Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It is rather disappointing to find out that a good phrase may be nothing more than a literary invention, never the less it still has some interesting implications as we go into the New Year. The economy is in the worst shape it has been in 20 years (although on the plus side it has kept fuel prices low). The first ever African American president was elected on a platform of change (although despite Ellen Goodman’s gushing article to the contrary, it appears to be business as normal). Earlier it looked like Ohio had a lock on dumb ass politicians that don’t understand they serve a higher purpose (i.e. former governor Taft and his buddy Tom Noe, and of course former AG Marc Dann to name a few) but now Illinois has reclaimed the top spot with Governor Blagojevich. Iran and Russia seem to be taking turns for the worse and now the Gaza Strip has reignited.
Although my field of expertise causes me to follow all of the above, I am not racked with dread for the New Year. Instead there is the possibility of new discoveries both on a personal as well as a national level. I look forward to new friends that I will meet or the chance to reconnect with old friends that I’ve lost touch with. There will be new discoveries in health and technology that will allow us to live longer, and hopefully, more meaningful lives. The Bearcats will most likely come home Orange Bowl champions. The Reds may even start winning. The economy has cost many people their jobs and their homes but with a new year comes the chance for new jobs and people to regain what they have lost.
Most of the stories that are unresolved as we go into the new year deal with prosperous people. It therefore seems appropriate to end today’s blog with a quote. Mark Twain once said (according to the Yale Press website), “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The village of Arlington Heights (pop. 899) was forced to close its volunteer fire department. The city of Reading (pop. 11,292) will provide fire/EMS response to the village. The volunteer department closing was due to budgetary reasons. Hamilton county has over 42 separate fire departments, which means there is likely to be some redundancy in the county. The closing of Arlington Heights makes fiscal sense but what remains to be seen is how Reading will be able to handle the additional runs. Reading, Lockland, and Wyoming fire departments are close enough together that often the responding unit comes from the adjacent town. Essentially what is going on is a regional fire/EMS department in practice but with separate municipalities paying the bills. Even if Reading has the budget to handle the additional load of Arlington Heights, this was done in reaction to a budget shortfall and not as a proactive measure. Now is the time to seriously start looking at more fire/EMS departments combining into a regional department. It saves money in the long run and helps improve response times but combining departments should be done as part of a long range plan and not in response to a financial crisis.
Related to fire/EMS service, front page today in the Enquirer was a story about CSX hauling chlorine through Cincinnati and other major metropolitan cities in Ohio. According to PPG Industries spokesperson, CSX hauls through major Ohio cities rather than alternate routes because they don’t want to lose revenue. CSX counters that rail is a very safe means of hauling hazardous materials (which I don’t disagree with), however choosing routes through major metropolitan areas seems to be inviting disaster. Out of 13 criteria listed in the article, only two dealt with issues outside the influence of the railroad. The weights for these criteria were not given. Emergency response and proximity to landmarks and major cities, the two that were outside the influence of the railroad, may or may not have enough weight to change a route. Given the number of state and county budget reductions to public safety, CSX needs to show more concern about running any type of hazardous materials through metropolitan areas. It may be in the interest of revenue to use these routes but one major spill or terrorist attack to could lead to lives lost and millions of dollars in liability.
The worrisome thing about both of these stories is the decision making all seem to be made in a vacuum. One municipality loses funding for fire while another picks it up without much apparent thought to the impact to the whole region. Railroad routes are selected based primarily on revenue without considering the impact of the economy on local emergency response services. Department of Homeland Security has been sending out warnings now for some time that the US is overdue for a major terrorist attack. Damaging a rail line used to haul hazardous material is less complicated than say hijacking an airliner. Decisions need to include input from all stakeholders, private sector as well as public, whenever services are reduced or when risky activities need to be conducted. Unfortunately, this process is time consuming and may result in being told “no” therefore it remains unlikely that such procedures will be adapted on a wide scale. The next best solution is for community leaders to take an strategic view of the risks to their communities and what resources they need (or have) to deal with those risks.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Read the article here.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Chris Van Gorder at EMS Responder published an article last week on emergency training at hospitals.
Reports of a suspected bioterrorism attack have sparked panic in the community. Worried residents swarm the region's major hospital for diagnosis and treatment and confusion quickly turns to chaos. Military helicopters thunder onto the hospital's helipad, where dozens of police officers disembark to battle a disaster within a disaster—pandemonium on hospital grounds in the midst of a public health emergency.
This was just part of the action-packed script for a landmark emergency training event in San Diego in summer 2008. Believed to be the first large-scale disaster event to link federal, state and local government agencies with private-sector healthcare officials, the drill enabled participants to practice what it really takes to secure the campus of a major hospital during a crisis.
Led by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the San Diego Police Department, the Golden Phoenix '08 hospital protection event also included personnel from San Diego County's EMS system, the U.S. Marine Corps, FBI, DEA and Department of Homeland Security. What differentiated this exercise from previous events was the involvement of the host, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, part of the nonprofit Scripps Health system in San Diego.
The Golden Phoenix '08 exercise was specifically designed to test the operations, communications and security capabilities of multiple agencies and Scripps working together in an emergency on a major hospital campus. It served as a bellwether for future emergency and disaster training efforts by breaking through old assumptions that hospitals are self-sufficient during disasters—somehow fortified against a public surge and the disruption to care this would cause. This drill served notice that private healthcare personnel must work shoulder to shoulder with other first responders in the community to ensure hospitals are protected as key community assets during times of disaster….
Reading about more and more agencies having to make cuts to personnel or services due to funding shortfalls, it makes sense to plan on a multi-agency response to disasters. Hospitals will be facing increased admissions simply due to patients who have run out of prescription medications. Local municipalities will be laying off staff or cutting back on services. Major disasters will require support from other regional assets or federal agencies.
Advances in genetics and bio-enigneering increases the chance of a terrorist group of developing a biological or chemical weapon that could lead to mass casualties. Hospital staff could be quickly overwhelmed in trying to manage patient care with federal agencies swarming all over the ward. Practicing for this before it becomes necessary makes good sense. However, given the mood of the country now with a disastrous economy such exercises may be seen as an attempt by the federal government to take over.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The events over Lockerbie make it seem even more incredible that American Airlines Flight 11 (which crashed into the North Tower), United Airlines Flight 175 (which crashed into the South Tower) and American Airlines Flight 77 (which crashed into the Pentagon) could all simultaneously be seized and used as weapons. From most accounts, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside as a result of the passengers fighting back.
Times are becoming very interesting. The attacks in Mumbai serve as a reminder that not all attacks have to come in the form of airliners. The Bush Administration is in its last 30 days in office and the Obama Administration takes over in the midst of one of the worst economies ever. The Big Three automakers were bailed out because they are too big to fail. In a global economy, the effects of the Big Three aren’t limited to the USA but to companies throughout the world. How many other groups will launch attacks in retaliation for the perceived economic impact to their countries caused by the failing American auto industry?
Ohio Governor Ted Stickland just announced a $640 million dollar cut to this year’s budget. Layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes to public safety agencies will mean a reduced response capability in addition to the individual economic hardships facing those effected by the proposed cuts. More and more people are losing their jobs and their homes creating a desperate situation for some potentially leading to increased crime and violence.
The increased stress of losing one’s job will lead to increased health problems. The sale of nutritional supplements has increased as people try to cope with the increased stress of life under such circumstances. As people lose health care insurance, more uninsured emergency patients will be seen at hospitals. More EMS runs will occur responding to medical emergencies brought on by people running out of their prescription medication. Increased EMS runs will further depleted dwindling municipal budgets and with increased unemployment, local governments will not be able to generate the necessary tax revenue.
As though this isn’t enough, I just saw a trailer for a movie entitled “2012”. The Mayan calendar ends in 2012 and some believe this indicates an end of times. The economy may be seen as further proof of these beliefs and could create a wide scale panic even more pronounced than that experienced during the Y2K scare.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Another example, as reported in the Enquirer yesterday Cincinnati is spending $140K on a climate protection coordinator and $291K on a bedbug inspection program. I don’t claim to know the merits of either of these decisions but I do know Hamilton County and Cincinnati are short on road salt. Keeping roads clear of snow and ice helps reduce traffic accidents and fatalities. Accidents cause police and fire runs which cost money. Reducing the amount of salt produces a short-term gain on the spreadsheet but in the long run will cost the city and county more money in responding to increased accidents.
This morning councilwoman Leslie Ghiz said on the radio the city plans to hire laid off Hamilton County deputy sheriffs. These individuals will go through the police academy next year. If it happens, this would be an excellent example of working a well coordinated strategy. It shouldn’t be limited though to just this instance, now with economy is such a downturn the time is now to start relooking at how we fund public safety. Instead of duplicating police, fire, and EMS at each township why not look at a regional concept? Why have 42 different fire departments in Hamilton County alone? Combining some departments to create regional fire departments could help reduce costs and decrease response times.
Speaking of redundancy, I’m temporarily driving a Pontiac Vibe while my car is in the repair shop. The Pontiac Vibe is simply the Toyota Matrix with different decals. Why do we have two automakers selling the same vehicle? Or perhaps a more harsh question is why is GM asking for a bailout when at least one of its brands, Pontiac, is merely reselling a Toyota with Pontiac markings? Either Pontiac needs to reduce their offerings or be combined with another GM brand. Ever notice how Chevy trucks are also offered under the GMC brand as well? Each brand creates its own dealerships, overhead and logistics. No wonder the big three are in such a mess!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Biological weapons, for the most part, have always had the problem of the dispersal mechanism (such as a explosive device) destroying more of the agent than it spreads. Winds and rain have also created dispersal problems for sprays or aerosols as they tend to dilute or destroy the pathogen. Genetic engineering may be able to produce a strain of pathogen that is hardy enough to withstand a blast or having a high enough lethality that only a small amount is required to spread.
The Commission made the following observation:
“Prevention alone is not sufficient, and a robust system for public health preparedness and response is vital to the nation’s security. In order to deter biological attacks, we need to demonstrate—through effective preparedness measures and public exercises—that we are capable of blunting the impact of an attack and thus thwarting the terrorists’ objectives.”
The commission reports goes on to say that nonproliferation have been geared exclusively towards nuclear weapons to date. Nuclear weapons, even dirty bombs, take a lot of sophistication to acquire and assemble to necessary components. A third party nation would have to hand the terrorists the weapons or components in order for this scenario to occur. Why then haven’t we seen it? You have no guarantee that once you hand over the nuclear weapon/material that the group won’t use it on your people or allies.
Balancing a response capability with an intelligence network nimble enough to detect a possible attack is challenging. Overhead imagery and intercepts of voice and data traffic may be unable to determine intent (something intelligence analysts are constantly trying to gauge). Creating a robust response capability to deal with a biological attack, especially one using a synthesized super bug, may not be feasible in these austere economic times.
Given this news, it would seem natural for the city and county to focus more on public safety. However, in this morning’s Enquirer we learn that the 800-bed Queensgate jail will close. The county could not find the $10 million to maintain this facility (more prisons are likely to be closed in Ohio as the governor tries to eliminated the state’s $7 billion deficit). The city budget proposes eliminating police and fire recruit classes until 2010. Incredibly, the city at the same has found money for: bedbug inspection ($291,000), climate protection coordinator ($114,000), and a small-business loan for a second location of Goodies Barbecue.
Funding during a budget cut is much like medical triage; hard choices have to be made and some patients may not survive because of those choices. Comparing what the county and city have cut and have chosen to fund leave me bewildered. How does one justify eliminating fire or police recruit classes yet choose to fund a restaurant? I’ve seen this same reasoning used in the military; reducing the number of new recruits to balance the budget. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as starting a new recruiting class back up once the budget improves. Those new fire and police officers were programmed to offset losses due injury or retirement in the respective departments. Cincinnati Fire and Police will lose a large number of personnel in 2012 due to similar measures during previous budget cuts. Losing a recruiting class also means it will be harder to recruit new applicants in the future; they will fear their class may also get cancelled.
There needs to be a better coordination of budget cuts between city and county agencies. We are going into some very interesting times and economic resources will be very constrained. More than ever, these agencies need to work smarter and not harder.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The economy has been on everyone’s mind lately. First mortgages, then the brokerage firms and now the big 3 automakers have all had to go to the federal government for financial bailouts. Locally DHL is pulling out leaving 7,000 people without jobs. Hamilton County may have to lay off 900 employees. The news keeps getting worse. There really is no good time for such events to occur but in the weeks preceding the Christmas holidays is especially difficult for many.
Over the last few days, several acquaintances at work have shared that their homes have been burglarized. No real pattern, these people all lived in different neighborhoods and don’t know each other. I don’t believe in coincidence and see this as symptom of the economic times. People are becoming desperate and in some cases allowing their fears to override civility towards their fellow citizens. Look at the man who was trampled to death by aggressive shoppers on Black Friday. Civility went out the door when people’s concerns for material goods outweighed their concern for another human being.
More than ever, safety and well-being of yourself and your family needs to be at the forefront. It isn’t just remembering to lock your doors; it is making sure your friends and family get home safely. Don’t let a friend go home alone who may be impaired. Check on elderly family members or neighbors. Keep constant vigilance whenever you go outside; keeping thinking about escape routes or places to take cover. Mumbai was only the most recent example of a no-notice threat. Be vigilant at your workplace for suspicious packages; most people have already forgotten about the anthrax that was mailed out after 9-11. The holidays and economy can mean a brutal one-two combination for people with mental health issues. If a co-worker or friend looks like they are having trouble coping, try to get them to talk to someone. If their behavior appears threatening (either to themselves or others), alert the proper authorities.
The county emergency management director, William Turner, is under fire again. During the blackouts back in September, the director was criticized for failures in county preparedness. Now several county police chiefs have a signed a letter point the director’s shortcomings in leadership, coordination, communication, direction, resources for the county. Two county commissioners wrote a separate letter saying, “It now appears to us that Director Turner’s service has become a divisive force instead of a unifying force in Butler County” (note Butler county Commissioner Furmon, who has supported director Turner in the past, did not sign the letter). Many counties are looking to cut their workforce in order to balance their budgets. I hope that however Butler county chooses to deal with Director Turn that they don’t end-up eliminating position. The county emergency management director serves important function and can act as a disinterested third party over fire and law enforcement services. Eliminating the position may unfairly tip the scales in the direction of the fire service or law enforcement to the detriment of the other.
Monday, December 8, 2008
The constant drone about preparing for an attack using WMDs was temporarily halted after the attacks in Mumbai. Nearly 200 were killed by attackers armed only with rifles and handguns. It also highlighted the vulnerability of cities to small, highly mobile groups attacking open public areas. Now a demonstration highlights another misconception of the WMD scenario-based planners; you don’t need a weapon to create havoc. Case in point, more than 50 members of the group Plane Stupid chained themselves together just yards from the runway at London Stansted Airport. The protestors were demonstrating against a second runway at the airport. The protestors, mainly students under 25, used bolt cutters to breach the security fence. It took police over 5 hours after the students breached the security fence to finally cut the protestors free and restore operations to the airport. Thousands of passengers were stranded and, needless to say, wickedly pissed about missing their flights. Police also had to respond to the terminals to try and maintain peace and order as the passengers became quite unruly.
The protestors highlight that a simple plan that is well executed still can defeat all of the high-tech security systems at airports. They didn’t use any weapons but were able to bring the airport to a standstill. Airport police were unable apparently to stop the students from breeching the fence and then chaining themselves. The students weren’t particularly stealthy either; they arrived in an old fire engine! 'We do not run a fortress, we run an airport. Security staff and police intercepted the protesters and no-one got on to the runway,' a spokesman said. True enough but how could a group of students approach the perimeter of an airport in an old fire engine at 3:30 in the morning and not attract a security team?
The success of the Plane Stupid groups causes me to think we will see copycat protests at other airports. The majority of US airports have fairly large security perimeters; it would be difficult to intercept a group breaching one of the fence lines. Removing a number of protestors who chain themselves to fence lines or other permanent structures near active runways could really cause headaches for airport police.
The incident at Stansted should serve as a reminder that it isn’t always about dirty bombs and biological agents. It isn’t even about small teams of highly trained operatives with rifles. It is about causing disruption and chaos to our normal way of going about our lives. President-elect Obama and his administration will really have to create something more fluid and flexible to deal with asymmetrical threats. Whether they be terrorists or protestors, active groups are only limited by their imagination as to how best get their group and its agenda to be front page news.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Defeating Global Terrorism
• Update strategies/ capabilities to fight terrorism
• Re-equip, retrain, and expand armed forces
• Improve public diplomacy
This seems consistent with his pledges during the campaign to refocus the war on terror more in Afghanistan. These were developed before the attack in Mumbai and the advent of Somali pirates. The attacks in Mumbai could be launched anywhere without the tell-tale signs associated with weapons of mass destruction. The increase threat of pirates means the role of the Navy will have to shift from less of a force-on-force role to something akin to its earlier role of protecting commerce shipping.
• Secure and control fissile materials
• Build international capacity to prevent theft and spread of nuclear materials
• Appoint White House Coordinator for Nuclear Security
• Set the goal of a nuclear-free world
These are very laudable goals but other than the coordinator, have a low probability of success. Other administrations have tried to reduce or eliminate the spread of nuclear weapons. Russia, China and now Iran will prove especially challenging in trying to meet these goals. Both Russia and China see the United States as a waning superpower, they more than others will not be interested in reducing or eliminating their nuclear weapons programs.
• Build capacity to mitigate consequences of bio-terror attacks
• Speed development of drugs used to fight bio-terror attacks
• Lead international effort to diminish impact of major biological epidemics
Biological agents are inherently difficult to use. Those producing the weapons face contamination or death before the weapons can be employed. The dissipation of the biological agent once the weapon is used reduces concentration levels. Winds and rain may prevent airborne biological agents from being effective. Chemical agents and high explosives are easier to handle and most likely will be the preferred choice of terrorists seeking WMDs.
Information Network Protection
• Protect IT infrastructure needed for U.S. economy
• Develop comprehensive cyber security and response strategy
• Prevent corporate cyber-espionage
• Mandate private data security standards
The big challenge for IT security lies in that either an external or internal agent can launch attacks. We hear often of lone attackers in India or the Philippines but the real threat of course comes from employees who may be plants or turned by the attackers. Technology moves faster than our ability to legislate standards and develop strategies. Perhaps no other area requires eternal vigilance than in the IT arena.
• Improve the efficiency and security of the U.S. electricity grid
• Invest in recapitalizing transportation infrastructure
Of all of the areas, this one perhaps holds the most opportunity to help our economy. I’ve advocated before the need to improve mass transportation. Developing light rail systems between cities and revamping our long neglected long-haul passenger rail lines will increase jobs as well as help reduce the number of cars on the road.
Critical Infrastructure Protection
• Revamp national infrastructure protection plan
• Improve chemical plant security
• Track spent nuclear fuel
• Improve airline security
• Bolster port security and cargo screening
• Protect public transportation
• Protect local water supplies
• Improve border security
I’m only guessing here but with President-elect Obama’s selection of Governor Napolitano as his Secretary of Homeland Security, border security will see a dramatic increase over some of the other critical infrastructure areas. I also don’t’ see the new Secretary of Homeland Secretary erecting static barriers as much as trying to develop policies to reduce immigration issues.
Intelligence Activities and Civil Liberties
• Improve information sharing and analysis
• Revise the PATRIOT act to preserve civil liberties
• Update FISA to provide greater oversight for warrantless wiretapping
• Restore habeas corpus to those deemed enemy combatants
I’ve not been a fan of the Patriot Act since it was first crafted because of the circumstances surrounding its creation. The emotions immediately following 9-11 did not permit proper discourse to be conducted. The same for FISA and terming those suspected of terrorism as “enemy combatants”. It was an expeditious means during the days and months after 9-11 but it is time to relook at these policies.
Emergency Preparedness and Response
• Allocate funds based on risk
• Emergency response plan improvement
• Improve communications systems interoperability
Allocating funds based on risk sounds perfectly sound but is fraught with political angst. I’m not certain how you improve emergency response planning beyond what is already known; getting agencies to sit down together and start planning and then practicing their plan. The one constant is the lack of time agencies can devote to exercises and joint planning sessions. Communications interoperability remains one of the common threads in after action reports. The problem isn’t so much in the upgrade of systems; it is in getting everyone on compatible systems at the same time.
If President-elect Obama can keep his administration focused on accomplishing the above, the country will certainly be better prepared to respond to a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Monday, December 1, 2008
First, there is a summit of college and business leaders today at the University of Cincinnati the brain drain “discovered” by Governor Stickland during a recent visit to Taft High School. Nine out of ten students indicated they would be pursuing academic careers outside of Ohio because that is where the jobs are. I put quotation marks around discovered because this situation should not have been news to the governor. Ohio has one of the worst tax schemes anywhere for business. Business owners get to pay state, county, city and/or township taxes. In addition, businesses pay a variety of licenses. All of this is paid on top of the normal expenditures for employee benefits, insurance, pension funds, etc. There are only so many ways to trim costs and before long the only option left becomes to relocate your business. The Mead Corporation was a homegrown company in Dayton, Ohio but eventually relocated their corporate headquarters. The decision did not have anything to do with an inability to find qualified workers, rather the costs associated with keeping their corporate headquarters here in Ohio (where the Mead family is from) became just too expensive.
Governor Strickland is focused on creating jobs through revamping Ohio’s high educational system. He envisions luring companies to Ohio by having a highly trained workforce in place. A test of his theory has already hit the local area in the form of the DHL closure in Wilmington. Seven thousand jobs have been cut creating a huge pool of employed workers. Many of these workers have technical skills and college degrees, if the governor’s theory is correct then another company should be willing to relocate here and hire the DHL employees. However, I doubt this is likely to occur without revamping Ohio taxes to create incentives for a major employer to relocate to the Wilmington area. The meeting at UC today may provide some great ideas but without also creating economic incentive for business, these will remain just great ideas.
The second issue was on Cincinnati Blogs concerning impending budget cuts in Hamilton County. Typically public sector agencies cut budgets by postponing expenditures on equipment or facilities. Training is cancelled or postponed. Another strategy involves some combination of furloughs, early retirements, hiring freezes, or eliminating positions. These measures are short-term at best, as the requirements for these expenditures didn’t change. Assuming the agency has done due diligence in creating these positions, reducing the workforce may help balance the books but it increases the workload of the employees left on the payroll. Incidence of sick leave, absenteeism or resignations will increase.
Eventually they will become frustrated and eventually may look for work elsewhere. The end result of these budgetary actions is an overall diminished effectiveness of the agency to perform its mission. In Hamilton County, we see the sheriff’s office painting a grim picture of rampant crime as patrols are eliminated and criminals will have to be released due to over-crowding in the jails. I have no way of knowing what analysis the sheriff has conducted to arrive at his decisions. I do wonder if these decisions were made in coordination with the city of Cincinnati to see which agencies could pick up the slack for other agencies? For instance, some of the patrols provided by the sheriff’s office were in the Other the Rhine area which is (I believe) in District 1 of the Cincinnati Police, could these patrols not be conducted by the police? Law enforcement agencies usually have mutual aid compacts in place, could these be modified to augment the reductions by the sheriff elsewhere in Hamilton County? Of course that assumes these patrols are required in the first place, if they are then a compromise of some kind needs to be reached. If they aren’t required, then they can be eliminated and funding used to conduct other critical functions.
Hamilton County is facing a budget crisis in part because of the economy but also because of the loss of tax revenues. I submit that Ohio has some of the highest taxes of any of the states, yet our tax revenues are plummeting. Higher taxes create disincentives to spending which in turn reduces tax revenues. We’ve all heard about business relocating their operations overseas. Wages are often pointed out as the reason which inevitably leads to finger pointing between labor and management. What gets overlooked is the need for workers to be able to earn a certain level in order to pay their taxes. Employers have to not only meet the need for a fair and competitive wages, they too have to pay taxes on their facilities and profits. Combined the situation creates a major disincentive to operate business locally and leads to employers leaving Ohio. Our college and tech school graduates have no choice but to follow those jobs out of the state.
Creating jobs in Ohio leads not only to a better quality of life for our residents, it will lead to safer communities as our public sector agencies (fire, EMS, law enforcement, public works) will have the funding they need to operate.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
First, the attackers did not use any kind of weapon of mass destruction. No bombs, chemical weapons, biological agents or radiological materials were used. No car bombs or aircraft were used. The attackers did not rely on suicide bombers instead a small army went deep into a densely populated city. The attackers used rifles and military tactics to kill nearly 200 people.
Second, although initial reports made it seem like Westerners were the targets in actuality the attackers killed as many people as they could regardless of nationality or ethnicity. The nature of the attacks would suggest a regional agenda rather than national or theological.
Third, the fact a small army was able to assemble and launch an attack without alerting intelligence networks suggests an over-reliance of technology. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) took a bashing for 9-11 for allowing their human intelligence network to deteriorate to the point that hijackers were able to train and carry out preparations without causing the agency to notice (that assessment is overly simplistic but the fact human intelligence has been forsaken in favor of high-tech sensors is very much a concern).
Preventing attacks on unprotected targets such as cities or college campuses is challenging. There is only so much that can be hardened before you end-up with a fort. A fort is not conducive to commerce and tourism. If one city becomes a fort, then attackers merely target the next city that isn’t a fortress. I’ve written before about the error of fighting the last war. Homeland security (which is essentially preventing terrorist attacks) has focused almost exclusively on airports and maritime ports. The attack in Mumbai shows what can happen when a well executed plan uses the simplest of weapons (infantrymen and rifles).
I suspect the new Secretary of Homeland Secretary, Governor Napolitano of Arizona, will tend to focus her efforts on preventing terrorist attacks through immigration laws. The lack of human intelligence networks first recognized in 9-11 have yet to be properly addressed. The purchase of even more sophisticated sensors and overhead imagery is important but still does not address what is going on in the minds of potential terrorists.
Wendell Phillips quote still remains relevant almost 200 years later, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Friday, November 28, 2008
It has taken Brian Kelly just two years to achieve the unimaginable; a win tomorrow will take UC to either the Orange or Sugar Bowl. Syracuse (the aptly named Orange) are the final hurdle and after beating Notre Dame last week the Bearcats are certain NOT to under-estimate them. Nineteen seniors will graduate this year from the team, what a terrific year for all of these young men and ending it in a BCS bowl. Every UC alum and fan should be proud. These young men and their coach have truly accomplished what few college programs do and especially in such a short amount of time! A victory tomorrow and trip to a BCS bowl could easily lead the Bearcats to become the true ambassadors of Cincinnati. Look out you scarlet and grey fans, there is another color combination around now and it is the black and red of the Bearcats!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Brian had posted this earlier on his blog. The state of the economy is especially rough this time of year. If you haven't already, please consider taking a moment and donating to the Freestore Foodbank. Each year, the Freestore Foodbank provides over 37,000 holiday meals every year. The Freestore Foodbank was founded in 1971, and serves about 160,000 people in southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. More than ever, local residents will be looking to the Freestore for help. These could be your friends, neighbors or even relatives. A $20 donation buys a bag of food for a family of four. You spend more than that going to the movies, so make a sacrifice and donate.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
“President-elect Barack Obama's top choice to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, according to several media reports, citing unnamed Democratic officials.
Gov. Napolitano, whose handling of immigration issues brought her praise from fellow governors, was an early supporter and campaigner for Obama's presidential campaign and was reported to be on a short list of people to fill cabinet posts in the new administration.
Napolitano, 50, was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006 as governor of Arizona, the home state of Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in the race against Obama.”
Governor Napolitano previously had been the attorney general for the state of Arizona. She won’t be the first governor to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security, former Secretary Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania. If she is appointed, she would bring an interesting combination of experience as attorney general and governor of a border state. Current Secretary Chertoff concerns over the last few years have centered around immigration. I don’t know if her experience in Arizona will continue this trend or cause her to refocus DHS efforts elsewhere. I am glad to see someone from outside the Eastern Seaboard to hold this position. Perhaps now DHS efforts will have more relevance to those states without borders or coastlines.
On a related note, The U.S. Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM-USA) is calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be restored to its former status as an independent agency reporting directly to the President. IAEM-USA also urges that the Director be designated as a member of the President's Cabinet. When DHS was created, FEMA was moved under the new department. Many feel the debacle of response during Hurricane Katrina was a result of FEMA being too far removed from the President. I’ve never understood why an agency that exists to respond to disasters reports to an organization responsible for preventing terrorist attacks. I don’t know when the next terrorist attack will occur but I can tell you to start preparing for hurricanes starting around April. FEMA needs to be able to do its job without trying to compete with homeland security interests.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Last night the UC Bearcats won the Keg of Nails for the first time in five years. The trophy is a replica of a keg used to ship nails. The exchange is believed to have been initiated by fraternity chapters on the UC and University of Louisville campuses, signifying that the winning players in the game were "tough as nails." The evening started mild enough but by the second half rain had started proving that both teams had players as tough as nails.
I went to UC in the early 80’s and the football program was forgettable. I ushered at one game and believe the visiting team beat the hapless Bearcats 50-0. The football program improved while UC was in Conference USA but the real strength of course was the basketball program which helped get the Bearcats into the Big East. All eyes were on the basketball Bearcats under new coach Mick Cronin (Huggins record had gotten the team to the Big East but he was fired before ever playing a game in the new conference). Mark Dantonio was coaching the football Bearcats and got them to International Bowl. However, in a move that upset most Bearcat fans Dantonio left before the bowl game and it became Coach Kelly’s first game as the new head coach for the Bearcats.
Coach Kelly led the football team to its first ranking (25h) last year and a trip to the Papa John’s Bowl. The incredible turn around of the program in just one year fueled the ability of Coach Kelly to schedule a game against the mighty Oklahoma Sooners (who were ranked 4th at the time). The Bearcats lost that game but now are ranked 22nd and are poised to take the lead in the Big East. A victory next week against Pittsburgh will have the Bearcats looking at going to the Orange Bowl.
I’m not a sports expert, just someone who is damn proud of his alma mater! Cincinnati has always had exceptional high school football and mediocre professional football. College football was something your turned to the Ohio State University or Notre Dame if you wanted to follow a team. Not anymore! Even if the Bearcats don’t go to the Orange Bowl, the program has become vibrant and exciting. The Bearcats could easily become the identity for Cincinnati (much as the Buckeyes are for Columbus).
I wrote this piece because when I read the Enquirer the Bearcats rated only the second spot on the front page of sports. Perhaps it is me but the whole tone of the article seemed rather ho-hum. The Bearcats could be going to the Orange Bowl in only their second season of playing the Big East and the Enquirer treated last night’s victory as just another day in the office. The Reds haven’t been anything to right about and the Bengals are on track to produce another record losing season. Cincinnati has something to celebrate in the Bearcats and yet the Enquirer just can’t seem to get excited about.
The talk shows will blab ad infinitum about how Coach Kelly’s call to go for a quarterback sneak rather than punt in the first quarter took the momentum away from the team. Perhaps but as a former St Xavier high school coach used to tell us, “What matters is who has the most points at the end of the game.” Coach Kelly and Bearcats are a reason to take pride in Cincinnati and to finally be able to root for a winning program.
And lest I forget, if you want to really understand the caliber of the players you need not look any further than Mardy Gilyard. I could write about what happened during the University of South Florida game but why not let him say it in his own words?
"I tried to dive hoping the parents around the kids would be like, 'Guys, move,' "
"The parents kind of pulled the 'Ole' move and left the kids right there in the middle," Gilyard continued. "I was stuck in mid-flight. I tried to turn, and it so happened I missed everyone. But I caught the one kid that got out of the way. He moved to the left and that's where my shoulder cracked him right in the face."
Then, in a move that led to national acclaim and inspired an avalanche of e-mails to the Cincinnati athletic office praising Gilyard's reaction, he ripped off his helmet and lifted 7-year-old Garrett Monroe into a giant bear hug.
"As soon as I hit him, I was instantly trying to snatch my helmet off," Gilyard said. If the kid sees you scared, they're automatically going to be scared. So, I said, 'Everything is OK.' He gave me a little smirk, and he slapped me five, and then his dad came over and said, 'Oh my God, are you OK?' He kind of glanced over and started crying. He was choking the life out of me. I said, 'You have to let me go. I have to go. You're OK, right?' I wasn't going to leave until he told me he was OK. They would have just had to send a sub in for me. I had to make sure that kid was OK, because I hit him, you know?"
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Everyone probably remembers Top Gun and the final air-to-air battle were “Maverick” goes against the Soviet fighters one last time. The guy looking at the radar scope (which was way too bright for real use) and says to the “Air Boss”, “Maverick is re-engaging” was a radar controller. I wasn’t in the Navy but did the exact same job in the USAF (minus the theme music and Hollywood sets). I referenced to Top Gun only because the majority of people have seen it and helps you to understand a little bit about what a radar controller (or as the USAF calls now refers to the career field, air battle managers) does for a living.
I got thinking about my old line of work today corresponding with 5schw4r7z. Seems his father was a radar maintainer, a career field indispensable to being able to do my old job. Radar maintainers were the lifeblood of radar units. If the radar “bent” (malfunctioned), we couldn’t direct aircraft during intercepts and refueling missions. We were then worthless to the pilots flying the missions. Guys like 5schw4r7z father kept us in business and kept the pilots safe.
So what exactly is an air battle manager? The term is new, when I was first in the radar business the title was air weapons controller (sometimes referred to as “scope dope”). Air battle managers in effect direct fighter and attack aircraft around the battlefield. Air battle managers may also work with Army air defense artillery (ADA) and short range air defense (SHORAD) units. Total quality management infected the USAF in the early 90’s and the title was thought “too directive” and we became air weapons directors since we lowly ground controllers could never truly tell fighter pilot what to do.
Allow me to use my old nomenclature as it applies to the timeframe. I came into the USAF during the mid 1980s at the height of the Reagan build-up and the final throws of the Cold War. The radar system used to direct fighter aircraft during intercepts of enemy aircraft was referred to as the Tactical Air Control Systems or simply “TACS”. The TACS provided the Tactical Air Forces (TAF) Commander the capability to direct and control tactical air assets (fighters and attack aircraft). The system was highly flexible and was employed in support of a unified command, Joint Task Force (JTF), as an augmentation resource or as an independent element. The TACS provided both control of aircraft during intercept and refueling missions as well as air surveillance of the airspace adjacent to hostile nations (East Germany and the Warsaw Bloc in the case of USAFE TACS).
The elements of the ground TACS were: Control and Reporting Center (CRC), Control and Reporting Post (CRP), Message Processing Center (MPC), and Forward Air Control Post (FACP). The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was also part of the TACS. The MPC would allow ground units to link their radar picture to AWACS and vice versus.
Ground TACS domain was Korea, the Philippines, and Germany. Mobile radar units were housed in-garrison on air bases providing day-to-day air surveillance and direction of fighter intercepts. In the event of hostilities, the mobile units would “crash out” and deploy to forward locations near the border (either with North Korea or Eastern Germany). Ground TACS had to be self-sufficient under those circumstances so we all were qualified on M-16s as well as M-9s and M-60s. We had our own medics and could sustain operations in the field for extended periods of time. Illuminating the battlefield with 100,000 watts of energy wasn’t without peril, an anti-radiation missile could track down our main lobe (radar signal) and terminate the entire site.
The radar system used was a semi-automatic system called the 407L. A semi-automatic system had limited computer abilities to generate symbology (flight data) requiring a controller to constantly update the symbology on the radar track. (Modern systems automatically updated the flight data with the radar track.) As cumbersome as the system was, there still was manual systems which had no flight data capability and only a “raw” radar blip for the controller to work with.
The TACS began to change in the early 90’s when the Chief of Staff, Gen McPeak, decided to eliminate the terms “tactical” and “strategic”. The “T” in TACS became theater instead of tactical. From there the 407L was slowly phased out for the new Modular Control Element (MCE) replacing the old TPS-43 radar with the new TPS-75 phased array radar. The MCE wasn’t new, the US Marine Corps had actually developed it but it work perfectly for the TACS. Computer technology has advanced even further to the point were TACS units (now called air control units) were being phased out in the late 90s. Then 9-11 brought the units back to the forefront when everyone was looking for Flight 93. Air defense radars and FAA radars were not equipped to look IN the US for targets. The ground TACS units of the Air National Guard were called upon to fill in the gap in radar coverage. These same units were some of the first over during IRAQI FREEDOM to provide radar coverage during the initial attacks.
Alas, ground TACS has pretty much come to the end with the advent of stand-off precision bombers and unmanned aerial vehicles. These systems don’ require the skills of the ground TACS controllers to executer their mission. It amazes me how many were involved with TACS yet the majority of USAF memorabilia fails to recognize the contributions of these men and women. Here is a link to USAFE units.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Crisis of Complacency
Came across this articlethe other week. The author, Anthony L. Kimery, writes about the lack of emergency preparedness in general and of particular concern is; “that federal and state governments aren’t paying nearly enough attention to the steady deterioration of emergency medical care across the nation – the very medical care that will be needed in the event of a mass casualty catastrophe.” I don’t know if I agree that the federal and state governments aren’t paying enough attention. Rather, I think the economic environment prohibits being focused on “what if” instead of the “right now”. The big three automakers aren’t selling enough cars so they are asking for a federal bailout. What this really means though is no one is buying which in turn means no tax revenue. Without sufficient tax revenues, the federal and state governments don’t have to money to subsidize emergency medical care.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that less 1/3 of the population is ready for an emergency. According to the CDC, US citizens are “too busy, too distracted, or too frightened to plan carefully for a natural disaster, disease outbreak, or local catastrophe.” A few years ago, everyone was preparing for the avian flu and now hardly anyone mentions “bird flu” anymore. People may remember last decade all of the doomsday predictions associated with the “Y2K” scare. It is human nature to start reacting to a new threat but if that threat does not materialize than our attention turns to other issues. Complacency has always been the challenge for state and local officials. Civil Defense had to constantly remind citizens how to respond in the event of a nuclear attack. Although those drills look clichéd now, the principle of constantly reminding people is as valid as it was 50 years ago.
Right now it seems unrealistic to encourage people to worry about a potential flu pandemic when people are much more concerned about their own jobs. In Wilmington, it looks like close to 10,000 jobs will be lost. In Hamilton County, several hundred jobs may be lost due to budgetary constraints.
Anthony concludes his article with a turn on the old Total Quality Management phrase, “people need to understand the consequences of NOT being prepared.” Too much information has left people throwing up their arms in frustration or simply dismissing these studies as the latest Y2K. How then should we proceed? I suggest going back to the Civil Defense model but instead of surviving a nuclear attack preparing focus on basic emergency preparedness. Much as emergency managers are getting away from scenario based training and favor the “all-hazards approach”, we need to be prepared for all emergencies not just the most recent one.
I received a note from e-Justice blog which appears to be a new blog covering a range of topics from cyber law to personal security. The blog is part of the Criminal Justice USA.com website. The authors are interested in helping people to become more pro-active and better informed citizens. They just compiled a listing of the Top 50 Homeland Security blogs and Losantiville is one. Thanks for including my blog!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
World War I, which introduced atrocities such as chemical weapons and the machine gun, end officially with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles June 29, 1918. Seven percent of the male population of Germany, nine percent of United Kingdom male population and eleven percent of the male population of France would die during the Great War. If the Treaty of Versailles, why is Veteran’s Day on November 11th? Communications on the battlefields of France were still carried out primarily by courier. Military units remained entrenched in the same area for months at a time. Therefore, even though the treaty was signed in June, fighting continued for nearly seven more months. Fighting is regarded as having finally stopped on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. 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 original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926. On May 13, 1938 a legal holiday was proclaimed for the 11th of November. “Armistice Day” would be a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated. Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance.
The Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to insure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
As you seen veterans around today, don’t wish them a Happy Veteran’s Day. Today is not a celebration as much as a remembrance of those that have served. Regardless of your feelings towards the war, take a moment and thank the men and women that served their country. You don’t have to agree with the politics of the war in which they fought. You don’t have to agree with the military. I do ask you to respect the dedication to country and service that these veterans have shown. If you are reading this and are a veteran, I salute you as a fellow veteran!
Col (ret) Robert Baylor, USAF
Thursday, October 30, 2008
It is Beggar's night tonight in our neighborhood. I wanted to share some suggestions for you and your trick-or-treaters to remain safe.
Carry a flashlight (check the batteries before setting out)
Walk, don't run.
Stay on Sidewalks
Obey traffic signals
Stay in familiar neighborhoods
Don't cut across yards or driveways.
Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
Make sure costumes don't drag on the ground.
Shoes should fit (even if they don't go with your costume)
Avoid wearing masks while walking from house to house.
Carry only flexible knives, swords or other props.
(If no sidewalk) walk on the left side of the road facing traffic
Wear clothing with reflective markings or tape.
Approach only houses that are lit.
Stay away from and don't pet animals you don't know.
Make sure your yard is clear of clutter or trip hazards (ladders, hoses, etc).
Remember to keep your pets in to prevent them from accidently biting a child.
Battery powered Jack O'Lantern candles are preferable to a real flame.
If you do use candles, keep you pumpkin away from where they may get knocked-over.
Make sure paper or cloth yard decorations won't get blown into a flaming candle.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
In preparing my lecture the other night, I was reviewing the concepts of security for mass transit. When people think of transportation related security issues, for the most part they tend to think of air travel. The events of 9-11 focused most of our homeland security efforts at airports. The other focus has been the inspection of shipping containers but unless you are directly involved with the shipping industry you probably only experience security at airports.
Those readers living in cities with major mass transit systems have a different understanding of transportation related security. New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC all have mass transit systems that move millions of commuters around the metropolitan area. As commuters gather to get board the transit system, they are easy targets for a terrorist attack. The Aum Shin Rikyo attack in 1995 used sarin gas in the Japanese subway systems. Seven people were killed in the attack and over 500 required medical attention.
Cincinnati has the Metro bus system, an AMTRAK station and a Greyhound bus station. AMTRAK has very limited service so there just is the mass of travelers necessary to make it an attractive target. The majority of commuters use the Metro but there are never more than a handful of commuters getting on or off the bus at one time. I began to think Cincinnati really didn’t have a challenge in regard to an attack on a mass transit system. But then I remembered that an attack usually is against your weakest spot. The Greyhound bus station may be one of those areas.
Air travel has become quite expensive so many people who need to travel great distances rely on Greyhound buses. I ask my students the other night if they had ever heard of Greyhound and they all looked at me like I’d grown three heads. I had thought Greyhound would be commonly understood, that’s why faculty shouldn’t make assumptions. In addition to carrying passengers, Greyhound also moves parcels (Greyhound PackageXpress) offering same day service or early next day service. Suddenly the lowly Greyhound station on Gilbert Avenue become a very intriguing topic. A bomb scare at the station could impact traffic on I-71 creating gridlock for the morning or evening commute. Sometimes it isn’t just about destroying a target as much as creating panic or confusion.
The Department of Homeland Security has spent millions on training and equipping the Transportation Security Administration to detect threats at airports. Major metropolitan areas have spent huge sums of local taxpayer dollars to protect their subways and light rail systems. How much though has been spent on the lowly bus terminal? Strategists regardless of their field will always target the weakest link in any system. While fewer travelers go by bus, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for a terrorist (who doesn’t have to hail from a foreign national or subscribe to a particular theology) to create trouble. A bomb or a chemical weapon could be smuggled into a bus terminal much more easily than an airport. While the total number effected may be less, the response from law enforcement and fire could tie-up resources for hours. Attacking multiple targets in this manner could overcome several hurdles with attack airports or shipping containers.
It doesn’t take Tom Clancy type scenario to create a catastrophe, just an opportunity. To use a quote most often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Thursday, October 23, 2008
It is hard to avoid hearing political ads on TV or radio during this time of year. A presidential election increases the flow of ads ten fold. I’ve tuned out most of the presidential ads, each one candidate trying to eek out an additional percentage point or two over his opponent. Ohio elections have already dug up voter fraud skeletons from previous elections and guarantee that the Buckeye state will be front-page news.
For me, the interesting issue this year is not who becomes the next President as much as whether casino gambling comes to Clinton County. Clinton County’s major employer, for those readers outside the Cincinnati area, is DHL. Recently DHL decided to sell off its routes to UPS and in effect shut down operations in Clinton County. Estimates are 6,000 jobs will be lost at the airpark and as many another 4-6,000 other jobs from related businesses will be lost. The casino promises to bring 5,000 new jobs. Opponents of the casino argue it will bring crime and increase addictions to gambling and substance abuse. Those in favor point out that Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have legalized gambling and thus Ohio is losing revenues.
Critics of casino gambling are concerned loopholes in Issue 6 can either allow more casinos to be built or does an inadequate job of insuring casino tax revenues are appropriately distributed. Issue 6 proponents claims these concerns are without merit and the casino will help offset the job losses created by DHL.
The casino will undoubtedly generate jobs for Clinton County, however how many of these jobs will be the higher paying dealer or manager positions? Often casinos bring in dealers who have learned their trade at the casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Managers and pit bosses are also imported from other casinos owned by the parent corporation. Nothing on the MyOhioNow.com website discusses jobs other than in round numbers. I’m for new jobs for the region but I would like to see more detail about how these jobs will be filled.
Distribution of tax revenues is another matter that still is vague. Yes, the casino will pay taxes and yes a percentage of those revenues will go to the state and counties. How much this will be remains to be seen as the casino has yet to be built. What interests me is how much of the tax revenue, if any, will be set aside for the increased fire, EMS and police runs. The location for the proposed casino means Harveysburg and Wilmington fire and EMS along with Clinton County Sheriff’f Office will be dealing with overtime issues. Will these departments received increased funding through these tax revenues to offset the increased number of runs?
Clinton Memorial Hospital will be seeing an increased number of emergencies as stressed out patrons collapse from too much alcohol and gambling. How many of these patients will have health insurance? Will Clinton County Memorial receive any compensation for having additional physicians and nurses on duty to handle long weekends filled with out of town gamblers?
If Issue 6 passes, I hope there are more discussions that addresses the safety and security of our community regarding the casino.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The other day I read where Mayor Mallory was asking Cincinnatians to keep supporting the Bengals. Is this the state of professional football in Cincinnati that we have the mayor pleading with citizens not to give up? The Bengals organization is the beneficiary of a one-half percent sales tax passed in 1996 to build their stadium. Seems like a lot of support to me.
But what got me thinking about all of this was when I took the picture of Union Terminal during my sojourn on Monday. There is no cheap parking downtown (I know, this isn’t a news flash to those who work downtown). Even on a holiday, parking fees are ridiculous and whenever a sports event is going on prices rise to exorbitant. I do not begrudge the owners of parking garages and lots to make a profit but these prices are one more disincentive for visitors.
Instead of pleading for fans to bear witness to a team going from 0-6 to 0-7, perhaps working on some type of plan for reducing parking fees would be more productive. For example, in Columbus the parking at City Center used to be $1 for three hours (I’m not sure if this is still the case). The low parking fee encouraged people going to the state government to park in City Center. The increased traffic helped business (although ultimately the increased traffic could not overcome other economic factors).
The Bengals aren’t going to present much incentive for visitors this year. Even if they had a better season, they play roughly 8 home games? Incentives need to be longer than a football or baseball season. The city could help broker something so that the proprietors of the parking lots could still make profit yet visitors to the downtown would find it affordable.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Carew Tower is one of Cincinnat's great monuments to art deco. We spent most of yesterday enjoying some time re-discovering this great treasure. The above photo is of the Orchids at the Omni Netherland. If you haven't been to the Omni Netherland before, or haven't been in a while, take a friend and enjoy the beauty of the architecture. Cincinanti may be getting a new and taller skyscraper but nothing will rival the artwork and skill that can be found throughout the Carew Tower. They truly don't make them like this no more!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I see the current economic situation creating a very unsafe situation for our communities. As more and more people lose jobs and their homes, desperation and hopelessness could become rampant. Violent crimes will likely rise as more people become frustrated and take out their emotions in violent acts. Others will resort to robbery in order to survive. Worse, others may feel their communities are becoming too unsafe and will leave. An exodus of the disenfranchised could further deteriorate an already weakened economic situation here in the Cincinnati area.
A surprising glimmer of hope comes from the energy crisis. Smart cars are becoming more popular and rumors are that Toyota may locate their plant here in Ohio. Pursuing alternative fuel and transportation is good both for environmental reasons as well as reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources. Now if they could only make a Smart Car that someone 6’3” or taller can fit into. Oh well, maybe its time to take up yoga!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Her speech wasn't anything new, you've heard it all on the news already. The one thing that did strike me was something just not covered on any of the news. We've heard about her lack of experience, her gaffs on interviews, and her seeming lack of experience in foreign policy. We've also heard about her charisma and being the first female VP candidate since Geraldine Ferraro. What all of these observations failed to mention, and what jumped out at me last night, was this lady is young and vibrant compared to McCain. Just as Barack Obama needs Joe Biden's age to balance his perceived lack of experience, McCain needs Palin's youth to balance concerns about his age. In that, she does bring an energy level and enthusiasm that I just don't see in McCain. The crowd was especially enthusiastic given Governor Palin's mention of the DHL situation. Even so, I can't really predict how the elections will go here in Ohio. It should be an interesting election.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Both sides quote various to reinforce their points. In trying to ascertain the validity of one side or the other, I was unable to find case studies of attempted smuggling of binary chemicals. The London case has not released details so we still are unaware of if binary liquids were truly used. Some would argue the lack of case studies is because of the success of chemical detection technology. I find that argument weak when you consider that most countries DON’T have bans on bringing liquids on board. Others may say the scientist and skeptics are right, liquid explosives are too difficult to mix on-board. Perhaps but I think the whole liquid explosives discussion misses a much more basic point; it isn’t the weapon that the terrorists are concerned about but the target. The target of course in all of these discussions is the aircraft. Trying to mix volatile chemicals on-board an airliner has a low probability of success. If attacking the aircraft is the ultimate aim, there are other means of attack with higher probabilities of success. Aircraft are most vulnerable to attack during take-off and landing. Different weapons could be employed against airliners under such circumstances. These weapons don’t rely on clumsy terrorists trying to mix the wrong chemicals or spilling the contents before they can be used to blow-up the aircraft.
For instance, there have been random reports since 9-11 of lasers being focused on the cockpit of airliners while in flight. The lasers would need to be aimed with some type of targeting system which in-turn implies high cost and sophistication. Such lasers are most likely vehicle-mounted making it easier to conceal and relocate for multiple attempts. The weapon would only have to temporarily blind pilots to create the potential for a crash. Certain lasers operate in a spectrum that does not emit a visible beam. Using sophisticated laser weapon may seem like something out of a novel but if previous reports are correct, certain groups may already possess the technology.
Of course this assumes the group wants to target the aircraft while in flight. Aircraft could be sabotaged while on the ground. Passengers can be attacked while still in the terminal. Chemical or biological agents could be introduced into the terminal air handling systems. Food supplies, as we now know, are extremely vulnerable to contamination. Navigation systems can be jammed or incorrect data can be sent. Navigational aids are airports could be destroyed or compromised. I’m not saying steps have not been taken to reduce these threats as well. My concern by focusing almost exclusively on one type of weapon (liquid explosives), we may be exposing ourselves to a completely different type of attack.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Trains and buses afford a cost-effective means of transporting both commuters and travelers alike. By running trains on electricity reduces the reliance on foreign oil. More and more busses now run on either biodiesel or electricity as well. Trolley cars are becoming quite the norm to run local travelers and commuters around (Cincinnati is still pursuing trolleys for the Over-The-Rhine area). A comprehensive mass transportation approach just makes good sense.
Well I just read an article that makes me wonder if trains and buses aren’t going to become the next industry invaded by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). Ontario health officials are searching for 27 people who may have been exposed to tuberculosis while travelling on a Greyhound bus from Toronto to Windsor on Aug. 31. There's a "moderate risk" they contracted the disease, public health officials said Thursday. You read the entire article here.
People need to take more responsibility for their actions. If someone knows they have, or suspects they may have, a highly communicable disease like tuberculosis they need to stay home! Last year a US citizen flew from Atlanta on an overseas flight knowing he had TB but felt his need to travel outweighed the safety of others. Apparently the same thing happened on the Greyhound bus in Ontario. TB is contagious and with strains that are resistant to antibiotics, this case is very disconcerting. However, we can’t overreact and start adding even more restrictions to travel. Hopefully the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will team with the TSA to develop some reasonable safeguards for travelers.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
In Ohio, before we get snow and sleet though we must go through rain. The risk for flooding in Ohio is greatest in the spring and autumn months. In the event you experience a flood basement or house, the following regarding mold from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) should be followed:
When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.
• People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.
• If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.
• Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.
• If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy an N95 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while in the building.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I guess that bit of cognitive dissonance set the stage for this strange item. The Fox News website has an article posted on “MALINTENT” a new system under development by Department of Homeland Security. The system supposedly can detect non-verbal cues to predict hostile intentions by passengers. You can read the article here.
I’m not a conspiracy type nor do I believe “The Matrix” was somehow allegorical. The development of MALINTENT does make me what to reconsider those positions. Human beings tend to experience a wide range of emotions at any given time. These emotions can lead to any number of micro-expressions and other non-verbal cues. Cultural and ethnic differences cause people to react to emotions differently. Accurately reading non-verbal cues by means of a computer program leaves me skeptical. The potential for errors in reading something as vague as non-verbal cues and reacting to computer assessments on such esoteric constructs is great.
I’m neither an attorney nor a constitutional expert but this seems to be akin to invasion of privacy. My thoughts and emotions are my own and I share them only with those I choose. MALINTENT would appear to take that vestige of privacy away from airport passengers. Air travel has never really recovered from the events of 9-11. Increased security procedures have made checking-in a hassle. To reduce costs, airlines have eliminated all in-flight perks and now charge in some cases even for pillows and blankets. These factors alone have contributed to the decline in air travel; if nothing else MALINTENT would be just one more disincentive to commercial air travel.
After World War I, the French constructed a line of concrete fortifications known as the Maginot Line. The intent was to keep Germany from invading France again. When the Germans invaded Belgium in 1940, they simply drove around the Maginot Line. I wonder if the same thing isn’t happening with the DHS obsession with airport security. Are they creating another Maginot Line that the terrorists will simply drive around?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Enough of that nonsense, here is really what I’ve been thinking about. You can have all of the bottled water, food and batteries in the world but it doesn’t help if your are alone. Friends, family and neighbors looking out for one another is what really helped during this emergency. Better health care means or population continues to live longer. More and more people require some type of in-home medical care that relies on electricity. When the power goes out, these people’s health becomes at risk. Checking in on you friends and neighbors with medical conditions during power outages or storms is an important part of everyone getting through tough times.
You can’t underestimate the importance of having working flashlights available. I usually have a small SureFire pocket flashlight on my person and several flashlights throughout the house. Don’t fall victim to letting your flashlights become repositories for dead batteries. Keep fresh batteries in you flashlights by changing them whenever you change your smoke detector batteries.
Ready.gov has good list of items to keep on hand as part of your emergency kits. In addition to water, food and first aid supplies don’t forget about prescription medications and pet food. The time of course to stock up is before and not after the emergency so paying attention to the weather is critical. Keep as much of your supplies in a kit or bag that you can take with you in the event you have to vacate your home.
Make sure you and your family have ways of communicating that doesn’t rely on cellular phones (which work so long as there is power to the towers). You may have a pre-determined rally point where everyone gathers at a pre-agreed time in the event of no communication. In the event you had to leave the area (say due to a chemical hazard), you will need a rally point outside the immediate area as well.
As we get ready for winter, let me mention having a possibles bag. The term comes from Colonial times and a possible bag was a small bag woodsman carried to handle a wide variety of possibilities. A possibles bag is smaller than you home emergency kit but basically address some of the same issues.
A good possibles bag would contain a way of creating fire, a small space blanket, water purification tabs, first aid kit, and a knife. You possibles bag needs to contain those items you would need to survive 24-48 hours without assistance. Other items might be some protein bars, a compass and candles. Don’t make it too big, it needs to be something that you could carry around with you. I recommend keeping it in your car in the event you get stranded in a snow storm.
Basically though, apply what you learned from this emergency to allow you to handle the next one.