social organization that is the European Union will work for the general benefit of the people affected by it. The answer thus far appears to be no. Greed has overcome any initial good intentions of those who organized the EU, and most of the people in the area will pay for that one way or another. I doubt the EU has a long future. Besides the Greeks themselves, never believe that the others who have been made to pay the bankers (Italians, Spaniards, Irish) are not watching closely. They are aware by now that they are free of the yoke the Greeks bear only until the next back-room deal goes sour. Sooner or later, they will break that cycle. They must, for their own well being.”
 . . . my response to round four:
            Re: Greece.  You may not have made your point, but I think I understand what you are getting at.  Please continue to explain; I’m always willing to listen.
            I never want to see people suffer.  I do not want the Greeks to suffer.  But, I also want them to repay the loans they took out . . . just like you and I must do.
            The Greeks could have easily avoided all of this.  The equation is quite simple . . . do not spend more than you receive in revenue.  If you choose not to collect taxes due, fine by me . . . just live within the revenue you do collect.  They chose not to do so.  Now, the bill has come due.  Time to pay up.  There would be no dicta from the Troika if the Greeks had not put themselves in this position.  My point is, the Greeks must take responsibility for their grotesque largesse mentality that is so bloody common to socialism.  I do not see the greed of which you speak.  The Greeks did this to themselves; the bankers and EU did not do it to them.  I’m a bit amazed that you think PIGS are victims of the evil, greedy bankers in Germany.  No one forced them to take those loans they could not afford.
            I’m curious.  What do you expect or think the Greeks should do to “break that cycle”?
 . . . Round five:
“You seem to have confused the Greek government of a few elections back, which made the decision to borrow from the Germans and the French, confused with the Greek people, who are suffering a great deal from those decisions. The Greek people are suffering serious losses such as 25% unemployment and the lack of even the most basic government services, not "first world" problems like having to share a car with one's spouse. Those are the people who will vote on the issue. Keep in mind that the "bailouts" are not going to them but to the bankers who disclaim all responsibility just as they do on Wall Street. Taking more debt from the EU will not provide ordinary Greeks with any of the things they desperately need. Austerity has not resulted in prosperity in Greece any more than it has in Kansas. The voters have to save their own lives in a literal sense, and if they are wise they will go ahead and leave the European ‘Union,’ which was their route into this disaster.”
 . . . my response to round five:
            I am not confused at all.  Those suffering Greek people of which you speak apparently did not question how they were going to get paid near-full-pay pensions at such a comparatively young retirement age (no work).  I am retired now, and on a pension of sorts, but my pension compensation is a long way from my income while I was working.  My calculations had to assess the stability of the payor(s).  I know I would not like “my pension” decreased, so I can relate to those ‘suffering’ Greeks.
            You know, to be candid, I could support writing off the bad debt, if I had confidence sufficient reforms had been implemented and enforced in Greece that assured all of us the Greeks could live within their means (their tax revenue).  I cannot support the transfer of wealth from Germany and France to Greece, simply because they feel they deserve generous retirement pensions . . . just because they are good people.  Their high unemployment is due to many reasons that are directly and some indirectly related to their unreliability for investment.  The Greeks must regain the confidence of investors if they are to have any hope of economic recovery.  Being a welfare state is NOT acceptable.

My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cheers,
Cap                        :-)