Drones are not evil, they’re tools.

I have to admit to being a bit mystified about some of the debate ongoing about the use of drones in military, tactical situations. I have heard the alarm – hysteria, almost – over the use of drones and the attempt to turn them into the boogeyman of our era. Rand Paul famously said, during his 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor, “No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.” Clearly not, but is the drone really the issue? I mean, if the same American were shot dead by a police officer when no charge existed and no indication were present that they were guilty of a crime, would we be OK with that? I don’t think so.

As in the debate on gun ownership, the drone isn’t the driving force, it’s the tool. Someone targets it, someone pushes the button authorizing it to engage its weapon systems, and that someone is the one responsible whether it’s a push of a button a continent away or the pull of a trigger at point-blank range. The issue is a matter of whether we’re OK with the idea that the President can unilaterally make a decision to kill an American citizen with no trial, no filing of charges, and no chance to confront his accusers. I shed no tears for terrorists who think blowing up a marketplace makes their point who get blotted out by a Brimstone missile. But when the target is an American citizen, my personal feelings aren’t the deciding factor. The Constitution is and the President has sworn an oath (yeah, I know – he doesn’t care that he did, but he did) to uphold it. He is required to treat Americans differently than enemy combatants on the battlefield. And that’s regardless of the weapon system he choses to use.

Budget framework gets cloture. Now we find out what's in it.

Apparently Nancy Pelosi ain’t the only one relying on the “we have to pass it so we can find out what’s in it” approach. After getting through a cloture vote in the Senate the word is coming out about one of the methods being used to get the deficit cuts Paul Ryan is touting. They’re cutting money out of military retirees’ cost-of-living increases.

I’m more than a little surprised about this. First, this framework winds up cutting less than the sequester would have and now it’s finding the cuts in military pensions? I’m having a hard time believing that was the place to cut back. Anyone look at the GSA’s convention funding lately?

DoD wants to retire the A-10 Warthog

With budget cuts being actual cuts for the military, DoD leadership has proposed to cut the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a.k.a. the “Warthog,” from the US arsenal. They claim that cutting the plane will save $3.9B a year and I’m not arguing that. What I am saying is that this is still a mistake.

The A-10 is a ground attack aircraft like no other. Designed explicitly to engage tanks (specifically Soviet tanks) in the 1970’s, this ship is the go-to asset for fast, accurate close-air support. It flew roughly a third of all combat sortees in Iraq and Afghanistan. During Desert Storm A-10’s were responsible for over 4000 enemy combat vehicles destroyed. In short, it is a very effective weapon system still relied upon by battlefield commanders today.

Adding to its allure: it’s cheap. It costs less than $10M a copy and can be maintained at a cost in the thousands per cycle as opposed to millions for other aircraft. By comparison, the aircraft touted as the replacement by the Pentagon is the F-35 Joint astrike Fighter. The F-35 costs $169M each and even the Pentagon concedes that it can’t match the A-10’s capabilities.

Part of the problem, here, is the same thing that has always hugged the Air Force: this plane is a relative slow mover in a high-speed-loving force and the nature of its mission is to take direction from grunts on the ground. But the fact of the matter is that the Warthog brings more to the mission than any other fixed-wing aircraft, is incredibly efficient at the task, and is far more cost-efficient than any other asset available. That’s the definition of a program you dona’t cancel

3rd Amendment case in NV

Well, you don’t run into this situation every day. Henderson, NV police are accused of violating the 3rd Amendment rights of a local family.

The Third Amendment, which forbids the “quarter[ing]” of “soldiers” in private homes in peacetime without the owner’s consent, is often the butt of jokes among lawyers, because it generates so little litigation. But the Amendment has come up in this ongoing Nevada case, along with the Fourth Amendment and state law claims

So the question that immediately comes to mind is whether the police qualify as soldiers under the Constitution. On its face, I would say no, but given the militarization of the police these days you could make the argument. Of course that might not be the real reason for advancing a 3rd Amendment case versus a 4th. Could be the notoriety of the approach is intended to garner wider attention?

WWII vet from Racine, WI dies just as he arrives for Honor Flight to DC

My family and I have become involved in Honor Flight, a system of flights being run from various places around the country for the purpose of bringing WWII vets to Washington, DC so they can enjoy the WWII Memorial and other monuments erected in their honor. With our WWII vets entering their 90’s and, frankly, with so many passing beyond us every year, time is of the essence. This story, then, caught my eye and just made me sad…

Walter Smith was thrilled when he learned he had been chosen to travel on Saturday’s Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington.

The 91-year-old World War II veteran from Racine had been diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago and had been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes this year. But the honor flight motivated him to work hard on his rehabilitation.

In a cruel twist, Smith died Saturday morning shortly after his family arrived at Mitchell International Airport to drop him off.

Sergeant Smith served in Europe and in was in the 2nd wave of soldiers landing on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day. He was wounded in combat and was decorated with 2 Purple Hearts. The flag that was used to drape his coffin will be flown to DC on the next flight out of the Wisconsin area this September. I do plan on being there at the airport when they arrive. I’ll be sure to write about it again when it happens.

Remember on Memorial Day

Enjoy this day but remember, too, what the day’s about.

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Dear Lord Jesus and Mary, Mother of God,

Hold all these brave souls in the palm of your hand, comfort them and their families.

Send angels of protection, love, and comfort to all the service men and women still at war,
bring them home safely and comfort their families.

We ask all our prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Democrats playing political chicken, want companies to break the law to cover for them

The ongoing game of political chicken the Democrats are playing by using the looming threat of the massive, mandated budget cuts (a.k.a. “sequestration”) revolves around the Dem’s insistence that taxes be raised on the top 2% of earners in the US. Yes, that’s the “fair share” argument that never seems to address how it’s fair to require more taxes to be levied on the segment of the population that’s already paying more than the bottom 60% or so. Never mind that, of course. While the Democrats in the Senate refuse to budge on extending the Bush-era tax cuts to everyone and insist on extending them only to the people they’re trying to whip into a class-warfare frenzy the deadline of January 2, 2013 marches ever closer. When it hits, assuming nothing is changed from today, there will be massive cuts to projects throughout the federal government, with the DoD, a.k.a. “the military,” getting hit especially hard. Estimates are a cut in the vicinity of $500 million or so. With cuts like that, the DoD will have no choice but to cut projects and personnel, immediately and in a huge fashion.

This isn’t theoretical and it’s completely foreseeable. Which brings into play the requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifcation (WARN) Act. Passed in 1988 by the Democrat-controlled Congress – and passed by a veto-proof majority, I might add – the WARN Act requires companies to send out notifications to employees ahead of any “plant closings” or “mass layoffs” 60 days in advance when those layoffs are reasonably foreseen. They’ve had over a year and some of lead time on this deadline; it’s extremely foreseeable. Consequently, major defense contractors are required under the WARN Act to send those notifications 60 days before the event. The deadline being January 2nd, that means the notifications must be given to employees by November 2, 2012.

The elections are November 6 this year. Which, of course, explains why the Obama Administration is trying to get defense contractors and anyone else so affected to hold off sending those notifications until after the election.

President Obama is trying to prevent thousands of layoff notices from going out a few days before the November election, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on Tuesday.

Obama’s Labor Department on Monday issued “guidance” to the states, telling them that a federal law requiring advance notice of mass layoffs does not apply to the layoffs that may occur in January as a result of automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration.”

That the DoL is trying to tell companies they don’t have to comply with the law is both very telling and a very dicey proposition. By the DoL’s own admission, they have “no administrative or enforcement responsibility under WARN” and “cannot provide specific advice or guidance with respect to individual situations.” Odd, then, that the Administration is trying to make it sound like an official ruling that companies can just ignore the WARN Act and suffer no consequences.

Democrats in Congress are scrambling to provide the Administration all the cover they can, dismissing the matter of the January 2 deadline with statements that such notifications are unneccessary because there’s just no way of knowing how this is going to play out. To the contrary, in my view, that’s precisely why the notifications need to go out. It’s because there’s no way of knowing whether Congress will get it in gear and pass the tax cuts for all Americans rather than just their preferred groups that sequestration remains a very real probability. This is exactly the type of situation that calls for the notifications. The Democrats just don’t want them to go out on the Friday before election day. They’d prefer most Americans remain ignorant of the matter until it’s too late to hold them accountable for their inaction.

What’s just amazing to me is the continued hypocrisy of the Democrats and the Left in applauding this Administration’s ongoing deliberate violation of our nation’s laws and, now, their incitement of others to also violate the law. I heard it said after the 2004 elections that we Republicans and conservatives should take care and be respectful of the Democrats’ and the Left’s viewpoints and priorities because we’d just be whining when they were the ones in power. Well, the shoe’s on the other foot and they don’t seem to have the same issue with respect and concern. When there’s a Republican President and he’s the one who’s cheerfully ignoring his responsibilities under the law and instructing his departments to issue guidance suggesting companies do the same, will they be so supportive of that concept?

I doubt it. But when it happens, I’m going to be vocal about why it’s happening and I likely will have far less concern and compassion for their viewpoints when it does.

Memorial Day: Ad perpetuam rei memoriam, bellator.

My Memorial Day started in the early AM this year, and being outside enjoying the quiet as the sun rose up over the trees somehow seems perfect. This is a day to remember those men and women who answered our nation’s call and set aside a path in life like most of us have to follow one that put them in harm’s way on our behalf. It is particularly for those to stood on that path and laid down everything they had in defense of their nation and their nation’s ideals. I’m taking this moment in the clear morning sun and the stillness to offer up my prayer and take to heart what it meant to undertake that kind of service. My family and I are thankful. I promise that I will pass along to my daughter what has been done for her.

And, once again, I will relate what I’ve been told time and again by various veterans over the years. With the firm memory of those who gave all in our nation’s service, set yourself a mission today to enjoy the life here in America. Get together with friends and family, do the grill thing, hoist a cold beverage of your choice. Honor those who fell in our service by enjoying the freedoms they stood in service for. It’s what they’d want.

Ad perpetuam rei memoriam, bellator.

Drone over Chicago? My take: it's a fake.

This week saw a very sudden uptick in concern by several American citizens and groups over the notion that the US Government is using drone aircraft over US soil. This was most notably seen in a YouTube video where a military-grade, apparently Predator-class drone was spotted and taped over Elgin, IL just outside of Chicago where a NATO summit is being held. Additional sightings near Thurmont, MD were reported as well ahead of the G8 gathering being held at Camp David.

I’ve written about the use of drone surveillance aircraft over American soil and private citizens already but that wasn’t a government-operated bird and it certainly wasn’t one that could be armed with Hellfire missiles.There’s some significant questions about the use of military drones over American cities and towns and I’m not currently convinced either way on the matter, but this video out of Illinois has generated both peaked interest and no small amount of concern. One of the questions being asked is: Is this for real? The Hot Air link I linked to first in this post asks that very question and calls upon their readership with specific video-processing skills or military experience to assist in making the determination. I have neither of those skillsets, but I’ve got years of experience as an aviation buff in observing aircraft in flight. This is a fake. Here’s the video, dear readers. Let’s start there.

OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way: This is absolutely a Predator drone. There is no manned or passenger-carrying aircraft with this kind of profile. Note the tail assembly: the “butterfly” stabilizer extends downward from the fuselage. The forward part of the fuselage bulges to a diameter of almost twice the size of the body tube. Again, this isn’t seen in any other type of aircraft in common usage today. The video clearly shows the video/sensor dome just under the “chin” of the aircraft and there are 2 hardpoint mounting pylons under the wings, right where they are positioned on the Predator. This is a Predator drone.

There has already been talk about the flight path of the drone through this shot, that’s it just too straight and level. That may be, but that’s not the dead giveaway. It’s the angle of the flight. Note the wings: the near wingtip is significantly behind the far wingtip. You can’t get this angle of observation unless you’re basically in front of the aircraft. Now, assuming the aircraft is flying straight and level – and it appears to be doing just that in the video – then as the aircraft flies along it will begin to pass your point of observation. The angle of the wings relative to you will begin to approach a “straight up-and-down” attitude. The near wing will begin to appear as if it were the hands of a clock approaching 12 and the far wing will move to the 6. As the plane passes you, the near wing will appear to move forward of the far wing. That’s not happening in this shot. And at the range this aircraft appears to be flying, it would most certainly have happened in the span of time shown.

Alternatively, if you start with the observation angle shown in the video and you maintain that angle relative to the aircraft, then that means the plane is flying toward you. As it flies, it will approach you and it’ll appear to get bigger. That’s not happening in this video, either, and that’s what makes the video appear to be “off” even if people can’t quantify why that is.

Bottom line: The issue of whether drones should be used over American cities remains an open conversation but the question of whether one overflew an Elgin, IL ball field is not. This one’s a fake.

Obama's so-called "decision" to take out Bin Laden was apparently made by someone else.

I’ve never understood the crowing that Obama and his supporters engage in over the fact that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs during Obama’s administration. The direction to track Bin Laden, the funding and supplying of the teams in that mission, the priority set on him were all matters undertaken by the previous administration. Obama simply continued to carry that priority forward. (It’s curious that the same people who can’t seem to accept the responsibility for the disastrous economic decisions most definitely made by the Obama Administration, preferring instead to blame everything on Bush, have no problem taking the credit for Bin Laden’s killing and ignoring the Bush Administration’s contribution to that effort.)

With that little irritation acknowledged, however, I’ve been perfectly happy to give credit where it’s due and to applaud Obama for making the right decision to green-light the operation that took Bin Laden out. I have to say, however, that it never occured to me that the credit for that decision was due to someone else.

As reported by Big Peace, Time magazine has obtained a memo written by Leon Panetta, then-director of the Central Intelligence Agency and now-Secretary of Defense, that says “operational decision-making and control” was really in the hands of William McRaven, a three-star admiral and former Navy SEAL.

“The timing, operational decision-making and control are in Adm. McRaven’s hands,” the memo says. “The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the president. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the president for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and, if he is not there, to get out.”

In other words, it was McRaven’s call to pull the trigger or not on the raid.

To put a finer point on it, what Obama did was sublet the decision to someone he could throw under the bus if anything went wrong. Yeah, now that’s a real profile in courage and leadership, there. As the IBD editorial I’ve linked points out there will be those who protest, saying Obama gave the thumbs-up and then allowed McRaven to make the go/no-go decision based upon conditions in the field. And, as IBD say, if that’s the situation then the credit rightly goes to George W. Bush who’s the one started the hunt to begin with. Either way, Obama’s taking credit for the decision when it’s not his, just as he shifts the blame when it most certainly belongs to him.

It’s not surprising that he trumpets this operation as a victory for himself. It’s just about all he has to point to, virtually all else that he’s attempted to push through being little more than abject failure. He’s been a failure at the position we hired him for. His contract should not be renewed in November.