“Project Horizon” – another Cold War latrine hole filled with taxpayer dollar$

❝ The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Believe it or not, in the 1950s the U.S. seriously considered building a military base on the Moon. Why? As Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson later put it, so that Americans would never have to go to bed “by the light of a Communist Moon.”

❝ Just before 10:30 p.m. on the evening of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit around Earth. Sputnik was just a metal sphere with some antennas attached, not much larger than a basketball. All it did was send radio signals beeping back to Earth. But it passed over the United States several times a day, and there was nothing the government could do about it. The implications were obvious: Russian missiles that carried satellites like Sputnik into orbit might someday be used to launch nuclear weapons against America.

The Russians didn’t stop there: One month later they commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution by launching a dog into orbit aboard Sputnik 2. They boldly predicted that Soviet cosmonauts would celebrate the Russian Revolution’s 50th anniversary, in 1967, on the Moon.

❝ U.S. intelligence analysts who studied the secretive Soviet space program feared that the Russians might indeed be capable of landing on the Moon by 1967. That raised some disturbing possibilities for American military planners: What if the Soviets claimed the Moon as Russian territory? Even worse, what if they established a military base on the Moon, perhaps even a nuclear missile base with its missiles pointed back at Earth? The United States would have no way to defend itself. The only answer, at least as far as planners in the U.S. Army were concerned, was to get to the Moon first and build a lunar base before the Russians did.

…the Army’s chief of research and development, Lieutenant General Arthur Trudeau, in March 1959…directed the army’s chief of ordnance to “develop a plan…for establishing a lunar base by the quickest means possible.” Two months later the three-volume report for “Project Horizon” landed on General Trudeau’s desk.

The article is long and looney. Still worth a read. I think you can look around at some of the nutballs inhabiting our government nowadays who learned “everything they know” from the kind of people who came up with Project Horizon.

For myself, embarrassing enough to see one of the most dangerous weapons I ever worked on. Dangerous, mostly, to anyone who tried to use the piece of crap called the Davy Crockett Rocket.

Fake news provokes Pakistan Minister to aim a nuclear threat at Israel

❝ A fake news article led to gunfire at a Washington pizzeria three weeks ago. Now it seems that another fake news story has prompted the defense minister of Pakistan to threaten to go nuclear.

The defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, wrote a saber-rattling Twitter post directed at Israel on Friday after a false report — which the minister apparently believed — that Israel had threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons. Both countries have nuclear arsenals.

“Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh,” the minister wrote on his official Twitter account, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too.”

❝ Mr. Asif appeared to be reacting to a fake news article published on awdnews.com.

That story, with the typo-laden headline “Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack,” appeared on the website on Dec. 20, alongside articles with headlines like “Clinton is staging a military coup against Trump.”

The fake story about Israel even misidentified the country’s defense minister, attributing quotations to a former minister, Moshe Yaalon. Israel’s current minister of defense is Avigdor Lieberman.

❝ The Israeli Defense Ministry responded on Twitter to say the report was fictitious.

Legitimate news sources haven’t had much of a problem in decades with promulgating fake news. Perhaps, online profiteers might consider moving beyond copouts. Even a sleazy neighborhood bar requires proof of age. Algorithms could be a sufficient first-level challenge.

The Lost Tapes from Pearl Harbor

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❝ One style of history documentary — vintage clips plus reminiscences plus talking heads — is so common that it’s easy to forget that there are other options. “The Lost Tapes,” a series the Smithsonian Channel introduces on Sunday night with an episode on Pearl Harbor, effectively employs an alternative that really ought to get more use, especially for history that falls within the era of film and sound recording.

The program consists of just clips and still images with an occasional caption. No academics in office-chair interviews interpret things for you. No survivors grow weepy while dredging up their decades-old memories. No narration intrudes. The idea is to come closer to putting you in the historical moment, to give you a sense of what people experienced and felt at the time.

RTFA. Know what to expect, what to look for, when you watch this – as I plan to do. Never forget.

Cartoon: same as it ever was

I had friends, kin, in the Allied force that invaded, confronted the German military ruling most of Europe till the crushing bonfire that was all that was left of Germany at the end of World War 2. They helped bring about an end to the Thousand-Year-Reich. Something much longer than anything Steve Bannon proposes for Trump and their white supremacist gang.

Along the way they were often reminded of what they could – and could not – fire upon. That latter category included anything with a sign that said Krupp.

Freedom from fear

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The last of FDR’s Four Freedoms. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s state of the union address to Congress in January, 1941 became known as the Four Freedoms Speech. You might want to read back through it.

You will understand how far we have backslid towards the foolishness of corporate conservatives who destroyed our world’s economy in the 1930’s. It will look familiar to folks who understand the progressive path Bernie Sanders proposes.

Testing the Navy’s unmanned sub chaser

❝ The 132-foot-long unmanned and unarmed prototype, dubbed Sea Hunter, is the naval equivalent of Google’s self-driving car, designed to cruise on the ocean’s surface for two or three months at a time – without a crew or anyone controlling it remotely.

❝ The Pentagon’s new unmanned submarine chaser is currently undergoing at-sea testing off the coast of California…The prototype vessel, known as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) or Sea Hunter for short, is built to track enemy submarines over thousands of miles of ocean for months at a time and without a single crew member on board.

❝ In the video below, the ACTUV is actually testing its Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) system, which could be towed behind boats or ships carry out intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communications ops by extending the equipment range compared to a ship’s mast.

❝ DARPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Office of Naval Research in September 2014 to jointly fund an extended test phase of an ACTUV prototype. The vessel was christened in 2016 in Portland, Oregon. Pending the results of those tests, the program could transition to the Navy by 2018.

To be followed by a Marvel movie released in the summer of 2019.

Milestone: IED drone kills combatants allied against ISIS in Iraq

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❝ On October 2nd, in Irbil, Iraq, a drone flown by ISIS injured two French paratroopers, who were supporting Kurdish forces. Two Peshmerga, or Kurdish soldiers, were killed in the blast, according to French newspaper Le Monde. The attack is possibly the first where a drone fitted with an improvised explosive device has inflicted casualties on troops from a Western nation.

Le Monde reports:

❝ The two commandos were struck by the flying, booby-trapped drone, sent by a group linked to ISIS. The exact context/circumstances of the attack remain to be specified. The soldiers reportedly intercepted the drone before it exploded on the ground. This type of attack against French forces is in any case without precedent.

❝ Unlike drones used by the United States for attacks, ISIS is converting small, cheap commercial models into one-way weapons. Kurdish forces spotted these drones at least as early as last winter. Iraq is not the first battlefield to see cheap drones.

The Washington Post notes:

❝ Drone use by militants and insurgent groups has steadily risen years as cheap off-the-shelf models have become easily acquired and simple to fly. In Ukraine, store-bought quadcopter drones are used on the front lines in the country’s east by both government troops and Russian-backed separatists in primarily a reconnaissance role, helping locate trench lines and spot for artillery.

In Iraq and Syria, a host of insurgent and opposition groups have used the drones in similar roles, though there have been a few instances of the remotely piloted craft being used to drop what appear to be explosives. Insurgent groups, including the Islamic State, also use the vehicles to film propaganda videos…

❝ DARPA wants the United States to have anti-drone lasers by 2020, a goal every part of the military, from the Air Force to the Marine Corps, is independently working towards. Laser weapons are costly to build, but their appeals as an anti-drone weapon is that every shot of directed energy is cheap, so one laser system could shoot down many cheap drones, without spending expensive missiles or lots of bullets to do so.

Or so the reasoning goes.

My first response? Make our laser weapons small enough, portable enough, any competent guerilla band will capture them and use them on us. How it always works, folks.

Our government’s plutonium disposal plant is, wait for It…wait for it…41 years behind schedule


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❝ Imagine you have a contractor working on your house. They quoted you a price and told you the project would be done in no time. Sure, you realize costs will probably go up some and the schedule will slip due to an unexpected problem or two.

But months turn into years, years turn into a decade, and now, 14 years later, you find that they’ve already spent five times their original estimate and they aren’t even halfway done!

That’s the situation the Department of Energy is facing with the contractor building a nuclear fuel facility in South Carolina.

❝ The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, known as MOX, is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle that is behind schedule, over budget and will never be able to complete its mission.

Now the Army Corps of Engineers has released an independent cost estimate for the project that reveals things are even worse than we thought…

❝ MOX was originally conceived as part of an agreement between the United States and Russia in which each country pledged to dispose of weapons grade plutonium. But that was back in 2000.

As cost overruns and technical failures have become clear, the Department of Energy asked Congress to cancel the program in 2016. The South Carolina delegation, defending jobs in their districts, pushed back and claimed doing so would violate the agreement.

Last week, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin announced he would be withdrawing from the agreement. Without Russia being party to the agreement, the last remaining pretense for this boondoggle is shattered…

❝ While the facility was supposed to be fully constructed in 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers stated that MOX won’t be finished and ready for operations until 2048 — putting it 41 years behind schedule.

But even if Congress decides to accept spending $17 billion in taxpayer dollars and waiting 41 extra years for the facility, the project will never work…

Moreover, even if the facility were to work perfectly and produce the mixed oxide fuel as intended, there aren’t any commercial nuclear reactor companies interested in purchasing it. In 2008, the project lost its only potential customer and hasn’t been able to find a single replacement.

RTFA for all the gruesome details. This is how Congress functions on a good day. Bilateral agreement to fund local make-work projects even if they are valueless and provide no benefit to that local community.

Or in this case, providing no benefit to anyone at all. Except the favorite contractors of each politician involved.

Russian scientists find WW2 Nazi weather station


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❝ A secret Nazi base in the Arctic abandoned after scientists ate infected polar bear meat has been unearthed.

The mysterious site, named ‘Schatzgraber’ or ‘Treasure Hunter’ by Hitler’s underlings, was constructed in 1942 – a year after the Third Reich invaded Russia.

Russian researchers have now rediscovered the military base, which the former garrison evacuated by U-boat after eating infected polar bear meat…

❝ More than 500 objects were recovered from the site as Russian scientists explored the former Nazi compound located in Alexandra Land, an island around 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole.

❝ On the barren moonscape of the isolated island, relics of the Second World War can be seen, with shells and other fragments of the conflict lying on the shale.

The ruins of bunkers, discarded petrol canisters and even paper documents have also been discovered, preserved in the intense cold

❝ Allied forces occupied most suitable sites for polar weather reports, so the Nazis landed a small group of observers on Alexandra Land.

Supplies for the men at the remote post were dropped by air.

In 1944 all of the men at he base ate raw polar bear meat, which resulted in trichinosis disease from roundworms living in the infected flesh.

A U-boat had to rescue the scientists posted there after infection ravaged their base.

Not exactly good duty. I hope they at least received combat pay.