Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Great Moments in Journalism, Redux

If you're a J-school grad who abandoned the "profession" (and I use that term loosely) for greener pastures, be thankful.  More than likely, you're making more money than a member of the stenographer corps, with your reputation and integrity fully intact.

Don't believe me?  Consider this stellar moments from a current practitioner in the field:

CNN Anchor Brooke Baldwin blames military veterans for Baltimore riots.

That's right.  Ms. Baldwin, best known for her confusion about 4chan, suggested that vets who go into law enforcement are responsible for the violence and destruction on display in Maryland's largest city.  She made the observation yesterday, during an interview with Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings.  From Breitbart:

"In a pathetic suck-up interview with Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummins, Baldwin never once had the moral courage to ask the failed Baltimore City congressman if the left-wing policies ushered in by a half-century of a Democrat monopoly in Baltimore might have something to do with the city’s ills. Instead, she said of young military veterans who become police officers, “I love our nation’s veterans, but some of them are coming back from war, they don’t know the communities, and they are ready to do battle.” 

Pardon my ignorance, but does anyone know what in the hell she is talking about?  Is there any proof that officers involved in recent, high-profile cases of alleged police brutality were crazed vets?  Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who was completely exonerated in last year's shooting of a black teenager (who robbed a store and tried to take his gun) never served in the military.  Michael Slager, the North Charleston, South Carolina officer now facing murder charges for shooting an unarmed suspect, Walter Scott, is a veteran of the Coast Guard, but never served in combat. 

Putting it bluntly, there isn't the slightest shred of evidence supporting the theory that military service is making cops shoot black suspects, or those of any other color. But that little inconvenient fact didn't stop Ms. Baldwin from slandering vets who now serve in law enforcement.  In fact, many police departments actively recruit former service members for a variety of reasons, ranging from law enforcement and experience in the military, to their judgment and maturity in stressful situations. 

On the other hand, there is ample proof that street gangs--including those reportedly targeting police officers in Baltimore--have infiltrated the U.S. military.   Four years ago, the FBI reported that gang members have been discovered in all branches of the armed services, with the largest concentrations in the Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.  A better question for Ms. Baldwin might have been: are police worried about gang bangers with armed forces training who might be on the streets of Baltimore, anxious to target officers who are trying to restore order. 

But that goes against the narrative, where various agitators, street thugs and groups like the Nation of Islam are being praised for their efforts in trying to restore calm.  Much easier for a "journalist" like Brooke Baldwin to resurrect stereotypes from the 1970s, and blame cops with military backgrounds for the unrest that tore Ferguson apart, and is once again on display in Baltimore.





Friday, April 17, 2015

Missing Man

The "Missing Man Table"--complete with the offending Bible--that was recently removed from the dining facility at Patrick AFB, FL (Photo by Lt Col Steve Hyle, Ret, and posted at the KLIX Radio website

A sad little kerfuffle has unfolded at Patrick AFB, Florida in recent weeks.

It's sad, because the controversy was totally preventable and completely unnecessary.  But in today's politically correct military, senior leaders scramble to avoid offending the smallest minority, lest that individual or group contact their Congressmen, the media--or both--and create a tempest that derails a commander's career.  Never mind that such efforts often anger the vast majority of military members and generate the same controversy the commander was hoping to avoid.

At Patrick, the sordid business began--of all places--at the base dining facility.

Like many military mess halls, the Riverside Dining Facility at Patrick proudly displayed a "POW-MIA Missing Man Table," honoring those held captive in the nation's wars, and those who went missing in action.  The tables are a long-honored military tradition; the display includes a white table cloth setting with an inverted glass, a plate with lemon and salt, a single rose, a candle and a Bible.

According to the National League of POW and MIA Families, each element is carefully selected for its significance.  The Bible "represents the strength gained through faith in our country, founded as one nation under God, to sustain those lost from our midst."

But someone at Patrick took offense to inclusion of the Bible, so the entire display was removed last month.  Bad move, because that caught the attention of airmen, retirees and other personnel who eat at Riverside.  They raised cain, and late last month, the "missing" POW-MIA table made the pages of Florida Today, the largest newspaper on the Space Coast.

Once the media came knocking, base "leadership" had a change of heart.  Here's a statement they released in late March, affirming their desire to honor POWs and those missing in action, and promising to restore the display:

“The 45th Space Wing deeply desires to honor America’s Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) personnel,” commanders said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, the Bible’s presence or absence on the table at the Riverside Dining Facility ignited controversy and division, distracting from the table’s primary purpose of honoring POWs/MIAs. Consequently, we temporarily replaced the table with the POW/MIA flag in an effort to show our continued support of these heroes while seeking an acceptable solution to the controversy.”

“After consultation with several relevant organizations, we now intend to re-introduce the POW/MIA table in a manner inclusive of all POWs/MIAs as well as Americans everywhere.” the statement said.

So far, there has been no confirmation that the POW-MIA table is back on display at the dining facility.

The Patrick incident is merely the latest skirmish in the USAF's internal war over religion, which has been raging for almost two decades.  In the mid-1990s, the service began allowing Wiccans and other groups to use base chapel facilities, a move that brought complaints from Christian and Jewish airmen. Later, the Air Force became embroiled in a legal battle with a former JAG officer, Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, who claimed he was subjected to anti-Semitic comments and harassment as a cadet at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s, and his sons received similar treatment at the school three decades later.  

Weinstein's various lawsuits and threats of additional legal action put the Air Force on the defensive.  Other events, including the alleged "Koran flushing" incident at Guantanamo Bay--which never actually occurred--only heightened sensitivities to perceived slights and religious offenses.  Against that backdrop, it's no wonder commanders at Patrick folded like a cheap suit and removed the offending display, replete with the Holy Bible.

And that begs another question: would the POW-MIA table still be on display if it included a Koran, the vedas, or the Tipitaka?  And where were the base chaplains when this controversy erupted?  Did any of them take a stand in the name of the military's religious heritage, founded on Judeo-Christian principles?

 Chaplain (Major General) Robert Preston Taylor, in his final assignment as Chief of Chaplains for the USAF.  Taylor began his military career as an Army chaplain in the Philippines, where he was hailed as a hero for rescuing wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and ministering to fellow POWs after being captured by the Japanese (USAF photo)   

At times like these, we wish the Air Force still had clergy like Robert Preston Taylor, who eventually became the services Chief of Chaplains (with the rank of Major General ) before retiring in 1966.  Almost 20 years after his passing,  Taylor remains the exemplar for military chaplains, ministering under conditions that could, quite literally, be described as hell on earth.  

Chaplain Taylor's exploits are detailed in a pair of excellent books, Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides and Days of Anguish, Days of Hope, a biography first published in 1972.  Both describe a man of deep religious faith who never wavered from his beliefs or his duty during the darkest days of World War II.

When the U.S. entered the conflict, Taylor was a chaplain assigned to the Army's 31st Infantry Regiment, deployed on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines.  As Taylor's superiors later observed, the young chaplain could often be found "at the point of greatest danger," ministering to his flock.  He won the Silver Star for rescuing wounded men on the battlefield, and volunteered to search for part of the regiment that went missing during the desperate campaign against Japanese invaders.  Taylor spent a week behind enemy lines before rejoining the regiment.  

With the surrender of U.S. forces in the Philippines in April 1942, Taylor became one of thousands of American POWs.  He endured the terrors of the Bataan Death March, watching scores of U.S. and Filipino troops being bayoneted when the collapsed from hunger, thirst, exhaustion or illness. 

The march ended at the Cabanatuan POW camp, which became the largest internment facility for Allied POWs in the Philippines.  Disease quickly took hold in the weakened population, and once again, Taylor put himself in personal jeopardy, working in the prison hospital.  With a dozen prisoners (or more) dying each day, Chaplain Taylor made contact with a local guerrilla network, smuggling badly needed food and medicine into the camp.  His actions literally saved the lives of scores of prisoners.  

Taylor's contact on the outside was an American woman named Claire Phillips, who ran a club in Manila frequented by Japanese officers.  Operating under the code name "High Pockets," Phillips provided a steady flow of rations and medical supplies to the POWs.  Unfortunately, the Japanese intercepted one of her shipments, which included a Greek New Testament inscribed to "Chap Bob," who the guards quickly identified as Robert Taylor.

As punishment, the Japanese tortured the chaplain and placed him in the "heat box," a suffocating, half-buried bamboo cell that was so small that prisoners could not stand erect.  Taylor emerged from the box in bad shape, but he eventually recovered and continued to assist his fellow prisoners.  

But Chaplain Taylor's ordeal was far from over.  With American forces poised to re-take the Philippines, Taylor was among those transferred to Japan on the notorious "hell ships;" hundreds of men crowed into the holds of old cargo vessels with little food, water, ventilation and no sanitary facilities.  Some of the ships were torpedoed by American submarines, unaware that their countrymen were onboard.  Others--including the vessel transporting Taylor--were attacked by our aircraft and scores of POWs died.

Taylor eventually made it to Manchuria, where he was forced to work in a coal mine until Soviet troops liberated him in August 1945.  He weighed barely 100 pounds at the time of his release.  Upon returning to the States, he learned his wife had married another man, after receiving a War Department telegram that listed him as "missing and believed dead" on Bataan.  

Chaplain Taylor would serve another 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, eventually becoming the service's senior cleric.  In his official photo, Taylor appears to be holding a copy of the Bible, with an Air Force logo on the cover.  Even as a flag officer, Taylor left no doubt about his convictions or his duties as a pastor.  

I wonder what Robert Preston Taylor would think about a Bible on a POW-MIA table, and the commanders at Patrick who pulled the display, lest the Holy Book offend someone.    



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Along the Border

For the second time in less than a year, there are reports of an ISIS presence along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The latest claims come from Judicial Watch, which cited information from a Mexican Army officer and a police inspector in an on-line report, stating that the terror group is operating a camp near Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso:

The exact location where the terrorist group has established its base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.

During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

Law enforcement and intelligence sources report the area around Anapra is dominated by the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Cartel (“Juárez Cartel”), La Línea (the enforcement arm of the cartel) and the Barrio Azteca (a gang originally formed in the jails of El Paso). Cartel control of the Anapra area make it an extremely dangerous and hostile operating environment for Mexican Army and Federal Police operations.

The same officials also claim that "coyotes"--working for the Mexican cartels--have been smuggling ISIS operatives across the border into southern New Mexico, and across the Rio Grande east of El Paso, establishing transit corridors in areas where drug smuggling typically goes unchecked. 

So far, there has been no confirmation of the Judicial Watch report.  But last August, the group issued similar warnings, citing a Texas law enforcement bulletin which claimed Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers were eying the southern border as a possible infiltration route.  At the time, federal officials said they were "unaware" of any "specific, credible threat to the homeland" from the Islamic State.  

But local actions suggested otherwise.  The sheriff of Midland County, Texas told Fox News late last summer that local authorities had been told to "keep a lookout" for ISIS terrorists coming across the Mexican border.  

And, during that same period, there was a flurry of security activity at Fort Bliss, the sprawling Army post in El Paso that lies less than 30 miles from the reported ISIS camp.  As we reported last fall:

Major General Stephen Twitty took command of the post and its largest unit (the 1st Armored Division) in August, and has devoted much of his time to improving post security.  While General Twitty said there was no indication of an immediate ISIS threat, he also promised changes in base security procedures:

When it comes to security measures at Fort Bliss gates, everyone should “expect the unexpected,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, at a press conference Tuesday.

“If you come here every week, you’re going to see something different, because that’s just the way I am,” Twitty said before 16 media representatives at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center. “I like mixing it up.”


Twitty said he knew when he started his job that the installation, due to the large expansion beginning in 2006, had outgrown its access control points, and that they needed to be brought into Army and Department of Defense compliance in some areas.

A week after he took command, assessment teams from the Army and the DOD visited Fort Bliss, and members of those teams noted needed improvements, Twitty said.

For example, the installation is out of compliance at Cassidy gate, because there are not prescribed lanes for civilian traffic and for performing searches, Twitty said.     

There was a certain irony in General Twitty's actions.  He served a previous tour as Deputy Commanding General at Fort Bliss before moving (briefly) to a Pentagon post, then returning to El Paso.  During his previous tour, Twitty certainly had the ear of his CG, but there's no evidence he pushed for a heightened security posture. And, given the billions poured into Fort Bliss over the past decade, there was plenty of money to upgrade entry checkpoints and other security measures.  Yet, there appeared to be little interest in making those improvements until last year.

What changed?  The answer apparently lies along the border.  We can't say definitively that ISIS is operating in the El Paso region, but that possibility cannot be ruled out.  General Twitty did the right thing when he beefed up security at Fort Bliss.  If only the same thing could be said for the rest of our southern border. 

The Texas Department of Public Safety has rebuked claims of the ISIS camp near El Paso, saying it has "no credible evidence" that such a facility exists.  But there seems to be little doubt about the terrorist group's apparent interest in our southern border, and the renewed emphasis on security at Fort Bliss.  

And, barely 24 hours after the Texas DPS tried to assure everyone that Islamic terrorists are not operating in the El Paso region, Judicial Watch posted a new report, which ups the ante a bit more.  According to the watchdog group, the FBI held a meeting at the U.S. consulate in Juarez early in the week, shortly after the new Judicial Watch report appeared.  An intelligence source tells the group the meeting was convened to develop a press strategy to counter claims of an ISIS camp near El Paso.  Oddly enough, representatives of the Department of Homeland Security were not invited to attend, suggesting the FBI believes DHS agents are providing information to Judicial Watch.  Stay tuned.            


Sealing the Deal

The expected deal between Iran and the U.S. has been widely condemned as "paving the road" for Tehran to get the bomb.  And rightfully so.  Talks that began years ago with the goal of preventing the mullahs from enriching uranium will conclude with an "agreement" that makes Iran a nuclear threshold state, never more than a year away from the bomb--but only for the first decade of the agreement.  After that, as President Obama told NPR, breakout times "would have shrunk to almost zero."

In other words, Tehran's membership in the nuclear club is inevitable.  At some point, the Iranian regime will find a convenient reason to scrap the pending agreement and quickly build a bomb.  And that assumes that Iran will actually abide by a diplomatic agreement for at least a few years--something it has never done in the past.

It also presumes that Tehran does not have a covert development effort--a very real possibility--that could produce weapons while its leaders perpetuate the fiction of compliance.  Lest we forget, a half-dozen previously undisclosed sites have been uncovered in Iran since 2000.  Virtually all were revealed by Iranian opposition groups and not western intelligence agencies.  Their ability to ensure Iranian compliance is suspect at best.  The same can be said for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But history may ultimately judge that the final step in Tehran's nuclear march wasn't the diplomatic agreement; the move that ultimately sealed the deal came just a few days later, when Russia lifted its long-standing ban on selling the S-300 air defense system to the Iranians.

Actually, Vladimir Putin didn't need much arm-twisting to renew the contract; Moscow has been chomping at the bit to provide the S-300 to Iran, and the system may be delivered very quickly.  Iranian officials have stated they believe the advanced air defense system could be operational in their country by the end of this year--and possibly, even sooner.  Tehran could arrange to have S-300 radars, missile launchers, C2 units and support equipment flown in from Russia and manned (initially) by Russian crews.  That means Iran could have an initial S-300 capability in a matter of weeks, rather than a matter of months.

As we've written before, deployment of the S-300 in Iran represents a game-changer, particularly in terms of a potential Israeli air strike.  The S-300 (or, if you prefer the NATO designation, SA-20) is one of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems in the world, with excellent capabilities against both aircraft and ballistic missiles, with a maximum range between 120-250 NM, depending on which interceptor missile variant is employed.  Think of the S-300 as an advanced version of the U.S. Patriot and you've got the right idea; it's a state-of-the-art system that can provide overlapping coverage of Iranian nuclear facilities, from a variety of threats.

The S-300 is not invincible, but suppressing that type of system requires significant investments in resources and time.  The U.S., for example, would employ salvos of cruise missiles to eliminate deployed SAM batteries and eliminate support infrastructure.  Cyber attacks would be employed against the early warning and command-and-control networks that support the S-300, in an effort to reduce situational awareness and force individual batteries into autonomous or semi-autonomous operations.  As the S-300 network becomes increasingly fragmented, stealth platforms like the F-22 would lead missions aimed at eliminating most of the remaining launchers and radars, providing support and cover for E/F-18 Growlers (providing jamming support) and F-16CJs in the Wild Weasel role.

At a minimum, this effort would take dozens of cruise missile strikes and scores of sorties over a period of several days.  And that's a luxury that Israel doesn't have.  Even with forward basing in places like Azerbaijan, or access through Saudi airspace, the Israeli Air Force would be looking at complex, long-range missions and they would be asset-limited by their small tanker fleet.  Most estimates of an IAF first strike against Iranian nuclear targets put the number of tactical aircraft at somewhere between 24-36, roughly the maximum number that could be refueled by six or seven Israeli tankers.

That is not to say Israel is without options.  With accurate intelligence, they could take out the missiles shortly after delivery--as they did in Syria during the fall of 2013.  But getting to southern Syria is a much easier proposition than flying all the way to Iran and back.  And, if the Russians opted for multiple deliveries (by air) to several different locations, the IAF's targeting problems would be infinitely more complex.

This much is certain: Israel's "window" for eliminating the S-300 threat (and bombing Iranian nuclear sites) is growing quite narrow.  Russia and Iran won't rest until the air defense system is operational, and Tehran always has the option of ratcheting up covert development efforts, in facilities unknown to both the U.S. and Israel.  The Iranians know the IAF has only a limited ability to sustain a long-distance air campaign against targets in their country, and arrival of the S-300 will force the Israelis to rethink their options.  Meanwhile, the world power capable of sustaining an air campaign against Iran (the United States) is firmly wedded to a "diplomatic solution" that effectively gives Tehran the bomb.

Put another way: Iran is no longer worried about a U.S. attack, and they view the advanced SAM system as an effective insurance policy against an Israeli strike.  You might say Iran's status as a nuclear power will be secured by those first FLAP LID emissions and battery deployments inside the Islamic Republic. 

ADDENDUM:  If you need further proof that Iran isn't worried about American military action, consider President Obama's comments about the S-300 deal.  According to Channel 10 in Israel, Mr. Obama said he was surprised that Russia's suspension of the missile sale "held this long," since Moscow was not barred from selling those "defensive" weapons.

Translated, Obama is privately pleased that Russia is going ahead with the sale.  He figures it will discourage an Israeli military strike, and force everyone to go along with the so-called framework, recently worked out in Switzerland.  Meanwhile, Iran will remain on the cusp of getting a nuclear weapon, with a greatly reduced threat to its nuclear facilities, thanks to pending deployments of the S-300.                        


Monday, April 13, 2015

What's Wrong With this Picture, Redux

Go to Bing, type "Russian jet US plane" into the browser, then look at what your search reveals.

At the top of the page, above the caption "U.S. plane intercepted," you could see this picture (at least for a while), selected by the bright boys and girls at Microsoft.  It's an introduction, of sorts, for articles on a recent, dangerous intercept of an American RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft by a Russian SU-27 fighter.  But the RC-135 is not in the photo posted by the folks at Bing.  Instead, they chose this one:


The B-36 at sunset, back in the late 1940s or early 50s.  

Yes, that plane was probably intercepted by the Russians--about 60 years ago.  

The aircraft in question is the B-36 "Peacemaker," built by Convair and in service with the U.S. Air Force from 1949-1959.  At 230 feet, it had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft in history, and was the largest piston-engine aircraft ever built.  It was the nation's primary nuclear bomber from the early years of the Cold War until the late 1950s, when the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress began to replace the Peacemaker.

In many ways, the B-36 was a remarkable aircraft.  It carried four times the payload of a B-29 and with forward basing or intermediate refueling on the ground, it could reach targets in the Soviet Union without support from aerial tankers--an important consideration in an era when Strategic Air Command relied on KC-97s (modified B-29s) for the in-flight refueling mission.  The B-36 had a crew of 15 and could stay aloft for up to 40 hours.  Crew members traveled from the nose to the tail of the bomber through a pressurized tunnel, pulling themselves along on a wheeled trolley.

Early models of the B-36 had six radial propeller engines, but when the B-36D was introduced, four jet engines were added, increasing its speed and raising its combat ceiling above 40,000 feet.  With the piston-and-jet engine configuration Peacemaker crews often reported they had "six-a-turnin' and four burnin.'  But in most cases, the jet engines were only used during takeoff, or during sprints towards a simulated target.  If the GE J47 turbojets had remained operating throughout flight, the B-36's range would have been significantly reduced.

The Peacemaker was capable of dropping the largest nuclear gravity bombs ever produced by the U.S., and crews feared blast effects more than enemy air defenses.  With a relatively slow cruising speed, B-36 crews worried about their ability to exit the target area before the bomb detonated.

While its primary mission was nuclear deterrence, the Air Force also developed a strategic recce version that probed Soviet defenses in the Arctic in the 1950s.  The advent of jet interceptors in the Russian Air Force increased the Peacemaker's vulnerability, and those missions were discontinued, and the B-36 was phased out in favor of all-jet designs like the B-52 and to a lesser degree, the B-47.   

But the giant bomber served its purpose.  It never fired a shot in anger, and the last Peacekeeper was retired in 1959, as the B-52 entered wide service and the nation's first ICBMs and medium-range ballistic missiles came on line.  Maybe the photo editors at Bing can dig up a shot of a Jupiter or Atlas  the next time we conducted a missile test from Vandenburg.
ADDENDUM:  The B-36 photo has since been removed by Bing.  Wonder how many complaints they received about using a picture of a long-retired bomber to illustrate their story on the Russian intercept.   


Buh-Bye Bob

CBS's Bob Schieffer is starting his (abbreviated) victory lap, after announcing his retirement from the network last week.

And there's little doubt he is closing out his 50-year career in journalism on a high note.  "Face the Nation," the Sunday morning public affairs program that he has anchored for more than two decades, is currently #1 in the ratings, well ahead of NBC's "Meet the Press."  Schieffer also anchored almost every other news broadcast at CBS during his tenure at the network, including the network's evening newscast, during the rocky period between Dan Rather's dismissal and the hiring of Katie Couric. Schieffer is widely credited for restoring stability to the broadcast, and given Couric's dismal performance, many believe he would have been a far better choice to permanently fill the chair. 

Mr. Schieffer announced he was stepping down last Wednesday at his alma mater, Texas Christian University.  He revealed his retirement plans during the annual news symposium which bears his name, at the school's college of communications, which is also named for Schieffer.  Anyone see a pattern here?

But TCU's lionization of its famous graduate almost pales compared to the effusive praise Schieffer received from fellow journalists.  A sampling of tweets collected by Poynter.org hailed the retiring anchor as a "stalwart" and "trusted by both sides."

However, in the interest of fairness, we offer the "other" Bob Schieffer, a collection of his greatest hits (compiled by the Media Research Center) that highlight the CBS anchor's obvious left-wing bias.  Consider this summation of Barack Obama's eminently forgettable State of the Union speech in 2013:

"This was a speech that had some music to it, as they used to say.  He coined a few phrases in there, talked about the 'unfinished task before us,' sort of reminiscent of what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address.  

Or this lecture to Herman Cain in 2011:

"Mr. Cain, I have to ask you, what is the point of that..having a man smoke a cigarette in a television commercial for you?  Well let me just tell you it's not funny to me.  I am a cancer survivor like you.  I had cancer that was smoking related.  I don't think it serves the country well and this is an editorial opinion here, to be showing someone smoking a cigarette.  You're the frontrunner now and it seems to me as the frontrunner you have a responsibility not to take that kind of tone in a campaign..why don't you take it off the internet?  

We should also note that Mr. Schieffer's folksy, on-air demeanor has concealed a petty, vindictive streak that was sometimes directed at colleagues.  During the late 70s and early 80s, Schieffer anchored the CBS Morning News, which never gained any traction against NBC's "Today" or "Good Morning America" on ABC.  At one point, CBS decided to hire network TV's first female meteorologist, Valerie Voss, to handle the forecasting duties.  For some reason, Schieffer disliked his new colleague, and never spoke to Voss on the set.  She went on to a long career as a senior meteorologist at CNN.

Likewise, Schieffer had low regard for Bill Kurtis, the man who eventually replaced him on the Morning News.  Never mind that Kurtis had a CBS News correspondent in Los Angeles; a spectacularly successful anchor for the network's owned-and-operated station in Chicago (WBBM), and the recipient of numerous journalism awards.  In one of his books, Schieffer simply refers to his successor as the "deep-voiced announcer" for the CBS station in Chicago.  

It's also a fair bet that Bill O'Reilly of Fox News won't be on the invite list for Schieffer's going away party in Washington.  Schieffer was the senior CBS correspondent who was dispatched to Argentina to cover the Falklands War, reducing air time for O'Reilly, who was a newcomer at the network.  O'Reilly exacted a measure of revenge by (reportedly) using Schieffer as a model for the lecherous White House correspondent murdered in the first chapter of "Those Who Tresspass," a novel published by the Fox News host in 2004.  

To be fair, no one works in broadcasting for more than 40 years without making a few enemies, and that appears to be the case with Mr. Schieffer.  But in the examples cited above, it appears his spite was reserved for colleagues with little power, or those who had the temerity to replace him in a high-visibility gig.  For all his courtly manners, Bob Schieffer could be vicious and mean-spirited and that's part of his media legacy as well. 

“Mr. Cain, I have to ask you what is the point of that? Having a man smoke a cigarette in a television commercial for you?...Well, let me just tell you, it’s not funny to me. I am a cancer survivor like you. I had cancer that was smoking related. I don’t think it serves the country well, and this is an editorial opinion here, to be showing someone smoking a cigarette. You’re the frontrunner now and it seems to me as frontrunner you would have a responsibility not to take that kind of a tone in this campaign....Why don’t you take it off the Internet?” - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/jeffrey-meyer/2015/04/09/cbs-oozes-giant-journalism-amazing-bob-schieffer-retiring#sthash.ytwhbqwu.dpuf

“This was a speech that had some music to it, as they used to say. He coined a few phrases in there, talked about the ‘unfinished task before us,’ sort of reminiscent of what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address.” - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/jeffrey-meyer/2015/04/09/cbs-oozes-giant-journalism-amazing-bob-schieffer-retiring#sthash.ytwhbqwu.dpuf
“This was a speech that had some music to it, as they used to say. He coined a few phrases in there, talked about the ‘unfinished task before us,’ sort of reminiscent of what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address.” - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/jeffrey-meyer/2015/04/09/cbs-oozes-giant-journalism-amazing-bob-schieffer-retiring#sthash.ytwhbqwu.dpuf

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Being Curt

The man with the toughest job in the USAF: General Robin Rand, recently nominated to be the first four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command and fix problems in the service's nuclear enterprise (USAF photo). 

The Air Force is taking another step towards fixing its troubled nuclear enterprise, by naming General Robin Rand to head Global Strike Command.  Pending Senate confirmation, Rand will become the first four-star to head the organization, which is responsible for the service's ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers.  Plans to elevate the AFGSC commander's billet from a three-star position were unveiled last November by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said it was "essential" to "change the cultural prestige of the nuclear mission" and make it commensurate with other operational areas.

Mr. Hagel's statement was merely the latest acknowledgment that the Air Force's nuclear units had suffered from years of neglect, resulting in a string of embarrassments, beginning with the inadvertent "transfer" of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from North Dakota to Louisiana in 2007.  Despite promises to fix issues with training, security, personnel retention and other issues, the cruise missile debacle was followed by more problems, ranging from failed nuclear inspections to drug use and a cheating scandal among missile crew members.

Creation of AFGSC was supposed to bring a new measure of focus and accountability to the nuclear mission, and it appeared to be a step in the right direction.  Indeed, the alignment of the service's strategic forces under a single command was a tacit admission that the Air Force made a major mistake when Strategic Air Command was inactivated in the early 1990s.

Throughout the Cold War, SAC was responsible for the nation's strategic bomber force, aerial tanker fleet, land-based ICBMs and key strategic reconnaissance assets.  SAC training and performance standards were the stuff of legend; if the Air Force regulation for a particular program or function covered 20 pages, the Strategic Air Command "supplement" was often four or five times longer.  One thing was certain: anyone assigned to the command never lacked for guidance, and with SAC's exacting inspection programs, problems were ruthlessly identified and fixed.

Indeed, the current Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, has admitted the service made a big mistake in getting rid of SAC.  Give him credit for honesty.  For decades, his predecessors insisted the days of SAC were past, and the bomber force was better off as a part of Air Combat Command (which is dominated by fighter pilots) and missiles were a natural fit for Air Force Space Command.  In both cases, assets that were at the forefront of SAC's warfighting capabilities took a back seat in their new commands.  Expertise in the nuclear mission began to deteriorate, as older hands retired and younger airmen sought escape from career fields viewed as a dead end.

For his marching orders, General Welsh has instructed General Rand to "go become the next Curt LeMay," a reference to the legendary general (and later, Air Force Chief of Staff) who transformed SAC from a hodgepodge of poorly trained units into the nation's preeminent strike force.  Through much of the 1950s, the bulk of the nation's nuclear deterrent rested with SAC, and there was no doubt the command and its aggressive leader were up to the task.

Almost 70 years later, Rand's personal charisma and dynamic leadership style made him a good choice to lead Global Strike Command.  But is he another Curtis LeMay?  The obvious answer is "no," since no one Air Force leader--before or since--has equaled LeMay's blend of courage, persistence, determination and vision.  General LeMay's mission was to transform SAC from an operational backwater into the nation's nuclear shield and he succeeded brilliantly, through his knowledge of strategic operations, an almost-unlimited budget and sheer force of personality.

By those criteria, General Rand faces an uphill battle.  Since graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1979, Rand has spent most of his time as a fighter pilot, including three consecutive tours as a fighter wing commander between 2003 and 2007.  General Rand clearly has exemplary leadership skills, but he'll need a little time to get up to speed on the mission of AFGSC and the particular needs of his bomber and missile crews.

There is also the matter of perception.  Rand is replacing a career bomber pilot (Lieutenant General Stephen Wilson) at Barksdale and don't think that transition isn't lost on the men and women of Global Strike Command.  For officers and NCOs who have spent their careers around Buffs, B-2s or the Minuteman III system, Rand's appointment could be perceived as the "fighter mafia" simply reasserting its control.  While that assessment is probably unfair, it is something Rand will have to contend with as he takes command.

In terms of resources, General Rand will inherit a force that is a fraction of what SAC once was, and long in the tooth, to boot.  The "newest" B-52 rolled off the Boeing assembly line more than 50 years ago; the Minuteman IIIs of our ICBM force date from the 1970s and even the relatively youthful B-2 stealth bombers are in their third decade of service.  And unlike the early 50s, Rand will not have a good chunk of the defense budget to fund upgrades and expansion.  Air Force leadership has promised more money for infrastructure improvements, personnel programs and limited aircraft upgrades, but it's a trickle of what is actually required.

As Air Force Magazine (subscription required) recently observed, the nation's nuclear deterrent has been underfunded and under-prioritized for more than 20 years.  The consequences of these decisions are now on display around the world; North Korea joined the nuclear club almost a decade ago, and Iran's entry is just a matter of time, even with the "deal" recently reached between Tehran and the Obama Administration.  A revitalized American deterrent force could be a stabilizing force in a dangerous world, but that won't happen with Mr. Obama in the White House.

That's why General Rand faces an even tougher job that the one given to Curt LeMay in the late 1940s. Not only is he on new ground in terms of mission responsibilities, Rand must also find a way to revitalize our land-based nuclear forces in an era of sequestration, and under a commander-in-chief who would gladly eliminate our entire nuclear arsenal if he could only find a way.

Saying the new leader of AFGSC faces a hard slog would be a monumental understatement.  His prospects for success are decidedly slim, and the margin for error is approximately zero.

Good luck, General Rand.  You'll need it.                       



Friday, April 03, 2015

Video of the Day

...courtesy of Steven Crowder, comedian, pundit and a part-time host at WAAM radio in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Mr. Crowder actually investigated a scenario we've been wondering about: while the mainstream media searches high and low for homophobic Christians who refuse to cater gay weddings, what would happen if you made the same request of Muslim-run establishments? 

So, Mr. Crowder sent one of his associates to a Muslim bakery in Dearborn, Michigan, where he tried to order a cake for gay wedding reception.  The results were predictable; the Koran is very clear in its position on homosexuality and apparently the bakers contacted by Crowder's colleague are observant Muslims: all refused to sell a cake for a gay wedding.

Where's the outrage?  Where are the denunciations of bigotry and homophobia?  And for that matter, where are the local stations in Detroit?  Southeastern Michigan is home to America's largest Muslim community, and with controversy swirling over the religious freedom law in neighboring Indiana, you'd think that WDIV, WXYZ, WJBK or WWJ-TV might be interested.  Ditto for the Free Press and the Detroit News.

Mr. Crowder thought so, too.  He notified the local media about the video he recorded, with a Muslim establishment clearly refusing to render services for a gay wedding, based on religious objections.  Their response?  A collective yawn.     

Just more affirmation that the current kerfuffle in Indiana isn't about gay rights or religious bigotry.  It's merely the latest attempt to force an agenda on the American public, and bully anyone who doesn't go along.  It also confirms that the left is deathly afraid of the Muslim community because they play the discrimination card as well, and know how to push back.

So, don't look for the Action News team or their counterparts at the network to barge into Dearborn, and ask a Muslim baker or photographer to justify their refusal to serve gay couples.  That sort of journalistic ambush is reserved for business owners who identify themselves as Christians.   Like the Indiana family that runs Memories Pizza.

Go figure.