Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day, 2012

Decoration Day.

This one is for the Yanks... the 'mates get their day in November.

h/t to Glenn Reynolds for the following Patton quote:

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived."
As usual, I spent as much of the day as I could with some old friends.


Ich hatt' einen Kameraden...

Memorial Day, 2012.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

still an Open thread

Still same situation here.

Open Thread; so Play Nice.

Stop cheering for the alligators, you guys.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Open Push

Just like it was Sunday, only later...

Here's an Open Thread for you.
The usual rules and all: Play Nice.


All the wrong kinds of busy right now.

(Hint: the right kind of busy usually gains one something; the wrong kind usually prevents a loss. I'm 'baling water out with my hat' on a matter here. Or, say, observing something about swamps and alligators.)

Be back on the 'morrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chen gets out

The New York Times has a reporter on the flight with Chen Guangcheng and his family to the U.S.A.


For now, this thread is a placeholder as I'm working up some things on the infighting amongst the Bolivarian Socialists... jockeying for position in the soon-to-be Post-Hugo political universe in Venezuela.

Thing is, right now, the rumors that can be discounted as noise vastly outnumber the few insights that can be gleaned.

But let's just say that it is past time to be watching for troop recall-to-barracks orders and any sudden movements by factions loyal to one or another of the players...

...and no bets at all on the upcoming election for the presidency actually coming to pass.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mladic trial opens

That would be one Ratko Mladic, General of the VRS (Army of the Republika Srpska; Bosnian Serb Army), and the trial would be his at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on eleven counts of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.

The BBC has the opening day report.

This case, and the simultanious parallel trial of Bosnia Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, may finally conclude the effort made during the 2006 trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic; To once and for all mark the horrors of the Serbian war against Bosnia as State Policy:
The war the prosecution described was not one of ancient ethnic hatreds. It was a carefully planned criminal enterprise that was well orchestrated, centrally directed and state-sponsored.
Not only at Srebrenica.

The whole 1992-1995 war against Bosnia-Hercegovina was like that.

Here is a summary of the charges, as filed in the 2011 indictment. (Source document available as a .pdf file linked in that article.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Weekly Item for 15.May 2012: Such a deal

So, a few years ago...

Japan's Air Self-Defense Force had this plan to replace its then-aging F-4EJ (Phantom II) kai (modified) squadrons with new fighters. Since the mainstay F-15J interceptor force was substantial enough, and there remained the anti-shipping / anti-invasion-force requirement that the purely air combat F-15J's were unsuited for, the decision was made to (1) procure a new generation-four-plus aircraft with both air combat and strike capabilities, and (2) to mostly produce it here, albeit as a co-production agreement. Those choices resulted in the F-2 aircraft, which is a very fine improvement on the American F-16 Fighting Falcon design.

It also resulted in what was, then, the most expensive fighter aircraft in the world.

Production was capped at less than 100 aircraft. The production run is over; no more ever to be built. There simply wasn't enough money with the artificial limit on defense spending here (~1% GDP), all the other things that the Ground and Naval forces needed (and in many cases still need!) and the very expensive costs of manpower in our careerist all-volunteer Defense Force.

Set aside 18 of those shiny new F-2's in a training squadron and what was left barely re-equipped three squadrons. Not exactly fulfilling the "replace the F-4's" goal, that.

Oh, and fast forwarding to last year, so much for that training squadron; in the 2011 earthquake / tsunami, the airbase at Matsushima (the F-2 training base) got wiped. Every single aircraft there wrecked; at least a dozen total writeoffs.

In those intervening years, fighter/attack aircraft technology took another leap forward. Generation five fighters are a vast capacity leap upward. The only such in service now is the American F-22 Raptor, which is a marvelous interceptor, but is expensive to build, difficult and expensive to operate, has had some serious teething problems, isn't intended for most strike missions and... absolutely positively not now not ever for export to allied nations (why being a whole 'nother discussion). The alternative, and the one Japan (and the U.K. and several other U.S. allies) signed up for, is the just-entering-production F-35. It is generation five, with some advantages over the F-22 (electronics improvements) and some serious disadvantages (less... well, a lot of less) and because of its huge planned production run, less expensive.

"Ha ha", said the Princess, and she went to wash her socks.

So much for that less expensive part.

There's a new winner in the "most expensive" class.

We're stuck for 800 billion en (JPY; call that US$10 billion) for a planned total 42 aircraft buy.

That's all.

Two squadrons and a couple spares.

Delivery schedule, repeatedly delayed, starts with a 4 plane purchase currently budgeted...

...yes, I said four...

...slated for a test program.

Not counting the recee birds (RF-4EJ's; being replaced with some retasked F-15J's with synthetic aperture radar pods), there are ~90 F-4EJ kai's in service.

We're going to be flying the F-4EJ kai's until the damn wings fall off.


caveat: Wikipedia links, above, are for reference only. See citations there for sourcing.

site admin note: Yes, I know The Weekly Item is usually Monday; I needed to wait a day this time. Frankly, I'm just glad to be doing a few of these again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Open Push

Time once again for an Open Thread.

Your turn, folks. The usual rules apply, specifically Play Nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


While there was no hope of keeping al-Qaeda from knowing exactly who doubled them...

...there was a modest hope of keeping some doubt in their (collective) mind for a while if the man they trusted to carry out their latest bomb plot had simply disappeared. Announcing, even a couple of weeks later, that Western Intelligence Services had the bomb in their possession pretty much scotched that...

...but just to be sure, certain political interests left no doubt in the matter.

The upshot:
Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, said: "As for British Intelligence, I suppose, but do not know, that they must be very unhappy. They are often exasperated, quite reasonably, with their American friends, who are far more leak-prone than they.

"In their place, I would think two and three times before sharing with the Americans, and then only do it if I had to. The problem with that dynamic is that you don't know what you don't know, and what opportunities you might be missing when you decide not to share. The Americans are doing a very good job of undermining trust, and the problem starts at the top."
No kidding. We've seen this before. Same Story, Different Day.

Can't *anyone* keep a secret anymore?


Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club on this same topic. Also, note carefully comment #12 ('wretchard' is Fernandez' handle). I'm pleased to say, I agree.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Scarborough Shoal (2)

It isn't over.

It isn't even close to over.

It might get worse.

Grammaticas on China 'Banging the War Drum'.

Key Point:
The odd thing here is that the Philippine navy consists of just one proper ship and that is an ancient US Coast Guard cutter which is hardly a match for China's navy, as this online commentary by "The Comparativist" makes clear.

The Comparativist writes: "I think this is happening because the Philippines is so weak. The Chinese government can beat the war drums all they want, and as loud as they want, and no war is going to happen. It's akin to bullying someone in a wheelchair that you know can't punch back."


But there are dangers here too. The president of the Philippines has tweeted this statement this week, making clear that the Philippines believes America will help protect it from any Chinese aggression. So a dispute could lead to a very tense situation.
(original contains several source links)

There is one, and only one, brake on PRChina's ambition in this case, and that is predicated upon something not mentioned above:

It does not matter if the Government of the Philippines believes the U.S.A. will help protect it.

It matters if the Government of the People's Republic of China believes the U.S.A. will help protect the Philippines.

Do they?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

TEPCO nationalized in bailout

Touden (Toukyou Electric Power Co.; TEPCO) has given up controlling interest to the government in a huge, although not unexpected, bailout over losses since the 2011 disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns and the mass shortfall of electric power generation.

The taxpayer fronts the whole rescue.

Anyone notice a writedown of existing shareholder valuations (more than just the market punishment, I mean)? Nope, me neither.

Moreover, residential power consumers are about to get hit with a 10%+ rate increase (or more, if no TEPCO nuclear generators are allowed back on line).

Anyone see a massive rush of orders for Natural Gas-fired generating facilities yet? Nope, me neither.

Somebody needs to go through Nagata-chou (the seat of the Japanese government bureaucracy) with a 2x4 in hand something motivational to get them to wake up and pay attention.

It will be fine, they said...

Take a few days to deal with other things, they said...


Greece voted. Down came the government, or any hope of a reasonable new one.

France voted. Sarkozy got shown the door. Bets on further German-French cooperation on the Euro crisis just got longer.

Serbia voted. Oh boy; an ex-Greater Serbia Nationalist, supposedly pro-E.U. now.

Markets dive.

Spanish 10 year notes cross to the high side of 6%.

This does not look promising. Hope I'm wrong about that.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Open Push

Obliged elsewhere.

Consider this an Open Thread.

Usual rules. Importantly, Play Nice.

See you on the 'morrow.

Friday, May 4, 2012

And then there were none.

Saturday is the day.

Japan shuts down its last operating nuclear power station.

No word on whether the two units of Kansai Electric, sitting ready to restart, will be allowed to come back on-line.

For those of you thinking "So? You got through last summer ok...", may I point out that we still had many of our nuclear power stations contributing. No restarts means no contribution this year. The Touhoku (Northeast region) is no longer paralyzed by last spring's disaster; demand is substantially higher now.

Meanwhile, the politicians argue over new rules, new goals, and rechartering a national nuclear regulatory agency...

It's going to be a hot summer, in more ways than one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Door Number Two

When needing to depart an authoritarian country (or any other country with an even remotely competent border control) without permission, there are some things that are basic to the task that have to happen. Because they are so basic, they are also what the authorities watch for (again, presuming competence) as signs one might be about to skip:

Having a place to go. ~ At least the barest of certainty needs to be known as to whether the place you eventually want to end up will let you in and let you stay. Escaping to Malaysia when you are about to be charged for political/religious crimes in Arabia *is not a win move*.

Having something as a gift to your new hosts. ~ Always nice to bring a present when one is about to impose on an acquaintance. Large troves of narco-terrorist documents make a particularly nice gift to American or EU host countries. Caution: While historically, knowing how to build ballistic missiles or make biological weapons was a sure way to get welcomed, these days that all is now rather less appreciated in the USA and Europe. (Might be just the thing if one wants to defect to Iran... but who the heck would...?)

Do see to your family before making travel plans ~ While condemning one's entire family to punishment and/or murder might be a goal in rare cases, most individuals trying to flee a country they reside in are not particularly interested in leaving family behind. It's hard on the family and, given both the brutality involved in authoritarian police states and the harsh work of most counter-espionage/counter-defection practices, it's hard on the defector. Rather than receiving the usual blackmail or simply living with the knowledge that prisoners in North Korean labor camps are not provided for by the state, it is far better to have made sure anyone whose welfare might influence one's serene mood of departure to have already been bundled over the border, at least out of reach of the country of departure's forces in the short term.

Lastly, do chose a country that might actually help you get out, or at least won't sell you out by agreeing to a deal that no reasonable person would believe the other side will stick to. ~ Since you, the would-be defector, are the key person in any defection attempt... unless you can slip the country on officially allowed business and then ditch your minders... you are probably jumping an Embassy wall somewhere in this process. The Americans and the French were time-tested favorites, but times change. Just any foreign embassy simply will not do. You need one that will (1) arrange something to sneak you in, or at least not shoot you when you cross the line; (2) at least make an effort to not mention you are inside said embassy; (3) have some motivation or sense of decency that encourages them to help you out rather than throw you back; and lastly (4) have some competence at actually getting you out of the country, whether by hook, crook, military escort to a waiting plane, or more diplomatic means. Put Canada at the top of that list generally, Republic of Korea is particularly good in Beijing, but several other nations are more than able and have a history of success... but do check the current administration of said country before throwing in with them. In the old days, nothing ruined your otherwise perfect plan to sleep over in Spaso House than discover Gerald Ford was no longer President of the USA. Same applies more generally in recent times.

So, to all of you out there planning on fleeing tyrany's grasp, here's to your successful defection... but do remember all of the above and if your situation changes while you are working up your get away...

... you'd better pick Door Number Two.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Freedom for Egypt: but first...

Egypt remains in turmoil, and as usual much of that is self-inflicted.

The grand hopes of the last year's uprising; the sudden abandonment of Hosni Mubarak's government, first to 'people power', but then to the political wolves; a central government headed for bankruptcy, under the unsteady leadership of the SCAF military council; the murderous turn by the newly encouraged Islamist movement against the Coptic minority, and November's parliamentary sweep by the terrible twins of Egyptian Islamism... al-Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Salafi Call movement; Now comes the prize ~ the Presidential election.

But first...

Eleven killed in Egypt clashes.
CAIRO, May 2 (Reuters) - Eleven people were killed and more than 160 wounded near Egypt's Defence Ministry on Wednesday after armed men assaulted protesters demanding an end to army rule, prompting two Islamist candidates to suspend their presidential election campaigns.

Unidentified "thugs" armed with guns or batons attacked demonstrators who included hundreds of ultraconservative Salafi Islamists protesting at the exclusion of their candidate from this month's vote, state news agency MENA reported.

The violence casts a deep shadow over the presidential election due on May 23 and 24, with a run-off in June, and highlights the fragility of Egypt's transition to democracy, which has been punctuated by violence and political bickering.

Security and medical sources gave a toll of 11 dead and over 160 wounded in the clashes outside the Defence Ministry in central Cairo's Abbasiya district. The fighting raged on unabated through the morning, but subsided in the afternoon.
The demonstration was by rabidly anti-military-government groups, on the doorstep of the Defence Ministry, and the Army took six hours to bother to break things up. Not a big surprise, that.

Here's the BBC version of the story. They use the movement names and political party names of the two big factions. Here's a help:
al-Ikhwan(Muslim Brotherhood) = Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) leading the Democratic Alliance bloc.
Al-Da‘wa Al-Salafiyya (Salafi Call) = Hizb al-Nour (Al-Nour Party; Nour) leading a Salafist bloc.
There are other parties... they contribute only puny representation in the Parliament. Anyway, back to the BBC:
Unknown assailants have killed at least 11 people protesting against Egypt's ruling generals near the defence ministry in Cairo, officials say.

The attackers set on them at dawn using rocks, clubs, firebombs and firing shotguns. The protesters retaliated, beating some of the assailants.

Soldiers and police have now stopped the clashes, but the intervention came nearly six hours after they began.

Two leading presidential candidates have suspended campaigning in protest.

Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist, and Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), criticised the authorities' response.

In addition, the FJP and the Salafist Nour party, which together control 70% of the seats in parliament, decided to boycott a meeting with the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf).
Given the exclusion of Nour's candidate for the Presidential election holds up, here's what remains of the front of the pack:
The generals have promised to hand over power to a civilian administration by the end of June, after a presidential election that they say will be free and fair.

The election's first round is scheduled for 23 and 24 May, with a run-off vote for the top two candidates expected on 16 and 17 June.

The race seems to have narrowed to a contest between Mr Aboul Fotouh, Mr (Mohammed) Mursi (of the FJP), and the former head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.
Notes in () by this author.

Amr Moussa? oh, him.

This is going to be ugly.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coup; Counter-coup; Mutiny

Time for your T.I.A. of the day, all from the BBC:


Coup still in slow-motion; detained political leaders released last weekend, and; ECOWAS gets around to imposing sanctions:
West African regional bloc Ecowas has imposed targeted sanctions on Guinea-Bissau's military junta after talks to restore civilian rule broke down.

Coup leader General Antonio Indjai "is not willing to negotiate and clearly prefers to face the consequences," an Ecowas statement said.

The Junta still holds, but have lost the entire north and northeast of the country to the Tuareg insurgency they were supposed to be fighting; former President Toure got away and fled the country; the Junta supposedly yielded power to an interim government on 12.April, but then went on doing Junta-things; ECOWAS did lay sanctions on the Junta and recognized instead the appointment of Dioncounda Traore as an interim President, and; now the Junta is on day two of fighting off a counter-coup:
Shooting has been heard for a second day in Mali's capital, despite the junta saying it had reasserted control after an attempt to overthrow it.

Most of the gunfire came from a military camp housing loyalists of ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, who tried to stage an uprising.

The Kivu regions in the east, many times a topic here at CompHyp, remain a fertile ground for all the bad things left over from the Congo War(s); In 2009 the national government made terms with one of the worst of the local warlords, Bosco Ntaganda, going so far as to intergrate his forces into the national army and make him a General; Oddly, they overlooked his 2006 indictment by the ICC for war crimes and his role in the 2008 massacre at Kiwanji; He's now led a mutiny of troops and set out as a warlord once again, apparently fairly successfully:
Troops loyal to Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court, have taken two towns in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A BBC reporter in the area says thousands of people are fleeing the fierce fighting towards nearby Goma.

Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers loyal to Gen Ntaganda recently defected from the Congolese army.
Things aren't exactly getting better, are they?