Sunday, February 18, 2018

Five killed and five wounded in ISIS terror attack in Russia.

Doctors visit one of the victims of the attack. BBC/EPA.

Five women were killed and five people were injured during an ISIS terror attack in Dagestan, Russia. BBC. The attack targeted people as they were leaving a church service and the attacker, a 22 year old named Khalil Khalilov was shot and killed. ISIS has taken credit for this attack. ISIS's Caucasus Province has conducted several major terrorist attacks. Though ISIS hasn't proven the attack was committed by one of their members, the suspect screamed "Allah Akbar" and targeted Christians. The attacker was armed with a rifle and knife. 

My Comment:
Horrible story out of Russia and one that isn't getting the attention it deserves. Too many narratives the media doesn't want out there. An Islamic attack on Christian worshipers. A mass shooting in a country with stricter gun control. A story that gives sympathy for Russian citizens. All of that means that this story is going to be a footnote for western media. 

Sadly though this kind of attack has been fairly common. ISIS has long targeted Christians for murder. They essentially eliminated the Christians communities in Iraq and Syria that existed in areas they took over. Christians were either made to flee, executed or made 2nd class citizens paying a harsh tax in areas ISIS controlled. 

ISIS has also targeted Christians in terror attacks. The most notable one that I remember is when they executed an 85 year old Catholic priest in France. Jacques Hamel ended up being a martyr for his religion and it looks like these five women in Russia have become martyrs as well. 

Why does ISIS target Christians? It's in the Koran. Though Islam considers Christians to be worshiping the same God they are, it is also said that Christians need to be subserviant to Muslims and have to be humbled by paying a tax. Those that don't are considered targets. Not all Muslims believe this or bother trying to enforce it, but ISIS does. 

This is one of the few major ISIS attacks we have had lately. We seem to have seen a major drop in the frequency and severity of attacks committed by ISIS. In the past it seemed like we were having weekly or even daily attacks at a pace that was horrifying. It got to the point where if we had a whole week without a terror attack it was somewhat surprising. 

That has obviously changed now. And it's pretty clear why as well. ISIS has lost their major bases in Iraq and Syria and are now down to a sliver of territory in both countries. They no longer have a major base to stage attacks out of and that has made a world of difference. 

But we also have to realize that even though ISIS has largely been defeated on the battlefield, this attack proves that they are still a threat. They have a lot of supporters left and several affiliated provinces that are still fighting. As long as those things are true we should expect further attacks... 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Polling indicates that 29% of people thought an armed revolution could be necessary to protect civil rights.

A picture of my handgun just because I needed a picture to go with this post.

In the aftermath of the Florida school shooting I have been involved in several discussions about what the political ramifications of gun control might be. People seemed shocked and confused when I said that gun confiscation would likely lead to civil war. I am honestly shocked and confused that people don't understand this to be true. 

This is an old link but the polling indicates that about 30% of people thought that an armed revolution might be necessary to prevent the loss of certain liberties (ie gun rights). Actual opinion is likely much higher due to the fact that people understand saying yes to that question could be risky.  Data was from 2013, right after Sandy Hook, but helps explain why gun control consistently fails.  I would be very interested in more recent polling on this but it seems the question doesn't get asked very often.

Anecdotally it always seemed universal that the gun owners I have spoken to about it would resist an Australia style gun confiscation with non-compliance and violence. This really isn't controversial in the gun rights community, everyone understands that if such a thing were to happen it would be a bloodbath for everyone involved. At the very least people would not comply to these gun laws and at worst it would be war.

Indeed, there are several jokes and sayings in the gun community that indicate that compliance is not something that will happen. Here's a few of them:

"From my cold dead hands"
"If it's time to bury your guns in the back yard so the government doesn't take them, it's actually time to dig them back up"
"If they ever come for my guns I will just tell them I lost them in a tragic 'boating accident'"

And so on and so forth.

We can also see that in states with restrictive gun control many thousands of people did not comply with restrictive gun laws. For the New York SAFE act, which required registration of "assault weapons" only about 25,000 guns were registered, a compliance rate of 4% if the estimate of 1 million of those rifles in New York is correct. And this was for a law that simply registered a gun, not one that turned them in.

As for violence, things seem a little less clear. Current gun laws haven't been opposed with violence, thankfully, but the newer laws have been mostly mild and the enforcement has been lax. The polling from 2013 indicated that about 1/3rd of people would go to war over civil rights, which include gun rights, but I don't have more recent data. I would assume that number would have gone up on both sides of the political spectrum due to the political climate. Certainly though I doubt the views of gun rights supporters have changed, though other groups have probably joined them for other reasons. Support and dislike of President Trump would, in my mind, make the number of people who answered the question in the affirmative go up.

All that being said I should point out that I personally don't want any of this to happen. A 2nd American Civil War would be horrible even though I think that the side I am de facto on would win. Generally speaking even if I didn't anything but sit in my apartment if a war broke out over gun rights I would be forced into it due to my outspoken support of gun rights, even if I didn't want the war to happen and didn't support it. Do I think it would be justified if it ever came to it? Almost certainly, but just because something is justified doesn't mean I want it to happen. Especially since I think my own chances of survival in such a war are low to say the least.

Such a war would be unlike any other in American history and would likely be more like the Syrian Civil War than the first American Civil War. Large bands of insurgents out in the countrysides, every other country in the world sending in supplies and possibly troops, grinding and destructive warfare, starvation and horrible treatment of civilians. All of that would likely happen here if a war were to break out. Which is a major reason why I would like to avoid it if all possible.

"But only 30% of people would support a revolution and only 44% of them are Republicans! Doesn't that mean that a lot of people wouldn't fight?". This may be true but probably irrelevant. If 15% of the population rises up in revolution, they will drag a lot of the rest with them. People will fight after being infuriated by the heavy handed tactics the government would have to use to suppress that 15%. Plus the demographics of that 15% would heavily skew towards former and current soldiers and police, who are the very people you would need in a civil war. In short, even if the polling is right, and I continue to think the numbers are too low, there would be enough people to cause a huge conflict that would kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Deep down I think that the Democratic Party understands that and this is a reason why despite having control over all three branches of government no serious push on gun confiscation has happened. Sure they are trying to do it on a state level and are having some success passing laws that aren't being followed or even enforced, but nationally gun control is dead and I am sure fear of armed revolution is a major reason why.

For this reason I think that no new major gun control laws are likely on the federal level for the foreseeable future. As long as millions of Americans are willing to go to war to support the cause of gun rights, an Australia-style gun confiscation will not happen.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Twin brothers arrested for terror plot and using children to help make the bombs.

Christian Toro (left) and his brother Tyler Toro were both arrested on terror charges. Facebook capture. 

Twin brothers have been arrested in New York on terror charges after they were discovered using children to help make bombs. Fox News/AP. Christian and Tyler Toro were arrested on terror plots and allegedly hired two children to dismantle fireworks at $50 an hour. Toro was a teacher and the children were students. The case grew out of a threat made to the school last December. 30 pounds of chemicals, bomb making instructions and a diary written by Tyler  threatening attacks were also found. Christian allegedly wrote a note that said “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror.” Christian Toro has also been arrested for statutory rape for having sex with a minor. 

My Comment:
Good on everyone involved for stopping this before it could happen. We have all seen what can happen when people don't speak up or when law enforcement lets someone slip through the cracks. Unlike what happened in Florida, this case was stopped before any lives were lost. We should all be thankful for that.

This plot was fairly disgusting. Not only would it have targeted children, it used children as bomb-makers. Plus Christian was a teacher who was apparently plotting to kill his charges. There isn't much lower than that. Using children as bomb makers puts them at risk and makes them unwitting accomplices in murder. Imagine how badly these kids would feel if they found out that their efforts were used to kill their classmates, assuming that they were going to be spared themselves. Of course since Christian was apparently the kind of guy that would have sex with a child, he probably didn't care at all. This kind of thing is certainly horrible but it is becoming even more common...

It seems likely that if the police and FBI hadn't disrupted this plot, it would have gone off. That doesn't necessarily mean people would have died, we have all seen idiot terrorists fail at plots, but there was a great risk of death and destruction. Getting the supplies is the most difficult part of building a bomb and they already had that part covered. Making a bomb that works is a bit harder but they could have done a few dry runs before they tried it so they could perfect their designs.

There hasn't been anything released about the motive of these men. They look to me that they could be middle eastern but even if that's true that doesn't necessarily mean that this was an ISIS or al-Qaeda inspired plot. It could very well be just a lone nut like the guy in Florida. It might have been a guy that just really hated the kids that he had to teach. Any of these are possible at this point.

I will say that the method of attack really resembles a plot inspired by Islamic terrorism, even if they aren't middle eastern. ISIS and other Islamic terrorists have long advocated using pressure cooker bombs using fireworks as the explosive and it seems like the Toro brothers had bomb making instructions, which are usually found on radical Islamic websites.

Generally speaking, bombings are a lot more likely to be politically motivated. I've mentioned before that these kinds of attacks are basically memes. The lone loser who's mad about not getting laid shoots up a school. A guy planting bombs is sending a different message and that one is "I'm an Islamic terrorist". That being said, without evidence that this is an Islamic terror plot, this is all speculation.

I will say that some of this story doesn't make sense. Why on earth would the Toro brothers threaten the very school they were plotting to attack? That just draws attention to their plot and could blow the whole thing, which it seems to have done so. If they did do this than they are very stupid terrorists and those are the best kind. It's also possible that someone else made the threat and the police just got lucky by discovering this plot.

It's not often that I agree with New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio but I do think he is right with his comments about doing something if you see someone acting strangely. We need to take threats seriously and report them when they come. Even if it means people call you a racist. Better to be called a racist than let a bombing or mass shooting happen. We can't afford political correctness when it comes to these kinds of thing. What color of skin someone has or what religion they follow shouldn't matter but what they are planning absolutely does.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mass shooting targets school in Florida.

The suspect (red shirt) being led away by police. Reuters/WSVN.

A mass shooting at a school in Parkland Florida has left 17 dead and many wounded. Reuters. The attack began shortly before school released. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was allegedly armed with a rifle, gas mask and smoke grenades and pulled the fire alarm during the attack. Cruz was expelled from the school for unknown reasons and was a member of the ROTC. Cruz was unpopular at school and was supposedly obsessed with weapons. 

My Comment:
There is a lot of speculation about this man's motives. I won't go into too much but he has been accused of everything ranging from a member of antifa, an ISIS sympathizer or a alt-right supporter. So far none of those accusations have been backed by actual proof. There are social media accounts on there but none of them have anything like a manifesto so unless he tells the cops why he did this, we aren't going to know for awhile. Either way, I don't think anyone should be scoring political points off of this. As of this writing no motive has been released. 

I personally don't see this as being politically motivated. You don't attack your old school on Valentines Day because you want to make a political statement. You do it because you are pissed at your old school or your teachers or your former classmates. My guess is this guy was just pissed off, not a terrorist. Given the date chosen it's possible that this was due to woman problems but I doubt it was because it was Ash Wednesday though. 

Furthermore, this doesn't have the hallmarks of a terror attack. Most terror attacks come with a claim of responsibility or a release a manifesto or something. This guy did none of that. Indeed, it seems very unlikely that this was a terror attack at all and is likely just a run of the mill school shooting. 

It's been quite a while since we had a traditional school shooting. Sure there are occasional incidents where someone kills themselves at school or commits a typical murder for typical reasons and just happens to do it at school. Those incidents are often included by dishonest people to try and inflate the number of actual school shootings where someone shows up to kill as many people as possible. Since Newton there really hasn't been a shooting at a public school that has had more than 10 deaths and only a couple where a large number of people were shot. 

Why has this happened? My guess is that the rise of ISIS style terror attacks has had a memetic effect. People see mass shootings as a thing that Muslim terrorists do, or, at the very least, people do for political reasons. The disgruntled loner style shooter doesn't want to be associated with that, which makes me think that this guy may have been politically motivated after all, despite what I said above. People usually seem to have a reason for these kinds of attacks these days beyond typical "i hate everyone" angst. 

It seems like there were some pretty clear warning signs about Cruz. I saw a student saying that people said to him that he would shoot up the school someday. That seems like a pretty bad idea to say to somebody regardless, but you would think if Cruz was that well known and had been expelled, he would have been on law enforcement's radar. Everyone seemed to know Cruz was a threat but nothing was done about it. 

The question is if he did anything before hand that could have been actionable. Simply being weird isn't enough to throw someone in jail. If he did anything like threaten people or any criminal behavior than something should have been done. Given that he was expelled he may have done some criminal activity and if so, someone should have thrown the book at him. If not though, there is probably nothing that could have been done. 

Of course the usual suspects are already trying to push gun control. It looks very likely that expanded gun control wouldn't have done anything to prevent this. Either he didn't do anything wrong before he committed this attack and would have passed any background checks anyways or the checks failed and expanded gun control wouldn't have done anything anyways. Almost all of these mass shooters have passed background checks or stole their guns anyways. Gun control wouldn't have helped. 

What could have helped is a good guy with a gun. The children and adults killed in this attack were unable to defend themselves due to the law. Had a teacher been carrying a gun, he or she could have stopped the attack or, at the very least, bought time for people to escape. We have seen that happen several times before, including a case in Pakistan where a hero professor armed with a pistol held off a pair of rifle wielding terrorists long enough for his students to escape. That wasn't even an option in this case and is at least part of the reason why 17 people had to die. 

It is utterly disgusting to me that we allow our most vulnerable citizens to be completely undefended. Sure their are some cops that are at schools, but the teachers themselves are unarmed. I don't think all teachers should be required to own and carry firearms, but there is no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to carry if they choose to do so. 

As for this case, I expect it to fade away from the news soon. Cruz is Hispanic and doesn't fit the profile of a suspect that the media wants to focus on. If it comes out he is some kind of white supremacist or he did it because he is racist, then we will get 24/7 coverage. But that likely isn't going to happen so I expect the media to go back to complaining about Donald Trump. After all, it's not like there wasn't a huge mass shooting in Las Vegas a short time ago that has completely fallen off of the radar. Stephan Paddock wasn't a useful tool to attack Republicans so his actions can be safely ignored. I am guessing Nikolaus Cruz will end up being in the same category... 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Slow news day

I just could not think of anything to write about today. Nothing interesting is happening. Sure, there are stories out there but most of them are either stupid, like the Rob Porter story, or about things I don't care about at all, like the Olympics. The other options are international stories that I have already covered.

On the one hand it is nice not having to write about something horrible. It's been awhile since I have covered a horrible terror attack or major battle on this blog and I am thankful for that. On the other, good times make for boring blog output. I hope tomorrow there will be something worth writing about! Or some kind of inspiration hits me!