Snow shoes should work well on Mississippi mud flats
The disturbing events in Ferguson have focused attention on the militarization of America’s police forces. God knows, it’s worrying enough that the police begin to seem more like an army of occupation than agents of law enforcement.
New Orleans and Gulf Coast news site The Lens decided to have a look at just what kind of military kit Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish aquired.
Each county has received from the Defense Department’s 1033 Program since 2007:
Orleans Parish received:
Eight night-vision sniper scopes
20 snow camouflage parkas
A “rough terrain” forklift
40 “laser modules”
14 thermal sights
21 7.62 mm rifles and two 5.56 mm rifles
30 survival axes
Some of the equipment is more mundane, such as:
360 men’s scarves
Four data-entry computer mice
Nine folding chairs
One garbage can
A pair of pliers
Law enforcement in Jefferson Parish received:
Two 5.56 mm rifles and seven 7.62 mm rifles
A utility helicopter
A mine-resistant vehicle
Three bridge erection boats
A utility truck
A personnel carrier
Setting aside the questionable utility of a ‘mine-resistant vehicle’ in police work (how many mines and IEDs does a patrol officer encounter?), and the flat-out weirdness of ‘four data-entry computer mice’, ‘a pair of pliers’ and ‘one garbage can’, what really provokes that ‘what the fuck?’ moment is the ’20 snow camouflage parkas’.
Unless the police are planning to hide in the middle of a crowd of blindingly white people, these parkas aren’t going to be of much use in New Orleans. Between 1853 and 2008 it snowed in New Orleans on 55 days.
I can tell you from personal experience, most of those so-called snow days ended up melting on contact with funky pavement.
So, if you’re in New Orleans and are approached by a group of men dressed in snow camouflage parkas and carrying data-entry computer mice, folding chairs, a garbage can and a pair of pliers: get on your knees and put your hands behind your head, because they’re cops and cops are dangerous.
Mike also suggested you can see the military weapons, vehicles, and other equipment police in your area have acquired from the military. Searchable by state and county.
Political scientist James Doyle had spent almost 2 decades working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues when he decided to write a scholarly article questioning the dogma of nuclear deterrence. Suspecting that his bosses at the Department of Energy (DOE) weapons lab in New Mexico might not agree with his analysis, Doyle researched and wrote the article in his free time and included a disclaimer saying the views were his own. And just to be safe, he got a lab colleague steeped in classification reviews to vet the article before he submitted it to a journal.
The 27-page article—“Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?”—was published in the February-March 2013 issue of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. And that’s when Doyle’s professional life was suddenly turned upside down.
Within days of publication, congressional staff asked lab officials whether the article contained classified information. A week later, the head of the lab’s classification office decided that it did—a decision later backed by DOE. Doyle soon lost his top-level security clearance, and he says he became persona non grata among his co-workers after accusing lab officials of retaliation and impinging on his intellectual freedom. Those complaints were dismissed, and last week, after 17 years at the weapons lab, Doyle was laid off—the only victim within his 50-person group of what lab officials told him was a reduction in force due to budget cuts.
The reasons behind Doyle’s termination, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news service based in Washington, D.C., may never be clear. The lab’s official statement says “we do not publicly discuss the specifics of personnel matters. Likewise, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics surrounding security classification.”…
Many outside arms control specialists are skeptical and believe Doyle’s downfall is the result of his airing of views that are unpopular among those opposing disarmament, including some of the panel’s Republican leaders and staff…
Amid the murky circumstances, many nuclear security experts are sharply criticizing the lab’s actions. “It sends a chilling message not just to employees, but also those beyond the lab, that their ability to work on topics subject to classification could be restricted if they become too critical of policies that the lab holds dear,” says Frank von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton University. “It’s a very disturbing situation,” adds Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. “DOE leadership needs to reverse this decision.”
You thought the Cold War was over, eh?
RTFA for a long, detailed and truly knowledgeable article on the politics of working for an imperial government. The White House, Pentagon and cheerleaders in Congress are unified in their conviction that only might makes right. They continue in the belief that only the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation can bring peace to the world.
Our government, from the White House down through assorted bureaucrats, continues to pat themselves on the back solid in their belief that threatening the world with death and fire somehow was the motive force behind peace breaking out a couple decades ago. A peace that was destroyed as soon as Republicans were solidly in office backed by Neo-Con ideology.
So, one employee of the atomic death and destruction brigade writes a scholarly re-examination of our Nuclear Weapons Enterprise – and that constitutes sufficient threat that he must be terminated before he infects others with his freedom of thought.
Contemptible as ever. And still above criticism or oversight.
The government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.
The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11…
Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition…
Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve, accused the UK government of seeking to redact embarrassing information: “This shows that the UK government is attempting to censor the US Senate’s torture report. In plain English, it is a request to the US to keep Britain’s role in rendition out of the public domain.”
Lawyers representing a number of terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay believe their clients were rendered via Diego Garcia. Papers found in Libya indicated that the US planned to transport Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, and his wife via the territory, an atoll in the Indian Ocean leased by Britain to the US. The government has denied Belhaj was rendered via Diego Garcia, but there are suspicions that others were held on the atoll.
Crider said the UK’s attempts to lobby the US into redacting parts of the report “turns the government’s defence in the Libyan renditions case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife entirely on its head”…
“The government protested America would be angered if this kidnap case ever went to trial – and now we learn the British government is leaning on the Americans not to air Britain’s dirty laundry. It exposes their litigation stance as mere posturing,” she added.
Confirmation that a British territory was involved in extraordinary rendition could leave the government vulnerable to legal action. Last month the European court of human rights ruled that the Polish government actively assisted the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw detainees interrogated in secret prisons across the continent…
The judges concluded that not only was Poland “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [High Value Detainee] Programme on its territory”, but also “for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it”, prompting lawyers to ask what else it has been used for since.
The exposure of how far Tony Blair would go to maintain the UK as the United States’ 51st state will open that nation to more than embarrassment for their crimes. Criminal prosecution of the kind already historically required against the United States – should proceed against co-conspirators. Breaking treaties, abrogating human rights on a global scale should have consequences. Citizens of countries committing such crimes have a responsibility to speak out, to demand that the thugs in charge of government should bear the responsibility for those crimes.
Tony Blair and William Hague deserve prison time as much as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.
Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”
Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead — from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even “evil magic zombies” — and destroy them.
CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”
Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners … realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”
In other words, it’s about as realistic as the 50 times Congressional Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare.
A relic from the Cold War appears to have triggered a software glitch at a major air traffic control center in California Wednesday that led to delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights across the country…
On Wednesday at about 2 p.m., according to sources, a U-2 spy plane, the same type of aircraft that flew high-altitude spy missions over Russia 50 years ago, passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, Calif. The L.A. Center handles landings and departures at the region’s major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas.
The computers at the L.A. Center are programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other. The U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, but the computers were attempting to keep it from colliding with planes that were actually miles beneath it.
Though the exact technical causes are not known, the spy plane’s altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed.
As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration had to stop accepting flights into airspace managed by the L.A. Center, issuing a nationwide ground stop that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers…
“FAA technical specialists resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem on Wednesday, and the FAA has put in place mitigation measures as engineers complete development of software changes,” said the agency in a statement. “The FAA will fully analyze the event to resolve any underlying issues that contributed to the incident and prevent a reoccurrence.”
In other words, our crap air traffic control software couldn’t understand a problem we generated 50 years ago with old-style technology used to spy on folks. Using it over the West Coast this week.
Sources told NBC News that the plane was a U-2 with a Defense Department flight plan. “It was a ‘Dragon Lady,’” said one source, using the nickname for the plane. Edwards Air Force Base is 30 miles north of the L.A. Center. Both Edwards and NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, which is located at Edwards, have been known to host U-2s and similar, successor aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force is still flying U-2s, but plans to retire them within the next few years.
Uh, the CIA is also still flying U-2s.
This is what the US used for spying on other countries before we caught onto the Soviet Union’s idea of using eye-in-the-sky satellites. The plane’s “operational ceiling” is 70,000 feet. FAA software probably doesn’t normally concern itself with planes flying at that altitude since civilian craft have an operational ceiling well below that.
The computer dicho still rules. Garbage in = garbage out.
Most recently – September 2013 – The Flight Deck Automation Working Group concluded that modern flight path management systems create new challenges that can lead to errors. Uh, yup.
Thanks, Uncle Dave
Like the Olympics and leap year, the Quadrennial Defense Review comes at us every four years. A big-picture look by the US military at the threats they see out there, the QDR [.pdf] is a broad document, but you can read in it just how big the military thinks its mission is (global dominance, really). As part of that mission, the military tries to find a way to reduce the threats it sees, but what do you do about dirty air that we all create? You can’t go and bomb the highways to stop the cars from polluting.
The QDR is a straight shooter when it comes to climate change. It warns of devastation to “homes, land, and infrastructure” thanks to climate change, as well as threats to water and food supplies. The QDR says:
Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. … The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.
Note the complete lack of political equivocating. Climate change is a serious problem, the Pentagon says. That’s a refreshing change from most of what comes out of DC, but it is awfully similar to what the QDR said in the 2010 version.
There is no mention of bombing highways, but the QDR does say the Department of Defense, “will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change.” As we’ve seen in the past, the DoD has expressed an interest in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, but those purchases may have been made for more financial reasons. As clear as the DoD is on the affects of climate change, it is also familiar with paying up to $400 for a gallon of gas in certain situations, so any reduction in fuel use can be good for the air and the defense budget.
We can expect this to have the same effect on Congress as acid rain rolling off a Confederate tin roof. Tea Bag Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats dedicate about as much time to sound science as the average drug dealer does to reading up on the dangers of hydrocodone.
Still – this is another tool for the oh-so-slowly expanding number of courageous progressive voices who’ve managed to tuck into some corner of elected officialdom. Who knows? One of these days a significant number of Americans may wander into the pages, page-views or news segments that make it onto cable TV or a corner of the Web that actually considers science of more use than a rain dance in Tucson. They may even be old enough to vote and living in a state where that is still permitted.
The Pentagon said on Monday it would shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 spending caps, setting up an election-year fight with the Congress over national defense priorities.
The pre-War Army was less than 270,000. The Sequester brings current levels down to about 450,000. Hegel actually wants more than that.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, previewing the Pentagon’s ideas on how to adapt to government belt-tightening, said the defense budget due out next week would be the first to look beyond 13 years of conflict, shifting away from long-term ground wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
He cautioned, however, that the country needed to be clear-eyed about the risks posed by lower budget levels, which would challenge the Pentagon to field a smaller yet well-trained force that could cope with any adversary, but might not be able to respond simultaneously to multiple conflicts…
Defense analysts said the budget priorities sketched out by Hagel would begin to move the Pentagon in the right direction on issues like military compensation reform and eliminating waste but could have difficulty winning support from lawmakers facing mid-term elections to Congress…
Representative Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it would be “foolish” to change military benefits before a report on the issue next year, while Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon would have “heavy challenge” convincing lawmakers to retire the A-10 fleet.
Hagel said the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers. The Army is currently about 520,000 soldiers and had been planning to draw down to about 490,000 in the coming year.
A reduction to 450,000 would be the Army’s smallest size since 1940, before the United States entered World War Two, when it counted a troop strength of 267,767, according to Army figures. The Army’s previous post-World War Two low was 479,426 in 1999…
Despite a congressional rebuff of Pentagon efforts to reform personnel costs in recent years, the defense chief announced a series of new steps to try to curb military and civilian personnel spending, which now makes up about half its budget.
Hagel said the department would seek a 1 percent raise in pay for military personnel but would slow the growth of tax-free housing allowances, reduce the annual subsidy for military commissaries and reform the TRICARE health insurance program for military family members and retirees.
Let the farce be with you! Political hacks representing everyone you can think of who profits from military expenditures will be howling like monkeys in heat. Either road, Hagel is actually asking for an increase of $151 billion over sequester limits over the next five years. Just cuts in the proportion spent on some Air Force hardware.
In a bullshit ploy worthy of Ronald Reagan, Obama and Hagel put forth a budget calling for increases above sequester levels – and call it “Deep Cuts”. Mass media from newspapers to local TV stations quote this crap as if it was something more than a PR release. Over the past 50 years, the actual drawdown in military size after one of our imperial wars has been negligible.
Here’s another easy way to cut expenses, folks. Bring our troops home. We have over 750 bases in more than 150 countries doing exactly nothing except making it clear to them furriners we are the cops of the world. A soldier inside the United States costs taxpayers half of what it costs to support one on the other side of the world.
Of course, that means having a Department of defense actually concerned with defense – instead of being enforcers for American foreign policy.
The hijacking of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 airliner on 17 February has seen the Swiss Air Force subject to widespread ridicule as it was unable to respond due to the incident occurring ‘outside of office hours’, international media has reported.
With Swiss Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Northrop F-5 Tiger II fighters being unavailable due to the timing of the incident at 4am on Monday morning, Italian Eurofighter Typhoon and French Mirage 2000 jets, which had earlier intercepted the airliner as it passed through their respective airspaces were forced to remain on station as the Ethopian Airlines co-pilot diverted his aircraft to Geneva Airport.
“Switzerland [could not] intervene because its air bases are closed at night and on the weekend … It’s a question of budget and staffing,” Swiss Air Force spokesperson Laurent Savary was quoted as telling the AFP…
…The hijacking brings into focus the lack of resources available to the country’s air force at a time when it is looking to procure 22 new Gripen E fighters from Saab.
A national referendum into that procurement is due to go ahead on 18 May, and the air force’s embarrassment at its seeming inability to carry out its core mission to safeguard the national airspace could hardly have come at a worse time. With the government looking to convince the Swiss people of the need to spend US$3.5 billion on new fighter aircraft, many in Switzerland and beyond will be questioning whether that money might be better spent in properly funding the assets it already has.
Or they could spend the money developing a few more resorts to provide income and employment for the few not already making a living off 19th Century idiots who attach more importance to war and belligerence than peacefully going their own way.
Look at the circular reasoning in this event: The co-pilot wanted asylum. He waited till the pilot was off taking a pee and locked him out. Because the whole world has to change procedures because of 9-11 in the US, the air marshall on board [remember 9-11] and the pilot couldn’t break in through the new specially reinforced cockpit door [remember 9-11]. Why were fighter jets from France and Italy scrambled to follow the hijacked plane in to the Swiss border – remember 9-11 and be ready to shoot down the airliner if it looks ready to crash into something.
Multiply that by the thousands of commercial aircraft in the air at any minute around the world.
The Swiss don’t belong to NATO, don’t belong to the military forces of the EU and haven’t invaded another European country since Hector was a pup…BTW. They’re not worried about being invaded except during normal working hours.
Afghan Air Force [sic] Mi-17s
After almost four years of allegations that two related helicopter companies in Lithuania and Russia were doing substandard work and should be banned from new contracts, the Pentagon continued to give them business, according to interviews and documents seen by Reuters.
As recently as last month, an Army planning document shows, the service was weighing contracting helicopter overhauls from the firms, which have been the subject of multiple internal warnings and two Defense Department Inspector General reports…
The Pentagon has been working with Lithuanian company Aviabaltika and a sister Russian firm, the St. Petersburg Aircraft Repair Company (SPARC), for more than a decade to buy spare parts and overhaul Russian Mi-17 helicopters.
Pentagon officials say the Mi-17 helicopters are crucial to the ability of the Afghanistan military to conduct counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics mission as U.S. troops leave, since local pilots have a long history with the rugged aircraft. They have also been supplied to U.S. allies Pakistan and Iraq.
Criticism of the two companies, which are run by the same person and described as a single entity, AVB/SPARC, in Pentagon documents, grew in recent months while the Army continues a review of allegations of overcharging, blocked access to outside quality inspectors and improper advance payments…
The scrutiny of AVB/SPARC comes amid a broader backlash against the Army’s more than $1 billion Mi-17 program. Congressional and human rights critics say the program has put the Pentagon in bed with questionable business partners, and they are pressuring the Obama administration to wind it down.
RTFA for all the gory details. In an honest business environment – as scarce as that may seem in headlines about the US economy – these creepy firms might be on the block for sale as scrap and salvage. In practice, most public companies in the United States had better be on the straight and narrow for – even though conservative politicians try like hell to reinvent the mythical Free Market of the 19th Century – oversight and regulation still exists in sufficient enough form to catch a portion of the crooks in business.
Admittedly, the honesty patrol has a harder time with the US government and the Pentagon in particular; but, then, that’s what this investigative piece is all about, eh?
Behind the Pentagon’s doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste
For two decades, the U.S. military has been unable to submit to an audit, flouting federal law and concealing waste and fraud totaling billions of dollars
Linda Woodford spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.
Every month until she retired in 2011, she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.
And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. “A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate,” Woodford says. “We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.”
The data flooded in just two days before deadline. As the clock ticked down, Woodford says, staff were able to resolve a lot of the false entries through hurried calls and emails to Navy personnel, but many mystery numbers remained. For those, Woodford and her colleagues were told by superiors to take “unsubstantiated change actions” – in other words, enter false numbers, commonly called “plugs,” to make the Navy’s totals match the Treasury’s…
After the monthly reports were sent to Treasury, the accountants continued to seek accurate information to correct the entries. In some instances, they succeeded. In others, they didn’t, and the unresolved numbers stood on the books.
Read it and weep, folks! The Pentagon realized decades ago that they are untouchable. When the War Department became the Defense Department, after the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about completed their triumph over Congress and the White House – the official religion of the United States put on a uniform and required focus only on “our brave defenders” and not the profiteers whose invoices and charges remained unchallenged in perpetuity.
Why mandate accountability at the consumption end when there is little or none at the production and profit end? We hear the rare voice lifted by some poor shlub in the Pentagon that they really don’t need 1500 more gold-plated toilet seats at $6000 apiece. Immediately followed by three political hacks in Congress screaming blue murder that 47 constituents in their home district will have to look for work elsewhere if this is allowed. And that is sufficient to put a halt to the idea.
It’s a long, detailed verifiable article. A worthwhile read. One that will anger you sufficiently – I hope – to holler at your elected Congress-critters and demand action. At a minimum.
It is nice to see BTW that although I fear the Thompson cartel’s purchase of Reuters is trying to steer news-gathering down the primrose path of conservative ideology, they haven’t yet succeeded in crushing the tradition of honest investigative reporting.