You Just Can’t Believe Anything You Read Or Hear On The News

Yeah…I know that may come as a shock to some of you…but it’s really pretty much spot on as you’ll see in the words that follow (editor note…4,600 of ‘em, sorry it took that long. The TLDR Too Long Didn’t Read version would be…Read the Title). You need to do your own research and look at various sites on both sides of just about any issue or report…and once you find out the actual facts you will likely agree that the news media these days doesn’t consider it their job to report the news…but rather they want to make and be the news and influence either policies to suit their own bias/political persuasion or what have you.

Here are a few examples…you can consider this post a Public Service Announcement.

First up…
this article
…which if you believe the headline and some of the claims therein means that Russia is placing into service a new hypersonic nuclear capable missile which renders US missile defense forces useless and places the country under threat of preemptive nuclear attack by the Russians. Let’s look into this a bit more…and add a few tidbits of actually useful information to what it says in the article.

Right at the top of the article…there is a picture of a missile…which one would assume is the missile in question, something called the Avangard. The first problem you will notice is that those missiles are 30 or so feet long, only a foot or two in maximum diameter, and have fins…not to mention that they are clearly surface to air antiaircraft missiles (SAMs) and not the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that are used for long range nuclear attack. Then getting into the article itself…it claims that a new ICBM payload known as a hypersonic boost glide missile will be deployed this month.

A hypersonic missile is defined as “one that goes faster than 5 times the speed of sound or Mach 5. While this new payload is hypersonic…I hate to break it to The National Interest…which is generally considered to be right of center in political leaning…that although their statement is true that the new payload is hypersonic…it is just like…every…other…ballistic…missile. The latter travel about 6,500 miles in 30 minutes…which makes their speed about 13,000 miles per hour…or somewhere in the vicinity of Mach 17 on average. It is true that the new hypersonic payload is a bit faster…up to Mach 20 claim the Russians and the article…due to a different flight path. A normal ICBM flying to that 6,500 mile range has 3 phases of flight. The Boost phase…which is when the motors are burning…lasts 3-5 minutes and ends with a speed of about 9,000-18,000 miles per hour (well into the hypersonic regime) at an altitude of 90-250 miles. Next is the 25 minute or so midcourse phase…when the payload is basically just coasting…albeit it with some slight maneuvering to scatter it’s warheads and countermeasures to foil possible defense…up to about a 750 mile apogee at a speed of 5,000-10,000 miles per hour. The final phase is the reentry phase when the warheads fall down onto their target at speeds up to 15,000 miles per hour…again well into the hypersonic range. The hypersonic missile works in a completely different manner. Launched by an ICBM booster but on a much flatter trajectory…the higher speed of these payloads is achieved through the use of an engine on the payload which works on the RAMJet or SCRAMJet principle…very similar to a jet airliner or military aircraft engine except the combustion air…instead of being compressed and pushed into the combustion chamber by compressor blades at the front of the engine use the speed of the vehicle to ram the air into the combustion chamber…the famed SR-71 Blackbird used a variety of the RAMJet when it was at speed and altitude. The drawbacks of a RAMJet or SCRAMJet is that (a) they are combustion engines, need air, and hence have to stay in the atmosphere and (b) they must be at high speed and high altitude before they will work. Thus…the ICBM booster gets the payload up to Mach 5 or so then releases it…it then engages its engine to accelerate up to the claimed Mach 20 and flies to the target. According to freely available information on the web…it would arrive at the target area in about 1/2 to 2/3 of the time of a standard ICBM…so it is faster but not revolutionary faster. Further…the article claims that it cannot be detected by current long range air defense radar that will detect ICBMs…that’s unlikely as it is bigger than a standard ICBM warhead and flies at a lower altitude. 

However…this payload does likely have a greater survivability against most missile defense systems since the shorter flight time allows less time for detection, engagement, and retaliation…but in the scenario of a major attack…this is again…just…like…every…other…ballistic…missile. Missile defenses are not designed for and would not protect the US against a major attack…the likelihood of interception by any individual anti missile missile is low enough that there just isn’t enough money to produce enough missiles to stop an attack. Missile defense systems are designed to do 2 things. First…give a reasonable probability of killing a single incoming missile from a rogue state like Iran or Best Korea…and second to give enough warning to allow a counter strike by US nuclear forces…that goes back to the Mutual Assured Destruction concepts of the Cold War. The launch time for US ground based ICBMs is on the order of 5 minutes from receipt of the launch command…so even the faster flight time of the hypersonic payload means they would still be launched before the incoming arrives…providing about 430 missiles with almost 500 warheads. Aircraft response time depends on what state of readiness they are in…but is likely somewhat longer than ICBM response time…if in any sort of higher state of readiness than ordinary peacetime airborne forces would be on either 5 or 15 minute alert time…so some of the bombers would get away from their bases even against hypersonic incoming warheads…but then again aircraft are a pretty small portion US nuclear forces. Submarine launched missiles…SLBMs…would be completely unaffected by hypersonic weapons if at sea…and even if in port in a higher readiness condition they can launch from beside the pier in 50-15 minutes and still reach most of their targets. So…it’s hard to argue that our forces are any less secure in the presence of Russian hypersonic super weapons since Mutually Assured Destruction would still result in the end of the world as we know it. Simply put…a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia/China/whoever is not a winnable thing for either side.

Moving on to Door Number 2…according to
this article
…which is again from The National Interest…”The F-35 is a success story that keeps getting better.” The F-35…for those of you who may not be familiar with it is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter and is a poor attempt to replace pretty much all fighter and strike aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, and Marines with a single aircraft that can perform all of these missions. Unfortunately…like pretty much every other “one size fits all project…ever”…it really doesn’t work very well. It can’t fly in the rain because that damages the stealth coating that helps it avoid radar. It can’t carry very much fuel or weapons as the aircraft it is supposed replace…and is not as fast as other aircraft it is supposed to replace…so the amount of net ordnance on target it can deliver is only a fraction of those aircraft it is supposed to replace. Further…it is so expensive that the likelihood that commanders will risk it in a battle where enemy tanks need to be destroyed in a contested air environment…because you will take losses in that scenario even if you win. The aircraft’s reliability is far less than those inferior aircraft it is supposed to replace…and pretty much no warfighters except flag officers, the guys and gals who fly it, and Pentagon PowerPoint Rangers really want it. It was declared to be operationally capable despite the fact that the software it needs to actually do war fighting things like launch missiles, shoot guns, and drop bombs is (a) years behind schedule, (b) way over budget, (c) fails to often, (d) doesn’t meet the operational requirements the aircraft is supposed to meet, and (e) has not been completed, tested, and released to operational squadrons. The first 100 or so of these expensive planes can never…never…be upgraded to be fully operationally capable to the requirements. Asking a single aircraft to replace supersonic fighter intercept aircraft, ground support aircraft, and bomb delivery aircraft is just nuts…but the idiots in DC have foisted this under performing, over expensive pile of crap on the warfighter. Supporters of it claim that it will be able to detect, track and destroy enemy aircraft before the enemy knows it is there…but in every air to air engagement since…forever…eventually you have to get close in and fight with guns…and the lack of maneuverability and limited weapons capacity of and F-35 means that it will die…it is as simple as that.

Moving on to Door Number 3…and this one is actually what started this whole post off but I didn’t want you to think I only picked on liberals…one of our liberal friends here in the campground tweeted the other day about Moscow Mitch holding 275 bipartisan bills passed by the House in the Senate graveyard. While I thought at the time that this claim was political BS…a quick google search revealed hundreds of articles making this same claim…with precious few details. I kept looking on and off over the past couple of days and finally happened across
this website
…the headline says “In Senator Mitch McConnell’s Legislative Graveyard, Senate Republicans Block Commonsense Legislation To Secure Our Elections, Protect Americans’ Health Care, And Safeguard Pensions Earned By Working Americans”. Note the source of this site……this is the official web site of the Democrats in the Senate and therefore will present their argument in the best possible light.

Anyway…according to the article…Senator McConnell is holding “more than 250 House passed bills” hostage. When I had a twitter conversation with our campground liberal friend the other day…I said that those 250 bills (actually it is a claimed 275 but the article is from early November…it is possible but unlikely that the House passed another 25 bills since then due to being overly focused on impeachment…but I could find no better listing). Anyway…despite the claimed “more than 250” this is the most complete list of those bills I could find…and being put out by the Democrats in the Senate I figure it is the one that will put their claim in the best light. So…let’s review the article and see if we can get the rest of the story.

The partial list on the site details with links those that passed the House with…their words, not mine…bipartisan support. Of those so listed…the number of Republican votes in the House breaks down as follows…27 claims of bipartisan passage…of those 27 18 had a single digit number of Republican support, 6 had double digit support, and 3 had triple digit support.

Triple digit Republican support went to the following:

  • A resolution against the President’s withdrawal of troops from Northern Syria…no actual legislation here.
  • The SECURE Act which supposedly helps people save for retirement…but actually is mostly an increased tax penalty on people who inherit a pre-tax IRA account from their parents…I can’t figure out why any Republicans would vote for this as the only meaningful provision in the act is the tax increase. In any event…the SECURE Act was attached to the Omnibus spending bill that was passed and signed into law by the President earlier this week…so that removes it from the list in the Senate Graveyard.
  • The Debbie Smith Act…which is actually just reauthorizing funding to help process the rape kit backlog nationwide.

Bills getting double digit Republican support in the House included the following:

  • Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act…this protects women (and sometimes men depending on which version of the bill you read) against domestic abuse…but isn’t that already against the law so why do we need a special law to protect them? With all of the “protected classes” the Congress and courts have established…pretty much everybody has their own special laws except for white men.
  • Multi-employer Pensions Act…this appears to be mostly a bailout for over extended pension funds that were improperly and deliberately under funded by the company or government agency that negotiated the pensions in the first place
  • Corporate Transparency Act…this cracks down on those pesky Russians who used shell corporations and Facebook accounts to supposedly rig the 2016 election…despite there being no proof whatsoever that any election results were actually hacked. The Russians had their preferred candidate in our election…just like we have our preferred candidate in elections in other countries…and they used the election laws in the US to promote their preferred candidate…just like the US does. I could not find any real details to determine whether this is actually a good idea or not.

So let’s recap.

The Democrats in the Senate…reinforced and amplified the hundreds of articles in the media…claim that there are more than 250 bills “passed by the Democrats in the House”…again their words, not mine…and note the “passed by the Democrats” in that claim which doesn’t sound bipartisan to me…but then they only list 52 bills…which turns out to really be only 45…so I guess the other 205 or so even the Democrats think are partisan…and of those 45 they claim 27 of them have “bipartisan support”…which turns out to be only 9 that had double digit Republican support in the House and only 3 of those 9 had triple digit Republican support.

I don’t know about you…and there’s no strict definition but Merriam-Webster calls it “involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two political parties”…anyway a reasonable person might think that you would need 25% of the opposite party to support you before it can be called bipartisan…that would be 50 Republican votes in the House and there were exactly 3…count ‘em…3…of those that got sent to the Senate Graveyard…and one of those was a meaningless resolution and a second was already signed into law in the omnibus funding bill that was passed and signed this week…that leaves exactly…1…bill from the House with meaningful bipartisan support made it to the Graveyard…and even that one at less than a few hundred million was probably included in the omnibus bill although I could find no specific information on whether it is or is not included.

The remainder of the bills…well, at least 46 of them appear to be Democratic/liberal/progressive/socialist wish lists…and since we have a bicameral legislative body and the other body is controlled by the other party…naturally the other body is going to send those wish lists to the nope bin.

Kinda gives you a little different perspective on Democrat and media statements that “the Senate is sitting on 250 plus House Democrat passed pieces of legislation”…doesn’t it? This is exactly the same thing that happened when the majority party in the two houses of Congress were the opposite of now a few years back…only then it was the Democratic Senate Majority Leader consigning bills that Democrats didn’t like to the graveyard. Like I said before…this is all just politics…and there are precious few candidates to vote for with enthusiasm for those of us in the center politically.

And finally…let’s try Door Number4…even though the Price is Right only uses 3 doors as did the old Match Game. According to
this article
…the floating nuclear power plant that the Russians built on a barge then floated around to the far north to an area named Chukoktka and a town named Pevek…you know, the one that the anti nuclear power folks call “a floating Chernobyl” which will due to some environmental disaster like “a tsunami” could trigger a “nuclear explosion at sea”. The article further states that this is Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant and that despite being towed…it is on a barge after all…3,100 miles to the current location it will be difficult for emergency response teams to react if Something Bad© happens…and that environmentalists “worry about the safety of such facilities”.

OK…let us examine the things they don’t say…or ignore or are just clueless about. First off…there could be a disaster like a tsunami that would cause the barge to sink…although how likely that is to happen is pretty much impossible to calculate…and it is moored properly which isn’t exactly rocket science it would tend to ride out the tsunami at it’s berth because it is…ya know…floating and would rise up and come back down as the tsunami just like ships at sea do just about all the time. However…let us assume that it sank and somehow compromised the cores. Then that whole physics thing gets you…and ya know…physics is pretty much the same for everybody…anti nuclear activists don’t get to redefine physics to suit their agenda. What the actual physics tells you…and as I said this is it works for everybody…and Neil used to be in the nuclear submarine bidness so he sorta knows how they work…it is just not possible for any reactor to suffer a “nuclear explosion” as the article claim. A nuclear explosion implies an uncontrolled fission chain reaction based on fast neutrons alone with an effective multiplication from each fast neutron average lifetime to the next of 1.3…and that just physical cannot happen with any nuclear reactor be it a pressurized water reactor like this one is or a boiling water reactor like some older plants use…nor if the moderator in the reactor is water or graphite which are the two that it could be. Nope…just ain’t happening…the fuel concentration is simply not high enough nor the density of the fuel high enough for that to happen…and no matter how many times the anti nuclear crowd talks about it a nuclear explosion just cannot happen. You can have a fire like Chernobyl did that spreads contamination outside the containment…or you can have a partial core meltdown like Three Mile Island and Fukushima did…but that is in way a nuclear explosion. It is definitely not a Good Thing©…but a nuclear explosion it is nota by any means.

In order to have a nuclear explosion…you can use either uranium 235 highly enriched isotope or the much easier to make fission plutonium 239 isotope. Then you compress it with hundreds of thousands of pounds of pressure which increases the density enough to make fission start…this is done via either of two methods. First…by dividing the critical mass (the minimum amount of material you need to achieve fission under any circumstances) into two pieces and then firing one down a long barrel with high explosive so that they two pieces are mashed together creating the density reburied to start the chain reaction. This is how the Little Boy device that was dropped on Nagasaki Japan was constructed…and it used plutonium. The second method is the implosion method…and this is the standard process now as you need less fissile material if you use this method. In this type…the fissile material is machined into a very precise sphere which is then surrounded by rigid blocks of plastic explosive…the resulting structure looks a lot like a geodesic doe with little 6 sided pieces of explosive surrounding the sphere. Then the blocks of explosive are all detonated simultaneously…and that is a critical thing…unless they all detonate simultaneously the sphere is not compressed uniformly and the chain reaction doesn’t start because the density doesn’t get high enough…this is known as a fizzle and it happened more than once during testing…although usually you do get a small fraction of the design output of the warhead rather than a complete fizzle. If this is a fusion or hydrogen bomb…then shortly before the explosive detonates a mixture of tritium and deuterium are pumped either into the sphere or into a space adjacent to it…so that the resulting heat and pressure from the fission process heats and compresses the gas enough so that fusion will start…the only real purpose of the fission in a hydrogen warhead is to get the hydrogen fusion process to start…the latter provides something north of 3/4 of the total bang depending on how sophisticated the design is. The other neat thing about nuclear explosions is how fast they happen. Naturally…when the high explosive detonates to compress the fissile pit…the shockwave also travels outward toward the case of the warhead and would conceivably fracture the case into pieces when the shockwave hits the inside of the case shell. However…this is not what happens…once the pit is compressed…which happens a few microseconds before the case would have ruptured…the neutron lifetime is about a million times less than a microsecond and essentially the entire nuclear part of the explosion happens before the shockwave gets out to the case. At the point…the nuclear chain reaction (and fusion process in a hydrogen warhead) is over, all of the energy that will eventually be released has been released but is still inside the case, and the case would appear intact. But then the laws of thermodynamics take over, the case is mostly vaporized by the gamma ray and heat flux from the fission/fusion, and the mushroom cloud appears.

So…no nuclear explosion no matter what…physics just won’t allow it.

The even bigger error is that the article states that this is the “Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant”…but unfortunately that isn’t correct either. The world has had floating nuclear power plants since 1954…although most people call them submarines and aircraft carriers…and in the case of the Russian Navy battlecruisers and ice breakers. All of those nuclear warships are…you know…nuclear powered and all…and the last time I checked they were floating…so this is clearly not “Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant”. In fact…I read somewhere along the way that the two reactors on the Akademik Lomonosov are the same type used on their most recent class of nuclear powered icebreakers. The sole difference is that instead of turning steam turbines attached to generators which power the electric drive motors on the ship…the generators are attached to wires to provide power to folks on land. Heck…even the United States had a floating nuclear power plant at one time…it was tied up down in the Panama Canal Zone providing electricity to just about everybody there.

Are they safe? Well…definitely not as safe as US Navy nuclear power plants…and arguably less safe than non Russian commercial nuclear power plants…but they’re as safe as their submarines, battlecruisers, and icebreakers are…and probably safer than commercial Russian nuclear power plants. But…nuclear explosion…well, no. And first floating nuclear power plants…well, no…again. I wanted there to be a third strike but couldn’t find one in the article.

It all goes back to the post title…ya just can’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news…even if it took me 4,600 words to get there.

Interesting things found on the net.

It is Christmas time…so these seem apropos.

Gift drinking min

On a serious note…this one isn’t supposed to be funny. We need to think of all the sailors, marines, army grunts…and yeah even the Air Force weenies…who are away from their loved ones and homes this holiday period…serving on the front lines overseas and in harms way in order to protect the freedoms and way of life we enjoy in the United States. Let’s not forget that the reason we have a free Federated Democratic Republic was a bunch of brave folks back in 1776 who declared themselves free of the shackles of tyranny from the British government…and that the reason we continue today is because of those brave men and women through the decades.

This poem “The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas” was supposedly written by a US Marine stationed in Okinawa but has been attributed to several sources over the years including an Air Force Colonel in Korea in 1993. The actual author…according to who is generally credited as the preeminent arbiter for determining whether an Internet rumor is true…and they credit this one as true…was Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt who wrote it in 1986 while he was stationed as a Battalion Counter Sniper (a sniper who hunts and shoots other snipers first) at Marine Corps Barracks, 8th and I, Washington DC. It was originally titled “Merry Christmas, My Friend” and it was published in Leatherneck Magazine (the official USMC publication) in December 1991. With no further ado…and with resounding Thank You and be safe to our men and women in uniform this holiday.

Merry Christmas, My Friend

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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