Thursday, December 30, 2010

City Budget Agreement Avoids Layoffs

Perhaps the earthquake helped them come up with robbing from the pension fund to avoid lay offs?

"The agreement fills a $54 million budget hole without anyone losing his or her job. It borrows millions of dollars from the workers compensation fund and emergency reserve accounts. It also relies on a sharp reduction in police overtime, as well as a tax amnesty program that may or may not produce the desired one-time revenue amount."

Story Here

Earthquake tremors felt in Cincinnati

A magnitude 4.2 earthquake in central Indiana was felt in Cincinnati. Phone calls flooded several sheriff's offices in Indiana. Yet Cincinnati city council continues to find ways not to pass a budget and will most likely still cut firefighters and police officers. Imagine what it would be like when a stronger quake hits Cincinnati.

Link Here

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Hysteria, according to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, means "behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess". Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, was suspended from Southern Lee High School in October after school personnel found a small paring knife in her lunchbox. She was an athlete and academic standout. Her only crime is while school officials were snooping for drugs, they found the pairing knife. She wasn't even brining it to school, her father had grabbed the wrong lunch box and it was his that had the knife. Can we all please just relax? Why ruin a young lady's academic and professional potential but something so ridiculous? In a previous blog, I wrote about Governor Rendell's concern that we are becoming a nation of "wusses". I would add that we are becoming a bunch of hysterical "wusses" incapable of making rational judgments.

Link Here

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vikings-Eagles postponement irks Pennsylvania governor

While this is a sports related story and I blog about homeland security and international affairs, Governor Rendell made two important observations. First, the United States has become so consensus focused that decisions are always made by someone further up the chain the it is like a bunch of wusses are running things. The governor and mayor were in the best positions to make the decision yet the NFL commissioner called off the game (I suspect more for reasons of loss of revenue than concerns for safety). The other point the governor attempted to make about China's determination to dominate falls on deaf ears because he resorted so stereotypes. China is not sitting idly by while the US comes to terms with its mid-life crisis. China would surely have dug out the stadium, albeit with soldiers or citizens forced to work. The point being is not the politics but the mindset. The Chinese have set themselves on a long-term strategy to become the next superpower. They are approaching both economically (please note how much of Africa is now owned by the Chinese) as well as strategically (China has taken over manufacturing from other developed nations). China owns the debt for the European and American economies. Yes, it was just a football game but Rendell was right on. China is marching unflinchingly towards world domination and while the US argues about cancelling a football game.

Link Here

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chapel Hill Campus Takes On Grade Inflation

Chapel Hill is taking a near impossible task, what does an "A" really mean? The article only begins to scratch at the surface of the problem. Does an "A" in English 101 equate to an "A" in organic chemistry or differential equations? Letter or numerical grades face an inherent limitation; trying to capture the sum of a student's work during a semester or quarter. Professors uses a variety of techniques to evaluate the student's learning but not all tests or essays are the same. Each will be different depending on the particular style and tastes of the professor. Student's performance may be enhance by previous coursework in the topic. An "A" in one school in say calculus may require much more work in one college than another. Some professors simply refuse to believe any student is capable of mastering their course. All of these factors mean coming up with some kind of grading standard is futile. We need to focus more on demonstrated ability, not just their final GPA. Look at sports. Athletes are subjected to the greatest amount of quantification of any class of human being. We know everything from their physical statistics, to their performance in various skills (such as running, jumping or how much they can lift), what their performance in the same sport was throughout high school, college and the pros. Their record is much more than simply a listing of wins and losses, it creates a picture of the whole athlete and gives a fairly accurate prediction of performance. College graduates are more than simply their GPA.

Link Here

US missiles hit Pakistan borderlands

The article caught my interest because I find it difficult to believe 21st Century missiles hit anything other than what they are aimed at. If US missiles are striking targets in Pakistan, it is because they are being aimed at Pakistani targets. There has been evidence for some time of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan yet much like Baghdad Bob, everyone is in denial of the obvious. Pakistan is one of the least transparent allies the United States has ever worked with. The motivation to allow US and Coalition forces to operate from Pakistan has very little to do with the war on terrorism and much more to do with first keeping Musharraf and now Zadari in office. The Pakistani government condemns the US strikes while at the same time enjoying the intelligence it gains from these attacks. Pakistan blusters but has never seriously threatened to ask US forces to leave. The presence of US forces helps the government to ward of the Talaban as well as reduce any threats from India. The situation in Afghanistan is going nowhere fast and the number of causalities has risen dramatically in the last few months. Afghanistan is very much like Vietnam with an enemy that is not a military force an operates from a network of underground facilities (caves really). Neither President Bush nor President Obama have identified an exit strategy for Afghanistan. As the US begins striking more targets in Pakistan, the war has to potential to spill into a more regional conflict. With Iran and North Korea further distracting US foreign policy, I see that next few years becoming increasingly violent.

Link Here

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Food Sovereignty

The US Attorney General's Office and DHS both issued assessments that our food supply could be the next target for terrorism. Tommy Thompson first sounded this alarm while he was the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Given the reliance of the United States on mega-farms, migrant workers and hub & spoke distribution centers it becomes difficult to properly secure our food. Vermont apparently is not sitting back on this issue and has written a Resolution of Food Sovereignty;

WHEREAS All people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and

WHEREAS Food is human sustenance and is the fundamental prerequisite to life; and

WHEREAS The basis of human sustenance rests on the ability of all people to save seed, grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products; and

WHEREAS We the People of Vermont, have an obligation to protect these rights as is the Common and Natural Law; and in recognition of the State’s proud agricultural heritage; and the necessity of agricultural, ecological and economic diversity and sustainability to a free and healthy Society;

THEREFORE, Be it resolved, that We The People, stand on our rights under the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution and reject such Federal decrees, statutes, regulations or corporate practices that threaten our basic human right to save seed, grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the State of Vermont; and,

Be it further resolved, that We The People, shall resist any and all infringements upon these rights, from whatever sources that are contrary to the rights of the People of the State of Vermont.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Scare for President Obama

Shortly after I wrote the piece about the pilot video showing airport security lapses, I just read this one about a driver who apparently was able to get through a US Secret Service checkpoint. It appears that the driver was not a threat to the President but look at the pictures. The US Secret Service agent has her weapon drawn and yet the driver goes through the checkpoint anyway. The picture of her running is even more concerning. She failed to stop that vehicle. I don't know if the rules of engagement prevented her from firing or if there was some other reason she appears to not have fired. The bottom line, had this driver been intent on doing something it looks like he would have been more successful than he should have been.

This is exactly what happened in Beirut in 1983. Suicide bombers hijacked a truck and upon approaching the checkpoint gate, accelerated through the fence. The sentries did not have magazines in their rifles per the rules of engagement. The truck was able to reach the barracks area and detonated 12,00o lbs of explosives. In the attack on the American barracks, the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy Sailors, and three Army Soldiers. Have we really learned anything in the nearly 30 years since this incident?

Link Here

Sacramento-area pilot punished

It didn't take long for the Wikileaks problem first started with Department of Defense documents from Afghanistan. Then State Department diplomatic cables were leaked revealing to the public a rather sophomoric approach to diplomacy. The whole premise for Wikileaks is the ability for whistleblowers to get their case out in the open. While Wikileaks wasn't involved in this case, a pilot has found it necessary to share his videos showing weaknesses in airport security. The TSA is disciplining the pilot/whistleblower but it is too little, too late. I assure the TSA this pilot isn't the first to have noticed lapses and weaknesses in our airports. We have seen in the last year everything from a slide escapades of Steven Slater to an Iranian who was able to get through security with a firearm (in the latter case, he was legitimately carrying on only his honest exposed the flaws in screening). As tensions rise between the US and both North Korea and Iran, we will see even more cases of whistleblowing occurring. What sometimes is overlooked in these cases is who is really responsible for the leak. There is always some low level person that gets names but how was that person able to secure the information to be leaked without exposure? You can't help but wonder if supervisors turned a blind eye or perhaps even encouraged the perpetrator in some indirect way. The Mayan calendar supposedly ends in 2012 and whether you believe in such things or not others do making the potential very high for things to become very interesting in 2011.

Link Here

Friday, December 17, 2010

Airport Security: Loaded Gun Slips Past TSA Screeners - ABC News

Surprise, low paid/overworked scanners miss guns and bombs! Instead of buying more technology, based on a lobbyist's recommendation, should DHS change how it does passenger screening?

Article here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Are you terrorist?'

The other day in my homeland security class the students got into a rather heated debate about searches, pat-downs, full body scanners, metal detectors, profiling, etc. The general consensus was that none of these procedures guaranteed our safety and were more about showing the government as doing something rather than nothing. The Daily Mail article is a rather lengthy piece that gets to the hear of the problem. In the United States, we are still focused on finding the weapon instead of finding the terrorist. The Israelis use a rather elegant series of selectors (polyglot females who ask questions while looking for signs that the individual may be upset or uncomfortable)/ If the selector's concerns are raised, the individual is the sent for a baggage screening. If the person fails to comply or seems to become more agitated, they are then isolated and interrogated by law enforcement officials. The means by which the Israelis accomplish all of this is man-power intensive (not to mention the cost of training the selectors and interrogators) and probably not feasible for the US to implement on a wide scale. However, the basic principle of focusing on finding the terrorist and not the means of attacks should become our focus.

Link Here

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reflections on Gun Free Zones

Between stories of TSA pat-downs and the recent salacious details of Julian Assange’s sex life, the media has all but forgotten the little story of 15-year old Samuel Hengel. He was the Marinette High School sophomore who took his teacher and 24 students hostage last month. Unlike other situations, this ended with only the shooter taking his own life.

The story highlights the benefits of drills to train students and staff what to do in the event of a shooter situation. What the story also highlights is 11 years after the Columbine massacre and three years after the Virginia Tech shootings, students are still able to bring firearms on to campus.

I recently completed the Ohio CCW (carry a concealed weapon) course. The course is 12 hours, ten hours of law and two hours of range time. The part on law teaches students all of the places where you can’t legally carry a firearm (especially concealed) including all government buildings, establishments that serve alcohol (class D liquor permit), police stations, and schools.

On first blush, these seem like reasonable restrictions but upon further review the restrictions on schools equates all (elementary, secondary and college) as the same. As I’ve written before, elementary and secondary schools can effectively lock the front door significantly reducing the potential for unauthorized visitors.

Students are in class or study hall at the same time. A student walking around the hallway during class time is far more noticeable as a result than on a college campus. Elementary and most secondary schools consist of a single building unlike colleges and universities that have multiple buildings scattered over the campus. Thus college campuses are unable to run people through a single checkpoint for weapons (and as the Marinette High School shows, this is no guarantee).

College campuses are open and have a constant wave of current students, prospective students, alums, faculty, staff and visitors. Colleges fall into the category of schools in the minds of legislators even though post-secondary educational institutions share little in common with elementary and high schools.

Talk with a college student or a campus police officer and you will learn there are many people walking around with weapons. These include students and others who are on campus to conduct drug deals or other criminal activities. The signs declaring a “Gun Free” zone have no impact on individuals with criminal intent.

No, this isn’t a pro-gun rant as much as questioning the wisdom of banning CCW holders from carrying on campus. The CCW ban effects everyone, including people who simply are walking or jogging through campus from protecting themselves. Women living on campus or nearby are unable to carry to protect themselves yet the threat is well armed.

Staff and faculty get to face an armed threat without being to go armed. Phones are in the classrooms so that faculty can contact campus police in the event of an emergency or violent situation. The phones are not always near the podium. Even if the phone is on the podium, it may take several minutes for the police to arrive. By then, a situation can have gone from bad to deadly.

The “Gun Free Zone” sign is hypocritical at best as there are still guns on campus and deceptive at worst as it leads people to believe there are safe from gun violence. All it does is prevent law-abiding people who have been trained and passed the necessary background checks from carrying. The criminals and potential shooters are still armed and dangerous. And yes, the criminals will be prosecuted but too often that won’t be until after some law abiding citizens has stared down the business end of a firearm.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The elegance of simplicity Ignite Cincinnati 4

The videos from Ignite Cincinnati #4 are finally up! Please follow the link. If there is an Ignite going on in your local area, it is certainly something you will want to check out!

We will keep the money

Governor-elect John Kasich didn't wait to make news. Shortly after being elected, he said the light rail proposal in Ohio was dead. Kasich does not believe the light rail system is the future of Ohio and it is too costly to reactive freight rail lines. Kasich's plan was to still hold on to the $400 million dollars but to use it for other projects. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood now says since Ohio is not going to build a light rail system, the money can't be used for other projects and will send the money to California and other states that will use the money for light rail. I'm really trying to understand how Kasich can say on one hand that he is going to help the Ohio economy and yet eliminate a major transportation project that would have created thousands of jobs.

Link here

Monday, December 6, 2010


I agree that our best defense is having a mobilized, aware public. However, the trite "See something, say something" begs the question "What is something and who should I say it to?" DHS and TSA has done a horrible job of informing the public as to what they should be looking for. Moreover, if someone sees something suspect to whom should they report it? FBI? Sheriff's office? Local police? If they information that is reported does not fit their paradigms, will these agencies forward the information to the fusion center? I just see this as being akin to Nancy Reagan's "Just say NO!" campaign. The situation is more complex than some slogan dreamed up by a federal agency (or the high priced PR firm that won the government contract to come up with this crap). Of course the other problem is do you really want your neighbor reporting you to the FBI because you have a copy of the Quran in your home and don't watch Fox News?

Link Here

Friday, December 3, 2010

Israeli Emergency Management

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War (or Six Day War) was an unexpected and decisive victory for the Israeli military. Ever since, the Israeli military has enjoyed the reputation of being the toughest, best trained and best equipped military in the region. The Israeli government has heavily funded the military as a way of discouraging neighboring nations from attacking the lone Jewish state. Viewed from a political or military perspective, this plan seems to have achieved the goal of preventing major military actions against Israel (although this same approach could be argued as to why there are some many terrorist bombings).

The forest fire on Mount Carmel highlights when your attention becomes so focused on one thing, preventing military attack, other equally destructive events get neglected. The article points out that Israel only has 1 firefighter per 10,000 instead of the recommended 1 per 1,000. International firefighter associations feel such a low ratio means Israel is extremely unprepared to deal with a major fire (which the Mount Carmel fire is proving). Because of the political and theological differences Israel has with its neighboring nations, there is no Emergency Management Compact or even mutual aid compact with Syria, Jordan or Egypt (which are all nations Israel has had conflicts with over the years).

However, even if Israel had a different relationship with is neighbors it still would be faced with a problem of an overwhelming disaster that requires an emergency management system that it simply doesn't have. Emergency management is not sexy and doesn't nothing to protect you from a military attack. But as the earthquake in Haiti has proven, a system needs to be in place to prepare citizens how to respond during an emergency. The same system is critical to the recovery after a major disaster. Perhaps the Mount Carmel fire will do something none of the enemies of Israel could ever do.

Link here