Friday, May 25, 2018

Bombing at an Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Canada wounds 15 people

The Bombay Bhel was bombed. LA Times/AP.

A bombing at an Indian restaurant in Mississauga Canada wounded fifteen people, three of them critically. LA Times. Two suspects are still at large. The men dropped off the bomb and immediately left. They were caught on camera but they covered their faces so they have not been identified. Canadian authorities have said they aren't sure if the attack is a hate crime or act of terrorism but have not ruled those possibilities out. 

My Comment:
Very dangerous situation in Canada. These suspects are on the run and could very well carry out more attacks. With the hats, hoods and jackets they were wearing they will be extremely hard to identify. There is a decent chance that it will take a long time to figure out who they are and what they want and until that happens they can strike again.

I am thinking that this is some kind of terrorist incident. Why? Well for one it was a bombing. Bombs aren't something you just make and use on a whim. It takes quite a bit of planning and hard work to make and use them. Getting the materials is difficult as well and you have to do quite a bit of research to pull it off. Still, there have been bombings for no political reason and unconnected to terror groups.

But I don't think this case is one of them. If this was a lone attacker doing this I would find that idea more plausible. Two people working together? Very likely to be terrorism. My guess is that this is some kind of terror cell.

So who are the suspects? I think Islamic terrorism is the most likely suspect. It is Ramadan and historically that has been a major time for attacks to happen. An Indian restaurant isn't that unlikely of a target, especially if the attackers are of Pakistani descent. Islamic terror groups like ISIS tend to like bombings as well, so they are a very likely suspect.

There are other possibilities as well though. Given that this was an Indian restaurant it could be some kind of supremacist group. Some people are racist against Indian people so it is possible that was the motive as well. That doesn't rule out the Islamic angle either since it could be a combination of ethnic and religious motivations.

Without anymore information all of this is speculation. Given the facts of the case it might be some time before we find out the motive of these attackers. We may find out more, as sad as it is to say, if they attack again. With so little to go on it is very possible for them to attack again.

Thankfully, this attack wasn't deadly. The bomb wasn't that powerful even though it wounded fifteen people. We might not be so lucky next time but for the time being we lucked out. Either the weapon wasn't very powerful or it was placed in a bad location. Hopefully these bombers don't learn from their mistake.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Random shooting at Oklahoma restaurant stopped by an armed civilian.

Police respond to the scene of the crime. CNN/KCRG.

A random shooting at an Oklahoma restaurant was stopped by an armed civilian. KCRG. The suspect shot two people, wounding them, before being shot and killed by an armed civilian in the parking lot at Louie's on the Lake in Oklahoma City. Another civilian suffered a broken arm trying to escape. No motive has yet been released and the identity of the attacker is unknown. 

My Comment:
As always I like to make sure that incidents of mass shootings stopped by a good person with a gun don't go under reported. As of this writing only the Washington Post is covering this story, but to be fair it just broke very recently. Still, compared to successful mass shootings, ones put down by armed civilians rarely get coverage, expect when the body count is high. 

Indeed, this incident will likely not even be counted as a mass shooting. Only two civilians were shot in the attack with another injured in a non-firearms related injury. It depends on who is recording it, but for it to count as a mass shooting either three or four people have to have been shot. It's one of those statistical tricks that people use to make defensive gun use seem less useful than it is and it needs to be pointed out whenever it happens. 

There is a huge difference in this case than the various incidents that have taken place in gun free zones. Though I am not sure if this was a gun free zone or not as some people with CCW licenses will ignore no-gun signs. My guess is that it didn't have a no guns sign and that the person armed with a pistol made the difference. Everyone remembers the Luby's Shooting in Texas back in the 1990's before CCW was allowed in the state. 23 people died in that shooting with one of the survivors furious because she couldn't carry a weapon. The difference in the two incidents is obvious. 

There isn't too much else to say about this case. We don't know the motive at this point and there isn't really much else to say besides the CCW angle. Still, I am very glad that this case ended like it did. A good guy with a gun made sure that this incident ended with only a few people hurt instead of a lot of people dead... 

After Trump cancels summit, North Korea says it is still open to a "Trump-style solution".

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on Korean TV. Reuters 

After President Trump canceled the June 12th summit in Singapore, North Korea has said they are still open to talks and a "Trump-style solution". Reuters. President Trump canceled the summit after threats from the North Korean government and harsh statements about Vice President Mike Pence. Pence compared North Korea to Libya and said that if the summit didn't happen, Kim Jong Un could end up like Momar Qadaffi, who was raped and murdered by his own people. The North Korean government said they are still open to talks. 

My Comment:
A disappointing event to be sure. It really looked like the North Korea/United States summit would happen. It very well still might, but it doesn't look like it will be happening in a couple of weeks. Things have obviously not gone well. 

So why did Trump back out? The North Koreans changed their tune. Instead of the conciliatory and respectful way they had been acting they started to attack Mike Pence and threatened to pull out of the meeting. That was signaling that they weren't taking the summit as seriously as they should. Trump wants a nuke-free Korean Peninsula and he won't settle for anything else. If the North Koreans were signaling that wouldn't happen, there was little point in meeting with Kim. 

As an aside, I don't think Mike Pence's statement about Qadaffi was a wise one. Considering what happened to him and the context the last thing we need to remind Kim of was his fate. Though such a fate is possible for Kim it is still a bad idea to remind him of what happened in Libya.

Why? Because we betrayed Qadaffi. Well, more specifically, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did. Qadaffi was a bad man, to be sure, but he gave up his weapons of mass destruction and gave up terrorism. He was doing his part to try and join the international community. And how did Obama and Clinton repay him? By bombing his country and allowing him to be raped to death. Reminding Kim Jong Un that could be his own fate if a deal is made and the next US president decides to invade is a pretty big incentive to not give up North Korea's nuclear arms. It was a dumb move but not for the reason people might think. 

I do think that the threat is being overplayed here. I don't think that diplomacy has failed quite yet. Indeed, I think that Trump's behavior is fairly predictable. In his book, Art of the Deal Trump stressed the importance of walking away when you can't get a good deal. Doing so puts you into a position of power when negotiations begin again. Put into that context, Trump's behavior here isn't surprising. I'd say it's even predictable. 

Kim Jong Un knows this. He has read Art of the Deal as Dennis Rodman, of all people, gave it to him as a gift. I am guessing the Kim will be scrambling to get back into negotiations and open up another summit. And I am betting it will happen sooner rather than later. 

This seems very obvious from the wording of their North Korean governments statement. They are already saying that they are still open to negotiation and aren't acting like they are angry. There is a very good chance that they will attempt to salvage this meeting. If the deal was over completely they would be threatening war. So far that doesn't seem to be the case. 

As for me, I am still hopeful that the meeting will happen. The other regional powers in the area are invested now and China, South Korea and Japan will be pressuring Kim to back down and rejoin the meeting. Both sides have left communication channels open and I think that there is a good chance that a deal will be eventually be made. I view this as more as a temporary setback than anything else. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

NFL changes policy and will fine teams that have players that kneel during the national anthem.

Rodger Goodell. Yahoo/AP

The NFL has changed it's rules on the national anthem so that teams will be fined if players kneel during the anthem. Yahoo Sports. Players will be given the option to skip the anthem if they choose but if they kneel during the anthem their team will be issued a fine. The individual teams could issue fines as well in addition to the league fines. The NFL owners were unanimous in the rule with all 32 teams approving or abstaining from the vote. The NFL has been under pressure from the public and President Trump to do something about kneeling players. 

My Comment:
Too little too late, as far as I am concerned. If the NFL had come up with this policy early last season when the protests really taken off, they might have preserved some of their fans. But now? The fans they have lost won't be impressed by this half measure. 

It also seems like this move is a fairly cynical one, only done because of the massive drop in ratings the NFL suffered last season. To say that the fan base was upset with the kneelers is an understatement. Many people, including myself, were furious that the NFL had been politicized over such a non-issue. 

Keep in mind the whole protest was in favor of Black Lives Matter, a protest movement based on the false narrative that young black men are shot down in cold blood by cops. In reality, such events are extremely rare and many of the cases invoked by the movement were later found out to be completely justified. And let's not forget that the movement has inspired several murders and terrorist attacks against innocent police officers. 

So not only were these football players protesting during the anthem, they were doing for a cause that many disagreed with and consider dangerous. President Trump put the spotlight onto the issue and it appears that he won out in the end. The league seemed to come together in opposition to Trump, reforming the protest a referendum on his presidency, while leaving the original cause behind. 

This, of course, angered football fans even more. It was bad enough when it was just about Black Lives Matter, but when every game turned into another two minutes hate against the Trump administration, people tuned out. Republicans were pissed at the political message while others were just sick and tired of the game turning political. Many were in both camps, including myself. 

People tuned out and the NFL was hemorrhaging money. Some advertisers backed out and viewership slipped quite a bit. It was clear that something had to be done as Vince McMahon was bringing back the XFL and there was a chance that the league would succeed just out of spite. 

Of course now the NFL has put itself in a bad position. Those of us that were angry about the protests are angry that this doesn't go far enough. Instead of firing players who kneel, they will continue to have jobs and will continue to disrespect the anthem by staying inside while it is playing. It's not going far enough. I personally don't know if I will watch the NFL next season and I have seen a lot of talk on social media that people still won't watch despite this rule change. They are either mad that this doesn't go far enough or are just so sick of the league in general they don't care what they do. 

And on the other side of the coin, the political left will be furious with this move and may even boycott the NFL as well. Though I have never though leftist NFL fans were that numerous, they do exist and if more of them drop out than the people that come back the NFL will be in even worse shape this season than they were last season. 

Of course, the players themselves may cause issues for the NFL as well. The union is furious about this and may cause consequences for the NFL. After all, the players are the product and if they aren't happy they can protest, further angering everyone or even stop working. It's a huge mess. 

In short the NFL won't win back many of their conservative fans with this measure and those that are sick of the politicization of the league won't be mollified by this move. They also risk a counter boycott movement from the left and may even piss off their players enough that they might not even play. Could the NFL have handled this any worse? I don't see how. 

The worst thing is that all of this could have been prevented if the NFL had just cracked down on the protest when they first started with Colin Kaepernick. Had they just suspended him right away, made it very clear that other players would be punished if they followed his lead and said something like "we support free speech, but there is a time and place for everything. The anthem and during games is not that time and place". Sure they would have gotten some left wing flack but it wouldn't have turned into this huge issue that we are still talking about today. 

This also has to be seen as a victory for Donald Trump. Though anger with the NFL existed long before Trump even considered running for president, he galvanized the right and made us realize that we really could do something about the way the NFL was acting. Trump used his bully pulpit to create real change in the league and he will probably gain credit for it. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

F-35 sees first combat missions in Israel.

An Israeli F-35. BBC/IDF.

The controversial F-35 has flown its first combat missions in Israel. BBC. The Chief of Israel's Air Force said that the F-35 had been in combat on "two different fronts" but didn't elaborate on which countries that could be. The F-35 has been criticized for being so expensive and has not yet served in combat for the nation that developed the fighter, the United States. Israel has 50 of the fighters and may order an additional 25. The use of the new fighter is seen as a message to Iran. 

My Comment:
I'm kind of surprised that it took this long for the F-35 to make it into combat. I guess I shouldn't be since the F-22 didn't get into combat until 2014. But given the respective role for both fighters you would think that the F-35 would have made it into combat a lot sooner. The F-22 is an air superiority fighter and wasn't needed until we got into the contested air space of Syria. The F-35 is a multi-role fighter and one of those roles, a bomb truck, would have been fine for Syria. 

I think it is fairly embarrassing for the United States that Israel was the one that used the F-35 first. We developed the fighter and paid for most of it but we haven't used it yet. And even though Israel is a close ally, they aren't Americans. Given how much the American taxpayer has paid for this plane it really should have been us that used it first. We have plenty of targets in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan we could have used. 

I'm not sure what target the F-35 hit. The Air Force chief said that they had missions on two different fronts but didn't say what those fronts were. The obvious one is Syria where Israel has conducted several major airstrikes recently. The only other place I can think of is the Palestinian territories, which given current events, makes a lot of sense. 

The F-35 is a good choice for the kind of environment that you would find in Syria. Syria has some air defenses left and their Russian allies are well equipped. The F-35's have stealth capabilities and would be able to avoid Syrian air defenses. Plus if they had tangled up with Syrian fighters they would have been able to shoot them down easily. Their most advanced fighter is the MIG-29 and I doubt their pilots would be of the same quality as the Israelis. 

Still, the criticism of the F-35 doesn't have much to do with the kind of mission they did in Syria. Most of the criticism is on the extreme cost of the plane. The rest is about how it can't seem to win dogfights when compared to even current generation fighters. Nobody disagrees that the plane can drop bombs and launch missiles but as a dogfighter the F-35 has come under criticism.  

It is good though that the F-35 finally got some combat experience. Hopefully the Israelis are nice and let us see detailed information about how the F-35 performed so we can learn from their experience. At the very least it seems that the Israeli strikes were successful as I am sure we would have heard if one was shot down or even damaged.