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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gee, this is the New York Puke....

After spending months rilling up racial hatred in Ferguson MO, the NY Times is trying to save some credibility. From yesterday:
Police Officer in Ferguson Is Said to Recount a Struggle

WASHINGTON — The police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., two months ago has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as he struggled over his gun with Mr. Brown, according to government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter.

The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.

The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck...

Wait, I thought, according the the eyewitnesses, that the officer simply drove up and shot Mikey Brown in cold blood, with no motive, as Mikey had his hands above his head in a surrender fashion. Now, there is blood on the officer's gun, uniform and in his vehicle. How could that be. It directly contradicts the eyewitnesses.
...Police officers typically have wide latitude to use lethal force if they reasonably believe that they are in imminent danger.
The Times has a link to a decent article on use of deadly force, but, this standard also applies civilians. Did they have reasonable fear for the life or serious bodily injury of themselves or a third person.
The officials said that while the federal investigation was continuing, the evidence so far did not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson. To press charges, the Justice Department would need to clear a high bar, proving that Officer Wilson willfully violated Mr. Brown’s civil rights when he shot him.

The account of Officer Wilson’s version of events did not come from the Ferguson Police Department or from officials whose activities are being investigated as part of the civil rights inquiry.

Strange, the Holder Just-Us department seems to only want to seize control of local police departments and indict officers for doing their jos, but for some reason the black and Hispanic gangs killing thousands are are prosecuted for "civil rights" violations. I wonder why.

Now take a look at this quote.
...In the many accounts of Mr. Brown’s death, the most potent imagery has come from his final moments, when he and Officer Wilson faced each other on Canfield Drive. Some witnesses have said that he appeared to be surrendering with his hands in the air as he was hit with the fatal gunshots. Others have said that Mr. Brown was moving toward Officer Wilson when he was killed.

Now this one.
Few witnesses had perfect vantage points for the fight in the car, which occurred just after noon on Aug. 9. Mr. Brown was walking down the middle of the street with a friend, Dorian Johnson, when Officer Wilson stopped his S.U.V., a Chevy Tahoe, to order them to the sidewalk.

This is the first time I've heard the witnesses didn't have a good angle to view this. If this was brought up in previous reporting, I'd love to see it. For example, these witnesses:
...One witness, Piaget Crenshaw, said later that while she could not see clearly, it appeared Mr. Brown was “trying to flee.” Another witness, Tiffany Mitchell, said that she had watched with alarm from a close distance and that as the two briefly struggled, “Michael was pulling off and the cop was trying to pull him in...”

Ms Crenshaw could not see clearly, but she could determine Brown was "trying to flee." And Ms Mitchell refers to the deceased as "Michael". Maybe I'm just cynical, but she may have knows the man before he became a cause celebre. Whenever I investigate anything (assault case, accident) and I have witnesses, the first question I have of them is "Do you know any of the people in the case." It allows their statements to be put into context.

But as I told a family member when this first happened (and who was ready to hang the officer at first sight just based on the eyewitness testimony) this is a slow process and needs to be handled dispassionately. And I also mentioned to him when witnesses are put under oath they often "revise" their statements, not that they can be changed with a felony for lying.

Good to see the NY Times is actually doing some reporting for a change on this matter. Better late than never.

Geopolitical Weekly: Student Movements: A Subject of Human Geography, October 14, 2014

By Sim Tack

As student protests in Hong Kong continue, memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations naturally spring to mind. Less iconic but no less notable were the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which began as a student movement; the 2007 Venezuelan protests, which started with a group of students demanding constitutional reform; and the 1929 protests in Paris, which challenged the role of churches in education.

Of course, each student movement is unique; the one underway in Hong Kong concerns Hong Kong affairs, not widespread democratic reform in China proper. And yet all such movements share characteristics that transcend borders, making them an ideal phenomenon through which to study geopolitics.

Student protests lay bare the social and cultural layers that move beneath the surface of geopolitics, much like subsurface currents flow beneath the waves of the oceans. Human geography forms the foundation of society and thus the systems that govern it. Even if we regard the state as the highest level of global policymaking and interaction, these social undercurrents are what move the generations, ideologies and cultural changes that shape the constraints under which states operate.

Patterns Emerge

From ethnic and religious sects to socio-economic divisions, human geography is as important to a state as the physical topography and resources that constitute it. Human geography exists in all states, and as with physical geography, revelatory, even educational, patterns emerge over time.

The way in which the ruled rise up against the rulers is one such pattern. These kinds of movements take a variety of forms, from peaceful demonstrations and strikes to violent insurgencies. Of these, student protests are perhaps the most intriguing because of the unique position in society that students occupy -- they are at the vanguard of a generation that often differs markedly from that of their forebears. It is at this fault line that competing ideologies and changing cultural identities collide.

That they are students means they are intellectually engaged, frequently espousing distinct political beliefs. But to be successful, student movements must galvanize the other areas of civil society. In that regard, they are often a good catalyst for change. Students are already grouped together at universities, often in urban areas, enabling student campaigns to evolve into broader protest movements. Of course, social media has made physical congregation somewhat obsolete, but proximity still simplifies the logistics of political action.

Even under ideal circumstances, student movements can fail, and indeed history is rife with failure. But more often than not, student uprisings tend to be part of longer-term social, cultural or political change. After all, when student protests disappear, students themselves often go on to become part of a more mature generation that retains much of its ideological conviction.

Think, for example, of the May 1968 movement that shook France and several other countries in Europe. Despite failing to achieve many of its goals as it occupied university buildings in Paris, the baby boomer generation later became part of post-graduate society, fomenting far-reaching social and cultural change throughout Europe as the ideas of the New Left continued to bleed into the mainstream.

When a student movement fails to create change, oftentimes it will join or be subsumed by an existing political movement, acting either as a force that advances change or one that that highlights the continuation of ongoing social trends. France's revolution in June 1832 is a prime example. The notion of popular sovereignty had been in place ever since the French Revolution ended the monarchy. The return of the monarchy in 1814, after Napoleon's fall, however, ultimately compelled students to take to the streets in what was essentially an extension of the very same social pressures that had dominated the internal evolution of France for more than three decades. These particular protests in 1832, eternalized in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, were struck down. But the underlying desires of the masses persisted, culminating in 1848, when the "Year of Revolution" saw the final collapse of the monarchy in France and generated a broader wave of social change throughout Europe.

Student campaigns have by no means been relegated to Europe. The United States witnessed profound student activism during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the anti-war movement brought about countless protests. At its core was a demographic shift -- the baby boom, which spawned the primary group challenging policy at the time. Of course, these movements did not end the war in Vietnam; they barely convinced Washington to end the draft. But they exemplified the trends of the time, namely, the introduction of a new generation with a distinct ideology.

When student movements emulate broader social unrest, the results can be dramatic. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution radically changed the political identity of the country, facilitated in part by students who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The ensuing hostage crisis united many sections of Iranian society in support of the revolution. Ironically, it was this generation of students that put down a later generation of students during the 2009-2010 Green Revolution.

A Society in Motion

Even prior to the current Hong Kong protests, China has had a rich history of student activism influencing society. In fact, the establishment of the People's Republic of China itself had its roots in student movements: Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai discovered socialism and began to organize politically as student leaders in the early 20th century. In 1919, the May 4th Movement, which grew out of student demonstrations, arguably ushered in what would become the beginning of China's contemporary history when it lashed out against Beijing's response to the Treaty of Versailles.

Students were also at the forefront of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. They helped reinforce the personality cult of Mao as Chinese citizens revolted against capitalism and traditional Chinese culture. It was student repudiation of university leaders accused of opposing the Chinese Communist Party that initiated the actual protests, which in turn started the Cultural Revolution -- something much larger than a student cause, to say the least.

Considering China's long history -- and the history of student movements -- the current protests in Hong Kong will not be the last time China faces social unrest. As a one-party state with immense geographic, social and economic diversity, China has faced significant calls for reform throughout the years. And the Communist Party will inevitably face more pressure as China changes. For China's is a society in motion: It is creating an urban middle class as its economy matures. Rising urbanization and private consumption have altered the interests and expectations of Chinese citizens, and as expectation rise, so too will pressure on the government to meet those demands.

Along with the emergence of a Chinese urban consumer class, there has been a veritable explosion in the number of students in China as higher education has expanded over the past decade. China is spending more money on higher education to create an educated work force better suited for the economy to which China aspires. But creating more students creates more opportunities for social unrest. The ability of these students to function the way China intends hinges heavily on the performance of the Chinese economy. If economic growth slows, the potential for unrest hastens.

It is difficult to gauge the ultimate effect of the protests in Hong Kong. Still, the student activism there reminds us why these subjects of society are well-suited to protest. Because of their position in the human geography, students will often be at the front of generational changes in their respective societies, even if they are not always the most decisive agents of change.

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Military Analyst Sim Tack.
Student Movements: A Subject of Human Geography is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Officer Down

Trooper David Kedra
Pennsylvania State Police
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Age: 26
Tour: 2 years, 3 months
Badge # 12115

Trooper David Kedra was accidentally shot and killed while participating in a training exercise at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Complex, in Plymouth Township, at approximately 4:45 pm.

During the exercise a live round was discharged and struck Trooper Kedra in the chest. He was flown to Temple University Hospital where he succumbed the injury.

Trooper Kedra had served with the Pennsylvania State Police for just over two years.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch
Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

A crock of s$%^ of a report.

There are legitimate questions of if this country still needs a draft registration system. You never say never and after World War I, the "War to End All Wars", no one expected another. Well, things haven't worked out so well and as a wise man once wrote, "there will be wars and rumors of war until the end of time."

This article is crap. It's simplistic and shows a lack of work on the part of the reporter. The man who says at age 38 cannot get student aid because he didn't register for the draft may have a legitimate issue. If we need to work on that fine. But here we go.
America may never have a draft again. But we’re still punishing low-income men for not registering

OK, only low income men? Granted, Joe Biden's son, the cocaine user didn't need student loans to get through college, but many middle and upper middle income students do. So if they fail to register, they can be denied benefits.
More than 40 years since America's last draft, failing to register for selective service can mean missing out on crucial benefits.

By Tina Griego October 16 Follow @tinagriego

The last time Danieldevel Davis got out of prison it was 2012 and he was 38.

“I ain’t going back into no man’s prison again,” he vowed.

He’d been locked up for six years, which was the longest he’d ever lived in one place. Davis grew up in foster homes, dropped out of school in the 11th grade and then hit the revolving door: streets, juvenile detention, streets, prison. He’s never possessed a driver’s license. He’s never had a bill in his name.

“I’ve never had anything in my name,” he says.

So, this is what happened when Davis went to fill out his financial aid paperwork at a Virginia Beach technical college.

“Have you registered for the Selective Service?” the financial aid officer asked.

“What do you mean?” Davis said.

“Did you register to be drafted?”


This may be a nation with an all-volunteer military, one that ended conscription more than 40 years ago, but federal law still requires men ages 18 to 25 to register for a draft that does not exist. There are few exemptions and no second chances.

Davis never registered with the Selective Service System and so learned that he was looking at potentially lifelong consequences. No access to federal student loans or grants. No federal job training money or certain government jobs. And, in Virginia, no driver’s license.

“I didn’t know I had to register and now I can’t get anything,” Davis says. “I can’t do nothing.”

Got it, assuming this is true and he couldn't get a pass based on his history and desire to turn his life around, we may have an issue. But Ms Griego, where did you link up with Mr Davis? Did he come to you asking for help in getting his story told? Just curious.
The odds of this country returning to a draft are almost zero, but the price for failure to register is high and is largely born by the men who can ill afford to pay it: high school dropouts, disconnected inner city residents, ex-offenders and immigrants — legal and unauthorized — who do not know that failure to register can jeopardize citizenship. In other words, those precisely in need of the type of job training, education and citizenship opportunities that could help move them from the margins to the mainstream.

In California, the Selective Service System estimates, men who failed to register were denied access to more than $99 million in federal and state financial aid and job training benefits between 2007 and April of this year. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts saw $35 million in combined lost benefits between 2011 and spring 2014.

“Why are we setting up these barriers?” says Regina Tyler, director of Virginia State University’s Upward Bound program and the Education Opportunity Center, which helps adults return to school. “Why are we attaching them to financial aid? We don’t have a draft, so what is the point?”

The point, supporters of registration long have argued, is that almost-zero odds of conscription are not zero odds.

“You can never say never,” says Lawrence G. Romo, director of the Selective Service System. “We are a deterrent. We want to make sure our adversaries understand that if we had an extreme national emergency, we would have the draft.”

A fair and equitable draft, which would include alternatives to military service, requires 100 percent compliance, he argues. “We need to have some type of penalty in order to help us get that compliance.”...

Legitimate question and one thing I will say is a modern success is the volunteer military. I'm a 23 year veteran of the Army and I would rather have five people there willingly then ten draftees. Now most of the article is stats on compliance, etc, read it if you will, but this brought my blood up.
...Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who earlier this year introduced two bills related to the draft. The first would require women to register with the Selective Service. The second calls for all citizens and residents between 18 and 25 to perform two years of military or community service and would reinstate the draft only when a clear threat to the nation is present and Congress formally has declared war or the president proclaims a national emergency.

Community service? I think this is what we called in years past indentured servitude. From this country's founding there was no question young men could be called on to defend this nation, either by volunteering or a draft, when needed. But this is something new. For some reason Charlie and his ilk want young men and women to "serve in the community" as a condition of being a citizen? Strange, I'll bet he won't require a similar pound of flesh from Dreamers, aka illegal aliens. But anyone knowing Charlie knows what this is, a way of using federal resources for Democrats. Those kids would go "into the community" showing them how to register, how to vote, and whom to vote for. Oh, get this.
Rangel has long argued that the burden of fighting war has fallen unfairly on the shoulders of a few, and that a more-inclusive draft “would compel everyone in the nation to stop and think about who we sent to wars, how we fight – and why we fight them at all.”

But, Rangel says, until the day comes that the United States is engaged in a declared war and the nation’s security is violated — or Congress passes his National Service Act — there is no reason for the Selective Service System. “Having people penalized for not registering is a fraud,” he said.

Rangel emphasized that registration is current law and should be followed, but said he now intends to introduce a draft-related bill — one abolishing the service.

A little shoe leather work would have put Charlie in context. In 2005, Charlie introduced a bill to reinstate the draft and he made many of the same comments then as he does now. Well, in a rare show of guts the Republicans in the House called his bluff, by passed the committee and sent it straight to the floor for a vote. What happened? It was voted down by all members, with even Charlie voting against his own bill. I know in Charlie's case it was a procedural dodge, he had to vote against his bill so he could reintroduce it at a later date. But more to the point he didn't want the bill passed. He wanted to be on TV during committee hearings calling our all volunteer military a disgrace and racists. What a racist disgrace he is.

Legitimatley is there a debate to be had on the draft, yes. Personally I would keep registration and allow correction for a man in his 30s who never filled out his form due to ignorance as opposed to deliberate evasion. But please, don't use Charlie Rangel as a authentic source of input.

Officer Down

Police Officer Jordan Corder
Covina California Police Department
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Age: 28
Tour: 7 years

Police Officer Jordan Corder was killed in a motorcycle crash on North Citrus Avenue at 1:55 pm.

As he entered the intersection with West Puente Street a small SUV attempted to make a left turn in front of him, causing a head-on collision. He was thrown from the motorcycle and suffered fatal injuries.

Officer Corder had served with the Covina Police Department for seven years. He is survived by his father, who is a retired Covina police officer.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The stupidity of politicians never ceases to amaze me!

Generally the really stupid politicians (I know, redundancy, but just go with me here) in at the federal level, but the District of Columbia government is not too shabby. Just read the article.
D.C. councilmember David Grosso suggests disarming city police, says officers 'shouldn't have guns'

D.C. Copuncilmember David Grasso

Independent Councilmember David Grosso made his comments Wednesday night at a hearing on the use of stop-and-frisk and other tactics by District of Columbia police.

Grosso said his staff has urged him not to express the opinion, but nonetheless, he said, "I think we ought to get rid of guns in the city and that police shouldn't have guns."

Democratic Councilmember Tommy Wells pointed out that some police officers in other countries don't carry deadly weapons.

The hearing included testimony from residents who said they had been subjected to aggressive police tactics. Wells said he held the hearing in part because of high-profile incidents including the shooting of an unarmed teenager by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

I could ask if he wants the guards at DC City Hall disarmed but I think I would know the answer. You think you have reached rock bottom with the stupidity of politicians, then someone gets out the pick ax and starts breaking gravel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Is it just me or does the Nobel Committee need regular does of lithium?

I have posted in the past on how the Nobel Committee has been selective and political in deciding who gets a Peace Prize. We know Bubba Clinton wants one as much as we wants that granddaughter he just got, but I posted on how there are some curious selections from Norway.
Back before the Nobel Peace Prize became a joke, the Nobel Committee honored a real peace activist for leading a country to a better way. Since then they have honored a the last great leader of the Soviet Union (Gorbachev, 1990), a terrorist (Yasser Arafat, 1994), a failure as a deliberate insult to the then sitting president (Jimmy Carter, 2003), a snake oil salesman (ALGORE, 2007) and a man-child completely unqualified to run a cash register, much less the only superpower in the world (B Hussein Obama, 2009). Millions are free and better off thanks to the works of the previously listed President of the US, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Pope, but for some reason their efforts are not acknowledged by the committee. I would wonder why, but I think we all know the answer.
It's really galling is that snail oil salesman won against a woman who saved over 2500 Jews from the Holocaust. But another day issue for another day.

Now comes this really good award. I don't think their winning Dr Nobel's accolades is controversial.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel winner ever as she and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labor at great risk to their own lives.
By honoring a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan and a 60-year-old Hindu man from India, the Norwegian Nobel Committee linked the peace award to conflicts between world religions and neighboring nuclear powers as well as drawing attention to children's rights.

"This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard," said Malala, who chose to finish her school day in the central English city of Birmingham before addressing the media. "They have the right to receive quality education. They have the right not to suffer from child labor, not to suffer from child trafficking. They have the right to live a happy life."
She said it was an honor to share the prize Satyarthi, who has worked tirelessly to protect children, and invited the prime ministers of both India and Pakistan to attend the Nobel ceremony in December.

Satyarthi has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labor, which he called a "blot on

"Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime," Satyarthi told The Associated Press at his office in New Delhi...

...When she was a student there, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations with the help of British medical care, she continued both her activism and her studies.
Malala was in chemistry class when the Nobel was announced and remained with her classmates at the Edgbaston High School for girls.
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, said the decision will further the rights of girls.
"(The Nobel will) boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls' education," he told the AP.
Malala is by far the youngest Nobel laureate, eight years younger than the 1915 physics prize winner, 25-year-old Lawrence Bragg. Before Malala, the youngest peace prize winner was 2011 co-winner Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, a 32-year-old women's rights activist...
Gee, she got shot in the head for saying women need an education. That is incredible. The fact the Nobel Prize Committee ranks that up with the listed disgraces up there makes me ill.

The Nobel Prize in other areas (Literature, Medicine, Science) is not the occasional joke Peace Prize is. Again, they need to look at reality. Giving this to a young lady who suffered a bullet to the head for her beliefs shows wisdom, judgement and well deserved recognition. Giving it to a man-child of no accomplishments (B Hussein Obama) while ignoring the incredible accomplishments of others (Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II) is shameful.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Officer Down

Police Officer Reinaldo Arocha, Jr.
Newark New JerseyPolice Department
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Age: 46
Tour: 23 years
Badge # 86

Police Officer Reinaldo Arocha suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after he and another officers had to subdue an emotionally disturbed person who was being taken into custody.

He had returned to his patrol car to complete paperwork when a tow truck driver found him unresponsive near the intersection of North Munn Avenue and Mountainview Avenue at approximately 7:15 am. Responding units and a nurse performed CPR until he was transported to a local hospital. He was pronounced dead approximately 30 minutes later.

Officer Arocha had served with the Newark Police Department for 23 years. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

No Jobs, No Peace!

The man says "Give us the jobs..." and things will be getter. Just listen to this pillar of his community telling us what will happen if the storeowners do not come back.

Hell to pay. Who is going to pay this hell? The store owners who had their lives and livelihoods destroyed have already paid hell and them some. What have you paid young man? Were you one of the rent a mob protesters who helped himself to a few dozen pairs of Air Jordan's?

Hate to tell you something kid, no one will invest their money, time and effort into a rathole where they get stolen from daily, robbed regularly and have the potential to lose everything to the work of race baiters who come into the town and destroy it. So you have made your bed, lay in it.

Now I got this from Legal Insurrection and it covers a lot of ground on what had become of Ferguson in the last weeks.
Look up irony in the dictionary, and by all rights you should find a footnote pointing to this news story from CBS re: Ferguson MO: “Ferguson residents frustrated over lack of opportunity.”

The story notes that the previous night was sufficiently quiet–”just eight arrests”–and that the National Guard is pulling out (meaning, productive people are being released to go back to their day jobs.)

The irony arose when the reporter spoke to local Ferguson residents. The common theme among those interviewed was outrage that local businesses–you know, the ones that had been relentlessly looted and vandalized by local residents–had not hurried to rebuild and offer jobs to local residents. Huh. Who knew that robbing and burning local businesses might prove a disincentive to them investing and hiring in the community!

Anybody remember this guy?

The reporter also notes that unemployment in Ferguson among black men 20 to 24 years of age is 46%. Forty. Six. Percent. Presumably that figure is pre-riots. Might it have doubled in the interval?

In any case, the fault is clearly that of the looted/burned businesses. As one local young man puts it, if they don’t come back and rebuild these businesses, “there’s going to be hell to pay.”

They are particularly upset that they now have to drive miles out of the way to access the products and services that used to be provided locally . . . by the businesses looted and burned down by local residents. Oops.

In further irony, the very fact that the looted businesses are not providing jobs to the local community is justification for the businesses being looted. Or something.

And finally we get to the former gang member turned some kind of community organizer or bridge builder or whatever, who lays it right on the line: “No jobs = no peace.”

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Here is the video of the man saying "give us the jobs".

Question, what stopped them from going to get them? Why didn't they get off their ass, get with a lawn service and prove they will be there day in and day out, work early and late if need be, give a full day's labor for a full day's wage? Nothing stopped them from that. Except themselves.

One of the great tragedies is the destruction of the black family caused by the nightmare of the Great Society. The KKK could do nothing compared to Lyndon Johnson's dream. Three generations ago a young black man from the hood knew he had to go out and make his way in society. If anything, he had to prove more than others. But after the 1960s and one generation after another being raised in public housing, generating one child after another and leaving them to their mothers or grandparents and welfare, the destruction is pretty much complete. How we recover from this I don't know, but it won't happen instantly.

Pal, you have an idea but don't go on TV demanding others give them jobs. Get off your ass and teach these young men to go and get them. Or is the real work too much for you, especially seeing you won't be on TV anymore. It's not flashy, just critical.

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Michael Norris
Monroe County Georgia Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Monday, September 15, 2014
Age: 24
Tour: 2 years
Badge # 258
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 9/13/2014

Deputy Sheriff Michael Norris succumbed to a gunshot he suffered two days earlier when he and another deputy responded to a call of an armed suicidal man at a home in the 100 block of Haley Lane, in Juliette, at approximately 5:45 pm.

As the deputies approached the front door the subject opened fire with a handgun, wounding both deputies. During the exchange of gunfire the subject was wounded in the leg. He was then taken into custody at the scene.

Deputy Norris was transported to the Macon Medical Center where he was pronounced brain dead the following day, but kept on life support for two days so his organs could be donated.

Deputy Norris had served with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office for two years. He is survived by his wife, parents, and one sibling.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Geopolitical Weekly: Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve the Eurozone, September 30, 2014

By Adriano Bosoni and Mark Fleming-Williams

The European Court of Justice announced Sept. 22 that hearings in the case against the European Central Bank's (ECB) bond-buying scheme known as Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) will begin Oct. 14. Though the process is likely to be lengthy, with a judgment not due until mid-2015, the ruling will have serious implications for Germany's relationship with the rest of the eurozone. The timing could hardly be worse, coming as an anti-euro party has recently been making strides in the German political scene, steadily undermining the government's room for maneuver.

The roots of the case go back to late 2011, when Italian and Spanish sovereign bond yields were following their Greek counterparts to sky-high levels as the markets showed that they had lost confidence in the eurozone's most troubled economies' ability to turn themselves around. By summer 2012 the situation in Europe was desperate. Bailouts had been undertaken in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, while Italy was getting dangerously close to needing one. But Italy's economy, and particularly its gargantuan levels of government debt, meant that it would be too big to receive similar treatment. In any event, the previous bailouts were not calming financial markets.

As Spain and Italy's bond yields lurched around the 7 percent mark, considered the point where default becomes inevitable, the new president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said that the ECB was willing to do whatever it took to save the euro. In concert with the heads of the European governments, the ECB developed a mechanism that enables it to buy unlimited numbers of sovereign bonds to stabilize a member country, a weapon large enough to cow bond traders.

ECB President Mario Draghi never actually had to step in because the promise of intervention in bond markets convinced investors that eurozone countries would not be allowed to default. But Draghi's solution was not to everyone's taste. Notable opponents included Jens Weidmann, president of the German Bundesbank. Along with many Germans, Weidmann felt the ECB was overstepping its jurisdictional boundaries, since EU treaties bar the bank from financing member states. Worse, were OMT ever actually used, it essentially would be spending German money to bail out what many Germans considered profligate Southern Europeans.

In early 2013, a group of economics and constitutional law professors from German universities collected some 35,000 signatures and brought OMT before the German Constitutional Court. During a hearing in June 2013, Weidmann testified for the prosecution. In February 2014, the court delivered an unexpected verdict, ruling 6-2 that the central bank had in fact overstepped its boundaries, though it also referred the matter to the European Court of Justice. Recognizing the profound importance of this issue, the court acknowledged that a more restrictive interpretation of OMT by the European Court of Justice could make it legal.

The German judgment suggested that three alterations to OMT would satisfy the Constitutional Court that the mechanism was lawful. Two of the three changes, however, are problematic at best. One alteration would limit the ECB to senior debt, a change that would protect it against the default of the sovereign in question but also risk undermining the confidence of other investors who would not be similarly protected. The second alteration would make bond buying no longer "unlimited," constraining the bank's ability to intimidate bond traders by leaving it with a rifle instead of a bazooka.

A New German Political Party

The group of academics who organized the petition kept busy while the court deliberated. The Alternative for Germany, a party founded in February 2013 by one of their number, economics professor Bernd Lucke, and frequently known by its German acronym, AfD, has made significant gains in elections across Germany. Founded as an anti-euro party, the party came very close to winning a seat in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, in the September 2013 general elections, a remarkable feat for a party founded just six months before. It made even larger gains in 2014, winning 7.1 percent of the vote in European Parliament elections in May and between 9.7 and 12.2 percent in three regional elections in August and September.

Germany is currently ruled by a grand coalition, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union party (and its sister party, the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union) sharing power with the center-left Social Democratic Party. This has resulted in the Christian Democratic Union being dragged further to the center than it wanted to be, creating a space to its right that the Alternative for Germany nimbly entered.

Originally a single-issue party, the Alternative for Germany has begun espousing conservative values and anti-immigration policies, a tactic that worked particularly well in elections held in eastern Germany in the summer. Its rise puts Merkel, a European integrationist, in a quandary that will become particularly acute if the Alternative for Germany proves capable of representing Germans uncomfortable with the idea of the country financially supporting the rest of Europe.

Since the beginning of the European crisis, Merkel has proved masterful at crafting a message that combines criticism of countries in the European periphery with the defense of bailout programs for those same countries. But while Merkel has become accustomed to criticism from left-wing parties over the harsh austerity measures the European Union demanded in exchange for bailouts, she had not counted on anti-euro forces mounting serious opposition in Germany. Merkel is not alone in this, of course: center-right parties across Europe, from David Cameron's coalition in the United Kingdom to Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in the Netherlands, have seen Euroskeptical populism emerge to their right, eating into their traditional voter platforms.

This anti-ECB sentiment in Germany has swelled during 2014, as Draghi's attempts to increase the eurozone's low inflation have departed further and further from economic orthodoxy. German conservatives have greeted each new policy with displeasure. The German media has called negative interest rates "penalty rates," claiming they redistribute billions of euros from German savers to Southern European spenders. On Sept. 25, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble spoke in the Bundestag of his displeasure with Draghi's program to buy asset-backed securities. Judging from the German hostility to even "quantitative easing-lite" measures, the ECB's attempts to rope Germany into further stimulus measures could prove troublesome indeed.

Institutional and Political Challenges for Berlin

All of the measures the ECB has announced so far, however, are mere appetizers. Financial markets have been demanding quantitative easing, a broad-based program of buying sovereign bonds in order to inject a large quantity of money into the market. Up to this stage, three major impediments have existed to such a policy: the German government's ideological aversion to spending taxpayers' money on peripheral economies; the political conception that quantitative easing would ease the pressure on peripheral economies to reform; and the court case that has been hanging over OMT (the only existing mechanism available to the ECB for undertaking sovereign bond purchases). Notably, the OMT in its original guise and quantitative easing are not precisely the same thing. In the original conception of OMT, the ECB would offset any purchases in full by taking an equivalent amount of money out of circulation, (i.e., not increasing the money supply itself). Nonetheless, any declaration that OMT is illegal would severely inhibit Draghi's room for maneuver should he wish to undertake full quantitative easing.

This confluence of events leaves Merkel nervously awaiting the decision of the European Court of Justice. In truth, she is in a no-win situation. If the Luxembourg court holds OMT illegal, Draghi's promise would be weakened, removing the force that has kept many sovereign bond yields at artificially low levels and permitting the desperate days of 2011-2012 to surge back. If the European Court of Justice takes up the German court's three suggestions and undercuts OMT to the extent that the market deems it to be of little consequence, the same outcome could occur. And if the European Court of Justice rules that OMT is legal, a sizable inhibitor to quantitative easing will have been removed, and the possibility of a fully fledged bond-buying campaign will loom ever closer, much to the chagrin of the German voter and to the political gain of the Alternative for Germany.

When analyzing the significance of this case, it is important to bear in mind that Germany is an export-driven power that must find markets for its exports to preserve cohesion and social stability at home. The eurozone helps Germany significantly -- 40 percent of German exports go to the eurozone and 60 percent to the full European Union -- because it traps its main European customers within the same currency union, depriving them of the possibility of devaluing their currencies to become more competitive.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Germany has managed to keep the eurozone alive without substantially compromising its national wealth, but the moment will arrive when Germany must decide whether it is willing to sacrifice a larger part of its wealth to save its neighbors. Berlin has thus far been able to keep its own capital relatively free of the hungry mouths of the periphery, but the problem keeps returning. This puts Germany in a dilemma because two of its key imperatives are in contradiction. Will it save the eurozone to protect its exports, writing a big check as part of the deal? Or will it oppose the ECB moves, which if blocked could mean a return to dangerously high bond yields and the return of rumors of Greece, Italy and others leaving the currency union?

The case will prove key to Europe's future for even deeper reasons. The European crisis is generating deep frictions in the Franco-German alliance, the main pillar of the union. The contrast between Germany, which has low unemployment and modest economic growth, and France, which has high unemployment and no growth, is becoming increasingly difficult to hide. In the coming months, this division will continue to widen, and Paris will become even more vocal in its demands for more action by the ECB, more EU spending and more measures in Germany to boost domestic investment and public consumption.

This creates yet another dilemma for Berlin, since many of the demands coming from west of the Rhine are deeply unpopular with German voters. But the German government understands that high unemployment and low economic growth in Europe are leading to a rise in anti-euro and anti-establishment parties. The rise of the National Front in France is the clearest example of this trend. There is a growing consensus among German political elites that unless Berlin makes some concessions to Paris, it could have to deal with a more radicalized French government down the road. The irony is that even if Berlin were inclined to bend to French wishes, it would find itself constrained by institutional forces beyond its control, such as the Constitutional Court.

Germany has managed to avoid most of these questions so far, but these issues will not go away and in fact will define Europe in 2015; the Alternative for Germany, for example, is here to stay. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court will keep challenging EU attempts at federalization even if this specific crisis is averted, and the Bundesbank and conservative academic circles will keep criticizing every measure that would reduce German sovereignty to help France or Italy. Though it is impossible to predict the European Court of Justice's final ruling, either way, the dilemma will continue to plague an increasingly fragile European Union.

Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve the Eurozone is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Officer Kevin Will....

I've posted on Officer Kevin Will and attending his funeral back in 2011. Now comes a video on the night he was killed.

Difficult to get through but worth the time.

Thank you Brent S for the link.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Competence and the lack of it in our federal government

One of the truisms I've learned is a bureaucracy has only one purpose in life, to insure it's own existence. Hand and hand with that is the competence, or lack there of, in our government's higher echelons.

Lack week I commented on David Brooks piece on our national malaise and I was really annoyed of his faith in a "responsible leadership class". He implies the idiots we have in DC right now should be there because they come from the right schools, etc. The fact they are educated in the Ivy League means nothing, it's what happens after college that shows if they are qualified for leadership. (More on that later in this post)

Now Mr Walt is showing a rare example of what happens in a bureaucracy. Someone is fired because of incompetence. Notice he doesn't discuss the fact she should have never been there in the first place, but we'll let that go.
Competence Not Required
Julia Pierson’s ouster is the exception that proves the rule: In Washington it is nearly impossible to get fired.


Something unusual happened in Washington, D.C., this week: A federal official was fired ("resigned under pressure") for doing her job badly. I refer to former Secret Service chief Julia Pierson, who stepped down after a series of embarrassing revelations, most notably the recent incident during which an intruder managed to scale the fence, get across the grounds, and then get all the way inside the White House. And the Secret Service couldn't even get its version of events straight for several days.

But the remarkable thing about Pierson's departure is how rare something like this is. Politicians and government bureaucrats are sometimes ousted over a sex scandal, embezzlement, or bribery, or for saying something that is wildly inappropriate, but they rarely get fired for just doing their jobs poorly, especially in the realm of foreign and national security policy. This inadvertent form of job security may help explain why U.S. foreign policy hasn't performed very well in recent decades, and it may also explain why some major foreign-policy endeavors -- such as reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- have been plagued by mismanagement and billions of squandered dollars.

He goes on to criticize one member of the Bush administration after another, and a few of the Obama regime. Funny, he never brings up the the question of incompetence in B Hussein Obama himself. Or is that too much to ask for? Onward to some very salient points.
...I can think of at least six reasons that very few public officials ever suffer negative consequences (or the loss of their jobs) even when they screw up big time.

For starters, judging performance in these jobs is not like calculating a baseball player's batting average or a quarterback's efficiency rating. Failure to achieve a stated goal might reveal incompetence, but failure might also occur because the official was asked to do the impossible or simply because of bad luck. Moreover, nobody is infallible, and anyone who stays in office more than a few weeks is bound to make mistakes at least part of the time. If presidents or cabinet officials fired subordinates after the first mistake, after a few months there would be no one left to run the government.

Second, even though the United States is a country of 300-plus million people, there isn't a deep talent pool for a lot of policy jobs, especially when one has to worry not only about a person's competence but also his or her loyalty and political acceptability. So even when it's clear that an important official isn't doing an especially effective job, he or she might still be the best person available and so they stay on.

Third, some officials aren't chosen because they are known to be effective policy entrepreneurs or bureaucratic operators, but because they reinforce a president's political base or appease an important domestic constituency. Here policy success isn't what is critical; it is the contribution the person makes to continued presidential popularity. One could argue that this explains why Republicans and Democrats keep recycling the same failed Mideast peace negotiators: It would be nice if these individuals managed to deliver a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but nobody really expects it and their real job is to keep that issue from blowing up and hurting the administration back home.

Fourth, it is harder to hold individuals accountable when foreign policy is made by committee via an elaborate interagency process and with dozens of people weighing in. The buck may stop at the president's desk -- and the voters will hold him responsible -- but it can be hard to tell whose fingerprints are really on a policy if lots of people have weighed in and many of them hedge to qualify their advice. When a policy succeeds, everyone involved looks good and they will try to claim credit; when it fails, those involved will point fingers, kick up dust, and try to make it harder for journalists, historians, and the public to identify exactly who was most to blame. Or as President John F. Kennedy famously remarked, "Victory has 100 fathers, and defeat is an orphan."

Fifth, lack of vigorous accountability is also an artifact of America's dominant global position. It isn't good when U.S. foreign policy fails, and it does involve real costs (especially to others). But none of the mistakes of the past 20 years -- and there have been some real doozies -- has left the United States open to invasion or even at much risk of a genuine threat to Americans' way of life. If pressed, I might even argue that the 2008 financial collapse did more to harm to America than any single foreign policy screw-up. Because the United States is so powerful and so secure, it can fail big time in lots of places and still end up mostly OK. When this is the case, however, the need to bring in the A Team and let it do its job will decline.

There is a final reason that accountability is rare. Members of the foreign-policy elite are often reluctant to hold each other to account because they know that it may eventually be their turn in the cross-hairs. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is a sound career principle for foreign-policy insiders, and it encourages them to pull their punches when dealing with their counterparts' failings. Really big and visible mistakes can't be ignored and will have professional consequences, but even these errors tend to be forgiven over time.

None of this is to suggest that the United States (or anyone else) would be better off by trundling out the guillotine at the first sign of a screw-up. As noted above, we have to be somewhat tolerant of policy failure or policymakers will never try anything innovative or "outside the box." But at the same time, the United States probably shouldn't be as complacent and forgiving as it is. If people can make enormous errors repeatedly and still land top jobs when the political winds are blowing in the right direction, why should we ever expect U.S. foreign policy to improve?

Valid points and he is mindful of people in high positions will make mistakes that are costly. I recall in Eisenhower Volume I: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 Stephen Ambrose described Eisenhower's performance in the North African invasion as "miserable". However, mistakes made there were were learned and allowed him to preform better as the Supreme Commander of the Allied invasion of Europe.

But that won't happen in contemporary American government without a revolution. The Founding Fathers had a concept of a leadership class, but they would come up, serve for a short period and return to civilian life. Never in their worse nightmares would they conceive of the current Washington Class that only works to enrich themselves and is in the process of destroying, excuse me, fundamentally transforming, this country.

Again, back to leadership. Last week my friend Darren had an excellent post on this subject:
Right on the Left Coast: Views From a Conservative Teacher: Leadership:

Leadership is a topic that consumes a lot of time at West Point. Sometimes it's taught explicitly in leadership classes, sometimes it's merely modeled, but the concept is omnipresent. That doesn't mean that every West Point graduate is an ideal leader, far from it, but it does mean that every West Point graduate has had some of the best leadership training any person could hope to experience.

Some people are natural leaders, some learn how to lead. Any leadership skills I have are of the latter variety. And, contrary to the opinions of some, not everyone can be a good leader. I would assert that, with good training, anyone should be able to improve his/her leadership skills, but good instruction doesn't guarantee a good outcome.

Things we were taught in order to make us better leaders include:

1. Officers eat after the soldiers. It's a sign of leadership to take care of your people before you take care of yourself.

2. Don't ask your soldiers to do something you're unwilling to do. That should be obvious.

3. Take more than your fair share of the blame, and less than your fair share of the credit.

It's that last one that I'd like to focus on here for a moment. Nobody respects someone who takes credit for other people's work, and people do respect those who give them credit for the work they've done. It's just common sense. And if you give a little less blame than is merited, and a little more credit that might be merited, people appreciate and respect that. Making people feel valued is a key component of leadership....

Again, look at what infest the current federal government in all branches. Can any of the defended good points of leadership Darren made be shown of any (well, a few) members of the contemporary upper management? We all know the answer and without fundamentally transforming the Washington Class, this country is doomed to certain decline. The Democratic Party is beyond hop. And with the state of the current opposition in the Republican party, they are beyond impotent.

God help us all.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Definite movie night! AMERICAN SNIPER!

Clint Eastwood directing. The movie adaptation of an awesome book, American Sniper, the late Chris Kyle.

Movie night Beth!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We are creatures of duty Captain....

One of the things that connected my old friend Darren (Right on the Left Coast) and I when we met at Fort Carson Colorado (Please don't tell me that was 25 years ago last month!) was we both shared a favorite episode of Star Trek. Balance of Terror. And for the same reason, the statement at the end of the defeated Romulan commander played superbly by the late Mark Lenard.  It was inspired by the World War II naval classic The Enemy Below, where at the end the American captain throws his defeated German U-Boat commander a rope to survive. It is a magnificently written story about how noble people may serve on both sides of a war combined with a mature examination of prejudice, even in the 22nd Century.

Mark Lenard (L) as the Romulan commander with The Centurion (played by the late John Warburton), his friend and confident.
I thought of this because a few minutes ago as I was on Facebook and found this list of The Top 100 Episodes of Star Trek. You see these types of lists all over the internet and for the most part they just an opinion, but I had to agree with many of the episodes and why. In them you see good plots, character development, etc. And they got the number one episode right for a change.

Back to Darren and I, what was spooky is he and I (and our sometimes adversary boss battalion executive officer) all have the same favorite quote. As his ship is wrecked and all hope is lost, Kirk offered to bring Romulan survivors aboard the Enterprise. The Commander declines and when asked "What purpose will it serve to die?", his response is a classic line.

We are creatures of duty Captain... I have lived my life by it... Just one more duty to perform.
Here is the video of it:

Speaking of duty, I need to get to work and baby sit the sleeping prisoners. Once more, unto the breech! Have a nice evening.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Good news from Jersey

Last month I posted on the legal mistreatment of a black single mother by a white male in a position of power. And then I posted on how I (and thousands of others) donated to her, seeing the Justice Brothers didn't find her worthy. But good news from New Jersey.
A.C. to allow Phila. woman carrying gun to avoid jail

After a review by the state attorney general, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office announced Wednesday that it would allow a Philadelphia woman charged last year with illegally bringing into New Jersey a gun that was legally registered in Pennsylvania to enter a pretrial-intervention program and avoid jail time.

The prosecutor's previous stance in the case involving Shaneen Allen, 27, was to make the case a "deterrent," either forcing a plea or bringing it to trial. The mother of two could have faced up to five years in prison.

Allen, who was stopped for a routine traffic violation on the Atlantic City Expressway, was arrested after voluntarily telling a state trooper that her purse contained a legally registered .38-caliber Bersa Thunder handgun.

In August, Allen's attorney, Evan Nappen, filed a motion to have the charge dropped, but it was denied by Superior Court Judge Michael Donio. The judge's ruling provided Nappen with a kind of primer on "how things are done here in Atlantic County" with regard to such arrests vs. other parts of the state, where more leniency might be offered to first-time offenders such as Allen.

Nappen argued that Allen "should not be turned into a felon and sent to state prison and have her life destroyed because she made a mistake and committed a victimless crime."...

...Prosecutor Jim McClain came under fire from gun-advocacy groups and defenders of Allen after noting that the case was being pursued as a deterrent and saying the charges were "too serious to warrant divergence" into the pretrial-intervention program.

Gun-law advocates, anti-domestic-violence groups, and others attempted to draw parallels between McClain's perceived leniency for NFL star Ray Rice, who was allowed to enter a pretrial-intervention program in an attack on his then-fiancee in Atlantic City, and his hard-line stance in the Allen case.

The football player did not use a firearm in the beating, caught last spring on security video inside an elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel.

Donors contributed thousands of dollars to a defense fund for Allen, who said she purchased a firearm after being robbed and beaten last year in her South Philadelphia neighborhood...

...The Office of the Attorney General on Wednesday issued to McClain a clarification of the 2008 Graves Act directive that deals with circumstances in which an out-of-state resident holds a valid permit to carry a firearm within his or her own home state, is arrested in New Jersey, and is charged with illegal possession of a firearm under New Jersey law.

The clarification was issued following a comprehensive review of firearms-possession laws and consultation with each of the state's 21 county prosecutors.

"The resulting clarification to the 2008 directive is a reasoned and considered effort to ensure consistent treatment of similarly situated defendants throughout the state," according to the Attorney General's Office statement.

In the clarification, issued by acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, it was noted that in most of these cases, "imprisonment is neither necessary nor appropriate to serve the interests of justice and protect public safety."

Hoffman noted that prosecutors could promote this outcome in two ways: by consenting to the application or pretrial intervention, which is subject to review by a trial judge, and by considering factors and circumstances particularly relevant to "unusual situations involving otherwise law-abiding persons who inadvertently violate New Jersey's gun laws."

Great news on this lady. Mrs Allen, please make sure you keep your gun (or get another) and simply avoid Jersey like the plague it is. The state's government if beneigth your contempt.

Dogs and Cats....

Nothing too serious, just how our four legged friends look at things.

Officer Down

Corporal Bryon Keith Dickson, II
Pennsylvania State Police
End of Watch: Friday, September 12, 2014
Age: 38
Tour: 7 years, 3 months
Badge # 10714

Corporal Bryon Dickson was shot and killed from ambush at the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County, at approximately 11:00 pm.

He had just walked out of the front door of the barracks when he was struck by a .308 caliber rifle shot. A dispatcher who was inside of the barracks attempted to pull him into the building but also came under fire and had to retreat back into the building. A second trooper, who had been in the parking lot, also came to Trooper Dickson's aid but was wounded before he also had to retreat into the building. The subject then shot Corporal Dickson a second time, killing him.

The subject fled the scene but was identified two days later when his vehicle and other evidence was found partially submerged in a pond two miles from the barracks. The subject remains at large.

Corporal Dickson was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the Pennsylvania State Police for seven years. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Security Weekly: The Jihadist Kidnapping Threat Persists, September 25, 2014

By Scott Stewart

After attending a non-governmental organization security conference last week and chatting with some friends there, I decided to focus this Security Weekly on the continued and widespread kidnapping threat jihadist groups pose to NGO workers and other foreigners.

Since I made that decision, a number of events have occurred concerning foreign hostages and jihadists:
Sept. 20: The Islamic State released the 49 Turkish diplomats it abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq in a prisoner exchange for Islamic State militants and family members.

Sept. 22: French citizen Herve Gourdel was kidnapped in the Kabylie region of Algeria by Jund al-Khilifah, a splinter group of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb that has broken from the al Qaeda orbit and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. On Sept. 24, the group published a video on the Internet featuring Gourdel's beheading.

Sept. 22: The Islamic State released a second message by British hostage John Cantlie that criticized U.S. policy toward the Islamic State.

Sept. 23: The German government confirmed the deaths of two Christian aid workers and their young son who were abducted in northern Yemen in June 2009.

Sept 23: German-American journalist Michael Scott Moore, who was kidnapped in Somalia while working on a story on piracy, was released — reportedly after a ransom payment.

Sept. 23: Philippine jihadist group Abu Sayyaf released a statement warning that two German hostages would be executed in 15 days unless Germany paid a ransom of 250 million Philippine Pesos ($5.6 million) and stopped supporting U.S. operations against the Islamic State and other jihadists in the Levant.
While the Gourdel abduction in Algeria and the Abu Sayyaf statement may have stolen my thunder a bit regarding this topic, all of these events nonetheless serve as timely and powerful reminders that, when in dangerous areas, the risk of abduction by jihadist groups persists. Foreigners, whether they be NGO workers, journalists, businessmen or tourists, have become valuable commodities for jihadist groups, and they must exercise great caution when in areas within the operational range of such groups.

Foreigners as Commodities

For over two decades now, jihadist groups have kidnapped Westerners for use in hostage swaps or for ransom. Kashmiri jihadists kidnapped a group of Swedish engineers in March 1991, representing the first of many kidnappings in Kashmir. Since then, foreigners have been kidnapped by jihadist groups in Algeria, Niger, Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia and the Philippines.

As Stratfor has noted elsewhere, jihadist groups such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have netted tens of millions of dollars through kidnapping-for-ransom operations.

Though the Islamic State recently beheaded two American hostages and one British hostage in Syria to make a political point and generate a great deal of publicity, such spectacular hostage killings are not new. Kashmiri jihadists beheaded a Norwegian hostage they captured in 1995 to pressure the Indian government to make a deal for their remaining hostages, and al Qaeda beheaded American journalist Daniel Pearl in January 2002 after kidnapping him in Karachi, Pakistan. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia beheaded Paul Johnson in 2004, and al Qaeda in Iraq (the group now calling itself the Islamic State) beheaded Nick Berg in 2004.

Perhaps the best example of hostages being used as commodities can be seen in a letter from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi to Abdelmalek Droukdel (aka Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud), the leader or "emir" of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In the letter, al-Wahayshi discussed how his group had suffered terrible losses after a counteroffensive defeated its attempt to seize control of a large section of southern Yemen in 2011 and 2012. According to al-Wahayshi, "The control of these areas during one year cost us 500 martyrs, 700 wounded, 10 cases of hand or leg amputation and nearly $20 million." Al-Wahayshi continued, "most of the battle costs, if not all, were paid from the spoils. Almost half the spoils came from hostages. Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil, which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure."

Foreign hostages are not only a treasure for jihadist groups. In Yemen, Sahel and Syria, tribal militants and bandits have been known to sell hostages to jihadist groups, meaning grabbing a foreigner is also an easy, lucrative business for them. For these smaller groups, the gratification is more immediate because they do not have to go through the trouble of a protracted negotiation but instead receive cash directly from the militants. Recently, a friend of mine returned from a trip to Yemen, where he had an uneasy trip after a man he was staying with told him al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was offering a bounty on foreigners, and he could make a lot of money by selling my friend.

Purchasing hostages from bandits and other criminals extends the reach of jihadist groups to locations beyond their normal areas of operations. This has important implications for foreigners who may consider themselves outside the traditional range of jihadist groups.

Also, note that I am intentionally using the phrase foreigners and foreign hostages here. This is because, while Westerners get the most publicity in Western press, jihadists are also kidnapping Asians and other foreigners.

Scope of the Threat

The Islamic State and the al Qaeda franchises are hurting for cash. While some media reports have labeled the Islamic State the richest militant group ever, such reports fail to understand the extent of its obligations. The Islamic State makes a lot of money, but it also spends a lot of money.

All jihadist groups have been pressed hard on the battlefield. They need cash to pay for weapons, salaries for fighters, vehicles, medical care, gasoline, food, payments to tribal sheikhs, etc. In addition, the United States and its allies have expended a great deal of effort to curtail the funding of these militant groups in the years since 9/11. These efforts have degraded their ability to receive money via Islamic charities and wealthy donors, though those flows have by no means been completely and permanently stopped. Still, we know from communications from al Qaeda core leaders and from many of the franchise leaders such as al-Wahayshi that obstacles to receiving donated cash have caused jihadist groups to increasingly rely on funds raised from ventures such as kidnapping for ransom.

At the same time, as hostages are becoming more important sources of funding, the Islamic State has beheaded some of its hostages. Likewise, groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have ransomed some hostages and, as noted above, they also had a group of German hostages die in captivity. This means these groups — among others — will be seeking to replenish their stock of hostages.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula perhaps has the most limited access to potential foreign hostages, as travel to Yemen is very unpopular now because of the many dangers associated with it and because the group is rather isolated due to its geographic location. Nevertheless, any remaining expatriates in Yemen and near the Yemeni border in southern Saudi Arabia should be careful.

In the Horn of Africa, al Shabaab poses a risk to the few foreigners visiting Somalia. It also has the capability to reach into Kenya, eastern Ethiopia and perhaps even Djibouti.

Earlier this month, Jabhat al-Nusra released a group of UN peacekeepers from Fiji that had been abducted in the Golan Heights in late August, but it should not be expected to do the same with other potential ransom victims. The group is also believed to still be holding at least one foreign aid worker in captivity. With foreign aid workers and journalists becoming reluctant to travel to Syria because of the threat of abduction by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra — or by militant groups who sell abducted foreigners to one of those groups — there is a possibility that the groups or their proxies could abduct foreigners from locations along the Syrian border in southern Turkey.

In the Sahel, groups including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Mourabitoun and now Jund al-Khilifah, pose a very wide kidnapping threat. These groups are highly mobile and are linked to groups of Tuareg and other bandits in the region, as well as Ansar al Sharia militants in Tunisia and Libya.

In Afghanistan, the various Taliban groups have shown the ability to operate throughout most of the country, as has the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in that country.

Other highly mobile groups are Abu Sayyaf and other Filipino jihadist groups operating in Mindanao and across the Sulu Archipelago region. They are experienced mariners and can operate in parts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The kidnapping threat is not new, and it should not be hyped. But now is a good time for NGO workers, journalists, tourists, business travelers and other foreigners in areas where these groups operate to assess their situation, check their security posture and practice an appropriate level of situational awareness so that they can keep from becoming the next kidnapping victim. As we've previously noted, kidnapping is a complex crime and is almost always the result of a complex and carefully orchestrated criminal process. Because of this, there are almost always some indications and warnings that the process is underway prior to the abduction, meaning that many, if not most, kidnappings are avoidable.


Geopolitical Weekly: Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State, September 23, 2014

By Zhixing Zhang

"Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been." This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China's classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China's would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history — but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.

This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements — from Spain's Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq's ethnic Kurds — are working in different directions. More than half a century after World War II triggered a wave of post-colonial nationalism that changed the map of the world, buried nationalism and ethnic identity movements of various forms are challenging the modern idea of the inviolable unity of the nation-state.

Yet even as these sentiments pull on the loose threads of nations, in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity — the status of Tibet — is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment. The long-running but frequently unnoticed negotiations have raised the possibility that the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, may be nearing a deal that would enable him to return to his Tibetan homeland. If it happens, it would end the Dalai Lama's exile in Dharamsala, India — an exile that began after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, nine years after the People's Republic of China annexed Tibet. More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.

Tibet, the Dalai Lama and Self-Determination

The very existence of the Tibetan issue bespeaks several overlapping themes of Chinese geopolitics. Most fundamentally, it must be understood in the context of China's struggle to integrate and extend control over the often impassable but strategically significant borderlands militarily and demographically. These borderlands, stretching from northeast to the southwest — Manchuria, Mongolian Plateau, Xinjiang, Tibet and the Yunnan Plateau — form a shield, both containing and protecting a unified Han core from overland invasion. In attempting to integrate these regions, however, China confronts the very nature of geographic disintegration and the ethnic identities in these restive borderlands, which have sought to resist, separate or drift away from China at times when weak central power has diminished the coherence of China's interior.

Tibet in many ways represents the extreme edge of this pattern. Indeed, while the formidable geography of the Tibetan Plateau (its altitude averages 4.5 kilometers, or almost 2.8 miles, above sea level) largely inured it from most frontier threats to the Han core compared with the more accessible Manchuria, Mongolian Plateau or Xinjiang. Perhaps no borderland is as fraught with as much consequence as Tibet under China's contemporary geopolitical circumstances. The Tibetan Plateau and its environs constitute roughly one-quarter of the Chinese landmass and are a major source of freshwater for China, the Indian subcontinent and mainland Southeast Asia. The high mountains of the Himalayas make a natural buffer for the Chinese heartland and shape the complex geopolitical relationship between China and India.

Historically, China's engagement with the Tibetan Plateau has been lacking and not characterized by national unity. Starting in the 7th century, China made sporadic attempts to extend its reach into the Tibetan Plateau, but it wasn't until the Qing dynasty that the empire made a substantial effort to gain authority over Tibetan cultural and social structures through control of Tibetan Buddhist institutions. The weakening of China after the Qing dynasty led peripheral states, including Tibet, to slip from Chinese central rule.

Since the People's Republic of China began ruling over Tibet in 1950, the perennial struggle manifested as political, religious and psychological estrangement between political power in Beijing and the Dalai Lama, the charismatic political and spiritual symbol of the Tibetan self-determination movement, who consistently has resisted China's full domination over Tibet. Here, the nominally impersonal process of geopolitics confronts the rare individual who has a lasting impact. The Dalai Lama has concentrated the Tibetan cause into himself and his image. It is the Dalai Lama who represents the Tibetan identity in foreign capitals and holds a fractious Tibetan movement together, holding sway over both indigenous Tibetans in the homeland and the old and new generations of Tibetan exiles.

Perennial Struggle and Contemporary Moves

Under the People's Republic, China has some of the clearest physical control and central authority over one of the largest and most secure states in China's dynastic history. However, the ancient compulsion to secure the Chinese periphery did not go unaddressed by China's Communist leadership.

Over the years, the central government has pushed aggressively to bolster Han Chinese economic and demographic dominance over the borderland while attempting to overcome the physical barriers of distance through grandiose infrastructure projects, including road and rail links. And yet, the estrangement with the Dalai Lama has left Beijing dealing with the perception that its control over the Tibetan Plateau is partial and of questionable legitimacy. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama's international prestige exposed the central power in Beijing to numerous international critics. Moreover, it offered New Delhi an opportunity to exploit Beijing's concerns by hosting the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Beijing sees no space to allow the autonomy demanded by the Tibetan exile movement; it is a short path from robust autonomy to direct challenge. Beijing's strategy has been to try to undermine the Dalai Lama's international prestige, constrain interaction between the exile community and Tibetans at home and hope that when the spiritual leader dies, the absence of his strong personality will leave the Tibetan movement without a center and without someone who can draw the international attention the Dalai Lama does. Central to Beijing's calculation is interference in the succession process whereby Beijing claims the right to designate the Dalai Lama's religious successor and, in doing so, exploit sectarian and factional divisions within Tibetan Buddhism. Beijing insists the reincarnation process must follow the Tibetan religious tradition since the Qing dynasty, meaning that it must occur within Tibetan territory and with the central government's endorsement, a process that highlights Tibet's position as a part of China, not an independent entity.

Beijing's plan could work, but the cost would be high. Without recognition from the Dalai Lama, Beijing's appointed successor — and by extension, Beijing's authority in Tibet — can hardly be accepted by the wider Tibetan community. To resist Beijing's attempt at interference, the Dalai Lama has in recent years made various statements signaling that the ancient traditions of the succession process could break. In particular, the Dalai Lama has discussed the potential for succession through emanation rather than reincarnation. This would place his knowledge and authority in several individuals, each with a part of his spiritual legacy, but none as the single heir. Emanation can occur while the Dalai Lama is alive, thus giving him the ability to manage a transition. He has also mentioned the possibility that no successor will be named — that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will end, leaving his legacy as the lasting focus for Tibetans.

More concretely, the Dalai Lama has split the role of spiritual and political leadership of the Tibetan movement, nominally giving up the latter while retaining the former. In doing so, he is attempting to create a sense of continuity to the Tibetan movement even though his spiritual successor has not been identified. However, it also separates the Dalai Lama from any Tibetan political movement, theoretically making it easier for the spiritual leader and Beijing to come to an accord about his possible return as a spiritual — but not political — leader. But the maneuvering by the Dalai Lama reflects a deeper reality. The Tibetan movement is not homogenous. Tibetan Buddhism has several schools that remain in fragile coordination out of respect for the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan political movement is also fragmented, with the younger foreign-born Tibetans often more strongly pressing for independence for Tibet, while the older exiles take a more moderate tone and call for more autonomy. The peaceful path promoted by the Dalai Lama is respected, but not guaranteed forever, by the younger and more radical elements of the Tibetan movement, which have only temporarily renounced the use of violence to achieve their political goals.

The future of the Tibetan movement after the Dalai Lama's death is uncertain. At a minimum, the spiritual leader's fame means no successor will be able to exercise the same degree of influence or maintain internal coherence as he has done. Just as the Dalai Lama was concerned that an extremist wing of the new Tibetan generation would undermine his moderate ideology and dilute the movement's legitimacy, Beijing fears that the post-Dalai Lama era would enable multiple radical, separatist or even militant movements to proliferate, leaving Beijing in a much more difficult position and potentially facing a greater security threat.

Beijing and the Dalai Lama have shown a willingness to reach a political settlement in the past, but their attempts failed. As uncertainties loom for both sides amid concerns about the spiritual leader's age and the changing domestic dynamics facing China's new president, Xi Jinping, both sides could see a departure from previous hostilities as a reasonable step toward a low-cost settlement. In other words, both Beijing and the Dalai Lama — and by extension his mainstream followers — understand how little time they have and how, without a resolution, the uncertainties surrounding the Tibet issue could become permanent after the spiritual leader's death.

Optimism Now, but Caution Ahead

The report of the Dalai Lama's possible return to Tibet comes as Beijing has resumed talks with representatives of the spiritual leader. This round of negotiations comes after nine rounds of failed talks over the past decade and four years after the last attempt. Nonetheless, the mood appears at least somewhat optimistic on both sides. In recent weeks, the Dalai Lama has offered conciliatory comments about Xi and intimated that he could be open to returning to Tibet, a longstanding desire of the 79-year-old spiritual leader. For its part, Beijing has released some Tibetan political prisoners and reportedly allowed the Dalai Lama's image and words to be used in certain Tibetan regions after years of prohibition.

Of course, many uncertainties surround the return of the Dalai Lama; it is even uncertain whether it could happen at all. Indeed, overcoming 55 years of hostile relations takes enormous effort, and even if the Dalai Lama is allowed to return to Tibet, it is only one of several steps in much broader negotiations between Beijing and the Tibetan exile community over how to reach a resolution, including the possible resettlement of 200,000 Tibetans in exile, the status of the government-in-exile, the authority of the Dalai Lama and, ultimately, the succession process for the spiritual leader.

Over the years, the Dalai Lama repeatedly has expressed a strong desire to return to the Tibetan homeland, seeing it as an end goal in his longstanding efforts to gain Tibetan autonomy. Although Beijing had always left the option open, it repeatedly emphasized that any dialogue with the Dalai Lama would be confined to the scope of an arrangement for the spiritual leader and would carry no political implications. In other words, any agreement will be based on the premise that expanded Tibetan autonomy is not an option and that Beijing's authority over Tibetan regions — and by extension, the borderland in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia — will remain intact. Similarly, the Dalai Lama will not accept a weakening of his spiritual authority among the Tibetan community or of his role in choosing successors. Nonetheless, with Beijing's concern over the proliferation of radical wings of the Tibetan movement abroad, allowing the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet could mitigate some of the tension and give Beijing a way to divide and weaken the Tibetan movement.

In moving toward an agreement, both sides would have to prepare for some political risk. For Beijing, the foremost concern would be managing the enormous religious influence of the Dalai Lama at home, where he is seen as a challenger to the Communist Party's political leadership. For the Dalai Lama, the main concerns would be managing the role of the Tibetan political leadership overseas and the potential repercussions within the exile movement from the developing settlement's contrast with their goal for Tibetan autonomy.

Perhaps more important, even if there were signs of a resolution developing, the succession issue is likely to be a roadblock. Beijing is unlikely to give any concession in its authority to appoint a reincarnated spiritual leader, and the Dalai Lama shows little intention of allowing Beijing's unilateral move.

Confronting a Geopolitical Curse

Despite various uncertainties, questions and risks, the potential ramifications of even the slim possibility of rapprochement illustrate China's ancient geopolitical dynamism at work.

Again illustrating how an individual can play a role in geopolitics, the potential for reconciliation between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could affect the balance between China and India. China has long viewed India's decision to host the Tibetan government-in-exile as a hostile gesture. However, India's ability to exploit China's concerns about Tibet has diminished along with the government-in-exile's influence and claim to represent Tibet as a legitimate entity. Already, New Delhi has shown waning enthusiasm for accepting Tibetan refugees and greater concern that the internal fragmentation of the Tibetan community will make hosting the exile community more of a liability than a benefit. However, a settlement would not eliminate the underlying geopolitical rivalry between India and China on other fronts — from their 4,000-kilometer land border to the maritime competitions in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea and their competition for energy and other resources.

Even if a settlement on the Tibet issue emerges in the distant future, it does not mean the end of the China-Tibet struggle. Indeed, since 2009 there have been many Tibetan self-immolations, and Beijing's economic developments in many parts of the ethnic borderlands widely are perceived as flawed or incomplete. Quite likely, a detente with the Dalai Lama will result in radicalized and more extremist elements emerging overseas, seeking self-determination and, like many of their counterparts around the world — from Scotland to the Kurds in the Middle East — challenging the centripetal forces of nation-states.

Historically, when Han China is strong, so is its control over these buffer regions. Control of the buffer regions, in turn, is a key precondition for a strong and secure Han China. This arrangement will become crucial as Beijing grapples with the potential challenges in the social, economic and political transformation in the Han core in the coming years. Therefore, despite the flux mentioned in the aphorism from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, for Beijing the ultimate goal is to confront an ancient geopolitical curse by cementing its control over its borderlands and uniting China permanently and irreversibly, however unrealistic this goal might be.

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Stratfor Asia-Pacific Analyst Zhixing Zhang.
Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State is republished with permission of Stratfor.