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Turmoil shakes California National Guard with firing, suspension of top generals (latimes.com)
37 points by arkadiyt 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments

This smells fishy. Jones' has lots of assertions (it would be interesting to hear any fact-based rebuttals to them) about misconduct by Baldwin and rather odd behavior; but Baldwin just says "I do not fire people for fictional events. The F-15C narrative is just that, a fictional event."

But there are Guard members speaking out about it; that isn't fictional. He might disagree with the narrative, but it definitely might be a reason to fire people, a reason to fire him that is, if it is true.

He's had previous issues too, including trying the spy plane incident in October. His comment about "his planes" comes across as controlling. And unless service members are just making up stuff about an F15 being placed on standby, then there is something going on. If they just explained what that something is, then it would be fine, but they appear to be cagey about the whole thing. Just based on their outward behavior, I'd be more likely to trust Jones than Baldwin.

Baldwin comes across as dodging having to make any real assertions about facts. He makes a half baked response that a 5 year old with stolen cookie crumbs around their mouth might be proud of, but certainly not a full grown adult leading a state National Guard.

Any theory for the firings has to explain why the enlisted chief was fired. He would not have been involved in any orders related to the F-15. His responsibility is the enlisted force, not airplanes or their use. So I don't buy the F-15 as the cause.

Also note that the Wing Commander at the F-15 wing denied in January that the airplane was put on alert. It therefore seems that the LA Times learned about this incident three months ago ... so why would firings happen now? Note that this reporter is the same reporter that wrote the 2019 story about the incident at the F-15 wing that got the previous two-star fired. I'd bet that some people in the F-15 wing have a relationship with this reporter and leaked the F-15 story months ago, but there was not enough for the paper to publish the story. The firings gave the F-15 "incident" a second life.

The most likely explanation is that something related to an enlisted member was mis-handled at State Headquarters. It could have been some complaint about harassment (or worse). I doubt it was money -- the California Guard has had several stinging money incidents in recent years, and they have never been shy about disclosing the details.

I am not sure why using military plane, even fighter jet to survey earth quake damage is unacceptable and was resisted so much by Gen Jones. It’s inefficient, sure, but if the plane is not used for anything else and it can be used as an exercise as well, as a tax payer, I think such inefficiency is acceptable.

The last paragraph is where the salt is, imo:

   In October, Newsom’s office denounced the Guard’s decision to send a military spy plane to suburban El Dorado Hills, where Baldwin lived, to help civilian authorities monitor demonstrations over the Floyd killing. Baldwin said the fact that he resided in El Dorado Hills, where the protests were small and peaceful, had nothing to do with the deployment of the RC-26B reconnaissance plane.

There are already complaints about militarization of police departments, etc. Having the National Guard just keep F15s ready for "earthquakes" opens up the natural desire to expand them to other uses--- which could lead to things like the matter at hand where the planes are instead used against civilians. I think it is good to resist the expansion of military equipment in the civilian context. Even if there is nothing dicey about it now, just wait until the next guy dreams up some new uses.

This is National Guard, it is by design has dual responsibilities: state and federal. Under state command it is actually expected to respond to natural disaster, including earthquake. If federal government took over and put it to the task of flying over civilian objects, that would be a concerting. But since it was done under state command, reposing to a natural disaster is fine.

To me a bigger concern, when police gets military grade tech, as there is much less transparency in how it is being used.

As I understand it, sending one of those planes out costs tens of thousands of dollars each flight (any military personnel or military buffs that can corroborate or correct that number?). That might be insignificant from a military budget point of view, but as a taxpayer it does not exactly seem like a good use of money.

Prior military, didn't fly planes, but worked with pilots and asked lots of questions. Cost would likely be a few thousand just to take off and land, and cost of fuel and pilot pay while they're in the air. Keep in mind though, pilots NEED flight hours to maintain their wings, else they get grounded and have to go through additional simulation training and a bunch of other stuff. We'd often have pilots make up reasons to fly back and forth between other bases, just to get their hours in.

What do they do the rest of the time when they're only able to fly a minimum number of hours?

The Air Force, or the Chair Force as it's so affectionately dubbed (by their own members as an inside joke), has the unofficial motto "hurry up and wait!"


Well my wife used to be in the Air Force and would constantly make fun of how awful it was. And I really don't feel bad if you're offended by something that's true.

Your wife being in doesn’t mean you’re in.

I was doing you a favor, you do with that info what you will.

I agree, it's expensive, but they need to fly anyway to maintain their skills, so whether it will be some capture flag combat emulating exercise or "recon" for earthquake damage, I prefer it to be latter, given that it's national guard.

Likely fake costs.

The baseline cost of a military at the ready is massive, whether you use it or not.

What often happens is someone with an axe to grind grabs a portion of this baseline cost and assigns it to whatever it is they are hyperventilating about.

In reality, taxpayers were going to spend that money anyway. It's a false equivalency; it would not have cost $0 to keep that plane on the ground. If they claim this to be the case they are lying.

Simpler terms: You own a trucking company. It costs nearly the same to have a truck parked and ready to roll at a moments' notice. The tank has to be full (or you have to have the money to fill it up when needed), you have to pay the loan, insurance, have an office, receptionist, computers, customer service people, order takes, drivers, mechanics, etc. All at the ready in order for that truck to roll. You would have had to spend and allocate the money whether it rolled or not. If it rolls, then there are some marginal costs that come into play, of course. Not much different with a fighter plane in a hangar.

As to the legal matter, that's a different story and one I am not qualified to comment on.

This is an uninformed and inaccurate take.

While the fixed costs of any aircraft are significant, flight time is a definite extra cost. Apart from the obvious cost of the kerosene the aircraft will accrue flight time and fatigue. Every component has a flight time clock, which dictates when it must be serviced and replaced. F-15C are very expensive to operate, $40k per hour would be quite possible.

Let me forestall arguments about incidental training. For training to count towards maintaining readiness it must be carefully designed and supervised. No training benefit would have eventuated.

If the money 'would have been spent anyway' then it would have been spent for a correctly determined purpose, such as training. Diversion to other purposes is not free.

> This is an uninformed and inaccurate take.

Quite to the contrary. It is more informed and accurate than you might think. I am not one of those people who posts comments without having any context or knowledge in the matter at hand. If I don't know something with a good degree of certainty I don't participate in the conversation just to add ignorant noise.

At the simplest possible level of abstraction, a military base is allocated X dollars per year to function. This money is spent. Period. Fly or don't. That's the cost. They don't pull out credit card every time they need to fly a plane or drive a truck.

If someone wants to claim that this flight cost taxpayers ADDITIONAL money they need to prove there was a requisition as a result of that flight and show costs incurred over and above the baseline. They can't, because the entire cost attribution is 100% fake. In some cases they are pulling numbers out of the anus, just making stuff up. How?

Politician: "General, how much does it cost to fly that plane per hour?".

General: "$10K"

Politician: "This incident cost taxpayers $100K!"

No, it did not. That money was allocated and spent already. The operational cost the general quoted is the baseline, fly or not.

You have air bases with thousands of people, thousands of pieces of equipment, systems, hardware, etc. The baseline cost is massive. One flight here and there is truly a rounding error. Base Operations Support, as a budget line item, is in the tens of billions of dollars per year. Look it up.

Here, start with this. Try to find a $100K flight in there.


Uninformed and inaccurate? Please.

The fact that the military is expensive and the accounting Byzantine does not alter the fact that additional resource was expended beyond what was authorised by Congress. Good luck justifying your argument to oversight.

Flying time and jet fuel is specifically a cost that is monitored across the Air Force to make sure it is not wasted. Diversion to crap like this is part of the USAF pilot retention problem.

His comment was neither uninformed, nor inaccurate. I used to work in fighter jet training community. The costs to fly a plane, while not zero, are marginal compared to the total cost of ownership of the airframe.

That is a fake argument and you know it, the cost of the entire capability has no bearing on whether additional money was wasted. By your logic I could steal $10k from your bank account and say it was a rounding error compared to your lifetime earnings.

So you’re comparing theft, to flight time that is required by law to be maintained by pilots.

Good to see you’re being reasonable.

Flight hours consumed by thought bubble bs don't do anything to achieve readiness. Pilots hate being cannon fodder in exercises, their disdain for this level of rubbish is extreme.

People are routinely convicted or given poor discharges because of much smaller thefts, like inaccurately claiming living allowance. Using NG combat aircraft for distinctly political purposes is far worse than theft.

Equating this with theft is disingenuous at best. Any hours in the air are a net gain for a pilot. Period.

"Worse than theft" != "Theft"

Using the military for partisan political purposes, specifically surveillance and intimidation of political demonstrations.

Although I agree in principle with you, no action against citizens was actually committed. The jet didn’t do any spying.

As for your “worse than theft” comment: “By your logic I could steal $10k from your bank account”

That’s you, equating this issue, with theft.

In political decisions like this, the stated reason is always just an excuse for the public. The real reason usually boils down to rivaling circles of cronies competing for influence.

Yup. Rules are enforced against people who fall out of favor. Fortunately, the rules are such that no one can be in full compliance. So there's always a handy excuse.

I guess it slipped fast from earthquake monitoring to protest monitoring.

It sounds like news of historical Rome. The governor of a far trans mountain province. Generals sent there to protect the empire against even more distant threats. Shady deals between the governor and the generals. Hastily assembled legions made from local men, to put down protests against the empire's treatment of freed men.

Not hastily: the National Guard goes back to 1636 and is the oldest military force in the United States.

"hastily" referring to the 800 that were to be deployed with a day or so of relevant riot and weapons training.


Why should the national guard need attack aircraft at all? California is covered with military bases stuffed to the gills with aircraft.

The F-15 wing in Fresno has an air defense mission. They are on 24/7 alert in case US airspace is threatened. The fact that they are assigned to the National Guard instead of the active duty Air Force is a money-saving move: Guard wings are much cheaper than Active Duty wings. As soon as the airplanes launch in response to a perceived threat (e.g. a civilian plane with a broken transponder), the pilots are put on active duty orders.


The LA Times is not a small paper. It has the fifth-largest circulation in the U.S. (greater than the Washington Post) and over 40 Pulitzer Prizes. It's arguably the only major newspaper in the U.S. not based on the east coast.

> The LA Times is not a small paper. It has the fifth-largest circulation in the U.S.,

Unfortunately in 2002 it was the second largest, at just under a million subscribers, and is now down to 600K in 2019, and is $50 million in the red.

So whatever its former glories may have been, that does not mean its business model is working -- it's clearly not working, and its digital strategy has been one of the worst sources of dissapointment with only 250K digital subscribers in 2020[1]. So when someone criticizes the business model by pointing out that it's unlikely that people will pay for a digital subscription to the LA Times, and this is reflected in fantastically, embarassingly, shockingly[2] low digital subscription rates compared to what you believe the LA Times peers to be, then that suggests that either the LA times is not in the same peer group, or its digital offerings are uniquely unappealing, or both. In either case, throwing up a paywall doesn't seem to be working.

[1] https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/news-publishers-surpassed-100...

[2] See this hacker news thread about how dissapointing their digital numbers were: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20576544

To me this just proves the point. Am I really going to subscribe to the top 5 news papers? Where do you draw the line?

I'm probably not going to subscribe to more than one general paper, because they probably have 90% overlap in coverage meaning even the second subscription is drastically less valuable than the first. There is no way I'm making it to 5.

Realistically I can get 85% percent of that news without subscribing to any meaning even one subscription is a stretch and there is no way I'm doing more than that. In the event that there is one article every three months that is LAT specific that I just cannot go without reading, I'll find some way to breach the paywall in that instance.

For the record, I'm not claiming NYT or WAPO are better papers than the times. In fact I hate the NYT and have more or less no opinion of the LAT.

> Am I really going to subscribe to the top 5 news papers? Where do you draw the line?

Whichever one catches your fancy? We don’t all need to subscribe to every newspaper. Does everyone buy each brand of shaving cream?

Agreed but how often does the LAT win this battle. I'm assuming this is a winner(s) take all scenario and they are mostly a loser.

This is an entirely sensible position, as long as we don't simultaneously decry winner-takes-all market dynamics.

On second thought, we can in fact do both simultaneously by shifting the responsibility for supporting good journalism onto our favorite other, such as "the government", "the rich", "regulators", "we as a society", etc.

I am personally completely satisfied paying for publications as long as I read at least one article per issue. In fact, due to time constraints, one article per issue has become something of an objective.

..and they put up a strong fight as newspapers were waning. The NYT was already garbage in 1999 when LAT was going strong and publishing stories about the primary function of the US intelligence establishment being economic espionage.

Firefox reader mode bypassed it for me. Normally does for newspaper paywalls. Sometimes it needs an extra page refresh.

Safari reader mode also works.

If you live in LA presumably the LA Times has local, relevant news so might be worth subscribing to for some?

Not only LA, but for all of California/West coast. If you subscribe to one major news paper, the most local one is also more likely to have a deeper insight into local affairs.

Not sure why this is being downvoted. I'm guessing this is basically the economic justification.

I'm also skeptical that this is a sustainable business model although I hope I am wrong.

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