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February 2013

Guns & Coffee at Starbucks

Today is the day to let a vital part of American society know that we appreciate them. Mostly for the tasty, albeit overpriced cofee, but also for not caving in to anti-gun zealots.

Many people who love guns and coffee particularly appreciate Starbucks. In the 12 states with unfettered rights to “open carry” a gun, including Virginia, and the 16 others that are mostly open carry, Starbucks has rebuffed attempts by gun control activists to keep guns out of the national coffee shop chain.

So on Friday, 2-22 (for the Second Amendment), gun rights supporters are holding “Gun Owners Support Starbucks Day,” and will be drinking their joe while openly packing their heat. In Northern Virginia, this is being organized by Ed Levine, who already has an “I Love Guns and Coffee” website (there are two) and mints a guns and coffee challenge coin, seen above. He wants 2-22 to be an annual day of support for Starbucks  by gun owners.

I think this is more of a business gesture than a show of support for guns. If they cave on this they will be open to protests about every soleth of the politically correct left. But it is still good to see them stand up on a principle that local laws mean something.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told ABC News in 2010, “I’m not a politician. I run a coffee company and we’re trying to abide by the laws in which we do business.”

Keep it up sir, the pressure is not likely to lessen.

Madison Rising...Fort Campbell!

Attention Mr and Mrs America and All Ships at Sea!  If you are in or near or on or about the Fort Campbell, KY area tomorrow, Friday 22 Feb, make sure you make your way down to the Dale Wayrynen Community Recreation Center on base for a free concert by the band Madison Rising!  If you have heard them, you'll be there.  If you HAVEN'T heard them yet, you *really* need to be there!

Madison Rising Fort Campbell
Check out their music at http://www.madisonrising.com

Come on by and be ready to rock!

Madison rising 2
Go get 'em.


General Odierno Declares "The Greatest Threat to Our National Security" is Congress

“The Army has been in a state of continuous war for nearly 12 years, the longest in our nation’s history,” Odierno said, “but today, in my opinion, the greatest threat to our national security is the fiscal uncertainty resulting from the lack of predictability in the budget cycle.”

The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 12 establishes that Congress alone has the power "[t]o raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years." Clause 13 speaks to the Navy. The "lack of predictability in the budget cycle" is purely about Congress' determination of budgets.

Specifically, it is about the failure of Congress to determine a budget. Congress has not passed a budget in more than three years. The sole and only reason that there is uncertainty of the type General Odierno describes is that Congress has not done its duty.

That may be a first in American history.  The Chief of Staff of the US Army publicly stated that the effects of Congress' actions are the largest national security threat to our country. 

He put it very politely, even obliquely, as the UCMJ severely restricts servicemembers' criticisms of elected officials. Nevertheless, there is simply no other way to read his remarks.

The "Warfare" medal you get for not actually conducting...well...warfare

We've talked about it here with Deebow giving his impressions and McQ today with PowerPoint Ranger's take on the new medal that the SecDef will issue to the cyber warriors and the drone pilots (poor near-sighted bastards).  

Mothax over at the Burn Pit wrote a piece yesterday and took part in a Q&A with the DoD today about the new Distinguished Warfare Medal...

Check them both out.  Today's piece hits especially hard on the point that a medal for remote control or cyber combat is being placed higher than a medal for VALOR in combat.

Book Review: The Puppy That Came for Christmas

The following book review is a special provided by Elise Cooper for BlackFive readers. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

9780452297487_p0_v1_s260x420A book for animal lovers is The Puppy That Came for Christmas, by Megan Rix. Do not let the title fool you since just the last few chapters include Christmas, while the rest of the book takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride as Ms. Rix discusses how she and her husband, Ian, became Helper Dog puppy parents.

The author honestly and compassionately recalls how she and her husband found out that they had an infertility problem, shortly after deciding they wanted to have a child. After enduring the torturous road of schedules, constantly taking temperatures, blood tests, and doctor visits; they decide to become involved with a group that trains puppies to help people with disabilities; thus becoming puppy parents for a six-month stint. These puppy parents nurture and train their dogs so they can become a full-fledged helper dog. She found out that her emptiness caused by not being able to conceive was replaced by the mutual love between owner and dog, “I started being a foster dog parent not knowing anything about dogs.”

Megan discussed with BlackFive.net how there appears to be two types of dog owners: a “one” dog person and a person who after losing their dog for whatever reason must fill the void of not having a dog to come home to. She noted, “A house with no dog would be a miserable, miserable house. It never means you did not love the dog lost, but each dog has a different personality. I had four Golden Retrievers in my life. The first two dogs, Emma and Freddy were puppies we were raising to become helper dogs. Emma is a sweet, good girl, who always wants to please and tries to do her best. Freddy is a bombastic little boy that is very possessive. Traffy is my little lovely girl who is my companion and protector. Then there is the youngest, Bella who is ball crazy and when we saw her at the breeder’s she was swinging from an ornament on the Christmas tree.”

Having to give up Emma and Freddy after six months Ian and Megan realized it is too hard and decided that they would become puppy parents for themselves, “a forever puppy.” The book goes into a lot of detail how these puppy parents had grown to love the puppies and the empty filling they had when it was time to give them up. They knew deep in their heart it was the correct thing to do, but that did not make it any easier. “The dog becomes your life. It was very, very hard to give them up. What did help, as I say in the book, is to keep in touch with the people who became the dog’s new parents, the physically disabled. In fact, Emma was the flower girl in her partner’s wedding.”

What the author wants people to get out of the book is how the puppies filled the void of not being able to have a baby. She decided to expand on her weekly newspaper articles about each of her dogs and allow the reader to understand what it was like for a puppy growing up.

Two powerful quotes from the book, “(each dog) does a 1000 times more things for me than I could ever do for (them),” and “Every puppy was so different, so vulnerable, so in need of loving: how could we not love them entirely?” She explained that having a dog to love and care for could lift a person’s spirits since “they are a bundle of love. Every person should be able to cuddle up to a dog, waking up with that furry, kind face. You end up thinking about caring for more than yourself.”

This is no more evident than when she talked about Traffy’s current situation. Since the book ended with Traffy as a puppy she brought her readers up to speed by telling how Traffy, now five years old, had a growth the size of a baby. She had two major operations and now has a tube inserted that works like a catheter, which Megan drains three times a day. “I put a t-shirt on her to stop her from licking it and to keep it clean. Even though we really love the sea, we will not go since she cannot go in the seawater, having the possibility of the tube corroding. I want everyone to know Traffy is full of energy now.”

The book also shows how dogs can help take care of people. There is a touching story of how one of the puppy parent dog helpers developed cancer and the dog seemed to sense it. This dog could not adjust to being away from her and ran away numerous times to try to get back to the original puppy parent. Not to spoil the story the reader can discover what transpired.

Megan Rix’s next projects will be a three book fictional series about World War II dogs. The Great Escape, currently out, is about how dogs had to be abandoned and left behind during the Nazi bombings of London. Victory Dogs is about two puppies that become heroes during the Nazi blitz. The last in the series is about parachute dogs in WWII.

The Puppy That Came for Christmas allows the reader to experience a gamut of emotions with the author. It shows how dogs can help to enrich people’s lives and make them happy. Anyone who wants a book showing how dogs give unrequited love should definitely read this book.

Photo: Hornet Approach

Hires_130213-N-ZI635-048Navy sailors watch as an F/A-18C Hornet approaches the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 13, 2013. The Vinson is underway conducting precision approach landing system and flight deck certifications. The hornet is part of the Strike Fighter Squadron 113. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George M. Bell

Report: The Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon on Moderate Defense Cuts

The deadline for sequestration is fast approaching. Does anyone believe that cuts to the defense budget are not central to legitimate attempts to contain the federal budget?

Since defense spending must be cut, the devil is in the details.

The folks at Brookings ask, "How much can the Pentagon's budget be cut without threatening U.S. national security and global stability? What kind of military can the U.S. afford at this juncture in our nation’s history?"

The answers come from Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O'Hanlon. His latest foreign policy/defense paper, A Moderate Plan for Additional Budget Cuts, suggests how the DoD could cut certain weapons, forces, and other capabilities in ways that could save up to $200 billion over 10 years. Obviously, the answer lies in making the DoD "more efficient, eliminating waste, making reforms that allow things to be handled more effectively, and examining specific programs that are deemed wasteful or outdated."

You can read A Moderate Plan for Additional Budget Cuts, available on the Brookings website at this link.

The report includes the following recommendations, as well as a number of others:

    •The size of the active-duty Army and Marine Corps could be reduced modestly below their 1990s levels (to say 450,000 soldiers and 160,000 Marines); current plans are to keep them slightly above those levels. Ten-year savings relative to the administration’s existing plans could reach about $80 billion.
    •Rather than increase its fleet, the Navy could employ innovative approaches like “sea swap,” by which some crews are rotated via airplane while ships stay forward deployed longer. This idea and more forward home-porting of attack submarines at Guam could eventually allow the Navy to get by with 260 to 270 ships rather than 286. Ten year savings could be $25 billion.
    •The F-35 joint strike fighter, a good plane but an expensive one, could be scaled back by roughly half from its current intended buy of 2,500 airframes, at an eventual annual savings of more than $5 billion but with only modest cumulative savings of $10 billion to $20 billion over the coming decade (as some planes should be bought promptly).

Check it out.  While I'd like to see more graft/pork programs cut than forces/projection, I think this paper is a good place to start the serious discussion.

The Big Bad Bear


There is a lot, and I mean a LOT of pants-wetting going on right now about the Bear Bomber(s) that circled Guam (except they apparently didn't).  Part of me really wants to say "Get off my lawn!" to the media involved.

Part of the problem lies in that many news services are (badly) pulling from a story by Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon.  While I question parts of his story, the pulls from it (for those I've seen) are very poorly done, though I've seen what I think was an update to one to make corrections (or at least give it some basic editing).  So, take this with a grain of salt and know that by the time this goes up, some of those stories may be fixed a bit. 

First, some of the stories are either very poorly written or very poorly edited, not sure which.  While Bill's story quotes the Air Force as stating there were two Bear bombers, some of the versions I've seen elsewhere mix tenses and numbers.  FYI, two is not a fleet, but does make sense on several levels having to do with intel and flight safety.

Second, the Bear is nuclear capable but in the past rarely nuclear armed.  There is a huge freakin difference there.  Could we tell if it was nuclear armed?  Not from looking at it; but, suspect (insert whistling idly here) there are ways to tell.  Bill says his sources say there were armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.  Me, I have to question this as I am not getting any such confirmation nor can I find any official statement so stating.  I've put in a formal inquiry to see what response I get in public.  I will also note that we have rarely stated that any plane had any particular type weapon on it, as that tends to tell others about our intel capabilities...

Third, the Bear sorta sucks as a nuclear bomber.  It is old, it is slow, it is fairly easy to track and shoot down if push comes to shove. As a stand-off platform, it would work better, but they are not exactly stealthy. 

Fourth, the Bear has great long range capability.  Combine that with a radar great for searching large swatches of ocean, and electronics to gather other intel, and it makes an excellent platform for target location and analysis (and general monitoring).  That was, and as far as I know still is, the prime role for the airframe -- finding targets for others and gathering intel.

Fifth, did anyone in the vaunted layers and layers of fact checkers and editors do the first bit of basic research on the system before writing headlines to their version of Mr. Gertz's story?  Wonder if any of them ever read Red Storm Rising (paperback or Kindle) or played Harpoon Classic ?  Sheesh.

Sixth, Bears have regularly patrolled out over the Pacific and the Atlantic in the past.  In fact, they have been known to fly up and down the East Coast just outside the limits on occasion.  They have approached Guam before, though they may not have done so recently.  Given their range, they are perfect to provoke a response and hoover every bit of electronic noise (and even some visual data) that happens in response.  Guess what they probably were doing this time? 

Oh, if you want to have some fun, do a search on photos of Bear bombers taken by our pilots who "escorted" them as they approached Iceland or the U.S.  Some of them are good, and some are pretty funny for the various signs held up by both sides.

So, this cold warrior is torn between being amused and grumpy at the piss-poor story and all the hysteria going with it.  Was Vladimir sending a message as well as testing things?  Yep.  I also suspect that he is hearing intel on the reaction and has got a look of pure "you have got to be kidding me" on his face at the public side of it.


UPDATE 1:  I reached out to some Air Force contacts, and the official response was most interesting and informative, if you read between the lines a bit.  The official response from Capt. Bender, quoted also in the original article, is that the F-15s -- normally based in Japan -- were on Guam for Cope North, an annual exercise. 

In regards the bombers being armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles as reported by Bill Gertz and breathlessly jumped on by others:  "You will have to contact Russian officials to answer your question."

Well, that actually wasn't what I asked, as my question was " is the Air Force stating or confirming
that these bombers were indeed armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles?  If so, how was this confirmed?"  But, the real answer to the real question is indeed answered. And, no, I'm not going to reach out to any Russian contacts I may still have (can hear their snickers already).

Annual scheduled exercise.  Two Bears.  Gotta call bullshit on the whole nuclear-armed thing.  Pattern is pure intel run.