Non-Lethal Devices: Military Spending

I don’t subscribe to the prevalent propaganda that vilifies U.S. military spending as inherently evil. I don’t think facts support such a claim. In fact, when you really start doing the research, the technology that has been developed and produced by the military has saved many, many lives and formed the foundation for modern society. Why, the internet that we’re using right now exists because of DoD spending, just like the GPS system on your phone or car.

In today’s post, I thought I’d tease several military projects that bring us closer and closer to a time when police and the military can subdue dangerous individuals and fight wars in increasingly non-lethal ways. Cutting military spending would delay development of such devices, and prevent transitioning to a less lethal, destructive way of waging war. The people that hate military spending really don’t know what they’re doing.

1. The YackLight (that’s my name for it).

Cousin to the Maglight, this puppy uses ultra-bright, pulsating (environmentally friendly) LEDs to induce nausea and vomiting in the viewer. Effects vary by individual, and it doesn’t help at short-ranges or if the victim looks away, but its a start.

2. The Pulsed Energy Projectile.

In development for the Marines and Army, the Pulsed Energy Projectile (which I’ve seen under different names) has non-lethal capabilities. In fact, according to some reports they’ve already achieved the ability to temporarily blind hostiles from great distances–useful in combat and against snipers or vehicle operators.

3. Mobility Denial Systems.

Several of these are being developed in various forms. One system emits a microwave that disables all electronics on a vehicle, or could shut down a vehicle engine. Of course, that system doesn’t guarantee efficacy against modified for protected vehicles, or ensure the vehicle will safely roll to a stop. Two other MDS systems actively target the wheels themselves, with the goal of stopping the vehicle safely, without turnovers or crashes.

The X-Net Car Arrest system was developed because of Iraq, and the need to stop vehicles potentially driven by panicked, non-English speaking noncombatants, or by suicide bombers. The Army needed a nonlethal way to stop vehicles quickly, and developed a net that effectively does so. Another version uses a conspicuous white goo that is more slippery than ice, but also has applications for securing doors and other areas against human invaders/intruders.

4. Military Stink Bombs

This one’s not as far-fetched as the Air Force’s proposed “gay bomb” (a device filled with a theoretical aerosol “super-aphrodisiac” which would overpower combatants by triggering amorousness), or the “bee-bomb” (filled with a pheromone that would coat combatants and attract bees to attack them). The Army is working to develop an aerosol containing a combination of odors (since the brain adapts to a single odor) that would trigger the gag response, incapacitating or severely debilitating a foe. Such a device could be deployed en masse over an entire division or by hand grenade in urban warfare.

5. “The Scream”

Israeli in origin, the transmission of short-bursts of highly tuned sound make this device “unbearable…and covering your ears is no defense”. It’s not volume based (like being next to a concert speaker), but uses a frequency that disrupts the inner ear, and the body’s sense of balance and equilibrium. My admiration for the skill and the restraint of the Israelis–living with the daily threat of war and annihilation–only grows.

6. The Active Denial System, aka “The Pain Gun”

It’s already been all over the news, but it needs mentioning again, if for no other reason than to reflect poorly on the pacifists who oppose it anyway (they don’t want us killing people, but they don’t want us using invisible pain rays to control hostile riots or combatants either–honestly, stop being a bunch of douchebags and start living in the real world).

7. “Calmatives”

Still a system in need of development, calmatives are aerosol opiates based on Fentanyl derivatives (Carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer).  They suppress the body’s motor functions.  Unfortunately, the dosing and delivery methods haven’t been perfected.  It’s thought the Russians used this system in the recent hostage crisis with Chechen rebels.  Tragically, the opiates were so powerful they killed over a hundred of the hostages, suspending respiratory functions to the point of death.


Food Commandments

For the sake of your consumptive peace and happiness, I give you my list of food commandments.  Abide by these, o faithful one, and your odds of gastrointestinal turbulence will be much reduced:

1.  Never eat anything larger than your head. 

2.  Lemonade and cornbread muffins do not mix.  

3.  Avoid eating anything that, going in, looks like it will coming out.  

4.  Thou shalt not drink soda before 10 am.  

5.  Thou shalt not eat chocolate before 10 am.  

6.  The one exception to rule #5 is if thou shalt have the opportunity to eat said chocolate off the body of thy spouse.  

That is all.  I (or rather, the royal “we”) have spoken!

Government Waste: Medicare pt. II

It’s no secret I oppose many current forms of government spending. Without the motivating forces of competition, accountability, and responsiveness to consumer demands, government doesn’t have much incentive to innovate or cut costs. When you can get a legislature to appropriate more money for you rather than rightfully earning it with an excellent product, there’s something wrong. Which leads us (after a short digression) to a second story about the exorbitant waste in the Medicare system (part I can be found here).

The one interesting exception to this Iron Law of Government Waste is military spending. The military tends to be an engine of innovation, and has better cost control. Why is that? Well, because when they don’t innovate or spend money wisely, people die. Self-preservation is a pretty powerful motivator.

Which leads me to a story reported this morning by Lisa Meyers of NBC news Washington. The Medicare Reimbursement Act of 2008 was defeated this week. The Act could have saved taxpayers (and Medicare) 26%. It seems that Medicare rents a good deal of the equipment it provides–often at a cost far higher than if they’d simply purchased the equipment outright. According to the report, Medicare has been renting oxygen machines for 12 TIMES the cost of buying them! And a walker that runs $70 at Wal-Mart is being purchased–with your money–for $110.

If government healthcare costs 26% more than private, imagine how much lighter your wallet will be with a “universal healthcare system”. And that’s to get the same level of care you’re already getting…

Rise of the Dolphins

Popular Science did a feature on the 20 spookiest weapons of all time. Our cetacean friend here is #6. Starting in the 1980s, the Navy began training bottlenose dolphins for use in military operations. Apparently, they were even outfitted with cameras and friggin’ dartguns, which they would use to eliminate divers sent to plant bombs on Navy vessels. That’s just wicked cool. I read stories like this, and I wonder why anyone would be opposed to military spending…

PETA generated a lot of flack over the shameless exploitation of “innocent creatures”, but I’m not buying the dolphins’ clever act. Frankly, I’m just glad its us that won the lottery on opposable thumbs, or things could’ve turned out very differently.

Yeah, because that’ll work…

Barak Obama is running a new ad on Missouri television in which he toots his own horn. Seems he’s proud of a bill he co-sponsored to help keep nukes out of terrorist hands. In this new video (not linked here…yet) he also says a nuclear Iran “is the greatest threat to the world”.

This is fascinating video to me, because he’s gone on record earlier with the opposite opinion:

It’s also fascinating that Obama actually thinks passing a law is going to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. HELLO!! They’re terrorists, I don’t think they’re concerned with following any laws! It might be a different matter if he funded the military, but the only thing that’s going to deter someone insane enough to use a nuclear weapon is a well funded system of operatives actively seeking out such people and equipped and capable of subduing or killing them.

To be fair, the Lugar-Obama Nonproliferation Bill isn’t a bad idea, but if you read the findings in Section 2, you may wonder (as I do) why they only appropriated $55 million from now until 2012 to develop a “national technical forensics program” to develop technology to screen cargo containers and detect smuggled nuclear weapons. Then they only appropriated $5 million to help fund the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in developing “guidelines for securing nuclear materials and to assist national authorities with implementation of guidelines” and $10 million/year to fund the IAEA in monitoring dangerous nations.

I’m sorry, but the funding levels are laughable when you consider the findings and the real threat. When we studied post-Cold war Soviet successor states (poli-sci class at Vanderbilt U), it was accepted as a matter of fact that Soviet nuclear materials were missing, that the Russian mob probably had nuclear weapons or weapon components at their disposal, and that, while those materials are highly dangerous to transport and maintain in working order, they are out there.

$55 million over four years?! Do you think rogue nations and terrorists are only spending $55 million to develop or acquire nuclear weapons? When is Mr. Obama going to start living in the real world, and realize that intelligent Americans aren’t going to appreciate such meager efforts to protect us?

Doggie Bag

My parents have an a-hole neighbor that lives across the street. In the past, she’s held rowdy parties which have left the lot across from her house (my parents’ property) littered with beer cans and trash.

Today, I was visiting mom, and our dogs started barking. I looked out the window to see our neighbor’s mangy dog pooping on mom and dad’s lawn. Now I’m a good neighbor, so naturally I bagged the specimen and walked on over for a cordial chat.

When I rang the doorbell, the dog started barking, and the young woman who lives in the house yelled at it to “shut up!”. She opened the door, holding a phone to her ear.

“Hi!” I said cheerfully.

“I was visiting my mom when our dogs started barking at something out the window, and when I went to look I got to see your dog pooping on our lawn.”

At that point, I raised the bag towards her with a smile on my face, and said with all the sunshine one could possibly muster, “I thought I’d return your property to you!”

“Okay,” she said as she shut the door.

I left it on her porch. I’m going to start attaching post-its with little hearts and smiley faces if it continues, though I might just feed her pooch some laxative-laced treats the next time he saunters on over. Then again, life’s got to be hard enough as it is with that type of master, so I’ll probably leave the poor dog alone.

Dark Knight: End of Innocence

It’s amazing how some movies or stories can express the struggles or driving themes of one’s life.  Much of the power and popularity of the Batman tales springs from their examination of the universal themes of loneliness, alienation, and the struggle for good (and to be good) in the face of a world scarred by corruption, evil, and insanity.

Because of the most recent movie and my own circumstances, I’ve found myself musing particularly on the character of Harvey Dent (for those who haven’t seen it yet, or know Dent’s backstory, you may not want to read further, as I spoil some twists from the movie).

I can associate with Dent because of my own “hunger and thirst for rigtheousness”, a one-time desire to go into politics and clean things up from the inside, and because I’ve had friends over the years refer to me as the “white knight” (a title often given to Dent in the movie).

And yet Dent falls.  He’s brought low, and comes to turn his back on the best of what he believed and represented.  The handling of Dent’s character by Aaron Eckhart and Chris Nolan reflects a profoundly mature understanding of the power of symbols and ideals.   Batman and Dent serve as foils for each other in that Dent’s transition to Two-Face–his assumption of the symbol of blind justice and use of the coin–dehumanizes him.  Bruce Wayne’s assumption of the mantle of Batman does the opposite, it serves to refine the character and virtue of Wayne, even though he falls short of perfection.

So why did Harvey Dent, a very good man, ultimately break, while the Wayne did not?  Listening to reviewers and fans, much has been made of Dent’s “really crappy day”.  I don’t think it alone can explain why Dent breaks.  The events that created Harvey Two-Face also struck Bruce deeply–both lost the woman they loved and thought was going to marry them.  Ladies, there is much to be learned here about your power to uplift, heal, and inspire men.  You do not know your own power.  At president Reagan’s funeral, comments were made about his relationship with his wife, and how (in his own words) Reagan said, “Nancy came along and saved my soul.”

Before Reagan essentially saved the world from the Cold War and potential nuclear annihilation, a woman came along who healed him and helped build him up to be the person that could do that.  We (the sexes) desperately need each other.

Dent falls because of the tragedy of Rachel’s death, but also because he tried to carry the burden of being “the best”.  He falls because others expected superhuman strength, ability, and virtue from him.  As a professor once said to me, “it’s hard to dance when you’ve been put on a pedestal”.  The tragedy of Dent’s fall is influenced just as much by the unreal expectations others have of him, and the enormous pressures placed on his shoulders.  He tries to live up to the hopes and ideals of Gotham, but they want a Messiah, and there is only one man who ever fit that bill (Jesus).  Humility may be one key to Wayne’s successful coping and Harvey’s failure at the same.

For all Wayne’s “brag and swagger” as the billionaire playboy, he’s ultimately humble enough to know that Gotham won’t be saved by him alone, while Harvey chose (and may have pridefully believed) his campaign slogan, “I believe in Harvey Dent”.

I look at my own life right now, I examine my own faults and sins, and the situations which threaten my hopes and dreams (the desire for marriage and family life).  I think of the lady I love, the only one I’ve ever wanted to marry.   If I lose everything and the person I hold most dear, I find myself wondering if I will act like Harvey Dent, or Bruce Wayne.

God bless them, I have friends and family who think very highly of me.  Too highly, in my opinion.  They think I can do things I may not have the strength to do, or to endure.  Things which could lead to me dying a single man, not having known the joy of being a husband and father.  Things that could lead to my self-destruction.

Like Bruce Wayne, the price of being that good man may mean I am forever alone and alienated, and that I cannot have a normal life.    And yet, for the life of me, how I want to live up to the ideals they seem to see.  How desperately I want to be a good man, and not to fail them…