Saturday, December 31, 2016

A little perspective on 2016

Hillary fans and Trump Haters (which are not necessarily the same) are convinced 2016 is the worst year ever.  For the non-politically minded, the deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Ron Glass, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michael and Bob Denver (to name a few of the celebrities who passed away this year), 2016 has also been the worse year ever.

But was 2016 nearly as bad as April 1945 was for Japan when the US dropped two atomic bombs killing 128,000 Japanese?  Or was it as bad as 1979 in Cambodia, the final year of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields which estimates are over 1 million executed Cambodians?  Or what about 1353, the final year of the Black Death which by then had seen the deaths of over 100-125 million?  Perspective is a mothefucker sometimes.

For all of Mr. Trumps shortfalls, are let's be honest he has many, since winning the election he seems to have calmed much of his anti-immigrant and anti-NATO rhetoric.  But fear not for Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry are spending their final days in office pissing of Israel and Russia.  For an administration that has prided itself on using diplomacy over force, the handling of the Israeli settlements (which Mr. Obama and company successfully ignored for the previous years) and the 35 Russian "spys" (which Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry knew about for years!) that were expelled seem particularly ham-fisted approaches.  It is telling that now Mr. Putin appears to be the elder statesman compared to Mr. Obama's rather petulant approach.

As I had been saying all year, 2016 is certainly one of the more interesting years of late but is is by no means deserving of all of the angst and tears (real as well as virtual) that I've seen being shed on social media.  Mr. Trump is the next President, no matter how much many don't want that to be.  Funny how these are the same people who were so angered and puzzled by Mr. Obama's critics and demanded that they (his critics) remember that he is their President.  Absolutely correct except guess what?  Now you all have to do the same thing for Mr. Trump.

Going into 2017, there is potential for the US and Russia to form a new relationship that hasn't been seen since WWII.  Old alliances and relationships may change or fall by the wayside as a result but that should deter the US from trying.  Thus far, Mr. Putin has stayed his hand even after a Russian ambassador was assassinated in Turkey, Russia was accused of hacking our elections, and even after 35 of his diplomats were sent back home.  Could all just be a ruse of course but let's take it a face value for now and try to forge something new and better in 2017.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

37 Days Later

It has been 37 days since Donald Trump won the election and guess what?  We are still arguing about the results!  Hillary Clinton supporters, and Donald Trump haters which are not necessarily the same thing, have hit upon a new strategy….blame the Russians!  Mr. Obama and the White House are going along keeping everyone's tempers at full even though there are many questions that should be giving all some pause;

1.  As the Hillary fans and Trump haters point out, Hillary won the popular vote by 2.3 million!  Okay, so if the Russians were behind this why did Hillary win in the popular vote?

2.  The CIA is now convinced the Russians "hacked" the results!  Okay except why is the CIA the agency coming forward with this allegation?  The Department of Homeland Security had been charged with protecting our voting systems from just such outside meddling yet they have been remarkably quiet throughout this time.  Also, if the Russians did hack into our voting systems…exactly how did the CIA determine this?  If any agency has the expertise and equipment it would be the NSA, not the CIA, coming forward with proof.  Again, more crickets.

3.  The Russians hacked into our voting systems!  But why then aren't any state board of elections coming forward?  Even in backwards ass Ohio, where the county and NOT the state controls your right to vote, no county board of elections have been reporting incidents of hacking. Voting systems vary by county (in Ohio alone there are 88 counties).  Russia would have to be be able to hack each individual county, not just the state to insure the results were skewed towards Trump.  In so doing, would not the popular vote also have gone to Hillary?

 (Want to know why we have an electoral college?  Because only recently has technology caught up to where a national voting system could be possible.  Throughout most of the US history, ballots were paper and had to be hand-counted.  There was no possible to insure there would be no voting fraud with paper ballots so each state was responsible for establishing their voting system.  Based on their poll results, electors would then go to Washington and represent their state's results.)

4.  Russian was meddling in US affairs in retaliation against Hillary!  Putin maybe many things but he is not dumb-enough to do something that could easily be traced back to the Kremlin and give the US a legitimate reason to attack Russia!

5.  Vast right wing conspiracy!  In Michigan, voting fraud was discovered…to have been committed by Democratic voters voting for Hillary.

What we have here, to paraphrase my favorite character actor Strother Martin, is a failure of intellect.  Much like the movie "Inception", we are going through a story within a story wrapped up in an enigma.  Trump haters are so desperate to invalidate the results they are willing to suspend any rational analysis of the absence of facts and go chasing down the rabbit hole after Russians.  The White House has tacitly gone down the rabbit hole as well, barring Congress from receiving the CIA briefing until after Mr. Obama's approval.  Our favorite intellectual giants, celebrities, are all calling for electors to violate their own state's results and vote for a third part candidate.

The very people now willing to buy into the CIA unannounced findings are the very ones that were apoplectic just a few years ago about the CIA's findings of WMDs in Iraq that proved to be untrue.  Russia would suddenly have a far greater cyber ability than has ever been experienced in order to have pulled this off.  Why risk retaliation of war or an attack on its own elections if discovered?

No the evidence is too anecdotal to be believed.  Trump's victory is still so unimaginable to most that they would rather believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, or Russian hackers, than in the reality that their fellow Americans chose Mr. Trump over Hillary.  They forget that continuing to deny the results means future elections will constantly be subjected to this type of disbelief and then people will wonder why no one comes out to vote any more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Power of Social Media

Mr. Trump, hate or love him, is truly a man of the 21st Century.  No, he isn't going to pen some great literary that captures the time nor is he likely to going to cure cancer or solve world hunger.  But what he is doing, and something Hillary never did, is leverage social media to get his word out and rally his supporters.

In the last week or so, Mr. Trump has taken to Twitter (his preferred medium) to go after Boeing for its $4 billion price tag on the new Air Force one replacement.  Boeing was completely caught off guard and fumbled some long-winded, rambling reply.  Most tellingly, their stocks took a hit.

Mr. Trump then followed with a slap to Lockheed Martin for its ridiculously overpriced F-35.  Their stocks immediately dropped by 2 percent.

The litany of names Mr. Trump has been called by his detractors during the election and his since his victory are legion.  But what they and even many of Mr. Trump's supporters miss is he successfully uses social media (and by extension the mainstream media) to get within the decision circles of his opponents.  In 140 characters or less, Mr. Trump continues to put politicians, media pundits and now military corporations on notice leaving them flapping in the wind as they try to cobble some sort of counter.  Too late, Mr. Trump has struck and moved on.

The F-35 is perhaps the clearest case of why this works.  The F-35 was begun in 1996 and perhaps represents the clearest case of "an elephant is a mouse built by committee".  The entire F-35 program has been nothing but committees all brining their requirements to the table with no adults empowered to say "NO!".  Rather than forming his own committees to counter the corporate committees, Mr. Trump is bypassing the whole thing and going right after the juggler.

It is brash, it is theatrical, and so far it has worked.  The committees are too large, to awkward, and too slow to react to Mr. Trump's mastery of social media.  But what's odd is how everyone thinks this is something new.  Mr. Trump's favored way of communication is merely an update to the something that harkens back to FDR….the President's Weekly Radio Address.

FDR needed a way to reach out to voters and convince them to support the New Deal.  He used the then modern technology of radio to conduct essentially a nationwide fireside chat.  It worked!  People felt as though FDR was sitting in their living rooms talking to them personally.

Mr. Trump is doing the same thing but both his personality and his choice of medium (Twitter) eschews the warmth and homespun folksiness of FDR in favor of a brash, just the facts approach of a New York businessman.

Political pundits and critics alike will most likely doubt (in reality, hope) that Mr. Trump will be able to keep this up for 4 years.  However, how many of us believed that a brash, loudmouthed, New Yorker with a bad hairdo could get elected?

Those same critics may be worried that the F-35 is just too big to cancel.  And that's where Mr. Trump's brashness may just pay off.  Who is to say something is too big to fail?  The F-35 won't do what its supposed to do, it was dumb-downed a longtime ago by all of the competing committees from the various branches of the service and the Pentagon.

But if cancels the program, what then?  For starters, Mr. Trump could simply increase production of the F-15E Strike Eagles to fill the void of the legacy fighters that are coming to the end of their lifecycle.  He can also increase the use of stand-off munitions to strike enemy air forces before they even take-off. Finally, he can unitize cyber warfare to shutdown enemy command and control networks and power grids.  So no Virginia, there is no such thing as something too big to fail.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Turkey and NATO

One of tenants of Mr. Trump's foreign policy is going to be some form of fair-share pay by both NATO and Japan.  The latter, under Prime Minister Abe, seems to coincide with a desire by the Japanese to have a stronger military in light of a more aggressive China and North Korea.

NATO was conceived as an alliance that would deter invasion by the Soviet Union into Europe.  Failing that, NATO would at least be able to hold the Soviet forces until the US could send its forces from the mainland.  When the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact fell, along with the advent of the European Union, the role of NATO morphed from being strictly a defense pact to a quasi-European Union self defense force.

Most would have thought that with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, NATO would also cease.  However, NATO allowed the member nations to scale back their military spending without losing the sense that Europe was still able to protect itself.  NATO couldn't be eliminated because none of the member nations were spending enough on their own defense to protect their own countries.

The one exception to this rule, besides the US, was the enigmatic Turkey.  Turkey is a secular Muslim (the only one in NATO) that since ancient times provides a strategic buffer between Europe and Asia (the land mass formerly known as Asia Minor).  Turkey was a member more because of its geography than any ideological, political and certainly theological leanings.  The US wanted to base nuclear weapons as close to the Soviet Union as possible and Turkey provided just such a location.

Turkey has always had different views from the rest of NATO.  When coalition forces pounded Saddam Hussein into surrender during DESERT STORM, Turkey and Iraq were still very much cooperating along the Turkish/Iraq border.  While the US and West were slamming Syria for their politics, Turkey was slamming Syria for holding up the Anatolia water project (which would allow Turkey to sell water to Syria and Iraq).

Now we come to the recent coup that tried to oust President Erdogan.  Erdogan's rhetoric and increasingly anti-West leanings caused the US and NATO to look away during the coup (despite the 60 or so nuclear warheads at Incirlik Air Base being left up for grabs).  The coup failed and Erdogan has become even more hardline anti-US, pro-Russia.  He has now replaced around 150 Turkish officials assigned to NATO with pro-Russia officials.

If Turkey, which has the largest Army in NATO, and the US under Trump were to back out of NATO it would force Europe to either abandon NATO altogether or radically increase military spending.  Compound this scenario with the likelihood that more European governments will become nationalistic, anti-immigrant (read, anti-Muslim) and Europe will start to look more like it did prior to World War I.

Mr. Putin may be amassing his forces along the borders of European not so much out of preparation to start a war but rather to prevent a panicky Europe from starting one.  As of this writing, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin continue to seem to like one another and want to work together.  Let us hope that this continues and avoid the potential for World War III.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fake News

In the aftermath of Donald Trump wining the election, it has become customary to deride any dissenting view as "fake news".  As a way of purging the Internet of fake news and fake news sites, self-appointed thought policy such Mark Zurckerbeg are going after the "alt-right"…translated, the white supremacist, racist, anti-Semites that are hated by except themselves.  But this is a thinly veiled attack on ANY dissenting view.

Case in point, there was an attack last week on Ohio State campus.  Immediately, the headlines were reporting an "active shooter".  Liberals and anti-gun proponents swung immediately into action labeling the attack a result of "voting for Trump" and the lax gun-control laws that Trump supporters demand.  Except……the attacker didn't use a gun, he used a car.  Crickets chirping then.

Earlier that day, on the opposite political spectrum, much was being made about this sign;

The sign in posted in the window of Schuler's Bakery in Springfield, OH (just up the road from where I live).  Local stations and papers were posting headlines about how many people were protesting this sign and how is was causing an outrage…..except no one was really protesting this sign, especially no one in Springfield.  All of the "protests" were from social media by people who didn't even live in the area.  It was a non-story made possible through the modern marvel known as social media.  Another way fake news is created, posted something on social media and just sit back and wait for Internet trolls to become offended.  Then repost said comments as "breaking news" and voila!   Instant news.  Works for both conservatives and liberals alike.

NPR, which tries to portray itself as above such subterfuge, ran a piece yesterday on Vladmir Putin's Russia and what it will mean now that Donald Trump is becoming President.  The guest was a Russian who had some tremendous insights into Putin and how his anti-American rhetoric shapes Russian foreign policy and actions.  Yet the host could not help but try to spin this into how Putin was somehow responsible for generating "fake news" stories that were almost always against Hillary Clinton.  Furthermore, the host could help himself and lead listeners to believe (or at least affirm their suspicions) that Putin is why Hillary lost.  Fake news within fake news.

"Fake news" doesn't apply only to those stories that disagree with your point of view.  A fake news story can also be created to agree with your point of view.  For example, I personally believe that the US military has been at war too long without a reset of personnel and equipment and thus its ability to conduct operations against another opponent is greatly diminished.

So now Mr. Trump comes along and promises to make "American Great Again" and this includes strengthening the military.  Sounds good but where is he going to find the money?  Higher taxes?  Well apparently the work has already been done for him.  In 2015, then Deputy Defense Secretary Robert. O. Wok commissioned a study to improve efficiency in the DoD.  It found that there are over 1 million contract personnel employed by the Pentagon, wasting over $1.25 billion!  Mysteriously, the report got shelved.  All Mr. Trump has to do is dust it off, make a few Tweets, and PRESTO!  Instant jump in his approval ratings!  Yet, did he really do anything?

Right now the headlines are filled with reports about the fire in Oakland that has killed at least 36 so far.  We saw the fire chief moved to tears as she reported on the efforts of her firefighters and the gruesome details of recovering remains by the bucketful.  Except… it starting to come out that the city of Oakland KNEW about the death-trap conditions of the art commune for at least 2 years and did not close it down.  Tears for the dead or the guilty?  Watch as more fake news gets created around this situation and how it keeps your attention from other news stories.

Going back to my example of the attack at Ohio State, the news was reluctant to associate the word "terror" or "terrorist attack" with the deaths and were even more afraid to point out the suspected attacker was a Somali man.  While all eyes focus on moisten at the deaths in Oakland, we are being led away from the potential that terrorist attacks may be on the rise.  Just this morning, it was announced that Los Angeles has been threatened with a credible attack on the LA Transit System.  The news always reports anti-Muslim pieces but what gets lost is there are plenty of anti-American or anti-Christian Muslims as well.  It doesn't justify either side but our reality is more and more shaped by only hearing one side of the news.

What can you do?  Always ask "why" is a particular headline being reported (even if it's one you agree with).  Look at foreign news reports and contrast how they are reporting a story compared to American news reports (or vice versa).  And remember, now more than ever what you tend to see on your phone and computer has been filtered based on your previous likes and interests.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Foreign Policy

President-elect Trump pick of Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, as his National Security Advisor panicked those who had grown comfortable with the Susan Rice school of foreign policy.  Whereas Ms. Rice is a career bureaucrat, Flynn 33 years in the US Army.  Uniforms tend to make bureaucrats and diplomats nervous especially given Flynn's statement that the US was less safe in 2014 than it was prior to 9/11.

Now it appear James "Mad Dog" Mattis, a retired Marine Corps 4-star, will be the next Secretary of Defense.  Should Mattis be appointed, Mr. Trump's cabinet will be one of the most hawkish in many years.  This may be by design as a way of "draining the swamp" of career bureaucrats but it also might signal a different approach to foreign policy that will be much more decisive than the Obama doctrine.

On the surface it seems that Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are getting along famously.  Yet Russia has deployed its nuclear capable Iskander missiles Kalinigrad, Russia placing the missiles within range of targets in Poland and NATO.  The missile deployment is in retaliation for NATO troop deployments (including 4,000 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division).  The move has been met with hostility by Moscow, however it remains to be seen if Mr. Putin will have the same reaction once Mr. Trump takes office.

Mr. Putin has said he is ready for a re-set of US-Russian relations.  Under the Obama Administration, relations deteriorated even though Mr. Obama and his advisors were decidedly un-hawkish.  The question is, will Mr. Putin continues to reach out to the US with a very hawkish Trump Administration?  If the answer is "yes", then the recasting of US-Russia relations will have major impacts on other US alliances.

We may be seeing a clue already.  Mr. Trump has used his favorite policy weapon, Twitter, to get under Prime Minister May's skin.  He has publicly called on her to appoint Nigel Farage,  his friend and major campaign supporter, to be appointed as UK ambassador to the US.  Ms. May is highly irritated as these types of things are not done publicly, furthermore having a US president dictate to a UK prime minister just isn't done.

However, May is under increasing pressure to make Brexit happen and she has yet to take action making her vulnerable.  The current UK ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch, is seen by many in the UK as a European Union lackey and career politician, so Mr. Trump may yet get his way.  Should he, it will risk chilling relations with the US greatest ally at a time when the world is drastically reshaping (in no small way thanks to Mr. Trump himself).

We are going into unchartered waters with a new US President who has never held office and will treat foreign policy matters more like business deals.  The US and Russia could conceivably forge an alliance going forward to deal with terrorism in the Middle East, leaving out Europe and UK for the first time since World War II.  Unlike Europe, Russia can offer oil to the fossil-fuel dependent US to help counter-act any effects their Middle East interventions might have on oil prices.

Far-fetched?  Perhaps no more so than some New York business tycoon with bad hair becoming President of the United States.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump's foreign policy, at least so far

President-elect Trump, a New York business tycoon, has expressed some interesting preferences when it comes to foreign policy.  Playing up his image as a successful businessman, Mr. Trump has expressed his frustration that NATO members are not paying their fair share.  He has gone on even further to say that the US may withhold military support unless NATO partners start paying.

From a purely business perspective, this hardline stance is appealing.  Hey, you don't pay then why should I give you support?  In effect, Mr. Trump's foreign policy seems to going in the isolationist direction.  If he maintains this stance as he enters the White House, it also means Mr. Trump is going to radically reshape international affairs beyond just the US role. 

The most obvious consequence, and the one Mr. Trump seems to going for, is the US will no longer play traffic cop to the various conflicts going on in the world.  Mr. Trump's stance seems like it be the US is willing to help, so long as you are willing to pay.  Quid pro quo.

Such a foreign policy stance would be radically different from anything the US has done since the isolationism of the 1930s.  Much like then, Trump seems to feel in order for "America to  be great again", it needs to distance itself from foreign intervention.  Russia and Syria apparently are taking Mr. Trump at his word as relations with the US suddenly warmed after the election.

At the same time, Mr. Trump's isolation predilection has NATO extremely worried.  In effect, should Mr. Trump start withdrawing US forces from NATO, while simultaneously increasing relations with Russia, Europe will be very vulnerable to future Russia expansion.  Let's be honest, NATO was always about holding off a Soviet forces long enough for the US to muster stateside forces.  Remove US forces, or at least US willingness to engage, and NATO becomes a paper tiger.

Mr. Trump's business perspective, and apparent lack of historical acumen, could radically reshape alliances that have existed since the Second World.  The US has always looked to Europe as an ally in dealing with world affairs but Mr Trump only seems interested should it prove financially rewarding to the US.

One of the reasons Germany does not spend more on defense is because that last thing Europe, the US and Soviet Union wanted to see is a military strong Germany.  The Prussians, followed by the Weimar Republic, followed by the Third Reich was enough proof to the Allied Powers that allowing Germany to have an unrestricted military just wasn't in anyone's best interest.  Mr. Trump's policy could negate this and allow for a hard-line German leader to spend without restriction on building up the German military.  Given the already seething anti-immigration feelings by right-wing Germans, this could become a very explosive combination.

Even before Mr. Trump assumes office his victory is reshaping European politics.  Marine Le Pen, a French conservative nationalist, went from being a long-shot to the likely next French president.  British Prime Minister Theresa May is now facing more pressure to make Brexit happen sooner than later.  Angela Merkel's ability to win another term may have just been completely abolished.  

The US tends to be European-centric in its foreign policy but let's not forget that Mr. Trump's idea of foreign policy would also apply to Japan.  A fully militarized Japan was unthinkable to the US and Asia after World War II but and increasingly right-wing government in Japan, with an increased threat from China, could see a fully militarized Japan reappear.  Such a possibility would further worsen relations between Japan and North Korea.  Russia, unlike the United States, still very much remembers what happens when you underestimate Japan.  

By pulling US military support out of Japan, it will force the Japanese to spend more on defense.  A militarily stronger Japan will be alarming to the Pacific Rim (including Russia) and will see increased military spending across the region.  The Philippines have no love for Japan either and with the specter of US withdrawal from the region, it will force Manilla even closer to Beijing.  Yeah, none of that looks good.

Trump's policy thus far also ignores Africa which is the source of all of out strategic minerals that we depend on for the jobs Mr. Trump intends to create.  A reluctant US means China and Russia will become the new colonial powers in Africa.  Once in, the US will never be able to negotiate the Chinese and Russians back out.

Mr. Trump has demonstrated no appreciation for history nor for long-term foreign policy decisions.  His  choice to shepherd this neo-isolationism approach looks to be Newt Gingrich.  Mr. Gingrich is a neo-conservative who believes the US has been "too soft on Iran and North Korea", "the United Nations is corrupt", and "Palestinians are an invented people." At first it may appear his stance is opposite of Mr. Trump's but Gingrich can very easily re-align his opinions as to a rationale for the US to pull out of various alliances.  Combine that with Mr. Gingrich's tendency to lecture those he feels are intellectually inferior to himself and we don't have the most auspicious beginnings to the Trump foreign policy team.

I've been critical of much of the US foreign policy, especially under Mr. Obama, but to become isolated from long-term allies is the wrong answer.  Mr. Trump's policies don't address the situation created by US policies in the Middle East.  Mr. Trump's policies do nothing to engage and develop African nations.  Change is constant but Mr. Trump wants to turn our focus on ourselves to the detriment of others.  Four years of that may be four years too long.  The world will be a very different place and the US may not have much of a say in it anymore.  To some that may sound like a good thing but you may want to ask Poland about how they feel about Sep 1, 1939.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Last Night

Trump wins!  The Republicans and Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for that headline.

The Republicans have had eight years to get ready for this and they blew it.  Their A-team of Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Santorum, and Bush were unable to stop a TV personality, a huckster, from taking the Republican nomination away from them but also the White House.  You were all so dumb, you couldn't bring yourselves to pull the nominee to the side and help smooth the edges off of him.  Despite your absolute travesty of abandoning your nominee, you managed a technical victory.  I hope you know what to do now that someone from the Republican party is in the White House.  You also better start grooming some better candidates for many of your party would have turned away had the Democrats been smart enough to nominate any one other than HRC.

The Democrats had eight years to get ready for this and they blew it.  Eight years ago, the Democrats correctly read that Americans were tired of being at war.  America was tired of the Bush-Cheney hawkish worldview and wanted something different.  Eight years ago, a no-name Senator from Illinois who had zero foreign policy experience was able to snatch the the Democratic nomination from that de facto heir, Hillary Clinton.  Eight years ago, then Senator Obama's slogan of "Hope and Change" resonated on both sides and helped him cinch both the Democratic nomination but also the White House.

So what the hell did the Democrats think trotting out Hillary eight year later, with eight more years of baggage, was going to do?  Especially with a populace that has become extremely disenfranchised with Mr. Obama?

More so than when she was running against President Obama, the sins of Hillary's (and Bill's) past came back to haunt her.  No, not the stuff that has Democrats in full denial about such as Bill's female victims.  No, not Hillary's mishandling of classified materials nor her incompetence during Benghazi.  No, what happened was the working class remembered two very important details from the Clinton years.

First, workers remembered that the Clintons were responsible from NAFTA which sent jobs overseas and turned Detroit into a real life version of the fictional Detroit from "Robocop".  The media completely missed when Trump picked up on this and promised to bring jobs back.  The media turned his comments into anti-immigration but by so doing, completely missed how this one speech resounded with the entire state of Michigan and the rest of working class Americans.

The other point that people remembered about the Clinton administration is more obscure but is why more blacks were secretly turning to Trump than the Democrat strategists could accept.  Former President Clinton pushed through legislation for getting tough on crime and mandatory sentencing.  Both of these actions by the Clinton administration has resulted in the huge increase in prison population with a disproportionate part of that population being black.

While publicly despising Trump and supporting the Democratic nominee, black people in private had no use for Hillary.  And here is the part Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her ilk need to be really held accountable for…by dismissing the blacks angst surrounding Clinton, you all but guaranteed a Trump victory.

Had the Democrats allowed Bernie Sanders to take the nomination, I am certain we would be having a different conversation today.  But instead, everyone in the Democratic party believed that voting in the first female President would overcome her own weaknesses as an unlikable, bland and boring candidate.

One other point before I move on to what I see facing the future President Trump (I still can't used to typing those two words).  Over the weekend, many of the Democratic faithful were still in full delusion mode and happily celebrated when FBI Director Comey announced that there were no findings in the 650K emails to warrant furthering investigation.  You morons, that was absolutely the final nail in Hillary's coffin.  She had been tracking since she got the nomination as being extremely unlikable, now she was also above the law? Fuhgeddabout!

Now on to Mr. Trump who I hope is ready for what he claims he wants.  The future President Trump is coming into office after the foreign policy fiasco of Obama/Clinton/Kerry that has created a far more belligerent Russia, a far more aggressive China, an increasingly difficult to defeat terrorist group known as ISIS, and a Europe that is on the verge of war.  All of the bombast and showmanship that got him elected isn't going to be what turns this around.  He needs to assemble a top notch foreign policy and national security team of something other than the cronies who followed him around during the campaign.

The Trump supporters are all clamoring for the wall to be built.  Of course they don't want to understand the immense cost of building and maintaining such a structure.  Disappointing to me is that many of my military buddies are in favor of this static defense, seeming to forget that throughout history walls are made to be breeched, blown-up, climbed over or dug under.  If the wall is built, we will have to commit huge amounts of manpower and resources just to keep it in place.

The first 120 days of the Trump administration will be unlike anything we've seen before in the history of the United States.  Worse, every country in the world is watching now with bemused horror as the US political machine has been exposed as a fraud, full of corruption and self-serving individuals.  What country is ever going to listen to the US demanding that it adopts the American form of democracy?

One parting note, especially to my liberal Democrat friends (but take heed my conservative Republican friends).  Many of you are posting on Facebook and other social media how ashamed you are of America right now or expressing your disgust at the sexist, racist, intolerant, ignorant masses that elected Mr. Trump.  I've got news for you, those people have always been there but you delude yourself into thinking everyone thinks like you do.  My challenge to you is, what are you going to do about it?  See if we keep running off to our idealistic little corners and to cry or celebrate, we are missing that fact that there are a whole bunch of people that don't agree with us but who are still Americans.

I didn't vote for Trump or Hillary.  I'm not a Trump fan but if we allow the results from last night to continue to divide us, far worse things are going to happen than any of us can imagine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Brand Loyalty

Tonight, the Cleveland Indians may win the World Series.  I'm not from Cleveland but it is always good to see any Ohio team making it to championship playoffs.  To me, it's a no-brainer to root for the Indians in the Series but to some Reds fans this is anathema since Cleveland is in the American League.  Therefore, goes their logic, we as Reds fans can only root for the National League.

I have never understood fans that are loyal to the "league" or "division".  According to their logic then, should Pittsburgh go to the Super Bowl, we as Cincinnati fans should root for our sworn enemy?  Nope, not gonna happen!

The same mentality though permeates politics and especially the Presidential election.  People are going to the polls next week, holding those nose and voting for the "party" because that's what you fall back on when you won't even look at the either candidate.  A week after the Indians may become the 2016 World Series champions we will have a new President.  The same mentality that causes Reds fans to root against the other Ohio team will be at work next week.

The bias transcends the unwashed masses (you know, those of us that don't work for the media) and I am convinced is influencing pollsters and journalists alike on both sides of the political spectrum.  Amidst all of the calls for not letting the other guy win, I came across a interesting analysis.  In 1980, then President Jimmy Carter was ahead in the polls over the "very dangerous" outlier Ronald Reagan.  The pundits at the time just could not see a way for someone as radical as Reagan ousting a sitting President.  But the polls failed to pick up on the resentment many Americans had for Carter.  Reagan would go on to win by a landslide.

The 1980 Presidential election was the same year I turned 18.  I can't remember one thing from either the Carter or Reagan campaigns but I can tell you why I voted for Reagan; it was in protest against Carter's handling of the Iranian hostage crisis.  Thinking about that some 36 years later, I wonder if we aren't seeing that same thing again especially now that the FBI has re-opened the investigation on Hillary.  Is there a seething resentment for her the the polls aren't showing?

No, I won't be glued to the TV next Tuesday.  More likely I'll be reading a book just to avoid all of the media hype and whining from people when their candidate, whether it be Trump or Hillary, starts losing.  I'm sure people will still text or call (do people still call each other?) to ask my opinion or commiserate about the elections.  I may need to stock up on some good bourbon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

When War is No Longer Dangerous

Imagine a war that has been going on for 15 years, it seems inconceivable that such a thing could even happen yet US forces have been doing exactly that.  How can this happen?  For that answer, we need to turn to George Orwell and his titular novel "1984" where the character Winston learns in "The Book' that if a war continues look enough, it is no longer perceived as dangerous.

Think how you felt on Sep 11, 2001 after watching the towers fall.  There was no one in the country who could stand against sending US forces after the people who sent the hijackers.  But 15 years and after countless casualties on both sides, do you still feel the same?

We no longer feel the same level of danger that we did back then.  The public has become numb to the never-ending deployments.  Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney (and continued by Mr. Obama) in their quest to privatize war hit on sustainable model by simply NOT asking the public to make sacrifices.  We honor the troops because they make the sacrifices and no one else has to.

But to feel no danger means to also feel no reason to build new weapons.  Some of us might start to ask uncomfortable questions like how many college degrees could have been paid for with the cost of the F-35 program?  Or just the price of the USS Zumwalt ($4 billion) could have been used to build a nationwide passenger rail system?

Thus to keep people from asking those kinds of questions we must be reminded of the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran, North Korea or Russia.  Dangers that can only be kept at bay by the latest technologically advanced weapons (which may or may not work as advertised).  The need to remind us of these dangers is especially important during the election cycle.  Hence the headlines letting us know that Russia MIGHT shoot down a US aircraft should a no-fly zone be imposed in Syria (and who started everything in Syria?).

Regardless of who gets into the White House, they will have to overcome the public laissez faire attitude towards war and danger.  Inciting racial tensions is good in the short-term to remind people of danger but it isn't sustainable and doesn't not buy more Zumwalts or F-35s.  ISIS has been kind of filling that role but again terrorism isn't sustainable way of creating a sense of danger.  For that, you need nuclear weapons.

Trump's foreign policy is unknown.  Forget stump speeches, we will only now for sure what he will do if he wins the election.  Hillary on that other hand has a track record of wanting to shutdown North Korea and then Iran's nuclear weapons programs.  Should she get elected, expected the nuclear threat to ramp up to full speed.  For that matter, don't be surprised to see nuclear civil defense drills to come back  into vogue under Hillary.

To be sure, there is danger out there but how much of that isn't due to the hardline stance taken by Hillary as the Secretary of State?  In order for her foreign policies to continue, she will need to continue the development and deployment of strategic weapons.  There is no money in peace and if there is one thing we know about Hillary she is about money.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Jill Stein: Hillary Clinton's Declared Syria Policy Could Start A Nuclear War

Historically, Third Party candidates have not gotten to even 10 percent in the polls.  Maybe it's time for that to change.  Jill Stein gets it…the real danger isn't a Trump in the White House.  The real danger is putting another Clinton in the White House;

'The wars have gotten bigger, we are now bombing seven countries.

It is important to not just look at the rhetoric but also look at the track record and the reality is the lesser people and greater people is a race to the bottom, and even Donald Trump in the right wing extremism grows out of the policies of the Clintons, in particular Nafta, which sent our jobs overseas and Wall Street deregulation, which blew 9 million jobs up into smoke.

That is what is creating this right wing extremism. A vote for Hillary Clinton isn't going to fix it...

It is now Hillary Clinton that wants to start an air war with Russia over Syria by calling for a no fly zone

Read more here;

Jill Stein: Hillary Clinton's Declared Syria Policy Could Start A Nuclear War

The headlines are full of disgusting stories about Trump but he is still a point or two ahead of Hillary.  Even the ones showing her ahead aren't showing her ahead by much.  People hate Trump but the secret the media is hiding is many more hate Hillary.  Forget her husband for a moment.  Forget her shenanigans while an attorney.  Hell even forget about her private email server.  Just consider that while Secretary of State, three major figures where killed…Osama bin Laden, Qaddafi and al-Awlaki (who was still an American citizen when he was killed).  Once Kerry became Secretary of State, not a single leader of major political figure has been terminated.  Don't think Hillary will start a nuclear war?  Then read this;

CIA Prepping Possible Cyber Strike Against Russia

'The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News."

Mr. Obama, along with the usual suspects of Jarrett and Rice, are setting the events in motion to allow Hillary (the presumed next President) to have just cause to launch an attack against Russia.  Mr, Putin sees what is about to happen and isn't going to be caught unprepared.  The article about the cyber strike isn't from some obscure site or overseas press, it is from NBC.  Yet, there are still many voters that will still vote for Hillary.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Better GOP

PR firms data-mine blogs relevant to their clients expertise and send out unsolicited emails to the blogger encouraging them to write about their clients or cause.  It comes as part of the territory, these invites to set-up interviews, especially during the silly season aka elections.  Our Congressman, Steve Stivers from the 15th District, sends out periodic emails to let us know what he is doing (truth in lending; Congressman Stivers and I met a few times when we both were officers in the Ohio National Guard).  His most recent email blast caught my attention, titled "Addressing the Growing Threat from North Korea" I quickly clicked on it.

Congressman Stiver's email summarized many of the recent acts of hostility committed by North Korea in the region and called for more US action to intervene in the future (presumably by the next administration).  There was a link within his summary to "" as well.

The link takes you to Speaker Ryan's website and under "national security", I found Ryan and the GOP's strategy listed:

- We must make it our top national security priority to prevail in the war against radical Islam.

- We must keep terrorists out of America, secure our borders, and stop cyber attacks.

- We must make sure our country is ready to tackle the threats of our time and beyond

- We must restore American influence, advance free enterprise, and expand the community of free nations

The 4 bullet points read like those mission statements everyone was writing for the company or organization back in the 1990s.  You know the ones, they went something like "A world class organization posed nimbly to rapidly respond to global changes in a dynamic environment with a well seasoned, diverse staff of experts ready to meet your needs".  Try fitting that on a business card!

The GOP "Better Way" strategy is much like those mission statements; an amalgamation of the latest buzzwords that really don't say anything.  Take for example goal number 1, "Defeat the Terrorists", we are admonished to make it a top national security priority to prevail in the war against radical Islam. It begs the question, so for the last 15 years we haven't?  Does this mean non-radical Islamic terrorists get aren't a top national security priority?

Perhaps the most frustrating part is Ryan's intellectual laziness in using the term "radical Islam".  I challenge you to find 5 people, experts of lay people, who can give you the same definition of radical Islam.  It is lazy since Ryan (and whoever wrote this for him) chose a sound-byte rather than a more workable definition.  Why even mention Islam?  A terrorists is a terrorist and if we only are concerned about the theological motivations we are going to be missing a more people who want to kill Americans.

In "Protecting the Homeland", Ryan and the GOP want to keep terrorists out of America.  To which you need to remind them, the terrorists are already here.  ISIS has been recruiting their operatives virtually from around the world.  They don't need to smuggle operatives in, they are already here.  Securing our borders really means the border with Mexico now doesn't it?  Why not say so and instead of building a wall or some other such nonsense, why not develop a strategy with the Mexican government to improve conditions for their own people?

"Tackle new threats" makes it sound like the Pentagon hasn't ever though of a new threat.  That's all students in the various war colleges are challenged to think about and write papers about.  And exactly how much of the taxpayers money is Mr. Ryan and his GOP friends will to spend on this?

"Defend our Freedom" and restore our influence.  Careful, this sounds suspiciously like empire-building but moreover, why?  Why should taxpayer dollars be spent on this?  What does "expand the community of free nations" mean exactly?  Those countries that are beholding the United States?

Each time I read through these, I get a little more upset.  Someone, or a group of someones, probably got paid handsomely for this tripe and it is passing as a national security platform.  Nowhere was North Korea and its nuclear weapons addressed.  Nowhere was Iran and its blossoming nuclear program addressed.  Nowhere was Russia and its increased paranoia towards the US addressed.  Nowhere was China's expansion in the Pacific Rim addressed.  Almost all of the bullets were about terrorism or trying to invoke Donald Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again".

If this is what the GOP is hanging their hats on in regards to national security, perhaps this is why none of their candidates were able to beat Trump.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A cautionary tale

Whenever people hear the term "mind control", they think of some dark and sinister government facility were people are programmed via drugs or other means.  What the average person doesn't understand our minds are controlled everyday.

Think about a stage magician.  He or she performs trick based on getting your mind to think something is going on that really isn't.  Or the street hustler running a game of Three-Card Monte, he gets you to think you have found the "lady"  All of these are examples of mind control that we see all of the time and none of it occurs inside some type of secret facility.

The media has been manipulating our minds by all of the sensational coverage of the elections.  Quite frankly, our election process may never recover.  Certainly the candidates bear much of the blame, however the media has set in the background and manipulated matters to an even more fevered pitch.  Doubt it?  Quick tell me if any African-Americans are on the ticket this year?  No?  Look up Ajamu Baraka, he is Jill Stein's running mate. (So Hillary isn't only woman running for office?)  Of course the media doesn't cover anyone else but the two party candidates these days.  Oh and for veterans, Baraka is the only veteran (US Army, Vietnam) running this year.

If you haven't already unfriended people on Facebook over the election (or have been unfriended yourself), then you may have had a few choice words for friends or colleagues who don't see things like you do.  Therapists have been reporting an uptick in the number of patients who are being stressed out by the election coverage.  Their advice?  Tune out!

But of course humans are drawn to sights of violence and destruction, just watch how people slow down to look at road accidents.  They will keep watching the election and getting more upset.

If they aren't upset about the election, then they are likely upset about the continued state of race relations in the US.  African Americans still have yet to get the issue of police shootings moved out of the soon-byte arena and into a meaningful forum.  Oh and just so you understand, there are as many whites being shot by police as blacks but the media doesn't cover those so if you are white, you don't feel the outrage that blacks do.

Or perhaps you are pissed off about the state of immigration.  You are convinced everyone of those immigrants illegally entering our country are terrorists or rapists (Keep in mind this is the mentality that led a certain nationalist party to power, one that we keep saying will never happen again).  Why do you or those you know feel that way?  Because the media goes out of their way to put "Muslim" or "Middle Eastern" in the headline of any terrorist attack or sensational rape case (especially if the victim is a white female).  No, I'm not denying the cases but I'm pointing out how we are being manipulated by how these headlines are written.

The NFL is losing viewers all because one quarterback refused to stand for the national anthem.  Some how or other, this became tantamount to high treason or at least flag burning.  Even with the trend now spreading to high school athletes, there has been no dialog about what the gesture is really about and people are in patriotic hysterics about how disrespectful his and the other athletes actions are towards fallen vets.  Really?  I've never heard one of these athletes saying anything disrespectful towards our troops or fallen vets yet the press remains silent and just lets the hatred and vitriol spread like cancer.

Now let's say you have managed not to follow the elections, live in an area where your community and the police get along, and have no interest in pro-sports.  But if you live in the Southeast or have friends or family that do, you are tracking Hurricane Matthew.  This powerhouse storm flattened Haiti (or what was left after the 2011 earthquake and the ensuing cholera epidemic) and is hitting the US.  Even the most kind-hearted, non-news following people will be checking in the storm's progress.

Going back to my original point, all of these headlines are being crafted to keep our minds away from some very frightening that is going on.  Russia has now pulled out of nuclear security pact with the US (and the US followed suit) saying relations with the US has deteriorated into "hostile actions".  Moscow sees a lamb duck president and a contentious election going on with neither candidate appearing to be very pro-Russia.  Many military experts say this along with "no-fly zones" in Syria means World War III (Russia is taking this seriously and has re-instituted civil defense drills).

Last nigh was the second presidential debate and it served to embolden people's opinions of their own candidate over the other, it did nothing to persuade people to look at the other candidate with fresh eyes.  Remember in the not too distant past, debates where an opportunity to learn something about the candidates policies or positions that you may not have known.  Instead, the debates are playing out like an episode of some sleazy reality show.

While we continue to hate each other for our presidential choices, Russia is not taking the time to wait for the election.  Mr. Putin and his advisors see things deteriorating within the US and thus its relationship with Russia.  Mr. Obama is a lamb duck president, he can't offer much to persuade Mr. Putin that the future will be just fine.  So Mr. Putin's latest is to move nuclear weapons next to Poland.  It is an aggressive move, one that shows how little faith Russia has in being able to negotiate with the US via diplomatic means.

Americans in general tend to forget that what happens here in the US concerns other nations as well.  How we treat each other is how we are likely to treat foreign nations in the event of a confrontation.  People running around saying things like "race relations have never been worse" makes other countries think we are on the verge of a race war or civil war. They aren't going to wait around to see what happens, countries like Russia are going to get ready now.  But the media has convinced the public that the far greater danger is from each other.

Monday, October 3, 2016

An open letter to TSA

Open Letter to TSA;

After traveling this weekend by air, my observations of TSA is things aren't getting any better for them.  The organization is still centered around preventing another 9/11 and as such, all of their methods and techniques revolve around that particular scenario.  The moral of a typical TSA screener is akin to a prisoner doing hard time.  Moral is not helped by the ridiculous testing standards and micromanagement that can get an agent written up for the smallest infractions.

In the last six months, I have been the TSA screening process at Columbus, San Antonio, Dayton and Jacksonville, FL.  Each time the experience was pretty much the same, search checked baggage for explosives.  Search carry-on bags for banned items.  Have passengers remove belts and shoes and go through full body scanner.  Move along, move along.  Hardly the stuff to recruit young, vibrant workers towards your agency!

In my admittedly small sample group, not once did any TSA employee engage passengers.  Everything was robotic, no conversation.  No smiles.  Just do as we say.  Everything spoken was done from rote and sounded like a recording instead of being uttered by a human.  Not a single TSA employee looked happy (by far the saddest ones are the lone TSA agents posted at the exit points.  It makes you ask yourself, "Who did you piss off to get stuck out here?"

The TSA approach of "guilty until proven innocent" stresses both passengers as well as employees.  It also causes TSA to miss opportunities to learn more about passenger behaviors.  I saw no one being friendly towards a TSA agent so the agents aren't friendly back.  Ask any cop, getting people to talk is an invaluable tool.  TSA could be getting so much more information but quite frankly, their approach sucks.

Few if any of the TSA agents make eye contact with passengers other than the BDOs (behavior detection officers) who stick out like sore thumbs because they are the only ones looking (more like glaring).  In most other countries, the role of the BDO is unobtrusive.  You will never know who is looking any everyone conduction the screening is engaged with the passengers.  Not because they are friendlier than TSA but because each one knows they could be the one to discover a vital indicator that the passenger is a threat.

TSA spends ridiculous amounts on technology and manpower.  It also adds ridiculous amounts of time to travel and causes delays in flights without any evidence to show that it was necessary in the first place.  TSA needs to seriously revamp itself.

First, get rid of the quasi-police looking uniforms.  TSA agents aren't law enforcement and shouldn't pretend to be.  Perhaps a polo shirt and cargo pants would be too informal but the current uniform creates an "us vs them" impression.  Second, stop looking just for explosives and start looking more for "tells".  Not everyone traveling is a threat so learn to look for those that are (can't figure that out?  I'd go ask the Israelis for a start).  Single those out for additional screenings and let the rest go through.  Third, and perhaps most importunely, GET OVER YOURSELVES!  Your grim determination is off-putting and ineffective at doing what your are supposed to be doing; making passengers feel safer!  Passengers are tired, stressed they may miss their flight, and many are traveling with small children or infirmed family members. They aren't in the best mood and really don't care for your grim, save-the-world attitude.  If however you learned how to be friendly, you would not only improve the gathering of information but your employees moral improve as well (don't know where to start?  Go talk to Disney.  They seem to have it figured out pretty well)

Screening should make us feel safer, not aid in turning travelers into anti-social hooligans.

Friday, September 30, 2016

"Creepy Clowns"

This is "Gags", the Green Bay, Wisconsin creepy clown first spotted back on August 1st of this year.  "Gags" seems to be the starting point for the "Creepy Clown" sightings that have swept through much of the United States.

North Carolina had a cluster of sightings, then South Carolina.  Sightings then began to pop up in California, Washington and Oregon.  Then we started to get them here in the Tri-State area.  (For readers not from this part of the world, the Tri-State area where Cincinnati is located is formed by the Southwest corner of Ohio, the Southeast corner of Indiana, and the northwest top corner of Kentucky).

First we started to have some random sightings out in the eastern side (which is suburbs but still a lot of farmland) and the northern suburbs.  Then sightings started about two weeks ago in Kentucky.  Given the time of year, it was easy to dismiss this as some kind of stupid fad going around.  Then things got interesting….

"We are coming to a town near you :) be one with us or be against us your choice not ours. Ohio, USA."--that is the byline on the "Clown Clan" twitter account that was opened just last week.  Local sheriffs and police departments have taken the threats seriously.  Then this morning we got this headline…

"Report of Reading woman attacked by clown closes schools" So now we have gone from amusing, albeit creepy, to now attacks and disruption to people's lives.  Simultaneous to the increase in "creepy clowns" the Tri-State area has seen a spike in threats being called in to local elementary and high schools.  Two weeks ago, one high school football game was cancelled due to a bomb threat.  All three of the local high schools out in Clinton county have been evacuated at least once over the past few weeks due to threats.

What is going on?  One clue may be that despite the rash of sightings of "creepy clowns", none of them have been run over, shot, stabbed or punched out.  It would indicate that there may not be as many "creepy clowns" in reality as the headlines may make us think.  People may be mistaken in what they see or simply panic when some stranger is following them.

None of the bomb threats have proven to be anything other than hoaxes so far.  The perpetrators of both the "creepy clowns" and making threats are looking for ways to be noticed and these two news stories are providing them great ways to get noticed.  

Paranoia combined with some mild hysteria in the 21st Century results in shutdowns.  It doesn't mean there isn't a threat, we just have to remain vigilant. One of these times, the "creepy clown" or school threat won't be a hoax.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why I didn't watch the debates

Given my hobby of writing about current events and national defense, it may come as a surprised that I didn't watch the debates last night.  In truth, I've don't recall ever watching any of the Presidential debates.  Being a great debater doesn't make you a good leader just as being a good leader doesn't make you a great debater.

Despite all of the vitriol being hurled by both candidates, and even more at each them, they have both managed to keep what they plan to do should they reach the White House opaque at best.  Immigration has become a major topic, especially after multiple bombing and mass shootings being committed by immigrants here in the US and abroad.  Other than that, the economy?  Maybe healthcare reform?

Sitting here this morning avoiding the deluge of social media and mainstream media posts about the debates, my mind turned to the military.  Fifteen years ago, the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 happened.  As a result, many men and women decided to join the US military.  For those that are still in, the means they have deployed at least 5 or more times over their 15 year career.

Not only have they have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times but many had to support operations in Libya and now Syria (as well as Iraq to fight ISIS).  Other troops have been busy trying to not start a war with China over contested islands.  Air defense pilots are constantly getting harassed by Russian planes flying near the ADIZ along Alaska and Hawaii.  Reports of Russian Navy vessels operating in the Gulf Mexico seem to have quieted down for now.

All of this has happened within the last 15 years with no down time for troops or equipment to be "refreshed".  When units from the Ohio Army and Air National Guard were first being sent over, it was a major event with whole communities coming together to support the troops and their families.  While that still happens, after 15 years ever has just become numb for there is no end in sight.  As I started to say, troops who joined as a result of 9/11 have around 5 more years before they hit 20 years of service (minimum time before becoming eligible to retire).  Those troops will see at least one more major deployment before they can retire.

Personnel are exhausted as deployments have now become as de rigueur as exercises were 25-30 years ago (except of course an exercise is not the same as combat).  Personnel are rated on their performance in combat zones but rather by their home station assignment, which of course they aren't there to perform.  Warriors are not as prized as Hollywood would make it appear because those heroes in combat aren't working for their home station commanders when they are doing all of that hero stuff.  And while the heroes are away doing what they do best, it's the ones that stay back home and get their tickets punched that get promoted.

You've seen the results without realizing it.  Increased numbers of accidents, especially with high performance aircraft.  Increased incidence of sexual assaults (which masks the increased number of plain old assaults).  Increased numbers of troops exiting the service early (that are not medically discharged).  Increased numbers of suicides.

The US military is tired and broke after 15 years of continuous war and neither of the windbags vying to sit in the White House has a damn plan to fix it.  So I didn't waste my time watching the debates, there was nothing new to be seen anyway.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Obesity in the Military

We make generals today on the basis of their ability to write a damned letter. Those kinds of men can’t get us ready for war.”--Chesty Puller, LtGen, USMC

I'm not sure when LtGen Puller made that quote but he was even more prescient than he may have realized.  The war on terror has lasted longer than any other war the US military yet it hasn't produced the kinds of leaders Chesty Puller was thinking of.  Instead, the latest generation of generals is nothing more than a bunch of consensus builders who rose through the ranks by not challenging convention.  Those that did ended being purged by the Obama administration, further keeping the herd culled of trouble makers like Puller would have been.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the USAF and its pursuit of "fit to fight".  Once the shooting started, the USAF wanted its men and women to be able to do the same things physically as the Army and Marine Corps.  So that USAF added push-ups and sit-ups to its physical fitness assessment starting in 2003 or so which was supposed to get its airmen in shape to fight terrorism.

Fair enough, dragging equipment out to the flight line and repairing aircraft in 120 degree requires a level of fitness beyond just being able to run 1.5 miles (the old USAF physical fitness standard).  The previous physical fitness standard in the USAF lacked a component to measure upper body strength and core strength but it did include height and weight standards.  Adding the push-ups and sit-ups was a much needed addition, however that wasn't enough for the data-driven future generals in the USAF.

USAF officers by a wide margin hold engineering degrees or at least technical degrees meaning they are predisposed to data and numbers.  Simply adding push-ups and sit-ups could not possible guarantee a process improvement that could be measured so some nameless officer (I truly don't know who otherwise they would be named here) decided the Body Mass Index (BMI) must be incorporated as well.

And that ladies and gentlemen is when the USAF truly went to hell.  BMI is derived from the height and body mass of a person.  The inclusion of the BMI was supposed to be that process improvement that the engineering types were looking for but instead, it has created a culture of witch-hunts for those who can't pass the BMI.

BMI has a major flaw in that it only looks at height and mass, it assumes all body types are the same.  Therefor if you have narrow shoulders and wide hips (as most women do), BMI will still show you as obese when you otherwise height and weight proportional and able to pass your physical fitness test.  For men it rewards those with thick necks and tiny waists, otherwise BMI will show most men, regardless of their level of physical fitness, to be "obese" and thus not fit to fight.

This is why the headline, "Military Obesity Rates Skyrocket", is both correct and misleading.  Obesity rates have skyrocketed as a result of the use of the BMI and why women and minorities in particular are challenged to make their tape.  Obesity rates are skyrocketing because of the generals, and those that want to be, embracing the BMI without regard to basic anatomy.

The USAF generals have run commanders and first sergeants into the ground about how well their unit does in their annual physical fitness assessments.  Forget the mission, we need to be lean mean fighting machines (even though most USAF jobs are located on a fixed based, requiring less physical stamina that those in the Army or Marine Corps).  This has created a culture of men and women that are constantly harassed about making their weight (in addition to stress associated with deploying and getting ready to deploy).

Without realizing it, the USAF has now become about looking good instead of doing good on your job.  The generals all look good and can write letters, just as Chesty Puller pointed out, yet they can't lead.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

New Cold War?

The following rant has been gestating in my mind for some time.  Events in the news make me even more convinced than ever of the truth of the fact the war is a racket.

Now I'm not the first to come to that conclusion, nor am I the first to use that term (Maj Gen Smedley Butler, USMC wrote a book by that title 81 years ago).  What MG Butler discovered after fighting in the Spanish American war was that military operations were not really about winning as much as they are about profits, profits which benefit only a small, secretive group hence his use of the term "racket".

Since then, matters have only gotten worse.  By the time the F-35 comes on-line with the Air Force, Navy and Marines the program will have cost $1trillion dollars!  How can such gross mishandling continue without some kind of intervention?  Easy, Lockheed Martin insured that the components of the F-35 were dispersed over 46 states.  Even Bernie Saunders is a supporter.

But what is a weapons system without a threat?  Hence the change in US relations with Russia and China (and now even Iran).  The F-35, it is argued, is needed to maintain air superiority against an revanchist Russia.  Of course those making those claims conveniently forget it was the US that called for expansion of NATO by adding pretty much all of the former Warsaw Pact nations.

Global Research did a pretty job of analyzing all of this as well.  Don't be fooled, neither Trump nor Hillary are going to change any of this as there is simply too much money to be made.  A new Cold War is just what the doctor ordered for creating jobs in districts of those politicians needed to pass key legislation.  Regardless of who wins the White House, they will still be beholding to the military-industial complex.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

DHS Eyes Special Declaration to take Over Elections

The Washington Examiner ran this story the other day, "DHS Eyes Special Declaration to Take Charge of Elections".  The tabloid nature of the news site should cause one to examine carefully what is being reported, however the main points of the story are still alarming.

As we have seen repeatedly during this election cycle, politicians and political parties are having their computers and accounts regularly hacked.  Back 2010, Wikileaks became infamous for releasing US State Department classified documents.  Our belief that our networks are secure is often times more myth than fact.

Heading into one of the most tumultuous Presidential elections in history, the potential to alter election results by some outside group is too tempting.  The US public is already at each other's throats over everything from who is running for President to whether or not an NFL quarterback should be fired over not standing for the national anthem.

For those who may have forgotten, if an attack were to alter elections results it would not be the first time the Presidential election process faced scandal.  Remember the hanging chads of the 2000 election in Florida?  As a result of that election, more electronic voting measures were adopted through the country, which means even more systems are vulnerable to a cyber attack.

Which brings up two very different issues about the Washington Examiner story, first of course is what if anything can be done to insure the 9,000 different voting districts are secure from attack?  The second is, should that responsibility be placed in the hands of DHS?

The election process of the US is run either by the state or county (as it is here in Ohio), not the federal government.  This is how it is framed in the US Constitution is gives us our republic form of government.  Changing that is way beyond the scope of the 60 plus days before the election and would represent a huge increase in the power of the federal government over the states.  Should a change happen, Washington then could null and void any election they deemed fraudulent.

Even if no changes were made to how elections are done, then the other major question is why DHS (which is really an amalgamation of 7 different federal agencies hurriedly slammed together after 9-11) suited to deal with this threat?  According to the article, there are 9,000 different voting districts in the US and there is only really 2 months left before the election.  DHS is hardly the most nimble federal agency and lacks the necessary manpower and equipment to take on such a huge task.

The dual-edged sword of the 21st Century is that technology flows information around globally, which requires networks to be open enough to allow that flow of information.  And that is all the hackers need to get in.

All of those voting districts are at the county level which already challenged dealing with preventing voter fraud.  To further challenge them to harden their systems against cyber attack (especially in 60 days) is beyond even the most affluent districts.  Compound that problem with the results having to be shared with the state board of elections (another point of vulnerability) and magnitude of the problem becomes apparent.

And this would be even if there wasn't such an emotional state surrounding the elections!  With tempers running hot, no one wants to see the other guy even get close to winning.  A few well placed cyber attacks to call into question the results and hell will be break lose.

Yes folks, we have a big problem but DHS is not the answer.

Update:  Since I posted this entry, US News published a very interesting article on what might happen should a candidate die.  Why this article is so interesting is it details how the electors of the Electoral College are not bound to vote according to their state's results.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Picture credit: NYDaily News

For some reason, this guy gets criticized, called names, told to leave the country by people who proudly wear this

Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, he is doing the very thing that we claim to celebrate in the United States…the right to protest that which we don't agree with.  Kaepernick isn't calling for violence or more shootings, he is merely using his status as an NFL quarterback to call attention to an issue that he feels very strongly about despite the potential of injury to his career, endorsement deals or even his own personal safety.  How more American can you get?

It shows you how narrow the view of "patriotism" has become in this country.  Anyone not fitting that "mom and apple pie" type of patriotism is subject to scorn and ridicule.  

Gabby Douglas is vilified for not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem, yet Ryan Lochte lies to authorities and ends up getting two other swimmers arrested but hardly a word is said about him.

As someone who proudly wore the uniform of the US military for 22 years and was in two wars, I respect my country and am a patriot but I do feel compelled to vilify someone for falling to cover their heart during the national anthem.  Anybody, including our nation's enemies, can stand and cover their heart during the national anthem so why get so bent out of shape when someone forgets to?

Obviously Kaepernick is sitting intentionally to bring attention to blacks being killed by cops.  For some reason, Kaepernick isn't allowed to protest in his own way an issue that is dividing this country.  For all of the supposed cop supporters, I have yet to see any calling for a dialog to de-escalate the situation.  

Critics point out that more blacks are killed by blacks than cops or that more whites are killed by cops.  But what does that have to do with the original issue, the one Kaepernick is protesting, that if you are black and encounter a police officer there is a much greater risk that the encounter will turn deadly than if you are white?  

I'm not taking sides on the BLM issue or cops, what I am taking a side on is the Kaepernick is doing the very thing that other "patriots" have done and celebrated for.  For that he gets called a "piece of shit" by pro-cop supporters and "patriots"?  

No, Colin Kaepernick is very much a patriot (despite not standing for the national anthem) and if you are too deaf to hear what he is really saying because you are too busy calling him names, then you are the very reason he has to keep sitting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

More nukes

The "information age" supposedly means that we have more access to information than ever before and coupled with high-speed WiFi, gigabytes of information can be had in seconds.  Yet, our attention spans are shorter than ever.  Most of the bandwidth in the this country is spent on streaming media such as movies/shows, sports or porn.  Given that, it may not be so surprising that most Americans have already forgotten that somewhere between 50-90 nuclear warheads could fall into the hands of ISIS.

US Nukes at Turkey Airbase Risk Falling Hands Terrorists

That headlines is from Newsweek, not some blog or fringe website.  Yet despite that, many Americans don't get that nuclear war maybe more likely that it ever was during the Cold War.  The Olympics, summer concerts, the riots in Milwaukee, or the latest celebrity scandal…take your pic.

The curious thing about the situation at Incirlik is the number of times I saw the term "B61 warhead" appearing in headlines.  I hadn't really heard or thought about this weapon since before I retired from the USAF nearly 10 years ago.  So why was this weapon suddenly appearing so much in the headlines?  I'm still working through that answer but in doing my research, I came across this headline...

US moves closer to production of 'smart' precision-guided nuke

Now the B61 should take on an even more significant spot in our national psyche as we continue to hold our noses over who we will vote for in the next election.  I've hear many critics point out that Trump's narcism makes him unstable and unpredictable, someone who should NOT have the ability to launch nuclear weapons.  Yet if you really get into the article, a precision guided nuclear weapon would be as equally tempting, if not more so, for Hillary.  She could easily justify the "greater good" of taking out a perceived threat with a surgical nuclei strike.

To complicate matters further, now Russia has not only based bombers in Iran but is using those to attack targets in Syria.

Syrian Conflict:  Russian bombers use Iran base for air strikes

While that means Syria is no longer enjoying a warm relationship with Russia, it also means that Hillary favorite for, Iran, now has mother Russia protecting its nuclear program.  Ah, and you thought those "smart" precision guide nukes were just for show!

Remember that the US military has been at war going on 15 years.  Troops are tired, equipment is worn out and needs to be replaced yet there is no money to do it so if the US were to get into some type of conflict with a nuclear power, smart precision guided nuclear weapons may become much palatable to use.

On and by the way, don't expect to be told the truth.  During the first Gulf War, a fuel-air-explosive was dropped on Iraq.  The explosion was so powerful the Russians swore the US had dropped a tactical nuclear weapon.  We hadn't but imagine in today's world…Hillary or Trump could easily claim that the explosion was due to some new conventional weapon and not a nuclear one.  And the media would play along.

So as Black Lives Matter scares black people of cops, and white people of black people, just remember…a nuclear war may just put all of those issues to rest.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

On decapitations and the status quo

Mr. Obama and his staff of intellectuals are pathologically against ever using terms such as "radical Islamist" or "Muslim terrorist" both because it is intellectually sloppy to use broad sweeping terms and because they still cling to the hope that matters can be settled through consensus.  It is the intellectual way to do things.

Even Mr. Bush was careful to never confuse the "war on terror" with a "war on Muslims".  Both Presidents realize that inciting a theologically based war would alienate millions and produce countless new groups bent on attacking the US and her allies.

But both Team Obama and Team Bush make a critical assumption that has been the bane of the West for the last several centuries; the Muslim world does not think in the same terms as the West.  Therefore, its citizens do not react in accordance with White House doctrine no matter how many think tanks and Ivy League scholars wish to tell them otherwise.

For despite the many number of attacks via suicide bomber and active shooter, the favored tactic for dispatching Western infidels is decapitation.  Daniel Pearl was one of the first people to be decapitated also was the first to be videotaped while being executed.  His case, and those that have since followed leading up to this week's decapitation of a French Catholic priest, should serve as proof that there is not going to be a peaceful consensus.

Decapitation derives from the Latin "caput" meaning head.  In the West, removing the head was for the most serious (capital) offenses.  The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS have all adopted this practice as a way of publicly decrying the seriousness of the offenses the West, and by extension Christianity, have inflicted upon them.  Washington DC may think by being polite and note using tens involving Islam or Muslim that are keeping things form getting personal.  Its a sham that isn't working and in my opinion is actually causing matters to escalate.

The terrorists are using decapitation to shock the public, when matter don't change, they look for more ways to increase the shock value.  I'm not sure how you get any more shocking than taking a priest and several nuns hostage during mass and then beheading the priest minutes later.

Young children and teenagers are seeing these images all over the Internet and are either becoming desensitized to the violence and/or sympathetic to the perpetrators.  The three-ring circus that we are still calling the Presidential election is not only alienating people from the political process, it may be encouraging isolated individuals to seek out other philosophies.

Last week, 19 people were killed in Japan by a lone individual armed with a knife.  In a country with a culture notoriously known for conformity, someone slipped right through the very system that was supposed to identify and help him.  If that can happen in Japan, it may already be too late for the US.  We no longer tolerate dissenting opinions, you have to be silenced and condemned for speaking out against the prevailing attitude.  This doesn't really change people, it just creates even more of a seething hatred for the majority.

England, France, Germany and Sweden have all had attacks perpetrated by immigrants.  Mr. Obama is not allowing any discussions linking increased immigrant populations to increased terrorist attacks.  Again he and his team appeared to be blind to the fact that immigrants are going to come here full of appreciation and love for the US.  Many will resent the West for creating chaos and destruction in their native lands and some, not all, may just want a little retribution.  To not recognize that possibility is just unrealistic and borderline irresponsible.

Hillary has yet to address this issue in any meaningful way and if she hopes to capture some hearts and minds of Republicans disillusioned with Trump, she need to do if you wants to be in the White House.  Trump's vitriolic tirades, unpolished and harsh though they may be, does address this issue which is why the Democratic party is left dumbfounded by his popularity.  This is not an endorsement of either candidate but rather to open some minds up to issues beyond egos and personalities.

Another major, brutal attack is going to happen because the US and Europe have done nothing to change the script.  Bombing the snot out of ISIS in Syria and Iraq does nothing about the threats already over here.  Whoever becomes the next President needs to have some better ideas.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Elections, Turks and Nukes

So much going on in the world right now.  The Republican National Convention managed to finish up lat week in Cleveland somehow without the Cuyahoga River being set on fire or more police being shot or more police shooting black people.  Well done Ohio, well done….

The Democratic National Convention may not fare as well, the DNC chairwoman had to summarily resign after emails were leaked showing she intentionally derailed Bernie Saunders.  Attendees all seem to hate Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary and her VP running Time Kaine with equal hatred.  Not a lot of love going on the city of "Brotherly Love".

Ok, now that my obligatory smart-ass remarks about realpolitik are out of the way, I'd like to look at our misbegotten NATO ally…Turkey.

Mr. Obama supported Mr. Erdogan, he of the recent military coup attempt, and are rewarded by the lock-down of Incirlik AB…including the 3,000 US airmen stationed there.  Now the plot gets murkier, initial reports were that the families of those airmen had been safely evacuated.  Oh not so fast there Hondo…brand newly minted CoS of the USAF, Gen David Goldfein, didn't have a lot of answers for some very angry family members who claimed their non-military family members had most assuredly NOT been evacuated from Incirlik!

Run-roh Reorge….now its bad enough the US military personnel and their families are trapped on Incirlik but now comes the other issue.  See the US and Turkey have had this unusual relationship for years.  In exchange for allowing the US to stage B61 thermonuclear devices at the base (which may or may not still currently reside there…don't know, ask your member of Congress), the White House and State Department have turned a blind eye to many of Turkey's decided non-NATO tendencies (like trying to wipe out the Kurdish people).

In exchange for staging our air campaigns (first against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, now ISIS and Syria) the US has provided Turkey with F-16s and other high tech weapons.

US intelligence apparently failed to detect the coup attempt in time to evacuate personnel from Incirlik.  Worse, the B61 devices can't just be loaded on to any aircraft, so by the time the coup had occurred it was already too late to remove the nuclear devices.

Ah but now things get even more interesting.  For you see the B61 thermonuclear devices are a legacy of the Cold War, their presence at Incirlik can never be confirmed or denied.  For doing so would have tipped the strategic scales in favor of Moscow and might have caused the Kremlin to increase the presence of their nuclear devices in the region.

So now the US is faced with a dilemma, confirming the presence or absence of thermonuclear devices at Incirlik will create some unknown response from Mr. Putin (who already has no respect for Mr. Obama and company).  To confirm presence means destabilization and increased presence of modernized Russian nuclear weapons in the region; to confirm absence means Russia has free reign to move around the region as they see fit and NATO basically loses its eastern flank.

The farce of our Presidential Election process has further emboldened our enemies.  Race relations are at their worst since segregation.  If you were an attacking force, it doesn't take much at all to foment more hatred and chaos in the US.  If a civil war of even a moderate size were to break out, consider it an open invitation to run amok.  They wouldn't need to even invade, just surreptitiously feed both sides with arms and supplies and sit back.

Maybe we are already in the Walking Dead…..