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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

20 Facts about Mel Brooks' greatest achievement, Blazing Saddles

You can tell a good movie by the fact the fans know the lines better than the actors or script writers. Who hasn't quoted "I'll be back", "Make my day", or "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

I've often lamented on this blog (and Facebook...and Twitter...and life) of the lack of originality in Hollywood. They have remade in the last few years Star Trek's greatest villain, TV classics Lost In Space, Ironside and Hawaii Five O. The movies sow such originality as The Adams Family, Starsky & Hutch, Car 54, Where Are You?, Get Smart and True Grit. And I'm hearing the remake of Space 1999 in the future.

This was not the case with Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks, coming off his lampoons of Hitchcock, (High Anxiety), received a scrip called Tex X, like what he saw and the rest is history. I've put in selected parts of the article but the full list is well worth the read. Another movie
that will never be match and thankfully will never be remade!

Mindhole Blowers: 20 Facts About Blazing Saddles That Might Leave Your Mind Aglow with Whirling, Transient Nodes of Thought Careening Through a Cosmic Vapor of Invention

Mel Brooks' raunchy, insane Blazing Saddles had a heck of a time getting out the gate, but when it finally did, oh what a race it ran. With pitch perfect performances by Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn and Harvey Korman, the little Western (spoof) that could took on racial bigotry, sex and bodily functions, defied closed-minded fears and went on to become a great success, both with audiences and the awards circuit. Whether or not one enjoys this shocking, in-your-face comedy, Brooks' (and his actors') willingness to charge headfirst into dangerous waters is nothing if not admirable.

1. Blazing Saddles, originally titled Tex X, began as a story outline written by Andrew Bergman (Honeymoon in Vegas, The Freshman, Soapdish). After Mel Brooks (Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Spaceballs, High Anxiety) became involved, the film script was written by Bergman, Brooks, Norman Steinberg (Johnny Dangerously, My Favorite Year), Alan Uger ("Family Ties, Champs") and Richard Pryor (Bustin' Loose, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling).

2. Brooks told the story of how he came to be involved with the film: He was "walking the streets of New York, looking in the gutters for change," having just done The Producers and The Twelve Chairs back to back. Neither film made a lot of money, though The Producers ran a long time. As he was walking, Brooks heard a voice say, "Mel;" it was David Begelman, Creative Management Associates (talent agency) founder--and an old friend. Begelman took Brooks to lunch where he had "scrambled eggs, sliced tomatoes and rye toast with butter," then Begelman told Mel that Richard Zanuck and David Brown (Jaws, Planet of the Apes,) owned a property called Tex X, but they didn't know what do do with it. The agent thought it had a "Mel Brooks" feel to it. Brooks read it and liked it, but he told Begelman he didn't normally do things he hadn't written himself; Begelman said Brooks should write the script (it was only an outline at that point). Brooks let his wife, Anne Bancroft read Tex X and she liked it too, so Brooks let Begelman know he wanted to work with the original writer, Andrew Bergman. Brooks also wanted to get a group of writers together in a room (like he had done when writing with Carl Reiner, Neil Simon and others on "Your Show of Shows"), whoever has an idea puts it out and the group runs with it. Bergman liked the idea. Brooks said they needed to find a black writer and suggested Richard Pryor--Bergman was concerned ("He's a little nuts, isn't he?"). But Mel knew and liked Pryor, who was just starting out as a comedian and he called to ask Pryor to come work with them. Pryor agreed, but told Brooks he would take the train because he didn't like to fly. There was a certain kind of brandy Pryor liked and asked Brooks to have it waiting for him--"I can get more of it into me on the train before I meet you."

3. The writing group included a former lawyer who wanted to be a scriptwriter (Norman Steinberg) and his friend the dentist (Alan Ugo), both of whom had to go back to their regular jobs toward the end of the writing process (to earn money). Brooks said he wrote most of the sheriff's part and Pryor wrote most of Mongo. The group would write for three to four hours, then separate to chill out and get away from each other, coming back "when they could take each other again." Brooks said they wrote at 666 Fifth Avenue on the sixth floor; he was afraid (because of The Omen) that they were doomed. Coincidentally, that particular building was visible in 1977's The Exorcist II: The Heretic and a restaurant at the top of the building is featured in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens.

4. The writers agreed that Tex X was not a good film title, Brooks thought it sounded like a black exploitation film. He suggested Black Bart (the sheriff's name), but Warner Bros. wouldn't approve that title. Brooks also suggested The Purple Sage, a reference to Zane Grey's 1912 novel, Riders of the Purple Sage and was told it was too wild and too arcane--no one would get it. They left the title alone and kept writing....

6. "The whole movie cost about $2.6 million--nobody got anything." Brooks said he hardly made much himself, around $50k to write, direct, for everything. The remaining writers (after those that left for financial reasons) held in there and finished writing. They'd write every day until around midnight, then walk to Chinatown where there was a restaurant they liked--they'd have beef and broccoli and a Pepsi, then walk back. Brooks spoke of working hard to get the script done, it had to be completed by July....

...8. Brooks wanted Richard Pryor to play the sheriff--Calley was okay with it--but because Pryor was unknown, others were not. Brooks called Pryor "the most blessed with talent guy he'd ever seen in his life. So sweet a guy." The director went back to New York and to every studio executive to beg for Pryor, but they wouldn't let him have the part. When he saw Cleavon Little, Brooks knew he was "the guy." "Everyone who had ever worked with him loved him." Brooks said he knew Little "got it" and that Cleavon delivered the lines just the way Bart should (say them).

9. Madeline Kahn had done Paper Moon; Brooks cast her right away, saying he loved her and knew how funny she was from Off-Broadway. When she auditioned, he said "Let me see your legs." She said, "Oh, you're that kind of guy." Kahn was nervous. Mel demanded to see them, explaining that "If you're going to do Dietrich, you've gotta have the legs." Kahn showed them and said, "You're not going to touch them?" He said, "No" and he never did. Brooks called Kahn good natured and (she was) fun on the set.

10. Director/Actor Claude E. Starrett Jr. (aka Jack) knew Mel Brooks and had once done a George "Gabby" Hayes immitation for Brooks. Mel called him and said, "I want you to do your Gabby Hayes in the movie;" he agreed to play Gabby Johnson.

11. Brooks chose Slim Pickens ("Bonanza, Gunsmoke," The Apple Dumpling Gang) based on seeing him ride the bomb down to earth in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

12. Liam Dunn (Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie), who played Reverend Johnson, was described by Brooks as "very weird." The actor had emphysema and when he would finish a scene, they'd ask him "Do you want water? Do you want orange juice? Do you want a cigarette?" Dunn would always choose the cigarette; he'd take a few puffs of smoke, then a few puffs of oxygen.

13. Brooks wanted actor Dan Dailey (It's Always Fair Weather, The Getaway, My Blue Heaven [1950]) for The Waco Kid, calling him the best civilian horse rider around, but Dailey said he couldn't do it, he was blind (wore "Coke bottle glasses"). Brooks later ran into John Wayne in the commissary and asked him to read the script. Wayne told Brooks he would read it that night and that Mel should meet him back at the commissary at noon the next day. When they met again, the actor said it was too dirty; "I can't do it, I'm John Wayne." Wayne did love the script and told Brooks he was up all night screaming, he loved it and would be first in line to see it....

...15. When (Gene) Wilder arrived, he brought with him a four page outline he'd written for Young Frankenstein and asked Mel to do it with him. While editing Blazing Saddles the two worked together writing the script--Blazing Saddles was released in February, 1974--Young Frankenstein was released in December, that same year. Madeline Kahn, Liam Dunn, Wilder and Brooks starred in both films. While working on the script, Brooks realized he was smoking too much and quit, cold turkey. When he started working on Young Frankenstein, Brooks met Marty Feldman, who smoked "two cartons a day and wore a lighter around his neck."

16. The finished film was shown to twelve executives. Brooks described the scene: They couldn't help but laugh at a couple of things (the farting scene); the film comes to a "glorious end" and the lights come up..."nothing...just quiet. It was pretty rough." The silence lasted about ten minutes, with only some throat clearing. Finally, Leo Greenfield (distribution executive) said, "New York, Chicago, LA, we can open in those three cities. It's funny, but I don't know if we should open this." Some people said, "We can bury this. It's only about $2.6 million, it will cost more to deal with the negatives and the advertisers." But John Calley thought there was lots of good stuff and suggested they "sleep on it." Producer Michael Hertzberg (Entrapment, The Producers) decided to set up a viewing at room 12, the biggest Warner Bros. screening room. They went to all the offices and got every secretary, assistant, whoever they could find and filled the theater. Brooks: "Right from the singing and the titles, there was thunder--you never heard laughter like that in your life. People were screaming and yelling and rolling in the aisles. Word got out to the big shots." The next day, Brooks got a call from Calley, who said he was going to put his job on the line and get it out there, spend maybe a million bucks. Brooks thought the poster was brilliant, with the tagline "Never Give a Saga an Even Break" taken from a W. C. Fields line in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, " Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump" (credited to P.T. Barnum by Brooks). For the opening, horses were brought down Wilshire Boulevard.

17. At the screening, Warner Bros. head Ted Ashley cornered Brooks and said "You have to do the following: take out the word n*****, take out the bean scene, punching a horse, the Lili von Shtupp and the black sheriff--"You're sucking my arm," or something--you've got to take all that out." Brooks (who was writing it down) says, "Great! They're all out!" He walks away, crumples up the paper and throws it away--they guy didn't know Brooks had final cut control in his contract. He never heard from Ashley again. "Imagine if I didn't have final cut?" Brooks lamented over the version that is shown on television, says he can't even watch it--everything is cut out. The film did well upon initial release; even better for its second, summer release (Warner Bros. didn't have a big summer release and people kept clamoring for Blazing Saddles).

18. Brooks received a lot of letters from animal lovers who thought they really punched the horse (they didn't). There were two horses on set, trained to fall down. "Lots of white people got upset, but never any blacks. They knew it (n*****) was used correctly." Brooks said he doesn't think the word should ever be used unless "absolutely correctly to show racial prejudice. And we dIdn't show it from good people, but from bad people who didn't know any better."...

It's George Bush's fault....

Remember all this is not the responsibility of B Hussein Obama

Thank you Independent Journal Review for this cartoon.

Officer Down

Police Officer Keith Crenshaw
Eupora Mississippi Police Department
End of Watch: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Age: 52
Tour: 10 years
Badge # E6
Incident Date: 10/23/2013

Police Officer Keith Crenshaw was struck and killed by a vehicle while deploying a spike strip during a vehicle pursuit on U.S. Highway 82, at the exit to Mississippi 9.

Three subjects in the vehicle were wanted in connection with multiple attempted robberies earlier in the morning and led officers on a high speed chase across three counties. Officer Crenshaw deployed the spike strip at approximately 10:00 a.m. as the chase entered Europa. As the subjects approached they swerved into the median, fatally striking Officer Crenshaw. The vehicle then crashed into a utility pole.

One subject was killed in the wreck and two others were taken into custody.

Officer Crenshaw had served with the Eupora Police Department for 10 years. He is survived by his six children and five grandchildren.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Geopolitical Weekly: U.S. Foreign Policy from the Founders' Perspective, October 23, 2013

By George Friedman

Last week I discussed how the Founding Fathers might view the American debt crisis and the government shutdown. This week I thought it would be useful to consider how the founders might view foreign policy. I argued that on domestic policy they had clear principles, but unlike their ideology, those principles were never mechanistic or inflexible. For them, principles dictated that a gentleman pays his debts and does not casually increase his debts, the constitutional provision that debt is sometimes necessary notwithstanding. They feared excessive debt and abhorred nonpayment, but their principles were never completely rigid.

Whenever there is a discussion of the guidelines laid down by the founders for American foreign policy, Thomas Jefferson's admonition to avoid foreign entanglements and alliances is seen as the founding principle. That seems reasonable to me inasmuch as George Washington expressed a similar sentiment. So while there were some who favored France over Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars, the main thrust of American foreign policy was neutrality. The question is: How does this principle guide the United States now?

A Matter of Practicality

Like all good principles, Jefferson's call for avoiding foreign entanglements derived from practicality. The United States was weak. It depended heavily on exports, particularly on exports to Britain. Its navy could not guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, which were in British hands and were contested by the French. Siding with the French against the British would have wrecked the American economy and would have invited a second war with Britain. On the other hand, overcommitting to Britain would have essentially returned the United States to a British dependency.

Avoiding foreign entanglements was a good principle when there were no other attractive strategies. Nonetheless, it was Jefferson himself who engineered a major intrusion into European affairs with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. Initially, Jefferson did not intend to purchase the entire territory. He wanted to own New Orleans, which had traded hands between Spain and France and which was the essential port for access between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri river system. Jefferson sensed that Napoleon would sell New Orleans to finance his war in Europe, but he was surprised when Napoleon countered with an offer to sell all of France's North American holdings for $15 million. This would change the balance of power in North America by blocking potential British ambitions, opening the Gulf route to the Atlantic to the United States and providing the cash France needed to wage wars.

At the time, this was not a major action in the raging Napoleonic Wars. However, it was not an action consistent with the principle of avoiding entanglement. The transaction held the risk of embroiling the United States in the Napoleonic Wars, depending on how the British reacted. In fact, a decade later, after Napoleon was defeated, the British did turn on the United States, first by interfering with American shipping and then, when the Americans responded, by waging war in 1812, burning Washington and trying to seize New Orleans after the war officially ended.

Jefferson undertook actions that entangled the United States in the affairs of others and in dangers he may not have anticipated -- one of the major reasons for avoiding foreign entanglements in the first place. And he did this against his own principles.

The reason was simple: Given the events in Europe, a unique opportunity presented itself to seize the heartland of the North American continent. The opportunity would redefine the United States. It carried with it risks. But the rewards were so great that the risks had to be endured. Avoiding foreign entanglements was a principle. It was not an ideological absolute.

Jefferson realized that the United States already was involved in Europe's affairs by virtue of its existence. When the Napoleonic Wars ended, France or Britain would have held Louisiana, and the United States would have faced threats east from the Atlantic and west from the rest of the continent. Under these circumstances, it would struggle to survive. Therefore, being entangled already, Jefferson acted to minimize the danger.

This is a very different view of Jefferson's statement on avoiding foreign entanglements than has sometimes been given. As a principle, steering clear of foreign entanglements is desirable. But the decision on whether there will be an entanglement is not the United States' alone. Geographic realities and other nations' foreign policies can implicate a country in affairs it would rather avoid. Jefferson understood that the United States could not simply ignore the world. The world got a vote. But the principle that excessive entanglement should be avoided was for him a guiding principle. Given the uproar over his decision, both on constitutional and prudential grounds, not everyone agreed that Jefferson was faithful to his principle. Looking back, however, it was prudent.

The Illusion of Isolationism

The U.S. government has wrestled with this problem since World War I. The United States intervened in the war a few weeks after the Russian czar abdicated and after the Germans began fighting the neutral countries. The United States could not to lose access to the Atlantic, and if Russia withdrew from the war, then Germany could concentrate on its west. A victory there would have left Germany in control of both Russian resources and French industry. That would have created a threat to the United States. It tried to stay neutral, then was forced to make a decision of how much risk it could bear. The United States opted for war.

Isolationists in World War II argued against involvement in Europe (they were far more open to blocking the Japanese in China). But the argument rested on the assumption that Germany would be blocked by the Soviets and the French. The alliance with the Soviets and, more important, the collapse of France and the invasion of the Soviet Union, left a very different calculation. In its most extreme form, a Soviet defeat and a new Berlin-friendly government in Britain could have left the Germans vastly more powerful than the United States. And with the French, British and German fleets combined, such an alliance could have also threatened U.S. control of the Atlantic at a time when the Japanese controlled the western Pacific.

A similar problem presented itself during the Cold War. In this case, the United States did not trust the European balance of power to contain the Soviet Union. That balance of power had failed twice, leading to alliances that brought the United States into the affairs of others. The United States calculated that early entanglements were less risky than later entanglements. This calculation seemed to violate the Jeffersonian principle, but in fact, as with Louisiana, it was prudent action within the framework of the Jeffersonian principle.

NATO appeared to some to be a violation of the founders' view of a prudent foreign policy. I think this misinterprets the meaning of Jefferson's and Washington's statements. Avoiding entanglements and alliances is a principle worth considering, but not to the point of allowing it to threaten the national interest. Jefferson undertook the complex and dangerous purchase of Louisiana because he thought it carried less risk than allowing the territory to remain in European hands.

His successors stumbled into war partly over the purchase, but Jefferson was prepared to make prudent judgments. In the same way, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, realizing that avoiding foreign entanglements was impossible, tried to reduce future risk.

Louisiana, the two world wars and the Cold War shared one thing: the risks were great enough to warrant entanglement. All three could have ended in disaster for the United States. The idea that the oceans would protect the United States was illusory. If one European power dominated all of Europe, its ability to build fleets would be extraordinary. Perhaps the United States could have matched it; perhaps not. The dangers outweighed the benefits of blindly adhering to a principle.

A General Role

There is not an existential threat to the United States today. The major threat is militant Islamism, but as frightening as it is, it cannot destroy the United States. It can kill large numbers of Americans. Here the Jeffersonian principle becomes more important. There are those who say that if the United States had not supported Israel in the West Bank or India in Kashmir, then militant Islamism would have never been a threat. In other words, if we now, if not in the past, avoided foreign entanglements, then there would be no threat to the United States, and Jefferson's principles would now require disentanglement.

In my opinion the Islamist threat does not arise from any particular relationship the United States has had, nor does it arise from the celebration of the Islamic principles that Islamists hold. Rather, it arises from the general role of the United States as the leading Western country. The idea that the United States could avoid hostility by changing its policies fails to understand that like the dangers in 1800, the threat arises independent of U.S. action.

But militant Islamism does not threaten the United States existentially. Therefore, the issue is how to apply the Jeffersonian principle in this context. In my opinion, the careful application of his principle, considering all the risks and rewards, would tell us the following: It is impossible to completely defeat militant Islamists militarily, but it is possible to mitigate the threat they pose. The process of mitigation carries with it its own risks, particularly as the United States carries out operations that don't destroy militant Islamists but do weaken the geopolitical architecture of the Muslim world -- which is against the interests of the United States. Caution should be exercised that the entanglement doesn't carry risks greater than the reward.

Jefferson was always looking at the main threat. Securing sea-lanes and securing the interior river systems was of overwhelming importance. Other things could be ignored. But the real challenge of the United States is defining the emerging threat and dealing with it decisively. How much misery could have been avoided if Hitler had been destroyed in 1936? Who knew how much misery Hitler would cause in 1936? These thoughts are clear only in hindsight.

Still, the principle is the same. Jefferson wanted to avoid foreign entanglements except in cases where there was substantial benefit to American national interests. He was prepared to apply his principle differently then. The notion of avoiding foreign entanglements must therefore be seen as a principle that, like all well-developed principles, is far more complex than it appears. Foreign entanglements must be avoided when the ends are trivial or unattainable. But when we can get Louisiana, the principle of avoidance dictates involvement.

As in domestic matters, ideology is easy. Principles are difficult. They can be stated succinctly, but they must be applied with all due sophistication.

U.S. Foreign Policy from the Founders' Perspective is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Star Wars Bloopers

No commnets are really needed. But this does show why the drones are such bad shots! :<)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Officer Down

Police Officer Patrick Hill
Detroit Michigan Police Department
End of Watch: Saturday, October 19, 2013
Age: 37
Tour: 13 years
Incident Date: 4/2/2013

Police Officer Patrick Hill succumbed to an accidental gunshot wound sustained six months earlier following a high speed pursuit of a murder suspect.

The vehicle they were pursuing was boxed into another police car at the intersection of Linwood and Hooker Street. The murder suspect immediately opened fire on officers from inside the vehicle wounding one officer. Other officers on the scene returned fire, killing the subject. It is believed that shrapnel from a shotgun pellet fired by another officer struck Officer Hill in the head.

Another person in the vehicle attempted to flee on foot but was arrested.

Officer Hill was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. He succumbed to his wounds on October 19th, 2013.

Officer Hill had served with the Detroit Police Department for 13 years. He is survived by his wife and four 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: Lessons From a Failed Attack in Ethiopia, October 17, 2013

By Scott Stewart

An explosion ripped through a residence Oct. 13 in the Bole district of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city, killing two men. The Ethiopian government said the two were Somalis who were in Ethiopia illegally. News footage of the scene showed a pistol, hand grenades and bomb components discovered after the blast.

The incident occurred just prior to a highly publicized soccer game in which the Ethiopian national team played a World Cup qualification match against the Nigerian national team in an Addis Ababa stadium just a few miles from the site of the explosion. An Ethiopian government spokesman noted Oct. 14 that an intact suicide vest and a soccer shirt were found at the site of the explosion, indicating that the two men likely intended to use their weapons and explosives to attack the stadium during the match or one of the many venues where large crowds would gather to watch the game on television. While the Ethiopians lost the soccer match against Nigeria, their luck clearly was better when the explosion killed the two would-be assailants before they could strike.


Ethiopia has long been wracked by terrorist attacks conducted by insurgent groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Such groups have used improvised explosive devices and carried out armed assaults or ambushes in the past, including attacks in Addis Ababa. These nationalistic groups have not, however, employed suicide attacks before. In fact, the Ogaden National Liberation Front has released press statements describing al Shabaab suicide attacks as cowardly. The apparent planned suicide attack in this incident by two men of Somali origin suggests al Shabaab or al Shabaab sympathizers were behind the attack aborted by the explosion.

Al Shabaab in fact claimed responsibility for the failed attack via its Twitter account. The group also claimed to have placed other explosive devices on Churchill Avenue at the Piazza in the heart of the Ethiopian capital, but a subsequent search of the area found nothing. Al Shabaab also claimed on Twitter on Oct. 15 that the operation was in fact intended to target the soccer match.

Al Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, has threatened to conduct attacks in Ethiopia since shortly after the 2006 invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops that resulted in the unseating of the Islamic Courts Union government in early 2007 -- and the emergence of al Shabaab as an insurgent and terrorist group. Indeed, Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, the Somali jihadist group that preceded and helped spawn the Islamic Courts Union, had been threatening to attack Ethiopia since the 1990s.

Despite some thwarted plots and low-level bombings that may have been linked to al Shabaab -- for example, it claimed responsibility for a November 2007 bombing at a hotel in Dolo, Ethiopia -- al Shabaab's threats against Ethiopia have been largely empty.

If the claims of the Ethiopian government and al Shabaab are true in this case and the deceased pair indeed planned to attack soccer fans, this would be eerily similar to the July 11, 2010, al Shabaab attack in Kampala, Uganda, in which a coordinated suicide attack using three improvised explosive devices struck crowds watching World Cup matches. The Kampala attack killed 70 and wounded scores more. Uganda has troops in Somalia, as do Ethiopia and Kenya. While Ethiopia is undertaking a unilateral military mission in Somalia, Kenyan and Ugandan troops are supporting the African Union Mission to Somalia, which seeks to help the government of Somalia in its struggle against al Shabaab. (Burundi, Djibouti and Sierra Leone also have troops deployed to the country under the aegis of the African Union Mission to Somalia.)

Like Kenya, where al Shabaab attacked the Westgate Mall on Sept. 21, Ethiopia hosts a large population of Somalis displaced by decades of famine, war and the lack of a stable government. In addition to the displaced Somalis, there is also an ethnically Somali area of Ethiopia with a sizable population. All told, some 8 million Somalis reside in Ethiopia, comprising the country's third-largest ethnic group. Similar to Somali diaspora populations elsewhere, including in the United States and Europe, a small percentage of Somalis in Ethiopia are sympathetic to al Shabaab.

If the explosion in Addis Ababa was indeed an al Shabaab operation, this would clearly indicate a shift in the group's intent to act on the threats they have made against the countries with troops in Somalia. Three years separated the Kampala attack and the Westgate Mall attack, but only a month passed between the Westgate Mall attack and the explosion in Addis Ababa, indicating that al Shabaab appears to have increased the tempo of its attacks outside Somalia. This change of intent and corresponding increase in operational tempo means al Shabaab could be plotting other strikes in countries with troops in Somalia.

However, even if al Shabaab wants to increase the frequency and range of its operations, the group will be limited in what it can do because it lacks the sophisticated terrorist tradecraft required to conduct more sophisticated attacks. This is especially true the farther one gets from its home base in Somalia.


As we noted in the aftermath of the Westgate Mall attack, the operation employed attackers using common insurgent weapons (assault rifles and hand grenades) and rudimentary insurgent tactics rather than more sophisticated terrorist tradecraft and weaponry. This was made possible because al Shabaab has a robust support network in Kenya and access to military weapons. The presence of a pistol, hand grenades and electrical blasting caps in Addis Ababa likewise shows that al Shabaab also has ready access to military ordnance inside Ethiopia.

The presence of the bomb components in the rented residence where the detonation occurred suggests that the explosion occurred during the assembly of an improvised explosive device or from the premature detonation of an already completed device. The sloppy workmanship on a firing chain for a bomb found intact at the residence, which had numerous connections taped together with electrical tape as part of the improvised wiring harness and was hooked to three electrical detonators and a nine-volt battery, makes an accidental detonation of an explosive device with a similarly constructed firing chain easy to envisage.

It is far easier to assemble improvised explosive devices from military-grade or commercial explosive components than it is to manufacture components from scratch. That the two operatives in Addis Ababa failed to accomplish this without killing themselves demonstrates their lack of bombmaking tradecraft. If a bombmaker struggles to make a device from manufactured components in Ethiopia, the chances of that individual manufacturing a viable device from scratch in a more hostile environment -- like the United States or the United Kingdom -- are fairly remote.

As we noted after the Nairobi attack, al Shabaab has shown the ability to conduct complex attacks inside Somalia using both insurgent and terrorist tactics. Its terrorist attacks in Somalia have involved the successful deployment of suicide bombers and large vehicle bombs. But to date, al Shabaab has yet to demonstrate the ability to conduct anything more than rudimentary attacks outside Somalia. The botched attack in Addis Ababa confirms our assessment of its limited ability to project a terrorist capability. Before the group can pose a transnational threat, it must develop the capability to dispatch operatives trained in advanced terrorist tradecraft to conduct missions in hostile environments. Thus, at present the group appears to continue to pose a regional threat rather than a true transnational one. But even with this limited capability it can be deadly within the region.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

At least I’ve gotten something right....

Been a really bad day. After going outside, spilled coffee all over the floor by the front door. Broke the front of my iPhone outside. And got eaten by ants moving trash to the front. Damned I’m feeling like calling in, but I got to get to work in a few hours.

At least I did get finished with this. I’ve been moving as much as possible to being paperless, books I’m reading not withstanding. Since the mid-1990s at the beginning of every year I would start a multi page file for the new year with sections for taxes, paychecks, medical, etc. After the following new year, I’d complete my taxes, print off a final copy for this file and then place it into a box for “long term” storage. Then I’d pull the file from five years previous, purge it of things I don’t need anymore (old receipts, etc) and then destroy the paper. I’d put the now reduced file with the essential (e.g. tax and medical records) in the file.

Well, last spring I bought a Scan Snap scanner to start getting this paper converted into electrons.
After scanning the 2013 files I started to get excited. I reduced an eight inch file to a few files, everything else is electrons (backed up on CD and online). Then it came time to get the big project started.

Fifteen years of papers!
Took two of these boxes to hold!

First, I brought up two boxes of files for scanning.

The remains after I scanned.
Next, over two weeks I scanned one section after another into my computer.  This was fun and made a real mess for the time but it was only temporary!

This project was a pain in the ass but it reduced two boxes to a few files:

The remains.  Elmer wants to help Daddy!

And here are the remains. Now how to destroy this without burning up my shredder or paying Shred-it a fortune. Well, I want to be environmentally sensitive so I pulled the bag downstairs, put it in my BBQ pit and burned it. Hey, the plants will love all the CO2 I put out for them to breath.

My neighbor though the house was on fire...I can't understand why?! :&lt;)

The next morning I went outside and it was still smoldering.  Turned a few more pages and it burned down by noon.  Put the ashes in a box for pick up with the Friday morning trash.

All in all a pain in the ass but I've reduced my paper retention to less than 5% of what I used to have.  Can't beat it.

Hope you have a great week!

Officer Down

Lieutenant Clay Crabb
Austin Texas Police Department
End of Watch: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Age: 42
Tour: 19 years
Badge # 3841
Cause: Automobile accident
Incident Date: 10/16/2013

Lieutenant Clay Crabb was killed in an automobile collision on U.S. Highway 290, near Sawyer Ranch Road in Hays County, while en route to the police station.

His patrol car hydroplaned and slid into oncoming traffic and was struck by another vehicle during a period of heavy rain.

Lieutenant Crabb had served with the Austin Police Department for 15 years and previously served with the San Angelo Police Department for four years. He is survived by his wife and three children. He was killed the day before his 43rd birthday.
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. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

OK. this is not a good example of how to do the job...

I've often said don't rush to judgement when an officer uses force. Often people see only part of the story, don't understand that a man with a knife can be a serious threat to a man with a pistol, etc.

That being said if this an accurate report, I have to say the man should have been terminated.
A Tennessee police officer lost his job after he shot a squirrel inside a store last Thursday.

It happened in Mountain City -- northeast of Johnson City.

According to police documents, now-former Officer Jody Putnam was inside a Dollar General Store when employees noticed the squirrel. Putnam apparently shot his firearm at the squirrel inside the store. When that didn't work, he used another weapon; pepper spray.

"There was a lot of people that come out and just like me they came out and they were coughing and a hacking," Carl Duffield told WJHL-TV. "It was comical, but I'm sure they didn't feel that way - the customers that came out."

In Mountain City, when an officer fires their weapon, they have to report it to a supervisor and make a written statement.

Putnam refused to file the report. That is a violation of department policy and for that reason, the town's Board of Mayor and Alderman fired him.

The standard for the use of deadly force is do you have legitimate fear for the life or serious bodily injury of yourself or a third person. I can't see how this officer had legit fear of that. And any use of a firearm has to be documented. So what can I say man, you screwed up, again assuming this is the full story. I've learned to not take all in a news report at face value.

Officer Down

Special Agent Joseph M. Peters
United States Army Criminal Investigation Division
End of Watch: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Age: 24
Tour: 6 years
Incident Date: 10/6/2013

Special Agent Joseph Peters was killed by an improvised explosive device while accompanying soldiers during combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Three soldiers were also killed in the explosion.

Special Agent Peters had served in the U.S. Army for six years and was assigned to the 286th Military Police Detachment (CID), 5th Military Police Battalion (CID), Vicenza, Italy. He is survived by his wife and 20-month-old son.

Special Agent Peters was posthumously awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Geopolitical Weekly: The U.S. Debt Crisis from the Founders' Perspective, October 15, 2013

By George Friedman

The U.S. government is paralyzed, and we now face the possibility that the United States will default on its debt. Congress is unable to resolve the issue, and President Obama is as obstinate as the legislators who oppose him. To some extent, our political system is functioning as intended -- the Founding Fathers meant for it to be cumbersome. But as they set out to form a more perfect union, they probably did not anticipate the extent to which we have been able to cripple ourselves.

Striving for ineffectiveness seems counterintuitive. But there was a method to the founders' madness, and we first need to consider their rationale before we apply it to the current dilemma afflicting Washington.

Fear and Moderation

The founders did not want an efficient government. They feared tyranny and created a regime that made governance difficult. Power was diffused among local, state and federal governments, each with their own rights and privileges. Even the legislative branch was divided into two houses. It was a government created to do little, and what little it could do was meant to be done slowly.

The founders' fear was simple: Humans are by nature self-serving and prone to corruption. Thus the first purpose of the regime was to pit those who wished to govern against one other in order to thwart their designs. Except for times of emergency or of overwhelming consensus, the founders liked what we today call gridlock.

At the same time, the founders believed in government. The U.S. Constitution is a framework for inefficiency, but its preamble denotes an extraordinary agenda: unity, justice, domestic tranquility, defense, general welfare and liberty. So while they feared government, they saw government as a means to staggeringly ambitious ends -- even if those ends were never fully defined.

Indeed, the founders knew how ambiguous their goals were, and this ambiguity conferred on them a sense of moderation. They were revolutionaries, yet they were inherently reasonable men. They sought a Novus Ordo Seclorum, a "New Order of the Ages," a term that was later put on the Great Seal of the United States, yet they were not fanatical. The murders and purges that would occur under Robespierre or Lenin were foreign to their nature.

The founders' moderation left many things unanswered. For example, they did not agree on what justice was, as can be seen in their divided stance on slavery. (Notably, they were prepared to compromise even on something as terrible as slavery so long as the Constitution and regime could be created.) But if the purpose of the Constitution was to secure the "general welfare," what was the government's role in creating the circumstances that would help individuals pursue their own interests?

There is little in the Constitution that answered such questions, despite how meticulously it was crafted, and the founders knew it. It was not that they couldn't agree on what "general welfare" meant. Instead, they understood, I think, that general welfare would vary over time, much as "common defense" would vary. They laid down a principle to be pursued but left it to their heirs to pursue it as their wisdom dictated.

In a sense, they left an enigma for the public to quarrel over. This was partly intentional. Subsequent arguments would involve the meaning of the Constitution rather than the possibility of creating a new one, so while we would disagree on fundamental issues, we would not constantly try to re-establish the regime. It may not have been a coincidence that Thomas Jefferson, who hinted at continual revolution, did not participate in the Constitutional Convention.

The founders needed to bridge the gaps between the need to govern, the fear of tyranny and the uncertainty of the future. Their solution was not in law but in personal virtue. The founders were fascinated by Rome and its notion of governance. Their Senate was both a Roman name and venue for the Roman vision of the statesman, particularly Cincinnatus, who left his farm to serve (not rule) and then returned to it when his service was over. The Romans, at least in the eyes of the founders if not always in reality, did not see government as a profession but rather as a burden and obligation. The founders wanted reluctant rulers.

They also wanted virtuous rulers. Specifically they lauded Roman virtue. It is the virtue that most reasonable men would see as praiseworthy: courage, prudence, kindness to the weak, honoring friendship, resolution with enemies. These were not virtues that were greatly respected by intellectuals, since they knew that life was more complicated than this. But the founders knew that the virtues of common sense ought not be analyzed until they lose their vigor and die. They did not want philosopher-kings; they wanted citizens of simple, clear virtues, who served reluctantly and left gladly, pursued their passions but were blocked by the system from imposing their idiosyncratic vision, pursued the ends of the preamble, and were contained in their occasional bitterness by the checks and balances that would frustrate the personal and ideological ambitions of others.

The Founding Father who best reflects these values is, of course, George Washington. Among the founders, it is he whom we should heed as we ponder the paralysis-by-design of the founders' system and the current conundrum threatening an American debt default. He understood that the public would be reluctant to repay debt and that the federal government would lack the will to tax the public to pay debt on its behalf. He stressed the importance of redeeming and discharging public debt. He discouraged accruing additional debt and warned against overusing debt.

However, Washington understood there would be instances in which debt had to be incurred. He saw public credit as vital and therefore something that ought to be used sparingly -- particularly in the event of war -- and then aggressively repaid. This is not a technical argument for those who see debt as a way to manage the economy. It is a moral argument built around the virtue of prudence.

Of course, he made this argument at a time when the American dollar was not the world's reserve currency, and when there was no Federal Reserve Bank able to issue money at will. It was a time when the United States borrowed in gold and silver and had to repay in the same. Therefore in a technical sense, both the meaning and uses of debt have changed. From a purely economic standpoint, a good argument can be made that Washington's views no longer apply.

But Washington was making a moral argument, not an argument for economists. From the founders' perspective, debt was not simply a technical issue; it was a moral issue. What was borrowed had to be repaid. Easing debt may power the economy, but the founders would have argued that the well-being of the polity does not make economic growth the sole consideration. The moral consequences are there, too.

The Republic of the Mind

Consequently, I think the founders would have questioned the prudence of our current debt. They would ask if it were necessary to incur, and how and whether it would be paid back. They would also question whether economic growth driven by debt actually strengthens the nation. In any case, I think there is little doubt they would be appalled by our debt levels, not necessarily because of what it might do to the economy, but because of what it does to the national character. However, because they were moderate men they would not demand an immediate solution. Nor would they ask for a solution that undermines national power.

As for federally mandated health care, I think they would be wary of entrusting such an important service to an entity they feared viscerally. But they wouldn't have been fanatical in their resistance to it. As much as federally mandated health care would frighten them, I believe fanaticism would have frightened them even more.

The question of a default would have been simple. They would have been disgusted by any failure to pay a debt unless it was simply impossible to do so. They would have regarded self-inflicted default -- regardless of the imprudence of the debt, or health care reform or any such subject -- as something moderate people do not contemplate, let alone do.

There is a perfectly valid argument that says nothing the founders believe really affects the current situation. This is a discussion reasonable and thoughtful people ought to have without raised voices or suspicion that their opponent is vile. But in my opinion, we have to remember that our political and even private life has been framed by our regime and therefore by its founders. The concept of limited government, of the distinction between public and private life, of obligation and rights, all flow from the founders.

The three branches of government, the great hopes of the preamble and the moral character needed to navigate the course continue to define us. The moral character was always problematic from the beginning. Washington was unique, but America's early political parties fought viciously -- with Aaron Burr even shooting Alexander Hamilton. The republic of the mind was always greater than the republic itself. Still, when we come to moments such as these, it is useful to contemplate what the founders had in mind and measure ourselves against that.

The U.S. Debt Crisis from the Founders' Perspective is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Billy "Bubba" Kennedy
Upton County Texas Sheriff's Department
End of Watch: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Age: 38
Tour: 14 years
Incident Date: 10/2/2013

Deputy Sheriff Billy Kennedy was shot and killed after responding to a call at a convenience store on South Burleson Avenue, in McCamey, at approximately 11:15 pm.

After he arrived at the scene he encountered a male subject. During the encounter the two exchanged gunfire. Despite being mortally wounded, Deputy Kennedy was able to return fire and wounded the suspect.

Deputy Kennedy had served in law enforcement for 14 years. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Obamacare. Does anyone else think the screwups are not planned?

One thing I thank God for is (for now) I have affordable insurance for my family and I don't have to go through this crap on the exchange. For the moment. I'm scared my department will do that soon enough, but if I was a retiree I would be scared as hell. But I digress.

I heard of this blog listening to Michael Berry this morning and had to check the post out. This is what one woman had to endure on the exchange. From Menopause Express this morning.

My Healthcare.gov Experience This Morning

A little history…

After multiple attempts last week, I successfully created an account on healthcare.gov. I had to wake up at 5:15am in order to do so. The process still took me two hours, and at the end of those two hours, when I hit “Submit”, I waited and the screen flickered, then I was left on the same page as though nothing happened. I was never taken to a page confirming the process was complete.

I tried about 6 or 7 times. I even tried logging out and logging back in. Finally, I tried their chat support. They have this handy link at the lower right corner of the page that says, “Live Chat”. I figured their phone lines would be swamped, so I went that route. There was no disclaimer on what their chat did or did not support. Usually, when there is a chat link on such a page, it is level one support and they can help you with at least part of your problem. They can, at least, access your account.


The agent informed me they could not access any account information or help with the application process on chat support. Although I just needed to know if my application completed, the agent could not even answer that question. I had to call phone support.

The agent on phone support informed was friendly enough and asked me if I had an account number. I said, “No. I have an application number. I’m in the very last phase of the application process and that’s where things timed out. I clicked submit but I’m not sure if it worked. I just need to know.” I was told that without an account number she could not pull up my in-process application. She could not pull it up with the application number I had, nor could she pull it up with any of my personal information. My only option was to go through the application all over again on the phone (the same application I just spent two-hours completing and had no desire to go through again). If she took me through it by phone it would take 2-6 weeks for a confirmation; whereas, if I completed it online I got an immediate response.

WTF? Why the difference? Why couldn’t she get the same immediate confirmation? But that’s another rant for another day.

I didn’t want to dig up all the information again, so I logged out and logged in again so I could read through the in-process application and give her the responses she needed. Lo and behold! I received a new message! I had some file I had to download, indicating I’d been approved! I read the message to her and she confirmed this meant I’d receive an email shortly with my coverage options.

I never received it.

Fast forward to today…

I tried logging back in this morning. My username and password did not work. I thought, “Perhaps I forgot one or the other.” So I clicked on the link that said “Forgot Username”. I populated my name and my email address associated with my account. I did not receive an email. I checked my spam folder to be sure.

I contacted their chat support again. Surely, they can at least assist in resetting usernames and passwords.


Now, before I go on, here’s a screenshot of the chat window you see while you’re chatting with the agent. Note the misleading phrase at the top, “Chat with someone who can help”.

Alas, I had no method of emailing the transcript from the chat window. I had to copy/paste. I wish I had something more … credible. Regardless, here is the text from the chat, because they have no method of sending the transcript:

[0 6:49:51 am]: Thanks for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Please wait while we connect you to someone who can help.
[0 6:49:55 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[0 6:50:29 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[0 6:50:59 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[0 6:51:05 am]: Welcome! You’re now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat.

Thanks for contacting us. My name is Ada. To protect your privacy, please don’t provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.

[0 6:51:44 am]: (me)
Hello Ada. I’m trying to log back into the website but it isn’t accepting my username or password (I’m not sure which is incorrect).

[0 6:52:23 am]: (me)

I may have forgotten my username. I’ve been waiting for the email but nothing is coming through. I *know* I’m using the correct email address. Is this something you can help me with?

[0 6:54:25 am]: Ada
have you attempted to reset your username and password? If you need to reset your username or password, please use the “Forgot your username?” or “Forgot your password” links on the account login page.

[0 6:54:45 am]: (me)

Did you not read the description of my problem?

[0 6:55:03 am]: (me)

I tried that. I haven’t received the subsequent email from healthcare.gov

[0 6:55:31 am]: (me)
and I KNOW I’m using the correct email address for you to send me the information.

[0 6:56:09 am]: Ada
Thanks for your interest in the Health Insurance Marketplace. We have a lot of visitors trying to use our website right now. This is causing some glitches for some people trying to create accounts or log in. Keep trying, and thanks for your patience. You might have better success during off-peak hours, like later at night or early in the morning. We’ll continue working to improve the site so you can get covered!

[0 6:56:42 am]: (me)
Ok. So basically the chat agents are only good for sending scripted responses and not for actual assistance. Correct?

[0 6:57:01 am]: (me)
I’ll stop bothering you.

[0 6:57:16 am]: (me)
You should take this link off of your website.

[0 6:58:35 am]: (me)
the chat window even says “Chat with someone who can help”

[0 6:58:46 am]: (me)
You aren’t helping me.

[0 7:00:28 am]: Ada
I apologize. We are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach us toll free at 1-800-318-2596.

[0 7:00:50 am]: (me)
Yeah… because your chat support is useless.

[0 7:01:09 am]: (me)
I want this forwarded to a manager for a callback.

[0 7:01:21 am]: (me)
This is not the first time I’ve contacted chat support for assistance.

[0 7:02:58 am]: Ada
I apologize for the inconvenience.Is there anything else I can assist you with?

[0 7:03:22 am]: (me)
I want a manager to call me back regarding the problems I’ve had with chat support, overall.

[0 7:03:49 am]: (me)
Every time I’ve tried to get help through chat all I get are “scripted responses” followed by “call tech support”.

[0 7:04:08 am]: (me)
If I wanted to call and wait on hold, I would have done that in the first place.

[0 7:04:26 am]: (me)
If you have chat support, use it. If you don’t have chat support, don’t put the link up on your website.

[0 7:05:16 am]: Ada
You can reach us toll free at 1-800-318-2596.

[0 7:06:27 am]: (me)
… wow. When I was over an outsourcing call center, making sure their chat support was functioning properly and our customers were satisfied, THIS kind of thing would never happen.

[0 7:06:47 am]: (me)
Live chat… more like warm bodies in a chair.

[0 7:07:25 am]: (me)
Can you send me a transcript of this chat so I can forward it to a manager I reach by phone?

[0 7:09:35 am]: Ada
I apologize, but we do not have that ability.

[0 7:09:50 am]: (me)
Of course.

[0 7:10:50 am]: Ada
I apologize, but if there is nothing else I can help you with I am going to have to disconnect from this chat.

[0 7:11:05 am]: (me)
Unless you can give me a survey link, I think we’re done here.

[0 7:11:18 am]: Ada
Thank you for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And she ends the chat with the sentence, “We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Just how are they there to help?? As far as I can tell, they’re serving as a bottleneck for phone support. Can you imagine how many calls they’d be getting if the chat link wasn’t on the page?

A point I've made more than once is none of this bad news is unintentional. Now this was approved in 2010, the contracting was screwed up from the start, HHS kept changing the requirements and it failed the little testing it got. But that did't stop the Obama regime from going forward.

The administration has refused to say how many people have been enrolled, but they have said how many people have checked out the web site and said it crashed due to overload. As of today, the numbers are twenty million have logged on and half a million have signed up. Twenty million in three weeks. Amazon.com has over seventy-eight million visitors a month and they haven't had an outage like this.

I've been in government long enough to know that if the boss wanted this to be successful , he would have known about it. But for some reason he's "Going to get to the bottom of this.", as if he has nothing to do with his signature legislation. Could it be he is waiting for this to all crash down so he can say, "We'll we tried and it's all screwed up...sorry you we're bankrupted by lack of health care insurance and then you got cancer...but I'll do this, let's just eliminate the middle man and we'll set up single payer for the entire country."

Far fetched? Remember a quote from B Hussein Obama's mentor, Saul Alinsky. One of his more famous quotes, "The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change." So just make everyone desperate by means out of their control, like having the federal government deliberately destroy the private health care system and leave them with no hope so they will settle for third rate care at twice the cost. No way you answer? Look at that son of a bitch from earlier this month. He deliberately made his government shutdown as painful as possible to insure distress for the American people. Why do you spend money to put up barricades on walking paths?

B Hussein Obama is as cold and unfeeling a son of a bitch there is and if people get hurt in his desire for power, so be it. He doesn't care. I only pray the conservatives in the Congress can limit the damage and a conservative president elected in 2016 can start to undo the damage. If Hillary is elected, put a fork in the United States.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Dustin Blake Hamilton
East Baton Rouge Louisiana Parish Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Friday, September 27, 2013
Age: 24
Tour: 2 years
Cause: Automobile accident
Incident Date: 9/27/2013

Deputy Sheriff Dustin Hamilton was killed in a vehicle collision on Joor Road, between Mickens Road and Lovette Road, at approximately 7:10 pm.

He had just completed an overtime detail when his patrol car collided with another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

Deputy Hamilton had served with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office for two years.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Once More Unto the Breech...means Attack the breach in the city wall once more...pardon me while I puke!

I have always loved The Bard and his writings, and seeing it live is great. I remember seeing Lawrence Olivier as Hamlet in high school and the rest is history. This famous quote, Henry V's speech at Agincourt is arguably the greatest rousing speech in the English language.
Oh, that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work today.

What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin.
If we are marked to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God’s will, I pray thee wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honor,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace, I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more, methinks, would share from me,
For the best hope I have. Oh, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart. His passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse.
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand o' tiptoe when the day is named
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day, and live old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors
And say, “Tomorrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember├Ęd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

You can argue who did it better, Sir Lawrence Olivier or Sir Kenneth Branagh, but both men are awesome.

Not to let excellence stand on it's own and insure our children know great literature, the Common Core dopes have rewritten it and given us No Fear Shakespeare. No Fear Shakespeare has the original (aka real) and a version in modern English. Read it if you want to have your intelligence lowered.
Oh, if only we had with us here ten thousand of those men back home in England who aren’t working today.

Who wishes that? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my dear cousin. If we are slated to die, the fewer, the better for our country, and if we’re slated to live, the fewer men, the greater the share of honor for each of us. In God’s name, I beg you not to wish for one more man. By God, I am not selfish when it comes to money: I don’t care who eats at my expense. It doesn’t bother me when people borrow my clothing—I don’t care about these concrete things. But if it is a sin to be selfish about honor, I am the most guilty soul alive. No, my cousin, don’t wish that even one man who is now in England were here instead. By God, I wouldn’t lose as much honor as a single man more would cost me, I think—not even if it meant giving up my best hope for victory. Oh, do not wish one more! Instead, make this known throughout the army: whoever has no spirit for this fight, let him depart. He will be given safe conduct and money for his passage home. We would not want to die in the company of a man who fears to die with us. This day is called the Feast of Saint Crispian: he who lives to see this day out and comes home safe will stand tall when this day is named and raise himself up at the mention of Crispian. He who survives this day and lives to see old age shall yearly entertain his neighbors on the eve, saying, “Tomorrow is SAINT CRISPIN’S DAY
Saint Crispin’s Day.” He’ll roll up his sleeve and show his scars, saying, “I got these wounds on St. Crispin’s Day.” Old men forget. But these men will remember every detail of what they did today long after they’ve forgotten everything else. And as the wine flows, our names, familiar as household words, will be invoked again: Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester. Good men will tell their sons this story and the Feast of St. Crispin will nevergo by, from this day to the end of time, without our being remembered: we few, we happy few, we band of brothers—for whoever sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother. However humble his birth, this day shall grant him nobility. And men back in English now safe in their beds will curse themselves for not having been here, and think less of their own manhood when they listen to the stories of those who fought with us here on St. Crispin’s Day.

OK, if you want to have betted education for our children, why are you lowering the standards. Or is this a rhetorical question?

Thanks Pat at And So it Goes in Shreveport for the info on this latest lowering of English education. Why do we have a federal department of education?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Officer Down

Detective Sergeant Frank J. Lema, Sr.
United States Department of Defense - Naval Station Newport Police Department, U.S. Government
End of Watch: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Age: 70
Tour: 47 years
Badge # D10

Detective Sergeant Frank Lema was struck and killed by a government truck on-board the base at approximately 1:30 pm.

He was transported to a local hospital before being transferred to Rhode Island Hospital. He succumbed to his injuries approximately nine hours after being struck.

Sergeant Lema was a U.S. Air Force veteran. He had served with the Naval Station Newport Police Department for 21 years and had previously served with the Middletown Police Department for 26 years. He is survived by his five 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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Security Weekly: Mexico's Drug War: Stability Ahead of Fourth Quarter Turmoil, October 10, 2013

By Tristan Reed

Mexico Security Analyst

Despite the high-profile arrests of Los Zetas' top leader, Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, on July 15 and Gulf cartel leader Mario "El Pelon" Ramirez Trevino on Aug. 17, the third quarter much like the second quarter experienced a continuation of existing trends in organized crime. Tit-for-tat cartel conflicts continued, but Mexico's various organized criminal groups largely controlled the same territory they did at the beginning of the quarter. The third quarter did see intermittent periods of escalated violence by rival groups seeking territory. These included the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's conflict with the Knights Templar in Michoacan, Guerrero, Guanajuato and Jalisco states and the Velazquez faction of the Gulf cartel's conflict with Los Zetas in northern and central Mexico.

While no criminal organization in Mexico suffered any substantial losses in capabilities or territory in the third quarter, the fourth quarter will likely see variations in this trend, particularly as cartels adjust to the arrest of Mario Ramirez Trevino. The Velazquez faction will become the widest-operating branch of the Gulf cartel and the most active challenger to Los Zetas for control of the northeast. As Stratfor noted during our first quarterly update, the Velazquez faction was formerly led by the now-captured Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero, a former regional boss for Los Zetas, which split from Los Zetas around March 2012 and later returned to operating under the Gulf cartel name. The Velazquez faction continues to operate unhindered by the arrest of Ivan Velazquez on Sept. 26, 2012.

There are a variety of reasons for the relatively stable cartel dynamics in Mexico during the third quarter. For one, it has been less than three months since Miguel Trevino was detained by the Mexican navy and less than two since Mario Ramirez's detention. Miguel Trevino's brother, Omar Trevino, appears to have assumed leadership over Los Zetas, and -- notably -- there has been no significant challenge to his new role. Mario Ramirez's arrest will certainly alter the dynamic within the umbrella of the Gulf cartel, particularly as it relates to Gulf allies such as the Knights Templar and the Sinaloa Federation, and Gulf rivals, such as Los Zetas. Any changes related to dynamics within the Gulf cartel have yet to be reflected in open source reporting.

Also, the balkanization of Mexican organized crime has shifted the focus of all criminal organizations from planning new incursions to addressing existing challenges within their territory. The Sinaloa Federation continues to combat regional rivals in northwestern Mexico, including northern Sinaloa, southwestern Chihuahua, and northern Sonora state. Los Zetas continue their fight to regain complete control over much of Zacatecas state after Velazquez Caballero's split in 2012. Los Zetas also continued to engage in violent attacks against the Gulf cartel in the rest of northeastern Mexico and against the Knights Templar (and possibly Gulf cartel) in Tabasco state, although these offensives have not accomplished any real gains. The Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Knights Templar continued to focus on their traditional strongholds in southwestern Mexico, trading tit-for-tat incursions into one another's territories.

Moreover, many of the changes in cartel dynamics reported in the third quarter actually occurred during the first quarter. For example, Stratfor first identified the arrival of a new challenger to Los Zetas into Tabasco state operating under the name People United Against Crime (commonly referred to by its Spanish acronym, PUCD), but during the second and particularly third quarter it became apparent that People United Against Crime are really just pre-existing Zetas rivals operating under a new label (most likely the Knights Templar or its allies, the Velazquez faction of the Gulf cartel). And it came to light in the third quarter that Los Zetas have entered the Ciudad Juarez area in northern Chihuahua, though they actually began building their presence at least as far back as the first quarter.

In contrast to the minimal disruptions in the overall cartel landscape in Mexico in the past two quarters, the fourth quarter will likely see substantial changes. The Gulf cartel will likely feel the effects of Mario Ramirez's capture, which will shift the balance of power in Tamaulipas state and thus invite another offensive by Los Zetas or further control by Gulf allies, particularly the Knights Templar. Meanwhile, should Omar Trevino be capable of retaining the organization's ability to stage significant incursions into Sinaloa Federation territory, Los Zetas efforts in Ciudad Juarez could spark a new turf war in Chihuahua state.

Overall Violence

Los Zetas

After the July 15 capture by the Mexican navy of top Zeta leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, his brother Omar "Z-42" Trevino ascended to the top position within the criminal organization. Thus far, it does not appear that anyone within Los Zetas has publicly challenged Omar Trevino.

Many of the challenges to Los Zetas by rivals during the second quarter continued into the third quarter. While efforts by the Velazquez faction of the Gulf cartel to seize Zetas territory were renewed in part because of Miguel Trevino's capture, primarily affecting Zacatecas state and southern Tamaulipas state, the renewed fighting is only a continuation of the dispute that began after the former leader of the Velazquez faction, Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero, split from Los Zetas around March 2012. Elsewhere, Los Zetas have been unable to mitigate challenges for territorial control in some regions, a trend that emerged before Miguel Trevino's arrest.

Tamaulipas and Zacatecas states remain the most critical areas to follow in assessing the integrity and capability of Los Zetas, particularly Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. This is due to the value of Nuevo Laredo to Los Zetas' operational capabilities and to the Velazquez faction of the Gulf cartel being the most active and closest rival of Los Zetas in geographic proximity to Nuevo Laredo. While the Velazquez network operates along the entire eastern coast of Mexico, its center of operations remains in northern and central Mexico, including Zacatecas, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi states; its reach extends into southern Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon states (specifically Monterrey) thanks to its ties to other Gulf cartel factions.

With the exception of Zacatecas during September, however, there have been no indications that such violence has yet posed a substantial threat to Los Zetas operations in the aforementioned states. The lack of change in criminal activities in Nuevo Laredo, including inter-cartel violence, has been most notable in the Los Zetas-Gulf cartel competition. This suggests Los Zetas' rivals have yet to find the opportunity to mount another incursion against them.

Los Zetas have thus far maintained their capabilities in terms of drug smuggling and other criminal activity plus the ability to defend against their rivals despite the loss of their top leader, and the organization continues to operate deep into rival territory. During the third quarter of 2013, it became apparent that Los Zetas have been operating in the Sinaloa Federation-controlled territory of northern Chihuahua state, most notably in Ciudad Juarez, via its allies La Linea and Los Aztecas (both former enforcer groups of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization, better known as the Juarez cartel). Los Zetas are funding and training both groups, but they have yet to operate in an offensive manner in Ciudad Juarez at present.

However, Los Zetas have been using the area for their trafficking operations into the United States, particularly southeastern Ciudad Juarez. In exchange for support, Los Zetas can operate in areas still controlled by La Linea around Ciudad Juarez, helping to avoid an overt conflict with the Sinaloa Federation. Stratfor has received reports that Los Zetas have attempted to avoid drawing attention to their presence by eschewing violent acts. Although Los Zetas' presence in the area only became apparent in the third quarter, it had begun prior to the arrest of Miguel Trevino.

Although Los Zetas do not overtly appear to have suffered any substantial losses in operational capabilities since Miguel Trevino's arrest, uncertainties persist about whether his brother, Omar Trevino, can successfully manage one of the two largest criminal organizations in Mexico. These uncertainties make it difficult to forecast Los Zetas' strategy and the potential challenges that could lead to a degraded security climate in its own and rival territories. Should the Gulf cartel in Zacatecas state make progress in its territorial dispute with Los Zetas, rivals to Los Zetas would likely vie for territory closer to Nuevo Laredo, probably leading to an increase in violence. Additionally, should Los Zetas try to use their established presence in Ciudad Juarez to attempt a takeover from the Sinaloa Federation, violence in Chihuahua would likely increase drastically.

Gulf Cartel

The Gulf cartel suffered yet another substantial blow to its leadership during the third quarter with the capture of its most powerful leader, Mario "El Pelon" Ramirez Trevino, on Aug. 17. This arrest will likely lead to further tumult within the Gulf cartel, which had already devolved from a cohesive criminal organization into an umbrella group with factions loyal to individual leaders but operating on a transnational level.

The fall of Ramirez will likely propel the Velazquez faction of the Gulf cartel to become one of the most powerful Gulf cartel factions in the northeast during the fourth quarter, barring any unforeseen captures or deaths at the hands of Mexican authorities. This is because the Velazquez faction maintains the widest geographic reach in Mexico under a cohesive network. The leadership of the Velazquez faction since the arrest of Ivan Velazquez in September 2012 remains something of a mystery, though likely successors include two of his brothers, Daniel "El Talibancillo" Velazquez Caballero and Rolando "El Rolys" Velazquez Caballero.

The most significant change resulting from Ramirez's capture during the fourth quarter will likely be yet another reshuffle of allegiances and roles among Gulf cartel factions in addition to Ramirez's replacement. This will include another split within the Gulf cartel umbrella, assimilation at some level of Gulf cartel cells into existing factions or an external organization such as the Knights Templar and even Los Zetas, and an increased presence of the Knights Templar or the Sinaloa Federation in Tamaulipas state, both of which have thus far propped up the Gulf cartel in its conflict with Los Zetas. Of the current Gulf cartel factions, the Velazquez faction will become the most formidable rival of Los Zetas in the northeast.

Knights Templar and Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion

While the northeastern states of Mexico are typically the most fluid in terms of cartel dynamics and security due to the Zetas-Gulf cartel conflict, violence as a result of the ongoing dispute between the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Knights Templar turned southwestern Mexico, particularly Guerrero, Michoacan and Jalisco states, into the most active in terms of inter-cartel violence.

As stated during our first quarterly update of 2013, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has made a substantial bid to wrest control of the Knights Templar stronghold of Michoacan state. With community police in southwestern and northern Michoacan state a contributing factor, inter-cartel violence escalated dramatically during the third quarter and will likely continue at present levels or even escalate further during the fourth quarter.

This has placed the Knights Templar on the defensive, something made apparent by their escalated aggression against authorities during the third quarter and the shifting of the focus of their propaganda from Los Zetas to both the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the community police. Despite this, the Knights Templar probably will not lose substantial territory in Michoacan state nor lose their ability to resist the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion incursion during the fourth quarter. The Knights Templar are simply firmly planted in Michoacan. The conflict will continue to pose a substantial security threat throughout the state.

Sinaloa Federation

With the exception of Los Zetas in Ciudad Juarez, little has changed during the third quarter regarding the Sinaloa Federation. As Stratfor has noted, the Sinaloa Federation has been dealing with regional conflicts within its territory in the northwest. This includes the golden triangle region (encompassing northern Sinaloa, northwestern Durango and southwestern Chihuahua), northern Sonora state and southern Chihuahua state. These conflicts continued over the third quarter and will likely remain on course throughout the fourth quarter. None of the existing conflicts will present any serious challenge to the Sinaloa Federation's territorial control or criminal operations during the fourth quarter.

As mentioned above, Los Zetas have built up a presence around Ciudad Juarez during 2013, potentially marking a new criminal aggressor in Ciudad Juarez. The city already has seen a turf war between the Sinaloa Federation and the Juarez cartel and its allies, La Linea and Los Aztecas, since 2008. Thus far, Los Zetas' presence in Ciudad Juarez has largely been nonaggressive, and they have apparently limited their operations to trafficking drugs into far western Texas.

The Sinaloa Federation lost a prominent lieutenant overseeing the region, Gabino "El Ingeniero" Salas Valenciano, on Aug. 8 when Salas died in a firefight with the Mexican army. While no public reports suggest that Los Zetas are attempting to take advantage of his death by striking against Sinaloa interests, it is clear that Salas' death has triggered some conflict between La Linea and the Sinaloa Federation. On Sept. 22, gunmen opened fire on a family celebrating a local baseball game in Loma Blanca, a community located in southeastern Ciudad Juarez. Ten people died in the attack. While the identity and motive of the shooters remain unknown, some Mexican news agencies have attributed the killing to La Linea. Soon after the shooting, authorities discovered messages in at least eight locations in Ciudad Juarez attributing the shooting to La Linea. Notably, the messages were signed "the people of Gavino (sic) Salas."

While such messages cannot alone confirm the identity of the attackers or suggest a motivation, they do suggest at least a momentary escalation of violence between the Sinaloa Federation and La Linea. Such a renewed violent campaign could present a moment of opportunity to persuade their allies to attempt to wrest Ciudad Juarez from the Sinaloa Federation -- a scenario that would certainly lead to a sharp uptick in violence through Ciudad Juarez and possibly much of northern Chihuahua.

Security Weekly: Mexico's Drug War: Stability Ahead of Fourth Quarter Turmoil Copyright STRATFOR.COM