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


They did a good job on the parking lotsGoogle Earth

❝ 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.

Syria and Iraq are clubhouses for DIY remote-controlled guns


Click on the photos for an alternative American TV version

The Syrian civil war is producing a multitude of remotely-operated, custom-made killing machines — sniper rifles and machine guns which a shooter can trigger remotely with the push of a button.

Remotely-operated guns are common in militaries around the world. The United States has thousands of them mounted on tanks and other armored vehicles. The U.S. Marine Corps is testing a smaller machine-gun robot called MAARS, and other gun-bots have appeared in South Korea, Israel and Russia.

But their adoption by rebel groups is an innovation arising from an intermingling of war, cheap personal computers and cameras. The devices typically use cables to hook up the guns to control stations. Aside from the gun, a complete setup only costs a few hundred bucks worth of off-the-shelf components and some technical skills.

After that, it’s just a matter of swiveling the now-teleoperated gun with a joystick, gamepad or a keyboard and triggering the firing mechanism…

While the weapons are hardly new to the Syrian battlefield, an August report published by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office listed 20 distinct teleoperated weapons spotted in Iraq and Syria which can be traced to specific armed factions.

The consequences extend beyond the battlefield, as it’s usually only a matter of time before weapons of war filter back to the civilian world.

…It’s hard to see insurgents matching the scale by which states can deploy teleoperated guns. The weapons in Syria and Iraq are custom made, not mass produced. And armies have a lot more money to spend on research and development.

Still, that insurgents are nonetheless crafting their own versions is something the U.S. military should worry about as an emerging matter of fact in modern warfare.

I imagine there are stores retailing drones which can be adapted for geek death squads in just about every country in the world. Add that to the mix.

Photography and our Civil War


Click to enlargeGettysburg

❝ While photographs of earlier conflicts do exist, the American Civil War is considered the first major conflict to be extensively photographed. Not only did intrepid photographers venture onto the fields of battle, but those very images were then widely displayed and sold in ever larger quantities nationwide.

Photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan found enthusiastic audiences for their images as America’s interests were piqued by the shockingly realistic medium. For the first time in history, citizens on the home front could view the actual carnage of far away battlefields. Civil War photographs stripped away much of the Victorian-era romance around warfare.

❝ Photography during the Civil War, especially for those who ventured out to the battlefields with their cameras, was a difficult and time consuming process. Photographers had to carry all of their heavy equipment, including their darkroom, by wagon. They also had to be prepared to process cumbersome light-sensitive images in cramped wagons.

Today pictures are taken and stored digitally, but in 1861, the newest technology was wet-plate photography, a process in which an image is captured on chemically coated pieces of plate glass. This was a complicated process done exclusively by photographic professionals…

❝ While photography of the 1860’s would seem primitive by the technological standards of today, many of the famous Civil War photographers of the day were producing sophisticated three-dimensional images or “stereo views.” These stereo view images proved to be extremely popular among Americans and a highly effective medium for displaying life-like images…

With these advancements in photographic technology, the Civil War became a true watershed moment in the history of photography. The iconic photos of the American Civil War would not only directly affect how the war was viewed from the home front, but it would also inspire future combat photographers who would take their cameras to the trenches of Flanders, the black sands of Iwo Jima, the steaming jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of Afghanistan.

RTFA for techniques and technology. Photography brought a new dimension to recording history. hopefully, it continues to bring new dimensions into understanding politics and war.