Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Defense’

US successfully tests laser missile-killer

Posted by sanityinjection on February 12, 2010

You want to know why I am generally supportive of defense spending? This is why.

The US Missile Defense Agency has just announced that last night they successfully tested an air-based laser missile interception system. In other words, a special jet plane goes up in the air, locates the missile, fires a laser and destroys the missile.

Folks, this is science-fiction/cartoon stuff brought to life. It also represents one of the many aspects of US missile defense technology that continues to develop at a rapid pace. We are getting close to the point of having systems in place that can successfully defend against a limited WMD missile attack, thanks to the foresight of Ronald Reagan who created the predecessor of missile defense in 1983 with the “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative. This most recent test is exactly the kind of thing Reagan had imagined and for which he was mocked and sneered at by his opponents.

Even better, this particular piece of technology is a joint venture among Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed-Martin. Which means jobs for Americans and no squabbling between the big three areospace firms.

Want more good news? The technology is actually cost-efficient. While the laser-equipped planes are probably expensive to build, once operational it cost much less to fire the laser to blow up a missile than it would to hit it with another missile. Win, win, win, win.

Of course there is a way to go between successful tests and actual deployment of a working system. But isn’t it nice to have some good news on the security front for a change? Sort of puts in perspective yesterday’s crowing by the Iranians about enriching a tiny bit of uranium – something the US mastered over half a century ago. Where are your lasers, Mr. Ahmadinejad?

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Posted in Domestic News, Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thoughts on Super Bowl XLIV

Posted by sanityinjection on February 8, 2010

A few thoughts in the aftermath of the New Orleans Saints’ upset victory last night:

Drew Brees played very well, and no single player is more deserving of the MVP award, not to mention the recognition as a top-flight quarterback he has long deserved. Yet, in a game touted as a matchup between two high-powered offenses, the truth is it was the Saints’ defense that won the game, with multiple goal-line stops of the much-vaunted Colts’ offense, and of course the interception that sealed the game. None of what Brees did would have mattered if the Colts had been allowed to convert on their drives. The age-old saying “Defense wins championships” was no less true in this Super Bowl than it has been in most of them.

In turn, much of the credit for the inspired play of the defense should go to Saints head coach Sean Payton and his defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Saints are not loaded with household names on defense – linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive back Darren Sharper being perhaps the best known until yesterday. But the Saints have done a tremendous coaching job with this unit, which has quitely played very well all season, and was particularly well prepared over the last couple of weeks for the supposedly unstoppable Colts offense. The Saints worked on facing the no-huddle and on blitz packages designed to put just enough pressure on Peyton Manning to give the Saint’s secondary a chance to make plays. Which is exactly what happened.

Finally, Payton deserves credit for some key decisions. The onside kick to start the second half was not only a bold move, but an unprecedented one in Super Bowl history. Payton correctly judged that it was worth the risk of giving up good field position to the Colts, given that Peyton Manning had just proven he didn’t need it by engineering a 96-yard drive. Then, the successful challenge of the 2-point conversion play. Make no mistake about it: The Saints players executed well on the field, but the roadmap to victory was drawn by Sean Payton and his staff. They outcoached the Colts, who have practically bragged about the fact that their head coach is basically just a  cipher for Peyton Manning. Manning calls the plays and runs the practices, and he does it well, but I think the Colts coaches relied on him too much and failed to game plan well enough for the Saints.

That is not to criticize Manning, whose one ill-timed interception should not obscure a good performance on his part. The Colts overall played a good game; they did not lose the Super Bowl so much as the Saints won it. Media members who are reviving whispers of Manning being a “choke artist” should be ashamed of themselves. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game, and deserves to be mentioned alongside names like Montana, Young, Elway, and Staubach. Two days ago, sports analysts were debating whether he may be the best ever at the position. Yesterday’s result should not stifle that debate. If you doubt, go back and look at the stats from previous Super Bowls and see how many interceptions were thrown by the *winning* quarterbacks.

Rather, one might ask if a greater commitment to the running game by the Colts might have helped to keep the Saints’ offense off the field. Running backs Addai and Brown performed well when called upon, and the offensive line run blocks well. Surely the Colts did not draft Brown just to take fake handoffs from Manning.

Overall, the quality of the football on the field was high. There were few penalties, and only the one turnover which is rather remarkable. I would suggest that this had something to do with the fact that the #1 ranked teams with the best records in each conference were facing off against each other – no wild card teams or improbable Cinderellas here. Though you do have to like the back story of the Saints and the city of New Orleans.

For me, the enduring image that I will take away from Super Bowl XLIV will be that of Drew Brees after the game, surrounded by the celebrations, choosing to share his moment not with the crowd but with his infant son, conversing with him and kissing him affectionately as if he was home on his living room couch and not, for the moment, the center of the modern universe.  Brees’s son of course could not have had any understanding of what was going on, but Brees’ choice says a lot about what his priorities are, and set a strong example for millions of other men watching: Family is more important than anything else. If we learn nothing else from Super Bowl XLIV, let it be so much.

Posted in Current Events, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What is the Posse Comitatus Act?

Posted by sanityinjection on December 2, 2008

If you have friends who are actively involved in libertarian or militia circles, you have probably heard of “posse comitatus”. The Posse Comitatus Act is a favorite topic among these groups because it restricts the ability of the federal government to deploy military troops on US soil. It is getting renewed attention now because the Department of Defense this fall authorized for the first time a permanent active deployment of an Army unit on US soil as an emergency response force. Some have argued that this represents a violation of the spirit, if not the letter of the Posse Comitatus Act.

In order to evaluate this argument, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the Act’s origins and what it actually says. Some people think that the Act is part of the Constitution or in some way fundamental to the founding of our country. In fact, it is simply a law passed by Congress in 1878. Many people wrongly assume that the Act bans any military deployment on US soil, when in fact there are several major loopholes and exceptions.

The Posse Comitatus Act came into being after the post-Civil War period of Reconstruction, when federal troops were finally removed from the former Confederate states in 1877. After reversing the reforms made under Reconstruction and effectively disenfranchising blacks, the Southern states wanted to ensure that the Federal government could not send the Army back into their states when state and local authorities refused to enforce the laws protecting the rights of blacks. The law was later expanded to include the Air Force and the state National Guard when serving under federal control. The Navy and Marines are not covered specifically by the Act, but the Defense Department has a regulation including them in its prohibitions. The Coast Guard is exempt.

Essentially, the law prohibits the military from serving as law enforcement, except on federal property or when specifically authorized by Congress to do so. There are two main exceptions. The first is that the Attorney General may request military assistance for civilian law enforcement in the event of a threat to release nuclear or radioactive materials. The second is for use of the military by the President to combat lawlessness, insurrection, or rebellion under the terms of the Insurrection Act. It was under the Insurrection Act that President Eisenhower sent the National Guard into Arkansas to enforce desegregation, and that President George H. W. Bush sent troops to Los Angeles to combat rioting in 1992.

Thus, until now those who have complained about violations of the Posse Comitatus Act have generally been incorrect. However, these previous actions have been temporary in nature. Since the Civil War, there has never, until now, been a standing military unit whose mission is to act as a domestic emergency response force, including posse comitatus powers of law enforcement in the case of civil unrest. This development comes as a result of the problems with federal response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Defense Department wants to be able to insert troops quickly in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack when local and state authorities are incapable of acting or need assistance.

The problem is that while the creation and deployment of the response unit is not a direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, any law enforcement actions in the situations just described probably would be. It’s questionable whether this activity would be covered under the Insurrection Act, so a special Act of Congress would probably be needed before this military unit could engage in crowd control or other law enforcement.

In 2006, both the Posse Comitatus and Insurrection Acts were modified by Congress in ways that would have resolved this problem, but those changes were repealed by Congress this year.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with military troops assisting local and state police and National Guard units in an emergency, any more than I have a problem with the FBI assisting local police. I think the point of these two laws is to prevent the military from usurping the powers of state and local authorities without Congressional oversight. So, although it may dismay my libertarian and right-wing friends, I think a judiciously worded amendment (perhaps more narrowly written than the 2006 amendments) to either the Posse Comitatus or Insurrection Act, or both, would be appropriate, perhaps with a time limit after which Congressional authorization would be required in order for the military to continue in that role in a given incident.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »