Monday, January 19, 2009

The End of the Fighter Era

A well-written argument by Lewis Page at The Register on why so many people hate the F-35. It's not that it's a great fighter, it's that it's good enough to put a lot of the competition out of business, and that it's good at doing the unglamorous things that modern militaries actually do -- mainly beating up the forces of small nations equipped with second-rate surplus Russian designs, rather than going head-to-head with large numbers of state-of-the-art aircraft.
But to be honest, to an outsider it looks as though this sector could really stand to shrink quite a lot. The militaries of the West, it appears, continue to plough far too much of their straitened funds into exotic combat jets designed for unlikely wars, and not nearly enough into bread-and-butter infantry, surveillance platforms, helicopters, transport planes and so on.

The F-35 has some of the industry worried not because it's a waste of money, but exactly the opposite -- they fear that it could become the Model T Ford of combat aircraft (available in any color you like, as long as it's grey) and wipe out the competing manufacturers.

I still believe even the F-35 is far more expensive than what we need today. A second production run of A-10s would do a lot more good for today's military actions than any new fighter on the market.

Walking While Brown

Yesterday Zach had an encounter with the Santa Clara Police Department. While walking around looking for a nearby park, he stopped and asked an older woman for directions. A few minutes later an SCPD police cruiser rolls up on him and he is stopped and questioned for a while and then released.

A few details may make this a bit more clear:
  • It was broad daylight -- around 4PM
  • The woman was white
  • We live in a predominantly white neighborhood
  • Zach is half-Pakistani, but looks Hispanic to most observers

Joahnna called the police and complained about this, and in the ensuing discussion, it turned out the woman Zach asked for directions thought that he looked "suspicious" and called the police.

Joahnna and I are at a loss as to what to tell Zach if he wishes to avoid being periodically stopped and checked. It seems as if the bar for "suspicious" is suspiciously low.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Can't Wait for the Weekend

I'm in Israel this week for a business trip, and that means that for me the week ends today (Thursday). Tomorrow evening I fly back to the U.S.

It has been an odd time to travel to Israel. The airstrikes in Gaza had been going on for a week or so by the time I left, and the ground war started as I was flying over. A number of people asked if it was safe, and I said that I believed so, since the action was confined to the Gaza strip.

In many ways the feeling here reminds me of 2003, just after the war in Iraq started. People were concerned about it, but simply went on with their daily lives. The feeling I get here is similar, but the discontinuity is more pronounced -- it's very odd to get in your car and drive to work, realizing that people are fighting and dieing not two hours drive away.