Monday, July 27, 2009

Hope and Change

You might recall that John Hinckley was a seriously deranged young man who shot President Reagan in the early 1980s. Hinckley, extremely jealous, was absolutely obsessed with movie star Jodie Foster, and in his twisted mind, loved Jodie Foster to the point that, to make himself well-known to her, he attempted to assassinate President Reagan.

There is speculation Hinckley may soon be released as having been rehabilitated.

Consequently, you may appreciate the following letter from John McCain received by the staff at the mental facility treating Hinckley:
To: John Hinckley
From: Sen. John McCain

In our fine country's spirit of understanding and forgiveness, we want you to know there is a non-partisan consensus of compassion and forgiveness throughout America.

We are confident that you will soon make a complete recovery and return to your family and join the world again as a healthy and productive young man.

Best Wishes,

John McCain

PS: While you have been incarcerated, Barack Obama has been banging Jodie Foster like a screen door in a tornado.

You might want to look into that.


H/T: Ann O'Nymous

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Born Gay, or Learned Behavior?

Tattoos and Bar-B-Ques

This man thought he had the best tattoo in the world...

...until he went to prison.
Hat-tip: Don

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BBQ, anybody?

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Hat-tip: Dad

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Take a Trip in the "Way Back" Machine

This week I thought we would take a trip back in time to what many refer to as the "glory days" of motorsport - the late 1960s to early 1970s - and look at one of the iconic race series in North America: the Can Am (short for Canadian-American).
Can-Am started out as a race series for Group 7 sports racers with two races in Canada (Can) and four races in the United States of America (Am). The series was initially sponsored by Johnson Wax. The Series was governed by rules called out under the FIA Group 7 category with unrestricted engine capacity and few other technical restrictions.

The Group 7 category was essentially a formule libre for sports cars; the regulations were minimal and permitted unlimited engine sizes (and allowed turbocharging and supercharging), virtually unrestricted aerodynamics, and were as close as any major international racing series ever got to anything goes. As long as the car had two seats and bodywork enclosing the wheels, and met basic safety standards, it was legal. Group 7 had arisen as a category for non-homologated sports car 'specials' in Europe and for a while in the 1960s Group 7 racing was popular in the United Kingdom as well as a class in hillclimb racing in Europe. Group 7 cars were designed more for short-distance sprints than for endurance racing. Some Group 7 cars were also built in Japan by Nissan and Toyota, but these did not compete outside their homeland (though some of the Can-Am competitors went over to race against them occasionally).
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On-track, the series was initially dominated by Lola, followed by a period in which it became known as the 'Bruce and Denny Show', the works McLaren team dominating until the Porsche 917 was perfected and became almost unbeatable. After Porsche's withdrawal, Shadow dominated the last season before Can-Am faded away to be replaced by Formula 5000. Racing was rarely close - one marque was usually dominant - but the noise and spectacle of the cars made the series highly popular.
The "Bruce and Denny Show" refers to the domination of the series by two New Zealanders, Bruce McLaren and Dennis "Denny" Hulme; Chris Amon, also a Kiwi, factored prominantly in the series.

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Above, The McLaren M6A, (with Bruce at the wheel) powered by the venerable small-block Chevy V8, developing over 500 HP with Lucas mechanically timed fuel injection, was the dominant car in the Can Am series in 1967 (the M6B was introduced in 1968). In 1968 McLaren also introduced the M8 (shown below) which was powered by an all-aluminum, big-block Chevy (now fitted with Hilborn mechanical fuel injection) developing some 800 HP. One major difference besides the engine upgrade and bodywork design, was that the engine was now a "stressed member" meaning that, instead of being bolted "into" the chassis, the engine became an integral part of the chassis (increasing rigidity), an engineering design feature that is almost standard for all race cars now.
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Let's take a lap in an M6B at Laguna Seca, shall we?

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Here's an M6B at Sears Point (now known as Infineon) Raceway. Note the throttle linkage working as the driver gets on and off the gas.

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Now, sit back and enjoy some historic footage filmed at the 1967 Can Am event at Road America in Elkart Lake, Wisconsin.


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McLaren, who created these dominant cars that became synonymous with Can Am, died tragically in 1970 in an accident while testing at Goodwood in the UK. His name and trademark, however, continued on as you may well know in not only F1 but in various tuner cars that bear his mark.
On 2 June 1970, Bruce McLaren was killed in a crash at Goodwood while testing the new M8D Can-Am car. While travelling at 170 mph (270 km/h), a fastener for the rear bodywork failed and the entire rear piece detached from the car. The car spun into a concrete marshal post and McLaren was killed instantly. Twelve days after Bruce McLaren's death Dan Gurney won the opening Can-Am race of 1970 at Mosport for McLaren. The McLaren M8D won nine of the ten races in 1970 and Hulme won the championship.
As mentioned above, the McLaren domination began to come to an end in 1971 when Porsche entered the scene with their 917/10 and the further upgraded 917/30. The 917/30, combined with the energy "crisis" of the mid-1970s, effectively killed the Can Am series even though some teams tried turbos on their big-block Chevy McLarens; the power was there, but reliability was not.
At the end of the 1971 season, the coupe bodied Porsche 917 was no longer eligible to race in the world championship, which saw the German manufacturer's focus shift to the Group 7 class. In open form the 917 had been campaigned in this virtually no limits class since 1969, but with little factory support. Two championships were open for the Group 7 cars; the European Interserie and more importantly the North American Can-Am Challenge. Big engines, low weight and a host of different looking vehicles had made Can-Am one of America's premier classes, attracting many spectators.

Porsche was represented in Can-Am for a number of years by privateers who race 908s or decapitated 917s, until a purpose built Group 7 version of the 917 made its debut in 1971. Dubbed the 917/10, it was technically similar to the coupe 917, but featured a number of lighter components constructed from the latest exotic materials. A larger fuel tank was also fitted to enable the car to complete the 200 mile races without having to refuel. Completely new was the spyder bodywork, which was an adaptation of the contemporary Can-Am design.

A few races into the 1971 season, the Porsche 917/10 made its debut in the McLaren dominated series. It was immediately obvious that the 5 litre flat 12 was not powerful to take on the might of the all-alloy Chevrolet V8s, but nonetheless valuable points were scored in the car's first season. Back in Germany two options to close the gap with the 800 bhp V8s were considered; a 16 cylinder version of the 917 or fitting Turbochargers to the existing engine. The second option was by far not as easy as it sounds today, but it was expected to offer the best performance so it was fully explored.

In the preceding fifty years racing cars were either Naturally Aspirated or equipped with a Supercharger driven by the crank; exhaust driven Turbochargers was uncharted territory. Throttle lag was the biggest problem to overcome with Turbos. In order to operate ideally the turbines in the Turbo had to run at a specific speed, but that requires a minimum amount of engine revolutions. When the engine was running under that number, there was considerably less power, and when the Turbos did kick in it was not a gentle affair. Drivers of the Turbocharged 917s needed to have a very delicate right foot and stellar reflexes to cope with the sudden power increases.

In five litre form, the Turbocharged flat 12 was good for around 950 bhp; not for the faint of heart. In Mark Donohue and George Follmer Porsche found two drivers brave enough to take on the competition in their 917/10K. Donohue proved to be the faster of the two, but an accident early in the season left him out for most of the remaining races. This paved the way for George Follmer to finally challenge and beat the McLarens and secure the championship. In Europe the 917/10Ks were campaigned in 4.5 litre form, but it was still enough to clinch a one-two in the championship.

Although the McLarens were convincingly beaten in 1972, Porsche continued the development and constructed the most powerful racing car ever. Available only for Team Penske's driver Mark Donohue, the 917/30 was bigger in every aspect compared to the 1972 racer. The engine's displacement was increased to 5.4 litre, which saw the performance rise to at least 1100 bhp in race trim. A new longer and aerodynamically efficient body was fitted, which increased the top speed considerably. In the 1973 season there was no stopping the 'Turbo Panzer', and Mark Donohue won the championship.

As a side effect of the Porsche dominance, Can-Am was quickly losing teams and spectators and halfway through the 1974 season the challenge was cancelled. Porsche had also withdrawn at the end of the 1973, but the 917/30 was given one final outing in 1975. Specifically prepared for a high speed run, Donohue lapped the Talladega race track at an average of 221 mph in the 917/30, setting a new world record. A fitting finale for the Porsche 917's magnificent career. Unfortunately it was also the finale of Donohue's career, who fatally crashed ten days later during Formula 1 qualifying in Austria.
With its upwards of 1100-1200 HP on tap, the 917/30 is considerd by many to be the world's first real "supercar". It could accelerate from 0-60mph in 2.2 seconds; 0-100mph in under 4 seconds; and 0-200mph in under 12 seconds; and achieve top speeds of upwards of 250mph.

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Above is the Porsche 917/30 Can Am racer driven by Mark Donohue. Below is a photo of the gearbox and rear undercarriage. Notice the two medium-large turbochargers on either side of the engine.
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Below is a video with historical background on the 917/30 containing some race footage and a portion of an interview with team owner Roger Penske and his championship-winning driver, the late Mark Donohue whose son, David, now contests a Brumos Porsche prototype in the Grand Am road-racing series, a modern "revival" of the Can Am.


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This video shows a 917/30 at start-up and driving out of the pits.

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I hope you have enjoyed this trip in the Way Back Machine. There's lots more to come, so check back often.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama-Care: What You Can Look Forward To

Ok, I said I would try to stay away from politics or almost avoid it. This is the "almost".

Let’s break it down into language we can all understand. As many of you know, I am an American living and working in the socialist haven of New Zealand, and I have some personal and vicarious experience in the system that is in place here. The model is the same, with a few differences, in just about every other socialized Western Democracy.

Here is an all too common scenario faced by patients in socialized health care systems such as what we have in New Zealand.

You plan ahead and go to your GP (general practitioner/family doctor) for a regular physical or check-up. By the way, only surgeries, hospital and emergency care are “free”; you pay out of pocket $40-$50 to see your GP, plus whatever blood work or prescriptions you need. Only infants get free GP coverage. Now, let’s say the doctor finds something wrong, and he/she refers you to a specialist for further evaluation.

Here’s where the fun starts.

You call to set-up that appointment and get put on a waiting list, and that can be as little as a couple of days to as long as 8 or 9 months – or longer. There is no negotiating or haggling on that. It’s done based on category of severity which is assessed by the district health board, and YOU have NO SAY in that matter – you are what they tell you you are, and that’s that. You finally get to see the specialist, and if further treatment is needed, you get put on a priority list which is, again, assessed by the district health board.

Now the REAL fun starts.

When it comes down to it, the older you are (once you’re over 50 or 60), the further to the back of the line you go. There are only so many resources available (it’s called rationing in any other universe), and the bureaucrats at the district medical boards decide who will get what first based on what value you have to the system. In other words, if two people need, let’s say, a hip replacement, heart surgery, cancer treatment – whatever – and one of them is 20 and the other is 65, the 20 year old will most likely get it before the 65 year old will. Why? Because as a 65 year old, you’re already retired, collecting your retirement, and basically, your days are numbered as a contributing tax payer – the state isn’t going to get any more production out of you. The 20 year old, well, the state looks at him or her as a cash cow with a whole life ahead of them that the state can milk for taxes to pay for all the other shit the state pays for.

Now, you can jump up and down, write letters, protest all you want, but it won’t likely get you anywhere. Here in New Zealand you can’t sue. There is only so much money to go around when the tax base is so limited in a small country like NZ, and there are so many government entitlement programs competing for funding. Doctors and nurses and every other state-funded health care provider are on a fixed salary, and to top that off, they all have unions, so it seems almost every other week one group or another is going on strike.

But do you know what the real problem is? The bureaucracy. Inevitably what happens is that any time there is an increase in funding or expanding care in the form of treatment and/or facilities, who gets a big portion of that funding? The bureaucrats – mid level administrators to oversee the programs, commission feasibility studies to determine cost effectiveness, and all the other bullshit. In other words, people with job titles and no real job get their money first, leaving little left over for the front-line healthcare providers, the facilities, the pharmaceuticals, etc., where the money SHOULD be going. Regarding prescribed drugs, the state has a list of approved drugs and providers, and you have little or no say in that matter either.

As a result, we are facing a constant shortage of quality people to work in this country’s health care system because so many New Zealand-educated doctors and nurses leave here for greener pastures overseas in places like Australia (which has socialized health care but can pay a better wage and is close to NZ), Canada, the UK (not much better than NZ) – but guess where a lot of New Zealand’s best medical professionals end-up: The US of A. So we have a lot of doctors from India and other parts of Asia and other parts of the world, many of whom, despite having to qualify by New Zealand standards, have questionable qualifications and slip through the cracks. The big saving grace are the professionals (and not just in medicine) who come from South Africa – and they aren’t the ones who are of the same skin hue of Nelson Mandella, if you know what I mean. I’ll say it right here: Thank God for the white South Africans or Afrikaners coming to New Zealand because without them this country would be severely fucked, and as long as things in South Africa remain as fucked-up as they are, the Afrikaners will keep coming here to fill the void left by quality New Zealanders leaving.

If all that sounds good to you, then by all means, support Obamacare, because that is what you’re going to get – or something very close to it.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Take Some Fast Rides

I know it's been a while, but once again I'm back. I think I'll avoid politics almost altogether and focus on fast cars and bikes, music, etc. So let's get started, shall we?

I've been scouring Youtube and acquiring some great videos of fast rides from the past and present. This first one is an on-board video of Alain Castellana at the Gemenos Hill Climb in his Norma M20-3A (contrary to the title of the video, it is not a "Can-Am" car), powered by a hyper-revving BMW M-Power based, 3 liter in-line 6 with close ratio gearing. Go here for some photos of the car. This thing is insane fast and comes off the line like a rocket, and the guy knows how to drive it! Enjoy!


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Next is a video featuring George Plasa driving a Judd V8 powered BMW E-36 prepared for hill climb events. The engine revs to over 10,000 RPM and makes a reported 560 HP from 3.4 liters normally aspirated.


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In this video, which is on-board during a road-course track event, you'll notice the whine from the sequential shift, straight-cut gears (suitable for racing only; most street cars have helical-cut gears with synchros) as will your pets - or women - who may happen to be in the room with you at the time. It really is quite deafening as it gets into the top three gears. Different car and driver, but it seems to have the same or similar powerplant set-up as in the previous video.

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Show Them To Me

I'm not a big Country & Western fan, but there are exceptions. This is definitely one of them. His name is Rodney Carrington, a comedian who uses music as his comedic "vehicle". This is all about the love of the female breast. NSFW and inappropriate for younger kids; but that's your call, not mine.



Hat-tip: Stephanie
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And I guess this is as good a time as any to re-introduce my advocacy of Global Warming...

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World's Thinnest Books

FRENCH WAR HEROES
by Jacques Chirac

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MY COUNTRY
by Jane Fonda & Cindy Sheehan. Illustrated by Michael Moore

MY BEAUTY SECRETS
by Janet Reno & Whoopi Goldberg & Madeleine Albright

ALL THE WOMEN I HAVE LOVED BEFORE
by Barney Frank (D-Mass) & Boy George & Elton John

MY CHRISTIAN ACCOMPLISHMENTS & HOW I HELPED AFTER KATRINA
by Rev Jesse Jackson & Rev Al Sharpton

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BILL
by Hillary Clinton

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT HILLARY
By Bill Clinton

MY LITTLE BOOK OF PERSONAL HYGIENE
by Osama Bin Laden

THINGS I CANNOT AFFORD
by Bill Gates

THINGS I WOULD NOT DO FOR MONEY
by Dennis Rodman

THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE
by Al Gore & John Kerry

AMELIA EARHART'S GUIDE TO THE PACIFIC

A COLLECTION of MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES
by Dr. J. Kevorkian

ALL THE MEN I HAVE LOVED BEFORE
by Ellen de Generes & Rosie O'Donnel & Billy Jean King & Janet Reno

THE GUIDE TO DATING ETIQUETTE
by Mike Tyson

DELICIOUS SPOTTED OWL RECIPES
by PETA

THE AMISH PHONE DIRECTORY

MY PLAN TO FIND THE REAL KILLERS
by O.J. Simpson

HOW TO DRINK & DRIVE OVER BRIDGES
by Ted Kennedy

MY BOOK OF MORALS
by Bill Clinton
with introduction
by The Rev. Jesse Jackson

MY QUALIFICATIONS TO BECOME PRESIDENT
by Hussein Obama


Hat-tip: Don

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

"Be Quick, Be Quiet, And Be On Time"

That is a quote from a man with one of the greatest minds of our time. His name was Kelly Johnson. "Who the hell is/was Kelly Johnson?" you may ask yourselves. Here's a brief rundown:
Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson came to Lockheed in 1932 hunting a job. He was turned down..insufficient experience. Johnson went back to school and obtained a Master's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He came to Lockheed again in 1933 and was hired as a tool designer. His salary was $83.00 per month and became the sixth Engineer working for the fledgling Lockheed Company. Then, as World War II approached, he helped the Company design the P-38, America's first 400 mph airplane. After assignments as flight test engineer, stress analyst, aerodynamicist, weight engineer, he became chief research engineer in 1938. In 1952, Johnson was named chief engineer of Lockheed's Burbank, California plant which later became the Lockheed-California Company. When the office of corporate vice president-research and development was established in 1956, he was chosen for the post. He became vice President-Advanced Development Projects (ADP) (Skunk Works) in 1958, a member of the board of directors in 1964 and a senior vice president of the corporation in 1969. He officially retired from Lockheed in 1975 but continued as a consultant to the Skunk Works and the Lockheed projects. Kelly left the Board of Directors in 1980. In June of 1983, the name of the 500 acre Lockheed Rye Canyon Research facility was renamed Kelly Johnson Research and Development Center, Lockheed-California Company, in his honor for 50 years of service to Lockheed.
Read more about Kelly Johnson's amazing achievements and career.
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The aircraft in the photo above was the brainchild of Johnson and the Skunk Works, and perhaps the greatest feat of aviation engineering of the 20th century, the SR-71 "Blackbird".
Here's a graphic depiction of some of it's record breaking runs:
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So, what was it like to fly such an amazing aircraft? I'll let one of her pilots tell you.
*NOTE: After digging around to authenticate the following piece, I could find no record of a "Billy J. Foster" ever having been a "Habu" (the nickname given to the Blackbird by the residents of Okinawa, Japan upon first seeing the SR-71 in flight as it came and went from Kadena AFB, as it reminded them of the viper native to the island; the pilots adopted the name for themselves, also). I did, however, confirm that the RSO referred to as "Walt Watson" in the following piece was in fact the RSO for a Habu pilot named Brian Schul who wrote a book entitled "Sled Driver". Schul's biography in and of itself is no less amazing than that of the Blackbird and its creator.
The sled ride………….

By Billy J. Foster *Brian Schul

SR-71 Blackbird

In April 1986, following an attack on American soldiers in a Berlin disco, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi's terrorist camps in Libya . My duty was to fly over Libya and take photos recording the damage our F-111's had inflicted. Qaddafi had established a 'line of death,' a territorial marking across the Gulf of Sidra , swearing to shoot down any intruder that crossed the boundary. On the morning of April 15, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.

I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world's fastest jet, accompanied by Maj Walter Watson, the aircraft's reconnaissance systems officer (RSO). We had crossed into Libya and were approaching our final turn over the bleak desert landscape when Walter informed me that he was receiving missile launch signals. I quickly increased our speed, calculating the time it would take for the weapons - most likely SA-2 and SA-4 surface-to-air missiles capable of Mach 5 - to reach our altitude. I estimated that we could beat the rocket-powered missiles to the turn and stayed our course, betting our lives on the plane's performance.

After several agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean. 'You might want to pull it back,' Walter suggested. It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles full forward. The plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds, well above our Mach 3.2 limit. It was the fastest we would ever fly. I pulled the throttles to idle just south of Sicily, but we still overran the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar .

Scores of significant aircraft have been produced in the 100 years of flight, following the achievements of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate in December.. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the F-86 Sabre Jet, and the P-51 Mustang are among the important machines that have flown our skies. But the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, stands alone as a significant contributor to Cold War victory and as the fastest plane ever-and only 93 Air Force pilots ever steered the 'sled,' as we called our aircraft.
Here's some more from Schul, where he recounts, during that run over Libya, the unique bond that can exist between man and machine.
There seems to be a confirmed trust now, between me and the jet; she will not hesitate to deliver whatever speed we need, and I can count on no problems with the inlets. Walt and I are ultimately depending on the jet now - more so than normal - and she seems to know it. The cooler outside temperatures have awakened the spirit born into her years ago, when men dedicated to excellence took the time and care to build her well. With spikes and doors as tight as they can get, we are racing against the time it could take a missile to reach our altitude.

It is a race this jet will not let us lose. The Mach eases to 3.5 as we crest 80,000 feet. We are a bullet now - except faster. We hit the turn, and I feel some relief as our nose swings away from a country we have seen quite enough of. Screaming past Tripoli, our phenomenal speed continues to rise, and the screaming Sled pummels the enemy one more time, laying down a parting sonic boom. In seconds, we can see nothing but the expansive blue of the Mediterranean . I realize that I still have my left hand full-forward and we're continuing to rocket along in maximum afterburner.
Read the whole story. It is fascinating, breath-taking, and as gripping and well written as any spy-thriller novel.

While in the USMC, I had the pleasure of standing next to a Blackbird on display at the Tustin Air Show as I was part of the support crew from my squadron with our UH-1N "Huey" and AH-1W "Cobra" helicopters which seemed so insignificant compared to this mighty behemoth. I couldn't help noticing all the fluids leaking from the SR-71 - something that was cause for serious concern for us lowly, subsonic beings. However, we knew why this was normal for "the sled", as Schul explains.
Ironically, the plane was dripping, much like the misshapen model I had assembled in my youth. Fuel was seeping through the joints, raining down on the hangar floor. At Mach 3, the plane would expand several inches because of the severe temperature, which could heat the leading edge of the wing to 1,100 degrees. To prevent cracking, expansion joints had been built into the plane. Sealant resembling rubber glue covered the seams, but when the plane was subsonic, fuel would leak through the joints.
As an engineer, I admire other, far greater engineers. Part of what was truly amazing and almost inconceivable is that Johnson and his Skunk Works team designed that bird in the days before computers and calculators. They did it with slide rules, ingenuity, and vision. They were products of the "old school" of education that valued knowledge over feeeelings and all the touchy-feely, left-wing, bullshit social "engineering" that goes on in today's indoctrination centers more commonly known as the public school system.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the "sled" and Johnson himself were not exceptions. Johnson passed away in 1990, the same year as the Blackbird was retired from service and Schul retired from the USAF. However, both Johnson and his bird left an incredible legacy.
The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America for a quarter of a century. Unbeknownst to most of the country, the plane flew over North Vietnam , Red China, North Korea , the Middle East, South Africa , Cuba , Nicaragua , Iran , Libya , and the Falkland Islands . On a weekly basis, the SR-71 kept watch over every Soviet nuclear submarine and mobile missile site, and all of their troop movements. It was a key factor in winning the Cold War.

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PS - If you're as awestruck as I am about tis topic and the people involved, I really urge you, dear reader, to take the time to go through all the links.

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Some Thoughts on the Iraq Pull-out

No, it's not a new birth control technique.

Ok, so the Iraq draw-down has begun. The lefties, the MSM, the America haters et.al. are having multiple orgasms over that, but they are not alone. While I and many, many others like myself feel nothing that resembles erotic stimulation, however, I am happy to see it as well, and before we go any further, let's get a few things on the table right now. What may appear to be negative in the analysis is not directed at the troops - far from it, as anybody who "knows" me can attest to. Our men and women on the ground, in the air, and on the seas have paid a very high price, and they deserve our unwavering respect for doing what they signed-up to do - follow orders. With that said, I have had a problem with our US foreign policy for quite some time, regardless of the administration, regardless of the situation or location. For the record, along with every male in my family since WWII, I was a "troop" (USMC), having been on the wrong end of rifles, RPGs, and a few machetes. Semper Fi.

Far too often we have sent our young men (and of late, women) half-way around the world to "defend democracy" or "fight for our freedoms back home," and, frankly, that is just complete rubbish. That is a sales pitch to engender support from "the folks." Indeed, it would be a lot more difficult to "sell" such actions abroad to the American people if the "real" reasons were told; hell, in many cases it would have been strategically foolhardy to do so. Iraq and Afghanistan are perfect examples. Do you really think our government gives two shits about democracy in either of those places? Believe what you want, but the answer is "no." WE backed Saddam in his war against Iran, knowing full well how he came to power (hint: it was not through anything that resembles the democratic process) and the kind of leader he was. WE backed the mujahadeen/mujahideen in Afghanistan, led in no small part by Osama Bin Laden, in their war against the Soviets. And the argument is valid that the Machiavellian principle of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" applied in dealing with what was known or believed at the time to be a greater threat in both cases. Look at a map of the region, and you will see that both Iraq and Afghanistan are strategically situated for a variety of purposes. In an attempt to secure "friendly" regimes (and I use that term loosely) in both places one can conjure several scenarios, but I submit with a good deal of certainty that concern for the plight of the people in the face of tyranny and oppression is not one of them.

One could argue that the long range goals of politicians and their lap dog barracks-grade officers at the Pentagon would have positive residual effects for the welfare of the people and the security of the US, but the field-grade officers and their NCOs know that those long range plans seldom (if ever) go as planned given that short-term plans on the battlefield more often than not go awry as soon as the boots hit the ground. Just ask US Army General (Ret.) Hal Moore, Korean War veteran and innaugural commander (Colonel at the time) of the then-newly-formed Army Air Cav, how he felt before and after the initial battle at Ia Drang in Vietnam (the first "official" battle in which LBJ revealed full US commitment there). You would have gotten the same answer from the late, legendary USMC Gen. "Chesty" Puller, Patton, and even that psychotic loser, Custer (who learned the hard way): Plans are nothing; planning is everything; and when all that fails, those who can adapt best by drawing from historical precedent and instinct to the fluid nature of combat will prevail. Which brings us to the central theme of the argument.

Why do we who value and hold dear our freedom and liberty feel as we do? Because we know it did not come easily. It was not given to us. It was earned, fought and paid for with blood and countless lives of our forebearers. I am speaking specifically about our Revolution and the birth of our Nation, but we cannot forget the massive loss of life our nation endured during the War Between the States, better known as the Civil War (or, as some still call it, the War of Northern Aggression). To a lesser extent in terms of defense of our liberty (not in terms of sacrifice and loss of life and blood) WWI comes into play (although our security was not really at risk), as does WWII, the last war fought in defense of our liberty. Let me stress again that the sacrifice of those who fought in Korea and Vietnam was no less noble or honorable than any of those who came before or since; only that, through no fault of their own, what they fought and died for had nothing to do with preserving our liberty. The point here is that we have paid for our liberty with countless sacrifice.

Why, then, should we believe that we can "give" freedom, liberty, or democracy to those who have not or are not willing to fight and die for it themselves? Can anybody point to a case in history where that has been successful in the long term?

WARNING: Harsh language to follow.

I hope that I am wrong, but I don't give Iraq very long. "Yay, Saddam is gone!" "Woo-Hoo! The dictator is dead!" - Big fucking deal; there will be ten others lining up to take his place, starting with that fuck Muqtada al Sadr. And there are dozens more around the world. Fuck them all. And this is where I get very upset. I see these guys (and women too) all blown to shit, as I recently watched on this special, "Home from Iraq", hosted by James Gandolfini. It wasn't skewed, biased, or anything else. These men and women spoke openly, not complaining, and Gandolfini listened, offering very little input, except for hugs and handshakes after each interview. I cried, watching these folks with no arms, no legs, faces blown apart, one with a plate in his fucking head, reduced to speaking like a child. You know why I cried, clenching my fists, unable to speak to my wife or face my step-children for the rest of the night? Because I know that these men and women (yeah, one woman was in a convoy and took an RPG right through the shoulder) suffered the unthinkable terrors of war for nothing. It's a long bow to draw to say that they suffer and the other 4,000 some-odd have died defending our freedom and security. Bullshit. That's for the cheerleaders at Fox and other chickenhawks to spew. And the only other ones who piss me off more than them are the America haters at CNN, MSNBC, NYT, LA Times, WaPo, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the UN, and the various foreign media and government officials (not to mention our own lefties and America haters in Congress) who bemoan the deaths of Iraqi civilians and paint our guys and gals as baby killers and torturers.

I don't want to see another one of our folks blown to shit, regardless of how proud they are, unless it's in DIRECT defense of our liberty and our nation, not some half-assed, concocted justification or after-the-fact rationalization that soothsayers use to make us feel better.

You really want to help the Iraqis and now, perhaps, the Iranians? Pick a side, and give them weapons to fight for their own freedom. Oh, wait, that's just what got us into this mess in the first place. Leaving them alone isn't the answer, either. That's what the past 30 years have gotten us to now. No, the only options I see as viable are to either blow them all to hell, or selectively assassinate key personnel and destroy hideouts using Special Ops. I just know that massive use of military force to "win hearts and minds" has been tried before, and each time it has failed.

Good luck to the Iraqis. They'll need it.

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