Monday, December 28, 2009

Ramped up US airport security deepens holiday travel misery

The additional security measures will discourage not only attackers but holiday travelers as well. The increased security measures will just be another reason for travelers (as well as terrorists) to chose options other than air travel. The beleaguered airlines can't withstand much more in the way of reduced air travel.

DHS has never taken a look at their procedures to determine what is effective and what isn't. Any coach will change plays and strategies to thwart his opponents strategy. DHS and TSA follow a standardized set of procedures based more on personnel policy than any counter-terrorism methodology. Standardized procedures allow for easier assessment of personnel performance and to set standards for promotions. The dirty little secret about TSA is they can only screen for what they are trained to detect. If you have a new means of assembling a bomb or explosive that doesn't appear on the TSA training documents, screeners won't recognize it as a weapon. In other words, TSA is about rote memorizing not critical thinking. Even if TSA were trained to use critical thinking, they can only screen outbound passengers at American terminals. They have no ability to screen incoming passengers from outside the United States. They must rely on the security of foreign agencies and airlines to screen out potential terrorists and to detect weapons.

Terrorists are not limited to a particular type of attack and can freely change their methods to suit the target or circumstances. Secretary Napolitano also seems to be contradicting herself; if there is no sign of a larger plot why ramp up security?

Ramped up US airport security deepens holiday travel misery - Yahoo! News

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Immunity for INTERPOL

No hint of this was covered by the media, it was signed with no discussion or fanfare. The United States was founded on breaking away from the monarchies of Europe. Why does the United States - with hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies - need to extend INTERPOL (a European police force) immunity?

Executive Order -- Amending Executive Order 12425 | The White House

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Army pregnancy ban

MAJ GEN Cucolo is under fire for his ban on pregnancy by female soldiers getting ready to deploy or currently in the battlefield. Female soldiers failing to adhere, as well as the father of the children, could face court martial and jail time.

In all of the discussion about women being allowed the same rights as males, the one thing that doesn't get discussed is pregnancy. Men don't get pregnant necessitating a leave of absence. The issue of pregnant military women and the impact to mission readiness first occurred during Desert Storm. Women who were pregnant or that subsequently became pregnant were not allowed to deploy. These women held key positions in their respective units requiring a backfill from another unit. This created a cascading effect on mission readiness in other units. Ten tears after Desert Storm, the US military goes to war again without addressing the implications of pregnant military women.

Young women in the military are no different than their civilian counterparts. They may choose to have a child as a single parent. As long as they are in the United States, this doesn't present a problem. However, single mothers giving birth in the Middle East face local laws that may not recognized their mother's right to their child. This happened to a female sailor while I was in the Middle East. She was going to give birth in Bahrain and under their laws, an unmarried woman forfeits her child to the government for adoption. The young sailor had to be evacuated out of the theater to prevent her child from being seized by the Bahrain government.

Women and men are different and too often the federal government pretends laws can overcome physiology. Or physics. For example, a 5'5" woman weighing 120-140lbs does not have the same mass as a man at 5'10" and weighing 190lbs. Those additional 50;70lbs consists of denser muscles and thicker bones. A bomb blast will cause more severe injuries to a female versus male (assuming the same distance from the blast and wearing similar protective gear). The female will have less body mass to absorb the trauma. The physics doesn't care about regulations or policies that say men and women are to be treated the same.

The next problem is society still places high value on a woman's appearance. Women vets for the first time in history are walking around with missing body parts or disfigurements. No one knows how these disfigurements will effect the female veteran.

I've wondered about how training woman to become killers will affect these veterans once they get out. We've studied for years the effect of battle on male soldiers and watched as the mental health community has gone from first shell shock, to battle fatigue to finally post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to describe the effects of war AFTER the warrior is now longer in the service. Military personnel are being diagnosed with PTSD earlier but the truth is the worst symptoms won't show until much later in their lives.

Imagine your daughter or younger sister being in combat. She may be the only female in the unit and the unit engages in regular firefights or the constant threat of roadside bombs. The same young woman has to over come all of her feminine tendencies to nurture and resort to shooting enemies before they can shoot and kill her or her fellow soldiers. The young woman does this for 3 or 4 tours, each lasting a year. She then leaves the military and goes back to her family or tries to start one. Conflict most certainly will arise in her psyche as she tries to justify how a cold blooded killer can be deserving of her children's love. She will most certainly be conflicted about her children following in her footsteps to become a soldier who may be forced to go into combat one day. These conflicts could manifest in ways that we can't begin to imagine.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Everlasting Scars/Wounds Of Third Reich Personalities

I'm no fan of the Third Reich, however this article reminds me of what a bunch of wimps we've become in the last half of the 20th Century. Men and women have no sense of self-determination, rather we look to third parties (usually the courts) to settle our disputes. In our pursuit of tolerating each others differences, we've been left with a less polite society than ever. In turn, this has left our nation more vulnerable than ever before to attack. The local news is filled with stories of people being attacked over the smallest offense, or sometimes none at all. The police can't be there all of the time and even if they could, city budgets are being cut to miniscule levels. People need to be able to protect themselves and their families for I don't see any other options in the face of shrinking police forces and a lack of resolve to deal with threats to our society.

Axis History Forum • View topic - Everlasting Scars/Wounds Of Third Reich Personalities

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Scotland Yard Warns London of Possible Mumbai-Style Attack

A small, well trained group armed with assault rifles would be difficult to detect and interdict. It is not a question of if such an attack will happen, merely when. West Coast gangs have their members enlist into the Marines or Army to learn close quarter combat and MOUT (military operations urban terrain) tactics. These gang members come back to the neighborhood and train other gang members. They use either assault rifles or automatic shotguns; regardless of the weapon the tactics are devastating. Police are not trained to deal with adversaries trained in small unit tactics. Imagine a large scale attack with such a force. It isn't all about airliners or weapons of mass destruction.

Scotland Yard Warns London of Possible Mumbai-Style Attack - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News -

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

White House threatening Sen. Nelson with military base closures

The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process is supposed to save the Department of Defense money by closing older or under-utilized facilities. The BRAC is supposed to be an objective look but often turns into a very political process. As politics overcomes other considerations, closures rarely accomplish the intended goal of trimming excess capacity and instead becomes affirmation of political clout. The question no one is asking, where are the savings from the BRAC 2005 recommendations? For those not familiar with the last round of closures, many Air National Guard units were identified for closure or re-missioning. Had the recommendations been followed to the letter, the original recommendations would have left some states without any ANG flying units. The ANG can operate their units for less money than active duty units as the ratio of full-time personnel in the ANG is much smaller. However, BRAC criteria was created to show ANG bases as being seized too small to handle new missions. Interesting as ANG bases were by law required to occupy no more space than necessary to operate their respective mission. The real reason for the BRAC? The military, and the USAF in particular, had maintained such a high operational rate that aircraft were being flown into the boneyard. The solution? Use the BRAC to cull newer airframes from the ANG and Reserves and bring those tails into the active inventory. Not true? Look at where the former tails numbers of ANG F-16 and C-130 aircraft went.

The history lesson was to show how even more outrageous this story of Rahm Emmanuel threatening a Nebraska senator with closing Offutt Air Force base. The last BRAC was supposed to have eliminated excess capacity, why do we need another round of closures when we still have forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan with the very real possibility of Iran becoming more aggressive in the future? We need bases to train and stage our military, closing any more bases at this time is more about the politics and not saving money.

Source: White House threatening Sen. Nelson with military base closures in Neb. | Washington Examiner

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Americans Turning Off on Climate Change

I'm not really surprised, it is hard to worry about the climate when you are laid off or about to be laid off. The denial by some of the information contained in the leaked emails doesn't help either. It is a given that the government and media try to manipulate our perceptions either by design or omission. To have such overwhelming evidence of at least one effort to create evidence of climate change that was manufactured not create a decrease in support would be unusual.

Newsmax - Zobgy: Americans Turning Off on Climate Change

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Illinois Prison to Get Some Gitmo Detainees

Newsmax - Illinois Prison to Get Some Gitmo Detainees

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The British Government ran into problems with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) when the government rounded up all suspected terrorists and put them in the Maze outside of Belfast. Terrorists and non-terrorists were concentrated at the prison. The terrorists were able to recruit and train from these supporters. Instead of reducing the presence of the PIRA, the Maze actually increased the number of members and activities of the terrorist groups. The Bush Administration started to repeat this mistake with Gitmo. Now the Obama Administration is about to make it worse by taking suspect from outside the United States and putting them into our penal system. Either these individuals will recruit American prisoners to their cause or the prisoners will recruit these individuals to their gangs. In either way, terrorism will not be stopped but most likely increased.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

University of Cincinnati

It took Brian Kelly and the UC Bearcats just three years to become the undisputed Big East champions. They ran the table, 12-0. They lost Tony Pike for while but found Zack Collaros. Tony Pike came back and the string of wins continued uninterrupted. After defeating Oregon State, West Virginia and a Big Ten team in the form of Illinois, it came down to the lost game of the season against another river town, Pittsburgh. Fitting, the Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers at Pittsburgh. If you watched yesterdays game, the Bearcats in the first half did not look like themselves. Pittsburgh knew what they were up against and used their outstanding running back Diona Lewis to keep the ball out of Tony Pike's hands. Even when the Bearcats got the ball, they couldn't work their usual magic. Score going into the half was 31-10. The impossible was happening, the phenomenal UC Bearcats were losing and they were beginning to lose heart. One lone warrior stood and seemed to say "No!" we aren't going down like this. Then much like in the Charlie Daniels song, Mardy seemed to say "Let me show you how it's done!" Thank you Mardy, thank you for remembering what it means to never give up!!!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Current Affairs

The President decides to bring Sheik Khalid Mohammed back to New York to stand trial. The message seems to be a de-emphasis on the war on terror and going back to treating terrorists as criminals.

The President then calls for calm when a Army Major Hasan shot 30 soldiers, 2 civilians in addition to killing 13. The President asked us not to jump to conclusions.

Four US Navy SEALs opted to face court martial rather than a captain's mast over punching Ahmed Hashim Abed. Why? I suspect because some higher echelon officer is worried of the public relations the Navy will get because the SEALs punched Abed while in custody. SEALs and other elite troops are just that, troops not peace officers. If someone is being difficult, the choices basically come down to shooting the terrorist or punching him.

Now Der Spiegel posted an article noting the lack of sincerity in the President's speech on Tuesday sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The troops will be out in 18 months. From everything I studied, you don't announce your timelines to your enemy (unless it is part of a deception plan).

American culture seems to be hellbent on coddling terrorists while persecuting troops. We desperately try to understand criminals while ignoring the victims of the crime. A young lady here in Cincinnati lost an eye when her ex-boyfriend threw a glass at her new boyfriend. The attacks on her character from readers posted on the Cincinnati Enquirer were shameful. While some condemned the actions of the ex-boyfriend, many others criticized the young lady for being out late at a bar concluding that she was in part at fault.

Some day, a sociologist or social-psychologist will write about all of the factors that contributed to American culture arriving as this abysmal points. I will simply posture that all of the excuses we've made for excessive, aberrant behaviors has produce the greatest generation of wimps and cry-babies the world has ever seen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Police: Census worker made death look like homicide

Police: Census worker made death look like homicide to get money - Latest News -

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Yet again, the media got all excited with this story first broke. Each story seemed to indicate Americans were beginning to turn against the government. Rural Kentucky, being a less sophisticated region in the eyes of the media, was the perfect setting for some disenfranchised resident to take out a federal worker. Now the real story comes out and has nothing to do with frustrated Americans going rogue on their government. Manipulating people's perceptions is nothing new but it is new seeing such a lack of outrage about it.

Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges

Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges for Capturing Most-Wanted Terrorist - Iraq | War | Map -

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You send in Special Forces to extract a terrorist. He resists or gives attitude so the SEAL in this case punches the terrorist. Would the terrorist or the public prefer the SEAL drew a weapon and kill him instead? Special Forces are highly trained members of the military; they can perform many missions but they are NOT law enforcement. You send soldiers, Marines, sailors or airmen in when you want things broken and people killed. If you want people to be arrested in accordance with their Miranda rights, send in a law enforcement officer. Getting the cop into to a war zone might be a little tricky though, they probably lack the training to survive getting to the target and back out. Instead of congratulating the SEAL team for getting both the terrorist and themselves out alive, we are going to put them on trial for assault. We are doomed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What, Exactly, Is a ‘Cop-Killer’ Gun?

What, Exactly, Is a ‘Cop-Killer’ Gun? (Updated) | Danger Room |

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I am actually surprised this hasn't caused more hysterical outcries for more gun control. My experience with necked-down cartridges in pistols is they like to jam. The other problem is the round is over-bore, meaning more it has more powder then it can efficiently burn. A longer barrel is required to maximize the round's effectiveness. All that to say, I don't see where this pistol as being any more of a "cop-killer" than other handguns. A deer rifle in 30-06 or .270 Winchester is more common and deadlier than any handgun. The level of marksmanship of the average deer-hunter far surpasses that of the common thug, gang banger or psychopath with a pistol.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

184 jobs to end with Beam plant closing

184 jobs to end with Beam plant closing

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I grew up in Bond Hill which is just south of this plant. At one time this was a huge operation. Over the years it has drawn down to a fraction of its original workforce. Now those jobs are heading south. When will Ohio politicians start focusing on attracting new businesses to the Buckeye state?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Fourth Amendment victory

Airport rules changed after Ron Paul aide detained - Washington Times

The knee-jerk reactions to 9-11 created the TSA and US PATRIOT Act, both of which seem to fly in the face of the Fourth, Fifth and Tenth Amendments. Whenever concerns about the Constitution are brought up, critics cite national security. The Bush Administration may have created TSA and the Patriot Act but the Obama administration isn't showing any signs of changing course either. The incident with Ron Paul shows what happens when rules are given out to without thought to the larger implications. TSA screeners have a thankless job are work with a constant set of changing rules and procedures. Add an overzealous screener and you get a violation of our Constitutional rights. I hope this incident doesn't just go as a foot note for the Obama Administration. I hope they take a hard look at our security policies.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Millions without sick leave fear swine flu

Millions without sick leave fear swine flu - Yahoo! News

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Much like the "Just say no" anti-drug campaign, some of the guidance for swine flu is equally simplistic. Many workers face the choice of missing work and losing their jobs or losing income. Vaccinations are still lagging behind need. There may not be any choice but for these people to go to work (how many of you reading this have already gone to work even though you had flu-like symptoms?) despite being sick.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed - Yahoo! News

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There are many posts about this story on blogs and Internet news websites. The M-4 is a basically a shortened version of the M-16A2 with a collapsable stock. Many gun writers and bloggers hold the 5.56mm round in disdain for is lack of stopping power. The criticism isn't new, it has existed since the Vietnam War when the M-16 debuted. The original M-16 was also maligned for stoppages and malfunctions. The official Army response was the soldiers weren't properly cleaning the weapon. Eventually modifications would result in the fielding of the M-16A2 in the 1980's. Unfortunately, these modifications addressed the issues encountered in the jungles of Vietnam. The improvements were further compromised, in my opinion, when the Army tried to make the 5.56mm into an armor piercing round. The M855 green tip rounds were developed to defeat Soviet body armor and became standard issue in combat zones. The problem was US forces were sent to the desert with a fine sand akin to talcum powder. These sand would work into M-16s and cause the metals to seize. In Somalia and Haiti, soldiers weren't firing at Soviet heavily armored troops at long range but rather light clothed insurgents in short, urban encounters. The M855 rounds simply did not produce enough shock to stop an insurgent with a single shot. The insurgents would take several hits before they were unable to return fire. From accounts in Mogadishu during 1993, the M9 pistol had better stopping power at the short ranges in Somalia. Now 16 years later, we are still seeing the same problems. Our soldiers and Marines are not armed with reliable firepower that will stop enemy soldiers. Senior leaders are unconvinced of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I'd heard, but have not been able to substantiate, that back in 2004 the US Marines were refurbishing 1911-A1s because of the superior stopping power of a .45acp loaded with a 230gr FMJ compared to the 9mm when loaded with a 115gr FMJ. As neither round expands, it comes down to the .45 punching a bigger hole in the enemy. There has been studies looking at upgrading soldiers and Marines to a larger caliber round of 6mm. The higher ups are convinced this is unnecessary and merely better shot placement will obfuscate the need for a larger caliber round. Ever try to shoot with someone shooting back at you? Forget the movies and TV, adrenaline courses through your system and only the most highly trained military personnel can maintain the fine motor skills to make accurate shots. The rest need every advantage they can get. A Vietnam vet I knew said his favorite weapon to break up an ambush was a Browning 12 gauge. The shotgun's superior stopping power at close range made it a logical choice.

The fascination with keeping with the 5.56mm round seems more based on the ease of training someone to shoot it well versus actual combat experience. The changes in physical education in high schools meant the military have to deal with recruits who may lack the physical strength to carry heavier weapons. Females physical fitness standards are lower than males but they still need to be armed. Therefore, the 5.56mm affords the lowest common denominator in a round that can be chambered in a light, easy to handle weapon easy for men and women to qualify in. Police have followed the same line of reasoning for some time, hence the abandonment in part of the proven .357 magnum in favor of 9mm or .40s&w. If the only consideration was switching from revolvers to automatics, why was the 10mm (which has identical ballistics to the .357 or even .41 magnums) not the de-facto standard? The 10mm is a powerful round but is no more difficult to master than a large framed .357. The problem was fewer officers would be able to qualify with the 10mm so departments opted for the 9mm. The trade-off of course is a less powerful round striking the target. There is an alarming report out of Pennsylvania with a police officer shooting a suspect 22 times (center mass) with a .40s&w before the assailant finally died. While certainly atypical, it shows that even with a powerful round like a .40s&w a determined assailant can take multiple hits. Therefore, arming our soldiers and police with smaller, lighter bullets seems dangerous and irresponsible.

Should city, county merge police?

Should city, county merge police? | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a full section piece on merging the 48 separate police departments of Hamilton County into a single police departments. This has been done in cities such as Louisville and Indianapolis. The Enquirer article at first makes it seem merging doesn't save any money. In the short-term, this is probably correct. There are going to be a short-term increase in the purchase of new equipment or updating existing equipment and facilities. These costs could be offset though as redundant, senior positions are eliminated. There is no easy, painless fix for the budget crisis. Cincinnati is looking at $51 million deficit for next year and this may increase. Merging public safety agencies - fire, police, EMS - may be the only way to continue to maintain the safety and well being of the community in the face of decreasing budgets. Old politics and civic pride may have to yield to the fiscal realities of today. If the merger is planned out objectively, there is the potential of increasing response times to 911 calls.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Soldier suspended from school

Soldier suspended from school - WTEN: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports -

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The school officials have let their fears of "school violence", "bullying", and "Columbine" override their common sense. The pocket knife was locked in his car. The school policy still considers this to be a "weapon" although by this same standard the tire iron should also be considered a weapon. The case is not unique where a draconian policy sets into motion consequences that go far beyond what is necessary. Students get suspended for drawing pictures of guns. Students get expelled for writing hit lists. The students are summarily dismissed without regard to the circumstances. Was the student serious or just an idiot? By suspending or expelling students without due process we not only are ignoring our own judicial principles but also miss out on a teaching point to the students. The case also goes to further paranoia but Americans concerned that their individual liberties are being violated by the government. I wonder if the ACLU will support the student?

Friday, October 2, 2009

City's pension woes deepen

City's pension woes deepen | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The city went from $28 million to $38 million. The police department at one point was looking at laying off 128 officers. The uniformed officers were kept but behind the scenes non-sworns are being let go. Other city departments had to release workers as well. Now projections are $51 million deficit for 2010. The fire department will have to take a $7.6 million cut. Police and fire lay offs are almost a certainty for next year.

Balancing a public sector budget is never a pretty sight. Cincinnati has been hit with a lethal combination of increasing costs, decreasing tax revenues, and an aging workforce with hundreds of workers approaching retirement. By 2017, something like 49 percent of the city budget will go to paying retirements. The same phenomena caused a number of airlines to go out of business as more of their budgets had to be shifted from operations to annuities. As the the number of employees receiving annuities increased, less of the budget could be used for operations and maintenance of the fleet. Airfares could be increased only so far before competitors would drop their fares forcing the legacy carriers to also drop their fares.

The city is in a far more precarious position. It can't raise fares to meet the demand of more retirees. Increasing taxes can help only so much especially with so many citizens still looking for work. There will be less money available to hire new employees or purchase new equipment. The problems for the city doesn't stop with the budget. The fire department hasn't run an academy this year and there are no plans to run one next year. This means there isn't a new influx of firefighters to replenish the numbers of injured or retiring firefighters. Eventually the city will be forced into another drop program to retain firefighters beyond their retirement eligibility. The police are in a similar situations. There are around 200 police and 150 firefighters currently in the drop program that are eligible to leave in 2012. No new personnel, more personnel retiring and sever budget cuts paints a really grim future for public safety in Cincinnati.

The part that doesn't get discussed is the impact of a world class police and fire service to economic revitalization. Businesses are already disinclined to locating to Ohio due to our taxes. Compound that with a city that is perceived as "unsafe" due to fire and police that are stretched too thin adds another deterrent to new business choosing to locate in Cincinnati.

There are no easy answers to the above. The best solution seems to be approaching police and fire from a regional perspective. Sheriff Leis, who I disagree with on most things, has suggested one police department for Hamilton County. From a fiscal standpoint, this makes sense but local politics and biases will prevent this from happening. If we are truly interested in economic revitalization for the region, then we must focus on the safety and well being of the community. Maintaining a first class police/fire/EMS despite a depressed economic situation would show business owners that local leaders are invested in the well being of the community. A regional approach to police/fire/EMS is the only cost-effective way to do it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Commissioners to back casino

Commissioners to back casino | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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It was that long ago that having a casino was anathema to most Ohioans. Now with the continued loss of jobs combined with the brain-drain of college graduates, casinos are finding new allies in the Buckeye state. One of the biggest criticisms - that most of the casino jobs would go to workers from outside Ohio - doesn't have the steam it once did. If the 34,000 jobs claimed by developers is correct, that is 34,000 jobs that don't presently exist in Ohio. It doesn't matter who gets those jobs, those workers will become Ohio residents paying Ohio taxes. I'm not a gambler and doubt I will spend much time at a casino (I have yet to go to any of the casinos in SW Indiana). I wrote about safety and security concerns about a casino in Wilmington that may not have had a corresponding increase in fire, police and EMS. Depending on the location, the impact of first responders may remain a problem especially with some many departments experiencing layoffs. After reading another bloggers post about the casinos, I agree another problem with the casino issue won't be the casino itself as much as in the execution. Las Vegas has casinos combined with restaurants and show places. Even if you don't gamble, you can still enjoy Las Vegas. The Ohio casino can't be a stand alone location. Other non-gaming related venues have to be attracted to build adjacent to the casino. Branson, MO is successful not because of its location as much as its ability to attract a multitude of entertainment venues. Ohio should follow this model when building its casinos.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Merkel pledges speedy transition

BBC NEWS | Europe | Merkel pledges speedy transition

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Angela Merkel won re-election but now faces the daunting task of getting Germany out of its worst recession since WWII. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) is now out. Mrs. Merkel wants to cut taxes in hopes of stimulating jobs and the Germany economy. Germany seems to be posed to go after economic reform independent of the European Union. Perhaps this impression is wrong being based only on recent news items. However, Germany's economy has been slighted and outright destroyed by Europe before. The results ultimately set the stage for two world wars. While international attention focus on the war in Afghanistan and possible nuclear weapons in Iran, the urgency for Germany to reform its economy could lead to some radical reforms in Europe. The US view of WWII has it starting with Poland being invaded by Nazi Germany. There are Germans who hold a different view of an aggressive, ungrateful Poland expanding beyond their territory and endangering German trade routes. The latter view may resurface as Germany tries to claw its way out of recession.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What's on your mind?

One of my LinkedIn contacts wanted to start a dialog amongst her several hundred contacts and asked the following question: Tell me what's on your mind. What are your biggest challenges? What opportunities are you excited about? If there were no barriers (financial, time, etc) what do you aspire?

Here is my response:

What's on my mind is how increasingly rare it is for people to engage in polite discourse. It seems common place for people to remain entrenched in their position unwilling to consider the other person's point of view. I get a first hand view of this through interactions with my students. They feel quite justified in their beliefs which are based on the most tenuous of assumptions. Challenges to their belief system are met with absolute certainty of the others need for rehabilitation or incarceration.

I am also concerned that in our pursuit to produce perfect citizens out of secondary eduction that we are creating just the opposite. Local high school graduates seem to lack basic knowledge of civics and history. They lack inquisitive minds, critical thinking skills and basic social skills. Blue collar skills are de-emphasized under the banner that everyone needs to go to college. It may run contrary to popular education theory but I believe shop helps students develop critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and a stronger sense of accomplishment. Secondary education curriculums have had to cut civics and shop classes out to make time for teaching state proficiency exams. The result is a less sophisticated mind upon graduating from high school. Fewer minds capable of solving problems leads to a mediocre workforce in my mind and a decided lack of innovation.

The opportunities that excite me is trying to be part of the solution to this problem. I spend a great of time in my class getting my students to pay more attention to what is going on around them. They have to read newspapers or watch the news but even then I challenge them figure out what happened BEFORE the news reported the item. I get them to note any biases in reporting and how those biases may have shaped the content of the story. No, I don't teach a communications course or class on the media. It is my belief that regardless of the subject matter, a student needs to challenged with expanding their knowledge. I hope it inspires them to continue to read and learn and develop those critical thinking skills they need.

My aspirations if there were no barriers would be completely unrelated to the above. I would focus on music. I would master the piano and devote my time to composing and playing music. My professional journey emphasized the technical and analytical over the artistic. Being a capitalistic system, I found it more advantages to remain technical as it pays better than being an artist.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Terror arrest sparks gov't warning on mass transit

Terror arrest sparks gov't warning on mass transit

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Yesterday the FBI and DHS announced warnings for sporting events and luxury hotels. The report on indicated officials had no specific information about any particular attack. Such qualifiers are the stock and trade of intelligence analysts; to give a threat assessment based on an overwhelming number of indicators but no one single specific item that shows positively that an attack will occur. Unfortunately, it can easily become the case of the boy who cried wolf. Do it once, people will take precautions. Do it more than once, with no arrests or halted attacks, and people will tune the warnings out. The recent arrests may keep people more aware but just based on casual conversations with people at the college, I think they are more concerned about the weather for this week's football games.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Belatedly, Egypt Spots Flaws in Wiping Out Pigs

Belatedly, Egypt Spots Flaws in Wiping Out Pigs -

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The article points to the problem common with most government responses; they only address the immediate problem with little to no consideration for long-term effects. In this case, fear of swine flu causes ALL of the pigs to be slaughtered without regard as to why they have pigs in the first place. Similarly, US politicians are found of enacting grand, sweeping reforms without regard as to the original purpose of the legislation.

Barack Obama ready to slash US nuclear arsenal

Barack Obama ready to slash US nuclear arsenal |
World news |
The Guardian

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First, the President eliminates plans to deploy a missile shield in Poland. This move may or may not improve relations with Russia. Now the President is looking to slash the nuclear arsenal. In a truly egalitarian world filled with altruistic motives, this would lead others to destroy their nuclear stockpiles or stop their bid to create one. As most are not motivated by altruism, slashing an existing nuclear arsenal may be seen as a sign that the President lacks the willingness to use nuclear weapons. I've always thought nuclear weapons puts one in a no-win situation. If you use them first, you leave your adversary no choice but to retaliate in kind. If you retaliate with nuclear weapons, you are no better than the one who launched the attack. Given that, I still find it concerning that the President is telegraphing a more pacifist attitude given many world players that are angry over the Bush Administration policies. They may not be willing to differentiate between administrations and will look at President Obama's recent policy changes as a sign of weakness.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rep. Hoekstra: Obama's Missile Decision 'Catastrophic'

Rep. Hoekstra: Obama's Missile Decision 'Catastrophic'

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International politics is very much about gamesmanship. The Obama Administration feels the missile defense system as envisioned by the Bush Administration to be unworkable and destabilizing to relations with Russia. The Obama Administration envisions a different type of strategy that is not as threatening to Russia (some may even call this appeasement). The problem lies not in how the Obama administration choses to defend Europe but how the changes is viewed by the rest of the players in the dicey relationship between Europe and Russia. Instead of being seen for putting forward their own vision, the Obama administration will be seen as having blinked. If you blink you can be set off balance, if you can be set off balance others can gain the advantage. The Clinton Administration pushed Partners For Peace initiative which encouraged former Warsaw Pact nations to adopt democracy and the European Union. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic did so. Romania, Serbia, several of the former republics of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have tried to follow suite. These emerging democracies may see the change in strategy by the Obama administration as an abandonment of their goals and exposure to an ever more aggressive Russia.

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18, 1947

The United States Air Force was created. In honor of that day, please enjoy the following USAF promotional video. It was made by a very small team of USAF technicians at Randolph AF, Texas.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Who watches the watchers?

Cameras keep track of all cars entering Medina | Seattle Times Newspaper

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A safe community is attractive to residents and businesses. Keeping crime at a low level means residents will be more likely to spend more time outside their homes spending money at local businesses. However, people won't feel safe if their individual liberties appear to be infringed. The cameras in Medina are being used to spot criminals by running license plates. The trend may spread as more municipalities are faced with laying off police officers due to budget cuts. Cameras don't require health care or pensions. But cameras can be programmed to look at more than just license plates, at least that's what many residents will fear. Cameras are fixed in place which means criminals will eventually either avoid those areas or figure out a way of destroying the cameras. Regardless, we need to be vigilant that as our technology becomes more prevalent in maintaining a safe community that we also don't see our individual liberties eroded.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Move Over Law

A friend was cited for violating the Move Over Law in another state. I wasn't certain if Ohio has a such a law. Indeed Ohio does and for those who may not know, I've posted it below. Here is the law which requires you to move over in the presence of a stationary emergency vehcile with its lights flashing.

4511.213 Approaching stationary public safety vehicle displaying emergency light.

(A) The driver of a motor vehicle, upon approaching a stationary public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, or a road service vehicle that is displaying the appropriate visual signals by means of flashing , oscillating, or rotating lights, as prescribed in section 4513.17 of the Revised Code, shall do either of the following:

(1) If the driver of the motor vehicle is traveling on a highway that consists of at least two lanes that carry traffic in the same direction of travel as that of the driver’s motor vehicle, the driver shall proceed with due caution and, if possible and with due regard to the road, weather, and traffic conditions, shall change lanes into a lane that is not adjacent to that of the stationary public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, or a road service vehicle.

(2) If the driver is not traveling on a highway of a type described in division (A)(1) of this section, or if the driver is traveling on a highway of that type but it is not possible to change lanes or if to do so would be unsafe, the driver shall proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle, and maintain a safe speed for the road, weather, and traffic conditions.

(B) This section does not relieve the driver of a public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, or a road service vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and property upon the highway.

(C) No person shall fail to drive a motor vehicle in compliance with division (A)(1) or (2) of this section when so required by division (A) of this section.

(D)(1) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

(2) Notwithstanding section 2929.28 of the Revised Code, upon a finding that a person operated a motor vehicle in violation of division (C) of this section, the court, in addition to all other penalties provided by law, shall impose a fine of two times the usual amount imposed for the violation.

Effective Date: 01-01-2004; 2009 HB2 07-01-2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Public safety being hurt

Message: Public safety being hurt | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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All of the squabbling and yet they are missing the most important thing; if people start thinking Cincinnati is becoming unsafe, businesses will leave. No new business and Cincinnati will not be able to experience an economic recovery. Fewer police and fewer firefighters will have an impact on the entire community. David Pepper had started discussing regional firefighting service as a way of overcoming budgetary shortfalls. This discussion needs to started anew to include regional police.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chavez Gets $2.2 Bln Russian Arms Credit Line

Breaking News, Politics, Commentary from around the world

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US foreign policy tends to focus East/West and rarely looks to the South. The US has ignored Central and South American partners in favor of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. There is a sense of being exploited in the the Southwestern Hemisphere by thanks in part to the legacy of the United States Fruit Company and Standard Oil. It should come as no surprise then that Russia is making in-roads with Hugo Chavez who feels threatened by the presence of American troops being stationed next door in Colombia. Secretary Clinton should spend time in Central and South America to help improve our perceptions down there. Unlike the Middle East or Asia, the United States is physically connected to South America. Threats based in those nations have a far easier time striking our nation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years ago

Eight years ago, I was at the state headquarters trying to make sense of what was happening. As a member of the military, we are taught to act when something happens. The problem was we didn’t know quite what was happening and didn’t know what to do. I had a meeting early that morning at a different base and remembering racing back to the headquarters. I got to my office around 9:00 AM and did not go home until almost 2:00 AM. I remember driving home and looking up at the night sky realizing for the first time in my life, the only lights in the sky were stars.

The events eight years ago changed so many things. Over the next six years (2001-2007), almost everyone I knew, myself included, would be deployed. Our training went from a “what if” to a right-now mentality. The number of sorties being flown drastically shortened the life cycle of our aircraft. National Guard and Reservists were being called up at levels not seen since WWII. HUMVEEs had to be up-armored in country to try to give soldiers and Marines some protection against roadside bombs (originally these were made from surplus ordnance but now are specifically manufactured to defeat our armor plate). The M-4 carbine replaced the older M-16A2. Body armor became standard issue while chemical warfare ensembles gathered dust in warehouses. Desert Camouflage Uniforms (DCUs) replaced Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs) in country and in turn, this lead to all branches going to a new utility uniform that could be worn both in theater as well as in garrison. The USAF adopted the Airman’s Combat Uniform (ACUs) with sage green suede boots. Security Forces were no longer stationed at the front gates of USAF bases, being replaced by contract security freeing SFS more personnel to serve in theater. I believe the USAF lost some of the heritage with this last change; seeing SFS personnel wearing their distinctive dark blue beret was always a sight I associated with driving on base. It just doesn’t seem the same without SFS on the gate.

As a result of 9/11, we are now seeing veterans rejoining society at a level not seen since WWII. Unlike other wars, many of today’s veterans have suffered head traumas. Their wounds aren’t as apparent and the long-term effects are still unknown. For the first time ever in the US, these veterans include many women. The long-term effects of severed limbs and damaged body parts on these brave women are also unknown. Our society is so focused on feminine beauty, how will these women be accepted by society?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

US Girl Scouts prepare for war, pestilence

US Girl Scouts prepare for war, pestilence - Yahoo! News

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I've criticized many of DHS Secretary Napolitano's policies but on this we agree. Getting people to prepare before a disaster happens is a basic, no nonsense approach. The approach with using the Girl Scouts is reminiscent of the Civil Defense days of having all citizens familiar with the threat - in the CD case nuclear war - and steps to take (albeit "duck and cover" would not have done much). I hope she will continue to reach out to other youth groups such as the Civil Air Patrol, Explorers, Boys Clubs, Girls Clubs, etc.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

George Pataki: Obama is Jeopardizing U.S. Security

George Pataki: Obama is Jeopardizing U.S. Security

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We are taught over and over in military history and the war college; don't fight the last war again. The next attack won't involve airliners and may or may not involve foreign terrorists. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was committed by domestic terrorists. Pataki's comments assume only foreign terrorists pose a threat. There are many dissatisfied, homegrown terrorists that given the means, motive and opportunity would attack. What Pataki should criticize Presidnent Obama about is his selection of DHS Secretary Napolitano whose focus is substitutes the war on terror for the war on drugs. Diverting our intelligence and law enforcement resources to another war on drugs show little promise of making the homeland safe.

Monday, September 7, 2009

America's Most Stressful Cities 2009 - Yahoo! Real Estate

America's Most Stressful Cities 2009 - Yahoo! Real Estate

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The comments about Pittsburgh support something I posted earlier. Pittsburgh is one of the most stressful cities, according the article, because of the lack of sunny days. The article goes to point out the correlation between low vitamin D levels and the occurrence of colds. Before we mandate multiple vaccinations for everyone to avoid spreading the flu, perhaps looking more into increasing our levels of vitamin D might prove cheaper and more effective.

Workers get reprieve from layoffs

Workers get reprieve from layoffs | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The local news has followed this story for weeks but only focused on the outcome of the negotiations. The situation started with a $28 million deficit in the city budget that has lead to the current stand-off between the union and city hall. The more intriguing question is even if a lay off is avoided this year, what happens next year when the city has a projected $40 million deficit?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The American Czar

Why do US presidents try to be Russian monarchs? Every president since George H. Bush has appointed “czars” to overcome bureaucratic delays and streamline their agenda. The term started when the first President Bush appointed Bill Bennett as the first “drug czar”. The term czar originally meant a supreme monarch who had the approval of another monarch or church leader such as the Pope. In keeping with this sense of divine supremacy, Bennett quickly coined the term “war on drugs” to show the US meant business regarding the illegal use and sale of drugs. The war on drugs introduced mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug crimes that in turn flooded our prisons beyond their capacity. Conversely, drugs use remained constant (switching between drugs of choice causes fluctuations statistics) and illegal drugs continue to be smuggled into this country. The power of the “czar” in the United States then becomes questionable. Why continue having these special advisors that can’t implement their bosses political agenda?

President Obama has a record number of “czars” in his administration. In addition to the ubiquitous “drug czar”, he has 31 czars. The following is a list from;

1) Afghanistan Czar: Richard Holbrooke
2) AIDS Czar: Jeffrey Crowley
3) Auto recovery Czar: Ed Montgomery
4) Border Czar: Alan Bersin
5) California Water Czar: David J. Hayes
6) Car Czar: Ron Bloom
7) Central Region Czar: Dennis Ross
8) Domestic Violence Czar: Lynn Rosenthal
9) Drug Czar: Gil Kerlikowske
10) Economic Czar: Paul Volcker
11) Energy and Environment Czar: Carol Browner
12) Faith-Based Czar: Joshua DuBois
13) Great Lakes Czar: Cameron Davis
14) Green Jobs Czar: Van Jones
15) Guantanamo Closure Czar: Daniel Fried
16) Health Czar: Nancy-Ann DeParle
17) Information Czar: Vivek Kundra
18) International Climate Czar: Todd Stern
19) Intelligence Czar: Dennis Blair
20) Mideast Peace Czar: George Mitchell
21) Pay Czar: Kenneth Feinberg
22) Regulatory Czar: Cass Sunstein
23) Science Czar: John Holdren
24) Stimulus Accountability Czar: Earl Devaney
25) Sudan Czar: J. Scott Gration
26) TARP Czar: Herb Allison
27) Terrorism Czar: John Brennan
28) Technology Czar: Aneesh Chopra
29) Urban Affairs Czar: Adolfo Carrion Jr.
30) Weapons Czar: Ashton Carter
31) WMD Policy Czar: Gary Samore

The White House calls these “czars” special advisors to the President. The need for czars seems rather unnecessary as President name their appointees as Secretaries for the various federal agencies. In addition, the President has his Chief of Staff , National Security Advisor, National Security Council and various other executive staffers to help him formulate policy. The other problem is unlike their namesake; the American czars have no real power. They can conduct meetings, symposiums and press conferences but in the end are unable to change the very bureaucracies they are trying to circumvent.

The czars are also over-politicized; the Green Jobs czar Van Jones is getting bogged down by his past more so than by any policies regarding his current position. His comments about white kids and Columbine has polarized the Internet. I’ve listened to his comments and he does make some intriguing observations (why are majority of school shootings conducted primarily by whites?). However, he at the same time skips over the predominance of violent crimes committed by blacks (especially black on black crime). Depending on which side of his argument you find yourself, you either dismiss him for his omission or your praise him for his acumen.

Intellectual discourse is dead and only partisan rhetoric shouted at decibels approaching a jet fighter launching off an aircraft carrier can be heard. Perhaps in the middle of all of this noise, Presidents will learn to be less reliant on czars…and I may win the lottery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

School Closings Won't Stop H1N1 Virus From Spreading

Sebelius: School Closings Won't Stop H1N1 Virus From Spreading - Political News -

Kathleen Sebelius seems to be saying learning trumps health concerns. There have been several studies published showing the spread of disease can be curtailed if people would stay home when they fell sick. However, the US Department of Health now this argument does not apply to the H1N1 virus and instead is recommending vaccinations instead. The same protocols could easily be called for in future outbreaks. The only problem is the vaccine for the H1N1 hasn't had enough time to be tested properly. The was first a UK study and now others that show the current H1N1 vaccination isn't ready. On one medical website focused on family practice, most general practitioners indicated they would not take the current vaccination.

There is still too much contradictory information to make an informed decision. I recall the panic concerning the Y2K problem. The H1N1 virus is real, however I do call into question the dire predictions of the US Dept of Health. Even if 90,000 come down with the flu, it is significantly less than the 1918 outbreak. We have better knowledge about health and nutrition today than 90 years ago. For example, we now understand why flu and cold outbreaks are seasonal. Dr. Hope-Simpson ( was the first to research the inverse relationship between flu outbreak and warmer weather. The incidence of flu outbreak was adversely affected by the presence of sunlight which helps the body produce vitamin D. Another study by Dr. Cannell ( indicates maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D through supplementation can help reduce the effects of the flu or perhaps even prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

The above studies are compelling and make sense. More research should go into this cheap and apparently effective means of preventing flu and colds before we require people to get yet another vaccination.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The Internet is, as many of you have experienced, a study in contrasts. On one hand, the near instantaneous availability of current news and information is almost incomprehensible. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that information is anymore valid then what your crazy neighbor down the street has to say.

The H1N1 virus quickly replaced the H5N1 virus (avian flu) as the most likely strain to create a pandemic. Outbreaks of H1N1 began populating the news and Internet sites. The initial reports were the H1N1 or swine flu was much milder than the avian flu variant. The H1N1 variant persisted and started to show up in Mexico. The next development was the reports of deaths associated with the H1N1 virus. Deaths were expected to be high with H5N1 but for some reason deaths associated to the swine flu were news worthy. I say this because the common flu causes death in the United States every year as well but somehow this new variant became more newsworthy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, the number of deaths related to H1N1 thus far is 477. In comparison, the number of deaths from the annual flu is 36,000 per year in the United States. Health officials are worried that the H1N1 may become even more lethal since initially there weren’t any vaccines available to fight it.

In the next act of this psychodrama is the vaccines would become available in the fall. All children and those with compromised immune systems should get vaccinated. Now reports are that only 120 million doses are available, far short of the estimated 160 million doses needed (source: CNN

Oh and by the way, you should also get your regular flu shot as well. There is an increasing backlash by Americans against getting immunizations. On any given day, there is usually one report about a parent refusing to get their child inoculated. Now on top of the regular regimen of childhood inoculations, parents are being asked to get one more.

The information on this topic is mind numbing and at times contradictory. The H1N1 first appeared to be less severe than the annual flu but now there is a rush to get everyone vaccinated. Normal preventive measures such as hand washing seem to be ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus. Here in Ohio at least one death resulting from the virus could not find that the victim had travelled outside the US nor come into contact with anyone that had.

All of this comes amidst the Obama administration’s health care plans. Tempers run high on both sides of the issue. Supporters of the health care plan think there is another evil conspiracy. Those opposed think the health care plan reeks of socialism. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. However, the emotions from the health care argument are preventing a more rational discussion as to the threat posed by H1N1. How much should the average, health American be concerned about this new strain? How will work and school be affected should there be an outbreak?

If not handled properly, this could lead to a serious panic with people trying to stockpile or steal the vaccines. Chaos and pandemonium could result shutting down businesses and schools even though the virus isn’t present. Hopefully, some clear heads will be able to be heard over the din of what now passes for intellectual discourse.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

US Mexico Winning the Drug War

Secretary Napolitano claims we are winning the drug war. She basis this on the amount of drug seizures. Using drug seizures as a metric for drug investigations is fraught with errors. Yes, you get to brag about how big the seizure is but you don't know how much more got away. If US agents seized 4.2 million pounds, that simply means the drug cartels grew or produced another 8.4 million pounds to replace it. The economies are such that for all of the costs associated with enforcement and conviction, the drug dealers are spending pennies in comparison. Gauging enforcement efforts based on seizures alone is akin to former Sec Def McNamara's fixation on body counts as a way to defining victory during the Vietnam War.

WASHINGTON -- The United States and Mexico are "winning" an often brutal war against drug cartels that operate across the border separating the two countries, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday.

"We are not only fighting this fight, but we are winning it," Napolitano, a former border state governor, said in prepared remarks at a border security conference in the frontier city of El Paso, Texas.

Noting that drug seizures since the beginning of this year had totaled 4.2 million pounds (1000 tonnes), Napolitano said the United States was now presented with a "unique opportunity to break up these cartels" that must be seized.

Her comments came one day after President Barack Obama visited Mexico, throwing his weight behind Mexico's crackdown on violent drug cartels that control much of the flow of illegal narcotics from South America to the United States.

Napolitano highlighted a string of drug and weapons seizures as evidence that the billion-dollar-plus war against the drug cartels was succeeding, despite a violent push back from gangs who have often appeared able to outgun and outspend Mexican federal forces.

The United States has pledged around 1.6 billion dollars to tackle drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America under the Merida Initiative, which also includes funds for training and equipment to boost security on the Mexican side of the border.

Since coming to office the Obama administration has acknowledged the US role in the violence, pledging to stem the flow of weapons into Mexico and curb demand for drugs in the United States.

"So far this year, we have seized 2.4 million pounds (one million kilograms) of drugs, more than 95,000 rounds of ammunition, and more than 500 assault rifles and handguns," Napolitano said.

Warning that further violence was likely, she offered support for the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon despite allegations of military human rights abuses.

"We have a strong partner in President Calderon," Napolitano said. "We are fighting this fight together with the government of Mexico."

Napolitano said that defeating the cartels would take several years, and compared it to the US fight against the Mafia.

"The fighting has resulted in more than 12,000 deaths in Mexico, and there will, no doubt be more," Napolitano warned.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Cincinnati is waiting to see how many police officers will be laid off, the reason for which is being laid at the feet of the $28 million deficit city manager Dohoney announced a few weeks ago.

Accusations of playing one union against the other are rampant, as the fire department is not laying any personnel off. The fire department was able to absorb the cuts by closing 4 companies and moving the firefighters from those companies around.

The local news is now saturated by coverage of emergency press conferences from the city manager or police chief. At a town hall meeting the other night, a woman challenged that if the city were safe enough to lay off 138 police officers than why did the mayor still need a body guard?

What no one seems to be discussing how a $28 million deficit appears to have caught the city unawares. The city’s budget manager and city manager are paid to keep on eye on expenditures. Their forecasts should have predicted this shortfall so did they take any preventive measures?

The tendency in the public sector (federal, state or local) is to reduce spending by cancelling training. Both the fire and police departments have cancelled academy classes this year. The fire department may not conduct another academy until 2011. I’m not certain when the police department plans to conduct another academy.

Cutting training classes is a quick fix that causes little political risk. However, appearances are deceiving. Academies (including boot camp in the military) produce new entry level personnel, the importance of which gets diminished during austere budget cycles.

The life cycle of the typical firefighter, police officer, or military recruit is 20-25 years. However, many won’t make it to retirement due to injuries, lifestyle changes, disciplinary actions, or transfers to other agencies.

To keep enough personnel on board for promotions and backfill losses, the academies are the lifeblood for their respective agency. Ideally, academies should produce enough graduates to offset annual losses. Agencies tend to see anywhere from 5-10 percent of their employees leave so an academy class that produces 30-50 graduates per class is about right for a mid sized city such as Cincinnati.

The problem for Cincinnati is just starting. The Drop Program has kept hundreds of both police and firefighters on the job. Starting in 2011, these same people will have to retire. The impact of those leaving under the Drop Program means a glut of mid-level and upper level positions will be rapidly filled with younger personnel. The lower positions may not have enough new personnel to backfill.

The personnel shortfall becomes even bleaker should the city be unable to balance it future budgets. The officers laid off this time may not be able to be hired back or may get hired by other departments.

If the city wants economic revitalization, then it needs to focus more on it public services. A safe community is more attractive to new business. A community that isn’t viewed as safe will have a much harder time attracting new business to help stimulate economic recovery.

Monday, August 3, 2009

To your health

According to a Reuter’s article, use of anti-depressants by Americans doubled from 13 million to 27 million. However, a corresponding increase use amongst blacks was not seen. The article went on to point out that more Americans may accept the diagnosis of depression. The population of the United States today is something like 300 million and change, which translates to about 8 percent of the population are on ant-depressants.

I’m neither a physician nor a medical professional of any kind. Despite my lack of qualifications, I don’t find the above news all that surprising. We live in a time when everything can be treated with a pill. There was an ad on the other night for a pill to grow eyelashes!

What are all of these people going to do if their meds aren’t available?

The media is whipping up a frenzy about the H1N1 virus and some people will fight, steal and claw their way to the vaccine. Others won’t get the vaccination for fear of side effects. The government claims the vaccine has no side effects. I believe that so long as the individual’s biochemistry isn’t a toxic waste dump of prescription medications.

To be prepared for an emergency or disaster, all of the pre-packaged kits in the world won’t mean anything if you aren’t in good health. There is a reason why soldiers the world over run as part of the physical training (PT). You have to train your body to be able to go even when tired or sick. There is a reason why the military has height and weight standards. You may have to hike for miles or lug around heavy gear for many miles. Keeping your weight down makes it easier.

Okay, so those reading this may never have been a soldier or Marine. You may never have run other than in gym class. Or perhaps like yours truly, knee injuries have ended your running career. Regardless, you still need to maintain your body at the highest level of fitness possible. If your body fails, your mind fails. If your mind fails, your spirit fails.

Maintaining the requisite level of fitness is easy. Walk. A half hour a day is ideal. If you can do more, walk with a backpack filled with 25-50 lbs (sandbags work nicely). Eat a proper diet. There is too much processed sugars and starches in our food. Eat more fruits and vegetables. You want to keep nutrients in your body at the highest levels. In the event of an emergency or disaster, you may not get the chance to eat a balanced meal for a long time.

Today there was a story about children being vitamin D deficient. The human body manufactures vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. However, skin cancer scares has skyrocketed the use of sunscreen that prevents the necessary absorption of sunlight to manufacture vitamin D. I suspect the other problem is the lack of exposure by children addicted to their computers and video games. Their bodies don’t get enough sunlight to manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are cheap and easily available although most of the medical experts on the news stirred clear of recommending supplements.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is for sedentary people. If you workout or play sports, your requirements are even higher. Preparing for an emergency means proper supplementation. There are many articles available on supplements for maintaining good health. I recommend doing your own research.

You need to get your body as healthy as possible and depend on prescription medication to the smallest degree possible. In the event of a disaster or emergency, you may have to do without for an extended period of time. A healthy body will allow you to survive with as little stress as possible.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

DHS and new border control policies

According to Newsmax, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano is “shifting America's enforcement focus on businesses that hire illegal aliens, rather than simply arresting illegals. She also is mandating that police put special emphasis on apprehending illegals who have criminal records and are a threat to the public.”

Interesting choice given the news that H1N1 (swine flue) is likely to spread and cause 40 percent of the workforce to stay home. The impact of H1N1 is far more likely to impact Americans even if there isn’t an outbreak in the immediate area. A 40 percent reduction in the workforce means across the board, not just selected industries. Imagine if 40 percent of all truckdrivers being infected with the H1N1 virus. Food, fuel, medical supplies, toilet paper, lumbers, etc. would all be delayed as a result of just one sector calling in sick. Now imagine first responders, sanitation workers, school teachers, daycare workers, hospice workers, even pizza delivery workers all staying home at the same time. The effects will be cascading impacting more than just one or two particular job sectors. The effects would also be long-term as it will take time for workers to recover. Even if the worker isn’t sick, he or she may be forced to stay home to take care of a family member.

Yet the Department of Homeland Security is going after illegal aliens instead of assuming an advocacy role in having employers and communities dust off their continuity of operations plans. DHS Secretary Napolitano sounds like she is rehashing the old policies first espoused by the “drug czar”; the flow of drugs and weapons through the Southwest border is the scourge of society requiring all of our law enforcement efforts to focus on this area.

The “drug czar”, otherwise know as the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), was first established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Twenty-one years later, cocaine and marijuana are still flowing through the Southwest border despite the reallocation of law enforcement and military efforts to stem the flow of drugs. DHS Secretary Napolitano’s efforts seem unlikely to succeed as well. It is already illegal for businesses to hire aliens without work permits or visas. Redirecting more law enforcement agencies will to this new initiative is the same as throwing a boulder in the river; the water merely adjusts course around the obstruction but the flow doesn’t stop.

The other problem with this direction is the number of DHS agencies that do not have a role on the Southwest Border. The Secret Service, US Coast Guard, FEMA and TSA have no direct border control role. The US Border Patrol and ICE are already focused almost exclusively on the Southwest border, what else are they supposed to do in response to Napolitano’s policy?

The Department of Homeland Security still has to identify a clear role for itself and seems to be more of a bureaucratic impediment than a coordinating entity. I hope President Obama reconsiders the role for DHS with an eye towards eliminating it altogether.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Butler sheriff to lay off 34

Butler sheriff to lay off 34 | | Cincinnati.Com

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The story is about Butler County but it could just as easily be about any other police agency. Budget cuts are forcing personnel to be laid off. The article indicates the sheriff's office may be able to save $700,000 as a result of the lay offs.

There are those that will say the department had grown too large, therefore they need to cut their personnel. Such an argument misses the point, the sheriff's office grew as the county prospered and additional personnel were required to patrol and enforce the law. Maintaining the safety and security of the community makes it more attractive to businesses. More businesses mean more jobs for residents. If calls to the sheriff's office take longer, than people may begin to feel less safe. The long term impact could be that some businesses leave or new ones fail to locate in the county.

All of this says nothing about the impact the decision has on the people who held these jobs. The economy is not recovering so job prospects are fews. The sheriff and staff who had to make this decision are in a no-win situation. No matter how objective the criteria to determine the lay offs, somebody is going to cry foul. Worse, the budget cuts were taken in payroll. If the sheriff's office uses the offset to purchase say new cameras, then the justification to rehire the personnel in future years may no longer be there.

These decisions are going to happen in more municipalities as residents lose jobs which in turn means a reduction in tax revenues. A reduction in tax revenues means a corresponding reduction in public services. There is no perfect solution. Leaders have to try to balance cuts with leaving the community positioned to recover once the economy shifts. Creating an unsafe community (due to a perceived lack of timely fire/EMS/police response) may set the delay economic recovery for many more years.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

FEMA Administrator Meets With Governors To Discuss Emergency Preparedness

States are responsible for the preparedness of their agencies. I'm not sure what FEMA can bring to the table with the economy forcing budgets cuts across most states.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This week, the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate met with several of our nation's governors to discuss emergency preparedness and ensure that as many resources and plans as possible are in place prior to any potential emergency.

"FEMA is committed to protecting and assisting our states and citizens during disasters," said Administrator Fugate. "By working together and strengthening relationships at the state level, we can continue to build the national emergency response team which includes FEMA, as well as state, local, tribal and federal partners, the private sector and faith-based organizations. The work we are putting in now to build this team will go a long way during the next disaster."

This past Sunday Fugate addressed governors from across the country at the National Governors Association conference in Biloxi, MS, where he discussed how FEMA can best support the states and their citizens as we prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters. While in Biloxi, Fugate met privately with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as well as Iowa Governor Chet Culver. After returning to Washington, Fugate met Monday with Governor John deJongh Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Tuesday with North Dakota Governor John Hoeven.

The NGA meeting, as well as the individual meetings with governors, built on efforts already underway to strengthen the national emergency response team. FEMA's primary responsibility as a member of this team is to support governors and ensure that all members of the team work together to better prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies. As part of the meetings, Administrator Fugate stressed the key role the public plays in these preparedness efforts. The more Americans do now to prepare their families, including developing a family emergency plan, the more effective our response team will be.

Prior to this week's meetings, Administrator Fugate had already met with a number of governors from across the country, including participating in a video teleconference with governors and officials from over a dozen hurricane prone states on his first day as Administrator.

FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What's your threat level?

On the BBC News website, there is an article announcing that the UK threat level has been reduced from “severe” to “substantial”. It was raised to “sever” in 2007 and although the Home Secretary says there is still “a real and serious threat”, it was felt the intents and capabilities of terrorist groups were such the level could be lowered.

Reading this I was reminded that I couldn’t recall the last time our own Homeland Security Advisory System had changed. According to DHS, the last time the entire system setting changed was in January 2004 when it was lowered from Orange (High) to Yellow (Elevated). There have been changes for specifics areas (such as transportation and finance) since then but the system as a whole remains at Yellow.

The problems with such an advisory system are numerous. Each color is supposed to represent a different level of perceived threat; and what are you supposed to do?

A threat to a target in New York City means what to a fire chief in Cincinnati? If the level goes from yellow to orange, what steps are taken by which agencies (if any)? Can the required agencies afford to take any preventive measures? How effective will those measures actually be in preventing an attack?

Contrast the Homeland Security Advisory System with the recent Cincinnati Enquirer article stating the city manager is now facing a $28 million deficit. Basic city services will have to be cut, including police and firefighters being laid off. If daily tasks can’t be executed it seems ridiculous to expect these same agencies to react to an elevated threat level based on a threat to an area outside their jurisdiction.

The news of late is focused on the increase prevalence of swine flu, the political unrest in Iran as well as their burgeoning nuclear program, and the North Koreans desire to shoot a missile at the Hawaiian Islands. These events may or may not present a threat to American citizens but the current Homeland Security Advisory System would not react to these events as they are not “terrorist” related. While there had been some discussions under the Bush Administration to label North Korea and Iran as part of an “axis of evil”, this seems to have fallen by the wayside.

The above events point to another flaw with the DHS advisory system, it focuses only on terrorist events. Unless a “terrorist” group threatens the United States, then the system remains unmoved.

I think the current system should be abandoned for it really doesn’t give a true assessment of what is going on in the world. The State Department is perhaps in the best position to assess situations for Americans travelling or living abroad. Local law enforcement, in conjunction with the regional FBI office, is in the best position to determine local terrorist threats. It is impossible to establish one national system for a country the size of the United States. It can only be concluded that the Homeland Security Advisory System was for public relations and not really a tool for local community leaders to use.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where did leadership go?

The other day I was in a meeting (something I had hope to give up once I retired from the military) discussing ways to improve communication at the college. I will spare you the gory details, suffice to say many suggestions were proposed but nothing was really decided.

I remained silent throughout the meeting more out of curiosity than a lack of input. It was illuminating to watch a group of educated professionals, most having at least a bachelor’s or even master’s degree, shout out ideas only to have them shot down by another colleague. The phenomenon was amazing, without realizing it all members were insuring the status quo remained.

One member of the group congratulated the rest of group for being on the right track but strongly suggested a survey be conducted before we went any further. The group had already agreed on a relatively simple project to demonstrate this wasn’t going to be another committee that was just going to sit around and talk about things. I’ve always felts surveys a fraught with errors. The question may not solicit the information that you think it does. The audience may not understand the purpose of the survey, should they even chose to answer it. The results are always subject to who received the survey, meaning a particular section may have been overlooked. Finally surveys lack the ability for a dialog to be established between the audience and those conducting the survey. I’m not saying surveys are bad just there are some significant limitations.

I started dwelling on this more and it occurred to me that the desire to have a survey before we went any further was a product of the consensus –building mentality that has permeated since the 1980s. Consensus building (also known as collaborative problem solving or collaboration) is a conflict-resolution process used mainly to settle complex, multiparty disputes. On the surface, consensus building seems to be the epitome of inclusiveness allowing all members to have a say in resolving a problem. To some degree, consensus building is an excellent tool so long as the group consists of more or less equals who posses the same understanding of the problem. For instance, using consensus building to improve the process for taking over the phone orders would be an excellent use of this tool. However, using consensus building to write a strategic plan for the organization that reflects ALL of the employees might be overreaching. Not all of the employees have a strategic view of the organization. Yes, the consensus-building gurus will argue that it is exactly these people that need to be included but that ignores the fact that in every organization there are some that resist change. To me, consensus building becomes a watered down substitute for leadership.

Leadership was lacking in our meeting and I don’t mean from the group but rather from the college. No one was given the authority to act on a recommendation therefore the fallback was to rely on consensus built through a survey. Modern Western society has grown extremely thin-skinned. The overarching concern is not to move ahead but to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Look at our political process, no one is question abilities but instead focusing on how they feel left out or injured by the particular individual in question. Sonia Sotomayor may or may not become the next Supreme Court Justice because of how she did not follow consensus building in her decisions.

Officers in the United States military are required throughout the careers to attend professional development courses where we read about great military leaders of the past. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Shaka Zulu, Grant, Patton, MacArthur…the list is endless of great leaders that did not worry about consensus. They understood what needed to be to achieve the goal and pursued it without hesitation. Think about Shaka Zulu, the great Zulu warrior who lead his nation against the greatest modern army of the time, the British. Consensus building would have deterred them from engaging such a technologically superior foe. Yet he not engaged the British but defeated them with a less technologically advanced force.

Modern Western society is heading to the point of becoming incapable of acting decisively anymore. The Chinese are focusing all of the efforts towards the next super power. They aren’t looking for consensus from their citizens or neighbors, they are going through with their vision. India is also attempting to ascend into the void left by the former cold war but in my opinion finds itself mired in the bureaucratic legacy leftover from British Imperialism. Iran is attempting to regain its former Persian dominance. Venezuela realizes there is an opportunity to unify South and Central American countries and is doing it without regard to how its actions may be viewed by others. I’m not saying their intentions are just, only that they are moving ahead without worrying about surveys or consensus.

I’m reading a book now about General Grant. He took heavy losses during the battles of Shiloh, Cold Harbor and Vicksburg yet he persevered because he knew what it take to win over the Confederacy. By and large, he did not receive favorable reviews even from President Lincoln but in the end he was the only general to be able to execute a successful campaign and ultimately win the war. In the modern age of consensus building have we lost the ability to accept certain consequences in the pursuit of a greater good? In short, where are the leaders?