"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Geography Lesson

Palin: "it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border."

"Rears his head". How diplomatic.

Of course, there is indeed an unimportant remote part of Russia quite near an unimportant remote part of Alaska. But if Putin were to actually visit Washington DC or the UN in New York, he would pass near or over Iceland and then enter US airspace in New England, no doubt rearing his head menacingly all the while.

ref: Mathematics in Civilization, Resnikoff & wells 1984, p. 160.

Update: In the comments, Steven Mosher argues that I am missing the point that Palin was feebly trying to make. He seems to have a point. Apparently there was a coherent point that someone had taught her that she simply messed up on explaining. Chris Weigant at Huffington Post has a similar view. Weigant also agrees with Dano's comment that it's unlikely that Palin can be sufficiently coached by Thursday to make a good showing at her debate. I suppose this will be a well-watched VP debate by historical standards, and I suppose the format has been chosen to hide her, um, weaknesses.

I also have long had the impression that Biden isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either. On the other hand, his spin session on MSNBC after the first debate was compelling enough. So we'll see.


David B. Benson said...

Unless he had just been hunting tigers in Siberia.


Aaron said...

I said she could not do "science" (ie AGW.) You have proven me wrong. She can not do math, geography, or science.

On the other hand, I know lots of people that can do math, goegraphy, and science, but cannot get votes like she can. Do not underestimate her.

Anonymous said...

Hi michael,

When Pailin says "Putin raises his head" this is a trope: using a part for the whole. we call that synechdoche.


How do I know this? read the whole sentence:
'As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go?"

Putin...Singular.. where do THEY go plural.

( sorry I studied too must classical rhetoric in grad school)

Less colorfully, what she means is " when Russia raises its head." and even here we have metaphor:
translation: "when Russia threatens us Militarily"

Lets see if that interpretation "flys" in context.

"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

The reference here is to intercept missions run
against russian elint operations and russian bombers testing the response time of our defenses:


Now, we are no angels ourselves, as in the past we have run elint missions against russia, skirting the fringes of their airspace to collect electron data. Surely you recall the famous incident of KAL 007


Part of the Soviet explanation was they mistook the aircraft for A KC135S( cobra ball) which routinely
ran missions against Kamchatka back in the day


Now, I don't buy her argument that this gives her any experience or credentials in foreign relations.
But lets not pull a quote out of context. Misread it disingenously, forgetting in the process the military history of the region, the lives lost in the past, and the lives risked every day, by both sides.
Flying is dangerous business.
The russians will continue to keep an eye on us, and us on them. It's actually a good thing, on balance.

Steven Mosher

Michael Tobis said...

Alaska is not on the flight path from the vast majority of the USSR to the vast majority of the USA.

The fact that the pronoun "those" had no antecedent in the conversation also contributes to the perceived incoherence in the statement, but no matter.

My point is only geographic.

The location of Alaska is not really strategic vis a vis the Russians and the USA. The other weaknesses of her position have been addressed elsewhere.

It just seems to me that nobody has pointed out that Alaska is not really where they "come into the air space of the US". So I thought I'd draw a picture.

Michael Tobis said...

This anonymous contribution arrived from Bill Oliver.

There's an mp3 to go with it but I don't see how to share that right now...

Nowhere Ma’am

(Lennon, McCartney, Oliver)

Bill Oliver and the Anti Moose-Burger Defamation League

She’s a bridge to nowhere ma’am

Sitting in her snow-capped land

Making all her so-called plans, for everybody

She’s a mom as you can see

Men and moose fall to their knees

Blood and guts and special needs for the GOP

Nowhere ma’am, admit it

You were for it before you were ag’in it

Nowhere ma’am, those federal funds flow thru you hands

She’s the anti-Hillary

Has her own ar-tillery

Wants more offshore drill-ery than Hillary (“drill, baby, drill”)

Nowhere ma’am, please listen

To Karl Rove, god bless ‘im

Nowhere ma’am, the free world is at your command

Doesn’t need a point of view

Teleprompter prompting you

What works for them works for you and you know who

It’s the campaign’s sexy merger:

Beer money meets mooseburger

But it’s still war and it’s still murder and oil money (“don’t forget that”)

Nowhere ma’am, it’s still a

Case of earmarks up the Wasilla

Nowhere ma’am, the lipstick is smeared, but it’s still a ham

She’s a bridge to nowhere ma’am

Queen in her Denali land

Making all her so-called plans for somebody

Trying on the power pants of Dick Cheney (“it’s not pretty”)

Pretty peppy puppetry for the GOP

Trigger fingers on the bombs of destiny (“that’s scaring me”)

I wouldn’t wish that policy on nobody

Anonymous said...


What does the metaphor "raises his head" mean to you? If his head was in the sand, or up his ass, he could not see. It's clear, especially clear to anyone whose ever flown an intercept mission out of Elmendorf, that the meaning is "when the Russians come to look or threaten" they fly at alaska. We run the same damn missions at their airspace. The purposes of this missions are to capture and record electronic data ( what kinds of air defense radars are there? any new types of signals, and to capture message traffic for later analysis. Also, you get of estimate of reaction times. Do they have aircraft sitting at alert status ( in the air by 5 minutes)

Alaska, is also a gateway for Cruise missiles. Which is why
"At present, the Air Force’s best defense against cruise missiles may reside in Alaska, where a group of 18 F-15Cs at Elmendorf Air Force Base have been upgraded with advanced radars. These Eagles are now capable of tracking multiple targets and guiding air-to-air missiles against them."

These F15C were upgraded with a AESA radar
an active electrically scanned antenna. Its a neat piece of gear.

Now I noted the recent intercept against soviet Bombers Tu-95s. in my last post. Those intercepts were flown out of alaska. a couple in 2007 and some in 2008. And when we deployed the F-22 to Alaska, our most advanced fighter, they ran a mission toward alaska as well. Why? Well when the brand new F-22 turns on its brand new phased array radar to see the Tu-95, the Tu-95 gets to profile the radar. Its an even neater piece of gear.

Also, the russians get to test if they can actually see the F-22 ( I'll shut up about the answer to that)

At little history. prior to 1993 the russians routinely probed the Us defenses in alaska. from 1993 there were no missions, But "on 16 September 1999, a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers were detected by the US Air Force headed toward the Alaska coast. U.S. fighter jets were sent to intercept the aircraft which had been caught on radar" ( john pike globalsecurity.com)

But alaska isnt the only place pestered by the bear bomber.


read the section air encounters.

Now, why the Tu-95? otherwise known as the BEAR? Well look back at the description of the
Upgraded version of the F15C that runs intercepts out of Alaska.. they we upgraded with a new radar(AESA) that can track cruise missiles. What weapons do you think the newest Tu-95, the Bear H carries????
Again, John Pike"
he BEAR H - became the launch platform for the long-range Kh-55 [AS-15] air-launched cruise missile. The initial version carried Kh-55 air-to-surface missiles located in the bomb bay on a catapult. This was the first new production of a strike version of the BEAR airframe since the 1960s. With the BEAR H in series production, the decline in the inventory of BEAR aircraft, characteristic of the late 1970s, was reversed. By 1988 BEAR H bombers were regularly observed simulating attacks against North America."

But enough about all that lets return to the actual context of what she said

the best way to understand the context is to read these words carefully :

"It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation" So when they raise their head to come and look when send out interceptors to look at them.

Claiming that Alaska is not strategically positioned for military shows a gross lack of misunderstanding
of the geography and history, past and current, of military engagements with the russians.


Again, I think her claim to having some kind of experience points because she lived there is rather silly. Finally, You're not the first to be mistaken or misleading about the meaning of her words or the situation she was talking about.


If you're going to be sloppy in your textual analysis, at least be the first.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...


"What does the metaphor `raises his head' mean to you? If his head was in the sand, or up his ass, he could not see. It's clear, [...] that the meaning is `when the Russians come to look or threaten' they fly at alaska."

I'm trying to figure out how to interpret moshpit's above words metaphorically. Is he saying that every national leader who doesn't have his head in the sand is clearly trying to invade some other nation? Or is that a metaphor for yet something else? Or what?

* * *

Michael Tobis:

I upload my MP3s to Host-A. One good thing about it is that it won't zap away your files after a certain period of inactivity. Anyway, it works so far.

Michael Tobis said...

Steve, thanks for explaining what she was trying to say.

One thinks that if she were actually trying to, you know, respond rather than repeat what she'd been coached to say, she'd sound more like somebody with something to actually say.

Maybe she'll be better coached by Thursday. Time will tell.

Dano said...

Maybe she'll be better coached by Thursday. Time will tell.

Maybe they'll sequester her and get her to better deliver her canned lines. More importantly,

Do Double-A pitchers brought up at the end of the season fare well against big-league hitters? Rarely. Do High-Schoolers light up the scoreboard in their first season in the NBA? Once in a while. Does the Jr High class clown make big audiences roar like George Carlin did? Maybe once in a blue moon.

Point being - and I paraphrase - Machiavelli, Socrates, Locke and Hume together couldn't make up the gap between where Palin is and where she needs to be in this time period.

Palin is a AA pitcher bringing a decent fastball with a little movement, but she telegraphs her curveball and there is no slider or changeup to speak of. Big-league hitters need only be patient and sit on her fastball to give her a good shellacking.



Steve Bloom said...

mosh, you're trying too hard. Note by way of further example today's CBS News interview answer:


COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —

COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.


So she cannot, on the fly, even manage to think of any of the names.

Steve Bloom said...

See Putin rearing his head here. It's a bit scary looking at that.

Michael Tobis said...

Perhaps we are just mistaking her poetry for prose.

Anonymous said...

Hi S. bloom.

Even under my generous reading ( she was actually briefed on the russians intercepts before the interview) she didnt answer the question. being a small town mayor of a city in a state that has US air force flying intercept missions, does NOT give her foreign POLICY EXPERIENCE. It might have given her an passing aquaintence with us airforce operations.
She might as well have said, I have no foreign policy experience, but I did stay at a Holiday inn express last night.

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