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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Geopolitical Weekly: China's Crisis: The Price of Change

By Rodger Baker

Last week was an eventful one for China. First, the People's Bank of China shocked the financial world when it cut the yuan's reference rate against the U.S. dollar by nearly 2 percent, leading to a greater than 2 percent drop in the value of the yuan in offshore trading. The decline triggered a frenzy of speculation, including some expectations that the Chinese move would trigger a race to the bottom for Asian currencies. Beijing said the adjustment was designed to fix distortions between the trading rate of the yuan and the rate it should have been at according to speculation, and that subsequent large shifts were unlikely. The International Monetary Fund, however, noted that the move could lead to a freer floating yuan — something the IMF has asked of Beijing before the organization considers including the yuan in its Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies. In comments made on the sidelines of its annual report on the Chinese economy, released later in the week, the IMF also noted that the yuan was not undervalued, despite the decline.

Also last week, Chinese state media issued a warning to retired officials to stay out of politics and not misuse their former networks and prestige. The warning followed reports in state media suggesting that the annual unofficial gathering of current and former Party officials at Beidaihe was canceled and would not serve as a policy-making venue in the future. The reports noted that Party officials had already held several additional sessions in Beijing and that decisions were being made in the open, not in some secretive gathering of Party elders. Other reports circulating in Chinese media warned that former Party and military officials were involved in real estate speculation along with other economic mismanagement and needed to stop.

Finally, last week China dealt with one of its worst industrial accidents in years — a series of explosions at a chemical short-term storage facility in the busy port city of Tianjin. More than 100 people were killed in the explosions and aftermath, prompting the government to launch an investigation into illegal storage and improper safety procedures at that and other facilities around the country. Citizens have begun small-scale demonstrations in Tianjin to demand government reparations for damages as a result of the blast. In response, Beijing stepped up its media campaign against rumors, using state media to remind the public that the government publicly charged a Politburo standing committee member with corruption, so the public can trust the government to be open and not hide a conspiracy surrounding the Tianjin blast.

If there is a common theme running through these events, it is the way Beijing is emphasizing its openness in decision-making, in reporting and in explaining its actions. This is not the China of the past that tried to hide the truths of major natural or man-made disasters from its citizens. It is not the China that operated by secret agreements made only after a consensus of Party elders, or the China that tried to protect Party officials at the expense of the public. Nor is it the China of tight currency controls, amid fears that the vagaries of global markets could affect China's economic regulation. Or at least that is the message Beijing is trying to send. It is a message perhaps meant more for domestic than international consumption, but one that recognizes that neither abroad nor at home is there a lot of trust in the Chinese Communist Party or the government to pursue a transparent policy. The taint of corruption, collusion and nepotism remains strong and is perhaps even reinforced by the breadth and depth of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.

Old Systems Become Obsolete

The reality is that China is in the midst of what may be its most serious crisis since the days of Deng Xiaoping. And the model of government and economy Deng put in place is no longer effective at managing China, much less shifting it in a new direction.

As China emerged from the chaos of the Maoist era, Deng initiated three basic policies for China's future growth and development, starting around the early 1980s. First, allow the economy more localized freedom, accepting that some areas would grow faster than others but that in the long run the rising tide would lift all boats. Second, prevent any single individual from truly dominating the Chinese political system. No longer could a figure like Mao Zedong exert so much personal influence that the entire country could be thrown into economic and social upheaval. Instead, China's leaders would be locked into a consensus-driven model that limited any individual source of power and eliminated factions in favor of widespread networks of influence that overlapped so much they could not be truly divisive. And finally, walk softly internationally, be ruthless in the appearance of a non-interference policy and avoid showing any military strength abroad. This latter point was intended to give China time to solidify internal economic and social cohesion and strength while avoiding distraction or inviting undue military attention from its neighbors or the United States.

In retrospect, Deng's model worked exceptionally well for China, at least on the surface. While the Soviet Union collapsed, the Communist Party of China held together, even after Beijing's mismanagement of Tiananmen Square. Although at times slow to respond or initiate proactive change, China's leaders managed the country's rapid economic growth in a way that avoided extreme social or political destabilization. The Party managed not only the leadership transitions set in motion by Deng, but also, amid intra-Party scandal, the latest transition to Xi Jinping. China's leaders even managed the impact of the global economic slowdown and appear capable of maintaining order even as economic growth rates slow considerably.

But the relative calmness on the surface belies disturbing deeper currents. The dark secret of consensus rule was that, while appearing to provide stability, by the late 2000s it was doing more to perpetuate underlying structural problems that could delay or even derail actual reforms or economic evolution. The lack of radical shifts and turns, the avoidance of major recessions and the ability to defer significant but potentially destabilizing reforms made China look like an unstoppable juggernaut. China's economy climbed past Japan's and seemed destined to surpass the U.S. economy. And if economic strength translated into total national strength, then China was emerging as a significant global power. Beijing even began breaking from Deng's cautions on overt military power and started a more assertive foray into the East and South China seas, both because of a perceived need to protect its increasingly important sea lanes carrying natural resources and exports and because it was feeling more powerful and capable and wanted to act on those strengths.

However, all economies are cyclical. As they grow through different stages, the deadwood needs to be trimmed and funding provided for the new shoots. Recessions, slowdowns, bankruptcies and sectorial collapses are all part of the natural economic process, even if they are disruptive in the short term. As China claims to be climbing the value chain in manufacturing and exports, it is not simultaneously trimming away older components of the economy or effectively weaning itself from the stability of large state companies that are disproportionately locking up available capital compared with total employment. Parochial interests by local and provincial governments — themselves keen to avoid any sense of instability — have left massive redundancies intact across China's manufacturing sectors, particularly in heavy industries, the backbone of early Chinese economic growth. Consensus politics allowed China to grow, but not in a healthy manner — and the global economy is no longer giving China the freedom to just keep pouring on the fertilizer and hope no one notices the rot spreading through the trunk and branches.

Xi's Crisis Management

The leadership transition to Xi in 2012 was also not nearly as smooth as it first appeared. It occurred amid the Bo Xilai scandal, in which it appeared the former Chongqing Party Secretary was making a bid not only to reshape the direction of Chinese politics but also to usurp Xi's rise to central Party and state leadership. What has emerged amid the ongoing anti-corruption campaign is that the challenge was much more serious than it may have appeared, including an alleged assassination plot against Xi.

The recent pronouncements regarding former Party leaders and officials staying out of politics suggests that challenges to Xi's position are still emerging. Xi's decision to build a national security council and economic affairs advisory body, to which he belongs, has aroused opposition from former officials used to playing a role in shaping policy. Publicly canceling the unofficial Beidaihe summit was an overt strike against former officials. The consolidation campaign continues.

While China faces some of its toughest economic challenges, and after it has stepped out into the South China Sea and international military affairs in a way it cannot easily pull back on, it is also contending with internal dissent and intra-Party fighting. Xi's consolidation drive, closely linked to the anti-corruption campaign, is all about tightening the reins of control to allow more rapid policy adjustments, force macro-policies on localities and accelerate the Party and state's response time to changing circumstances. But that challenges decades of tradition and entrenched power and interests. It also creates a contradiction: The economic policies are moving toward liberalization, but the political and social policies are moving toward autocracy.

To manage the next phase of China's economic opening and reform — something that changes in the global economy and decades of internal ossification are forcing upon Beijing — Xi is simultaneously cracking down on media, information, social freedoms and the Party itself. The fear is that significant economic reform without tight political control would lead to a repeat of the Soviet experience: the collapse of the Party and perhaps even the state.

Each event, each headline, should be assessed in the context of this internal crisis. The currency dip — an important step in liberalizing yuan trading, gaining a role in the Special Drawing Rights basket and continuing China's path toward yuan globalization (freeing the country at least a little from the dominance of the U.S. dollar) — has auxiliary risks, not least of which is that a freer currency can move in directions far from those the government would like to see. The explosion in Tianjin is reinforcing the fears of rampant mismanagement and corruption. It has sparked a new round of conspiracy speculation and is placing the government in a position where it must deal with protesters in a major city as well as foreign investors and traders — again raising uncomfortable questions about safety and security in China. The warnings against retired officials interfering in politics may be more than just public relations attempts to highlight some newfound transparency.

This is not to say China is on the verge of collapse, that the government and Party is about to fracture along internecine battle lines, or that economic reform is simply impossible in the face of entrenched interests. But none of these are out of the question. China has entered a stage of the uncertain. The transition to an internal demand-driven economy will not happen smoothly, nor will it happen overnight. The reduction in exports and the drain on investment is already under way. And with all of these issues sitting squarely on his shoulders, Xi is preparing for his September visit to the United States, where the litany of concerns about China expands daily.

The transitory period is the most chaotic, the most fragile, and that is where China sits right now.

China's Crisis: The Price of Change is republished with permission of Stratfor.

The Southern Poverty Law Center shows again what it is....

A mouthpiece of the radical left.

I've said more than once, when I was in Army intel I would read the propaganda put our by nation's enemies, like Pravda, Izvestia, The People's Workers Daily and The New York Times. I guess we can add another source, The Southern Poverty Law Center.

I know officers who subscribe to the "intel" reports of this group on "hate groups". But for some reason groups like Black Lives Matter doesn't qualify to be listed on the "Hate Watch". You know, "Pigs in Blanket! Fry 'em like bacon!"

But that's not hate speech.

But being open minded about this, I went to the comment section and pointed out Black Lives Matter and their famous hate quote against cops, "Pigs in a blanket! Fry 'em like bacon!" It said "Awaiting moderation." I gave it five minutes and checked again. They had deleted the message.

I guess I wasn't in the script!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Officer Down....a bit close to home....


This is addressed to the murderer of Harris County TX Deputy Darren Goforth, who was taken from his family, fellow peace officers and fellow Texans on Friday August 28, 2015. I hope you are scared.

Oh, please, let’s get something straight, words mean things. Deputy Goforth was not executed, as I’ve seen posted at many media and social media types have said. An execution is the lawful taking of a life by a court order. Deputy Goforth was not killed, people are unfortunately killed every day in accidents, by suicide, etc. This was murder. The unlawful, deliberate, knowing or intentional taking of a human’s life. And is Texas we have set a high bar for a capital offense and you have reached it.

You have murdered a peace officer in the performance of his duties. By the way, Texas is the capital punishment capital of the United States. And Harris County, from where the deputy your murdered comes from, is the capital punishment capital of Texas. So you’ve pretty much picked the wrong location to kill a cop. Yea, you have reason to be scared.

Understand something, our courts and juries really don’t like cop killers. Understand cops are given elevated status in the eyes of the law because when you murder us, you are not only assaulting us, you are assaulting society as a whole. We are the sheepdogs looking over the peaceful citizen to keep them safe from the wolf like you. We are paid to keep Mr and Mrs John Q Citizen safe. We know loosing your life is a possibly, it’s always on the back of your mind as you start The Watch, but you accept it. It accepted it from the day you decided to take this career, when you entered the academy, when you put on the badge and gun. And unfortunately for Deputy Goforth he’s paid the final price. We can’t bring him back, but our justice system can help him and his family sleep a bit easier.

As some point in the near future you will be arranged for “Capital Murder of a Peace Officer” and the DA will request no bail and serve notice that the people will seek the death penalty. That makes it impossible, if you were so inclined, to plead guilty. See only a jury may sentence someone to death but we will go to the effort in your case. And believe it or not, we will give you some good lawyers to defend yourself. That way when you appeal we can show it wasn’t Rip and Run Underwriters Esquire that represented you but a very good attorney.

Now we can see the pleas over the years, “My daddy didn’t love me…my mom didn’t pay enough attention…I was encourage by others to do it…” And the last one is probably true. We’ve had black activists encourage murdering cops in the last few days and they likely encouraged you. But you notice you’re all alone now. The won’t be there during your trial, but there will be lots of cops in the courtroom to support Deputy Goforth’s family and our Harris County Sheriff’s Office family. And after a few weeks of trail, the jury will likely find you guilty and then sentence you to death. And the judge will reprimand you dumb ass to the Texas Department of Corrections with the final words, “May God have mercy on your soul.”

At some point in the future, after all the appeals and such, you will have a date with death. And when that extraction team comes to your cell to take you to the execution chamber, strap you down like the rabid animal you are and them pump you full of drugs to eliminate you from the human race, I beg you, please, resist. About 8 very large guards will go in there, beat you until an inch of your life and pull you out. And then a taxpayer provided medical tech will fix you up enough so they can strap you down. And then you will be sent to meat your final Judge and their ain't no appeal from Him. So again, died scared. Who knows, you may find God in the next few years and get His forgiveness. I would work on that fast, you’re life is now on a timer.

But understand you will be treated to the end of the line by other peace officers. The Thin Blue Line, my Blue Knights and other law enforcement motorcycle clubs will ride up to Huntsville that day to support the family and make sure you know “your time is up!’ In Texas we execute at 600pm (Don’t ask, I have no idea why) and just after that time we will rev the engines on our motorcycles as loud as we can. The noise is heard almost a mile away and witnesses observing the execution say they all heard it in the death chamber. Just a final good riddance from us all. And yes, I will be there, as well as many of my motorcycle riding cop brothers and sisters.

You could do us all a favor and go Sandra Bland on us. Will save the tax payers a fortune in keeping your dumb ass alive long enough to put you down. But we know you don’t have the guts. You’re a coward, you will die one.

So again, I bet you are scared and you’ve got reason to be. As I get my uniform ready for duty tomorrow at the Memorial commentating officers who have died, I will have to put on, again, a black stipe over the bade with the words, “Nemo me impune lacessit”. You are too stupid to know Latin, so let me enlighten you. It means “No One Treads on Me With Impunity”. And we will insure you will pay your final debt to society. So yes, please, be afraid, be very afraid.

Friday, August 28, 2015

17 years on The Watch!

17 years. Where did they go.

August 28, 1998. On a hot Friday night 69 classmates and I from my academy class made our final assembly, completing just over six months of training. That night we received our badges, took our oath and then “locked and loaded” our pistols for the first time off of the range. And we were hungry as hell to get to really get on the streets, to go from “Cadet” to Cop!

I didn’t think of it at the time but that was the last time we would ever all be together. Two class members did not complete field training (not uncommon) and over the years some of our alumni have gone on to other agencies and other careers. But for six months we were always together, always pushing each other, in some cases making friendships that would last decades, in others acquaintanceships that would be professional only. The fact is you have a group that big, you’re going to have some people you get along with better than others. But nothing will change one thing, if I ever needed backup, my classmates would be there. And I would be there for them.

So to my friends and fellow graduates, it’s scary. We’re now the adult supervision. I know we’ve got at least three lieutenants and even more sergeants from our class. We’re the ones the young officers look to for advise on how to handle an incident. who do they contact during their investigation, and so on. Just like the other "old timers" did for us. The circle keeps going and we’re handling it now. A lot of good men and women helped us, and now we help the next generation.

Again, congratulations Class 173, let’s move out. We Got The Watch!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hackers and their beliefs.

As some of you know I'm in the sunset of my master's degree program in Intelligence Studies-Homeland Security, and right now I'm in the middle of a Cyberwar Class. I'm not a techno geek but I have to say this is an excellent class and right now I'm completing a book review on Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon. It's facinating to read how this weapon was designed and the fact is had some effect but more could have happened without the work of several cyber specalists.

Now today I was looking at my Foreign Policy email and saw this article. I have to say an interesting read. Many of today's "leadership" have no clue of the power of cyber battlespace. Here are the hightlights:
Now is the time to understand more about vuln, so that we may fear less.

By Micah Zenko

August 19, 2015

For a forthcoming book, I spent the last several years interviewing over 100 security researchers, usually self-described as “hackers,” attending security conferences, and watching how these professionals uncovered vulnerabilities and shortcomings in software, computer systems, and everyday devices in order to update and improve them. These ethical, or “white-hat,” hackers are defined primarily by their innate curiosity to discover what new authorized or unauthorized hacks they can accomplish, whether as a hobby or a profession, and their work is usually some mixture of the two. The most simplified way in which this is often explained is “taking something, and making it do something else.”

Hackers are often mistakenly portrayed in popular culture as being inarticulate geeks wearing hoodies — or worse, ninja suits — and possessing limited social skills. I have come to appreciate that the very opposite is true. Despite lacking the technical background required for their profession, I have found that security researchers are more than willing to share their findings, rephrase them repeatedly in simplified terms, discuss their growing concerns about their field, and address the inevitable follow-up questions....

1. Your life is improved and safer because of hackers.

The Internet of Things — the ecosystem of Internet-connected devices — is growing exponentially and will have increased from 13 billion in 2013 to more than 50 billion by 2020, by one estimate. The near ubiquity of chips, sensors, and implants placed into devices will provide users continuously updated cool features and conveniences like smart yoga mats that correct poses and automobile routing notices that help people avoid traffic jams. However, as one hacker explained to me, “What is an expected feature for you is attack surface for me.” Security researchers have successfully hacked — and disclosed their findings to manufacturers before any public revelations — pacemakers, insulin pumps, commercial airliners, industrial control systems for critical infrastructure, hotel key cards, safes, refrigerators, defibrillators, and “smart” rifles. These products were made safer and more reliable only because of the vulnerabilities uncovered by external hackers working pro bono or commissioned by companies, and not by in-house software developers or information technology staff.

2. Almost every hack that you read about in your newspaper lacks important context and background.

You’ve read the eye-popping headlines: “Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway — With Me in It,” “How Your Pacemaker Will Get Hacked,” “Skateboards, drones and your brain: everything got hacked,” “Cars can be hacked. What about a plane?” These sensationalized snapshots and accompanying stories give the impression that everything is vulnerable and easily broken into.

Yet most attempted cyberbreaches go nowhere and are never demonstrated live at a conference or reported in the news. Successful hacking entails failing, trying something different, failing again, and then discovering a flaw or vulnerability that can be further exploited. Hacks that appear in the media are often the result of extensive work by teams of researchers who have varying skills and a deep knowledge of coding, operating systems, and malware that can be repurposed for their current project.

Take, for example, the widely reported Jeep Cherokee hack. It was conducted by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, two of the most technically proficient hackers on Earth. Miller holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, worked at the National Security Agency, and was the first person to remotely hack an iPhone, as well as a dozen other “secure” consumer products. Their Jeep hack was the result of an expensive and extensive three years of research that uncovered a number of vulnerabilities in the cars themselves, as well as the Sprint cellular network that provides the telematics for the in-car Wi-Fi, real-time traffic updates, and other aspects of remote connectivity. The point being that each publicly reported hack is unique onto itself and has an unreported background story that is critical to fully comprehending the depth and extent of the uncovered vulnerabilities.

3. Nothing is permanently secured, just temporarily patched.

Hackers experience “constant occupational disappointments and personal/collective joys,” as cultural anthropologist Gabriella Coleman found in her important study of the field. They identify a glaring and obvious weakness, which is then addressed with a software patch, alteration in network architecture, or perhaps minor changes to the IT team and employee procedures. Yes, when the inevitable software glitches appear elsewhere, or an employee clicks open what he believes is an emergency email about his retirement account but that actually installs undetected, malicious code on his computer, new vulnerabilities inevitably reappear. “Cybersecurity on a hamster wheel” is how longtime hacker Dino Dai Zovi describes to me this commonly experienced phenomenon.

For example, consider the femtocell, which is a miniature cell-phone tower that looks like a normal Wi-Fi router. It is used to prevent coverage “dead zones” in rural areas or office buildings, and any cell phone within its vicinity will associate with it without the owner’s knowledge. In 2011, The Hacker’s Choice (THC), which was a hacking collective, was able to get root access to a Vodafone femtocell by reverse-engineering the administrator password — it was “newsys.” This allowed the THC team to steal the voice, data, and SMS messages from all connecting phones. In 2013, a team at the cybersecurity firm iSEC Partners did this with a Verizon femtocell by exploiting a built-in delay in the boot-up process. At the DEF CON security conference this year, Yuwei Zheng and Haoqi Shan successfully hacked a femtocell in China using a slightly more complicated vulnerability in the boot-up process. I spoke with Zheng and Shan after their presentation, and they explained that the hack took them about a month of work, at night after their day jobs. Inevitably, other femtocells will be hacked, and patched, and hacked again in the future.

4. Hackers continue to face uncertain legal and liability threats.

You would think that manufacturers would welcome somebody discretely alerting them to a vulnerability in their products, and, indeed, some incentivize this through “bug bounties” that pay hackers who responsibly disclose security shortcomings. However, some manufacturers refuse to acknowledge that the shortcomings exist, threaten to file lawsuits, or report the researchers to law enforcement authorities under the belief that they are being blackmailed. It is important that white-hat hackers are protected and encouraged to do their work, because for every hack that they disclose to manufacturers, there are other government, criminal, or malicious hacking teams that have probably found the same vulnerability, which they have kept to themselves to exploit or sell on the black market.

There are two pressing legal and regulatory concerns. First, hackers argue that the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which was passed into law the same year that Matthew Broderick hacked his high school’s computer network to change his grades in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is hopelessly out of date and has been abused by prosecutors to go after individuals engaged in non-malicious hacking rather than actual computer crime. The law prohibits anyone from intentionally accessing a computer or computer network “without authorization” or “exceed[ing] authorized access.” In one case, three Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who found vulnerabilities in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) ticketing system that would allow people to obtain free rides were barred by an MBTA restraining order from presenting their findings in 2008 — implying that discussing a hack was equal to undertaking it. More tragically, Aaron Swartz committed suicide in January 2013 while facing up to 35 years in federal prison for 11 purported violations of the CFAA. Sensible proposals to update and reform the CFAA have unfortunately gone nowhere.

Similarly, the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export-control regime, faces criticism for threatening the effectiveness and efficiency of increasingly commonplace bug-bounty programs. This would not only risk what have been successful programs, but would disproportionately hurt independent, self-employed hackers who make a living this way. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security recently proposed an update to Wassenaar that would require licenses when exporting intrusion software technology — a change that is believed would likely hinder research and development and slow the process of disclosing vulnerabilities.

5. There is a wide disconnect between cyberpolicy and cybersecurity researchers.

At cybersecurity roundtables and conferences in Washington, generally few people in the room have any technical knowledge or have personally engaged in any sort of hacking. Rather, these events are attended by security generalists (like yours truly) who clumsily transfer concepts from other domains, particularly deterrence theory, which was developed a half-century ago for thinking through U.S.-Soviet Union nuclear war dynamics. “We are trying to bridge the gap by building a network of foreign-policy wonks, reps from the tech companies, and technology experts,” said my colleague Adam Segal, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program, “but there are still big differences in culture and outlook.”

Meanwhile, hackers hate the very word “cyber” because it is a meaningless prefix for anything related to the Internet and overlooks other aspects impacting computer security, like physical security, social engineering, insider threats, and radio-frequency jamming, hacking, or spoofing. Nevertheless, they will embrace the term reluctantly in order to be listened to in Washington, though they are rarely invited to government or think-tank events, nor would they even know how to be invited. The consequences of this disconnect are evident in policy proposals and debates that rarely take into account responsible hackers’ concerns or the readily available exploits and malware that any malicious hacker could utilize.

There are some hackers and government officials making efforts to bridge this divide. Representatives from the I Am The Cavalry grassroots movement, which focuses on cybersecurity issues that impact public safety and human life in order to ensure that technologies are trustworthy, have given more than 200 briefings on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, government officials like Ashkan Soltani, chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission, is a regular contributor to hacker conversations, and Suzanne Schwartz of the Food and Drug Administration called in to thank I Am The Cavalry during the BSides Las Vegas conference, while Randy Wheeler of the Bureau of Industry and Security took tough questions over the phone about the proposed Wassenaar Arrangement changes during an Electronic Frontier Foundation panel at DEF CON. Nevertheless, there are still too few security researchers and government officials willing or courageous enough to communicate in public. While the poisoning of the relationship that resulted from the Edward Snowden disclosures has largely dissipated, far more trust and dialogue is needed as Internet-based threats proliferate.

6. Hackers comprise a distinct community with its own ethics, morals, and values, many of which are tacit, but others that are enforced through self-policing.

Predominantly, hackers just want the freedom to do their work and remain private or anonymous from the government or commercial sector if they so choose. They look down on colleagues who claim to have produced “unbreakable” encryption software or mobile devices or who spend too much time bragging in the news rather than demonstrating serious, innovative research in published papers.

Hackers also share a deep appreciation for self-deprecation and black humor. When a speaker canceled at DEF CON, there was a spirited round of “Spot the Fed,” where a moderator who knew several government employees in the audience encouraged others to try to identify them. They were unsuccessful; everybody thought all government and law enforcement workers were men wearing khaki pants (fair enough). There was also a first-time panel appropriately titled Drunk Hacker History. It included garbled tales from prominent hackers and Katie Moussouris of HackerOne singing her own composition: “History of Vuln Disclosure: The Musical.” Hopefully, this panel will appear on YouTube, as many DEF CON talks eventually do....
The next high ground in battle will be invisible. Cyberwarfare is a great challenge to us, our allies and our adversaries and I fear we are not, as of yet, up to the task.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A great answer to idiot politicians after a very long day

I'm sitting in my easy chair after a very long shift. I mean, long. It started with one of the day shift officers having to shot a man with a gun. At the scene we were dealing with the usual experts telling us "he didn't need to do that...he could have shot him in the leg or the arm...", not knowing the man is dealing with this himself. Then two of mine had to deal with an 18 wheeler driver who has a heart attack while driving, hitting several parked cars (thankfully unoccupied). The man passed from the heart attack and they are dealing with two massive reports, but not, fortunately, having to deal with the notification. That's a privilege of the physician in this incident. Finally as the shift is ending a local his shot three times and we are sending a unit to the hospital to see if they he lives. Night shift is starting off badly.

As I'm trying to unwind after this on Facebook and it hits home. You have idiots who have no real accomplishments but expect others to deal with the destruction they inflict on America, and then presume to tell the American people how to deal with the damage. I'll stop before I go on a tear. Great post SGT Gross.

Police retraining? Obama, Holder, de Blasio and Sharpton need to think again

By Kenneth Gross (Retired New Jersey State Police Sgt.)

An open letter to President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Mayor Bill deBlasio and Rev. Al Sharpton in regards to “Retraining Law Officers”:

To President Obama, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and former Attorney General Eric Holder

Contrary to what you gentlemen might believe, my “training” to become a Law Enforcement Officer started long before the police academy. It started long before I even thought of becoming a police officer.

You see, gentlemen, my “training” started shortly after I was born and it started right in my own home.

My parents, my family, my relatives, my siblings, my friends’ parents, my neighbors, my church, my school, my teachers, my athletic coaches all played a part in my “training.”

From a very early age I was “training” to be respectful, compassionate, understanding, strong, determined, courageous, faithful and, above all, responsible for my own actions.

What I learned in the academy is that every recruit/cadet had about the same “training” that I had. We all arrived with the same morals and the same goals. We all wanted to Protect & Serve. What didn’t matter was skin color, gender, ethnicity or religion.

Throughout the academy, the previously mentioned attributes were discussed at length, but “training” also included how to deal with people who did not have the same level of “training” that we had come to understand as normal behavior.

Unfortunately our society has created a gap in “training” for the less fortunate and the self-entitled. Politicians have promised CHANGE time and again only to keep dumping mounds of cash on the situation and never addressing the real issue.


The less fortunate do not need handouts — they need jobs. They need to feel a sense of purpose and self-satisfaction from accomplishments. They lack of self worth becomes an excuse for accepting criminal behavior as a way of life. If I can’t earn what I want, I might as well take what I can get. If I’m not accepted by society, maybe I can be accepted by a gang.

Teach a man to fish.

Welfare was not intended to raise 4-5 generations. It was meant to assist those who’ve fallen on hard times. With the lack of jobs and no promise of a future, crime becomes an acceptable behavior.

Police officers are the Thin Blue Line between a civilized society and total anarchy. The police did not create this problem. The police did not make the laws. The police did not create criminals.

You four gentlemen have made numerous statements blaming the police and their “training.” We need to think about your words in recent speeces and statements.

Less than 1% of all police officers are involved in any miscondict (and this does not mean criminal misconduct), yet you gentlemen have made more than your share of statements inferring that the police are the MAIN PROBLEM.

When you four gentlemen make statements that ALL police need “RETRAINING,” you do exactly what you accuse the police of doing.

Mr President and Mr. deBlasio, there are SOME politicans who are corrupt. Does this mean that YOU are corrupt? Mr. Holder, SOME lawyers are criminals and drug addicts. Does this mean YOU are a drug dealer or abuser? Rev. Sharpton, some men hide behind God to molest children — are YOU a pedophile?

Yet all four of you have lumped ALL policemen and policewomen as racists in need of “training.” What’s even worse is that you four have done this after two recent events and before ALL THE FACTS were known.

Both instances, while tragic, had zero evidence of any racist behavior on the part of law enforcement. Yet all four of you believe ALL police need “training.”

The four of you have failed at your mission. It started by making inflammatory remarks against police prior to hearing the evidence. It continued by all four of you failing to denounce criminal behavior at so-called “peaceful protest.”

And you have failed by not standing behind the law of the land when you decided that two grand juries were wrong — the same laws that helped you all get the positions you hold today.

The four of you might need some “training.” You might need to be reminded that your jobs are to bring us all together on the RIGHT side of the law.

This will only be accomplished when gentlemen such as yourselves stop blaming the police and start teaching men to fish rather than giving them a fish.

Well put sir. Well put.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Officer Down


Police Officer Thomas LaValley
Shreveport Police Department, Louisiana
End of Watch: Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Age: 29
Tour: 4 years

Police Officer Thomas LaValley was shot and killed when he and several other officers responded to a domestic violence call involving a man threatening other family members with a gun at approximately 9:15 pm.

When officers arrived at the home in the 3500 block of Del Rio Street, in the Queensborough area of the city, the subject opened fire. Officer LaValley was was struck multiple times. He was transported to University Health where he succumbed to his wounds.

The subject fled the scene, but was apprehended the next day. He was also wanted for a shooting that occurred approximately three weeks earlier.

Officer LaValley had served with the Shreveport Police Department for four years.
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. 

Officer Down


Deputy Sheriff Delton Daniels
Marlboro County Sheriff's Office, South Carolina
End of Watch: Saturday, August 1, 2015
Age: 22
Tour: 3 weeks
Incident Date: 7/20/2015

Deputy Sheriff Del Daniels succumbed to injuries sustained 11 days earlier when the patrol SUV he was a passenger in left the roadway and overturned in a ditch on Highway 15-401, near McColl.

It is believed that the vehicle may have struck standing water in the roadway during a period of heavy rain. Deputy Daniels was transported to a hospital in Florence where he remained on life support until succumbing to his injuries.

Deputy Daniels had only served with the Marlboro County Sheriff's Office for one week when the crash occurred. He also served as a firefighter with the Bennettsville City Fire Department.
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. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Officer Down


Sergeant Scott Lunger
Hayward Police Department, California
End of Watch: Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Age: 48
Tour: 15 years

Sergeant Scott Lunger was shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop near the intersection of Myrtle Street and Lyon Street at approximately 3:15 am.

Sergeant Lunger observed a vehicle driving erratically. He conducted a vehicle stop with the assistance of a second unit. As Sergeant Lunger and the officer approached the vehicle, an occupant opened fire, killing Sergeant Lunger. The other officer on scene returned fire as the vehicle fled. The subject vehicle was found abandoned a short time later. The wounded subject was located and taken into custody.

Sergeant Lunger had served with the Hayward Police Department for 15 years. He is survived by his 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. 

Officer Down


Police Officer Vernell Brown, Jr.
New Orleans Police Department, Louisiana
End of Watch: Friday, July 17, 2015
Age: 47
Tour: 17 years
Incident Date: 7/12/2015

Police Officer Vernell Brown succumbed to injuries sustained five days earlier when he was struck by a car on U.S. 90, on the I-10 East split, while investigating a separate car fire.

He was training two police recruits at the scene of the vehicle fire when two other vehicles were involved in a crash on the adjacent roadway. One of the vehicles veered off the road and struck Officer Brown. He was transported to a local hospital where he remained in a coma until succumbing to his injuries.

Officer Brown had served with the New Orleans Police Department for 17 years. Officer Brown is survived by five children and his fiancee.
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. 

Energy, the market, and liberty.

A few years ago I was discussing fracking with a friend in the oil industry and he mentioned the break even point for shale is 60-65 a barrel. They Jim said something that really blew me away, “Mike, we’re only getting 8-9% out of that rock right now…” Less than 10% and we had overtaken the entire oil market, become the largest producer of crude, forced Saudi Arabia to try to destroy our fracking industry at the cost of billions. And forced a alignment between Middle East oil producers and militant environmentalists in attack fracking with propaganda. See “Promised Land”, a piece of anti-fracking propaganda funded by the UAE. And multiple lawsuits from the environmental extremists.

Jim make the obvious point, “Mike, what will happened when get get 20-25% out of that rock..” and that, to anyone with any brains, is obvious. The energy market will be completely reconfigured. And for many in the government and the Middle East, that cannot be allowed.

Since the 1970s, two tenants have driven oil policy in the the West. One, we have a limited supply of it and it’s mostly from unstable countries in OPEC (Iran, Iraq, etc). And two oil, by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, is causing global cooling, err global warming, no, climate change, oh, wait, global climate disruption.

So both these interests have aligned to destroy the fracking industry and so far they have been unsuccessful. Fracking mainly started on private lands where the EPA cannot get it’s dirty hands on it and the genie is out of the bottle. Saudi Arabia has flooded the market in hopes of destroying the fracking industry, but they cannot stop it with temporarily forcing down prices. Eventually they will have to close their spigots to bring prices up so they don’t go broke, and US domestic oil is back again. Their only hope is to use government and non-governmental groups to destroy fracking by legal and regulatory schemes. And again, so far, it’s not worked. Then again the B Hussein Obama regime is on overdrive in the last few months of it’s existence.

But one point is not made often enough, what is the real point of the leftist envliroomentatl movement. Not the conservation movement that wanted to preserve our national treasures, (e.g. national parks, etc) but the anti-progress/degrowth movement. It is to control people and limited energy has provided an excellent angle of attack for that movement. What has happened since the 70s because of “limited oil”? The government, mainly through the EPA has inflicted one set after another of fuel economy standards on us, making vehicles smaller, less safe and limited our choice for cars. We have entire cities and states moving to limit the ability of people to use cars in there daily lives (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Portland), which controls the ability of people to move. An open secret of the left is the technology they really despise is the automobile because it allows people to go when and where they want, no permission required.

So back to this article. Assume we get thought the B Hussein Obama regime and neuter the EPA so fracking continues, brings oil down to prices were the US can flood the market and sell to the world. What would be the results:

1. Americans all over the country would ask, “Why the hell do I want to buy a golf cart when I can buy a SUV, be comfortable and be able to bring the entire family somewhere. I’ll buy a Tahoe, screw the Volt!”

2. Americans may finally start asking, “Why am I paying billions to solar, wind and electric car companies from the federal treasury when it is not needed.”

3. Iran, the largest supporter of terrorism in the world and working on being another nuke power (Thanks B Hussein Obama and John Kerry) will have it’s only source of income severely cut back. Nukes cost money, so do ICBMs and other weapons. Hard to support that with oil in the 30s for a barrel.

4. Saudi Arabia, and OPEC, will loose its ability to control us. We’ve needed their oil for generations. We provide our own, sorry guys, you can go back to what you were doing before we showed you how to get money from the ground.

So yes, you can see this cannot be allowed. If this works, get ready for another round of law suits from big environmental, more politician shopping from OPEC and other attempts to stop it.

Oil firms promise new life for shale
Cheap re-fracking key to the pursuit of revolution

Shale oil producers from West Texas and North Dakota have harvested enough crude to overwhelm the global oil market and force Saudi Arabia’s oil cartel to play offense on the world’s energy stage.

But U.S. producers have recovered only a small fraction of the oil that’s trapped in those rocks, and though the oil-market crash has put the nation’s energy boom on hold, some oil-technology companies are pursuing what they say will be a second American shale revolution.

That belief lies partially in re-fracking — giving oil shale deposits a second blast of water, chemicals and sand — to get more oil out of depleted or under-performing wells. The process could be up to two-thirds cheaper than drilling a new well, which is an alluring possibility for cash-strapped U.S. producers who are straining to keep operational costs down and drilling operations intact.

Over the next few years, thousands of wells could be in play for re-fracking, said Priyesh Ranjan, who manages the re-frack business and technology development at Halliburton.

“There’s so much low-hanging fruit,” Ranjan said in describing the oil left behind in many wells. “There’s an obvious push for everybody to think about how to achieve more with less.”

The technique has its skeptics. Re-fracking the wrong well or in the wrong way can damage it or the wells nearby. But this ongoing oil downturn might be the right time for experimentation, because the industry must learn how to coax more oil for fewer dollars, engineers say.

The oil bust this year has claimed thousands of jobs in Houston and across the globe, and oil companies have gutted spending budgets in North America because costs to drill shale wells are higher than older, vertical wells. The industry is now entering what may be the most ruthless phase yet of the downturn, as banks prepare to curtail oil companies’ credit lines and as billions in corporate debt weigh heavily on their balance sheets.

“All this will force companies that are over-levered to take drastic action,” said Stephen Trauber, an investment banker at Citigroup. The next few months, he said, will likely see more oil firms sell themselves or default on their debt.

A wave of re-fracking is one way companies could help mitigate the effects of the downturn, by pumping more oil for less money, oil field service companies say.

A little-advertised truth about the American shale movement is that, in each well, drillers have left behind all but about one tenth or less of the oil and gas stored in shale. That’s because in recent years, $100 oil spurred producers to adopt a “pump-and-pray” mentality that produced many nearly infertile wells in Texas and elsewhere. Refracking didn’t grab oil companies’ attention because it would have diverted resources from the non-stop drilling boom. But that sentiment is changing.

“Operators are moving away from a factory approach,” said Hans-Christian Freitag, vice president of integrated technology, global products and services at Baker Hughes. “They’re putting a lot more emphasis on understanding the reservoir. It’s a big change.”

Re-fracking can boost a well’s productivity by a third to half, reaching up to 12 percent of the oil stored underground. “Which is still quite deplorable,” Freitag said. But it’s comparable to amounts early oil companies were able to extract from sandstone nearly a century ago. The oil is down there, and as technology improves, drillers will eventually be able to reach it, he said.

More planning, engineering

At a Baker Hughes lab in Tom-ball, northwest of Houston, engineers from different fields of the oil business got a glimpse of the latest key ingredient used in refracking.

With fracking, which is the common term for hydraulic fracturing, producers deploy fleets of trucks with high-horsepower pumps to blast payloads of water, chemicals and sand underground to crack open shale plays and release oil and gas.

Elizabeth McCartney, a product champion and pressure pumping specialist at Baker Hughes, presented containers with so-called diverter chemicals

— solid fine-grain biodegradable substances — that temporarily block the flow of oil and gas from existing fractures in a shale well-bore.

“In re-fracturing, we can pump these diverters and plug off existing fractures so we can access parts of the formation that haven’t previously been fracked,” McCartney said.

In other words, the second blast of fluid will go where the engineers want it to go, toward fresh rock that hasn’t been drained of oil and gas, and away from old pathways that naturally draw fluids because of their particular rock properties and subterranean pressure.

Out in the field, whether near Midland in Texas or Williston in North Dakota, a re-fracking job doesn’t look much different than the first one, except for the addition of the diverter chemical. But re-fracking requires more upfront planning and engineering.

Oil field service firms are using massive databases on hundreds of thousands of American oil wells to find the right candidates for a re-frack job. New programs can tell engineers if a poor-performing well was drilled in a productive region, or whether one highly productive well in another area suggests a whole batch of poorly performing wells nearby could benefit from a re-fracking job.

The march of technology

“We’re trying to reproduce those results across a large set of candidates — that’s what’s going to create the re-frack boom,” said Matt Lahman, a Halliburton specialist in enhancing oil and gas production.

Talk of re-fracking has grown in recent months, but it hasn’t hit it big yet.

Oil companies have re-fracked about 600 wells since 2000 — not a large number considering the 50,000 U.S. wells that got a first round of fracturing in the last few years.

For years, the problem has been that re-fracking is a gamble, even for wildcatters. If a driller re-fracks a well too close to an adjacent well, the fluid from the fractures may begin to spill into one another and ruin both wells, a phenomenon called a frack hit. The wells could start to produce water or natural pressures could dissipate.

“This technology is very much in its infancy and it’s not going to be something that’s going to change the game or move the needle at least in the near term,” said Jonathan Garrett, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

Nevertheless, re-fracturing has a lot of potential as research on the process continues to expand, said Christopher Robart, an analyst at IHS.

“It’s still early days,” he said. “What will make it more successful is undertaking a significantly larger number of re-frack jobs. A lot of that comes down to the E&P’s confidence and appetite for doing science with not-fully proven techniques on their own wells.”

With the oil bust, that appetite is starting to grow, technology companies say. Executives at the Schlumberger and Halliburton, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 oil field service companies, recently told investors U.S. energy producers are increasingly willing to take up technology used to re-stimulate wells.

Private equity firm BlackRock has promised to put up $500 million over the next three years to pour into Halliburton’s refracking operations, Halliburton President Jeff Miller announced during an earning conference call last month.

Schlumberger CEO Paal Kibsgaard said his firm is willing to change the way it sets up service contracts, and bear the up-front costs of re-fracking as a way to show it is confident in its technology, in exchange for more of the upside when the oil starts flowing.

Oil companies’ demand for new technology is much higher than in any previous downturn, Kibsgaard said, as more technological breakthroughs emerge to help firms bring more oil out of the formations.

“In the rear-view mirror, we think, ‘That was easy,’ ” Baker Hughes’ Freitag said. “It was never easy. Fifty or sixty years ago, it was difficult to extract oil and gas, but we figured it out.”

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Officer Down


Corrections Officer Timothy Davison
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas
End of Watch: Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Age: 47
Tour: 8 months

Corrections Officer Timothy Davison was beaten to death by an inmate in the Telford Unit in Bowie County.

He was escorting an inmate from a dayroom to his cell when the man attacked him with an iron bar used to open slots in cell doors, inflicting serious injuries. Officer Davison was flown to a hospital in Texarkana where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

The inmate who attacked him was serving a life sentence for robbery and aggravated assault. He also had several convictions for assaulting corrections officers. The inmate was subdued by other officers.

Officer Davison had served with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for only eight months. He is survived by his two 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. 

Officer Down


Patrolman John James Wilding
Scranton Police Department, Pennsylvania
End of Watch: Sunday, July 12, 2015
Age: 29
Tour: 1 year
Badge # 722
Incident Date: 7/11/2015

Patrolman John Wilding succumbed to injuries sustained the previous night at approximately 3:20 am while pursuing three juveniles who had stolen a vehicle.

The juveniles bailed out of the vehicle in the area of the 300 block of North Main Avenue with several officers, including Patrolman Wilding, chasing them on foot. Patrolman Wilding jumped over a small wall behind a restaurant at 301 North Main Avenue, not realizing that there was a 15-foot drop on the other side. He suffered a serious head injury as the result of the fall.

He was transported to Geisinger Community Medical Center where he remained until succumbing to his injuries early the next morning.

All three juveniles were arrested and charged as adults with robbery, terroristic threats, and recklessly endangering another person.

Patrolman Wilding had served with the Scranton Police Department for one year. He is survived by his wife and two 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. 

The disaster of the Great Society, in one article and a few pictures.

I've often shocked people when the subject of "Worse president in US history" comes up and I tell them it's not B Hussein Obama but Lyndon B Johnson. When asked why my first answer is "I'll start with 58, 000 reasons, their names are on a wall in Washington DC." But this shows what else he did in one article. The "Great Society" (a worse oxymoron than military intelligence) told minorities, especially poor blacks, "go out and we'll take care of you...young women, you can have all the babies you want, we will take care of them, you don't need families, Uncle Sam is now Uncle Sugar...young men, go out and have a good time, be "baby daddy" and you don't have to support your kids at all, you don't have to raise the children you brought into this world, we'll handle that for you...." and this is what you get. I've known people who came from "Da Hood" but their parents would have kicked their asses if they would have gotten caught steeling something. In their cases it was because they were stealing, it was because it was wrong and they brought shame upon themselves and the family. In this case the kid was probably jumped on because she got caught.

We have a lot of cultural issues in this country and this is the greatest example of what our our societal problems. . I was taught by my parents the Golden Rule, to respect others, it was expected that I would provide for myself and my family. In other words I was raised to be an adult. This child, barring a major change, is being raised to be a thug.

A friend of mine said it best, "If I could I would dig up LBJ, put him on trial and then execute him again."












The moment a mother was caught on camera teaching daughter to steal tequila

A Florida woman was caught on camera teaching a young girl believed to be her daughter to steal tequila from a liquor store in Pembroke Park one afternoon earlier this week.

The shoplifting scene was captured by surveillance video cameras at 24/7 Liquors...

...In the video, the woman can be seen walking down the aisle with the girl and telling her which kind of tequila she wants.

The little girl does her best to oblige, but the first bottle of booze proves too heavy for her.

After making her way down the aisle to tell her older companion about the problem, the little girl comes back and selects a 750ml bottle of 1800 Silver Tequila.

She then heads to the front of the store with the bottle behind her back and darts out the door while the woman stands in the way and prevents store clerks from seeing what is going on....

Thank you Adrian W for the link.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Officer Down


Correctional Officer Gregory Dale Mitchell
Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia
End of Watch: Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Age: 50
Tour: 25 years

Correctional Officer Gregory Mitchell died in an industrial accident at the Hays State Prison in Trion, Georgia.

He was performing maintenance functions at the prison when he was knocked out of a mechanical cart by a ladder. He suffered fatal injuries as a result of the accident.

Officer Mitchell had served with the Georgia Department of Corrections for 25 years. He is survived by his wife.
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. 

Who cares about the 5th Amendment

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

I've been looking at that over the last year really as the usual suspects want to have a DA judge by themselves what a cop does.

In the overwhelming majority of the country, to simply the process, if anyone uses "deadly force" a grand jury must evaluate it. Now if a cop uses deadly force, the DA investigates and it's presented to a grand jury to judge if the act was lawful. If it was justified, there is a no-bill. If it was not justified then an indictment is handled down and your proceed to a criminal trial.

Now California wants to end grand jury review of use of deadly force and if this article is to be believed, a DA will evaluate them alone. Based on the DA's judgement alone the officer will either be determined to have been justified or referred for criminal prosecution.

Anyone else got a bad feeling about this.
California Bans Use Of Grand Juries In Police Shooting Cases

Mollie Reilly
Deputy Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

The panels will no longer decide whether law enforcement should face criminal charges in use-of-force cases.

California will no longer use grand juries in cases involving police shootings of civilians after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill Tuesday banning the secret deliberations.

SB 227, authored by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), makes California the first state to ban the use of grand juries to decide whether law enforcement should face criminal charges in use-of-force cases. The ban, which will go into effect next year, comes after grand juries failed to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, last year, heightening scrutiny of the process....

So knowing nothing more than what is in the media you are implying the officers were not justified in using deadly force. OK, I can see this is an objective piece of reporting. Hey Mollie, would you like to review how Darren Wilson was justified in shooting that sack of s$%^...oh, probably no. It's not in the picture.
...Mitchell argues that the grand jury process, during which evidence is presented to a panel of civilians in secret, fosters a lack of trust in the system.

"One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB227 makes sense," Mitchell said in a statement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system."

Under the new rules, prosecutors must decide whether police officers should face criminal charges for killing someone in the line of duty...

Just because you don't like the outcome doesn't mean the system is broken. I didn't call the system broken when OJ walked or the Black Panthers were not charged with voter suppression after 2008. But leftists are trying to stop police from proactively doing their jobs and the bad thing is that will affect minorities the worse.

Officer Down


Police Officer David Joseph Nelson
Bakersfield Police Department, California
End of Watch: Friday, June 26, 2015
Age: 26
Tour: 2 years
Badge # 1191

Police Officer David Nelson was killed in a vehicle crash while involved in a vehicle pursuit at approximately 2:40 am.

The pursuit started when he attempted to conduct a traffic stop of an unlicensed vehicle. He chased the car for several blocks until his cruiser left the roadway and struck a retaining wall and a utility pole at the intersection of Mt. Vernon Avenue and Panorama Drive, causing the engine compartment to ignite. Responding officers located his vehicle and removed him from the wreckage before the patrol car became engulfed in flames.

He was transported to Kern Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

The vehicle he was pursuing continued to flee. The driver was arrested the following day after police received an anonymous tip about the vehicle. The driver was arrested and charged with evading an officer resulting in injury or death, hit and run resulting in injury or death, obstructing arrest, felon in possession of a firearm, and other charges.

Officer Nelson had served with the Bakersfield Police Department for two years. He is survived by his parents and two brothers.
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, August 13, 2015

Officer Down


Sergeant Korby Kennedy
San Angelo Police Department, Texas
End of Watch: Thursday, June 25, 2015
Age: 44
Tour: 20 years
Badge # 160

Sergeant Korby Kennedy was killed in a motorcycle crash on Knickerbocker Road, near Albert Street, while escorting a parade at approximately 6:00 pm.

He and other officers were escorting a parade of boats for the upcoming San Angelo Drag Boat Races. He was traveling on Knickerbocker Road when a vehicle pulled out of a parking lot into his path. He was transported to Shannon Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Sergeant Korby had served with the San Angelo Police Department for 20 years. He is survived by his wife, four children, three grandchildren, and two brothers.
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. 

Officer Down


Sergeant Christopher Kelley
Hutto Texas Police Department
End of Watch: Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Age: 37
Tour: 11 years
Badge # 7610

Sergeant Chris Kelley was struck and killed by a subject who had just stolen a patrol car following a struggle as officers attempted to arrest him.

The subject had fled on foot after officers attempted to make a traffic stop on Herrera Trail at approximately 10:00 am. The man ran over a fire hydrant and then fled on foot. Sergeant Kelley located the man and began to struggle with him. The subject broke free, entered an unmarked patrol vehicle, and tried to drive away. He struck Sergeant Kelley and dragged him a short distance as he continued to flee.

The subject was arrested a short time later.

Sergeant Kelley was a U.S. Air Force veteran and had served with the Hutto Police Department for 11 years and was assigned as the Criminal Investigations Supervisor. He is survived by his wife and two young 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. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Officer Down


Trooper Eric K. Chrisman
Kentucky State Police
End of Watch: Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Age: 23
Tour: 6 months
Badge # 800

Trooper Eric Chrisman was killed in a vehicle crash on the US Route 62 near the Tennessee River Bridge in Livingston County at 5:48 pm.

He was responding to a reckless driver complaint when his vehicle failed to negotiate a curve and crossed into the path of an oncoming tractor trailer. Trooper Chrisman's vehicle was struck on the driver's side, causing him to suffer fatal injuries.

Trooper Chrisman had served with the Kentucky State Police for only six months.
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. 

Security Weekly: The Lives of Jihadist Leaders Drop in Value, August 6, 2015

By Scott Stewart

Much has been written since the July 30 confirmation that the Taliban's longtime leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, died two years ago. Most of the discussion has focused on the future of the Taliban movement, the impact of his death on the al Qaeda core — which had pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar as Amir al-Mu'minin, or "commander of the faithful," — and of course, the Islamic State's efforts to take advantage of Mullah Omar's death.

Certainly, the announcement has caused existing rifts among the various factions of the Taliban to become more pronounced. But these divisions have always existed, and the Taliban have long been anything but a cohesive, unified organization. The announcement also became fodder for a massive Twitter campaign by the Islamic State "Twitteratti," who are seeking to exploit the intentional deception of the Taliban cadres who sought to hide Mullah Omar's death. The Islamic State had publicly challenged the Taliban to publish proof of life for Mullah Omar, suggesting that word of the Talban leader's death had leaked. This likely forced the Taliban to admit that he was dead.

Islamic State gloating aside, I personally doubt we will witness the same scale of defections from the al Qaeda orbit of the jihadist universe that we did after the declaration of the caliphate last year. This is because the battle lines in the al Qaeda vs. Islamic State fight for the heart of the global jihad have become well established, and much of the shine has worn off the Islamic State's claim to be an inexorable force.

From my perspective, the more interesting aspect of the announcement of Mullah Omar's demise is that he had been dead since April 2013, but nobody really missed him. Concealing someone's death for one "Weekend at Bernie's" is one thing, but maintaining such a ruse for two years is quite another.

Low-Profile Leaders

Despite losing their commander-in-chief in April 2013, the Taliban have been making steady progress in their military campaign against the Kabul government. During the 2014 and 2015 fighting seasons, the Taliban not only worked to solidify their hold in their traditional areas of control in parts of Helmand, Paktika and Zabul provinces but also focused on the country's northern provinces, a marked departure from their previous emphasis on traditional strongholds in the south and east. The Taliban also continued to conduct high-profile attacks in Kabul, though it is noteworthy that Afghan security forces have responded quite effectively to such attacks over the past few months.

The Taliban made these advances while engaged in negotiations with the government in Kabul to try to find a political solution to the violence. The negotiations have been deadlocked, and the Taliban hope to use gains on the battlefield to bolster their negotiating position. Continuing attacks in Kabul against targets including the national parliament also enable the group to make its presence felt at the very heart of Afghanistan's government.

The Taliban accomplished all this without Mullah Omar's direct leadership. One reason for this is that changes in the way the United States and its allies conduct their campaigns against militant groups such as the Taliban have caused a dramatic shift in how those groups operate. The use of Predator and Reaper strikes and commando raids to target militant leaders — supported by robust signals intelligence efforts — have forced militant leaders to dramatically decrease their profiles and curtail their communications. Most leaders now eschew electronic communications and rely on couriers to bring information to them and dispatch orders.

The insulation required to protect jihadist leaders from the relentless efforts to hunt them down means that subordinates rarely have direct interaction with senior leadership. Instead, instructions and guidance are passed via intermediaries. The intermediaries themselves are often isolated from the leaders, communicating with them only via courier. When leaders do come out of hiding to interact with their troops, they put themselves at risk of being killed, as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Emir Nasir al-Wahayshi was when he left his hideout to visit his triumphant followers after the capture of the Yemeni city of Mukalla.

Even showing your face on camera can come with a steep price, as seen by the number of al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula talking heads who have been killed by U.S. airstrikes, including U.S. citizens Adam Gadahn, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula also lost spokesman Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari in January, along with Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish (the group's mufti) and Nasir bin Ali al-Ansi in April.

This reality reinforces the need to maintain a low profile. It unsurprising that some time has passed since al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri or Islamic State Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were last seen in person or on video. Yet the low-profile approach to jihadist leader survival also comes with a cost: This method of operation leaves apex leaders isolated and slightly behind the information curve. To offset this disconnect and time lag, more autonomy is being delegated to operational leaders in the field.

This delegation works well in a situation like Afghanistan where many elements of the Taliban movement, such as the Haqqani network, are more or less politically aligned with the Taliban leadership but militarily independent. But the situation is far from unique to the Taliban. We know from ample evidence, such as the correspondence recovered when Osama bin Laden was killed, that al Qaeda also functioned in this manner, and also that the Islamic State central core delegates a great deal of autonomy down to emirs at the wilayat, or provincial, level in Syria and Iraq.

In such a detached and decentralized system, it is easy to see how an intermediary could hide the death of an apex leader if the leader's death were only known to a handful of people. The commanders receiving instructions would not really perceive a noticeable difference in communication since they always hear from the intermediary. Such a ruse could be used if the intermediary — or others working with the intermediary — wanted to usurp the apex leader's authority. Obviously, such a ploy could cause considerable blowback once it is discovered.

But there are other, less sinister explanations for the employment of such a ruse. A major one ties back to the relentless campaign to hunt down jihadist leaders: If U.S. and allied intelligence are focused on looking for a ghost, they will not be able to use those same assets to search for the still-living jihadist leader or leaders now in charge.

Tip of the Iceberg?

One of the more interesting responses to the announcement of Mullah Omar's death and the naming of his replacement, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was that one of the statements of support for Mansoor was allegedly given by Jalaluddin Haqqani, patriarch of the Haqqani clan. Soon after this statement of support was issued, reports began to surface that Haqqani had also died more than a year ago, although members of his family denied the report. His son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has been appointed by Mansoor as the operational commander for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This suggests the Haqqanis are indeed firmly behind Mansoor, but even so, this has not quieted the rumors that Jalaluddin is dead. And he is not the only jihadist leader rumored to be no longer among the living.

Islamic State fanboys on social media are often keen to criticize al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for being disconnected and essentially invisible, and some even claim al-Zawahiri is dead. But Islamic State Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself has also maintained an extremely low profile since declaring the establishment of the caliphate at the beginning of Ramadan last year in a speech at a mosque in Mosul, and there have been persistent rumors that al-Baghdadi was later either wounded or killed in a U.S. airstrike. The Islamic State has vehemently denied such rumors but has failed to produce any credible proof of life other than an audio recording released last November.

Similar rumors are swirling around Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamic State's Wilayat al-Sudan al-Gharbi, the Nigerian jihadist group formerly known as Boko Haram. Shekau has been repeatedly declared dead by the Nigerian government only to release videos mocking those claims, but he has not appeared in recent videos, and widespread rumors of his demise continue.

Operationally, such rumors will have very little impact on the battlefield even if proved true. Apex leaders can be important figureheads, skillful managers who can unify factions or raise funds and recruit new fighters. But in the end, very few of them are frontline warriors running their group's day-to-day military or terrorist operations. Although Abu Musab al-Zarqawi became widely celebrated in jihadist circles as the "prince of slaughterers," an outtake video released by U.S. forces showed how the man portrayed as vicious and powerful in al Qaeda in Iraq videos was actually wearing unfashionable white sneakers instead of combat boots and couldn't even clear a malfunction from the M-249 light machinegun he awkwardly handled.

Such figures are important symbols, but as seen in the case of Mullah Omar, bin Laden or al-Zarqawi, jihadist groups will continue to function after their leader has been killed. This is not only because the jihadist ideology embraces and even celebrates martyrdom but also because jihadists tend to create decentralized, robust organizations that can survive the loss of the apex leadership. As long as the ideology of jihadism retains its strength and appeal, jihadist groups will continue to recruit new members faster than they can be killed.

COPYRIGHT: STRATFOR.COM

The wisdom of Archie Bunker...and more evidence that Edith was a saint!

Without question one of the greatest TV shows of all time, All in the Family broke all the rules and pulled the cover on the clean sheet of television for the time. It showed bigotry (both sides, if you watched it, George Jefferson was simply a reflection of Archie Bunker), war, economic issues, politics, all the issues that were forbidden by Hollywood for the time. Beth and I loved the show so much we used it in our wedding reception. No we didn't dance to it, but we were announced as "Mr and Mrs" to the song "Those were the days". Went over great.

Now to give you all a laugh, here are ten great quotes from Archie to show you yes, he was a well though out man! :<)

Thank you Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers and even you Rob "Meathead" Reiner for a great piece of American culture.


1. You never believe nuttin’, Edith. You’re of them septics.

2. They just wanna get rid of us old guys over 50 that’s all, and put us out to pasture. Well I ain’t ready to be pasteurized!

3. I ain’t in a happy frame of mood

4. I just want to take the opportunity to express my waddya call, gratitude and depreciation.

5. First time in 23 years our minds are synchrosized.

6. Mike: Goodbye! Archie: And good ribbance!

7. I commensurate with you on that.

8. She takes everything I say out of contest.

9. Gonna take all of my thinking and all of my consecration.

10. The only thing that holds a marriage together is the husband being big enough to step back and see there the wife is wrong.

Geopolitical Weekly: The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War, August 4, 2015

By Reva Bhalla

Editor's Note: With the war in Syria showing no signs of abating, we republish our Jan. 21, 2014, weekly explaining the complex geopolitics of the conflict.

International diplomats will gather Jan. 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux to hammer out a settlement designed to end Syria's three-year civil war. The conference, however, will be far removed from the reality on the Syrian battleground. Only days before the conference was scheduled to begin, a controversy threatened to engulf the proceedings after the United Nations invited Iran to participate, and Syrian rebel representatives successfully pushed for the offer to be rescinded. The inability to agree upon even who would be attending the negotiations is an inauspicious sign for a diplomatic effort that was never likely to prove very fruitful.

There are good reasons for deep skepticism. As Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces continue their fight to recover ground against the increasingly fratricidal rebel forces, there is little incentive for the regime, heavily backed by Iran and Russia, to concede power to its sectarian rivals at the behest of Washington, especially when the United States is already negotiating with Iran. Ali Haidar, an old classmate of al Assad's from ophthalmology school and a long-standing member of Syria's loyal opposition, now serving somewhat fittingly as Syria's National Reconciliation Minister, captured the mood of the days leading up to the conference in saying "Don't expect anything from Geneva II. Neither Geneva II, not Geneva III nor Geneva X will solve the Syrian crisis. The solution has begun and will continue through the military triumph of the state."

Widespread pessimism over a functional power-sharing agreement to end the fighting has led to dramatic speculation that Syria is doomed either to break into sectarian statelets or, as Haidar articulated, revert to the status quo, with the Alawites regaining full control and the Sunnis forced back into submission. Both scenarios are flawed. Just as international mediators will fail to produce a power-sharing agreement at this stage of the crisis, and just as Syria's ruling Alawite minority will face extraordinary difficulty in gluing the state back together, there is also no easy way to carve up Syria along sectarian lines. A closer inspection of the land reveals why.

The Geopolitics of Syria

Before the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement traced out an awkward assortment of nation-states in the Middle East, the name Syria was used by merchants, politicians and warriors alike to describe a stretch of land enclosed by the Taurus Mountains to the north, the Mediterranean to the west, the Sinai Peninsula to the south and the desert to the east. If you were sitting in 18th-century Paris contemplating the abundance of cotton and spices on the other side of the Mediterranean, you would know this region as the Levant — its Latin root "levare" meaning "to raise," from where the sun would rise in the east. If you were an Arab merchant traveling the ancient caravan routes in the Hejaz, or modern-day Saudi Arabia, facing the sunrise to the east, you would have referred to this territory in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham, or the "land to the left" of Islam's holy sites on the Arabian Peninsula.

Whether viewed from the east or the west, the north or the south, Syria will always find itself in an unfortunate position surrounded by much stronger powers. The rich, fertile lands straddling Asia Minor and Europe around the Sea of Marmara to the north, the Nile River Valley to the south and the land nestled between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers to the east give rise to larger and more cohesive populations. When a power in control of these lands went roaming for riches farther afield, they inevitably came through Syria, where blood was spilled, races were intermixed, religions were negotiated and goods were traded at a frenzied and violent pace.


Consequently, only twice in Syria's pre-modern history could this region claim to be a sovereign and independent state: during the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, based out of Antioch (the city of Antakya in modern-day Turkey) from 301 to 141 B.C., and during the Umayyad Caliphate, based out of Damascus, from A.D. 661 to 749. Syria was often divided or subsumed by its neighbors, too weak, internally fragmented and geographically vulnerable to stand its own ground. Such is the fate of a borderland.

Unlike the Nile Valley, Syria's geography lacks a strong, natural binding element to overcome its internal fissures. An aspiring Syrian state not only needs a coastline to participate in sea trade and guard against sea powers, but also a cohesive hinterland to provide food and security. Syria's rugged geography and patchwork of minority sects have generally been a major hindrance to this imperative.

Syria's long and extremely narrow coastline abruptly transforms into a chain of mountains and plateaus. Throughout this western belt, pockets of minorities, including Alawites, Christians and Druze, have sequestered themselves, equally distrustful of outsiders from the west as they are of local rulers to the east, but ready to collaborate with whomever is most likely to guarantee their survival. The long mountain barrier then descends into broad plains along the Orontes River Valley and the Bekaa Valley before rising sharply once again along the Anti-Lebanon range, the Hawran plateau and the Jabal al-Druze mountains, providing more rugged terrain for persecuted sects to hunker down and arm themselves.

Just west of the Anti-Lebanon mountains, the Barada river flows eastward, giving rise to a desert oasis also known as Damascus. Protected from the coast by two mountain chains and long stretches of desert to the east, Damascus is essentially a fortress city and a logical place to make the capital. But for this fortress to be a capital worthy of regional respect, it needs a corridor running westward across the mountains to Mediterranean ports along the ancient Phoenician (or modern-day Lebanese) coast, as well as a northward route across the semi-arid steppes, through Homs, Hama and Idlib, to Aleppo.

The saddle of land from Damascus to the north is relatively fluid territory, making it an easier place for a homogenous population to coalesce than the rugged and often recalcitrant coastline. Aleppo sits alongside the mouth of the Fertile Crescent, a natural trade corridor between Anatolia to the north, the Mediterranean (via the Homs Gap) to the west and Damascus to the south. While Aleppo has historically been vulnerable to dominant Anatolian powers and can use its relative distance to rebel against Damascus from time to time, it remains a vital economic hub for any Damascene power.

Finally, jutting east from the Damascus core lie vast stretches of desert, forming a wasteland between Syria and Mesopotamia. This sparsely populated route has long been traveled by small, nomadic bands of men — from caravan traders to Bedouin tribesmen to contemporary jihadists — with few attachments and big ambitions.

Demography by Design

The demographics of this land have fluctuated greatly, depending on the prevailing power of the time. Christians, mostly Eastern Orthodox, formed the majority in Byzantine Syria. The Muslim conquests that followed led to a more diverse blend of religious sects, including a substantial Shiite population. Over time, a series of Sunni dynasties emanating from Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley and Asia Minor made Syria the Sunni-majority region that it is today. While Sunnis came to heavily populate the Arabian Desert and the saddle of land stretching from Damascus to Aleppo, the more protective coastal mountains were meanwhile peppered with a mosaic of minorities. The typically cult-like minorities forged fickle alliances and were always on the lookout for a more distant sea power they could align with to balance against the dominant Sunni forces of the hinterland.


The French, who had the strongest colonial links to the Levant, were masters of the minority manipulation strategy, but that approach also came with severe consequences that endure to this day. In Lebanon, the French favored Maronite Christians, who came to dominate Mediterranean sea trade out of bustling port cities such as Beirut at the expense of poorer Sunni Damascene merchants. France also plucked out a group known as the Nusayris living along the rugged Syrian coast, rebranded them as Alawites to give them religious credibility and stacked them in the Syrian military during the French mandate.

When the French mandate ended in 1943, the ingredients were already in place for major demographic and sectarian upheaval, culminating in the bloodless coup by Hafiz al Assad in 1970 that began the highly irregular Alawite reign over Syria. With the sectarian balance now tilting toward Iran and its sectarian allies, France's current policy of supporting the Sunnis alongside Saudi Arabia against the mostly Alawite regime that the French helped create has a tinge of irony to it, but it fits within a classic balance-of-power mentality toward the region.

Setting Realistic Expectations

The delegates discussing Syria this week in Switzerland face a series of irreconcilable truths that stem from the geopolitics that have governed this land since antiquity.

The anomaly of a powerful Alawite minority ruling Syria is unlikely to be reversed anytime soon. Alawite forces are holding their ground in Damascus and steadily regaining territory in the suburbs. Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is meanwhile following its sectarian imperative to ensure the Alawites hold onto power by defending the traditional route from Damascus through the Bekaa Valley to the Lebanese coast, as well as the route through the Orontes River Valley to the Alawite Syrian coast. So long as the Alawites can hold Damascus, there is no chance of them sacrificing the economic heartland.

It is thus little wonder that Syrian forces loyal to al Assad have been on a northward offensive to retake control of Aleppo. Realizing the limits to their own military offensive, the regime will manipulate Western appeals for localized cease-fires, using a respite in the fighting to conserve its resources and make the delivery of food supplies to Aleppo contingent on rebel cooperation with the regime. In the far north and east, Kurdish forces are meanwhile busy trying to carve out their own autonomous zone against mounting constraints, but the Alawite regime is quite comfortable knowing that Kurdish separatism is more of a threat to Turkey than it is to Damascus at this point.

The fate of Lebanon and Syria remain deeply intertwined. In the mid-19th century, a bloody civil war between Druze and Maronites in the densely populated coastal mountains rapidly spread from Mount Lebanon to Damascus. This time around, the current is flowing in reverse, with the civil war in Syria now flooding Lebanon. As the Alawites continue to gain ground in Syria with aid from Iran and Hezbollah, a shadowy amalgam of Sunni jihadists backed by Saudi Arabia will become more active in Lebanon, leading to a steady stream of Sunni-Shiite attacks that will keep Mount Lebanon on edge.

The United States may be leading the ill-fated peace conference to reconstruct Syria, but it doesn't really have any strong interests there. The depravity of the civil war itself compels the United States to show that it is doing something constructive, but Washington's core interest for the region at the moment is to preserve and advance a negotiation with Iran. This goal sits at odds with a publicly stated U.S. goal to ensure al Assad is not part of a Syrian transition, and this point may well be one of many pieces in the developing bargain between Washington and Tehran. However, al Assad holds greater leverage so long as his main patron is in talks with the United States, the only sea power currently capable of projecting significant force in the eastern Mediterranean.

Egypt, the Nile Valley power to the south, is wholly ensnared in its own internal problems. So is Turkey, the main power to the north, which is now gripped in a public and vicious power struggle that leaves little room for Turkish adventurism in the Arab world. That leaves Saudi Arabia and Iran as the main regional powers able to directly manipulate the Syrian sectarian battleground. Iran, along with Russia, which shares an interest in preserving relations with the Alawites and thus its access to the Mediterranean, will hold the upper hand in this conflict, but the desert wasteland linking Syria to Mesopotamia is filled with bands of Sunni militants eager for Saudi backing to tie down their sectarian rivals.

And so the fighting will go on. Neither side of the sectarian divide is capable of overwhelming the other on the battlefield and both have regional backers that will fuel the fight. Iran will try to use its relative advantage to draw the Saudi royals into a negotiation, but a deeply unnerved Saudi Arabia will continue to resist as long as Sunni rebels still have enough fight in them to keep going. Fighters on the ground will regularly manipulate appeals for cease-fires spearheaded by largely disinterested outsiders, all while the war spreads deeper into Lebanon. The Syrian state will neither fragment and formalize into sectarian statelets nor reunify into a single nation under a political settlement imposed by a conference in Geneva. A mosaic of clan loyalties and the imperative to keep Damascus linked to its coastline and economic heartland — no matter what type of regime is in power in Syria — will hold this seething borderland together, however tenuously.