Passenger jets and missiles don’t mix

Yesterday, we heard about Nicaragua’s problems with maintaining control of its shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Today as I was driving, I heard on WTAM that several communities near Hopkins Airport in Cleveland have complained so bitterly about jet noise that the government has responded with a web site … where you can track passenger jets. That’s right. According to WTAM, you can log on to a web site and make sure passenger jets are at their designated altitudes and in their correct flight corridors.
Now, assuming I heard the radio report correctly, am I the only one who sees a problem here? We’ve potentially got missing SA-7 surface-to-air missiles floating around on the black market, a new web site reveals location and altitude information for air traffic around a major international airport, and just up the road in the metro Detroit area there’s a very large community of Muslims. Heck, we have our own home-grown terrorist fundraiser here in town (and don’t tell me he’s alone).
Hello? Is anybody home at the Department of Homeland Security?
I’ll keep looking for a link to the aircraft tracking web site, which I’ve not found yet. Boy, I hope I’m mistaken.

UPDATE (12:02 PM): I just got off the phone with WTAM’s news room. I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news: I heard wrong … there is no jet tracking web site. The bad news: Hopkins Airport is indeed putting such a web site together (according to WTAM). I’ve already left phone messages with Marty Flask, the Security Director at Hopkins, and with Laura Farmer (position unknown … I got her number from the Media Relations Manager, Pat Smith, who didn’t answer my question about the web site).
UPDATE (3:21 PM): Andrew Cochran of The Counterterrorism Blog just let me know that the Department of Defense has been chasing down Nicaraguan SAMs for two years already, which wasn’t in the original story. That’s reassuring, since I suppose that if the terrorists had a workable SAM they’d have used it somewhere by now (in Iraq or Afghanistan if not in America). The idea of the jet-tracking web site still sounds foolhardy, though.
UPDATE (9:16 PM): Just to clear up what might otherwise be murky in my hurried post, the government entity involved here is the airport itself, which is owned and run by the City of Cleveland (except security of course, which falls under the TSA). So far as I can determine, this web site idea is not a state or federal one. The feds ought to take notice of this, in my opinion, if it truly will allow detailed jet tracking online.
UPDATE (9:30 PM): Jeff Quinton has thoughts on a similar-sounding system he’s seen before, and I sure hope what Hopkins has got planned is no more detailed than that.

Don’t ease off on CBS now

We’re eyeball to eyeball and the other fellow just blinked.

Hugh Hewitt spent a good part of the day (and all of his radio show) prodding conservative bloggers and asking why we haven’t made a bigger fuss over the CBS News report on Rathergate. If you read through Hugh’s blog entries today, you’ll see that Hugh sees the report as a whitewash, and that he thinks the big guns of the Blogging Right appear overly concerned about their reputations among the mainstream media. Hugh thinks we ought not show mercy in this case. I agree, and here’s why.
This situation strikes me as a kind of negotiation. We of the center-right blogosphere expected CBS News to offer something like this:

  1. report released on a Friday (to bury it)
  2. report released after announcing Rather’s successor (again, to bury it)
  3. a weak non-apology
  4. thinly-veiled contempt for bloggers
  5. support from ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, etc.
  6. denial of any pro-Kerry motivation, much less any actual coordination
  7. Mary Mapes fired

We were hoping for several results from this episode, including:

  1. report released on a Monday
  2. report released without a Rather successor announced
  3. an admission from CBS News that the Killian memos were forgeries
  4. due credit given to the blogosphere for unearthing this mess
  5. Dan Rather fired
  6. Mary Mapes fired
  7. top CBS News executives fired (including the president, Andrew Heyward)
  8. an investigation into possible coordination between CBS News and the Kerry/Edwards campaign
  9. help from CBS’ competing news networks in devouring it (motivated by fear)

To our surprise, CBS started off by offering us numbers 1, 2, and 6 on our wish list. Better still, they offered big chunks of numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7.
Think about it. The bigwigs at CBS News are clearly not bargaining from a position of strength, and it’s obvious they know it. Now keep in mind that in a negotiation, you never ever reveal your true position right up front. If this is where they’ve started from, imagine where we could push them to. By giving CBS News (and by extension, all of MSM) a pass on this baldfaced charade they called “news”, we’d be letting them return to lie another day.
Another thing: have you noticed the deafening silence among the lefty bloggers today? They tried very hard to ignore the CBS News report, hoping we’d lose interest. If they thought they could win the argument on the merits, they’d be in full cry instead. So the only thing standing between us and resounding vindication is … us.
Fellow conservative bloggers, stop worrying about what the other side thinks of us and go for the whole wish list, because they’ll tut-tut about “blogger triumphalism” no matter what we do. Learn from the GOP, which only climbed out of the electoral gutter after it stopped trying to play footsie with the Democrats. Rather, Mapes, and CBS News are scattered and fleeing. Let’s show some spine and mop ’em up.

Rathergate report is out, sort of

CBS has finally posted a PDF copy of their report on the now-infamous 60 Minutes II segment where they tried to pass off forged memos as real, only to have the blogosphere expose their anti-Bush agenda masquerading as “news.” So far the report has no appendices. Appendices and exhibits here.

UPDATE: CBS fired Mary Mapes, producer of the 60 Minutes II segment. Three news execs were also asked to resign … but not CBS News’ President, Andrew Heyward. His desk is buck-free, Buckhead be damned.
UPDATE 2: The CBS report can’t even get basic facts about blogs right. Footnote 86 on page 153 says “Powerline is a Minnesota-based blog run by John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson, both of whom are attorneys.” There’s a third blogger there, you dingalings. Ever heard of Paul Mirengoff, who blogs from Washington, DC? Try checking the three bios right at the top left side of the blog’s home page. You did actually go there and look at the site, right? Time Magazine managed to get the basics right (then again, Time is known for reporting actual news). And it’s “Power Line”, not “Powerline.” Geez, with this kind of attention to detail, how are we going to trust this report’s conclusions?

Don’t wear a sport coat when you fly

Last week Michelle Malkin wrote a column about the Federal Air Marshal dress code, which has the effect of slapping a “kill me” sign on every agent’s back:

Can you imagine if an al Qaeda bureaucrat had ordered the 19 Sept. 11 terrorists to wear “I heart Osama” T-shirts when they embarked on their murderous flights?
No idiot would send his men on a covert mission wearing clothes that would so blatantly give them away, right?
Wrong. Meet Federal Air Marshal Service Director Thomas Quinn. The man in charge of our in-flight cops, who are supposed to be spying secretly on would-be terrorist hijackers, refuses to allow his employees to dress undercover. Quinn insists that air marshals abide by military-style grooming standards and a rigid business dress policy regardless of weather, time of year or seating arrangement. He wants them to look PROFESSIONAL.
That means collared shirts and sports coats — even if a pair of marshals is traveling in coach from Los Angeles to Orlando.

Today she follows up, because Mr. Quinn’s been squealing “foul”. He doesn’t know who he’s messing with. Here are excerpts, but you’ll want to read the whole thing to see the documents and e-mails from Air Marshals who back up Malkin’s accusations:

Last week, I wrote a column on the idiotic dress code policy instituted by Thomas Quinn, head of the Federal Air Marshals Service. Quinn promptly dispatched his flack, David M. Adams, to the cable networks this week to accuse Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson and me of spreading “patently false” reports and “misinformation.”
Can you spell C-Y-A?
In his appearances on both MSNBC and FOX News, Adams denied that a dress code exists (“hype,” he sniffed; “totally wrong,” he decried)…and then confirmed that the policy does in fact exist (marshals must “dress professionally”). Adams straight-facedly maintained that the code gives marshals “flexibility.”

Several times during the past week, I have asked Adams to tell me specifically what I got wrong in my column. In a brief conversation with me at the FOX News studio last night, he attacked a watchdog group cited in my column because it is run by an air marshal. Someone in the know. Someone brave enough to speak out and defy the Quinn regime. Someone whose job is protecting the public, not protecting his boss.
Adams dismisses the marshals who object to Quinn’s dress code and his other dangerous policies as a “small minority.” So, why aren’t more speaking out? Gee. Hmmm. Golly. Could it be because Quinn pulls witch-hunt stunts like this against dissenting employees?
Given the climate, it’s remarkable that so many marshals have spoken out. I’ve received scores of e-mails from current and former marshals in support of my column. Unlike these truth-tellers, I cannot be fired by the government for sharing their thoughts. I am removing their e-mail addresses and other identifying data, but otherwise am reprinting their letters as I received them.

The e-mails will anger anybody who’s serious about homeland security. Don’t miss them.
There’s more at Captain’s Quarters, where Captain Ed voices the same thought that occurred to me when I first read Malkin’s column: as word of this gets out, fewer civilians will wear clothes that match the Air Marshal dress code, which will make the “undercover” Air Marshals even more obvious to hijackers.
I’ll close with a verbatim quote from Michelle’s post.
“For those who want to take additional action, it might be worth dropping an e-mail to Rep. Howard Coble (howard.coble@mail.house.gov). He is the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees homeland security.”

UPDATE: More from Audrey Hudson in an article on Air Marshals dodging the “suit Nazis.” Thanks, Michelle, for the tip.
UPDATE 2: More dress code idiocy.

RPG airbags

StrategyPage.com reports another victory in the fight against stupid military procurement procedures:

Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) are the typical weapons of choice when insurgents decide to attack trucks and armored vehicles. RPGs are cheap, simple to operate, and if used properly can inflict significant damage on Stryker and Bradley armored vehicles. Unarmed and armored Hummers are especially vulnerable, since the various armor kits for the Hummer are designed to protect occupants from small arms and machine gun fire, not anti-tank grenades.
One quick fix to protect the Hummer is a unique airbag system developed by a small California company that deploys a “curtain” down outside the side of the vehicle being attacked. Four bags are needed to protect all quadrants and are held in place with simple Velcro straps. A small radar detects the incoming RPG or RPGs and inflates the airbag with a carbon dioxide gas cartridge. The RPG is literally “caught” by the airbag like a pillow and slowed enough so the nose-mounted fuse doesn’t detonate the warhead. Instead, the RPG ends up collapsing upon itself, shredding the secondary self-destruct fuse and looking like a stomped-on beer can. Currently, the airbag and cartridge have to be replaced after one use, but the designers are working on a reusable airbag that can simply be rolled up and put back into place.
Cost for the system is expected to run between $5,000 to $7,000 dollars and weighs around 50 pounds. The Army is in the process of awarding a contract with the goal of getting systems to Iraq within 6 months, at a initial product rate of 25 systems per month. Other systems are being refined for use on canvass-topped vehicles and the Stryker.

That’s the spirit! Get this kind of innovation out to the troops and save some lives. Rock on.
Hat tip: Castle Argghhh!