Friday, November 04, 2011

Time To Circle The Wagons Around Gov. Walker

Regular readers know that I feel Gov. Scott Walker should have made us a right-to-work state and supported Constitutional carry.  However, it cannot be denied that Gov. Walker's short time in office has been a resounding success.  Wisconsin is significantly better off because of the Conservative leadership from both him and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.  It is imperative that we do not allow the Democrats to destroy the fundamental changes that have been started. 

A return of a Democrat to the governor's mansion will set us spiraling down the same hole Michigan fell into.  We cannot allow unions' and socialists' hatred to destroy our state.  We must be equally passionate in defense of our governor as the Democrat's defense of big government.  Do you really want to see massive tax increases, gun control, and, at best, a stagnant state economy?  Wisconsin needs jobs now and that will only be achieved by removing the government shackles, like spending and out-of-control regulations.  Gov. Walker is doing that, but he cannot do it alone.

Ron Paul: Fed is finally ‘on the defensive’ - The Hill's Video

Ron Paul: Fed is finally ‘on the defensive’ - The Hill's Video

Founding Fathers Quote

If we are not represented, we are slaves.

James Otis

The Jobs Through Growth Act

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Russia: Rebuilding an Empire While It Can

Russia: Rebuilding an Empire While It Can is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By Lauren Goodrich

U.S.-Russian relations seem to have been relatively quiet recently, as there are numerous contradictory views in Washington about the true nature of Russia’s current foreign policy. Doubts remain about the sincerity of the U.S. State Department’s so-called “reset” of relations with Russia — the term used in 2009 when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed a reset button to her Russian counterpart as a symbol of a freeze on escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington. The concern is whether the “reset” is truly a shift in relations between the two former adversaries or simply a respite before relations deteriorate again.

The reset actually had little to do with the United States wanting Russia as a friend and ally. Rather, Washington wanted to create room to handle other situations — mainly Afghanistan and Iran — and ask Russia for help. (Russia is aiding in moving supplies into Afghanistan and withholding critical support from Iran.) Meanwhile, Russia also wanted more room to set up a system that would help it create a new version of its old empire.

Russia’s ultimate plan is to re-establish control over much of its former territories. This inevitably will lead Moscow and Washington back into a confrontation, negating any so-called reset, as Russian power throughout Eurasia is a direct threat to the U.S. ability to maintain its global influence. This is how Russia has acted throughout history in order to survive. The Soviet Union did not act differently from most of the Russian empires before it, and Russia today is following the same behavioral pattern.

Geography and Empire-Building

Russia’s defining geographic characteristic is its indefensibility, which means its main strategy is to secure itself. Unlike most powerful countries, Russia’s core region, Muscovy, has no barriers to protect it and thus has been invaded several times. Because of this, throughout history Russia has expanded its geographic barriers in order to establish a redoubt and create strategic depth between the Russian core and the myriad enemies surrounding it. This means expanding to the natural barriers of the Carpathian Mountains (across Ukraine and Moldova), the Caucasus Mountains (particularly to the Lesser Caucasus, past Georgia and into Armenia) and the Tian Shan on the far side of Central Asia. The one geographic hole is the North European Plain, where Russia historically has claimed as much territory as possible (such as the Baltics, Belarus, Poland and even parts of Germany). In short, for Russia to be secure it must create some kind of empire.

There are two problems with creating an empire: the people and the economy. Because they absorb so many lands, Russian empires have faced difficulties providing for vast numbers of people and suppressing those who did not conform (especially those who were not ethnic Russians). This leads to an inherently weak economy that can never overcome the infrastructural challenges of providing for the population of a vast empire. However, this has never stopped Russia from being a major force for long periods of time, despite its economic drawbacks, because Russia often emphasizes its strong military and security apparatus more than (and sometimes at the expense of) economic development.

Maintaining a Strong State

Russian power must be measured in terms of the strength of the state and its ability to rule the people. This is not the same as the Russian government’s popularity (though former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s popularity is undeniable); it is the ability of the Russian leadership, whether czar, Communist Party or prime minister, to maintain a tight grip on society and security. This allows Moscow to divert resources from popular consumption to state security and to suppress resistance. If the government has firm control over the people, popular discontent over politics, social policies or the economy do not pose a threat to the state — certainly not in the short term.

It is when the Russian leadership loses control over the security apparatus that Russian regimes collapse. For example, when the czar lost control of the army during World War I, he lost power and the Russian empire fell apart. Under Josef Stalin, there was massive economic dysfunction and widespread discontent, but Stalin maintained firm control over both the security apparatuses and the army, which he used to deal with any hint of dissent. Economic weakness and a brutal regime eventually were accepted as the inevitable price of security and of being a strategic power.

Moscow is using the same logic and strategies today. When Putin came to power in 1999, the Russian state was broken and vulnerable to other global powers. In order to regain Russia’s stability — and eventually its place on the global stage — Putin first had to consolidate the Kremlin’s power within the country, which meant consolidating the country economically, politically and socially. This occurred after Putin reorganized and strengthened the security apparatuses, giving him greater ability to dominate the people under one political party, purge foreign influence from the economy and build a cult of personality among the people.

Putin then set his sights on a Russian empire of sorts in order to secure the country’s future. This was not a matter of ego for Putin but a national security concern derived from centuries of historic precedent.

Putin had just seen the United States encroach on the territory Russia deemed imperative to its survival: Washington helped usher most Central European states and the former Soviet Baltic states into NATO and the European Union; supported pro-Western “color revolutions” in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; set up military bases in Central Asia; and announced plans to place ballistic missile defense installations in Central Europe. To Russia, it seemed the United States was devouring its periphery to ensure that Moscow would forever remain vulnerable.

Over the past six years, Russia has pushed back to some degree against Western influence in most of its former Soviet states. One reason for this success is that the United States has been preoccupied with other issues, mostly in the Middle East and South Asia. Moreover, Washington has held the misconception that Russia will not formally attempt to re-create a kind of empire. But, as has been seen throughout history, it must.

Putin’s Plans

Putin announced in September that he would seek to return to the Russian presidency in 2012, and he has started laying out his goals for his new reign. He said Russia would formalize its relationship with former Soviet states by creating a Eurasia Union (EuU); other former Soviet states proposed the concept nearly a decade ago, but Russia is now in a position in which it can begin implementing it. Russia will begin this new iteration of a Russian empire by creating a union with former Soviet states based on Moscow’s current associations, such as the Customs Union, the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. This will allow the EuU to strategically encompass both the economic and security spheres.

The forthcoming EuU is not a re-creation of the Soviet Union. Putin understands the inherent vulnerabilities Russia would face in bearing the economic and strategic burden of taking care of so many people across nearly 9 million square miles. This was one of the Soviet Union’s greatest weaknesses: trying to control so much directly. Instead, Putin is creating a union in which Moscow would influence foreign policy and security but would not be responsible for most of the inner workings of each country. Russia simply does not have the means to support such an intensive strategy. Moscow does not feel the need to sort through Kyrgyz political theater or support Ukraine’s economy to control those countries.

The Kremlin intends to have the EuU fully formed by 2015, when Russia believes the United States will return its focus to Eurasia. Washington is wrapping up its commitments to Iraq this year and intends to end combat operations and greatly reduce forces in Afghanistan, so by 2015, the United States will have military and diplomatic attention to spare. This is also the same time period in which the U.S. ballistic missile defense installations in Central Europe will break ground. To Russia, this amounts to a U.S. and pro-U.S. front in Central Europe forming on the former Soviet (and future EuU) borders. It is the creation of a new version of the Russian empire, combined with the U.S. consolidation of influence on that empire’s periphery, that most likely will spark new hostilities between Moscow and Washington.

This could set the stage for a new version of the Cold War, though it would not be as long-lived as the previous one. Putin’s other reason for re-establishing some kind of Russian empire is that he knows the next crisis to affect Russia most likely will keep the country from ever resurging again: Russia is dying. The country’s demographics are among some of the world’s worst, having declined steadily since World War I. Its birth rates are well below death rates, and it already has more citizens in their 50s than in their teens. Russia could be a major power without a solid economy, but no country can be a global power without people. This is why Putin is attempting to strengthen and secure Russia now, before demographics weaken it. However, even taking its demographics into account, Russia will be able to sustain its current growth in power for at least another generation. This means that the next few years likely are Russia’s last great moment — one that will be marked by the country’s return as a regional empire and a new confrontation with its previous adversary, the United States.


Read more: Russia: Rebuilding an Empire While It Can | STRATFOR

Catholic League News Release

CATHOLIC LEAGUE
FOR RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL RIGHTS

KANSAS CITY STAR IS IMPLODING


November 3, 2011
Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the latest circulation figures of the Kansas City Star (the numbers are cited today by the Kansas City blog site JimmyCsays, and are taken from the Audit Bureau of Circulation):

The Star is in free fall: for the first time since before World War II, its daily circulation has fallen below 200,000 (the Sunday circulation is only about 300,000). Circulation numbers are of particular concern to newspaper advertisers—it determines the rates they are charged.

Because we believe in transparency, and because the Star purports to believe in truth in advertising, I am personally writing today to the CEO's of the Star's biggest advertisers letting them know they may be paying too much for their ads. Those advertisers are: Target; Kohl's; Best Buy; Macy's; Dick's Sporting Goods; Dillard's; Wal-Mart; Cabela's; Sears; Verizon; and Sprint.

I will also let the big advertisers know that the data will only get worse. To be specific, between the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, there are approximately 1.5 million Catholics in the Star's immediate readership area. Once they learn that the Star refused to run an ad by the Catholic League blowing the whistle on the enemies of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn, more will bail.

I am sharing the ad I wrote with all the CEO's. After all, they need to know why the Star is imploding so they can make an informed decision on where to park their advertising dollars. And since the holiday season is fast approaching, what better time to reconsider their contract with the Star. Social justice demands no less.

Contact Star publisher, Mi-Ai Parrish: mparrish@kcstar.com

To view original release go to: http://www.catholicleague.org/

Contact our director of communications about Donohue’s remarks:
Jeff Field
Phone: 212-371-3191
E-mail:
cl@catholicleague.org

Founding Fathers Quote

Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.


Charles Carroll

I Stand With Ted Cruz...

And I hope Texas does too.  As previous Republican controlled Congress' have showed us, it does us no good if the seats are not held by true Conservatives or Libertarians.  We have a chance to reclaim the Senate next year, in fact I believe we will.  For it to matter we have to elect Senators, like Ted Cruz, who will fight every day to limit government power and free up the American people to return America to prosperity.  Let's not waste this opportunity.  Please support TED CRUZ.

Ron Paul On CNBC

Dirty Energy

Anonymous vs. Zetas Amid Mexico's Cartel Violence

Anonymous vs. Zetas Amid Mexico's Cartel Violence is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By Scott Stewart

The online activist collective Anonymous posted a message on the Internet on Oct. 31 saying it would continue its campaign against Mexican criminal cartels and their government supporters despite the risks.

The message urged inexperienced activists, who might not be practicing proper online security measures, to abstain from participating. It also urged individuals associated with Anonymous in Mexico not to conduct physical pamphlet drops, participate in protests, wear or purchase Guy Fawkes masks, or use Guy Fawkes imagery in their Internet or physical-world activities. Guy Fawkes was a British Roman Catholic conspirator involved in a plot to bomb the British Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605. The British celebrate the plot’s failure as Guy Fawkes Day each Nov. 5. In modern times, the day has come to have special meaning for anarchists. Since 2006, the style of the Guy Fawkes mask used in the movie “V for Vendetta” has become something of an anarchist icon in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

It was no coincidence, then, that in an Oct. 6 video Anonymous activists set Nov. 5 as the deadline for Los Zetas to release an Anonymous associate allegedly kidnapped in Veracruz. The associate reportedly was abducted during an Anonymous leaflet campaign called “Operation Paperstorm.”

The Oct. 31 message acknowledged that the operation against Los Zetas, dubbed “Operation Cartel,” would be dangerous. It noted that some members of the collective would form a group of trusted associates to participate in a special task force to execute the operation. It asked supporters to pass information pertaining to drug trafficking to the Operation Cartel task force for publication on the Internet via a software tool developed by Anonymous that permits the anonymous passing of information.

When discussing Anonymous, it is important to remember that Anonymous is not a hierarchical organization, but rather a collective of activists. Individuals who choose to associate themselves with the collective frequently disagree over issues addressed by the collective and are free to choose which actions to support and/or participate in.

With Nov. 5 approaching, and at least some elements of Anonymous not backing down on their threats to Los Zetas, we thought it would be useful to provide some context to the present conflict between Anonymous and Los Zetas and to address some of its potential implications.

Context

The Mexican port city of Veracruz has been the epicenter of this event. Veracruz has been a busy place over the past few months in terms of Mexico’s cartel wars. The port serves as a critical transportation hub for Los Zetas narcotics smuggling. Because of this, STRATFOR has identified Veracruz as a bellwether for determining Los Zetas’ trajectory in the coming months.

In a major recent development in Veracruz, the Sinaloa cartel began an offensive into the Zetas stronghold using the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which, under the name “Matazetas” (Spanish for “Zeta killers”), conducted high-profile body dumps of more than 50 alleged low-level Zetas operatives on Sept. 20 and Sept. 22. On Oct. 25, Mexican marines arrested Carlos Arturo Pitalua-Carillo, also known as “El Bam Bam,” who was the Zetas’ plaza boss in Veracruz. The Zetas in Veracruz thus are feeling pressure from both the Mexican government and the CJNG.

The Anonymous Internet collective entered this dynamic in August with its activities in Veracruz. It is common knowledge that members of local, state and federal governments in Mexico support various cartel groups. In the state of Veracruz, it is generally believed that some members of the state government support Los Zetas, the dominant cartel there. In response to this corruption, some who have associated themselves with Anonymous launched Operation Paperstorm. These activists distributed leaflets throughout Veracruz denouncing the state government for supporting Los Zetas. They conducted leaflet distributions Aug. 13, Aug. 20 and Aug. 29. They also released videos on the Internet on Aug. 26 and Aug. 29 condemning the Veracruz state government.

Activities outside Veracruz also played a part in setting the stage. On Sept. 13, the bodies of two people who had been tortured and killed were hung from a pedestrian overpass in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. Signs left with the bodies said Los Zetas had killed the pair because they had posted information pertaining to the Zetas on blogs that specialize in reporting on the Mexican cartels. On Sept. 26, the decapitated body of Marisol Macias Castaneda was found in a park in Nuevo Laredo. Macias, who worked for a local newspaper, allegedly posted on cartel blogs using the nickname “Laredo Girl.” A message found with her body said the Zetas killed her due to her online activities.

Following the death of Laredo Girl, Anonymous claimed responsibility for a distributed denial of service attack against the official website of the state of Veracruz. Although her murder occurred outside of the state, Anonymous said its attack on the Veracruz website was in response to Laredo Girl’s death. This indicates that activists understand that Los Zetas are active in both areas and suggests that Veracruz state-based activists are driving the Anonymous campaign against Los Zetas.

Significantly, some individuals associated with Anonymous already were unhappy with the state of Veracruz over its decision to prosecute two individuals who had posted kidnapping reports on Twitter on Aug. 25 that proved false. According to the reports, a group of children had been abducted from a Veracruz school. The inaccurate reports allegedly caused some two dozen traffic accidents as terrified parents rushed to the school to check on their children. The so-called Twitter terrorists initially were charged with offenses that could have carried a 30-year sentence. Some associated with Anonymous, which has absolute freedom of speech on the Internet as one of its foundational principles, took umbrage at the prospect of such stiff penalties — especially given the stark contrast with the impunity enjoyed by many cartel figures in Mexico.

STRATFOR began to focus on the story following the Oct. 6 release of the video in which Anonymous activists threatened to release information about individuals cooperating with Los Zetas if the Zetas did not release the Anonymous activist kidnapped during Operation Paperstorm. In light of the approaching Nov. 5 deadline, we published an analysis of the topic on Oct. 28; the topic subsequently received a great deal of media coverage.

This publicity has generated a very interesting response from Anonymous that emphasizes that it is a collective, not an organization. Some Anonymous activists began to back off the issue, erasing online user accounts formerly associated with the campaign, suggesting the operation against Los Zetas had been a hoax and claiming that no activist had been kidnapped. Other activists suggested that the campaign was dangerous, ill-advised and should be suspended. Still other activists became more strident and determined in their posts, urging that the campaign continue. As noted, Anonymous’ collective nature means activists can select the actions they participate in, including Operation Cartel. It would only take one dedicated individual to continue the operation.

The will to continue was manifested Oct. 29 with the hacking of the personal website of Gustavo Rosario Torres, the former attorney general of the Mexican state of Tabasco. The site was defaced with a message from Anonymous Mexico stating that Rosario is a Zeta. Rosario has long been accused in the Mexican and international media of protecting Los Zetas, and videos long have circulated on YouTube making the same charge. The hacking of his website thus did not provide any startling revelation; Anonymous will have to uncover and publish original and timely information if it hopes to do much damage to Los Zetas.

The determination by some activists to continue the operation against Los Zetas also was reflected in the tone of the Oct. 31 message. Some activists associated with Anonymous clearly feel compelled to continue with the campaign over what they have characterized as an outpouring of public support in the wake of the media coverage. According to their Oct. 31 video statement:
“We received many expressions of support and solidarity as well as the voices of people crying for help. We must remember that we are on the side of the people, and we cannot let down the people, especially in critical moments like the one they currently live in.”
We therefore anticipate that some Anonymous activists will continue the campaign. We also believe that Los Zetas will respond.

Blowback

Mexico’s various cartels long have used the Internet to trumpet their triumphs on the battlefield and to taunt and even degrade their enemies. The cartels have posted videos of the torture, execution and desecration of the corpses of rivals. They also frequently monitor narcoblogs and sometimes even post on them. As demonstrated by the September blogger killings in Nuevo Laredo, Los Zetas appear to possess at least some rudimentary capability to trace online activity to people in the physical world. They are known to employ their own team of dedicated cyber experts and to have sources within the Mexican government.

In addition to technical intelligence, the Zetas can use old-fashioned human intelligence to track down their online enemies. People sometimes discuss their online identities with family and friends, and such information can be overheard and passed to Los Zetas in return for money. This danger was recognized in the Oct. 31 video from Anonymous that urges participants in their campaign not to discuss their activities with anyone.

In past Anonymous actions, like the December 2010 attack against PayPal after the WikiLeaks scandal broke, the U.S. and British governments arrested numerous individuals associated with Anonymous who allegedly participated in the attacks. In June 2011, Turkey arrested dozens of activists associated with Anonymous actions conducted against the Turkish government in response to its plan to establish a national Internet-filtering system. This indicates that some activists associated with Anonymous are not nearly as anonymous as they would like to be. Every action on the Internet leaves some sort of trail, making it very difficult to be truly anonymous.

Like other Mexican cartels, Los Zetas do not take affronts lightly. Even if Anonymous cannot provide information that damages Los Zetas smuggling operations, the very fact that the collective has decided publicly to challenge Los Zetas will result in some sort of response. The big question is whether the Zetas possess the capability to trace the organizers of the Anonymous action?

One challenge with tracking an entity such as Anonymous is that it is intentionally amorphous. It is also as transnational as the Internet, and it would be unsurprising if many of those chosen to participate in the operation against Los Zetas are located in the United Sates, Europe and other areas that are outside the Zetas’ immediate reach.

The amorphous nature of Anonymous can also cut the other way, however. If Los Zetas abduct and execute random patrons at an Internet cafe, behead them and place Guy Fawkes masks on their heads, it will be very difficult to prove that they were not associated with Anonymous. Los Zetas also could execute random people and claim they had provided Anonymous with information in order to intimidate people from actually cooperating with Anonymous. As Anonymous noted in its Oct. 31 video, this is dangerous business indeed.

The Big Picture

How the Mexican public reacts to the Anonymous operation must be watched. The criminal cartels and their violence have deeply affected many people in Mexico’s middle and upper classes. STRATFOR talks to many people in Mexico who fear that they or a family member will be kidnapped. In many communities, especially places like Ciudad Juarez, Torreon, Monterrey and Veracruz, businessmen find themselves in a terrible bind. They face ever-increasing extortion demands from the cartels while their business revenues dwindle because the violence associated with those same cartels has frightened people into not going out. This is forcing many small businesses to close. It also is creating a great deal of frustration and resentment.

At the same time, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, and many media organizations practice heavy self-censorship to protect themselves. In the wake of the September blogger killings, some of the narcoblogs, like Blog del Narco, have exhibited strong signs of self-censorship inspired by fear. As a result, many Mexicans believe the mainstream media are not of any real assistance in the face of cartel violence.

Mexican citizens also are frustrated with their government, which, as noted, is well-known for corruption. This sentiment is feeding Anonymous’ original campaign in Veracruz. This frustration even has led some people to begin discussing the creation of vigilante groups to fight the cartels — though this has been attempted before in Mexico. As we saw in the case of La Familia Michoacana, which began as such a vigilante group, vigilantism frequently does not end well.

This is where Anonymous may fit in. With Mexican citizens unable to rely on their government, the media or even armed vigilante groups for assistance, they may embrace Anonymous, coming to view its form of cybervigilantism as an outlet for their frustration. If Anonymous is perceived as a safe way to pass information pertaining to cartel activities, we may see people from all over the country begin to share intelligence. Such human intelligence could very well prove to be far more damaging to the cartels than any information Anonymous activists can dredge up electronically. As this operation is becoming more widely publicized, the pool of people outside Mexico who might wish to participate will likely grow. The number of people inside Mexico who wish to provide information might grow as well.

Anonymous has taken on many powerful entities in the past, such as major transnational corporations and governments. But the repercussions from participating in such operations were never as grave for online activists as they are in this case. Being identified and detained by Scotland Yard or the FBI is a far different situation than being identified and detained by Los Zetas.

Read more: Anonymous vs. Zetas Amid Mexico's Cartel Violence | STRATFOR

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Founding Fathers Quote

One of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle.

James Otis