Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Your tax dollars at work

This is a Lockheed Martin F-35A, the most expensive weapons system ever made.  They cost $108,000,000 each, and we have on order 1,763.  That would be...umm...carry the 4...somewhere north of $190 BILLION dollars worth of taxpayer money.  Also pictured are all of the various munitions it is capable of carrying.

But when the proud Pentagon put out this photo it forgot to mention a couple of things.  Understand, this is a stealthy aircraft, meaning it is extremely difficult to see on radar due to its various shapes and special coatings.  But see all those bombs and missiles hanging off the wings?  They are NOT stealthy.  Flying like that, any stealth advantage the plane might have had on paper just vanished.  Now it will show up on radar like a Greyhound bus riding in the lane next to you on the freeway.  

Only 17% of its potential payload can be carried internally, thus preserving the F-35's stealth.  DUH!

Now don't get me wrong.  What with all the threats facing us these days, I'm all for a strong national defense.  But does this thing make sense?  Am I missing something?

Oh, and they don't work very well.  They've proven to be broken more often than flying.  Just thought you should know.  :)


Sunday, April 26, 2015

How I spent my Spring vacation....

....I nearly died.  OK, slight exaggeration.  But I was very sick.  For a week I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something, culminating in my doctor sending me to the ER.  There they suggested several other possibilities, and did a standard EKG. 

The doctor  asked, "How did you get here?  I didn't hear an ambulance."  

I told him I drove myself, why?  He said by all accounts I should be unconscious.  My pulse rate was down to 29 beats per minute.

"Well, SURPRISE!  I'm here."

He brought in a neurologist who eventually confirmed that I had Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune system disorder.  As explained, if our brain wants a muscle to do something, it will send a signal via a nerve to the muscle, and the muscle will reach out to receive the nerve signal.  A tiny connector completes the circuit between nerve and muscle, and the muscle moves.

But my auto-immune system decided that those little connectors were foreign and needed to be killed off, and began pumping out antibodies.  M/G can attack anywhere, but in my case was confined to my mouth, tongue, chewing, and swallowing.  It isn't curable, but is treatable.  I can deal with it.

The real kick in the gut was the bad ticker.  I had no idea!  Further tests showed that my heart and all associated piping were in great shape, but the "generator" that told my heart when to beat was failing.  Off to the cath lab I went.

The science behind this is mind boggling.  As my friends Bruce and Mike and probably a few others that I'm unaware of already know, it's now a fairly routine procedure.  A small devise is implanted under the skin on the upper chest, outside the ribcage, and teenie little wires are threaded through a vein and stuck into the heart muscle.  Then the pacemaker is programmed to kick into action to assist if my pulse drops too low.  

That's it.  No pain, no fuss.  

My point in telling you this isn't to fish for sympathy....I don't need it.  All is well.  The endless tests they did on me showed that, as mentioned, my heart was in great shape, as were my liver, kidneys, lungs, etc.  (When the respiratory therapist came around to make sure my lungs were working, she asked me to suck on a tube, which would cause a diaphragm to rise in a cylinder, the higher the better.  When I pegged it, she just patted me on the head, smiled, and said, "you're fine".  :)

I just want to let people know that, heaven forbid, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don't be afraid.  Trust your doctors, trust medical science, and do exactly what your doctors say.

Until this I hadn't spent a day in a hospital, ever.  Just a couple of drive-thru...er...day surgeries, so this experience was a real eye-opener for me.  I really do appreciate all your kind thoughts sent my way.  

More really interesting stuff, and plenty of "thank you's", yet to come.  Stay tuned.  :)


Friday, April 10, 2015

Did you hear the one about the Rabbi and the Saudi King....

As a student of geopolitics....I know, I know...*yawn*....I'm always intrigued by what's happening in that hellhole formerly known as the Mideast.  It seems those people just aren't happy unless they're fighting someone, and right now they must be feeling absolutely blissful.

Now Iranian Ayatollah What'shisname has announced that if economic sanctions against his country aren't lifted completely and immediately as soon as the recent nuclear arms treaty is implemented in June, the deal is off.  Big surprise, huh?  It's just one big stall after another.  Always has been their MO, and probably always will be.

Oh dear, what shall we do?

My advice: nothing.

The Saudi Arabians have long been among the most vociferous critics of Israel.  They have gone out of their way to support those front line countries who have vowed to wipe Israel off the map, and they have sent vast sums of $$$ to terrorist groups who are trying to do just that.

The Saudis are also bitter enemies with Iran.  Iran is Shia, while Saudi Arabia is Sunni.  (FYI, Islam is 80% Sunni, 20% Shia.)  Right now Saudi Arabia is scared shitless of Iran's growing power and their overt moves to expand their sphere of influence throughout the Mideast.

Meanwhile, in the Israeli mind, the Holocaust was just yesterday.  They are (legitimately IMO) obsessed with seeing to it that any external threat to them be stopped in its tracks, proactively if need be.  They have often been criticized for being a little heavy handed (true), but still, their paranoia is not without cause.

Now imagine this:  Saudi Arabia is heavily involved in the Yemeni civil war to their south.  Israel sees any softening of resolve to keep Iran nuclear weapon-less as something they cannot accept.  They will settle for nothing less than Iran's nuclear ambitions being gutted.

It wouldn't be be a stretch to imagine a temporary unholy alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel to kick Iran in the 'nads.  It wouldn't be too difficult for a massive Israeli strike package to slip through Jordanian airspace (perhaps even with their unofficial support), then use Saudi airspace to refuel and penetrate deep into Iran to do the deed.

With Saudi Arabia embroiled in Yemen far to the south, they would have a perfect excuse for claiming they were caught totally unaware.  "Plausible deniability" they call it.  *wink, wink*

Israel could aerial-refuel their strike aircraft en route as they ingressed and egressed Iran, essential as an unrefueled flight to Iran and back directly from Israel is beyond their capability.  And if anyone knows where the Iranians have dispersed their essential research sites, it's the Israelis.

Israel could cripple or destroy Iran's nuclear program, and Saudi Arabia could set back their old foe for years, maybe decades, just by "looking the other way".  Win/win.

Of course, Israel would have to watch for a Saudi double cross as they were returning from their strike and desperately needing to refuel over northern Saudi airspace, but it's a chance they just might take.

The West of course would stomp and holler (very insincerely) in condemnation of Israel, as would the Muslim world (except 80% would be secretly chuckling), but nothing would come of it except a few resolutions from the UN, which Israel would immediately drop straight into their overflowing File 13.

So I say let's just sit back and let the Mideast take care of the Mideast.  This geopolitical junkie will be watching intently.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

You say to-MA-to, I say to-MAH-to. Same thing. Right?

I have another view of the recent Iranian nuclear weapons deal that I don't think many people, at least many Americans, are thinking of.  First, the obvious sticking points:

It's now coming out that based on speeches to their own people, Iran and the West have different interpretations of several important points.  Iran expects sanctions to be lifted instantly in June when the treaty becomes effective, while the US expects to gradually begin to lift sanctions over time.  This will hit the fan in June if not sooner.

Second, Iran prevailed and excluded inspections on their military bases for any nuclear development activities, making that the obvious place for them to proceed unmolested.  It's pretty easy to fool inspectors...the IAEA said back when they were allowed in Iran they were constantly finding sites not listed in Iran's declaration of all their research sites.  They were always behind the curve.  (Israel developed their atomic weapons directly under their Dimona "research" reactor while inspectors were topside.  Duh!)

But here's where I have a problem that I haven't heard mentioned much:  I don't think we fully understand the implications.  If Iran should ever get atomic weapons, they could blackmail their neighbors with impunity.

Think back to 1990-91.  Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the US responded by massing 500,000 troops and their equipment in nearby Saudi Arabia, from where they launched Operation Desert Storm.  If Saddam had had atomic weapons, we would not have dared present him with such a juicy target.  

If just one of his bombs had gotten through, we could have lost hundreds of thousands of Americans and other allies, too.  No politician would have chanced it.  Iraq would still be in possession of Kuwait, and Saddam would have been embolden.

Heck, he could have demanded and probably gotten any concession he wanted from Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, too.  He would have complete control of the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.  The Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal would have essentially been his.  The entire world's balance of power could have been upset, and not in a good way. Oh yeah...and bye-bye Israel.

Short of a nuclear conflagration, we could have done nothing.  Economic sanctions would not have worked because what he would have had control of, the rest of the world, including us, desperately needed, leaving us no choice but to accept his Status Quo. 

Can you see essentially the same possible outcome if Iran were to ever develop a Bomb?  The end to this story looks very scary.  I don't think Stephen King could have written a more chilling nightmare.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A first for me....

 I should have known something was wrong when saw their clientele.

I've eaten a lot of salsa in my time....gallons of it...no, make that tanker truck loads....but the salsa I had Saturday evening at Nico's restaurant left me speechless.  Literally.

We were seated, ordered our food, then started the pre-Mexican food meal ritual of chowing down on the free chips and salsa.  It didn't take long for me to realize something was wrong.  It felt like something was under my tongue, only there wasn't.  Hmmm....weird.

Then I tried to talk, and boy wath I thrprithed.  My wordth came out minuth the th thound.  My tongue wath having a thpaz attack.  Hard ath I tried, I couldn't make my mouth work right.  Thome bitch!

By the time I got home my thpeech wath almothed unintelligible.  (I notithed many around me were ecthtatic.  Bathardth!)  What the...?

Thunday wath worth.  The thene would have been complete if I had jutht flopped around on the floor and drooled.  On Monday I went to my doctor and told him what happened to me.  "Told" wath probably the wrong word.  It wath more like tharadth. (You know, where you have to act thingth out.) Thure enough, he diagnothed it ath thum thort of food allergy and gave me a thot in the butt-tock.

Today things are a bit better, although as the day rolls along I feel a bit of a relapth coming.  *thigh*

Thith thuckth!

Th  :)