Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

Think You’ve Seen it All? Here’s Kurdish Pop.

Ladies and gentlemen, the hottest thing smoking in Kurdistan, at least, music wise. We give you, Helly Luv. (We have a sneaking suspicion it’s not her real name).

After the classically Middle East ululation at the beginning, she gets down to singing a pretty conventional pop song, Risk it All, in English. The background singing and dancing, etc., is that sort of cosmic East-meets-West that you see in the Kurdish areas. She herself is a beautiful ambassador for the de facto Kurdish nation that puts every head of state in the region into the nonlinear processing zone.

She was born in Iraq. Her mother was a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter, but the family left during the Iran-Iraq war. She grew up in Finland and in the USA.

Best of all: Islamists of all varieties (including her own Kurds) absolutely loathe her. Since her music video was released in February, a variety of people that you probably wouldn’t like very much have sworn to behead, or stone, or do something else unpleasant to this harmless young woman. If you don’t like her music, change the channel, why don’t you?

Reuters reports:

Kurdish pop singer Helly Luv says she will not be put off by death threats from Iraqi Islamist militants since release of her first music video but, drawing on its title, insists she will “Risk It All” to help a push for an independent Kurdistan.

Iraqi-born Luv, 25, has seen her video rack up more than 2.5 million views on YouTube since its release in February; but she has faced criticism for what some see as provocative imagery in the clip accompanying the modern mix of dance, hip-hop and traditional Middle Eastern music.

Luv said the video, which includes exploding petrol bombs, backing dancers with AK-47 rifles, and the singer dancing in a mid-thigh silver dress atop a citadel, represents the Kurdish spirit and struggle for an independent state.

“There were death threats from many Islamic groups… it was a really hard time for me,” Luv said in an interview in Arbil, the autonomous Kurdistan region’s capital. “(But) my whole message is that, Kurdish people, we need to risk everything for our dreams and fight for our country.”

She isn’t just talking about patriotism… she recently visited Peshmerga troops near the front close to ISIL-held Mosul. She could be safe in the USA. Instead, she’s placed herself mere miles from people who absolutely would kill her in painful and slow ways, and feel righteous about doing it.

Most of the online trolls seem to have decided she is a Freemason, or a tool of the Illuminati (would that make her an Illuminatus? Not up on moon-worshipper mysticism). And the things they post are… well, every one of her videos’ comments becomes a battlezone for dim, angry Turks, Iranians, mullahs, and God knows who else — into which she sometimes steps and gives as good as she gets, insult-wise.

Here she is a few months ago, doing the same song (appears to be lipsynched actually) “live” in Irbil for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is a holy day for Zoroastrians, Parsees, Sufis, Ismailis, and the Baha’i… it’s been celebrated for 3,000 years or so. But her performance begins with powerful nationalistic imagery: newsreel footage of Saddam’s massacre of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988.

As you can see from the video, Nowruz has become a national holiday in Kurdistan. (Kurds spell it Newroz… a spelling that’s banned in Turkey, as was the holiday itself for decades).

There’s quite a bit more video and audio online from this pop star from the world’s hardest-luck country. For a secular track (with suggestive lyrics in English) that’s appropriate to the People of the Gun, we recommend “Shooter.” Put up on YouTube last month, and it hasn’t made the Salafists’ heads explode yet.

Maybe her music isn’t your three cups of tea. We can understand… most of what we listen to is from the 1960s or the 1770s, we confess. It’s beat and we don’t want to restore it, or it’s baroque and we don’t want to fix it. But we were entertained by our sojourn with Helly Luv and her dance music, and we wish her, and the Kurdish people, all the best.

Some thoughts on Military Traditions

SF Patch

For over 30 years this was all an SF man wore on his left shoulder — unless he was Ranger-Q’d. Vietnam SF soldiers did not get the SF Tab (they are eligible for its award, retroactively, but SF men of the 50s, 60s, 70s and start of the 80s didn’t get them at graduation).

Some military traditions come to endure for a very long time; they survive the rise and fall of units, complete service branches, and even nations and empires. Military units today conduct ceremonies and maintain traditions that date back at least to the Roman Empire.

Some of this is just transmitted in human experience, even through social and political revolutions. The French army today has some traditions that predate the revolution. The Russian army today, likewise has some traditions from the previous Soviet army, and some from the Tsarist army before that. And all are inheritors of some of the traditions of the Romans: unit standards or guidons, marching in ranks, saluting.

Then, there is the interesting comparison of the tradition that takes hold, and the tradition that fails to take hold. For example, when he was Chief of Staff, Rick Shinseki tried to get the US Army to celebrate an Army Birthday. He was mindful of the tradition of the Marine Corps Birthday, which has long taken hold of the Marine Corps, and is a reason (or an excuse, for those who need no reason) for Marines past and present to get together with their mates and celebrate their traditions of service. The imposed tradition of the Army Birthday never took hold; it was one more of the ideas you get when you not only invite the Good Idea Fairy into the conference room, you make him Chief of Staff.

Shinseki went on to head the VA, which is all you need to know about his traditions.

This weekend, we’re attending an event that is one of those organic traditions that has just grown, and has survived many decades, outliving some of the original instigators, even though it’s a very small tradition. It’s interesting because it’s unique, so far as we know, in the Special Forces and world Special Operations community.

The Team Dive started as an excuse for members of an Army Reserve Special Forces Team to get together on a non-drill weekend, catch up, and not incidentally do a dive for lobsters in the cold waters off the North Shore of Massachusetts. A number of dope deals were necessary to make this happen: they had to fix things with the Environmental Police, with the site of the dive, with the local authorities, and with the Revolutionary War fort that is absolutely closed to camping at all times, except when the Green Berets come, once a year. It’s all legal and all on the up and up (yes, the men have lobstering permits for that one weekend, and yes, they only take legal “bugs”). But it’s a minority group in the minority group, and many people who are not members went out of their way to make it the successful tradition it has now “always” been.

Some years the lobsters are plentiful. Some, they are scarce (and somebody takes the Drive of Shame to a fish market). The beer is always plentiful; as the old guys drink less, the young guys pick up the slack. The story telling is prodigious, and one of the things that makes old guys like us turn out is the grim knowledge that he who is not there to tell the story is certain to be the subject of discussion.

Nobody is sure when the Team Dive started; the best guess is sometime in the 1980s. There’s a 20-year anniversary, but it’s just the 20-year point of somebody finally keeping track. Since a typical military career is 20 years, and some guys were already retired when they came to the first one, there will be members from their 20s to their 80s, each eager to hear what’s up with the others, and to meet old friends and teammates that he hasn’t met yet.

What we think is unique is this event’s nature as a longitudinal event on a team scale. There are reasons a reserve team, not an active one, came up with this, but we know it took a lot of luck and survived many near-death experiences to be here for us today.

Your “outside” life doesn’t come in here, too much. We’ve had FBI agents and ex-cons sitting at the same table, carpenters and CFOs, teachers and technicians. Here, the stories are of night jumps and over-the-horizon swims, of violent injury and long recovery, of guns we liked and guns we respected, of the difficulty making commo when you knew the Russians could DF you in 10 seconds — and when they’d jam you sometimes, just to let you know they were on duty that night, too. There will be tales of Vietnam and Afghanistan and maybe Iraq, along with tales of the Last Good Deal in Oslo or Guayaquil or Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Some of the tales will be true, some will contain a germ of truth, and some, the listeners will listen politely to.

The tradition survived the retirement of the original members; it even survived the end of the Army Reserve Special Forces, the dissolution of the original team, ODA 111, A Co. 11th Special Forces Group, the erasure of their team house and the very street it was on from the map as the area was redeveloped. The men who served on the team when it was disbanded in 1994 found themselves, mostly, on the same new team in the Army National Guard, and so that team became the torchbearers of the tradition. By that time, someone had already figured out it was important to keep the old-timers in, and so team members from the 1960s to the 2010s were arriving from across the country last night.

Some will dive. Some will drink. Some will do both (in order, please. So far we have a perfect safety record and have one surface for every submersion).

If you wanted your team to have a team dive (or hunt, or whatever) you couldn’t just copy the way ODA 111 does it. You’d have to start, and let the tradition grow, and see where it wound up, which wouldn’t be where you expected. But it would be a good thing, as long as it did what traditions must do: percolated from bottom up, rather than be commanded from top down.

So, these are the Navy’s priorities

Screenshot 2014-07-19 22.13.16The Navy, like traitor, felon and jailbird Bradley Manning, has a thing called a Transition Plan, and it may be proceeding towards the same end. We’ll provide the document as a .pdf for you, but we thought we’d highlight a couple of the lowlights.

First, get a load of the cover of this thing! Decide whether they wanted to publish the annual report of some Silicon Valley high-tech, or a brochure for some overpriced college. So they split the difference. It has the college brochure One Cool Looking Brother, the obligatory Action Shots, and the Meaningless Slogan some marketing department MBAs agonized and argued over, in this case, “MOVING FORWARD… MOVING FORWARD…

Given that ships generally suck at backing up, that’s probably not a completely bad choice, but you have to wonder whether it was an attempt to suck up to the Administration’s E Ring suits, or hosts of sparsely-watched MSNBC shows, two practically interchangeable demographics.

The plan begins with a grinning picture (we’ll spare you) Ray Mabus, who’s getting antsy now that he’s only got two years left to name DDGs for Sacco and Vanzetti, an LHA USS Jane Fonda, and maybe an SSBN USS Benedict Arnold. And the plan is a very curious thing. Maybe it’s that we don’t have a Distinguished Naval Personage around the Manor, although we have thrown the dog in the fountain on a slow day, for comic relief. But the plan makes no sense to us… we can’t tell what they’re transitioning from or to, it’s almost as if in Ray Mabus World “transition” is an intransitive verb.

Anyway, the document includes an absolutely shocking set of goals. These are the Navy’s priorities:

  1. Take care of our people The DON is committed to attracting, developing and retaining a diverse total workforce trained and equipped to meet our strategic readiness objectives.
  2. Maximize warfighter readiness and avoid hollowness The DON will effectively size our force to meet strategic demands, maintain a credible, capable and combat ready military force.
  3. Lead the nation in sustainable energy The DON continues to support alternative energy efforts, realizing that energy independence is vital to our national security and the safety of our Sailors and Marines.
  4. Promote acquisition excellence and integrity

The DON is improving the execution of every program and increasing anti-fraud efforts, and leveraging strategic sourcing to take advantage of economies of scale.

5. Proliferate unmanned systems

The DON will integrate unmanned systems across the entire department ensuring that we can operate in any environment. Our global presence will be sustained and enhanced with our continued investment in unmanned systems.

6. Drive innovative enterprise transformation

The DON will continue to transform our business enterprise, ensuring that available resources are directed to our Sailors and Marines. 

Screenshot 2014-07-19 22.12.59Apologies for any brain-dead formatting. (WordPress ^$^&#^I#$!! But we digress). Apart from the fact that those are a politician’s anodyne and empty statements, worthy of a game of Buzzword Bingo except that everyone has a winning card, the priorities they reflect are remarkable. (Mabus is an anodyne and empty politician; a former one-term governor who was defeated for a second term, he got rich as a revolving-door crony capitalist, and has served in several political appointments). Indeed, those statements look so stupid we’re putting a screen-cap of the document here for those of you disinclined to download the whole anodyne and empty Buzzword Bingo thing.

Of course, Mabus’s lodestone, “diversity,” gets mentioned in Goal 1. And “sustainable energy” gets mentioned a couple further on. Those terms come up a few times in the document. But the mention of “combat ready military force” in Goal 2 is the only place the word “combat” appears in the whole thing. That’s not what this Secretary is transitioning this Navy towards, apparently. Some things a Navy might do don’t show up, either: “battle?” “Superiority?” “Dominance?” Those all get “No Results Found.” There is, however, a mention of the Navy’s element, the sea. Exactly one mention, on Page 11 (which is page 13 of the .pdf, thanks to the cover letter). Here’s the only context in which Ray Mabus’s Navy is concerned about the freakin’ sea:

Institutionalize environmental sustainability on land and sea

Well, we guess we can’t say that the Navy has no priorities. It has priorities, all right. But we think we can be forgiven for the thought that they are all the wrong priorities.

Here’s the document, if these samples haven’t already glazed your glazzies: Navy Transition Plan-Fy14-16-Final.pdf

You want sustainable energy, Ray Mabus? Go to the Naval Academy where, in a tomb reminiscent of Napoleon’s, John Paul Jones’s remains lie in honored repose, returned to the US after a century in a restless foreign interment. Wrap the old Admiral in a winding of varnish-insulated copper magnetic wire and call him an armature. Add a pair of magnets and brushes to take off the power , and zowie! Sustainable energy, as he spins.

US-Provided Weapons Handed Over in Syria

M198 howitzers and MTVR prime movers were surrendered to ISIL in Iraq. Now, more weapons are handed over in Syria.

M198 howitzers and MTVR prime movers were surrendered to ISIL in Iraq. Now, more, and more sophisticated, weapons are handed over in Syria.

On July 2nd, Middle Eastern news site Aydinlik Daily reported that $500 million in US support to the amorphous “Free Syrian Army” had wound up, instead, in the hands of the extremist group ISIS aka ISIL. (The former acronym is preferred by the media; the latter, by the intelligence community and military). Aydinlik reports, citing Syrian human rights group MIRSAD:

The Friends of Syria, led by the USA, had gathered in Qatar after the area named Qusayr near the Lebanese border was taken under control by the cooperation of the Hezbollah and the Syrian Army, and decided that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) should receive arms via the general staff.

According to the report by MIRSAD, the arms sent to the forces in Deir Ez-Zor was stolen by ISIS forces there.

The Syrian National Coalition is a group which receives support from the Friends of Syria. One of the leaders of the group, Michel Kilo, asserted in an interview with the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper that $500 million-worth of arms went missing because of the conflicts between the opponents, and ending up being sold in Turkey and Iraq.

Even though Barack Obama stated that forming a moderate opposition group against the government in Syria was not a realistic plan, he had requested that $500 million-worth of weapons be send to the moderate groups in Syria.

It’s unclear whether we should believe these reports, as is common in reporting on the Middle East. What is not unclear is the incompetence and unpreparedness of the Administration in dealing with the breakout of ISIL, and the laughable limits of “soft power,” which allows the United States at best to have no effect, and at worst to promote our enemies.

It does sound just like the Administration to conclude that providing arms was a bad idea, and so to “only” dedicated half a billion to that project — which turned out to be a bad idea. The US could have supported a democratic resistance to Syria, but it would have required much earlier action, inconsistent with this Administration’s curious OODA Loop which is a cycle of golfing, fund-raising, dithering, and casting-away of blame for the resultant failure.

Some conspiracy theorists argue that the enemies of the USA and civilization in general are not the enemies of senior Administration figures. But we’ve seen no indication of the sort of baseline competence that allows one to identify an enemy three times out of five, from the folks currently screwing up the senior national security billets, most of whom are (1) academics without exposure to the real world, (2) speechwriters promoted beyond their narrow pale of competence, or (3) ideologues who are content discarding data so that pet theories may continue to be cherished.

Meanwhile, Fathi Bayoud’s Zaman Alwasi, “an independent electronic newspaper delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping Syria,” makes it clear that ISIS/ISIL does not have to pilfer or capture the weapons: the supposed “moderate” extreme islamists that the President has been comfortable sponsoring have happily signed on with the new terrorist group. Zaman Alwasi reporter Abdullah Raja:

Sources and eyewitnesses in the border town of al-Bukamal east Syria informed Zaman Alwasl that many factions affiliated with FSA have pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amid a huge public attendance, where their weapons have been handed over to “ISIS”.

The source said brigades of Ahl Al Athar, Ibin al-Qa’im, and Aisha have pledged allegiance to the State after clashes that ended quickly for the benefit of ISIS, while the leader of these brigades and factions have fled to the countryside of al-Bukamal into neighboring towns in Deir Ezzor province.

Moreover, tribal meditations have taken place with ISIS to enable those leaders to leave their positions safely after taking an oath of allegiance to the state, and therefore dominating much of Syria’s eastern oil-producing Euphrates River region, and its fast gains in Iraq’s Sunni Muslim provinces over the last three weeks, means the state now commands a large cross-border expanse of territory – in which al-Bukamal forms an important link, with the exception of some regime-held areas.

Maybe the Obama Administration really does support ISIL, but we’re inclined to think they’re just inept and ideologically blinkered. Meanwhile, we’re waiting for them to send the clue-deficient Susan Rice out in praise of ISIL’s Bloomberg-like nanny tendencies: they’re tobacco-banners and gun-banners.

In a related development, sources also informed Zaman Alwasl that the state’s primary concern now in al-Bukamal and its countryside is to apply an anti-smoking procedure “tobacco ban”, stressing that the smoking phenomena have disappeared from city’s neighborhoods, and that the group usually asks about two things at the checkpoints : first smoking, and then the weapon.

No word on whether they’ve also come out against the Big Gulp, which is their last major difference with the Manhattan extremist, Bloomberg.

Zaman Alwasi warns that the pan-Arab (and pan-Moslem) aspirations of the soi-disant Caliphate have already found realization in the erasure of the Iraq-Syrian border, which is under the control of ISIL on both sides.

One unexplored consequence of the US’s provision of arms in lieu of useful support to weak allies regionally, is that the US has lost control of quite a number of modern arms, including sophisticated ATGMs, late-model SAMs including MANPADS, armored vehicles with classified composite armor, and electronic equipment including encryption gear. You may rest assured that US competitors and enemies have, even now, secured samples of these technologies for technical intelligence exploitation. It’s a small consequence, compared to some of the larger ones, but it’s one more consequence of irresponsible action that was never considered before the President dithered and trimmed his way into a sort of a position.

Hat tip: Patrick Poole at PJ Media.

“Battery dead? You’re a terrorist!” –TSA mongs

tsa checkpointAmerica’s laziest, stupidest government agency recently took a step into heights of incompetence never imagined by Laurence J. Peter, when they declared themselves inspectors of your cell phone. Apparently they aren’t fully occupied groping and fondling dwarves, and so the Devil has found work for all those idle blue-gloved hands.

If your phone won’t turn on, something ours wouldn’t do this morning because we didn’t plug it in last night, then You Just Might Be a Terrorist™ and the mighty mongs of the TSA won’t let you come home. Let the Europeans deal with your terrorist ass, and your dormant iPhone, apparently.

Travelers flying directly to the United States from overseas are being asked to turn on their cellphones and laptops before boarding their aircraft, officials said Sunday.

The security measure calls for passengers whose devices cannot be turned on — thus proving that they’re real — to be denied boarding.

The Transportation Security Administration announced the added layer of security, apparently in response to reports that terrorists are designing bombs hidden inside smartphones and laptops.

“As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers,” the TSA said.

via TSA heightening security on cell phones and laptops | New York Post.

“Security officers.” Ha. That’s a laugh, for human dross recruited from the hard-left tail of the bell curve. They hire on for the promise of a few dollars, the valuables in travelers’ bags, and all the gropes for which pervs hope. No one good, decent, honest, competent, moral, ethical or intelligent has ever been employed at TSA in any capacity whatsoever.

NIMBYs Never Sleep

Got my sparkle? On the hippies now.

“Jet, your target is way too many hippies.” “Tally hippies.” “Friendlies are south, make your runs from east or west, cleared to engage! Remain this frequency for BDA.”

Ah, yeah, rural Vermont, where gentrifying New Yorkers go to retire without being bankrupted by taxes, or murdered by The Diversity. And whose love for the peace and quiet is so great that they are making common cause with the “peace warriors” that they probably already knew in moonbat-marbled Manhattan. National defense? Half of them are flat against it, and the other half are just against it in their backyard.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Opponents of a plan to base 18 F-35 fighter planes at Vermont’s Burlington International Airport say the decision should be overturned because of noise, a loss of property values around the airport and the remote possibility one of the planes could crash.

Those are some of the arguments in the lawsuit filed on Monday asking a federal judge to overturn an Air Force decision to base the planes in South Burlington.

Air Force and Vermont National Guard officials say they are unable to comment about the lawsuit.

Among the issues in the lawsuit is that the planes are too loud and they would make more neighborhoods around the airport in South Burlington “incompatible with residential use.”

via Vermont F-35 foes file suit to block deployment.

Hey, if you don’t want to hear airplanes, dumb-ass, don’t build or buy your house in “neighborhoods around the airport.” There was a reason that price seemed too good to be true, genius.

(For what it’s worth, Hog Manor is under the downwind leg for the nearby ex-SAC base, which still hosts a number of KC-135s and both active and reserve aviators who fly the big tankers. They pass overhead at about 1000-2000′ AGL all the time. We think it’s awesome. Jets: the sound of freedom!)

We can understand how some Vermonters might not see it that way, when their idea of freedom usually involves drugs and cow-tipping. Hey, it’s a free country. It has to deploy fighters within reach of its ADIZ. Those two may have some points of correlation, if you think about it.

Our guess is that this lawsuit, given the weakness of its arguments, is not long for the courts. Maybe Ben and Jerry can make a new flavor afterward: Tears of NIMBYs. We’d hit that!

A Little Gun with Big Consequences

His last words were, “It is nothing.” But he was terribly wrong.

Even as badly maintained and pitted as it is, this FN M1910 Browning in .380 ACP has the classic lines John M. Browning designed into it over a century ago. It’s still a not-bad choice for a backup or concealed carry pistol, although most of them are in the hands of collectors. Not many collectors would want one in as terrible and pitted condition as this one, but then, this is not just “one.” It’s “the” pistol that fired the shots that ended the Age of Kings, mortally wounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dual Monarchy and his wife Sophie.  That assassination, by a Bosnian Serb pan-Slavic nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, led Austria to threaten Serbia (which had sponsored the assassination, providing this gun and other arms) with invasion. The Austrian threat produced a Russian counterthreat, a German counter-counterthreat, and Franco-British agreement to stand by their treaty obligations to Russia — if it came to that.

Gavrilo Princips Browning 1910

In the end, as we all know, it did come to that, to the detriment of nations and of generations.

Franz Ferdinand was an important figure. For one thing, the Emperor and King, Franz Josef, was old and unwell, and FF was his designated heir (he himself came to the position through tragedy, when the then-heir, his cousin Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889). From then, Franz Ferdinand was ready to take the reins. No one in the Habsburg court had thought out the fate of the monarchy beyond that, except that Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s children were not eligible — their marriage was a love match between unequals, and so morganatic, a dynastic term meaning the kids’ blood was permanently attainted with the non-royalness of Sophie. It was only after the murder of FF and Sophie that Franz Josef began preparing Franz Ferdinand’s nephew Charles, who had been enjoying himself as an Army officer, for national leadership. They didn’t have long, as Franz Josef passed away in 1916, catapulting Charles onto the dual throne. All these consequences from a few pistol shots!

The murder is described in a book called Sarajevo, quoted at length in Wikipedia:

One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand’s neck while the other pierced Sophie’s abdomen. … As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor’s residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke’s mouth onto Count Harrach’s right cheek (he was standing on the car’s running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: “For Heaven’s sake! What happened to you?” and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband’s knees.

Harrach and Potoriek … thought she had fainted … only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! – Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat … fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked “Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? – Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?” “Es ist nichts. – It is nothing.” said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.

A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors’ efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.

It took about a month of cabled threats and ultimata, and then it was game on. Game would stay on for the next four-plus years, ending with Northern France and Belgium in ruins, Russia in an unholy revolution that brought forth a new Dark Age across Eurasia, Britain and Germany spent, with the cream of their youth interred in distant fields — if their remains were found at all. The last unconstrained kings in Europe were gone, Nicholas II and his whole family shot down like dogs, and Wilhelm II and his whole family in comfortable, if bitter, exile. Accidental king Charles I of Austria-Hungary died shortly after his family’s exile to Portugal.

But hey, the Serbs got their Serbian-dominated pan-Slavic Balkan nation.

Princip didn’t live to see it. He died soon after being sentenced to 20 years (the enlightened Habsburg were soft on crime, especially when committed by yout’s — Princip was 20), of complications from TB.

In the end, of course, Yugoslavia was short-lived, as nations go. It would be torn apart by civil war started by another malignant Serb, but that’s another story. (And against those two monsters, the Serbs did give us Nikola Tesla, so their accounts balance, unless you ask Edison).

The murder weapon fell, with a collection of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia artifacts and ephemera, into the hands of a priest, who dreamed of helping Austria-Hungary establish a museum in the memory of the murdered royal. But he hadn’t reckoned on Austria-Hungary and the dual monarchy themselves falling to the continental cataclysm that would extinguish as many hopes as it did lives over the next years. On his death, it passed to his order, and a group of Catholic monks had no real use for it, and no idea of how to get rid of it, so they hung on to it until quite recently. They didn’t take care of it, and it rusted deeply and badly. In time, the religious order passed the old father’s Franz Ferdinand collection to a museum in Vienna, perhaps fulfilling some portion of the late priest’s earthly desire.

There is something that draws one’s eyes to this Browning. It’s just a gun, just a tool. But the unintended consequences of the few shots this old gun fired should remind all of us never to shoot without due consideration.

One wonders what Gavrilo Princip would say about that.

Hat tip, John Richardson, who said:

If you don’t think the .380 Auto aka 9mm Browning isn’t a powerful round, show me another pistol cartridge that was used to start a world war. For it was with a FN Model 1910 chambered in .380 Auto (or 9mm Browning to be more precise) that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg 100 years ago today in Sarajevo.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money.

From Infantry Company to… Hurling Team?

That’s what a bunch of New Hampshire National Guard soldiers did to try to keep the comradeship alive after a stint in Iraq in 2004-05. They took up the little-known (in America) Irish team sport of hurling, which if nothing else is great high-intensity PT.

Part 1:

Part 2:

It’s nice to have a military story to report that isn’t about Secretary Hagel establishing quotas for pedophiles, Congress zeroing out the ammo budget, or the President deploying guys because some 26-year-old speechwriter thinks it’s a good idea, and then leaving them hanging.

Hat tip, an Irish friend who’s been trying to explain hurling to us for about a year. Oddly enough, we think we served in SF with a relative of the officer in the video (who goes from CPT to LTC thanks to the magic of editing eight years of film down to a half hour.

The VA Scandal is not forgotten … by the Cartoonists

The following cartoons were made by various talented editorial cartoonists, and they show that regardless of the intention of the idiotic Bergdahl swap, somebody hasn’t forgotten the old geezers of the VA’s wait lists. Here’s Chip Bok, on 3 Jun 14:

chip Bok VA cartoon 3 June(You have to love Chip’s website, too: Not everyone can pun on his own name).

Here’s Steve Breen, on the 10th. (Wasn’t “Breen” one of the names Mad Magazine always used, like “Roger Kaputnik”?)

Stve Breen VA cartoon 10 Jun 14


Also on the 10th, Bob Gorrell:

Bob Gorrell VA cartoon 10 June 14

Ouch, Bob. That’ll leave a mark. Here’s Steve Kelley, from Friday the 13th:

steve kelley VA cartoon 13 June 14

We think that’s our favorite.

And finally, Chip Bok again, forget the date:

chip Bok VA cartoon



Of course, not everybody learns from pictures. Some need moving pictures, ideally with a sound track. For you, and you know who you are, here’s Remy with the VA music video:

He is so audited.


Science of Background-Matching Camouflage

You’ve all seen the scene from one of the Jurassic Park movies: the dinner-seeking dinosaur matches it’s background so perfectly, and blends in so perfectly, that it seems to vanish. This is a type of camouflage called background–matching (called “color resemblance” in Cott’s 1940 classic, Adaptive Coloration in Animals), and while it’s a bit speculative in dinosaurs, it’s been used for millennia by other animals — and may be used in the future by humans. We’ve seen it before in a Bond movie, too: the invisible Aston Martin.

Now see it with cube-shaped boxes on various settings around the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA.

Background Matching (“color resemblance”) is one of a very few broad methods of using color to conceal. The others are obliterative shading (countershading), disruptive coloration, and shadow elimination.

In the real world, how would such adaptive camouflage work? Andrew Owens of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory et al. have conducted a study (.pdf) that tested a couple thousand people on 37 iterations of algorithmically developed camouflage. The camo tried to hide a cubic virtual box, and Owens and the team used six different algorithms to try to make the box disappear from multiple angles.

The results of the test can be restated simply:

  • Algorithmic camouflage was effective at making an object hard to find. It consistently took three times as long to find the box hidden by the most effective algorithm, compared to the one with the least effective.
  • The least effective algorithm was to simply average the colors of the background into a single neutral (presumably neutral, anyway) shade.
  • The most effective used some sophisticated math called a Markov Random Field and then hid any color boundaries by requiring them to map to the actual physical boundaries of the concealed object (in the test, a cube). How does that work? Because a viewer would see the color contrast boundaries if they appeared on any one face facing him, but would only see a boundary on an edge if he could see both of the two sides that formed that edge.

We may have failed at the “restated simply” task, but we gave it a shot. For a deeper understanding, or just to have the experiment explained and the conclusions restated complexly, do Read The Whole Thing™, and check out the lab’s page about the camo project, and MIT’s press release, which talks up the pros of camouflaging HVAC and other systems hardware in otherwise historical or natural place.

We, of course, saw the military utility foremost, but then, we are knuckle-dragging widowmakers and all that.

This is enabling research that will lead in due course to adaptive camouflage. Yes, an M1A1 or Stryker or MV-22 has far more facets that Owens’s cubes, and the technology to cover those vehicles economically with conformal displays for camo purposes has yet to make it out of the lab. But this paper is an important step (not a first step, of course, because the authors build, as ever in science, on prior work) towards the translation of this capability along the RDT&E chain from concept, to science, to engineering.

Along with Owens, Professor Bill Freeman, and visiting student Alex Flint from the MIT CSAIL, the team included UVA graphic-computing expert (and inventor of Photoshop tools) Connelly Barnes, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute imaging & robotics researcher Hanumant Singh.

Note also that the paper has some useful stuff for those who want to understand how camouflage works and how to make it work better, in the bibliography and footnotes.