Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Officer Down

Patrolman Roger O'Dell
Town Creek Alabama Police Department
End of Watch: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Age: 47
Tour: 25 years
Badge # TC-4

Patrolman Roger O'Dell suffered a fatal heart attack after taking two juveniles into custody who had escaped from a juvenile detention facility in a neighboring county earlier in the day.

He had received an anonymous tip at approximately 4:00 am that the two were at an apartment complex on the 1900 block Highway 20. He was able to detain the two and once he positively identified them he was placed them under arrest. He collapsed moments after placing them both in the rear of his patrol car.

Upon seeing him collapse, one of the juveniles was able to crawl through the prisoner partition into the front of his patrol car and used the radio to alert dispatchers.

Patrolman O'Dell was a veteran of the Alabama National Guard. He had served with the Town Creek Police Department for approximately 18 months after retiring as chief of the Courtland Police Department. He is survived by his wife and four children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Officer Down

Sergeant Charles Kerry Mitchum
Loxley Alabama Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, January 26, 2015
Age: 57

Sergeant Kerry Mitchum was killed in a single vehicle crash on Oak Lane, near Highway 59, in Stapleton.

He was en route to the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office firing range at approximately 3:00 pm when his department vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree. He was flown the University of South Alabama Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

He was on a mission from God! RIP John Belushi.

I can't believe it's been 33 years since he's past. John Belushi died on this day in 1982. Another low point to a shitty year. But he would want to be remembered with laughter than tears and with the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy I figured this was appropriate. Enjoy.

Damned I miss him.

Twenty years and no justice.

I've said before I would rather wait ten years to execute a guilty person than see a not-guilty person be executed. But this is beyond getting ridiculous.

The New Orleans Police Department had many problems, including a starting salary (if memory serves) of 13, 500 a year. With you paying for all your equipment. That insured you will get the worse possible candidates and here she is, Antoinette Frank.

20 years ago: Restaurant killings rocked city, NOPD

It was a crime that shook New Orleans to its core - 20 years ago Wednesday. A female New Orleans police officer – Antoinette Frank – was arrested for shooting and killing a fellow officer and the two children of a family whose New Orleans East restaurant she helped protect.

About 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, March 4, 1995, police said Frank, then 23, and an accomplice, Rogers Lacaze, 18, entered the Kim Anh restaurant on Bullard Avenue to rob the place. Frank had worked paid details while off-duty at the Vietnamese family-run restaurant.

"The motive of the murder was robbery. An undetermined amount of cash was taken," then-New Orleans Police Supt. Richard Pennington said the morning after.

But a far worse crime was committed: three people were shot and killed, including the children of the restaurant's owners - 17-year-old Cuong Vu and his sister, 24-year-old Ha Vu, along with 25-year-old New Orleans Police officer Ronald Williams II. He was off duty and working a police detail at the business, as Frank had done at the restaurant many times herself.

"I was left somewhat speechless by the events which were reported to me," former Mayor Marc Morial said at the time.

Frank initially had told police she was on the scene that night but not involved in the killings and went for help when she found out what had happened. She then was back on the scene when the officers arrived. Police became suspicious while questioning her and determined she was involved.

The two young people died on the scene. Williams died later at Charity Hospital, Pennington said in a morning news conference the next day.

The fact that the victims were people Frank knew well, made the crime all the more cold-blooded. It came on the heels of one of the most violent years in the city's history and as the mayor and police chief launched efforts to reform the NOPD.

"We're going to continue to clean the department up of corrupt police officers, officers that are involved in criminal activity," Pennington said.

But that was little comfort to the families of the victims, including the Williams family and Officer Williams' wife and two young sons – one of whom was born just a week before his father died.

At separate trials later that year, Frank and Lacaze were both convicted for their roles in the murders and sentenced to death. It took the jury just 22 minutes to reach a guilty verdict in Frank's case.

The pair remains on death row 20 years later, though they continue to appeal. In 2007, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Frank had been properly sentenced to die. Lacaze is awaiting a judge's ruling on his most recent request for a new trial.

Almost twenty years since the pair was sentenced to death, there is not even an execution date set or looks like it will be set. The Vu and Williams family have waited far too long for justice. It has been proven, and proven, and proven, and proven again they did it and they have had full access to the judicial process. This is justice denied.

I've attended the election of two executions in the past year, in January 2014 and February 2015. The execution chamber of Louisiana is not as active as the one in Huntsville, but this is too much. Time for both of those two waste of human sperm be put down like the rabid animals they are.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Security Weekly: A Look Back at the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, February 26, 2015

By Scott Stewart

On the morning of Feb. 26, 1993, a massive truck bomb ripped a hole almost 30 meters (100 feet) across the B-2 level of the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center's North Tower. The blast wave was so powerful that it penetrated five stories of the reinforced concrete building. In addition to causing structural damage, the explosion destroyed or heavily damaged hundreds of vehicles in the garage. That such a powerful explosion killed only six people is nothing short of a miracle, for the attackers had a goal much more grandiose.

They wanted to topple the North Tower onto the South Tower to destroy them both and kill thousands. Had a device of the same magnitude been detonated at street level during rush hour, it would have likely killed scores if not hundreds of people and wounded perhaps thousands more.

From Yemen to New York City

An hour or two after the bombing, I landed in Frankfurt, Germany, on my way back to Washington from Yemen. I was working as a special agent for the Diplomatic Security Service investigating a bombing attack against U.S. Air Force personnel in Aden on Dec. 29, 1992, and a rocket attack against the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa in January 1993. As I stood in the airport terminal looking at the first reports of the World Trade Center bombing, I had no idea the attack was linked to the incidents I had been investigating in Yemen. Later it would be discovered that the same group that conducted the Yemen attacks also bombed the Trade Center: al Qaeda.

I had initially flown to Yemen with a colleague from the explosives section of the FBI laboratory to investigate the strikes against U.S. interests there. We suspected the Libyans might have conducted those attacks after seriously wounding embassy communicator Arthur Pollick in a 1986 shooting in Sanaa and conducting a series of other attacks against U.S. interests around the world.

One of the explosive devices in the Aden attack had failed to detonate, and we wanted to examine it to see if it matched any of the components or bombmaking signatures from devices used in previous Libyan and Libyan-sponsored attacks. However, after examining the Aden device and the manner in which the rocket attack against the U.S. Embassy had been conducted, we were fairly certain the attacks were not the work of the Libyan intelligence service or one of its usual proxies such as the Abu Nidal Organization or the Japanese Red Army, also known as the Anti-Imperialist International Brigade.

But the manner in which those attacks were conducted did tell us one important thing: The CIA had trained whoever had conducted them. Several specific elements of those attacks matched techniques I had learned when I attended the CIA's improvised explosive device training course. (Agents assigned to my office attended the bombmaking course because knowing what is required to make a bomb is crucial when investigating a bombing.) After the CIA station chief assured us that he and his people were not behind the Aden and Sanaa attacks, we concluded that the attackers were most likely Yemenis who had traveled to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet occupation and had received some training from the CIA's Office of Technical Services — or someone it had trained.

So we knew what the attackers were — jihadists who had returned from Afghanistan — we just didn't have a name for them yet. It would be almost a year before I heard the term "al Qaeda" and several months after that before I realized the term was the name of a group of former mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan and had turned their sights against the United States.

As I watched the newsfeed in Frankfurt, I also had no idea that I would spend the next two years of my life investigating the World Trade Center bombing and the New York Landmarks bomb plot that was connected to it, which targeted the Lincoln Tunnel, the U.N. headquarters and the Javits Federal Building in Manhattan among other locations. In fact, since I was returning from a 10-day investigative trip in Yemen, I figured that if my office was asked to assist in the investigation, my supervisor would assign another agent to the case.

But I was wrong. When I arrived home Feb. 27, I found a message on my answering machine telling me to pack my gear for an indefinite rotation to New York. One of my colleagues had been designated to run the case, but he had become tied down at headquarters handling the myriad investigative leads being sent to regional security officers at U.S. embassies around the world, and he had requested that I be sent to New York to help with the investigation.

A World Trade Center bombing crime scene identification badge issued by the New York JTTF.

Initially, the FBI's working hypothesis was that Serbian terrorists had carried out the bombing in revenge for U.S. support of the republics that had broken away from the former Yugoslavia. Regional security officers at U.S. embassies all over the world were pulling visa applications, airline manifests and crew lists of merchant ships with Serbians on board in an effort to identify the potential bombers. I was skeptical of the idea that Serbians carried out the attack, and my previous experience investigating large vehicle bombings by Hezbollah, such as the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, led me to suspect that this was another of its attacks. Of course, we would all be proven wrong within a week.

The Crime Scene

I did not deploy to New York alone. The FBI laboratory requested that we transport one of the State Department's EGIS explosive detection machines to the crime scene, and a security engineering officer from the Diplomatic Security Service traveled up to the World Trade Center with me. We arrived in New York at an opportune time on Sunday, Feb. 28. As I checked in with some of my Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and NYPD friends at the crime scene, they excitedly told me how they had just found the rear differential of a vehicle that showed indications of heavy explosive pitting and gas wash — signs that it had been in intimate contact with the explosives, or possibly was from the rear end of the vehicle used to transport the bomb.

Rubble and debris cover the basement of the World Trade Center's North Tower.

They documented their find and placed it on an ambulance gurney to take it to the NYPD explosives laboratory in hopes of recovering the vehicle identification number from the differential. The sight of a gurney being wheeled out of the parking garage and loaded into a truck led the press to speculate that another victim had been found. It was a good thing the NYPD and ATF personnel had identified and removed the differential Sunday, because on Monday morning, a huge slab of concrete fell from the level above right onto the area where it had been. Had the agents not moved the differential, it might have been buried for some time.

The excitement my ATF colleagues felt over the differential find became somewhat dampened as they learned of events that transpired in Waco, Texas, earlier that day. A group of Branch Davidian members had holed themselves up in their compound and killed four ATF agents during a raid. The next morning, we all reported for work with black bands over our badges to mourn the agents who lost their lives in Waco.

Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Scott Stewart uses an EGIS explosive detection machine to examine rubble in the World Trade Center's basement in 1993.

Monday morning was also when we fired up the EGIS machine and ran its collector over several items that appeared to have been in proximity to the seat of the blast, including a huge steel girder that had been hurled into the Port Authority office where four of the victims were killed. The machine's mass spectrometer showed a substantial spike of some sort of nitrate compound, but the machine had been programmed to recognize only six different common explosive compounds, so it could not identify what it had detected. Laboratory tests would later determine that the main charge consisted of urea nitrate.

The screen of an EGIS explosive detection machine indicates a high level of a nitrate compound.

The EGIS machine turned out to be pretty much useless, so I volunteered to help with the rest of the crime scene investigation. I was given a broom and shovel to help the army of police officers and agents working at the site collect bits of rubble, vehicles and other miscellaneous materials so they could be sorted and catalogued at an armory in Long Island. Literally sweeping the crime scene proved to be a long, labor-intensive process.

A few days later, I came off of broom and shovel duty after lab techs were able to pull up the VIN number from the differential and trace it to a Ryder truck that had been rented by Mohammed Salameh. He was a known member of a group the FBI had previously investigated as a possible terrorist threat after one of its members assassinated Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, in a Manhattan hotel in November 1990. Our New York field office was familiar with the group after working with the Manhattan District Attorney's office to investigate overseas leads in the Kahane investigation.

Officers and agents from the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested Salameh at a Ryder rental office March 4. He had filed a stolen vehicle report for the truck and was attempting to retrieve his security deposit. After detaining him, agents and police officers began rounding up his associates identified in the earlier investigation.

One of those associates, Ibrahim Elgabrowny, attacked a colleague of mine from the ATF who was serving a search warrant on his home. Authorities arrested Elgabrowny for assault, and a search team discovered Nicaraguan passports bearing the photos of his cousin, Kahane's assassin El Sayyid Nosair, and his family in addition to Nicaraguan driver's licenses and identification cards. I talked to the JTTF unit supervisor and told him I was confident I had enough to make a passport and document fraud case against Elgabrowny. Because there was no other evidence tying Elgabrowny to the bombing investigation, the JTTF supervisor told me to approach the U.S. Attorney's office to see if it was interested in pursuing the passport fraud case. It was, and Elgabrowny was soon indicted on assault and passport fraud charges.

I quickly developed a close working relationship with the group of assistant U.S. attorneys working the case. They frequently came to me seeking the Diplomatic Security Service's help with some of the more problematic suspects in the World Trade Center bombing case and the connected New York Landmarks plot.

In addition to helping with the successful prosecution of Elgabrowny, Diplomatic Security special agents tracked and arranged for the capture and rendition of Mahmud Abouhalima, who had fled the United States after the bombing. We also uncovered sufficient evidence to help tie Ahmed Ajaj to the conspiracy and found critical information that helped the U.S. attorney convince the U.S. attorney general to allow the indictment of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. I developed a visa fraud case against Rahman so he could be arrested if acquitted on the seditious conspiracy charges, and we also obtained an indictment for Abdel Basit, also known as Ramzi Yousef, for passport fraud and captured him in Pakistan.

Looking Back

In retrospect, Nosair's assassination of Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane was the first notable grassroots jihadist case in the United States. When the FBI infiltrated a group of Nosair supporters, it judged them to be inept and not posing a serious threat. The 1993 World Trade Center case serves as an example of how seemingly bumbling grassroots jihadists or "Kramer terrorists" can become quite deadly when they link up with a highly trained terrorist facilitator who can lead and organize them. After learning lessons from this case, today, even when a group appears to be somewhat inept like the group of Nosair supporters, the authorities must go after them as hard as they can with whatever charges available instead of just writing them off.

The pre-9/11 terrorism operational model seen in the Kahane assassination, the World Trade Center bombing and the New York Landmarks plot shares many parallels with the current environment. It is far harder for jihadist groups such as al Qaeda or the Islamic State to conduct a 9/11-style attack using highly trained operatives dispatched from overseas to conduct attacks in the United States and the West. The big difference between 1993 and today is that we are now acutely aware of who the jihadists are, be they members of al Qaeda, the Islamic State or other organizations. We also know what they believe and have a clearer idea of their capabilities. There is much more emphasis on countering the threat than there was in 1993. Security agencies also have more resources now.

Finally, my involvement in the investigation of the 1993 bombing gave me a profound sense of the sheer magnitude of the events that occurred on 9/11. I had seen firsthand how a large truck bomb that caused substantial damage in the parking garage had little impact on the Twin Towers themselves. Seeing the towers completely destroyed was something almost impossible for me to imagine.

I am a person with a sheepdog-like wiring that gives me a deep need to protect others, and the time I spent working in the bowels of the World Trade Center and the many months of effort I put into helping catch and prosecute those responsible for the attack also gave me a special affinity for the buildings. Watching the Twin Towers fall on live television impacted me in a deep and personal way — and I am sure that my colleagues from the wide array of agencies involved in the 1993 investigation shared those same feelings of disbelief, grief and shock. New York and the country have moved on from the loss of the World Trade Center, but even today, there is a hole in my heart when I gaze at the Manhattan skyline.

A Look Back at the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing is republished with permission of Stratfor.


Director of Investigations John Ballard Gorman
Mississippi Gaming Commission
End of Watch: Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Age: 45
Tour: 22 years

Director of Investigations John Gorman was accidentally shot and killed during a training exercise at the Mississippi Gaming Commission's office in Robinsonville, Mississippi, at approximately 9:00 am.

A firearm being used by another agent was accidentally discharged and the round struck Director Gorman.

Director Gorman had served with the Mississippi Gaming Commission for 22 years and had been promoted to Director of Investigations the previous day. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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: The Intersection of Three Crises, February 24, 2015

By Reva Bhalla

Within the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.

Germany and the Eurozone Crisis

Germany has once again become the victim of its own power. As Europe's largest creditor, it has considerable political leverage over debtor nations such as Greece, whose entire livelihood now depends on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to sign another bailout check. Lest we forget, Germany is exporting the equivalent of about half its GDP, and most of those exports are consumed within Europe. Thus, the institutions Germany relies on to protect its export markets are the very institutions Berlin must battle to protect Germany's national wealth.

Many have characterized the recent Brussels deal as a victory for Berlin over Athens as eurozone finance ministers, including the Portuguese, Spanish and French, stood behind Germany in refusing Greece the right to circumvent its debt obligations. But Merkel is also not about to gamble an unlimited amount of German taxpayer funds on flimsy Greek pledges to cut costs and impose structural reforms on a population that, for now, still views the ruling Syriza party as its savior from austerity. Within four months, Greece and Germany will be at loggerheads again, and Greece will likely still lack the austerity credentials that Berlin needs to convince its own Euroskeptics that it has the institutional heft and credibility to impose Germanic thriftiness on the rest of Europe. The more time Germany buys, the more inflexible the German and Greek negotiating positions become, and the more seriously traders, businessmen and politicians alike will have to take the threat of a so-called Grexit, the first in a chain of events that could shatter the eurozone.

The Role of the Crisis in Ukraine

In order to steer Germany through an escalating eurozone crisis, Merkel needs to calm her eastern front. It is no wonder, then, that she committed herself to multiple sleepless nights and an incessant travel schedule to put another Minsk agreement with Russia on paper. The deal was flawed from the start because it avoided recognizing the ongoing attempts by Russian-backed separatists to smooth out the demarcation line by bringing the pocket of Debaltseve under their zone of control. After several more days of scuffling, the Germans (again leveraging their creditor status — this time, against Ukraine) quietly pushed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to accept the battlefield reality and move along with the cease-fire agreement. But even if Germany on one side and Russia on the other were able to bring about a relative calm in eastern Ukraine, it would do little in the end to de-escalate the standoff between the United States and Russia.

The Connection Between Ukraine and Iran

Contrary to popular opinion in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not driven by crazed territorial ambitions. He is looking at the map, just as his predecessors have for centuries, and grappling with the task of securing the Russian underbelly from a borderland state coming under the wing of a much more formidable military power in the West. As the United States has reminded Moscow repeatedly over the past several days, the White House retains the option to send lethal aid to Ukraine. With heavier equipment comes trainers, and with trainers come boots on the ground.

From his perspective, Putin can already see the United States stretching beyond NATO bounds to recruit and shore up allies along the Russian periphery. Even as short-term truces are struck in eastern Ukraine, there is nothing precluding a much deeper U.S. probe in the region. That is the assumption that will drive Russian actions in the coming months as Putin reviews his military options, which include establishing a land bridge to Crimea (a move that would still, in effect, leave Russia's border with Ukraine exposed), a more ambitious push westward to anchor at the Dnieper River and probing actions in the Baltic states to test NATO's credibility.

The United States does not have the luxury of precluding any one of these possibilities, so it must prepare accordingly. But focusing on the Eurasian theater entails first tying up loose ends in the Middle East, starting with Iran. And so we come to Geneva, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met again Feb. 22 to work out the remaining points of a nuclear deal before March 31, the date by which U.S. President Barack Obama is supposed to demonstrate enough progress in negotiations to hold Congress back from imposing additional sanctions on Iran. If the United States is to realistically game out scenarios in which U.S. military forces confront Russia in Europe, it needs to be able to rapidly redeploy forces that have spent the past dozen years putting out fires ignited by sprouting jihadist emirates and preparing for a potential conflict in the Persian Gulf. To lighten its load in the Middle East, the United States will look to regional powers with vested and often competing interests to shoulder more of the burden.

A U.S.-Iranian understanding goes well beyond agreeing on how much uranium Iran is allowed to enrich and stockpile and how much sanctions relief Iran gets for limiting its nuclear program. It will draw the regional contours of an Iranian sphere of influence and allow room for Washington and Tehran to cooperate in areas where their interests align. We can already see this in effect in Iraq and Syria, where the threat of the Islamic State has compelled the United States and Iran to coordinate efforts to contain jihadist ambitions. Though the United States will understandably be more cautious in its public statements while it tries to limit Israeli anxiety, U.S. officials have allegedly made positive remarks about Hezbollah's role in fighting terrorism when speaking privately with their Lebanese interlocutors in recent meetings. This may seem like a minor detail on the surface, but Iran sees a rapprochement with the United States as an opportunity to seek recognition for Hezbollah as a legitimate political actor.

A U.S.-Iranian rapprochement will not be complete by March, June or any other deadline Washington sets for this year. Framework agreements on the nuclear issue and sanctions relief will necessarily be implemented in phases to effectively extend the negotiations into 2016, when Congress could allow the core sanctions act against Iran to expire after several months of testing Iranian compliance and after Iran gets past its parliamentary elections. Arrestors could arise along the way, such as the death of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but they will not deter the White House from setting a course toward normalizing relations with Iran. The United States, regardless of which party is controlling the White House, will rank the threat of a growing Eurasian conflict well ahead of de-escalating the conflict with Iran. Even as a nuclear agreement establishes the foundation for a U.S.-Iranian understanding, Washington will rely on regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to eat away at the edges of Iran's sphere of influence, encouraging the natural rivalries in the region to mold a relative balance of power over time.

Circling Back

Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.

Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia — even under severe economic stress — will find the means to respond.

The Intersection of Three Crises is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Israel, Netanyahu, and liberal hypocrisy.

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh yesterday and he had a classis line.
NETANYAHU: Facing me, right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this august chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land. And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today. (speaking Hebrew) "Be strong and resolute. Neither fear nor dread them." My friends, may Israel and America always stand together, strong and resolute. May we neither fear nor dread the challenges ahead. May we face the future with confidence, strength, and hope. May God bless the state of Israel, and may God bless the United States of America.

RUSH: Okay, so we've had all the meaningful, relevant Netanyahu sound bites and we've highlighted Obama's reaction to it, which is angry and petulant and feeling put upon, all of which is understandable. We've had Netanyahu acting like the leader of the free world. Netanyahu is a perfect example of a foreigner coming here to do the jobs Americans won't do. How about that? Benjamin Netanyahu, a perfect example of a foreigner coming here to do the jobs Americans won't do. In this case, behaving like a president, which is exactly what he did.

If you haven't see the Netanyahu speech, watch it. It's worth an hour of your time to see a leader address the Congress. It's been so long.

Now from Legal Insurrection, one of my favorite blogs,is an examination at the Anti-Semetism sweeping higher education. Here are the highlights:
...Israel’s first crime is that it is a Western nation. In the minds of Israel’s critics, to be Western is to be suspect, especially when your country is juxtaposed with non-Western nations. Israeli actions are confused with colonialism by those who erroneously insist that, to this day, imperialism drives relations between Western and non-Western peoples. To attack Israel is to give non-Westerners a leg up in these supposedly colonial interactions.

Israel’s second offense is that it is pro-American. It is little surprise that Israel’s fiercest opponents are also militant critics of the United States. They deride America’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as modern-day imperialism and look forward to a day when America will be forced to relinquish its superpower status.

Because Israel and America have such strong links, Israel is tarred as a mere instrument of America’s supposedly nefarious interests abroad. Bashing Israel is just their way of expressing contempt for the policies of the United States, and as such serves as an outlet for virulent anti-Americanism. They treat the Jewish State as America in the Middle East.

Israel’s third “flaw” is that it is economically and politically successful. To far-left academics, students and activists, success must necessarily come at the expense of others. They adhere to the discredited, primitive notion that development is a zero-sum game. If someone becomes rich, someone else must have been made poor as a result. To them, accomplishment is synonymous with an oppressor status.

Palestinians serve as the victim in Israel’s success story.

As Israel became wealthier — thus supposedly freeing itself from the “oppression” of relative poverty — it increasingly became the villain, the persecutors of the unfortunate Palestinians. Ironically, this perspective degrades the Palestinians by treating them as mere victims rather than historical actors capable of exercising their own judgment and taking control of their own future.

A point on this. Israel has received billions in aid over the decades but for that you have a first world nation in the middle of third world hell holes. Kinda like the one good looking house in the middle of da hood where an old couple actually take care of their house. But the PLO and PLA (or whatever it's called this week) has also received billions over the decades and the Palestinians have what to show for it? They live in tents, don't have running water or flushing toilets. They live in squalor and Arafat (and his successors) live in five star hotels. From 60 Minutes, not exactly "the vast right wing conspiracy".
Arafat's Billions: One Man's Quest To Track Down Unaccounted-For Public Funds

Yasser Arafat diverted nearly $1 billion in public funds to insure his political survival, but a lot more is unaccounted for.

Jim Prince and a team of American accountants - hired by Arafat's own finance ministry - are combing through Arafat's books. Given what they've already uncovered, Arafat may be rethinking the decision. Lesley Stahl reports.

"What is Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority worth today?" asks accountant Jim Prince. "Who is controlling that money? Where is that money? How do we get it back?"

So far, Prince's team has determined that part of the Palestinian leader's wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion -- with investments in companies like a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands.

Now we go on.
And finally, of course, Israel is Jewish. Casting aside all pretense that they could distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, a South African student union recently voted to expel its Jewish students for being Jewish, adding that this expulsion applied especially (but not exclusively) to “Jews who do not support the Palestinian cause.”

This typical anti-Semitic scapegoating demonstrates that opposition to Israel is often driven by the ancient anti-Semitic belief that Jews ought to be denied the right to self-determination and rendered permanently stateless. Attacking Israel is a convenient way for anti-Semites to target Jews while simultaneously reinforcing their supposedly “progressive,” anti-Zionist label.

Whenever I discuss the ongoing vilification of Israel, I am usually met with the same questions: Where are the protests against Israel’s immediate neighbors? Why is there no talk of the repression of gays and women throughout the Middle East, or of modern-day slavery and gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia? And are these self-appointed moralists aware of China’s occupation of Tibet, Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus or Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara?

The answer? Those countries aren’t Israel.

Very well said Julius Kairey, very well said.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Japan sheds some more of its post war shell.

Japan, to a greater degree than Germany, was suppressed in the post Cold War years. As Germany was split into two, Japan was kept by its own constitution to renounce war. In conjunction with that, the intelligence service was pared down and decentralized.

As the Japanese military, with the expansion of both the North Korean and Chinese threats have arisen, Japan is moving to reform their intelligence services. This is a good look at what Japan's intelligence institutions have gone though in the 20th Century and how they are moving in a new direction.
Japan's Intelligence Reform Inches Forward


When the Allies defeated Japan at the end of World War II, they dismantled the Japanese security apparatus and deliberately left the country dependent on outside powers. This entailed not only taking apart the military, but also the extensive imperial intelligence apparatus that had facilitated Japanese expansion in Asia. As it reconstituted itself, postwar Japan opted for a decentralized intelligence system as an alternative to its prewar model. The result was more a fragment of an intelligence apparatus than a full system, with Tokyo outsourcing the missing components to its allies. This system worked through the Cold War, when Japan was more essential to U.S. anti-Soviet strategy. Since then, however, Japan has found itself unable to count on its allies to provide vital intelligence in a timely manner. The Islamic State hostage crisis in January, during which Japan depended on Jordanian and Turkish intelligence, reinforced this lesson.

In response to the recent incident, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has started drafting a proposal to create a new agency specializing in foreign intelligence. To address Japanese dependence on outsiders, the new system will shift away from a decentralized model with limited collection capacity to a centralized system with in-house capabilities. This plan would support Japan's slow normalization of its overall military capabilities in order to face new threats.


...Japan's current intelligence apparatus is fragmented among five organizations. The Cabinet Information and Research Office focuses on open source and geospatial intelligence. Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs collects diplomatic intelligence. The Defense Intelligence Headquarters gathers signals intelligence, including electronic and telecommunications systems. Under the Ministry of Justice, the Public Security Intelligence Agency mainly conducts internal investigations and monitors subversive domestic groups. The most powerful of these is the National Police Agency, which is responsible for domestic law enforcement, counterterrorism and combating transnational crime. This agency also has personnel positioned in the four other institutions as high-level intelligence directors.

This system lacks two key components: Its greatest weakness is the absence of a clandestine intelligence arm, depriving Japan of reliable access to human intelligence. The country also does not have an institution that pools the intelligence gathered by the different branches. Such an institution would provide comprehensive analysis to top policymakers and ensure effective information-sharing among agencies. Instead, Japan's intelligence agencies each report directly to the prime minister's office. The absence of these two key nodes has left Japanese policymakers with huge gaps in awareness, forcing them to react to crises instead of pre-empting them. Time and again, this has led to tragic consequences for Japanese citizens....

Well, that's about all I can get with fair use. The rest you will have to use an email address for. Have a great week!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I've heard of Fifty Shades of Gray but Fifty-eight Selections of Gender

War Story, no s%^&, there I was, back in the mid-90s, being briefed on my reserve unit's new fingerprint machine. We use them for security clearances and the selection of "Sex" came up. I made a comment of something like "That's fairly easy...." and the tech said "Well, you would be surprised...."

The selection started off Male, then Female. Then "Male claiming to be Female". Them "Female claiming to be Male". "Sex changing Male to Female" and "Sex changing Female to Male". Can't remember the rest but I know it was over a dozen and "Unknown" was listed.

In police work I've experienced humans that are not "sexually normal" if you will. Or put another way, I've mainly death with "shemales", especially in my jail.

Fast forward to the social media era and Facebook has a few more selections for you. You can hit the link and it explains why, but you just have to read this.

What Each of Facebook’s 51 New Gender Options Means

For ten years, the social network limited billions of people identifying as either male or female. Now there are dozens of terms to pick from...

Agender - Someone who does not identify with any sort of gender identity. This term may also be used by someone who intentionally has no recognizable gender presentation. Some people use similar terms such as “genderless” and “gender neutral”.

Androgyne/Androgynous - someone who neither identifies with, nor presents as, a man or woman. Being “androgynous” can refer to having both masculine and feminine qualities. This term has Latin roots: Andro- meaning “man” and -gyne, meaning “woman.” Some androgynes may identity as “gender benders”, meaning that they are intentionally “bending” (or challenging/transgressing) societal gender roles.

Bigender- someone who identifies as both a man and a woman. A Bigender identity is a combination of these two genders, but not necessarily a 50/50 combination, as these genders are often felt – and expressed - fully. Similar to individuals who identify as gender fluid, bigender people may present as men, as women, or as gender-neutral ways on different days.

Cis- all of these terms capture that a person is not trans or does not have a gender diverse identity or presentation.

Cis Female (see also Cis Woman, Cisgender Female, Cisgender Woman); a female who identifies as a woman/has a feminine gender identity.

Cis Male (see also Cis Man, Cisgender Male, Cisgender Man); a male who identifies as a man/has a masculine gender identity.

Cis Man (see Cis Male)

Cis Woman (see Cis Female)

Cisgender: A person who has the gender identity commonly associated with their biological sex (e.g., someone who is assigned as a female at birth and who lives as a woman).

Cisgender Female (see Cis Female)

Cisgender Male (see Cis Male)

Cisgender Man (see Cis Male)

Cisgender Woman (see Cis Female)

Female to Male/ FTM- a trans person who was assigned female sex, and now lives as a man and has a masculine gender identity. This person may or may not have altered his physical body with surgery, hormones, or other modifications (e.g., voice training to develop a deeper spoken voice). FTM is an abbreviation of female to male. Generally uses masculine pronouns (e.g., “he” or “his”) or gender neutral pronouns.

Gender Fluid- someone whose gender identity and presentation are not confined to only one gender category. Gender fluid people may have dynamic or fluctuating understandings of their gender, moving between categories as feels right. For example, a gender fluid person might feel more like a man one day and more like a woman on another day, or that neither term is a good fit.

Gender Nonconforming- Someone who looks and/or behaves in ways that don’t conform to, or are atypical of, society’s expectations of how a person of that gender should look or behave. (See also this excellent article by Dr. Eric Grollman about gender conformity & gender non-conformity).

Gender Questioning- Someone who may be questioning their gender or gender identity, and/or considering other ways of experiencing or expressing their gender or gender presentation.

Gender Variant- an umbrella term that refers to anyone who, for any reason, does not have a cisgender identity (which includes the trans* umbrella). Others acknowledge issues with this term as it implies that such genders are “deviations” from a standard gender, and reinforces the “naturalness” of the two-gender system. Some prefer the terms “gender diverse” or “gender-nonconforming.”

Genderqueer- Someone who identifies outside of, or wishes to challenge, the two-gender (i.e., man/woman) system; may identify as multiple genders, a combination of genders, or “between” genders. People who use this term may feel that they are reclaiming the word “queer”, which has historically been used as a slur against gay men and women. This term is used more often by younger generations doing the “reclaiming” and less often by slightly older generations who may have personally experienced the term “queer” as a slur.

Intersex- Generally refers to someone whose chromosomes, gonads (i.e., ovaries or testes), hormonal profiles, and anatomy do not conform to the expected configurations of either male typical or female typical bodies. Some intersex conditions are apparent at birth, while others are noticed around puberty or later (if ever). Some individuals no longer use the term “intersex conditions” and instead prefer “disorders of sex development.” (See ISNA.org.)

Male to Female/MTF- a trans person who was assigned male sex (likely at birth), and now lives as a woman and has a feminine gender identity. This person may or may not have altered her physical body with surgery, hormones, or other modification (e.g., voice training, electrolysis, etc). MTF is an abbreviation of “Male To Female”. Generally uses female pronouns (e.g., “she” or “her”) or gender neutral pronouns.

Neither- Not putting a label on one’s gender.

Neutrois- An umbrella term within the bigger umbrella terms of transgender or genderqueer. Includes people who do not identify within the binary gender system (i.e., man/woman). According to Neutrois.com, some common Neutrois identities include agender neither-gender, and gender-less.

Non-binary- Similar to genderqueer, this is a way of describing one’s gender as outside the two-gender (i.e., man/woman) system and/or challenging that system.

Other- Choosing to not provide a commonly recognized label to one’s gender. When used by someone to describe themselves, this may feel like a freeing way of describing (or not specifically describing) their gender. The term “other” should not be used to refer to people whose gender you can’t quite understand or place.

Pangender- “Pan” means every, or all, and this is another identity label such like genderqueer or neutrois that challenges binary gender and is inclusive of gender diverse people.

Transgender- an umbrella term that includes all people who have genders not traditionally associated with their assigned sex. People who identify as transgender may or may not have altered their bodies through surgery and/or hormones. Some examples:

Trans Man (see FTM above); Although some people write the term as “transman” (no space between trans and man) or trans-man (note the hyphen), some advocate for a space to be included between “trans” and “man” in order to indicate that the person is a man and that the “trans” part may not be a defining characteristic or central to his identity.

Trans Woman (see MTF above) Although some people write the term as “transwoman” (no space between trans and woman) or trans-woman (note the hyphen), some advocate for a space to be included between “trans” and “woman” in order to indicate that the person is a woman and that the “trans” part may not be a defining characteristic or central to her identity.

Trans Female (see MTF above)

Trans Male (see FTM above)

Trans Person (see transgender above); another way of saying someone is a transgender person. (Note that “transgender” tends to be preferred over “transgendered”).

Trans* is an inclusive term, referring to the many ways one can transcend or even transgress gender or gender norms (e.g., it includes individuals who may identify as transgender, transsexual, gender diverse, etc). In many cases the asterisk (*) is not followed by a sex or gender term – it’s just written as Trans* - to indicate that not all trans people identify with an established sex or gender label. Another option is to write it as:

Trans*Person (see transgender above)

Other times, a sex or gender label may be used:

Trans*Female (see MTF)

Trans*Male (see FTM)

Trans*Man (see FTM)

Trans*Woman (see MTF)

Transsexual person - For many people this term indicates that a person has made lasting changes to their physical body, specifically their sexual anatomy (e.g., genitals and/or breasts or chest), through surgery. For some, the term “transsexual” is a problematic term because of its history of pathology or association with a psychological disorder. In order to get the operations necessary for sexual reassignment surgeries or gender confirming surgeries, people long needed a psychiatric diagnosis (historically, that diagnosis was “transsexualism”) and recommendations from mental health professionals. The term “transsexual” tends to be used less often by younger generations of trans persons.

Transsexual Woman – Someone who was assigned male sex at birth who has most likely transitioned (such as through surgery and/or hormones) to living as a woman.

Transsexual Man- Someone who was assigned female at birth who has most likely transitioned (such as through surgery and/or hormones) to living as a man.

Transsexual Female (see Transsexual Woman)

Transsexual Male (see Transsexual Man)

Transgender is an umbrella term which includes all people who have genders not traditionally associated with their sex at birth. Transgender person can also be used. This may (but does not necessarily) include:

Transgender Female (see MTF)

Transgender Male (see FTM)

Transgender Man (see FTM)

Transgender Woman (see MTF)

Transmasculine- Someone assigned a female sex at birth and who identifies as masculine, but may not identify wholly as a man. Often, you’ll encounter the phrase “masculine of center” to indicate where people who identify as transmasculine see themselves in relation to other genders.

Transfeminine- Someone assigned a male sex at birth who identifies as feminine, but may not identify wholly as a woman. Often, you’ll encounter the phrase “feminine of center” to indicate where people who identify as transfeminine see themselves in relation to other genders.

Two-spirit- This term likely originated with the Zuni tribe of North America, though two-spirit persons have been documented in numerous tribes. Native Americans, who have both masculine and feminine characteristics and presentations, have distinct roles in their tribes, and they are seen as a third gender. (Recently, Germany and Nepal adopted a third gender option for citizens to select).

OK, I've got a headache and I'm confused. Have a great evening.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dershowitz, Netanyahu and liberal boycotts

Although I have my differences with Professor Dershowitz, I don't question his intellectual integrity. He will stand for hie view of the Constitution no matter what party is in power. Being a liberal Democrat and a Jew, he is again showing he is not the hypocrite many on the left are.
The Appalling Talk of Boycotting Netanyahu

By Alan M. Dershowitz

As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Barack Obama , I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress. At bottom, this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics—it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation.

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

Recall that President Obama sent British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby Congress with phone calls last month against conditionally imposing new sanctions on Iran if the deal were to fail. What the president objects to is not that Mr. Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say. This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Not only should all members of Congress attend Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, but President Obama—as a constitutional scholar—should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Speaker John Boehner ’s decision to invite Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to accept, no legal scholar can dispute that Congress has the power to act independently of the president in matters of foreign policy. Whether any deal with Iran would technically constitute a treaty requiring Senate confirmation, it is certainly treaty-like in its impact. Moreover, the president can’t implement the deal without some action or inaction by Congress....

Diplomatic courtesy and other issues of foreign policy protocol have little to do with the regime of B Hussein Obama. This is the same group that gave the British Prime Minister a gift of classic American films that cannot be viewed on British DVD systems. Also there is national embarrassment of the Dalai Lama being sent into and out of the White House by the trash cans.

But you are completely right sir, the members of Congress should listen to the leader of the only democracy in the Middle East and one of the few men in the international community screaming from the top of his lungs about the Iranian nuclear program. Now this I find interesting.

...Another reason members of Congress should not boycott Mr. Netanyahu’s speech is that support for Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. The decision by some members to boycott Israel’s prime minister endangers this bipartisan support. This will not only hurt Israel but will also endanger support for Democrats among pro-Israel voters. I certainly would never vote for or support a member of Congress who walked out on Israel’s prime minister.

I must respectfully disagree with you there Mr. Dershowitz, the Democrats will not loose the 70% support among American Jews. For many Jews in this country, the first religion is liberalism and Israeli is not as critical an issue for them as supporting big government. So yes, the Democrats will continue to be supported by the Jewish vote.

Otherwise an excellent article to read and absorb.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mrs. Bill Clinton, Version 5.0

I need a drink.

I've had a long ass night at work to come home to a house filled with young ladies celebrating Katie's 20th birthday. Well, I get up too damned early and while I'm checking the emails, I get this from the Washington Puke, err Washington Post, on the latest attempt to rebrand Mrs. Bill Clinton.

Forgive me if I've seen this movie before, but what do I see is a ruthless, ambitious, power driven politician who has one goal in her life, to become the first woman President of the United States. I don't knock someone for ambition but I do object to them lying about abilities and accomplishments. Or to put it another way, lack of accomplishments.

She has Ivy League undergraduate and law degrees, what has she ever used them for? She was a Rainmaker for the Rose Law Firm, sending her partners state business in Arkansas.

As First Lady of Arkansas, she was put in charge of two things, the Bimbo Eruptions unit (she kept that through the White House years) and "reforming" Arkansas public education. Goes into a point I've often made, what qualified these "public servants" to do anything? Mrs. Bill Clinton is a trained lawyer but she has never practice the trade. I wouldn't trust her to defend me in a speeding ticket case. She has never had anything to do with education management at any level, why should anyone think she is qualified to reform public education at the state level. It showed, after her "reforms" the state went down in national averages.

Forward to the White House years, Mrs. Bill Clinton was appointed to a position she had no qualifications for (you will see a pattern here), "reform" of health care. After a tumultuous two years, Hillarycare was dead in the water. Part of the resistance was the mandates and lack of
openness with such a critical project. And she kept up her Stand By Your Man act to keep Bill going.

After the White House, she carpetbags her way into a Senate seat and yes, she did integrate herself with the locals by pork and constitute support. But again, can anyone tell me of something she accomplished in the Senate? Is there a critical piece of legislation out there with her name on it? No, that would take guts, willingness to stand for your believe. But Mrs. Bill Clinton has only one belief, she is owed the presidency. Fast forward to the first term of the B Hussein Obama regime.

After being defeated by a back bencher in the Senate and with no qualifications in foreign policy, she is appointed Secretary of State. In a masterful stroke, B Hussein Obama neuters his most potential adversary on the left. Maybe he was finally honest about The Godfather in that he did learn something from the movie, "Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer." Or maybe he remembered LBJ's great quote, "I'd rather having them inside the tent pissing out then outside the tent pissing in." But B Hussein simply appointed Czars to handle the real work and sent Mrs. Clinton on a four year long overseas tour. And in the time we got what? The Muslim Brotherhood running Libya, Syria and getting a run on Egypt. The destruction of the Camp David Peace accords. An embassy sacked and our ambassador murdered.

At least the American people didn't buy this. After advancing her 14 million for Hard Cheese, er Hard Choices, they lost their ass in the endeavor. Perhaps they were just paying protection on the chance we get Clinton 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, or whatever it ends up being.

Now we have this morning article I referred to. It looks like they are simply trying to "rebrand" Mrs. Bill Clinton.
...After a complicated tenure as first lady, Clinton reinvented herself as a potholes-and-pork senator from her adopted state of New York. Then she ran for president as a tough woman in the mold of Margaret Thatcher. Failing that, she had a careful run as the country’s top diplomat under Obama that allies believe raised her stature.

Excuse me, mention her in the same book as Lady Thatcher. Whatever narcotics you're on, please get into a program. Mrs. Bill Clinton is not worthy enough to touch the shoe of The Iron Lady.

Perhaps her most significant rebranding came in 2000, when she became a popular elected official in her own right after her husband’s Monica Lewinsky scandal and after a controversial tenure as first lady. Clinton was ridiculed as a dilettante and a carpetbagger, but she won over critics, even some Republicans, with a dogged commitment to local issues.

In 2008, however, Clinton’s rebranding went badly, starting with a misreading of the zeitgeist that had her stressing her ­commander-in-chief qualifications when the public preferred Obama’s promise of hope and change.

Clinton’s advisers were divided then about how to bust the caricature of Clinton as remote and brittle. Some begged Clinton to reprise a campaign feature that had charmed New York voters, in which she stayed in ordinary people’s homes while traveling around the state. But Clinton insisted that doing so in Iowa or New Hampshire would come across as forced.

Similarly, an online compilation of testimonials meant to showcase Clinton’s humanity and relatability fell flat. Too cheesy, some advisers said; at odds with her strength-and-competence message, others said.

A rebranding that stuck: Clinton’s workmanlike turn as secretary of state, during which she visited more countries than most of her predecessors — and used her celebrity to draw attention to women’s empowerment and human rights issues...

Notice rebranding, rebranding and rebranding. Never her standing up, saying this is what I believe and this is why America should follow me.

I recall the shock of the intelligentsia when George W. Bush, after entering the White House, actually did what he campaigned on. Similar shock for Ronald Reagan in 1981. But there is a difference between these two and Mrs. Bill Clinton. The two men actually stood up, said this is what I'm about and I want your vote. Mrs. Clinton is simply trying to polish up an old show, trying to make the old seem new. Kinda like the revisions of The Equalizer and Total Recall, we've seen this before. And unlike the TV show and the movie, where the original was better, the remake of Mrs. Bill Clinton sucks before and now. And hopefully will be shelved soon enough.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Security Weekly: Staying Safe on Spring Break, February 19, 2015

By Scott StewartWith spring break season approaching for our American readers, now is a good time to provide a primer on how to plan a safe vacation for the entire family or individual children. This information can also be useful to our international subscribers who want to make sure they stay safe during their travels. 
Scoping Out a Destination 
The single most important key to remaining out of harm's way while traveling or working abroad is to know and understand — in advance — some of the idiosyncrasies of each country's bureaucracy and the security risks that exist there. This knowledge should guide one's decision on whether to even travel to a particular destination and is helpful when planning and implementing proper precautions for the environment the traveler will be visiting. Fortunately, finding safety and security information for a destination country is easier than ever in the Internet age. 
The first step American travelers should take before beginning a trip is seeing what the U.S. government says about the destination country. Travelers should read the consular information sheet and check for travel warnings and pertinent public announcements before embarking. Such information can be obtained in person at passport agencies inside the United States and at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. This information can also be obtained by calling the U.S. State Department, but the quickest and easiest way to find it is online. 
The State Department issues travel warnings for only a handful of countries, and many countries do not have any active public announcements pertaining to them. But the department maintains an information sheet for every country, even those the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with, such as Iran and Cuba. The consular information sheet is a useful document that provides details about what documents are needed to enter the destination country in addition to information on crime, security, political stability, in-country medical care, currency regulations and road safety. It also contains contact information for the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates in the country (if there are any). 
It is a good idea for travelers to print out a copy of the consular information sheet and take it with them on their trip. At the very least, travelers should print out or write down the phone number of the U.S. Embassy — including the after-hours phone number. This number generally rings into the Marine on duty at the embassy's security command center, normally referred to as post one, or to the embassy's duty officer. The paper with the embassy contact numbers should be kept separate from the traveler's wallet so that if the wallet gets lost or stolen, the contact information will not be lost with it. The same advice is applicable to citizens of other countries. 
Consular information sheets generally do not provide advice or security recommendations to travelers. They are intended to outline the facts, and travelers are then supposed to use the information to make their own judgments and determine their own courses of action. However, if the consular information sheet for a destination country actually breaks this protocol and makes a recommendation, the traveler should take that recommendation seriously. 
It is also prudent for American travelers to register with the U.S. State Department before leaving the country. This would be helpful if something were to happen while they were abroad or if there were a crisis in the country, but it would also be useful for someone trying to locate them in case of a family emergency in the United States. Registration is free through a secure website and only takes a few minutes. Foreign citizens should also register with their respective embassies if their governments offer similar programs like Australia does through its Smart Traveler program.Looking Beyond Consular Reports 
To ensure that I am getting a balanced look at a specific country and to obtain more detailed information, I generally like to find travel advice from several other countries as well, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. 
The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs coordinates daily with the British, Canadian and Australian governments, so the four countries will have largely the same big picture of the security environment in a specific country. It is very unlikely that the United States would issue a travel advisory warning for a particular country that the British government considers perfectly safe, and vice versa. 
However, granular differences in reports are valuable. The anecdotal cases foreign governments discuss in their travel sheets may differ from those included in the U.S. consular information sheet, providing additional insight into the security situation in the country. For example, while compiling a travel briefing for a client once, I noted in a British advisory that British citizens in a particular city had been victimized by local criminal gangs that had begun to engage in express kidnappings — something that the U.S. consular information sheet did not note. Express kidnappings, short-term kidnappings meant to drain the contents of the victim's bank account via his or her ATM card, were new to that country. Even though we had seen the tactic used elsewhere in the region, it was helpful to be able to warn our client of the new threat. So in that case, reading the British advisory in addition to the U.S. consular information sheet was well worth my time. 
Another great source of granular information is the annual crime and safety report issued by the American regional security officer for a particular country or city. Sometimes these reports are posted on the embassy's website, but they are also available on the Overseas Security Advisory Council's website. While some OSAC material is for constituent use only, crime and safety reports can be read by anyone — and no login is required. 
It is also important to remember that conditions in a destination country can change. If government travel sites were checked far in advance of the trip, they should be checked again shortly before departure to ensure that no critical changes have occurred.Considering All the Possibilities 
When travelers leave the United States, they are no longer subject to U.S. laws and regulations, but instead to the laws of the country they are visiting. Therefore, travelers need to learn as much as they can about those local laws before they arrive. 
Travelers should also keep up with the political situation in their destination country and the region it is in. Many websites, especially Stratfor, are excellent sources of political and security information. General information on the country, its government, culture, customs, etc., can be found at the library or online through any number of websites such as the National Geographic Society or the CIA's World Factbook. 
Travelers should also familiarize themselves with maps of the areas they will be visiting. This will help them identify key locations such as their hotel or embassy, avoid being victimized by unscrupulous cab drivers and keep them from wandering into dangerous areas. 
The destination country may also have informative government websites, such as a site run by the government department of tourism or the country's embassy in the United States. For obvious reasons, these sites should be read carefully. In most cases, the destination country's government will want to be as positive as possible to encourage tourism. Therefore, such sites rarely provide any information on crime and security because they fear it could scare away tourists — and their money. If such sites do acknowledge security problems, it is a strong indicator that the problem is too large to ignore. Thus, travelers should pay close attention to the warnings. 
Thinking About Health 
Prior to travel, one should also visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel health information site. This site provides a wealth of information about the vaccinations required for specific countries and regions and provides important tips about avoiding insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, as well as food- and water-borne ailments such as cholera and amoebic dysentery. The CDC also issues travel health precautions and warnings in addition to information on sporadic outbreaks of dangerous diseases. 
Travelers should also consult with their doctor well in advance of their trip to ensure their vaccinations are up to date and that they have time to receive all the required vaccinations before they depart. Doctors can also prescribe anti-malarial medication if required. Even travelers in good health need to ensure that they have the appropriate vaccinations and should take measures to avoid contracting dysentery and other food- and water-borne illnesses. (It is very difficult to have fun on a vacation when sick and unable to leave the hotel room.) Many times, travel health clinics will not only give vaccinations but will also issue handy medical travel kits that contain adhesive bandages and an assortment of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as pain relievers and anti-diarrheal medicines. Sometimes these kits will even contain prescription antibiotics for use in case of severe dysentery. 
Is Additional Insurance a Good Idea? 
Another consideration is insurance. Travelers should check their homeowner's insurance policy or call their insurance agent to determine if their policy will cover losses or theft abroad. It is also prudent to find out if the traveler's health insurance will cover them overseas. In many instances, insurance companies will pay for all or a portion of medical coverage overseas, but travelers will often have to pay for the services up front and then get reimbursed by the insurance company after returning home. Therefore, travelers should ensure that they have a way to pay for any necessary medical treatment. The U.S. Embassy can provide assistance in the way of emergency loans to pay for medical treatment, but such assistance requires a lot of paperwork. 
One should also determine whether their medical insurance will pay for the cost of medical evacuation (medevac) in the case of a dire medical emergency. For example, a colleague of mine in the State Department had to be evacuated from Khartoum with cerebral malaria because local medical professionals could not stabilize him and did not have adequate facilities to care for him in Sudan. 
Travelers going to a destination with very poor in-country medical care or where their insurance will not pay for medical evacuation should seriously consider purchasing a medical insurance policy for the trip that will cover the cost of medical evacuation, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Chances are, a medical evacuation will not happen, but if it did, the cost of not having the coverage would be staggering.Of course, preparation is merely the first step in ensuring a trip is safe and enjoyable. Stratfor has published two series of analyses, one on travel security and the other on personal security, that can help provide the next steps. 
Related Series 
Travel Security: Building Blocks of Personal Security:

Copyright:  STRATFOR.COM

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A couple of nights down.

And it’s still as fun as I remember.

Was half way to my station for my first shift back and then I discovered I left a thermos full of coffee at home. Something about where I now (should I say again) work. It’s built on a dump and I was warned from day one “Don’t drink the water!” And making it through a night without coffee is a challenge. I tried to quit coffee once. Longest fifteen minutes of my life!

Got back to my station on Saturday evening and the place hasn’t really changed. The only man from my group of sergeants who didn’t get nailed on a rotational assignment is there running roll call. He hands me the list of my squad officers and says “Welcome back.” But things were a bit of trouble as I was already going thought caffeine withdrawal and I really needed something. So I grabbed a Coke from the machine and introduced myself to the rest of the sergeants.

I looked around the sergeant’s officer for an empty desk but the only one available has another evening shift sergeant working there. But as he is off tonight it will do for the moment. Hate to be morbid, but I know someone else will get nailed for a rotational assignment soon enough. My station has a high turnover of staff.

Roll call I get introduced and I mention “I’m on parole, just got out of jail…” They laugh. Some remember me from last year, which is good. Now I need to remember them a bit more.

I got to the car and attempt to sign on. That was an adventure. As I’ve not signed on in several months my account has been locked out and I spend the better part of an hour with tech support as they patiently work with me. After I finally get finished I find the new software for our vehicles that I haven’t dealt with since training almost eight months ago and I ask my buddy from roll call to give ma a quick refresher. Fifteen minutes later I know enough to be dangerous, log on with an email and tell the dispatcher “Sorry for being late…operator headspace and timing.” She says “No sweat sarge, it’s ok with me.”

I’ve been assigned a new district/beat to patrol and as the sun is going down quick so I am soon slightly disoriented. Thank God for iPhone and GPS. I just need to make sure I’m not stupid and make a wrong turn on a one way street.
After checking by with a few units I meet up with the other street sergeants and we have dinner. One is nice enough to pay for my dinner and I tell him “You’re on me next time.” Local Mexican place I’ve been to many a time. Love small places where the food is excellent, the service is great and the staff is friendly. No, not that, they give us discounts on the bill!

Made it thought Saturday, surprisingly quiet for the area. Wake up the next day and get ready to really start meeting the squad. After roll call I have them wait for me and I have a ten minute talk with them. Who I am, what I expect from them and what they can expect from me. One thing I made very clear, I’m not there to do their job but to make sure they do theirs. I let them know we will all get have a few minutes together time. I like to spend some one on one counseling time to know my people and find our what they want from the department. The Army did tell me a few things about developing personnel.

I’m able to get signed on fairly quickly and in no time I’m getting disoriented in broad daylight almost as well as I did in pitch darkness. I will come back to me in time. But several of the officers are surprised I show up on their calls. A technique a really good sergeant I had was he would simply show up on our scenes. One, it does make sure the officers know the sergeant is out there. Two, I can’t swear to my boss the job is being done unless I see it. So it was fun.

After assisting two officers with an aggravated assault scene (dope head punched out two old ladies) I get to have dinner again with my fellow sergeants. As the food is just coming to the table, I get a call from the officers handling that aggrieved assault and they tell me the suspect had been shot twice. No one noticed he was wounded and the “man of the hour” was in no condition to let us know. In the shape he was in he would be hit with buckshot at point blank range and not notice. So I get one shrimp-chicken fajita and drive off. We get on the scene, reinterview the complainants and witnesses and get a phone call from the other officers. The dude was shot with a .22. I’ll lay money he was shot somewhere else before he walked to the assault scene, but that is for an investigator to follow up with.

I get to the station and find out one of my other sergeants was nice enough to pay for me. I owe her one. We all spent a few minutes discussing how busy it was for a Sunday. Normally there is a reason for a Sunday to be busy, such as the Texans blowing a football game. Just able to make it out of the station on time and get home to meet the wife before she collapses after a day of studying.

God I love being back on patrol. Friends of mine are asking “Why don’t you get into an investigative assignment?” or something else. I have to say, a some point that will likely happen. Patrol is a young man’s game and I just turned the big 50. I will hopefully finish my master’s this year and take a shot at the lieutenant’s test in a few years. The department’s intelligence division is something I would like to take a took at. But for now I’m going to have fun and do what I became a cop for.

To my fellow Sheepdogs, be safe out there and I’ll see ya soon. I’m back on The Watch!

Geopolitical Weekly: Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal, February 17, 2015

By George Friedman

In recent weeks, we have been focusing on Greece, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. All are still burning issues. But in every case, readers have called my attention to what they see as an underlying and even defining dimension of all these issues — if not right now, then soon. That dimension is declining population and the impact it will have on all of these countries. The argument was made that declining populations will generate crises in these and other countries, undermining their economies and national power. Sometimes we need to pause and move away from immediate crises to broader issues. Let me start with some thoughts from my book The Next 100 Years.

Reasons for the Population Decline

There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Above that, and the population rises; below that, it falls. In the advanced industrial world, the birthrate is already substantially below 2.1. In middle-tier countries such as Mexico or Turkey, the birthrate is falling but will not reach 2.1 until between 2040 and 2050. In the poorest countries, such as Bangladesh or Bolivia, the birthrate is also falling, but it will take most of this century to reach 2.1.

The process is essentially irreversible. It is primarily a matter of urbanization. In agricultural and low-level industrial societies, children are a productive asset. Children can be put to work at the age of 6 doing agricultural work or simple workshop labor. Children become a source of income, and the more you have the better. Just as important, since there is no retirement plan other than family in such societies, a large family can more easily support parents in old age.

In a mature urban society, the economic value of children declines. In fact, children turn from instruments of production into objects of massive consumption. In urban industrial society, not only are the opportunities for employment at an early age diminished, but the educational requirements also expand dramatically. Children need to be supported much longer, sometimes into their mid-20s. Children cost a tremendous amount of money with limited return, if any, for parents. Thus, people have fewer children. Birth control merely provided the means for what was an economic necessity. For most people, a family of eight children would be a financial catastrophe. Therefore, women have two children or fewer, on average. As a result, the population contracts. Of course, there are other reasons for this decline, but urban industrialism is at the heart of it.

There are those who foresee economic disaster in this process. As someone who was raised in a world that saw the population explosion as leading to economic disaster, I would think that the end of the population boom would be greeted with celebration. But the argument is that the contraction of the population, particularly during the transitional period before the older generations die off, will leave a relatively small number of workers supporting a very large group of retirees, particularly as life expectancy in advanced industrial countries increases. In addition, the debts incurred by the older generation would be left to the smaller, younger generation to pay off. Given this, the expectation is major economic dislocation. In addition, there is the view that a country's political power will contract with the population, based on the assumption that the military force that could be deployed — and paid for — with a smaller population would contract.

The most obvious solution to this problem is immigration. The problem is that Japan and most European countries have severe cultural problems integrating immigrants. The Japanese don't try, for the most part, and the Europeans who have tried — particularly with migrants from the Islamic world — have found it difficult. The United States also has a birthrate for white women at about 1.9, meaning that the Caucasian population is contracting, but the African-American and Hispanic populations compensate for that. In addition, the United States is an efficient manager of immigration, despite current controversies.

Two points must be made on immigration. First, the American solution of relying on immigration will mean a substantial change in what has been the historical sore point in American culture: race. The United States can maintain its population only if the white population becomes a minority in the long run. The second point is that some of the historical sources of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexico, are exporting fewer immigrants. As Mexico moves up the economic scale, emigration to the United States will decline. Therefore, the third tier of countries where there is still surplus population will have to be the source for immigrants. Europe and Japan have no viable model for integrating migrants.

The Effects of Population on GDP

But the real question is whether a declining population matters. Assume that there is a smooth downward curve of population, with it decreasing by 20 percent. If the downward curve in gross domestic product matched the downward curve in population, per capita GDP would be unchanged. By this simplest measure, the only way there would be a problem is if GDP fell more than population, or fell completely out of sync with the population, creating negative and positive bubbles. That would be destabilizing.

But there is no reason to think that GDP would fall along with population. The capital base of society, its productive plant as broadly understood, will not dissolve as population declines. Moreover, assume that population fell but GDP fell less — or even grew. Per capita GDP would rise and, by that measure, the population would be more prosperous than before.

One of the key variables mitigating the problem of decreasing population would be continuing advances in technology to increase productivity. We can call this automation or robotics, but growths in individual working productivity have been occurring in all productive environments from the beginning of industrialization, and the rate of growth has been intensifying. Given the smooth and predictable decline in population, there is no reason to believe, at the very least, that GDP would not fall less than population. In other words, with a declining population in advanced industrial societies, even leaving immigration out as a factor, per capita GDP would be expected to grow.

Changes in the Relationship Between Labor and Capital

A declining population would have another and more radical impact. World population was steady until the middle of the 16th century. The rate of growth increased in about 1750 and moved up steadily until the beginning of the 20th century, when it surged. Put another way, beginning with European imperialism and culminating in the 20th century, the population has always been growing. For the past 500 years or so, the population has grown at an increasing rate. That means that throughout the history of modern industrialism and capitalism, there has always been a surplus of labor. There has also been a shortage of capital in the sense that capital was more expensive than labor by equivalent quanta, and given the constant production of more humans, supply tended to depress the price of labor.

For the first time in 500 years, this situation is reversing itself. First, fewer humans are being born, which means the labor force will contract and the price of all sorts of labor will increase. This has never happened before in the history of industrial man. In the past, the scarce essential element has been capital. But now capital, understood in its precise meaning as the means of production, will be in surplus, while labor will be at a premium. The economic plant in place now and created over the next generation will not evaporate. At most, it is underutilized, and that means a decline in the return on capital. Put in terms of the analog, money, it means that we will be entering a period where money will be cheap and labor increasingly expensive.

The only circumstance in which this would not be the case would be a growth in productivity so vast that it would leave labor in surplus. Of course if that happened, then we would be entering a revolutionary situation in which the relationship between labor and income would have to shift. Assuming a more incremental, if intensifying, improvement in productivity, it would still leave surplus on the capital side and a shortage in labor, sufficient to force the price of money down and the price of labor up.

That would mean that in addition to rising per capita GDP, the actual distribution of wealth would shift. We are currently in a period where the accumulation of wealth has shifted dramatically into fewer hands, and the gap between the upper-middle class and the middle class has also widened. If the cost of money declined and the price of labor increased, the wide disparities would shift, and the historical logic of industrial capitalism would be, if not turned on its head, certainly reformulated.

We should also remember that the three inputs into production are land, labor and capital. The value of land, understood in the broader sense of real estate, has been moving in some relationship to population. With a decline in population, the demand for land would contract, lowering the cost of housing and further increasing the value of per capita GDP.

The path to rough equilibrium will be rocky and fraught with financial crisis. For example, the decline in the value of housing will put the net worth of the middle and upper classes at risk, while adjusting to a world where interest rates are perpetually lower than they were in the first era of capitalism would run counter to expectations and therefore lead financial markets down dark alleys. The mitigating element to this is that the decline in population is transparent and highly predictable. There is time for homeowners, investors and everyone else to adjust their expectations.

This will not be the case in all countries. The middle- and third-tier countries will be experiencing their declines after the advanced countries will have adjusted — a further cause of disequilibrium in the system. And countries such as Russia, where population is declining outside the context of a robust capital infrastructure, will see per capita GDP decline depending on the price of commodities like oil. Populations are falling even where advanced industrialism is not in place, and in areas where only urbanization and a decline of preindustrial agriculture are in place the consequences are severe. There are places with no safety net, and Russia is one of those places.

The argument I am making here is that population decline will significantly transform the functioning of economies, but in the advanced industrial world it will not represent a catastrophe — quite the contrary. Perhaps the most important change will be that where for the past 500 years bankers and financiers have held the upper hand, in a labor-scarce society having pools of labor to broker will be the key. I have no idea what that business model will look like, but I have no doubt that others will figure that out.
Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal is republished with permission of Stratfor.