Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More on Ferguson, and on police attitudes

We've spoken about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and about police attitudes towards the public.  Both situations are intertwined in many ways.  Since writing those articles, I've come across other essays (and a book) that add different and worthwhile perspectives.

First, an English doctor who writes under the pseudonym of Theodore Dalrymple published a book some years ago titled 'Life at the Bottom'.  It's a series of essays about the 'entitlement class' in England.  I recommend it to you, because it analyzes that group of people very well;  and that 'class' in the USA is very similar to its counterpart in the UK about which Dalrymple writes.  (For an excellent survey of both major parties and their contributions to the rise of the 'entitlement class', see this two part essay.)  The traits of the 'entitlement class' have a great deal to do with the actions of the looters in Ferguson.

Second, Herschel Smith wrote a great essay titled 'Assessment Of Ferguson: Misrepresenting The Liberty Movement'.  He sums it up as follows:

Ferguson is the hive’s chickens coming home to roost.  It is the collectivist’s nightmare.  A class of people who have had the family destroyed for generations, been taught that we owe them something for generations, and think they can break the law with impunity, are at odds with the police and other authorities, while the police and other authorities are under criticism for using the very tactics on this entitled class that the collectivists set them to to use, because they want to fill in the gap and prevent the effects of consequences ... We should all stand back and say to the collectivists, “Look upon what thou hast created.  Are you proud?”

Nightmare.  And it’s just beginning.  Ferguson is a microcosm of Chicago, LA, Houston, New York, and Atlanta.  It’s all unraveling for them.

There's more at the link.  It makes very thought-provoking reading, whether or not you agree with his perspective.

Finally, Fred Reed (whom we've already noted in connection with the situation in Ferguson) has just put up a column concerning the difficulties faced by police, and how it changes them.  Before I respond to what he says, I'd be grateful if you'll please click over there and read it in full.  It's important, and you won't understand what I have to say next unless you've read it.

Back already?  All right, then.

The problem with what Fred says is that cops come to assume that everyone is as nasty, as felonious, as the trash with whom they deal every day.  Such a reaction is understandable from a psychological perspective, but it's simply not true.  It's the source of a great deal of unhappiness among many law enforcement and emergency personnel.  In my memoir of prison chaplaincy, I wrote about how it affects corrections staff.  I'm going to quote from that chapter at some length, to add to what Fred said about police in general.  (Much of what I say here can, of course, also be applied to cops.)

Working in such an environment has an inevitable effect on the staff — not just the Correctional Officers, but all of us. It’s very hard to maintain a cool, professional approach when you know that many of the inmates are out to get you in any way they can. After a while, the constant lies, evasions, attempts at manipulation, lack of co-operation, and just plain nastiness start to wear you down. Stress levels among prison staff are understandably very high, with inevitable negative consequences for their domestic life. The incidence of divorce and suicide amongst all peace officers is considerably above average, and corrections staff aren’t exempt. It’s very hard to leave your work behind at the gates of the prison ...

This is very troubling from three perspectives. The first is that of inmates who genuinely want to change, to reform, and seek help in doing so. Their approach will be automatically regarded with suspicion by prison staff. We’ve all been ‘conned’ so many times that it’s all too easy to regard any such approach as more of the same. The inmates, hurt and frustrated, then blame the staff for being unfeeling and inhuman. In a sense, of course, they’re right — but they refuse to acknowledge the inevitability of such a reaction, given the staff’s constant exposure to less-well-motivated inmates ...

The second perspective is that of the staff themselves. They can very easily become hardened to anything any inmate says, and discount even reasonable excuses or explanations. I’ve known cases where a minor infraction by an inmate new to the system (probably committed through ignorance of regulations), has resulted in extremely heavy punishment, most likely because the officer or manager concerned was tired and frustrated from dealing with far too many similar cases, and wasn’t in the mood to make allowances or cut a new inmate some slack. It’s all too easy to say to oneself, “If they’re going to treat me like dirt, then I’m going to dish out dirt to them. Let’s see how they like it!” When I trained at FLETC, an instructor commented to me in private conversation, “During his first year in the BOP, a new officer can’t do enough for the inmate. During his second year, he can’t do enough to the inmate. The third and subsequent years, he just doesn’t give a damn any more.” Sadly, I’ve seen this cynical observation borne out in practice many times — although there are honorable exceptions, thank heaven.

The third perspective is that of the families of prison staff. It’s hard to maintain a normal home environment when one’s spouse is bringing home so much stress and tension. Children feel it too. A disproportionately large percentage of ‘corrections marriages’ fail, and the effects on spouse and children are long-lasting. Second and subsequent marriages often go the same way. It’s extremely difficult for those who haven’t personally experienced the stress of the corrections environment to understand its effect on those who live in it every day. It’s even harder for those who come home from it to share it with their spouses, who consequently feel ‘shut out’ of their partner’s work life. After all, what can a Correctional Officer tell his wife about the reality of his job? If he says, “Honey, today I charged down a man with a knife, while armed only with my bare hands,” her instant (and understandable) reaction will probably be to scream at him for being a fool by exposing himself to such danger. She might understand intellectually that he did something heroic and praiseworthy, but all she can see in her mind’s eye is herself and her children at his funeral.

The prison environment has another unfortunate effect on staff and their families. The staff member is surrounded, all day, every day, by those he cannot and dare not trust. Every time they approach him, he has to wonder about their ulterior motives and hidden purposes, suspecting a trap or an attempt to deceive. When he gets home, it’s sometimes very hard not to let this perspective affect his attitudes towards his loved ones. What might be normal behavior in a child (lies, evasions, excuses, etc.) may attract a much stronger reaction than normal parental disapproval and correction, because he’s too used to exercising discipline (sometimes very physically) over real evildoers who do the same things. This leads to a great deal of stress and tension in families.

There's more in my book, for those of you who are interested.  I've had to counsel many individuals caught up in such problems, so I speak from a foundation of considerable experience.

Police (and corrections staff, and other law enforcement personnel), in theory at least, should not allow such 'conditioning' to dominate their reactions to honest people.  Unfortunately, this is often honored more in the breach than in the observance.  It's easier (from their perspective) to treat everyone as a potential malefactor, a potential threat.  That may work from their point of view, but it doesn't work from ours.  We (and by 'we' I mean honest citizens) are simply not prepared to accept such treatment, or allow those who try to treat us that way to get away with it.

Police need to understand that if they try to treat everyone like criminals, we're all going to start responding to them as criminals do - in other words, all of us, whether honest citizens or not, will regard police as 'the enemy', and treat them with suspicion and distrust, and resent (not to mention resist) their authority.  I suppose it's a psychological application of Newton's Third Law of Motion, which can be summed up in the phrase, 'Every action has an equal and opposite reaction'.  As I said in my earlier article on the subject:

I've seen far too many police officers try to intimidate citizens rather than treat them with respect.  I know I'm law-abiding - since coming to this country almost two decades ago, I haven't had so much as a traffic ticket.  I've also served as a duly sworn member of the law enforcement profession.  I will not permit, and I will not tolerate, the kind of attitudes I'm increasingly seeing on the part of jackbooted thugs masquerading as police officers.  Treat me with respect and politeness, and you'll receive a similar response.  Treat me like dirt and I'll respond in kind.  I do not and will not respect your authority if you prove yourself unworthy of it.  Your badge doesn't impress me in and of itself - not when so many of those wearing it think nothing of shooting dogs at the drop of a hat, or injuring babies during drug raids (and then refusing to cover their medical expenses), or conducting illegal searches, or threatening to kill a journalist, or whatever.

Again, more at the link.  I know I'm far from alone in feeling that way.

So, whilst admitting the truth of what Fred Reed says about the realities police face every day - realities that, to some extent, I've faced myself in the corrections environment - I also assert that there are equal and opposing realities that they are refusing to face every day.  Unless and until law enforcement as a whole - not to mention individual agencies and officers - finds a balance in this matter, we're going to have ongoing difficulties;  and unless they put in the necessary effort to find that balance, they're going to find themselves ostracized by the very society they're sworn to protect and serve.  In many sections of that society, they already are - and their own attitudes are making that estrangement worse, every single day.  The latest example happened just today in Beverley Hills.  How long until the next?


Boys and their toys, US Marine edition

Some years ago I wrote about the then-new Assault Breacher Vehicle developed by the US Marine Corps, which had just gone into action in Afghanistan.  Since then the US Army has announced plans to buy several times as many of them as the USMC.  Here's a video giving a good idea of how useful it is.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

All I can say is, I wish we'd had a few of these things in Angola during the 1970's and 1980's!

(South Africa developed its own version of the mine-clearing line charge, known over there as the 'Plofadder'.  [The name is a play on the 'Puff Adder' snake - in Afrikaans, 'Pofadder' - and the word 'explosives' in Afrikaans - 'plofstof'.  Putting them together formed 'Plofadder', which implies 'Exploding Adder'.]  There were two types, a small backpack unit and a larger vehicle-mounted one.  Early production versions were notorious for detonators that didn't fire automatically as intended after the tube had been deployed by rocket.  This resulted in some poor sod having to crawl out to it [sometimes under fire], insert new fuses by hand, and detonate them once he'd crawled all the way back to safety.  You probably won't be surprised to hear that the job wasn't the most popular in the Army . . .)


Bach gets to elephants, too

Violinist Eleanor Bartsch was warming up for an outdoor performance of Bach's Concerto in D Minor when she noticed that two elephants in an enclosure at the adjacent Circus World Museum were getting into the spirit of things.  She put up this video on her YouTube channel.

How cute is that?  I suppose they may have been used to 'dancing' to the music of circus orchestras, but even so, I suspect Bach himself would have found that funny.


Looks like I was right about the Middle East

Earlier this month I asked whether an Arab-Israeli rapprochement was on the cards.  I pointed out that fundamentalist Islamic terror movements threatened many Arab governments, and as a result they appeared to be beginning to work together to counter the threat.  As part of the process, there was a new pragmatic willingness to negotiate with Israel, the ancient enemy, because it, too, was threatened by Islamic fundamentalism in the form of Hamas, and would likely be just as pragmatic in mending old fences to deal with new threats.

Looks like I was right.  In the past 24 hours, we've seen the following:

  • Arab bombing raids on Libyan Islamic fundamentalists, carried out by aircraft and crews from the United Arab Emirates staging through Egyptian airfields (which is also a very public slap in the face - and probably a very direct warning as well - to Qatar, which had funded and supported those same Islamic fundamentalists).
  • A very direct and unambiguous call by the Saudi Arabian foreign minister to 'denounce our hatred toward Israel and begin [to] normalize ties with [the] Jewish nation'.  In the same address, he was blistering in his criticism of Hamas (an Islamic fundamentalist movement) for provoking Israel to respond to its aggression.  In effect, he accused the Palestinian movement of being the author of current Palestinian misfortunes through its fundamentalist terrorism.
  • The Jerusalem Post has acknowledged that 'Israel and Sunni powers finally display convergent interests'.  The report quotes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as saying:  "We are enlisting the international community to support this goal of linking the rehabilitation and development of Gaza to its demilitarization but no less important – this may surprise many, but not us – is the unique link which has been forged with the states of the region ... This as well is a very important asset for the State of Israel. With the cessation of the fighting and the conclusion of the campaign, this will open new possibilities for us."  This is a very public reciprocation by Israel of Saudi Arabia's public willingness to 'make a deal' - and they're doing it all themselves.  The USA has been left on the outside, unable to affect or influence the process.
  • Arab distrust of the USA has been growing over the past few years.  In particular, Saudi Arabia has been angry over US policy.  As Business Insider reported last year, "Saudi Arabia's warning that it will downgrade its relationship with the United States is based on a fear that President Barack Obama lacks both the mettle and the guile to confront mutual adversaries, and is instead handing them a strategic advantage".  Neither the UAE nor Egypt consulted the USA before bombing Libyan fundamentalists - in fact, Egypt reportedly denied that it was involved, even as it made its air bases available for the raids (which were carried out using US-supplied aircraft and weapons).  Middle Eastern nations no longer trust the Obama administration.  (Note Hamas' despairing appeal yesterday to President Obama, rather than Middle Eastern and Muslim nations, to restrain Israel and 'end the genocide' in Gaza.  The movement knows it's more likely to find support in Washington rather than Riyadh, or Abu Dhabi, or Damascus.)

Game on, folks.  We're seeing the development of a whole new paradigm in the Middle East, based on one of the most ancient principles of that troubled region - "The enemy of my enemy is my friend".

EDITED TO ADD:  And some 'old friends' may become 'new enemies' . . .


Monday, August 25, 2014

BIG badaboom!

It seems a Russian Proton-M rocket carrying three Glonass navigation system satellites suffered a catastrophic failure immediately after launch last year in Kazakhstan.  The resulting explosion, shown below from several miles away, was . . . impressive, to say the least.

I hope all that flying glass didn't hurt anyone!

Here are two more views of the same explosion, from a nearby road and from launch pad cameras.

I'm glad I wasn't near that one . . . and very glad it missed the residential area in which the first video was filmed.  I'd imagine that explosion was big enough to wipe out most of a typical town.

(A tip o' the hat to Foxtrot Alpha for the links to the videos.)


Not your average weekend cruiser

Fancy a rather more original boat than the designs seen on lakes and dams, and along the coast, every weekend?  How about a replica of a genuine Viking longship?  The Local's Norwegian edition reports:

Fancy owning your own Viking ship capable of carrying an 80-strong landing party to ravage the destination of your choice? The craftsmen at The Viking Ship Museum are now selling replicas of Norway's Gokstad ship for a mere €160,000 [about US $211,000].

The construction of the 10-metre [33 feet] long Gokstad battle cruiser is scrupulously authentic, with the Roskilde-based craftsmen hewing each model out of oak using tradition tools, putting it together with handmade nails, and equipping it with woollen sails.

But the design has nonetheless proven extremely seaworthy since the first replica, the Viking, crossed the Atlantic from Bergen in 1893.

The original boat was discovered in a burial mound near Sandefjord in 1880, and is now kept at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History outside Oslo.

There's more at the link.  If you'd like to buy a copy (or one of the other Viking ships there), see here for more information.

Here's an interview with the head of the Viking Ship Museum, showing details of the replica of the Sea Stallion of Glendalough, the second-largest Viking ship ever discovered.  It sailed from Denmark to Ireland and back last decade in a demonstration of Viking trade routes.  The interview's in Danish, of course, but has English subtitles.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode to see the details of the ship.

A hundred-foot longboat built with just axes, hammers, nails, rope, wool and leather . . . those Viking shipwrights knew their stuff!


A tough way to start a rally

Belgian rally driver Thierry Neuville and his navigator Nicolas Gilsoul had a narrow escape during a shakedown stage of the Rallye Deutschland last week.  Their Hyundai i20 WRC went for a high-speed excursion off the road and down a hill through a vineyard.  It was rather spectacular - particularly the view from inside the car, later in the video clip.

I wonder what sort of compensation the farmer will get from Rallye Deutschland for the loss of so many well-established vines?


Sunday, August 24, 2014

The entitlement society in action

Serendipitously, just after I posted my last article dealing with emergency preparations and the necessity to keep reserve stocks that would allow you to leave as well as remain in your home, I found this essay at The Lonely Libertarian.  It's a perfect illustration of the entitlement society in action, and the 'ghetto mentality' that's developed in so many of our inner cities.  She concludes:

So this was probably the first time I truly got a taste of how bad it's gotten, how far society has slipped, how poisoned the populace has become with entitlements. Some people, out of the goodness of their hearts, tried to do something nice for some people who didn't appreciate it in the least. Things are rapidly getting worse, but I'm ready.

Go read the whole thing before you continue here.  It's important that you do.  I'll wait.

Finished it?  Good.

That, right there, is a prime example of why you need to be prepared to 'get out of Dodge' if necessary.  If welfare benefits are interrupted for any length of time, or a natural disaster disrupts the normal network supporting such people, they're going to come looking for anyone and anything that can satisfy their needs.  They can, and do, and will regard themselves as entitled to take what they need, even if it's your property;  and they have no objection to getting physical and 'in-your-face' about it, up to and including the use of whatever violence they deem necessary to get what they want.

If you defend your home and emergency supplies against them, the odds are extremely high that you'll have to employ force to do so - perhaps lethal force.  In today's politically correct society, I can almost guarantee that you'll be arrested for doing so, and sit in jail for weeks or months while you work to clear your name.  If a bunch of looters get together and agree on their story, there'll be multiple 'witnesses' to perjure themselves on a stack of Bibles ten feet tall that you yelled racist epithets at them and shot at them for no reason at all - "we wuz just walkin' past on our way to the church!"  Even if the cops believe you, it's not their decision whether you go home or not - it's the District Attorney's call.  He or she is going to be under immense political pressure to do whatever it takes to pacify the mob.  Guess who's going to get the short end of the stick under such circumstances?  Go look in the mirror.  That's who.

I urge you to re-read my 'lessons learned' post after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.  You'll find more examples of that mentality there.  It's real, and it's in almost every city and town today.  If you have to face down people of that mentality, you will end up losing, no matter whether you survive or not.  Far better, I think, to either be somewhere they're not, right from the get-go, or move yourself out of their way before you get shafted.  YMMV, of course . . . but I know what I'll be doing, if time and circumstances permit.  If they don't, I'll just have to follow Theodore Roosevelt's advice and "do what I can, with what I have, where I am".


Emergency Preparation, Part 18: Travel light, or stay heavy?

Miss D. and I moved house this month.  In the process we're deliberately shedding more than half of the 'stuff' we (mostly I) have accumulated during our lives so far.  We're going to force ourselves to fit into a relatively small duplex, so that when the next move comes (probably during the next twelve months) we have much less to move and are able to be more 'nimble' in responding to opportunities.

This has led me to fundamentally reappraise our emergency preparations.  We've long since agreed that most of our reserve food should be things that we eat regularly, so that in effect our emergency supplies are really an 'extended pantry'.  As we use up older supplies, we replenish the 'stash' with new ones, so that everything's rotated over the course of a couple of years.  However, this has the notable disadvantage of being heavy and bulky.  Canned goods are great if you're planning to stay put during an emergency.  If you have to 'bug out', they'll probably be too bulky and heavy for your available transport - or, if you can somehow fit them in, you'll have to leave other, equally important things behind.

I'm therefore in the process of re-evaluating our emergency preparations.  I still want to have two to three months food on hand, but it's virtually certain most of it will no longer be in the form of cans, bottles, etc.  They simply take up too much space and weigh too much.  We'll have to spend a bit more money and stock up on dehydrated vegetables, some freeze-dried meals, and dry foods such as beans and rice.  Most of these will be lighter and less bulky than large quantities of cans.  (We'll keep a supply of high-quality canned meat, though, as this is by far the tastiest, easiest-to-use preserved meat I've found.  Textured vegetable protein is a lighter, relatively palatable alternative, but some people have adverse reactions to it.)  I'm going to try to store our supplies along the lines of 'one week's food in a bucket' - it's much cheaper to make up your own bucket's contents rather than buy the pre-filled buckets or other pre-packaged supplies sold by many vendors.

The same principle applies to many other aspects of emergency preparation.  Water purification chemicals and/or equipment, makeshift clothes-laundering supplies, tools . . . the list is almost endless.  Big, heavy equipment is often very capable and highly useful;  but it's not very portable.  Can you afford to tie it, and yourself, to a geographical location that may turn out to be far from secure in troubled times?  I suggest not.  Better to have backup equipment that's lighter and more portable, so you can abandon the big stuff and take the smaller gear with you if necessary.  If you can't afford both, or only have space to store one alternative, go with the most versatile option - one that lets you stay or go, depending on the circumstances confronting you.

This carries through to other aspects of emergency preparation such as firearms and ammunition.  I'm not going to dispose of my relatively small collection of firearms, but I'm going to rearrange and prioritize it to make sure that certain cartridges and calibers are pre-packaged for an emergency, and the weapons to go with them are similarly prepared.  In the event of a crisis, it'll be a matter of a few moments to take the essential guns out of the safe, grab a bag pre-packed with all the necessary magazines, holsters, cleaning gear and other accessories, pick up an ammo can and a soft case for each gun, and toss them all in the truck.  The other guns and gear will have to look after themselves until we get back.  (If we decide to shelter in place, of course, they may come in useful, or become worthwhile trade goods.)

A few friends and I are also discussing the possibility of storing a gun or two at each others' homes.  Given that trouble can erupt at any time, we may not be able to get back to our own places for a while.  If we can go to a friend's house in another suburb or town to collect a handgun and/or long gun that we've stored there, this will render us better able to get home during times of trouble - or 'get out of Dodge' if worst comes to worst.  At the very least, we'll be able to help our friend defend his home and family until we can find out what's happened to our own.  The old saying about there being 'strength in numbers' is still true.

Finally, think about this.  You may have plenty of food and other supplies stored at home;  but if widespread civil unrest erupts, it's probably going to be looted.  The looters may walk over your dead bodies to get it, too.  Too many possessions can be a trap, in that they come to own you rather than the other way around.  If your emergency supplies can't be moved easily, you're tied down to them and by them.  Better by far to have at least part of them in a form that allows you to toss them into a vehicle, or pack them on a utility trailer, and get out of the way of oncoming trouble - even if that means the loss of your home and remaining supplies.  Possessions are nowhere near as important as your life and health, and those of your family and loved ones.

Take a good look at what you own.  Are you so attached to some of your possessions (e.g. a nice house, or an extensive gun collection, or a well-equipped workshop, or a fancy bass boat) that you can't bear the thought of abandoning them in an emergency?  If so, they own you, not the other way around.  That's a fundamentally unhealthy situation - a trap waiting to be sprung.  You need to start doing something about it now, before the trap closes during an emergency.  The same applies to your emergency supplies.  They exist to keep you secure in time of need.  If, instead, you have to limit your options in order to secure them, something's cockeyed.  Again, you need to start fixing that problem now, before an emergency arises.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

More on the T-6 Texan's combat service

A few years ago I published a fairly detailed article on the North American T-6 Texan training aircraft in South African military service (where it was known as the Harvard, following the naming conventions of the Royal Air Force).

I mentioned that it had been briefly used in combat during the so-called 'Border War', in 1976, carrying 20lb. bombs and machine guns.  The images below show the camouflage paint scheme used, and 20lb. bombs beneath a T-6's wing (originally designed for bombing practice, but effective enough against personnel in the open if they fell close enough).

I recently read the obituary of the late Jack Sherburn, who won a British DFC (equivalent to the US Silver Star medal) flying T-6's with the Royal Air Force in Kenya against Mau Mau insurgents during the 1950's.  It contained some interesting details of that combat mission in aircraft that had not been designed for the purpose.

An experienced fighter pilot and flying instructor, Sherburn volunteered for service in Kenya in 1954. The RAF had converted a number of Harvard training aircraft to carry one .303 Browning fixed front gun and racks for 20lb fragmentation bombs to provide support for the British ground forces and Kenyan police who were tackling the insurgency.

The Harvards had become surplus to RAF requirements, and eight were formed into No 1340 Flight, operating initially from RAF Eastleigh in Nairobi. A psychological factor, which had probably not even been considered in selecting the Harvard for this role, was the high-pitched scream of the propeller, which was found to be useful in frightening and dispersing the insurgents, obviating the necessity for an actual attack.

Sherburn flew many air strikes in the forested areas of the Aberdares and the Mount Kenya region from a forward airstrip at Mweiga; the strip was at an altitude of 6,500ft and had a 400-yard dirt runway.

Distances to the target areas were so short that a Harvard could arrive within minutes of being alerted by the Kenyan reconnaissance patrols. Some attacks were carried out at night, when it was possible to locate the Mau Mau by their campfires.

Sherburn was in constant action for many months and was one of only a very few RAF officers to be awarded the DFC for operations in Kenya.

There's more at the link.

This is far from the only occasion on which armed T-6's were used in combat.  Airplane Mart's condensed history of the aircraft reports:

During the Korean War and, to a lesser extent, the Vietnam war, T-6s were pressed into service as forward air control aircraft. These aircraft were designated T-6 "Mosquitos". No. 1340 Flight RAF used the Harvard in Kenya against the Mau Mau in the 1950s, where they operated with 20 lb bombs and machine guns against the gangs. Some operations took place at altitudes around 20,000 ft above mean sea level. A Harvard was the longest-serving RAF aeroplane, with an example, taken on strength in 1945, still serving in the 1990s (as a chase plane for helicopter test flights - a role for which the Shorts Tucano's high stall speed was ill-suited). The T-6G was also used in a light attack or counter insurgency role by France during the Algerian war in special Escadrilles d'Aviation Légère d'Appui (EALA), armed with machine guns, bombs and rockets. At its peak, there were 38 EALAs active. The largest unit was the Groupe d'Aviation Légère d'Appui 72, which consisted of up to 21 EALAs. From 1961 to 1975, Portugal, also, used hundreds of T-6G in the counter insurgency role during the Portuguese Colonial War. During this war, almost all the Portuguese Air Force bases and air fields in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea had a detachment of T-6Gs. In 1957-58, the Spanish Air Force used T-6 as COIN aircraft in the Ifni War, armed with machine guns, iron bombs and rockets, achieving an excellent reputation due to its reliability, safety record and resistance to damage.

France, Spain and Portugal operated almost two thousand armed T-6's between them.  More brief details of the T-6's combat service may be found in this article.  You can read much more about the T-6 Mosquito's service with US forces in Korea here, complete with many photographs (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).  It's well written and an interesting read.  There are many more photographs of the T-6 Mosquito here.

All this goes to show how versatile the T-6 Texan was.  It accomplished far more than its designers ever dreamed of.


A close encounter of the whale kind

A kayaker in Monterey Bay had an unexpected and very close encounter with a humpback whale.  Her astonishment is very vocally expressed . . . not that I blame her!

Any closer and she'd have been washed out of the kayak!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Gun camera footage

I thought I'd seen most of the gun camera footage from World War II that's been converted to video format, but courtesy of XBradTC at 'Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid', here's a collection that's entirely new to me.  Of particular interest, towards the end of the clip, are shots of Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet rocket fighters and Me-262 Schwalbe jet fighters being attacked by Allied aircraft.  The footage isn't very distinct at times, but then, it's historically unique.


A new understanding of autism

I've been interested in autism for a long time, particularly because many of the most creative artists and most ingenious computer programmers exhibit symptoms of borderline autism or Asperger syndrome.  According to the Daily Mail, scientists have discovered what may be behind both conditions.

Scientists say they have discovered the reason why some people suffer from autism.

Those with the condition have too many synapses in their brains - places where where neurons connect and communicate, a new study has found.

Scientists at Columbia University in New York believe that the surplus synapses are created because of a lack of ‘pruning’ that normally occurs early in life.

The discovery is a huge leap in understanding of the complex condition and creates hope of a possible treatment, researchers said.

In mice with autistic traits, scientists were able to restore the synaptic pruning and reduce symptoms.

. . .

Professor Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, where the research took place, said: ‘This is an important finding that could lead to a novel and much-needed therapeutic strategy for autism.’

There's more at the link.

If the report is correct, this may be the breakthrough many people have been longing for in the treatment of this condition.  Autism has a high correlation with creativity, even genius.  If its negative elements can be treated, its positives can be accentuated, to the huge benefit of those suffering from it and potentially the benefit of all of us.  Kudos to all concerned.


Date day

Miss D. and I try hard to have a just-the-two-of-us 'date' once every week or two.  It might be an evening out (we went to see Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Ryman Auditorium earlier this month), or a day out together exploring the vicinity.  That's what we did today, heading off to visit Clarksville, TN, an hour away up Interstate 24.

We first visited the Beachaven Vineyards and Winery.  We've tried a number of local vineyards only to be largely disappointed by the overly sweet wines they produce (doubtless popular locally, or they wouldn't still be in business, but a bit cloying to palates like Miss D.'s and mine, which have long been exposed to a wider variety of wines).  However, Beachaven proved an exception.  After a brief tour of the facilities we got stuck in to tasting their extensive selection of wines, and found some that really appealed to us.  Their free tasting is limited to five wines per person, but when two people are married and don't mind sharing glasses, that makes ten wines to sample between them.  We were a bit buzzed by the time we finished!

We came away with a case of wine;  half a dozen Riesling, dry and pleasantly fruity (in my lingo, anyway - Miss D. says it's citrussy rather than fruity - but whether or not we use the same language about it, we both like it);  four bottles of Merlot, a lovely smooth full-bodied red;  and two bottles of their blackberry dessert wine, very fruity-sweet with a unique flavor that promises excellent results when served over ice-cream or pie (or both).  Their prices were reasonable, and offering a 20% discount if we bought a case of a dozen bottles didn't hurt, either.  We opened a bottle of the Riesling with supper tonight, and we'll definitely be going back to Beachaven in the not too distant future to replenish our stocks.  Highly recommended for reasonably priced wines of better-than-average quality for Tennessee.

On our way out the door we asked the nice lady at the cash register to recommend a good place to have lunch.  She suggested Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, a micro-brewery in central Clarksville, and the 'magic elf box' (a.k.a. Miss D.'s smartphone) navigated us to it.  It proved to be an inspired recommendation.  We ordered their Beer Cheese Dip as a starter, finding it spicy and flavorful.  Miss D. and I both had their burgers as our main course, she ordering the Classic and I the Steakhouse.  I have to say, that was the best burger I've had in years!  It was made of lean, properly (i.e. coarsely) ground good-quality steak, perfectly cooked to order (medium for me, with a pink interior) and served on a bun toasted just right with high-quality trimmings.  It was absolutely delicious, and I savored every mouthful.  Miss D. also had good things to say about her burger.  I can promise you, I'd go back to Clarksville just to have another Blackhorse burger - and I will soon!  (They also have a branch in Knoxville, TN, for those of you in that area.  If it's as good as the one in Clarksville, it'll be a must-stop destination.)

Coming home, the magic elf box warned us of major delays on I-24 between Clarksville and home, so we detoured onto the less-used country roads and took a leisurely, slower drive.  It was very pleasant, passing through winding hills and fertile countryside, not having to worry about other traffic much at all.  We made it back in time to spend a leisurely afternoon doing our own thing.  It was a good day overall, and one we plan to repeat soon when we head back to Clarksville to replenish our wine shelf at Beachaven and enjoy another Blackhorse burger.  If you find yourself in or near Clarksville, I highly recommend both destinations.  (Make sure you go there hungry and thirsty!)


Worst place to be a pilot?

Channel 4 TV in England is broadcasting a series titled 'Worst place to be a pilot'.  It's about young British pilots flying Pilatus PC-6 Porter STOL aircraft in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.  Here's the series trailer and another 'teaser' clip. I recommend watching both in full-screen mode.

I think African bush pilots (and their passengers) might argue whether those were the 'worst place' to be a pilot;  but it looks tricky enough, certainly as bad as some of the bush airstrips I used in Africa.  I hope the series is put on YouTube, or made available in the USA in some other way.  It looks to be interesting.