Friday, March 28, 2008

Russian bombers buzz USS Nimitz: No biggie.

Maybe I'm the only one who cares, but this story kind of worries me a bit.

CNN reported this week:

"Two U.S. Air Force F-15s escorted two Russian Bear long-range bombers out of an air exclusion zone off the coast of Alaska, U.S. military officials said Wednesday. U.S. radar picked up the Russian turbo-prop Tupolev-95 planes about 500 miles off the Alaska coast. The U.S. fighters from Elmendorf Air Force Base were dispatched to meet the bombers and escorted them out of the area without incident, the officials said."

Nothing new there: Ever since Vlad the impaler Putin said "Our pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life," and sent his strategic bombers back on their Cold War patrols last August, Russian bombers have been getting intercepted on the outer limits of US and UK airspace almost every week. CNN counts eight incidents involving Russian bombers being escorted out of US airspace near Alaska alone since last July.

This is the part of this story that blew my mind, though:

"The last case of Russian aircraft approaching the U.S. coastline or ships in the Pacific was in February. Then, four Bear bombers flew near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, with one of them flying about 2,000 feet from the Nimitz's deck."

What? A group of Russian bombers buzzed a US aircraft carrier?

On Feb. 12 CNN reported:

"One of them twice flew about 2,000 feet over the deck of the USS Nimitz Saturday while another flew about 50 miles away, officials said. Two others were at least 100 miles away, the military reported. U.S. defense officials said four F/A-18A fighter jets from the Nimitz were in the air. The Russians and the U.S. carrier did not exchange verbal communications."

A Russian bomber got to within 2000 feet of the Nimitz? How the hell did that happen? According to CNN, to US military officials "the incidents are not a concern. They say it's the Russian military flexing its ability and presence."

OK, so when a few guys in speedboats waved their arms and a Filiapino Monkey threatened to blow up three US warships in the Straight of Hormuz W. was ready to launch WWIII at a moments notice. A Russian bomber flies within 2000 feet of a US aircraft carrier and the Navy shrugs. Weird. No respect I guess.

Of course, I wouldn't undestimate the Russians and their planes, they may not be as high-tech as our fancypants F-18s but then again these planes are built to last. You don't see the Russians grounding their entire homeland Combat Air Patrol because of a faulty metal beam, like the US had to last November and again a month later.

And their pilots are nuts. Whereas the US Air Force has decided to give up training for the fine art of dogfighting, because of the precieved invincibility if our fancypants planes, the Russians have maintained their expertise at that acient and venorable art.

And one thing any US pilot should keep in mind about Russian pilots and their outmoded dogfighting skills; they also train on something called "Taran" or ramming.

As this wikipedia entry shows:

"In World War II, ramming became a legendary technique of VVS pilots against the Luftwaffe, especially in the early days of the hostilities in the war's Eastern Front. In the first year of the war, most available Soviet machines were considerably inferior to the German ones and the taran was sometimes perceived as the only way to guarantee the destruction of the enemy. Trading an outdated fighter for a technologically advanced bomber was considered economically sound. In some cases, pilots who were heavily wounded or in damaged aircraft decided to perform a suicidal taran attack against air, ground or naval targets. In this instance, taran becomes more like an unpremeditated kamakazi attack ."

Then as now, the Russians know they're no match for NATO forces, but they have the advantage when it comes to cost and guts.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Operation "Saulat al-Fursan:" Retreat of the Knights instead?

The BBC reports:

"A curfew has been imposed on Baghdad to contain the violence between Mehdi Army militants, and Iraqi security forces. The curfew will last from 2300 (2000 GMT) on Thursday, until 0500 (0200 GMT) on Sunday. A spokesman for the security forces, Major-General Qassim Moussawi, said: 'This is because of the clashes in Baghdad. We want to protect civilians.'"

W., who was speaking at the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, said "normalcy" was returning to Iraq. For once I agree with him, it sure is starting to look like the Iraq we're all used to.

Time Online reports:

"Iraq’s Prime Minister was staring into the abyss today after his operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen. With the threat of a civil war looming in the south, Nouri al-Maliki’s police chief in Basra narrowly escaped assassination in the crucial port city, while in Baghdad, the spokesman for the Iraqi side of the US military surge was kidnapped by gunmen and his house burnt to the ground.

Saboteurs also blew up one of Iraq's two main oil pipelines from Basra, cutting at least a third of the exports from the city which provides 80 per cent of government revenue, a clear sign that the militias — who siphon significant sums off the oil smuggling trade — would not stop at mere insurrection. . . . Rockets from Sadr City slammed into the governmental Green Zone compound in the city centre, killing one person and wounding several more."

Wasn't al-Maliki from his battlefield HQ just threatening if Madhi army fighters didn't give up their weapons in 72 hours "the law will follow its course'? The clock has almost run out, so what now Nouri?

Since when, btw, has Nouri al-Maliki become a battlefield general? Who does he think he is, a war president?

What I'm real curious about is how much the US military had to do with the planning of this offensive against Mutada al-Sadr? I mean, they're still blaming the fighting in Basra, and Baghdad, and Kut, and Diwanya, ect. on "rogue elements" of the jaish i-Mahdi, as if they're trying to give Sadr an out. Of course, it's gone way beyond that by now, Maliki just blew up the ceasefire that was making the surgeon look like it was really working and now all bets are off.

At some point, or another, the US is going to have to move in to clean up Maliki's mess and possibly to save his neck. Oh yes, and at the some time try to maintain our presence in the green Zone, which is looking more and more precarious everyday.

AP reports:

"A U.S. government employee was killed and four others were wounded in Baghdad this week by rocket attacks on the Green Zone diplomatic and government compound, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. . . Mortar bombs and rockets have exploded across the capital for days. A strike near the U.S. Embassy in the fortified Green Zone on Thursday sent a column of black smoke into the sky. [State Department spokesman Sean] McCormack said Green Zone rocket attacks occurred on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He blamed the attacks on 'extremist criminal elements.'"

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Following W. down the rabbithole:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Air Force blows it again. Nuclear fuses make their way to Taiwan.

AP reports:

" The Pentagon announced Tuesday that the United States mistakenly shipped to Taiwan four electrical fuses designed for use on intercontinental ballistic missiles, but has since recovered them . . . At a news conference, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said the mis-shipped items were four electrical fuses for nose cone assemblies for ICBMs. He also said they were delivered to Taiwan in 2006 and had been sent instead of helicopter batteries that had been ordered by Taiwan."

Oopse! Batteries; nuclear fuses; it's easy to see how that mistake could be made.

Maybe, if the Air Force brass wasn't so concerned about their eternal souls they might be paying more attention to small details like this.

B-net reported in 2005:

"Acknowledging that a religious bias favoring evangelical Christianity has been pervasive at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the school's superintendent told a Jewish audience this month that 'it's going to take a while to fix,' perhaps a half-dozen years, despite an official investigation of mounting complaints. 'I will tell you as a commander, I have problems in the cadet wing,' said superintendent Lieutenant General John Rosa Jr. in remarks June 3 at an Anti-Defamation League national meeting in Broomfield, Colorado. ''I have issues in my staff, and I have issues in my faculty.'"

Two years later, David Antoon writes about going to his son's orientation at the Air Force Academy:

"My son’s orientation became an opportunity for the academy to aggressively proselytize this next crop of cadets. Maj. Warren Watties led a group of 10 young, exclusively evangelical chaplains who stood shoulder to shoulder. He proudly stated that half of the cadets attended Bible studies on Monday nights in the dormitories and he hoped to increase this number from those in his audience who were about to join their ranks. This 'invitation' was followed with hallelujahs and amens by the evangelical clergy. I later learned from Air Force Academy chaplain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran who was forced to observe from the choir loft, that no priest, rabbi or mainline Protestant had been permitted to participate." [Truthdig]


"Before airmen at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., lost track of six nuclear warheads in late August, nuclear security there had eroded to such a level that instead of using orange cones and multiple official placards to distinguish racks of non-nuclear missiles from nuclear-tipped ones, the 5th Bomb Wing was using 8-by-10-inch sheets of paper placed on the pylons. That all changed Aug. 30, when Air Force officials discovered a B-52 Stratofortress bomber had mistakenly flown the six warheads from Minot to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and the glare of the national spotlight returned to America’s nuclear stockpile for the first time since the end of the Cold War. . . However, internal Air Force reports and safety records dating to 1992 show service officials received regular and consistent warnings about the erosion of nuclear safety standards. But there was no thorough examination of vulnerabilities until after the incident at Minot." [Airforce Times]

You can see how far they've come, praise Jesus!

No need to worry, though, AP reports this Taiwan business is all well in hand:

"President Bush was briefed about the mistaken shipment and is glad that the parts have been recovered, said White House press secretary Dana Perino. 'He appreciates that they are taking action, and that there is a full investigation under way,' Perino said. Asked if Bush still has confidence in Air Force leadership, Perino said: 'Yes, yes he does.'"

Great. How about another round of medals?

Dick Cheney on Bush's burdon: 4000 dead, poor W.!

On the issue of 4000 dead Americans sacrificed for W.'s war of choice, Dick Cheney tells Martha Raditz:

"The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans."

Don't you just feel for him? Just look at the burdon he's under!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cargill Meat (final) Solutions: They're having a blast!

AP reports:

"BOONEVILLE, Ark. - An explosion at a meat packing plant on Sunday caused an ammonia gas leak that forced 180 people from their homes, but none of those working at the plant was injured, emergency responders said. The explosion in the western Arkansas town of 4,000 occurred in the freezer section of the Cargill Meat Solutions plant, which makes frozen ground beef patties and steaks, said Renee Preslar, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Emergency Management. . . Nine nursing home residents were among those told to leave the area. They were taken to a nursing home in nearby Greenwood. It was unclear when residents might be allowed to return to their homes."

My, my, Cargill sure does have its host of problems doesn't it?

Hoover's describes Cargill Meat Solutions for prospective investors:

"Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation is really very good at being a leading meat processor in the US. It excels at turning cows, pigs and turkeys into meat at its plants in the US and Canada, which it sells countries around the world."

And it's good at poisoning people, too, apparently.

Just last October it was forced to "voluntarily" recall 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties. That was a month before they recalled a million pounds of their product on Nov. 3 and just last year it was forced to close a soy plant down in Santarem, in Para state Brazil after "the US-based multinational agribusiness firm failed to provide an environmental impact statement required by law," according to Land Research Action Network.

In 2005, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported that Cargill: "agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement of alleged Clean Air Act violations regarding emissions at its U.S. corn and soybean processing facilities . . . Under the settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency, Minnetonka-based Cargill will pay a $1.6 million cash penalty, as well as $3.5 million to fund community-based environmental projects and environmental improvements at Cargill plants."

The Farm Factory Offender datebase lists various violations, too many to list here, from polution, to labor standards, to humane slaughter violations to other product recalls.

At sampling:

Environmental violations:

*"In September 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice lodged a multi-state consent decree in federal court that settled Clean Air Act violations at 27 Cargill corn and oilseed processing plants. Cargill agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.6 million and to perform federal and community environmental projects valued at $3.5 million.

Labor violations:

*"Excel plants (Dodge City, Kansas; Ft Morgan, Colorado, Friona, Texas; Marshall, Missouri; Ottumwa, Iowa; Plainview, Texas; Schuyler, Nebraska) assessed a total of 67 initial violations and $134,134 in initial fines.

*Emmpak plants (Booneville, Arkansas; Butler, Wisconsin; Milwaukee, Wisconsin assessed a total of 28 initial violations and $43,950 in initial fines."

[Note: Cargill is keen on following immigration law by hiring Puerto Ricans. NPR reports: "Cargill spokesman Mark Klein says the company has long had to recruit outside its plants' locations and targets places with high unemployment. Puerto Ricans make good candidates because they are U.S. citizens and many have experience in the industry. 'What interested us about Puerto Rico was there was a pork plant in Corozal that had closed a while back, and we wanted to hire people that had meat experience." See the fun they have in store for them at Human Rights Watch]

Food safety violations:

*"FSIS withheld the marks of inspection concerning labels for Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) System on December 13, 2004. Plant received a Notice of Intended Enforcement for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point System (HACCP) violations on August 19, 2003 (plant produced product testing positive for E coli 0157:H7).

Humane Slaughter violations:

*Beardstown, IL - Plant received a Suspension of Inspection for humane handling and slaughter violations from August 26 through August 28, 2003. Plant operations were shut down after hot weather killed about 1,100 pigs waiting to be unloaded from trucks. The pigs had been left on trucks due to the closing of several chutes for repairs. Plant received another Suspension of Inspection for humane handling and slaughter violations from December 4 to December 5, 2003."

Product recalls:

*Plant (dba Emmpak Foods)recalled 123,000 pounds of ground beef due to potential contamination with hydraulic fluid on February 15, 2005.

*Marshall, MO - Plant recalled 54,000 pounds of packaged pork product due to an undeclared allergen on June 2, 2004.

*Dodge City, KS - Plant recalled 26,600 pounds of fresh ground beef product due to misbranding on November 26, 2003; plant recalled 45,000 pounds of fresh ground beef due to potential contamination with E coli 0157:H7 on April 29, 2004.

*Nebraska City, NE - Plant (dba Emmpak Foods) recalled 362,890 pounds of ready-to-eat beef product due to incorrect labeling on August 21, 2003."

All in all, a real good corporate citizen.

According to SOURCEWATCH, when Cargill isn't poisoning the populous, they're feathering politician's nests.

Warren R. Stanely, Chairman of Cargill, is a Bush Ranger having raised at least $200,000 for Buch in the 2004 presidential elections. Cargill gave $223,000 to federal candidates in the 2006 election through its political action committee - 21% to Democrats and 78% to Republicans. reports that Cargill has given:

Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) $3,000 Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)
$1,000, so far in the 2008 pay cycle. (I'm sure Senator Pryor will be getting to the bottom of this plant explosion as if his life depended on it!)

In the House, beneficiaries of Cargill's largess are:

Boswell, Leonard L (D-IA) $1,000; DeLauro, Rosa L (D-CT) $1,000; Moran, Jerry (R-KS) $1,000; Oberstar, James L (D-MN); $1,000; and Peterson, Collin C (D-MN) $2,000.

MMM. Yummy! Meat, it's what for (your final) dinner!

The economy is doomed! DOOMED!

Dan Eggen writes in the WaPo today that W. is playing a " largely peripheral" role when it comes to sorting out this whole financial mess.

So far, so good.

See when W. says things like, "it's important not to over correct -- because when you over correct, you end up in the ditch," he kind of lets on that he knows about as much about the economy as he does about waging war, never a good thing when you're trying to convince the country not to panic.

The thing is, he and his fellow "conservatives" are of the long held belief that the government should take a hands -off approach to the markets -- let that invisible hand do its magic -- except, that is, when those very same "conservatives" drive the economy into a ditch, through their unbelievable greed and stupidity. Then they want the tax payer to foot the bill to clean up their mess every time. (Like W. had the Saudis pull him out of his business disasters.)

They just keep driving us into the ditch, over and over, and there are no consequences, for them, at least.

This is where the "we're all doomed" part comes in. . .

Eggen writes: "Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser to the McCain campaign, said Bush is appropriately allowing Bernanke, Paulson and other financial experts to take the lead in crafting the government's market strategies. 'If any president does their job right, the key is you set the policy agenda and you put in place the right people to carry that agenda out,' Holtz-Eakin said. 'You have the entire regulatory apparatus, and you populate it with people who share your philosophy.'"

Yeah, that CEO approach worked so well with Rummy and Wolfy in Iraq. And Brownie did a hecka'va job in New Orleans, too. The problem is, when your philosophy is based solely on the principle that regulation is always bad, then populating the entire regulatory apparatus with your hand-chosen people doesn't really do much towards doing anything.

As long as this bunch in is power, they're going to be content to just sit back and make sure their people are taken care of and while Rome burns below them they'll be laughing all the way to the bank (if its still there).

What these dummies don't realize is that they're now crushing the very people whose shoulders they've been standing on. When no one has a job anymore and no one is buying big screen TVs and burning up a lot of gasoline on those big summer vacations, then they're going to wake up to the fact that they're screwed, too. By then, naturally, it'll be too late, just like the 1930's.
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