Beyond the Cusp

October 23, 2016

Barack Obama’s Wild Search for Any Legacy

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President Barack Obama entered office with even a great number of Europeans having sky high hopes for his future. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize largely due to his soaring rhetoric describing his desires and designs for a world blanketed in peace rather than strife, free of nuclear weapons rather than bristling with them, shared bounty benefitting all replacing areas torn by hunger and want, and his fresh message promising hope replacing despair. There appeared to be other areas of the world which also caught Obamaitis, a feeling of great hope due to dulcet tones of rhythmic rhymes and rhetoric promising the end of deprivation and the opening for all a grand cornucopia providing great giving filling the world with divine satisfactions and serenity, comforts and calm, lullabies and love. The world had to be at the leading edge of the Age of Aquarius.

 

 

This expectation of greatness and having found the leader for the new century who would wipe away all the old and stodgy ideas which presumably underlined the policies and failings of his predecessor, George W. Bush led to the reelection as if the expectations which had begun to fade could be brought to fulfillment if just the people would show their support and promise to stay the course with full support and continued adulation. Americans, as a whole, virtually all hoped that President Obama would be the President that all America could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with and repair the real problems facing the nation. Even, or possibly because of, many who initially feared that Obama would rule as what they perceived as an extreme leftist progressive anti-American still grabbed on to this prayer, this hope. I know as I was one such who had predicted that President Obama would be a President Jimmy Carter on steroids. I was wrong as I missed the part which would rival President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the steamrolling over all opposition; Constitution be damned. So now we sit in the closing months of a wounded Presidency which failed in even its own measuring stick. Gone beyond repair is Cap and Trade, Carbon Credits, the end of coal for energy, fracking continues, livable wage remains a dream, government run healthcare is in a shambles and the final crash is still ahead, universal nuclear disarmament is dead with the promise of proliferation like never before is about to spread these weapons across the most unstable Middle East and into North Africa (MENA) and, worst of all, there are numerous more wars with entire nations in various stages of disintegration as in Libya, Syria, Yemen and the Ukraine and the world seems closer than ever to the Eve of Destruction.

 

 

Musical interludes aside, the world is far more violent with more conflict and more nations in a state of complete anarchy where the governance has either disintegrated or no longer cares or represents the population. The continued anarchy and destruction in Syria and Libya can be indirectly or even directly attributed to actions or lack thereof by the United States under the directions of President Obama and largely the State Department. There have been reports online and in the mainstream media of recommendations made by the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff being ignored and even directly countermanded by the White House. Examples of such advice being completely ignored which led directly to many of today’s problems include pulling almost every American military force after refusing to provide a new set of terms and protections for the troops as President Obama refused to permit the Pentagon to work with the Iraqi government leaving the State Department to negotiate which was postponed until a mere ten weeks before the then existing agreement lapsed. Then there was the shifting, sliding and finally fading to nothing Red Line in the Sand to bring destruction down on Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad if he unleashed chemical weapons. The final example we will give was the entire concept of leading from behind which directly led to the decapitation of Libyan governance without providing even a modicum of force in place providing time to form new governance resulting in tribal internal warfare tearing the nation apart.

 

Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon

Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon

 

To the present we are witnessing a change and President Obama taking the lead very quietly while attempting to force what his passivity failed to accomplish. We have witnessed stronger language targeting Russian President Putin while arming rebels more directly, though which rebels has been kept somewhat vague. Some reports claim they are al-Nusra and others who were once claiming allegiance to al-Qaeda but have since renounced any allegiances. Some unofficial sources not aligned with the State Department or Pentagon has shown alliances with some of these rebels with the Islamic State. Even more troubling has been the unprincipled support using American air power of Turkey President Erdogan bombing the one group which deserved the greatest support, the Kurdish Militias (Peshmerga پێشمەرگە), who have been the most successful against the Islamic State all the way back to their initial ISIS or ISIL stage and the main force rescuing the Yazidi while the world governments sat silent feigning helplessness with one exception which has provided light weapons, anti-tank weapons and special forces to train Kurdish fighters, a nation which must remain unnamed. President Obama has made the known fallacious claim that Turkey is fighting the Islamic State when the reality is they are attempting to wipe out the Kurdish forces and people in a genocidal war and assisting the Islamic State which has recovered Aleppo from Kurdish control. These anti-Kurdish efforts are pushing some Kurds to seek protection with Islamist forces they once fought against. Talk of turning friends into enemies, what a great strategy.

 

President Obama still claims his brilliant nuclear treaty with Iran, which even the French had to be beaten into submission after initially vetoing the agreement, prevents Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. The statement can only be made valid if one adds, “while I am President,” onto the end. Even the White House had admitted that Iran will be fully nuclear capable and free of any restrictions after just over a decade from now. Then we have the most recent evidence of the hard-line being taken in response to a pair of missiles fired from Yemen originating in the area held by Iranian backed Houthis Rebels. The American Naval forces were freed to respond in kind. Further the United States Navy was ordered to cross into the expanded regions now claimed by China after they built a number of new islands placing military assets including artillery and anti-ship missiles in an effort to control an important Asian trade route. This new and unprecedented stance by President Obama has come with minimal if any inclusion of the Pentagon or Joint Chiefs of Staff other than to relay the orders and is being executed in order to shore up support for Democrat candidates in the coming elections. This also permits Hillary Clinton to imply that she may have had a hand in this new direction by the White House to accommodate her stronger stance in foreign policy. It is all a feint to make her appear to separate from the lead from behind strategy when in reality she will not lead at all with one exception which is worthy of discussion before closing this article.

 

A President Hillary Clinton will continue to bow to Iranian hegemonic plans in the MENA region and continue to snub Egypt, Israel, Jordan and other allies unless they curry favor as was the way to play when she was Secretary of State with higher entry fees as she is now the President. Further, she will allow China to extend their hegemonic desires throughout the western Pacific Ocean and into the Indian Ocean. This will revive an ancient animosity between China and India, an India which is likely to surpass China as the most populous nation within a decade or two. Hillary Clinton will further aid the influx of Islamic immigrants all but unvetted into Europe, mostly western Europe, while also increasing the rate for accepting immigrants from across MENA and including the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations except Iran, they need to remain strong with a large and capable military with secret side deals done without Congressional oversight or knowledge when possible. There is one place where Hillary Clinton will not only stand strong but will seek new venues to pressure, Putin and Russia. For reasons known only to the least sane amongst us, there has been an undertone softly growing demanding that Russian President Putin be brought low and to bend and surrender to the “equality of women” and raise the position of Russian women to their “rightful place” in Russian society. This is partly the demand for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria as this would soon lead to a direct confrontation. Do not doubt that any Russian fighter caught entering such a zone, even after dropping their ordinance and simply transgressing on way back to base, they would be intercepted and very likely fired upon or, even worse, shot from the sky using missiles pressing the Russians to respond. Even if Putin would take such a situation and apologize, explain and request for unarmed aircraft, after dropping ordinance, for Russian pilots to use the “safe zone” for returning to base, the request would be refused bluntly and with no regard for any damage as such would be intentional. What is the end desired? We wish we knew!

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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September 21, 2016

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Falling Down

 

China has finally confirmed suspicions that their Tiangong-1 Space Station will fall from orbit at some point in 2017. The lack of any specific date, location or other normative information about how, where and why the space station will return to Earth or whether any parts are expected to reach the ground or even where any reentry might occur further reinforces the rumors that there is a problem with the station and the Chinese no longer are controlling its movements. The rumors started when the station was recently decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts were returned home early without any replacements being sent to the station. This had initiated the belief that the Chinese space station was damaged in some way but the fact that they are unsure as to where, when and not controlling how the rather large satellite space station would be reentering the atmosphere and whether the entire station will burn up in the atmosphere does present at least a small threat of landing on land and potential for it striking a populated area. Perhaps it is going to pay, well, at least give some a chance at immortality should they find themselves underneath the falling remnants of the Tiangong-1 Space Station.

 

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station

 

The Chinese have been utilizing the Tiangong-1 Space Station for approximately the last five years. The similarities between the United States Skylab and the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station are startling. Skylab remained in orbit for six years and the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station is predicted to make it approximately five years. Both stations were deserted and left lifeless at the mercy of nature simply waiting for gravity to work its unavoidable result. It remains to be seen if the crash of the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station will strike an inhabited area, the center of one of the Earth’s oceans or what we usually describe as the middle of nowhere. Skylab caused minimal damage falling in one of those middle of nowheres, namely the Australian Outback and the oceans around Australia and northward into the Pacific Ocean. For now we can only guess as to where Tiangong-1 Space Station will come to Earth. One thing which we need to remember is that Skylab was an early space station made from a part of a Saturn-V rocket booster modified with floor platforms built inside (see montage below). Skylab was never planned on being a permanent station and in consideration of costs there were no thrust boosters which had the power to allow for making a planned reentry. There were orientation thrusters which could have reduced the station speed bringing it to earth faster, but that would have probably led to larger pieces reaching the ground. Modern satellites are required to have a reentry system and a plan for bringing it down over water and choosing an angle of entry which will allow for the maximum amount of the orbiter to burn up in the atmosphere. Yes, ending a satellites life is rocket science. What one wonders is why they do not use the Hollywood method for satellite removal and fire the rockets sending the satellite either into the sun or out towards Jupiter or simply out of the solar system. Perhaps the out of the solar system would need to understand the gravity of such a solution while aiming for the sun or Jupiter is using the gravity of the situation.

 

Skylab pictured as astronauts orbiting laboratory on the third and final mission, known as Skylab 4, in November 1973 and the building of Skylab from a Saturn-V booster section

Skylab pictured as astronauts orbiting laboratory
on the third and final mission, known as
Skylab 4, in November 1973 and the
building of Skylab from a Saturn-V booster section

 

There should not be any great fears as over two thirds of the planet is covered with water and large areas of the land are sparsely populated. For those who live in large cities and have been convinced by the eco-fanatics that there are no open areas left on the Earth may we suggest you search for pictures of the steppes in Russia, anywhere in northern Africa and the Sahara Desert or the great plains of the United States, particularly in Nebraska or any of the numerous rain forests anywhere from Washington state to the Amazon. When the United States lost control of their primitive space station Skylab on July 11, 1979, and the seventy-seven ton orbiter rained down on the Thornton farm and house in the Australian Outback, another place of sparse population; that, it turns out, was very fortunate as there was one large section which did reach the ground largely intact, the station’s oxygen tank as well as there were numerous smaller pieces including a smaller oxygen tank, a set of nitrogen tanks which powered the attitude thrusters, a refrigeration unit, and a structural ring from the outer hatch piece which is labeled “Airlock/Danger.”

 

Skylab Oxygen Tank Largest Piece Striking Earth in Australian Outback

Skylab Oxygen Tank Largest Piece Striking Earth in Australian Outback

 

Skylab is one of the few NASA satellites which had pieces strike the Earth which they made little effort to claim and collect the debris. There was a $400.00 littering fine assessed by the town of Esperance, Australia submitted to NASA which was never paid; but there was also a $10,000.00 reward to be awarded to the first person to turn in a piece of the satellite at the offices of the San Francisco Examiner provided it was done within seventy-two hours (three days) from the reentry of Skylab which was awarded to seventeen year old Stan Thorton from Esperance. Hopefully the paper made a large deal as they probably doubted anybody in Australia would have heard of the offer, let alone fly to San Francisco to claim the prize. Hopefully Stan had a nice vacation in San Francisco paid for in mid trip by the San Francisco Examiner. Must have been nice and well-played Mr. Thorton.

 

The Russians also has their own space station named Mir. Mir was launched in two stages on February 20, 1986 and April 23, 1996. It finally crashed to the Earth on March 23, 2001. Mir was brought back under a controlled system of three steps using a booster attached to the station. The explanation can be read here. Today we have the International Space Station (ISS) which was a collaborative effort of the European Space Agency, Russia’s Roscosmos, Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (see symbols below). The ISS is presumed to be a long term station expected to serve on into the future and has been slowly added to over the years. How long it remains of use will depend upon planning with a mix of luck as a disastrous collision with any of the following: space debris, meteor, asteroid, comet or other natural space projectile; would be a disaster. The ISS has been an extravagantly expensive project and the cost was the likely reason we did not start building the double wheel luxurious space station like the one seen at the beginning of the movie “2001.” Perhaps some day such a station will be built and it will likely say Sheraton Space Hotel at the docking station. We may as well face it that private monies will be what conquers space and initially only the wealthy will be able to afford space vacations and the rest of us will have to find employment to get into space, and the work will be as dangerous as it will be strenuous. Much of this future will not be happening in most of our lifetimes unless the miracles expected in biology in the coming near term are true and readily accessible to the average person. Otherwise we can only dream of our exciting vacation on one of the moons of Saturn.

 

Space Agencies of the International Space Station Top Row Main Agencies Second Row Member European Agencies

Space Agencies of the International Space Station
Top Row Main Agencies
Second Row Member European Agencies

 

International Space Station

International Space Station

 

The ISS has delivered some exciting discoveries, most intentional and some simple accidents happened upon through the actions of everyday life aboard the station. One example of an inadvertent discovery has been told of when astronaut Donald R. Pettit mixed salt, sugar, and coffee grounds in an inflated plastic bag and the different small pieces clumped rather than simply floating independently proving the theory of accretion as a vital and necessary stage for planetary formation. The discovery resulted from Pettit playing around on a Saturday morning only to have Stanley G. Love, whose training in planetary science involved asteroids and collisions, working spacecraft communications in Mission Control in Houston, Texas, who immediately realized the implications of this simplistic, gee-whiz demonstration. “Don!” Love exclaimed, “Do you realize you’ve just solved the middle stage of planetary accretion?”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 8, 2016

China and Words Whispered on the Winds

 

For as long as there have been predictive winds of the economic variety, the prediction has been whispered from quiet corners to shouted from the rooftops claiming this would be the time that China was finally going to pay for their economic shenanigans and face economic collapse. We have been extremely quiet about these predictions of doom on the horizon as the one thing the Chinese had been very adept at was finding some manner of continuing to meet predicted gains month after month, year after year. Their predictive gains have become somewhat more reasonable from the early 1990s where the reported gains stood around 11% to this past year where they reported merely 6% and are continuing to predict this can be continued. The problem the Chinese leadership is facing is they have pretty much run out of rabbits to pull from their hat and it is time to accept that even in China there can be a recession. But perhaps a little look back might help to explain.

 

China had some really rough years where Chairman (and virtual god) Mao Zedong was the absolute ruler and was executing the usual five year plans which are so precious to so many dictators. Equally precious to such five year plans is that they completely and utterly destroy the national economy and tens of millions die of starvation and other privations. The Chinese have literally tried everything in order to assure that whomever was at the top made a relatively high prediction of economic growth even to have gone to a fairly complete privatization resorting to a market based free enterprise system which had kept growth at around six to as high as nine percent for the past decade plus. To continue reaching such unrealistic goals the Chinese government has gone so far as to build entire cities where nobody was going to live just to add to profits. This also assisted the areas of the Chinese economy which is dependent on the price of copper. Building cities, even those nobody is going to inhabit, still required a fair amount of copper to install all the wiring necessary for a modern environment and using so much copper supports a higher price aiding the Chinese economic indicators.

 

Can the Chinese leadership find some miracle to pull off continued reported gains? Of course they can. After all, lying is always an option and that will work until the people rise up and overthrow the government demanding real and honest leadership. The Chinese watched the breakup of the Soviet Union and know that a contributing factor was pretending they could manipulate and lie their way to prosperity and the people would not be bothered by their lies. Apparently they were misled and paid the consequences. The problem in Russia was despite the change in governance there was little change in who governed and who owned all the wealth. China has wisely decentralized their economy and relied on free market principles throughout almost all sectors of their economy.

 

The Chinese leaders have found the one main problem with a free market economy, eventually even these engines need to cool off for a while and that causes an unavoidable recession. This creates one big headache for the leadership in China; they are expected to show profits and economic growth of at least five to six percent every year, period. That will be a real stretch in the next couple of years as their free market sector has reached the apex as things stand and now need to cool the system and take a few quarters, possibly a year or even two of reset and a settling of the economy before the next drive and prosperity again making all happy. The problem is the Chinese Communist Party insists in progress and growth every year or else heads will roll. In China, that is meant quite literally, thus the excessive need to find some way or reporting progress and gains in the economy. This would have been less of a problem had the economy not been buoyed with false growth figures in construction of uninhabited cities and the enforcement of a one child policy cause a drastic set of circumstances. Now China is facing a recession with a glut of male children entering adult life with poor prospects for matrimony coupled with an economic downturn thus even their rescinding the one child policy, it came far too late for these men in a society bereft of women. This adds another component which historically has almost always been solved in the same manner, finding a means of sacrificing a significant number of male citizens between the ages of twelve to twenty-something. That method has always been war.

 

This brings us to another side of China of late, pressing her claims to areas beyond her natural borders and the stationing of troops as a provocation on these fronts. Much of these provocations have been taken in the South China Sea where Chinese activities and demands are threatening long existent and heavily traveled sea trade routes. Add in the Spratly Islands which are claimed somewhat obviously by the Philippines and Viet Nam and add in China and you have instant conflict. This conflict over the Spratly Islands goes far further than the land based claims as should China successfully claim the islands they would also set solid their claim to the South China Sea as their own little private bathtub square in the middle of some of the most heavily travelled sea lanes in the world. This would allow China to control these sea lanes demanding taxes be paid on all cargo, disrupt naval exercises and travel in what are considered as international waters and be a provocation to war all rolled up in one package. The Spratly Islands are likely the end goal of the island building exercises taken by China in the South China Sea and could quickly escalate into an open confrontation should China use their newly built Blue Water Navy to enforce their claims to these waters. Additionally, there are the conflicting claims over the Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese claim and the Senkaku Islands as the Japanese claim (see map below). These two sets of claims are both very sensitive areas but thus far the Chinese appear to be more concerned with their claims for the Spratly Islands as they would cement the South China Sea as strictly Chinese and thus grant China control of the busiest Asian sea lanes and one of the most heavily traveled sea lanes internationally. This might also be the case simply due to the Japanese having a far more developed naval capability compared to Viet Nam and the Philippines and nothing more.

 

Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese Claim Senkaku Islands as the Japanese Claim

Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese Claim
Senkaku Islands as the Japanese Claim

 

The likelihood of an actual war breaking out over the Spratly Islands is considered by many to be a remote possibility. Of course the possibility of China building an island chain to the Spratly Islands and then placing Chinese troops, aircraft and shore batteries and placing naval assets moored to the Spratly Islands is also considered remote. The potential for open conflict with the Philippines calling in their support guaranteed by the United States could be a potential for a quickly escalating situation over the South China Sea, an area the United States desires to be open and free of any interference with trade as much as anybody. Even the Japanese have direct concerns over the Chinese increased territorial claims into the South China Sea. This could easily become a future flashpoint though such is unlikely until some situation would force the United States to emphasize their presence elsewhere pulling assets out of the western Pacific region. One such scenario would be a war in the Middle East threatening the oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf oil kingdoms where the United States would also be bound by treaty obligations. With the current United States Navy cut down to well under former levels of actual warships and also less support vessels meaning that the Navy would not be capable of staging on two separate fronts without leaving large segments of the world outside the reach of American naval assets. This is the situation faced currently as the number of front-line aircraft carriers has been reduced such that with one being refurbished then there would not be a full battle group to send into a crisis area forcing the redistribution of assets from areas considered less threatened, though where that might be is a difficult judgement in itself.

 

China is facing economic downturn for the immediate future barring some unforeseen manipulation of forced conflict requiring wartime production which would permit direct government infusions stimulating the economy in an unnatural means which would only make recovery from such a step even more drastic when the correction comes. No nation can continuously show the kinds of gains China has claimed indefinitely and eventually there must be a cooling-off period as the market resets and decides on its next direction for expansion. China did have the advantage of not being a modern, first-world economy after World War II and then struggling through the Mao Zedong five year plan years where things actually managed to worsen thus allowing for a long stretch of recovery, modernization and finally incorporating free market principles and now China is at a top point from which a reset is long, long overdue and pretty much unavoidable short of declaring war. One hopes that even China has progressed beyond using war as an economic stimulus where all markets are crashed to support the war effort allowing for a period of growth and rebuilding when the war is over. One had also best pray that the same is true in the Middle East where the people have reached the end of patience with dictators and are revolting in nation after nation which could threaten to engulf the Middle East, North, the Horn and parts of Central Africa and potentially Europe starting from Turkey and moving westward and northward and even including Russia in a bid to regain some of the lost power of the Soviet Era. Any blow-up in the Middle East and affected areas could be exactly the opening China would need to cement their claims to the waters and international shipping lanes of the western Pacific-Indian Ocean routes and disrupting world trade in hopes of using taxation of trade and other measures to continue to show profits at any cost. As long as tariffs and trade wars are considered a viable economic tool to be found in some national tool kits, then the world is still a dangerous place as long as that remains so.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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