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Let earth receive her King


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke II 1-20, KJV

Image: Dome detail, St. Anne’s Anglican Church, 270 Gladstone Avenue.

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The Good Earth


Forty years ago today, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were half-way through a dangerous and epic journey, over 230,000 miles from home. TIME magazine recounts some of the story:

But on Christmas Eve the crew got busy. Settling Apollo 8 into orbit around the moon was a high-wire maneuver that involved turning the ship backward and firing its powerful service propulsion engine for precisely four and a half minutes — an eternity in a business in which barely a breath from a thruster is enough to set a ship spinning off course. The engine burn was designed to slow the spacecraft down just enough to ease it into a lunar orbit without losing so much altitude that it crashed into the moon instead. Orbital mechanics also demanded that the maneuver occur on the dark side of the moon, entirely out of radio contact with Earth. At 68 hours and 58 minutes into their journey, the crew buckled in and vanished around the moon’s far side.

— Jeffrey Kluger.  “Remembering Apollo 8, Man’s First Trip to the Moon“, TIME, December 24th, 2008.

This is their iconic television broadcast on December 24th, 1968; a reading of Genesis I 1-10, NKJV.

Snow Day!

Snowstorm in High Park, Dec. 19th, 2008

Snowstorm in High Park, Dec. 19th, 2008

About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

— A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad, 1896.

There is something about a heavy snowfall that awakens my inner eight-year-old.  I want to boot down a gigantic hill on an old-school toboggan.  Or build a snow fort big enough to accomodate twenty people.

In lieu of that, though, I couldn’t resist taking the Nikon for a stroll through High Park earlier today.  Pics are in this Flickr set.

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Flood tubes one and two, open outer doors…

type_214A Korean Type 214 submarine on sea trials.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?: Germany is selling three Type 214 diesel-electric submarines to Pakistan.  The deal was originally inked in late November of this year, but this month in the Bundestag, opposition Greens attempted to block or at least review the sale, in light of emerging Pakistani connections to the Mumbai attacks.  The German parliament, however, didn’t take the bait—the sale goes ahead.

No doubt the Germans are wondering why the French should be the sole supplier of submarine technology to the Land of the Pure.

Brazil plans to buy and build French Scorpene class diesel-electric subs, and redesign them to use nuclear powerplants.  I cannot say I blame the Brazilians, particularly.  They live next door to wild card Venezuela, and have a rather large area to defend—some 4,045nm of coastline.

Canadian policymakers and naval brass, of course, see no need for us to develop similar capabilities.  That would be silly and extravagant.  Our coastline is not thirty-two times longer (131,232nm) than Brazil’s, with the vast majority being rendered impenetrable by sea ice.  And Canada, of course, has no known offshore oil reserves of her own to protect.  Furthermore, our new-ish Victoria-class SSKs didn’t really require AIP systems necessary to operate under the Arctic ice pack.  Who would ever want to send them there?  Likewise the vision and determination to have spent millions building an Arctic SOSUS net so we know who else’s SSNs and SSKs are operating in our neighbourhood.

No need for any of that, at all.  Our smug moral superiority keeps us strong and amply protected against any conceivable foe, of any conceivable capability.

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Airpower is America’s asymmetric advantage, and they are giving it up without a fight

davis_monthan_boneyardRetired A-10s, F-15s and C-5s at AMARG, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.
From SC Fiasco‘s Flickr photostream.

The last time an American soldier died due to enemy aircraft fire was April of 1953.  Since then, US forces have prevented every other enemy air force from providing close air support to their own troops.  This is a remarkable achievement, to say the least; the American air aegis is a tremendous advantage in warfighting and logistics.  Without it, other aircraft that have no air-to-air capability—like UAVs, transports, and most helicopters—would be easily picked off.

But air dominance is not an American birthright, as an editorial and detailed article in this month’s Air Force Magazine point out.  It exists because of superior technology, superior doctrine and superior numbers.  But US policymakers have been mortgaging the Air Force’s future for several decades, and the slide is now terminal.

Today’s air dominance force was structured primarily to accommodate an older concept of joint operations. It viewed major combat operations and dominant maneuver—to use the joint term—as the culminating points of any campaign. The campaign had four notional phases—deter, seize the initiative, dominate, and stabilize. However, Phase 3—dominant maneuver—was the centerpiece. In the past two years, however, joint doctrine has gone through a major change. The doctrine writers have expanded it; it now comprises six phases of war—i.e., shape, deter, seize the initiative, dominate, stabilize, and enable civil authority.

The change affects more than the phases of war. Reflecting recent experience in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan, the Joint Staff estimated in a recent update to its joint doctrine for operations that irregular warfare in the later phases of a campaign could require a level of military effort as great as—and perhaps greater than—what is needed for so-called major combat operations.

This declaration constitutes a seismic shift in American military thinking. In theory, the power to wage irregular warfare might get the same priority in force tasking as Phase 3 dominant combat operations has received in decades past. It is forcing a re-evaluation of air dominance needs.

This joint doctrine revision, written into Joint Pub 3-0 in February 2008, has not downgraded military preparation for more-conventional type of war. Rather, it has simply created a need to expand forces in all directions. The doctrine is a campaign planning guide, not a strategic planning handbook, but the basic point is clear enough: The demand for air dominance, and therefore its tasking, has never been broader. The bad news is that the Air Force is facing shortfalls in nearly every phase.

— Rebecca Grant. “Losing Air Dominance“, Air Force Magazine, December 2008.

The short version is that through the 1991 Gulf War, USAF noticed that its non-stealthy fighter communities all lost an aircraft or two (and some, several) to Iraq’s integrated air defenses, whereas the stealth fighters did not.  USAF then decided to forego additional procurement of existing fighters in favour of an all-stealth combatant force.  It would reach this state via a three-part plan:

Shrink but continually update the fleet of current fighters, buying no more of them; develop the F-22; and add a less expensive multirole stealth fighter to eventually replace the F-16 and the A-10.

The air force originally planned to replace its F-15s with half as many F-22s.  But the air force didn’t do a good job linking its three-pronged plan to the Raptor sales pitch.  As a result, successive administrations have slashed the F-22 buy down to a fraction of the original figure:

  • George H.W. Bush’s SecDef cut the F-22 projected buy from 750 to 680 aircraft.
  • William Clinton’s SecDef cut the projected buy twice, first down to 442, then 339 aircraft.
  • George W. Bush’s SecDef cut the buy to 183, where it remains today.

The prognosis is not good.

By spring 2008, time was running out. F-22 production was starting to wind down; fresh orders would be needed if the line were to stay intact into the term of a new President. The post-Gulf War plan was now in tatters. Lt. Gen. Daniel J. Darnell, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff, air, space, and information operations and plans and requirements, testified in April 2008 that the truncated F-22 buy and a major stretch-out in F-35 production would leave USAF short of its force structure requirements.

Darnell estimated a gap would open in 2017. By 2024, USAF would be short of its requirement of 2,250 fighters by some 800 aircraft. This would leave USAF with an insufficient number for two major theater wars and other taskings as laid out in the national military strategy completed in 2005.

The startling conclusion was not so much the shortfall itself, but the fact that financial decisions of the early 2000s had been made without regard for reconciling requirements and strategy. The Pentagon did not present supporting analysis for the decisions in PBD 753. There was no announcement that the future threat had changed—just that the future should stop being such a problem for Pentagon planners.

— Rebecca Grant. “Losing Air Dominance“, Air Force Magazine, December 2008.

The only good news for USAF is that the third prong in its plan, the F-35 or JSF, is still being developed, and the hacking away at its budget has been relatively modest.

What US policymakers fail to account for is that for the nation-state, strength quite literally grants freedom of action.  The United States (and many great powers before it) can issue security guarantees and project force globally because very few opposing powers are willing or able to resist.  When American power projection starts looking like an also-ran alongside near-peer competitors, American allies are either going to defect or be cowed into inaction by aggressive and opposing regional powers.

We have the luxury of fighting wars of convenience, like Iraq and Afganistan, because the likelihood of fighting and losing a war of survival was (at least until recently) quite low.  American weakness translates directly into toothless American security guarantees.  Which will ultimately end in greater American casualties, as hungry predators move to take advanatge of critically weakened allied prey.  And a succession of American administrations have certainly done their best to make it all possible.

There are many powers in the world, for good and for evil. Some are greater than I am. Against some I have not yet been measured. But my time is coming.

Which creature of the night are you?

Your Result: Sorceror

Control is the name of your game. You are a studied tactician and scientist and you seek a kingdom where things make sense, damn the morals, even if you have to create it. You are cold, calm and calculating.

Cthulu Spawn
Which creature of the night are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

This is a somewhat accurate description.  The bad part is that I have this enduring perception of wizards and sorcerers as basically giant weenies that can’t lift a sword and kill things the old-fashioned way, like men.  Always stayed away from the magic-user types in D&D; preferred paladins by far.  Smashing stuff for God and King is ten times cooler than farting around with spells and potions.

So uhm, yeah.  Accurate, but damn—I am the very thing that I hate?  That sucks.

Via the Flea.

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Anne of Breaking Wind

anne_green_gables Why oh why does Anne of Green Gables have to be remade or revisited every decade?  How many people out there on planet Earth still yearn for a pretend old-timey maritime youth experience?

If the world must have pretend old-timey maritime youth adventures, then keep remaking the ones with ships of the line and thundering cannons and skewering Frenchmen with sabres.  You know, the good stuff—Hornblower or Jack Aubrey.  Not the ones with girltastic pre-teen angst.

The world’s already suffered through no less than nineteen film and television adaptations of Anne Shirley, the Official Rural Stereotype of Prince Edward Island.  And now we’re about to be smacked in the face with another one, courtesy of Mr. Kevin Sullivan and CTV.

Egads, man.  There are other books out there.

Great Moments in Liberal Appeasement

cc-106_yukonCanadian Forces CC-106 Yukon.

December 3rd, 1970: At the conclusion of Operation Ragout, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau rolls over to FLQ demands in order to safeguard the life of kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross.  The five known terrorists—Marc Carbonneau, Yves Langlois, Jacques Lanctôt, Jacques Cossette-Trudel and his wife, Louise Lanctôt—are granted their request for safe passage to Cuba by the Government of Canada, following approval by Fidel Castro.

They are flown to Cuba aboard a Canadian Forces CC-106 Yukon, tail number 106922, commanded by a presumably furious Major Stu Parmalee.

Yup, invoking the War Measures Act and arresting those 400 people sure made a difference. The FLQ still got the Cuban vacation they had asked for.  And Quebec has never since had a referendum on separation, nor a series of secessionist governments, right?

Tell me again why Trudeau is considered to have taken a “tough stance” on terrorism?  What part of “tough stance” equals “flying the bad guys to a tropical island aboard government aircraft, just like they asked”?

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