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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A school board with its head out of its ass...and they are in California!

NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre said the truth last month on school shootings, among other mass killings."The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,"

Naturally the usual suspects like our idiot President, the moron Senator from California Feinstein don't see that. Then again they don't see their hypocrisy in having 24/7 armed security for life or packing a gun themselves for protection. But at least one school board in CA has it right.

I've been on patrol for over 14 years and I've carried a rifle for ten of them. I have a Bushmaster AR-15 and carry five 15 round magazines. I've pulled the rifle once in that time and you know, there are not been a mass shooting. Maybe because the man with the rifle doesn't want to kill dozens of innocents in a screwed up attempt to make himself famous before getting killed.

So that that premise and continue to it's logical conclusion. It's not the gun, but the person behind the gun that causes the mass killing. What a concept. And if someone wants to kill, they will find a way.

Good work Fontana Unified School District.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Is there a sign of the rule of law out there!

B Hussein Obama has shown his contempt rule of law and specifically the limits the Constitution places on the federal government since his coming on the national scene. Obamacare, the takeover of GM and Chrysler, the seizure of the banking system are all not allowed by that old document. Then again it's living and breathing, right? Well, there is a chance we have some push back.
Court: Obama appointments are unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In an embarrassing setback for President Barack Obama, a federal appeals court panel ruled that he violated the Constitution in making recess appointments last year, a decision that would effectively curtail a president's ability to bypass the Senate to fill administration vacancies.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments last year to the National Labor Relations Board because the Senate was officially in session — and not in recess — at the time. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions.

The court said the president could only fill vacancies with the recess appointment procedure if the openings arise when the Senate is in an official recess, which it defined as the break between sessions of Congress.

...Obama made the recess appointments on Jan. 4, 2012, after Senate Republicans spent months blocking his choices for an agency they contended was biased in favor of unions. Obama claims he acted properly because the Senate was away for the holidays on a 20-day recess. The Constitution allows for such appointments without Senate approval when Congress is in recess.

But during that time, GOP lawmakers argued, the Senate technically had stayed in session because it was gaveled in and out every few days for so-called "pro forma" sessions...

..."Either the Senate is in session, or it is in recess," Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the 46-page ruling. "If it has broken for three days within an ongoing session, it is not in "the Recess" described in the Constitution."

Simply taking a break of an evening or a weekend during a regular working session cannot count, he said. Sentelle said that otherwise "the president could make appointments any time the Senate so much as broke for lunch."
Now this is good, we have a sign of the rule of law. But this is the part I really love.
The judge rejected arguments from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which claimed the president has discretion to decide that the Senate is unavailable to perform its advice and consent function.

"Allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointment power would eviscerate the Constitution's separation of powers," Sentelle wrote.
Separation of powers. What a quaint concept. Maybe it will catch on.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Security Weekly: The Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis, January 24th, 2013

By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis

The recent jihadist attack on the Tigantourine natural gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria, and the subsequent hostage situation there have prompted some knee-jerk discussions among media punditry. From these discussions came the belief that the incident was spectacular, sophisticated and above all unprecedented. A closer examination shows quite the opposite.

Indeed, very little of the incident was without precedent. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who orchestrated the attack, has employed similar tactics and a similar scale of force before, and frequently he has deployed forces far from his group's core territory in northern Mali. Large-scale raids, often meant to take hostages, have been conducted across far expanses of the Sahel. What was unprecedented was the target. Energy and extraction sites have been attacked in the past, but never before was an Algerian natural gas facility selected for such an assault.

A closer look at the operation also reveals Belmokhtar's true intentions. The objective of the attack was not to kill hostages but to kidnap foreign workers for ransom -- an objective in keeping with many of Belmokhtar's previous forays. But in the end, his operation was a failure. His group killed several hostages but did not destroy the facility or successfully transport hostages away from the site. He lost several men and weapons, and just as important, he appears to have also lost the millions of dollars he could have gained through ransoming his captives.

Offering Perspective

Until recently, Belmokhtar and his group, the Mulathameen Brigade, or the "Masked Ones," which donned the name "Those Who Sign in Blood" for the Tigantourine operation, were associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Prior to their association with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, they were a part of Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which operated in the Sahel. As part of these groups, Belmokhtar led many kidnapping raids and other operations throughout the region, and these past examples offer perspective for examining the Tigantourine operation and for attempting to forecast the groups' future activities.

In April 2003, Belmokhtar was one of the leaders of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat operation that took 32 European tourists hostage in the Hoggar Mountains near Illizi, Algeria, which is roughly 257 kilometers (160 miles) southwest of the Tigantourine facility. Seventeen hostages were freed after an Algerian military raid, and the rest were released in August 2003 -- save for one woman, who died of sunstroke.
Prior to 2006, when the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat essentially became al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings occurred roughly once a year. But after 2006, the operational tempo of kidnappings in the Sahel quickened, with about three to five operations conducted per year. According to U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, al Qaeda earned approximately $120 million in ransoms from 2004 to 2012. Cohen added that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had become the most proficient kidnapping unit of all al Qaeda's franchise groups.

Examples of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's proficiency abound. In September 2010, the group took seven hostages from a uranium mine in Arlit, Niger, and kidnapped four European tourists in Mali in January 2009. More recently, it kidnapped three aid workers in Tindouf, Algeria, in October 2011.

Typically the group prefers to kidnap more than one person. Having multiple hostages allows the captors to kill one or more of them to ratchet up pressure for the ransom of the others. Guarding multiple hostages requires more resources, but Belmokhtar has plenty of human resources, and the additional ransom makes guarding them worth the extra effort.

Holding multiple hostages also enables the kidnappers to make political statements -- often connected to outrageous demands. In the Tigantourine attack, much attention was paid to the militants' demands to the U.S. government to release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as "The Blind Sheikh," and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of terrorism charges. But again, such demands are not unprecedented. Edwin Dyer, one of the four European tourists kidnapped in January 2009, was beheaded in June 2009 after the British government refused al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's demand to release imprisoned jihadist cleric Abu Qatada. The group again demanded the release of Abu Qatada in April 2012 in exchange for British-South African citizen Stephen Malcolm, who was kidnapped in Timbuktu, Mali, in November 2011. Certainly the militants had no realistic expectation that the British would meet their demands; the demands and Dyer's subsequent execution were meant as political statements, not realistic objectives.

Botched Missions

Tactically, how the Tigantourine attack transpired remains unclear. What we do know is that the amount of militants used in the attack is not unprecedented. While serving as a unit leader for the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in 2005, Belmokhtar led a group of 150 militants in a raid on a military outpost in Lemgheiti, Mauritania, that left 15 Mauritanian soldiers dead and another 17 wounded.

According to a Jan. 21 statement made by Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Jan. 21, it appears that Belmokhtar's Tigantourine operation was a two-pronged attack. One team appears to have been tasked with intercepting a bus taking Western employees from the facility to the airport. Militants reportedly used vehicles marked as oil company security or as belonging to the Algerian government. Sellal noted that the objective of the operation was to take a group of the hostages out of the country, presumably transporting them to northern Mali's Kidal region, where in recent years al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has held its foreign hostages.

Notably, the Tigantourine facility is located only about 32 kilometers from the Libyan border. The attackers probably took advantage of the chaos in Libya to gather weapons and prepare for the attack and then came across the border from Libya to conduct the attack. They could have covered very quickly the distance from the Libyan border to the facility, and this likely provided them an element of tactical surprise.

The second prong of the attack was directed against the facility itself. Heavily armed attackers surprised the security forces at the facility and subdued them by concentrating their forces and using overwhelming firepower. Algerian forces recovered from the assailants a recoilless rifle, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and several medium and light machine guns. We are currently unsure if this group was tasked with taking additional hostages at the facility and fleeing with them, staging a drawn-out hostage drama, as in Beslan, or sabotaging the facility and fleeing. Such an operation may have meant to divert attention from the group of militants that was transporting hostages out of the country. Having a group of hostages in custody outside Algeria could have helped them extract the second team from the facility.

In any case, the first unit apparently failed to achieve its objective, and it does not appear that the militants were able to take hostages from the bus and quickly transport them out of the country. (Currently, not all of the hostages are accounted for, but they are most likely among the unidentified dead. It will take time for forensics teams to identify them.) Moreover, on the second day helicopter gunships thwarted the escape efforts of some militants, who had used foreign hostages as human shields.

Some reports indicate that the attackers set explosive charges around the plant and attempted to destroy it Jan. 19, an action that apparently triggered the final assault to neutralize the militants at the facility. We have not seen photos of any demolition charges or any other indication that the attackers employed any sort of sophisticated improvised explosive devices in the operation. If the attackers went to the trouble to bring large quantities of explosives with them on the raid, they likely did so intending to use the explosives to damage the plant or to facilitate a drawn-out hostage drama -- or both. The militants wouldn't need large quantities of explosives to seize hostages, and they would not have spent the money to buy them or the effort to transport them unless they are critical to their mission.

But tactically, both missions -- stopping a vehicle to kidnap foreigners and storming a facility -- are within the demonstrated capabilities of Sahel-based jihadist militants. In addition to numerous vehicular ambushes al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has conducted to steal cargo or grab hostages, it has also raided hotels, homes and clinics to seize hostages. Perhaps the attack most similar to Tigantourine was the September 2010 raid on the Areva uranium mining facility near Arlit, Niger. The facility was more than 320 kilometers from the Malian border and more than 160 kilometers from the border with Algeria. The militants demonstrated their ability to operate hundreds of kilometers from their bases in northern Mali, successfully storm a facility and return to northern Mali with Western hostages. These militant groups have also staged large-scale raids on military bases across the Sahel.

Several indicators suggest the Tigantourine operation was intended to seize hostages, not kill hostages. According to a June 2007 classified cable released by Wikileaks, the U.S. Embassy in Algiers said that Belmokhtar had criticized al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's suicide operations that mean to kill civilians. Moreover, the attackers did not immediately begin to shoot foreigners as they did during the November 2008 Mumbai attack and the June 2004 attack against foreign energy workers in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. They failed to hold these hostages for any period of time, and by all accounts they failed to take Western hostages back to northern Mali. This amounts to a significant loss for Belmokhtar.

Avoiding Complacency at Energy Sites

Despite a long history of militant activity in Algeria, energy facilities had largely escaped unscathed -- until last week. When al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb began to conduct large vehicle bombings in Algiers and roadside bombing attacks against buses carrying foreign energy workers in or near the capital, energy companies countered the threat by flying workers directly into airports near energy facilities like the one in In Amenas.

This lack of attacks led to some complacency on the part of Algerian officials and security forces at Tigantourine. But in the wake of the recent attack, security at such facilities will be increased, and any sense of complacency will disappear -- at least for a while. And because militants prefer to hit softer targets, we are unlikely to see follow-on attacks at similar facilities in the region in the immediate future. It may also take Belmokhtar some time to replace the leaders and materiel unexpectedly lost in the attack.

However, with targets in the region becoming scarcer and harder to attack, these groups will likely continue to extend their range of operations for new kidnapping victims. Doing so would not only replace the resources they lost in the attack but would also circumvent the French and African military offensive in Mali, where their traditional smuggling activities will be disrupted.

Another lingering concern is the presence of large quantities of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in the region. If Belmokhtar or other militants decide to attack Westerners working at energy facilities in the region instead of merely kidnapping them, and if increased security prevents them from other direct assaults, like Tigantourine, these militants could attack aircraft used to ferry Westerners to airports near these remote sites.

As Mali becomes a more difficult environment in which to operate, these groups likely will retreat, at least initially, to Mali's Kidal region and possibly Niger's Air region. Once those areas face the French-backed African intervention forces, a retreat farther back into southern Libya is likely, due to the vacuum of authority there and the close links they have with Libyan militants.

Contrary to what has been widely discussed, the Tigantourine attack fit well within the range and capability of Sahel-based jihadist militants like those of Belmokhtar's group. Thus the attack was more of a reminder of the region's chronic problems and less a startling new threat. Militancy and banditry were fixtures in the Sahel well before the jihadist ideology entered the region. This history -- combined with the vacuum of authority in the region brought on by the Malian coup and the overthrow of Gadhafi, the prospect of millions of dollars in ransom and the large quantities of available weapons -- means we will see more kidnappings and other attacks in the years to come.

The Unspectacular, Unsophisticated Algerian Hostage Crisis is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Geopolitical Weekly: The United Kingdom Moves Away from the European Project, January 22nd, 2013

By Adriano Bosoni

British Prime Minister David Cameron will deliver a speech in London on Jan. 23, during which he will discuss the future of the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union. Excerpts leaked to the media suggest that harsh EU criticism will figure prominently in the speech, a suggestion in keeping with Cameron's recent statements about the bloc. But more important, the excerpts signal an unprecedented policy departure: renegotiating the United Kingdom's role in the European Union. London has negotiated exemptions from some EU policies in the past, even gaining some concessions from Brussels in the process; this time, it is trying to become less integrated with the bloc altogether.

Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum after 2015 on the United Kingdom's role in Europe. He has also said he would reclaim powers London surrendered to the European Union. While they no doubt reflect similar anxieties across the Continent, such statements are anathema to the European project, and by making them, Cameron could be setting a precedent that could further undermine the European Union.

Cameron's Compromise

Cameron's strategy partly is a reaction to British domestic politics. There is a faction within the ruling Conservative Party that believes the country should abandon the European Union entirely. It was this faction that pressed Cameron to call a referendum on the United Kingdom's EU membership. Some party members also fear that the United Kingdom Independence Party, the country's traditionally euroskeptic party, is gaining ground in the country.

Such fears may be well founded. According to various opinion polls, roughly 8-14 percent of the country supports the United Kingdom Independence Party, even though it received only 3.1 percent of the popular vote in the 2010 elections. These levels of support make the party a serious contender with the Liberal Democrats as the United Kingdom's third-largest party (after the Labour Party and the Conservative Party). Some polls show that the United Kingdom Independence Party already is the third-most popular party, while others suggest it has poached members from the Conservative Party, a worrying trend ahead of elections for the European Parliament in 2014 and general elections in 2015.

Its growing popularity can be attributed to other factors. Beyond its anti-EU rhetoric, the United Kingdom Independence Party is gaining strength as an anti-establishment voice in the country, supported by those disappointed with mainstream British parties. Similar situations are developing elsewhere in Europe, where the ongoing crisis has weakened the traditional political elite.

The debate over the United Kingdom's role in the European Union is also causing friction with the Conservatives' junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats. Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has repeatedly criticized the Conservatives' push for a referendum, arguing that the proposal is creating uncertainty in the country and by extension threatening economic growth and job creation. Several of the country's top businessmen share this belief. On Jan. 9, Virgin Group's Richard Branson, London Stock Exchange head Chris Gibson-Smith and eight other business leaders published a letter in the Financial Times criticizing Cameron's plan to renegotiate EU membership terms.

British citizens likewise are conflicted on the subject. In general, polls have shown that a slight majority of Britons favor leaving the European Union, but recent surveys found that opinion was evenly split. Conservative Party voters particularly support an EU withdrawal.

Given the issue's sensitivity, Cameron has sought to please everyone. He said there would be a referendum, but it would entail the United Kingdom's position in the European Union, not British membership. Despite his criticisms of the bloc, Cameron has said he does not want to leave the European Union outright; rather, he wants to repatriate from Brussels as many powers as possible. Cameron believes the United Kingdom still needs direct access to Europe's common market but that London should regain power regarding such issues as employment legislation and social and judicial affairs. Most important, the referendum would take place after the general elections of 2015.

London's Costs of Membership

London also believes that the United Kingdom has surrendered too much of its national sovereignty to supranational EU institutions. The United Kingdom is a net contributor to the European Union, and London feels that the costs of membership exceed the benefits. The Common Agricultural Policy, which subsidizes agricultural sectors in continental Europe, does not really benefit the United Kingdom, and the Common Fisheries Policy has forced the United Kingdom to share its fishing waters with other EU member states.

Yet the United Kingdom is a strong defender of the single market. Roughly half of its exports end up in the European Union, and half of its imports come from the European Union. While the United States is the United Kingdom's single most important export destination, four of its five top export destinations are eurozone countries: Germany, the Netherlands, France and Ireland. Germany is also the source of about 12.6 percent of all British imports.

Some critics suggest that the United Kingdom could leave the European Union but remain a part of the European Economic Area, the trade agreement that includes non-EU members, such as Iceland and Norway. However, the country would still be required to make financial contributions to continental Europe and adapt its legal order to EU standards, but it would not have a vote in EU decisions. According to Cameron, the United Kingdom must be part of the common market and have a say in policymaking.

The issue points to the United Kingdom's grand strategy. Despite an alliance with the United States, the United Kingdom is essentially a European power, and it cannot afford to be excluded from Continental affairs. Throughout history, London's foremost concern has been the emergence of a single European power that could threaten the British Isles politically, economically or militarily. Maintaining the balance of power in the Continent -- especially one in which London has some degree of influence -- is a strategic imperative for the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom's Strategic Dilemma

The United Kingdom's push to renegotiate its status in the European Union threatens the European project. In the past, the bloc granted special concessions to the British, such as allowing them to keep the pound sterling during Maastricht Treaty negotiations. These concessions inspired other EU members to ask for similar treatment -- most notably Denmark, which also managed to opt out of the euro.

However, this is the first time that London has openly demanded the return to a previous stage in the process of European integration. At no other time has a country tried to dissociate itself from the bloc in this way. The decision not only challenges the Franco-German view of the European Union but also makes a compromise extremely difficult and risky between France and Germany and the United Kingdom.

Most important, Cameron is framing his proposals not in terms of national sovereignty but in terms of social well-being. In doing so, he acknowledges the social implications of the European crisis. Cameron has even said that the European Union currently is hurting its citizens more than it is helping them. According to leaked portions of his upcoming speech, he believes that there is a "growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf" and that the issues are "being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems."

The excerpts also cite Cameron as saying "people are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the Continent." This rhetoric could become highly attractive in Europe, where people from Germany to Finland believe that taxpayers' money is being used to bail out inefficient peripheral countries. And many Greek, Spanish and Portuguese citizens probably would sympathize with the notion that austerity is worsening their quality of life. Cameron's rhetoric suggests that he is positioning the United Kingdom to be the leader of a counternarrative that opposes Germany's view of the crisis.

But this strategy is not without risks for the United Kingdom. In recent years, the country's veto power in the European Union has been reduced substantially. With each reform of the European treaties, unanimous decisions were replaced by the use of qualified majority. Even in cases where unanimity is required, Berlin and Paris have managed to bypass London when making decisions. For example, Cameron refused to sign the fiscal compact treaty in 2011, but Germany and France decided to proceed with it, even if only 25 of the 27 EU members accepted it.

Moreover, the "enhanced cooperation mechanism," the system by which EU members can make decisions without the participation of other members, increasingly has been used to move forward with European projects. Currently, the EU's Financial Transaction Tax is being negotiated under this format. In recent times, London has been able only to achieve exemptions without real power to block decisions.

Meanwhile, the ongoing crisis has compelled the European Union to prioritize the 17 members of the eurozone over the rest of the bloc. This has created a two-speed Europe, where core EU members integrate even further as the others are neglected somewhat. London could try to become the leader of the non-eurozone countries, but these countries often have competing agendas, as evidenced by recent negotiations over the EU budget. In those negotiations, the United Kingdom was pushing for a smaller EU budget to ease its financial burden, but countries like Poland and Romania were interested in maintaining high agricultural subsidies and strong development aid.

The dilemma is best understood in the context of the United Kingdom's grand strategy. Unnecessary political isolation on the Continent is a real threat to London. The more the European Union focuses on the eurozone, the less influence the United Kingdom has on continental Europe. The eurozone currently stretches from Finland to Portugal, creating the type of unified, Continental entity that London fears.

For the British, this threat can be mitigated in several ways, the most important of which is its alliance with the United States. As long as London is the main military ally and a major economic partner of the world's only superpower, continental Europe cannot afford to ignore the United Kingdom. Moreover, London also represents a viable alternative to the German leadership of Europe, especially when France is weak and enmeshed in its own domestic problems. And even if the United Kingdom chooses to move away from mainland Europe, its political and economic influence will continue to be felt in the Continent.

The United Kingdom's grand strategy has long been characterized by balancing between Europe and the United States. Currently, London is not so much redefining that grand strategy as it is shifting its weight away from Europe without completely abandoning the Continent.

The United Kingdom Moves Away from the European Project is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Agent Mayra Ramírez-Barreto
Puerto Rico Department of Justice
End of Watch: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Age: 52
Tour: 30 years

Correctional Officer Eliezer Colón-Claussells
Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
End of Watch: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Age: 35
Tour: 10 years

Agent Mayra Ramírez-Barreto and Correctional Officer Eliezer Colón-Claussells, of the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, were killed in an automobile crash near Stillwater, Oklahoma, while en route to the Cimmarron Prison Facility, in Cushing, to extradite several prisoners from the facility.

They were traveling southbound on Highway 177, near 68th Street, when another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction crossed the center line and struck their van head-on shortly after 5:00 am.

Agent Ramírez-Barreto, who was driving, and the other driver were trapped inside the vehicles for several hours and both died at the scene. Officer Colón-Claussells and the other two corrections officers in the van were transported to Stillwater Medical Center where Officer Colón-Claussell passed away.

Agent Ramírez-Barreto had served with the Puerto Rico Department of Justice over 30 years and was assigned to the Extradition Unit.

Officer Colón-Claussells had served with the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections for 10 years and was assigned to the Special Operations Unit. He is survived by his 7-year-old son.
Rest in Peace…We Got The Watch

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To all the Obamaites out there, thanks!

Remember when B Hussein Obama said Obamacare would lower the cost of health insurance for all and if you wanted to keep your policy you could. Well there's a few "bumps in the road" now
Health Insurance Brokers Prepare Clients For Obamacare Sticker Shock

By Dr. Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

A California insurance broker, who sells health plans to individuals and small businesses, told me that she’s prepping her clients for a sticker shock. Her local carriers are hinting to her that premiums may triple this fall, when the plans unveil how they’ll billet the full brunt of Obamacare’s new regulations and mandates.

California is hardly alone. Around the country, insurers are fixing to raise rates by double digits. They’re privately briefing politicians in Washington on what’s in store. Those briefings are leaving a lot of folks up and down Pennsylvania Avenue jumpy.

What’s gives? President Obama, after all, said he’d prevent these sorts of prices. His new health law gave state regulators the power to block premium increases. It even created a federal agency to oversee insurance rates. But these bureaucrats are spectators to the price hikes. They’re mere wallflowers. Even in the bluest of states.

Their silence is the best evidence of who is culpable for the increases. It’s the policymakers. It’s Obamacare. The President is accepting the premium hikes as an allowable consequence of his healthcare policies.

There’s buzz in Washington that to ease the price hikes, the Obama team may slow down some of the most expensive regulations. This might include the law’s mandatory community rating. One approach they’re said to be considering is allowing some of the historically based underwriting to stay in place for a time.

But premiums will still rise because, in the end, everything has a price. The law’s prohibition against traditional insurance underwriting is just one of its costly provisions. Washington can try to force health plans to price insurance below the cost of these mandates. But then the health plans will simply lose money and move out of markets. To keep the insurers whole, and accommodate new rules, the cost of insurance must get re-priced higher. That re-pricing is what’s coming this fall.

This lesson was learned by Massachusetts, after it adopted its own skinny version of Obamacare. To meet the law’s costs, insurers hiked premiums. Massachusetts’s regulators blocked the increases. All the plans reported losses the very next quarter.

This simple economic axiom doesn’t mean the higher premiums were tolerated in Massachusetts, or will be embraced by Washington. What Massachusetts did afterwards is a lesson for where the entire nation is heading under Obamacare.

Massachusetts regulators went after the underlying source of spending – peoples’ use of medical services. First and foremost, that meant taking on the providers. Massachusetts moved to regulate the prices that doctors and hospitals could charge and the kind of services that they could offer. Rates are rising nationally because, like Massachusetts, Obamacare guarantees more free medical services while doing nothing to make the market for these things more efficient, or competitive. Like Massachusetts, some form of price controls is the next political chapter.

The Obama team can’t merely squeeze the insurers. That’s why our political elite will tolerate many of the looming premium hikes. In the end, health plans are mostly just passing along the costs of the underlying services. That’s even truer today now that Washington is directly regulating insurance company profit margins.

To try and get a handle on rising costs, the Obama Administration will start to go after the healthcare providers. The President seemed to hint about all this when he referenced the need to “lower the cost” of healthcare in his inaugural address.

Simply cutting payment rates has consequences, or course. It reduces reimbursement without regard to value or need. But indiscriminate cuts to fixed rate schedules for everything from doctor visits to hospital stays are Washington’s standard approach for sanding down Medicare costs. The Affordable Care Act will institutionalize these same political tactics across the rest of the healthcare market.

This is the next iteration of healthcare reform. Call it Obamacare 2.0. Doctors will become the next bogyman in Washington. The target is already being fixed to their hide. As for the rest of us, our health insurance will become increasingly illusory.

The prices Washington pays for medical services will gradually fall below the rates where things will be readily supplied. That’s the legacy of Medicaid, and increasingly Medicare as well. Don’t worry, though. The medical services that you’ll have a hard time accessing are mostly the stuff you’ll only need if you get really sick.

Dr. Gottlieb is a physician and Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Anyone with their head out of their ass knows what the purpose of Obamacare is. It's the bridge to single payer health care. The cost of insurance will continue to rise until people cannot afford it, the fines or taxes or whatever the hell else it's called this week will incentivize businesses to drop insurance. Without clients, insurance companies go broke. And before you know it, people have only one choice, Mericare.

To the Obamaites out there don't breed please. We can't take anymore.

Why we need IQ tests and term limits on members of Congress

Ronald Reagan said his worse mistake as governor was signing off on full time legislators in the Assembly. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. If you want a reason, here it is. This woman is completely clueless about simple features of a firearm but she thinks she can introduce legislation on it’s regulation.

The fact a NY Democrat has her head up her ass is not a surprise. What is astonishing is she was shown as a fool by a journalist from MSNBC! That’s an accomplishment.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

And the slow painful journey downwards continues.

I hoped B Hussein Obama would be finished his transition and heading back to the hellhole of Chicago right now but a combination of a poor Republican candidate and an enthused group of Obamaites insures our country (and literally the planet) suffers decline for at least the next four years.

So over the next four years as taxes skyrocket, part time employment with no benefits becomes “the new normal”, Muslim extremists secure one previously allied nation after another in the Middle East chocking off our energy supplies while his cabinet secretaries proclaims, in a giddy fashion to have his “boot on the neck” of our energy suppliers and keeping us from our natural resources, the federal government secures more and more of the private sector, healthcare rationing by government body is put into place and metastases into the bureaucracy, inflation destroys the dollar and savings and meanwhile greedy liberals look to raid private retirement accounts, private gun owners are harrassed while criminals go unpunished, our military is hollowed out, our space program is dead, entitlements eat more and more of our nation’s income until the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currently but a joke, I can at least say to my fellow Americans three words.


As a sign of this I’ve posted my Romney/Ryan sign in my front yard on the 20th and 21st of January, Year of Our Lord 2013. I’ll repost it from time to time as B Hussein Obama goes along his route of destruction, oh, excuse me, fundamentally transforming America.

Or maybe I’ll post it whenever Joe Bite-Me says something stupid. Wait, that will be from now till he’s in the ground.

God Help America!

Officer Down

Officer Chris Yung
Prince William County Virginia Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, December 31, 2012
Age: 35
Tour: 7 years
Badge # 4887

Officer Chris Yung was killed in a motorcycle crash at the intersection of Nokesville Road and Piper Lane, in Bristow, while responding to the scene of a separate automobile accident.

A minivan made a left hand turn from northbound Nokesville Road into a shopping center and crossed in front of the officer's motorcycle, causing a collision. Officer Yung was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

Officer Yung was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He had served with the Prince William County Police Department for seven years and was assigned to the Traffic Unit.

Officer Yung was a member of Law Enforcement United and served as a motor escort officer during the annual ride. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Security Weekly: Mexico's Drug War: Persisting Violence and a New President, January 17th, 2012

In 2013, violence in Mexico likely will remain a significant threat nationwide to bystanders, law enforcement, military and local businesses. Overall levels of violence decreased during 2011, but cartel operations and competition continued to afflict several regions of Mexico throughout 2012. These dangers combined with continued fracturing among cartels, such as Los Zetas, could cause overall violence to increase this year.

A New President

2013 will be the first full year in office for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who campaigned on promises to stem cartel violence. The most significant of his initiatives is his plan to consolidate and restructure federal law enforcement in Mexico. Pena Nieto's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party has introduced legislation that would switch oversight of the federal police, among other entities, away from the Public Security Secretariat to the Interior Ministry. The president also announced plans to bring the state police from each of Mexico's 31 states under a unified federal command. Pena Nieto has frequently stated his plans to create a national gendarmerie that would serve as a supplemental paramilitary force for tackling violent organized criminal groups. During a Dec. 17 conference, he announced that this new organization initially would have 10,000 personnel trained by the Mexican army.

But 2013 is not likely to see any significant changes as a direct result of Pena Nieto's domestic security policies since they will take time to produce results. For example, the gendarmerie would not likely become an effective operational force until after 2013, because training requires time. Even after such a gendarmerie is up and running, it would face many of the same issues encountered after previous efforts to create new law enforcement bodies. And restructuring law enforcement at the federal level does nothing to address one of the main factors driving Mexico's cartel violence, namely the continual fracturing of organized criminal groups. After his Dec. 1 inauguration, Pena Nieto indicated that the almost 50,000 military troops conducting operations against organized crime will continue in their current role in the near term, reinforcing our forecast that there will not be observable changes as a result of his new policies in the first quarter of 2013.

Overall Violence

Homicides and other violent activity in Mexico including kidnappings, extortion, assaults and robberies linked to cartels did not increase in 2012, ending a trend of increasing annual homicides since 2006. But the drop does not indicate any significant shift toward peace among Mexican cartels. Inter-cartel turf wars in Ciudad Juarez, once one of the most violent areas of Mexico, have continued to decline in violence since 2010. Similarly, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states have also seen reductions in violence.

Other forms of cartel-related violence, including kidnappings, extortion and open conflicts with authorities, remained high during 2012 and are likely to increase. Inter-cartel violence thus remains a significant security threat to many of Mexico's urban areas, specifically in the states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Jalisco, Coahuila and Michoacan.

Status of Mexico's Major Cartels

Los Zetas

Los Zetas remained the most active, widely operating criminal organization in Mexico in 2012. While the group did not expand its area of operations in 2012, the organization did solidify its operations in states where it had a significant presence, such as Jalisco, and demonstrated notable violent acts in other states, such as Sinaloa.

Perhaps the most significant shift within Los Zetas involved a transition in its top leadership. It became apparent in 2012 that No. 2 leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales had gradually surpassed his former boss, Zetas leader and founding member Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano, for control of the group.

Although Los Zetas have been resilient in the face of previous leadership losses, this does not mean the transition to Trevino will happen without a struggle in 2013.

Los Zetas consist of semi-autonomous cells operating throughout their area of operations, with high-level leaders like Trevino coordinating the cells. Should any of these cells question Trevino's leadership, violent rifts within the organization could emerge. For example, in the summer of 2012, Zetas leader in north-central Mexico Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero went to war with Lazcano and Trevino. Despite his arrest, Velazquez's network is still at war with Los Zetas, posing an increased threat to their control over Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Coahuila states.

Trevino must ensure that no similar betrayal by his plaza bosses occurs again, since such defections offer Zetas rivals, such as the Gulf cartel or Sinaloa Federation, a potential ally against Los Zetas. Should a new rift form during 2013, violence likely would increase substantially in any area where Los Zetas are confronted by those former Zetas. But if the leadership can maintain cohesion, Los Zetas will remain one of the two dominant criminal organizations in Mexico during 2013.

Gulf Cartel

By the beginning of 2012, the Gulf cartel had been reduced to operating in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon states, where violence between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas continued. The Gulf cartel also continued to suffer significant losses from targeted military operations and to suffer from an internal divide between two factions, Los Rojos and Los Metros. But violence between the factions apparently has been minimal, and the Gulf cartel has continued to function as a single organization.

Supporting the Gulf cartel against Los Zetas is a strategic necessity for the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar, allowing them to bolster their hold over their lucrative trafficking routes and counter the aggressive expansion of Los Zetas. It also forces the Zetas into a two-front war, disrupting their offensives against Sinaloa and the Knights Templar in the west.

The Gulf cartel received another significant boost to its war with Los Zetas when former Zetas plaza boss Velazquez declared war on Los Zetas, confirmed in August 2012.

On the downside, whoever has assumed control over Gulf cartel operations is likely dependent on the group's main allies to maintain control. For the time being, this has likely turned the Gulf cartel into an operational arm of its much stronger allies, and the Gulf cartel can remain viable only as long as the Knights Templar or Sinaloa Federation continue to back it. Unless Los Zetas suffer substantial losses, whether due to rival incursions, another organizational split or military operations, the Gulf cartel will not likely regain independence in its operational capabilities during 2013.

Sinaloa Federation

The Sinaloa Federation retained its areas of operation again in 2012. Through alliances with smaller criminal organizations, such as the Gulf cartel, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (although a divide between it and the Sinaloa Federation may have developed in the second half of 2012) and the Knights Templar, the Sinaloa Federation continued its assault on its principal rival nationwide, Los Zetas.

In addition to maintaining its areas of operation, the Sinaloa Federation continued to solidify control over the highly lucrative plazas of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua city, Chihuahua state, after pushing out its principal rival in the region, the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, also known as the Juarez cartel. The Sinaloa Federation's success correlated with a substantial drop in homicides in the two cities.

Although 2012 saw continued Sinaloa successes in Ciudad Juarez and sustained assaults against Los Zetas via proxy groups, the group did experience intensified regional conflicts in its strongholds. During the summer of 2012, Los Mazatlecos -- a group with ties to the former Beltran Leyva Organization -- demonstrated substantial and increasing influence in northern Sinaloa state. Meanwhile, as the Sinaloa Federation pushed the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization and La Linea, its allied enforcer arm, out of Ciudad Juarez, La Linea revived its hope of surviving as a criminal organization by focusing on control of transportation routes and areas of illicit drug production in the Sierra Madre Occidental in western Chihuahua state. While the Sinaloa Federation has not been able to eject La Linea from western Chihuahua state, it can maintain its organization through its control of a substantial percentage of the drug trade throughout Mexico.

Indicators also emerged of new challenges to Sinaloa control in northern Sonora state. Cities such as Puerto Penasco, Agua Prieta and Sonoyta saw increased executions and shootouts indicative of inter-cartel violence during 2012, suggesting a rival of the Sinaloa Federation is contesting drug trafficking routes into the United States through northern Sonora state. It is uncertain who this rival is, though La Linea and Los Mazatlecos are possible suspects.

Despite the regional conflicts within the Sinaloa Federation's areas of operation, nothing suggests the criminal organization's trafficking operations are under any significant threat. Violence in its regional conflicts with smaller organizations such as La Linea in western Chihuahua state and Los Mazatlecos in northern Sinaloa state will likely persist through 2013. The rural nature of the contested regions means that violence should not become as intense as that seen in urban turf wars throughout Mexico.

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion

2012 saw a continued expansion of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion into several Mexican states, including Morelos, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero and Quintana Roo. As a byproduct of its acquired geographic reach, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion began taking control of drug trafficking routes for itself and local criminal enterprises like extortion and retail drug sales in areas such as Veracruz city or Colima state.

This expansion brought the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and another Sinaloa Federation ally, the Knights Templar, into the same operational spaces, such as Michoacan, Guerrero and Guanajuato states. By April 2012, it had become apparent that the Knights Templar and Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion had begun a war with each other. It is unclear what role, if any, the Sinaloa Federation may have had with the conflict between its two allies.

Several factors suggest the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion splintered from the Sinaloa Federation in 2012. The organization rapidly expanded in 2012 into a prominent cartel -- and thus a possible future rival for other criminal groups. Its conflict with another Sinaloa Federation ally as well as several narcomantas in Jalisco state and statements by a rival criminal leader of La Resistencia also contribute to the splinter theory. But there are no indications so far that a rivalry has formed between the two groups.

Nothing suggests the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's areas of operation have been reduced or that the group's ability to traffic drugs has been hindered. If in addition to its current geographic reach in Mexico, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion is capable of delivering illicit drugs into the United States, the group essentially would have access to the same levels of the supply chain as Mexico's dominant cartels.

Knights Templar

During 2012, the Knights Templar solidified itself as the successor to La Familia Michoacana, from which it split in 2011. The Knights Templar now operates as the dominant criminal organization of Michoacan state and as a significant criminal actor in states such as Morelos, Guanajuato, Queretaro and Guerrero and southeastern Jalisco. It is unclear in what capacity and where La Familia Michoacana continues to exist. Although sporadic violence between the Knights Templar and La Familia Michoacana may occur in 2013, it is unlikely that La Familia Michoacana will regain any of its footholds in a battle against the Knights Templar without substantial help from another major criminal organization, such as Los Zetas. The Knights Templar might even absorb the remainder of La Familia Michoacana in 2013.

The Knights Templar has become increasingly public about its conflict with Los Zetas. While there have been no explicit indications of expanding violence between the two organizations, it is certainly possible that the Knights Templar will begin assaulting Los Zetas in the latter's strongholds during 2013. Even without a direct conflict between Knights Templar gunmen and Zetas gunmen in Zetas-controlled territories, it is likely the Knights Templar is supporting the Gulf cartel in its conflict against Los Zetas by sending gunmen to the northeast to support Gulf cartel efforts.

Authorities have targeted lower-level Knights Templar members in response to brazen acts of coordinated violence by the group. But arrests so far will likely have a minimal impact on the group due to the low-level status of those detained.

Since there are currently no indicators that the operational capabilities of the Knights Templar are under threat by a rival organization, the group will likely continue its heavy propaganda campaign in multiple states of Mexico in 2013. Additionally, should the Knights Templar confront Los Zetas in a more direct manner than supporting an allies' conflict, such as by attempting to take control of territory itself, violence would likely increase more in the northeastern states. Furthermore, retaliatory attacks conducted by Los Zetas against the Knights Templar in the Michoacan area could be expected.

Mexico's Drug War: Persisting Violence and a New President is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Geopolitical Weekly: Avoiding the Wars That Never End, January 15, 2013

By George Friedman
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would transfer the primary responsibility for combat operations in Afghanistan to the Afghan military in the coming months, a major step toward the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Also last week, France began an intervention in Mali designed to block jihadists from taking control of the country and creating a base of operations in France's former African colonies.

The two events are linked in a way that transcends the issue of Islamist insurgency and points to a larger geopolitical shift. The United States is not just drawing down its combat commitments; it is moving away from the view that it has the primary responsibility for trying to manage the world on behalf of itself, the Europeans and its other allies. Instead, that burden is shifting to those who have immediate interests involved.

Insecurity in 9/11's Wake

It is interesting to recall how the United States involved itself in Afghanistan. After 9/11, the United States was in shock and lacked clear intelligence on al Qaeda. It did not know what additional capabilities al Qaeda had or what the group's intentions were. Lacking intelligence, a political leader has the obligation to act on worst-case scenarios after the enemy has demonstrated hostile intentions and capabilities. The possible scenarios ranged from additional sleeper cells operating and awaiting orders in the United States to al Qaeda having obtained nuclear weapons to destroy cities. When you don't know, it is both prudent and psychologically inevitable to plan for the worst.

The United States had sufficient information to act in Afghanistan. It knew that al Qaeda was operating in Afghanistan and that disrupting the main cell was a useful step in taking some action against the threat. However, the United States did not immediately invade Afghanistan. It bombed the country extensively and inserted limited forces on the ground, but the primary burden of fighting the Taliban government was in the hands of anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan that had been resisting the Taliban and in the hands of other forces that could be induced to act against the Taliban. The Taliban gave up the cities and prepared for a long war. Al Qaeda's command cell left Afghanistan and shifted to Pakistan.

The United States achieved its primary goal early on. That goal was not to deny al Qaeda the ability to operate in Afghanistan, an objective that would achieve nothing. Rather, the goal was to engage al Qaeda and disrupt its command-and-control structure as a way to degrade the group's ability to plan and execute additional attacks. The move to Pakistan at the very least bought time, and given continued pressure on the main cell, allowed the United States to gather more intelligence about al Qaeda assets around the world.

This second mission -- to identify al Qaeda assets around the world -- required a second effort. The primary means of identifying them was through their electronic communications, and the United States proceeded to create a vast technological mechanism designed to detect communications and use that detection to identify and capture or kill al Qaeda operatives. The problem with this technique -- really the only one available -- was that it was impossible to monitor al Qaeda's communications without monitoring everyone's. If there was a needle in the haystack, the entire haystack had to be examined. This was a radical shift in the government's relationship to the private communications of citizens. The justification was that at a time of war, in which the threat to the United States was uncertain and possibly massive, these measures were necessary.

This action was not unique in American history. Abraham Lincoln violated the Constitution in several ways during the Civil War, from suspending the right to habeas corpus to blocking the Maryland Legislature from voting on a secession measure. Franklin Roosevelt allowed the FBI to open citizens' mail and put Japanese-Americans into internment camps. The idea that civil liberties must be protected in time of war is not historically how the United States, or most countries, operate. In that sense there was nothing unique in the decision to monitor communications in order to find al Qaeda and stop attacks. How else could the needle be found in the haystack? Likewise, detention without trial was not unique. Lincoln and Roosevelt both resorted to it.

The Civil War and World War II were different from the current conflict, however, because their conclusions were clear and decisive. The wars would end, one way or another, and so would the suspension of rights. Unlike those wars, the war in Afghanistan was extended indefinitely by the shift in strategy from disrupting al Qaeda's command cell to fighting the Taliban to building a democratic society in Afghanistan. With the second step, the U.S. military mission changed its focus and increased its presence massively, and with the third, the terminal date of the war became very far away.

But there was a broader issue. The war in Afghanistan was not the main war. Afghanistan happened to be the place where al Qaeda was headquartered on Sept. 11, 2001. The country was not essential to al Qaeda, and creating a democratic society there -- if it were even possible -- would not necessarily weaken al Qaeda. Even destroying al Qaeda would not prevent new Islamist organizations or individuals from rising up.

A New Kind of War

The main war was not against one specific terrorist group, but rather against an idea: the radical tendency in Islamism. Most Muslims are not radicals, but any religion with 1 billion adherents will have its share of extremists. The tendency is there, and it is deeply rooted. If the goal of the war were the destruction of this radical tendency, then it was not going to happen. While the risk of attacks could be reduced -- and indeed there were no further 9/11s despite repeated attempts in the United States -- there was no way to eliminate the threat. No matter how many divisions were deployed, no matter how many systems for electronic detection were created, they could only mitigate the threat, not eliminate it. Therefore, what some called the Long War really became permanent war.

The means by which the war was pursued could not result in victory. They could, however, completely unbalance U.S. strategy by committing massive resources to missions not clearly connected with preventing Islamist terrorism. It also created a situation where emergency intrusions on critical portions of the Bill of Rights -- such as the need to obtain a warrant for certain actions -- became a permanent feature. Permanent war makes for permanent temporary measures.

The break point came, in my opinion, in about 2004. Around that time, al Qaeda was unable to mount attacks on the United States despite multiple efforts. The war in Afghanistan had dislodged al Qaeda and created the Karzai government. The invasion of Iraq -- whatever the rationale might have been -- clearly produced a level of resistance that the United States could not contain or could contain only by making agreements with its enemies in Iraq. At that point, a radical rethinking of the war had to take place. It did not.

The radical rethinking had to do not with Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather with what to do about a permanent threat to the United States, and indeed to many other countries, posed by the global networks of radical Islamists prepared to carry out terrorist attacks. The threat would not go away, and it could not be eliminated. At the same time, it did not threaten the existence of the republic. The 9/11 attacks were atrocious, but they did not threaten the survival of the United States in spite of the human cost. Combating the threat required a degree of proportionality so the fight could be maintained on an ongoing basis, without becoming the only goal of U.S. foreign policy or domestic life. Mitigation was the only possibility; the threat would have to be endured.

Washington found a way to achieve this balance in the past, albeit against very different sorts of threats. The United States emerged as a great power in the early 20th century. During that time, it fought three wars: World War I, World War II and the Cold War, which included Korea, Vietnam and other, smaller engagements. In World War I and World War II, the United States waited for events to unfold, and in Europe in particular it waited until the European powers reached a point where they could not deal with the threat of German hegemony without American intervention. In both instances, it intervened heavily only late in the war, at the point where the Germans had been exhausted by other European powers. It should be remembered that the main American push in World War II did not take place until the summer of 1944. The American strategy was to wait and see whether the Europeans could stabilize the situation themselves, using distance to mobilize as late as possible and intervene decisively only at the critical moment.

The critics of this approach, particularly prior to World War II, called it isolationism. But the United States was not isolationist; it was involved in Asia throughout this period. Rather, it saw itself as being the actor of last resort, capable of acting at the decisive moment with overwhelming force because geography had given the United States the option of time and resources.

During the Cold War, the United States modified this strategy. It still depended on allies, but it now saw itself as the first responder. Partly this could be seen in U.S. nuclear strategy. This could also be seen in Korea and Vietnam, where allies played subsidiary roles, but the primary effort was American. The Cold War was fought on a different set of principles than the two world wars.

The Cold War strategy was applied to the war against radical Islamism, in which the United States -- because of 9/11 but also because of a mindset that could be seen in other interventions -- was the first responder. Other allies followed the United States' lead and provided support to the degree to which they felt comfortable. The allies could withdraw without fundamentally undermining the war effort. The United States could not.

The approach in the U.S.-jihadist war was a complete reversal from the approach taken in the two world wars. This was understandable given that it was triggered by an unexpected and catastrophic event, the reponse to which flowed from a lack of intelligence. When Japan struck Pearl Harbor, emotions were at least as intense, but U.S. strategy in the Pacific was measured and cautious. And the enemy's capabilities were much better understood.

Stepping Back as Global Policeman

The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win, and it certainly cannot be the sole actor in a war waged primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere. This is why the French intervention in Mali is particularly interesting. France retains interests in its former colonial empire in Africa, and Mali is at the geographic center of these interests. To the north of Mali is Algeria, where France has significant energy investments; to the east of Mali is Niger, where France has a significant stake in the mining of mineral resources, particularly uranium; and to the south of Mali is Ivory Coast, where France plays a major role in cocoa production. The future of Mali matters to France far more than it matters to the United States.

What is most interesting is the absence of the United States in the fight, even if it is providing intelligence and other support, such as mobilizing ground forces from other African countries. The United States is not acting as if this is its fight; it is acting as if this is the fight of an ally, whom it might help in extremis, but not in a time when U.S. assistance is unnecessary. And if the French can't mount an effective operation in Mali, then little help can be given.

This changing approach is also evident in Syria, where the United States has systematically avoided anything beyond limited and covert assistance, and Libya, where the United States intervened after the French and British launched an attack they could not sustain. That was, I believe, a turning point, given the unsatisfactory outcome there. Rather than accepting a broad commitment against radical Islamism everywhere, the United States is allowing the burden to shift to powers that have direct interests in these areas.

Reversing a strategy is difficult. It is uncomfortable for any power to acknowledge that it has overreached, which the United States did both in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is even more difficult to acknowledge that the goals set by President George W. Bush in Iraq and Obama in Afghanistan lacked coherence. But clearly the war has run its course, and what is difficult is also obvious. We are not going to eliminate the threat of radical Islamism. The commitment of force to an unattainable goal twists national strategy out of shape and changes the fabric of domestic life. Obviously, overwatch must be in place against the emergence of an organization like al Qaeda, with global reach, sophisticated operatives and operational discipline. But this is very different from responding to jihadists in Mali, where the United States has limited interests and fewer resources.

Accepting an ongoing threat is also difficult. Mitigating the threat of an enemy rather than defeating the enemy outright goes against an impulse. But it is not something alien to American strategy. The United States is involved in the world, and it can't follow the founders' dictum of staying out of European struggles. But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities. Waiting until there is no choice but to go to war is not isolationism. Allowing others to carry the primary risk is not disengagement. Waging wars that are finite is not irresponsible.

The greatest danger of war is what it can do to one's own society, changing the obligations of citizens and reshaping their rights. The United States has always done this during wars, but those wars would always end. Fighting a war that cannot end reshapes domestic life permanently. A strategy that compels engagement everywhere will exhaust a country. No empire can survive the imperative of permanent, unwinnable warfare. It is fascinating to watch the French deal with Mali. It is even more fascinating to watch the United States wishing them well and mostly staying out of it. It has taken about 10 years, but here we can see the American system stabilize itself by mitigating the threats that can't be eliminated and refusing to be drawn into fights it can let others handle.

a href="http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/avoiding-wars-never-end">Avoiding the Wars That Never End is republished with permission of Stratfor

You can see this in California!

Then my normal answer would be "Don't give Governor Moonbeam and others any ideas!"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New York does it again

If you want a reason to never move to New York, look at the idiots in the state government. Hey, I'm bi-partisan, the Senate is controlled by Republicans. But they passed this stupid gun law and next thing you know they realize they made a mistake.

Eyewitness News

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A troubling oversight has been found within New York State's sweeping new gun laws.

The ban on having high-capacity magazines, as it's written, would also include law enforcement officers.

Magazines with more than seven rounds will be illegal under the new law when that part takes effect in March.

As the statute is currently written, it does not exempt law enforcement officers.
Nearly every law enforcement agency in the state carries hand guns that have a 15 round capacity.

A spokesman for the governor's office called Eyewitness News to say, "We are still working out some details of the law and the exemption will be included, currently no police officer is in violation."

The Patrolman's Benevolent Association President released a statement saying, "The PBA is actively working to enact changes to this law that will provide the appropriate exemptions from the law for active and retired law enforcement officers."

State Senator Eric Adams, a former NYPD Captain, told us he's going to push for an amendment next week to exempt police officers from the high-capacity magazine ban. In his words, "You can't give more ammo to the criminals"


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Officer Down

Detective Randall "Shane" Thomas
Henderson County North Carolina Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Friday, December 28, 2012
Age: 47
Tour: 19 years
Incident Date: 5/1/2009

Detective Shane Thomas died due to complications from an injury he sustained while taking part in mounted patrol training in May 2009.

He was training at a Horseshoe Farms when the horse he was riding reared and fell on top of him, breaking his neck and rendering him a quadriplegic. He was airlifted to Mission Hospital and spent the next four months rehabilitating in Atlanta, Georgia.

Detective Thomas returned home in October 2009 but had limited mobility. With the assistance of voice activated computer software, he was able to return to work with the sheriff's office performing computer data entry and managing confidential information about drug dealers.

Detective Thomas developed complications from his spinal injuries and passed away on December 28th, 2012, as a result.

Detective Thomas had served with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office for 19 years. He is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, one grandson, brother, sister, parents, and grandmother.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

What's going on in the World Today 130114



The Challenges of a U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation


Europe: The Complexities of Youth Unemployment


Pakistan: Explosions Reported At NATO Supply Terminal January 11, 2013

Explosions occurred at a NATO supply terminal in Quetta on Jan. 11, police said, Geo TV reported. Firing was heard after the explosions, police said. Unidentified attackers fired rockets at the terminal, in the Hazarganji area, The Express News reported. The blast occurred near the Quetta Development Authority offices, according to initial details.

Japan: Military Begins Island Defense Exercise January 13, 2013

Japan's Self-Defense Forces began a military drill in Narashino on Jan. 13 aimed at simulating retaking a captured island using air and maritime forces, Xinhua reported. Approximately 20 aircraft and 33 armored vehicles participated in the drill. China's military modernization and growing assertiveness in regional territorial disputes will continue to fuel Japan's military normalization process.

Japan's Shifting Regional Environment
Kazakhstan: The Evolution of a Power Structure
New Challenges in China's Inland Labor Market


In Mali, Jihadist Preparations for the Looming Intervention

Intervention in Mali Begins with Airstrikes

Mali: Tuareg Rebels Prepared To Assist French Forces January 14, 2013

Mali's Tuareg rebels are prepared to assist French military forces in Mali by confronting jihadist groups on the ground in the country's northern region, a senior Tuareg official said Jan. 14, AFP reported. Recent engagements between Islamist militias and the Malian military are likely, in part, a struggle to set the terms of the looming Western-backed, African-led military effort to uproot jihadist groups in the country.

South Africa's Search for Alternatives to Coal

Egypt: Few Options Out of a Natural Gas Dilemma




Iran: Oil Exports Fall 40 Percent January 7, 2013

Iran's oil exports have fallen 40 percent in the last nine months, Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told a parliamentary commission on Jan. 7, AFP reported, citing the ISNA news agency. The final figures for the current Iranian calendar year, which ends in March, will show a significant decrease in crude export revenues, Qasemi said. Western sanctions on Iran appear to have impacted the country's economy.

Iran: Country's First Natural Gas Refinery To Be Built, Report Says January 9, 2013

Iran will build a $1.6 billion natural gas refinery, the country's first, Xinhua reported Jan. 9, citing The Tehran Times. The Iranian firm Khatam al-Anbia Construction will sign a deal with the National Iranian Central Oilfields Company by February, the report said, without specifying the location of the refinery.




Syria: Rebels Reportedly Take Up Positions Along Israeli Border January 14, 2013

Syrian rebels have stationed themselves along the border with Israel, senior Israel Defense Forces officials told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Jerusalem Post reported Jan. 14. Only the Al-Qunaytirah enclave remains under regime control, the report said.

Israel: Forces Evict 200 Activists From West Bank January 13, 2013

Israeli forces evicted roughly 200 Palestinian and international activists from the E1 area of the West Bank, where Israel is reportedly planning to build new settlements, BBC reported Jan. 13. According to an activist spokeswoman, six protesters were injured and taken to the hospital during the eviction, though an Israeli police spokesman has said no injuries occurred. Several of Israel's right-wing political parties have recently discussed annexing all or part of the West Bank during the run-up to elections.




In Syria, the Regime Shifts to Defense
Mubarak Retrial Heightens Political, Economic Tensions


Colombia: Rebels Struggle to Uphold a Unilateral Cease-Fire

Mexico Security Memo: A Series of Attacks Plagues Torreon


Geopolitical Calendar: Week of Jan. 14, 2013

Except where noted courtesy STRATFOR.COM

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Security Weekly: Intelligence and Human Networks, January 10, 2013

By Tristan Reed

Stratfor views the world through the lens of geopolitics, the study of hard, physical constraints on man's ability to shape reality. Political decisions are limited by the geography in which they take place, eliminating many of the options concocted by ideologues and making their human decisions easier to predict. But the study of geopolitics only takes the understanding of global affairs so far: It identifies the geographical constraints but leaves an array of options open to human actors. So when forecasting on a shorter time frame, analysis must go beyond geographical constraints to more specific, temporal constraints. For this reason, predicting the short-term activities of human actors requires an understanding of the constraints they face in the human terrain within which they operate.

As a result, one task common to any intelligence organization is defining the human network of a state, criminal organization, militant movement or any other organization to better determine and understand a group's characteristics and abilities. A human network in this sense is a broad term used to describe the intricate web of relations existing in an organization and within a specific region. For anyone or any organization with interests in a given geographic area, understanding the networks of individuals with influence in the region is critical.

Intelligence and Analysis

People use human networks to organize the control of resources and geography. No person alone can control anything of significance. Presidents, drug lords and CEOs rely on people to execute their strategies and are constrained by the capabilities and interests of the people who work for them. Identifying these networks may be a daunting task depending on the network. For obvious reasons, criminal organizations and militant networks strive to keep their membership secret, and it is not always apparent who gives the orders and who carries out the orders in a political body. To discern who's who in a group, and therefore whether an individual matters in a group, requires both intelligence and analysis to make sense of the intelligence.

How intelligence is acquired depends on the resources and methods available to an intelligence organization, while the analysis that follows differs depending on the intent. For example, International Security Assistance Force military operations aimed at disrupting militant networks in Afghanistan would require the collection of informants and signals intelligence followed by analysis to pinpoint the exact location of individuals within a network to enable targeted operations. Simply knowing who belongs to a militant network and their location is not enough; the value lies in the significance and capabilities of an individual in the group. Detaining an individual who lays improvised explosive devices on a road may result in short-term disruptions to the target's area of operations, but identifying and detaining a bombmaker with exclusive experience and training will have a far greater impact.

The true value of analysis lies in understanding the significance of a particular individual in a network. Mapping out a human network begins with the simple question of who belongs to a particular network. Next, identify and define relationships with other known individuals and organizations. For some, this process takes the form of link analysis, which is a visual representation of a network where each individual is represented in a diagram. Links between the individuals who interact with one another are then depicted. These links show an individual's significance in a group and establish whether he is a lowly scout within a transnational criminal organization who may only interact with his paymaster. The paymaster, by contrast, could be linked to dozens of other group members. Examining how many links within a group an individual has, however, is just scratching the surface of understanding the network.

Every individual within a given human network has reasons to be tied to others within the network. Understanding what unites the individuals in an organization provides further depth of understanding. Whether it be ideology, mutual interests, familial ties or paid services, why a relationship exists will help determine the strength of such bonds, the motives of the network and the limitations to what a network can accomplish. For example, when assessing the strength of the Syrian regime, it is imperative to identify and examine the inner circle of President Bashar al Assad. Analyzing these members can indicate which factions of the Syrian population and which political and familial groupings support or reject the al Assad regime. That key posts within the government are now occupied primarily by Alawites indicates a combination of regime distrust of the Sunnis and dwindling levels of support from even high-ranking Sunnis. Similarly, examining the once-strong ties of inner circle members who have defected indicates which factions no longer support the regime and points toward other groups that might also have doubts about remaining loyal.

Rarely is there a completely isolated human network. Human relations typically span multiple regions or even continents. Politicians can have their own business interests, drug traffickers may have counterparts in another country and militant groups may have the sympathy of other groups or even members in a state's government. There are no limits on how separate networks may interact with one another. Understanding a group's ties to other groups further defines the original group's influence. For example, a political leader at odds with the powerful military of his state may find significant constraints in governing (due to the limitations within the human network on figures linking the military assets to political leaders). A drug trafficker with a law enforcement officer on his payroll will likely find less resistance from authorities when conducting illicit business (due to the capabilities that a police officer would provide to the network).

The reasons for, and methods of, defining a human network will vary depending on the intelligence organization. A nation with vast resources like the United States has an exceptionally large focus on human networks around the world and a full array of intelligence disciplines to gather the necessary information. At Stratfor, our reasons to map the intricate web of human relations within an organization differ as we look to understand the constraints that human networks place on actors.

Challenges of Tracking Human Networks

The individuals in an organization are constantly changing. This means the job of mapping the driving forces in an organization never ends, since relations shift, roles change and individuals often are taken out of the picture altogether. As a result, intelligence collectors must continually task their intelligence assets for new information, and analysts must continually update their organizational charts.

Logically, the more fluid the membership of an organization, the more difficult it is for an intelligence organization -- or rival organization -- to follow it. As an example, take Los Zetas, who dominate the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo. The group always will have individuals in the city in charge of running daily criminal operations, such as coordinating gunmen, drug shipments, money laundering and retail drug sales. Within a Mexican transnational criminal organization, the person filling this role is typically called a "plaza boss." Several alleged Zetas plaza bosses of Nuevo Laredo were killed or captured during 2012 in Mexican military operations. With each kill or capture, an organization must replace the former plaza boss. This frequent succession of plaza bosses obviously reshapes the human network operating in Nuevo Laredo.

It is no simple matter for a collector to ask his informants about, or to eavesdrop through surveillance, for information about the personnel changes. It takes time for a new plaza boss to assume his new responsibilities. A new office manager must get to know his employees and operations before making critical decisions. Additionally, an intelligence collector's assets may not be able to provide updates right away. In the case of an informant, does the informant have the same access to the new plaza boss as the former? Roles are more constant within an organization and can be split up among individuals. Thus, a person who had handled both gunmen and drug shipments may be replaced by two people to break up the responsibilities. Therefore, collectors and analysts must seek to understand the roles of the new plaza boss and whether he has the same influence as the prior one.

What We Do

Understanding that the players within organizations change frequently, but that the roles and constraints of an organization transform far more slowly, is key to how Stratfor approaches human networks. For the leader of a nation, the geopolitical imperatives of the nation serve as impersonal forces directing the decisions of a rational individual. For a criminal or insurgent leader, there is only so much that can be done while attempting to avoid notice by law enforcement and the military, and the organization's imperatives will likely remain in place. In determining the constraints and imperatives, we can better identify the significance and courses of actions of an organization without necessarily knowing the details about the individuals serving specific roles.

Particularly with more clandestine human networks, we continually examine the external effects of known personnel changes. For example, how has the death of a Taliban leader in Pakistan affected the operations of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan as a whole, such as in the case of the Jan. 3 death of Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan? Nazir commanded a relatively benign faction of the Pakistani Taliban that kept more aggressive, anti-government factions out of South Waziristan. His removal, and the nature of his removal, could invite militants waging an active fight against the Pakistani government to return to South Waziristan. Ultimately, Nazir was a distinct figure in the Pakistani militant network due to his alliance with Islamabad. While his removal won't change the fact that militants will thrive on the Pakistani-Afghan border (which geography dictates), it does marginally tilt the balance away from Islamabad and toward the militants.

With the example of Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo, we know Nuevo Laredo is a critical location for the transnational criminal organization. As a border town with one of the highest volumes of cross-border commercial shipping to the United States, the city serves as one of the principal sources of revenue for Zetas drug traffickers. For this reason, Los Zetas will certainly continue to replace figures who are removed by military and law enforcement.

Using this known behavior and the imperatives, we can learn about Los Zetas elsewhere in Mexico: By observing the group at a broader geographic level, we can deduce the significance of a capture or death in a specific locale. If the losses of personnel in Nuevo Laredo have had a significant impact on the organization, operations would likely suffer in other geographic areas as the group accommodates its losses in Nuevo Laredo.

In forecasting the political, economic or security climate of a geographic region, understanding human networks must be incorporated into any analysis. Areas such as Mexico and Syria have geographic elements that define conflicts. Mexico's location between the cocaine producers of the northern Andes and cocaine consumers in the United States ensures that groups will profit off the cocaine flow from south to north. The Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental divide trafficking corridors between the east and west coasts of Mexico. But geography alone can't be used to predict how groups will organize and compete with each other within those trafficking corridors. Predicting the spread and scope of violence depends on knowledge of the human network and of who controls the resources and terrain. Similarly, the geographic significance of the Levant to Iran and Iraq determines the importance of Syria as an access point to the Mediterranean, but that alone doesn't determine the future of al Assad's regime. Understanding who his most trusted confidants are, what their relationships are based on and watching their moves enables us to filter the constant news of death and destruction coming out of Syria and to focus on the individuals who directly support al Assad and determine his immediate fate.

Inasmuch as humans can overcome geography, they can do so through organizations that control terrain and resources. Understanding the nature of those organizations and how they control those assets requires knowledge of the human network.

Intelligence and Human Networks is republished with permission of Stratfor.