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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Forecasting Japan: China Rises, September 29, 2015

Forecasting Japan: China Rises

Japan's current political order is a holdover from the Cold War, when the country was buoyed by U.S. strategy in the Pacific. But when that configuration changed dramatically after the fall of the Soviet Union, Japan continued to cling to the old system – it had no other option. Tokyo is now looking ahead to a future of demographic decline and increased government spending. While Japan will likely be able to manage these issues, the country's slow-burning internal crisis will begin to interact with broader regional shifts in the next 5-10 years, the most important of which is the ongoing transformation of China. The external changes in Japan's region will ultimately cause the country's internal political order to undergo an epochal shift of its own.

Through the Cold War and beyond, Japan has been able to pursue a foreign policy centered on economic competition and cooperation rather than defense and security. External allies like the United States protected both the home islands and Japanese economic interests overseas. But things are changing, and Japan's mercantilist foreign policy will soon be insufficient to meet its strategic needs.

China, of course, is the new factor. Since the end of the Cold War, Japan's neighbor has transformed from an isolated and impoverished pariah state into the world's second-biggest economy and Asia's largest. China has been the demographic center of East Asia for millennia and, for most of its history, it was also the regional hegemon. However, in the middle of the 19th century, internal and external pressures drove China into one of its periodic cycles of political fragmentation, social upheaval and introversion. Although China reunified in 1949, the preceding century of chaos had left its economy in tatters, preventing China from translating its demographic heft into regional economic, political or military dominance throughout the 20th century. Now Beijing is building on its economic strength to accrue diplomatic influence and military power, and it has begun to pose a serious challenge to the U.S.-led Pacific alliance structure of the Cold War era.

But China's newfound power rests on a shaky foundation. Beijing faces mounting social, economic and political strain at home. A number of factors have contributed to China's current crisis. Internally, there are profound economic imbalances and intense regional tensions. China is also uniquely dependent on overseas supplies of energy and raw materials to sustain its industrial plants, and for the next decade, it will be heavily reliant on foreign consumption of Chinese-manufactured goods. Historically, China enjoyed a surplus of domestic natural resources relative to its economic needs. This allowed generations of Chinese leaders, most notably Mao Zedong, to close the country off in times of internal turmoil. Because China is now reliant on imported inputs, the country has little choice but to press outward to protect its overseas assets, interests and personnel and to ensure the security of crucial sea lines of communication.

Consequently, the next 5-10 years will be a period of extraordinary strain for China. The Communist Party of China will continue its attempt to transition to a new economic model grounded in robust domestic consumption, high value-added manufacturing and service industries. The process will require Beijing to substantially change core aspects of its existing political and economic model, and the Chinese government will need to implement all of these disruptive changes amid a sustained slowdown in low-end manufacturing and housing construction. The government has long relied on these two sectors to maintain economic growth and employment. At the same time, the country will need to metabolize the staggering levels of local government and corporate debt accrued over decades of rapid investment-led growth and extensive capital misallocation.

Beijing's task is not impossible, but it will need to perfectly coordinate several complex maneuvers to achieve success. To manage these shifts, the government will dramatically centralize power, essentially becoming a dictatorship – a process that is already underway. China's new order might also entail promoting nationalism as a means of maintaining social cohesion, likely at Japan's expense. China shares its sea lines of communication with Japan, and the Chinese military has already become increasingly proactive in defending its territories. For Japan, this is a fearsome prospect.

Shifting U.S. Strategies

China's rise will coincide with a change in the United States' strategic posture in the Pacific Rim. Since it became the leading superpower at the end of World War II, the United States has enforced its position by securing global sea-lanes, maintaining a permanent U.S. military presence along key regional fault lines, and on occasion, directly intervening to maintain the balance of power. The United States wants to prevent the emergence of a rival regional hegemon anywhere in the world.

Washington's strategic imperatives in the Pacific will not change, but its methods will. The United States will transition gradually in the coming years toward indirect and less costly ways of enforcing its writ. This will mean devolving responsibility to regional partners such as the Philippines, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

The United States' shift is already beginning to push its allies in East Asia to become much more proactive in defending their security interests. Japan is at the forefront of this movement. In late 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched an initiative to revive Japan's regional economic, diplomatic and military standing. Since that time, Japan has made strides in regional diplomacy and military expansion and normalization. Still, to be successful, Japan will need to dramatically expand its efforts.

Throughout history, economic power and military power have been intertwined. In the 20th century, industrialization, combined with the technological limitations of ballistics, placed a premium on volume. However, since the final years of the 20th century, the quality of weaponry has become more important than the quantity. Vast fleets of large military vessels traveling long distances will continue to decline in significance, while precision-guided weapons platforms supported by space-based guidance systems will become increasingly important.

Meeting Japan's Military Needs

To play a role in 21st-century Pacific regional security, Japan will need to cultivate and sustain a cutting-edge domestic computing industry. To do this, Tokyo could start by increasing spending and public-private partnerships in defense research and development. It could also increase cooperation, intelligence sharing and technological connections with the United States. But Japan will also need to form a broader fabric of innovation and experimentation in computing technologies upon which the state can draw in times of need.

Although Japan has long excelled at advanced manufacturing and is still at the forefront of robotics, the country has struggled to gain a comparable footing in Internet-based computing. Japan's enduring Cold War order — an order defined by the close relationship between the government and major business groups, the keiretsu — is part of the problem. Keiretsu have hampered the efforts of successive Japanese leaders to open Japan to greater outside competition and investment, a factor that will need to change if the country is to encourage innovation in computing. Tokyo will also need to foster Silicon Valley-style tech startups, cultivate entrepreneurship and educate its workforce in the relevant disciplines.

Maintaining and widening its technological edge against regional rivals will require Japan to make significant changes to its domestic job market, changes the country has avoided thus far because of the mildness of its current economic stagnation. Tokyo will need to address the stark rise in underemployment Japan has seen in recent years. The total portion of Japanese employed in part-time jobs rose from 29 percent of the workforce to nearly 38 percent between 2002 and 2014. The offshoring of Japanese manufacturing activity over the past two decades has only added to the country's employment problem. Anecdotal evidence indicates that over the past 20 years, many major Japanese electronics and advanced manufacturing companies that once dominated Japan's economy (and accounted for a sizable chunk of domestic employment) have downsized their domestic workforces, at least in manufacturing, while expanding their share of overseas employees.

The Japanese economy will not necessarily have to grow for Japan to buffer against China and play a leading regional role, but it will need to become much more dynamic. This will mean channeling the nation's dwindling working-age population into cutting-edge industries, something that will also be critical to maintaining domestic political order as the shrinking workforce bears the burden of caring for an aging population. How Japan responds to external pressures, and whether its response is adequate, will be determined largely on the basis of what happens to its economy over the next 5-10 years, the period in which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's reforms will play out.

Officer Down

Detective Brent L. Hanger
Washington State Patrol
End of Watch: Thursday, August 6, 2015
Age: 47
Tour: 17 years
Badge # 938

Detective Brent Hanger suffered a fatal heart attack while hiking into a remote area of Chinook Pass, near Yakima, to investigate reports of a marijuana growing operation.

He began to suffer chest pains and shortness of breath. Other detectives who were with him immediately called for assistance and started CPR after he collapsed, but were unable to revive him.

Detective Hanger had served with the Washington State Patrol for 17 years. He is survived by his wife and six 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. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The YouTube Effect on cops...

I can personally attest to the fact cops are close to paranoid about being videotaped on the street. Before you get off the scene the ugly side of law enforcement, such as having to take suspect down hard, is shown as "police oppression". The fact he was resisting, refused to pull his hands, was about to flee is not part of the initial upload and the race baiters don't like to see full stories.

Now we have another conference of geniuses to discuss the problem of law enforcement. Selected parts with commentary.

‘YouTube effect’ has left police officers under siege, law enforcement leaders say

Chiefs of some of the nation’s biggest police departments say officers in American cities have pulled back and have stopped policing as aggressively as they used to, fearing that they could be the next person in a uniform featured on a career-ending viral video.

That was the unifying — and controversial — theory reached Wednesday at a private meeting of more than 100 of the nation’s top law enforcement officers and politicians.

With homicide rates soaring inexplicably this year in dozens of U.S. cities, the group convened by new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch concluded with a brief news conference promising a robust response to the reversal of decades of falling violent crime rates.

But for hours preceding that, mayors, police chiefs, U.S. attorneys and even FBI Director James Comey privately vented in a Washington ballroom that they don’t really understand the alarming spike in murders and applause filled the room when mayors said police officers’ sinking morale could be a factor...

You think. Back in my Army days we were discussing what morale means to a soldier and a unit and a classmate behind me knocked it out of the park. "Sir, a man's morale determines if he stands and fights or if he runs." Same with police on the street. If we have one politician after another basically accusing police of assault, murder and malfeasance in officer do you think the cop will stick his neck out? He's got a career, family, pension and future to protect. The politicians can always get another appointment somewhere.
"...Could the root cause be drugs? Guns? Gangs? Perhaps a little of each, said Chuck Wexler, a former top officer in Boston and head of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Wexler tried to sum up the day-long discussion for Lynch, who arrived near the end. But there was another problem, he told her, one that hits closer to home for the nation’s top cop.

“Perhaps the most difficult to calibrate, but the most significant,” he said, “is this notion of a reduction in proactive policing.”

Police chiefs and elected leaders from Baltimore, Chicago, New York and St. Louis were more blunt:

“We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told Lynch. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.”

You don't say Rahm. You're an absolute genius.
There is no evidence of a broad retraction of police engagement with the public in major cities, and no participant in Wednesday’s summit presented a single example of lackluster policing that somehow contributed to a violent crime.

Rather, chiefs and elected officials spoke broadly of a changed atmosphere in major city police departments over the past year amid high-profile police-involved shootings and in-custody deaths that led to riots in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore.

Chiefs said patrol officers still do their jobs, clocking in and policing their beats. But fewer take extra steps such as confronting a group loitering on a sidewalk late at night that might glean intelligence or lead to arrests, for fear that any altercations that ensued would be uploaded to the Internet.

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton called it the “YouTube effect” that has emerged for officers post-Ferguson and, in New York, after the death of Eric Garner last year after he was put in a chokehold by an officer making an arrest.

I notice two things here. One, the cities where the issue is really coming up are all in the North. All run by big city Democratic machines. And all run by politicians who look, to a large degree, as the cops as the enemy. And two, tying into this, I didn't see one quote from the country's biggest mayor, Bill de Blasio. You know, the man who implied his black son has more to fear from the cops than the crooks. And who has openly courted New York's greatest race baiting poverty pimp, Al Sharpton. Maybe he was there and the paper didn't write anything on HIZONORDAMAER, but I doubt it.

If cops believe they are the targets of federal law enforcement for doing their jobs (See Ferguson, Baltimore and New York) they will recede and just do the minimum needed to preform their duties. Effective law enforcement requires cops on the street taking initiative. You punish initiative like many departments are doing now, the criminals will fill the void.

A look at the value of your labor.

Friend, fellow Army officer and writer of deep thought Mike Ford had an excellent article piece published by The American Thinker. Please have a read
Your Property Is You

By Mike Ford

In an article titled "Will Property Crime Uptick become Crime Wave?," Debra J. Saunders opines that a recent small rise in property crimes could be a harbinger of a much larger and more violent growth. Ms. Saunders does a straightforward job in explaining how reducing the punishments for some "property" crimes from felonies to misdemeanors is going to have the unintended consequence of increasing violent crimes.

I agree with her, but that is not the problem – it's a symptom.

The real problem is the unstated presumption in Saunders's article that there is an actual, substantive difference between property crimes and violent crimes – or, as they are referred to in law enforcement, "persons" crimes. When it comes down to it, there is little if any difference. Both categories bring harm to others, varying only by degree.

It took me a long time to understand this. Like many people, I considered persons crimes more heinous than "mere" property crimes. After all, "stuff" isn't nearly as important as a human being.

I had my epiphany a little over twenty years ago, when my wife and I made a personal commitment not to go into credit card debt to pay for Christmas. I worked several overtime details to make sure Santa Claus was adequately funded. My oldest daughter wanted a bicycle, her first. With a bit of extra effort, I was able to get her one...the Barbie model, with "pink streamers and everything, Daddy!"

Not two weeks after Christmas, in the middle of the day, someone came into my backyard and stole my daughter's new bike. She was crushed. What else could I do but go buy her another?

As I worked voluntary overtime to come up with the cash for a replacement, it struck me that what was stolen wasn't just a $150 bicycle. What was stolen was the piece of my life I had to spend to earn the cash to buy it...twice. In that regard, this petty theft was really a crime of violence, a persons crime.

Now look at the Constitution. Four different amendments specifically give property equal regard as with liberty and people.

3rd Amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4th Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

5th Amendment: No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

14th Amendment: ... nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law[.]

Why did the founders believe this way? My experience with my daughter's stolen bike got me halfway to the answer. I realized that, in a manner of speaking, property is a form of stored labor. Somebody, somehow had to work to get the money to purchase that property. In that regard, property represents so many hours of a person's life. It follows naturally that taking property could be considered taking a portion of someone's life.

Before John Locke, the common belief was that there was a "divine right of kings." This divine right stated that all rights, liberties, and properties were held by the king. His subjects were permitted to use them only at his pleasure. Of course, the king could revoke such a right at any time. As Mark Levin has noted, John Locke and a few of his contemporaries espoused a radically different paradigm: that certain rights resided in the individual. These rights were "natural rights" that were inherent long before, and regardless of, the existence of government.

Our Founding Fathers took Locke's philosophy regarding life, liberty, and property and sprinkled it liberally throughout the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. This equal billing of these three fundamental rights continued until the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. After that point, personal and property liberties came to be treated differently and unequally. One recent and truly egregious example of this is Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws, whereby a citizen merely suspected but not convicted of a crime may have his property confiscated and must prove innocence, at his own expense, to get it back. Another is the recent Kelo decision by the Supreme Court, whereby property can be taken from one citizen because the state (city, county, or state) can obtain more tax revenues from another, a clear violation of the intent of the takings clause of the Constitution.

It's time that we all as Americans understand that property is a significant part of liberty. It's time we all insist that the possession of property is a part of being a human being. Your property is your labor. Your property is you.

One of the points liberals just don't get is that your rights are not something granted to you and they are shocked when I enlighten them that the Constitution grants no rights. It protects from the government your rights, which are part of you, "endowed by their creator". Liberals just don't get that there is something above the government. Then again, government is their god.

Great article Mike, hope to post more in the future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This is how to handle this waste of sperm

Kidnaping, robbery and rape. Yea, I think he's beyond redemption. But at least in this court he will get justice.

Seven life terms and 270 years. Gotta piss you off that he won't serve half of it! :)

Thank you judge for keeping this animal off the streets.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Forecasting Japan: A Slow-Burning Crisis: Part 1, September 28, 2015


Editor's Note: Since the end of the Cold War, the Pacific Rim has seen China rise and Japan stagnate. However, Japan is approaching an epochal shift that will enable it to challenge the current order. This analysis is the first in a four-part a series that forecasts the nature of that shift and the future of Japan.

Japan is waking up. For two decades, the island nation has been relatively removed from both regional and global affairs. Now it is in the earliest stages of a push to re-establish itself as a leading power in the Pacific Rim, a role that will require it to make some significant internal adjustments. Over the past 150 years, Japan's political order has undergone three such overhauls. Each came as a reaction to profound changes in the international system: the entrance of European powers into East Asia, the rise of fascism in Europe and the beginning of the Cold War.

As the Cold War ended, Japan began to stagnate. Previously, Japan had managed to thrive by modeling its internal order to adapt to regional geopolitics. This time, however, no coherent order emerged in the Pacific Rim, so Tokyo maintained its Cold War status quo. Japan's maladapted holdover order quickly entered a 20-year slow-burning crisis that has come to be known as the "Lost Decades." It is this period of crisis that is now coming to an end.

No single force will bring about the end of the Lost Decades. Instead, a number of circumstances will coincide, ushering in a new Japanese order. Over the next 10 years, the status quo will change as Japan adapts to the rise of China and changing U.S. expectations for Pacific allies. Meanwhile, economic and demographic pressures will mount on Tokyo. However, the direct antecedents of Japan's coming break will be the contradictions that lie within its current stagnant order. Understanding this situation is the first step in forecasting the future of Japan.


Despite its strong economic performance in the 1970s and 1980s, Japan foundered in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. A succession of asset bubbles and financial crises in the 1990s and 2000s further undermined the country's economic growth. But leaders had little incentive to make the necessary reforms to political institutions or foreign policy: Despite the sluggish economy, quality of life for voters was high and external threats were few. For the first time in its modern history, Japan did not know what to do, did not need to do much and therefore did nothing. The political and economic order designed for an earlier era persisted and became Japan's new status quo, gradually fraying at the edges but stable enough to endure.

Japan's now-ailing Cold War configuration rests on two pillars: integrated business groups known as "keiretsu" and an autonomous, effective and powerful bureaucracy. Both of these interest groups have maintained strong ties with the Liberal Democratic Party, which has controlled the government for all but six of the past 60 years. The enduring power of the party rests on its ability to mobilize keiretsu employees in elections and its connections within the bureaucracy.

During the Cold War, Japan's political order leaned heavily on the support of the United States, which needed a strong Japan to serve as a key ally in the Pacific. To bolster Japan, the United States granted it a variety of benefits including open access to U.S. markets while allowing Tokyo to shelter its own market and implement policies to maintain artificially low-cost exports. The United States also shared defense and computing technology, fueling Japan's electronics and high-tech booms. When the Cold War began to wind down, the U.S. approach shifted from support to quiet containment.

The 1985 Plaza Accord embodied this shift. The landmark agreement between the United States, France, West Germany and Japan allowed the U.S. dollar to depreciate relative to the yen and deutsche mark to bring the United States out of recession by curbing U.S. inflation and making its exports more cost competitive. But the deal was a bad one for Japan. The rapid rise in the yen's value against the dollar between 1985 and 1987 undermined the low-cost export sector and sparked an enormous asset price bubble in Japan. When that bubble finally burst in 1990, it triggered a banking sector crisis that sent Japan's GDP growth tumbling from an average of 5-7 percent annually in the mid-1980s to near-zero percent by 1993, initiating the first of Japan's Lost Decades.

Fueled by newfound purchasing power, Japanese investment began to move overseas into developed markets. Many companies also moved operations to take advantage of low-cost labor in Thailand and China. Such offshoring has continued over the past few decades, undermining the domestic job market.

Stifled Reforms

Since the 1990 banking crisis, Tokyo has made several attempts to revive economic growth through fiscal stimulus and structural reforms. All have failed; Japan's problems require much deeper structural reforms. Though leaders have tried to make these reforms, they have been constrained time and again by the alliance between business, bureaucracy and the Liberal Democratic Party.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, for example, pushed strongly for reform from 2003 to 2006. He attempted to break Japan's Cold War-era order to clear the way for necessary change. His efforts largely failed, as have those of other reformers, and Japan has remained stagnant. Because the country has failed to alter its fundamental order, Japan essentially has not grown since 1994. The country has managed to maintain high levels of overall employment, but a growing share of these jobs are part time. In the 1990s, part-time workers represented less than 20 percent of the workforce, but by 2014, this number had risen to nearly 38 percent. Meanwhile, Japan's sovereign debt has grown substantially since 1994 as Tokyo has borrowed to maintain the bureaucracy, sustain infrastructure investment, cover social services and health care costs and service past debts.

But the crisis of Japan's post-Cold War model is relatively mild. Despite two decades without growth, Japan is still the world's third-largest economy and maintains one of the highest GDPs per capita among major economies. Meanwhile, a consistently strong yen has meant rising purchasing power. Japan also has one of the world's highest research and development expenditure-to-GDP ratios and remains one of the world's most innovative high-tech economies.

Battered, Not Broken

Recognizing that the Lost Decades have not led to an earthshaking national crisis is key to forecasting the next step for Japan. The country will shift only if it is forced to do so. If not, the status quo will persist more or less intact, albeit fraying at the edges, for the foreseeable future.

Two factors undergird the stability of the current order: high living standards and a stable regional position. The Japanese government, first and foremost, needs to guarantee that quality of life remains steady or improves. Tokyo will need to keep Japan's GDP constant, or at least declining slow enough to dovetail with its population decline, over the next several decades. The government will also need to find a way to pay the costs associated with the country's growing elderly population. Both will mean improving worker productivity to offset a shrinking workforce while helping Japanese industries remain globally competitive and effectively taxing overseas economic activity. Extracting government revenue from Japanese businesses abroad, which have used offshoring to keep themselves globally competitive, will be possible with some political wrangling. It will also be a crucial move, since the government will need to bolster domestic spending. Social security and health care costs now account for over 35 percent of government expenditures. At the moment, however, only 26 percent of the population is over 65. By 2040, the elderly will make up 36 percent of the population. The government will likely manage this by exploiting its close ties with the leading keiretsu.

Tokyo will also push for incremental labor reforms and technological advances to improve worker productivity. To be politically viable, these reforms will need only to be gradual enough to avoid substantially increasing unemployment (currently just 3.4 percent) or underemployment in the near term. This will be tricky. For the next 5-10 years, Japan will see population aging and workforce shrinkage slow. Between 2015 and 2025, Japan's workforce will shrink by 5.5 million-5.6 million, down from its loss of 7.7 million-8.3 million workers between 2005 and 2015. Steadier population levels will raise the pressure on the government to maintain employment.

After 2025, and especially after 2045, extreme working age and overall population declines could force more fundamental changes in the structure of Japan's economy. By 2060, Japan's total population will fall by around 25 percent, while the working-age population will fall by around 50 percent. This will almost certainly have profound implications for the country's economy. Still, the population shifts will be gradual, and it will take some time before their full effects are felt. Without changes in Japan's external environment, the Japanese government could make incremental policy adjustments that address the impact of population decline on quality of life over the next three to five decades, at least enough to stave off a catastrophic change in the foundations of the current order.

Forecasting Japan: A Slow-Burning Crisis is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What, I'm Da Laws now!

A few weeks after I got off probation in February, 1999, I saw someone drive though a red light and I though, "I wish a cop had seen that....wait a cop did!" I smiled and it really hit me I'm the cop now.

As I was surfing PoliceOne today I found this and found it rather humorous. Enjoy.
13 times you knew you were a cop

By PoliceOne Staff

There are parts of the job that can’t be shaken off at the end of the day like your uniform. Here are 13 signs you’re an LEO — as written by our Facebook audience:

1. “You refer to your spouse as ‘watch commander.’" — Joseph Lordanich

2. “You immediately take up the ‘Weaver Stance’ when some huck walks up and asks for a smoke or a match.” — William Hawkins

3. “You feel the need to wash your hands after having to shake hands with someone.” — Victor Lewis

4. “When you find yourself telling your kids to ‘Signal 9’ and they reply with ‘10-4.’” — Michael Gardner Jr.

5. “Your signature develops a unreadable flair.” — Chris Kohnken

6. “You have to explain to your significant other you’re not checking out people’s butts — you’re looking at waistlines for a gun.” — Steven Wallace

7. “You answer your phone at home by saying, ‘Go ahead.’” — Ron Singh

8. “You reach for your spotlight in your personal car when you see a suspicious person or you try to use your key card when you're walking through the front door of your house." — Bryan Britten

9. “Your spouse sees their favorite restaurant, while you see the place where several dirtbags you recently arrested work and you’re afraid to eat there for fear of what they'll do to your food.” — Rachel Hansen

10. “You know every 24 hour coffee and fuel stop in the area.” — PSH

11. “People immediately remove their hands from their pockets when they see you.” — Doug Sterling

12. “Reading tags phonetically off duty in your head. Can't stop to save my life.” — Shane Tindall

13. “You drive off duty like you're going lights and sirens and make your wife carsick.” — Molly Anne

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Security Weekly: Lessons From a Murder in Medellin, October 1, 2015

By Scott Stewart

On the evening of Friday, Sept. 25, American tourist John Mariani left his hotel in Medellin, Colombia, and jumped into a taxi. The 65-year-old New Yorker was staying at one of the many high-class hotels in Medellin's upscale El Poblado neighborhood. But shortly after leaving the hotel, the taxi picked up a tail and was followed by a car and a motorcycle. The drivers of the trailing vehicles reportedly forced the taxi to stop and confronted the driver and Mariani at gunpoint, demanding their wallets and personal belongings. When Mariani refused the gunmen's demands to relinquish his belongings, he was shot dead.

Mariani's tragic death provides a number of security lessons for other travelers.

Understanding the Threat

Colombia has come a long way from the wild days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, as has Medellin, which was once the dangerous headquarters of Pablo Escobar's powerful and brutal Medellin Cartel. Colombia and Medellin are far safer for foreigners to visit now, but crime remains a problem. Indeed, even though the government is making progress in its efforts to negotiate a peace settlement to end its decades-long communist insurgencies, "peace" in Colombia will not automatically result in security. Many of the current rank-and-file members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and National Liberation Army will likely join criminal bands known as Bacrim once they are demobilized. Understanding such dynamics — and how local criminals operate — is one of the most important steps in planning a safe trip abroad.

One place to find this kind of information is publications from the U.S. and foreign governments. For example, the U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Colombia states the following in the crime section:

Violent and petty crime remains a significant concern in Colombia. Robbery and other violent crimes, as well as scams against unsuspecting tourists, are common in urban areas. Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery, you should not resist. Firearms are prevalent in Colombia and altercations may turn violent.

This is exactly what happened in the Mariani case: His resistance to the criminals' demands led to a rapid escalation of violence and his death. Normally in Colombia, if you surrender your valuables, you will not be harmed; this is why the U.S. Embassy advises American citizens not to resist. Of course, the type of crimes common in a location will dictate how a traveler should respond to a given threat, so it is important to understand the threat.

Avoiding the Threat

In all circumstances, it is better to see a threat developing and take actions to avoid it than it is to be caught off guard by armed criminals. Because of this we recommend that people practice a proper level of situational awareness, especially when and where the security threat is elevated — for example, going out on the street after dark in Colombia.

It is also important to understand that street crimes, even those that appear to be random, are not. They follow a discernable planning cycle. Although this cycle will vary in duration depending on the type of crime — a purse snatching will likely require a much shorter cycle than a kidnapping for ransom — there are points during that planning cycle when the criminals planning the crime are vulnerable to detection. This is especially true while the criminals are "casing" or conducting surveillance on the potential victim during the target selection and planning phases of the cycle, and as they deploy for the attack. It is by detecting the preparatory activities of the criminal planning cycle that a victim practicing good situational awareness can spot a crime developing and take action to prevent the criminals from consummating their crime — such as dialing the police or turning and walking the other way to avoid the attack zone.

However, once a person has been caught off guard — especially by armed criminals — it is generally advisable to comply with the criminals' demands rather than resist. Armed criminals in many parts of the world will not hesitate to use brutal violence if they are challenged. The advice to comply is particularly applicable when the criminal's demands do not involve something life-threatening. Even in the case of a crime that may result in a significant financial loss, such as an express or traditional kidnapping, it is still better to be a live victim than a dead body. One of the rules of thumb I use in travel security briefings is that no possession is worth your life. But even then, it is better to simply not take important sentimental items with you when traveling to a crime-prone area, because such items could tempt you to hesitate to surrender them. In many parts of the world, a criminal will cut your engagement ring off your dead finger if you refuse or even hesitate to give it up.

Of course the equation is dramatically different in a situation where the criminal encounter is likely to be life-threatening, such as a kidnapping by criminals who could sell you to the Islamic State. In such instances, it is better to attempt to run, hide or fight than to comply.

The Trouble With Taxis

At this point we do not know if Mariani took a registered taxi or an unofficial, "black" taxi. However, by their very nature, taxis are a problem for travelers all around the world. Taxi drivers pose a number of threats, some of which are relatively benign, such as overcharging for a ride. Crimes like this can even occur in areas of the world considered safe. However, in some parts of the world, taxi drivers can pose a more dangerous threat, such as actively helping a criminal gang rob or kidnap — whether express or traditional — a traveler.

Taxi drivers, by nature, are in a position of power because they know where they are going and how much the ride should cost. One way to mitigate the driver's power is through preparation prior to the ride. This can be done by researching travel blogs, using a map, contacting a hotel or asking business associates and contacts in country. A traveler should also use only sanctioned taxis. Many cities will have designated taxi stands where a person can go to hail a taxi. A traveler can often get an estimated fare from this stand. Hotel and restaurant doormen will also usually be willing to hail a reliable taxi for customers. It is generally advisable to never hail a taxi from the street by yourself, especially in a high crime threat location such as Colombia.

In the end, Mariani's death is a tragic event but one that probably could have been avoided. Hopefully, this tragedy can serve as a lesson for other travelers.

Lessons From a Murder in Medellin is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stupid things cops get told. And how we really want to answer them.

One of the greatest pleasures I've had in my professional career was giving a ticket to the wife of the lieutenant governor who was only driving 37 in a 20 (school zone) because she was going to a meeting to help some children. I know this because...she told me. Some people really don't understand that I don't care if you are a politician, a musician, a famous businessman (I've pulled over all). Just sign here and take it up with the judge.

Saw this on the web and has a few good responses. The non-italics are mine.

Stuff People Say to Cops and What We'd Like to Say in Response

As a longtime officer of the law, I came in contact with many individuals over my career. And during that time, I heard a lot of the same tired things over and over.

After a while, it becomes all the more difficult to filter your response from your contemplated response. Here were some of my favorites.

1) "Do you know who I am?" — stopped motorist

My Response:
"No sir, I’m sorry I don’t. Could I please get your license and registration so I can conduct the stop and get you moving again as quickly as possible?"

My Contemplated Response:
"Grab my radio and ask dispatch for an ambulance. We have an adult male suffering from some a case amnesia, as he doesn’t remember his own name."

No, should I expect you have a warrant?
2) "Don’t you have anything better to do? Why aren’t you out catching real criminals?"

My Response:
"Sir, sorry I have upset your day. If you could just bear with me for a minute, I’m sure we can sort all this out."

My Contemplated Response:
"Yes I do, but people like you keep wasting my time with actions that show a willful disregard for the law and the concerns of others."

No, I got nothing better to do right now than give you a ticket. It brings pleasure to my meaningless life.
3) "My tax dollars pay your salary."

My Response:
"Yes, sir I am aware of that. Thank you."

My Contemplated Response:
"Sir, I’m well aware of that. Thank You. Now let’s do some quick math. Let’s imagine you pay 4x more than the average tax paid in the city ($5,200 x 4 = $20,0800). Now divide that by the number of days in a year that the department is open (365). That means you pay 56.90 a day for our salaries.

Now sir, if you would consider that I have 2999 other co-workers, we need to divide 56.90 by 3000 employees. That means you contribute approximately 18 cents a day for my salary. We won’t even take into account that your taxes also go to support school, public works, fire, EMS, and a host of other city expenses.

I’m most grateful for your economic support. After we are done, if you’re not happy I would be happy to return your contribution to my daily wages. Do you have change for a quarter?"

I also pay taxes so as far as I'm concerned I'm self-employed.
4) "Will this help you fill your daily quota?"

My Response:
"Sorry sir, no one likes getting a ticket. You have 21 days to pay it or appeal it. The instructions are on the back."

My Contemplated Response: "No sir, I don’t have a quota. I am free to cite as many jerks like you as I want. Luckily there is no limit."

Not even close but ten more today and I get a free toaster.
5) "Why didn’t you pull over the guy who was in front of me? He was doing the same thing."

My Response:
"Sorry sir, I didn’t see him. I certainly would have if I had."

My Contemplated Response:
"Because sir, I want to give you my undivided attention free of any distractions to ensure we have a quality traffic stop together."

Well, I can only get one of you and it's your lucky day.
6) "Do you see that policeman over there? If you don’t start behaving, he’s going to take you to jail." — mother to misbehaving child

My Response:
"Ma’am, we only arrest bad guys."

My Contemplated Response:
"Thanks a lot ma’am. It’s a great idea to instill that type of fear in your child. That way he will fear and distrust police from an early age. If he’s ever lost or in trouble he will run from those who can help him. You need a license to drive a car, but anyone can have a child."

Excuse me lady, I'm not gonna arrest your kid because you can't discipline your child. You can't raise or feed them, please don't breed them.
7) "Sir, I only had two beers."

My Response:
"Just 2 beers? Sir, is there any medical condition I should be aware of that may be impacting your driving ability?"

My Contemplated Response:
"No you didn’t!!! Nobody in the history of recorded time has had just 2 beers."

Please specify "two beers". Two six packs, two pitchers, two kegs?
8) "You forgot to read me my rights. This case is going to be thrown out of court." — arrested suspect

My Response:
"Yes sir, the Miranda decision is a little complicated."

My Contemplated Response:
"Sir, you so thoroughly screwed up, providing us with so much evidence against you that there exists no need to get a statement from you. No one cares what you have to say. You need to stop watching TV."

Gotta ask, what year of law school are you in?
9) “Are you an undercover cop? You know you have to tell me if you are or the case gets thrown out?”

My Response:
"I’m not a cop. Are you?"

My Contemplated Response:
"Are you an idiot? Do you really think the law requires undercover cops to inform criminals that they are cops when they are working a case? What do you think, everyone who has gone to jail due to undercover operations simply forgot to ask this question?"

Where did you get your legal education, YouTube?

Any other good comments to add?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

And then there was one

I was behind on my final paper for the class and thankfully my professor let me have an unofficial three day extension to complete the assignment. He must have been finishing put because I uploaded the paper (only a 6 page item, not counting cover sheet, references, etc) at 800pm and by 1030pm he sent it back graded. 97! Got an A for the class. And now all I have left is the final class called Capstone.

Problem is the web site will not allow me to register until “all courses are completed…” and this course is shown as still in progress. So I have to wait until tomorrow and call someone to say “Hey, moron, let me pay you some more money please, err register for the class…”

Celebrated with a cigar, Community Coffee and reading a book for pleasure, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”. My goal was to read 26 books this year and I will probably fall a bit short (20 or so) but I was reading a lot for class.

Well, gotta get to sleep. Six comes up early (traffic job at eight) and I need the money. Christmas is coming up quick. And my boy Bugs has crawled under my bed sheets to say he is ready for sleep.

Have a great night.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those who wear the badge....

I saw this on FaceBook and it puts in perspective what it means to put on the badge, the uniform and the Sam Brown. Emphasis mine.
"Those who fight monsters inevitably change. Because of all that they see and do, they lose their innocence, and a piece of their humanity with it. If they want to survive, they begin to adopt some of the same characteristics as the monsters they fight. It is necessary. They become capable of rage, and extreme violence.

There is a fundamental difference, however. They keep those monster tendencies locked away in a cage, deep inside. That monster is only allowed out to protect others, to accomplish the mission, to get the job done.....Not for the perverse pleasure that the monsters feel when they harm others. In fact, those monster tendencies cause damage...GUILT, ISOLATION, DEPRESSION, PTSD. There is a cost for visiting violence on others when you are not a monster. Those who do so know one thing...The cost inflicted upon society as a whole is far greater without those who fight monsters. That is why they are willing to make that horrible sacrifice so that others may live peaceably.

Before you judge one of us, remember this...

We witness things that humans aren't meant to see...and we see them repeatedly. We perform the duties that you feel are beneath you. We solve your problems... Often by visiting violence upon others. We run towards the things that you run away from. We go out to fight what you fear. We stand between you, and the monsters that want to damage you. You want to pretend that they don't exist, but we know better. We do the things that the vast majority are too soft, too weak, too cowardly to do.

Your life is more peaceful.....because of us.

The current political climate in this country holds that there is nothing worth fighting for. Submission is the popular mantra. Warriors are decried, denigrated, and cast as morally inferior. We know how childish, how asinine, and how cowardly that mindset is.

We know this.....There ARE things worth fighting, and dying for. We know that not every problem can be solved through rational discourse...that some problems can only be solved through the application of force and violence. And, while we do prefer the former....we are perfectly capable of the latter.

We believe that fighting what others fear is honorable, noble, and just....and are willing to pay the price for that deeply held belief. Why? For us, it isn't a choice...

It is what we are. We are simply built that way."

Michael Wallace

A book I've referred to multiple times is On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by retired Army psychologist Dave Grossman and a critical point he makes is police and military are trained to kill, but they keep this under control. Others, particularly mass shooters, have the ability to pull the trigger, but not the restraint. And yes, we run to the sound of the guns.

Security Weekly: Mexico's Disorganized Crime, September 17, 2015

By Tristan Reed

With the escape of infamous Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera in July, some speculated that his Sinaloa-based group, the Sinaloa Federation, would rise to power once again. But two months later, fissures and infighting among drug cartels continue unabated, proving that even Guzman is powerless to reverse the inevitable Balkanization of Mexico's drug trade. Ultimately, the forces that drive the evolution of organized crime are simply more powerful than any single crime boss. In fact, since Stratfor's last update in April, there has been little change in the key trends shaping Mexico's organized crime landscape.

This does not mean the territorial lines of Mexico's crime groups have not shifted, or that drug-related turf wars have subsided since the first quarter of 2015. But the trajectories of Mexico's three regional organized crime umbrellas — groups based in Sinaloa state, Tamaulipas state and Tierra Caliente — have remained constant.

Los Zetas, a Tamaulipas-based crime group, had actually expanded into Zacatecas state at the Gulf cartel's expense in an attempt to reclaim lost territory. However, the arrests of several of their leaders during the first quarter of 2015 have made it difficult for the group to consolidate its hold over criminal activity in Tamaulipas. Groups that once fell under the same crime group as Guzman are now operating autonomously and in some areas, such as in Baja California Sur, Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua and Sinaloa states, are violently competing with one another. Meanwhile, organized crime based in the Tierra Caliente region continues the steady rise it began in 2010 as crime groups fragment and the Tierra Caliente-based Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion expands into their domains.

Areas of Cartel Influence in Mexico

Sinaloa-Based Organized Crime

Soon after Guzman's escape, several English- and Spanish-language outlets predicted Guzman might consolidate control over organized crime in Mexico. After demonstrating his powerful networks, relationships with Mexican authorities and incredible wealth by orchestrating his jail break, it was thought that Guzman might take advantage of divisions and infighting among Mexican drug cartels and take over the drug trade.

However, prior to his February 2014 arrest, Guzman's Sinaloa Federation was already starting to fall apart. In western Chihuahua, particularly near the state's borders with Durango and Sinaloa states, criminal groups once under the Sinaloa Federation umbrella were clashing sporadically. In Tijuana, where drug-related violence began to climb again in 2013, virtually all organized crime-related violence was occurring among independent organizations that once fell under the top-down structures of the Arellano Felix Organization or the Sinaloa Federation. Starting in 2012, regional crime bosses who operated under the Sinaloa Federation umbrella began to fight one another in Sinaloa state. And in some cases in Sonora state, such as with Sajid "El Cadete" Quintero Navidad — who once operated under the Sinaloa Federation banner — crime bosses had realigned with Sinaloa Federation rivals like Trinidad "El Chapo Trini" Olivas Valenzuela. Before his capture in 2014, Guzman proved unable to fight against the overarching fracturing of organized crime. While Guzman was in prison, the once-consolidated trafficking circles continued to unravel in Sinaloa and other states such as Baja California Sur.

The Sinaloa Federation effectively no longer exists as a single, cohesive organization. Exceedingly powerful Sinaloa-based crime bosses remain, including Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia, Juan Jose "El Azul" Esparragoza Moreno, Damaso "El Licenciado" Lopez Nunes, and Fausto Isidro "El Chapo Isidro" Meza Flores. Collectively, these crime bosses control the vast majority of Sinaloa-based organized crime activities, but all are effectively running their own criminal organizations, at times working together and in some instances clashing violently. Guzman will use his newfound freedom to build up his enterprise once more, but he will be one of many powerful bosses, rather than the head of a single trafficking ring.

Tamaulipas-Based Organized Crime

As stated in our 2015 annual cartel update, Los Zetas were both poised to expand — as one of the widest operating of the cohesive crime groups remaining in Mexico — but ultimately suffer from the inevitable breakdown that all crime groups in Mexico face. Los Zetas had expanded into Zacatecas in early this year in an attempt to reclaim territory lost to the Velazquez network (also commonly called Los Talibanes, or simply the Gulf cartel). But many of the organization's leading members were arrested by Mexican federal troops in 2015, including the head of the group, Omar "Z-42" Trevino Morales. These losses have possibly fueled internal disputes and likely aided rivals, particularly in Nuevo Leon, Veracruz and Tabasco states, in challenging Los Zetas' position in the region.

In June, violence erupted in the Monterrey area of Nuevo Leon among rival cartels. In one of many incidents, a shooting at a Corona beer distribution center in Garcia left 10 people dead. Though Los Zetas were certainly involved given their presence in the area, precisely which other organizations played a role is not yet certain, particularly since now there are several crime groups calling themselves the Gulf cartel.

In August, attacks in Veracruz and Tabasco states revealed the growing strength of Los Zetas' rivals there as well in regions that have traditionally been strongholds for the Tamaulipas-based cartel. As-yet unidentified shooters killed a Los Zetas regional boss and his second-in-command Aug. 13 in a bar in Orizaba, Veracruz state. Such a leadership loss for Los Zetas at the hands of a rival, particularly in that region, is rare. Even as rivals confront Los Zetas, however, turf wars have not significantly raised overall levels of violence in Veracruz and Tabasco states.

Tierra Caliente-Based Organized Crime

As Stratfor also stated in its 2015 annual cartel update, the decline of both Tamaulipas- and Sinaloa-based organized crime has enabled a third regional criminal umbrella to emerge from the Tierra Caliente region in southwest Mexico. Tierra Caliente groups such as La Familia Michoacana that once operated under crime groups from one of the two other regional umbrella organizations had begun to expand on their own in 2010. While La Familia Michoacana and then its successor, the Knights Templar, have been weakened from fighting with criminal rivals and security forces, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has since risen to lead the expansion of Tierra Caliente organized crime.

Given Sinaloa- and Tamaulipas-based organized crime's continued devolution, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion faces much less resistance from rivals as it expands into states like Baja California, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Veracruz. Nevertheless, it still has competitors in the Tierra Caliente region where it is based, including Guerreros Unidos, Los Rojos, La Familia Michoacana, the remnants of the Knights Templar, and even civilian militias commonly referred to as self-defense militias or community police. As a result, Mexico's southwest region remains the center of organized crime-related violence in Mexico.

The breakdown of the Sinaloa Federation and decline of Los Zetas have pushed the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion into the national spotlight. In 2015, Mexico City renewed its largely ineffective efforts to combat the criminal organization. But the government has been distracted by social unrest in country's south and southwest, spurred by the Sept. 26 abduction of normalistas in Iguala, Guerrero state, and organized by militant teacher unions protesting against education reform. Since Mexico's June 7 national elections, however, unrest has fallen drastically while protesting teacher unions at the moment appear to have lost their capabilities to organize massive demonstrations that could overwhelm security forces. Federal troops will likely have more freedom to target Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion leadership.

Balkanization Continues

The continued fighting among the various crime groups, albeit occurring at lower and more localized levels, has resulted in levels of homicides in 2015 comparable to those seen in 2014. There were 9,601 intentional homicides nationwide from January to July 2015, compared with 9,317 during the same time period of 2014. Overall, violence is not likely to substantially decline by the end of 2015.

While each year Mexico's organized crime as a whole breaks down further, its sources of revenue are actually expanding. As a result, even lower-level crime groups still enjoy wealth to carry out turf wars with rivals, to evade targeted operations by federal troops and to expand despite rising competition.

As with each year since 2012, all evidence indicates that the Balkanization of organized crime in Mexico will carry on. Mexico's two most powerful crime groups, Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation, will continue to fragment, possibly facing their inevitable demise. Meanwhile, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion will seemingly expand and consolidate territory — as did Los Zetas until 2013. However, as with its Tierra Caliente rivals such as La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar, this expansion will still attract the attention of the Mexican government, and the ensuring crackdowns will likely further fracture the drug trade in the country.

Mexico's Disorganized Crime is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Geopolitical Weekly: The Logic and Risks Behind Russia's Statelet Sponsorship, September 15, 2015

By Reva Bhalla

Mother Russia can be quite generous when it comes to her collection of statelets. In the early 1990s, when a broken Russia had no choice but to suck in her borders, a severely distracted Kremlin still found the time and money to promote and sponsor the fledgling breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia and Transdniestria in Moldova. And as Russia became more economically coherent over the years, the number of Russian troops in these territories grew, and a bigger slice of the Russian budget was cut out to keep the quasi-states afloat.

These post-Soviet statelets have a good deal in common. They are all tiny — South Ossetia is roughly 3,900 square kilometers (1,500 square miles) and has about 40,000 inhabitants, Abkhazia covers 8,500 square kilometers and its population is about 240,000, and Transdniestria is 4,100 square kilometers and has a population of 555,000. They are also all economically isolated, effectively run on black and gray economies, and are largely dependent on Russia's financial largesse for survival. Most important, from Russia's point of view, they each occupy strategic spaces in the post-Soviet sphere where Russian troops and thus the potential for further intervention can apply acute pressure on Georgia and Moldova should they draw too close to the West. The presence of Russian troops in these breakaway territories forms the tripwire that any Western patron will be wary to cross when it comes to defending those countries in their time of need. This, after all, is the true deterrent value of statelet sponsorship.

But Russia's strategy has also gotten to be a lot more burdensome and much more complicated in recent years. In addition to readopting Crimea (covering 26,000 square kilometers with a population of 2 million), Russia has added to its basket of statelets the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic (16,000 square kilometers collectively with a population of 1.5 million and 2 million, respectively) in eastern Ukraine. Though exact figures are hard to come by, various compiled estimates show Russia has annually been injecting about $300 million into Abkhazia and at least $100 million into South Ossetia and Transdniestria each to finance their annual budgets, provide cheap fuel, pay pensions and so on. In addition, Russia has allocated at least $2.42 billion in 2015 to support Crimea (not including military costs) and, according to a report written by Higher School of Economics analyst Sergei Aleksashenko, Russia has allocated at least $2 billion in the federal 2015 budget to sustain its military support in eastern Ukraine, a figure that continues to grow.

And the list is only getting longer. As the world has observed in recent weeks, Russian military support for Syrian loyalist forces in the coastal Alawite enclave of Latakia has dramatically increased, with all signs pointing to a long-term stay. Knowing that any negotiated settlement is likely to fall apart in the end, the Russian plan is to help Syria's Alawites carve out a de facto state. Meanwhile, back in the Caucasus, the long frozen conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh may also be taking a significant turn in the coming months. We see growing indications that Russia and Azerbaijan may be collaborating to shake up the status quo between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with Russia readied to send in peacekeepers and stay for the long haul in a bid to tighten its grip in the region.

From eastern Ukraine to Alawite Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia appears to be making a conscious effort to widen its footprint in strategic spaces. This will be a pricey endeavor, but the geopolitical logic behind these moves is not lacking.

Whether strong or weak, capitalist, communist or tsarist, Russia will be compelled to anchor itself to natural geographic barriers for its own security. In eastern Ukraine, the natural Russian extension is to the Dnieper River, and short of reaching that river, Russia will try its best to use the separatist regions to both undermine Kiev and create an imperfect buffer against NATO's growing involvement with Kiev. The Crimean Peninsula reinforces Russia's hold on its only warm-water base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, and naval projection on the Black Sea gives Russia access to the Mediterranean. The ports of Latakia and Tartus on the Syrian Mediterranean coast — an Alawite stronghold now depending on Russian aid — gives Russia a physical foothold in the eastern Mediterranean and a platform to influence power plays in the Levant. In the mountainous Caucasus, where Russia has already been strengthening its presence in Georgia's breakaway territories and remains Armenia's only real patron, a developing bargain with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has the potential to expand Russia's presence even more and thus reinforce a Russian buffer to the south.

A Buffer in Eastern Ukraine

In order of priority, Russia's position in eastern Ukraine comes first. Ukraine, from centuries past to today, forms the soft underbelly of the Russian state that must be insulated at all costs. If Ukraine comes under significant influence or control of a Western power, the Russian southwestern flank will be laid bare. But Russia is not strong enough to anchor itself on the Dnieper River and absorb both the military and economic costs of such an endeavor. So Russia must settle. The best Russia can do at this point is to try to consolidate autonomy for the eastern rebel provinces, using its tight grip over separatist commanders to dial up and down the conflict as the need arises. If Russia feels as though its demands are being ignored when it comes to NATO's buildup, sanctions or the like, violence in eastern Ukraine flares up. Once the Germans and the French get the message and start pressuring Kiev to make certain political concessions, the fighting quickly de-escalates.

This is a pattern that all sides are getting used to, but it is still far from ideal for Moscow. No matter what negotiations are in play, Russia is not about to withdraw its military foothold in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, that military dynamic provides the foundation for a pro-West Kiev to lean on the United States for help in defending itself against a persistent Russian threat. Russia must therefore carefully calibrate its military moves in eastern Ukraine, making clear that any Western push would risk a direct confrontation with the Russians, but also not going far enough to where its actions compel a U.S. response that could cause the Russian buffer to recede even more in the end.

Preparing for an Alawite Statelet in Syria

Russia's moves in Syria are deeply intertwined with this dynamic in Ukraine. Even as Russia is locked into a long-term tug-of-war with the United States over the former Soviet rim, Moscow needs mutual areas of interest on the periphery to shape a dialogue with Washington. The Russians see the conundrum the United States is in, trying to fight the Islamic State with the help of regional powers while also trying to avoid the messier process of wholesale government change. Since early this year, Russia has been expending considerable effort to try to cobble together a negotiation that would outline the shape of a post-Bashar al Assad state, making itself appear as an indispensable partner to Washington when it comes to finding an end to the civil war. The United States needs this negotiation, and it needs the backers of the al Assad government, Russia and Iran, to bring the loyalists to the table. The more the United States depends on Russia to facilitate the negotiation, so goes the Russian logic, the more leverage Moscow has to negotiate limits on Western encroachment in Russia's immediate backyard.

But Russia is also not under any illusions when it comes to bringing peace to Syria's warring factions. Any negotiation is doomed to fail so long as the more intractable and competent rebel factions prefer the battleground to the negotiating table. Russia's strategy thus comes in two parts — it must create a credible basis for a negotiation over Syria that it can use as leverage with the United States, but it must also prepare for the worst to protect its position in the eastern Mediterranean for when that negotiation inevitably falls apart. Russia's substantial military buildup at the ports of Latakia and Tartus on the Alawite coast in recent weeks, to go along with its existing naval depot at Tartus, speaks to both of these objectives.

For the Syrian government to be comfortable entering negotiations, it needs to first feel secure in its core territory, running from the south through Damascus up through Zabadani and parts of Homs and Hama to the Mediterranean coastline. This is a plan that Russia and Iran are working closely together on. (Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian major general and the commander of the Quds Force, is rumored to have traveled to Moscow earlier in September to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss the implementation of this strategy.) A look at the satellite imagery of Russia's buildup so far shows airfield construction, possible control towers and housing for troops. Russia appears to be building up the logistical capability to stage aerial assets, such as fighter jets and helicopters, to help reinforce the Alawite statelet. Stratfor sources have indicated that Russia's military buildup in Syria so far has cost around $500 million, sourced from the military budget of Russia's Black Sea command, while the military equipment Russia is deploying to Syria remains under Russian control. In essence, the Russian-Iranian plan enables the Alawites to enter a negotiation on a stronger footing, but also with the security that they will have a de facto Alawite state to fall back on as the Syrian state formally fragments with time.

A Shake-Up in the Caucasus?

Further under the radar, we can see Russia's strategy in the Caucasus starting to evolve after more than two decades of frozen conflict between the former Soviet states of Azerbaijan and Armenia over the tiny enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh (4,400 square kilometers and now a majority Armenian population of around 150,000) has been under the de facto control of Yerevan since a 1994 cease-fire ended the war between the two foes. Economically isolated, Armenia hosts some 5,000 Russian forces and sits firmly under the Russian security umbrella, lacking alternative patrons. In contrast, Azerbaijan, far less geographically constrained and endowed with energy resources, likes to keep its options open, always opting for a balance between the West and its former Soviet roots. That said, Azerbaijan and Russia have been a lot cozier than usual in recent months, raising questions in our mind whether Moscow has enticed Baku with an offer pertaining to the fiercely nationalist topic of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan is fed up with negotiations mediated by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and wants to see if it can put its years of military preparations to work to retake the territory. Armenia, occupying the territory's high ground and thus holding the strategic advantage over Azerbaijan, would obviously prefer to keep the status quo. The only way Armenia would likely be forced to renegotiate terms on Nagorno-Karabakh is if hostilities resumed and Russia, Armenia's sole patron, were to play a dominant role in mediating their end. It is little coincidence that the Armenian rumor mill has been buzzing with speculation that Russia and Azerbaijan are developing an understanding that would have Russian peacekeepers occupy and neutralize the territory. We are doubtful that this plan could be imposed on Armenia solely through diplomatic means.

While we cannot be sure that this scenario will ultimately play out, we have collected enough clues to date that put a Nagorno-Karabakh shake-up high on our watch list. And with Nagorno-Karabakh on the list of territories up for Russian adoption, Russia's commitment to creating new footholds abroad has the potential to expand even more.

The Costs of Sponsorship

Russia's strategy may not be cheap, but it is entirely rational from a geopolitical point of view. Russia is weakening internally at the same time it is confronting a strong and growing threat from the United States on its former Soviet doorstep. While Russia is still in the game, it might as well create and reinforce as many perches as it can in its near abroad to leverage against the West and maintain whatever influence it still holds in preparation for much more difficult years to come. Thus, the bill that Moscow is footing for its statelets, even factoring in a volatile ruble, may still be quite reasonable from a Russian perspective. Operating from a low and still rough estimate, we can assume that Russia is spending at least $5 billion annually on these quasi-states, which is still less than 3 percent of Russia's 2015 federal budget of $206 billion. This amount does not include the large amount of pre-allocated defense budget that goes into the Ukraine and Syria operations. There is also an opportunity cost to bear in mind. Pre-allocated military resources cannot be redirected to other purposes, such as procurement, training, and research and development unless the defense budget as a whole continues to increase.

However, the costs are not just financial. Nagorno-Karabakh is a tinderbox; once the conflict resumes, it will not be easy to contain. It is a region where both a resurgent Turkey and Iran will try to push back against an overly ambitious Russia. In Syria, the threat of mission creep is also real, since the loyalist government is combating an assembly of Sunni powers with a shared interest to undercut Iran. Moreover, with Russia preparing the ground for stationing aerial assets, it must calculate the risks of operating in a crowded battlespace, with U.S., Turkish, Israeli and potentially other European and Arab coalition partners entering the fray. In Ukraine, just as Russian sponsorship of eastern Ukraine incrementally increases, a U.S. military buildup on Russia's European frontier will grow in kind. Ultimately, this is Russia's backyard, and Russia will be far more constrained than the United States when it comes to this level of competition. A statelet sponsorship strategy can go only so far.

The Logic and Risks Behind Russia's Statelet Sponsorship is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dan Blather, new media and Truth

What a crock!

Dan Rather was known for many things but one thing he is not is objective, open minded or truthful. But don't let the truth get in the way of a good fiction.

Some background. First, Dan Rather hates the Bush family, especially George W. Bush.

Then in 2000, Rather, at the last minute, brings out a 25 year old DWI incident on George W. Bush. On November 2, 2000, a couple of days before the election. And he had that news for months, but for some reason he waited till he could really hit Bush and W would have not time to react.

Now we go to 2004. Rather and Mary Mapes put out a story in saying George W Bush didn't perform his drills for the Texas Air Guard. And as backup they use Bill Burket's supposed letters to himself, that were again, written in the mid 70s.

Now I find it curious that the same objective media looks at a possible question if Bush conducted drills in the early 70s, but they will not even check into he background of our current president? But they send over 100 reporters to Alaska the day after Sarah Palin is announced at the Republican Vice Presidential nominee. And they are doing their best to destroy every Republican candidate this year. But I digress.

Now we have the propaganda from Robert Redford, a movie called Truth. Orwell is smiling now. But Redford is not explicitly saying it was "true", but that the corporate big wigs (like him) fell to pressure from the Bush campaign.
TIFF: Dan Rather Chokes Up at 'Truth' Premiere, Praises Film for Accuracy

"A film called 'Truth' should be accurate," the iconic CBS news anchor said of director James Vanderbilt’s movie about his 2006 exit and the events leading to it.

Iconic CBS news anchor Dan Rather on Saturday praised the Robert Redford-starring Rathergate movie Truth for its accuracy and performances ahead of its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

"Naturally I was pleased, and pleasantly surprised. This film is very accurate. A film called Truth should be accurate," Rather told The Hollywood Reporter during a prescreening party. James Vanderbilt's movie centers on Rather's 2006 exit from CBS after a 60 Minutes investigation two years earlier into President George W. Bush’s alleged draft-dodging during the Vietnam war.

Rather praised the performances of Redford as the famed CBS newsman and Cate Blanchett as his CBS 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. "The acting is superior. I think it's an emotional film. Of course people will say I found it emotional because it's about me. But I say that as objectively as I can," he said.

The movie, which played to a standing ovation at the Winter Garden Theater, paints a highly sympathetic picture of Rather's role in the scandal that cost him his job at CBS. After the screening, Rather appeared on stage with director Vanderbilt and actors Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace (Redford did not attend).

Rather choked up when asked by an audience member if he would have done anything differently in his career. "Journalism is not an exact science," he said, adding that there were "plenty of things I would do over."

Since his exit from CBS, Rather said he had "spent a lot of time practicing humility … and tremendous gratitude." In the film, Rather and producer Mapes are depicted as crusading journalists whose story is attacked by critics with a political agenda. CBS News chief Andy Heyward is depicted particularly negatively.

The clear suggestion in the movie is that Rather and Mapes were fired to appease the Bush White House and to protect the CBS financial bottom line. Before the screening, Rather looked beyond his exit from CBS to stress Truth was less about him, Mapes and President Bush and more about the broader corporatization of the news business.

"In recent years, lobbyists, very large corporate executives and political operatives have begun to influence the news people get far more than people realize. In my years in journalism, this is the biggest development — the corporatization, the politicization and the Hollywoodization of news," he said....

Now what caught Bill Burkett and destroyed the credibility of the story was bloggers and other web sites looks at this supposedly 30 year old note and noticed the test was multiple sized.

Letters are different widths, such as an "I" is not as wide as a "W". However, in the early 70s very few typewriters had this feature, they set all letter widths to a standard size. There were some models that had different widths, but they were expensive and used for things like newspapers. I know this because in high school when I was in Air Force Junior ROTC we had two of them and used them to produce the squadron news paper, The Cadet. We would type the draft and then on each line mark it "-6" or "+5", meaning we would have to add a add or subtract spaces to make a right side adjusted. Took forever. Something you do by clicking a button now.

Bloggers and other web sites immediately looked at this and said "Wait, this looks like MS Word default settings and you will never get that from a typewriter." Within days Rather and Mapes were put on the defensive and left to saying "Well, there is no proof they are wrong." Now if his ego had not gotten in the way, Rather could have slipped out of it by saying, "We've got a few issues with our evidence and we'll get back with you..." but he couldn't do that. His hatred of the Bushes overrides anything and it finally bit him in the ass.

One of the major outcomes of this was the slap in the face it was to the major media. For ages they had great power in what was covered, but more importantly, what was not covered. Now with social media, Internet publishing and the deluge of new media their monopoly is gone. And they don't like that. But you can't stop the flow of time and your time is up. For Dan Rather, and the old time major media.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Security Weekly: Countering a Shapeless Terrorist Threat, September 10, 2015

By Scott Stewart

Last week's Security Weekly discussed how the digital revolution has allowed terrorist operatives employing leaderless resistance methods to act as their own media. For groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, this ability greatly enhances the effectiveness of propaganda. At the same time, however, the information disseminated benefits authorities by providing valuable insight into the planning and execution of attacks.

Three weeks ago I countered the misconception that leaderless resistance always means that assailants act alone. Terrorists can also organize small cells, which can prove more dangerous than individual attackers. Unlike lone wolves, the members of these cells can combine their skills and resources to launch more effective attacks, although operational security becomes more difficult.

Building on these two themes, this week I will focus on how operatives carry out attacks. This is key — understanding the process can help authorities identify operatives not directly connected to a terrorist organization who would otherwise go unnoticed.

The Terrorist Attack Cycle

Counterterrorism agencies and programs are very good at targeting known groups and individuals — this is what they were designed to do. But they struggle with the ambiguity of leaderless resistance. This is, of course, why the jihadist movement and others have adopted this strategy.

Authorities have had their successes. There have been numerous cases in which these actors, practicing poor operational security, have reached out to outsiders (most often a government informant) to seek help conducting an attack. In other instances, they have even identified themselves on social media. These amateurish mistakes have made these particular operatives easy pickings for investigators, but more skilled operatives have shown themselves adept at hiding in the murky ambiguity of society. These are often identified too late, only after they have conducted an attack.

These more sophisticated grassroots operatives know how to operate under the radar, but this does not mean they are not vulnerable. This is because regardless of ideology or operational model, anyone planning a terrorist attack must follow the steps of the terrorist attack cycle. This is underscored by the 14th edition of Inspire magazine, released Sept. 9, in which al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula provided a step-by-step tutorial on how to plan assassinations that highlighted the terrorist attack cycle.

This cycle will always vary at least slightly based on the specific circumstances. A simple pipe bomb attack, for example, will require less surveillance than an assassination or kidnapping, and a suicide attacker needs no escape plan. Despite these variations, certain steps will need to be taken, meaning there will be windows when planners are unavoidably vulnerable to detection. Operatives are most open to detection during the pre-operational surveillance, weapons acquisition and deployment phases of the attack cycle.

Sophisticated terrorist organizations understand this and will attempt to minimize this risk of detection by using different cells for specific functions. The Provisional Irish Republican Army, for example, used separate cells for surveillance, weapons acquisition, bombmaking and launching the attack itself. Sophisticated jihadist attacks have followed a similar strategy, including the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings and David Headley's surveillance of targets prior to the Mumbai attacks.

Grassroots operatives working alone are particularly weak in this regard because they must conduct every step of the terrorist attack cycle by themselves. They therefore expose themselves to detection multiple times before they can even launch an attack. Even grassroots cells, however, are limited — they rarely have the manpower or membership needed to conduct multiple tasks. On top of this, grassroots operatives have limited terrorist tradecraft in areas such as surveillance, planning and bombmaking.

Because they have limited resources, authorities normally deploy countermeasures such as surveillance detection only at hard targets. For this reason, grassroots operatives tend to focus on soft, poorly defended targets. And there are always soft targets. No government can protect everything, even with a massive security budget or powerful internal security service. When authorities shift their focus to protect one class of targets, terrorists can switch to more vulnerable alternatives. But the operatives must still follow the same cycle — and this behavior is evident if someone is paying attention.

The How

The terrorist attack cycle is extremely vulnerable during the pre-operational surveillance phase. Most operatives are particularly bad at surveillance tradecraft. They tend to behave suspiciously, look out of place and lurk — what we refer to as bad demeanor. The only reason they are able to succeed is that in general nobody is watching for these signs.

Many people think that the government is all-powerful, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the United States, the FBI has fewer than 14,000 special agents to investigate all of the criminal statutes it is responsible for enforcing. This includes counterintelligence, white-collar crime, bank robbery and kidnapping. At any one time there are only around 2,000 or 3,000 FBI special agents assigned to work counterterrorism across the entire United States, which includes transnational responsibilities. By way of comparison, there are more than 34,000 police officers in the New York Police Department alone.

These limited counterterrorism resources are mostly focused on monitoring people with known terrorist training and connections, who tend to be the most dangerous. The chance of a grassroots operative being caught in an operational act by an FBI agent or even a police officer assigned to a Joint Terrorism Task Force is fairly small unless he makes an egregious operational security blunder.

Especially with a soft target, a grassroots operative has a far greater chance of being observed conducting an operational act such as surveillance by an ordinary citizen or regular police officer. Indeed, this is why we have long stressed that police officers and citizens play an important role as grassroots defenders in helping provide the last line of common defense against the grassroots terrorist threat.

This has worked several times already. In July 2011, an alert gun store clerk notified police after a man behaved suspiciously while purchasing smokeless powder. The authorities investigated and learned that the man, an Army deserter, had planned to construct a pressure cooker bomb and attack a restaurant frequented by U.S. Army personnel. A device constructed with the same plans from Inspire magazine was later used in the Boston Marathon bombing.

There are other telltale signs. Attackers will frequently test bomb components they have manufactured. This will often result in small, unexplained explosions. Other indicators of bombmaking activity include the presence of unusual quantities or unexplained presence of chemicals such as acetone, acid, peroxide and methyl alcohol, or metallic powders such as aluminum, magnesium and ferric oxide. Beyond chemicals, bombmakers tend to use laboratory implements such as beakers, scales, protective gloves and masks — things not normally found in a hotel room or residence. (Some of this same equipment is associated with the manufacture of methamphetamines.)

Additionally, although electronic devices such as cellphones or wristwatches may not seem unusual in the context of a hotel room or apartment, signs that such devices have been disassembled or modified and have wires protruding from them should raise a red flag because these devices are commonly used as initiators for improvised explosive devices.

Obviously, not every person lurking suspiciously outside of a shopping mall is a terrorist, and not every container of nitric acid will be absolute confirmation of bombmaking activity, but reporting such incidents to the authorities will give them an opportunity to investigate and determine whether the incidents are innocuous or sinister.

That said, it is important to note that grassroots defenders should not be vigilantes, and this is not a call to institute the type of paranoid informant network that existed in East Germany. It is also not a call to Islamophobia — the Muslim community itself is an important component of grassroots defense, and many plots have been thwarted based upon tips from inside this community. Indeed, it is the children of Muslim families who are being recruited by jihadists to serve as shock troops or human smart bombs, and Muslims have suffered terrible losses at the hands of the jihadists. Grassroots defenders are just citizens who take responsibility for their own security and for the security of those around them. In an era when the threat of attack comes from increasingly diffuse sources, a good defense requires more eyes and ears than the authorities possess.

Countering a Shapeless Terrorist Threat is republished with permission of Stratfor.