Category Archives: Politics

World War II Armor in the Balkans Wars of the 1990s

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The eight-plus years of bloody conflict in the Balkans that began with the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991 and (more or less) ended with the Kumanovo Treaty of 1999 displayed for the world the lingering bitter ethnic and religious divides that made the fighting in both world wars so savage earlier in the century.  The 1980 death of Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito uncapped the regional tensions which led to the successful  independence movements in Slovenia and Croatia, and wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Kosovo.

The grim history of these events is replete with the age-old themes of conflict in that area of the world.  Atrocities, massacres, rape, savagery.  To which was added the feckless and ineffectual UN Protection Forces (UNPROFOR), arms embargoes, belated NATO participation, and a Europe once again largely unconcerned with a conflagration in the Balkans.

What is a curious aspect of these wars is the extent to which tanks and armored vehicles left over from World War II populated the battlefields of those wars.   In the post-World War II period and during the Cold War, Tito’s Yugoslavia was an officially “non-aligned” nation, and as a result was the recipient of both US and Soviet military aid.  This aid consisted of several hundred of the ubiquitous Soviet T-34 and US M4 Sherman tanks and M18 Hellcat tank destroyers, along with self-propelled guns, AFVs, and other implements.  Also, during the time when Yugoslavia seemed threatened by imminent Soviet invasion, nearly 30o 90mm-armed M36 Jackson tank destroyers were supplied by the United States.   The T-34 and M4 variants were late-war models, the T-34/85 and M4A3, respectively, the former carrying the 85mm D12 cannon, and the latter armed with the excellent long-barreled 76mm gun.

In the 1970s, Yugoslavia began to produce its own variant of the modern T-72 main battle tank, replacing the older T-54/55 in service.  It was thought that while some of the T-34/85s probably still existed in reserve, most of the American equipment was long since withdrawn from the inventory.  However, when the Balkan Wars began in 1991, and particularly after the so-called “Battle of the Barracks” that summer which led to the capture of large numbers of Yugoslavia National Army (JNA) tanks and heavy weapons by the Croatian independence forces, many of the old American and Soviet tanks and tank destroyers were employed by both sides.  This led to some very interesting images from the battlefields in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia.  And it was reported that at least one M36 was destroyed by a US F-16 strike before NATO air power forced dispersal and concealment of heavy weapons in the ample woodlands.

With a supply of replacement parts almost non-existent, many Shermans and Hellcats and Jacksons were cannibalized for spares, and some wildly improvisational local modifications were made.  This includes at least one M18 Hellcat with a Molotava truck engine replacing the US-made radial, and an M18 turret fitted to a T-55 hull.  (You can see both clearly in the images below.)  In addition, a considerable number of the M4s and M36s had their power packs swapped for Soviet T-54/55 engines, for which parts and fuel were relatively plentiful.

As ammunition grew scarce and keeping the ancient vehicles in operating order became nearly impossible, those veteran tanks of another age that were not destroyed (which was a considerable number) were retired from service.  The T-34s fared somewhat better.  By 2005, it was reported that virtually all of the American equipment was disposed of, and only a few T-34s remained in service.   With that, a number of M18 and M36 tank destroyers had been identified for purchase and restoration  by museums in the United States, and at least one has made it from the troubled region into American hands (featured in Season 1 of Tank Overhaul).

Here are some of the more interesting pictures from the battlefields of the Balkans, where, despite their age and obsolescence, many of the World War II-vintage tanks served their operators well, and were feared by opponents who did not have modern counter-mech weaponry.  (The photos that show tanks appearing to have an armored skirt are actually showing a hard rubber sheet, which was to protect against RPGs by prematurely detonating the warheads and dissipating the molten stream of metal.  This is reported to have actually worked to some extent, with some T-34/85s and Shermans surviving multiple strikes from RPG-7s.  I could find no corroboration of those reports.)

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You Know That Video Would Be on Tosh.O

Seems Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) hurt himself again while exercising.  Nothing serious.

According to a statement, Reid was exercising at home in Henderson, Nevada, when a piece of equipment broke. An aide said that Reid was exercising with a resistance band that snapped, hitting him and causing him to fall.

Here is what I would like the story to have said:

“Senator Reid was first brought to the VA Southeast Primary Care Clinic in  Henderson by his security detail,” said the senator’s office. “He then sat in the waiting room for five and a half hours, and then was sent to two different parts of the hospital by mistake, only to return to be told by a rude staffer that he had missed his appointment window and would need to wait another two hours.  He was then administered bowel prep by mistake, and by the time he was out of the bathroom, diagnostic imaging had closed for the day, so he was sent back home with an appointment for Tuesday and a handful of Motrin.”

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Breaking News: Elected Official Attended Racist Event

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Apparently it is no big deal.  Unless you are white.    Then again, David Duke seems no more racist than Al Sharpton, or Jesse, or Revven’ Jeremiah.   Scalise spoke to a racist group thirteen years ago.  Obama invited Sharpton to the White House earlier this month.

But what is the media story?

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Falkland Islands defence review after military deal between Russia and Argentina | UK | News | Daily Express

The aircraft, which Moscow will swap for beef and wheat, would be able to mount air patrols over Port Stanley.

Ministry of Defence officials fear Buenos Aires would take delivery of the planes well before the deployment in 2020 of the Navy’s 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its F-35B fighters, leaving a “real window of vulnerability”.

Defence cuts have left the Falklands with just four RAF Typhoon fighters, Rapier surface-to-air missiles and fewer than 1,200 troops, supported by a naval warship that visits throughout the year.

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President Putin’s visit to Argentina in July laid the groundwork for exchanging Russian military hardware for wheat, beef and other goods Moscow needs due to EU food embargoes.

The deal involves a lease/lend of 12 Sukhoi Su-24 supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft.

They are ageing but Nato still regards what it codenames “Fencers” as “super-fighters”, with their 2,000-mile range and laser-guided missiles.

via Falkland Islands defence review after military deal between Russia and Argentina | UK | News | Daily Express.

NATO hardly considers the Su-24 a “superfighter” but it does consider it a very respectable long range strike platform.

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We’ve opined that Argentina’s only chance to seize the Falklands again lies in a coup de main attack that renders the runways of the Falklands unservicable for a considerable length of time.

The Su-24 is quite capable of such a mission. It has the range and payload capacity to fly, approach under the radar, and strike with very little warning.

Further, depending on what munitions Russia includes with the transfer of the bombers, it could also pose a very significant threat to the destroyer or frigate that the Royal Navy keeps on station.

Whether Argentina will attempt such an attack is hard to tell. Mustering public support would be difficult. And any such attack would have to include large scale landings to actually control the islands. The land forces now stationed in the Falklands are very much more capable than the two platoons of Royal Marines that were there in 1982. At the same time, Argentina’s ability to conduct large scale landings has greatly diminished.

Further, there’s a much greater likelihood that this time around, Great Britain would resorts to strikes against the Argentinian mainland. One would hardly be surprised if Britain’s response to Argentinian aggression included a sub launched Tomahawk through the front door of Casa Rosada, the Argentinian presidential mansion.

Finally, it is hard to see this as anything less than Putin responding to Western support for Ukraine and Baltic states. You play in my back yard, I’ll play in yours.

H/T to Spill for pointing out the article to me.

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The Problem With Attribution of Cyber Attacks

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…is that it is all but impossible.  A skillful black hat can easily lead investigators down paths they want them to take, while obscuring the true origins of a network breach.  Mimicking attack vectors, using code associated with known hacking entities, even using language in the coding that points to known entities or countries, are common methods employed by those who wish to leave a false trail as to the origin of network attacks or exploits.  (Of course, the most dangerous of that lot can hide for months or years the fact that there has been any network exploit at all.)

There was much discussion in the office this week about the FBI’s announcement that they had what amounts to definitive proof that the DPRK had perpetrated the now-famous hacking of Sony Pictures.   I was definitely in a minority with my skepticism, for two reasons.  The first is that I have a very hard time believing anything coming out of a Federal agency in this Administration.  The Department of Justice, the IRS, the EPA, The State Department, Homeland Security, have all promulgated bald-faced lies to the American people, largely to cover up criminal and unconstitutional activity and/or the incompetence of those in charge.  The second is the rather unrealistic understanding the Federal Government (and DoD in particular) has of how the Internet works.  They THINK they know.  But they don’t.

Apparently, I am not alone in my skepticism.   From the Daily Beast:

So, malware found in the course of investigating the Sony hack bears “strong” similarities to malware found in other attacks attributed to North Korea.

This may be the case—but it is not remotely plausible evidence that this attack was therefore orchestrated by North Korea.

The FBI is likely referring to two pieces of malware in particular, Shamoon, which targeted companies in the oil and energy sectors and was discovered in August 2012, and DarkSeoul, which on June 25, 2013, hit South Korea (it was the 63rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War).

Even if these prior attacks were co-ordinated by North Korea—and plenty of security experts including me doubt that—the fact that the same piece of malware appeared in the Sony hack is far from being convincing evidence that the same hackers were responsible. The source code for the original “Shamoon” malware is widely known to have leaked. Just because two pieces of malware share a common ancestry, it obviously does not mean they share a common operator. Increasingly, criminals actually lease their malware from a group that guarantees their malware against detection. Banking malware and certain “crimeware” kits have been using this model for years.

So the first bit of evidence is weak.

But the second bit of evidence given by the FBI is even more flimsy:

“The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.”

What they are saying is that the Internet addresses found after the Sony Picture attack are “known” addresses that had previously been used by North Korea in other cyberattacks.

To cyber security experts, the naivety of this statement beggars belief. Note to the FBI: Just because a system with a particular IP address was used for cybercrime doesn’t mean that from now on every time you see that IP address you can link it to cybercrime. Plus, while sometimes IPs can be “permanent”, at other times IPs last just a few seconds.

Now, the FBI’s conclusions may be correct, and the DPRK may be officially or unofficially behind the breach.  But TDB raises some important points.  The DPRK can claim that a skilled hacker can make the evidence point back to them with little effort.  And indeed this is a correct assessment.  Why the Administration’s jump to blame the DPRK?   Perhaps, as the article states, it is yet another example of amplifying and manipulating an event (a good crisis not going to waste?) as justification for yet more government control via draconian regulation.

Blaming North Korea offers an easy way out for the many, many people who allowed this debacle to happen; from Sony Pictures management through to the security team that were defending Sony Picture’s network.

You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to see that blaming North Korea is quite convenient for the FBI and the current U.S. administration. It’s the perfect excuse to push through whatever new, strong, cyber-laws they feel are appropriate, safe in the knowledge that an outraged public is fairly likely to support them.

I will be writing more about so-called “Net Neutrality” in the near future.  But be certain that the regulations proposed by the Obama Administration have little to do with true net neutrality (despite the rather infantile assertions of some) and much more to do with expanding the regulatory power of the Federal Government over the content of the internet.   With the mainstream news media either firmly behind the Far Left, or beholden to them for reasons other than intellectual agreement, trust in the Big News outlets is at an all-time low.  It is on the internet where the fabrications of both the Obama Administration and its lap-dog agents in the press are torn apart by people with facts and experience, and people like Holder and Hillary and entities like the NYT and MSNBC are shown to be liars.  So the assertion in the above citation is certainly plausible.  To some of us, it is at least as plausible as the FBI’s proclamations of incontrovertible evidence of North Korea’s guilt in the Sony breach.

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The Ferguson Protesters Are Barking Up The Wrong Tree

The various groups protesting about the death of Mike Brown at the hands of Ferguson PD Officer Darren Wilson are venting their frustration at what they see as a police department that faces no consequences for killing a black man. In fact, all the credible evidence shows that Brown attacked Wilson, and that Wilson’s subsequent use of deadly force was justifiable as a matter of self defense.

Before the #HandsUpDontShoot nonsense started, before Sharpton arrived to inflame (rather literally, given the looting) the protesters, there was a valid point mentioned in the coverage. The population of Ferguson is about 70% black, and there is apparently a feeling that they are ill served by the city services, particularly the predominantly white police department.

Setting aside the fact that black males commit crimes, particularly violent crimes, at rates that are astonishingly greater than whites, there is indeed quite a bit of evidence that the servants of the city of Ferguson have in fact come to see themselves as masters, and the citizenry as serfs whose exist solely to support them.

Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

The strategy by the St. Louis suburb, which suffered a second round of violent protests last month after a grand jury refused to indict the police officer, may risk worsening community relations with increased citations and weakening its credit standing by reducing a rainy-day fund.

To close a projected deficit for fiscal 2014, which ended June 30, the municipality will deplete a $10 million capital-projects reserve, Jeffrey Blume, Ferguson’s finance director, said in a telephone interview. For the current year, the city is budgeting for higher receipts from police-issued tickets.

Emphasis mine.

Ferguson already has an astonishing number of warrants issued per capita.

…Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of $2,635,400. In 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.

That post goes on to break it down.

You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

Tabarrok goes on to show how even something as simple as a speeding ticket can quickly become an extended journey into a hostile justice system with spiraling consequences.

This is the all encompassing state, the pervasive bureaucracy.  Instead of a police force and judiciary to maintain order and preserve peace for the people, we see instead a people burdened to sustain a police force and municipal judiciary.

Does a town of 21,000 residents really need its own police department and its own municipal court system?

Where I live, the municipal police forces are actually sworn deputies of the county. The city pays the county for police services. The courts are also at the county level.

The irony is, the majority black population of Ferguson has reliably voted for Democratic candidates for years and years. You know, the party of big government, the party that wants the state to be all pervasive. The party that is utterly beholden to public employee unions, particularly the powerful police unions.

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Domestic Enemies: 2014

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If you read here more than a little, you are familiar with my use of the term “enemies, domestic”.  For the uninitiated, those words are a part of my oath of office as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  They define, in part, those from whom I have sworn on my life to defend the Constitution from.  Just who are those people?  Well, DaveO among our friends at Op-For provides some superb erudition to the subject:

In August of 2013, I posed the question “Who are ‘Domestic Enemies?’” This question stemmed from comments in an earlier post provided by Mike Burke and Slater. In September of 2013, Colonel Joseph L. Prue, USAF, in his post  “Identifying the domestic enemy” pulled this definition from our Constitution:

Amendment 14, Section 3 states, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” As a military officer, I honed in on the words military and insurrection. To me, this meant that any insurgent against the United States shall not hold any public office to include civil or military.

The Constitutional parameters of: 1) engaging in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution; or 2) to have given aid and comfort to the enemies of the Constitution.

By that definition we’ve got a  LOT of domestic enemies in America. Folks love to argue that President Obama’s [still unsigned?] amnesty is the very definition of rebellion against the Constitution. Others, myself included, believe Senator Reid of Utah and the anti-war groups such as Code Pink did gave aid and comfort to AQ and its offshoots and the Taliban up until Obama won the presidency, and then the groups were quickly hustled off to rest and recuperate until the next Republican POTUS appears.

But the folks in and behind the anti-war crowd were never anti-war, just anti-America and if hampering the war effort hurt America, they were all for it. Once Obama won, these people could turn to more productive pursuits. They are working on an “American Spring.” Legitimate protests of law enforcement are being hijacked to bring about rebellion. There are problems with race in America, as well as problems enforcing the an unknowable and incoherent body of law. Domestic enemies don’t care about race or relations with the police – domestic enemies wish to supplant the Constitution and become their own law and engage in mass murder. The NSA knows who they are, where they live, and who is paying them. January 20, 2017 can’t come soon enough – we need to cut out this cancer of domestic enemies.

Every link Dave puts in his post is worth the read.  This Administration has embarked on a systematic shredding of our Constitution, and with it, our liberties protected thereby.  The 14th Amendment has already been a casualty, when the Attorney General defined just who would face prosecution for crimes, based on skin color.  DaveO is entirely correct.  January of 2017 cannot come soon enough.

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