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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More from the man-child who is in over his ears....

Remember how the moderate opposition would be good in Egypt...how did that work out? Or Libya? We're still trying to get back Gaddafi's SA-7s and SA-14s. And the Israel's are praying one of their airlines doesn't get shot down. Well, from the idiot who brought you those two disasters, we have Syria.
U.S. may use Saudis to arm Syrian rebels with missiles

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Barack Obama is weighing whether to allow shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to be shipped to moderate factions of the Syrian opposition, possibly with help from the Saudi government, a U.S. official said Friday.

Obama “is considering” sending man-portable air defense systems, known as “manpads,” along with other supplies to help opposition groups fighting the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said the official, who requested anonymity to talk about the internal White House discussions.

The Saudi government has long wanted to provide such armaments to bolster the Syrian opposition. The U.S. has opposed the move out of concern that the weapons could fall into the hands of extremists. Out of respect for Obama’s wishes, the Saudis have so far held off....

How did it ever get his bad. Hopefully this gets crushed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

E-cigs and other issues....

I'm no fan or friend of NJ governor Christie. His firm treatment of reporters and set up citizens is ok by me (God knows many a reporter needs his ass set straight, they are not the representative of the people.) but other than being a lover of the cameras, he is a typical RINO. Now the latest example of this. Last month I posted on the propaganda coming out against the e-cigarette industry and my point is if tobacco is so bad than ban it. But they never will because the government make too much money over the addiction of people. Another example of it.
States push to regulate, tax booming e-cigarette industry

WASHINGTON – While waiting for the debate on electronic cigarettes to heat up on Capitol Hill, several state and local governments are pressing ahead with their own agendas for taxing and regulating the popular battery-powered smoking alternatives.

Right now, there is no uniform national approach to regulating the vapor-based e-cigarettes. They are mostly free from federal rules and typically are subject only to state sales taxes.

But lawmakers in more than two dozen cash-strapped states are racing to regulate them as a new source of revenue. For some, this means tacking on an excise tax -- which is a fee on a specific product, and often dubbed a "sin tax" when applied to socially shunned products like cigarettes.

Minnesota has led the charge and is currently the only state that’s got a specific tax policy for e-cigarettes on the books. The 2012 decision subjects vapor inhalers to a 95 percent tax that is stapled to the wholesale cost of the product.

According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, e-cigarettes are considered tobacco products and are subject to the state’s tobacco tax. Distributors there are required to pay the tobacco tax or risk losing their license. Retailers must purchase e-cigarettes from distributors licensed by the state and are expected to “collect and remit sales tax on e-cigarette sales.”

In total, Minnesota estimates it will bring in $1.16 billion from all of its tobacco taxes in fiscal year 2014-2015.

Other states are taking notice.

In his 2015 budget proposal last month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pitched a plan to hike taxes on electronic cigarettes to match the rate of regular cigarettes -- about $2.70 per pack.

...In recent years, as much as 40 percent of all cigarettes smoked in New Jersey were smuggled into the state illegally, resulting in a loss of more than $500 million in uncollected tax revenue each year, he says.

“By making New Jersey uncompetitive in e-cigarette pricing, the state would encourage smuggling, which will cost New Jersey small businesses tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue,” he said.

But to some, like New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman Dan Benson, taxing e-cigarettes is not only a fiscal responsibility but also sends an important message to would-be smokers.

“If e-cigarettes are taxed less than regular cigarettes, we’re sending a message out there that they’re somehow safer, and I think the jury is out on that,” he recently told a New Jersey radio station...

OK Mr Benson, if the "jury is out" as you say, how about we wait until the "jury is in" to make a decision on taxing them as tobacco.  We know if the jury says they are less harmful than tobacco you won't cut the taxes back. Oh, Mr Benson, you may wanna read this.
...According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vapor from e-cigarettes has “far fewer of the toxins found in smoke compared to traditional cigarettes...”
Again, if tobacco is this bad, ban it. But something else is going on. The Golden Goose of tobacco is getting cooked a bit:
The boom in smuggling to avoid cigarette taxes

More than half of the cigarettes sold in New York State are smuggled in from other places to avoid the Empire State's taxes on smokes, which have soared nearly 200 percent since 2006, according to a report issued by the conservative Tax Foundation.

New York is the highest net importer of smuggled cigarettes -- illegal smokes account for 56.9 percent of the state's total market. New York's cigarettes tax is $4.35 per pack, the country's highest. The situation there isn't unique. The Tax Foundation also cites a study that found that 58.7 percent of discarded cigarettes found in five Northeastern cities lacked proper tax stamps.

Taxes on cigarettes, which are designed to discourage smoking, vary widely. States such as Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia have levies of less than a $1 per pack. These wide differences make smuggling "both a national problem and a lucrative criminal enterprise," according to the Tax Foundation.

Antismoking activists have long argued that fewer people will buy cigarettes if they're expensive. Chicago recently raised its cigarette taxes for that reason. Combined with state and local levies, the total is now $7.17 a pack.

The smuggling problem "is a lot smaller than the study lets on," said Thomas Carr, director of national policy at the American Lung Association, noting that the Tax Foundation's data come from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has received funding from the tobacco industry. "Tobacco companies are generally against higher tobacco taxes."

In neighboring New Jersey, convenience store owners are fighting efforts by the state legislature to impose new taxes on e-cigarettes that would nearly double their cost. E-cigarettes fans tout them as a healthier alternative to conventional smokes.

Activists such as the American Lung Association, however, argue that no evidence backs up that claim and others, such as e-cigarettes help people stop smoking regular cigarettes. Nonetheless, electronic smokes are surging in popularity, and experts note that should disparities in e-cigarette taxes develop among the states, they could also become attractive to smugglers.

"I would imagine it would be easier to smuggle electronic cigarettes because they are smaller," says Tax Foundation economist Scott Drenkard. "If you have any kind of differential, you are going to see arbitrage."

That is bull. I've known many friend who have cut back or quit cigarette smoking using e-cigs because it handles the physical addiction (nicotine) and the habit (the actual smoking) while not putting into your lungs the tar.

Again, if I was a bit paranoid I would be wondering if the American Lung Association finds this a threat to it's being. If everyone stopped smoking, they would not be needed....why do I hear the theme to Coast to Coast in my head? :<)

Work, creativity and modern life...

I got this link from a friend in Denver. Often I start my response to her posts with Robyn, You Ignorant Slut! :<) Notice the smiley icon at the end showing this was a joke. My comment to Mrs. Schulte's would not have an emoticon. It's typical leftist crap on how Americans work too much today, It even mentioned how shopping on a smart phone while on the toilet is a bit of extreme multitasking. In case she missed something, for generations people would use the time for their constitutional to read the morning paper, a magazine or a book.

Again it's mostly not worth the cost of you time, but I found this interesting:
How our frenetic, too-busy lives have become status symbols

...Even as neuroscience is beginning to show that at our most idle, our brains are most open to inspiration and creativity — and history proves that great works of art, philosophy and invention were created during leisure time — we resist taking time off. Psychologists treat burned-out clients who can't shake the notion that the busier you are, the faster you work, and the more you multitask, the more you are considered competent, smart, successful. It's the Protestant work ethic in overdrive.

In the Middle Ages, this kind of frenzy — called acedia, the opposite of sloth — was one of Catholicism's seven deadly sins. But today, busyness is seen as so valuable that people are actually happier when they're busy, says Christopher Hsee, a psychologist and professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago. "If people remain idle, they are miserable," he wrote in Psychological Science in 2010. "If idle people become busy, they will be happier."
That part about being creative while at leisure stuck me as odd. Some of the most creative mines I've seen in my life are not 30 hour a week workers. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Trump, Sam Walton, Jeff Bezos are people known for going full blast. How about Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. To call them “creative” in their fields of endeavor does now even begin. Jobs revolutionized multiple high tech industries, Bezos changed the way people show for instance, on the toiler!

Conversely I've patrolled areas of Houston were the largest effort day in and out is waiting for an EFT card update or listing your job as "unemployed improvisational rap artist”. I don’t see much creativity there. It's full of sloth, gluttony, wrath, envy, pride, greed, lust and other destructive behaviors….those terms kinda sound familiar. If not having to work leads to "inspiration and creativity" why isn't there much in Houston's Third Ward? Just asking.
Life in the early 21st century wasn't supposed to be so hectic. In a 1930 essay, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour workweek by 2030, when we'd all have time to enjoy "the hour and the day virtuously and well." During the 1950s, the post-World War II boom in productivity, along with rising incomes and standards of living, led economists and politicians to predict that by 1990, Americans would work 22 hours a week, six months a year, and retire before age 40.

While accepting the Republican Party's nomination for president in 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned a world where "leisure . . . will be abundant, so that all can develop the life of the spirit, of reflection, of religion, of the arts, of the full realization of the good things of the world."

At the time, the idea that leisure would soon be meant for all, rather than just a wealthy elite, was quite radical. A 1959 article in the Harvard Business Review warned that "boredom, which used to bother only aristocrats, had become a common curse." In the early 1960s, when TV broadcaster Eric Sevareid was asked what he considered the gravest crisis facing Americans, he said: "the rise of leisure."

Leisure for all was exactly what the U.S. labor movement had been pursuing for more than a century. As late as 1923, the steel industry required 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Finally, it seemed, workers were about to savor shorter, saner work hours. So, what happened?

First: Life got more expensive, and wages failed to keep up. College tuition alone jumped 1,120 percent from 1978 to 2012. Child Care Aware of America reports that child care is more expensive than public college in dozens of states. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that health-care premiums increased 97 percent between 2002 and 2012. At the same time, wages have fallen to record lows as a share of America's gross domestic product. Until 1975, wages made up 50 percent of GDP; in 2012, they were 43.5 percent. And, as a recent obnoxious Cadillac commercial boasts, we work hard to buy more things: The Commerce Department reports that consumers spent $1.2 trillion in 2011 on unnecessary stuff, 11.2 percent of all consumer spending, way up from 4 percent in 1959.
Yes college tuition costs have exploded in large part because since the 1950s we've pushed generations into a single track of college only. Maybe if we directed them to decent paying jobs that don’t require four plus years of college (e.g. construction, plumbing, mechanics, computer services, welding etc) they can start out in their working years quicker without 100K and more of debt. What’s old is new now. We can have someone sitting in college on Feminist Studies, graduating with worthless degrees to jobs that don’t exist. Or we can have them working on a fracking rig starting off at over 30 an hour, making money and a great life.

Of all these costs listed one that doesn't come up, the increasing burden of taxes and regulations. Try and start a business today and it’s almost impossible. With the regime of B Hussein Obama adding the “tax” of providing health care to start ups and anyone working more than 30 hours a week will only discourage hiring. Or how about tobacco taxes which are very regressive, i.e. they fall more on lower income people. Maybe if we were not pay more and more for government we would have more time to spend with our families or buy a new Cadillac.

Also, just wondering is how the hell does the Commence Department define "unnecessary stuff"? The Harley-Davidson Road King in my garage may be unnecessary to you, but it's very necessary to me. That Chevy Volt I'm subsidizing with my tax dollars seems like a waste to me, but if you want one be my guest. The difference is HD didn’t get anything from Uncle Sugar to make it and I’m paying gas taxes to pay for the roads!
Second: Jobs have become less mechanical and work more creative. New York University sociologist Dalton Conley argues that today's knowledge-economy professions in art, technology, engineering and academics are similar to the pursuits of the mind that the ancient Greek philosophers envisioned as leisure. So, we work a lot because we enjoy it.

That's true in part, but the rise in working hours for the creative class in the 1970s and 1980s was accompanied by an increase in job insecurity for those same workers, according to the General Social Survey. And the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which protects employees from working too many hours, applies only to hourly, not salaried, workers. In the crudest sense, U.S. law allows employers to work professionals harder without paying them overtime or hiring more people to share the load.

Perhaps we have no choice, then, as a matter of survival, to give greater value to the work that we are compelled to do all the time....
Gee, B Hussein Obama just issued another one of his famous Executive Orders on overtime and this propaganda comes from the Washington Post. If I was paranoid I would see a link from the Obama Regime and a major branch of its propaganda tree. Then again even paranoids have enemies.

I write this as I’m finishing my second day of work at my extra job, security at a telephone place. That’s after working all night. Reading this I get the impression the author has too much time on her hands. So Mrs. Schulte if we ever meet I’ll simply have one thing to say, Kiss my ass you ignorant slut!

Officer Down

Officer Jason Crisp
United States Department of Agriculture - Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations
End of Watch: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Age: 38
Tour: 10 years
Location: North Carolina

Officer Jason Crisp and his canine, Maros, were shot and killed in Burke County, North Carolina, while participating in the manhunt for a subject who had committed two murders.

Officers from several agencies were searching for the 38-year-old subject after the bodies of the subject's parents were located in their home in the 5000 block of Fish Hatchery Road. The subject had previously served one year in prison on a manslaughter charge for a murder he committed in 1997.

Officer Crisp and several other officers located the subject in the area of Fish Hatchery Road and Pea Ridge Road and were fired upon. Officer Crisp and K9 Maros were fatally wounded during the exchange of gunfire.

The subject then stole Officer Crisp's service weapon and extra magazines before fleeing further into the woods. He was located by other officers a short time later and was shot and killed when he opened fire on them.

Officer Crisp had served with the United States Forest Service for 10 years. He was survived by his wife and two children, his parents, sister, and two brothers.
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. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Welfare and its abuses...

Whenever someone says we need to reform welfare and that there are abuses, the usual race bating poverty pimps come up and scream racism, people are hurting children, taking food from the mouths of babies, etc. Well from the old home state, some good news.

Louisiana bans use of welfare benefits for tattoos, lingerie, jewelry

BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana welfare recipients will be prohibited from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under new limits enacted by state social services officials.

The Department of Children and Family Services announced the emergency regulations late Thursday. They cover the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program — commonly known as welfare benefits — and the Kinship Care Subsidy Program.

Both programs pay cash assistance to low-income families for items like food, clothing and housing.

DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier said the agency decided to ban the use of electronic benefit cards, which work as debit cards, at stores that don't sell items that are considered basic needs for families.

"This rule will not affect families who currently use the program as intended, which is to provide food, shelter and clothing for families," Sonnier said in a statement.

About 3,500 households in Louisiana receive welfare benefits, and about 2,400 households get kinship care subsidies, according to the department. Average payments are $192 per month for welfare and $419 a month for kinship care.

The emergency regulations come a week after WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge reported that an Ascension Parish lingerie store posted a sign noting that it accepted the welfare benefits card along with most credit cards...

Here is the store door and it says they accept EBT. Now I don't know what is more absurd, this?

Or this?

...Also barred in the latest restrictions from taking welfare debit cards are video arcades, bail bond companies, cruise ships, psychics, adult-entertainment businesses, nightclubs, bars and any businesses where minors are not allowed....

...Last year, the social services agency enacted new regulations that banned the spending of welfare money on cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets. Those regulations also included prohibitions on the use of a welfare electronic benefit card at liquor stores, gambling sites and strip clubs, as required under a recently-passed federal law.

How in the hell was this allowed from the beginning?! When I worked at grocery stores in Louisiana during my first misguided college yute, before everyone accepted plastic, we had paper food stamps. The cash register would provide separate food and non-food totals and only the food items could be paid for with the stamps. Anything else and the buyer needed cash. How the hell was that ever changed?

Restrict sales to grocery and drug stores and then only for food items. We know there will always be a degree of abuse (e.g. exchange ten dollars in cash for 20 dollars in food stamp credit) but we don't need to make it easy.

Good work Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A justified police shooting...and how police work has changed.

Here is a police shootout from Idaho in September 2012. It shows how quickly things happen and how many times a cop shoots in a firefight.

Video: Police fire over 70 rounds in deadly Idaho shootout 
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A northern Idaho prosecutor has concluded the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man by Coeur d'Alene police officers was justified. 
Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh released the documents Friday involving the September 2012 shooting of Christian Nicholas Buquet, 19. "Mr. Buquet posed an immediate and continuing danger to the lives of anyone who he may have come into contact with," McHugh wrote. "There was absolutely no indication at that time that he intended to stop his continuing violent conduct or surrender to officers when they fired to stop him." 
The Coeur d'Alene Press reports police responded to a report of shots being fired in a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood. Police said Buquet shot and injured another man and then fired random shots at other citizens. Four officers fired 77 shots at Buquet after a 5-mile car chase. He died at the scene. 
The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office released at 75-page summary of its investigation. The agency also released video recorded from cameras mounted on vehicles as well as officers. Authorities said Buquet, after shooting 29-year-old Frank James in the chest, fled the scene and fired a semi-automatic pistol at three bystanders. Buquet traveled east on Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive while being pursued by multiple officers. Video from the police cameras show several motorists having to evade Buquet's vehicle as he drives on both sides of the road. Buquet fired at police when he turned a corner, police said.  Buquet pointed a gun at them on a curve, but he crashed and hit a barrier cable and stopped, police said. Four officers positioned their vehicles around Buquet and fired. 
"The loss of life is always tragic, and I extend my condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Buquet," McHugh wrote. "At the same time there is a price to be paid by those who were compelled by circumstances beyond their control, their oath and a sense of duty to use deadly force. I hope my findings help in some way to bring closure to this incident."  
Last year I posted on how to not jump to conclusions on police actions based on one video.  In the comments many people stated that cops were too trigger happy and overly aggressive with people.  The man who swore me in when I was commissioned in the Army back in 1987 made that point on a Facebook discussion.  I made the point this was not Mayberry and the bad guys are rather well armed.  We both agree it would be helpful if our federal Department of Justice would not sell weapons to the Mexican gangs and if our Border Patrol would secure the border.

Again, look at what those officers had to deal with.  If you watch a movie or a TV show the cop goes into a firefight that takes minutes, they can keep count of the number of rounds they've fired and the never empty magazine which is always nice.  In reality the firefight takes seconds and decisions have to made instantly.  This was also a point I made about the Zimmerman-Martin case in 2012.  And it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.    

Thanks to Police One for the link.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gee, a Senator being concerned about people being able to afford college cost...

This article from the Sunday Houston Chronicle caught my eye for a multitude of reasons.
Proposals take aim at for-profit colleges

WASHINGTON — The for-profit college industry says it will vigorously oppose proposed regulations by the Obama administration designed to protect students at for-profit colleges from amassing huge debt they can’t pay off.

The proposed regulations would penalize career oriented programs that produce graduates without the training needed to find a job with a salary that will allow them to pay off their debt. Schools, for-profit or not, that don’t comply would lose access to the federal student aid programs.
“Career-training programs offer millions of Americans an opportunity they desperately need to further their education and reach the middle class,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last week. “Today, too many of these programs fail to provide students with the training that they need at taxpayers’ expense and the cost to these students’ futures.”...

...In 2012, the for-profit colleges convinced a judge that similar regulations were too arbitrary. Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, said in a statement that the proposed regulations would “deny millions of students the opportunity for higher earnings.” His association argues that the regulations would have a long-term impact on the nation’s ability to address workforce demands and improve the economy, and he called the proposed regulations “discriminatory” and “punitive.”

For-profit programs are popular among nontraditional students, some of who have been laid off during the economic downturn.

Gunderson said no decision has been made on whether more legal action will be taken.

The administration has long sought to block federal student aid from programs that do not prepare students for “gainful employment” in a recognized occupation. The programs covered under the proposed regulations include nearly all programs at for-profit schools, as well as certificate programs at public and private nonprofit institutions, such as community colleges, according to the Education Department.

Duncan said for-profit colleges can receive up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid programs. If blocked from participating, some could be forced to close, he said.

Since when has the education industry been interested in getting its students skills and knowledge needed for employment? Hey, do you think we have enough sociology and art history majors in the country? Most people going through a "for profit" university are doing it to advance their career in one way or another. Count myself as one. I'm getting my master's at an online university and the reason is for advancement. It's another point for promotion and it is also another one-hundred collars a paycheck.

Now another point I find curious is the implied statement that "traditional" colleges are not "for profit". The Ivy Leaque has endowments larger than the GDP of many nations. From Online Universities.Com,
10 Surprising Facts About University Endowments

Have you ever thought it might be nice to have a building at your alma mater named after you, that will stand long after you’re gone? The dream can be yours for a few hundred million dollars. For most of us, that effectively closes the book on that fantasy. We may give in to a donations call from our old school and mail in a check, but for the most part college endowments are a vague part of academia that we don’t concern ourselves with much. If that’s true for you, check out these 10 facts about university endowments that might surprise you.

Total college endowments in the U.S. reach the hundreds of billions of dollars: There is serious money in college endowments. In 2009, the total amount of endowments in this country was $326 billion. That amount was a 21% drop from the previous year’s total of $413 billion. Today, 75 colleges have endowments in the billions, with Harvard far and away the leader with an endowment of $32 billion, followed by Yale at $19 billion. Even with these high values, many schools are still struggling to return to their 2008 endowment levels.

Ivy League endowment fund managers get access to the best opportunities: In a 2008 study, researchers from Harvard and MIT sought to explain why wealthier schools, like those in the Ivy League, receive endowments that far outpace other schools. The obvious answer was that high-quality alumni get good jobs for good money, then they donate. But a surprising find was that the excellent investment returns these endowment funds get are the result of managers’ connections and special access to the top strata of alternative funds. In other words, endowment funds at wealthy schools secure the best management talent because they’re wealthy, and the best managers make them wealthier, and around and around it goes.

Many universities do not have to disclose investment information: It might surprise environmentally-conscious students to learn that the fund managers for their school’s endowment have invested in coal companies. Unfortunately, for students with these and similar qualms about doing business with certain corporations, some states have laws that protect venture capital firms from disclosing where the investments from the endowments of even public universities go. Companies in states like Colorado and Michigan have successfully lobbied for laws exempting them from a requirement to reveal their investment info, calling it "trade secrets." In some states, like California, firms find a way around the disclosure laws by investing in "funds of funds" that disclose aggregate return info but not info on specific companies.

Most colleges only spend about 4.5% of their endowments: Many may wonder what happens to the millions and even billions of dollars some colleges control in endowments. Typically more than 95% of the money is invested, leaving 5% or less to be granted to scholarships, professorships, and social work. Many people, including some influential politicians, have asked in recent years if this rate of spending justifies the tax exemption they get. There have been proposals to set a 5% spending floor that universities must meet to allow more needy kids to go to college and for more to be done in poor countries.

Endowments probably can’t be used to lower tuition: This is a fact college administrators would prefer you knew. Although many may look at the billion dollar endowments some schools enjoy, almost half of colleges and universities have smaller endowments than they did in 2008, courtesy of the recession. More growth years like 2011 are needed before schools could begin to use endowments to lower tuition. As it stands, the median endowment size of $90 million only translates into $4.5 million in spendable money annually, not enough to enable significant tuition decreases for students...

Sounds a bit like serious money. And a serious racket. But it's not the only one. Last year Rolling Stone wrote an excellent article on how we are pushing high school students into a one size fit all racket, where you must go to college, get a degree, etc. What the degree is for doesn't matter, you need a degree. And at the age most people cannot afford a car note on a decent used car we will put you in debt for a mortgage with little to show for it. Then the 23 year old gets out in the real world and finds his BA in Victim Studies fail to provide students with the training that they need at taxpayers’ expense and the cost to these students’ futures.”

Now back to the article.
“Some of these programs — whether public, private or for-profit — empower students to succeed by providing high-quality education and career training. But many of these programs, particularly those at for-profit colleges, are failing to do so,” the Education Department said in a fact sheet.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said he was concerned that the proposed regulations don’t go far enough in protecting students.
But Republicans criticized the administration’s actions and said low-income students would be disproportionately affected.

Open secret is the Democrats, bought and paid for by the education establishment, doesn't care. Brick and mortar universities serve a purpose but not what's going on right now. But any bureaucracy hates competition and daylight. It means people may be shown the truth of a business, funded by tax breaks, is making a fortune and producing less and less. And we are enslaving generations of young people with massive debt for useless education.

A rare good article from the AP...on a relevant subject.

As I sit in bed, while reading the Sunday Houston Chronicle on my MacBook (getting more used to that), drinking some excellent coffee, this article caught my eye (pardon the pun). There is an open issue of video taping officers in the public, use of the video, etc. Well I'm no fan of AP but I gotta say this is a Fair and Balanced article. Excerpts below, but the whole article is worth reading.

Body cameras for officers lack policing

LOS ANGELES — Officers at thousands of law enforcement agencies are wearing tiny cameras to record their interactions with the public, but in many cases the devices are being rolled out faster than departments are able to create policies to govern their use.

And some rank-and-file officers are worried the technology might ultimately be used to derail their careers if, for example, an errant comment about a superior is captured on tape.

Most law enforcement leaders and civil liberties advocates believe the cameras will ultimately help officers because the devices give them a way to record events from their point of view at a time when citizens armed with cellphones are actively scrutinizing their every move. They say, however, that the lack of clear guidelines on the cameras’ use could potentially undermine departments’ goals of creating greater accountability of officers and jeopardize the privacy of both the public and law enforcement officers...

...Equipping police with cameras isn’t a new concept. For decades police have used cameras mounted to the dashboards of their patrol cars — initially referred to with suspicion by officers as “indict-o-cams” until they discovered the footage exonerated them in most cases...

As camera technology and data storage has become more affordable and reliable, the use of portable cameras has increased over the last five years. Now officers in one of every six departments are patrolling with them on their chests, lapels or sunglasses, according to Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the national American Civil Liberties Union and an expert on the cameras.

With the push of a finger, officers can show the dangers and difficulties of their work. Unlike dashboard cameras, body cameras follow the officer everywhere — when their cruiser stays parked at the curb, when they go into homes on search warrants or when they are running after a suspect.

The cameras, if they aren’t turned off, can go with officers into a bathroom or locker room, or capture private conversations between partners. Footage can become evidence in a criminal case, or be used to discipline officers or exonerate them of false accusations.
Without strong policies, experts say, departments could lose the public’s trust. The public needs to know cameras aren’t only being turned on when it’ll help officers. But there are certain moments such as during the interview of a sexual assault victim or talk with a confidential informant when filming may be sensitive or even compromise a case, said Bay Area attorney Mike Rains, whose firm often represents officers and has worked on body camera policies with departments.

Speaking with a few officers on this that was their big issue. Currently the guidance is anytime they speak with a citizen the camera is on. But a snitch will not want to talk much knowing its recorded. These guys ain't stupid, they know if the info is used in the case (e.g. the statement helps get a search warrant) it will be released to the defense at some point.
Field-testing in L.A.

The Los Angeles Police Department is now field-testing cameras with an eye toward ultimately deploying them to all patrol officers — a move that would make its program the nation’s largest. For the six months of the test, underway now, there will be no official policy. Department officials say a policy will be created with input from the community and union, when they know more about how the cameras work in the field.
Union chief Tyler Izen, who represents more than 9,900 sworn officers, said that while there have been no complaints so far, the strategy is risky and could be problematic for his officers as well as the public, which has become an involuntary guinea pig in the trial. “They’re basically taking their chances,” Izen said.

There’s still very little research into the impacts of these cameras on policing and their ripple effects on the criminal justice system, said Justin Ready, assistant professor at Arizona State’s department of criminology and criminal justice. But more studies are underway, including two that Ready is involved in.

The police department in Rialto, Calif., concluded a yearlong University of Cambridge study last year that found an 89 percent drop in complaints against officers during the camera trial. The chief has since mandated its deployment to its roughly 90 sworn officers.

Rialto police Sgt. Richard Royce said he was exonerated by the footage during the study.

“I’d rather have my version of that incident captured on high-definition video in its entirety from my point of view, then to look at somebody’s grainy cellphone camera footage captured a 100 feet away that gets cropped, edited, changed or manipulated,” Royce said.
Greenwood of the ACLU said he’s provided input in drawing up the Justice Department guidelines. He said the proposed policy is pretty good, but gives officers more discretion than is wise.

“It’s a far better policy decision to mandate the encounter be recorded and deal with the unwanted video,” Greenwood said. Because if a situation goes bad quickly and there’s no footage, the officer is in trouble.

Good work Ms. Abdollah.

Great stand up on the old home town

New Orleans. I am glad I moved to Houston but I have to say I miss the three F's of the old home town: Family, friends and food. But Hannibal Buress has a few other reasons to like the place.

Starting off a hopefully great week a bit early...and with a few laughs.

Thanks Mike K for the link.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A great example of the bureaucracy and what it means....

A couple of weeks ago my friend Darren at Right on the Left Coast posted on some bureaucratic annoyances he has to deal with in the education field. Well this letter of resignation from a senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services (you know, the geniuses who are inflicting Obamacare on us) and it's quite telling. I'll only list a couple of paragraphs (the letter is longer but worth the read) and it shows how a bureaucracy has only one mission in life, to continue to exist. And will do anything to justify it's existence.

Top U.S. Scientific Misconduct Official Quits in Frustration With Bureaucracy

Dr. Howard Koh, M.D.
Assistant Secretary for Health

Dear Howard:

I am writing to resign my position as Director, Office of Research Integrity, ORI/OASH/DHHS

This has been at once the best and worst job I’ve ever had. The best part of it has been the opportunity to lead ORI intellectually and professionally in helping research institutions better handle allegations of research misconduct, provide in-service training for institutional Research Integrity Officers (RIOs), and develop programming to promote the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). Working with members of the research community, particularly RIOs, and the brilliant scientist-investigators in ORI has been one of the great pleasures of my long career. Unfortunately, and to my great surprise, it turned out to be only about 35% of the job.

The rest of my role as ORI Director has been the very worst job I have ever had and it occupies up to 65% of my time. That part of the job is spent navigating the remarkably dysfunctional HHS bureaucracy to secure resources and, yes, get permission for ORI to serve the research community. I knew coming into this job about the bureaucratic limitations of the federal government, but I had no idea how stifling it would be. What I was able to do in a day or two as an academic administrator takes weeks or months in the federal government, our precinct of which is OASH.

...On one occasion, I was invited to give a talk on research integrity and misconduct to a large group of AAAS fellows. I needed to spend $35 to convert some old cassette tapes to CDs for use in the presentation. The immediate office denied my request after a couple of days of noodling. A university did the conversion for me in twenty minutes, and refused payment when I told them it was for an educational purpose....

...Third, there is the nature of the federal bureaucracy itself. The sociologist Max Weber observed in the early 20th century that while bureaucracy is in some instances an optimal organizational mode for a rationalized, industrial society, it has drawbacks. One is that public bureaucracies quit being about serving the public and focus instead on perpetuating themselves. This is exactly my experience with OASH. We spend exorbitant amounts of time in meetings and in generating repetitive and often meaningless data and reports to make our precinct of the bureaucracy look productive. None of this renders the slightest bit of assistance to ORI in handling allegations of misconduct or in promoting the responsible conduct of research. Instead, it sucks away time and resources that we might better use to meet our mission. Since I’ve been here I’ve been advised by my superiors that I had “to make my bosses look good.” I’ve been admonished: “Dave, you are a visionary leader but what we need here are team players.” Recently, I was advised that if I wanted to be happy in government service, I had to “lower my expectations.” The one thing no one in OASH leadership has said to me in two years is ‘how can we help ORI better serve the research community?’ Not once....

My friend Darren mentioned how he is trusted with tens of thousands in equipment but not trusted to turn out the lights. I've remembered how my agency needed to replace three hundred computers a few years back. This was a legitimate need, the laptops they were replacing were over ten years old. Now these are systems needed primarily to run a DOS based program that had a Windows interface so we really didn't need high end machines. I could walk into a Best Buy or Fry's Electronics and request a bulk purchase and get good machines with a site license of Windows Office for around 500 each. But no, we can't have that. We need to use minority/women owned contractors, etc. first. This ended up costing a half-million dollars for 300 systems. Yes, over 1700 each. What a waste.

And this is the experience of only one man. God help us.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Geopolitical Weekly: Ukraine's Increasing Polarization and the Western Challenge, March 11, 2013:

By Eugene Chausovsky

Just days before the Ukrainian crisis broke out, I took an overnight train to Kiev from Sevastopol in Crimea. Three mechanics in their 30s on their way to jobs in Estonia shared my compartment. All ethnic Russians born and raised in Sevastopol, they have made the trip to the Baltic states for the past eight years for seasonal work at Baltic Sea shipyards. Our ride together, accompanied by obligatory rounds of vodka, presented the opportunity for an in-depth discussion of Ukraine's political crisis. The ensuing conversation was perhaps more enlightening than talks of similar length with Ukrainian political, economic or security officials.

My fellow passengers viewed the events at Independence Square in an overwhelmingly negative light. They considered the protesters camped out in Kiev's central square terrorists, completely organized and financed by the United States and the European Union. They did not see the protesters as their fellow countrymen, and they supported then-President Viktor Yanukovich's use of the Berkut security forces to crack down on them. In fact, they were shocked by the Berkut's restraint, saying if it had been up to them, the protests would have been "cleaned up" from the outset. They added that while they usually looked forward to stopping over in Kiev during the long journey to the Baltics, this time they were ashamed of what was happening there and didn't even want to set foot in the city. They also predicted that the situation in Ukraine would worsen before it improved.

A few days later, the protests in Independence Square in fact reached a crescendo of violence. The Berkut closed in on the demonstrators, and subsequent clashes between protesters and security forces throughout the week left dozens dead and hundreds injured. This spawned a sequence of events that led to the overthrow of Yanukovich, the formation of a new Ukrainian government not recognized by Moscow and the subsequent Russian military intervention in Crimea. While the speed of these events astonished many foreign (especially Western) observers, to the men I met on the train, it was all but expected.

After all, the crisis didn't emerge from a vacuum. Ukraine was a polarized country well before the Euromaidan movement took shape. I have always been struck by how traveling to different parts of Ukraine feels like visiting different countries. Every country has its regional differences, to be sure. But Ukraine stands apart in this regard.

Ukraine's East-West Divide

Traveling in Lviv in the west, for example, is a starkly different experience than traveling in Donetsk in the east. The language spoken is different, with Ukrainian used in Lviv and Russian in Donetsk. The architecture is different, too, with classical European architecture lining narrow cobblestoned streets in Lviv and Soviet apartment blocs alongside sprawling boulevards predominating in Donetsk. Each region has different heroes: A large bust of Lenin surveys the main square in Donetsk, while Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist revolutionary, is honored in Lviv. Citizens of Lviv commonly view people from Donetsk as pro-Russian rubes while people in Donetsk constantly speak of nationalists/fascists in Lviv.

Lviv and Donetsk lie on the extreme ends of the spectrum, but they are hardly alone. Views are even more polarized on the Crimean Peninsula, where ethnic Russians make up the majority and which soon could cease to be part of Ukraine.

The east-west Ukrainian cultural divide is deep, and unsurprisingly it is reflected in the country's politics. Election results from the past 10 years show a clear dividing line between voting patterns in western and central Ukraine and those in the southern and eastern parts of the country. In the 2005 and 2010 presidential elections, Yanukovich received overwhelming support in the east and Crimea but only marginal support in the west. Ukraine does not have "swing states."

Such internal political and cultural divisions would be difficult to overcome under normal circumstances, but Ukraine's geographic and geopolitical position magnifies them exponentially. Ukraine is the quintessential borderland country, eternally trapped between Europe to the west and Russia to the east. Given its strategic location in the middle of the Eurasian heartland, the country has constantly been -- and will constantly be -- an arena in which the West and Russia duel for influence.

Competition over Ukraine has had two primary effects on the country. The first is to further polarize Ukraine, splitting foreign policy preferences alongside existing cultural divisions. While many in western Ukraine seek closer ties with Europe, many in eastern Ukraine seek closer ties with Russia. While there are those who would avoid foreign entanglements altogether, both the European Union and Russia have made clear that neutrality is not an option. Outside competition in Ukraine has created wild and often destabilizing political swings, especially during the country's post-Soviet independence.

Therefore, the current crisis in Ukraine is only the latest manifestation of competition between the West and Russia. The European Union and the United States greatly influenced the 2004 Orange Revolution in terms of financing and political organization. Russia meanwhile greatly influenced the discrediting of the Orange Regime and the subsequent election of Yanukovich, who lost in the Orange Revolution, in 2010. The West pushed back once more by supporting the Euromaidan movement after Yanukovich abandoned key EU integration deals, and then Russia countered in Crimea, leading to the current impasse.

The tug of war between Russia and the West over Ukraine has gradually intensified over the past decade. This has hardened positions in Ukraine, culminating in the formation of armed groups representing rival political interests and leading to the violent standoff in Independence Square that quickly spread to other parts of the country.

The current government enjoys Western support, but Moscow and many in eastern and southern Ukraine deny its legitimacy, citing the manner in which it took power. This sets a dangerous precedent because it challenges the sitting government's and any future government's ability to claim any semblance of nationwide legitimacy.

It is clear that Ukraine cannot continue to function for long in its current form. A strong leader in such a polarized society will face major unrest, as Yanukovich's ouster shows. The lack of a national consensus will paralyze the government and prevent officials from forming coherent foreign policy, since any government that strikes a major deal with either Russia or the European Union will find it difficult to rightfully claim it speaks for the majority of the country. Now that Russia has used military moves in Crimea to show it will not let Ukraine go without a fight, the stage has been set for very difficult political negotiations over Ukraine's future.

Russian-Western Conflict Beyond Ukraine

A second, more worrying effect of the competition between the West and Russia over Ukraine extends beyond Ukrainian borders. As competition over the fate of Ukraine has escalated, it has also intensified Western-Russian competition elsewhere in the region.

Georgia and Moldova, two former Soviet countries that have sought stronger ties with the West, have accelerated their attempts to further integrate with the European Union -- and in Georgia's case, with NATO. On the other hand, countries such as Belarus and Armenia have sought to strengthen their economic and security ties with Russia. Countries already strongly integrated with the West like the Baltics are glad to see Western powers stand up to Russia, but meanwhile they know that they could be the next in line in the struggle between Russia and the West. Russia could hit them economically, and Moscow could also offer what it calls protection to their sizable Russian minorities as it did in Crimea. Russia already has hinted at this in discussions to extend Russian citizenship to ethnic Russians and Russian speakers throughout the former Soviet Union.

The major question moving forward is how committed Russia and the West are to backing and reinforcing their positions in these rival blocs. Russia has made clear that it is willing to act militarily to defend its interests in Ukraine. Russia showed the same level of dedication to preventing Georgia from turning to NATO in 2008. Moscow has made no secret that it is willing to use a mixture of economic pressure, energy manipulation and, if need be, military force to prevent the countries on its periphery from leaving the Russian orbit. In the meantime, Russia will seek to intensify integration efforts in its own blocs, including the Customs Union on the economic side and the Collective Security Treaty Organization on the military side.

So the big question is what the West intends. On several occasions, the European Union and United States have proved that they can play a major role in shaping events on the ground in Ukraine. Obtaining EU membership is a stated goal of the governments in Moldova and Georgia, and a significant number of people in Ukraine also support EU membership. But since it has yet to offer sufficient aid or actual membership, the European Union has not demonstrated as serious a commitment to the borderland countries as Russia has. It has refrained from doing so for several reasons, including its own financial troubles and political divisions and its dependence on energy and trade with Russia. While the European Union may yet show stronger resolve as a result of the current Ukrainian crisis, a major shift in the bloc's approach is unlikely -- at least not on its own.

On the Western side, then, U.S. intentions are key. In recent years, the United States has largely stayed on the sidelines in the competition over the Russian periphery. The United States was just as quiet as the European Union was in its reaction to the Russian invasion of Georgia, and calls leading up to the invasion for swiftly integrating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO went largely unanswered. Statements were made, but little was done.

But the global geopolitical climate has changed significantly since 2008. The United States is out of Iraq and is swiftly drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. Washington is now acting more indirectly in the Middle East, using a balance-of-power approach to pursue its interests in the region. This frees up its foreign policy attention, which is significant, given that the United States is the only party with the ability and resources to make a serious push in the Russian periphery.

As the Ukraine crisis moves into the diplomatic realm, a major test of U.S. willingness and ability to truly stand up to Russia is emerging. Certainly, Washington has been quite vocal during the current Ukrainian crisis and has shown signs of getting further involved elsewhere in the region, such as in Poland and the Baltic states. But concrete action from the United States with sufficient backing from the Europeans will be the true test of how committed the West is to standing up to Moscow. Maneuvering around Ukraine's deep divisions and Russian countermoves will be no easy task. But nothing short of concerted efforts by a united Western front will suffice to pull Ukraine and the rest of the borderlands toward the West.

Ukraine's Increasing Polarization and the Western Challenge is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Agent Joaquín Correa-Ortega
Puerto Rico Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, March 10, 2014
Age: 36
Tour: 12 years
Badge # 27284

Agent Joaquín Correa-Ortega was shot and killed while conducting an undercover arms purchase in a wooded area off of PR-924, in the Pitaya neighborhood in Humacao. He and another agent were at an illegal fair frequently used to conduct the illegal trade of vehicles, horses, and other items.

They were in the process of conducting a transaction with several subjects when they were fired upon. Agent Correa-Ortega was killed and the other agent was shot in the head and wounded.

Four subjects were arrested and charged in connection with his murder.

Agent Correa-Ortega had served with the Puerto Rico Police Department for 12 years and was assigned to the Criminal Intelligence Unit. He is survived by his wife and one child.
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. 

I don't know, Starbucks ran out of coffee and it got bad....

Caught On Video: Man Hit With Taser After Threatening Police With Large Umbrella

SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — Police used a Taser on a man earlier this week after he threatened them with a large umbrella on a Santa Monica street corner.

The incident occurred around 8 p.m. Monday outside a Starbucks at 7th Street and Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.

Officers responded to the scene after receiving a call about a man swinging an umbrella. Once they arrived, the suspect started jabbing the object at officers and he was hit with a Taser, officials said.

The man was arrested and may have been placed on a mental health hold.

Come on guys, just give him a little less espresso in the Frappuccino and he'll be fine! :<)

Officer Down

Police Officer III Nicholas Choung Lee
Los Angeles California Police Department
End of Watch: Friday, March 7, 2014
Age: 40
Tour: 16 years
Badge # 34980

Police Officer Nicholas Lee was killed when his patrol car collided with a commercial vehicle at the intersection of Loma Vista Drive and Robert Lane, in the Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles.

He and an officer he was training were responding to a call when the patrol car collided with the truck carrying a roll-off dumpster at approximately 8:00 am. The other officer and truck driver both suffered critical injuries.

Officer Lee had served with the Los Angeles Police Department for 16 years. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
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, March 12, 2014

Security Weekly: The Jihadist Movement Suffers from Divisions and Discord, March 6, 2014

By Scott Stewart

On March 5, my colleague Robert D. Kaplan wrote about how, despite the efforts of global elites to engineer a world in which primordial divisions are vanquished, divisions such as nationalism, tribalism and sectarianism continue to survive and prosper. As I was reading Robert's thoughts, it occurred to me that it is not just the idealistic dreams of the global jet-setting elite that are being dashed upon the shoal of rocks that is human nature. We are also witnessing the utopian dreams of jihadist ideologues meet the same cruel fate.

Now, I am not by any means equating the global elite with jihadist ideologues. Indeed, jihadist ideologues have never subscribed to the universalistic ideas of the global elite. Instead, their philosophy is starkly dualistic, separating the world into two camps: Muslims and non-Muslims or, as they refer to them, Dar al-Islam (literally house of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (literally house of war). The jihadists believe in a form of Islamic millennialism whereby the Muslims will vanquish the non-Muslims in an apocalyptic struggle. Once they have won this battle, they will establish an earthly paradise ruled by Sharia in which the entire world lives in harmony under submission to Allah.

However, we are seeing the jihadist movement being wracked by the same types of forces that continue to impact all other human organizations, including the nation-state. Even within the Dar al-Islam that the jihadists are attempting to create, there remains a great deal of discord, dissention and death.

Dissention in Syria, Algeria and Somalia

Perhaps the best example of the divisions within the jihadist movement is on display in Syria. After helping establish Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, announced in April 2013 that his group was subsuming Jabhat al-Nusra and would henceforth be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Al-Baghdadi obviously did not coordinate this hostile takeover with the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, who appealed to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for help. Al-Zawahiri ruled against al-Baghdadi and ordered him to cease operations in Syria, but al-Baghdadi rebelled and disregarded al-Zawahiri's orders. The group has now officially broken away from al Qaeda, and is currently fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra as well as other jihadist actors in Syria for control of the jihad in Syria. In addition to the personal struggle for power between al-Baghdadi and al-Golani, there is also a nationalistic aspect to the dispute, since some Syrians want to have a Syrian leader of the jihadist effort in that country rather than an Iraqi like al-Baghdadi.

On Feb. 23, Abu Khaled al-Suri, the head of the Syrian jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, was killed by a suicide bombing in Aleppo. Al-Suri was also reportedly a senior al Qaeda member and close associate of al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. Many believe the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant killed al-Suri, but the group has denied responsibility.

Today, groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham not only need to worry about fighting government forces, they also must combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This infighting has provided a much-needed respite for the Syrian regime.

In early February, a jihadist group in the Gaza Strip published a video on YouTube in which it proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Jihadists in Gaza are not new, and jihadists based in Iraq have long had links to Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, but it was notable to see a Gaza-based group declare allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant rather than al Qaeda.

Another example of the divisiveness brought about by pride and personal ambition is the longstanding tension between Mokhtar Belmokhtar and his counterparts and organizational superiors in al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's southern zone, as well as the group's leadership in northern Algeria. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's Shura Council chastised Belmokhtar for his disdain and disrespect for the leadership in a letter sent to Belmokhtar and later recovered in northern Mali. Belmokhtar split from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in December of 2012 to form his own jihadist group.

Tribal politics, nationalism, ambition and personal conflicts have also factored into the development of the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab. In 2013, al Shabaab leader Ahmad Abdi Godane (also known as Abu Zubayr) began a purge of dissident leaders to tighten his control over the group. In the so-called Godane coup, his forces assassinated Ibrahim al-Afghani, a senior al Shabaab leader who had criticized Godane's leadership in an open letter. Godane's men also killed U.S. citizen Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, who Godane's forces had pursued for several months due to his criticism of Godane, along with a number of other foreign fighters. Following these killings, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who led the Islamist militant group Hizbul Islam before joining al Shabaab, defected to the Somali government due to fear of Godane.

It is also widely believed that Godane orchestrated the June 2011 death of al Qaeda in East Africa leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed due to Abdullah Mohammed's sharp criticism of al Shabaab's leadership. Some have also claimed that Godane got wind of a plan by al Qaeda to have Abdullah Mohammed (a Comoran) or other foreign al Qaeda leaders installed to lead al Shabaab. Either way, Abdullah Mohammed's criticism was very well documented in an autobiography he published on a jihadist website in 2009, and given how Godane has responded to others who have criticized his leadership, the biography clearly could have provided grounds for his "accidental" death.

Implications for U.S. Counterterrorism Policy

The divisions in the jihadist movement have muddied the waters in places like Syria and Libya and have made it quite difficult to determine affiliations and organizational structure. The divisions also raise some interesting questions regarding the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- the legal document that has driven U.S. counterterrorism operations since shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force permits military action "against those nations, organizations, or persons he [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." Congress and the U.S. court system have generally interpreted the Authorization for Use of Military Force to refer to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even though they are not specifically named.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and its predecessor organizations frequently targeted U.S. forces in Iraq. However, the group has shown no real intent to conduct transnational attacks against the United States since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. And now that the group has disassociated from al Qaeda, can U.S. forces still target it under the Authorization for Use of Military Force? What about new jihadist groups that are not associated with al Qaeda? These new jihadist groups are almost too numerous to count in Syria.

Aside from the ambiguity caused by the divisions in the jihadist movement, those divisions present some benefits that raise pragmatic conundrums. Is it worth targeting a figure such as al-Baghdadi for a rendition or a missile strike, or is it better to allow him to continue to sow dissention within the jihadist realm and kill al Qaeda figures such as al-Suri?

Another benefit of the fragmentation to the United States is that these smaller groups have tended to be more locally or regionally focused. Quite often they are motivated by nationalistic or tribal objectives rather than global ambitions. For example, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant sees itself as positioned to recreate the Islamic state of the Umayyads and Abbasids and is not interested in wasting resources on a transnational war against the United States.

Moreover, even if these smaller groups were wont to attack U.S. targets, they frequently lack the tradecraft required to conduct transnational terrorist attacks outside of their core operational areas. Conducting a terrorist attack in New York requires a different skill set than that used in guerilla warfare.

A History of Infighting

Finally, we must note that this dissention and fragmentation is not new. In fact, we have discussed the fracturing of the jihadist movement since 2005. Occasionally we have seen leaders emerge who have been able to overcome divisions and unite groups. One such individual was Nasir al-Wahayshi, who was able to unite several disparate and ineffective organizations into al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the largest and most effective jihadist groups today. But he has not been able to quell divisions outside of the Arabian Peninsula.

It is not surprising to see such separations within the jihadist movement. Indeed, as we have previously discussed, as al Qaeda admitted local militant groups such as Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Jamat al-Tawhid wal Jihad under the al Qaeda umbrella, it was also admitting large groups of militants who had their own ideologies and objectives. Some of these groups were closer to the ideology of the al Qaeda core than others, and these doctrinal differences have sown the seeds of divisiveness.

In many ways, the infighting among the jihadist forces resembles the strife between the competing Muslim emirates, sultanates and caliphates of medieval times. However, in medieval times it was Islamic polities fighting each other and today it is non-state actors.

The present-day differences might have been surmountable if the movement had produced a strong charismatic leader who could inspire these diverse militants and convince them to toe the al Qaeda line, but this did not happen under Osama bin Laden's leadership, and Ayman al-Zawahiri has also not demonstrated the ability to be this type of unifying leader.

Indeed, efforts to unite the jihadist movement are failing, and the trend toward fragmentation is not just spreading, it is actually picking up momentum. It has also become far more public since bin Laden's death, with figures such as al-Baghdadi publicly rebelling against al-Zawahiri. As we look at the jihadist movement today, we do not see a leader who will be able to slow, much less reverse, the divisions within the movement.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What's going on in the World Today 140311



U.S. Naval Update Map: March 6, 2014


In Africa, Investment May Follow Sustained Security

Libya: Military Intercepts North Korean Oil Tanker March 10, 2014

Libyan military forces have intercepted the North Korean oil tanker that allegedly loaded illegal oil purchases from rebel forces, Libyan officials said, Libya Herald reported March 10. The tanker is being escorted to Misrata port.


Japan's Policy Toward Russia Is Put to the Test


North Korea: North Korea fired seven short-range rockets from its east coast range near Wonsan on 4 March, using multiple rocket launchers.

Three of the rockets were 240 mm multiple rockets which have a 55 kilometer range. Four rockets were 300-mm rockets which have a range of 155 km, according to the South Korean National Defense Ministry statement.

Comment: The timing of the launches, which are occurring during Allied exercises, is the only potentially unusual feature of these firings. This looks like crew training again, but on rockets instead of ballistic missiles.

Now if the missiles and rockets had been fired towards the Demilitarized Zone or over South Korea and into the water, those acts would have been provocative as well as unprecedented in the last 30 years.


Russia: France Set To Deliver Warship March 5, 2014

The French-built Vladivostok helicopter carrier is setting sail for Russia from the French port of Saint-Nazaire, AP reported March 5. The warship is part of a 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) deal that marks the most valuable sale of weaponry from a NATO member to Russia. France has said it has no plans to void the deal despite its criticism of Russian actions in Crimea. The crisis is reminding countries in Central and Eastern Europe such as Poland and Lithuania that their alliances with the European Union and NATO have clear limitations

Conversation: A Renewed Eurasian Standoff Looms Beyond Ukraine

U.S.: Military To Boost Training, NATO Air Policing March 5, 2014

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to increase training for Poland's air force and provide additional U.S. aircraft for the NATO air policing mission over Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Reuters reported March 5. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said the moves are intended to provide NATO's leaders with options to help to stabilize the situation surrounding the crisis in Ukraine


Changes in Cocaine Smuggling Tactics

Central America: Cocaine Smugglers Return to the Sea

Mexican Drug Lord, Thought Dead in 2010, Is Reported Killed

MEXICO CITY — In the annals of the Mexican criminal underworld, the son of a powerful drug lord was announced captured and paraded before cameras only for the authorities to later discover they had the wrong guy. Another gang leader was killed, but then associates stole the body. On Sunday, a kingpin presumed dead for more than three years reappeared in the news, to be declared really dead this time.

The authorities said Nazario Moreno, a powerful gang leader known for his quasi-religious preachings that undergirded first the gang La Familia and more recently its spinoff, the Knights Templar, had died Sunday in a confrontation with the military. Officials were understandably cautious but said they had confirmed the man was Mr. Moreno this time.

“From the analysis of the set of 10 fingerprints carried out by the Criminal Investigation Agency, the identity of Nazario Moreno González is positively concluded, 100 percent,” Monte Alejandro Rubido García, the executive secretary of the federal security cabinet, said at a news conference, adding that the result of genetic studies would soon be released.

Mr. Rubido said rumors that Mr. Moreno was alive led to an investigation that found he was not only alive but a leader of the Knights Templar. A car and communication equipment that were believed to be his were seized on Friday. A dragnet closed in on him early Sunday morning.

When the military and the police sought to arrest him, Mr. Moreno opened fire and was killed, Mr. Rubido said.

The renewed death of Mr. Moreno, 40, whose nickname was “The Craziest One,” will surely add to his legend, particularly in Michoacán State, in western Mexico, where he was strongest and where those gangs have terrorized communities with killings, rapes, extortions and kidnapping.

Mr. Moreno secured a particular place among drug and organized crime capos for his affinity for Christian-style verse, collected in a “bible” that followers often carried. He often justified grisly violence, including beheadings, as acts of affirmation to his cultish code. He was often called El Chayo, a play on the nickname for Nazario and the Spanish word for rosary....



Afghanistan: On Monday, Taliban leaders warned Afghans against voting in presidential elections on 5 April. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement emailed to media that the group also had instructed clerics across the country to spread the word that the election is "an American conspiracy."

The statement told Afghans they should "reject completely" the election and not put themselves in danger by going to the polls. "We have given orders to all our mujahedeen to use all force at their disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections and to target all its workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices."

According to the press, Mujahid stated no specific threats or other details about Taliban disruption plans. During the 2009 presidential election, Taliban fighters assaulted and killed election workers, attacked candidates and also attacked voters, in some cases cutting people's fingers off. The group also warned the government against using public buildings, such as mosques and schools, for Hpolling.

Comment: During the 2004 presidential election, the first after the US ouster of the Taliban government, the Taliban also vowed to disrupt the voting. They surged operations nationwide and sustained hundreds of attacks of all kinds for several days, but failed to disrupt the voting.

In 2004 more than 8 million Afghans voted, representing about 70% of the registered voters. Only a handful of polling places were closed because of security. The Taliban attacks killed fewer than two dozen soldiers and elections workers and injured fewer than 50 people.

The Taliban vowed to disrupt the 2009 elections as well, despite the presence of the 30,000-strong US surge force. They executed more than 400 attacks on election day alone, the highest single day total in 15 years, according to a UN report. A heightened level of fighting continued during the week after the elections.

Polling places were closed in some districts because of violence and in many others because of widespread voter fraud. Taliban attacks killed almost three dozen people. The final vote count showed that more than 4.5 million voters participated, less than one-third of the number of registered voters.

Thus, the Taliban surge in 2009 remains the benchmark for Taliban capabilities. If the results of Taliban disruption operations next month equal or exceed those of 2009, they will have invalidated the election.


China Takes a Regional Approach to Economic Development

China's Proposed Military Reorganization


Trade Routes Between India and Iran






Russia's Cultural Influence in Former Soviet States

Western-Russian Competition Continues in the European Borderlands

Ukraine's Crisis Gives New Impetus to the Visegrad Group

Russia Traps Ukrainian Ships
Ukraine: NATO To Monitor Situation From The Air March 10, 2014

NATO will use reconnaissance aircraft to monitor the situation in Ukraine from Polish and Romanian airspace, the BBC reported March 10. Aircraft such as the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system -- better known as the AWACS -- combine a powerful radar with an airborne command center capable of coordinating the efforts of other assets. Airborne early warning aircraft allow the close monitoring of borders as well as tracking locations and movements of forces.


Exclusive: Syria to miss deadline to destroy 12 chemical arms sites-sources at OPCW

(Reuters) - Syria will miss a major deadline next week in the program to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities, sources at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Thursday.

Syria declared 12 production facilities to the OPCW and has until March 15 to destroy them under a deal agreed with the United States and Russia. Damascus has already missed several deadlines laid out in the agreement.

"That will definitely be missed," said an official involved in discussions with Syria, referring to the March 15 deadline.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said there were seven "hardened" aircraft hangars and five underground facilities. "None of them have been destroyed at the moment," the official said.

Syrian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Damascus agreed last year to destroy all chemical weapons facilities and surrender 1,300 metric tons of toxic agents to a joint OPCW/United Nations mission. It has until June 30 to eliminate its chemical weapons program completely.

The deal averted U.S. missile strikes threatened by Washington after an August 21 sarin gas attack killed hundreds of people in the outskirts of the capital.

Syria missed a February 5 deadline to ship all chemicals abroad for destruction and is weeks behind schedule. It has increased the handover of poisonous agents, including a shipment of mustard gas this week, but will not meet a March 30 deadline to neutralize all the chemicals overseas, sources at OPCW said.

That process was already supposed to have started on board the U.S. MV Cape Ray, a cargo ship outfitted with special chemical neutralization equipment. But only a quarter of the so-called priority 1 chemicals, the most dangerous ingredients for chemical weapons, have been relinquished, officials said.


Syria is not taking the deadline for the destruction of production facilities seriously, another source at the OPCW said on Thursday.

"They are not doing things in the timeframe they promised they would," the source said. "The process is in volatile waters."

The latest comments in The Hague, where members of the OPCW are meeting until Friday, came after sharp criticism of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers...


Libya: Missile Strikes Tanker Carrying Illegal Oil Shipment March 11, 2014

A North Korean-flagged oil tanker that left Libya with an illegal oil shipment has been struck by a missile and is on fire, the Libya Herald reported March 11. Authorities gave no details on who fired on the tanker. Libya's parliament voted earlier in the day to remove Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from office because of his failure to stop eastern rebels from exporting the country's oil.


March 7, KXTV 10 Sacramento – (California) FBI bust credit card fraud ring. FBI agents served arrest warrants at two homes and a trucking business in California after two men allegedly ran a payment card fraud scheme through the business and compromised around 23,000 American Express credit cards. A complaint stated that searches discovered over 50 academic reports from the San Juan Unified School District containing personal identifying information.

Officer Down

Detective John Hobbs
Phoenix Arizona Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, March 3, 2014
Age: 43
Tour: 21 years
Badge # 5624

Detective John Hobbs was shot and killed as he and other members of the Fugitive Apprehension Team attempted to serve a felony warrant on a man who had recently been released from prison.

The subject fled in a vehicle and was pursued by the detectives until crashing at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road. The subject then fled on foot. He opened fire on the detectives as they pursued him, striking Detective Hobbs and a second detective. Despite being mortally wounded, Detective Hobbs was able to return fire and fatally shot the subject.

Both wounded detectives were transported to St. Joseph's Hospital in critical condition. Detective Hobbs succumbed to his wounds at the hospital.

Detective Hobbs had served with the Phoenix Police Department for 21 years. 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. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fido got transferred.....

Great weekend, celebrated the first of many anniversaries with my beautiful Beth and hope you have a great week!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Another classic example of why print media is dead...

It was not so long ago this was not the case and we were the worse for it. A classic example of this is the quote of William Randolph Hearst saying to his reporter in Cuba, when informed there was no conflict, cabled "You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war."

A more modern example of this came in 2004, when Dan Rather, a yellow journalist if there ever was, attempted to derail the reelection of George Bush by bringing up 30 year old allegations that the then Texas Air Guard lieutenant didn't go to his drill's one time. Oh, what a scandal.

Well a more classic example of this comes from the San Francisco Chronicle, by way of this morning's Houston Chronicle. Basically the same, owned by Hearst publishing.

The article was a review of HRC, the recently released bio of the Mrs. Bill Clinton. Most of it was tripe, but I found this part somewhat interesting:

...The book begins with Clinton and her team’s response to defeat in the bitter 2008 presidential primary against the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. It describes the process of her erstwhile campaign aides meticulously rating Democratic members of Congress on their helpfulness in the race, on a scale from one to seven. There was, Allen and Parnes wrote, “a special circle of Clinton hell” for those who stayed on the sidelines or endorsed Obama after the Clintons had helped them raise money, attain a political appointment or get their kid into an elite school.

Yet her us-versus-them approach to patronage and retribution was accompanied by equally old-school graciousness: Clinton made a point of sending 16,000 personalized thank-you notes in the summer of 2008....

Now that is a large number of thank you notes and Mrs Clinton only gave up her election campaign on June 8, 2008. Now an objective, unbiased, journalist would probably find that number a bit large and question it. Of course not in this case, but I did and I ran the numbers.

Assume Mrs Clinton is writing for 90 days and takes a minute to write a single "thank-you note...", then how many minutes a day does it take to do this. Well 16000 divided by 90 equals 177.78. That's just under three hours a day writing thank you notes (assuming they are only one page, she takes a minute and she has an aide address/mail them). Or she uses an auto-pen to write and sign the note, but that's not very personalized. Either the quote from the book and this review is very questionable. Why then wasn't it questioned? I mean, it's not like someone said she shut down a bridge for payback to an opponent.

One of the greatest quotes from one of my favorite books and movies, Inherit the Wind, was when the reporter covering the trail, E. K. Hornbeck, informs the prosecution, Matthew Harrison Brady, "Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." I think that has been forgotten by the likes of the NY Times, Washington Post, et all. Too bad. They have a critical function in a republic, keeping the politicians honest. And now they have shirked it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Obama, Hagel and the downgrading of the United States

I remember a comment when the Chuckie Hagel nomination was announced, it was a finger in the eye to the Republicans.  Hagel, a RINO's RINO, had long been a proponent of gutting the Defense Department.  Well, last week's QDR was no surprise.  However, at least there is some blow back.

House Armed Services Chairman Rejects Defense Review for First Time in History
For the first time in history, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has rejected a major Defense Department strategic review.
fThe defense report is required by law every four years. (Image via Defense Department)
The Department of Defense is legally required to submit the Quadrennial Defense Review to Congress every four years to provide long-range vision and planning for potential future conflicts.
“Unfortunately, the product the process produced this time has more to do with politics than policy and is of little value to decision makers. For that reason, I will require the department to rewrite and resubmit a compliant report,” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a scathing statement after receiving the review Tuesday. 
Committee spokesman Claude Chafin confirmed to TheBlaze this was the first time a chairman has rejected the report and asked for it to be resubmitted. 
 “In defiance of the law, [the review] provides no insight into what a moderate-to-low risk strategy would be, is clearly budget driven, and is shortsighted. It allows the president to duck the consequences of the deep defense cuts he has advocated and leaves us all wondering what the true future costs of those cuts will be,” McKeon said.McKeon said he will introduce legislation requiring the Defense Department to resubmit an acceptable review. 
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the review, while admitting the report reflects current budget woes. 
“These continued fiscal constraints cannot be ignored,” Hagel said in a statement. “It would be dishonest and irresponsible to present a [review] articulating a strategy disconnected from the reality of resource constraints. A strategy must have the resources for its implementation.” 
The review’s release coincided with that of President Barack Obama’s new budget proposal, entailing $600 billion in new spending initiatives and which drew strong reactions from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.Capt. James Nardelli, part of a deploying Security Force Assistance Team with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fires at a target during a stress shoot training exercise at Fort Campbell's Range 40a, Feb. 16. The stress shoot training exercise conditions soldiers to effectively hit their targets in highly intense situations The FY15 budget includes a sharp drawdown in the size of the Army, calling for a reduction to 440,000 active duty soldiers from the current size of 520,000. (Image via Department of Defense) 
“As the 2014 elections hang in the balance, President Obama and his fellow Democrats would rather present an unserious, political budget instead of addressing our nation’s long-term fiscal problems,” Priebus said. 
A Pentagon official told TheBlaze that Hagel looks forward to “discussing” the rejected review and the budget later this week with the House Armed Services Committee.
Among many other cuts, the budget includes a sharp drawdown in the size of the Army, calling for a reduction to 440,000 active duty soldiers from the current size of 520,000, while “ensuring the force remains well trained and equipped,”
according to the Defense Department....
Hopefully the Obama regime's plan to destroy our military gets stopped here.  It's gonna be bad enough to undue the damage he's done already starting in 2017.