Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Gray Days

View from the Command Center

Aside from the occasional history lesson, pictures of aircraft, tanks, and warships, I (Your Humble Scribe) will, from time to time, subject you, gentle readers, to my musings on things which, for one reason or another, got stuck in my head. You might well imagine what has been going through my brain over the past few weeks.

Quarantine, "corn teen" if you will, which I won't, has been all the rage over the past cuppla weeks. After being sent off home two weeks ago yesterday, it's been a rather humdrum existence. As I have no actual task to work on at the moment, I sit between two computers, work laptop to my right, home desktop to my front. You can just see the top of the laptop screen above. I monitor comms and answer the occasional email. It's pretty exciting (NOT), I can tell you!

The weather has been gray for the most part, with a passing few hours of sunshine here and there, but not that you'd really notice. The view out my window above, is pretty much what I look at, nine hours a day (give or take) during this here exile-in-place.

We are hunkered down, we are self-isolating, we are avoiding our fellow ape lizards like they had the plague. Some of them kinda do, not judging here, just stating a fact. It's nasty in parts of the world right now, come to think of it, it's always nasty in some parts of the world. Sometimes it's the environment (live through a couple of tornadoes and you'll understand), sometimes it's self-inflicted, like if the government sucks. Many of which do, even the better ones have a kind of suckiness to them. A necessary evil I suppose as we ape lizards can't seem to get along in large groups.

The governor of Little Rhody has apparently decided that if you have New York plates on your car, the State Police will say "you ain't getting into Little Rhody." Yup, Gina's gone all Gandalf on people from a state which apparently didn't take this virus stuff seriously. (Why was I tempted to type Staatspolizei rather than State Police? 'Tis the troublemaker in me no doubt.)

I have mixed feelings about that, limitations to individual freedom and all, what's next? Border control checkpoints and "let me see your papers"? I hope not. I am aware that this is a temporary expedient but it makes the freedom-lover in me cringe just a bit.

But hey, ya gotta keep the zombies out, amiright?

That being said, the youngest of the progeny, that would be The WSO, aka LUSH has decreed that Your Humble Scribe and The Missus Herself are to remain confined to quarters for the foreseeable future. As we are, apparently, old farts, the kids are concerned for our health and safety. She's even arranged to have groceries delivered to our front door (sic) so's to lessen the possibility of contamination by going to the store ourselves.

Well, whatever makes her happy. First delivery was today and honestly, I could get used to this pampered, though constrained, existence. I do feel rather like a zoo animal though. (And The Missus Herself has indeed requested that I stop pacing back and forth on the deck glaring at the passersby.)

Just to keep you informed, we're not really in quarantine as -
It’s only Quarantine if it’s in the Quarante province of France. Otherwise it's just Sparkling Isolation.

Now for a nice aircraft video which I swiped from Joe over at Koobecaf -

Love those Grumman cats.

Speaking of cats, one of the feline staff demanded a check of the downstairs bathroom sink -

When's the last time you cleaned this, Hoo-man?

Apparently she found the sink "acceptable."

Another day in paradise...

April showers bring May flowers. Apparently we've had a jump start on both.

Adieu mars, we hardly knew ye.

Be well my friends.

Yes, I know I need a new shade in the Command Center. Low priority right now dontcha know?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well...It's been a busy week.

Sarge posted another Friday Flyby, (first one in quite a while but we'll take what we can get) and gets 118 comments at last count.  Well done!  Hint...Hint...

Back in my little neck of the woods, my friend the wood pile burner is doing much better.  Had to have some minor skin grafting done on his abdomen and hand, but it was done in an out-patient manner and completed in less than an hour.  Dad says he's doing fine and should only have some minor scarring.  So, that's good news.

On the home front...

Last week, I left you with this.

The framing supplies had been delivered and the framing crew had shown up and started sorting them out.

Tuesday morning their arrival at the site is bright and early, meaning they woke me up.  (Yes, Beans, I no longer get up at 0600 or earlier, one of the bright sides to retirement.)  By the time I get up, get dressed and get my mandatory cup of coffee and wander out to see what's what, I am presented with this picture.

By lunch time, the picture is like this.

And by COB (about 1900).

We walked through it and could now get a pretty good feel for the layout. Unfortunately, we also found our first "uh-oh".

Not having ever worked in the construction industry, I'm no expert, but given that the above view is looking at the hallway through the door from the master bedroom, I think having the bathroom stand pipes there might be an error.

So, we called the foreman.  He said he'd noted that and had ordered the fix to be made.  They will chip out the foundation and move both to the other side of the wall to the left,  otherwise known as the master bathroom.

Ok, feces occurs.  He was honest about the mistake and had a plan to rectify it.  We will be keeping an eye on that though.

Wednesday dawns and we're awoken to the sounds of construction.  Walking out to feed the horses their morning sit down buffet, we're treated to this view.

A little after lunch as I'm headed to my woodshop, I see verticality in the project.

Even more so by the end of the day.

Thursday and Friday, they were no shows, so I'm a little concerned, but Saturday they're back out in full force.

By the end of the day, the project looked like this.

Dang!  That's starting to look like....a home!

So, after Mrs J and I walked up to serve the horses their evening feast, we decided another walk through was in order.  Being the on the ball, forward thinking, plan for anything kind of guy I am, I had brought along a tape measure and my notebook of furniture dimensions so we could get a feel for fit.  (Yes, Beans, Mrs J reminded me to bring them.)

The view from the front door, looking through the living room to the back patio.  Floor to ceiling windows above and to either side of the door.  The kitchen is to the left with the dining room to the left of the patio.  Again large windows there.

Guest house over her shoulder

Mrs J in the entry way with the opening to her office behind and to her left.  She'll be able to surveil the whole of Rancho Juvat.
Yes, she got first dibs.  My "office" will be a spare bedroom.  But, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

My "office", able to surveil the horse barn

Hallway to the master bedroom with floor to ceiling windows there also. Note aforementioned stand pipe in right foreground.

 From the door to the master bedroom.  Bed will go on the wall to the right.

View from Sarge's (and other guests) bedroom.

View from the exit of the master suite across the living room into the kitchen.

View from the kitchen towards the fireplace.  Hallway to the master suite is just to the right of the right brace.

What I liked was the high tech method used to keep track of all the angles and lengths.  I think I can learn a thing or two from them.

Here's hoping the project continues at a similar pace.  We might even be moved in by Christmas.

But I'm not holding my breath.

So Saturday evening, Mrs J invites me to sit with her on the front porch for a glass of wine.  I accept and walk into one of the biggest air to air engagements of modern time.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Got Him!

German pilot jumps from a Focke Wulf Fw-190
(Screen capture)
Tom in NC asked this question the other day:
Are there any relatively accurate accounts of how many enemy fighters were shot down by our bombers?
The short answer is "No."

Tom provided a link to Quora in which the question was asked:
Did the gunners aboard B-17 bombers in WWII manage to shoot down enemy fighters?
Short answer there is, of course, "Yes."

With hundreds of gunners in a formation firing thousands of rounds at the German fighters attacking, there were bound to be German aircraft lost to the bomber gunners. Whether or not gunners could provide enough accurate information for a debriefer to give a gunner, or even the entire crew, a credit for an aerial victory is another thing altogether.

It's bitter cold, there's a lot going on, it's noisy. You're at your gun position hammering away at someone in another airplane who is doing his best to kill you. Not you personally but the aircraft you're in, along with nine of your mates. There's a lot of adrenaline involved and these are, for the most part, young men, some still in their teens. While the following clip is from a movie (Memphis Belle) the scene is pretty accurate for the speed at which the German aircraft pass through the formation -

For comparison, here's the real deal -

It was nearly impossible to verify if an individual gunner actually shot down an enemy aircraft, even if the target he is shooting at, while he's shooting at it, actually blows up, or immediately bursts into flame, there is no guarantee. After all, there are a lot of other gunners shooting at those guys.

Something I've often wondered about, with all of those bombers in formation, I wonder how many times the gunners from one bomber hit one of their own guys, not their own plane but another aircraft in the formation. Wouldn't surprise me if that happened more often than not!

Statistically, B-17 crews claimed twenty-three enemy fighters shot down per thousand sorties (a sortie is one mission flown by own aircraft). B-24 crews only claimed 11. Note that a claim is not the same as an actual aerial kill. For instance, in that Quora question linked above:
In the infamous “Black Thursday” raid of 14 October 1943, B-17 gunners claimed 288 German fighter aircraft kills whereas in actuality about 40 were shot down.
In the last video, the only sure claim is one in which your gun camera shows the enemy pilot jumping from the aircraft, the aircraft blows up, or the aircraft impacts the ground. Then it still might not be that pilot's kill alone. What if the same sequence shows up on another gun camera in your squadron? Or another squadron at a different base? You could have two "verified" kills of the same aircraft.

War is confusing, it happens very quickly in the air, and you can never quite be sure whether or not you "Got him!"

Recommended Reading:

  • Confirmation and Overclaiming Link
  • Luftwaffe Aerial Victory Claims Link
  • World War II Aerial Victory Credits (USAF) Link
  • Eighth Air Force Combat Losses Link

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Turning the World Off...

Let's go flying...
(Screenshot from the following video)

There are times lately when I just want to walk away from the world. It seems big and nasty and full of assholes. (I know, I'm one of them at times.) When I saw this video over at c w's and Peter Grant's as well, I had to stop and take a deep breath. I started to weep because the footage was just so damned beautiful. Tears of joy dontcha know...

For once the music didn't distract from the video. Often it does.

I went to the home channel of Chasse Embarquée, they also have a Facebook page, after seeing the aforementioned video. Where I watched some more (there are links below). I spent rather a lot of time over there. I chose the one above, as it fit my mood.

Headphones on...

World off...

The way things have been lately, I truly needed that. There is something about being aloft, whether in person or virtually, that just washes the cares of the world away. Go watch more, forget about the world for a while. You need that.


Vive les Pilotes de Chasse Marine Nationale!

A Rafale Marine assigned to squadron “17F” of the French navy lands on the flight deck of
aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Zachary P. Wickline)

More pictures here.
More videos here. There's even a cockpit 360 which is pretty good, here.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Friday Flyby - Bombing Germany

B-17F formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, 17 August 1943
His name was Ed Solomon, I worked with him, and a number of other World War II veterans, back between high school and the Air Force. Ed had been a waist gunner on a B-17 and had survived the Schweinfurt raid depicted above. Ed didn't remember any German fighters, all he really remembered thirty-odd years after the event, was the amount of flak over the target. When they returned to England -
"I'm not kidding Chris, after we landed and parked the aircraft, we all got out and kissed the ground. I was never so happy to have a mission behind us as I was that day."
What exactly is "flak" some of you may be asking (and it has nothing to do with the crap your boss gives you at work, though it is used that way). Flak is an acronym for the German word, and I hope you're sitting down juvat, for anti-aircraft cannon, Flugabwehrkanone. In other words, anti-aircraft artillery, or AAA as we modern types call it. This stuff -

All those black "puffs" are exploding shells.
This was most commonly fired into the air by this -

8.8 cm Flak 36
And sometimes, this -

12.8 cm Flak mounted on a Flak tower
There were other anti-aircraft guns for lower level, all of smaller caliber firing much more rapidly against fast moving low level aircraft. But for bombers at altitude, the 8.8 cm and 12.8 cm Flak were the most useful.

Of course, there were these chaps as well -

Fw 190 A-3
There were other German fighter aircraft up there, some of them twin-engined, but all of them flown by men whose sole goal was to defend the Reich by shooting down bombers, as many as they could.

Of course the mighty B-17 Flying Fortress wasn't the only daylight bomber employed by the U.S. Army Air Force, there was also the B-24 Liberator -

B-24 Liberators assigned to the 446th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force
The American approach was to bomb during the day, using precision bombing techniques, in order to destroy certain elements of the German war industry. Manufacturing plants were a main target, especially those producing ball bearings, and other war material. Over time they came to realize that in order to invade Europe, they needed air superiority. So the Luftwaffe needed to be crippled, if not destroyed outright.

The British had other ideas, they felt that daylight bombing would be too costly and wouldn't have enough of an effect on the Germans, both materially and morale-wise. So they would bomb at night and they would drop their bombs on wide areas of German cities. Their mainstays in RAF Bomber Command were the Lancaster and the Halifax -

Three 44 Squadron Avro Lancaster B.Is in 1942
Handley Page Halifax B.III

The Americans depended on the firepower of their bombers flying in tight formations, defended by multiple .50 caliber machine guns located throughout the aircraft. The British, on the other hand, as they were flying at night, sent their bombers to their targets in a stream of aircraft. This was intended to prevent mid-air collisions, though this still occurred.

It's worth noting that the number of defensive machine guns aboard the B-17s and B-24s had an effect on the amount of bombs those aircraft could carry. While a B-17 could carry a bit over two tons of bombs on long range missions (the B-24 could carry a bit more), the Lancaster could carry as many as seven tons of bombs! (The Halifax slightly less.)

While the British still had flak to deal with, the fighter attacks weren't as intense as those which the Americans experienced. But they were, perhaps, rather a bit more terrifying as they could not see the German night fighters coming after them. Most of which were equipped with radar and were ground controlled to the intercept by an extensive support organization, equipped with very sophisticated radars.

Some of the enemy night fighter opposition -

Junkers Ju-88
Messerschmitt Me-110
Heinkel He-219
Note the antler-like protuberances on the nose of those aircraft, those are the radar antennae. Yes, they weren't a boon to the pilot who had to deal with the weight and the drag of those things. But they helped him find his target!

The British were right about the heavy losses suffered in daylight raids, not even the formidable armament of the B-17s and B-24s deterred the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, bomber losses mounted until this bird came along -

North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang #44-13926 from the 375th Fighter Squadron.

Once the Fortresses and Liberators could be escorted all the way to their targets by the P-51, the Luftwaffe was doomed. They had to come up to defend their homeland, and they lost heavily. The effectiveness of the bombing campaign can perhaps be measured by the fact that during the morning of 6 June 1944, as the Allies were coming ashore, hundreds of friendly aircraft were overhead.

Two, count them, two Luftwaffe fighters were up over the beaches that morning and had precisely no effect on the landings. Not only had air superiority been achieved, the Allies had achieved air supremacy.

Right now I'm reading Big Week by James Holland, a very good book on the bombing campaign in Word War II. I can't imagine what those crews went through, both during the day and at night. Harrowing to say the least.

One of the very best fictional accounts I have ever read of the RAF's night bombing campaign is Bomber by Len Deighton. I can't recommend this one enough. Well written, you feel as if you're in the aircraft yourself. The bomber and the night fighter. (Yes, I provided Amazon links for both books, no, I don't own stock in Amazon. No, I don't wish I did. I don't do the stock market, don't believe in gambling of any form.)

One thing this enforced period of hunkering down at the manse has given me is that I have been finding time to read again. That has been rare over the past year or so. So I have been doing just that, I need to refresh my memories of those who went before. Brave men, on both sides.

I really need to read up on the bombing campaign against Japan. My knowledge there is extremely lacking!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Twenty-Two Years Later...

Destroyed PzKfw IV
So the opening photo, a juvat favorite, a tank which someone has blown to pieces. No doubt you're wondering where that photo was taken, and when. Unless you peeked at the source, you might think that the photo may be from Italy, during the horrible slog up the Italian peninsula from 1943 to 1945. (Because of the mountains in the background, I'd think Italy.)

But the Germans did do some mountain fighting in the Soviet Union during that mammoth slugfest from 1941 to 1945. Their advance to the Caucasus springs to mind. So that might possibly be a picture from southern Russia, neh?

But it isn't.

A little background before I get any further along - whilst hunkering down at Chez Sarge during this virus-thing, I've been standing by my work laptop, awaiting the call to action. (Which I don't think is coming anytime soon, I hope I'm wrong.) During this period, while reading the occasional email from work, I've been up on my home computer (which is conveniently next to the laptop table). I've been doing many things to keep from going batshit crazy. (Yes, I see what I did there.)

A friend of mine has written a book, a very good book I might add, and asked me to review it, make suggestions, comments, what have you, which I've been doing. (As you might gather, it's an unpublished work, I hope he gets it published, I'd actually buy a copy, even though I already have the draft, it's that good.) But I can't spend the entire day reading. So I watch videos, music and tank videos. (No Stefan, not those tank videos.) Okay, the occasional History Guy video as well.

Some of my favorite videos are done by this fellow -

Nicholas Moran (left) and Z (right).
Also known as the Chieftain for his series of tank videos Inside the Chieftain's Hatch (said channel being here at World of Tanks North America). I met the good Major at the American Heritage Museum in Hudson, Massachusetts, a place I told you about here.

For those of you who don't know it, Major Moran works for Wargaming.net as an advisor for their World of Tanks online gaming empire. As he's a currently serving armor officer in the Nevada Army National Guard, he's the right man for the job.

Anyhoo, before I drone on much further, at the end of his series on the Jagdpanzer IV, he made mention of that online game and again stressed the fact that it was free to try out. Which indeed it is. How do I know? Well, I signed up Tuesday evening and spent quite a bit of time over there learning the ropes. I haven't gone head-to-head with my fellow humans just yet, I will be doing that soon.

Is it fun and awesome? You betcha. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it.

All that being the preface of what seems to be turning into a somewhat lengthy tale, I was watching another Inside the Chieftain's Hatch series on the Panzerkampfwagen (PzKfw) IV, an example of which lies destroyed in that opening photo, when he mentioned something which made me sit up and say "Huh?" At the end of the third and final episode, Major Moran mentioned that the last PzKfw IV destroyed in battle was of a tank operated by the Syrian Army in the Golan Heights, in June of 1967.

Yup, twenty-two years after the Nazis surrendered.

Of even more interest was the fact that that former German tank had been knocked out by an Israeli Sherman. While I did remember at the time (yes, I was alive, I was fourteen) that the Syrians had a number of former German armored vehicles in their army and that the Israelis had a number of American Shermans in their army (modified to their own excellent standards), I never put two and two together and wondered if the two had met in battle.

Well, they had.

Which was, to me anyway, a very interesting story.

A note on the video, something which a lot of folks do is use the phrase "German panzer tanks." While technically it's not as bad as saying "ATM machine" or "hot water heater," it's close. The generic German word for a tank is "Panzer," which literally means "armor," so saying "panzer tank" could be excused as meaning "armored tank," it still kind of grates, even to this rusty old, non-native semi-German speaker.

Aber ich schweife ab...

No, that's it I think, I've got to get this to the publisher and hire a new editor after Angus McThag noticed in yesterday's post that I had captioned a photo of the Wiesel with it being next to a "real tank," a vehicle which is most emphatically not a tank, real or otherwise. In actuality it's a self-propelled artillery vehicle, armored yes, a tank no. Does it look like a tank a little when viewed by someone focusing on the vehicle in the foreground? Yes, it does. Should I have looked more closely at the photo before captioning it? Yes, I should have. Here's the vehicle in question -

German soldiers with 4th Battery, 131st Artillery Battalion carry out a fire mission with a PzH 2000

FWIW, the PzH in that designation stands for Panzerhaubitze, literally "armored howitzer." I know you wanted to know. I mean you come here for the pictures and stay for the German, right? (Well, except for maybe Paweł, I know how the Poles feel about the Niemcy.) Also, as a final note, that PzH 2000 is actually bigger than a tank.

Further reading:
  • Last Sherman vs Panzer Battle
  • The Last Battle
  • Panzers in the Golan Heights
  • How Israel Won Many Wars With Outdated World War II Sherman Tanks
  • More photos of that wrecked PzKfw IV (Really those are more for juvat...)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Was ist das?


Das ist ein Wiesel.

For those of you who spreche kein deutsch, that, meine Damen und Herren, is a "Weasel." I know, I know, it doesn't look like a politician, nor is it. (Quite frankly I am tired of comparing politicians to certain animal species, weasels are very useful critters, as are hyenas, jackasses, vultures, and sea slugs. Comparing politicians to animals insults the animal. Just wanted to put that out there.)

Anyhoo. Why this little squirt of an armored vehicle? Seriously, what was the Bundeswehr1 thinking? This little tankette-looking2 crate would get chewed up by the first real tank it ran into!

They were thinking the same thing every other nation who has ever deployed light infantry transported by either helicopter (airmobile) or dropped out of an aircraft with parachutes (airborne). While airmobile/airborne troops are delightful for performing a vertical envelopment of an enemy force and can badly surprise the enemy's rear area, once the enemy gets their act together, if they do, those light infantry chaps are surrounded, behind enemy lines, and have stirred up a hornet's nest. (Ever seen the movie A Bridge Too Far, or are familiar with Operation Market Garden?) It probably won't end well for them.

So every now and then some boffin will sit down and say, "Hey, what if we could design a small armored vehicle which can fly in with the airmobile or be dropped with the paras? It would give the chaps something to fight off random armored vehicles until they are relieved."

Well, okay, not a bad idea. However, executing that concept is a lot harder. They did try dropping the Wiesel out of an aircraft using parachutes, after they destroyed four of them, they gave it up as a bad idea. Apparently though a CH-53 can carry two of them at a time. So the airmobile idea is still a go.

Thing is, it's a tiny vehicle, it would be hard to spot if one is trundling about in a regular tank or even a reasonably size scout car or armored personnel carrier. I mean there are lots of paras running about taking pot shots at the commanders of those vehicles so they would probably stay buttoned up (hatches closed) if they wanted to survive the war. That gives the Wiesel an advantage.

Thing is though, the original was only armed with a 20 mm auto-cannon. Sounds gnarly but it's pretty much a useless weapon against anything with "reasonable" armor, which I define as being able to stop, well, 20 mm auto-cannon fire. (Which the Wiesel is not.) In fact, this vehicle from early in WWII was probably a lot more effective than the Wiesel -

German PzKpfw II Ausf. C at the Musée des Blindés
Of course, you couldn't drop that PzKpfw II from an aircraft, heck, it wouldn't fit on the aircraft of the period. Still and all, a useful vehicle until it ran into a real tank. (What's a real tank? Well, that depends...)

I'm sure the paratroopers/airmobile guys would like the idea of having something like the Wiesel running around with them in the enemy's backcountry.  Thing is, that 20 mm cannon isn't that useful. Later versions were equipped with TOW3 missiles, which made them more useful, but not as useful as the man-portable anti-tank missile systems that were being fielded by a number of armies. Now the paras could carry a bit more punch with them, no need for the Wiesel.

To give you an idea of the size of this wee beastie -

Wiesel 1 equipped with the TOW missile system
Wiesel 1 next to a real tank self-propelled armored howitzer*
Useful? Probably not in a real war scenario (peer opponent, i.e. someone who can fight back), in a guerrilla war, civil unrest? Might be useful, but then again, you wouldn't necessarily need that airmobile ability in the latter case, but in a guerrilla war? Who knows. But they stopped building them in 1993. Still would be cool to own one, neh?

Suggested Reading:

Hat tip to Stefan for the idea for this post. No, no, no, you can't blame him if you thought the post sucked, the idea was sound, perhaps the execution wasn't that good. Did you just call me a weasel?

* Angus spotted the fact that the vehicle next to the Wiesel is not a tank, it's a self-propelled armored howitzer, PzH 2000. I need to look at the pictures I use much more closely I guess.
1 The Bundeswehr, (federal armed forces) are the successor to the WWII Wehrmacht and are the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. the Bundesrepublikdeutschland.2 A tankette is a tracked armoured fighting vehicle that resembles a small tank, roughly the size of a car. It is mainly intended for light infantry support and scouting. Colloquially it may also simply mean a small tank. (Source)
3 The TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) missile system is very useful against full-sized armored vehicles. There is also a man-portable version, obviating the need for the Wiesel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Guest Op-Ed re COVID-19

 “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth."  Genesis 9:12-13

Alex Kruysman, a Mayo Clinic worker in Arizona, was taking a break after screening patients for COVID-19 when a rainbow appeared. Source

I realize I'm posting twice in one week's time, but I thought this opinion piece from a friend was fitting.  I realize that on Saturday I was quite dark about the financial heartbreak that could be in store for us.  So, with almost zero sports on TV other than Ultimate Frisbee Championship on ESPN 8 The Ocho! I had nothing better to do than read more about COVID-19 and how things might be looking up.  How about that overtime pay Sarge?

Besides that opening picture, which really filled me with hope, and made me center myself on God, pray to Him, and trust Him, I read a couple positive articles and the piece below.  One was that Singapore and South Korea have done well to flatten the curve there.  As the article states, it's too late for us to use their exact methods of public notification and quarantines, nor is our political system set up to do so, Congress would argue for weeks about whether or not to even bring it up.  Privacy concerns are another factor along with our fierce independence, but things may be different next time a pandemic hits.


Some other positive points is that we're actually spending quality time with family, cleaning our houses, playing games, taking walks, etc.  My dog LOVES all the attention she's getting from my wife being home (her real-estate office is shuttered for now).  We've also got this washing our hands thing downMaybe next week we can work on using our turn signals everyone!  Social distancing is bringing us closer to those who matter.  Even if the US curve isn't flattening as fast as we may hope, I don't think we're overwhelming our medical system yet, and not everyone with the virus gets sick enough to need respirators.

Here's another article that my wife shared with me that discusses some successful* "curve flatteners."  I had to credit my wife because I can't have you thinking I read Elle Magazine!  That one inspired the search for an appropriate intro photo, because I didn't want to get Sarge in trouble by using the Getty photo.  Another positive aspect just comes from looking at the bright side of the issue- nearly 80,000 have recovered from the virus.  Our medical professionals are not given enough credit, and they are some of the true heroes of this crisis.  I would also have to say the Trump administration informing the nation has been a key factor in pushing states and cities to get Americans to hunker down.  Dr. Fauci deserves a medal for his even-keeled leadership.  While infections will still occur, the quarantines, self isolation, social distancing has to be making a difference.


Anyway, a couple caveats on this Op-Ed-  He's a little darker than me at the beginning. Also, gets a little harsher than I'd like about deaths in Iran, but I think he means that deaths among Iranian leadership may force them to pull back on their external behaviors and a foothold for more moderate leaders to take over.  He is obviously a fierce patriot and sees how this virus can help us regain our international prominence.  Anyway, get yourself a cup of coffee and have a read.

The world will never be the same. This is the ultimate black swan event. I have never witnessed anything like this in America, and it is hard to wrap your brain around what is happening with whole cities shut down. The speed at which this has happened is astonishing. We went from a booming economy that was growing well, to recession in two weeks. Who could ever have imagined this even two weeks ago. Essentially they have shut down around one-third of the economy.  The supermarket shelves here on many items are stripped clean. When I asked if they were restocking over-night I was told no because the warehouses are far short of enough drivers to keep supplies moving to cover all  the panic buying. I was having a root canal procedure on Tuesday.  My dentist told me I was lucky to have come in Tuesday as the ADA has told all dentists in the US to shut down ALL offices for two weeks. Bet you had not heard that. We are very likely near the bottom now, but it cannot be known yet.  There is no way to forecast the short run since Congress is now the key, and they are never intelligent nor quick in their response to anything. If they quickly pass the $1 trillion  package then the market will begin to recover. If they screw around  like they did with TARP, then there is much more down to go,. Just as with TARP. 

The world is entering a very dangerous place now. Populism will increase in many countries. Politics in places like Italy, France Iran, Spain and China will become less stable. Governments will be overthrown.  It is just a matter of when and how. The good news is it appears the virus is running rampant in Iran including at the highest leadership level. Thousands of Iranians will die, and as a percent of the population it will be very impactful. On top of a collapsed oil price and collapsed economy from sanctions, Iran is going to have major risks of revolution. They will have nothing left to fund their proxies, nor to pacify the populace with subsidies. Xi will possibly be gone in a few years. Putin just made himself leader for life. The next few years will be dangerous. The US will need a huge and powerful military to deal with what might come at us. Cyberwar will likely become the new battlefield, although shooting wars could happen if the world becomes destabilized. Iran is the wild card as that regime is on borrowed time. .

This is the inflection point. Globalism will be materially reduced as it is clear we must have US sources of key materials and products, especially drugs and rare earths and tech components. It is nuts that most drugs come from China and India. Suppose they just stopped supplying them. Rare earths come from China for the military and high tech products. Parts for ventilators are made in China. This will bring several industries back to the US, or maybe Mexico. Companies and production of all sorts will leave China as soon as they can. World trade is going to be reset in major ways, and China is the big loser. China will have economic setbacks of major proportions going forward between the trade war with the US and now the virus forcing a lot of manufacturing out of China.  Phase II of the trade negotiations will be very different. The whole Brexit negotiation will be changed, and the UK will be the winner. The US will be able to force the EU into much different trade terms. The EU may not survive this. The US will develop an industrial policy to require "Made in America" for critical commodities and products.

Fiscal discipline is out the window. Maybe the Treasury will refi the government debt at these low yields with 50 year bonds, which would make a tremendous difference going forward as to the debt service burden on the federal budget. Mnuchin has been pushing this. Notice how the ten year shot from .3% to well over 1%. In a week. Healthcare will be an excellent place to invest for a long time. The EU is now in really bad shape, and recovery for them may seriously raise the issue of, can the EU survive as an governing entity? Can the EU banks survive - likely not, and there needs to be consolidation, along with the major QE the ECB just announced of $800 billion. It is hard to see how Italy can ever economically recover from this. They were insolvent before the virus. Greece is toast. France was in serious trouble, and now will have a real struggle for several years. Without Mamma Merkel, there is no leadership in the EU.  Macron wants to take her place, but France is not Germany. He will not have the same level of influence she had. Do not invest in the EU.

When this is over, the US will be the only nation still strong, even with a short recession. It raises serious question as to whether China can still afford Belt and Road. There is now no way any of the countries that took Chinese loans can pay them back. Iran can no longer afford to fund its proxies. The mullahs are now on borrowed time. There is real risk to them now of a real revolution. In short, the world is in for years of instability, and the US is the only safe haven. The UK with Brexit behind it, is the only other nation that can stand on its own after this. Even Germany is now in recession and is mired in the mess in the EU. With a large poor Muslim population, and its dependence on Chinese buying its cars and machines, and the EU its biggest market, Germany has likely seen its best days. Investing anywhere but the US for the next few years is going to be filled with real risk. Inflation is dead for several years and oil prices will remain relatively low in the $50-$60  range at most once the Saudis and Russians stop their suicide war. The US oil industry is used to boom bust, and will consolidate and survive as the biggest producer in the world. Russia cannot keep up a price war. Their break-even is $54,  Oil is near half that. The Saudis also cannot afford this. The prince is pissing off a lot of powerful people and it would not be a shock to hear one day that he is out. Once again, the US is where to be in this mess.  If all this sounds upsetting, get ready for a very messy world now. Be thrilled you live in America.

Nothing in the economy or the market is predictable right now. The algos and the lack of the uptick rule has made the stock and bond markets totally irrational. The good news is the Fed is feeding huge amounts of capital into the banks, the bond and inter-bank loan markets, and commercial paper. Treasury has initiated new funding support top make sure the debt markets stay on track along with Fed funding. Treasury and the Fed are going all out this time before the crisis hits, to make sure the debt markets function smoothly with sufficient liquidity. Call it the Fed and Treasury put 2.0. They have made sure we do not have a repeat of the financial market shutting down as we did in October 2008. Liquidity for the markets is critical, no matter what the Fed has to do to maintain that. There will not be any bank bailouts as that is not needed now. Rule 13 at the Fed seems to be reinstated despite being ended by Dodd. That rule  allows the Fed to make collateralized loans to major corporations. Boeing will get a major loan so their suppliers can stay working. As happened in 2010, and after, a lot of the loans to industries will get repaid with interest in a few years. It will work and will save the economy. Congress needs to act fast and boldly, and some way needs to be found to allow companies to be subsidized for keeping staff on payroll, and for laid off workers to get enough cash for three months or so until things start to return to normal. If Congress can do that successfully without F-ing it up, (very questionable) then the economy will come roaring back in July or August when it is clear the virus did not kill very many, and almost no productive younger people.  Shutting the borders early saved us, and now the massive containment will work.  The massive communications effort by the White House task force to keep us fully informed, and to get people to stay home and away from each other was a critical step, and will turn the corner in a two to three weeks. Fauci will be the hero of this crisis. Trump is doing all the right things by enlisting the private sector so heavily. The US acted relatively fast and effectively, and closing the borders was essential. Testing will now catch up. There was no way to know to produce ventilators in time no matter what Schumer says. You don’t just buy those by the hundreds of thousands when nobody ever forecast the need.  The internet will have been seen to have made all the difference from anytime in the past. Without the ability to work effectively online, we would have a real crash. We are actually closing a construction loan at the end of March with a commercial bank where the loan officers are working from home certain days, and others in the bank in the other days. That is how a lot of companies are doing it, and it is working. Business is functioning, although at a slower pace. Most people quickly adapted. A lot was learned from 9-11 and 2008, and a lot of plans at large companies, the financial markets, and hospitals were already in place for just this sort of disruption. Treasury and the Fed know what to do. We will get through this better than at any time in history. Therapeutics will be fielded by July or August, and that will solve a big part of the issue.  The US will emerge better than most.

Keep things in perspective. Net of the nursing home there are just 95 deaths in the US over several weeks. Almost all, if not all, were people with serious health issues before. Testing is now ramped up. There are still only 5800 cases and most will recover fine. While the numbers will ramp up in the next three weeks, the massive stay apart and stay home effort should make a massive difference. Possibly in three or four weeks we will see the reduction in cases.

Schumer is a disgrace by making a highly political speech attacking Trump on the floor, just raising unnecessary fears with the public. It was disgusting.

Just stay calm and hold on. We are probably at the worst moment right now waiting for the peak cases and waiting to see if Congress can act responsibly for once. It is darkest before the dawn.  That is where we are right now. Conspiracy theories that China did this intentionally to retaliate and harm the US is utter nonsense. China has been severely damaged by this and that damage will get worse as supply chains are moved out. Xi’s rule has been materially weakened. China was a major loser from the virus. Kim says N Korea has solved the virus problem.  They very likely just shot anyone who got sick. Keep in mind Biden attacked Trump for shutting the travel from China and then from the EU. Had Trump not done that we would be in real trouble. Just imagine if Joe had been in charge right now - we would be in really big trouble.

For perspective.  When I visited Warsaw and Dresden I studied the history and was able to get perspective. Warsaw was obliterated by Russian armies. There were only 1,000 people left in the entire city. There was no food or anything.  Dresden was burned to the ground.  Today both are lovely thriving cities. I then visited Auschwitz and that horrible place. Yet the Jews survived as a people and went on to create one of the most intellectual and advanced nations on earth. Humans rise to the occasion, and the virus in nothing at all by comparison. America is rising up and will be better than ever.

So, what did you think?  Lots to digest there.  Another positive is that while I'm still working, traffic is an absolute breeze!  And have you seen gas prices?  Ok, I'm done for the week.  Time for a staycation, in my recliner.

*I don't believe that China is successful in the least unless they are just killing victims and not reporting them.