Monday, January 27, 2014

The P-38 Lightning at 75 – "The Sweetest-Flying Plane in the Sky"

One of my most enjoyable pleasures as a kid was building, from kits, scale models of planes and ships.  Sometimes I think I can still smell that “airplane” glue – it seems I wanted my creations to be as hard to destroy as the originals and so invariably I used too much of it.  The machines’ technology combined with the immense courage and skill required to operate them has always fascinated me.  Unfortunately, my models did not survive the years, and exactly why has been lost to time. 

"P-38 in the Pacific" by Charles L. Smith (link), noted painter of trains, ships, and planes.  From author's collection.  
One of my favorite planes was the World War II-era Lockheed P-38, nicknamed the “Lightning” by the British.  Its key features were an unusual double boom design, to carry two powerful engines, and a streamlined, curvy look.  General Jimmy Doolittle personally flew one and called it "the sweetest-flying plane in the sky", letting us non-aviators know the P-38 was as beautiful to fly as it was to look at.  The plane's beautiful lines and twin fins are said to have inspired General Motors design chief Harley Earl to develop the curvy tailfins that first appeared on the 1948 Cadillac and soon spread to most other American auto nameplates, becoming the iconic look of the 1950s.   

Well, today is the 75th anniversary of the P-38’s first flight. Many versions were eventually produced, each one an incremental improvement, and, notably, the P-38 was the only American fighter in production throughout American involvement in WWII.  The plane was land-based and used primarily as fighter, but also saw action in reconnaissance and as a light bomber.  The P-38’s armament was in its nose rather than on its wings, meaning that the plane would shoot straight and far, avoiding the problem of having the narrower range of effectiveness that came from criss-crossing bullet paths from wing-mounted guns.   

Every fighter plane in the war had advantages and disadvantages relative to every other one.  As it turned out, the Lightning matched up better against Japanese fighters than German ones, so the P-38 saw most of its action in the Pacific theater.  Compared to Japanese fighters, principally the Zero, the P-38 was faster, had better armament, was better at climbing, and performed much better at high altitudes, although it was not as agile as the lighter and more maneuverable Japanese planes.  The P-38’s unusual twin boom design accommodated two large supercharged engines that were the key to its superior performance at high altitudes, and the wider wingspan that was supported by the booms also helped high up as well.  The P-38 also had great range, extended by use of dropped fuel tanks, which, along with having two engines in the event one failed, made it well-adapted to the long distances, much of that over water, in the Pacific Theater. 

The top two WWII American aces both flew P-38s against Japan.  Because of its performance and long-range, the P-38 was chosen as the plane to use in the April, 1943, long-distance attack behind Japanese lines to shoot down the plane carrying Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, the master-planner of the Pearl Harbor attack and one of Japan’s best military minds.  The P-38 saw more limited and niche action in the European Theater.  As it was, the first American pilot to shoot down a German aircraft in WWII was flying a P-38.  Of historical note, famous aviator and author Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, whose work included The Little Prince, was killed just off the southern coast of France in July 1944 when he went down flying a P-38 on a photo reconnaissance mission for the Free French Air Force.

Curiously, there were only a few other planes with a double boom design ever produced, and soon they as well as all other successful aircraft were made obsolete by the development of jet planes, which appeared even before the end of the war.  The days of human-scaled, sweet-flying propeller planes were over.

R Balsamo

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Now 50 Years Into It, the Democrat Party “War on Poverty” Has Been a Rip-Roaring Success

To distract the American public’s mind away from all the Obama scandals and failures – the economy, Obamacare, illegal IRS abuse of power, unconstitutional government spying, etc., etc. – Obama and the Democrat brain trust propagandists have decided to start talking about income inequality and the poor in America, as if it were still 1913 or 1933, or, hey, even 1964, when the “War on Poverty” began fifty years ago today. 

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation writes (link) about “How the War on Poverty Was Lost – Fifty years and $20 trillion later, LBJ's goal to help the poor become self-supporting has failed.” 

Some of the points Rector makes; all quotes from his piece:

·         On January 8, 1964, Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to announce an ambitious government undertaking.  "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."

·         Fifty years later, we're losing that war.  Fifteen percent of Americans still live in poverty, according to the official census poverty report for 2012, unchanged since the mid-1960s. 

·         The original goal [of the War on Poverty], as LBJ stated it half a century ago: "to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities."

·         The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted social services to poor and low-income Americans.  Government spent $916 billion on these programs in 2012 alone, and roughly 100 million Americans received aid from at least one of them, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient.  Federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was in 1964.  If converted to cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all official poverty in the U.S.

·         The official poverty rate persists with little improvement .... in part because the government's poverty figures are misleading.  Census defines a family as poor based on income level but doesn't count welfare benefits as a form of income. 

·         Current poverty [as defined by the federal government] has little resemblance to poverty 50 years ago.  According to a variety of government sources ... the typical American living below the poverty level in 2013 lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair, equipped with air conditioning and cable TV.  His home is larger than the home of the average non-poor French, German or English man.  He has a car, multiple color TVs and a DVD player.  More than half the poor have computers and a third have wide, flat-screen TVs.  The overwhelming majority of poor Americans are not undernourished and did not suffer from hunger for even one day of the previous year.

·         ... LBJ's original aim .... sought to give poor Americans "opportunity not doles," planning to shrink welfare dependence not expand it.  In his vision, the war on poverty would strengthen poor Americans' capacity to support themselves....  By that standard, the war on poverty has been a catastrophe....  A large segment of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than when the war on poverty began.

·         The collapse of marriage in low-income communities has played a substantial role in the declining capacity for self-support.  In 1963, 6% of American children were born out of wedlock.  Today the number stands at 41% [and, not mentioned in Rector's piece, the figure among blacks is about 70%].  As benefits swelled, welfare increasingly served as a substitute for a bread-winning husband in the home. ....  According to the Heritage Foundation's analysis, children raised in the growing number of single-parent homes are four times more likely to be living in poverty than children reared by married parents of the same education level. 

If one properly and correctly understands that the central aim of the Democrat Party puppet-masters running the so-called “anti-poverty” programs was to create and maintain a large number of people dependent on and beholden to the Democrats as the party of government benefits, people who all would vote for Democrats as they in fact do, and as well to create tens of thousands of welfare program-related government jobs to be handed out by Democrats as patronage to workers beholden to the Democrat Party, jobsters who all would vote for Democrats as they in fact do, then the so-called “War on Poverty” has been a rip-roaring success.  A success, that is, for the liberal elites and the patronage army of the Democrat Party, but certainly not, tragically and predictably, for those utterly dependent and truly hopeless people in the now-permanent underclass,  created by and ever-entangled by the Democrat dependency strategy, which, to be successful, had to destroy the family structure and normalize the pathologies of the slum culture.