Sunday, November 30, 2008

UFO/TARS Update: "The Hunter RQ-5A" or "Next time, dinner can wait, Ma"

The Hunter

The Hunter RQ-5A is a tactical unmanned areal vehicle (TUAV) produced by Israel Aerospace Industries. It can achieve speeds up to 126-mph and deployed in Arizona by Homeland Security's U.S. Border Patrol. The Hunter may now be operating along the Texas border as well.

In the previous article, we reported that on the evening of November 22, a West Texas resident who identified himself only as "Bobby," a mechanic working in Marfa, witnessed while speeding home for dinner, an unidentified flying object traveling beside him on Texas highway-166 in the Chihuahuan Desert near the Texas-Mexico border. He stated to this writer that he thought he had outrun the object once he achieved speeds in excess of 130-mph in his souped-up Chrysler sports coup. Yikes!

After researching tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, and then limiting the investigation to those used by the U.S. Border Patrol, we can now confidently speculate that our own West Texas Dale Earnhardt, Jr. [interviewed in the article below] had been checked-out by a Hunter RQ-5A or RQ-6 working in association with the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) located nearby. In fact, we are now fairly certain that a photograph of him, his car and his license plates are now on file with Homeland Security, even though a cadre of Texas state troopers we interviewed that night in the local Dairy Queen were totally unaware of their use.

The next time he tries to board an international flight to Cancun with his girlfriend he'll find out for certain if he is on their "terrorist watch list," a "no-fly" TRIP list that includes Senator Edward M. Kennedy and every independent journalist who has ever questioned the constitutionality of their tactics, said an unkind word about DHS Czar Michael Chertoff or dated their exes.

Yes, Bobby, there is an unmanned sleigh in the winter skies over West Texas. And if there is room on their list of bad boys for Ted Kennedy, there is surely room for a grease-covered auto mechanic from West Texas who drives fast near Ojinaga. ["OJ" is one of the plazas run by the Sinaloa Cartel.]

In fact, we'll even go out on a limb for him:
Given that he was obviously exhausted from a hard day's work and really covered in lots of engine grease the night we met on a deserted stretch of Texas highway, standing in awe of a UFO that turned out to be the "TARS Blimp," we believe that we can safely speculate that Bobby is indeed who he says he is -- a home-grown West Texas mechanic -- and not a "drug runner" working for the Mexican drug cartels. Therefore, no further surveillance is necessary by the virtual security forces prosecuting the War on Drugs.

Perhaps instead of harassing him for hot-roding through the desert at speeds up to 200-mph, in recognition of his obvious driving and mechanical skills, they should offer him a job. But then, they don't seem to need pilots and drivers anymore, do they?

Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle -- Hunter RQ-6

UPDATE: December 4, 2008

With the deployment of the Predator-B on the Canadian border this week, it was announced that the UAV has been in use on the U.S.-Mexico border since 2005. The Predator will achieve air speeds of up to 136-mph.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

UFO Sighting Resolved by TARS Blimp (But the story just keeps getting spookier)

Yesterday, I took a day trip with my dogs to Davis Mountains State Park and Indian Lodge. When the park was getting ready to close I drove back to Fort Davis and decided to take the "scenic route" out highway 166 to Valentine. After dallying around at the road side park, playing with the dogs on top of and around huge boulders, I started taking pictures of the sunset.

Once I got down the road, I stopped to snap the picture above when I noticed something just hanging in the air [the black spot hanging there in the valley between the mountains. Click-on the picture for a better view on Flickr].

There have been lots and lots of UFO sightings out here, an area of West Texas that is south of Roswell, New Mexico, and down on the Mexican border. As you can imagine, I got very excited. Words cannot describe the wonder at what I saw. I began taking pictures. [To the left is an enhanced photo of what I saw. ]

I've uploaded some of the pictures as a set and placed them on my Flickr Site.

It was getting dark and, while taking photos, another motorist stopped to make sure I was okay. I pointed to what I was photographing and asked him if he had a clue about what it might be. He chuckled and explained that it was "the blimp."

Explaining further, he said that it was TARS -- The U.S. Air Force Tethered Aerostat Radar System nearby and he gave me directions for a closer shoot. He explained that the blimp could "take a picture of a bug on your shoulder from several miles out," -- that it was used to aide the U.S. Border Patrol in spotting migrating workers traveling at night and/or drug planes flying in from Mexico; and that they even restricted air space for the entire area nearby.

Well that was that. Or so I thought.

Bobby, an "A-1 Mechanic"

I admitted to my helpful new acquaintance that I was disappointed. I thought I had sighted a UFO and he spoiled my fun by identifying this ominous looking flying object as "the TARS Blimp." But he wasn't finished; he related a UFO story of his own.

Bobby's UFO Story: He said that he was traveling down Texas-166 on his way home on the evening of November 22, 2008, this past Saturday night, when out of the blue...
"Something pulled along side of me. It had two really bright lights shinning through my widow at me. So I sped up trying to outrun it but it stayed right there with me for several minutes. My car will do 200-mph with the chip I installed and I was doing over 130-mph when it suddenly disappeared. I guess I outran it."
Bobby's Souped-Up Chrysler V-16 with "chip" installed

Woahhh! I think I might have looked for an underpass instead. I asked him if it looked like a remote controlled "drone," a small "unmanned aerial vehicle" (UAV) used by the U.S. military to provide surveillance and intelligence data, as well as to launch missiles at suspected Taliban strongholds in western Pakistan. I was surmising that he might have seen an Air Force drone associated with TARS, dispatched to check him out since he described his souped-up engine as having the ability to achieve speeds up to 200-mph on the desert highways of West Texas. He found that interesting theory but said he couldn't identify the object flying beside him because he had been blinded by its lights shining in on him through his window.

The young mechanic gave me directions from Texas-166 to the location of the TARS site on U.S. Highway 90, about 20-miles west of Marfa close to the Texas-Mexican border where I set up at a picnic area close by and got a picture of the underbelly of the beast -- three blinking red lights on a helium-filled blimp. Admittedly, a not very impressive photo. I also got photos of the TARS site entrance just so that I could get the spelling right from the posted signage. :>) The lights in the background of the photo below represent the compound itself, about a nine-square block area (3-blocks x 3-blocks) with rows of buildings all set up to feed migrant workers into the private prison industry). I could not tell if there was a small associated landing strip for UAVs.

United States Air Force Tethered Aerostat Radar Site

Then I drove on into Marfa, home of the other famous "Marfa Lights," and stopped at the Dairy Queen for a bite to eat. There were four TDPS troopers inside taking their evening lunch break and watching the LSU-Ol' Miss game on the big screen TV.

Sitting down at the table next to them, I told them my humorous story of mistaking "the TARS blimp" for a UFO (it was "unidentified" to me at the time, anyway). Of course, they got a big kick out of that and the story I related to them about Bobby's UFO sighting flying down the highway alongside him. I asked them what they made of Bobby's story.

One of the troopers stated humorously, "Yea? He was drunk is what he was!" We all got a big laugh out of that. Unsurprisingly, the tall young trooper added, "I was out there that night; he's lucky I didn't catch him running at 130-mph!"

That said it all! With that comment, the trooper had ruled-out the possibility that Bobby had been pursued by a Texas State Trooper and had simply outrun him not knowing what was after him. (Unless the young trooper has Alzheimer's.) After all, it was his beat.

So I related my theory that an "unmanned aerial vehicle" had been dispatched from the TARS compound to surveil him as a possible drug runner, due to his hot-rodding through the Chihuahuan Desert. The same trooper who had expressed incredulity at the entire story said, "No way; they don't have any drones out there." I then double-checked asking, "You work these highway so I guess you'd know?" "Absolutely," he responded. No UAVs.

That was the end of that. Or was it? I'm still puzzled and until I can get back down there during the day to interview someone at the TARS compound I'll never be convinced that the U.S. Military is not using "UAV spy technology" on American citizens in cooperation with local law enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Notwithstanding the Posse Comitatus Act or the now infamous regulations restricting the use of surveillance systems on U.S. citizens without a warrant [see the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy], even if their excuse is that they thought Bobby was a drug runner, it's a spooky notion (pardon the pun) to think that the U.S. military may be out tracking down and spooking drivers on America's highways.

At any rate, one wonders whether or not policies exist covering such maverick activities regarding the possible surveillance of U.S. roadway traffic at such close quarters by the U.S. Air Force. Accidents will happen, unless Murphy's Law has been rescinded or otherwise trumped by an Act of God exclusion clause by insurance companies -- some of these UAVs are armed.

When I was Bobby's age, I was in a bass boat fishing in a cove on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas when a young Air Force pilot in training buzzed me, apparently just for kicks. He was riding along the treetops over the Piney Woods before he came scorching in over my head. I could have scratched his underbelly. I was so startled that I chipped a tooth and later lost it. In fact, I almost fell out of the boat. If this story pans out like I expect it to, it will reinforce the opinion of many West Texans that the only "terrorists" along our borders are the cowboys in the U.S. Military and Border Patrol.

Otherwise, we've had yet another UFO sighting in West Texas.

Tethered Aerostat Radar System
U.S. Air Force Photo

This story has been cross-posted to my blog at Open Salon:
Southern Perspectives


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fishing Party Rescues Dog a Mile from Land

Align CenterJake
Photo by Shingo Mutoh

A fishing guide and his clients were out on an excursion on November 8th off the coast of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, when they came across a disoriented Yellow Lab, pictured above, swimming a mile off the coast. The story is here, published today by the Raleigh-Durham News Observer.
"Dean Lamont is a professional fishing guide, plying the waters around Cape Lookout. Depending upon the season and local conditions, Lamont guides anglers to red drum, speckled trout, false albacore -- whatever species presents the best opportunity.

"He can add Labrador retriever to the list.

"On Nov. 8, while guiding Tim Wilson of Raleigh and Shingo Mutoh of Durham, Lamont and his party caught (and later released) a yellow Lab more than a mile from the nearest dry land."
Jake had apparently jumped into the water after his owner left him on-board a fishing vessel. His owner had taken a fishing companion, using a dingy that was in tow, closer in on the marshes on the North Carolina coast. The party of fishermen who rescued Jake were caring and responsible enough to search until they found his human caretakers. Heart warming.

What would pique my interest in an East Coast story like this? Below is a picture of my dog, Buddy Sattva, swimming in the central irrigation canal here in Balmorhea:

Buddy Sattva

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Juan Carrasco Mercantile, Balmorhea (Balmorhea? Brogado? It's All the Same)

Now in it's third generation of family management, Carrasco's has been a Balmorhea institution for years. The current owner-manager, Hector Rodriguez, represents the third generation and is second generation patriarch Rosendo Carrasco's son-in-law.

In fact, there is now a fourth generation in training, Hector's son Michael [pictured left], but he's going to college to become a rapper not a grocer (just kidding). This is the guy who plays the rap music on the outside speakers when the old man's not paying attention.

As you can tell by my levity, a healthy sense of humor pervades the atmosphere at Carrasco's and their many happy customers add to the hale and hardy ambiance.

Hector and his son maintain the family smokehouse tradition but it's now done in homemade smokers such as the large one seen under the porch, pictured above. The monster, Big Mama, is mounted on a trailer and follows the family to local cookouts and festivals.

Why, if it weren't for the Carrasco family, the local flock of wild turkeys that roam about at will in "Downtown Balmorhea" would be an endangered species this time of year. They even have their own road sign with a logo as if signifying "Slow Turkeys."

Our Beloved Justice of the Peace Rosendo Carrasco, son of Juan, used to hold court here in a small office on the southwest corner of the building. He's even performed a wedding or two right here and in various other places around Balmorhea, such as la Calera Chapel. "Judge Rosendo" now maintains his office in the new Balmorhea Community Center.

Carrasco's is located on the right, 2-miles south on 17 off the Balmorhea Exit on I-10 and 2-miles before you get to "Downtown Balmorhea" (and watch out for the turkeys!).

Big Mama
Juan Carrasco Mercantile
Brogado, Texas

Monday, November 3, 2008

Winter is Coming

You can see it in the clouds. The "horse tails" are whipping to the southeast, as seen in this picture taken yesterday out on the road to the lake southeast of town. They indicate a cold front is about two-three days away.

Don Morgan, a New Mexico rancher taught me that. I worked for him outside of Fort Sumner when I was 21-22 after dropping out of college. In the Great Southwest there's little else but the weather to talk about. I needed that simplicity at the time. It was good, clean, healthy work and my horse was a better horse than I was a cowboy. You can imagine how humbling it was to sit on a horse like that and let him make all the decisions about cutting and herding without interference. It was like being powerless.

It was really, really like being powerless when that horse spotted the barn from high up on a ridge. The cattle herding was over. He headed straight for the barn and there was no stopping him. I just had to go with it.

It was a relief that nobody made fun of me when I finally made it back out to the branding in the old Jimmy. But then, ranchers and their cowboys are so notoriously stoic, the polite grins I was getting when I got back probably would have been interpreted by a native New Mexican as a denigrating laugh-fest worth a good barroom brawl after-hours. To a boy from the city like myself, I was just happy they all kept their mouths shut and left me alone.

How was I to know you were supposed to beat your horse for that kind of impudence? At any rate, the horse seemed to intuit that he'd never get a beating from a city slicker like me. I even tried twisting his ear. Nothing short of a beating was ever going to deter that horse from his destination and if I had tried, he'd have probably kicked my ass.

But I'm having the last laugh you see; that sombitch is long since dead and pecked over by buzzards of "the high chaparral." The "better cowboys" knew not to even ride him. But what a cutting horse he was! You could have put Howdy Doody in the saddle and that horse would have done his thang.

You can barely make her out, but my dog Honey is pictured nose buried in the earth about a half-inch up on the far right edge of the windmill photo -- black fur with the white shoulder. She's just a spot really. Click-on the photo for an enlarged version.

This windmill photo was interesting without the added effects, but a little color saturation, some sharpening and lots of added grain to give it the look of an old painting and folks around here will soon be thinking I've been working in oils. It's amazing what a Nikon D80 can do to get an old timer out of the house and into the sunlight, even at sunset, even if photographs of western windmills have long been a cliché, even if admitting the cliché is cliché, and so on.

The really good thing about windmills though, is that they remind me of water. Some days, cues and triggers like this can be very important.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stage-3 Recovery: Confronting the Bull

Zen Buddhists have a 10-step series of paintings that helps people who regularly meditate by describing the process of awakening. Here we have Abby Honey, one of Balmorhea's finest, demonstrating a few of the subdivisions between Stage-3 & 4.

Notice how focused and alert she is, as opposed to how nonchalant and sleepy the bull appears. Does a dog have Buddha Nature?