Friday, November 17, 2017

Iraqi forces liberate the last major ISIS controlled town, Rawah.

A file photo of the ISIS flag flying in Rawah. LA Times/AP

Iraqi forces have liberated Rawah, the last major ISIS controlled town in Iraq. LA Times. The pre-dawn assault only lasted five hours. Rawah was the last major town under control of ISIS after the border town of al-Qaim was liberated earlier this month. US forces assisted in both battles and will continue to help the Iraqis with clean up operations, with ISIS still controlling a few towns and villages in the vast western desert of Iraq. ISIS has largely been pushed out of Syria as well, but they were able to recapture the border town of Abu Kamal after Hezbollah briefly liberated the town. 

My Comment:
This was the last major holding ISIS had in Iraq and it fell in five hours. The once formidable army that raped and pillaged its way across Iraq is now nothing more than a few disorganized survivors hiding out in the desert. ISIS has largely been defeated and I am guessing that the remaining clean up operations will move quickly. Rawah was their last stand, but instead of a glorious battle, they went out with a whimper.

Indeed, the fight against ISIS in Iraq has gone much quicker than I thought it would. This is due in large part because of the massive increase in competence by the Iraqi military. This is not the army that broke and fled in Mosul back in 2014. They are now a professional, battle hardened, fighting force that is more than a match for the few remaining ISIS fighters. 

And it's not just Iraq either. Across the border in Syria, ISIS has almost been defeated. Though the declaration of victory there was obviously premature, they really only have a few patches of territory left, with Abu Kamal being the most important. Abu Kamal already fell once and it will happen again. Though the Syrian military, and their Hezbollah allies, lost it once already, it's not like ISIS has the men to win a war of attrition with them. Almost all of their soldiers have died on the battlefield and they are completely cut off from any reinforcements. 

The war in Iraqi will now move into a new phase of more traditional insurgency. ISIS as a state is gone. But as a terrorist group, it is far from defeated. They will move underground and operate like their former organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq, did. Expect more terror attacks and raids as opposed to operations where ISIS takes and holds territory. 

As for Iraq, they have to make sure that they don't fall into the same traps they did last time. After the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the rest of the insurgency, Iraq let its military fall apart and they pushed away their US ally, with a large amount of help from the militarily incompetent Barack Obama. Corruption set in to the point where they had fake soldiers drawing salaries and few of the real ones felt like fighting. They have to make sure that their military stays as professional and corruption free as it is now. That's a lot harder to do in semi-peacetime than it is during war. 

They also have to do something about the potential for Sunni and Shiite conflict. One of the reasons that ISIS was able to advance as much as they did, remember just a year or two ago it was feared that Baghdad itself could fall, is because sectarian tensions were so high. The Sunni cities and towns of the west did not trust the Shiite led government of Nuri al-Maliki and many of them greeted ISIS with open arms. Given how appalling ISIS had behaved to that point, even back then they were a pack of murdering monsters, that is really saying something about how bad things were between Sunni and Shia. And, as always, you can't expect the Saudis and Iranians to keep out of that potential tinderbox. 

We are also seeing a potential conflict erupting between the Kurds and the Iraqi government. Though the brief skirmishes have settled down, we also have to recognize that the Kurds have tasted quite a bit of freedom. Their desire for an independent homeland could cause the region to further spiral out of control.

All of these things could give ISIS an opportunity to rise from the ashes yet again. They have survived such defeats before and to give them any opening to do so again is foolish. The Iraqi government must make sure that they are ready for any regrouping of ISIS and keep their various sectarian and administrative problems under control. Because if they give ISIS a chance, you better believe that they could come back. 

And ISIS is still not defeated globally. Though ISIS is a spent force in both Iraq and Syria, they are still active in many other countries. Even though they lost their main bases in Libya, they have been regrouping their. And they have yet to be defeated in Egypt, Afghanistan, Yemen and The Philippines. Though the biggest battles may be behind us, the fight against ISIS is far from over.    

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My thoughts on Al Franken being accused of sexual abuse.

Senate picture of Al Franken. 

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that Al Franken has been accused of sexual assault by Leeann Tweeden, a news reporter and model. Franken and Tweeden were overseas with the USO and Tweeden accused Franken of two separate incidents. First, Franken allegedly forcibly kissed Tweeden over her objections. Later Franken was photographed grabbing Tweeden's breasts. More background, along with the picture of the second assault, can be found here. I don't really want to post that picture on my blog, even if it is everywhere. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Franken is guilty of something here. Without knowing the exact jurisdiction and the status of the statue of limitations, it's speculation that he could be in legal trouble. I do know that in my state groping an unconscious person is 2nd degree sexual assault, a major felony. The forced kissing would be something else, but still a crime. 

The fact that there is photographic evidence of this incident makes it impossible to defend Franken. Unlike accusations against other politicians, this one has rock solid evidence and isn't just a he said she said situation. That doesn't mean that those other situations are fake, but it does mean that people won't be able to defend Franken for his actions. Though you could potentially argue that the forced kiss didn't happen, you would be hard pressed to do so after seeing that picture. 

This is fairly disgusting behavior all around. Obviously both assaults are unacceptable behavior but the context is even worse. Leeann Tweeden was overseas entertaining the troops with the USO. Doing so is obviously a good thing and before this happened it was one of the few things I admired about Al Franken. To attack someone who is trying to help the troops is just vile. 

It doesn't seem like the accusations against Franken are over either. Melanie Morgan, a reporter, also accused Franken of stalking her and harassing her. This appears to not have been sexual though. 

So what happens to Franken? He has already apologized for the picture but denies the forced kiss. The apology probably isn't going to fly. He said that the picture was meant to be a joke, but I doubt people will see it that way. I am guessing for a normal person anyone using that excuse would be laughed at... as they were convicted for sexual assault.

I don't know if he remains a Senator. There are investigations going on but I don't see him being removed. That almost never happens and would be completely unprecedented. What happens more frequently is a resignation. He is probably being pressured already. I'd be surprised if he doesn't end up resigning and we get a new Senator over this.

What are the political implications of this? We should keep in mind that if Franken does resign, he will be replaced by Minnesota's governor, Mark Dayton, a Democrat. He will almost certainly pick another liberal Democrat to replace him, so the short term nothing much should change.

But there will be a special election. Though a blue state, Minnesota was in play during the presidential election. It's certainly possible that a Republican could win. It's not a lock either way and I think it's very possible that Democrats won't be enthusiastic to vote for a replacement for a Senator who resigned in disgrace. It will all depend on who the candidates are and who can get people to turn out.

Still, I haven't heard anything indicating that he is going to resign. Not doing so isn't unheard of but if he does stay on, I can't imagine he wins when he is up for reelection.

The whole thing has probably spawned from the Harvey Weinstein situation. People are much more likely to come forward to accuse people who did something in the past now that they are likely to believed. The incidents have now spilled over to the political world. First it was Roy Moore and now it is Al Franken.

Some people are accusing Republicans are being hypocritical by still supporting Moore while at the same time demanding Franken resign. I don't think the situations are that similar. For one thing, there is actual psychical evidence of what Franken did. Not so with Roy Moore. There is no doubt what Franken did, but we still don't know if Moore did what he was accused of, much of which is legal anyways. Also, the timing of this accusation against Franken makes it a lot less likely to be politically motivated, unlike the situation with Moore. That doesn't mean what Moore did was correct, but it also doesn't mean that he is actually guilty of anything either.

I don't think that this is the end of accusations against politicians. I doubt that Franken is alone. We already know that there is a multi-million dollar fund for paying off victims of sexual harassment. It will only take on of those victims to come forward to end someone's career.

And I think that this is probably a bipartisan issue. I won't be surprised if the next person is a Republican or a Democrat. It's also very possible that the next person to be accused could be a woman as well. Perhaps they won't all have pictures like Al Franken did, but I doubt this is the last we have heard about sexual abuse in Washington...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Journalism is dead in this country...

I admit defeat. I was attempting to write a follow up post on yesterday's topic of Trump making a major announcement today. There was a lot of speculation as to what that announcement could be, but I was completely unable to find anything illuminating out about the speech at all except for one thing. 

What is it? Well apparently Trump had to stop and get a drink of water and that is literally the only thing the media wants to talk about. Trump did make fun of Marco Rubio for doing the same thing, a very long time ago, but is that really newsworthy? 

Absolutely not. Nobody should care at all that Trump needed to take a drink. He's a human so of course he is going to get thirsty once and awhile. The whole thing is about as stupid as things could possibly be. 

But there is something worse going on here. I haven't been able to find any news articles at all from mainstream sources. Even conservative media is dropping the ball. They aren't covering the content of the speech either, they are just complaining about the fact that people are complaining about the water drinking. 

To be fair that's what I am doing as well. But in my defense, I am a non-professional blogger. I rely on the media to sum things up for me because I don't have time to actually watch Trump's speech. I don't have an hour to spare to watch his speech but I can spare a couple of minutes to read an article and then a few more to type something up. Now I can't do that. 

And it's pretty clear why. The few minor bits of information I have been able to gleam about this speech is that it was Trump touting his foreign policy wins he had on his Asia trip. I figured that was the most likely outcome and it is a major story that needs coverage. It's a good story for Trump as it's clear that his trip was momentous. 

The media, however, will never give Trump a fair shake. They won't cover the fact that he was well received by all the countries he visited. He has been warmly embraced by President Xi of China and there seems to be real progress being made on North Korea. That's a huge foreign policy win for Trump but if you listen to the media you wouldn't know that at all. 

So instead of covering the major foreign policy win, they cover the fact that he drank some water. Anyone that wants to know what Trump actually said has to either watch the speech themselves or try to gleam whatever information they can buried in these stupid water articles. The truth gets buried once again... 

It would be different if this was just a light ribbing of Trump. Had there been actual articles about what Trump had said I wouldn't mind a few articles about this. But a decent portion of these articles are so over the top that i'd say they were parodies. They are seriously arguing that Trump is disqualified from office just because he drank some water. 

At this point it can't be argued that the media isn't the enemy of the American people. Even when they aren't lying about what happened, they are doing crap like this where they cover a complete non-story in order to ignore real stories. It's just completely disgusting and I am so sick of this behavior.

EDIT: I finally found video of Trump's speech. I don't have the time to watch it now unfortunately, but I figured I should post it so others can. You know, do actual journalism.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What major announcement does President Trump have planned?

President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump posted a cryptic tweet saying that he has a major announcement to make once he returned to the United States from his Asian trip. The tweet can be seen below:

There have been very few clues about what this statement will be about, or even when it will be made, though people suspect it will be Wednesday afternoon. I haven't seen too much indicating what it could be about. There are several theories though.

The mainstream one is that Trump made some deals while in Asia and will be announcing them to the United States. Trump certainly likes to talk about deals and he seems to have had a successful Asian trip, but I am not sure this is what he is going to be talking about. Breitbart seems to think that this is what the announcement is going to be about.

I am not so sure. Though Trump's trip seems successful, I don't see anything that would justify a major announcement. He met with a lot of world leaders and may have brokered something and made some plans, I doubt it would require an announcement. Still, the safe money is on this, but what are the other options?

Fox News has raised the possibility that the announcement could be on North Korea. Trump met with all the non-North Korean players in the region and may have found a new way forward. That could be anything from further sanctions to actual war. It's possible that Trump got China, Russia, Japan or South Korea on board and may want to announce that fact to the world.

I think this is very plausible as well. North Korea had to be a major part of this trip and likely was the number one issue discussed. They are getting very close to having nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States and something will likely be done about that fact. It's very possible that Trump's announcement will be about the issue.

There are other possibilities as well. Given the strong hints that Jeff Sessions was giving it's very possible that there is going to be action on the Hillary Clinton cases. It's possible that Trump will use this announcement to expose her and/or the crimes of the Democrats.

This seems rather unlikely though. Not because action on the Clinton issue isn't coming, but because Trump really doesn't have a whole lot to do with those kinds of criminal investigations. That's Sessions show and he would be the one that would make that announcement, and he wouldn't be doing so unless arrests were being made. I guess it's possible that arrests are coming, but that would make little sense considering Sessions was just now talking about issuing a special prosecutor.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what is happening on 4chan, as stupid as that sounds. There has been a long running series of posts that reportedly come from high ranking government official with Q level clearance. Supposedly, this "Q Anon" has given info saying that a counter-coup is happening and that everything is going to be public soon.

I don't give a lot of credence to that. Even if an insider was posting on 4chan, which they have done before, any real information would be drowned out by idiocy, LARPers, filth and shills. That being said, supposedly "Q" has made some accurate predictions, but again, I doubt something so dramatic is happening.

Finally, it's possible that there was a major breakthrough with a different case, such as the Mandalay Bay shooting. If there was such a breakthrough it might warrant a statement, but I doubt that anything like that is happening. We haven't even been hinted that something will happen like that.

My guess is that it will just be a run of the mill boring statement on a trade deal. Don't get me wrong, any new trade deals will be a win for a America, but it won't be as interesting as the other options.

I think that people are, on both sides of the political spectrum, are looking for the silver bullet that will put down the other side forever. For the left it's the endless Russia speculation that will likely lead nowhere. For the right it's thinking that a Hillary Clinton prosecution will bring down the entire party. In reality, I doubt there is going to be a silver bullet. I would love for Trump's statement to be one, but I doubt it will be.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jeff Sessions may form a 2nd special counsel to investigate the Clintons.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Hill/Getty. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering forming a 2nd special counsel to investigate several Clinton family issues. The Hill. The probe could cover several different issues, including the Clinton Foundation, the Uranium One scandal, the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server and the Obama unmasking scandal. The Justice Department is already looking into these issues and more and may set up prosecution. The 2nd special council will have a different mandate from Robert Mueller's special counsel which has focused on supposed election interference. 

My Comment:
Very big news if true. And news that is likely to boost the opinions of both Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. One of Trump supporters biggest complaints was that nothing was being done about these obvious stories of corruption and graft. Sessions went from being one of the most beloved of Trump's supporters to being one of the most disliked. Finally doing something will silence Session's biggest critics. And it will of course help Trump as well. One of his campaign promises was to "Lock Her Up". 

Why is a 2nd special counsel necessary? Well, Muller's only covers election interference. Though a special counsel can go outside of their mandate, see Paul Manafort, the Clinton and Obama administration scandals are pretty far away from his mandate. Even though Muller's investigation trended towards Clinton lackeys like John and Tony Podesta it seems that the major players aren't going down from that investigation.

A 2nd special counsel would be able to investigate these scandals. And they are all huge scandals. The Clinton Foundation was basically a giant money laundering and corruption scheme and needs to be broken up. The Uranium One scandal is a huge deal and James Comey did some pretty shady stuff as well. Worst of all was the Obama unmasking scandal that violated Trump and his family's civil rights. 

Still, we should temper our hopes. I think that we can't assume that everyone is going to go down. Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton will almost certainly be spared. It would be unprecedented to arrest a former president and I doubt that Trump would want to sully the name of the office of President by sending two of them to prison. Much like Ford pardoned Nixon, I think that Trump will give the former POTUS's a pass. 

Other people won't be so lucky. It would be very unlikely that Hillary Clinton doesn't at least get charged with something. It might be a slap on the wrist and she probably won't serve any time but I expect her to get charged and plead guilty to something. 

James Comey is likely going down as well. His handling of the Clinton e-mail scandal was, by all accounts, horrible. It might even have been criminal and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets charged too. I also expect quite a number of Obama administration and Democratic workers to go down as well. 

I am almost expecting a big announcement tomorrow when Trump returns from Asia. There have been rumors flying for awhile now that there would be an earth shaking announcement from Trump on criminal prosecution of high ranking Democrat officials. A lot has been made of the high number of sealed indictments in Federal Court and people are trying to connect the dots. This statement from Sessions isn't quite there but it does give credence to those rumors. Time will tell if those rumors are true or not.