Monday, August 3, 2015

Drones

Sometime in the late 1980s, I was sitting in a movie theater enjoying the latest (and what would prove to be the last) "Dirty Harry" film.  In this film, "Dirty" Harry Callahan ends up being pursued by a remote-controlled car carrying a small package of explosives (enough to detonate the car's gas tank).  The chase seemed cartoonish, even more so than Harry and his foes, even if it had been used in a James Bond movie.

Flash forward nearly 30 years later and we have a warning from DHS that drones may be used in a terrorist attack.  How ironic that the darling of the "Global War on Terror" or GWOT is now being used by the bad guys against us.

Drones have been making headlines a lot lately, especially the aerial variety (although there are ground and marine based variants that are equally deadly).  Aerial drones are the type voted most-likely to become autonomous hunter-killers without human intervention.  A teenage student from Connecticut posted a video of a drone he modified to fire a Glock (for his dumb-ass vanity, he was promptly arrested).  Then last week, a man in Louisville shot down a drone he claimed was spying on his teenage daughters sunbathing in his backyard.

Over the weekend, I found myself in a rather large local flea market.  I was intrigued by the huge stall one of the vendors had rented out, wondering what he was selling that could help offset the rent for such a space.  Sure enough, he was selling aerial drones of every size and price range.  A dumb-ass with the cash can walk away with their own aerial drone.

Most civilian models already come equipped with digital cameras that can provide live feeds back to your smart phone or computer.  Gone are the days of the local peeping tom hiding behind a tree or his curtains with a pair of binoculars!

For now though most civilian drones have a limited range and payload.  They also make a helluva lot of noise so as of yet, they can't quite sneak up to your bedroom window (but that's coming).  But even with the loud noise signature, they can still be used as a terrorist weapons.  The abundance of drones is causing people to ignore them so if a say a large gathering sees one, they won't disperse.  And that is exactly the danger.

It would take much to rig up a IED on a drone.  Fly it over the crowd and BOOM!  Instant headline.  Or you could simply have one pop up in the flight path of an airliner as it is climbing out during take off.  High-bypass turbofan engines don't like ingesting foreign debris on the best of days, a large drone full of metal parts could cause the engine to completely fail.  At such low altitudes, the pilots may not be able to react in time to recover.

You could even revisit the "Dirty" Harry movie I began with and instead of blowing up a police car just smash it through their windshield.  Would even work on limousines of elected officials, ballistic glass notwithstanding, by causing the driver to veer off the road.

Drones are already beyond FAA's ability to regulate and the drones are only going to get smaller and quieter.  Then of course we would still have to worry about land-based or marine-based variants (such as micro subs).

I'm not certain what the answer is going to be on this one.  If shoot them down, they may just fall into the very people we are trying to protect.  Jamming could end up creating even more havoc.  And don't forget even the "benevolent" drones being flown by the good guys could be easily hacked and turned into weapons.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Beating fear with common sense

Last week, a University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed the driver of a car off-campus.  The officer white, the driver black.  Details were not released at the time of the shooting.  Today, Cincinnati waits with bated-breath for the release of the video later this afternoon.  The fact that the city manager has already said, "it doesn't look good" was compounded earlier today when UC closed its campuses in anticipation of the video's release.

I don't know the details and even after the video is released, I'm not going to spend any more time writing about it.  My point today was rather to remind all of us not to fall prey to fear.

Over the last year, blacks and whites are more afraid of one another than they have been in decades.  Even when the headlines aren't filled with news about the latest police shootings, we see headlines about the latest celebrity to have used racial slurs (Hulk Hogan for example).  If you are still not afraid, try headlines about the latest American to become indoctrinated by ISIS will have you convinced the next 9/11 is just around the corner.  Or perhaps you have been reading about the one thousand scientist who have signed a petition demanding the AI killing machines be prohibited (Terminator may not be the fiction that we think it is).

I am prudent by nature and don't believe you can ignore any of these topics and hope they will go away, however to become consumed by the hopeless and repetitive nature of the news is also unhelpful.  People are arming themselves at an increasing rate every day, which is a prudent thing in my opinion, but how many of these people have stopped to consider you are basically arming yourself against your fellow American?  Are we truly in that much peril or are we simply being manipulated into believing that we are?

In 1996, I was privileged to have been on one of the first delegations from the Ohio National Guard to visit the Hungarian Defence Force in Budapest.  The visit was part of the larger Partnership for Peace initiative seeking to increase democratic governments in former Warsaw Pact nations.  I got to see first hand Soviet weapon systems in a former Warsaw Pact nation (Hungary having had the reputation of being one of the best equipped and trained outside the Soviets).

When I first joined the USAF, I was trained as an intelligence analyst.  All of the analysis we were taught and read basically painted the Soviets and Warsaw Pact as 10-foot giants, with a numerical superiority that US forces could only hope to overcome by our superior technology.  What I learned back in 1996 was that in fact the Soviets and their allies were NOT 10-foot giants!  Their equipment, while durable and powerful, was not well maintained meaning there was really not going to be as great a numerical advantage as we thought.

Applying what I learned nearly 20 years ago to today, I don't believe the situation is a dire as we may feel.  Yes, race relations still need to be improved but we forget that we have also elected the first black President and the Civil Rights Act was signed into law over 50 years ago (or how about the first African-American prima ballerina Misty Copeland!).

Yes, we've had some morons who have been lured to ISIS ideology but look at how many other young people who have NOT been recruited and are going on with normal lives.  Yes policing needs to have an overhaul, focusing more on community-based policing and less of the macho, confrontational style that style exists in many departments.  Despite this, Americans of all races still want their neighborhoods safe and patrolled.  Americans want the police to arrest criminals (one only needs to look at what happened in Detroit to see what happens when you don't have police).

So follow this piece of advice from another blogger, James A. Keating in avoiding the pitfall of becoming too afraid;

"Human-ness" can be quite powerful if it is really understood to an extreme point - and no one understands it better than those most naturally human! Rejoice in your human-ness. Every cup of coffee should be savored. Each meal appreciated and prayed over in fervent thanks. Live each moment to it's richest apex of beingness and take it all in, soak it up and remember it. These "things" feed on fear and anxiety. So savor, enjoy, relax, appreciate, kick back, indulge, luxuriate, partake of life's pleasures. This shit just kills the "fear feeders". Center up and balance up, it's ok!

Keep up on the news but take it only in small doses.  Instead of eyeing up your neighbor with suspicion, offer them a helping hand.  If you feel the need to be armed follow your instincts.  Just be sure those are truly your instincts not the malarky being shown on the media.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ethiopia

Mr. Obama goes to Ethiopia to much fanfare by Africans living in the Horn of Africa.  Immediately though Obama takes the opportunity as the first US president to ever visit Ethiopia to lecture them on their policies against gays.  Furthermore, his visit is viewed as tacitly approving the legitimacy of the Ethiopian government which has had a horrible history of human rights violations.

My question to Mr. Obama is why now?  You who by virtue of your birth should have made Africa your number one foreign policy goal did nothing to reach out to the continent of your father's birth until late into your second term.  Other countries are far more prosperous (Kenya) with a better human rights record yet you went to Ethiopia which has been constantly engaged in civil wars with Somalia and Eritrea.

What seems to be on Mr. Obama's mind is trying to gain a foothold after a partnership between China and Ethiopia fell through.  So Obama's trip was not so much about partnering with the land of his father as much as continuing the same crap of picking a fight with China.

And the paid political consultants and media pundits keep wonder why "The Donald" keeps gaining in the pols…..

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wimp

This is a little bit of a late nigh rant.

My FB, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts have been flooded with postings with articles on helping veterans transition into the civilian workplace.  As a veteran who did exactly that, I feel compelled to point out a few things that these articles don't address.

First, not all veterans are created equal.  Employers dream of hiring the vet who looks like a movie star, graduated top of their class from West Point or Annapolis, and received an honorable discharge.  What tends to show up though is the vet with the less than honorable or dishonorable discharge.  These vets had challenges when they were in the military so its not wonder they are having challenges in the civilian world.  None of the articles I've seen address how these veterans are supposed to find work.

The other veterans are those that may have been honorably discharged but medical conditions or decency issues that make it difficult to find employment.  When I worked at a community college, I saw  many Vietnam era veterans that had had mental health issues or substance abuse issues resulting in arrest records.  Employers simply would not hire these vets even though many served with distinction in the military.

So please, stop asking me to fill out surveys or share my tips for successfully transitioning out of the service and into the civilian workforce.  I was lucky.  I served my time as an officer, earned a masters degree and retired with an honorable discharge.  It was relatively easy for me to find work but that's not the case for the majority of veterans.  Many leave the service early due to injuries sustained in combat.  That alone disqualifies them from many civilian jobs.  The depression of leaving the service and not finding work often leads to drug or alcohol abuse resulting in criminal records.  If you really want to do something, learn figure out how to get these vets employed.

While I'm in a rant kind of mood, let me switch topics and address our President.  Since last summer, race relations in the US has deteriorated badly in no short way due to the media coverage of several police shootings.  It has tainted every conversation now in "black/white" lingo which means anyone criticizing the President gets labelled as a racist.

Like Mr. Obama, I am bi-racial so let spare me any criticisms of being a racist.  Mr. Obama greatest failing is not that he is the first "black man" who is President of the United States (and thus all of the white people are just waiting for him to fail).  No, Mr. Obama's problem is that he is a wimp.  He is the real life version of a middle-aged Steve Urkel.

Don't believe it?  Look at any other leader of a country right now and ask yourself a question, who would win a bar fight between them and Obama?  This purely unscientific and highly subjective opinion though is one that is shared by more people than the media would like to think.

Being a skinny, soft-spoken, light-skinned black with a propensity for a clipped, almost robotic way of speaking has left the rest of the world doing cartwheels.  Obama famously drew a "red-line" that Syria wasn't supposed to cross and when they did, Obama blinked.  Same thing in the Ukraine and now the same thing with the ISIS.

Mr. Obama and his handlers can't seem to get people to like him because he comes across first and foremost as a wimp.  I think the comedy team "Key and Peele" does a great bit about this very thing.  Obama does not convey anger, he doesn't even convey indignation.  Regardless of the subject at hand, he comes across the same…a wimp.

The White House only took a few hours to change the color of the flood lights to celebrate the decision by the Supreme Court to approve gay marriage across the land.  It took the same White House over five days to decide to lower the flags to half-mast after four Marines and Navy officer were killed by a terrorist.  Wimp.  Perhaps this also why Mr. Obama does not choose to label ISIS as a radical Islamic group (for that matter, neither did Hillary Clinton).

This is why "The Donald" continues to make gains in the polls amongst the average American.  They want their swagger back and that's something Mr. Obama does not bring to the table.  Whoever hopes to be the next President needs to NOT be the next wimp.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mythology

Myths arise as a way for a group of people to explain the world around them.  Think of the myths we heard growing up of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln that were ways of explaining to young minds what it means to be an American.

Myths have been rampant this month.  First we saw the myth of the carefully coiffed and coached presidential candidates exploded by "The Donald".  Trump says what is on his mind, damned the consequences.  The traditional presidential candidates tried to ignore him (especially the Republicans), then they had to scramble to address his issues as another myth was explode; polls and the media are NOT representative of the average voter.

Every time "The Donald" would say something inappropriate, shocking or down right insensitive the headlines seemed to carry a story validating his opinions.  When he infamously attacked illegal immigrants, an illegal immigrant killed Katie Steinle out on San Francisco's pier.  Her killer had specifically sought out San Francisco which offers sanctuary to those immigrants here illegally.

But "The Donald" isn't the only one busy smashing myths.  Three Marines and one Navy officer were slain by Mohamed Abdulazeez, an American born in Kuwait who was a top student, mixed martial artist and general all-around model American.  Something though went wrong and he became the latest home-grown terrorist exploding the myth that we are safer here at home then over "there".

Mr. Obama has been busy creating the myth that Iran is somehow more dangerous than Russia or China to the US.  His myth-building is "too nuanced" (to quote the queen of "too nuanced" herself, Marie Harf) and keeps damaging his legacy instead of enhancing it.

Throughout all of this, the myth of the "trusted media" has be proven to be false and may never be regained again.  If the press (now media) was ever truly trusted, it was in a bygone era when it could still effectively craft public opinion.  While there is the still the ability to sensationalize, the modern media really does not craft public opinion anymore…and worse, the public knows it.

Of course this all presupposes the intent of these myths is to instill confidence when there is some validity to wonder if the modern myth isn't about confidence but rather about fear.  You can't sell copy or hits to your website if everything is calm and peaceful.  Fear and chaos makes sells more copy and generates more hits for AdSense.

So maybe, the new mythos is not about explaining the world around us but to convince us that monsters are everywhere and the only thing that can protect us is someone else.  Everyone and everything is a threat so we need to abandon all hope and surrender ourselves to the powers that be (such as the federal government).

The important thing to remember though is that myths are simply filters we use to try to understand the world.  It is up to us, not the media, to see the world as it truly is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Weekend wrap-up 7/7/15

Over the weekend, Cincinnati decided to jump back into the fray of racial tensions despite significant progress since the April 2001 riots.  Initial reports talked about a "mob" (translation, group of African-Americans) who punched a Cincinnati police officer (translation, "white" officer).  The mob had been rioting and police arrived on scene to deal with the situation.  Now reports indicate the "mob" was in response to an prior altercation between one of the mob and a white male.  Immediately whites began to question why the police were not calling this a "hate-crime" or "anti-white crime".  Info Wars published today a post showing the original police report identifying the incident as "anti-white" but official CPD and city hall are not calling this a hate crime.

To some, this affirms the bias in media reporting.  To others, this affirms Cincinnati's rampant crime problem (even though during this same period, Chicago had over 50 shootings resulting in 9 deaths).  From what I can tell from the reports, it appears the white "victim" was running his mouth and using vulgarity towards one of the blacks.  I'm assuming since this was at Fountain Square, either alcohol and/or drugs had been consumed by both resulting in punches being thrown and the victim being choked.  Racial tensions not being the best (especially after the media's coverage in the last year), the fight resulted in multiple people engaging in violence.  As politicians, city officials and the media try to assess blame one thing remains constant…people are afraid Cincinnati is more dangerous than ever.

Over the weekend, my favorite former CNN Anchor, Lynne Russell, and her husband were attacked by a would-be robber in a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  A gunfight resulted in which the robber was killed and her husband was shot three times.  Gun control advocates see this as a call for more stringent laws while gun rights advocates see this as proof why concealed carry should be allowed in all 50 states.  However whichever side of the argument you fall one thing is the same…more fear that the world has become more dangerous.

I hadn't really planned on writing about either event until reading the latest Rasmussen poll.  According to a poll published yesterday, fifty-two (52) percent think the US is a more dangerous place today than it was before 9/11.  John Mueller at the Ohio State University and the Cato Institute published a report back in April 2015 looking at all of the terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11.  There have been 61 cases resulting in 15 deaths (12 soldiers killed at Ft Hood and 3 civilians killed at the Boston Marathon).  That's it, 15 deaths according to the report.  The rest of the "attacks" were either unsuccessful or thwarted in advance.  Yet people are convinced the US is more dangerous than before.

Let's look at 9/11.  There were 2,997 victims (246 on the four aircraft that crashed, 2,606 in the World Trade Towers, and 125 at the Pentagon).  These deaths sent US troops into 2 different wars that lasted longer than any other US wars.  In comparison, 2001 there were 17,448 fatalities due to drunk drivers yet people are more afraid of a terrorist attack or random armed attacker than they are from a drunk driver.

If crime and terrorism aren't your thing, then the economy could be giving you sleepless nights.  The Greek economy has defaulted and may mean the end of the European Union.  Depending on how Anglica Merkel navigates this mess, the US may or may not be drug into keeping the EU afloat.  Things don't look better if Merkel is successful for China (yes, that up and coming economic superpower) just had a stock market crash seeing $3.2 wiped from the value of Chinese shares.  It makes the Greek crisis look infinitely more manageable.

And of course the US has its own economic crisis in Puerto Rico.  Even if the crisis is successfully mitigated (note I said mitigate, not avoided), Mr. Obama has set the stage for more economic woes with his mandatory overtime for salaried employees and support for raising the minimum wage to $15.  Employers are not going to be able afford mandatory health care + mandatory paid overtime + a $15 minimum wage.  Looks like more part-time employees, contractors and robots in our immediate future.

What all of this means is we are not going to be able to look to our government and elected officials to fix these problems.  We need to remind ourselves of the family and friends around us that aren't shooting holes in one another or planning to blow something up.  Keep those family and friends safe and focused on doing good.  No, this isn't some type of self-help psychobabble.  It is a practical strategy for weathering the next several years.  If we watch too much news or listen to too much talk radio, we will become paralyzed with fear and become incapable of action.  And that my friends is how they plan to win.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

DoD 'wargames' look at the future of recruiting, retention challenges

There is nothing more annoying than people who have never served in the military lecturing senior officers and NCOs on how they could do things so much better.



DoD 'wargames' look at the future of recruiting, retention challenges



Most businesses have a single core competency (tech, manufacturing, chemicals, etc) that makes it much easier to develop a "money ball" approach to recruiting and retaining top talent.  None of those high-priced technical experts though will ever be asked to give up their life for their country.  A military full of troops recruited specifically for their particular talents will create an even more elitist mentality in the ranks (see "fighter pilots" in USAF, combat arms in US Army, infantry in the USMC, surface warfare/aviators in the US Navy).



I agree we have an antiquated, ineffective personnel system in the US military and it is in desperate need of repair.  The condescending manner of Michael Jones and the other tech wizards fails to grasp the basic core of the military.  In order to win at war, everyone has to function as a cohesive unit and not as a bunch of innovators.  Military maneuvers, something going back to ancient times, are based on the concept of everyone moving as one.  Start populating the ranks with innovators and you may look awesome during peace time at home station but it will be a disaster during war time.



Think about this for a minute, not a single USAF fighter pilot or Marine infantryman thinks about himself when doing the mission.  They do the the job they way they were trained for years and it works because everyone else can execute their job in synchronization.  Innovation sounds sexy and exciting but it will get people killed in combat.



To his assertion that he can designed robots to replaced 80% of the troops performing tasks today, I remain skeptical.  Just look at the claims the much vaunted F-35, which recently failed to outperform a F-16C Block 40 in 1 V 1 dogfight…an aircraft the F-35 is supposed to replace.  Sure in theory, many tasks can be automated but what fallback is there when that tech breaks down?  A robot designed to refuel an aircraft on a carrier deck breaks down due to constant exposure to saltwater…now what?  You better still have manned crews that can take that over to launch the aircraft.



The military needs to do away with performance appraisals that rate solely on the assignment and needs to look at the whole person.  The military needs to stop penalizing personnel that cross-train into other career fields (you are no longer staying in your lane and thus the personnelists don't know what the hell to do with you for your next assignment).  Speaking of, we could with eliminating or greatly reducing the manpower centers.  Manpower is like huge HR office, it becomes this anonymous group that moves personnel in and out of assignments giving commanders the perfect alibi for not getting involved in who is coming into their unit.  Yes, that does risk nepotism but do you really think the current way personnel are assigned is any better?  It means the military has to do a better job of vetting who becomes a commander.