New Mexico governor yanks National Guard from the border


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❝ Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Tuesday ordered the withdrawal of most New Mexico National Guard troops assigned to the state’s southern border.

Lujan Grisham said some troops would remain in the southwest part of the state to provide humanitarian aid assistance for migrants and asylum-seekers who have arrived in recent weeks.

❝ “I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country,” said Lujan Grisham in a statement Tuesday. “However, I recognize and appreciate the legitimate concerns of residents and officials in southwestern New Mexico, particularly Hidalgo County, who have asked for our assistance, as migrants and asylum-seekers continue to appear at their doorstep.”

❝ In addition to withdrawing the majority of troops, the governor asked Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wisconsin to pull out their troops who were ordered to the border by President Trump in October.

Maybe the national Democratic Party should ask NM Dems how to run a campaign against Republicans who kiss Trump’s sacred butt. They performed in mediocre fashion the last 8 years. Got Liberal/Progressive religion and backed Michelle Lujan Grisham against a Republican who brought in Trump and ran out a platform slightly to the Right of Attila the Hun. MLG won!

The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

National Guard [with helicopter], State Police, raid 81-year-old’s backyard to seize one pot plant

Margaret Holcomb and her son Tim Holcomb stand where Margaret's marijuana plant was seized the other day from her backyard in Amherst.
The scene of the crimeAndrew Whitaker/Gazette Staff

❝ All that remains of the solitary marijuana plant an 81-year-old grandmother had been growing behind her South Amherst home is a stump and a ragged hole in the ground.

Margaret Holcomb said she was growing the plant as medicine, a way to ease arthritis and glaucoma and help her sleep at night. Tucked away in a raspberry patch and separated by a fence from any neighbors, the plant was nearly ready for harvest when a military-style helicopter and police descended on Sept. 21.

In a joint raid, the Massachusetts National Guard and State Police entered her yard and cut down the solitary plant in what her son, Tim Holcomb, said was a “pretty shocking” action — one that he argues constitutes unlawful surveillance and illegal search and seizure…

❝ Holcomb said he was told that as long as he did not demand that a warrant be provided to enter the property or otherwise escalate the situation, authorities would file no criminal charges.

“’We just want the illegal contraband,’” Holcomb recalled the officer saying…

❝ Such enforcement actions have become commonplace since the 2012 law that made medical marijuana legal in Massachusetts, according to Northampton attorney Michael Cutler.

“The exact same stuff happened last year,” said Cutler, who specializes in helping clients understand the state’s medical marijuana law and recently participated in drafting the language of the Nov. 8 ballot initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Looks to me the coppers and other nasties are trying to get in their last licks before democracy takes hold and takes away their toys on November 8th.

RTFA for all the police state details as the guardians of the galaxy moved through the region confiscating a grand total of 44 pot plants in three towns that day. Golly!

Minnesota declares state of emergency over bird flu outbreak

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency over a bird flu outbreak that has killed more than 2.5 million turkeys in Minnesota and has for the first time this week stricken a Minnesota chicken farm.

The governor’s order activates an emergency operations plan to support the state’s response to the epidemic. It also calls for National Guard personnel to be ordered to duty as needed, but the governor is not calling up troops.

He’s now called up the National Guard as support for the whole operation – especially providing water tankers for the foam spray used to kill the birds.

Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producer, and 45 commercial farms have now been hit by the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus, including one more announced Thursday. Also, the first Minnesota outbreak in a “back yard flock” of poultry — 151 birds — was reported Thursday in Pipestone County.

And a farmer in northwestern Minnesota said Thursday that his egg-laying operation with 300,000 chickens has been stung by the flu.

“This is a moving target, and the number of farms affected has continued to increase,” Dayton said. “We don’t know what the ceiling will be.”

Dayton said the order will tighten lines of authority in state and local government and allow his office to properly coordinate planning between the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management…

The bird flu poses a low risk to human health and the H5N2 strain currently spreading across North America has not caused any illnesses in people. The 140 people in Minnesota who have worked directly with sick birds have been monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. None has tested positive for bird flu.

State officials reiterated Thursday that the bird flu is not a food safety risk either. Sickened birds are destroyed, and turkey shipments are tested, said Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture. “The poultry on grocery store shelves is safe and will continue to be safe…”

The bird flu has appeared in 16 states, including striking a 3.8 million hen farm in northern Iowa — the largest single outbreak nationwide — and two more egg-laying operations in Wisconsin, which has also declared a state of emergency. Now, Minnesota’s egg industry, the eighth largest in the nation, has become a victim.

Still, pretty scary. Most farmers rely on composting the dead birds to rid infection dangers while providing some cost relief. None are allowed to restock their farms until they can prove the virus is absent.

Generals made money on the side from the Iraq war!

More than 1,200 people are under investigation for a US military recruitment fraud during the Iraq war, officials say.

Two generals and dozens of colonels are implicated in the alleged scheme, in which referral fees were illegally collected for recruiting soldiers.

The fraud is said to have already cost the US government at least $29m (£17.7m) and may top $100m in total…

The National Guard programme – established in 2005 and later expanded to the Army and Army Reserve – paid soldiers, civilians and retirees $2,000 to $7,500 to recruit friends and family…

According to investigators, numerous schemes were used to defraud under the programme, which saw the Army pay out more than $300m for 130,000 recruits during the Iraq war.

High school principals and guidance counsellors were said to have accepted money for recruiting students who they knew were already planning to join the US military.

Other recruiters illegally accepted bonuses after forcing subordinates to register as recruiting assistants, before substituting their own bank account information.

More than 700 recruiters and 200 military officers are under investigation, and several former recruiters and soldiers have been indicted on federal charges.

“Clearly, we’re talking about one of the largest criminal investigations in the history of the Army,” financial oversight subcommittee chair Senator Claire McCaskill told USA Today.

“This is discouraging and depressing,” she added. “[It] is just a mess from top to bottom.”

It is kind of silly to expect more honesty from our military than we ever got from Congress or the Bush White House. Lying for profit was an established part of daily business – whether we look at Dick Cheney and Halliburton Industries or National Guard officers and the “recruits” they sent to Iraq. Only the size of the fraud is different.

And we actually arrest generals.

What does growing pot in New Mexico have to do with the NSA?

pot chopper

Fourteen marijuana plants and seven years later, a New Mexico high court has overturned a lower court opinion and ruled that a police helicopter search operation in rural Taos County was illegal and unconstitutional.

The subject of that search, who said he had the 14 plants for personal use to smoke to alleviate physical ailments, was elated when contacted on Friday.

“It has been a lesson in the slow progress of the legal system … I’m happy that justice was served,” said Norman Davis, now 78.

Davis’ home was one of several checked out during a 2006 operation dubbed “Operation Yerba Buena” – a joint State Police, National Guard, and state Game and Fish effort that was targeting marijuana plantations in the sparsely populated Carson area…

Davis had his privacy jarred when, on a summer day as he was sitting on his sofa and feeling a bit out of sorts, he “heard this helicopter overhead.

“It was loud. Very loud,” Davis said at the time. “And I looked out the window and see these guys hovering over me.” The drug raid by the New Mexico State Police, using National Guard helicopters, involved six or seven officers armed with semiautomatic weapons and at least five police vehicles…

Continue reading

American military marches openly in San Diego’s Gay Pride parade


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

About 200 active-duty troops and veterans wearing T-shirts advertising their branch of service marched Saturday in San Diego’s gay pride parade with American flags and rainbow banners, marking what is believed to be the first time a military contingent has participated in such an event in the U.S.

Many of the active-duty troops said they were moved to come out because it is time to end the military’s ban on openly gay troops. The march comes a day after a federal appeals court reinstated “don’t ask, don’t tell” but with a caveat that prevents the government from investigating or penalizing anyone who is openly gay.

National Guard member Nichole Herrera, 31, said she didn’t think twice about marching, even though the policy is back on the books. She said she was “choked up” several times as she walked down a main thoroughfare in San Diego, a major Navy port.

“This is one of the proudest days in my life. It’s time for it (the policy) to be gone,” Herrera said. “I’m a soldier no matter what, regardless of my sexual orientation.”

The crowd roared as the group waving military flags and holding placards identifying their military branch walked past the thousands.

Every branch of service was represented Saturday, including the Coast Guard. Marines and sailors ran out carrying their branch’s flags over their heads. One Marine stopped to pose with two towering bikini-clad blondes in stiletto-heeled boots.

Onlookers stepped into the parade route to salute them.

Bravo! The salute is overdue. Wish my cousin Billy was alive to see the Navy allow him public pride.

Robert Gates ends Bush’s abusive stop loss policy


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

From nearly the beginning of his tenure as secretary of defense, Robert Gates set his sights on ending a controversial practice in the U.S. Army known as “stop loss.” Wednesday he announced he’s done it.

“There are no Army soldiers stop-lossed,” Gates announced at a Senate hearing.

“Stop loss” is the Pentagon’s policy of forcing some service members to stay in uniform beyond the date they expected to leave the service.

It’s used during times when the Pentagon needs as many troops as possible, such as at the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

As far back as 2007, just months after taking over as defense secretary, Gates said about stop loss: “It is an issue. It troubles me. And I think it is a strain. ”

But he couldn’t eliminate it because tens of thousands of soldiers, many of them experienced sergeants, would have left the Army if not for stop loss. But in March of 2009, he announced that the practice would be phased out by 2011.

And according to an Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Timothy Beninato, as of May 31 there are no more soldiers under stop loss, except for approximately 131 who were previously stop-lossed and are now hospitalized or receiving rehabilitation resulting from wounds or illness incurred while on duty in “a hostile fire” area…

All told, about 120,000 soldiers have been subjected to stop loss orders, the Pentagon says. Under federal law, each of them is entitled to $500 for each month they were stop-lossed…

If you’re a veteran who can lay claim as one of those held captive in the military under the stop loss rule, you can file a claim online at www.defense.gov/stoploss.

And thank you for service above and beyond the contract your government originally made with you.

Hacker selling access to military, government websites

Ever dreamt of controlling a dot-gov or dot-edu? A hacker is selling access to dozens of military, government, and university Websites for $55-499 a piece.

Discovered by security firm Imperva, the hacker advertises varying fees, services, and proofs for cracking into .mil, .gov, and .edu sites around the world.

The priciest, access to the homepage of the U.S. Army, National Guard, and Army Forces, goes for $499 each, followed by access of university and governmental Websites. You’ll also find passes to the Italian Official Government Website for $99 or a Taiwanese educational center for $88…

Brian Krebs of Krebson Security said he saw the back-end evidence of the hacks and found them legit.

“Amid all of the media and public fascination with threats like Stuxnet and weighty terms such as “cyberwar,” it’s easy to overlook the more humdrum and persistent security threats, such as Web site vulnerabilities. But none of these distractions should excuse U.S. military leaders from making sure their Websites aren’t trivially hackable by script kiddies,” he wrote on his blog.

You wonder if the official webmanagers of all these sites even keep up-to-date with the world of patches?

Troops confined to quarters for skipping Evangelical concert


Gee, I wonder if they sang this one at the concert?

The Army said it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.

Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps. “My whole issue was I don’t need to be preached at,” Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. “That’s not what I signed up for.”

Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.”

Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.

“Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment…”

Smith said he and the other soldiers were told not to use their cell phones or personal computers and ordered to clean up the barracks.

About 20 of the men, including several Muslims, refused to attend the concert based on their religious beliefs, he said.

The Christian evangelical proselytizing theme clings like stink to many American military bases – especially those in the Bible Belt. Often introduced by a small cadre of over-the-top fundamentalist officers linking throughout our wonderful worldwide network of military enclaves.

It’s something folks haven’t had to report on, blog about, complain about as much since the religious glory days of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld; but, nonetheless persistent and pernicious. The only humorous bit being officer types who should know that “the book” – in the military sense – always takes precedence over their holy roller guidebook.