sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fort Piute

There has been a lot of discussion on this blog of Olive Oatman, Hackberry, the Mojave Road, Ft. Mojave, Zzzyx and other stops along the road-less-traveled. One spot, frequently visited by Jeep clubs and the odd 4x4 out for a run is Ft. Piute, not far from the Colorado River. It was a dependent fort on Ft. Mojave (smaller garrison), but the US Army put it there to control the water. Even though the Colorado River is only about twenty miles east, the Indians liked camping here and it was occupied for a very long time.

There is a standing sweet water lake/oasis at Ft. Piute, in the middle of the desert. 

In 1859.  Colonel William Hoffman and the 60 soldiers under his command stopped for water at Piute Spring, a place held sacred by the local Indians. Indians attacked, holding the high ground, and the Army made a stand. The Army claimed that they must have killed at least twenty hostiles, but the history of the Mojave tribe records that they killed two. The loss of two adult males to the Mojaves was a grievous blow. Most internecine Indian raids were designed to take property, captives and run to avoid losses of men, each of whom had to support a family.

The US Army, benefitted from a supply system and they fought differently.

Dragoons (rode horses, fought on foot) had orange accents to their blue uniforms. Cavalry
(yellow accents) rode horses and fought on horses - typically - however in the Indian Wars
the post Civil War Army almost always dismounted to fight, and often brought artillery with
them (Gatling guns, Hotchkiss Guns, Mountain Howitzers also known as pack howitzers).

So even though the Dragoons were no longer part of the US Army after the War of Northern
Aggression, the mounted troops still fought like dragoons.
Following the skirmish, orders went out and Major James H. Carleton brought the US 1st Dragoon Regiment to the site of the ambush and established Fort Beale, in honor of a Navy officer who had previously led an experimental camel caravan through the area. 

The troops stationed at Fort Beale were transferred east at the start of the War of Northern Aggression. During the war, Fort Beale and block houses, redoubts and forts along the Mojave Road were manned by the California State Militia (pro-union). A lot of cattle rustling took place during those years and while the militia blamed the Indians, the Indians blamed the militia. At this point, far be it from me to assign blame.

Ruins of Ft. Piute
At the conclusion of the war, the US Army upgraded the defenses along the Mojave Road (US Mail route) and Fort Beale was re-named Fort Piute. They built more permanent defensive structures and a dam for the stream that created the small lake that exists today. Desertions by soldiers, taking "the big bounce" with their kit, mounts and pay were so rampant that the fort's life was short lived and the Army abandoned it in 1868.

I've seen up to about half a dozen big horn sheep, deer, coyote and bobcat in the area in the mornings and at dusk mainly.

map to the area

Thursday, June 29, 2017

North Korea Update

Yesterday, the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of People's Security and the Central Public Prosecutors Office of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) released a joint statement concerning state-sponsored terrorism. 

The fat kid with the bad haircut.
The general standing next to Dear Leader needs a bigger hat.
In its long preamble, the statement accused South Korean former President Park of being a state sponsor of terrorism. In brief, it says that in 2015 former President Park approved a plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un. The only South Korean agency that supported the plan was the National Intelligence Service. The US Central Intelligence Agency supposedly supported the National Intelligence Service.

The operative paragraphs follow.
“1. We declare at home and abroad that we will impose the death penalty on traitor Park Geun Hye and on the ex-Director of the puppet Intelligence Service (IS), Ri Pyong Ho, and their groups, criminals of hideous state-sponsored terrorism who hatched and pressed for the heinous plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK.”

“IS men, to say nothing of Park Geun Hye and the Ri Pyong Ho group, can never make any appeal even though they meet miserable dog's death any time, at any place and by whatever methods from this moment.”

“2. The south Korean authorities have to hand over traitor Park Geun Hye and former IS Director Ri Pyong Ho and their groups to the DPRK under international convention as they committed hideous state-sponsored terrorism against the supreme leadership of the DPRK.”

“The south Korean authorities have to judge themselves what adverse effect their act of shunning this crucial demand related to the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK will have on the future north-south relations.”

“3. We declare that in case the US and the south Korean puppet forces again attempt hideous state-sponsored terrorism targeting the supreme leadership of the DPRK, we will impose summary punishment without advance notice on those who organized, took part in or pursued the plot, under wartime law.”
In this statement North Korea declares that it is justified in assassinating former President Park and former director Ri at any place, at any time and by any means. North Korean agents/operatives might attempt to assassinate Ms. Park in prison.

The comment after the second point implies that North Korea has made a demand to South Korea for the surrender of the alleged plotters, which South Korea has ignored. It further suggests that progress in North-South relations will be held hostage to South Korea’s response to the demand. 

Almost as a footnote, the statement provides a reminder that summary execution is permitted under war time law. 

The intelligence agencies of both Koreas always have plans for assassinating one or more leaders in the other country. In North Korea, plans include murder of internal rivals and relatives within Kim’s own family. Apparently, a Japanese news service broke the story about South Korean planning in 2015. North Korea’s leadership intensely dislikes the notion that it might be vulnerable to an assassination plot, even though Kim Jong Un is not well respected.

OIL

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has suspended sales of diesel fuel and gasoline to North Korea because of concerns the state-owned oil company won't get paid. CNPC decided to put fuel sales on hold "over the last month or two" and described it as a "commercial decision". 

According to the press, last year, China shipped just over 96,000 tons (811,200 barrels) of gasoline and almost 45,000 tons (337,500 barrels) of diesel worth a combined $64 million to North Korea. The refined products used across the economy from fishermen and farmers to truckers and the military. These products were delivered by road, rail and ship.

China also pumps crude to North Korea via a pipeline. Last year it sent 520,000 tons (3,811,600 barrels) of crude via the pipeline.

The CNPC denied that the cut off was related to UN sanctions. UN sanctions do not ban the sale of crude or refined oil products.

China denies that it imposes unilateral sanctions, in contrast to the US, Japan and South Korea. However, Chinese companies impose penalties for non-payment of bills. The effects are worse than sanctions because North Korea is not only denied the products, it still has to pay for arrears.

North Korea is almost totally dependent on China for crude and refined oil products. Russia sells some aviation gas to North Korea when North Korea can pay for it. China can stop almost all automotive traffic in North Korea.

Meanwhile, at CNN

UPDATE:

This from England and fellow blogger Jules -



Not Necessarily "In the News"


If you missed all of this in the corrupt, elite, smug, nasty, lying mainstream media, I'm not surprised. However, I'm sure that they spent all of their broadcast time ripping the President and making excuses for being caught at fake news - again - and - again (CNN).


Boom

Headline: ISIS Suicide Bomber Accidentally Kills 12.

Terrorists were giving their comrade a send-off in Diyala, Iraq (near Lake Hamrin). It's a martyrdom tradition in ISIS, called a "blood party". Unfortunately for the well-wishers, the explosives detonated prematurely, killing them all. Aloha Snackbar, gentlemen. You'll be getting those 72 virgins a little more quickly than you'd planned. 

This sort of thing happens. A Boko Haram terrorist had the same thing happen in Nigeria - and because of a bad bomb design, he only gutted himself, and not the squad of soldiers that he wanted to dispatch. The question on everyone's mind is whether or not that qualified him for 72 virgins. I don't have an answer to the question but in my opinion they should do this a lot more often.

South Korean Gambit

South Korean news outlets reported that the South Korean Unification Ministry approved the Eugene Bell Foundation's application for sending materials, including medicines to treat tuberculosis and hospital construction materials, to North Korea. The aid is valued at $1.67 million. 

The supplies will be transported to Nampo through China in July.

At the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s daily press session, the spokesman Lu Kang said,
“We have noted the relevant report. If the report is true, it is of course a good thing. We have said many times that North Korea and South Korea are one nation and improvement of mutual relationship and promotion of reconciliation and cooperation are in line with the two sides' fundamental interests and are also conducive to promoting peace and development in the region. The Chinese side is willing to provide necessary support regarding this.”
“Particularly under the current situation, we hope the two Koreas can continue to release goodwill to each other and play a positive role for pushing the easing of tensions of the Korean Peninsula and for restarting dialogue and consultation.”
The approval has been confirmed by the South Korean Unification Ministry. In addition to the medicines, the project involves shipping prefabricated materials for quick construction of hospital wards. The Foundation has a contract to ship materials to build 300 wards this year. It has been working on the hospital ward construction project for three years.

This is the Moon government’s first approval of aid for North Korea. It demonstrates the extent of President Moon’s commitment to reaching out to North Korea. 

The involvement of the non-governmental organization, the Eugene Bell Foundation, is a reminder that North Korea is not as beleaguered as the elaborate sanctions regime would suggest. A significant number of private aid organizations are willing to provide aid that is not subject to sanctions. 

Assad's Tour

President Assad traveled outside Damascus for the first time in months. He visited the Russian air base at Hmeimim, where Russian General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the armed forces escorted him. Assad had a photo op of himself in a Russian Su-35 fighter-bomber. It was his first visit to the base.

On Sunday, the 25th, he performed end of Ramadan prayers in Hama, accompanied by his wife and children. This was his first visit to Hama since the civil war began in 2011. 

These visits are the farthest he has traveled from Damascus since the Russian intervention began in September 2015. These are confidence and morale building actions. They also are statements of defiance to the rebels still seeking to overthrow him.

US/Russia and Syria

Since the US has no news media that is worthy of the name, there is no way for the mass of Americans to understand what the government is planning. USGOV isn't in the business of telegraphing punches. However we can look at the US through the eyes of others, and read the tea leaves that way, all the while understanding that our lensing may be distorted. Russian leadership expects a US military presence to remain in Syria indefinitely.

Relations between the US and Russia in regard Syria are close to crisis mode (when viewed from a Russian perspective). In response to the warning issued to Syria by the US President, the Russian Presidency replied on 27 June,
"I am not aware of any information about a threat that chemical weapons can be used," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters. 
"Certainly, we consider such threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable."
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused the US-led coalition of being reluctant to bomb positions of the former Al-Nusra Front in Syria. Lavrov urged the US to drop its "double standards" for the sake of an “uncompromising” fight against terrorism.

Lavrov said there is "new evidence” that indicates that the US-led coalition continues "to take the heat off" the former Al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria.

Russian patience is being severely tested. Russian commentators are repeating an internet web posting that a Russian S-300 air defense system already has downed a US Global Hawk drone. No sources have confirmed the report, but it exemplifies the kind of action that some Russians are considering.

As in April, the rebels are the party that has strong motives for staging another chemical incident, to draw the US more heavily into the fight. It worked once, but did not alter the course of the civil war. 

Commentators in the Russian Press accuse the US of seeking the permanent breakup of Syria. In the north, the Syrian Kurds would come under the protection of the US, which supposedly plans to build another US air base in Syrian Kurdistan for that purpose. 

Based on the chatter from Russia, US protection would be the payment for Syrian Kurdish operations against the Islamic State far outside Syrian Kurdistan, such as against Raqqa, which is an Arab city. 

In the southeast and east, the US-sponsored version of the Free Syrian Army is supposed to liberate Deir ez-Zor. This is the group that has been formed from the al-Qaida offshoot the Al Nusra Front. It also is under US protection.

The theme of the Russian analyses is that the US has switched from seeking to replace President Assad to concentrating on creating enclaves that will block any expansion of Iranian influence, access or presence in Syria. 

The northern route from Baghdad to Lebanon runs through Raqqa. The southern route runs through the border crossing at Al Tanf. Control of Deir ez-Zor affords control of Syria’s oil industry and of the eastern region in general. 

What is the US Planning to do?  I think that the Russians are reading things correctly. The US will crush ISIS and keep a heavy presence in the region as a hedge on Iran -- at least until the next Democrat President takes office. The lack of continuity in US internal leadership is one of those things that drives other nations nearly mad.



NOTE: A section on North Korea will go live on this blog at noon (Pacific Time Zone)


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Zzzyx and Magical Thinking

Along US Interstate 15, the road-more-often-traveled, between Barstow and Baker California, there is an off-ramp in the middle of nowhere. Exit 239 leads to the road less traveled (the Mojave Road) and to an abandoned spa, now owned by the California State University system and operated as the Desert Studies Center.

CSU doesn't want people visiting these days, but that restriction is a new event in the history of a very old place.

The Soda Spring area has been used by humans for thousands of years. It's also a water stop on the Mojave Road that leads from the Colorado River to Los Angeles. It's part of the larger/longer Mormon Road. If you follow this blog, there has been a lot of mention of the historical Mojave Road (last leg of the Mormon Road or Old Spanish Trail which leads from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles), and which still exists as an unpaved dirt road. In antiquity, the Mojave Indians and other tribes used this road for trading and made their trips on foot, never having adopted the horse. 

The US Army garrisoned all of the water sources (that they knew about) along the Mojave Road to control the local Indian populations. During the War of Northern Aggression, the Army built a small fort/redoubt there. At the time, it was called Bitter Spring. (See the Bitter Spring Campaign of 1860). The site was used for salt mining and the salt flats have a road across them that vehicles can traverse today. If you get off the road, even in summer, you can go to your axels in mud...I've seen it happen and it's not pretty. During the winter it's even more important to stay on the road (a metaphor for life?).

The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad put a train station (water and whistle stop) in the area and called it Soda Springs.

Soda Springs
Curtis Howe Springer, who claimed to be a doctor at times and a Methodist minister at other times (he was neither) gave the made-up name Zzyzx to the area. He established the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa in 1944 at the spot, which was federal land.  Springer had a syndicated radio show for many years and used that platform to promote the location (selling government land that he didn't own, to stupid people) as a 'magic spot' on the planet.   He used the springs to bottle the magic water, said to cure all manner of illness (think of Springer as a barker for a medicine show). Scamming people, he used the money to build a spa and then used the spa to bilk more money out of people. The promise of magic appeals to many people today as then.


Springer had a boat that guests could use to row around Soda Springs Lake (see left). It's odd to see a boat in the middle of the desert. Grist for art philosophy? Maybe.

In 1974, the Bureau of Land Management kicked him off the land, closed the spa and the somewhat interesting history of Zzzyx entered a new phase - the one that you see today a few miles from the I-15 off-ramp or as you drive in your 4x4 along the Mojave Road.

There is a lot of standing water in the desert. Most people don't understand the concept of an "oasis", which is as old as time and feel that the desert is a dead place because that's all that they see as they race down the Interstate. The Road Less Traveled offers its own subtle surprises, and if you want to call that magic, I won't disagree with you.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Geopolitical Update

North Korea - The Mouse that Roared

A June 23 Rodong Sinmun (North Korean News) article calling President Trump a “rough and reckless war maniac” and a “lunatic” is the latest—and harshest—in a series of commentaries attacking the President by name. It's odd that the Norks are not nearly as tough on President Trump as the elite, smug, American media is.  None the less, the North Korean rhetoric is ratcheting up, as they consider whether or not to test another nuclear weapon. 

You'll note that I often lead off with a discussion of events in North Korea. I do this because I believe that it's the single most volatile situation in the world today.

South Korea

At a conference in Seoul on 26 June, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that President Moon’s directive for a review of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system’s deployment does not mean that the deployment will be canceled.
She went farther. "As my President himself made it clear on numerous occasions, my government has no intention to basically reverse the commitments made in the spirit of the ROK-U.S. alliance."

"Going through the environmental-impact assessment is an issue of domestic due process. It does not mean that we will cancel or reverse the decision to deploy THAAD," she added.
At a separate venue in Seoul on the 26th, China’s vice chairman of the National People’s Congress, Zhang Ping told a meeting of 25 European and Asian parliamentary leaders that South Korea should "get rid of the major obstacle called THAAD." 
Zhang said, "The South Korean side must pay attention to the THAAD issue; we hope they communicate the right signals to the Chinese side regarding THAAD." 
Over the weekend, one news source reported that President Moon’s government might limit the deployment to a single firing unit, based on the environmental impact review. That would be a face-saving maneuver by Moon who opposed THAAD despite North Korea’s aggressive missile firing program.

As for the Chinese, they sense progress in their campaign to persuade the Moon government to require the US to remove the THAAD system. The right signal is to cancel the deployment. A scaling back of the deployment would count as a signal heading in the right direction.

Chinese Peace Brokering

China is brokering a deal between Afghanistan and Pakistan. All three parties participated in a press release yesterday. There are five major points in the joint press release:
First, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are willing to jointly maintain regional peace and stability, enhance connectivity and economic cooperation, and promote common security and common development.” 
“Second, Afghanistan and Pakistan are willing to positively improve mutual relationships, agree to establish a bilateral crisis management and control mechanism, and carry out timely and effective communication on sudden outbreaks of incidents.” 
“Third, the three sides agree to establish a dialogue mechanism among the foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, start from practical cooperation, and carry out cooperation in areas of common interests.” 
“Fourth, the three sides agree to restart the Afghanistan-Pakistan-China-US quadrilateral coordination group, commit to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and call on the Taliban to join the peace process at an early date.” 
“Fifth, the three sides support the early resumption of the work of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Afghan Liaison Group so as to play a constructive role for the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.”
And I'm sitting on the sidelines, eating popcorn, watching the chameleons make love. Pakistan created and continues to support the Taliban and their active campaign of terror in Afghanistan. If the Taliban suddenly stand down, then I'll take this seriously. At present, it's more like a mutual masturbation session between the parties to the discussion with no happy ending. Does that sound crude? Well it should, because that's what it is.

The Chinese have pushed their influence deep into Pakistan and they want to de-escalate an unpleasant system that has been brewing since anyone reading this was born. A lot of the problem in Pakistan is based on endemic corruption and grinding poverty. Add Islam and you have a system of terror and violence that is difficult to defeat. But the Chinese take their Belt Road Initiative very seriously and they are earnestly in the belief that their approach will work. Back to the popcorn.
The subtext of China’s message is economic, more than security. The Chinese Foreign Minister’s stated reason for fighting terrorism is its negative impact on trade and economic development. Terrorist movements pose the greatest threat of instability in most less developed states. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cannot succeed without stability in all 100 countries that have registered with the program. China’s BRI can only work in a stable world order. The last nation to bring stability to Asia was the Mongols...
The Military Dimension in Qatar

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said on Monday, the 26th, that the dispute with Qatar is related to politics and security as there are no military reasons behind it.
“The dispute never had military reasons. Bringing foreign armies and their armored vehicles represents military escalation which Qatar bears the responsibility of,” he said via Twitter.

The minister also said that some regional powers’ interference in the crisis with Qatar is wrong. “Some regional powers are wrong if they think interfering in the crisis will resolve it. It’s in these powers’ interest to respect the current regional system which can resolve any urgent matter,” he added.
This is the first recent statement hinting that there might be a potential military dimension to the Qatar crisis. Al Jazeera noted that on 10 June Sheikh Khalid told the press that the Turkish military base agreement had nothing to do with the crisis between Qatar and other Arab states. He was visiting Turkey when he made that statement.

Bahrain has now reconsidered that earlier position. One implication is that some Arab leaders are thinking about military options. The Turkish military presence essentially invites such considerations. 

Bahrain expects Turkey to butt out of an Arab dispute. A second implication is that Sheikh Khalid considers that Turkish troops in Qatar are living proof that Qatar has betrayed Arab values, concerns and issues.

For now, it's all churning below the surface, but something has to give - and it will likely be an internal re-shuffling in Qatar. How far that extends to the rest of the Gulf has yet to be seen.

Nigeria

In Maiduguri, a series of suicide bombings on Sunday night and Monday morning, 26 June, killed 16 people, including the bombers, and injured 13. The local police commissioner said all but one of the bombers were girls.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the use of girls as suicide bombers is one signature of Boko Haram. Maiduguri is a favorite target. The most recent suicide bombings in Maiduguri occurred on 7 June and on 19 June, killing 26 people.

The bombings occurred on Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan. Police officials said that Nigerian authorities also disrupted bombing attempts in three other northern Nigerian cities. Police said that most recent bombers are young and inexperienced so that they succeed mainly in killing themselves.

The security situation has improved, but one of the legacies of Boko Haram is a humanitarian crisis that nurtures extremism.



Observations

Keep Pelosi

I agree with many that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is doing a wonderful job as House Minority Leader. She needs to be retained and the strident calls for her replacement by certain malcontents need to be crushed.

Anyone who disagrees with me is a misogamist, is against gay rights, and may also be a racist because Pelosi is a member of...a race. They also must hate old people (Pelosi at age 77, showing some signs of dementia) if they want Nancy Pelosi out of government.

She's not even as old as Joe (Slow Joe) Biden, who is 74, and has been a candidate for a nursing home for a couple of years now. 

Age haters need to be destroyed.

Torched Reporters

Eric Lichtblau
(LINK) CNN announced on Monday afternoon that three network officials are leaving their jobs over the incident: Frank, the reporter on the story; Eric Lichtblau, a recent CNN addition from the New York Times who edited the piece; and Lex Haris, the executive editor of “CNN Investigates.” The moves follow an investigation carried out by CNN executives over the weekend, with the conclusion that longstanding network procedures for publishing stories weren’t properly followed. “There was a significant breakdown in process,” says a CNN source. “There were editorial checks and balances within the organization that weren’t met.”
As an aside, I first met Erick Lichtblau at the start of his career l when he was a brand new cub reporter for the Los Angeles Times doing political corruption and organized crime stories. He trained at the feet of George Frank, a reporter of great renown - truly.  Eric, if you read this story, think back to your beginnings and ask yourself who you learned from and what they would think.
There's nothing quite like going back to a place that remains unaltered (even if only in memory) to find how you have changed. That's all that I have to say except that I expected better of you.
Mueller

Robert Mueller has an opportunity to be a hero or a zero, and the jury is still out on the "foolish" Russia probe. He's hired a lot of cronies to help him come up with a decision (which will be made by committee to defray any personal accountability for an F-up).

However, let me take a moment to point out that a screw up on Mueller's part is a black eye on the FBI. I realize that he hasn't been the director for a long time now, but it's a crony operation. Despite how the corrupt, elite, lying mainstream media tries to spin it, the FBI and their already damaged reputation will own it. If he does an honest job, it may help the FBI. If he doesn't, they'll be diminished even further.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Geopolitical Events


Qatar Update

Last week, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt delivered the following list of demands to Qatar with a 10-day ultimatum for compliance as carried by The Khaleej Times, an Emirati news service.
1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions in Qatar. Expel members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.

2. Sever all ties to "terrorist organizations," specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (the Islamic State), Al Qaida, and Lebanon's Hizballah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.

3. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.

4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.

5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar.

6.Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the United States and other countries.

7. Hand over "terrorist figures" and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.

8. End interference in sovereign countries' internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries' laws.

9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar's prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.

10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar's policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.

11. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014. 
12. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

13. Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
There are more demands, unstated above, that are likely to be levied. One of those will be a demand for Qatar to stop meddling in Yemen and supporting the Iranian proxy Houthi rebels. The list appears to have been crafted deliberately to be unacceptable to Qatar in order to justify the next escalation step. One source suggested that one punishment for non-compliance would be ouster from the Gulf Cooperation Council.

No country would agree to such intrusive demands, such as inspections for ten years, unless it was under threat of invasion. 

Qatar’s Foreign Minister called the demands unreasonable. Turkey said it will not withdraw its soldiers from Qatar. The US Secretary of State said some of the demands are impossible to meet. Technically, many of the demands would be almost impossible to accomplish. Parts of Qatar would have to go off the grid.

Reading the tea leaves -- Saudi Arabia would like to see the current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, replaced by somebody else from the Al Thani family. They can't openly state that, but it's certainly implicit in everything that they are saying. There are some key members of the Al Thani family who would be good choices to replace the emir and would bring calm to the area where Sheik Tamim is a pain in everyone's butt.

Pakistan

In the final days of Ramadan, Muslim terrorists tried to overshadow the Eid al-Fitr observance by performing three deadly attacks.

On 23 June, a suicide car bomber detonated in Quetta, Baluchistan, killing 13 people and injuring 20. A Pakistani-Taliban offshoot and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for this attack. The Pakistani Interior Ministry said the Islamic State has no presence in Baluchistan.

Also, on 23 June, two bombs exploded at a market in Parachinar, killing 67 people and injuring over 200. Lashkhar e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed this attack. Parachinar’s population is mostly Shia.

To complete the 23 June festivities, unidentified gunmen attacked and killed four policemen in Karachi.

In Bahawalpur, a tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned and began to leak. As locals attempted to collect the leaking fuel, it exploded, killing at least 150 people. Emergency authorities said that some of the people collecting fuel oil were smoking cigarettes and using cell phones to inform other people about the crash and to collection the leaking fuel. If any of you have traveled to that part of the world, you'll be nodding your heads as you read this. This event is stereotypical in the extreme. Then again so are the bombings and shootings to celebrate Ramadan.

Syria

There have been a few things going on in Syria worth of comment. On 22 June, Russia launched a salvo of six Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Mediterranean Sea at targets near Hama. It was more of a live fire exercise/crew training, but if you have an authorized (fragged) target, why not combine the two? That's how the Russians roll.  
_____

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces reported liberating another district in western Raqqa after three days of fighting. It hasn't been covered in the corrupt, elite, nasty, lying mainstream media in the US but it's a huge victory in the fight against ISIS.
_____

The Syrian de-escalation zones ("safe zones") are getting some play. The next session of talks in Kazakhstan on 4 and 5 July is supposed to determine the details of how the de-escalation zones will be demarcated, monitored and enforced and by which of the guarantors – Russia, Iran and Turkey.

According to an article in Izvestiya, a significant dispute has emerged between Turkey and Iran. Based on talks with Russia last week, Turkey is planning to send Turkish troops to police the perimeter of the zone that it is supposed to guarantee. Presumably that is still Idlib.

In the outlined initial plan,  no soldiers from the guarantor countries would be involved in monitoring the buffer zones between the de-escalation zones and the forward lines of the Syrian forces. Soldiers from countries not involved in the war would perform the policing functions.

Turkey interpreted its role as guarantor differently because it accused Iran of building up its “presence” in Syria. The Iranians had not intended to send Iranian soldiers as peacekeepers, until they learned of Turkey’s plans. Now they have reversed their policy because of the Turks. If you are visualizing a 'monkey f#cking a football, you're right on the money.

The Turks’ obsession with influencing the outcome of the civil war is putting stress on the de-escalation zone arrangements. As a general principle, the Turks want no parties to succeed in ending the fighting without Turkey’s active involvement. Specifically, Turkey may be expected to do everything it can to block any further expansion of Iranian influence. I'm ok with that, but creates some sharp chasms in the deal that they were party to. Thus far, Turkey’s moves are again backfiring because they misjudged Iran’s intentions. As a result, the Turkish policymakers have precipitated an increased Iranian presence -- the action they intended to block. Turkey’s action as a spoiler could unhinge the Russian arrangement.

The Russian leaders judge that if they must choose a side, they must side with Iran. Turkey is a NATO country. The Syrian leaders have not commented in public about the terms of the de-escalation zones, but they also would side with Iran. They would never approve Turkish soldiers in Syria.
_____

Israeli forces attacked Syrian units near the Golan Heights on 24 and 25 June.
The pro-Syrian army Al-Masdar News website posted, “Suspected Israeli military strikes have hit Syria's southern region of Qunaitra for the second time in 24 hours.” 
"The Israeli military once again attacked the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Golan Heights this weekend, after projectiles fired from Syria allegedly landed in the occupied territories."  
The posted statement cited "initial reports from soldiers in Qunaitra Governorate" as saying the strikes hit Syrian army positions near an old administrative building in the Golan Heights that is now being used as a field hospital.
The pro-Syrian government pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV cited local sources who said that the latest Israeli strike had hit a Syrian army armored vehicle. It also quoted Israeli media as confirming that the country's forces had carried out air strikes on Qunaitra after shells fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) confirmed Israel attacked Syrian army units in the northern Golan Heights, after errant fire (ten rounds) from the Syrian side spilled over into Israeli territory. The army confirmed the IDF attack after Syrian and Lebanese news outlets reported it. The Israeli army struck a Syrian army ammunition truck and two artillery guns in the Syrian Golan. 
"The IDF is not a side to the internal fight in Syria and isn't involved in it. However, it views with severity any attempt to harm the sovereignty of Israel and the safety of its citizens and considers the Syrian regime responsible for what transpires in its territory," the IDF said in a statement.
Israeli admissions about IDF attacks are infrequent, deliberate and always signify that the leadership wants a target audience to receive Israel’s message. The target audience is the Syrian military and civilian leadership. The message is that Israel will not tolerate creeping aggression by the Syrians under the guise of errant and stray rounds, even when the Israelis know that fighting is taking place. Israel’s policy is no tolerance for cross border fire and encroachment.

The Israelis and the Iranians probably are the two leadership groups most focused on the next phases of the civil war. Both are sensitive to opportunities for taking advantage of the current confused stage of fighting in order to improve or defend positions along the Golan Heights. The Iranians and their proxies want to improve their tactical positions against Israel. The Israelis are determined that they gain no advantages that Israel must fight to neutralize later. 

Venezuela

Those of you who follow the news, understand that the worker's paradise of Venezuela is starving and its people are unhappy under the rule of the Bolivarian Republic's dictator-for-life, Nicolas Maduro Moros. Last Saturday, President Maduro “denounced” leaders of the opposition in Venezuela, as being operatives of the USA, which is planning a military invasion. In his words: 
"I am not exaggerating … a chain of events of these characteristics that were planned to be activated this week was going to imply the arrival of a US fleet and troops to seas and land belonging to Venezuela to justify a humanitarian military operation and to occupy our country, they are serious facts that have been planned by the opposition with the approval and participation of the political chiefs of the opposition." 
"…We have contained; we have unveiled; and we are defeating the oligarchic and imperialist coup d'Ă©tat planned against our country to be executed this week."
The President made these reflections from the Honor Courtyard of the Military Academy, in Fort Tiuna, during the main commemorative ceremony of the 196 years of the Battle of Carabobo and Bolivarian National Army Day. This is at least the third time he has claimed to have thwarted a US-backed attempt to oust him, with no proof. Each time the story has grown more sensational and less credible.

The people best able to destroy Venezuela are the communists who run the country. To date, they've done a bang-up job. Why would the USA want to invade and take financial responsibility for the place? Such logic never really occurs to the dictator-for-life.



On the Road Less Traveled

Take a Chance

The Grand Canyon Caverns Inn is just down Route 66 from Hackberry, Arizona.  There's only one room in the hotel and it's 220 feet underground.  It's not cheap, but it might save your life if somebody drops The Bomb (until the water and food run out).


It's on the road to the White Wolf Mine, a long with a lot of other little by-ways on the Road Less Traveled. 

I don't think that I'd spend the night there. It's not because I fear the experience. I don't - it's pretty cool...even in summer. But I am a bit cheap.

George Washington may have slept there but it definitely wasn't THE
George Washington.
Just when you think that you've seen everything, there in the middle of the desert, you find something new.


It would be a great location to gift a honeymoon to. (open every day but Christmas)


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday's sunday Sermonette

As a father of four girls who are now women with families of their own, I have a job to do as a grandfather of eight. To spoil the grandkids as much as I spoiled their mothers. This is your Sunday Sermonette, and it has more to do with the sort of sunday that you eat than a religious service on the Day of Rest. Though some would say that eating one of the milk shakes pictured below borders on a religious experience.

Savannah likes pizza
First you start with a daughter/aunt and a granddaughter who has been entrusted into the care of both of you. In this case it is Emilie, and Savannah, age 4 1/2. 

Then you drive to California Pizza Kitchen where the lucky granddaughter orders a delicious cheese pizza and lemonade for herself.

Emilie and I spit a peperoni and olive pizza with a salad.



Savannah and Emilie
Under some circumstances that would be enough but it wouldn't qualify as "spoiling". It would just be a meal that my granddaughter likes better than any other. It's lunch.

Making the day memorable requires ice cream in significant quantities, in a really delicious delivery/display that makes it taste even better:

So we went to Mug Shakes, which makes a milk shake/sunday the right way:


Since this is Savannah's first encounter with this sort of milkshake, and because they're almost as big as SHE is, she didn't quite know what to do at first. But that's why she was issued Aunt Emilie.

Savannah ate an M&M's and Cookies and Cream Shake.
Emilie opted for Strawberry Cheesecake decadence.
I asked Savannah if she had the perfect day. She explained that while the day was memorable, it would be better if we could go to the toy store. Naturally we went there and she picked out her favorite thing.

Savannah was happy but the sun was bright so she kept squinting.

And Grandpa had to have a bite as well. In this case it's a banana caramel/toffee shake.











Saturday, June 24, 2017

Passing Observations

Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up (more here) It's interesting that they started by blaming President Trump. 
On January 10, 2016, in the midst of Sanders’ sudden stardom—just weeks before the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire—the U.S. attorney for Vermont was sent a “Request for an Investigation into Apparent Federal Bank Fraud.”
Oops.
Jane and Bernie Sanders
Backed by six exhibits and a dozen documents, the four-page letterdescribed how Jane Sanders had “orchestrated” the purchase of 33 acres along Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, where her husband had minted his populist political brand as mayor. The deal closed in 2010, when the senator’s wife was president of Burlington College, a tiny, obscure, nontraditional school that always seemed to be struggling for students and funds. The letter alleged that to secure a $10 million loan and execute her grand plan to expand the college, Jane Sanders had falsified and inflated nearly $2 million that she’d claimed donors had pledged to repay the loans.
It's one of those things that we have to watch, to see how it all turns out.

It's Just Chump Change

All pigs are equal. Some are more equal than others.
The infamous Clinton Foundation now admits that it took $1 million from Qatar while Hillary was Secretary of State, and forgot to tell the US government. (more here

It could have happened to any one of us. Of course if you're not elite and you do that, you end up in custody with soap-on-a-rope around your neck in the communal prison shower.
Among the thousands of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta and published by Wikileaks, one stated that officials from the government of Qatar gave the Clinton Foundation $1 million to celebrate Bill Clinton’s 65th birthday, funds which the foundation did not report to the State Department. 
That would seemingly violate an ethics agreement Hillary Clinton signed when she became Secretary of State in 2009, in which she promised the foundation would notify the State Department's ethics official if a new foreign government wanted to donate or "increase materially" its contributions.

Qatari officials pledged the money in 2011; in April 2012 Amitabh Desai, the Clinton Foundation's foreign policy director, sent an email acknowledging the Qataris wanted to meet Bill Clinton “for five minutes” in New York City. 
Clinton Foundation spokesman Brian Cookstra told Reuters that the $1 million gift was not a "material increase" in Qatar’s contributions. But Qatar had given between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation in total, meaning the $1 million gift represented between a 20% to 100% increase.
America is still waiting for a serious investigation into the Clinton Foundation, shady uranium deals and a host of other "irregular" transactions. The FBI could do a good job here and it might begin to remove the "Comey Stain" that is on the FBI badge. Currently, people allege that the FBI (along with the corrupt mainstream media) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democrat Party. I don't believe that, but I do believe that there is a lot of partisan politics being played instead of following evidence and sticking to a discovery of facts. It makes the Bureau look tawdry.

ObamaCare

The system is broke and insurers are either increasing premiums dramatically while also raising deductibles or they're pulling out of the exchanges/market completely.

The Dems knew that this would happen and under a Clinton presidency, it would have been a predicate for single-payer healthcare mandated to all Americans. In effect, it would have made all healthcare in the us equal to the Veteran's Administration. Care would have been smashed and the cost would have been unsustainable (enter death panels). That was the program. But elections have consequences.

Today it remains to be seen whether Congress will put lipstick on a pig (ObamaCare) or will repeal and replace. The swamp is very deep, my friends. I have no idea where this will land, but the Republicans aren't showing much spine. President Trump promised America a repeal of ObamaCare and a rational replacement that included opening up the entire US to all insurance carriers so that competition could drive down cost.


Geopolitical Commentary

Pusillanimous Pakis

During the past week, the Chinese have offered to mediate Pakistani differences with Afghanistan. When you consider that the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) created the Taliban, and has supported them since the beginning, I don't know what form those mediations will take.

This week the Russians offered to mediate Pakistani differences with India.
The US has tried to use its position as an ally of Pakistan and Afghanistan and a friend of India to persuade Pakistan to halt support to terrorist groups in Afghanistan and in India for the past 16 years. US efforts failed.
The most important countries on earth are getting tired of Pakistani duplicity. Pakistan has become a source of instability and a training ground for international terrorists that now threaten Chinese and Russian interests, not just those of the US. 

Pakistani leaders do not seem to be getting the message that China will not tolerate Pakistan’s ineffective security operations and selective support for terrorists because they jeopardize China’s Belt and Road initiative. The terms of Pakistani participation virtually allow China to take charge of Pakistani security, if Pakistan cannot meet its responsibilities. 

Russian President Putin made the mediation offer on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, in early June. As the US has exerted increased pressure on Pakistan to terminate its support for terrorist groups, Putin’s advisors perceive an opportunity to increase Russian influence.

Pakistani leaders also have incurred increased displeasure from Saudi King Salman because Pakistan has twice declined to support important Saudi initiatives. Pakistan has refused to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the Saudi-led sanctions regime against Qatar.

The Pakistani leaders do not seem prepared to cope with the complexity of the situation that their policy choices have created. 

There is no good reason that the US should extend .02 cents to Pakistan by way of foreign aid. Let the Chinese watch their bribes disappear onto the pockets of Pakistani leaders without the slightest movement toward improving the lives of the regular people or improving the security situation.

Iranian Missiles

Israel reported that only two Iranian missiles hit Deir ez-Zor. Israeli press also reported that Iran launched seven missiles, not six as the spokesman for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said.
“Out of the seven ballistic missiles fired at ISIS havens in Deir ez-Zor, only two hit the targets,” Haaretz reported. Two landed in the surrounding area; three landed in Iraq, according to Israeli military sources. 
Iran said the missiles killed 65 Islamic State fighters. 

The Israeli narrative corrects the record, but the inaccuracy of the Iranian missiles might be considered more threatening than more accurate missiles. Inaccurate missiles are arguably more terrifying than precision weapons. The Iranians would accept a mixed result from a missile attack against Israelis.

The problem of Iranian missiles reaching their targets may have something to do with their design being based on North Korean Missiles.

Turks vs Kurds

If a Turk should marry a Kurd, the resulting union would be... puzzle that one out for yourself. Meanwhile...

Several Turkish army convoys were seen heading into Syria on 21 June toward the rebel-held town of Azaz. The Turkish troop movement reinforces rumors of a pending Turkish-backed rebel assault on Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) positioned around the town of Tell Rifaat.

A local analyst observed that a battle over Tell Rifaat, a previously rebel-held town that was seized by the YPG, isn't as sensitive as a direct Turkish attack on core YPG areas, as Manbij has become. 

The Turkish leadership is obsessed with and confounded by the Syrian civil war. President Erdogan’s initial policy was to support the Islamic State in overthrowing the Assad government. That policy failed and backfired when the Russian expeditionary force arrived to save the Assad government and when the US narrowed the fight by focusing on the Islamic State.

Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield succeeded in creating a limited safe zone, around a few villages west of Manbij, but, even with the help of Turkish regular units, the Turkish proxy forces were unable to push the Syrian Kurds back across the Euphrates River. Turkey ended that operation with a promise of returning. 

Turkey hoped to have its proxy rebel forces join the fight for Raqqa and to replace the Syrian Kurds. The US rejected the Turkish plan. 

Erdogan sensed an opportunity in cooperating with the Russians and Iranians in creating the four de-escalation zones. Turkey’s task supposedly was to ensure that the Sunni armed opposition groups complied with the ceasefire terms. The triumvirate has yet to decide where and how the Turks perform this task. That is a primary topic for the next round of talks in Kazakhstan.

The latest move suggests Turkey unilaterally is determining its area of responsibility by committing Turkish army units a second time.

The Turks might be doing to the Syrian Kurds in the north what the US and its proxy force did to the Syrian army and its allies at Al Tanj. That is set up a blocking position to protect its interests. At Tell Rifaat, the Turkish army will ensure that the Syrian Kurds from their two cantons in eastern Syria never create an uninterrupted land corridor to the Afrin Canton. I believe that the Turks will be frustrated in their efforts once again.

USA

The smug, elite, progressive, lying, filthy mainstream media continues their rant against the American people, while the rest of the world just wonders if the American elites have gone completely insane.

The answer to that question would be "yes".

It would help if the mainstream media could get out of the DC Beltway or off Manhattan Island - but that is asking too much.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Minimum Wages in America

Tell me, is something eluding you, Sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you want to find out what’s behind these cold eyes,
You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise...
--Roger Waters - Pink Floyd, The Wall
Sadly, the reality is that you are paid precisely what you're worth to somebody else. Minimum wage was never intended to be the standard for employment compensation, but since government created a minimum wage thus interfering with commerce, it has been a convenient place to peg salaries for people, many of whose time is actually worth less.

And this is a problem for many employers and employees. 

The cost of living in the USA is not uniform. What is a living wage in Arkansas is a starvation wage in much of California, New York, Hawaii or Washington DC.



Arkansas has the lowest hourly income needed for a two-bedroom rental at $13.72, and the state minimum wage is $8.50/hr. Hawaii demands the highest income of renters: Workers need to make $35.20 to rent a two-bedroom there, and the state minimum wage is $9.25. This means that you need a roommate or two to spread the burden if you plan on turning burgers, for the rest of your life.

The antidote to this situation is to learn a trade or gain a profession where your time is worth more. Sadly, the cant of the progressive left is that businesses should subsidize those whose time is worth less than they're being paid by increasing the minimum wage. It makes no sense unless you are a social justice warrior (and likely don't work for a living and are living in Mom's basement).

Fiddling with and increasing the minimum wage means that some businesses who can't afford to pay workers more go under. This situation has never bothered the progressive left and our former president who reminded us over and over that YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT. Then again, there is no record of Barack doing a day's labor in his life.


Barack successfully race baited his way into a position of advantage and I guess it's fair to say that he was paid what he was worth. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. (hint: bring a teleprompter) It isn't the best solution to the minimum wage issue, but being President is better than flipping burgers, bussing dishes, fluffing for the porn industry or picking cotton. The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to President Obama for being the first mixed race president is an example of how some can work the situation to their benefit without the need for a minimum wage.

Hillary receives a really nice medal for not doing anything.
Then there's Hillary Clinton, famous wife of Bill (Slick Willy) Clinton who was simply more wicked than her opponents...until she ran into Barack and then The Donald. Politics may be a solution or a road to success for many low skilled people, but there aren't enough Congressional seats for all of them.
A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."

"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
Government hands medals and awards to their elite in the very same way that Hollywood recognizes its elite. Hollywood does a better job with the pomp and circumstance.

Vice President Joe Biden receives a participation trophy.
Receiving a medal if you are an elite politician doesn't mean that you'll be paid more for your next movie the way that they do it in Hollywood. But in Hollywood, you're only as good as your last game. The same is true for prostitutes and consultants (and there's not much difference - I know - you just don't get a happy ending from a consultant). In government, you have a guaranteed income for as long as you live, a robust pension with survivor's benefits, etc. No particular talent is required - See Barack, Hillary and Slow Joe (above). They all have medals and awards and didn't do a damned thing but make life miserable for the American people. They all got rich on pay to play, but that's another story.

"When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed." – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
In government as a legislature, you can vote yourself a pay raise. The California Legislature voted themselves a fat pay raise this week and Gov. Moonbeam is the highest paid governor in the nation. He would tell you that he's worth it. I agree. Scamming (as with Barack) pays at times - thousand times minimum wage. California legislators also receive $183.00 per day in tax free per deim to cover incidentals while they're in session, and a wide range of other perks not available to anyone who is not voting themselves raises. Better than trimming trees? You bet!

No skills, stuck in a minimum wage job? Try politics!
"The government consists of a gang of men and women exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods." - H. L. Mencken