June 22, 2008

Thrills, rampant jingoism, and sore necks

The Davenport Airshow was held once again this weekend, (maybe you heard the roar overhead as fighters flew from their location at the Quad City Airport to the Davenport airfield and back.) and as always, it was fun, exciting, and interesting. The weather simply couldn't be better, sunny with scattered clouds and a light breeze blowing straight down the runway.

A few military acts had to alter or drop their routines entirely due to mechanical or other equipment problems. A jet fighter demonstration was cut short when the pilot noticed something amiss mid-performance and flew back to Moline to pick up their spare jet. At least he came back later and finished the performance.

One parachute team had a guy jump and he apparently didn't like the conditions, as they soon announced that the team had cancelled the rest of their show. (it was a little breezy, but not too bad. What do they do in combat?) And the promised fly-by from a stealth fighter, which had taken off from Whiteman Airforce Base in Missouri to fly around the country doing fly-bys at 8 airshows in a single day, had problems after take-off and had to land at Langley Field in Virginia. So no Stealth.

There were endless recruiting spiels and cloyingly sentimental and overblown deification of our great military made by military announcers and MCs, accompanied by solemn statements implying that we'd all be dead without their heroic heroism, eaten alive by terrorists, which in light of the string of failures, rang a bit hollow.

Each military show was accompanied by endless assertions of how heroically heroic our heroic troops are (You too can be a hero! Go to our multi-million dollar traveling exhibit, play video games that make combat seem cool (and painless), and sign on the dotted line.)

The Blue Angels performance went off without a hitch however, and was as awe inspiring as usual, always a fantastic thing to witness.

I especially like the one point in their routine where they purposely shock the living daylights out of the entire crowd.

All the air show maneuvers are performed along a line over the runway, and so everyone is looking that direction (which happens to be south).
After the crowd has watched the passes in front of them for some time, without any warning whatsoever, they send one jet screaming over the crowd from behind at very low altitude.

Its effect is like getting a 1000 watt jolt going through your system.

NO ONE sees it coming (how could you, two seconds ago it was almost over the horizon.) and no one hears it either, as it's travelling so fast that by the time the sound gets there, it's directly over your head with a thunderous tearing roar that shakes your bones. I'm almost surprised they do it, as it's enough to induce a heart attack.

At one point a military announcer treated the crowd to about a 10 minute spiel which sounded like it was written by Karl Rove himself, the theme of which was "it's not the reporter who gives us the right of free speech, it's not the protester who guarantees the right to march in the streets, it's not the demonstrators, it's the brave men and women of our armed forces, who fight under the flag, and are buried beneath it, who give their lives to give them the right to burn it." (paraphrased, but you get the drift.)

It was amazing. Not only for how it attacked typical right wing, Republican/White House enemies, the press, anyone who actually disagrees with any military action, no matter how clearly wrong, and the nearly mythical demonstrators who burn the flag,(seriously, how many flags have been burned????), but for how simply dead wrong it was.

Soldiers, sailors, aviators, and the rest don't "give" us these rights. They don't do squat to provide freedom of the press. Their deaths do nothing to ensure these or any other rights, nor is any of the thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan related in any way to defending these rights.

The rights these fine folks trot out for their propaganda purposes are given to us by the Constitution, not by the military, and certainly not by Raytheon, Boeing, General Electric, Northrup Gruman, Halliburton, and the rest who churn out this stuff for mass consumption to ensure their gravy train isn't derailed and to keep people mindlessly supportive of mindless military spending.

Iraqis pose no threat to our rights and never have. Neither do Iranians, al Queda, or any other hostile nation or organization.

Only we can fight to defend our rights. Only we can let them be taken away. And so far, we've done a piss-poor job while we allow them to be subverted and eliminated and our legislators of both parties go along.

The supreme irony in this jingoistic speil is, the threat to our rights, to the Constitution which guarantees them, comes from the direction of the White House and congress, our government.

They're the only entity which has not only threatened, but actually violated our Constitution and taken away cherished constitutional rights by being stampeded by false threats and the urge for easy answers and a foolish belief that we must toss our rights in the garbage can in the misguided belief that it will "keep us safe".

The only real threat to our cherished constitutional rights, the very ones that they say these soldiers are dying to defend, has been the Bush administration and it's minions in the Republican party, and the Dems who were more concerned with re-election than defending the constitution they swore to uphold. Our own government.

But put up a few hundred flags and blast Toby Keith singing "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." over the P.A., and then fly a multi-million dollar high tech killing machine capable of slaughtering vast numbers of people from over the horizon past the crowd while spouting propaganda that insists that war equals peace, blowing up and slaughtering thousands of innocent people equals defending freedom and keeping us "safe" and every other crazy piece of non-sense, and the rubes eat it up.

But what do you expect? It's literally a multi-trillion dollar industry that all but runs our military. If anyone ever got wise, the jig would be up. They've got a product to sell, and boy do they sell it. Gotta spend money to make money, ya know.

One recruiting "tool" that you and I paid for to the tune of several million dollars was the Army's effort at the show, which consisted of an enormous inflatable hanger, custom made and decorated, which contained a huge array of high tech video games and simulators to show kids how cool war really is.

To support this and haul it around the country they had four brand new semi-tractors (Volvo, foreign made) complete with custom built trailers which contained the machinery to store and keep the hanger inflated, each with a custom paint job, chrome wheels, etc. and several other trailers and vehicles to support the many service people required to make it all work.

For all those millions required to buy, maintain, haul, and support this thing, let's hope they at least snagged a few kids into deciding that it would be cool to kill some bad guys and be a hero. (Nobody tell them what it's really like.)

I guess with a volunteer force, and more and more kids and adults realizing what they're getting into and what, if anything, they're going into harm's way for, the military has to ramp up its recruitment effort, which is suffering by all accounts. I hope their video game tactic works out. Money seems no object.

But that's all I'll say about that rather disturbing aspect of the show.

I've got a lot of pictures and this year I shot a lot of video. So I hope to put up some shots that I think might be of at least a little interest to readers. And I hope to get the time to somehow edit the raw video into clips and then post them so that you can view a few of those as well.

Here's a couple shots of two of the three P-51 Mustangs which appeared at this year's show. These two flew routines which, of course, were very cool.

This is "American Beauty", and it was, indeed, a beauty. (Click picture to enlarge.)

And here's "Excalibur". Another gorgeous plane in the markings of the RAF 352nd Fighter Group. (according to its picture which appears in the link above.)

Much more to come as time permits.


At 6/23/2008 9:42 AM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope, to begin with, thanks for those two pics - they're excellent. And I can tell you like airplanes, warbirds, and the guys who maintain and fly them. But you sorta struck a nerve with me.

First, I need to correct you on something. Volvo trucks sold in the US are not foreign made. They are manufactured in North Carolina and Virginia. Volvo also has a reman plant in Pennsylvania. (I worked for a company that supplied sub-assemblies to those plants.)

Second, airshows that feature the Blue Angels, the Thunderbirds, or the Golden Knights, by contract, must allow for recruiting efforts by their branch of the military. Face it, airshows are a recruiting tool. Therefore, you are going to hear all kinds of "patriotic" pitches. Attendees are going to hear this stuff, whether or not they want to. It's part of the "business."

Corporations like GE, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrup, etc. will be selling to our government no matter what political party is in power. It's just another fact of life. Personally, I usually tune that stuff out. I appreciate what these military guys do, whether it's peacetime or in war and leave it at that.

Your darned good critique of the show demonstrates that you seem to enjoy the airshows, but how can you with the angst you seem to be showing regarding the narratives the MC's spout? The military-industrial complex has had great influence on this country for many, many years and I suspect that it will continue no matter who's in office, or what you or I could do to stem those actions.

What you really need to do is visit a place I've mentioned before, the Palm Springs Air Museum. All of the volunteers there either flew, crewed, or maintained the aircraft-types in the collection. Talk with them. They'll give you honest appraisels of the aircraft, the companies that built them, the "politics" behind the missions they flew, and some pretty good war stories as well.

I'm looking forward to any other pictures you post, as I did not get to the show this year. But just enjoy the show for what it is; a showcase for those "magnificent men and their flying machines," the skill it takes to fly and maintain them, and getting to see some planes that one doesn't normally get to see. Don't ruin it for the "rubes" with the liberal bent to this.

At 6/23/2008 10:12 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thanks, and I stand corrected on the Volvo semi's being foreign made. Though even if they're put together here, the profits end up in Sweden, do they not? At any rate, thanks for straightening me out.

Secondly, I was not surprised by the fact that there were rampant recruitment efforts going on at the show. I realized that obviously this is the trade off for having these incredibly costly military demonstrations, and would never, and wasn't, suggesting that this wasn't the place for recruiting.

It's just the way they did it, and particularly, the vast amounts of money that was being spent on it. Literally like money was NO object whatsoever. I guess that's the way it is with military spending though.

As I noted, these can't be good days for military recruiters, the difficulty getting sufficient recruits being just another negative effect of the boondoggle in Iraq.

And yes, I really love aircraft, and particularly appreciate the power, functionality, and truly beautiful design of WWII fighters in particular. There's just something about those planes produced just before the dawn of the jet age that will always be classic. I can't imagine anyone looking at one of those gleaming P-51 Mustangs and not appreciating what a work of art they are.

And they're accessible in a way the "computerized blow torches"... the modern fighter jets... are.

You can get nearer to them. The sounds is pleasing and doesn't break your ear drums. You can relate to the piston engines, and see the pilot, who flys in a pair of coveralls and a helmet, not $50 grand worth of high-tech gear.

And you can watch them fly, not simply try to follow the blur as they streak by like a dart. They move at a speed still comprehensible to humans.

Then add to that the critical role they played in determining the course of world history, and... well, it's not hard to appreciate these planes.

Another reason I enjoy it so much is the skill of the pilots, which at a show like this is phenomenal.

It's like watching the elite of the elite make these planes do things that not many others can make them do, at least not do it and live to tell the tale. (usually).

These are the pilots who constantly seek new and more difficult challenges and the aircraft that are produced and refined and engineered to continually stretch the boundaries of performance in order to allow them to do things that were considered impossible in the not too distant past.

I'd love to visit any decent air museum, but haven't had the opportunity to do so in my travels. I hope to make the trip to Oshkosh this year if at all possible though.

I'm finding it hard to carve out enough time to select and prepare pictures to post, but I'll continue to do so, hopefully before they get too boring for people.

I'd love to share some video clips as well, but that requires even more time and effort. I'll see what I can do. Summer is a busy time.



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