Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tanks For The Memories

Rumor has it that a decision may be announced as early as tomorrow on one of aviation's longest running soap operas. For the three guys who've been hanging out in Labrador for the last ten years or so, it is, of course, the decision on who's going to build and equip the United States Air Force with a new generation of aerial refueling vehicles. Flying gas stations, if you will.

The present fleet of KC135s is long in the tooth and has been slated for replacement for years. Initially, the idea was to reengine them with CFM56 engines and it is said that 410 of them were so modernized. Numerous others were upgrated from the original J57 engines to JT3D engines that were scrounged from civilian B707s on their way to the scrapheap, a couple of which are the beauties in the pictures which I took back around 1980 at Davis Monthan AFB.
The soap opera really got started when Boeing had an order for a tanker version of the B767 in hand a few years back. The deal was they'd lease the aircraft to the Air Force and everyone would live happily ever after. That went in the crapper along with some careers and the odd prison sentence for various high crimes and misdemeanors but nevermind.
The contract was again let for bids, only this time there was a competitor in the form of the Airbus A330, suitably modified for the role and having some extra cargo hauling capability. There's a plan afoot to actually "build" these aircraft in Mobile, Alabama, but some folks think that this operation would more likely be putting paint jobs and decals on airplanes fresh from the A330 line.
Of course that's not what they say right now, but when you factor in the cost savings to be attained by letting the rivet bashers and tank rats at Airbus do what they do best, fitting the green aircraft with ferry packs and flying them to Alabama to be "assembled"...well, you get my drift. The "american made" label on the KC 30 project makes this something of a Potemkin village that will leave most three year old toddlers shaking their little heads in dismay.
I think this one's too close to call. The Malaysian Sun has called this one for the KC30 although that seems a stretch.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shame on you, Hillary Clinton: UPDATE 1


Robert Novak is calling this one.

Here's what he says, more or less.

"The former sense of inevitability regarding Clinton becoming the first female president was based on her dominance over weak fields in both parties. McCain was the one Republican who worried Democratic strategists, and he appeared dead three months ago. Mitt Romney, the then-likely Republican nominee, was viewed in Democratic circles as unelectable.

Obama's improbable candidacy always worried Clinton insiders, which explains the whispering campaign that the Illinois neophyte would prove vulnerable to a Republican onslaught as the presidential nominee. That private assault continues to this day, with Obama described as a latter-day George McGovern whose career record of radical positions will prove easy prey for GOP attack dogs.

But Clinton could not go before Democratic primary voters and assail Obama for being too far to the left. Instead, she insinuated moral turpitude by asserting that Obama had not been "vetted." When that backfired, she claimed plagiarism by Obama in lifting a paragraph from a speech by his friend and supporter Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts governor -- an approach that yielded mainly derisive laughter among politicians.

I listened in on last Wednesday's news media conference calls by Clinton campaign managers Mark Penn and Harold Ickes in the wake of her Wisconsin drubbing. Incredibly, they were hawking the same plagiarism charge that had just proved ineffective. Clinton herself raised the bogus issue again at Thursday night's debate in Austin and was rewarded with boos from the Democratic audience.

Clinton's burden is not only Obama's charisma but also McCain's resurrection. Some of the same Democrats who short months ago were heralding her as the "perfect" candidate now call her a sure loser against McCain, saying she would do the party a favor by just leaving.

Clinton's tipping point may have come when it was announced that her $5 million loan to her campaign came from a fund she shares with Bill Clinton. That puts into play for the general election business deals by the former president that transformed him from an indigent to a multimillionaire and might excite interest in their income tax returns, which the Clintons refuse to release. The prospect impels many Democratic insiders to pray for the clear Obama victories on March 4 that they hope will make it unnecessary for anybody to beg Hillary Clinton to end her failed campaign."

The Washington Post informs us this day that the kinder gentler facade of the Billary v. 2.0 has dropped off. The gloves are off, and there'll be no more using Bill as the designated attack dog for the knee in the groin politics that the Clintons are famous for. This time, the attacks will be direct and uncompromising.

The challenge has been made: "Put up yer dukes, Barack! Yeah, that's right, your mother wears army boots!"

It seems, in a stage managed event of contrived outrage, She Herself went ballistic on national TV, more or less accusing Barack Obama of being in league with Bush and Karl Rove. It wasn't a pretty sight. Did you ever notice how the water swirls harder when it's headed for the drain?

B-b-but Sparky! you ask, what in heaven was this all about?

Seems that some mailers went out in Ohio, soon to be the scene of an important primary event, which stated that there were differences in the proposals for universal health care that the candidates have proposed.

And there's the matter of that pesky NAFTA treaty which was pushed through under the aegis of the other half of the Billary and managed to set labor in this country back to the days of the Pullman Strike and the Molly maguires.

Now she says she was against it all along.

Oh really? Here's what David Sirota is saying on Huffington Post.

"This campaign clearly thinks we are all just a bunch of fools.
Hillary Clinton has made statements unequivocally trumpeting NAFTA as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Buffalo News reports that back in 1998, Clinton attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and thanked praised corporations for mounting "a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of NAFTA." Yes, you read that right: She traveled to Davos to thank corporate interests for their campaign ramming NAFTA through Congress.

On November 1, 1996, United Press International reported that on a trip to Brownsville, Texas, Clinton "touted the president's support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it would reap widespread benefits in the region."

The Associated Press followed up the next day noting that Hillary Clinton touted the fact that "the president would continue to support economic growth in South Texas through initiatives such as the North American Free Trade Agreement."

In her memoir, Clinton wrote, "Senator Dole was genuinely interested in health care reform but wanted to run for president in 1996. He couldn't hand incumbent Bill Clinton any more legislative victories, particularly after Bill's successes on the budget, the Brady bill and NAFTA."

Yes, we are all expected to just forget that, so that Hillary Clinton's campaign can manufacture supposed "outrage" that anyone would say she supported NAFTA - all at a time her chief strategist, Mark Penn, simultaneously heads a firm that is right now pushing to expand NAFTA into South America.

What a total insult to America's intelligence."

Just like she was against the freakin' war in Iraq, right?

We've had enough of this shameless virago and her odious consort.

It's well to remember the words of Cromwell to the Rump Parliament: In the name of God, go. You have sat here too long for the good that you have done. Go, I say, and let us have done with you.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dewey Defeats Truman

As everyone on the planet now knows, the unassuming and modest (well, by NFL standards) New York Giants may well have pulled off what ranks as one of the most stunning victories in NFL history.

The fact is, nobody expected them to win, and all the smart money-ALL of it-every last penny, to the uttermost farthing-was on the Pats to be enshrined in the Valhalla that up until now had been the sole property of the Miami Dolphins.

All was in order- the script was written, the champagne was on ice, the party rooms were booked, the headlines were already printed, and the only thing left undone was for the designated victim to meekly walk up the stairs to the guillotine, lay his head down, and hand the cord to the executioner.

Apparently, however, nobody bothered to ask the victims what they thought about all this. They were, I suppose, expected to just fall in and shut up. On the very few occasions that Plaxico Burris, one of the designated victims, opined that they expected to win, he was castigated in the press as some sort of obstreperous moron to be speedily dispatched with extreme prejudice.

After all, the coronation and elevation to sainthood had to go on, didn't it?

One very telling statement was made by Michael Strahan, who said "We watch a lot of TV."

This game had all the markings of a classic 'rope a dope', the like of which has not been seen since the battle of Midway.

The objective was clear. Identify what it was that had allowed the Pats to knock the opposition silly all season, and deny them, and also give the Pats no reason to think that the game was going to be anything but a speed bump on the road to immortality.
In the end it was simple enough in concept and there was recent experience to rely on: deny the soon to be annointed Pats the opportunity for Brady to unleash his fearsome arm deep, and conspire to make the efforts of Lawrence Moroney irrelevant.

Of course, the Giants kept all this to themselves, and for two weeks while the Pats were grooming the coronation robes and spiffying up the ermine and polishing the chrome on the Escalade that Brady just knew was his, a peasant revolution was afire in the countryside.

And thus Napoleon headed back down the long road from Moscow, and Yamamoto was sent packing from Midway.

Photo credits Boston Globe.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Men Who Walked Away: A Chaos Theory Meditation

CBS reminded me that on this day some 49 years ago, a Beechcraft Bonanza crashed west of Clear Lake, Iowa, taking the lives of four people-the pilot, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. Richardson.

I'd venture to say that what makes this tale an enduring one is the theme of possibility cut short. The three musicians were on what was called the Winter Dance Party tour, along with a number of other musicians. They had appeared at the now lovingly restored Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Not wanting to face another long winter bus ride to the next stop in Moorhead, Minnesota, Buddy Holly took it upon himself to charter a plane for a flight to Fargo, North Dakota.There were some extra available seats on the Bonanza, and one of the artists declined to pay the $36 tab-that was Dion DiMuci, better known for his musical career with the Belmonts. Another artist, a little known bass player from Texas in the Crickets named Waylon Jennings, wanted to go along with his friend Buddy, but gave up his seat in favor of J.P. Richardson, who was suffering from a cold. Tommy Alsup, another Cricket, tossed a coin and lost the last seat to Richie Valens.

Four young lives were cut short, and three music careers ended that snowy night in a farm field west of Clear Lake, but what's notable about the story is what happened to the three men who gave up their seats.
Waylon Jennings had a long and illustrious career in what is sometimes known as outlaw country music. Dion DiMuci continued in a career that led him from the doo-wop style of the Belmonts to acoustic meditations like his incomparable "Abraham, Martin and John". And Tommy Alsup, as I found out today, continued his career, veering into my beloved western swing.
He's the man with the big smile playing six string guitar and wearing the mother of all Stetsons.

The rest, as they say, is history. With all due respect to Don McLean. the music didn't die-it was going to be different. Much different.