Do arms suppliers have a moral compass?

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40 murdered children in Yemen.  The Saudi logic behind the attack was that the Houthi rebels were training these kids as soldiers. A far-fetched claim. Yet where has the condemnation of Saudi’s role on the UN Human Rights Council been? Countless civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi military are nothing new. Where was the outrage then? The decades long proxy war has only accelerated since the assassination of former Yemeni dictator President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017.

CNN looked to put the blame of this latest tragedy at the feet of US defence companies. Surely the Europeans are just as blameworthy for selling the Tornado or Eurofighter aircraft that likely dropped the American ordinance on these kids? Mattis has openly criticized the Saudi attack in this instance.

Arms deals are a dirty business. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Unfortunately these dangerous toys rarely come with a “please use responsibly” section inside the box of instructions. Some might argue that in certain cases users are not of the appropriate age bracket to play with them. Bribery scandals (aka incentives) are often more notable than the weapons deals themselves. Yet have there been incidences of arms suppliers turning down multi-billion dollar contracts?

If we go back in history, the Americans refused to release the source codes to the Saudis in a potential multi-billion dollar US jet fighter sale that would have allowed certain weapons (the US weren’t prepared to supply) to be fired. Even if the Saudis bought the US jets and sourced the banned weapons on the black market they wouldn’t be able to be fired.  Instead the Saudi’s bought the Panavia Tornado because the Europeans were happy to sell a similarly capable platform that the US refused to sell. UK defence contractor BAE Systems won a long term maintenance contract known as Al-Yamamah as a result of this Tornado deal. Why not bash the Brits for taking advantage of the US putting regional security ahead of arms sales in Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps we could question the moral fibre of the US refusing to sell the F-22 Raptor attack fighter to the Japanese. The Japanese top brass pleaded for the plane but US Congress refused to approve it claiming the billions required to redo all of the computer systems and source codes to ensure it had a lower capability than the USAF plane. The reality was more likely to prevent a leakage of its capability (something that had occurred when the Japanese ordered Aegis destroyers). The result was Japan didn’t get them even given its peaceful history post WW2.

Should we bash the Russians for supplying military hardware has been behind the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians? Or Ford for making the car that ran down people in Westminster?Or should we question the operators of these tools?

If we really want to get petty the Paveway Mk-82 bombs responsible for killing these kids were sold to the Saudi’s in a deal made in 2013 under the Obama administration. Was it Obama’s fault in allowing the sale? CM doesn’t believe he is but interesting that CNN left the period of sale out. Easier to attack the $110bn arms sales going forwards.

40 dead children is a tragedy. Arms deals are far from if ever holy. The instruments of death are sadly not always deploy in manners which are either moral or ethical. The Iranian backed Houthi almost sunk a French made Saudi frigate in the Red Sea at the beginning of last year. Several Emirati patrol boats have been severely damaged by the Houthi in the same area, the most recent incident occurring  last month. There are countless skirmishes along the Yemeni/Saudi border.

Unfortunately the Saudis and several other gulf states are key allies of the US in the proxy war against Iran/Russia. Do not expect a wholesale change in US arms deals with Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.

In closing perhaps people might question China’s new interest in the Middle East? Many may have missed it has deployed 5,000 troops (including special forces) in Syria since 2017. Geopolitics seldom look to protect the rights of anyone other than the home side. Don’t pretend it does otherwise.

Yet more junk journalism from The Guardian

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No wonder The Guardian is begging for charity to stay alive when it publishes such a slanted narrative which essentially charges the Swiss of profiling against Muslims for something as trivial as a handshake.  CM wrote about this over two years ago.

Swiss authorities have denied the citizenship applications of two Muslim schoolgirls who refused to swim in a pool with boys based on religious grounds. Authorities cited the students’ refusal to comply with school curricula like all the other children of various races, backgrounds, and religions. Their refusal to assimilate to and respect the very culture they wanted to take them in and give them the privilege of citizenship was proof enough that they weren’t there to better Swiss society but to force its citizens to adopt their foreign beliefs.”

Stefan Wehrle, president of the naturalisation committee said, “Whoever doesn’t fulfil these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalised.”

Yet the Swiss are no easier on white immigrants they don’t think fit the bill as a desired citizen, even if resident for four decades.

“In Switzerland, unlike in the United States and many other countries, integration into society is more important for naturalization than knowledge of national history or politics. Candidates for citizenship must prove that they are well assimilated in their communities and respect local customs and traditions.

In Switzerland, local town or village councils make initial decisions on naturalization applications. If they decide a candidate is not an upstanding member of the community, the application will be denied and not forwarded to canton (state) and federal authorities for further processing.

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That’s what happened in 2014 to Irving Dunn (pictured), an American who has lived in Switzerland for nearly 40 years. He was denied Swiss citizenship because he could not name any of his Swiss friends or neighbouring villages, authorities said. “The applicant’s answers have shown that his motive for naturalization is not about integration but about the personal advantages it offers,” the naturalization commission ruled.”

So if The Guardian wasn’t so busy painting narratives and did a bit of research on the Swiss immigration system they may win paying customers instead of pleading others to keep them afloat. Yes, the reason why you’re struggling is the quality of the journalism, not the bun fight over advertising revenue.

If only the Bledisloe Cup was 36 minutes…

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The Wallabies played a stupendous first 36 minutes in the 1st half. Great defence and solid possession. Then a try by the All Blacks set off a 6 try spree. The second half was a typical joke performance by a team that continually flakes when the cage is rattled. 7 lost line outs on our own feed and our scrum was screwed multiple times.

CM has thought for a while that coach Michael Cheika needs to go. He can’t bring 80 minutes of discipline with his players.  He has a 54% win record at the helm. With the All Blacks its 22%. Even Scotland is 50%. This is the second worst record of any Aussie coach.

Bob Dwyer – 64% win record

Alan Jones – 68%

Greg Smith – 63%

Rod Macqueen – 79%

Eddie Jones – 58%

John Connolly- 59%

Robbie Deans – 58%

Ewen Mackenzie- 50%

Time to realize he is a dud. The lack of discipline goes straight to the leadership team. There are no positives to take away when a team can only hold it together for just under half a game. It is not an issue of players or ability but discipline.

It doesn’t take away a deserved win by New Zealand but the engravers might as well get to work on the 16th straight series victory because the Wallabies are mere road kill for now.

Hey! NY Times – you need new editors

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Seriously NY Times. Just once. CM dares you. Write some balance on this debate about tracking undocumented kids? Where are these magical editors seeking to ensure “all the news that is fit to print”? Why not write the truth of “why” tracking migrant children is so hard? Everything bad doesn’t happen because of the Trump administration. CBS wrote in Feb 2016 (hint: Trump wasn’t president) the following,

Finding immigrant children with outstanding deportation orders is also complicated by the fact that they often are no longer at the addresses provided to the government…We are out looking,” Homan said. “But they are hard to find. A lot of these folks who don’t show up in court, we don’t know where they’re at.”

Yes, the truth isn’t that the immigration agencies don’t keep track of the kids, their often (illegal) immigrant families don’t want ICE to know where they are to prevent their own deportation so move around making them hard to track.

Then again if the NYT want to run the narrative that the Trump administration is a bunch of Nazis why not write that it is woefully incompetent in executing its draconian plans to systematically tag and terrorize children?

Oh, that is right the problem started in the Obama era with respect to this. Don’t let that fact distort yet another problem that needs fixing due to poorly laid out policy. Then again CNN was at it with its ideological twists only two days ago.

Or perhaps In Jan 2016 when WaPo noted, “The Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, failed to do proper background checks of adults who claimed the children…several Guatemalan teens were found in a dilapidated trailer park near Marion, Ohio, where they were being held captive in squalid conditions by traffickers and forced to work“. So slave labour to repay human traffickers? Let’s encourage more to attempt the crossing?

Yes, the system clearly needs to be changed but if you read the NYT or WaPo one would believe the entire problem has Trump’s finger prints all over it. Clearly not.

Democracy may die in darkness but stupidity is disinfected by sunlight.

Sniping a VC winner with ambush journalism

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How ridiculous could Fairfax Media be to attack and smear Benjamin Roberts-Smith VC – a decorated Victoria Cross winner – as a war criminal, a “callous, inhumane” murderer and a bully? Winning a VC is nigh on impossible without heroics which change the course of a battle with complete disregard of self preservation.

Since 1861, 3,502 Congressional Medals of Honor have been granted to US military personnel. The VC has seen 1,358 winners since 1856 to soldiers of Her Majesty. That isn’t to say a VC is twice as hard to get. It’s to say it takes someone doing pretty special deeds to win either.

Here is what Roberts-Smith won his VC for:

“For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as a Patrol Second-in-Command with the Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.

Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996. After completing the requisite courses, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, where he saw active service in East Timor. In January 2003, he successfully completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment selection course.

During his tenure with the Regiment, he deployed on Operation VALIANT, SLATE, SLIPPER, CATALYST and SLIPPER II. Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan in 2006.

On the 11th June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.

Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.

Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.

As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.

His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot district to retreat from the area.

Corporal Roberts-Smith’s most conspicuous gallantry in a circumstance of extreme peril was instrumental to the seizure of the initiative and the success of the troop against a numerically superior enemy force. His valour was an inspiration to the soldiers with whom he fought alongside and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.“

Having spent time with a veteran in recent weeks, it is clear the majority of us have never had to face live fire in war. We aren’t across the mental and physical stresses of being in battle and seeing mates killed or severely wounded. Soldiers and veterans quite rightly don’t take kindly to people they’ve put their lives on the line for  calling into question their dedication and service of country.  Even letters CM has read from WW2 veterans show the pressures they faced. Does the SMH know some 46% of people that serve in the military come out with some variant of PTSD? Why not show some dignity rather than sift through trash to besmirch a hero?

Fairfax Media taking potshots at the bravest of the brave looks daft. Is it any wonder Benjamin Roberts-Smith is fixing his legal bayonet to skewer those who tried to impugn his valor? He made a point of his fighting was to ensure freedom of the press but equally they have to be responsible for reporting accurately.

The Sydney Morning Herald just took a potato peeler to a gun fight. Having said that, the VC special forces veteran could probably force the paper into surrender with an unpainted pinky finger. Roberts-Smith would be the first to admit he killed in battle then again as General Patton once said, “you don’t win wars by dying for your country but making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his!

Media treating Aretha Franklin without R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Instead of remembering Aretha Franklin as one of the most amazing singing talents over several generations, The Daily Beast couldn’t help but use her death to take a potshot at Trump. Surely that news was as easily told during her life rather than using the opportunity of her death because the clickbait was juicier. Instead of listing the decades of amazing talent, it’s better to be grubs.

The article suggests she turned down an invite to his 2017 inauguration but happily sung for him multiple times at Trump venues over many years.

So what is the point? That Franklin was happy to make money from Trump when he was a celebrity but since she was a backer of the Hillary Clinton campaign that might have conflicted with her sense of party affiliation? Ahh, but no, the article confirms that Elton John refused to perform too! Take that you evil POTUS!

Sadly, even in the deep sorrow of Franklin’s passing, the media can’t help but use it to push a narrative of hate. Sorry, who is spreading division? How about honoring her legacy?Pretty sure her final words had zip to do with Trump.

As Aretha would have said “you better think, think, what you’re trying to do to me!

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S review

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CM testrode the latest KTM 1290 Super Adventure S (SAS) model and redicovered what a lunatic’s grin was. Having owned the KTM 1290 Superduke R (SDR) CM was aware of how addictive the shared 1301cc v-twin engine is. While the SAS does with only 160hp vs the SDR’s 180hp, the engine is still a thermonuclear device. It dominates. It’s probably a bad choice in nanny state NSW. It is truly addictive.

While a more extensive test ride is required (like the 3 day test ride of the BMW R1200GS Rallye X) to find how it is to live with from day to day some short observations here.

Engine – KTM 4.5/5

The KTM has so much grunt but gets cranky at low rpm. It will protest below 3,000rpm in higher gears. Yet the BMW is far happier to pootle around in any gear and pull away regardless of what speed. Yet when winding the throttle open, the KTM’s extra 35hp quickly shows itself.

Suspension – KTM 4.5/5

The SAS has semi-active WP suspension which has a wide range of adjustment. The BMW’s self leveling suspension set up seems simpler (dialing in height and firmness) than the SAS which requires individual selection of each load. The BMW telelever front end behaves differently to the traditional telescopic forks but the feedback on the KTM is superior. Part of that is down to the lighter weight of the Austrian.

Brakes – 5/5

The brakes have plenty of bite, feel and the rear has good modulation. Fork dive is noticeable under heavy application but half of that is due to the fact the BMW won’t dive due to the telelever set up

Gearbox – 5/5

The quick shifter is far slicker than the BMW especially upshifts. BMW gearboxes are usually rubbish. CM blew two of them in his old K1600GT (see below) inside 4,000km.

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Ergonomics – 4/5

The KTM feels slightly firmer in the seat than the BMW but there is a power parts option including one with heating.  TFT screen is excellent. Clear and allows one’s mobile maps to synchronize to the screen and headset. The menu operation is not as good as the BMW’s mouse wheel.

The KTM offers a mobile phone compartment with a USB socket but it won’t swallow a iPhone Plus with cover on. Petty but something that will be righted soon enough. Backlit switchgear good.

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Tyres- 4/5

The Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres on the KTM are so much better than the BMW’s Michelin Anakee III although later models are shod with Bridgestone A41s.

Quality – 4/5

The tactile feel of the switchgear is better on the BMW. No question. Fit, finish and attention to detail are all better on the BMW. KTM has improved miles in this regard but the industrial design of the Beemer is better.

Overall – 4.5/5

A bit early to judge but no question that the SAS puts a smile on the rider’s face immediately. Something the BMW can’t manage. The BMW is very competent everywhere but rarely does it excite the rider. The KTM is good in some areas (quality) and amazing (engine) in others. That 1301cc engine dominates the experience in noise and performance. You buy the BMW with the head and the KTM with the heart.

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Note BMW is introducing a new R1250GS (1254cc) which will have 136hp (up 11hp) in 2019. It supposedly has variable valve timing but it is unlikely to be much more than a nice improvement on the 1170cc engine’s civility. The faithful will be pleased.