Monday, February 10, 2020

Tulsi 2020

Tomorrow I'll go to the local high school and pick up a Democratic ballot and cast my vote for Tulsi Gabbard for president. Alone of the 22 candidates, she is neither a billionaire nor a nut. The establishment of course dislikes her, because she refused to endorse Hillary Clinton in 2016, with the result that they kept her off the stage at the Thursday-night debate despite the fact that she polled higher than three of the candidates who did speak: Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Amy Klobuchar. So everybody on that stage was a person of pallor, and only one was a war veteran (and that a rather pathetic sort of war). Yet here was a Pacific Islander, a major in the US Army National Guard, and the most beautiful woman who ever ran for high office, shut out from public view to please the feckless politician who took the party down to defeat in 2016.

And wouldn't it be grand to see a Tulsi-Donald debate this fall?

Yeah, I know she won't win tomorrow, and that she won't be the candidate in November, but one must vote one's heart. Tulsi's billboards show her handsome presence with the slogan: THE HEART OF A SOLDIER. Of course, one can never tell what's in another's heart, but she has certainly succeeded in capturing mine. Not since Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan have I so adored a presidential candidate.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

We've got to discriminate against someone, so let's discriminate against the middle class!

The Times of London reports that "middle-class children will be squeezed out of  Oxbridge" as Britain's two elite universities strive to admit 6,500 more students from deprived families by 2025. That's quite a significant bulge in enrollment, but apparently neither Oxford nor Cambridge plans to expand its student body. Who'll be cut to make room for the deserving poor? Well, not the rich and famous, obviously.

To handle such tricky matters as this, the British government has -- of course! -- an Office for Students, and the OfS has -- of course! -- a Director of Access. His name is Chris Millward, and he points to the obvious outcome: "If they don’t grow, then the groups that are very highly represented in those universities will be less represented at the end of this,” he said.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Wi-fi in the sky

This is a Bombardier E-11A like the "surveillance aircraft" that went down in in Afghanistan yesterday. Four of these planes were based at Kandahar airfield for the purpose of providing communications to soldiers operating in mountainous territory where radio links aren't feasible, along with a smaller number of EQ-4B remotely piloted drones. The idea is to provide "wi-fi in the sky" for the troops needing to direct air or artillery strikes, or to call for help if they get into trouble. 

As a business jet, the Bombardier Global Express carries a four-person crew, but that probably includes one or two flight attendants. Fox News reports that two bodies were recovered from the crash site by the US military. Afghans were photographed at the crash site yesterday, but no mention has been made of Taliban fighters at the site (or responsible for the crash).

Friday, January 03, 2020

Tulsi at Hampton Beach, January 1, 2020

She's a woman, she's of color, she's a combat veteran, and she went surfing in the Gulf of Maine on New Year's Day. What's not to like? Tulsi 2020!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Happy 2020!

I send out a monthly newsletter to several hundred friends and fans, based largely on the subjects covered in my books, but often ending with a personal note. Yesterday I expressed the pleasure I take when starting a new decade or (less frequently) a new century or millennium. (Among other joys, each century or millennium brings a presidential election, and that's always fun.)

Predictably, I got a complaint that the 2020s won't begin until January 1, 2021. That's based on the "fact" that there was no Year Zero between BC and AD (or between BCE and CE, if your taste runs in that direction). While this is true, in theory, in fact wasn't any BC or AD, either. Did August Caesar have a calendar running from 27 BC to 1 BC, which on December 31, 1 BC, he replaced with a new calendar starting January 1, 1 AD? Nah. For him, those two momentous years were plain old 753 Ab urbe condita and 754 AUC, dating from the theoretical founding of the Roman Empire. The New Year wasn't the start of a decade, or a millennium. It wasn't even the start of a new year by our standards, though I confess that the math is beyond me.

Anyhow! You can celebrate your decade (century, millennium), and I'll celebrate mine. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The British election in one image

Jeremy Corbyn meets the future. (From The Times, with thanks!)

Sunday, December 01, 2019

A $20 Christmas letter

We can send an email around the world at virtually no cost, and have a video conference for pennies a minute. So it's hard for us to understand (or remember, in my case) how slow and expensive it was to exchange information and affection in what my young neighbor calls the Dark Ages. On November 17, 1941, RT Smith of the 3rd Squadron Hell's Angels, stationed at Toungoo airfield north of Rangoon, sent a letter to his mother and father in California. The cost was 3 rupees, 15 annas, and 3 pies -- about one dollar in US currency, when a dollar bill was worth about twenty of today's. $20 to send Christmas greetings to the folks at home! More about this envelope on the Annals of the Flying Tigers

Reviewed for December on the Warbird's Book Club are An Impeccable Spy, the biography of Richard Sorge, Stalin's agent in Tokyo in 1941, and Retreat from Moscow, a new and mostly convincing history of Germany's successful withdrawal in the winter of 1941-1942. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford