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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I've heard of Fifty Shades of Gray but Fifty-eight Selections of Gender

War Story, no s%^&, there I was, back in the mid-90s, being briefed on my reserve unit's new fingerprint machine. We use them for security clearances and the selection of "Sex" came up. I made a comment of something like "That's fairly easy...." and the tech said "Well, you would be surprised...."

The selection started off Male, then Female. Then "Male claiming to be Female". Them "Female claiming to be Male". "Sex changing Male to Female" and "Sex changing Female to Male". Can't remember the rest but I know it was over a dozen and "Unknown" was listed.

In police work I've experienced humans that are not "sexually normal" if you will. Or put another way, I've mainly death with "shemales", especially in my jail.

Fast forward to the social media era and Facebook has a few more selections for you. You can hit the link and it explains why, but you just have to read this.

What Each of Facebook’s 51 New Gender Options Means

For ten years, the social network limited billions of people identifying as either male or female. Now there are dozens of terms to pick from...

Agender - Someone who does not identify with any sort of gender identity. This term may also be used by someone who intentionally has no recognizable gender presentation. Some people use similar terms such as “genderless” and “gender neutral”.

Androgyne/Androgynous - someone who neither identifies with, nor presents as, a man or woman. Being “androgynous” can refer to having both masculine and feminine qualities. This term has Latin roots: Andro- meaning “man” and -gyne, meaning “woman.” Some androgynes may identity as “gender benders”, meaning that they are intentionally “bending” (or challenging/transgressing) societal gender roles.

Bigender- someone who identifies as both a man and a woman. A Bigender identity is a combination of these two genders, but not necessarily a 50/50 combination, as these genders are often felt – and expressed - fully. Similar to individuals who identify as gender fluid, bigender people may present as men, as women, or as gender-neutral ways on different days.

Cis- all of these terms capture that a person is not trans or does not have a gender diverse identity or presentation.

Cis Female (see also Cis Woman, Cisgender Female, Cisgender Woman); a female who identifies as a woman/has a feminine gender identity.

Cis Male (see also Cis Man, Cisgender Male, Cisgender Man); a male who identifies as a man/has a masculine gender identity.

Cis Man (see Cis Male)

Cis Woman (see Cis Female)

Cisgender: A person who has the gender identity commonly associated with their biological sex (e.g., someone who is assigned as a female at birth and who lives as a woman).

Cisgender Female (see Cis Female)

Cisgender Male (see Cis Male)

Cisgender Man (see Cis Male)

Cisgender Woman (see Cis Female)

Female to Male/ FTM- a trans person who was assigned female sex, and now lives as a man and has a masculine gender identity. This person may or may not have altered his physical body with surgery, hormones, or other modifications (e.g., voice training to develop a deeper spoken voice). FTM is an abbreviation of female to male. Generally uses masculine pronouns (e.g., “he” or “his”) or gender neutral pronouns.

Gender Fluid- someone whose gender identity and presentation are not confined to only one gender category. Gender fluid people may have dynamic or fluctuating understandings of their gender, moving between categories as feels right. For example, a gender fluid person might feel more like a man one day and more like a woman on another day, or that neither term is a good fit.

Gender Nonconforming- Someone who looks and/or behaves in ways that don’t conform to, or are atypical of, society’s expectations of how a person of that gender should look or behave. (See also this excellent article by Dr. Eric Grollman about gender conformity & gender non-conformity).

Gender Questioning- Someone who may be questioning their gender or gender identity, and/or considering other ways of experiencing or expressing their gender or gender presentation.

Gender Variant- an umbrella term that refers to anyone who, for any reason, does not have a cisgender identity (which includes the trans* umbrella). Others acknowledge issues with this term as it implies that such genders are “deviations” from a standard gender, and reinforces the “naturalness” of the two-gender system. Some prefer the terms “gender diverse” or “gender-nonconforming.”

Genderqueer- Someone who identifies outside of, or wishes to challenge, the two-gender (i.e., man/woman) system; may identify as multiple genders, a combination of genders, or “between” genders. People who use this term may feel that they are reclaiming the word “queer”, which has historically been used as a slur against gay men and women. This term is used more often by younger generations doing the “reclaiming” and less often by slightly older generations who may have personally experienced the term “queer” as a slur.

Intersex- Generally refers to someone whose chromosomes, gonads (i.e., ovaries or testes), hormonal profiles, and anatomy do not conform to the expected configurations of either male typical or female typical bodies. Some intersex conditions are apparent at birth, while others are noticed around puberty or later (if ever). Some individuals no longer use the term “intersex conditions” and instead prefer “disorders of sex development.” (See ISNA.org.)

Male to Female/MTF- a trans person who was assigned male sex (likely at birth), and now lives as a woman and has a feminine gender identity. This person may or may not have altered her physical body with surgery, hormones, or other modification (e.g., voice training, electrolysis, etc). MTF is an abbreviation of “Male To Female”. Generally uses female pronouns (e.g., “she” or “her”) or gender neutral pronouns.

Neither- Not putting a label on one’s gender.

Neutrois- An umbrella term within the bigger umbrella terms of transgender or genderqueer. Includes people who do not identify within the binary gender system (i.e., man/woman). According to Neutrois.com, some common Neutrois identities include agender neither-gender, and gender-less.

Non-binary- Similar to genderqueer, this is a way of describing one’s gender as outside the two-gender (i.e., man/woman) system and/or challenging that system.

Other- Choosing to not provide a commonly recognized label to one’s gender. When used by someone to describe themselves, this may feel like a freeing way of describing (or not specifically describing) their gender. The term “other” should not be used to refer to people whose gender you can’t quite understand or place.

Pangender- “Pan” means every, or all, and this is another identity label such like genderqueer or neutrois that challenges binary gender and is inclusive of gender diverse people.

Transgender- an umbrella term that includes all people who have genders not traditionally associated with their assigned sex. People who identify as transgender may or may not have altered their bodies through surgery and/or hormones. Some examples:

Trans Man (see FTM above); Although some people write the term as “transman” (no space between trans and man) or trans-man (note the hyphen), some advocate for a space to be included between “trans” and “man” in order to indicate that the person is a man and that the “trans” part may not be a defining characteristic or central to his identity.

Trans Woman (see MTF above) Although some people write the term as “transwoman” (no space between trans and woman) or trans-woman (note the hyphen), some advocate for a space to be included between “trans” and “woman” in order to indicate that the person is a woman and that the “trans” part may not be a defining characteristic or central to her identity.

Trans Female (see MTF above)

Trans Male (see FTM above)

Trans Person (see transgender above); another way of saying someone is a transgender person. (Note that “transgender” tends to be preferred over “transgendered”).

Trans* is an inclusive term, referring to the many ways one can transcend or even transgress gender or gender norms (e.g., it includes individuals who may identify as transgender, transsexual, gender diverse, etc). In many cases the asterisk (*) is not followed by a sex or gender term – it’s just written as Trans* - to indicate that not all trans people identify with an established sex or gender label. Another option is to write it as:

Trans*Person (see transgender above)

Other times, a sex or gender label may be used:

Trans*Female (see MTF)

Trans*Male (see FTM)

Trans*Man (see FTM)

Trans*Woman (see MTF)

Transsexual person - For many people this term indicates that a person has made lasting changes to their physical body, specifically their sexual anatomy (e.g., genitals and/or breasts or chest), through surgery. For some, the term “transsexual” is a problematic term because of its history of pathology or association with a psychological disorder. In order to get the operations necessary for sexual reassignment surgeries or gender confirming surgeries, people long needed a psychiatric diagnosis (historically, that diagnosis was “transsexualism”) and recommendations from mental health professionals. The term “transsexual” tends to be used less often by younger generations of trans persons.

Transsexual Woman – Someone who was assigned male sex at birth who has most likely transitioned (such as through surgery and/or hormones) to living as a woman.

Transsexual Man- Someone who was assigned female at birth who has most likely transitioned (such as through surgery and/or hormones) to living as a man.

Transsexual Female (see Transsexual Woman)

Transsexual Male (see Transsexual Man)

Transgender is an umbrella term which includes all people who have genders not traditionally associated with their sex at birth. Transgender person can also be used. This may (but does not necessarily) include:

Transgender Female (see MTF)

Transgender Male (see FTM)

Transgender Man (see FTM)

Transgender Woman (see MTF)

Transmasculine- Someone assigned a female sex at birth and who identifies as masculine, but may not identify wholly as a man. Often, you’ll encounter the phrase “masculine of center” to indicate where people who identify as transmasculine see themselves in relation to other genders.

Transfeminine- Someone assigned a male sex at birth who identifies as feminine, but may not identify wholly as a woman. Often, you’ll encounter the phrase “feminine of center” to indicate where people who identify as transfeminine see themselves in relation to other genders.

Two-spirit- This term likely originated with the Zuni tribe of North America, though two-spirit persons have been documented in numerous tribes. Native Americans, who have both masculine and feminine characteristics and presentations, have distinct roles in their tribes, and they are seen as a third gender. (Recently, Germany and Nepal adopted a third gender option for citizens to select).

OK, I've got a headache and I'm confused. Have a great evening.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dershowitz, Netanyahu and liberal boycotts

Although I have my differences with Professor Dershowitz, I don't question his intellectual integrity. He will stand for hie view of the Constitution no matter what party is in power. Being a liberal Democrat and a Jew, he is again showing he is not the hypocrite many on the left are.
The Appalling Talk of Boycotting Netanyahu

By Alan M. Dershowitz

As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Barack Obama , I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress. At bottom, this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics—it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation.

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

Recall that President Obama sent British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby Congress with phone calls last month against conditionally imposing new sanctions on Iran if the deal were to fail. What the president objects to is not that Mr. Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say. This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Not only should all members of Congress attend Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, but President Obama—as a constitutional scholar—should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Speaker John Boehner ’s decision to invite Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to accept, no legal scholar can dispute that Congress has the power to act independently of the president in matters of foreign policy. Whether any deal with Iran would technically constitute a treaty requiring Senate confirmation, it is certainly treaty-like in its impact. Moreover, the president can’t implement the deal without some action or inaction by Congress....

Diplomatic courtesy and other issues of foreign policy protocol have little to do with the regime of B Hussein Obama. This is the same group that gave the British Prime Minister a gift of classic American films that cannot be viewed on British DVD systems. Also there is national embarrassment of the Dalai Lama being sent into and out of the White House by the trash cans.

But you are completely right sir, the members of Congress should listen to the leader of the only democracy in the Middle East and one of the few men in the international community screaming from the top of his lungs about the Iranian nuclear program. Now this I find interesting.

...Another reason members of Congress should not boycott Mr. Netanyahu’s speech is that support for Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. The decision by some members to boycott Israel’s prime minister endangers this bipartisan support. This will not only hurt Israel but will also endanger support for Democrats among pro-Israel voters. I certainly would never vote for or support a member of Congress who walked out on Israel’s prime minister.

I must respectfully disagree with you there Mr. Dershowitz, the Democrats will not loose the 70% support among American Jews. For many Jews in this country, the first religion is liberalism and Israeli is not as critical an issue for them as supporting big government. So yes, the Democrats will continue to be supported by the Jewish vote.

Otherwise an excellent article to read and absorb.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mrs. Bill Clinton, Version 5.0

I need a drink.

I've had a long ass night at work to come home to a house filled with young ladies celebrating Katie's 20th birthday. Well, I get up too damned early and while I'm checking the emails, I get this from the Washington Puke, err Washington Post, on the latest attempt to rebrand Mrs. Bill Clinton.

Forgive me if I've seen this movie before, but what do I see is a ruthless, ambitious, power driven politician who has one goal in her life, to become the first woman President of the United States. I don't knock someone for ambition but I do object to them lying about abilities and accomplishments. Or to put it another way, lack of accomplishments.

She has Ivy League undergraduate and law degrees, what has she ever used them for? She was a Rainmaker for the Rose Law Firm, sending her partners state business in Arkansas.

As First Lady of Arkansas, she was put in charge of two things, the Bimbo Eruptions unit (she kept that through the White House years) and "reforming" Arkansas public education. Goes into a point I've often made, what qualified these "public servants" to do anything? Mrs. Bill Clinton is a trained lawyer but she has never practice the trade. I wouldn't trust her to defend me in a speeding ticket case. She has never had anything to do with education management at any level, why should anyone think she is qualified to reform public education at the state level. It showed, after her "reforms" the state went down in national averages.

Forward to the White House years, Mrs. Bill Clinton was appointed to a position she had no qualifications for (you will see a pattern here), "reform" of health care. After a tumultuous two years, Hillarycare was dead in the water. Part of the resistance was the mandates and lack of
openness with such a critical project. And she kept up her Stand By Your Man act to keep Bill going.

After the White House, she carpetbags her way into a Senate seat and yes, she did integrate herself with the locals by pork and constitute support. But again, can anyone tell me of something she accomplished in the Senate? Is there a critical piece of legislation out there with her name on it? No, that would take guts, willingness to stand for your believe. But Mrs. Bill Clinton has only one belief, she is owed the presidency. Fast forward to the first term of the B Hussein Obama regime.

After being defeated by a back bencher in the Senate and with no qualifications in foreign policy, she is appointed Secretary of State. In a masterful stroke, B Hussein Obama neuters his most potential adversary on the left. Maybe he was finally honest about The Godfather in that he did learn something from the movie, "Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer." Or maybe he remembered LBJ's great quote, "I'd rather having them inside the tent pissing out then outside the tent pissing in." But B Hussein simply appointed Czars to handle the real work and sent Mrs. Clinton on a four year long overseas tour. And in the time we got what? The Muslim Brotherhood running Libya, Syria and getting a run on Egypt. The destruction of the Camp David Peace accords. An embassy sacked and our ambassador murdered.

At least the American people didn't buy this. After advancing her 14 million for Hard Cheese, er Hard Choices, they lost their ass in the endeavor. Perhaps they were just paying protection on the chance we get Clinton 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, or whatever it ends up being.

Now we have this morning article I referred to. It looks like they are simply trying to "rebrand" Mrs. Bill Clinton.
...After a complicated tenure as first lady, Clinton reinvented herself as a potholes-and-pork senator from her adopted state of New York. Then she ran for president as a tough woman in the mold of Margaret Thatcher. Failing that, she had a careful run as the country’s top diplomat under Obama that allies believe raised her stature.

Excuse me, mention her in the same book as Lady Thatcher. Whatever narcotics you're on, please get into a program. Mrs. Bill Clinton is not worthy enough to touch the shoe of The Iron Lady.

Perhaps her most significant rebranding came in 2000, when she became a popular elected official in her own right after her husband’s Monica Lewinsky scandal and after a controversial tenure as first lady. Clinton was ridiculed as a dilettante and a carpetbagger, but she won over critics, even some Republicans, with a dogged commitment to local issues.

In 2008, however, Clinton’s rebranding went badly, starting with a misreading of the zeitgeist that had her stressing her ­commander-in-chief qualifications when the public preferred Obama’s promise of hope and change.

Clinton’s advisers were divided then about how to bust the caricature of Clinton as remote and brittle. Some begged Clinton to reprise a campaign feature that had charmed New York voters, in which she stayed in ordinary people’s homes while traveling around the state. But Clinton insisted that doing so in Iowa or New Hampshire would come across as forced.

Similarly, an online compilation of testimonials meant to showcase Clinton’s humanity and relatability fell flat. Too cheesy, some advisers said; at odds with her strength-and-competence message, others said.

A rebranding that stuck: Clinton’s workmanlike turn as secretary of state, during which she visited more countries than most of her predecessors — and used her celebrity to draw attention to women’s empowerment and human rights issues...

Notice rebranding, rebranding and rebranding. Never her standing up, saying this is what I believe and this is why America should follow me.

I recall the shock of the intelligentsia when George W. Bush, after entering the White House, actually did what he campaigned on. Similar shock for Ronald Reagan in 1981. But there is a difference between these two and Mrs. Bill Clinton. The two men actually stood up, said this is what I'm about and I want your vote. Mrs. Clinton is simply trying to polish up an old show, trying to make the old seem new. Kinda like the revisions of The Equalizer and Total Recall, we've seen this before. And unlike the TV show and the movie, where the original was better, the remake of Mrs. Bill Clinton sucks before and now. And hopefully will be shelved soon enough.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Security Weekly: Staying Safe on Spring Break, February 19, 2015

By Scott StewartWith spring break season approaching for our American readers, now is a good time to provide a primer on how to plan a safe vacation for the entire family or individual children. This information can also be useful to our international subscribers who want to make sure they stay safe during their travels. 
Scoping Out a Destination 
The single most important key to remaining out of harm's way while traveling or working abroad is to know and understand — in advance — some of the idiosyncrasies of each country's bureaucracy and the security risks that exist there. This knowledge should guide one's decision on whether to even travel to a particular destination and is helpful when planning and implementing proper precautions for the environment the traveler will be visiting. Fortunately, finding safety and security information for a destination country is easier than ever in the Internet age. 
The first step American travelers should take before beginning a trip is seeing what the U.S. government says about the destination country. Travelers should read the consular information sheet and check for travel warnings and pertinent public announcements before embarking. Such information can be obtained in person at passport agencies inside the United States and at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. This information can also be obtained by calling the U.S. State Department, but the quickest and easiest way to find it is online. 
The State Department issues travel warnings for only a handful of countries, and many countries do not have any active public announcements pertaining to them. But the department maintains an information sheet for every country, even those the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with, such as Iran and Cuba. The consular information sheet is a useful document that provides details about what documents are needed to enter the destination country in addition to information on crime, security, political stability, in-country medical care, currency regulations and road safety. It also contains contact information for the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates in the country (if there are any). 
It is a good idea for travelers to print out a copy of the consular information sheet and take it with them on their trip. At the very least, travelers should print out or write down the phone number of the U.S. Embassy — including the after-hours phone number. This number generally rings into the Marine on duty at the embassy's security command center, normally referred to as post one, or to the embassy's duty officer. The paper with the embassy contact numbers should be kept separate from the traveler's wallet so that if the wallet gets lost or stolen, the contact information will not be lost with it. The same advice is applicable to citizens of other countries. 
Consular information sheets generally do not provide advice or security recommendations to travelers. They are intended to outline the facts, and travelers are then supposed to use the information to make their own judgments and determine their own courses of action. However, if the consular information sheet for a destination country actually breaks this protocol and makes a recommendation, the traveler should take that recommendation seriously. 
It is also prudent for American travelers to register with the U.S. State Department before leaving the country. This would be helpful if something were to happen while they were abroad or if there were a crisis in the country, but it would also be useful for someone trying to locate them in case of a family emergency in the United States. Registration is free through a secure website and only takes a few minutes. Foreign citizens should also register with their respective embassies if their governments offer similar programs like Australia does through its Smart Traveler program.Looking Beyond Consular Reports 
To ensure that I am getting a balanced look at a specific country and to obtain more detailed information, I generally like to find travel advice from several other countries as well, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. 
The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs coordinates daily with the British, Canadian and Australian governments, so the four countries will have largely the same big picture of the security environment in a specific country. It is very unlikely that the United States would issue a travel advisory warning for a particular country that the British government considers perfectly safe, and vice versa. 
However, granular differences in reports are valuable. The anecdotal cases foreign governments discuss in their travel sheets may differ from those included in the U.S. consular information sheet, providing additional insight into the security situation in the country. For example, while compiling a travel briefing for a client once, I noted in a British advisory that British citizens in a particular city had been victimized by local criminal gangs that had begun to engage in express kidnappings — something that the U.S. consular information sheet did not note. Express kidnappings, short-term kidnappings meant to drain the contents of the victim's bank account via his or her ATM card, were new to that country. Even though we had seen the tactic used elsewhere in the region, it was helpful to be able to warn our client of the new threat. So in that case, reading the British advisory in addition to the U.S. consular information sheet was well worth my time. 
Another great source of granular information is the annual crime and safety report issued by the American regional security officer for a particular country or city. Sometimes these reports are posted on the embassy's website, but they are also available on the Overseas Security Advisory Council's website. While some OSAC material is for constituent use only, crime and safety reports can be read by anyone — and no login is required. 
It is also important to remember that conditions in a destination country can change. If government travel sites were checked far in advance of the trip, they should be checked again shortly before departure to ensure that no critical changes have occurred.Considering All the Possibilities 
When travelers leave the United States, they are no longer subject to U.S. laws and regulations, but instead to the laws of the country they are visiting. Therefore, travelers need to learn as much as they can about those local laws before they arrive. 
Travelers should also keep up with the political situation in their destination country and the region it is in. Many websites, especially Stratfor, are excellent sources of political and security information. General information on the country, its government, culture, customs, etc., can be found at the library or online through any number of websites such as the National Geographic Society or the CIA's World Factbook. 
Travelers should also familiarize themselves with maps of the areas they will be visiting. This will help them identify key locations such as their hotel or embassy, avoid being victimized by unscrupulous cab drivers and keep them from wandering into dangerous areas. 
The destination country may also have informative government websites, such as a site run by the government department of tourism or the country's embassy in the United States. For obvious reasons, these sites should be read carefully. In most cases, the destination country's government will want to be as positive as possible to encourage tourism. Therefore, such sites rarely provide any information on crime and security because they fear it could scare away tourists — and their money. If such sites do acknowledge security problems, it is a strong indicator that the problem is too large to ignore. Thus, travelers should pay close attention to the warnings. 
Thinking About Health 
Prior to travel, one should also visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel health information site. This site provides a wealth of information about the vaccinations required for specific countries and regions and provides important tips about avoiding insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, as well as food- and water-borne ailments such as cholera and amoebic dysentery. The CDC also issues travel health precautions and warnings in addition to information on sporadic outbreaks of dangerous diseases. 
Travelers should also consult with their doctor well in advance of their trip to ensure their vaccinations are up to date and that they have time to receive all the required vaccinations before they depart. Doctors can also prescribe anti-malarial medication if required. Even travelers in good health need to ensure that they have the appropriate vaccinations and should take measures to avoid contracting dysentery and other food- and water-borne illnesses. (It is very difficult to have fun on a vacation when sick and unable to leave the hotel room.) Many times, travel health clinics will not only give vaccinations but will also issue handy medical travel kits that contain adhesive bandages and an assortment of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as pain relievers and anti-diarrheal medicines. Sometimes these kits will even contain prescription antibiotics for use in case of severe dysentery. 
Is Additional Insurance a Good Idea? 
Another consideration is insurance. Travelers should check their homeowner's insurance policy or call their insurance agent to determine if their policy will cover losses or theft abroad. It is also prudent to find out if the traveler's health insurance will cover them overseas. In many instances, insurance companies will pay for all or a portion of medical coverage overseas, but travelers will often have to pay for the services up front and then get reimbursed by the insurance company after returning home. Therefore, travelers should ensure that they have a way to pay for any necessary medical treatment. The U.S. Embassy can provide assistance in the way of emergency loans to pay for medical treatment, but such assistance requires a lot of paperwork. 
One should also determine whether their medical insurance will pay for the cost of medical evacuation (medevac) in the case of a dire medical emergency. For example, a colleague of mine in the State Department had to be evacuated from Khartoum with cerebral malaria because local medical professionals could not stabilize him and did not have adequate facilities to care for him in Sudan. 
Travelers going to a destination with very poor in-country medical care or where their insurance will not pay for medical evacuation should seriously consider purchasing a medical insurance policy for the trip that will cover the cost of medical evacuation, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Chances are, a medical evacuation will not happen, but if it did, the cost of not having the coverage would be staggering.Of course, preparation is merely the first step in ensuring a trip is safe and enjoyable. Stratfor has published two series of analyses, one on travel security and the other on personal security, that can help provide the next steps. 
Related Series 
Travel Security: Building Blocks of Personal Security:

Copyright:  STRATFOR.COM

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A couple of nights down.

And it’s still as fun as I remember.

Was half way to my station for my first shift back and then I discovered I left a thermos full of coffee at home. Something about where I now (should I say again) work. It’s built on a dump and I was warned from day one “Don’t drink the water!” And making it through a night without coffee is a challenge. I tried to quit coffee once. Longest fifteen minutes of my life!

Got back to my station on Saturday evening and the place hasn’t really changed. The only man from my group of sergeants who didn’t get nailed on a rotational assignment is there running roll call. He hands me the list of my squad officers and says “Welcome back.” But things were a bit of trouble as I was already going thought caffeine withdrawal and I really needed something. So I grabbed a Coke from the machine and introduced myself to the rest of the sergeants.

I looked around the sergeant’s officer for an empty desk but the only one available has another evening shift sergeant working there. But as he is off tonight it will do for the moment. Hate to be morbid, but I know someone else will get nailed for a rotational assignment soon enough. My station has a high turnover of staff.

Roll call I get introduced and I mention “I’m on parole, just got out of jail…” They laugh. Some remember me from last year, which is good. Now I need to remember them a bit more.

I got to the car and attempt to sign on. That was an adventure. As I’ve not signed on in several months my account has been locked out and I spend the better part of an hour with tech support as they patiently work with me. After I finally get finished I find the new software for our vehicles that I haven’t dealt with since training almost eight months ago and I ask my buddy from roll call to give ma a quick refresher. Fifteen minutes later I know enough to be dangerous, log on with an email and tell the dispatcher “Sorry for being late…operator headspace and timing.” She says “No sweat sarge, it’s ok with me.”

I’ve been assigned a new district/beat to patrol and as the sun is going down quick so I am soon slightly disoriented. Thank God for iPhone and GPS. I just need to make sure I’m not stupid and make a wrong turn on a one way street.
After checking by with a few units I meet up with the other street sergeants and we have dinner. One is nice enough to pay for my dinner and I tell him “You’re on me next time.” Local Mexican place I’ve been to many a time. Love small places where the food is excellent, the service is great and the staff is friendly. No, not that, they give us discounts on the bill!

Made it thought Saturday, surprisingly quiet for the area. Wake up the next day and get ready to really start meeting the squad. After roll call I have them wait for me and I have a ten minute talk with them. Who I am, what I expect from them and what they can expect from me. One thing I made very clear, I’m not there to do their job but to make sure they do theirs. I let them know we will all get have a few minutes together time. I like to spend some one on one counseling time to know my people and find our what they want from the department. The Army did tell me a few things about developing personnel.

I’m able to get signed on fairly quickly and in no time I’m getting disoriented in broad daylight almost as well as I did in pitch darkness. I will come back to me in time. But several of the officers are surprised I show up on their calls. A technique a really good sergeant I had was he would simply show up on our scenes. One, it does make sure the officers know the sergeant is out there. Two, I can’t swear to my boss the job is being done unless I see it. So it was fun.

After assisting two officers with an aggravated assault scene (dope head punched out two old ladies) I get to have dinner again with my fellow sergeants. As the food is just coming to the table, I get a call from the officers handling that aggrieved assault and they tell me the suspect had been shot twice. No one noticed he was wounded and the “man of the hour” was in no condition to let us know. In the shape he was in he would be hit with buckshot at point blank range and not notice. So I get one shrimp-chicken fajita and drive off. We get on the scene, reinterview the complainants and witnesses and get a phone call from the other officers. The dude was shot with a .22. I’ll lay money he was shot somewhere else before he walked to the assault scene, but that is for an investigator to follow up with.

I get to the station and find out one of my other sergeants was nice enough to pay for me. I owe her one. We all spent a few minutes discussing how busy it was for a Sunday. Normally there is a reason for a Sunday to be busy, such as the Texans blowing a football game. Just able to make it out of the station on time and get home to meet the wife before she collapses after a day of studying.

God I love being back on patrol. Friends of mine are asking “Why don’t you get into an investigative assignment?” or something else. I have to say, a some point that will likely happen. Patrol is a young man’s game and I just turned the big 50. I will hopefully finish my master’s this year and take a shot at the lieutenant’s test in a few years. The department’s intelligence division is something I would like to take a took at. But for now I’m going to have fun and do what I became a cop for.

To my fellow Sheepdogs, be safe out there and I’ll see ya soon. I’m back on The Watch!

Geopolitical Weekly: Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal, February 17, 2015

By George Friedman

In recent weeks, we have been focusing on Greece, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. All are still burning issues. But in every case, readers have called my attention to what they see as an underlying and even defining dimension of all these issues — if not right now, then soon. That dimension is declining population and the impact it will have on all of these countries. The argument was made that declining populations will generate crises in these and other countries, undermining their economies and national power. Sometimes we need to pause and move away from immediate crises to broader issues. Let me start with some thoughts from my book The Next 100 Years.

Reasons for the Population Decline

There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Above that, and the population rises; below that, it falls. In the advanced industrial world, the birthrate is already substantially below 2.1. In middle-tier countries such as Mexico or Turkey, the birthrate is falling but will not reach 2.1 until between 2040 and 2050. In the poorest countries, such as Bangladesh or Bolivia, the birthrate is also falling, but it will take most of this century to reach 2.1.

The process is essentially irreversible. It is primarily a matter of urbanization. In agricultural and low-level industrial societies, children are a productive asset. Children can be put to work at the age of 6 doing agricultural work or simple workshop labor. Children become a source of income, and the more you have the better. Just as important, since there is no retirement plan other than family in such societies, a large family can more easily support parents in old age.

In a mature urban society, the economic value of children declines. In fact, children turn from instruments of production into objects of massive consumption. In urban industrial society, not only are the opportunities for employment at an early age diminished, but the educational requirements also expand dramatically. Children need to be supported much longer, sometimes into their mid-20s. Children cost a tremendous amount of money with limited return, if any, for parents. Thus, people have fewer children. Birth control merely provided the means for what was an economic necessity. For most people, a family of eight children would be a financial catastrophe. Therefore, women have two children or fewer, on average. As a result, the population contracts. Of course, there are other reasons for this decline, but urban industrialism is at the heart of it.

There are those who foresee economic disaster in this process. As someone who was raised in a world that saw the population explosion as leading to economic disaster, I would think that the end of the population boom would be greeted with celebration. But the argument is that the contraction of the population, particularly during the transitional period before the older generations die off, will leave a relatively small number of workers supporting a very large group of retirees, particularly as life expectancy in advanced industrial countries increases. In addition, the debts incurred by the older generation would be left to the smaller, younger generation to pay off. Given this, the expectation is major economic dislocation. In addition, there is the view that a country's political power will contract with the population, based on the assumption that the military force that could be deployed — and paid for — with a smaller population would contract.

The most obvious solution to this problem is immigration. The problem is that Japan and most European countries have severe cultural problems integrating immigrants. The Japanese don't try, for the most part, and the Europeans who have tried — particularly with migrants from the Islamic world — have found it difficult. The United States also has a birthrate for white women at about 1.9, meaning that the Caucasian population is contracting, but the African-American and Hispanic populations compensate for that. In addition, the United States is an efficient manager of immigration, despite current controversies.

Two points must be made on immigration. First, the American solution of relying on immigration will mean a substantial change in what has been the historical sore point in American culture: race. The United States can maintain its population only if the white population becomes a minority in the long run. The second point is that some of the historical sources of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexico, are exporting fewer immigrants. As Mexico moves up the economic scale, emigration to the United States will decline. Therefore, the third tier of countries where there is still surplus population will have to be the source for immigrants. Europe and Japan have no viable model for integrating migrants.

The Effects of Population on GDP

But the real question is whether a declining population matters. Assume that there is a smooth downward curve of population, with it decreasing by 20 percent. If the downward curve in gross domestic product matched the downward curve in population, per capita GDP would be unchanged. By this simplest measure, the only way there would be a problem is if GDP fell more than population, or fell completely out of sync with the population, creating negative and positive bubbles. That would be destabilizing.

But there is no reason to think that GDP would fall along with population. The capital base of society, its productive plant as broadly understood, will not dissolve as population declines. Moreover, assume that population fell but GDP fell less — or even grew. Per capita GDP would rise and, by that measure, the population would be more prosperous than before.

One of the key variables mitigating the problem of decreasing population would be continuing advances in technology to increase productivity. We can call this automation or robotics, but growths in individual working productivity have been occurring in all productive environments from the beginning of industrialization, and the rate of growth has been intensifying. Given the smooth and predictable decline in population, there is no reason to believe, at the very least, that GDP would not fall less than population. In other words, with a declining population in advanced industrial societies, even leaving immigration out as a factor, per capita GDP would be expected to grow.

Changes in the Relationship Between Labor and Capital

A declining population would have another and more radical impact. World population was steady until the middle of the 16th century. The rate of growth increased in about 1750 and moved up steadily until the beginning of the 20th century, when it surged. Put another way, beginning with European imperialism and culminating in the 20th century, the population has always been growing. For the past 500 years or so, the population has grown at an increasing rate. That means that throughout the history of modern industrialism and capitalism, there has always been a surplus of labor. There has also been a shortage of capital in the sense that capital was more expensive than labor by equivalent quanta, and given the constant production of more humans, supply tended to depress the price of labor.

For the first time in 500 years, this situation is reversing itself. First, fewer humans are being born, which means the labor force will contract and the price of all sorts of labor will increase. This has never happened before in the history of industrial man. In the past, the scarce essential element has been capital. But now capital, understood in its precise meaning as the means of production, will be in surplus, while labor will be at a premium. The economic plant in place now and created over the next generation will not evaporate. At most, it is underutilized, and that means a decline in the return on capital. Put in terms of the analog, money, it means that we will be entering a period where money will be cheap and labor increasingly expensive.

The only circumstance in which this would not be the case would be a growth in productivity so vast that it would leave labor in surplus. Of course if that happened, then we would be entering a revolutionary situation in which the relationship between labor and income would have to shift. Assuming a more incremental, if intensifying, improvement in productivity, it would still leave surplus on the capital side and a shortage in labor, sufficient to force the price of money down and the price of labor up.

That would mean that in addition to rising per capita GDP, the actual distribution of wealth would shift. We are currently in a period where the accumulation of wealth has shifted dramatically into fewer hands, and the gap between the upper-middle class and the middle class has also widened. If the cost of money declined and the price of labor increased, the wide disparities would shift, and the historical logic of industrial capitalism would be, if not turned on its head, certainly reformulated.

We should also remember that the three inputs into production are land, labor and capital. The value of land, understood in the broader sense of real estate, has been moving in some relationship to population. With a decline in population, the demand for land would contract, lowering the cost of housing and further increasing the value of per capita GDP.

The path to rough equilibrium will be rocky and fraught with financial crisis. For example, the decline in the value of housing will put the net worth of the middle and upper classes at risk, while adjusting to a world where interest rates are perpetually lower than they were in the first era of capitalism would run counter to expectations and therefore lead financial markets down dark alleys. The mitigating element to this is that the decline in population is transparent and highly predictable. There is time for homeowners, investors and everyone else to adjust their expectations.

This will not be the case in all countries. The middle- and third-tier countries will be experiencing their declines after the advanced countries will have adjusted — a further cause of disequilibrium in the system. And countries such as Russia, where population is declining outside the context of a robust capital infrastructure, will see per capita GDP decline depending on the price of commodities like oil. Populations are falling even where advanced industrialism is not in place, and in areas where only urbanization and a decline of preindustrial agriculture are in place the consequences are severe. There are places with no safety net, and Russia is one of those places.

The argument I am making here is that population decline will significantly transform the functioning of economies, but in the advanced industrial world it will not represent a catastrophe — quite the contrary. Perhaps the most important change will be that where for the past 500 years bankers and financiers have held the upper hand, in a labor-scarce society having pools of labor to broker will be the key. I have no idea what that business model will look like, but I have no doubt that others will figure that out.
Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Friday, February 13, 2015

This Is the City: H-Town!

Where did a year go? It was like yesterday I got the bad news call from personnel saying I was heading to a rotational assignment at the jail. Not what I became a sergeant to do, but that comes with the territory. I went from a senior police officer to a junior sergeant and bottom of the totem pole. There are guys senior to me who did go, there are guys junior to me who will not go. Just your luck of the draw and as many of my fellow sergeants from last year said, better to just get it done with than live with the possibility over your head for three years.

Tonight I spend my last night as an assigned jail sergeant. My soon to be former boss has asked if I’m willing to come in now and then if he’s shorthanded and I’m cool with that. But I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for months. I got the key, opened the door that says “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY” and walked onto the roof. It has a beautiful view of the Houston skyline at night. Man I wish I had thought of this for Independence Day.

The staff surprised me with a dinner, a cake and a card for me. I figured they would celebrate after I left, damned, it’s nice to be wanted! :<)

But for the moment, I’ll just take it easy in the last few hours. I really don’t want a disturbance/confrontation as I’m walking out this place. I have a knack for on the last assignment before I leave, there is a minor disaster and I want to avoid that now. And seeing I get to make the decisions, I think me and my coffee Thermos will stay away
All in all a good year, dealt with some excellent people who are doing the a dirty job that has to be done for small wage and little recognition. But to all the staff, thank you for your help in breaking me in, answering a question or two, executing my direction well and serving the people of this city. Even the morons we process.

Well, pleasant dreams Houston. My final hours are in front of me. I’m going to try and not get into trouble. Night.

Security Weekly: The Islamic State's Use of Extreme Violence, February 12, 2015

By Scott Stewart

The Islamic State's Feb. 3 release of a macabre video recording showing Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned to death caused shock and outrage. But though the video was appallingly gruesome, the fact that the Islamic State's public relations team continues to amp up the shock value of its media offerings should not surprise anyone who has monitored the group's media output.

Indeed, over the past several months, the Islamic State has released videos documenting the executions of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi prisoners of war. In one of the videos, the group forced prisoners to dig their own graves and to kneel on the edge before shooting them. In another video, the group paraded hundreds of prisoners through the desert to a large mass grave dug by a bulldozer, ordered them to lie down and shot them. In yet another video, prisoners were marched one by one to the edge of a dock along the Tigris River, shot with a pistol in the back of the head and thrown into the river. Undoubtedly coalition pilots have either seen these videos or have been briefed about the Islamic State's policies regarding prisoners of war.

An interview with al-Kaseasbeh that was featured in the sixth edition of Dabiq magazine concluded with the question, "Do you know what the Islamic State will do with you?" Al-Kaseasbeh replied, "Yes … They will kill me."

A Long History of Violent Media

In January, the Islamic State released photos and videos of the group throwing men accused of being homosexual from a tall building in Mosul. Recent videos also have often depicted beheadings. The group's beheading videos have not only featured foreign hostages, including Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig and British prisoners David Haines and Alan Henning, but also prisoners of war. For example, the group beheaded a large number of Syrian soldiers in July after overrunning the Syrian army's 17th Division base near Raqaa. The Islamic State claimed to have captured and beheaded 75 members of the division, and Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State posted photos of the beheaded Syrian soldiers.

The video chronicling Kassig's death also contained footage of the mass beheading of 18 Syrian prisoners of war. That video in some ways presages the al-Kaseasbeh video; the executioners were all wearing matching uniforms and load-bearing equipment and wielding identical knives. This is something rarely seen among Islamic State troops on the actual battlefield and was clearly done for cinematic effect. Also, unlike the Western hostages, whose actual beheadings are never shown, the Syrian troops were beheaded in graphic slow motion.

But this type of grotesque public display is by no means a new thing for the Islamic State. In fact, violent and brutal media productions have been a part of the group's organizational DNA since 2004, when the founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is believed to have personally beheaded American hostage Nick Berg in a May 2004 video posted online.

The Berg execution video, along with a number of other brutal videos the group posted during the al-Zarqawi era, prompted al Qaeda's then-deputy and now-leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to send a letter to al-Zarqawi in 2005 admonishing him for his brutality. In it al-Zawahiri wrote, "Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable . . . are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages."

Al-Zawahiri also tried to dissuade al-Zarqawi from too literally interpreting the Koran verses asking Muslims to strike terror in the hearts of non-Muslims, but the reprimand went unheeded.

Interestingly, al-Zarqawi was not the first jihadist leader to appear in a beheading video. That honor goes to al Qaeda's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of the 9/11 attacks, who beheaded journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in February 2002. It is fairly obvious that the Pearl video influenced al-Zarqawi's decision to produce a video of Berg's execution.

Al-Zarqawi and later his followers continued releasing media that contains extreme violence. Indeed, their video production capabilities have become far more sophisticated since the shaky, grainy Berg video, and the group's understanding of the Internet and how to effectively use social media has far surpassed that of al Qaeda or any of its franchise groups. Last week, Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute wrote an article comparing al Qaeda to Microsoft, the old, stodgy player faced with a newer, hipper competitor — the Islamic State. Al-Zawahiri sits in hiding and writes letters while al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State carve out an empire in the heart of the Middle East and document it all on social media.

Taking Watts' analogy one step further, if al Qaeda is Microsoft, the Islamic State is Facebook and Twitter: It is all about networking and publishing horrific selfies. Arguably, the Islamic State has experienced great tactical success through its business model. The psychological advantage its terrorist campaign gave it allowed it to defeat much larger and better-equipped military forces in places such as Mosul. It also allowed the group to subsume several other Syrian and Iraqi militant groups, recruit local fighters, raise funds from international donors and draw thousands of foreign fighters to its ranks. Furthermore, its campaign has sparked an unprecedented amount of grassroots activity across the globe over the past five months. However, these tactical advantages are not achieved without some strategic consequences.

Facing the Consequences

As al-Zawahiri warned in 2005, the Islamic State's behavior in Iraq — including but certainly not limited to its execution videos — alienated its local support base. In 2006, the group was dealt another blow when a U.S. airstrike killed al-Zarqawi; the group was nearly destroyed by 2010. Indeed, one of the primary reasons the group survived was because the Iraqi Sunni sheikhs chose not to totally destroy it so they could use it to distract the Shiite-led government in Baghdad (a Frankenstein monster that has certainly gone out of control).

Looking at the Islamic State today, the group appears to have learned little from the events that ushered it from its last boom to a severe bust. It certainly has not changed its tactic of using extreme violence and publicizing it. This recklessness is not just prompted by the desire to gain tactical advantages, such as shocking and terrorizing the enemy into capitulation, recruiting more fighters, raising funds and provoking nations into reactionary measures. Though certainly each of these tactical objectives is a facet of the Islamic State's strategy, the heart of its decision to use extreme violence is in its belief system.

Members of the Islamic State truly believe that they are invincible and that if they practice what they believe to be true Islam, Allah will bless them and use them to conquer the Earth to bring all people to their form of Islam under their brand of Sharia. Because of this belief system, they have little room for the type of pragmatism or moderation other jihadist leaders have suggested. Indeed, they believe that such attitudes reflect a lack of faith, and they have openly criticized jihadist leaders like al-Zawahiri and the Taliban's Mullah Mohammad Omar for displaying pragmatism and calling for moderation.

I believe that the reckless hubris of this belief system will once again be the group's downfall. We are already beginning to see signs of the organization's next bust cycle in reports that the group is executing defectors, forcibly conscripting young men to fight, and sending very young and inexperienced fighters to the front lines. Indeed, using poorly trained young recruits and foreign fighters as cannon fodder might lead to more internal dissent than the group's public displays of violence. The group's use of mentally disabled individuals and women as suicide bombers had terrible consequences for it in the last go-round.

Because of their belief that Allah protects them, the leaders of the Islamic State may not see a problem with publishing grotesque videos — even when those videos cause a visceral international reaction that results in an international coalition mobilizing against them. Most recently, the group has provoked Jordan and other Arab states to increase their campaign to destroy the organization. It is becoming increasingly clear that the rest of the world no longer believes that the Islamic State is inexorable, and that realization is going to manifest itself in some very real strategic consequences on the battlefield.
The Islamic State's Use of Extreme Violence is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Geopolitical Weekly: Germany Emerges, February 10, 2015

By George Friedman

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it.

It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. If not the memory, then the fear of Germany had subsided in Europe. The Soviet Union was gone, and Russia was in the process of trying to recover from the worst consequences of that collapse. The primary issue in the European Union was what hurdles nations, clamoring to enter the union, would have to overcome in order to become members. Germany was in a rare position, given its history. It was in a place of comfort, safety and international collegiality.

The world that Merkel faces today is startlingly different. The European Union is in a deep crisis. Many blame Germany for that crisis, arguing that its aggressive export policies and demands for austerity were self-serving and planted the seeds of the crisis. It is charged with having used the euro to serve its interests and with shaping EU policy to protect its own corporations. The vision of a benign Germany has evaporated in much of Europe, fairly or unfairly. In many places, old images of Germany have re-emerged, if not in the center of many countries then certainly on the growing margins. In a real if limited way, Germany has become the country that other Europeans fear. Few countries are clamoring for membership in the European Union, and current members have little appetite for expanding the bloc's boundaries.

At the same time, the peace that Germany had craved is in jeopardy. Events in Ukraine have aroused Russian fears of the West, and Russia has annexed Crimea and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Russia's actions have sparked the United States' fears of the re-emergence of a Russian hegemon, and the United States is discussing arming the Ukrainians and pre-positioning weapons for American troops in the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The Russians are predicting dire consequences, and some U.S. senators are wanting to arm the Ukrainians.

If it is too much to say that Merkel's world is collapsing, it is not too much to say that her world and Germany's have been reshaped in ways that would have been inconceivable in 2005. The confluence of a financial crisis in Europe that has led to dramatic increases in nationalism — both in the way nations act and in the way citizens think — with the threat of war in Ukraine has transformed Germany's world. Germany's goal has been to avoid taking a leading political or military role in Europe. The current situation has made this impossible. The European financial crisis, now seven years old, has long ceased being primarily an economic problem and is now a political one. The Ukrainian crisis places Germany in the extraordinarily uncomfortable position of playing a leading role in keeping a political problem from turning into a military one.

The German Conundrum

It is important to understand the twin problems confronting Germany. On the one hand, Germany is trying to hold the European Union together. On the other, it wants to make certain that Germany will not bear the burden of maintaining that unity. In Ukraine, Germany was an early supporter of the demonstrations that gave rise to the current government. I don't think the Germans expected the Russian or U.S. responses, and they do not want to partake in any military reaction to Russia. At the same time, Germany does not want to back away from support for the government in Ukraine.

There is a common contradiction inherent in German strategy. The Germans do not want to come across as assertive or threatening, yet they are taking positions that are both. In the European crisis, it is Germany that is most rigid not only on the Greek question but also on the general question of Southern Europe and its catastrophic unemployment situation. In Ukraine, Berlin supports Kiev and thus opposes the Russians but does not want to draw any obvious conclusions. The European crisis and the Ukrainian crisis are mirror images. In Europe, Germany is playing a leading but aggressive role. In Ukraine, it is playing a leading but conciliatory role. What is most important is that in both cases, Germany has been forced — more by circumstance than by policy — to play leading roles. This is not comfortable for Germany and certainly not for the rest of Europe.

Germany's Role in Ukraine

The Germans did play a significant part in the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's government. Germany had been instrumental in trying to negotiate an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, but Yanukovich rejected it. The Germans supported anti-Yanukovich demonstrators and had very close ties to one of the demonstration leaders, current Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who received training in a program for rising leaders sponsored by the Christian Democratic Union — Merkel's party. The Germans condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow's support for the Ukrainian secessionists in the east. Germany was not, perhaps, instrumental in these events, but it was a significant player.

As the Germans came to realize that this affair would not simply be political but would take on a military flavor, they began to back away from a major role. But disengagement was difficult. The Germans adopted a complex stance. They opposed the Russians but also did not want to provide direct military support to the Ukrainians. Instead, they participated in the sanctions against Russia while trying to play a conciliatory role. It was difficult for Merkel to play this deeply contradictory role, but given Germany's history the role was not unreasonable. Germany's status as a liberal democracy is central to its post-war self-conception. That is what it must be. Therefore, supporting the demonstrators in Kiev was an obligation. At the same time, Germany — particularly since the end of the Cold War — has been uneasy about playing a direct military role. It did that in Afghanistan but not Iraq. And participating in or supporting a military engagement in Ukraine resurrects memories of events involving Russia that Berlin does not want to confront.

Therefore, Germany adopted a contradictory policy. Although it supported a movement that was ultimately anti-Russian and supported sanctions against the Russians, more than any other power involved it does not want the political situation to evolve into a military one. It will not get involved in any military action in Ukraine, and the last thing Germany needs now is a war to its east. Having been involved in the beginnings of the crisis, and being unable to step away from it, Germany also wants to defuse it.

The Greek Issue

Germany repeated this complex approach with Greece for different reasons. The Germans are trying to find some sort of cover for the role they are playing with the Greeks. Germany exported more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product, and more than half of that went to the European free trade zone that was the heart of the EU project. Germany had developed production that far exceeded its domestic capacity for consumption. It had to have access to markets or face a severe economic crisis of its own.

But barriers are rising in Europe. The attacks in Paris raised demands for the resurrection of border guards and inspections. Alongside threats of militant Islamist attacks, the free flow of labor from country to country threatened to take jobs from natives and give them to outsiders. If borders became barriers to labor, and capital markets were already distorted by the ongoing crisis, then how long would it be before weaker economies used protectionist measures to keep out German goods?

The economic crisis had unleashed nationalism as each country tried to follow policies that would benefit it and in which many citizens — not in power, but powerful nonetheless — saw EU regulations as threats to their well-being. And behind these regulations and the pricing of the euro, they saw Germany's hand.

This was dangerous for Germany in many ways. Germany had struggled to shed its image as an aggressor; here it was re-emerging. Nationalism not only threatened to draw Germany back to its despised past, but it also threatened the free trade essential to Germany's well-being. Germany didn't want anyone to leave the free trade zone. The eurozone was less important, but once they left the currency bloc, the path to protectionism was short. Greece was of little consequence itself, but if it demonstrated that it would be better off defaulting than paying its debt, other countries could follow. And if they demonstrated that leaving the free trade zone was beneficial, then the entire structure might unravel.

Germany needed to make an example of Greece, and it tried very hard last week to be unbending, appearing to be a bit like the old Germany. The problem Germany had was that if the new Greek government wanted to survive, it couldn't capitulate. It had been elected to resist Germany. And whatever the unknowns, it was not clear that default, in whole or part, wasn't beneficial. And in the end, Greece could set its own rules. If the Greeks offered a fraction of repayment, would anyone refuse when the alternative was nothing?

Therefore, Germany was facing one of the other realities of its position — one that goes back to its unification in 1871. Although economically powerful, Germany was also extremely insecure. Its power rested on the ability and willingness of other countries to give Germany access to their markets. Without that access, German power could fall apart. With Greece, the Germans wanted to show the rest of Europe the consequences of default, but if Greece defaulted anyway, the only lesson might be that default works. Just as it had been in the past, Germany was simultaneously overbearing and insecure. In dealing with Greece, the Germans could not risk bringing down the European Union and could not be sure which thread, if pulled on, would unravel it.

Merkel's Case in Washington

It was with this on her mind that Merkel came to Washington. Facing an overwhelming crisis within the European Union, Germany could not afford a war in Ukraine. U.S. threats to arm the Ukrainians were exactly what she did not need. It wasn't just that Germany had a minimal army and couldn't participate or, in extremis, defend itself. It was also that in being tough with Greece, Germany could not go much further before being seen as the strongman of Europe, a role it could not bear.

Thus, she came to Washington looking to soften the American position. But the American position came from deep wells as well. Part of it had to do with human rights, which should not be dismissed as one source of decision-making in this and other administrations. But the deeper well was the fact that for a hundred years, since World War I, through World War II and the Cold War, the United States had a single rigid imperative: No European hegemon could be allowed to dominate the Continent, as a united Europe was the only thing that might threaten national security. Therefore, regardless of any debate on the issue, the U.S. concern about a Russian-dominated Ukraine triggered the primordial fear of a Russian try at hegemony.

It was ironic that Germany, which the United States blocked twice as a hegemon, tried to persuade the United States that increased military action in Ukraine would not solve the problem. The Americans knew that, but they also knew that if they backed off now, the Russians would read it as an opportunity to press forward. Germany, which had helped set in motion both this crisis and the European crisis, was now asking the United States to back off. The request was understandable, but simply backing off was not possible. She needed to deliver something from Putin, such as a pledge to withdraw support to Ukrainian secessionists. But Putin needed something, too: a promise for an autonomous province. By now Merkel could live with that, but the Americans would find it undesirable. An autonomous Ukrainian province would inevitably become a base for undermining the rest of the country.

This is the classic German problem told two ways. Both derive from disproportionate strength overlying genuine weakness. The Germans are trying to reshape Europe, but their threats are of decreasing value. The Germans tried to reshape Ukraine but got trapped in the Russian reaction. In both cases, the problem was that they did not have sufficient power, instead requiring the acquiescence of others. And that is difficult to get. This is the old German problem: The Germans are too strong to be ignored and too weak to impose their will. Historically, the Germans tried to increase their strength so they could impose their will. In this case, they have no intention of doing so. It will be interesting to see whether their will can hold when their strength is insufficient.

Germany Emerges is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The selective full memory of the liberal intelligentsia

I noted two weeks ago the 50th anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest men of the 20th Century, Sir Winston Churchill. I was not alone as many noted the passing of this great leader who stood alone as the dark forces of Nazism, Communism and Fascism moved along Europe, seemingly unstoppable. Naturally those who despise the west are not impressed by this date or the man. I give you a nobody named Ishaan Tharoor.
The dark side of Winston Churchill’s legacy no one should forget

There's no Western statesmen — at least in the English-speaking world — more routinely lionized than Winston Churchill. Last Friday marked a half century since his funeral, an occasion that itself led to numerous commemorations and paeans to the British Bulldog, whose moral courage and patriotism helped steer his nation through World War II.

Churchill, after all, has been posthumously voted by his countrymen as the greatest Briton. The presence (and absence) of his bust in the White House was enough to create political scandal on both sides of the pond. The allure of his name is so strong that it launches a thousand quotations, many of which are apocryphal. At its core, Churchill's myth serves as a ready-made metaphor for boldness and leadership, no matter how vacuous the context in which said metaphor is deployed.

For example, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair earned comparisons to Churchill after dragging his country into the much-maligned 2003 Iraq war. So too Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose tough stance on Iran's nuclear ambitions has been cast by some in Churchill's heroic mold — the Israeli premier's uncompromising resolve a foil to the supposed "appeasement" tendencies of President Obama.

In the West, Churchill is a freedom fighter, the man who grimly withstood Nazism and helped save Western liberal democracy. It's a civilizational legacy that has been polished and placed on a mantle for decades. Churchill "launched the lifeboats," declared Time magazine, on the cover of its Jan. 2, 1950 issue that hailed the British leader as the "man of the half century."

But there's another side to Churchill's politics and career that should not be forgotten amid the endless parade of eulogies. To many outside the West, he remains a grotesque racist and a stubborn imperialist, forever on the wrong side of history.

Churchill's detractors point to his well-documented bigotry, articulated often with shocking callousness and contempt. "I hate Indians," he once trumpeted. "They are a beastly people with a beastly religion."

Mr Tharoor, I would not defend his exact words but them again I don't know what context they were said in. He may have seen something quite disgusting to anyone and used it to generalize the Indian people. Now, you may recall the experience of General Sir Charles Napier when he was informed of the Hindu custom of burning the widow alive on the funeral pyre of the deceased. His response,
"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."

Should we judge every Hindu or Indian on this one act?
He referred to Palestinians as "barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung." When quashing insurgents in Sudan in the earlier days of his imperial career, Churchill boasted of killing three "savages." Contemplating restive populations in northwest Asia, he infamously lamented the "squeamishness" of his colleagues, who were not in "favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes."

At this point, you may say, so what? Churchill's attitudes were hardly unique for the age in which he expounded them. All great men have flaws and contradictions — some of America's founding fathers, those paragons of liberty, were slave owners. One of Churchill's biographers, cited by my colleague Karla Adam, insists that his failings were ultimately "unimportant, all of them, compared to the centrality of the point of Winston Churchill, which is that he saved [Britain] from being invaded by the Nazis."

But that should not obscure the dangers of his worldview. Churchill's racism was wrapped up in his Tory zeal for empire, one which irked his wartime ally, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a junior member of parliament, Churchill had cheered on Britain's plan for more conquests, insisting that its "Aryan stock is bound to triumph." It's strange to celebrate his bravado in the face of Hitler's war machine and not consider his wider thinking on other parts of the world. After all, these are places that, just like Europe and the West, still live with the legacy of Churchill's and Britain's actions at the time....

Churchill and the British may not have been angles, but they also brought India (and many other nations) under a single language, a rule of law and growth under a massive amount of investment. I want to say a decade ago India's middle class was rising because the low cost of telecommunications combined with the large number of English speaking highly trained employees were able to corner the market for computer service assistance. Without the intervention of the British Empire, India would not have that. Not to mention the rule of law, for both criminal and civil actions. Were the English the best in all aspects, no. Was Churchill a saint, absoutly not. But his greatness in standing alone against the appeasers, warning the world of the threat of Hitler during the 1930s, rallying the last nation in Europe to stand against the NAZIs, leading the nation he loved through it's "finest hour" will not be degraded by his, at the time common, racial beliefs. Unlike you Mr. Tharoor, he was and is forever on the right side of history.

One of the favorite movies is The Shoes of the Fisherman, a story of a Russian becoming pope in the middle of the 1960s Cold War. Discussing the plans to bury the previous pope, the reporter tells his audience:
The Pope was dead. They would mourn him with nine days of Masses and give him nine Absolutions-of which, having been greater in his life than other men, he might have greater need after his death.

Greatness generally means you will not be an angle. Churchill was great and his memory will survive. Thank God for men like him at the time we needed him most.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Geopolitical Weekly: Guantanamo Bay's Place in U.S. Strategy in the Caribbean, February 3, 2015

By Sim Tack

Last week, the Cuban government declared that for the United States and Cuba to normalize relations, the United States would have to return the territory occupied by a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Washington clearly responded that returning the base is not on the table right now. This response makes sense, since quite a bit of politicking goes into the status of the base. However, the Guantanamo Bay issue highlights a notable aspect to the U.S.-Cuban negotiations — one that is rooted in the history of the U.S. ascension to superpower status as it challenged European powers in the Western Hemisphere.

U.S. Expansion in the Western Hemisphere

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, has a prominent position at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, separating access to the gulf into two choke points: the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. It is also situated on the sea-lanes between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, the shortest route for naval traffic between the two coasts of the United States. Cuba thus has been pivotal to the U.S. strategy to safeguard economic activity in the Gulf of Mexico and naval transport routes beyond that. The evolution of U.S. naval capabilities, however, has changed the part that Cuba, and thus the base at Guantanamo, has played.

The United States began extending its ambitions into the Caribbean, challenging the classical European colonial powers and arguably starting its ascent to the rank of a global power, with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Named after then-President James Monroe, the doctrine sought to prevent intervention by European powers — most notably Spain and Portugal — in their former colonies as the colonies achieved independence. The doctrine largely was a hollow statement at first because the United States did not have the naval power it would need to enforce it and establish the hegemony that it sought to put in place with the doctrine. However, the United Kingdom, which at the time had considerable naval capabilities, supported the Monroe Doctrine and committed to enforcing it because it also secured British access to the markets in these former colonies as long as they were not recovered by their former rulers.

Although it was a notable shift in U.S. foreign policy toward the Western Hemisphere as a whole, the Monroe Doctrine did not affect Cuba directly. The doctrine did not seek to meddle in the affairs of existing European colonies, and the Spanish ruled Cuba and Puerto Rico until the Spanish-American War in 1898. At that point, after the Monroe Doctrine had set the stage, U.S. military capabilities were catching up with its foreign policy intent. It was during the Spanish-American War that U.S. naval power entered the global stage and eventually resulted in the United States' taking Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines from Spain.

However, Washington first needed a reason for intervention in Cuba. That opportunity came with the USS Maine explosion. The ship was deployed to Havana to protect U.S. business interests on the island. Moreover, news was spreading of atrocities committed by Spanish forces against the Cuban population. This intervention included the exact moment when U.S. forces arrived in Guantanamo Bay. In June 1898, a battalion of Marines landed at Fisherman's Point in the Bay of Guantanamo to pin down the Spanish forces in the city of Guantanamo, preventing them from reinforcing the Spanish positions on San Juan Hill as Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders led the charge there.

Several years after the U.S. victory against the Spanish, in 1903, the newly independent Cuban government signed an agreement with Washington for the perpetual lease of Guantanamo Bay as a naval base. Initially, the peace agreement with Spain had transferred sovereignty over the island to the United States, but Washington decided to leave the island under the control of the local Cuban leaders who had started the rebellion against the Spanish. The U.S. naval station at Guantanamo, the result of the first real show of U.S. expeditionary power, went on to become instrumental in the further deployment of U.S. naval power. In those days, the time that naval vessels spent at sea was limited significantly by the fuel they required: coal. Having access to forward deployed coaling stations such as the one at Guantanamo extended the U.S. Navy's ability to operate in the Caribbean.

Guantanamo's Changing Role

After World War II, during which Guantanamo also played a direct part in supporting merchant shipping convoys from the U.S. East Coast, the role of Guantanamo Bay changed considerably as a consequence of the Cuban Revolution. Throughout the revolution, Guantanamo Bay not only became a key element of U.S. resistance to the rebels led by Fidel Castro, it also became a pawn in the new bipolar world order pitting the United States against the Soviet Union. The relations between the new Cuban government and the Soviet Union made Cuba the Soviets' most forward position toward the continental United States — something made very obvious during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The naval base at Guantanamo did not necessarily play a leading role in this part of history, although the continued U.S. presence in Guantanamo Bay persisted as a major source of dispute between Washington and Havana.

After the Cold War, the base's military significance began to wane. The fall of the Soviet Union left Cuba a much less significant element in U.S. foreign policy, and the development of new technology had reduced the need for the base to support U.S. naval operations in the Caribbean. As much as geopolitics dictates history, the evolution of manmade technology can significantly alter states' physical limitations and capabilities. The use of new and more efficient fuels in naval vessels improved the range and speed of these vessels to the point where the Gulf of Mexico's security and naval movement beyond the U.S. coastline no longer required a logistical support node in Cuba.

The U.S. Navy continued using Guantanamo as a training ground, but the base's significance even in this regard evaporated. By the mid-1990s, activity at the naval base at Guantanamo was demoted to Minimum Pillar Performance (limiting the activities and presence there to only that which is necessary to maintain the existence of the facilities). The U.S. military has maintained this caretaker presence at Guantanamo, but it has done so mostly in the service of the State Department, which intends to retain Guantanamo as a bargaining chip or leverage in relations with Havana, rather than out of military need.

The United States also realized that other similar naval operating bases in Latin America lost their utility in a new geopolitical and technological reality. During World War II, the United States had established such a base in Rio de Janeiro, but after the war this base closed, having served its military purpose. Similarly, the United States managed a series of naval bases throughout former British territories in the Western Hemisphere that it obtained in return for 50 Town-class destroyers through the lend-lease agreement with London. Most of these bases also were shut down shortly after World War II or during the Cold War. The United States intends to use its forward deploying military capabilities without establishing full-blown bases, as seen in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East, but even then Guantanamo falls outside of Washington's "places-not-bases" intent.

A new use for the base was discovered after 9/11, when it became host to a detention facility holding suspected terrorists. The ambiguous legal status of the base at Guantanamo Bay provided grounds for this sort of use because it is technically a base leased by the U.S. government located on foreign soil. Terrorism suspects are not subject to the same guarantees they would receive if held on sovereign U.S. soil, generating a useful dynamic in the complex issue of dealing with enemy combatants in the U.S.-jihadist war. Guantanamo served a similar purpose when it was used to hold HIV-positive refugees in the early 1990s.

The potential for Guantanamo Bay to be returned to Cuba will depend greatly on the negotiations between Washington and Havana, as well as the domestic U.S. politicking that is influenced significantly by the anti-Castro Cuban immigrant population of Florida, a swing state that is key in presidential elections. It is key, however, to see Guantanamo in its current context and not in its past role in the development and protection of U.S. power in the Caribbean and beyond. The part Guantanamo plays in U.S.-Cuba negotiations is defined by Washington's desire to play this card at will. The only constraint on Washington is the requirement to disband the detention camp at Guantanamo to accommodate Cuba's demands, though this does not mean that the United States will give up the naval base easily. Once played, the Guantanamo card will be gone and Washington's long-term leverage over Havana will be forever altered

Guantanamo Bay's Place in U.S. Strategy in the Caribbean is republished with permission of Stratfor.