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May 2014

Book Review - "The Kill Switch"

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

9780062135254_p0_v3_s260x420The Kill Switch written by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood can be considered part science fiction, part historical novel, and part military thriller.  Intertwined within all Rollins books is a combination of these genres.  This book is the first in a series about a military dog, Kane, and his handler, Tucker Wayne, although this former military team was first introduced in the Sigma series book, Bloodline.

 It is interesting how the two authors used their strengths to write this storyline. Grant brings to the table his military mindset, which was needed since Tucker is a former Army Ranger.  Since Grant is a former Navy veteran he knows how a service person would handle a threat differently from a civilian. On the other hand Rollins is able to write about the historical and scientific elements as well as the behavior of Kane.

 The plot has Tucker and Kane assigned by the Sigma Team to extract from Russian soil a pharmaceutical scientist. He is a volatile man who holds the secret to a deadly bioweapon. This scientist, Abram Bukatov is close to finding a “kill switch” for LUCA, a plant organism that spreads like wildfire and if turned into a weapon will disrupt or destroy the food supply. Throughout the book is a cat and mouse chase between the Tucker team and a rogue Russian General’s team that includes the Swedish sniper, Felice Nilsson.  Written in a very intense and suspenseful manner, the story delves into how Tucker and Kane must overcome betrayal, being hunted, and a terrorist attack that could be catastrophic to the world’s agricultural supply. 

 The scenes with Tucker and Kane are the most interesting parts of the book.  Rollins, a practicing veterinarian, skillfully writes Kane, a Belgian Malinois, as one of the main characters.  He writes from Kane’s point of view through the use of italics, and uses the present tense to capture the dog’s mindset since most live in the moment. The relationship between Kane and Tucker is heart felt and as strong a bond as any human companionship.  Readers might think to accept this animal story you have to put belief to one side, but not true. As someone who has done research and written articles on military dogs I can attest to the believability and realism.

 Any dog lover will appreciate the quote, “No wonder I like dogs better than people.”  Rollins captures what all dog lovers feel from their furry companion:  the unconditional love, loyalty, and honesty. Being a veterinarian he is able to explain animal behavior through Kane’s actions. 

 Rollins noted to blackfive.net, “If people acted like dogs the world would be a better place. I hoped to show in this book how amazing military dogs and their handlers are, especially since dogs can string together words to form commands and actions. I went to Lackland Air Force base and watched how they work.  I was actually given the idea a few years ago when on a USO author book tour, to Iraq, I met a former college classmate.  He is now a vet and works with Army dogs. 

 While Rollins concentrates on Kane, Blackwood writes about Tucker’s mindset towards the enemy.  Any Special Forces person feels it is their duty to find and destroy, to seek out the enemy and eliminate the threat. Throughout the book Blackwood makes it obvious that Tucker has no apprehension of killing the bad guys and anyone who becomes an enemy combatant becomes a target. 

 Blackwood told blackfive.net, “It is the capriciousness of war.  You can follow your training, excel at everything you do, but if you are one foot to the right at the wrong second the bullet that would have missed you ends up killing you.  Any kind of firefight is such a chaotic environment, you just cannot worry about dying.”

 Readers through this book quote, “such was the changeable nature of war, where life, death, disfigurement, were measured in inches and seconds,” will understand the dangers a military person must go through each and every day, that firefights in itself present chaotic environments. 

 The authors also gave a heads up about the next book in the series.  In the second book a former flame of Tucker lands on his doorstep with child in tow, and requests his help.  The Sigma team will make a cameo appearance after Tucker realizes he is in over his head and asks them for help.  This plot will deal with germ warfare and surveillance systems.  Rollins describes it as a techno-scientific-thriller.

 Because the authors feel strongly about military personnel they hope that this book appears authentic. It is a fantastic adventure story with non-stop action.  But it is more than that because The Kill Switch shows the close bond between dog and partner, and the readers will fall in love with this canine and his handler.

Photo: Fini-Flight

Hires_1370355aAircrew members assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing accompany Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, center, on her "fini-flight” over North Carolina, May 29, 2014. Leavitt is departing Seymour Johnson Air Force Base where she served as 4th Fighter Wing commander. Leavitt became the first female fighter pilot in 1993, and the first female wing commander in 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho

How Many Times Have Politicians Said "Our Veterans Deserve More!"????

Really.  How many?  

Time and time again, we've heard this mantra over and over and over.  Everyone knew the VA was @#$%ed up nine ways to Sunday.  The President made a campaign promise to fix this SIX YEARS AGO. [Campaign Promise: Obama 08]

Hell, I was on Neil Cavuto's show a few years back talking about how the VA is NOT the example we want for Obamacare (the President was using it as a shining example of government efficiency).  I actually used an example from TSO at This Ain't Hell who waited 3 weeks for an EMERGENCY MRI.

Yes, Shinseki must go.  Yes, an outside agency needs to investigate the VA soup to nuts.  Yes, changes in the incentives for VA employees must change.  Yes, the VA staff need to lose the union mentality. 

On the other hand, I don't believe that funding is an issue - we could save money by paying BCBS to handle the care, for crying out loud.  I don't believe that the overall capacity will change.  I don't believe that there will be a sea change in care or support.

The whole system needs to be burned down to the ground and rebuilt.

I don't believe that this will be the last time the *spit* politicians in Washington will cry out, "Our Veterans DESERVE MORE!"

Update:  Long Tab Sig O sent a reminder that the Secretary is approved by Congress with oversight by Congress.  Which means that Congress wasn't doing it's job.  SHOCKING!

What Did Ranger Up Know and When Did They Know It?

They posted this NSFW video back in March (and we posted it here).  Seems like they already knew about problems in the VA.  It makes you wonder how Ranger Up was all over it, but folks like Senator McCain are shocked, SHOCKED!, I tell you.

Also, Ruby Flippers? Nicely played, Rangers. Nicely played.

Photo - U.S. Paratroopers Training in Lithuania

LituaniaU.S. paratroopers assault opposing forces during Black Arrow on Rukla training area in Lithuania, May 17, 2014. The exercise focuses on defensive operations and interoperability between the two forces. Lithuanian Defense Ministry photo by Eugenijus Zygaitis

[I wonder if this exercise was scheduled before the invastion of the Ukraine or after...?]

Obama at West Point

I took a day to digest Obama's address to the graduating cadets at West Point. As a description of what US policy ahould be, it is not bad. As a narrative purporting to describe the last five years of his command of the US military, it is smoke and mirrors and darn close to fiction. If he had acted as he claims to have, I might even be a fan. But he didn't and we and the rest of the planet is much less secure than we were. Let's take a look at some of the excursions from reality. Then I will point out where I agree with is words.

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world.  Those who argue otherwise -- who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away -- are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.

Or perhaps simply not deluded by an unfounded belief that everything you touch turns to gold, that oceans recede and the earth cools at your command. We are absolutely weaker relative to the rest of the world by pretty much every measure. And our global leadership has slipped to leading from behind, at best. 

Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative.  Each year, we grow more energy independent. 

Says the guy who has continued to kill the Keystone pipeline, refused to approve drilling permits on federal land, and has fought the shale gas industry with legions of lawfaring regulating bureaucrats. All that while spending billions and billions on crony-run "green" boondoggles and even forcing the Navy to use a $27 a gallon green gas. How is that sustainable?

And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help.  (Applause.)  So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.  

Except when the folks in Ukraine and Nigeria dialed that global 911 number they got voicemail instead of an action officer. They may look to us for help, it is just not forthcoming. 
Next he gave us a classic Obama construct of on the one hand are isolationists who say the world's problems aren't ours to solve, and on the other are those who say send in the Marines every time a sparrow falls, but I Solomon-like stand in the middle with a better way. Yawn, so do 95% of the rest of us and setting up false choices isn't helpful Nor does make your inability to act decisively any more leaderly. You have to make the hard calls and then act, not furrow your brow and dither.

And beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake, an abiding self-interest, in making sure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped and where individuals are not slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political belief.  

How on God's green Earth, populated with the crooked timber of humanity are you going to make that happen? That is a fantasy. Your job is to try to deter bad people from doing those things and to act when they do.

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.  

Another straw man slaughtered. The UN could sanction him for the genocidal assault on straw men he has conducted. I know of a total of zero people who have ever said that every problem has a military solution. The military should be the last resort, but in order for diplomacy or economic pressure to work they need to be backed up by a credible threat of force. War being the continuation of diplomacy by other means per Clausewitz.

Continue reading "Obama at West Point" »

Less Than 25% of West Point Cadets Give the President a Standing Ovation...

"I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being." - President Barack Obama, USMA, 5/28/14

Of course, the exceptionalism he's talking about is the exceptions the unions get with Obamacare...

Soooooooooo, the President gave a speech at West Point.  I missed it.  Had work to do.  

Here's the write up by the Daily Mail UK:

...Receiving tepid applause and a short standing ovation from less than one-quarter of the audience upon his introduction, Obama argued for a contradictory foreign policy that relies on NATO and the United Nations while insisting that 'America must always lead on the world stage.'...
For the Syrian support statements, I guess that just means that we will soon acknowledge our presence there...having @#$%ing been there since Jump Street.
As a military audience, I'm sure you understand the impact of only 25% (or less) of cadets in attendence giving a standing ovation to the Commander in Chief.  There was more applause for his symbolic pardoning of cadets with remaining restrictions. 
But if I were one of the cadets on restriction, I'd be concerned as the President has made Foreign Policy promises since his first year in pffice that have yet to materialize.
As for a take on the President's speech from someone who watched read it, go see the Armorer.

Clinton "proud" of diplomatic accomplishments

Hillary side glanceThat is the headline at the AP and I don't think they are using the quotation marks ironically . Hillary Clinton's  campaign opener/nest egg builder "Hard Choices" is coming out soon and her team has begun strategic leaking operations. This is necessary as she has a lot of issues to deal with and a problem finding an answer to the question that keeps coming up "What were your accomplishments as Secretary of State?" and the follow on "Why on Earth are you proud of them?". It is not that she lacks accomplishments, it's just that they are not positive ones. 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton writes in her new book that she wishes she could have made different, unspecified decisions as President Barack Obama's secretary of state

Well you can't hold that against her. Obama's record and approval rating on foreign affairs are both bad and embarrassing. She could pick pretty much any issue, specified or un, and wish she could have made a different decision. About the only thing they both can hang their hats on is ventilating bin Laden. And they have certainly worked that well beyond any decent amount of decorum or humility.  It leads off her greatest hits in recent speaking engagements:

Clinton has pointed to the bin Laden raid and other highlights of her time at State, describing her work with Obama to address Iran's nuclear ambitions, set the groundwork for Middle East peace and help Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. She has called the Benghazi attack her biggest regret as secretary of state.

Skipping past her minimal role in returning bin Laden to room temperature, let's take on the rest of those proud accomplishments.

Addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions- First they still have the ambition to be a nuclear power. Second the Obama administration has done nothing to stop or even slow down their progress toward building a nuclear weapon. They sent presents, cards, made videos and sipped countless cups of mint tea while nibbling petit fours. But as far as any substantive progress toward stopping a dangerous and deranged regime from addressing its nuclear ambitions, not a bloody thing.

Setting the groundwork for Middle East peace- Do I even need to discuss this one? The Obama team has managed to sink relations with the Israelis without even gaining any good will from the Palestinians. Sandra Bullock did more for "....and World Peace" in Miss Congeniality.

Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng- They did manage to get him out of the country and then threw him into the Cultural Revolution of American Academia. That has been messy and he got booted from New York University and now hangs out at a fringe conservative think tank, A success, but pretty limited. 

And those are the accomplishments she picked. Pretty weak or even negative to this observer, certainly not much to be proud of or, dare I say, to run on. Then you have an entire cornucopia of catastrophes starting with the one that at this point makes a damn big difference.

Benghazi- She failed to approve multiple requests for security. She failed to support them (or get Obama to) when they were under attack. She lied about the causes of the planned al Qaeda attack when in possession of plenty of eyewitness and expert information saying it was just that. She told those lies to the families of the dead. 

Russia- Vlad the Impaler saw weakness and started his reset of the Soviet empire. Now that he is annexing the Ukraine, she has managed to compare him to Hitler. Not too impressive when your best shot is a reductio ad hitlerum.

China- Having completed their debt round acquiring most of the United States, they decided to turn the South and East China Seas into...well, the South and East CHINA Seas. Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and South Korea be damned.

Boko Haram- How did that whole "Don't call those terrorists, terrorists or they might get mad" thing work out? No need to answer.

The bottom line is that there are few, if any, positive accomplishments to speak of and the list of dismal failures is long and distinguished, These topics can and should come up if she decides she wants to be Commander in Chief.

Why Is the Defense Department Trying to Fund Climate Change Studies?

Soooo...the Obama Admin and DoD (same thing) has pushed the DoD to spend funds on studying climate change implications - presumably for military issues.  Let's be clear that weather ABSOLUTELY affects military operations.  Let's be clear that, whether or not you believe in climate change, if climate change exists, it will affect the weather and military operations.  But how far do you take the studying and the planning?  And is the Obama Admin using the DoD to do it's dirty work with regards to funding change in our behavior?  The Navy's Biofuel debacle?

 From NBC, a Pentagon spokesman says:

“Those changes shape the future operating environment, help us predict missions we'll have to undertake, and create challenges and constraints on how we operate on our bases,” Wright said. “We're taking sensible measured steps to mitigate the mission risk posed by climate change.” 

This is the same crew claiming that the Civil War in Syria is a result of climate change rather than the usual causes...from retired Admiral Lee Gunn:

The civil war in Syria, which has left an estimated 100,000 people dead, has its roots in a regional drought, said retired Navy Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, now a member of the military advisory board for CNA Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organization in Alexandria, Virginia.

From the HuffPo:

Research suggests, however, that the Department of Defense has a number of reasons to be worried about climate change. The department said in its own evaluation last year that climate change presents infrastructure challenges at home and abroad. Meanwhile, a March Pentagon report found that climate change impacts are "threat multipliers," and that the rapid rise of global temperatures and associated extreme weather events could exacerbate issues like "poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions -- conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."

So who is behind the Pentagon looking into climate change as one of our, if not the greatest, threats to our nation?

The Washington Times says it is retired flag officers (like Gunn) working along side of the Obama Team...with some looking to profit.

Retired military officers deeply involved in the climate change movement — and some in companies positioned to profit from it — spearheaded an alarmist global warming report this month that calls on the Defense Department to ramp up spending on what it calls a man-made problem.

The report, which the Obama administration immediately hailed as a call to action, was issued not by a private advocacy group but by a Pentagon-financed think tank that trumpets “absolute objectivity.” The research was funded by a climate change group that is also one of the think tank’s main customers...

Read the whole piece at the Washington Times and see if you agree with the Obama Administration's take on the report as "absolute objectivity"...