Friday, June 24, 2016

What Brexit means for the US

The British people have spoken and the UK is leaving the EU.  As a result, the unpopular Prime Minister David Cameron is stepping down.  Many blame his pro-immigration policies for the spike in violent crimes being committed by immigrants.  The immediate fallout has been the price for UK stocks has plummeted creating panic for the rest of the European stock markets.  There will be an even stronger push now for Scottish independence.

Mr. Obama hasn't had a great few days either.  The vote for Brexit is widely seen as the UK telling Washington in typical British manner to "Piss Off!".  At the same time, the US Supreme issued a one-sentence ruling shutting down all of Mr. Obama's executive actions on immigration.  Given that we are likely to see more, not less, attacks and other acts of violence committed by "immigrants" (illegal as well legal or native born), the widespread feeling that opening our borders is a bad idea will be THE issue that will help elect the next President.

If you are warm and well-fed, it is easy to lament about the plight of those that are cold and hungry.  If you live in a nice house in a good neighborhood it is easier to worry about those who don't have homes.  All of this empathy starts to evaporate however when you feel your own comfort or safety being threatened.  If you are focused on staying warm, getting food or paying bills empathy for others is just time wasted you need for other things needed for your survival.  It is that duality, comfort versus discomfort, that places liberals and conservatives at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Liberals don't see threats to their comfort or safety so they are able to focus on the needs of others.  Conservatives see their safety and comfort being threatened and don't care about those that they see as being part of the problem.  Former PM Cameron and his cronies live very comfortable lives protected by Scotland Yard.  Meanwhile, average British citizens are being mugged, assaulted and raped by immigrants.  You can argue that this may not be reality but it certainly was the perception by those who voted in favor of Brexit.

Similarly, Mr. Obama has this view of the US as a welcoming land and the final bastion for those fleeing oppression in their native lands.  Protected for the rest of their lives by the US Secret Service, the Obamas (as are all of the former Presidential families) are able to focus on the plight of others since they don't have to worry about themselves.  Contrast this with the typical working class American.  Who cares about some foreign slob fleeing oppression in his country, he is taking a job from me by working for a lower wage.  Americans see crime rates are skyrocketing because of immigrants such as MS-13. Each terrorist attack on American soil has been by an immigrant or the first-born of immigrants.

Oh and here is dirty little secret Mr. Obama and his cronies would rather you didn't know…more African-Americans disapprove of his pro-immigration and pro-transgender policies there you may think.  Black Americans care about their children just as much as any white American and aren't really into having their kids exposed to transponders making a statement in public restrooms.  Black Americans don't want to lose jobs to immigrants any more than any white American does.  In fact Black Americans and more identify with Republicans than Democrats on issues such as family, jobs, economics and immigration.  Yet the Republican party will never be the choice of Black Americans because it is seen as the party of choice for racists.

Keep all of this in mind as we close in on November.  No matter how much Hillary brags about her expertise and credentials to be the next President, it rings hollow against a huge part of the population that is worried that immigrants are pose a clear and present danger to their livelihoods.  Trump for all of his bad hair and gaffs in front of the cameras is staying the course on immigration and may just ride this all the way to the White House.

Some reading this may be gasping in horror at merely the thought of a "President Trump" and are thinking to themselves that they can't name even one person who will vote for "that guy".  True but it pays to remember something about polls and voters.  Whenever someone answers a poll, it is much like the adage "Let me be the person that my dog thinks I am".  People answer polls the way they think they should, not how they truly think or feel.  Likewise, your buddies will tell you they are going to vote for whoever your circle of friends most identifies with but that may not be who the vote for…if they vote at all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Brexit anyone?

While the world (or at least the world according to the US media) focused on the shootings in Orlando, another shooting occurred that may have a far greater impact.  Member of Parliament Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death on June 16th.  Her support of Muslims seems to be why she was targeted, however her death has had a much larger impact by muting discussions on the UK pulling out of the European Union (the so called "Brexit").

If the UK does still vote to get out of the EU, the economics impact will be devastating to both the rest of the EU as well as the UK.  Which makes the timing of Cox's murder all the more suspicious.  Was it truly motivated by anti-Muslim sentiments or was a dupe found to mute dissension?

Looking back on some of my predictions, we see that Syria and Turkey continue to hate one another but it has led to any further escalations on a global scale (despite Turkey blasting a Russian fighter out of the sky).  The US Navy continues to harass China (and the Chinese Navy continues to harass the Navy right back).  It seems to be leading to a new type of Cold War but with no real acknowledgment by either side.

Russia has continued to play "Top Gun" with US reconnaissance aircraft (taking some time off to harass NATO aircraft as well).  Again sort of a return to Cold War type shenanigans but without any announced intentions.

Brazil is falling apart before our eyes and on the eve of the Olympics.  The governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared a state of emergency because they can't pay their public employees (including the police)!  If zika virus doesn't manage to create a disaster, the lack of security and infrastructure just might.

It seems like any of these situations could be escalated by ISIS but they seem to be content with popping off attacks in the US by supposed "lone-wolf" terrorists.  

All of this provides an uneven backdrop for our Presidential candidates.  I truly did not Hillary's health would allow her to run again but thus far, she has maintained the necessary tempo towards November.  Meanwhile, Trump seems to have decided that the campaign staff that got him the nomination is the wrong combination to get him elected.  Neither Hillary nor Trump have named their VP candidates as of this time.

It makes me even more certain though that something major is going to happen before November elections.  Perhaps a cyber attack or worse, an attack on our power grids during the peak month of August.  If zika virus does what ebola failed to do, we see large areas of the US under quarantine.  Most of the scenarios that seem likely to me also imply the possibility for martial law.  

Then again, the best fighters are the ones who know how to get you to drop your guard right before they deliver the knock-out.  So we may cruise right into the elections, end-up with a new President and then the bottom gets dropped out from under us.

2016, a very interesting year indeed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fucking Hypocrites

Oh wow, has the media worked it's magic (again)!  As of today, 49 people were killed by the ISIS-linked terrorist who attacked a night club in Florida.  As the victims were all members of the LGBT community, the left has come completely apart over this massacre.  People are figuratively as well as literally crying their eyes out over social media, the chant becoming "What we've been doing isn't working!"  Oh the horror, if only we were to have more gun control!  I even read one my articulate social media colleagues posting a very heartfelt "fuck you" to all owners of assault rifles challenging their "right" to own these instruments of death.  Oh my!

Except I have a small problem with all of this new found outrage at assault rifles and those that own them.  For where was all of this righteous indignation when 69 people were killed in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend?!  Oh, and let's not overlook that the Windy City has the most restrictive laws on private gun ownership in the country.  Yet not one single post appeared on any of my social media feeds bemoaning the Chicago shootings from the very same people that are going apoplectic about the Florida shooting.  A little hypocrisy tinged with some latent racism perhaps?  See I can't help be feel that the mostly light skinned, LGBT victims are far more "acceptable" to the media than the mostly dark skinned victims of the Chicago shootings.  Both sides falling victim to media bias and manipulation.

I was getting ready to run down the same rabbit hole and engage in some social media fencing with my colleagues about some of their comments when I realized, this is exactly what the media campaign has been all about.  Take our minds to some place else, let us squabble amongst each other and ignore the real culprits.

When President Obama first took office, everything was Bush's fault.  Well yes, regardless of your politics Bush did invade Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein.  Nature abhors a vacuum so the US military had to fill in the maintain the peace between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites.  But what the current narrative forgets is that it was President Obama's insistence on PUBLICLY announcing a timeline for troop withdrawals that stet the stage for the formation of ISIS.  Again, nature abhors a vacuum.

President Obama's speech on the Florida attack was lauded by not only the usual suspects but even by some of the more even-minded conservatives who recognize that immediately going down by the rabbit hole of calling the shooter "a radicalized Muslim" may do a lot more harm than good.  I tend to agree that Mr. Obama declaring "radical Islam" doesn't change things and could very likely escalate matters.

However, before we heap too much praise on Chicago's finest let's not forget a little history lesson involving another Illinois native.  About 5 years ago, there raged this little thing commonly called The Arab Spring.  Starting in Tunisia and sweeping through North Africa, the citizens of these nations had had enough the of status quo and starting to overthrow the governments.  Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton (and I believe with the encouragement of Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice) decided to let it run rampant.  Qaddafi along with the problematic Mubarak would become just part of the narrative.

Clinton and Obama especially wanted Syrian President Assad ousted and the Arab Spring seemed it would take care of him as well.  Unfortunately for Obama and company, Assad had no such desire to go the way of of Qaddafi (executed) or Mubarak (tortured and imprisoned).  By attacking Assad, Obama and Clinton turned those opposing the Syrian government into ISIS.  Oops.  I suspect none of Team Obama realized the resiliency of Assad as well as the impact of Syria's relationship with Russia.

Now 5 years later, ISIS has continued to figure out new and better ways to recruit Americans to their cause.  One idiot from West Chester last year was stopped before he could act.  The psychopath in the Florida shooting is just the latest.

So if you are on the side that wants to blame the shooting on the fact that civilian's own assault rifles, you are too busy listening to your own conscience to read the record.  For that matter, if you are on the side defending gun rights by quoting the 2nd Amendment, you are too busy listening to the NRA instead of remembering 49 Americans were killed by an American with a rifle.  You both are too damn to involved in your side of the politically spectrum to even mention Chicago.  Fucking hypocrites.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thoughts on the latest terrorist attack

When ISIS terrorists shot-up Charlie Hebdo, France unified in their condemnation of ISIS and sent their   Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie national or GIGN.  When a terrorist linked to ISIS shoots-up a club in Florida, the US fractures with leftist blaming the NRA and conservative Christians blaming the victims lifestyle.  A pox on both of you.

Despite what your political views tell you, the US is a rather open country politically.  We can still freely move around the country whenever we want, we can vote for whomever we want, we can write all manner of crap on blogs and social media, we are free to associate with whomever we want (unless convicted of a serious crime), and we all pretty much take these and other freedoms for granted.

One of our biggest freedoms is though our legal system which is based on the principle "innocent until proven guilty".  Yes, yes I know you are going to flood my inbox with example of example of where the legal system is "rigged" or has "failed" but have you ever compared it to other "modern" countries? The United Kingdom still follows the principle of "guilty until proven innocent" and France does not use past precedence in legal cases.  In France, you get what you get regardless of what happened to the other guy who did the very same thing.

But all of the freedoms comes with a price.  The price is we typically can't, even under the US PATRIOT ACT, lock someone up for just looking like a terrorist.  We can't ban people from freely associating even if their countries of origin are hotbeds for terrorist activity.  We can't stop anyone who has travelled to the US legally from moving freely around the country once they arrive.

If you dumbasses on the right and left don't stop arguing with one another, we are going to start to lose these freedoms under the guise of "protection".  Americans were shot and killed by a American-born terrorist who had turned his allegiance to a movement set on destroying this country and you morons have allowed the conversation to revolve around gun control?

For those of you with short-attention spans, allow me to remind you of this psychopath;

He shot dead 69 young people at a youth camp (plus killed another 8 with a bomb he had planted) in 2011.  See that mall-ninja crap he is rocking?  He purchased all of it legally, in Norway, a country where private gun ownership is restricted.  You have to demonstrate the need to own a firearm which is typically hunting or sports shooting.  Even then, there are restrictions on the type and caliber.  The psychopath above did all of the things in a country with the same rules the US left are pushing for in an hopeless attempt to prevent future mass shootings.  You can't legislate hate away.

Oh and those on the right need to sit down and shut-up as well.  There are over 158 million guns in the US.  Most gun-owners own more than one gun already.  How in the hell does more restrictions on the purchase and sale of firearms equal confiscation?  We are talking about a country with an estimated population of 322,762,018 at the beginning of the year.  The government can't even seem to do a good job inspecting all passengers boarding airliners yet this same government is suddenly going to be able to develop the wherewithal to confiscate all of your firearms?  Stop with the paranoia, it's not helping to make your case.

Now both sides, stop bitching and moaning and pay attention.  Just under 15 years ago this country was attacked by a group of people that don't like us.  As a result, we went to war in two countries which also means we generated a whole new group of people that hate us.  They don't care if you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, male of female, gay or straight…you are an American and they are going to kill us whenever and wherever they get the chance.

One more thing, notice how when the Charlie Hebdo attack happened everybody turned the background of the Facebook profile picture to the French flag?  Interesting how I don't see the rest of the world doing that for the Florida attack.  Pay attention people, if we don't stand together in this crap we will fall.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What does it really mean when Russian jets buzz US ships?

The US Air Force and Navy continue to get harassed by Russian jets.  The encounters are provocative at the very least and seem to be a throw back to the Cold War Days.  In this especially acrimonious election cycle, it is easy to believe that these encounters between Russian and US forces is the result of the Obama Administration.  Some may even argue that Putin senses that after more than 14 years at war, the US military has been taxed to its breaking point.

There may be some truth to those perceptions but it assumes a Western point of view that is too US centric, meaning there may be other factor contributing to the near skirmishes that the general public isn't following.

First, the Obama Administration has quietly resurrected its "Pivot to Asia" strategy, this time though relying more on military show of force than diplomacy.  US Navy vessels as well as US Air Force B-52 bombers have been making much to do over several artificial islands that Chinese have constructed. The State Dept argues that these islands violate right-of-way for sea traffic and as such the US intends to test the Chinese resolve.

Keep in mind that it wasn't that long ago the Russia and China (along with Brazil, India, and South Africa) formed the economic coalition, BRICS at a time when the EU is falling apart and the US economy is struggling.

Brazil has become vulnerable due to the outbreak of Zika virus right before the Olympic games.  If the games get cancelled or if a lot of countries start to pull out for fear of spreading the disease, the Brazilian economy will go bust (which it may regardless).  As though that wasn't enough, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff faces impeachment.  She just travelled to New York to ask the UN for help.

Given that Venezuela still blames the CIA for the death of their former President Hugo Chavez, it may not be much of a stretch for Brazil to believe the US for their economic woes as punishment for forming BRICS.

Meanwhile, the US has taken the unusual step of deploying F-22 fighters to Romania, which of course is pretty much right next door to Ukraine.

Perhaps Russia's increased aggressiveness is more about backing China and Brazil against perceived interference by the US.  The F-22s is more about show that actually positioning any forces that could counter further actions by Russia in Ukraine.

All of which makes one wonder what has been set in motion that the winner of the Presidential election will be left to deal with in 2017?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jack of All Trades and Master of None

"Jack of all trades and master of none"

The rhetorical figure aptly described the officer corps of the US Air Force back in the mid-1980s.  As a brand new second lieutenant, I was admonished to as quickly as possible find opportunities to "broaden" my career path such as joint assignments, staff assignments or even taking a tour in another career field as a means of improving opportunities for promotions.

The emphasis was always on upward mobility (which equated to promotions) then becoming adept at aspects of the job.  Even if you joined because all you wanted to do was fly, you were to get over that as quickly as possible because you just weren't going to get promoted if you remained in the cockpit too long.

We were told through our superiors and supervisors that it was the job of the officers to aspire to command as quickly as possible.  Mastering the nuances of the career field was the responsibility of the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), especially since USAF eliminated warrant officers back in 1959.

The mentality of the USAF officer corps (including the Reserves and Air National Guard) was "up or out".  Officers who really loved what the were doing, such as pilots or maintainers, and remained in their career fields too long were passed over for promotion.  Meanwhile, those who become adept at career assignments become the next O-6 or general officer.  Thus it appears to many officers and NCOs that senior leadership is composed mainly of men and women who are masters of nothing more than the politics of assignments. This is what is behind the maelstrom of blogs and responses that you can read over at John Q. Public.

Officers, especially senior officers, are not supposed to think outside the box in the USAF and can only spout the party line.  As the officer pyramid narrows at the top, it becomes increasingly easy to spot those that don't abide by those unwritten rules.  A top pick for a prestigious assignment gets suddenly sent elsewhere, or perhaps an OER just isn't as "fire walled" as it needs to be.

USAF officers are taught to admire historical figures like Billy Mitchell, Curtis LeMay, or Robin Olds yet none of those great officers would survive in today's Air Force.  They were mavericks even in their time but in today's culturally sensitive, politically correct, Total Force such officers would never have made it past the rank of captain.

Now none of this is new nor am I the first to write about it.  What got me started on this rant was something I learned last week as I was attending my daughters graduation from USAF Basic Military Training (BMT).  The NCO corps is now being forced into same mentality as the officer corps.

If an NCO in today's USAF wants to make it to E-7 (master sergeant) then he or she needs to have in addition to attaining a 7-level ("craftsmen" requiring successful completion of OJT and career development courses or CDCs) in their career field need to then also complete one assignment as a recruiter AND one assignment as a drill instructor AND one other special duty assignment outside their career field!  Oh and all of this is cast against a 20 year career.  WTF?!

I truly hope that I misunderstood this.  NCOs in the USAF are the technical experts and the continuity for the units.  Making it an "expectation" of having career broadening assignments takes that away and makes the USAF nothing more than a bunch of careerists looking for the next assignment instead of becoming experts in airpower.

And perhaps this inevitably given how technology is rapidly reshaping our entire economy. If self-driving cars may mean the end of truck drivers and delivery people, then drones have already started to replace pilots and all of the personnel needed to put said pilot in the cockpit.  Drone operators, as long as there are still some, don't require the same logistical support at all.  Without the logistical need out goes the need for specialists in life support, parachutes, flight medicine, avionics, UHF/VHF radios, survival and resistance training, pararescue, personnel, finance, travel, billeting, etc.

The worst part is the officer corps, the very ones who should be on guard concerning these changes, are the ones least prepared to deal with it.  Now the NCO corps seems to be on a course to join them.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thoughts on the TSA from last week

Last week I did something I haven't done is probably ten years…fly commercially.  I used to travel a lot when I was in the service and flew on airlines quite frequently.  Cost-saving measures and increased security measures as a result of 9/11 makes me dread flying and I avoid it whenever possible.

Circumstances last week required me to fly and as result, I got to see TSA at 4 different airports (including two major hubs).  I also used to teach courses for TSA screeners at CVG so let me share my impressions and observations.

- TSA in general are just to damn grim.  You can still be professional and stop would be hijackers while smiling and being nice.  Try it, it might help your image.

- TSA spends an inordinate amount of money, manpower and time trying to prevent a particular scenario, i.e. armed terrorists boarding the aircraft as passengers.  In so doing, they have created a lot of animosity on the part of passengers.  They also have created another threat without realizing it that I will cover in my conclusion.

- TSA does not engage the passenger enough in their efforts.  Instead of treating every boarding passenger as a suspected terrorist (guilty until proven innocent?), they should do more to educate passengers on potential threats and what to be on the lookout for.

- TSA only makes their presence known at the front-end, nothing at the back-end.  They lose the ability to learn from exiting passengers of any suspicious behavior or conversations that may have been overheard.

- The doctrine of TSA still remains much as it did when it was first created; the best way to stop a 9/11 attacks is by screening passengers boarding airlines.  Nearly all of their manpower and resources therefore go into airports and nothing at all is done for trains, buses and ships.

TSA needs some serious revamping.  The personnel need to less robotic in the delivery of messages, people tune them out.  When people don't follow instructions, TSA reacts as though they are a suspect instead elimination other factors such as the person may not speak English or is hearing impaired.  TSA agents need to be more conversation with the passengers than confrontational (ask any cop, they do it all of the time).

Here is a radical concept, get rid of the screening areas.  What?  Yes, get rid of them and instead increase the number of Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) to get out amongst the passengers.  Anyone who act suspiciously, quietly escort them to a screening area.  More random checks present a much harder problem for the terrorists than current model.

Another reason for getting rid of the screening areas is they are a bottleneck.  At one major hub I flew through, the screening area went right into the terminal where multiple concourses connected.  Any attack at the bottleneck would have killed or injured passengers waiting to be screened as well as those trying to make connecting flights.

TSA assumes they are the only way a terrorist will be stopped.  In truth, the passengers are a much more active defense as the situation with Richard Reid (the Shoe Bomber) and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab (the Underwear Bomber) prove.  Engage the passengers and make them feel a part of the solution instead as suspects.  TSA is only about stopping weapons from coming on board, they aren't really set up to gather intelligence about who may be transiting the US.