Saturday, September 23, 2017

A few thoughts about the NFL, Donald Trump and the anthem protests.

Colin Kaepernick in 2013. Daniel Hartwig.

The NFL anthem protest movement has made the news again, largely because of Donald Trump. During a speech last night for US Senate candidate Luther Strange, Donald Trump said that NFL owners should fire anthem protesters. Obviously, that has exploded into a wider counter protest with many people calling for boycotts. 

What are my thoughts on this? Well for one, I think Trump is pretty much correct. Trump's main argument is that these anthem protests have been a huge ratings disaster for the NFL. This has been backed up by several surveys that say that the main reason people aren't watching is because of the anthem protest movement started by Colin Kapernick, who is now so toxic that he hasn't been hired even as a backup. 

I personally watched less football last season because of the anthem protests. Though I watched most of the regular season, I skipped out on most of the playoffs and when the Superbowl happened, I took an overtime shift instead of watching it. I had even considered bailing on fantasy football this season even thought I have played the game for about a decade. Ultimately, I decided to stay in, not because of the NFL, but because I didn't want to disappoint the other people in the league. My passion for the sport itself has dwindled considerably. 

Why? Well, for one I don't like seeing people disrespect the flag and the national anthem. I never liked watching the anthems anyways because I always felt that the NFL players didn't take it seriously except in the short period right after 9/11. But seeing people actively disrespect it, by taking a knee, as opposed to passively doing so, by scratching their ass or spitting, is too is a bridge to far. The anthem means something to me and I hate seeing people hate my country. So even when I did watch the NFL the past two seasons, I never watched the anthem anymore just on the chance of some idiot protesting it. I didn't want to give them any attention whatsoever and didn't want to get myself worked up. 

The other main problem I have is that these people have no reason to protest whatsoever. The anthem protesters seem to be an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement, who I consider a racist separatist group. Their only goal seems to be to make this better for black people somehow by making it legal for them to kill cops and commit crime with no consequences. If they were protesting a more just cause, like black on black violence or drug use, then they would have gotten a better reception. But as it stands right now what we have is a racist movement disrespecting the anthem. 

Plus, millionaire athletes are about the most privileged and spoiled people on earth. There have been so many cases, OJ Simpson being the most prominent case, where the cops and justice system went easy on NFL players just because they could play ball. They are not the people getting a hard time from the cops at all.   

Finally, I am sick and tired of seeing the NFL being politicized. As someone who spends quite a bit of time on politics, I like to watch football to unwind and not think about things for awhile. The last thing I want is to be reminded of politics while watching football. It was one of the few things that I could use to escape the culture wars for awhile. 

But the NFL has been hyping the politicization. They always seem to focus on the protesters when they take a knee and they allow the sports media to talk about almost nothing else. What they should do is what they do when some idiot runs onto the field. Cut the video feeds and let the talking heads talk about something else. Don't give the protesters any attention. The fact that they don't shows me that something else is going on. 

So what, exactly, is the NFL doing? I think that they are attempting to expand who watches the NFL. Instead of just focusing on their core demographics, ie white males, they want to expand to other groups, most importantly white females. Their reasoning is that white females spend way more money and can be influenced by advertisers, so by expanding to them they can raise the rates on their adds. They seem to be doing this by trying to focus on narratives, and not the sports themselves. They think that by focusing on the protest story, they can get women and other minority groups to tune in. That's probably considered sexist and if it got out it would probably turn off women who actually watch football for the game (ie most of them who watch), hurting their ratings even more. 

By doing so I don't think they have helped their ratings any at all because the kind of person that wants to see idiots like Colin Kaepernick aren't going to want to see the rest of the game. And they have alienated their key audience who otherwise would have stood by them through pretty much anything. In short this was always a terrible business move and if the NFL had been smart, they would have nipped it in the bud last year. They seemed to have righted the ship after Colin Kaepernick was essentially kicked out of the league, but now the issue has been brought right back to the spotlight. Is that fair? Probably, since there were still a few protests going on, but it's got to be about the worst case scenario for the NFL.  

As for Trump, I see this as a very powerful political move. The anthem protest is extremely unpopular among his base and we have been waiting for leadership on the issue. It's about the lowest of low hanging fruit that a Republican politician could go for. His supporters love him for this and it doesn't come at much cost. Unlike the NFL, he realizes that the only people that will disagree with him on the issue are people that already hate him so it's a win win all around. 

Trump also understands that by stirring the pot here, he will force yet another overreaction, not only from the NFL but from the left as well. He knows that there will probably be more players protesting which will cause more people to tune out. He also knows that the sports journalism world will turn on him as well, which fits into his anti-media narrative. The only thing worse than a spoiled athlete taking a knee is an overpaid and under-talented sports journalist complaining about something outside of sports. 

I also think that this has a lot to do with the Alabama primary between Luther Strange and Roy Moore. Trump has backed Strange due to his loyalty but he has fallen in the polls behind Roy Moore thanks to Breitbart and other groups bashing Strange. By making this statement at a Strange rally he is going to get a lot more attention to Strange's election run. It might not be enough to get "Big Luther" elected, but it might help. 

As for me, I think I will probably be "taking a knee" on the NFL this weekend. I really don't want to give any player that does this anymore attention than they have already gotten. And I want to send a message to the NFL that no matter what else they do, if they let people disrespect our anthem I don't want to watch them anymore. If after this weekend things return to normal, I will watch again, but if not, I can find other things to do with my time. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Newly released video shows shoot down of Syrian SU-22 by US F-18's

Syrian SU-22 before being shot down. Via The Aviationist

The Pentagon has released video of this summers shootdown of a Syrian SU-22 by a US F-18 hornet. The video shows the jet being hit by an AIM 120 AMRAAM and being destroyed. 

My Comment:
A very extensive commentary on this incident can be found here via The Drive. It's a very good round up of why this incident played out the way it did and how we ended up destroying that SU-22. It was the first air to air kill for the United States since the first Iraq War and a critical part of the history of the Syrian Civil War. 

Not much else to say on this one other than the fact that this incident was quickly forgotten. At the time people were worried that this incident would spawn a greater conflict between the United States and Syria with it perhaps spiraling to a larger conflict with Russia. That obviously didn't happen because cooler heads prevailed and we quickly set up more "deconfliction" lines to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. I sincerely hope that this incident was a "one off" thing and we won't have to shoot anything else down in Syria. 

Given the circumstances of the shootdown, I don't fault the actions of the F-18 pilots. They had little choice but to shoot down this SU-22. It was refusing the back down even after being repeatedly warned. Still, I wish we could have avoided this particular incident... 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Iraqi forces have launched an offensive on Hiwija one of the last cities controlled by ISIS.

An Iraqi tank battling ISIS. BBC/AFP.

Iraqi forces have launched an offensive on Hiwija, one of the last areas ISIS controls in the country. BBC. The small city is located north of Baghdad and is the only part of the country that ISIS controls except for the western deserts. Those desert holdouts are also under attack as well with the town of Ana already falling to Iraqi forces. Hiwija has long been a stronghold for Sunni insurgents for more than a decade but ISIS forces have been cut off from the main ISIS force for a year. 

My Comment:
The fight against ISIS in Iraq is in its final phase. Hiwija is about the last major outpost ISIS has in Iraq. Other than that, ISIS only controls some of the border outposts next to Syria. They have been pushed out of their major strongholds, including their former de-facto capital of Mosul. Soon, they will have nothing left at all. 

I am expecting that the battle for Hiwija to be fast. Mosul did not last anywhere near as long as I thought and the battle for Tal-Afar went even quicker. Considering Hiwija has been cut off from other ISIS forces for more than a year, they have to be running low on morale and supplies. I expect them to fold quickly. I think we are past the point of months long drawn out battles with ISIS. They are just too weak these days. 

That doesn't mean I expect them not to fight. I doubt many of these ISIS fighters are considering surrendering. Many of them are true believers and think that death in battle is their ticket to paradise. Some of them might be foreign fighters who understand that they can't go home again. Others may fear, quite correctly, that some of the Shiite fighters arrayed against them will show them no mercy. Either way, I expect most of the fighters in Hiwija to die. 

The BBC post made a big deal about all the civilians left in the Hiwija area. I am not too concerned. As I have said many times before, one of the reasons why ISIS is falling so quickly is the fact that we aren't so terrified of inflicting civilian casualties. I have said for months now that it is better to inflict a few civilian casualties now so the war doesn't last quite as long and so far I have been proven correct. 

The big question now is what happens after Iraq is fully liberated. Given the fast pace of battles and the almost total collapse of ISIS, I expect that to happen before the end of this year, with only a few holdouts remaining. ISIS will still exist in Iraq but they won't hold much in the way of territory. They won't be anywhere near the force they once were. 

So what is the future of ISIS in Iraq? I am guessing the survivors will either flee to Syria or revert to the guerrilla force they were before they started taking territory. Instead of trying to take and hold territory, they will try to commit terror attacks, much like they do throughout the rest of the world. They will still be a major threat but Iraq itself should be much safer. There will still be commando raids and suicide bombings, but I doubt they will be able to recover as an actual fighting force. 

As for Iraq, they will have to remain vigilant against ISIS and, more importantly, make sure that sectarian divisions don't undo the progress they have made. There is already tensions over Kurdish independence and though Sunni-Shia relations have improved, there are still many raw wounds there. I hope that Iraq can rise to the challenge and remain a stable and prosperous country, but we will have to wait and see...  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane Maria devastates the island of Puerto Rico

Rescue workers help someone effected by the storm in Puerto Rico. NBC/Reuters. 

Hurricane Maria has devastated the island of Puerto Rico. NBC News. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm with winds up to 155 mph, but has now weakened to a category 2 storm. Puerto Rico suffered severe damage and power has been knocked out for the majority of the island. There is a chance that parts of the island will be without power for up to six months. The hurricane also devastated the US Virgin Islands, which were also severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. 

My Comment:
This has been a devastating Atlantic Hurricane season, and it isn't over yet. The United States alone has been hit by three major hurricanes, all of which have been hugely powerful storms. First there was the slow moving Hurricane Harvey, that dumped massive amounts of rain onto Texas. Then there was Hurricane Irma that devastated the Caribbean and Florida. Now we have Maria greatly damaging Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. 

This has been a devastating blow to the United States. We have been relatively lucky in terms of storms. The last major one to hit was Superstorm Sandy. Before that it was Katrina and for the most part we didn't have many storms. Though we have a long history of hurricanes, we got pretty lucky during the Obama years when it came to Hurricanes. 

That run of luck has officially ended. Having three storms hit us in a row is an extreme amount of bad luck. It's also fairly unprecedented. So far Maria has just hit our island territories but our resources have already been stretched thin by the other two hurricanes. 

I also fear that Puerto Rico isn't going to be able to handle this storm. They are already an economic basket case. There was fear for awhile that they would go completely bankrupt. And that was before the whole island was inundated by this storm. They are going to need a whole lot of help, but I fear that most Americans won't care as much about our overseas territory as they do about Texas and Florida. The federal government is going to have to step in and help quite a bit. 

The US Virgin Islands have been devastated as well. In Hurricane Maria, the more southern island, St. Croix, was spared. This time they were not so lucky. Again, I worry that our overseas territories won't get as much support as the rest of the country that have been effected by these storms. On the other hand, the US Virgin Islands is a popular tourist destination so many people know about it and like it. The people I know that have visited have all said it's a great place and many of them are helping out. 

Still, I am wondering how much more we can take in terms of these storms before it starts hurting us economically. We have been in the middle of a fairly good economic recovery but if we keep getting damaged by these storms it could stop that in it's track. Gas prices are already up and the money that is going to this storm recovery is money that could be going to other things. 

Of course, when there is a major disaster like this, we need the government to step in. They have done a good job with the Harvey and Irma recovery operations and I have faith that they will do the same thing with Maria. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Report: Donald Trump prevented a war between UAE/Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

President Donald Trump. Bloomberg. 

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates considered military action until President Donald Trump called them and told them to back off. Bloomberg. The Saudi and UAE leaders wanted regime change in Qatar due to the countries support of terrorism and relationship with Iran. Trump warned the leaders that regime change in Qatar would destabilize the region and would only help Iran. Trump has called for a political solution to the dispute. Both the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE dispute that military action was ever considered. 

My Comment:
Huge news if true. The problem is that the Bloomberg report only relies on anonymous sources. Though the report cites multiple sources, those sources are still anonymous and can't be vetted by the public. During the Trump administration there has been a real problem with fake news reports relying only on anonymous sources, so I would take this report with a grain of salt. 

However, I do think that this does have a chance of being true. For one thing, it is a rare positive story about the Trump administration at a time when those are basically non-existent in the United States media. The leaks that have plagued the White House have mostly been negative and I doubt the leakers would leak something that paints the administration in a positive light. 

I also recall quite a bit of hand wringing a few months back over Qatar and the fear that a war was possible. There were a lot of troop movements on both sides. Turkey was sending troops to back up the Qataris and there was a real fear that war would break out. People were extremely concerned what was going to happen to the US troops that were stationed in Qatar. The fear of war was real at the very least. 

A war between Qatar and the Gulf States would have been a complete disaster. At the very least the entire region would be completely disrupted. There would have been massive casualties. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all have modern advanced military's with top of the line US military equipment. It would have been a war like no other in recent history. 

And Trump was right, the only people that would benefit from the war would be Iran Sure, they would lose their interest in Qatar but most of their enemies in the region would be devastated by the war. It would also help their support of the Houthi rebels in Yemen as the UAE and Saudis would almost certainly have to pull out troops to fight in Qatar. 

A war in Qatar would have also disrupted relations with Turkey for pretty much everyone involved. Turkey was deploying troops to Qatar and would have likely joined their side. That would expand the war to a regional level and would put the United States in a very awkward position where two of their allies were fighting each other. We would probably have to choose one over the other and that would again only benefit Iran. Choosing the Saudis would greatly disrupt our efforts against ISIS in Syria and Iraq and choosing the Turks would essentially break our relations with every other Arab state that isn't Qatar and Turkey. It was a lose-lose situation all around. 

There would have been massive economic consequences as well. Any war would greatly disrupt oil production which would raise prices across the world. This would have a massive effect globally and could start a rescission. 

Avoiding the war was a key goal for America and if this report is true than Donald Trump deserves a lot of credit. A weaker president would have caved to the demands of the Saudis and UAE but Trump did not. Will Trump get credit for that? Of course not. The official media narrative is that Trump is the bad guy and that anything he does is evil, even avoiding a war. He will get zero credit for preventing this war...