Monday, April 29, 2013

Location, location, location

How the hell did I manage to miss out on the cash bonanza opportunity in civil government in Afghanistan?
"For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader."
I was assured that the Nigerian oil minister gig was a dead-solid moneymaker, better than Amway, even.

Man, I have GOT to give my financial advisor a piece of my mind...I feel like I missed Microsoft at $1.28 a share.

Anybody here know where I can learn Dari in six weeks and find a marriagable Karzai niece..?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Terrorism Abroad

In case you were taking a break from domestic news and wondering who's killing innocent people overseas, well, in Bangladesh it's mostly the people working for Bennetton, the Gap, and J.C. Penney;
"The plan would ditch government inspections, which are infrequent and easily subverted by corruption, and establish an independent inspectorate to oversee all factories in Bangladesh, with powers to shut down unsafe facilities as part of a legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers and unions. The inspections would be funded by contributions from the companies of up to $500,000 per year.

The proposal was presented at a 2011 meeting in Dhaka attended by more than a dozen of the world's largest clothing brands and retailers — including Wal-Mart, Gap and Swedish clothing giant H&M — but was rejected by the companies because it would be legally binding and costly.

At the time, Wal-Mart's representative told the meeting it was "not financially feasible ... to make such investments," according to minutes of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press."
Well, I, for one, am glad that our corporate "citizens" are not knuckling under to the tyranny of those irresponsible Bengalis who seem to hold the misguided belief that things like workplaces that don't collapse or catch fire are some sort of "right" rather than a privilege of being in a Free Market.

I'd have more to say but there's a terrific sale today down at Wal-Mart, and I have got to pick up a pair of Levis; always low prices there, y'know?


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Domestic Terrorism

We spent the past week - both on the air and here at MilPub - talking about a couple of mooks who attacked the Boston Marathon and got all of us in a swivet.

But we said nothing about these guys:
"The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there."
Had the Tsarnaev Bros had 270 tons of ammonium nitrate we wouldn't be talking about Copley Square, we'd be talking about Copley Crater.

The federal government is now claiming the right to prosecute the Boston bombers, and all over the Internet we're hearing calls for greater "security" and the threat of Muslim Extremists.

And yet the guy whose outfit managed to rack up the highest body count last week is "...proud to be associated with West Church of Christ"

We want to talk about terrorism and security and religious fervor and foreign policy. That's sexy.

Regulatory capture, lax zoning, piss-poor industrial safety, sloppy manufacturers and careless owners and look-the-other-way inspectors?

Not so much.

Y'gotta wonder at the hairless monkey sometimes. We seem to revel in straining at gnats while gulping camels without so much as a hiccup.

Maybe if some relentless reporter proves that Mister Adair is a secret jihadi, though..?

Update 4/24: And it should go without saying that the sort of slippery incompetence (or malicious carelessness, or out-and-out devious malfeasance) is unsustainable without a slippery, incompetent, careless (or malicious) media.

When almost none of the news stories about this mess emphasizes that probably 95% of the blame for the high casualty count is because nobody on the scene knew that this plant was storing tons of ammonium nitrate because the plant owners and managers did not comply even with the relatively benign level of regulation that requires reporting this highly explosive material to emergency response and disaster management agencies the effect is to remove public scrutiny from those owners and managers.

Even with that previous level of fail had the plant manager managed to grab the sleeve of the first firefighter through the gate and shouted "There's tons of goddamn AN in here - forget fighting it! Start evacuating everybody within a mile of this place!" the people of West, Texas might have been saved a lot of grief. But because of panic, or incompetence, or cowardice, nobody did that.

And the reportage has largely skipped over that, too, leaving uninformed observers (meaning 99.5% of the U.S. public) to assume that this sort of stuff "just happens", that it was some sort of natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake and not the acts of a handful of men whose motivations remain unexamined and whose culpability will likely remain undivulged.

Update 4/25: It gets worse: "He said firefighters prepared to set up a stream of water on the tanks to keep them from overheating and rupturing, but they discovered there was no water left in the hydrants to spray." It's difficult to determine whether these hydrants - which were probably within the plant itself - were on public or private water lines, but regardless of who was supposed to maintain them it appears that they were in an unserviceable condition at the time of the explosion or were constructed so as to be vulnerable to damage FROM the explosion (not something you'd normally want in a facility planned explosive materials.

The cause of this explosion is still being investigated; apparently four tanks filled with ammonia did not rupture, and a separate tank car loaded with AN was knocked over but also didn't explode.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scouts out!

On the subject of Boston yesterday -and apropos of jim's post just below - LTC Bateman reminds us that sitreps from the field are often wrong and even when right can mislead.

As we would have said in the infantry, fucking-A right, sir.

Update 4/18: These videos have been released by the FBI and are described by them as showing two young men suspected of being the bombers.

One thing I noticed is how absolutely open the sidewalks are as these guys are passing along. Whatever else this was, it does not look like a crime requiring a high level of sophistication or expertise. These guys could have strolled along munching on Osama Bin Laden kulfa balls and nobody would have been the wiser.

Boston Massacre

--In "Brazil", the steampunk technocrats
can't keep up with the bombers

 ~How do you account for the fact
that the bombing campaign
has been going on for thirteen years?
~Beginners' luck 
--Brazil (1985)

Two bombs were detonated at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon 15 April 2013 resulting in 3 deaths and over 100 injuries. The event proves the maxim that to counter a threat we must be right every time, while the terrorists only need to be right once.

Why Boston? Key portal cities will be the only targets of terrorism. Terrorists have limited assets, and these cities offer easy ingress and egress.  Authorities are suggesting this is the work of a lone man, perhaps a Saudi national, but the lone wolf theory does not comport with historical events.

We must assume that any ancillary team members exfiltrated prior to the execution phase. The reason is asset value.  Bomb makers require sophisticated training and are the most valued members of the team; his life cannot be jeopardized in peripheral activities.

His specialty is not reconnaissance, security or any other support function of the planning stage.  Both active and passive support provide these functions, to include materiel gathering for the bomb maker (unless the explosives were provided by a State or non-State sponsor.) The explosives must also be infiltrated, and the maker is not the mule.

The pertinent question regarding whoever executed this attack is: How did they get past Saudi police, intelligence, Interpol, ICE, FBI, CIA and the Boston Police?  Note also that neither the 3rd Armored Division nor Seal Team 6 could have stopped this event, which shows that terrorism is not a military concern.

The  targeting of the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day is similar to the Irish Republican Army's bombings in London streets during The Troubles. The targeting of a popular sporting event will cause terror beyond the actual destruction. The terrorist's goal is always far-reaching trauma, exceeding that of the physical damage.

A down and dirty review of necessary perpetrators:

  • Reconnaissance personnel familiar with Boston to select target locations
  • Security teams to protect the bomb maker
  • Administration personnel to provide safe houses, working areas and money, cover and transportation
  • A handler for these people; this is the coach and coordinator
  • A clean up team to sanitize their quarters
  • A driver, and possibly a photographer to document the event (today, that could mean carrying a cell-phone)

The bomber(s) and handler are expendable, and did not build the bomb. They only place and arm the bomb, and ideally will be killed in the explosion leaving no live intel sources behind (though Boston police are stating at this time that the bomber was not among those killed.)

These people are all like Chairman Mao's fishes swimming in a big river. In our little city, there are groups of Middle Eastern men who frequent local coffee shops playing chess, coming and going every few weeks, fading into the background, hiding in plain sight. We are not saying they are threats, but in a free society we have anonymous people coming and going at astounding rates; not being a police state is a double-edged sword.

The Boston bombing shows that despite the U.S. invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, we have neither sufficiently or correctly identified the threat to the U.S., nor have we eliminated the motivation for attacks by these groups. While we send Special Operations Forces worldwide, a bomber gets through the levels of security cast by our supposed specialists.

Simply: All of the SWAT teams, drones and armored divisions will not protect us from a core of dedicated adversaries.

The question to be answered: From whom do the attackers obtain their operational abilities and support, and why do we fail to focus on the actual threat to our nation?

An event like the Boston bombing suggests we should reassess the logic and assumptions of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)

Follow-on, per the IED/bombs: 

Most likely these were commercial explosives, as they were in backpacks.  They probably weighed no more than 40 pounds and no shrapnel was incorporated, keeping them light and concealable. This also implies they needed to be placed strategically to employ the surrounding area to act as shrapnel.

This means the bomb-maker knew his craft both technically and tactically.

Monday, April 15, 2013

More than a feeling...

Couple of thoughts re: today's news:

One of the most unpleasant things about human beings and the world in general is sitting down and trying to figure out "Who would do something like that?" and within about two minutes generating a list that begins with various groups of Muslims that we are effectively warring on, right-wing militia nuts, diehard Tamil separatists, rogue PIRA fanatics and ends up with the ever-popular "random nutter". Homo homini lupus, damn it. We are our own worst enemy.

I cannot express how grateful I am that I do not have to sit my little daughter down tonight and explain the bad thing that happened to her first grade teacher. I called the school and Mrs. Sammons' family has been in touch to let them know she's okay.

I cannot express how horrified I am that someone else is going to have to sit their little girl or boy down tonight and explain the bad thing that happened to their mommy, daddy, big sister, uncle, or their first-grade teacher...

We must be utterly fucking mad.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

So he picks up his bowling ball and puts it in the sink...

Gee. I can't imagine how anything connected with this slice of genius pie could possibly go wrong in any way.

What the hell is the matter with the New York Times, giving this moron space on the editorial page?

"China’s role in a potential war on the Korean Peninsula is hard to predict." Gee, we can't figure out which way the large Asian nuclear superpower will react to an aggressive act of war on our let's bomb some of their allies' shit and see what happens?

What sort of goddamn fool thinks that way? Wait, wait...I already know - the sort that thinks that invading a crapped out ethnically chaotic former Ottoman Empire Third World kleptocracy will result in candy and flowers?

Haven't we seen what happens when you listen to that sort of mouthbreather?

"This is the kind of pre-emptive action that would save lives and maybe even preserve the uneasy peace on the Korean Peninsula." Because we've seen how well bombing things without a sensible geopolitical plan for dealing with the fallout and blowback works in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan?

Why, why, WHY can't we have a better press corps?

And UT-Austin...WTF, guys? You PAY this moron? For teaching this kind of stuff? And yet I couldn't get on full-time at the local community college?

Christ, UT, for the money this guy makes I promise - seriously, no shit - I could at least produce something smarter than this. I'll bet there are Aggies who could, too.

Aggies, guys. Fucking Aggies.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Post Traumatic Social Disorder

--Net Warriors, Deng Coy Miel 

If you're in it for love, 
you ain't gonna get too far 
Watch out boy she'll chew you up
She's a maneater 
--Maneater, Hall and Oates 

Temper filled with blindness
Leads this lost and lonely man
Dragged around your whipping tree
A scourge you can`t command
--Another Bag of Bricks, Flogging Molly  

Ranger met a fellow Vietnam veteran last week (a former Marine) and they discussed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and related topics. The Marine has stayed away from the diagnosis of PTSD, but it took him over a decade to begin processing his experience of profound anxiety, depression, nightmares and the whole constellation of related symptoms; this got Ranger thinking.

We vets get labelled with the diagnosis of PTSD when in fact we are perfectly adapted to live and survive in an environment which requires hyper-vigilance, violent instantaneous reaction and all the other related behaviors of a predator in a prey environment.  The "problem" arises when we return to the civilian world, and our finely-honed responses are deemed inappropriate.

The situation is, we (I) do not consider PTSD to be our problem, but rather a problem for members of a too-lax society which does not know how to deal with self-contained and self-sustaining individuals like us.  "Okay", you say, "so, WTF?"

Well, aside from the fact that your government is producing more of us daily, we are resentful that we are held to a standard that our own government clearly does not adhere to.  After over a decade of involvement in a Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), we as a nation have still not fessed up to the fact that our national reactions are no longer appropriate or applicable to leading functional lives; that in fact, they never were functional. 

The events of 9-11-01 were extremely short-lived: one day of madness.  The recovery should have been implemented immediately thereafter, except a disingenuous government pumped us full of fear and kept us in a heightened state of alert. Contrast this reaction with those of a soldier who must live a tour or more of tension, something that takes more than a moment from which to recover.

We tag our vets with PTSD, yet our National policy is as aberrant or non-adaptive as is the behavior of the most afflicted vets in our midst. We do not call our government "disordered", however.

When our society partakes of maladaptive behavior we call this "an action plan"; when vets do it we call it PTSD. Maybe a new meaning for the acronym could be, "Post-Traumatic Society Disorder."

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar]

Monday, April 8, 2013

Robot Soldier

Just found this and had to run over to put this up.  No comment from me yet.

Here's a comment from the linked website, though, basil:
"It's going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can't think of many civilian applications - maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep,” Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC previously in regards to DARPA’s robot creations. "But of course if it's used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it's not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers,” he said.

And my comment would be; "Hmmm. I think this might be one of the Doctor's most troublesome foes..." Cybermen!