Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the news

The news has been saturated with two stories related to terrorism.

The first is the arrest of members of Hutaree based in Adrain, MI. In just 24 hours, the group went from being a “fundamentalist Christian survival group” to a “Christian militia group”. While the difference may only be a nuance, the first label doesn’t evoke the negative connotations of the second.

Read these two quotes from the MyWay website:

The arrests have dealt "a severe blow to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Authorities said the arrests underscored the dangers of homegrown right-wing extremism of the sort seen in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people

Reports thus far indicate the Hutaree members had threatened a Muslim citizen. This elevated them to domestic terrorist group. The US Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security seem to racing down the road of re-opening the feelings post Ruby Ridge, Waco and Oklahoma City bombing. I can see where the militia groups are going to view the arrests as an indication that the Obama Administration is coming after them. I hope the administration has thought through their approach and hasn’t made a mountain out of a molehill.

The other terror incident involved two female Muslim suicide bombers in Moscow. The two women suicide bombers killed 37 and injured 65 (as of this writing). Up until now, suicide bombers were only seen in the Middle East. The bombing in Moscow represents a huge paradigm shift and means now we can expect to see more suicide bombings in the West.

I am skeptical that Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder have the wherewithal to get the homeland ready for this new threat. Instead of making headlines over a group in Michigan that had only planned an attack, they need to be worried about groups that have demonstrated the ability to use suicide bombers outside the Middle East.

Update on rescue helicopter

From the AFA on-line magazine: The Air Force has started the search for a platform to replace its HH-60G rescue helicopters by issuing a notice seeking industry input on suitable platforms. Gone is the name CSAR-X for this notional successor platform; the new name is "personnel recovery recapitalization" aircraft. The service would like to issue the first production contract in Fiscal 2012, enabling it to have four trainer assets and four combat-ready aircraft in the fleet no later than Sept. 30, 2015, according to the March 23 notice. Meeting that fielding date "at an affordable cost is critical," states the document. Among the attributes, this platform must be capable of sustaining 130 knots true air speed and have an unrefueled combat mission radius of 220 nautical miles. Earlier this month, the Air Force leadership told Congress that the new platform would likely be based on a mature off-the-shelf design.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

US aviation security to adopt Israeli model

For years, Tel Aviv security has been known as unparalleled in commercial airlines. In the United Kingdom, they use concentric rings of security which increases the level of security as you go in further into the airport. These measures have proven very effective. The challenge is Israel and the UK only have a few airports to deal with. The United States has dozens of major airports, and probably several hundred smaller commuter airports that connect to the hubs. Fielding this level of security here in the US is going to be very expensive. It will also cause further delays in our already crumbling airline system.

I am thoroughly unimpressed with increasing the number of TSA behavioral screeners. From what I've seen, there is not much in the way of screening of prospective TSA employees. The hours are long, the work is stressful and their compensation is average. The recipe does not afford personnel the ability to remain aloof and dispassionately analyze people mulling around an airport. Is that agitated because they are a potential threat or just pissed off because they missed the only connecting flight for the day? I doubt there are many Cal Lightmans (the fictional behaviorial analyst in "Lie to Me") on the TSA payroll. Even if they are, they certainly aren't going to be working the security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta or even Greater Cincinnati International airport.

US aviation security to adopt Israeli model - Israel News, Ynetnews

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Antiedepressants and the military

Watch TV and you will very quickly see ads for pharmaceutical ad for the latest cure-all. The majority of these ads are for some type of psychotropic drug to treat depression. If you listen to these ads, the disclaimers almost always point out a side effect of taking the anti-depressant is increased suicidal tendencies. Perhaps I'm wrong but people most likely to commit suicide are probably depressed. I've not heard of anyone who was content or happy contemplating suicide. Why then do we accept that anti-depressants, which are supposed to control your depression, likely to increase suicidal tendencies? The below article from the Army Times details what is happening to our military personnel. The VA study shows soldiers are TWICE as likely to commit suicide AFTER they start anti-depressants. For those is the security and safety fields, it means you are increasingly likely to have to deal with a vet that is on some kind of psychotropic medication. I don't know why we accept this.

Medicating the military - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Basic training revamp (about time!)

In 2004, US armed forces had been conducting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly 2 years. Despite the experiences of the returning personnel, USAF inspections continued to emphasize donning chemical warfare ensembles (MOPP gear) and firing weapons while wearing the chem mask. There had been (and continues to be) no instance of Iraqi or Taliban forces using chemical weapons against Coalition forces. Instead, US military personnel had to cope with wearing heavy and restrictive body armor in 120+ degree heat. Support and maintenance personnel had to still perform their duties while wearing body armor making turning wrenches on a jet or tank exhausting work. Finally after six years, the Army and Marines are changing how they train recruits to better prepare them to deal with the realities of 21st Century warfare. Nobody is going to run 7 miles over there (at least at one time). It is more sprints while ducking and jinking behind cover in order to engage the enemy. For USAF personnel, its about performing duties out in the heat while wearing body armor and not dropping from exposure.

Rangers are found of running their recruits until they drop and then running them some more. Great for building toughness but the wear and tear it puts on joints means the future Ranger's useful days have been reduced. Training military personnel to strengthening and conditioning their bodies without destroying their knees and should joints is a great step in the right direction.

Army drops bayonets, busts abs in training revamp

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Airlines Will Cancel Flights to Avoid Risk of Fines for Delay

I'm disappointed but not surprised by this latest development. The airlines are rapidly becoming a travel modality of only the business traveler or wealthy. While resembling the roots of air travel, the 21st Century versions lacks the glamor and reliability of early air travel. Airlines now are forced to cut costs, pay raising fuel costs, subsidize an ever growing number of retirees, and and pay increasing costs associated with security. As the old ads used to say, "Next time, take the train!"

Airlines Will Cancel Flights to Avoid Risk of Fines for Delays |
NBC Dallas-Fort Worth

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shooting at Ohio State

Since the shootings at Virginia Tech, most of the attention on college campuses is on trying to identify students who may become violent. I've said at meetings at our college that this is only part of the problem; the other part is with disgruntled employees. The point was made recently when a tenured professor down at the University of Alabama killed three colleagues. Now the Ohio State University has also experienced a shooting involving employees. At this time, the motives for the shooting are unknown.

Faculty and staff are under great pressure to meet increasing demands from students and administrators to do more. At my college, record enrollment has created huge parking problems. Students and faculty alike are finding it impossible to find convenient parking during peak hours. This has lead to frustration from students that are late or miss class simply because they can't find parking. Faculty and staff are not exempt from the parking hassles. The result is additional stress in the classrooms as students try to negotiate with faculty to make-up missed work and faculty try to sort out those who legitimately missed class versus those that are just lazy. The parking situation shows no sign of improving this academic year and may get worse as sewer line project takes out part of one of our parking lots. Faculty are struggling with converting from our 5 term system to semesters. Faculty are required to still teach a full load while trying to convert their courses and curriculum. The frustrations for faculty and students are only going to get worse.

Shooting at Ohio State kills 1, wounds 2 | cincinnati.com | Cincinnati.Com

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Body Scanner

Greater Cincinnati International Airport (CVG) is getting a full body scanner. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS), these will provide the necessary additional security to thwart attempts such as the one by Abdulmuttallab (forever known as the underwear bomber). I've posted before that it wasn't technological failure that allowed Adbulmuttallab to be get as far as he did, it was an intelligence and communication failure. One of the biggest proponents of the full body scanner is none other than former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff who just also happens to work for one of the manufacturers of full body scanners. Finally, the scanners still depend on human interpretation. Up until Abdulmuttallab's attempt, who would have known to look for a liquid in someone's underwear? I can't imagine the humiliation of patients with illness of the lower bowel or bladder that require foley bags or other obtrusive bags to be worn. I am not convinced that a low paid TSA employee, working long hours, performing a repetitive and boring task will be able to discern anything that isn't on their training placard.

CVG to get new airport body scanner

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Japan is ready for Pyongyang

Japan has slowly been increasing their military capabilities, albeit under the aegis of "self-defense", for over a decade. At the same time, the U.S. military is being asked to leave (the Marine base at Okinawa being the prime target). The Japanese were in the midst of empire-building when they were defeated at the end of World War II. The two atomic weapons used by the United States to end the war with Japan caused the Japanese to agree to all manner of concessions that would have been unacceptable to the their warrior-spirit prior to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

For the 40 years or so, the way of the Samurai seemed to be lost until the Japanese economy allowed for a different type of war to be waged with the West. Real estate throughout the United States was bought by Japanese firms during the economic boom of the 1980s. The victory these holdings brought though were fleeting. The downturn of the Yen in the 90s caused all of these gains to be lost. Then a most curious thing occurred. The 9/11 attack caused the Bush Administration to seek a coalition of former allies of not only the usual suspects (such as the British and Australians) but also new allies such as the Spanish and Japanese. The Japanese Air Force have been supporting OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM since 2003 flying C-130s.

It appears the Japanese warrior spirit is slowly reawakening. The timing is precarious as domestic issues, from inept prime ministers to the loss of face of the formerly flawless Toyota, is creating the potential for a return to a more militaristic Japan. The situation is eerily similar to post-Weimar Germany, Argentina under Juan Peron and perhaps even Russia under Putin.

The Weimar Republic was defeated in WWI and Germany virtually emasculated of any sense of self-determination. This set the stage for the rise of the Third Reich. Argentina had a strong sense of the warrior ethos and when the Argentine economy fell, Juan Peron turned to picking a fight over the Falklands more palatable compared to answer questions from the citizens about the domestic situation. The fall of the Soviet Union appeared to first a victory for democracy. However some 20 years later, the greed and corruption of the Russian oligarchs has created and huge gap between the haves and have-nots. The have-nots remember the days of the Soviet Union where they had food, jobs and vodka. There is a serious movement to return to a Soviet style system of government. Of course, they nuclear weapons haven't gone anywhere and the Russians have just introduced their first stealth fighter.

The Japanese situation is especially poignant to me after watching the Zatoichi series of movies over the weekend. For those who haven't Zatoichi, he is a blind masseuse who travels Japan during the final years before the Meji era. Zatoichi is also an expert swordsman who took up the sword, by his own admission. so those with sight would stop looking down on him. I could help but think the series as an allegory for post-war Japan. The deployment of Patriot missiles by Japan seems like Zatoichi learning to use a katana. Japan does not want the United States or North Korea to look down on them anymore.

Why Japan is ready for anything Pyongyang might want to throw at it |
World news |

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