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National Guard soldiers and airmen face unemployment crisis


1st Lt. Ernest Rodriguez, shown with his daughter in October, signed up for another year in Afghanistan because he needs the money and knows that returning National Guard troops face high unemployment.

National Guard soldiers and airmen face unemployment crisis
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
November 23, 2012, 3:48 p.m.

For 1st Lt. Ernest Rodriguez, weekly chats with his young daughter via phone or Skype are the highlight of duty in Afghanistan.

The father from Sacramento desperately wants to come home to 7-year-old Samantha. But instead, he has signed up for another year in the war zone. He needs the money and he knows that returning National Guard troops face high unemployment.

More than half of those in his unit had no work when they got back to California in August. Across the country, an estimated 20% of returning National Guard soldiers and airmen are without jobs, former National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Craig R. McKinley told Congress earlier this year. That is twice the rate for all military veterans who have served since September 2001.

The Obama administration has helped reduce the unemployment rate for all recent veterans, from 15% nearly two years ago to 10% last month, by developing online tools to help returning troops find jobs, working with employers to increase recruitment and retention, and signing into law tax credits for hiring veterans.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Nov 24, 2012, 07:35 AM (0 replies)

US Navy finally starts replacing killer dolphins with mine-hunting Knifefish drones


US Navy finally starts replacing killer dolphins with mine-hunting Knifefish drones
By John Hewitt on November 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm

The military use of sea mammals reached its height during the Cold War. It is a story filled with fascination and intrigue, including trained killer dolphins — and even counter-killer-dolphin dolphins. Our enlightened times now herald greater thoughtfulness towards our fellow sapients. New undersea robots like the US Navy’s Knifefish, together with a heavy dose of fiscal reality, have begun to close this chapter of military history.

Roughly 17 million barrels of oil pass through the Straight of Hormuz between Oman and Iran each day. When Iran threatened to close it down earlier this year, Pentagon officials determined that the estimated arsenal of 2,000 undersea mines could be cleared in about a week. In this case, a German-made drone known as the Seafox would be tasked for the job. The 4-foot (1.2m), 100-pound (45kg) Seafox is semiautonomous but relies upon a fiber optic tether for communications. It “diffuses” mines after identifying them by triggering an explosive self-destruct sequence that effectively ends its own tour of duty. At $100,000 a pop, other solutions to keep the routes of commerce safe and open are needed.

The Navy has now set its sights on the Knifefish, named for the freshwater fish that images objects using electric fields. At 19 feet (5.8m) and 1700 pounds (770kg), the torpedo-shaped drone is much larger than the Seafox and will greatly extend its capabilities. It is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can remain active for up to 16 hours, giving it a much longer range. It also uses a low-frequency synthetic aperture sonar that can penetrate beneath a soft sea floor. The Knifefish will be able to tell actual mines from other submerged debris with better accuracy. Mines will be able to be fingerprinted in real time by using resonance patterns obtained during imaging and comparing them to known signatures. Eight units will be jointly built by General Dynamics and Bluefin Robotics, at a total cost of $20 million. Naval divers will still carry out many mine clearing operations themselves, but drones will reduce dive frequency and associated risk.

The deployment of Knifefish, and their larger intended successors, raises a few strategical issues and hints to the need for greater cooperative efforts between nations. Not yet able to destroy mines directly, the Knifefish will initially map and image mines, and send the data elsewhere. Tankers or cruise ships that can afford extra assurance, or insurance as the case may be, might use a Knifefish-like shepherd when navigating critical waterways. At some point however, with many vessels sweeping and reporting the same threat concerns, someone has to take responsibility to go and eliminate them. The question of whose job this becomes is reflective of a similar drama soon to be played out in space with the looming problem of orbital debris.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 09:26 AM (0 replies)

God's Man In The Puzzle Palace


Petraeus, Supporter of Military's "Spiritual Fitness" Program, Should Have Been Fired Years Ago
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 14:54 By Mikey Weinstein, Alternet | Op-Ed

"How the mighty have fallen ," the headlines blared in a mournful tone. Far from falling in a blaze of glory on the battlefield, this time the storied General fell on his own sword . The proverbial "sword" in this pathetic spectacle was the hypocrisy of retired General and CIA Director David Petraeus, the "warrior scholar" and avatar of asymmetric warfare himself, and an intoxicated ambition dangerously fed (and ultimately, doomed) by the personality cult built up around him. This arrogant arc of ego-inflation culminated in a disastrous and humiliating extramarital affair between Petraeus and his adoring, hubristic hagiographer. Had not even the Director of the CIA clearly internalized the maxim, "loose lips sink ships"?


"What went wrong?" So ask the yellow "journalists" and "embedded" hacks swarming about the Potomac. The press had grown so used to singing hosannas about the man (the legend) that their own songs hypnotized them into a frenetic palsy of unrestricted ardor , regardless of the dubious consequences of his strategies overseas . Indeed, this set-to was yet another classic case of the echo chamber undermining basic journalistic integrity, not to mention the national security interests of the American people as a whole. The yellow journalism worm is now exhibiting its rapid metamorphosis into a tabloid slug as Pravda-esque Pentagon propagandists now perform the dirty work of gutter-dwelling paparazzi . The mother of all weapons of mass distraction now consists of the lurid details of Petraeus’ steamy love life. Meanwhile, from the bloodied borders of Iraq and Syria to the war-scarred mountains of Pashtunistan, the world keeps burning… as do the charred fringes of servicemember morale, good order and discipline.

As far back as 2007, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( MRFF), the civil rights foundation that I head, was shining the floodlight on matters of infidelity far graver than the General’s prurient peccadilloes.

Ironically enough, Petraeus was a vocal advocate of military "Spiritual Fitness." Spiritual Fitness is little more than a disingenuous and transparent Trojan horse for Evangelical Christian Fundamentalism within the U.S. Armed Forces. Indeed, it is a sinister Star Chamber, an unlawful means by which nationalism and militarism are merged with sectarian Christian zeal. One of the core components of Spiritual Fitness is matrimonial loyalty, but since when were religious fundamentalism and outright hypocrisy mutually exclusive? But I digress…

Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 08:43 AM (0 replies)

6 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam


6 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam
AlterNet / By James K. Galbraith
November 22, 2012 |

Stripped to essentials, the fiscal cliff is a device constructed to force a rollback of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the price of avoiding tax increases and disruptive cuts in federal civilian programs and in the military. It was policy-making by hostage-taking, timed for the lame duck session, a contrived crisis, the plain idea now unfolding was to force a stampede.


First, is there a looming crisis of debt or deficits, such that sacrifices in general are necessary? No, there is not. Not in the short run – as almost everyone agrees. But also: not in the long run. What we have are computer projections, based on arbitrary – and in fact capricious – assumptions. But even the computer projections no longer show much of a crisis. CBO has adjusted its interest rate forecast, and even under its “alternative fiscal scenario” the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years.

Second, is there a looming crisis of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, such that these programs must be reformed? No, there is not. Social insurance programs are not businesses. They are not required to make a profit; they need not be funded from any particular stream of tax revenues over any particular time horizon. Reasonable control of health care costs – public and private – is necessary and also sufficient to keep the costs of Medicare and Medicaid within bounds.

Third, would the military sequestration programmed to start in January be a disaster? No, it would not be. Military spending is set in any event to decline – and it should decline as we adjust our military programs to our national security needs. The sequester is at worst harmless; at best it's an invitation to speed the process of moving away from a Cold War force structure to one suited to the modern world.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 08:32 AM (0 replies)

Nick Turse, The Secret Building Boom of the Obama Years


America Begins Nation-Building at Home
(Provided Your Home is the Middle East)
By Nick Turse

A billion dollars from the federal government: that kind of money could go a long way toward revitalizing a country’s aging infrastructure. It could provide housing or better water and sewer systems. It could enhance a transportation network or develop an urban waterfront. It could provide local jobs. It could do any or all of these things. And, in fact, it did. It just happened to be in the Middle East, not the United States.

The Pentagon awarded $667.2 million in contracts in 2012, and more than $1 billion during Barack Obama’s first term in office for construction projects in largely autocratic Middle Eastern nations, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District (USACE-MED). More than $178 million in similar funding is already anticipated for 2013. These contracts represent a mix of projects, including expanding and upgrading military bases used by U.S. troops in the region, building facilities for indigenous security forces, and launching infrastructure projects meant to improve the lives of local populations.

The figures are telling, but far from complete. They do not, for example, cover any of the billions spent on work at the more than 1,000 U.S. and coalition bases, outposts, and other facilities in Afghanistan or the thousands more manned by local forces. They also leave out construction projects undertaken in the region by other military services like the U.S. Air Force, as well as money spent at an unspecified number of bases in the Middle East that the Corps of Engineers “has no involvement with,” according to Joan Kibler, chief of the Middle East District’s public affairs office.

How many of these projects are obscured by a thick veil of secrecy is unknown, with U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) refusing to name or even offer a full count of all U.S. bases in the region. On the record, CENTCOM will acknowledge only 10 bases as in its area of operations outside of Afghanistan, even though there are more than two dozen, according to a CENTCOM official who spoke to TomDispatch on the condition of anonymity. Exactly how many more and just where all U.S. construction work in the region is taking place continues to be kept under tight wraps. Still, Army Corps of Engineers data, other official documents, and publicly available contract information offer a baseline indication of the way the Pentagon is garrisoning the Greater Middle East and which countries are becoming ever more integral allies.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 08:00 AM (1 replies)

Petraeus Fell For The Wrong Reason


Petraeus Fell For The Wrong Reason
By Sheldon Richman (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/21/2012 at 14:52:32

David Petraeus has fallen -- but not as he should have. Before being disgraced by an extramarital affair, the retired four-star general and ex-CIA director should have been shamed out of public life for his horrendous military record in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are we talking about the same David Petraeus who is said to have heroically saved Iraq with the famous surge and then salvaged a floundering military effort in Afghanistan?

That's the one. But those "accomplishments" are merely the products of sharp public relations.

The fact is that Petraeus presided over the brutal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with torture, terrifying night raids, and violent sectarian cleansing. If Americans knew the truth -- which the news media are uninterested in disclosing because it detracts from their narrative -- they would not see heroism in David Petraeus. They would see the villainy of a man who carries out the orders of his imperial superiors and the ruthlessness with which the American empire treats whoever gets in its way. Alas, unfaithfulness in his marriage is the least of Petraeus's offenses.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 07:56 AM (4 replies)

2010 version: We had to destroy the villages to save them


Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

How Mistress Helped Petraeus
By Gareth Porter
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/16/2012 at 22:54:46

Paula Broadwell, whose affair with former Gen. David Petraeus brought his career to a sudden end last week, had sought to help defend his decision in 2010 to allow village destruction in Afghanistan that not only violated his own previous guidance but the international laws of war.


Ironically, it was Broadwell who introduced the complete razing of the village of Tarok Kalache in Kandahar's Arghandab Valley in October 2010 to the blogosphere. Dramatic photographs of the village before and after it was razed, which she had obtained from U.S. military sources, were published with her article in the military blog Best Defense on Jan. 13, 2011. The pictures and her article brought a highly critical response from blogger Joshua Foust, who is a specialist on Afghanistan.

Tarok Kalache was only one of many villages destroyed or nearly destroyed in an October 2010 offensive by U.S. forces in three districts of Kandahar Province, because the heavy concentrations of IEDs had made clearing the village by conventional forces too costly.

Flynn told Spencer Ackerman of the Danger Room blog in early February 2011 that, once he felt he had the necessary intelligence on IEDs in Tarok Kalache, he had adopted a plan to destroy the village, first with mine clearing charges, which destroyed everything within a swath 100 yards long and wide enough for a tank, then with aerial bombing. U.S. forces completed the destruction on Oct. 6, 2010, dropping 25 2,000-pound bombs on what remained of Tarok Kalache's 36 compounds and gardens, according to Flynn's account.

unhappycamper comment: We did this same shit in Vietnam.


Vietnam War

A famous quote from the Vietnam War was a statement attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer by AP correspondent Peter Arnett in his writing about Bến Tre city on 7 February 1968. Arnett cited an unidentified U.S. military official in his report: "'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it', a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong."[3] The quote became distorted in subsequent publications, eventually becoming the more familiar, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."[4] However, the accuracy of the original quote and its source, have been called into question.[5]

Arnett never revealed his source, except to say that it came from one of four officers he interviewed that day. United States Army Major Phil Cannella, the senior officer present at Bến Tre, suggested that the quote might have been a distortion of something he had said to Arnett.[4]The New Republic at the time attributed the quote to U.S. Air Force Major Chester L. Brown.

In Walter Cronkite's 1971 book, Eye on the World, Arnett re-asserted that the quote was something "one American major said to me in a moment of revelation."[6] However, another American veteran of the campaign, Captain Michael D. Miller, wrote in his 2006 book, Saving Bến Tre, that he heard the comment being made by one Major Booris at a press briefing.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 07:39 AM (0 replies)

Give Thanks You Weren't Bombed and Murdered by Americans Because You ARE Americans


Give Thanks You Weren't Bombed and Murdered by Americans Because You ARE Americans
By Jay Janson (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/22/2012 at 03:33:11

On Thanksgiving, don't forget to give thanks for being American. Give thanks that what is happening in Syria this year, Libya last year, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen, in years before, continuing today, and planned to happen in Iran in the immediate future, cannot happen to you in America because Americans are not about to butcher their own, at least not yet.

Give thanks that you and your children, your parents and grandparents were living in the best country in the world during the last sixty-three years and not in countries that got bombed like hell for years, for example, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Give thanks that being American, you and yours never had to suffer invasion and bombing like Dominicans, Lebanese, Panamanians, Cubans, S and Grenadines - never had to watch in fear for your family as your government was overthrown in violence covertly initiated by a superpower, like the citizens of Greece, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Haiti had to suffer.

That you never had to fear for your children being arrested and not heard from again like most Latin Americans under military dictatorships put in by a foreign government more awesomely powerful than the world has ever seen before.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 07:19 AM (23 replies)

Homeland Security spent $430 million on radios its employees don’t know how to use


Homeland Security spent $430 million on radios its employees don’t know how to use
By Pro Publica
Thursday, November 22, 2012 7:16 EST
by Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica

Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished.

DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.

Only one of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general’s office was actually able to use the common channel, according to the report. Most of those surveyed 2014 72 percent 2014 didn’t even know the common channel existed. Another 25 percent knew the channel existed but weren’t able to find it; 3 percent were able to find an older common channel, but not the current one.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 07:16 AM (3 replies)

Marine Corps get first F-35, but with no weapons or the right gear


Marine Corps get first F-35, but with no weapons or the right gear
Published: 19 November, 2012, 21:42

Lockheed Martin has started to send F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to the Marine Corps, but the finishing touches on the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons acquisition ever are still years away.

The Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona received their first F-35 JSF on Friday, but the pricey airplane won’t be pulverizing targets at subsonic speeds anytime soon. The Pentagon hopes that the Yuma base will soon be home to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, the first arsenal of the aircraft that will be deployed for military missions. Meanwhile, however, Lockheed Martin, the Defense Department contractor tasked with completing an order for the planes that is perpetually pushed back as more and more obstacles amount, has more work to do.


In September, the incoming director of the F-35 program blasted Lockheed Martin for blowing through the resources the United States had allowed for the program, which was slated from the beginning to be the priciest weapons purchase for the Pentagon yet. Several years down the road, though, complications are keeping the future of the craft so uncertain that other nations have already reconsidered their contracts with Lockheed pending how America’s purchase ends up.


So far the F-35 program has set the Pentagon back $395.7 billion, or 70 percent more than they initially planned on spending. But while a finished product is still years down the road, the primitive model being touted around the Yuma base is apparently being used to show that the strikers will soon be ready, hell or high water. In the meantime, though, there isn’t much they can do with the craft.

unhappycamper comment: Ka Ching!
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Nov 22, 2012, 11:39 AM (6 replies)
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