Monday, November 29, 2010

BBC News - Wikileaks US diplomatic cables: key issues

Assuming Wikileaks has posted some of the most scandalous cables, these show more a lack of decorum on the part of the diplomatic corps than revelations of state secrets. Most of this information has been suspected for some time, the cables only prove the lack of true support for US foreign policy efforts.

Link here

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Portugal Denies Report on Bailout

Portugal may not need a bailout but the impact of the Irish bailout could adversely impact their economy.

Link Here

EU agrees on $89 billion bailout loan for Ireland

First Greece now Ireland, somehow the thought the EU will pull itself out of the debt crisis is much like expecting the Bengals to win the Super Bowl next year (possible but very unlikely). The rescue of first Greece and now Ireland means all of the other members of the EU will be financially strained and could tip the next country into a crisis. Meanwhile, old biases and feuds between countries are getting rekindled by the very organization that was created to eliminate such barriers. The situation is more grim than the media let's on. Britain is now seriously considering downsizing its military and creating a joint military, with France. The two nations have historically been rivals or even outright enemies and for the British to give word to such a notion means the economy truly is in dire straits. In the meantime, should the US end up in some type of conflict with South Korea the failing EU economy means the US may be forced to go at this alone. China, despite tepid protests in the media, and keep North Korea afloat should situations escalate. Japan may be interested in any conflicts but will remain on the sidelines both because of its own internal problems as well as the specter of Russian laying claims to the Kurile Islands.

Link Here

Friday, November 26, 2010

North Korea at it again

By launching a few artillery barrages, North Korea may have set something in motion far more damaging than a potential war. The weakness of Lee Myung-bak's administration has been put on front stage. The defense minister either resigned or was fired depending on the version you read. South Korea was caught completely flat-footed and now is completely embarrassed on the world stage. Not bad for a few artillery rounds being lobed down range. There is so much pressure from the South Koreans for their government to do something that this may escalate into something akin to the Falklands War.

Link Here

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

U.S. sends carrier to Yellow Sea for exercises

Let's be frank here, unlike our Persian friends the Koreans really do mean business. Both the North and the South have spent nearly 60 years getting ready to finish what they started back in 1950. South Korea has economic prosperity plus around 29,000 US military personnel on their side. The North Koreans have a massive conventional military force, plus nuclear weapons and China on theirs. North Korea likes to shoot missiles at Japan in retaliation for past atrocities but also to antagonize them into a possibly coflict. The Japanese in turn would like to prove they have not completely lost their samurai spirit. If hostilities erupt, count on a least one missile heading for Japan. This could lead to a potential showdown between China, the US and Japan. No wonder the President has send a carrier battle group to the region. But much as the character Newt said in the movie Aliens, "It won't make a difference".

Link Here

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NKorea fires artillery onto South Korean island

Since the Civil War, the US military builds up during times of war in part because the military is usually reduced immediately following the war. The US military today consists of fewer units than the number that participated during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Sec Def wants to reduce it further.

President Obama ran on a campaign of promising to bring the troops home. Instead of bringing all of the troops home, the President ceased combat operations in Iraq and increased the number of troops to Afghanistan. Almost immediately hostilities began to flare up in Iraq. Worse, Gen Patreaus replaced Gen McChrystal (for making unflattering remarks about the Vice President), the new commander of forces in Afghanistan quickly pronounced it would take 20 years to bring the situation to conclusion. Another NATO general said it would take 30 years to bring the situation to conclusion. This on top of nearly 10 years of military operations.

One can't help but notice US military operations are not bringing matters to a conclusion while at same time Sec Def Gates is reducing the number of new weapon systems coming on board and there is talk of additional base closures. Additional base closures means corresponding reductions in personnel. No wonder North Korea feels it can start taking shots (literally) at South Korea with impunity. No wonder Russian Prime Minister Medvedev felt he could visit the highly contested Kurile Islands with impunity. To make matters worse, our own homeland security measures have set Americans against these policies which may result adversely effect the airline industry.

The superpower reputation of the US is being questioned and the results are what we are seeing in the news. I fear this may just be the beginning.

Link Here

Monday, November 22, 2010

You Don't Need to See His Identification

A first hand account forwarded to me from another blogger. I spoke with several people at the college today, many felt that the screenings were necessary for security. One is a retired flight attendant who travels as a space available and believes the pat-downs make the flights safer. I pointed out that none of the terrorists caught since 9/11 were detected by TSA. They still feel better based on the psychology of knowing no one is carrying anything they shouldn't. Of course, we are only looking for crap that others have before. There is always something new we haven't thought of before.

Link Here

Smartest Man In the World

I'd like to welcome my good friend Alex to the blogsphere. He has started a blog and I believe if his first entry is any indication, many of you will enjoy his observations as well

Smartest Man In the World

Gonzalo Lira: A Full Body Scan of American Corruption

Gonzalo Lira goes in depth to refute the presumed safety of backscatter technology used in full body scanners. GL also points out the same criticisms I have of Michael Cherthoff, namely that his company's biggest client is the manufacturer of the full body scanners. The article also gives cause to articulate the need for more comprehensive security. All of the TSA efforts are focused on people transiting through the passenger terminal. As the Steven Slater case shows, there are huge gaps on the tarmac and other non-passenger areas. I've always maintained the best way to breech security in any facility is to wear a hardhat, tool belt and carry a clipboard. People will look right through you. The same can be said for dressing like a baggage handler or other flight line technician. Some may point out these personnel are subject to screening and I would argue that it would be very easy to bribe a flight line worker. Their wages aren't that high and the work is not all that glamorous and borders on mundane. Wednesday is the opt-out day, it may be the closest the US will come to experiencing something like the transportation strikes in France.

Link here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

'Invasive' pat-downs continue

The story continues to plague the Internet and TV news. Stories continue to surface of truly abhorrent, vile and disgusting behavior of TSA screeners humiliating passengers. One breast cancer survivor had to remove her prothesis to prove they were not dangerous explosives. Another female passenger wearing a skirt while being searched the TSA screeners hand shot up between the passenger's leg that "it lifted me off of my heels". She sobbed throughout her flight. There is now video of screeners. A bladder cancer survivor was so violently and shamefully searched the he ended up covered in urine.

The TSA has overwhelmingly failed in its mission and the arrogance of John Pistole causes him to dismiss the complaints for after all he knows best what it takes to protect passengers. The "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid and the "Underwear Bomber" Abdul Muttalab were not apprehended or stopped by the TSA but by the passengers. The screenings are mute, anyone going to try to mix chemicals or take over the flight will be overwhelmed by a swarm of pissed off passengers.

TSA was no where to found when Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater pulled the emergency escape chute and slid into infamy. He made it all the way back to his apartment and was arrested by local law enforcement, not the TSA.

The TSA needs to be disbanded. It was an idea executed during the emotional times immediately after 9/11. It was a bad concept poorly executed. The TSA has been spectacular in reacting to attacks that have already been tried. Their focus has been exclusively on passengers while other critical areas like the tarmac or air cargo facilities go unattended.

The President should pass an executive order mandating every active law enforcement officer (federal, state or local) as well as any active soldier, Marine, airmen or sailor that normally carries a sidearm be required to carry on board any US flight. I guarantee having a SEAL, Ranger, Delta Force operator or Green Beret armed on board of flight will guarantee a level of safety TSA can never promise. Oh, and no child will ever have to be molested or watch as their mother has her breasts fondled or crotch grabbed by these perverts.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

James Cagney

For those that may not know, James Cagney was a dancer, boxer and a black belt in judo. This was back in the 40s when most Americans had never heard of martial arts. Here is the earliest martial arts fight in cinema. I think it is also one of the most realistic.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Elegance of Simplicity

Note: I gave the following speech at Ignite Cincinnati 4

What does the typical college student really want to know about your class? They want to know how to pass your class. “Read your textbook, come to class, study your notes,” is the mantra of 99 percent of college professors yet the average college student stares in disbelief. Why?

Because to the students, It can’t be that simple?!

So that got me thinking, why can’t passing the course be that simple? The typical college students world is a mess of distractions ranging from social obligations to their desks. Their life is not that simple.

To add to this suspension of disbelief is the any college process ranging from applying for financial aid to scheduling an appointment to see your academic advisor, it jus isn’t that simple.

No wonder students cannot believe Leonardo DaVinci who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” But how do we get students to recognize simplicity and thus sophistication?

Today’s college student is convinced multi-tasking is the ultimate form of sophistication, even if studies show how this is nothing more than excusing attention deficit.

Studies show that the human memory works optimally working with around 4 to 5 things. More than that and our brains become overloaded. The brain protects itself by making us bored.

Being bored we miss another component of simplicity as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end.”

What was it like before multi-tasking took away simplicity? A typical engineer in the early part of the 20th Century tackled his projects with the simple tools of a slide rule and stubby pencil.

The tools may have been simple but the results were quite sophisticated. These simple tools are all that it took to design the SR-71 which could fly 3 times the speed of sound at an altitude of 100,000 feet!

Or using the same simple tools Frank Lloyd Wright was able to design the Waterfall House. A sophisticated concept perfectly balanced with nature.

But how do we get the bored, overly distracted college student to embrace simplicity? Certainly their environment doesn’t encourage simplicity.

Marcus Aurelius said, “Make thyself all simplicity.” So could we suggest to college students to get them to become more simple?

University of Wisconsin psychologist Virginia Berninger tested students in grades 2, 4, and 6, and found that they not only wrote faster by hand than by keyboard — but also generated more ideas when composing essays in longhand. In other research, Berninger shows that the sequential finger movements required to write by hand activate brain regions involved with thought, language, and short-term memory.

Twain kept 40-50 pocket notebooks over four decades of his life. He often began one before embarking on a trip. He filled the notebooks with observations of people he met, thoughts on religion and politics, drawings and sketches of what he saw on his travels, potential plots for books, and even ideas for inventions (he filed 3 patents during his lifetime).

By re-emphasizing handwriting and using notebooks, we help students to remove all of the clutter from information overload. We need to help them embrace simplicity which will allow them to focus more of their attention and creative talents to the matter at hand.

The result will be a greater good for mankind. Instead of focused on themselves, embracing simplicity will help them focus more on the world around them.

By doing so, we may help students achieve Henry David Thoreau’s words “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

On this day, we gave up our rights

The fear of terrorism has overruled our own jurisprudence. Our laws are supposed to be based around the concept of innocent until proven guilty but DHS has flipped the script. Passengers are now considered guilty until proven innocent.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Endless reaction to yesterday's threat

TSA, DHS and Secretary Napolitano are rehashing the same scenarios as justification for the pat-downs and full body scanners. A divergent group consisting of pilots, flight attendants, travel associations, civil rights groups and Muslim groups are all raising their voices against the security measures.

Police and corrections officers use pat-downs when dealing with suspected violent offenders who are likely to be concealing a weapon or contraband. Somehow TSA justified using pat-downs for people whose only offense is choosing not to go through a full body scanner. In the former scenario, the suspected has already demonstrated suspicious and violent behavior. In the latter, modesty or health concerns are the likely reason and certainly shouldn't be equated to criminal behavior.

The psychology of the behavior is also in question. There is no way for a pat-down not to be an intrusive, humiliating experience. No matter how much training TSA alleges has in conducting these type of searches, having to perform repeatedly over an 8 hour shift with upset passengers can only lead to abuses. The passenger doesn't want to be there and the TSA screener is getting frustrated. The TSA screener is going to put the passenger in their place and some will resort to rough handling. More incidents are likely to happen as we approach the holidays.

Now several groups are asking passengers to opt for the pat-downs are simply not fly at all. Airlines are already operating at the barest minimums for profit. These security measures may cause some to finally go out of business. All so we can be safer. In the meantime, the next "toner cartridge" is being planned out and TSA will be completely caught off guard.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank you for your service!

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The War to end all wars unfortunately set the stage for World War II. Once again, brave US soldiers, sailors and marines would be called upon to defeat the enemy. These young men would return and become know as the “Greatest Generation”. They would help lead the United States to the greatest economic prosperity ever seen. They were all veterans.

The Korean War is sometimes called the forgotten in part because it was referred to as a police action at the time. It required no less of an effort for US military to leave their families and loved ones to go and fight in a country most had never heard of. They would come back home and continue to lead the United States to economic prosperity. They were all veterans.

The Vietnam War caused a divide amongst Americans unlike anything seen since the civil war. Young men went off to fight in a far away land but this time they came home not to welcomes but to insults. Those that did not serve looked down on veterans for not being able to get a deferment. Veterans returned without any of the assistance programs available today. Yet there were still proud for they were veterans.

Then an interesting thing happened, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq and the United States military once again, along with other coalition nations, rose up to help liberate another country from occupation. Americans this time began to see military men, and now women, not as some robotic killer but as their own sons and daughters who fought bravely. These veterans were welcomed back to yellow ribbons and invited to stand proud and tall at the Super Bowl.

It wouldn’t be until a decade later though that Americans finally started to rally around their veterans. The attacks of 9/11 caused Americans to embrace the military as both protectors and heroes. Whole communities would come together now to cheer units on as they got ready to deploy and welcome them back upon their return. Soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen received the respect for what they had done and in turn helped America to start recognizing and appreciating the veterans from previous conflicts.

Not since the end of World War II have veterans been so respected by their fellow Americans. Now more than ever,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pentagon can't explain apparent mystery plume off California coast

So while people are being subjected to full body scanners or humiliating searches, the Department of Defense gets caught asleep at the wheel. Worse, now that a news helicopter shot a video proving their inattentiveness they can't even come up with an explanation to get this story to go away? Go watch "1941" and you will come up with the conclusion that instead of the Japanese launching a surprise attack we either have the North Koreans, Chinese or may be even the Russians doing some really embarrassingly sneaky things.


El Al apologizes for strip-searching U.S. professor

The TSA has been making headlines for "groping genitalia" of passengers refusing the full body scanners. Having no desire to be exposed to unnecessary radiation apparently means to the TSA that you like being groped and handled by total strangers. The stress of airline travel being already high, the TSA continues to find new ways to increase our collective desire to find other means of travel.

Much of what TSA is trying to do is based on the storied success of El Al whose layered security became the benchmark for other security services. Now El Al has gotten into the act. Professor Heather Bradshaw, who teaches neuroscience at Indiana University, was invited by Hebrew Union University to give a lecture in Israel. Upon her arrival Luton airport, El Al security personnel treated her as a terrorist suspect. She was subjected to a strip search and forced to remove her bra.

What in the hell is going on with people? Have we become so obsessed with the terrorist "boogeyman" that we are being forced to give up our dignity in the name of security? From the news reports, Professor Bradshaw was not belligerent or threatening in any way and produced her credentials showing the reason for her visit. She still was subjected to a humiliating search despite all of the supporting evidence showing she was not a terrorist.

When the TSA details of groping came out, many critics through insults about most of screeners being nothing more than perverts. Americans are adept are hurling insults at one another which may or may not be founded in reality. After reading about the El Al incident, I can't help but wonder what type of person is being attracted to security work these days. Hopefully these security agencies will spend as much time doing psychological profiles on their perspective employees as they do on passengers.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Sig Sauer

I attended a Carry a Concealed Weapon (CCW) course this weekend taught by Matt Burns. CCW is a mandatory 12 hour course for those wishing to carry a concealed weapon. Ten hours are lecture on gun laws and two hours are range time. Matt, who is a certified range officer, uses the two hours to teach tactical shooting moving the students through various stations designed to teach the students what it is like to shoot their weapon in a typical self-defense situation. I am not a gun blogger and do not aspire to be one. There are a boat load of gun writers and wannabes to cause me to keep pursuing my chosen niche. However, I do believe part of preparedness is weapons knowledge and training, I wanted to share my observations.

There were ten students, including myself, shooting on the range. Each student carried a different make and caliber. Most were shooting some type of 9mm, one student shot a revolver, and I shot my Sig Sauer P220 in 45ACP. This was the first training I've ever attended where every student was firing a different weapon. All of my previous training had been in the military where everyone was firing the same weapon at the same time.

My unscientific observations after two hours and about 100 rounds a piece; go with a Sig Sauer. Well yes of course I would say that because that's what I was shooting. But my recommendation comes from observation. There was one Beretta, one Glock, one Taurus, two Hi Points, one S&W revolver, two Sig Sauers, two others I was unable to identify. One Hi Point repeatedly jammed (based on the shooter and not the weapon), the rest operated well but there were stoppages in all but the revolver and the Sig Sauers.

I would not have felt compelled to write about this except each Sig Sauer was in a different caliber (9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP). Each Sig Sauer and wielded by different shooters of varying experience (the instructor used a P226 in 9mm, one student used a P226 in .40 S&W and mine was a P220 in .45ACP). Each of us are different heights (instructor 5'7", myself at 6'3" and the other student at 6'7"). The Sigs all fired without any stoppages and given the various models being used in different calibers this is a rather extraordinary thing.

Matt had us fired from a variety of positions while moving. The Sigs had no problems with this while some of the other pistols would experience a stoppage of the gun was canted. I was firing Blazer ammunition which uses and aluminum case. Not the most reliable ammunition but cheap and my Sig functioned flawlessly. Matt was using Americn Eagle ammunition. Another inexpensive brand and his Sig shot twice as many rounds without a hitch.

Gun geeks and gun bloggers reading this will of course have their counter-arguments and that's fine. I'm not here to say anything definitive, I am merely sharing my observation of various weapons being fired by various shooters on the same course of fire. The Sig was the most prevalent and none of the three Sigs let their operators down. You have to remember, each gun was firing different calibers, weight bullets and brand of ammunition and there wasn't a failure amongst any of the SIgs. If you are using something else and are satisfied, great! Don't change! However, if you are looking for a self-defensive handgun or if you are not satisfied with your choice you do need to check out the Sig Sauer. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Obama to use teleprompter for Hindi speech - Hindustan Times

The great Greek orators used the techniques detail in "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci" to to memorize huge amounts of information and recall it effortlessly. Lincoln, Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were all great orators who were able to deliver moving speeches without the aid of technology. Now we have a President who is so inept at speaking that he takes pathetic shortcuts such as a Telepromper. The President is the greatest symbol of the United States and as such needs to convey a greatness about this country that reading from a prepared scripts does not convey. It is hard enough to convince our students of the need to memorize information when they can always Google it or look it up on Wikipedia. The ability to compare and contrast information is rapidly become a lost art. The human mind is still superior to any computer at comprehending information an creating something that hasn't existed before. Watching an American President resort to such a blatantly lazy approach to projecting his thoughts and ideals is disheartening. It further magnifies the ridiculous excesses of his trip to India.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tunnel for Obama near Mani Bhavan - Mumbai - DNA

The President who has already confused to poor communication skills during the election campaign now has the Pentagon explaining his trip. While the Pentagon says the 34 warships are NOT there to defend the President, they will be building a tunnel for him so he can visit a museum. The taxpayers surely must feel better now knowing the real story.


Friday, November 5, 2010

EPA policy chief steps down - Robin Bravender

The midterm exodus continues unabated. You can spin this however you like but the bottom line is President Obama is going into the second half of his term with a new team. He will take this untried team into a battled with a Republican controlled House weakened Senate. The possibility of a second term is still a possibility for the President, especially since the Republicans have yet to determine their 2012 candidate. But the ability for the Presdinet to accomplish anything meaningful in his second half has just become that much harder.

From a foreign policy standpoint, the results of the midterm election make President Obama appear weak and the 34 warships in the Indian Ocean for his visit does nothing to dissuade the notion. Iran and Russia will probably become more aggressive in their rhetoric. Venzuela and North Korea will play Greek chorus to the former. Australia and the United Kingdom, two of the strongest US allies in combating terrorism, will continue to do backstrokes away from a weakened US president. May we live in interesting times....


Iranians stage mass protest against 'Great Satan' US

First we had Medved visiting the Kurile Islands trying to stir-up nationalistic fervor about a long forgotten part of history. Now Iran wants to restart the old "US Satan" slogan from 30 years ago. In my class on terrorism, I teach the students how many groups create an appearance of legitimacy by evoking symbols from the past. Medved's visit links him back to the halcyon days of the Russian empire (minus all of that czarist crap) and now Iran wants to go back to the days when they held the US hostage for 444 days. Both of these cases demonstrate how despots refocus the attention of the masses on matters outside their borders. Juan Peron did the same thing with the Falklands, whipping up national frenzy in an attempt to divert attention from his disastrous (and vicious) domestic policies. He of course under-estimated Prime Minister Thatcher's resolve and who proceeded to thrash him. (Note: Thatcher was helped indirectly by Ronald Reagan who sold Argentina bomb fuses that would not set if dropped from low altitude).

The US has ceased combat operations in Iraq, while still keeping 60,000 troops in country. Other than getting rid of Saddam Hussein, the outcome of all of the deaths, money and resources spent is unclear. General Patreaus, as the latest commander of forces in Afghanistan, recently predicted it would take another 10-20 years to finish the job in Afghanistan. These two latest conflicts are part of an unimpressive track record for the US abroad. Vietnam, the Tehran embassy hostage situation, the Beirut bombings in 1983, Grenada, Somalia 1993, Haiti 1995, and Kosovo all demonstrate the inability of US military action to bring a decisive conclusion to the situation. Yes, I know there were many factors contributing to each of these events but the rest of the world is able to draw its own conclusion. The United States will eventually tire and call its troops home whether the mission is completed or not.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

34 warships sent from US for Obama visit

Two things pop into mind reading this story. First, the huge cost of moving these ships plus the Secret Service detail (including vehicles) could probably help pay off part of the national debt. If India is so dangerous that we need to put all of this in place, why go? Our relations with Pakistan have suffered as a result of the Taliban's resurgence and US military actions causing civilians deaths. However, warming up to India does nothing to improve things in Southeast Asia. The whole trip is going to be a very expensive publicity stunt with little to no benefit to our foreign policies.

Update: Cost per day for this is $200 million.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Medved visit stirs up old wounds

An oldie but a goodie. Back in 1904, the Russian Empire picks a fight with Japan over the territories of Manchuria and Korea. Russia, and later the Soviet Union, lacks a warm water port and the quest for one exists from the time of Peter the Great through most of the 20th Century. Nineteenth Century Japan was considered nothing more than a feudal relic and Russia was widely expected to pummel the Japanese navy. However, the Russian navy was roundly defeated and set the stage for the Russian Revolution and the end of Czarist Russia. The 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth gave the southern Kurile Islands to the Japanese. (The earlier 1875 Treaty of St Petersburg gave the Russians the Sakhalin Islands). The Soviet Union occupies the Kurile Islands during World War II and expels the Japanese inhabitants. To make matters worse, the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty between the Allied Powers and Japan stipulated that Japan give up all claims to the Kurile Islands. In a compromise move, the Soviet Union claims over the islands is not recognized by the treaty. Modern day Russia claims the treat in fact recognizes their claim over the islands, the Japanese of course dispute this. Medved's visit can be seen as Russia reasserting itself in area and may indicate a return to more aggressive policy towards former Soviet territory.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Cuts to Public Safety

The city of Cincinnati has a $60 million dollar deficit and the most likely targets for layoffs are the police and fire departments. The two departments represent two-thirds of the city's $334 million dollar budget. The FOP and firefighter's union are obviously prepared to fight any cuts. The proposals has brought only the best in some of the local residents who perceive city employees to be overpaid.

The city police and fire departments have suffered from bad press over the last decade ranging from the city riots in 2001 to a rash of firefighters involved in drug trafficking. The Cincinnati Enquirer makes sure to mention that a person is either a firefighter or police officer whenever they are accused of crime, even if the offense had nothing to do with their employment status. Relations between the departments and citizens has never been warm but lately have really begun to cool.

The city has for their part been extremely adept at promoting high dollar projects (such as the streetcar) or providing perks (such as private cars) to elected official. To be fair, the streetcar is being funded by federal dollars but it doesn't help residents feel any better about how city officials are doing their jobs.

The police and fire departments have locked in a large number of their personnel in the Deferred Retirement Program (DROP). To be eligible for DROP, individuals must be at least 48 with 25 years of service as a police officer or firefighter. When an officer joins DROP, he or she officially "retires" for pension purposes but retains the same job. While that caps their future pension, as long as they remain in DROP -- for at least three years and up to eight -- the monthly pension they otherwise would draw accumulates in an account, along with interest and a portion of their 10 percent of salary contributions.

There are around 200 police and 150 who will hit their maximum DROP time in 2012. The city manager is probably trying to target this group for cuts. The real news though is that neither the fire nor city fire departments have run academies in the last few year. There are no plans to have academies next year. This means no new personnel to fill the entry level ranks as current personnel fill the gaps created when those in DROP retire.

Ohio in general, and Cincinnati in particular, have large metropolitan areas in small counties. You would think this means what the city wants goes but instead it leads to grid lock between the city and county governments. The city of Cincinnati compounds matters by only recently adopting a system where the mayor is directly elected. Previously the city mayor was the city council member who had received the most votes. Everything was done based on consensus, no consensus and the city stalled. The county commissioners can and do ignore the city with great impunity.

What this all means is that the city is left to deal with its budget morass without interruption. I've written before about the trend in other states to move away from many smaller fire and police departments into regional public safety departments. Hamilton county has 40 separate fire and police departments. In theory, these could be combined into regional public safety departments to save money and improve response times. Local politics would prevent this from being a simple process but with the economy unlikely to improve, other options are even less appealing. Reducing the number of firehouses means longer response times. Increasing run times by even a few minutes can mean the difference between saving a house or not. Decreasing the number of police officers means increasing the response time to a call for help. Fewer police and firefighters means more stress for those left as they have to do more work.