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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I thought it was all about safety....

And if you believe that one....

I'm not naive enough to believe the push to install red light cameras had anything to do with other than making money. A rule that is as chilled in stone as The Ten Commandments, if a politician says "Well, it's not about the money...", it is first, foremost and always about, the money.

On the subject of money, a few years ago I was readying about a city with a bit of an issue. It was either Dallas or a suburb of Dallas that had installed red light cameras "to decrease the running of red lights" and increase safety. Well, guess what, it worked. People stopped running those red lights and fewer tickets were issues....wait, fewer tickets. That's less money!

The city said the problem was the program was costing more than it took in with ticket revenue. But I thought the point was safety, not to mention the fact you won't be using emergency crews for the accidents. Gee, who would have thunk it!

Now from the other 3rd World nation in our nation's capital, the District of Columbia. Seems like they have a "revenue problem".
Declining traffic-camera revenue threatens to unbalance D.C.’s budget

Revenue from tickets issued by the District’s network of traffic cameras has declined dramatically over the past year, potentially throwing the city budget out of balance, the chief financial officer warned Monday.

With less than two days left in the city’s fiscal year, CFO Jeffrey S. DeWitt said in a letter to District officials that revenue from fines and forfeitures may end up more than $70 million under projections if the trends hold — a significant chunk of a $6.3 billion local budget. The bulk of the shortfall comes from fines issued through red-light and speeding cameras, which have been the subject of rancorous public debate as their use has proliferated in recent years.

The city expected to collect $93.7 million through automated traffic enforcement in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but as of the end of August, the cameras had generated only $26.1 million, according to preliminary cash reports issued by DeWitt’s office. That is a drop-off of 62 percent from the nearly $70 million the city had collected by that point in 2013.

DeWitt didn’t pinpoint a reason for the lagging revenue, noting only that fine revenue had been “projected to increase because of the rollout of new automated enforcement equipment.”

Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), said in an e-mail that fewer tickets have been issued this year for a variety of reasons, including delays in deploying some new devices, higher speed limits on some streets and more motorists obeying the law.

“And we don’t view any of this as a bad thing,” McCoy said. “As we’ve said all along: the purpose of automated traffic enforcement is to improve public safety and save lives, not to raise money.”

But the implications for the District’s budget are considerable: The city had projected it would collect $156 million in camera revenue in the coming fiscal year. Should final tallies expected in December confirm a precipitous decline this year, officials may have to cut $50 million to $70 million in spending from next year’s budget.

The news prompted D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) to take his fellow city leaders to task for being too dependent on ticket revenue in balancing the District’s budget.

In a statement, Mendelson said the revenue projections “add to the black eye” around the camera program delivered by a recent D.C. inspector general’s report that suggested it was more about filling city coffers than maintaining public safety. He noted that the council tried to lower camera fines in 2012 but “couldn’t reduce the fines as much as we wanted because of the revenues that would be lost.”

“The District’s budget should not be dependent on the fines of speeders,” he said.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, an outspoken defender of camera enforcement, said in a statement that she saw in the new figures proof that the cameras are working: “As I have said many times, we usually see significant reductions in citations issued in the first few months of deployment. This demonstrates that drivers are changing their behavior.”

“Our goal is traffic safety,” she continued. “The fact that infractions are going down is a good thing in my view. Automated traffic enforcement is and always has been about safety. We deploy technology as needed.”...

No surprise that politicians are counting their chickens before they hatch with the red light revenue. But two things struck the hell out of me. Washington DC has a population of 646,000, is physically 68.3 square miles, fields a police force of 3800 and with a budget of 6.3 freaking billion dollars they are running a deficit because of "red light camera revenue"! Compare that with my town of Houston, which has a population of almost 2.2 million spread over 627 miles, fielding a police force of around 5300, and this city does it on a budget of 4.5 billion. And D.C.'s problem is not enough money?! What a crock of S$%^.

Well, I may have another thing to check out. I checked the D. C. city government website and it shows for a relatively small city, the city council ain't small. Eight council members from the wards and five at large positions, plus a Chair Pro Tempore. Again, compare that to the Houston City Council, which, for a city four times as large in population and ten times as large in land, has a city council of five at large members and eleven district representatives.

Maybe the District of Columbia should look at trimming the fat before they look at choking the golden goose anymore. Naa. Like their big brother on Capital Hill, the only "cut" is a reduction in the rate of growth. The last time I visited D.C. was in 1992, playing tourist at the Smithsonian Museum. And it is disgusting that in our nation's capital we cannot walk safety. And the mismanagement shown by this article shows why.

Great news from 2017.....

One of my reading pleasures is National Review, the great bi-weekly started by William F Buckley. And with all my subscriptions I have a writer I generally go to first, and at NR that man is Rob Long. I'll let his words speak for themselves.
From the New York Times, November 12, 2017

Economy Sputters, Lurches and A President Is Left Feeling Heat

Economic growth continued at an anemic pace in the past quarter, fueling speculation that President Ted Cruz, the embattled Republican, would be forced to shake up his economic-policy staff.

President Cruz, facing an increasingly dyspeptic electorate, has tried to cast the economic performance under his leadership — with unemployment stubbornly hovering at 5.3 percent and GDP growth at an anemic 3.2 percent — as a “work in progress.” But recent polls indicate that the electorate, at least in crucial must-win 2020 states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, isn’t buying the spin.

“As I said at the time, what I was trying to do was create a context for sustainable economic growth,” former president Barack Obama recently told a group of journalists from his office at Harvard Law School. “What President Cruz has managed to do is undermine everything I — and my administration — accomplished.”

To be sure, as a matter of pure statistics, the economy under President Cruz is growing at a faster rate, with numerically lower unemployment, than it did under his predecessor, the first African-American president of the United States.

“What’s important to investigate,” the former president told a group of journalists and biographers, “is not the number of unemployed persons per se, or the rate of growth as currently calculated, but instead the underlying assumptions contained within those numbers, some of which are, quite frankly, racial. To be clear, I’m not saying . . .”

Dining and Wine

A New Restaurant Opens, A New Chapter Begins

Former first lady Michelle Obama’s first foray into the dining scene opened last night to crowds and flashbulbs and, yes, lots of kale.

“Le Jardin Sans Richesse,” the collaboration between restaurateur-author Alice Waters and former first lady Michelle Obama, opened to great fanfare in a cozy West Village townhouse, replete with of-the-moment Edison bulbs (to be specific: eco-friendly fluorescent bulbs in the Edison style) and a farm-to-table menu heavy on the vegetables and greens, light on everything else.

“Michelle Obama’s gonna keep me regular,” television personality Whoopi Goldberg cried to the cheering crowd as she made her way into the restaurant and tucked into what the restaurant calls “The Green Colonic,” a salad of bitter winter greens, surgical-grade micro-gravel, and birch bark ($65 for an appetizer portion, $235 as an entrĂ©e).

“This has always been my dream,” the former first lady said with a beaming smile. “I wish all Americans would eat this way.”

The restored dining room was festooned with flowers and cards from well-wishers — political friends and foes alike. “Best wishes on your opening!” read a large ecru card attached to a rather ho-hum, very Flowers.com arrangement. In swooping handwriting below the typed message, “Love, Mary Pat Christie.” So it seems that good vibes flowed from Vice President Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, to the former first lady.

“I wish she would eat here,” the former first lady sniffed. “She’s gotten so big since the inauguration. I didn’t think that was even possible.”

By then it was time for dessert — a simple “salad” of brunoised apple cores and grated orange peel ($194) — and the good-luck speeches began.

“You are an inspiration!” cooed the newly svelte young father Alec Baldwin . . .

Science and Technology

From Biden’s Cortex, Activity Detected

The brain of former vice president Joe Biden has shown signs of activity, measured with a new electrograph tool developed, ironically, as a result of federal stimulus funds disbursed eight years ago at the height of the financial crisis.

Originally designed to help local auto-repair shops measure and control smog emissions from older cars, the tool can also measure certain types of brain waves in subjects who otherwise display zero brain activity.

The former vice president’s brain, suspended in a scientific gel since his head “exploded” during the 2016 Democratic National Convention seconds after his party nominated former secretary of state Hillary Clinton — as Yale University president Hillary Rodham was then known — has been continually monitored for signs of activity to no avail. Until last Tuesday, when a lab technician was listening to a Spotify stream of Parliament of Funk’s “Up the Down Stroke” and the needle on the machine began to almost imperceptibly move . . .

The Vows Column

Amid Family and Friends,
Two Men Declare Their Love

New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman and former president Barack Obama were married today in a festive and music-filled ceremony, amid laughter and jokes.

“It was love at first sight,” purred the hirsute columnist.

“At least for him!” added the former president, who went on to explain what many onlookers and, according to polls, 87 percent of all Americans find a baffling and unexpected turn of events.

“When someone loves you that much,” the former president explained, “beyond, let’s be clear, all reason, well, sometimes you’ve just got to let go. Paul thinks I was the greatest president the country ever had, and I guess that’s why I fell in love with him.”

After a Hawaiian honeymoon — “My man is going to teach me how to play golf,” an ebullient Krugman shouted to the crowd — the couple plans to settle in New York City. “We’ve thought about adopting,” the former president mused, “but surrogacy seems like a better bet. Paul isn’t getting any younger, of course . . .”

Officer Down

Police Officer Eddie Johnson, Jr.
Alton Missouri Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, October 20, 2014
Age: 45

Police Officer Eddie Johnson was killed in a single vehicle crash while responding to a structure fire at a home in Royal Oak, approximately six miles west of Alton.

During the response his patrol car left U.S. 160 fives miles west of Alton, struck a driveway entrance, and overturned several times. It is believed that Officer Johnson was not wearing his seat belt at the time.

Officer Johnson also served as the fire chief of the Alton Volunteer Fire Department as a reserved deputy with the Oregon County Sheriff's Office.
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've always wanted to live in a Deluxe Apartment, in the Sky!

Coming from South Louisiana, I've known about about above ground burial my entire life. But this takes it to a whole other level, pardon the pun. And it makes sense in a small country with historical significance like Israel. May Jews living outside of Israel want to buried in their traditional homeland, but the country only had so much space.

Israel raises the dead with skyward cemetery

This Oct. 6, 2014, photo shows a new vertical part of the Yarkon cemetery outside of the city of Petah Tikva, Israel.
 (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
PETAH TIKVA, Israel (AP) — At first glance, the multi-tiered jungle of concrete off a major central Israeli highway does not appear unusual in this city of bland high-rises. But the burgeoning towers are groundbreaking when you consider its future tenants: They will be homes not for the living but rather the dead.

With real estate at a premium, Israel is at the forefront of a global movement building vertical cemeteries in densely populated countries. From Brazil to Japan, elevated cemeteries, sometimes stretching high into the sky, will be the final resting place for thousands of people. They are now the default option for the recently departed in the Holy Land.

After some initial hesitations, and rabbinical rulings that made the practice kosher, Israel's ultra-Orthodox burial societies have embraced the concept as the most effective Jewish practice in an era when most of the cemeteries in major population centers are packed full.

"The source of all this is that there is simply no room," said Tuvia Sagiv, an architect who specializes in dense burial design. "It's unreasonable that we will live one on top of the other in tall apartment buildings and then die in villas. If we have already agreed to live one on top of the other, then we can die one on top of the other."

The Yarkon Cemetery on the outskirts of Tel Aviv has been his flagship project. As the primary cemetery for the greater Tel Aviv area, its traditional burial grounds are at near capacity with 110,000 graves stretched across 150 acres. But thanks to an array of 30 planned vertical structures, Sagiv said the cemetery will be able to provide 250,000 more graves without gobbling up any more land, providing the region with 25 years of breathing room...

...Cemetery overcrowding presents a challenge the world over, particularly in cramped cities and among religions that forbid or discourage cremation. The reality of relying on finite land resources to cope with the endless stream of the dying has brought about creative solutions.

The world's tallest existing cemetery is the 32-story high Memorial Necropole Ecumenica in Santos, Brazil.
Rhe Necropole Ecumenica Memorial stands tall in Santos, Brazil. When
completed, the five building memorial known as a vertical cemetery will hold 180,000 bodies. 
In Tokyo, the Kouanji is a six-story Buddhist temple where visitors can use a swipe card to have the remains of their loved ones brought to them from vaults on a conveyer belt system.

Versions of stacked cemeteries already exist in some shape or form in places like New Orleans and across Europe, in Egypt's Mountain of the Dead, in China and in the amphitheater-like Pok Fu Lam Rd Cemetery in Hong Kong.

But the future will likely look more like the ambitious plan of Norwegian designer Martin McSherry for an airy cemetery skyscraper that looks like a gigantic honeycomb with triangular caverns.

Other plans for cemetery towers have been presented for Paris and Mumbai. In Mexico City, another big project has been proposed: the Tower for the Dead, which will combine a vertical necropolis and an 820-foot-deep (250-meter-deep) subterranean complex. In China, Beijing residents have been provided subsidies to buy space in vertical cemeteries.

But only in Israel does the phenomenon appear to be part of a government-backed master plan. Aside from those who have already purchased their future plots, individual outdoor graves are no longer offered to the families of the more than 35,000 Israelis who die each year.

The first space-saving option is to put graves on top of each other — separated by a concrete divider — and have a shared headstone. This is common among couples and even whole families, and every new pit dug in Israel has room for at least two graves in it. The second option is stacking the dead above ground into niches built into walls, a bit like in a morgue, but adorned with headstones. The third, and most revolutionary option, is to be buried in a building where each floor resembles a traditional cemetery, without the blue sky above.

For this upheaval to take off in Israel, though, the blessing of the rabbis was needed. Israel's rabbinical authorities oversee all burials of Jewish Israelis.

The Jewish burial ritual is based on the passage in Genesis in which God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden: "For dust you are — and to dust you shall return." Jewish law stipulates that all bodies be buried separately on a layer of dust and earth.

Yaakov Ruza, the rabbi of the Tel Aviv burial society, a semiofficial organization that oversees Jewish burials, said the new forms of burial have been endorsed by leading Jewish ultra-Orthodox figures.

The towers, for instance, have pipes filled with dirt inside their columns so that each layer is still connected to the ground. In many ways, Ruza said the new types of burial represent a return to the Holy Land's ancient origins of burying inside caves and catacombs.

"This is an artificial cave," he said. "Once they used to build a cave into a mountain. Now we are taking these artificial caves and turning them into a mountain."

Jerusalem's burial society even has plans to dig an actual underground cave to find more room for the dead....
Didn't think of the part about all bodies being buried between a layer of dust and earth, but hey, it's working to handle a real issue. In discussions I get with the members of the Church of the Environment, they often scream "we are running out of room!" and we need to recycle, in spite of that costing more than landfill disposal of waste. Some people just don't understand the huge size of America as opposed to small countries like Israeli, France, Spain, Great Britain, etc. And I can see the usual suspects screaming we need this for the same reason, reality be damned. But for small countries, this is a great option.

Officer Down

Sergeant Michael Joe "Mike" Naylor
Midland County Texas Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Thursday, October 9, 2014
Age: 46
Badge # 413

Sergeant Mike Naylor was shot and killed as he and other deputies served a warrant on a child sexual predator at a home on the 3800 block of North County Road 1247.

The officers attempted to make contact with the man, but he refused to come to the door. Deputies then broke out a window of the home to make visual and verbal contact with the man, but he still refused to come out. As Sergeant Naylor and the man continued to speak, the man suddenly fired a shot, striking the officer in the head.

Other deputies were able to pull Sergeant Naylor away from the home and transported him to a waiting ambulance. He was taken to Midland Memorial Hospital where he later succumbed to his wound. A second deputy was also transported to the hospital with breathing difficulties following the incident.

The subject who shot Sergeant Naylor was taken into custody a short time later. He was subsequently charged with capital murder and felony aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Sergeant Naylor was assigned to the Mental Health Unit and also served as the department's Honor Guard commander. He had previously served with the United States Air Force and is buried at Prairie Haven Memorial Park in Hobbs, New Mexico.
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. 

Been off the net....

Well, I'm back to the blog. Last week was crazy and I was hoping to get a few posts up Saturday, but something got in the way. Wifie had to go to hospital for a few hours. Bad allergic reaction to a prescription. She's fine, sleeping comfortably next to with baby Bugs.

For many friend out there, you know I'm not the best speller or grammar checker. So I really enjoyed this.

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gee, this is the New York Puke....

After spending months rilling up racial hatred in Ferguson MO, the NY Times is trying to save some credibility. From yesterday:
Police Officer in Ferguson Is Said to Recount a Struggle

WASHINGTON — The police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., two months ago has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as he struggled over his gun with Mr. Brown, according to government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter.

The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.

The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck...

Wait, I thought, according the the eyewitnesses, that the officer simply drove up and shot Mikey Brown in cold blood, with no motive, as Mikey had his hands above his head in a surrender fashion. Now, there is blood on the officer's gun, uniform and in his vehicle. How could that be. It directly contradicts the eyewitnesses.
...Police officers typically have wide latitude to use lethal force if they reasonably believe that they are in imminent danger.
The Times has a link to a decent article on use of deadly force, but, this standard also applies civilians. Did they have reasonable fear for the life or serious bodily injury of themselves or a third person.
The officials said that while the federal investigation was continuing, the evidence so far did not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson. To press charges, the Justice Department would need to clear a high bar, proving that Officer Wilson willfully violated Mr. Brown’s civil rights when he shot him.

The account of Officer Wilson’s version of events did not come from the Ferguson Police Department or from officials whose activities are being investigated as part of the civil rights inquiry.

Strange, the Holder Just-Us department seems to only want to seize control of local police departments and indict officers for doing their jos, but for some reason the black and Hispanic gangs killing thousands are are prosecuted for "civil rights" violations. I wonder why.

Now take a look at this quote.
...In the many accounts of Mr. Brown’s death, the most potent imagery has come from his final moments, when he and Officer Wilson faced each other on Canfield Drive. Some witnesses have said that he appeared to be surrendering with his hands in the air as he was hit with the fatal gunshots. Others have said that Mr. Brown was moving toward Officer Wilson when he was killed.

Now this one.
Few witnesses had perfect vantage points for the fight in the car, which occurred just after noon on Aug. 9. Mr. Brown was walking down the middle of the street with a friend, Dorian Johnson, when Officer Wilson stopped his S.U.V., a Chevy Tahoe, to order them to the sidewalk.

This is the first time I've heard the witnesses didn't have a good angle to view this. If this was brought up in previous reporting, I'd love to see it. For example, these witnesses:
...One witness, Piaget Crenshaw, said later that while she could not see clearly, it appeared Mr. Brown was “trying to flee.” Another witness, Tiffany Mitchell, said that she had watched with alarm from a close distance and that as the two briefly struggled, “Michael was pulling off and the cop was trying to pull him in...”

Ms Crenshaw could not see clearly, but she could determine Brown was "trying to flee." And Ms Mitchell refers to the deceased as "Michael". Maybe I'm just cynical, but she may have knows the man before he became a cause celebre. Whenever I investigate anything (assault case, accident) and I have witnesses, the first question I have of them is "Do you know any of the people in the case." It allows their statements to be put into context.

But as I told a family member when this first happened (and who was ready to hang the officer at first sight just based on the eyewitness testimony) this is a slow process and needs to be handled dispassionately. And I also mentioned to him when witnesses are put under oath they often "revise" their statements, not that they can be changed with a felony for lying.

Good to see the NY Times is actually doing some reporting for a change on this matter. Better late than never.

Geopolitical Weekly: Student Movements: A Subject of Human Geography, October 14, 2014

By Sim Tack

As student protests in Hong Kong continue, memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations naturally spring to mind. Less iconic but no less notable were the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which began as a student movement; the 2007 Venezuelan protests, which started with a group of students demanding constitutional reform; and the 1929 protests in Paris, which challenged the role of churches in education.

Of course, each student movement is unique; the one underway in Hong Kong concerns Hong Kong affairs, not widespread democratic reform in China proper. And yet all such movements share characteristics that transcend borders, making them an ideal phenomenon through which to study geopolitics.

Student protests lay bare the social and cultural layers that move beneath the surface of geopolitics, much like subsurface currents flow beneath the waves of the oceans. Human geography forms the foundation of society and thus the systems that govern it. Even if we regard the state as the highest level of global policymaking and interaction, these social undercurrents are what move the generations, ideologies and cultural changes that shape the constraints under which states operate.

Patterns Emerge

From ethnic and religious sects to socio-economic divisions, human geography is as important to a state as the physical topography and resources that constitute it. Human geography exists in all states, and as with physical geography, revelatory, even educational, patterns emerge over time.

The way in which the ruled rise up against the rulers is one such pattern. These kinds of movements take a variety of forms, from peaceful demonstrations and strikes to violent insurgencies. Of these, student protests are perhaps the most intriguing because of the unique position in society that students occupy -- they are at the vanguard of a generation that often differs markedly from that of their forebears. It is at this fault line that competing ideologies and changing cultural identities collide.

That they are students means they are intellectually engaged, frequently espousing distinct political beliefs. But to be successful, student movements must galvanize the other areas of civil society. In that regard, they are often a good catalyst for change. Students are already grouped together at universities, often in urban areas, enabling student campaigns to evolve into broader protest movements. Of course, social media has made physical congregation somewhat obsolete, but proximity still simplifies the logistics of political action.

Even under ideal circumstances, student movements can fail, and indeed history is rife with failure. But more often than not, student uprisings tend to be part of longer-term social, cultural or political change. After all, when student protests disappear, students themselves often go on to become part of a more mature generation that retains much of its ideological conviction.

Think, for example, of the May 1968 movement that shook France and several other countries in Europe. Despite failing to achieve many of its goals as it occupied university buildings in Paris, the baby boomer generation later became part of post-graduate society, fomenting far-reaching social and cultural change throughout Europe as the ideas of the New Left continued to bleed into the mainstream.

When a student movement fails to create change, oftentimes it will join or be subsumed by an existing political movement, acting either as a force that advances change or one that that highlights the continuation of ongoing social trends. France's revolution in June 1832 is a prime example. The notion of popular sovereignty had been in place ever since the French Revolution ended the monarchy. The return of the monarchy in 1814, after Napoleon's fall, however, ultimately compelled students to take to the streets in what was essentially an extension of the very same social pressures that had dominated the internal evolution of France for more than three decades. These particular protests in 1832, eternalized in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, were struck down. But the underlying desires of the masses persisted, culminating in 1848, when the "Year of Revolution" saw the final collapse of the monarchy in France and generated a broader wave of social change throughout Europe.

Student campaigns have by no means been relegated to Europe. The United States witnessed profound student activism during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the anti-war movement brought about countless protests. At its core was a demographic shift -- the baby boom, which spawned the primary group challenging policy at the time. Of course, these movements did not end the war in Vietnam; they barely convinced Washington to end the draft. But they exemplified the trends of the time, namely, the introduction of a new generation with a distinct ideology.

When student movements emulate broader social unrest, the results can be dramatic. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution radically changed the political identity of the country, facilitated in part by students who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The ensuing hostage crisis united many sections of Iranian society in support of the revolution. Ironically, it was this generation of students that put down a later generation of students during the 2009-2010 Green Revolution.

A Society in Motion

Even prior to the current Hong Kong protests, China has had a rich history of student activism influencing society. In fact, the establishment of the People's Republic of China itself had its roots in student movements: Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai discovered socialism and began to organize politically as student leaders in the early 20th century. In 1919, the May 4th Movement, which grew out of student demonstrations, arguably ushered in what would become the beginning of China's contemporary history when it lashed out against Beijing's response to the Treaty of Versailles.

Students were also at the forefront of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. They helped reinforce the personality cult of Mao as Chinese citizens revolted against capitalism and traditional Chinese culture. It was student repudiation of university leaders accused of opposing the Chinese Communist Party that initiated the actual protests, which in turn started the Cultural Revolution -- something much larger than a student cause, to say the least.

Considering China's long history -- and the history of student movements -- the current protests in Hong Kong will not be the last time China faces social unrest. As a one-party state with immense geographic, social and economic diversity, China has faced significant calls for reform throughout the years. And the Communist Party will inevitably face more pressure as China changes. For China's is a society in motion: It is creating an urban middle class as its economy matures. Rising urbanization and private consumption have altered the interests and expectations of Chinese citizens, and as expectation rise, so too will pressure on the government to meet those demands.

Along with the emergence of a Chinese urban consumer class, there has been a veritable explosion in the number of students in China as higher education has expanded over the past decade. China is spending more money on higher education to create an educated work force better suited for the economy to which China aspires. But creating more students creates more opportunities for social unrest. The ability of these students to function the way China intends hinges heavily on the performance of the Chinese economy. If economic growth slows, the potential for unrest hastens.

It is difficult to gauge the ultimate effect of the protests in Hong Kong. Still, the student activism there reminds us why these subjects of society are well-suited to protest. Because of their position in the human geography, students will often be at the front of generational changes in their respective societies, even if they are not always the most decisive agents of change.

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Military Analyst Sim Tack.
Student Movements: A Subject of Human Geography is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Officer Down

Trooper David Kedra
Pennsylvania State Police
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Age: 26
Tour: 2 years, 3 months
Badge # 12115

Trooper David Kedra was accidentally shot and killed while participating in a training exercise at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Complex, in Plymouth Township, at approximately 4:45 pm.

During the exercise a live round was discharged and struck Trooper Kedra in the chest. He was flown to Temple University Hospital where he succumbed the injury.

Trooper Kedra had served with the Pennsylvania State Police for just over 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. 

A crock of s$%^ of a report.

There are legitimate questions of if this country still needs a draft registration system. You never say never and after World War I, the "War to End All Wars", no one expected another. Well, things haven't worked out so well and as a wise man once wrote, "there will be wars and rumors of war until the end of time."

This article is crap. It's simplistic and shows a lack of work on the part of the reporter. The man who says at age 38 cannot get student aid because he didn't register for the draft may have a legitimate issue. If we need to work on that fine. But here we go.
America may never have a draft again. But we’re still punishing low-income men for not registering

OK, only low income men? Granted, Joe Biden's son, the cocaine user didn't need student loans to get through college, but many middle and upper middle income students do. So if they fail to register, they can be denied benefits.
More than 40 years since America's last draft, failing to register for selective service can mean missing out on crucial benefits.

By Tina Griego October 16 Follow @tinagriego

The last time Danieldevel Davis got out of prison it was 2012 and he was 38.

“I ain’t going back into no man’s prison again,” he vowed.

He’d been locked up for six years, which was the longest he’d ever lived in one place. Davis grew up in foster homes, dropped out of school in the 11th grade and then hit the revolving door: streets, juvenile detention, streets, prison. He’s never possessed a driver’s license. He’s never had a bill in his name.

“I’ve never had anything in my name,” he says.

So, this is what happened when Davis went to fill out his financial aid paperwork at a Virginia Beach technical college.

“Have you registered for the Selective Service?” the financial aid officer asked.

“What do you mean?” Davis said.

“Did you register to be drafted?”


This may be a nation with an all-volunteer military, one that ended conscription more than 40 years ago, but federal law still requires men ages 18 to 25 to register for a draft that does not exist. There are few exemptions and no second chances.

Davis never registered with the Selective Service System and so learned that he was looking at potentially lifelong consequences. No access to federal student loans or grants. No federal job training money or certain government jobs. And, in Virginia, no driver’s license.

“I didn’t know I had to register and now I can’t get anything,” Davis says. “I can’t do nothing.”

Got it, assuming this is true and he couldn't get a pass based on his history and desire to turn his life around, we may have an issue. But Ms Griego, where did you link up with Mr Davis? Did he come to you asking for help in getting his story told? Just curious.
The odds of this country returning to a draft are almost zero, but the price for failure to register is high and is largely born by the men who can ill afford to pay it: high school dropouts, disconnected inner city residents, ex-offenders and immigrants — legal and unauthorized — who do not know that failure to register can jeopardize citizenship. In other words, those precisely in need of the type of job training, education and citizenship opportunities that could help move them from the margins to the mainstream.

In California, the Selective Service System estimates, men who failed to register were denied access to more than $99 million in federal and state financial aid and job training benefits between 2007 and April of this year. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts saw $35 million in combined lost benefits between 2011 and spring 2014.

“Why are we setting up these barriers?” says Regina Tyler, director of Virginia State University’s Upward Bound program and the Education Opportunity Center, which helps adults return to school. “Why are we attaching them to financial aid? We don’t have a draft, so what is the point?”

The point, supporters of registration long have argued, is that almost-zero odds of conscription are not zero odds.

“You can never say never,” says Lawrence G. Romo, director of the Selective Service System. “We are a deterrent. We want to make sure our adversaries understand that if we had an extreme national emergency, we would have the draft.”

A fair and equitable draft, which would include alternatives to military service, requires 100 percent compliance, he argues. “We need to have some type of penalty in order to help us get that compliance.”...

Legitimate question and one thing I will say is a modern success is the volunteer military. I'm a 23 year veteran of the Army and I would rather have five people there willingly then ten draftees. Now most of the article is stats on compliance, etc, read it if you will, but this brought my blood up.
...Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who earlier this year introduced two bills related to the draft. The first would require women to register with the Selective Service. The second calls for all citizens and residents between 18 and 25 to perform two years of military or community service and would reinstate the draft only when a clear threat to the nation is present and Congress formally has declared war or the president proclaims a national emergency.

Community service? I think this is what we called in years past indentured servitude. From this country's founding there was no question young men could be called on to defend this nation, either by volunteering or a draft, when needed. But this is something new. For some reason Charlie and his ilk want young men and women to "serve in the community" as a condition of being a citizen? Strange, I'll bet he won't require a similar pound of flesh from Dreamers, aka illegal aliens. But anyone knowing Charlie knows what this is, a way of using federal resources for Democrats. Those kids would go "into the community" showing them how to register, how to vote, and whom to vote for. Oh, get this.
Rangel has long argued that the burden of fighting war has fallen unfairly on the shoulders of a few, and that a more-inclusive draft “would compel everyone in the nation to stop and think about who we sent to wars, how we fight – and why we fight them at all.”

But, Rangel says, until the day comes that the United States is engaged in a declared war and the nation’s security is violated — or Congress passes his National Service Act — there is no reason for the Selective Service System. “Having people penalized for not registering is a fraud,” he said.

Rangel emphasized that registration is current law and should be followed, but said he now intends to introduce a draft-related bill — one abolishing the service.

A little shoe leather work would have put Charlie in context. In 2005, Charlie introduced a bill to reinstate the draft and he made many of the same comments then as he does now. Well, in a rare show of guts the Republicans in the House called his bluff, by passed the committee and sent it straight to the floor for a vote. What happened? It was voted down by all members, with even Charlie voting against his own bill. I know in Charlie's case it was a procedural dodge, he had to vote against his bill so he could reintroduce it at a later date. But more to the point he didn't want the bill passed. He wanted to be on TV during committee hearings calling our all volunteer military a disgrace and racists. What a racist disgrace he is.

Legitimatley is there a debate to be had on the draft, yes. Personally I would keep registration and allow correction for a man in his 30s who never filled out his form due to ignorance as opposed to deliberate evasion. But please, don't use Charlie Rangel as a authentic source of input.

Officer Down

Police Officer Jordan Corder
Covina California Police Department
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Age: 28
Tour: 7 years

Police Officer Jordan Corder was killed in a motorcycle crash on North Citrus Avenue at 1:55 pm.

As he entered the intersection with West Puente Street a small SUV attempted to make a left turn in front of him, causing a head-on collision. He was thrown from the motorcycle and suffered fatal injuries.

Officer Corder had served with the Covina Police Department for seven years. He is survived by his father, who is a retired Covina police officer.
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, October 11, 2014

The stupidity of politicians never ceases to amaze me!

Generally the really stupid politicians (I know, redundancy, but just go with me here) in at the federal level, but the District of Columbia government is not too shabby. Just read the article.
D.C. councilmember David Grosso suggests disarming city police, says officers 'shouldn't have guns'

D.C. Copuncilmember David Grasso

Independent Councilmember David Grosso made his comments Wednesday night at a hearing on the use of stop-and-frisk and other tactics by District of Columbia police.

Grosso said his staff has urged him not to express the opinion, but nonetheless, he said, "I think we ought to get rid of guns in the city and that police shouldn't have guns."

Democratic Councilmember Tommy Wells pointed out that some police officers in other countries don't carry deadly weapons.

The hearing included testimony from residents who said they had been subjected to aggressive police tactics. Wells said he held the hearing in part because of high-profile incidents including the shooting of an unarmed teenager by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

I could ask if he wants the guards at DC City Hall disarmed but I think I would know the answer. You think you have reached rock bottom with the stupidity of politicians, then someone gets out the pick ax and starts breaking gravel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Is it just me or does the Nobel Committee need regular does of lithium?

I have posted in the past on how the Nobel Committee has been selective and political in deciding who gets a Peace Prize. We know Bubba Clinton wants one as much as we wants that granddaughter he just got, but I posted on how there are some curious selections from Norway.
Back before the Nobel Peace Prize became a joke, the Nobel Committee honored a real peace activist for leading a country to a better way. Since then they have honored a the last great leader of the Soviet Union (Gorbachev, 1990), a terrorist (Yasser Arafat, 1994), a failure as a deliberate insult to the then sitting president (Jimmy Carter, 2003), a snake oil salesman (ALGORE, 2007) and a man-child completely unqualified to run a cash register, much less the only superpower in the world (B Hussein Obama, 2009). Millions are free and better off thanks to the works of the previously listed President of the US, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Pope, but for some reason their efforts are not acknowledged by the committee. I would wonder why, but I think we all know the answer.
It's really galling is that snail oil salesman won against a woman who saved over 2500 Jews from the Holocaust. But another day issue for another day.

Now comes this really good award. I don't think their winning Dr Nobel's accolades is controversial.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel winner ever as she and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labor at great risk to their own lives.
By honoring a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan and a 60-year-old Hindu man from India, the Norwegian Nobel Committee linked the peace award to conflicts between world religions and neighboring nuclear powers as well as drawing attention to children's rights.

"This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard," said Malala, who chose to finish her school day in the central English city of Birmingham before addressing the media. "They have the right to receive quality education. They have the right not to suffer from child labor, not to suffer from child trafficking. They have the right to live a happy life."
She said it was an honor to share the prize Satyarthi, who has worked tirelessly to protect children, and invited the prime ministers of both India and Pakistan to attend the Nobel ceremony in December.

Satyarthi has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labor, which he called a "blot on

"Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime," Satyarthi told The Associated Press at his office in New Delhi...

...When she was a student there, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations with the help of British medical care, she continued both her activism and her studies.
Malala was in chemistry class when the Nobel was announced and remained with her classmates at the Edgbaston High School for girls.
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, said the decision will further the rights of girls.
"(The Nobel will) boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls' education," he told the AP.
Malala is by far the youngest Nobel laureate, eight years younger than the 1915 physics prize winner, 25-year-old Lawrence Bragg. Before Malala, the youngest peace prize winner was 2011 co-winner Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, a 32-year-old women's rights activist...
Gee, she got shot in the head for saying women need an education. That is incredible. The fact the Nobel Prize Committee ranks that up with the listed disgraces up there makes me ill.

The Nobel Prize in other areas (Literature, Medicine, Science) is not the occasional joke Peace Prize is. Again, they need to look at reality. Giving this to a young lady who suffered a bullet to the head for her beliefs shows wisdom, judgement and well deserved recognition. Giving it to a man-child of no accomplishments (B Hussein Obama) while ignoring the incredible accomplishments of others (Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II) is shameful.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Officer Down

Police Officer Reinaldo Arocha, Jr.
Newark New JerseyPolice Department
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Age: 46
Tour: 23 years
Badge # 86

Police Officer Reinaldo Arocha suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after he and another officers had to subdue an emotionally disturbed person who was being taken into custody.

He had returned to his patrol car to complete paperwork when a tow truck driver found him unresponsive near the intersection of North Munn Avenue and Mountainview Avenue at approximately 7:15 am. Responding units and a nurse performed CPR until he was transported to a local hospital. He was pronounced dead approximately 30 minutes later.

Officer Arocha had served with the Newark Police Department for 23 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. 

No Jobs, No Peace!

The man says "Give us the jobs..." and things will be getter. Just listen to this pillar of his community telling us what will happen if the storeowners do not come back.

Hell to pay. Who is going to pay this hell? The store owners who had their lives and livelihoods destroyed have already paid hell and them some. What have you paid young man? Were you one of the rent a mob protesters who helped himself to a few dozen pairs of Air Jordan's?

Hate to tell you something kid, no one will invest their money, time and effort into a rathole where they get stolen from daily, robbed regularly and have the potential to lose everything to the work of race baiters who come into the town and destroy it. So you have made your bed, lay in it.

Now I got this from Legal Insurrection and it covers a lot of ground on what had become of Ferguson in the last weeks.
Look up irony in the dictionary, and by all rights you should find a footnote pointing to this news story from CBS re: Ferguson MO: “Ferguson residents frustrated over lack of opportunity.”

The story notes that the previous night was sufficiently quiet–”just eight arrests”–and that the National Guard is pulling out (meaning, productive people are being released to go back to their day jobs.)

The irony arose when the reporter spoke to local Ferguson residents. The common theme among those interviewed was outrage that local businesses–you know, the ones that had been relentlessly looted and vandalized by local residents–had not hurried to rebuild and offer jobs to local residents. Huh. Who knew that robbing and burning local businesses might prove a disincentive to them investing and hiring in the community!

Anybody remember this guy?

The reporter also notes that unemployment in Ferguson among black men 20 to 24 years of age is 46%. Forty. Six. Percent. Presumably that figure is pre-riots. Might it have doubled in the interval?

In any case, the fault is clearly that of the looted/burned businesses. As one local young man puts it, if they don’t come back and rebuild these businesses, “there’s going to be hell to pay.”

They are particularly upset that they now have to drive miles out of the way to access the products and services that used to be provided locally . . . by the businesses looted and burned down by local residents. Oops.

In further irony, the very fact that the looted businesses are not providing jobs to the local community is justification for the businesses being looted. Or something.

And finally we get to the former gang member turned some kind of community organizer or bridge builder or whatever, who lays it right on the line: “No jobs = no peace.”

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Here is the video of the man saying "give us the jobs".

Question, what stopped them from going to get them? Why didn't they get off their ass, get with a lawn service and prove they will be there day in and day out, work early and late if need be, give a full day's labor for a full day's wage? Nothing stopped them from that. Except themselves.

One of the great tragedies is the destruction of the black family caused by the nightmare of the Great Society. The KKK could do nothing compared to Lyndon Johnson's dream. Three generations ago a young black man from the hood knew he had to go out and make his way in society. If anything, he had to prove more than others. But after the 1960s and one generation after another being raised in public housing, generating one child after another and leaving them to their mothers or grandparents and welfare, the destruction is pretty much complete. How we recover from this I don't know, but it won't happen instantly.

Pal, you have an idea but don't go on TV demanding others give them jobs. Get off your ass and teach these young men to go and get them. Or is the real work too much for you, especially seeing you won't be on TV anymore. It's not flashy, just critical.

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Michael Norris
Monroe County Georgia Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Monday, September 15, 2014
Age: 24
Tour: 2 years
Badge # 258
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 9/13/2014

Deputy Sheriff Michael Norris succumbed to a gunshot he suffered two days earlier when he and another deputy responded to a call of an armed suicidal man at a home in the 100 block of Haley Lane, in Juliette, at approximately 5:45 pm.

As the deputies approached the front door the subject opened fire with a handgun, wounding both deputies. During the exchange of gunfire the subject was wounded in the leg. He was then taken into custody at the scene.

Deputy Norris was transported to the Macon Medical Center where he was pronounced brain dead the following day, but kept on life support for two days so his organs could be donated.

Deputy Norris had served with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office for two years. He is survived by his wife, parents, and one sibling.
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: Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve the Eurozone, September 30, 2014

By Adriano Bosoni and Mark Fleming-Williams

The European Court of Justice announced Sept. 22 that hearings in the case against the European Central Bank's (ECB) bond-buying scheme known as Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) will begin Oct. 14. Though the process is likely to be lengthy, with a judgment not due until mid-2015, the ruling will have serious implications for Germany's relationship with the rest of the eurozone. The timing could hardly be worse, coming as an anti-euro party has recently been making strides in the German political scene, steadily undermining the government's room for maneuver.

The roots of the case go back to late 2011, when Italian and Spanish sovereign bond yields were following their Greek counterparts to sky-high levels as the markets showed that they had lost confidence in the eurozone's most troubled economies' ability to turn themselves around. By summer 2012 the situation in Europe was desperate. Bailouts had been undertaken in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, while Italy was getting dangerously close to needing one. But Italy's economy, and particularly its gargantuan levels of government debt, meant that it would be too big to receive similar treatment. In any event, the previous bailouts were not calming financial markets.

As Spain and Italy's bond yields lurched around the 7 percent mark, considered the point where default becomes inevitable, the new president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said that the ECB was willing to do whatever it took to save the euro. In concert with the heads of the European governments, the ECB developed a mechanism that enables it to buy unlimited numbers of sovereign bonds to stabilize a member country, a weapon large enough to cow bond traders.

ECB President Mario Draghi never actually had to step in because the promise of intervention in bond markets convinced investors that eurozone countries would not be allowed to default. But Draghi's solution was not to everyone's taste. Notable opponents included Jens Weidmann, president of the German Bundesbank. Along with many Germans, Weidmann felt the ECB was overstepping its jurisdictional boundaries, since EU treaties bar the bank from financing member states. Worse, were OMT ever actually used, it essentially would be spending German money to bail out what many Germans considered profligate Southern Europeans.

In early 2013, a group of economics and constitutional law professors from German universities collected some 35,000 signatures and brought OMT before the German Constitutional Court. During a hearing in June 2013, Weidmann testified for the prosecution. In February 2014, the court delivered an unexpected verdict, ruling 6-2 that the central bank had in fact overstepped its boundaries, though it also referred the matter to the European Court of Justice. Recognizing the profound importance of this issue, the court acknowledged that a more restrictive interpretation of OMT by the European Court of Justice could make it legal.

The German judgment suggested that three alterations to OMT would satisfy the Constitutional Court that the mechanism was lawful. Two of the three changes, however, are problematic at best. One alteration would limit the ECB to senior debt, a change that would protect it against the default of the sovereign in question but also risk undermining the confidence of other investors who would not be similarly protected. The second alteration would make bond buying no longer "unlimited," constraining the bank's ability to intimidate bond traders by leaving it with a rifle instead of a bazooka.

A New German Political Party

The group of academics who organized the petition kept busy while the court deliberated. The Alternative for Germany, a party founded in February 2013 by one of their number, economics professor Bernd Lucke, and frequently known by its German acronym, AfD, has made significant gains in elections across Germany. Founded as an anti-euro party, the party came very close to winning a seat in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, in the September 2013 general elections, a remarkable feat for a party founded just six months before. It made even larger gains in 2014, winning 7.1 percent of the vote in European Parliament elections in May and between 9.7 and 12.2 percent in three regional elections in August and September.

Germany is currently ruled by a grand coalition, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union party (and its sister party, the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union) sharing power with the center-left Social Democratic Party. This has resulted in the Christian Democratic Union being dragged further to the center than it wanted to be, creating a space to its right that the Alternative for Germany nimbly entered.

Originally a single-issue party, the Alternative for Germany has begun espousing conservative values and anti-immigration policies, a tactic that worked particularly well in elections held in eastern Germany in the summer. Its rise puts Merkel, a European integrationist, in a quandary that will become particularly acute if the Alternative for Germany proves capable of representing Germans uncomfortable with the idea of the country financially supporting the rest of Europe.

Since the beginning of the European crisis, Merkel has proved masterful at crafting a message that combines criticism of countries in the European periphery with the defense of bailout programs for those same countries. But while Merkel has become accustomed to criticism from left-wing parties over the harsh austerity measures the European Union demanded in exchange for bailouts, she had not counted on anti-euro forces mounting serious opposition in Germany. Merkel is not alone in this, of course: center-right parties across Europe, from David Cameron's coalition in the United Kingdom to Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in the Netherlands, have seen Euroskeptical populism emerge to their right, eating into their traditional voter platforms.

This anti-ECB sentiment in Germany has swelled during 2014, as Draghi's attempts to increase the eurozone's low inflation have departed further and further from economic orthodoxy. German conservatives have greeted each new policy with displeasure. The German media has called negative interest rates "penalty rates," claiming they redistribute billions of euros from German savers to Southern European spenders. On Sept. 25, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble spoke in the Bundestag of his displeasure with Draghi's program to buy asset-backed securities. Judging from the German hostility to even "quantitative easing-lite" measures, the ECB's attempts to rope Germany into further stimulus measures could prove troublesome indeed.

Institutional and Political Challenges for Berlin

All of the measures the ECB has announced so far, however, are mere appetizers. Financial markets have been demanding quantitative easing, a broad-based program of buying sovereign bonds in order to inject a large quantity of money into the market. Up to this stage, three major impediments have existed to such a policy: the German government's ideological aversion to spending taxpayers' money on peripheral economies; the political conception that quantitative easing would ease the pressure on peripheral economies to reform; and the court case that has been hanging over OMT (the only existing mechanism available to the ECB for undertaking sovereign bond purchases). Notably, the OMT in its original guise and quantitative easing are not precisely the same thing. In the original conception of OMT, the ECB would offset any purchases in full by taking an equivalent amount of money out of circulation, (i.e., not increasing the money supply itself). Nonetheless, any declaration that OMT is illegal would severely inhibit Draghi's room for maneuver should he wish to undertake full quantitative easing.

This confluence of events leaves Merkel nervously awaiting the decision of the European Court of Justice. In truth, she is in a no-win situation. If the Luxembourg court holds OMT illegal, Draghi's promise would be weakened, removing the force that has kept many sovereign bond yields at artificially low levels and permitting the desperate days of 2011-2012 to surge back. If the European Court of Justice takes up the German court's three suggestions and undercuts OMT to the extent that the market deems it to be of little consequence, the same outcome could occur. And if the European Court of Justice rules that OMT is legal, a sizable inhibitor to quantitative easing will have been removed, and the possibility of a fully fledged bond-buying campaign will loom ever closer, much to the chagrin of the German voter and to the political gain of the Alternative for Germany.

When analyzing the significance of this case, it is important to bear in mind that Germany is an export-driven power that must find markets for its exports to preserve cohesion and social stability at home. The eurozone helps Germany significantly -- 40 percent of German exports go to the eurozone and 60 percent to the full European Union -- because it traps its main European customers within the same currency union, depriving them of the possibility of devaluing their currencies to become more competitive.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Germany has managed to keep the eurozone alive without substantially compromising its national wealth, but the moment will arrive when Germany must decide whether it is willing to sacrifice a larger part of its wealth to save its neighbors. Berlin has thus far been able to keep its own capital relatively free of the hungry mouths of the periphery, but the problem keeps returning. This puts Germany in a dilemma because two of its key imperatives are in contradiction. Will it save the eurozone to protect its exports, writing a big check as part of the deal? Or will it oppose the ECB moves, which if blocked could mean a return to dangerously high bond yields and the return of rumors of Greece, Italy and others leaving the currency union?

The case will prove key to Europe's future for even deeper reasons. The European crisis is generating deep frictions in the Franco-German alliance, the main pillar of the union. The contrast between Germany, which has low unemployment and modest economic growth, and France, which has high unemployment and no growth, is becoming increasingly difficult to hide. In the coming months, this division will continue to widen, and Paris will become even more vocal in its demands for more action by the ECB, more EU spending and more measures in Germany to boost domestic investment and public consumption.

This creates yet another dilemma for Berlin, since many of the demands coming from west of the Rhine are deeply unpopular with German voters. But the German government understands that high unemployment and low economic growth in Europe are leading to a rise in anti-euro and anti-establishment parties. The rise of the National Front in France is the clearest example of this trend. There is a growing consensus among German political elites that unless Berlin makes some concessions to Paris, it could have to deal with a more radicalized French government down the road. The irony is that even if Berlin were inclined to bend to French wishes, it would find itself constrained by institutional forces beyond its control, such as the Constitutional Court.

Germany has managed to avoid most of these questions so far, but these issues will not go away and in fact will define Europe in 2015; the Alternative for Germany, for example, is here to stay. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court will keep challenging EU attempts at federalization even if this specific crisis is averted, and the Bundesbank and conservative academic circles will keep criticizing every measure that would reduce German sovereignty to help France or Italy. Though it is impossible to predict the European Court of Justice's final ruling, either way, the dilemma will continue to plague an increasingly fragile European Union.

Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve the Eurozone is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Officer Kevin Will....

I've posted on Officer Kevin Will and attending his funeral back in 2011. Now comes a video on the night he was killed.

Difficult to get through but worth the time.

Thank you Brent S for the link.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Competence and the lack of it in our federal government

One of the truisms I've learned is a bureaucracy has only one purpose in life, to insure it's own existence. Hand and hand with that is the competence, or lack there of, in our government's higher echelons.

Lack week I commented on David Brooks piece on our national malaise and I was really annoyed of his faith in a "responsible leadership class". He implies the idiots we have in DC right now should be there because they come from the right schools, etc. The fact they are educated in the Ivy League means nothing, it's what happens after college that shows if they are qualified for leadership. (More on that later in this post)

Now Mr Walt is showing a rare example of what happens in a bureaucracy. Someone is fired because of incompetence. Notice he doesn't discuss the fact she should have never been there in the first place, but we'll let that go.
Competence Not Required
Julia Pierson’s ouster is the exception that proves the rule: In Washington it is nearly impossible to get fired.


Something unusual happened in Washington, D.C., this week: A federal official was fired ("resigned under pressure") for doing her job badly. I refer to former Secret Service chief Julia Pierson, who stepped down after a series of embarrassing revelations, most notably the recent incident during which an intruder managed to scale the fence, get across the grounds, and then get all the way inside the White House. And the Secret Service couldn't even get its version of events straight for several days.

But the remarkable thing about Pierson's departure is how rare something like this is. Politicians and government bureaucrats are sometimes ousted over a sex scandal, embezzlement, or bribery, or for saying something that is wildly inappropriate, but they rarely get fired for just doing their jobs poorly, especially in the realm of foreign and national security policy. This inadvertent form of job security may help explain why U.S. foreign policy hasn't performed very well in recent decades, and it may also explain why some major foreign-policy endeavors -- such as reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- have been plagued by mismanagement and billions of squandered dollars.

He goes on to criticize one member of the Bush administration after another, and a few of the Obama regime. Funny, he never brings up the the question of incompetence in B Hussein Obama himself. Or is that too much to ask for? Onward to some very salient points.
...I can think of at least six reasons that very few public officials ever suffer negative consequences (or the loss of their jobs) even when they screw up big time.

For starters, judging performance in these jobs is not like calculating a baseball player's batting average or a quarterback's efficiency rating. Failure to achieve a stated goal might reveal incompetence, but failure might also occur because the official was asked to do the impossible or simply because of bad luck. Moreover, nobody is infallible, and anyone who stays in office more than a few weeks is bound to make mistakes at least part of the time. If presidents or cabinet officials fired subordinates after the first mistake, after a few months there would be no one left to run the government.

Second, even though the United States is a country of 300-plus million people, there isn't a deep talent pool for a lot of policy jobs, especially when one has to worry not only about a person's competence but also his or her loyalty and political acceptability. So even when it's clear that an important official isn't doing an especially effective job, he or she might still be the best person available and so they stay on.

Third, some officials aren't chosen because they are known to be effective policy entrepreneurs or bureaucratic operators, but because they reinforce a president's political base or appease an important domestic constituency. Here policy success isn't what is critical; it is the contribution the person makes to continued presidential popularity. One could argue that this explains why Republicans and Democrats keep recycling the same failed Mideast peace negotiators: It would be nice if these individuals managed to deliver a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but nobody really expects it and their real job is to keep that issue from blowing up and hurting the administration back home.

Fourth, it is harder to hold individuals accountable when foreign policy is made by committee via an elaborate interagency process and with dozens of people weighing in. The buck may stop at the president's desk -- and the voters will hold him responsible -- but it can be hard to tell whose fingerprints are really on a policy if lots of people have weighed in and many of them hedge to qualify their advice. When a policy succeeds, everyone involved looks good and they will try to claim credit; when it fails, those involved will point fingers, kick up dust, and try to make it harder for journalists, historians, and the public to identify exactly who was most to blame. Or as President John F. Kennedy famously remarked, "Victory has 100 fathers, and defeat is an orphan."

Fifth, lack of vigorous accountability is also an artifact of America's dominant global position. It isn't good when U.S. foreign policy fails, and it does involve real costs (especially to others). But none of the mistakes of the past 20 years -- and there have been some real doozies -- has left the United States open to invasion or even at much risk of a genuine threat to Americans' way of life. If pressed, I might even argue that the 2008 financial collapse did more to harm to America than any single foreign policy screw-up. Because the United States is so powerful and so secure, it can fail big time in lots of places and still end up mostly OK. When this is the case, however, the need to bring in the A Team and let it do its job will decline.

There is a final reason that accountability is rare. Members of the foreign-policy elite are often reluctant to hold each other to account because they know that it may eventually be their turn in the cross-hairs. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is a sound career principle for foreign-policy insiders, and it encourages them to pull their punches when dealing with their counterparts' failings. Really big and visible mistakes can't be ignored and will have professional consequences, but even these errors tend to be forgiven over time.

None of this is to suggest that the United States (or anyone else) would be better off by trundling out the guillotine at the first sign of a screw-up. As noted above, we have to be somewhat tolerant of policy failure or policymakers will never try anything innovative or "outside the box." But at the same time, the United States probably shouldn't be as complacent and forgiving as it is. If people can make enormous errors repeatedly and still land top jobs when the political winds are blowing in the right direction, why should we ever expect U.S. foreign policy to improve?

Valid points and he is mindful of people in high positions will make mistakes that are costly. I recall in Eisenhower Volume I: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 Stephen Ambrose described Eisenhower's performance in the North African invasion as "miserable". However, mistakes made there were were learned and allowed him to preform better as the Supreme Commander of the Allied invasion of Europe.

But that won't happen in contemporary American government without a revolution. The Founding Fathers had a concept of a leadership class, but they would come up, serve for a short period and return to civilian life. Never in their worse nightmares would they conceive of the current Washington Class that only works to enrich themselves and is in the process of destroying, excuse me, fundamentally transforming, this country.

Again, back to leadership. Last week my friend Darren had an excellent post on this subject:
Right on the Left Coast: Views From a Conservative Teacher: Leadership:

Leadership is a topic that consumes a lot of time at West Point. Sometimes it's taught explicitly in leadership classes, sometimes it's merely modeled, but the concept is omnipresent. That doesn't mean that every West Point graduate is an ideal leader, far from it, but it does mean that every West Point graduate has had some of the best leadership training any person could hope to experience.

Some people are natural leaders, some learn how to lead. Any leadership skills I have are of the latter variety. And, contrary to the opinions of some, not everyone can be a good leader. I would assert that, with good training, anyone should be able to improve his/her leadership skills, but good instruction doesn't guarantee a good outcome.

Things we were taught in order to make us better leaders include:

1. Officers eat after the soldiers. It's a sign of leadership to take care of your people before you take care of yourself.

2. Don't ask your soldiers to do something you're unwilling to do. That should be obvious.

3. Take more than your fair share of the blame, and less than your fair share of the credit.

It's that last one that I'd like to focus on here for a moment. Nobody respects someone who takes credit for other people's work, and people do respect those who give them credit for the work they've done. It's just common sense. And if you give a little less blame than is merited, and a little more credit that might be merited, people appreciate and respect that. Making people feel valued is a key component of leadership....

Again, look at what infest the current federal government in all branches. Can any of the defended good points of leadership Darren made be shown of any (well, a few) members of the contemporary upper management? We all know the answer and without fundamentally transforming the Washington Class, this country is doomed to certain decline. The Democratic Party is beyond hop. And with the state of the current opposition in the Republican party, they are beyond impotent.

God help us all.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Definite movie night! AMERICAN SNIPER!

Clint Eastwood directing. The movie adaptation of an awesome book, American Sniper, the late Chris Kyle.

Movie night Beth!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We are creatures of duty Captain....

One of the things that connected my old friend Darren (Right on the Left Coast) and I when we met at Fort Carson Colorado (Please don't tell me that was 25 years ago last month!) was we both shared a favorite episode of Star Trek. Balance of Terror. And for the same reason, the statement at the end of the defeated Romulan commander played superbly by the late Mark Lenard.  It was inspired by the World War II naval classic The Enemy Below, where at the end the American captain throws his defeated German U-Boat commander a rope to survive. It is a magnificently written story about how noble people may serve on both sides of a war combined with a mature examination of prejudice, even in the 22nd Century.

Mark Lenard (L) as the Romulan commander with The Centurion (played by the late John Warburton), his friend and confident.
I thought of this because a few minutes ago as I was on Facebook and found this list of The Top 100 Episodes of Star Trek. You see these types of lists all over the internet and for the most part they just an opinion, but I had to agree with many of the episodes and why. In them you see good plots, character development, etc. And they got the number one episode right for a change.

Back to Darren and I, what was spooky is he and I (and our sometimes adversary boss battalion executive officer) all have the same favorite quote. As his ship is wrecked and all hope is lost, Kirk offered to bring Romulan survivors aboard the Enterprise. The Commander declines and when asked "What purpose will it serve to die?", his response is a classic line.

We are creatures of duty Captain... I have lived my life by it... Just one more duty to perform.
Here is the video of it:

Speaking of duty, I need to get to work and baby sit the sleeping prisoners. Once more, unto the breech! Have a nice evening.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Good news from Jersey

Last month I posted on the legal mistreatment of a black single mother by a white male in a position of power. And then I posted on how I (and thousands of others) donated to her, seeing the Justice Brothers didn't find her worthy. But good news from New Jersey.
A.C. to allow Phila. woman carrying gun to avoid jail

After a review by the state attorney general, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office announced Wednesday that it would allow a Philadelphia woman charged last year with illegally bringing into New Jersey a gun that was legally registered in Pennsylvania to enter a pretrial-intervention program and avoid jail time.

The prosecutor's previous stance in the case involving Shaneen Allen, 27, was to make the case a "deterrent," either forcing a plea or bringing it to trial. The mother of two could have faced up to five years in prison.

Allen, who was stopped for a routine traffic violation on the Atlantic City Expressway, was arrested after voluntarily telling a state trooper that her purse contained a legally registered .38-caliber Bersa Thunder handgun.

In August, Allen's attorney, Evan Nappen, filed a motion to have the charge dropped, but it was denied by Superior Court Judge Michael Donio. The judge's ruling provided Nappen with a kind of primer on "how things are done here in Atlantic County" with regard to such arrests vs. other parts of the state, where more leniency might be offered to first-time offenders such as Allen.

Nappen argued that Allen "should not be turned into a felon and sent to state prison and have her life destroyed because she made a mistake and committed a victimless crime."...

...Prosecutor Jim McClain came under fire from gun-advocacy groups and defenders of Allen after noting that the case was being pursued as a deterrent and saying the charges were "too serious to warrant divergence" into the pretrial-intervention program.

Gun-law advocates, anti-domestic-violence groups, and others attempted to draw parallels between McClain's perceived leniency for NFL star Ray Rice, who was allowed to enter a pretrial-intervention program in an attack on his then-fiancee in Atlantic City, and his hard-line stance in the Allen case.

The football player did not use a firearm in the beating, caught last spring on security video inside an elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel.

Donors contributed thousands of dollars to a defense fund for Allen, who said she purchased a firearm after being robbed and beaten last year in her South Philadelphia neighborhood...

...The Office of the Attorney General on Wednesday issued to McClain a clarification of the 2008 Graves Act directive that deals with circumstances in which an out-of-state resident holds a valid permit to carry a firearm within his or her own home state, is arrested in New Jersey, and is charged with illegal possession of a firearm under New Jersey law.

The clarification was issued following a comprehensive review of firearms-possession laws and consultation with each of the state's 21 county prosecutors.

"The resulting clarification to the 2008 directive is a reasoned and considered effort to ensure consistent treatment of similarly situated defendants throughout the state," according to the Attorney General's Office statement.

In the clarification, issued by acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, it was noted that in most of these cases, "imprisonment is neither necessary nor appropriate to serve the interests of justice and protect public safety."

Hoffman noted that prosecutors could promote this outcome in two ways: by consenting to the application or pretrial intervention, which is subject to review by a trial judge, and by considering factors and circumstances particularly relevant to "unusual situations involving otherwise law-abiding persons who inadvertently violate New Jersey's gun laws."

Great news on this lady. Mrs Allen, please make sure you keep your gun (or get another) and simply avoid Jersey like the plague it is. The state's government if beneigth your contempt.