Going Solar – Part 3

Another step – today the engineer came out and did the site drawings for the 3.1Kw solar system we’re leasing for $76/month from Solar City.

He spent about an hour measuring and photographing (I should have taken pictures of him), and I signed off and approved the placement, and we’ll have drawings for the permit in about two weeks.

Counting down…

Syrian General Killed By Maritime Sniper

Over at Abu Muqawama, Charlie posts a information bleg from Andy Exum, abu muqawama himself:

Charlie got this email this morning:

Uh, Abu Muqawama wants to send out an RFI to the readership of, uh, AbuMuqawama.

Can one of you link to these two stories about this assassinated Syrian general — who was allegedly shot from a boat, in the sea — and ask the readership whether or not shooting someone with a sniper rifle from a f*cking boat (which is, presumably, rocking and unsteady) is or is not the hardest thing in the world. I mean, how feasible is this?

AM (from Beirut)

Here’s the Washington Post story:

A Syrian general shot to death at a beach resort over the weekend was a top overseer of his country’s weapons shipments to Hezbollah, according to opposition Web sites and Arab and Israeli news media.

The Free Syria Web site of Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president now living in exile, said a sniper on a yacht shot Suleiman. The Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said he was struck by four bullets fired from the direction of the sea.

So I turned to my handy panel of experts – members of a private listserv on shooting that I belong to. The members are often military or police, and are far more knowledgeable about shooting and shooting history than I am or than the average mall ninja you’d meet in a gun store or online.

Here’s a spectrum of the replies:

It’s certainly possible – perhaps even easy. Don’t forget that shooting from a small craft is only a problem in an unsteady sea. Anchored off the coast (probably no more than 50-100 yards from the beach or harbor), in a yacht (rather larger than a dinghy or rowing-boat, with a keel, which helps stability), and in a calm sea (and the Mediterranean can be a millpond at times, particularly in the early morning), such a shot would be no problem at all for a competent marksman – and Mossad probably has some of the most “competent marksmen” in the world!

There are also stabilized weapon mounts available for use from small craft. I know Israel has them on larger weapons on its patrol craft, and it wouldn’t take a genius to miniaturize such a mount for use with a sniper rifle. Israel produces some of the world’s best equipment in this line, after all. However, I don’t think such a mount would have been necessary in a calm sea.

and

If you look up what little information is available on army sniper Adelbert “Bert” Waldron, you’ll find a passage in Gen. Julian Ewell’s on-line book claiming that, with a single shot, Waldron shot a VC sniper out of a tree at 900 meters from a Riverine boat. I remain dubious, but I suppose all kinds of things happen in this crazy world.

and

Simple, you shoot on the up-roll. ;)

and

I did a lot of patrols on rivers in RVN, and they are usually flat calm. I
can see enough stability to make a precision shot. I would need more details
to pontificate further…

and then the skeptics

Hey, they did it in Shooter and Spartan. So it must be possible, right?

and

I say no, and I saw Spartan as well.

You can do lot’s of things in the movies, like fly wearing just a cape. Shooting from a boat, unless your victim is also in your boat or you’re using the Big Mo’s 16 inch guns, can’t be done.

Or I could be wrong.

So overall, a bunch of highly experienced and trained shooters do think it’s possible. Over to you, Andrew…

Just pre-ordered Bing West’s new book “The Strongest Tribe” over at Amazon.The insidpensible Small Wars Journal has a conversation with West here’s a sample:

You say General Petraeus didn’t turn the war around. (p 364) The war turned because the Sunni tribes came over to the American side before Petraeus arrived. Petraeus, a fine general, reinforced that success. But did not create it. The war was won from the bottom up due to the tenacity of our soldiers. It’s a dangerous delusion to believe any general can bring quick success. That belief allows the rest of us to feel we don’t have to commit or sacrifice in wartime. It’s up to the generals. That lets us off the hook, so we can vote for a war, and then disown it.

We’re doing well now. So why not pull out, as Senator Obama has proposed? We should pull out most of our forces. General Petraeus has earned our trust. He is best qualified to determine the rate of withdrawal. A fixed timetable is militarily rash. A fixed timetable doesn’t mean Iraq will fall apart. A timetable does tell al Qaeda when we are leaving – and from where. Al Qaeda will concentrate on the weak areas. The weaker Iraqi battalions will pull back, conceding sanctuaries. Al Qaeda, now on the ropes, will not be finished off. We must avoid saying we are leaving because the Iraqis have not done enough. That makes us look like quitters. If you quit, people treat you as a loser. Al Qaeda will be encouraged and the war in Afghanistan will be harder to fight.

…read the whole thing, and order the book.

The 2008 Election, Encapsulated In One Day

So yesterday TG and I went and had dim sum (Empress Pavilion, crowded and excellent as usual) with a colleague and his wife, and then went to a Democratic fundraiser in the afternoon.

And somehow the experience completely summarized the state of the election for me.

My colleague is a young technology worker who drives a Prius and lives in Eagle Rock (the place where the hip people priced out of Silverlake move – which was in turn the place where the hip people who were priced out of Los Feliz moved). Over the holidays, we talked politics and he was a rabid Obama supporter. Today, not so much. He’ll vote for him, but it’s very tepid support. Why? Well, three things were mentioned: 1) Obama seems to only hold positions of convenience; 2) Obama seems to be a little more full of himself than his real accomplishments warrant; and 3) my friend no longer seems to be certain of exactly who Obama is.

Would he vote for McCain? No – and partly for the same reasons I wouldn’t. We need to shake the carpet in Washington, and changing parties seems like a good way to do things. What, exactly, does McCain stand for except the war (where my friend and I disagree on our views of his stance)? Seriously – neither of us could articulate a clear vision of what McCain believes other than no taxes and fighting Islamic radicals. McCain’s energy policy is as much a muddle as Obama’s (pandering with his gas tax holiday). Will he be crushed if McCain wins? No – just as I won’t be.

Could Obama lose his vote? Possibly – possibly easier than he could lose mine. And that’s not good.

What my friend is looking for is some clear foundation under Obama’s positions, other than “elect me”. What I’m looking for is some narrative arc from the master speechmaker that will tie his dazzling constellation of positions into one coherent view of who Obama was and who he has become and why. We’d both like to see the townhall debates that Obama is blowing off happen – because we both believe enough in Obama to think that by revealing more of himself, he’ll win over doubtful voters like my friend.

So – if any Obama speechwriters happen to be reading this – your work is cut out for you.

We headed off home to change and then up to a mansion overlooking the Pacific not too far from our much more modest home. Valets took our car, we were served fresh lemonade and excellent wine on a terrace overlooking the sea, and nibbled on good cheese and fruit while we mingled with the crowd and chatted. I ran into an old dear friend from my Venice days, who I was kind of surprised to see here – she’s a conservative Republican who supports this one candidate – and we chatted and caught up. While we did two friends of hers joined our circle – a prosperously-dressed couple in their early 60’s. He apparently owns an art gallery in West LA and his wife is involved in real estate – pretty archetypical for high-end California Democrats.

We chatted a little bit about the elections, and I mentioned our breakfast that morning and expressed concern that the election was going to be damn close, and that Obama could easily lose. Gallery Guy commented that the only way Obama might lose is because of the stupidity of the typical working class voter.

Years ago, I might have laughed that off, or told a joke about Swing Vote, or ignored it.

Not so much any more. I replied that he was wrong as a matter of fact and morality, that his position was dangerous to the Democratic Party, and that it was personally offensive to hear him belittle people who couldn’t afford houses like the one we were standing in. A quick discussion ensued, and he was pretty pissed off by the end of it and stormed away – glaring at me from time to time for the balance of the event.

It’s funny how irascible pacifists seem to be, isn’t it?

I’m stocking up on popcorn. It’s going to wild for the next three months.

Swing Vote

Just had a delightful evening. (Yes, the BBQ at Phillip’s is the best in town, in case you were wondering. We went to the new one on Adams and Crenshaw where they kind of sort of have seats in the parking lot.)

We went and saw Swing Vote in a half-empty theater in Culver City.

I’m going to make it my mission to start filling those seats, because I thought it was one of the most delightful and important movies I’ve seen this year. Yes, I saw and loved Batman and Wall-E – and The Band’s Visit.

But I think this movie was made for me, the guy who loves America because a nation full of Bud Johnsons gets to pick the President. And who believes that given the opportunity, most people will do the right thing – as both Presidential candidates, Bud, and a host of other characters in the movie finally do.

Yes, it’s Capra-esque and that’s a mine that has been well worked since the master laid down his tools. And no, it isn’t incisive or brilliantly sharp. But you know, when the form works, it works. And this movie works and sells you on the possibility of goodness. I’m kind of tired of movies that revel in denying goodness and work to crush it wherever it might be found. The movie is a valentine to the America we all can – and should – love, and no one ought to reject a Valentine.

More later…