On That Balloon

I’m not going to start to speculate about what was on that spy balloon. No real way to know, and I sure as heck am not going to believe a thing the government — any part of it — says. But it is fair to ask what I would have put on it. I’m going to go with bus rather than truss for a number of reasons, including simplicity.

First up, hyperspectral and multispectral imaging systems. Visual light tells you a lot, but a good argument can be made it hides an even larger amount of information. It’s almost frightening how much detail there is in satellite visual imagery, but there is so much more data in the other frequencies you can’t see with the naked eye.

Next, SIGINT. You are going to be floating around over a country and have the chance to collect and analyze a lot of signals intelligence data. You might be surprised at what all does give off signals, from keyboards to the cell phone in your pocket. Can it be picked up by a system on a balloon? Yep, some SIGINT can even be picked up by satellite. Just ask Brezhnev and Olga, and thank you Jimmy you clown. Closer to the ground, longer baseline, and the chance to have external antennas on the bus or even among any lines running up the balloon, and you could get quite a bit.

Sidenote: most devices are far more noisy than you think. Unshielded keyboards used to give off a decent RF signal for each key. So much so that one place I worked years back, the common wisdom was that the Soviets had a remote receiver hidden in the woods nearby to pick up that and other SIGINT from testing. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t security that caused them to switch most data over to fiber optic lines from copper. If you think lightning surges on a home computer are bad, try having them affect multiple Crays and other equipment.

Now, either as a separate package or a dedicated SIGINT subpackage, I would put in a system to monitor military and civilian aircraft com traffic. You’ve got to figure that when/if detected, someone will say something and if there is competent leadership at any level (doubtful but possible) that hasn’t been bought off, someone will get sent up to take a look. Even if the traffic is encrypted, you can learn a fair bit even without cracking the code. Including even getting an idea of when and where they tumbled to you.

Just me, but as part of things I would also put some standard HD video cameras and accelerometers at locations on the bus. Along with standard instruments, it would aid in control, steering, and letting you see who is taking a look. You could determine how close they got and a bit more.

The other thing I would have onboard even if it took a fuel cell, thermocouple, or other power source beyond solar is ground penetrating radar. There are some already pushing the idea (HT Instapundit), and I seem to recall such a unit flying on an early Shuttle mission in support of archeological operations (cough). In short, if it can find a lost city buried in a jungle, it can find a heck of a lot of things military and infrastructure related.

You could also gather a lot of interesting information on surface topography using interferometry. Bus is certainly long enough for certain types. Couple of other things to try, but that’s a pretty good package. Add in your command and control systems, com systems, and you’ve got a good payload. And, yes, everything on board should have separate destruct systems. In fact, I might even set things so that if the accelerometers detect a large event, such as that caused by a missile exploding close by or even on the connection between the bus and the balloon (or just a rapid descent), that those packages detonate right then. Scatter the parts over a wide area and make it harder for anyone to figure out what was onboard and what might have been collected.

Just a thought, but it sure would be nice to have some places where one might could make an emergency descent for a balloon not too far from a military base. Just in case something went wrong and the balloon in question wasn’t detected. Bring it down after dark let’s say. I suspect a lot worse with the Fufeng Group, and kudos to this town for doing the right thing that DC couldn’t be bothered to do. Funny how the Chinese government is buying up land near major military bases…

Otherwise, nothing has really changed since Monday’s post. When it comes to intelligence gathering, balloons are cheap, reliable, and expendable. Could they be used for other things? Sure, but I’ve not seen good cases made for some of the more interesting speculation out there. One presumes that NORAD might actually try to do something (maybe) about detecting and intercepting now, which would limit utility all around. Then again, given our “elite” political and military leadership…

One final thought. If I were going to be doing this, I would be using as much non-metallic materials as possible. There are a number of fabrics that would work for the balloon that would generate little radar signature. In place of a metallic truss system, use carbon fiber or other advanced materials. Even with the solar panels, you can still play games with radar cross section. Make the com system as tight beam as possible so few to no general broadcasts (laser to satellite anyone?), and you can come close to making it a hole in the sky. I wonder, I wonder, and I wish I could trust anything out of the government.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Good Reads For You

Just a quick one this morning, as there are others out there who have very good takes on the Chinese balloons. And takes that are far more polite than I feel like being right now.

David Strom has a very good post up at HotAir. Highly recommended, and if you are not familiar with or following Tyler Rogoway, you should be.

Over at Victory Girls, check out this older post for some background from Deanna Fisher, and then this post and this post from the highly recommended Nina Bookout.

Ouch

Talked with the transmission repairman earlier. Rebuild. Just shy of $2,400.00. Ouch.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

The Termites Are In The Woodwork

I’ve waited to write about the Chinese balloons for several reasons, including the fact that I really didn’t want to post a mass of invective in place of reasoned thought. The invective is still there, but I have it on a leash for now. Sort of.

I will start by saying that right now I don’t believe a word of what is being said by any branch, part, or employee of the Federal government — nor should you. Until it is confirmed by a reliable and reputable source, don’t trust it or them.

Have balloons been used for intelligence work before? Yes, pretty much since those wacky French brothers got things going on this side of the world. Did the Chinese float three across the U.S. under Trump? No. That story is deflating fast, but not fast enough.

Are balloons being researched for a range of options including aimed delivery of precision weapons, drones, or even chemical/biological payloads? Smart money says yes. Are they the optimal platform for such? Magic Eight Ball says maybe. There are a host of factors that go into such an assessment, and for a number of reasons I will just stick with maybe for now.

Anyone telling you that balloons are no different that satellites and it’s no big deal is a liar and a complete and total idiot to boot. Satellites are moving, and moving fast. There are limits to what they can observe, when they can observe, and on the data they collect. A balloon can be a remarkably steady platform, especially if it can be steered and controlled. Using modern optics, hyperspectral and multispectral imaging, and other sensing systems (and you can pack a lot on a truss that size), you would be amazed at the data that can be collected. Especially if you have nuclear thermocouples or other systems for the real power hogs so that solar can go to other systems including steering.

An amazing amount of data. Data that was collected and transmitted back to China.

Notice also that corporate media, and far too many others, have pretty much dropped coverage of the fact that there was at least one other balloon acknowledged. If you can find any coverage, go back and note just how carefully the government didn’t say where it had been, much less exactly where it was located at that time other than Latin America — which could be anywhere from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego. There were “unconfirmed” reports from non-governmental sources that indicate it was possible that balloon had travelled down the West Coast. You know, where all the military bases that would be responding to actions by China are located.

As it is, the government and corporate media are dropping like a hot potato any mention that the balloon we did finally shoot down may have spent three days loitering over Malmstrom AFB, which happens to house the majority of our Minuteman missiles. Among other things. Look at all the bases and such along the flight path of the balloon. Want to place a bet that if the data is not already being shared with Moscow, it soon will be?

And let’s not forget that the balloon(s) were allegedly not picked up before they were over the Aleutian Islands. If that is true, that would indicate that multiple systems failed in their job. No one, not two, but multiple systems. Also, note that neither was shot down right then either over ocean or in a remote area, despite the violation of American airspace and international law. Instead, they were allowed to continue on and complete their mission.

Dereliction of Duty is the politest term I can use for what has happened. This applies to our military and our civilian leadership. The alleged reason for trying to cover up the incursion is beyond belief in terms of competent, professional, and honest leadership. For the Biden Regency, par for the course. Hey, this is an unprecedented and catastrophic intelligence breach, but better that than embarrassing the Chinese. You know how sensitive they are.

There are no good words to describe how bad the damage is to our military and national defense. As bad as we think it is, I suspect it is even worse than we realize at this time.

The military leadership that failed to detect or take action to prevent the unprecedented overflight should all suck-start their sidearms and apologize to their ancestors in person. The civil leadership that did the same should also go apologize to theirs in person as well.

That said, if the key people involved in this had been acting in the best interest of the United States of America, in full honor of the oath sworn to the Constitution and the Republic, this would not have happened. That it did happen makes it rather clear that one or more people in positions of power were not working for or in the best interest of the United States. If they are not working for us, then for whom are they working? The answer seems pretty clear to me.

The termites are in the woodwork, and the cockroaches are in the walls. The gates all open from the inside, and we have allowed the horse inside the walls.

Ukraine: Outcomes Pt 2

Yesterday provided a synopsis of the overview of the background to what is going on today. Given the reports that the Biden Regency offered Vladimir twenty percent of Ukraine (which isn’t really theirs to offer or give) in exchange for peace, we need to look at some of the possible outcomes.

I want to take these from worst-case to best-case. In every case, there are ways for things to go very well, or to go catastrophically wrong. On all sides, what happens is not only up to senior leadership, but your mid- and even low-level leaders will have their chance at glory or infamy. When it comes to war, David Drake has long pointed out that what does or doesn’t happen often boils down to one scared private. If you don’t want that scared private being the one who decides war/no-war, nuke/no-nuke, don’t put them in that position. That, however, requires competent leadership…

I’ve argued with myself over the order of the first two items, but for now, I think the absolute worst case scenario is the well-meaning imposition of peace based on current lines or claims. Exactly what the Biden Regency, and a host of well-meaning but poorly informed people, have called for.

Neither side is going to buy it. Russkiy Mir demands the return of Ukraine (along with a host of other independent countries) to the fold, willing or not. Ukraine wants its independence and all its territory. The only things such a “peace” will buy is a far more devastating war in the near future.

Both sides are going to arm, train, fortify, and prepare. Given that I’m reasonably sure there are those in Ukraine who are lamenting ever giving up the nukes, there will be efforts to develop or obtain special weapons of some type or types. It may be clandestine, but it will take place. Meantime, Russia — despite the corruption — can buy or produce weapons to replace the rusted/deteriorated junk in various stockpiles despite sanctions. Guarantee a number of Western companies and/or governments will get rich off it too, as they’ve been doing all along sanctions or no.

When the two sides resume, and they will, it is quite likely to set new standards for fast, brutal, and horrific. Each will be going at it to win, to eliminate the threat posed by the other, and in the end both are quite likely to die. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at military history through the ages. Troy and Carthage are not the norm, because the norm is that the tribes on both sides involved were so damaged that they literally either didn’t have the people to go on, or were so weakened that others came in and took them out.

If you think that various levels of civil and military leadership in both Ukraine and Russia are not aware of this, you are mistaken. So, when the war resumes, there will be planning on both sides for the Gotterdammerung. In the case of Ukraine, I see whatever is done as directed at Russia, along the lines of “from Hell’s heart I stab at thee” type thing. The worst case is going to come from Russia, which if it sees the illusion of ever creating Russkiy Mir and retaining status in the world slipping, is quite likely to try to level the new playing field, or at least to ensure they don’t go down alone.

If you want to guarantee a truly horrific war in the near-term, and one quite likely to turn into a full-scale world war with nuclear and other special arms being used, decree an unjust peace. All that bit of self-satisfied virtue signaling will do is to guarantee true horrors within ten years of its imposition.

The second worst outcome is the status quo. As in some form of near-constant combat with no truly decisive action. This could literally go on for years, as the Russians have a lot of people they can feed into the meat grinder and Ukraine has a will, training, and a growing stream of weapons to offset Russian numbers. The devastation that will result from such is almost impossible for most to imagine.

The loss of troops will be one thing; but, the losses in the civilian population will rise exponentially. The continuing and even expanded torture, rape, and murder of civilians when the Russians take an area will have repercussions far beyond the battlefield and on levels many have yet to consider. Never mind that it will generate a generational implacable hatred between the Ukrainians and the Russians, it will have a fundamental negative effect on Russian cultural life. It will also change how Russians, citizens and those who have fled, are treated around the world.

On top of that, you will have massive losses of infrastructure, nor will it be limited to Ukraine. As the damage mounts, Ukraine will hit back and will seek to make points in so doing. As with anyone who fights back, Russia will declare this an outrage and escalation, which will lead to a series of escalations.

Environmental damage? Take a look at France, where there are still trenches from WWI (and WWII), areas full of unexploded ordnance, and even no-go areas because of the use of war gasses and UXD from a century ago. What you see there is nothing to what will become of potentially large areas of Ukraine. Then again, part of the plan for Russia all along has been to eliminate Ukraine as a source of food and fertilizer to the world. Vladimir really doesn’t care if the Middle East and Africa starve, so long as Ukraine starves and capitulates.

There is more, and even worse, but what it boils down to is the longer this drags out, the more likely it is that someone will do something stupid in terms of either special weapons or attacking the nuclear power plants in the Ukraine. Someone, somewhere, is going to see a chance to break things open by the use of chemical, nuclear, or other special weapons. I would give good odds that it will be at a mid- to low-level, and I simply note that chemical weapons rarely have PAL and other controls. If they are available, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make them usable.

Given internal politics in Russia, which is all Vladimir and the other leadership care about, the push to do something will hit one or more truly frightening points. Note that Vladimir has already set the stage for the following scenario by shelling on or near nuclear plants, and has planted the lie with the Russian public that it was Ukraine. Again, please understand that Vladimir et al don’t care if the Biden Regency, you, me, or anyone else believes the lie. They don’t. It only matters if it has traction internally. Pressure mounts, and the nuclear power plants get hit.

Whatever else happens, Ukraine as a functioning country is destroyed. This will impact farming, mining, everything. Imagine Vladimir in a dirty and stained wife-beater, waving a Makarov around drunkenly, and screaming to the police that only if that bitch hadn’t fought back she wouldn’t be dead. That’s exactly the same mentality going on in regards Ukraine and Russkiy Mir.

Next up, a Russian success. Let’s say they seize Donbas and more. It won’t matter who declares a truce or peace, if you think the fighting will magically stop, again, I have that bridge for sale. Within occupied areas, insurrection and covert operations will abound. There will also be atrocities, as Russian doctrine calls for examples to be made. This will backfire, and whatever is left of Ukrainian armed forces and government, in what’s left or in exile, will both make the most of it and find interesting and creative ways to extract revenge.

Which again could lead to the use of special weapons by either side. Please do keep in mind that special is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological, radiological, thermobaric (according to some), etc. Ukraine has shown itself to be intelligent, imaginative, and delightfully devious when it comes to improvising or developing new weapons.

A Russian success will become a meatgrinder, mostly for them. Civilians will suffer and die, but I’d be willing to bet that Russian military and civilian losses in trying to occupy any or all of Ukraine will make the losses so far seem pale. You are already seeing a taste of this in Donbas and elsewhere. Problem is, this is exactly the scenario of Russia can’t win but Ukraine can lose. This is also, despite the fact that Russia will make a lot of threats towards anyone they even remotely suspect might be helping Ukrainian partisans or military, the scenario that I see as least likely to lead to any truly global war of any type. Nasty and heartbreaking, yes. A world ender, no.

Also, for reasons political and demographic, I don’t think the Russians will be able to hold. It may be weeks or it may be a decade, but they will not hold. When they withdraw, unless otherwise prevented, they will go scorched Earth and do as much damage as possible. Again, the mentality of ‘the bitch resisted’ is already evident and will only get worse.

The next case is Ukrainian victories. This offers in some ways the best chance to end the war, but also the highest likelihood of the use of special weapons by Russia.

Let’s say that Ukraine has spent the winter gathering supplies, getting logistics repaired and expanded, making plans and contingencies, and integrating and exploiting troops that have been being trained abroad. Keep in mind one of the things smart militaries do with such trained people is have them share that training as often and as quickly as they can. They also practice via simulations in the field and electronic before heading out for real. So far, the Ukrainian military appears to be fighting smart, so…

The more they retake, the more desperate the Russians will get. Which leads to three potential scenarios and outcomes.

In the first, military success prompts someone to use some form of special weapon to stop the advance. Net result is the offensive stalls, and both sides settle down behind current lines to lick their wounds. A temporary truce of shock, exhaustion and retrenchment takes place. It is quite possible that a peace may can be brokered, but I would give odds that it would be along the lines noted above and used as a time to prepare.

In the second, the use of one or more special weapons creates a crisis for Russian leadership, one that causes a fight for succession to break out. Another variant of this is for Vladimir to become medically or otherwise incapacitated, a fight for succession breaks out, and Ukraine smartly and adroitly exploits it. Keep in mind, there are multiple variants for each of the scenarios I’m providing. In any event, given losses, restiveness in various areas far from Moscow, and even covert actions by China and others, the Russian Federation starts to come apart. In this case, it does lead to execution of Russia’s version of Case Zulu, and things go south for the world. Shall we not play that game please?

The third, final, and absolute best case I can see is also the one I think is least likely to happen though it is the absolute best case for the world. In that case, Case Zulu is avoided, and smart leadership world-wide steps in to not just engineer a soft landing for the various sections of the Russian Federation and Russia itself, but works hard to help them thrive and grow, while eliminating as much of the nuclear threat as possible. China might well do it in more than one area out of self-interest, and Japan might also see opportunities in paying forward their part of reconstruction in Kamchatka and other far east regions. Get the islands back, secure a flank, and create some enormous economic opportunities for all parties.

The best path I see not just out of this war, but to prevent any number of future conflicts and to greatly reduce the threat of a global nuclear war, is for Russia to break up as peacefully as possible. That third scenario really will require the good fairy to wave her wand, as we’ve not really done it successfully so far. For all that the USSR broke up surprisingly softly, that was as much luck as competent leadership, nor did parties around the world truly work towards success. If they had, we would not now have Russkiy Mir and other delights of the current Russian Federation.

As I’ve noted before, do keep in mind that the current top crop of potential successors to Vladimir are all more hardline than he is in terms of Ukraine and Russkiy Mir. They are all of the Slavophile camp, and detest the West and those who feel the West has anything to offer Russia, Greater Russia, or the Slavic people. There are no members of the Western Thought Club anywhere near top or even mid-level leadership positions in Russia.

The fact is, there are far more opportunities for things to go south than to end in a peaceful, equitable, and just peace. That said, with even median leadership, we have a good chance to prevent the use of special weapons, or to at least limit the use so that things don’t lead to a full exchange on the nuclear level. With our current leadership around the world? Well… If we find good leadership and get it in positions to do good? That would be great, but it is not the way to bet.

The best we can do is work towards the best possible outcomes as we can, to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

As a final note, China is the potential wrench in the gears. Xi is in trouble, and as such is pushing as hard and fast as he can at Taiwan and the U.S. His actions are not those of a strong and stable leader, but one weak and unstable internally. That said, China has a military that would appear to be able to do more than hold its own. It is a very serious threat to the U.S., and to Russia as well. The fractals that come from including China in various scenarios related to Ukraine as well as nuclear war are somewhat overwhelming.

Keep in mind that there are parties involved world-wide. What allies on both sides do, when they do it, and how they do it, will truly determine the course of the war, and its expansion or end. It is a complex situation with multiple scenarios at each point. In other words, it’s the real world as opposed to the happy shiny world of simplistic platitudes and virtue signaling. Simple would be nice, I admit. I just don’t see it anywhere in the real world. I wish I did.

Final thought: The fighting will resume and soon. I fully expect to see some Russian victories and some Ukrainian victories. Which side seizes the momentum and makes the most of it will depend on logistics, morale, and training. Wait. Watch. Pray.

Ukraine: Outcomes Pt 1

To be honest, a lot of the ‘oh my goodness this needs to happen or we’re all going to diiiieeeeeee’ reeeeing I’m seeing is annoying. To be polite. It’s almost all about emotions and using emotions for partisan political near-term advantage. There is almost nothing long-term being considered in the hysteria. There is almost no basis in fact, history, etc. being presented. So, let’s take a minute or ten, and take a look at the situation as it exists, possible outcomes, and the dangers of each.

As I’ve said before, history rarely truly repeats itself but it sure does seem to like to rhyme. There are a lot of people trying to push a 1930s/Nazi-era take on things, particularly a Chamberlin/Churchill analogy with Vladimir as Hitler. Facile, but it does have elements of truth to it. Though it would have held up better if not for Vladimir’s effective annexation of Georgia and previous invasion of elements of Ukraine.

Though one can find some parallels going back to the Greek/Asia Minor wars, some far better analogies can be found in both sieges of Vienna (and what led to them) and the 30-Years War. That said, I think the best analogy to the current situation lies in the 1912-1914 timeframe and what led into World War I. The web of secret and open treaties, alliances, partnerships, economic networks, ambition, corruption, and out-of-touch and incompetent leadership class focused on maintaining the lucrative status-quo (for them) is a far better framework for understanding today. There are books to be written on the topic, but for now we hit just some high points.

Russia, aka the Russian Federation, is a huge territory rich with resources, and without the ability to effectively extract or process them. That this is a self-inflicted wound is not acknowledged by the Russian government or people. The system is corrupt beyond the belief of most of those in the West, leadership or general public. The inability to grasp that the Russians are not ‘just like us but speak funny’ extends pretty much to every segment of leadership not just in the West, but the world IMO.

Russia is allied with Belarus, which has a number of historic implications. For all that they are allies, there is a lot of contention given that at one point the leader of Belarus was, according to some, considered as the supreme Russian leader so as to fully integrate Belarus with the new Greater Russia, aka Russkiy Mir. Geography also makes this important to Russia in regards re-absorbing the Baltics and Ukraine into the new Greater Russia.

The next most important ally for Russia right now is Iran. Two pariah states, they are linking banking and other systems as they don’t have anyone else to lean upon. Both have ties to Syria and other countries, but only Iran has the arms and manufacturing (and ports and a few other things) that Russia needs. That Iran, like Russia, is heavily dependent upon technology from the U.S. and Europe that just happens to conveniently get by sanctions (cough, cough) is a point worth noting.

The third most important ally right now is, of course, China. China is not first because whatever Xi the Pooh may wish for, neither Vladimir nor others in leadership are stupid enough to fully trust or become dependent upon China. They are closer to that than they like as it is. Not being stupid, they know very good and well that if China sees them go down or get weak, there is a lot of disputed and not-disputed resource-rich territory China would love to have. Territory that it can be argued that Russia only nominally controls.

The fourth is India. India is a wild card in many respects, but do not underestimate the ties that have been cultivated by both sides. India has needs with which Russia can help, including an escalating border dispute with China. Again, this is just the high points and you can write a book or books on this situation and each of the alliances.

While not an ally per se, you have North Korea in the mix. While reports of weapons sales to Russia may or may not be accurate, they have supported Russia and to an extent Vladimir. Wild card, but a most interesting one given both nuclear and missile capabilities.

Now, those are the open and acknowledged things. If you think there are not clandestine treaties, agreements, and alliances in place, again I have that bridge for sale. For purposes of this exercise, treat them as a given. Treat it also as a given as that some are going to be a surprise when and if they come out.

Now, let’s look at Ukraine to get a better idea of some of the players involved on that side. I think it worth noting that there is a difference between the concept of “The West,” NATO, and those supporting Ukraine in its resistance to being invaded. In fact, I would treat NATO as a fractured entity at this point. In fact, there is a pretty large schism between those who were a part of the USSR at gunpoint and the original NATO members. The newer NATO members have a very different take on things, to be polite.

Now, keep in mind that when Ukraine became independent again, it agreed to give up the nuclear weapons on its soil as the U.S. and others agreed to safeguard and defend them. Such guarantees were given.

It is worth noting at this point that all prior Russian invasions, of Georgia and Ukraine, occurred under the Obama/Biden administration. The response of EU leadership to those is worth noting as well.

Now, the primary ally of Ukraine is the United States. The U.S. provided security guarantees and more, and has been a trading partner. U.S. and Ukraine business and other interests are heavily entwined, to be polite. There are a number of impolite things I would like to say, but we will leave things here for now.

While NATO and the EU are allies (de facto or de jure) of Ukraine, it is worth noting that such is not evenly reflected by the position of major member countries. The United Kingdom has been a good ally on many fronts, as have a number of the former USSR countries. France has been middle of the road, and for some reason the word opportunistic pops to mind. Germany has not been a good ally, but given how German leadership (corporate and political) climbed into bed with Putin and Russia on energy and other topics (cough, techtransfer, cough), it is not surprising. Again, I could say a number of impolite things, but will not do so at this time.

The web of alliances, treaties, agreements, and such — open and covert — put those of 1914 to shame. They cover not just Europe, Scandinavia and such, but most of the world. Keep in mind that economic alliances are likely to be much more cohesive and strong than military or political ones.

Now, don’t forget the Asia/Pacific area. While not necessarily allies to Ukraine, Japan, Korea, and other countries have been following things with a very close eye. They not only have Russia as a neighbor, and an interesting history, but they also have China, who is being very aggressive militarily and otherwise. They have North Korea who is aggressive (to be polite). The levels of aggression are such that Japan has taken steps to boost its defense capabilities and alliances. Nor is Japan alone in doing so. Again, open and covert treaties, agreements, and alliances throughout the region.

To close out today’s post, let’s take a quick look at so-called key leadership around the world. Remember, preventing war depends on stable, informed, and intelligent leadership.

In the U.S. we have the Biden Regency and the demented meat puppet. A regency that is shedding some interesting members. In Canada, we have PM Castreaux (nee Trudeau). The United Kingdom has Charles and Sunak. Germany has Scholz, France Macaroon, and the EU is a mess of bureaucrats. Russia has Vladimir who is having medical and political challenges. China has Xi, who faces serious challenges from within and without. Japan has Kishida, and frankly he may be the most stable politically of them all. Korea has Yoon Suk-yeol. North Korea of course has Kim.

Stable, competent, reasoned, intelligent leadership. Lord, your mercy on us all.

The above is an honest prayer. For we do need mercy and guidance now and in the days ahead. Where we are now makes 1912-1914 seem simplistic. Tomorrow, more on outcomes and risks.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rich Lowe for pointing me towards this excellent examination of Biden and the Biden Regency as Carlos II. Robert Oscar Lopez does a masterful job of comparing the two, and the comparison is far more apt than many will care for. The War of Spanish Succession had far-reaching consequences, and what is happening now will have far-reaching consequences for the Republic and the world as well.

Some Random Thoughts

I’m hoping to get a solid column up tomorrow in regards Russia and the world. Right now, I’m dealing with more mundane things.

While it is still not official, some things happened this morning that indicate my early retirement is indeed on track. It will be later in the month before I will be fully able to confirm that, but right now it looks good.

The car will be headed to the transmission shop here in a bit. Part of this morning has been spent arranging the tow and letting the shop know it is on its way. Letter going over everything discussed with the shop is printed and on the dash, along with contact information. Using the tow service recommended by the shop saved $100 off the tow. Here’s hoping that trend continues.

Took the bus yesterday to do some shopping. Had to take one bus all the way in to the new transit center as options to transfer to the line I needed earlier are now gone. The drivers on the line I take in have all be nice and helpful. Switching to the new Red Line, I noticed that the drivers like to fly low, not stop, and aren’t quite as helpful. To be polite. Had one of them who had to stop off-station as, despite multiple stop requests, she blew by the station. Eight plus people needed off. The more I see these new lines in operation, the less impressed I am. And I was not a proponent of them from the start. If you want to do it wrong, just look to see what IndyGo did or does.

I got to spend part of that Red Line trip with “Big Dawg” and crew. Learned a bit about bail, bonds, and how having to pay $100 to bond out was “bullshit.” Seems you don’t have to pay anything in Chicago. Interesting the things you learn these days on the bus.

Years back, I took the bus a good bit. Most passengers were workers or elderly. You occasionally had a homeless person riding around just to be under shelter. People causing trouble were not tolerated. Rules were enforced equally.

Yesterday was an eye opener. Workers and the elderly were a distinct minority. They also tended to be vigilant or even hyper-vigilant. Quite a few apparent homeless who were using the bus as a means to keep warm. Given our weather, I’m glad for the option. Quite a few, however, were what used to be called the troublemakers. Bragging about scams, crime, etc. Moving to new places until they get kicked out of there. And they wonder why IndyGo is having problems and former core ridership is dropping out.

My thoughts on the mentally ill among the homeless deserve a full post. What has been done to them in the name of doing right by them is a travesty. A complex and expensive travesty full of lies, distortions, and deceit. And graft. They deserve a lot better than they are getting, and so does the rest of the public.

I did get my shopping done, though I mis-remembered the distance between the two stores. I thought it was maybe half a mile or so. I was wrong. Very wrong. Good exercise though, even in the extremely frigid cold. Got some needed things, and a couple of nice-to-haves. Amazing what all you can fit into an assault ruck, including the small ice chest/micro-cooler, which came in handy. Felt it last night, but was good.

More soon.

Quick Thoughts On Sources

I probably need to flesh this out more, but after yesterday I want to get something up on sources I read/follow regularly.

First, I check my intel list on Twitter. Perfect, no; but, the sources in it tend to be good in their specific areas. I add and remove as needed, and am always looking for other good sources around the world. Suggestions welcome.

I do often pay close attention to the Institute for the Study of War. For news and analysis StrategyPage is a good read. When it comes to understanding the thought, philosophy, mores, and history behind Russia and its dealings with the world, read the works of Kamil Galeev. There are a few more, but this is a good start.

For analysis, commentary, and discussion, I do follow Stephen Green at Instapundit and Vodka Pundit as much as I can. Instapundit is a good read under any circumstances with excellent commentary and more by Glenn, Sarah, and others. I also follow the authors at Hot Air, as they too are a good group overall and offer a variety of perspectives.

There are others, of course, such as Commander Salamander for naval and more. Also glad to see the DiploMad back. Wish more of the early milblogs and similar were still up, pay attention to those that are.

Most of my other regular and semi-regular reads tend to be about writing, general politics, science, and such.

More soon.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Iran, Russia, Oh My

What an interesting start to the week. Sleet and snow, along with falling temps, are making the roads around here fun. Thinking I may put off the bus trip to the stores until tomorrow.

Over the weekend, Iran was apparently attacked. Some of the initial reports, which come from usually reliable sources, indicated multiple targets. There were unconfirmed reports of fighters launching and other delights all around the country. Right now, there is still a dearth of solid data and I find it interesting that even though the Iranian government admitted to multiple attacks Saturday night, they and some interesting segments of the corporate media are now focusing on one particular attack. Which according to them, failed.

If you believe the official take of the Iranian government on anything, please do let me know as I have a bridge for sale that you would find the perfect investment opportunity. That out of the way, there is reason to believe that around five sites were attacked. All are military targets. Beyond that, insufficient data. And, no, I don’t think the fire at the refinery was part of this.

I also strongly suspect that a lot of the bangs, booms, aircraft launches, and other things reported elsewhere were the result of the Iranians. They do seem to have quite the habit of doing such locally and nationally, and when you fire at targets without identifying them (or verifying they are even real), you get UIA 752 and/or a lot of bangs, booms, and other delights. After all, if you fire an arrow into the air, you know it’s coming back down to Earth somewhere.

As for who did it, there is a LOT of speculation. Iran, Russia, and Saudi corporate media have all accused the U.S. of doing it. We, of course, deny any involvement. Others have pointed at Israel, which is believed to have conducted a number of highly successful (and needed IMO) covert operations in Iran. Israel has never, of course, confirmed such operations. The Ukrainian government appeared to imply they did it in a social media post, which is interesting given that I had them as my WAG. They do have quite a vested interest in shutting down the flow of drones, missiles, and such to Russia.

WAG: Ukraine. Median: Israel. Mode: take your pick. You have a public that has been in revolt for months and would love to see the Mad Mullahs gone. You have a number of other countries and groups that also would like to see them gone. I found the initial reports that at least some drones had been launched from Azerbaijan to be most interesting given the attack on the Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran last Friday. There were reports the embassy evacuated Saturday night in the wake of the attack.

I would not be surprised if this turned out to be some sort of joint effort by two or three different entities. While Israel clearly has the capabilities needed for such an operation on its own, a good case can be made for two or more entities teaming up to combine resources and get them into Iran and/or Azerbaijan to launch.

Hopefully some better data will be coming out soon. Meantime, let’s take a quick look at Russia.

Military situation in terms of the war: Winter. Has momentum shifted one way or another? Winter. Who’s winning right now? Winter.

I don’t think Russia can win. I think Ukraine can still lose. A lot is going to depend on who gets it into one sock in terms of logistics, training, and innovation this winter. If you want good and continuing coverage of the war, check out Stephen Green at Instapundit and Vodka Pundit. If you want a more complete resource guide, let me know and I’ll see about updating the one I did a while back.

Internal Russian politics remains interesting. Keep in mind that both business and politics are blood sports in Russia, even where they don’t overlap. Is Vladimir having GRU 29155 suicide all those businessmen, oligarchs, and others around the world? No. If you are in business in Russia, you know and/or work with some not-nice people. You pay for the company you keep.

Rumors about Vladimir, his health, and his control abound. Health wise, about the only thing I haven’t heard is that he’s pregnant with Elvis’s love child. To be honest, if I were him, I’d start that rumor myself just because. Do I think he has a medical issue? Yes. What is a good question, and one to which I don’t have a reliable answer.

The biggest change is that people seem to be fairly openly jockeying for post-Vladimir position. There is always a normal amount of that going on at any time (and in any government to be honest), but this is fairly blatant. I’m increasingly thinking that the placement of the Pantsir systems on rooftops in Moscow is related to the internal struggles.

Moscow has extensive air and missile defenses. Even the Kremlin is rumored to have air defense. Yet, two Pantsir are placed where they can provide overlapping close-defense of the Kremlin. Why?

Ukraine has nothing on the books that can reach Moscow. Could they create a one-off or even several that could hit Moscow and the Kremlin? Yes. Outside of propaganda, why would they do it? I mean there is a serious risk that such a move could backfire on multiple levels. Keep in mind that the Kremlin is not a building. It is in fact several buildings and bunkers inside a brick fortress that houses them and rather extensive grounds. Pretty place, enjoyed the museum. To do significant damage would take large payloads and precision hits.

Unless.

What if your target wasn’t a building? What if it was an individual. One who regularly travels into the Kremlin via the vehicle gate at the intersection of Serafimo and Manezh. Vehicles used are, of course, armored. That top armor, however, really wasn’t designed with with even quad-copter drones and modified grenades in mind, much less modern anti-tank loitering weapons.

Would taking out Vladimir or other leader/leaders substantially change the war for Ukraine? No. In fact, pretty much all the likely succession candidates are more hardline than Vladimir. All have committed in public to continuing the war.

So, who would benefit from taking out Vladimir or another party who is regularly at the Kremlin? Take a hard look at any or all of those jockeying for position and power right now. Take out your target, blame Ukraine, and fan the flames.

If I were Vladimir, in addition to some of the jammers/projectors being used to bring down larger drones, I’d look at hiring some skeet shooters for dealing with smaller drones and such. Perimeter detail just got even more interesting.

Finally, as for the WHO story that is freaking a lot of people out, I agree with Sarah’s take and remain concerned that Vladimir will attack all the nuclear plants to cause disaster. He’s flirted with it and tested a bit, and I still see that as more likely right now than him using his fancy briefcase. Are there circumstances where that changes? Yes. Once winter cedes the field, and major combat resumes, all bets are off. As we’ve talked before, however, we may be benefitting from the 20 percent factor. Here’s hoping we never find out for sure.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Good News, Maybe

Not long after I posted yesterday, I got a phone call from the SSA. Apparently, getting assistance from a congresscritter worked. In about fifteen minutes, we completed the process for me to retire.

This has been a process that has dragged out since September (actually, I think August but…). Because I am also filing for disability (getting hit by lightning sucketh mightily), I could not fill out the form online. For some reason, SSA disables functionality for a variety of reasons, including current/prior claims, even though they are doing pretty much nothing here in the office. In fact, my call was from the Birmingham office, not the Indianapolis office.

The hoops now jumped through, the next step is for the retirement to be filed (their end), me to be notified by mail, and hopefully no other steps crop up. Which means that with luck, and clicking my heels together three times while chanting there’s no place like home, by the end of February I will actually be retired and get my retirement pay.

I should be celebrating, but frankly I’m just tired. This has been a major time suck, frustration, and stress inducement. SSA has told the congresscritter that it is done, so it really should be done. Thing is, at this point, I’ll believe it when I see it. The letter confirming things is a step. I really won’t believe it until the first deposit hits the bank. Even then, I will probably be waiting for a shoe to drop given the experience.

I hope you all have a great weekend. May next week see a little more normality in terms of the blog and writing.