Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weekend Movie Night: Stranger Things.

Stranger Things logo via Lowtruks

It's been a long time since I reviewed anything and I think it's time that changed. This time it's a tv series but for simplicity's sake I am just going to post it under the weekend movie night label. So what did I watch? Well the past two weekends I binge watched all eight episodes Stranger Things, the supernatural sci-fi horror Netflix Original. As always there will be spoilers in this review! I will mark when spoilers begin, so if you spoil anything it's on you!

So what is Stranger Things about? Well, it's clearly a throwback to 80's movies like ET, and Stand By Me and also showing a major influence from Stephen King. I also detected a bit of J.J. Abrams' Super 8 as well, which isn't surprising due to the fact it too is a genre throwback. As far as genre throwbacks goes I think that Stranger Things is right up there with Super 8 for the pre-teens running around doing cool stuff genre. It's a great homage and I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed those kinds of movies. 

The non-spoiler plot summary for Stranger Things goes like this. A boy goes missing in rural Indiana after hanging out with his group of friends and playing Dungeons and Dragons. The boys go looking for him and find a girl with a shaved head. The entire town goes looking for him and discover a monster, a government conspiracy and that the girl is more then what she seems. It's a good story but I can't really describe it more without spoiling it. 

The cast was quite good for the most part. The five younger children in the show did a very good job and acted the way I think children would act in this kind of situation. Hell, everyone acted fairly well. My only complaint is that one of the shows stars, Winona Rider, was rather annoying. Don't get me wrong, she played her role well, it was just that her character was kind of annoying. I think she was supposed to be though considering what she was going through. 

Stranger Things had decent enough special effects for a Netflix Original. They weren't spectacular or anything but I have seen way worse. They made the most of what they had though because they followed the example of Jaws. Not showing the monster makes it way more scarier, and they did that quite a bit throughout the show. The show wasn't truly horrifying but it did spook me a little bit. 

All and all I have to recommend it. If you were on the fence about watching it, I say go for it. The only people that won't like the show are people that hate horror or sci-fi. It's not perfect but if you are anything like me you will watch an episode or two and get hooked. 


I loved how the kids interacted with each other in this show. They seemed like real kids, and I appreciate that they were a bunch of nerds. I never played Dungeons and Dragons when I grew up but I was a bit of a nerd myself, so I could relate. Plus I loved how 80's the parenting was in this show. All those kids were running around without supervision and getting into trouble. That's how I grew up and it was nice to see it even if it lead to huge horrifying problems for the kids in this show. 

I don't usually like romance plots but I though the love triangle sub-plot between Nancy, Jon and Steve was well handled. In any other series Nancy and Jon would have ended up together. Steve was kind of a tool, like people named Steve often are, but he redeemed himself in the end. He actually seemed to care about Nancy more then Jon did and it legitimately seemed that they were a better match. I loved this because you never see this in media these days. It's always the brooding loner that gets with the girl, not the jerkass. Seeing it the other way around is refreshing.

As for the upside down dimension it's not really a new concept but I liked the way they handled it. Strangely enough it reminded me of the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past video game of all things. A light world and a dark world. The science of it makes some sense as well. I am sure it wouldn't pass muster if you look at it too hard but I have read actual scientific  theories that pretty much use the same ideas that Stranger Things did. That's right, there really could be another dimension all around us that we can't see or interact with. Comforting thought right? Hopefully there aren't any real monsters like the one in the show! 

There were a few things I didn't like besides Ryder's Joyce character. For one, I tend to think the government conspiracy theory angle is a bit overplayed. Though MKUltra was a real thing, it's just so overplayed. I know it comes with it being an 80's throwback but I would have liked it if there was at least one good character that worked for the federal government. 

I also thought that some of the characters we were supposed to sympathize with were total assholes. Joyce was annoying but her son Jonathon was a jerk. He left his mom to fend for herself even though it looked like she was going completely crazy. And he was pretty mean to Nancy while they were looking for his brother. He was nice to his brother of course, but still, not a nice guy. Sheriff Hopper was likable enough but he totally sold out 11 and her friends to the government. Sure, he did it to rescue Will, but it was still a dick move. 

I really enjoyed this series, but it's clear that they were setting themselves up for a second season. The end of the last episode showed Will barfing something up and returning to the upside down briefly. There is also the question of what happened to 11 and the monster. And we also didn't find out what repercussions there will be for Hopper betraying 11 in exchange for everyone's freedom Clearly they left a few plot threads hanging. I really, really hope that we get another season or two to resolve them! 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Rio Olympics seem very vunerable to terrorist attacks. Brazil fires security company that was supposed to protect the games.

A protest by police at the Rio airport. Getty/AP

The Rio Olympics security situation has gotten even worse as Brazil has fired the security company in charge only a week before the games start. AP/Daniel Tran. Brazil, citing incompetence, fired Artel, a Rio De Janeiro security firm. Artel had been charged with hiring 3,400 security officers, but they only managed to hire 500 people. These officers were going to be in charge of searches. That duty will fall onto local cops, who have been protesting due to low pay and have even gone on strike. 85,000 security personnel are still expected at the Olympics. The Rio De Janeiro security situation has been criticized not only for the massive amount of street crime in the city, but for the threat of terrorism from groups such as ISIS. 

My Comment:
This is why it was a bad idea to have the Olympics in Brazil. The country is not known for good governance and Rio is not a safe city. Even if the security situation was perfect, and it is clear that it isn't, the threat is still high for athletes and fans. This isn't like the 2012 Olympics in the UK, which also had problems, it's in a country that already isn't safe. The UK Olympics went off without a hitch, but I am not so sure that this will happen in Rio. 

I am not surprised that Artel had difficulties in hiring the 3,400 officers that they needed. Contrary to popular belief, there are some qualifications you have to meet to be a security guard. My guess is that they were having problems finding people that would work for the wages that they offered while at the same time passing a background check. It's possible thought that Artel was just incompetent. I don't know enough about Brazil to figure it out either way. 

Local police will now handle the screenings. Normally that would probably fine in a country like the United States. It would be more expensive but it would go fine. But the Rio Police are involved in a pay dispute that could even lead to strikes during the Olympics. If that happens it will be an utter disaster, as I doubt they would find enough people to replace them to do screenings. 

My guess is that the Brazilian government will have to cave to the demands of the police. The cops know that they have all the leverage here. They know that the government has no other alternatives but to use them. I guess they could use soldiers as gate guards but I don't think that will go over well. Since Brazil is probably losing money anyways, they might as well pay the police off. 

Either way this has to be a major embarrassment for the Brazilian government. Brazil was trying to increase tourism and get more people to come there but that probably isn't going to happen now. Between the terror threat, the pollution, this incident and even the threat of Zika, I don't think too many people will want to go to Brazil after this Olympics. 

Normally this security situation wouldn't be a huge deal, but with the terror threat as high as it is, this is a major problem for Brazil. Keep in mind they just broke up a major ISIS terror plot. 12 people were arrested this week for plotting to attack the Olympics. Though that cell was likely broken up, ISIS has also called for lone wolf attacks on the Olympics as well. Though Muslims only make up .6% of the population of Brazil, that still means there are more then 1,000,000 there. Not all of them are radicalized but there is a population to recruit from. 

So there is a major threat in Brazil. And the fact that they are having so many problems with getting security in hand means that there is a real possibility of an attack, which might have been prevented if Brazil was on it's game. If an attack occurs, I think it will be more likely that it will be a low scale, lone wolf attack then an organized one like the Paris attacks. Given that the Nice attack, which killed 84 people and wounded 308 more, was essentially a lone wolf attack, that doesn't mean that the threat isn't real. A deadly attack is very possible. 

I don't know if an attack will occur. I won't be surprised if one does, but if it doesn't happen I won't be surprised either. What I do know is if one does happen it will be a major change for South America. There haven't been many attacks in South America when it comes to Islamic terrorism. To this point they have been the only continent besides Antarctica which has remained free from Islamic terrorist attacks. That is going to change someday, but let's hope it isn't at the Olympics...  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be given top secret intelligence briefings next week.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Reuters. 

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be given top secret intelligence briefings next week. Reuters. Vice presidential candidates, Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence will also be briefed. Candidates typically get one briefing, which can be broken up into smaller parts. Aides and advisers will not be allowed to attend these meetings unless they have top secret authorization. Both candidates may have aides that will be barred from the briefing. Anyone involved with Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal could be barred and some of Trump's aides could be barred due to connections to Eastern Europe. The briefings are said to be general and will not reveal any ongoing operations or overseas agents. 

My Comment:
I thought I would post about this because people, on both sides of the political spectrum, are saying that these candidates are not qualified to handle secrets. There is an argument to be made for both candidates, and I will get into that later, but first I want to reassure people. On the short term, this shouldn't be much of a security issue for either of the candidates. 

The article said that none of the information would be operational or have the potential to expose agents deployed overseas. That information is critical and can not be allowed to get out and right now neither candidate will be given that information. So even if one or both candidates inexplicably blab about what they learn in these briefings, critical information can't leak out. These briefings will be top secret but I doubt they will contain the kind of information that could get people killed if it leaks. It's going to be basic stuff, but just at a slightly higher level of secrecy. 

I would also hope that both candidates understand that you don't release secrets. Even if Hillary Clinton thinks she is above the law, she can't possibly be so stupid as to risk another scandal like the ones currently rocking her campaign and party. And if Trump doesn't understand the same thing, I am sure whoever is giving these briefings will explain it to him and he will keep it under wraps. In short I have confidence that both candidates won't abuse this information or be reckless with it, to avoid scandals at the very least. 

These briefings are going to be very general as well. I expect things like how ISIS is doing in Syria, what North Korea is up too, and what is going on with Russia right now. They are most likely not going to get into the nitty gritty anytime soon. This is just to get the candidates up to speed. Remember, Clinton hasn't been in the government for a few years and Trump has never served in public office before. Both of them probably need a refresher course on world politics. 

All that being said, is there reason to be concerned, long term, with these candidates? I would say that Hillary Clinton has demonstrated, at the very least, bad judgement with her e-mail server. She had many classified e-mails on her server and those servers had been compromised. I don't know if she has actually learned her lesson. On the short term I expect her to play it clean since she knows that another intelligence scandal would sink her. She also knows that Democrats are being targeted by someone right now, and that she is especially at risk for being exposed if she doesn't play it clean.

But what happens after she is elected? I don't think she really learned anything from her e-mail scandal. She knew it was wrong but she did it anyways. I don't know if she did it for convenience or to hide something but I doubt that if she is the president she will follow the law. Indeed, I fully expect her to keep doing what she was doing, regardless of the risk. The only thing I can say in her defense is that when she was First Lady she didn't leak anything that I am aware of and the same was true when she was a Senator. 

As for Trump, much has been made of his obvious joke about the Russians providing the 30,000 e-mails deleted from Hillary Clinton's server. Though nobody is reporting it this way, it was clear to me he meant something to the effect "if you have them give them to us", not "please attack us". To argue otherwise is stupid but that hasn't stopped anyone before. People need to score their political points after all. And to be fair, it may have been planned by Trump because he pretty much stole Clinton's thunder at the convention because of the press conference where he said it. 

But there could be other reasons why Trump could be a security threat. I don't think he is anywhere near the threat that Clinton is, but he is very inexperienced. You would expect that a major businessman like Trump would understand that keeping secrets is important, which is why I am not all that worried. Still, keeping secrets is hard, and he might not have picked up on how important it is when you are the President of the United States. He may have some things to learn yet, but overall I trust him more then I trust Clinton.

No matter what though, these briefings are pretty standard, and I have to say that the idea that they represent some kind of security risk is rather dumb. It's pretty obvious that people on both sides are only hitting on this issue to hurt their political enemies. How both candidates will treat classified information is obviously very important, but I doubt that we will learn anything about that because of these briefings. I know I am biased against Clinton and for Trump, but even I admit that Clinton can handle one Top Secret briefing without it turning into a huge leak, and I would hope that deep down Trump critics would say the same thing. It should be a non-issue but in this election, nothing is. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Al-Nusra rebrands, cut ties with core al-Qaeda.

Al-Nusra fighters. Reuters. 

Al-Nusra Front has rebranded and cut all ties with al-Qaeda. Reuters. The powerful terrorist army was long al-Qaeda's affiliate in the Syrian Civil War. Al-Nusra has been designated a terrorist group by the United States. Al-Nusra made the move in order to avoid airstrikes from both the Untied States and Russia. Al-Nusra is now going to be called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. They have also gotten a new white flag to replace the black flag associated with al-Qaeda and ISIS. The break with al-Qaeda was approved by al-Qaeda's leadership. So far Russia and the United States have not announced any changes in the treatment of al-Nusra. 

My Comment:
This rebranding is pretty pathetic if I am being honest. Nobody is going to think that al-Nusra isn't a brutal terrorist organization just because they changed their name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. It's not going to stop the airstrikes against them. It's not going to change the facts on the ground. And it is not going to differentiate al-Nusra from ISIS. 

After all, ISIS spun itself off from al-Nusra. They have largely the same beliefs. The only main difference between ISIS and al-Nusra is al-Nusra can make allies, while ISIS largely fails at that. Al-Nusra has shown time and time again that they are able to work with other rebels, Jihadist or otherwise, to the point that they largely control most other rebel groups in the areas they operate. 

Will this change anything? Not really. Al-Nursa was never a typical terrorist group. Though they have conducted multiple terrorist attacks in Syria they never really expanded outside of the country. Al-Nusra, though a terrorist group, never conducted attacks outside of Syria and did not strike western targets like ISIS did. 

Does that mean they shouldn't face airstrikes? Of course not! Their ideology is largely indistinguishable from ISIS. They officially hate anyone that isn't a Sunni Muslim and even Sunni Muslims get killed if they aren't sufficiently supportive. If al-Nusra were to win in Syria it would be just as bad as if ISIS wins. They would eventually export terror. The only reason they don't do it now is because it's bad publicity.  

The good thing is that anyone that isn't Bashar al-Assad is losing right now and losing hard. Aleppo is about to fall since the city has been surrounded and cut off by government forces. Once it does fall then the rebels are broken. It won't be the end of the war by any means but it will finally be the end of any opposition group that is ostensibly acceptable to the United States.

Of course I think the so called rebel groups in Syria lost any claim to credibility a long time ago. They were losing against Assad so they hooked up with groups like al-Nusra and other Jihadists. This ensured their survival but they damned themselves for doing it. Making a deal with the devil should have consequences and that's what these rebel groups did. Al-Nusra changing it's name doesn't change that.

I wonder if the soldiers of al-Nusra will accept this change? There is a possibility that the group could split because of this announcement. Al-Nusra has split before, ending up with ISIS as a result, but it's possible that it could happen again. I also think it is possible that some fighters could leave the group for ISIS, but given the bad blood between the two groups, I don't see many taking that path. 

Either way, I doubt that al-Nusra will survive much longer, even if they are called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham now. The situation in Syria is just unsustainable for them. Once the secular rebel groups are destroyed, and trust me, that is what is happening, the Jihadist groups in Syria will be attacked much harder then they are now. And unlike ISIS, al-Nusra has nowhere to retreat to after their respective Syrian states fall. Unlike ISIS, I don't see al-Nusra returning after they have been defeated. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Why I think Donald Trump will likely win in November.

Donald Trump. Gage Skidmore. 

I think that Donald Trump is going to win in November. To the point where I am confident enough to put money on it. Not a lot of money, mind you, but money nonetheless. I just think that Hillary Clinton's campaign has fallen apart spectacularly. And Trump's campaign is no longer screwing up. Of course, both of those things could change over time but here's the reasons why I think Trump's going to win:

1. People are less afraid to vote for Trump now after the convention. The media and the Democrats (and certain elements of the Republican Party) have claimed that Trump was a racist for almost a year now so people have been afraid to support him. But now that he has officially become the candidate for a major political party, people should be less afraid to do so. His actual positions haven't changed that much, but he's got a lot more credibility now. The idea is that if he is the candidate for a major political party, he can't possibly racist, which is admittedly poor logic. It's either that or people no longer think that accusations of racism are important

He's also shifted the Overton window of acceptable ideas. Right now criticism of immigration and disgust with terrorism have moved back into the spectrum of acceptable ideas. I think the knee jerk reaction that someone is racist if they dislike immigration or want to stop Muslims from entering the country is no longer there for much of the country. 

I also think that there a lot of people that are still Trump supporters. Many who live in liberal dominated areas, like the big cities, like Trump, but are still afraid being attacked for supporting him openly. You can see this when you see the discrepancy between phone polling, where a person has to answer questions directly, and anonymous online polling. The question is how much these voters will help Trump. What we don't know is where these people are and if they will actually vote. If they do vote they could obviously help Trump win.

2. Terrorism is insane right now. ISIS seems to be pulling off terrorist attacks in Europe almost daily now. Dozens of people are dying in Europe every couple of weeks and there have been attacks throughout the world, including the Pulse shooting in Florida. 

These attacks are likely to continue. And the chances of a spectacular assault seem to be greater everyday. Most of the attacks have been lone wolves attacking on their own, but some of these attacks have killed dozens in one strike, like the Nice truck attack. There will probably be at least one more attack of that scale before the November election, possibly more, and many more attacks where lone wolves kill or wound a few people as well. Even the Olympics are at risk. An ISIS terror plot there was just broken up by Brazilian authorities, but who knows if the risk has been reduced. 

This, of course, plays into Trump's narrative. With almost daily terror attacks his call to ban Muslims from countries with active terror networks from entering the country seems a lot more reasonable. As the attacks continue, and remember they are almost daily already, more and more people will be willing to admit they like the idea. 

And Hilary Clinton doesn't seem to have any response to ISIS at all. Her response is the same one that the left has been making for years now. We just need to be more tolerant to Muslims and then they won't attack us anymore. It's pretty obvious that they are wrong about that since they have been saying the same thing since 9/11, and it hasn't worked. With no credible alternative people will support Trump's plan.

3. Wikileaks. This was a curveball that nobody saw coming. Though everyone "knew" that the DNC wanted Clinton to win over Bernie Sanders, to see absolute proof of collaboration was shocking. It also showed obvious corruption and cooperation between the media and the DNC. It's obvious corruption and a huge scandal. 

The Bernie Sanders people are angry and with good reason. Not only did their party betray them in some cases they have essentially stolen their money. Money that they donated to Sanders, in some cases a significant part of their wealth, was handed over to the DNC after Sanders left the race. They were in it for a revolution but the revolution betrayed them. Many of them will not vote for Hillary Clinton in November, and I think many of them would have if it wasn't for this leak. 

And the Democrats have handled the scandal horribly. Very few heads have rolled for this scandal. Sure Debbie Wasserman Schultz was shown the door, but in an act of utter arrogance, she was hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign immediately. Surely the Clinton campaign understood the optics of the situation. The fact that they hired Schultz on even after the scandal shows that they simply don't care how bad things look. They are going to do whatever they want, whenever they want. That is not going to play well.

It's important to note that Wikileaks is not done leaking information. Just a little while ago Wikileaks posted leaked phone messages. I haven't had time to go through those but if you would like to do so, here it is: 

Who knows what else Wikileaks has? If they continue these leaks, and they continue to paint the DNC as a corrupt and biased organization, it will hurt Hillary Clinton. Even worse for her, they could post stuff about her directly. Julian Assange has said that he has information that will lead to Hillary Clinton's arrest. Though I doubt anything at this point would lead to a Hillary Clinton arrest, even if she out and out murdered sometone, anything very juicy will hurt her chances. Assange has kept his word in the past so depending on when this stuff drops it could be enough to cost Clinton the election alone.

4. The difference between the GOP convention and the Democrats one is stark. All it took was for Ted Cruz to not endorse Donald Trump for the GOP one to be declared a disaster. That seems almost quaint compared to what has happened so far at the Democrat's convention.  

The Bernie Sanders supporters made their case that they had been betrayed. They booed every mention of Hillary Clinton, demanded that she be locked up and even walked out when their needs weren't being addressed. There were skirmishes outside the convention and it's important to note that, as of this writing, the convention still has two day to go. Who knows what else will happen? Even if nothing does, it's clear that the damage has been done.

The choice of guests has been bad as well. Besides the vapid celebrities and musical guests, there hasn't really been any superstars that will connect with non-liberals. Some of those celebrity choices have been questionable at best. Comedian Sarah Silvermen insulted Sanders supporters to their face and Lena Dunham is a controversial person at best. After all she falsely accused someone of rape and also admitted to having inappropriate contact with her sister. These people are not going to connect with the average Americans.

Worst of all was the fact that the Democrats brought in a bunch of mothers of people that were killed by cops or others. Since people like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown caused their own deaths the people that shot them were vindicated in the end, this obviously looks like pandering to Black Lives Matter. It's important to note that most people don't like BLM and even those that did are less likely to support them after the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. I can't imagine that anyone that cares about self defense or works as, or knows, a police officer is likely to vote for the Democrats this election.

I think these are four major factors as to why Hillary Clinton is likely doomed. There are others I am not covering but I also think that they don't play well for Clinton either. Things like race relations, crime, the e-mail scandal and Clinton's personality all combine to make her virtually un-electable. And I think Trump's ideas are more popular than people are willing to admit. I expect Trump to win this election by a decent margin.

What could change the outcome? Right now all I can think of is some kind of unforced error or scandal on Donald Trump's part. If he says something completely unambiguously racist that could hurt him. I think that's about it but Trump is smart enough to avoid doing so. Unless some complete curveball like the Wikileaks scandal happens, I think Trump has this in the bag.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ISIS murders a priest in France, wounds one other before being killed by French police.

A police officer reacts to the situation as he guards the scene of the crime. Reuters. 

Two ISIS attackers killed a priest and wounds one other during a hostage situation at a French Church in Normandy. Reuters. The priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was in his mid-eighties and had his throat slit during the Tuesday morning mass. Five people were held hostage by the two terrorists. France's elite anti-crime unit, the BRI, killed both of the attackers as they left the church. The attack comes on the heels of several attacks throughout Europe related to ISIS. ISIS has called on it's supporters to conduct these kinds of attacks and many of them have been successful. 

My Comment:
I'm not Catholic. Hell, I'm not very religious at all. But this attack makes my blood boil. This was an attack on the faith of millions of people, not just the murder of one man and the wounding of another person. ISIS sent a very direct message to Christians everywhere. You are not safe. You are a target because of your faith. Though anyone in Europe could be a victim, this attack shows that ISIS is targeting Christians specifically and because of their faith.
In theory, Islam is required to allow Christians (and Jews) their faith, if they pay a religious tax. Indeed, ISIS imposed the tax on Christians in Iraq and Syria. Those that did not submit were given the choice to either flee or die. Though more tolerate to Christians then they are to other religions, Christianity is seen as only a step or two better then pagan faiths to ISIS. 

But this kind of attack is nothing new. ISIS, and their Nigerian affiliate Boko Haram, have been leading genocidal campaigns against Christians and other faiths since their inception. Thousands of Christians have been killed by Muslims in recent history, so in a way this attack isn't unprecedented. It's just part of a larger pattern of the criminally under-reported attacks on Christians worldwide. 

What is new is the attack happened in Europe. As far as I am aware, I don't think there have been any attacks specifically targeting Christians in Europe in recent memory. That hasn't been the case for Jews, of course, who have faced an increase of antisemitism and several terror attacks, including  one in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks carried out by ISIS. Jews have even had to have had police guarding synagogues due to the threat level. Now it seems that churches may have the same fate... 

I'm no expert on religion, but it seems to me that Father Hamel was a martyr for his faith. He died for his beliefs, and my guess is he accepted his fate. Though martyrdom still happens throughout the world, it just seems insane to me that in 2016 it is happening in Europe. Murdering people because of their faith is one of the ultimate taboos in Europe. Especially after World War II. 

The pace of ISIS attacks is utterly horrifying right now. It's gone from monthly attacks to weekly and now is bordering on daily. It's to the point where it is hard to keep track of them all. For me it seems like the Nice attacks, which happened just 2 weeks ago have been overshadowed by the huge number of terror attacks since then. By my count it's at least five attacks since then, though the connection to ISIS isn't clear in one case and almost certainly isn't there in another. The death toll has been small but at this point does that even matter? 

Sooner or later people aren't going to tolerate it anymore. I would not be surprised that next years election in France ends up with Francois Hollande out of a job. And it's even possible that France could start to see revenge attacks from non-Muslims sick and tired of the violence. And, as unimaginable as it seems, there is even a possibility of civil war. If the government can't protect the people, then what use is the government? People have to be thinking that right now, and taken to it's logical conclusion... well no good comes from that.

Right now France and the other governments of Europe aren't protecting their people from the threat of Islamic violence. Sure, they have broken up terror rings and arrested scores of terrorists, but more are slipping through their cracks. Remember, the authorities have to be right every single time,  but the terrorists only have to be right once. With so many lone wolfs and terror cells active in France right now, it's impossible to catch them all. Drastic measures would need to be taken and even then it might not work in the end. And I don't think France would be willing to deal with the backlash for doing what would have to be done to end these attacks once and for all. Mass arrests and deportations of anyone suspected of terrorist ties would do the trick but would be a human rights nightmare and would likely be illegal. 

ISIS has really stepped up their game when it comes to terrorism. We are seeing some of the most creative attacks in history when it comes to terrorism. ISIS knows not to do something stupid that probably wouldn't work, like hijacking a plane and flying it into the Eiffel Tower. Instead they are doing these low scale attacks with one or two attackers that may not cause the casualties that the al-Qaeda style ones do, but are extremely effective at spreading terror and fear. And they are doing in low-tech, hard to prevent ways. 

How do you stop a man from renting a truck and driving it into a crowd? Or making his own bomb and blowing himself up? Or in this case walking into a church and cutting the throat of the priest during mass? Short of arming everyone in the country, including the priests, I don't think you can and even then armed citizens can only do so much. There are just too many soft targets, too few police and too many terrorists in Europe right now to stop these attacks. 

What is needed is to combat the ideology of ISIS and that seems to have completely fallen flat on it's face. The only real criticism I read for the ideology of ISIS is from a "no true Scotsman" approach. After all, Islam is a "religion of peace", according to West. Regardless if that is true or not, and I would argue against it, how is calling ISIS a bunch of fake Muslims going to convince people not to do these sort of things? These people are sure their religion is correct and are willing to kill for it. That needs to change, but how do you do it?

I think what is needed is an honest attempt at a reform movement in Islam. They need a Martin Luther writing a Muslim 95 Theses and a newer, more moderate form of Islam needs to be formed. Sure there are moderate Muslims now, but ISIS is simply disregarding their authority when it comes to faith. I almost think that Muslims need the equivalent to the New Testament, or perhaps even the Book of Mormon, to get their religion sorted out and to purge the religious inspiration for these attacks from their faith. Could it happen? Of course. Am I expecting it? Not really... 

Monday, July 25, 2016

19 killed and more wounded in a mass stabbing in Japan.

Police stand outside the center for the disabled where the stabbing occurred. Reuters. 

19 people were killed and 45 more were wounded during a mass stabbing at a center for the disabled in Sagamihara, Japan. Reuters. A 26 year old former employee named Satoshi Uematsu was arrested for the attack. The attack occurred at 2:30 AM local time and the attacker used a knife. No motive has been determined yet, but police say the suspect said he wanted to rid the world of disabled people. No connection to terrorism is suspected. Japan rarely has this kind of mass violence. 

My Comment:
Well, the summer of mass violence continues, this time in Japan. It seems like every couple of days I am writing on this blog about some kind of mass attack that leaves several people dead. Most of those attacks are terrorism related but in this case it's clearly not. This just seems like a disgruntled worker going nuts to me, and no terror links are expected to be found. 

Even though this case has no links to terrorism, I wonder if the recent attacks by ISIS and other groups doesn't have an effect. I mentioned in this mornings post that people that have no interest in Islam could be seeing these attacks and taking inspiration from them. Violence could be memetic and as news coverage spreads of mass carnage, others may be inspired to kill when they realize how easy it is. The idea that it's very simple to kill large amounts of people in a short time is more popular and common then any other time in recent history... 

And this attack sounds like it was very easy. If there is one place you would expect nobody to stop you it would be a disabled facility. Almost everyone there was probably either unable to physically defend themselves, or even run away, or were unable to comprehend what was going on. I am not sure if this center was for just the physically disabled or for mentally disabled people as well, but either group would be extremely vulnerable. I talk a lot about soft targets but this is about as soft as a target can get. These people were helpless. 

Of course attacking a bunch of people completely incapable of defending themselves is about as evil as you can get. I understand that the suspect may have been upset with disabled people. That's understandable. From what I understand, working with disabled people is a thankless, difficult, low pay and low status job. I know that is true in the United States but I am not sure what the situation is in Japan. They have a very different culture there. Still, none of that justifies an attack like this. 

I also think there are cultural reasons why the death toll is so high. I think if a similar kind of mass stabbing happened here in the United States the death toll and injuries would not be so high. My guess is that our orderlies would have fought back. Our police also have more experience with these kinds of things and would have arrived quickly and arrested or killed the attacker quickly. 

Japan just isn't used to this kind of violence. Mass attacks like this are rare in Japan. Indeed, violence of any kind is rare. They live in a high trust, low conflict society where people are polite and disgruntled people tend to kill themselves without trying to take anyone with them. As such, the Japaneses are especially vulnerable to these kinds of attacks. They don't think it can happen there, but this attack proves that it can. 

It also goes to show that these kinds of attacks can happen anywhere. I mentioned in the last post that gun control didn't stop the attacks in Germany and France. Well, Japan has even more extreme gun control then either of those countries and still Uematsu was able to kill almost 20 people. You don't need a gun to kill a lot of people. You just need a large gathering of people that aren't willing or able to fight back. 

More violence in Germany. Syrian refugee blows himself up injuring 12.

Reuters graphic showing locations of attacks in Germany. 

Germany is on edge after more violence strikes the country, the worst incident being a sucide bombing in Ansbach. Reuters. A Syrian refugee blew himself up outside a restaurant, killing himself and wounding 12 more people. The man had packed the explosive device with metal in order to cause more casualties. The man was a refugee that had been denied asylum and was supposed to have been deported. He was known to the police due to his involvement with drug dealing and other crimes. The attack did not seem to be well planned and may have been derailed when the bomber was denied entry to a music festival. The attack was the forth incident of violence in Germany recently, all of which may have some relationship to Islam or migrants. Also on the 24th another Syrian refugee murdered a pregnant woman while a mass shooting on the 22nd killed nine people. On the 18th another refugee injured five people on a train. 

Police secure the scene in Ansbach. Reuters. 

My Comment:
Germany is having a very rough couple of weeks. After long having escaped the kind of violence that France and Belgium have been having in the past couple of years, Germany has finally started to fall into the same pattern. That's the bad news. The good news is that so far there haven't been all that many deaths. The combined death toll from all of these attacks is only 10 people, not counting the attackers, I am not sure if they are counting the pregnant woman as one person or two, but either way it's a tragedy. 

That death toll could have been way worse if this attack in Ansbach had been more effective. It seems like the critical factor was the bomber being turned away from the music festival. I am guessing that if he had managed to get into the festival more people would have died to due to how close everyone would be packed in. Whoever turned this person away did their job correctly and should be commended. They are also very lucky that the bomber didn't decide to blow himself up right then and there. 

Still, the attacker was determined enough to kill himself that he just walked into a random restaurant and blew himself up. This tells me that this wasn't a very sophisticated attacker. A more professional terrorist would have called off the attack when turned away and tried something else. Or he would have blown himself up right as he was being stopped, like the ISIS attackers in Paris. This guy was mad that his plan didn't work and was to impatient to try again and because of that nobody has died from this attack besides him. He was smart enough to make a plan and skilled enough to make or acquire a bomb. But when his plan fell apart, so did he. 

It's unclear if this or any of these attacks are related to ISIS or any other terrorist group. The train attack in Wuerzberg was claimed by ISIS, which doesn't mean that they were involved, but the other three attacks have not been claimed by anyone so far. Indeed, the Munich attack may not have had any connection to Islam at all, though given the credibility of the German government and press is at zero, I am withholding judgement on that case until more information becomes available. Same thing with the stabbing in Reutlingen. The connections are probably there in a few of these cases at least, but given the l├╝genpresse in Germany we might never hear about them.

It seems clear that the bombing attack was a bit different though. I am guessing that this man had at least some links to Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS. The fact that he used a bomb instead of a knife or a gun makes me think that he had help. Bomb making is a lot more difficult then acquiring a gun or knife. Given the fact that the suspect was accused of being involved in the drug trade, I think he probably had connections. The rest of the attacks seem to be more of the lone wolf attacks that have become so common in Europe lately, but if any of the attacks had a direct connection to ISIS, the Ansbach attack would be it. 

All of these attacks will pour fuel onto the fire of the migrant crisis. Three of the attackers in these cases were refugees, two from Syria and one from Pakistan. The fourth was 2nd generation German of Iranian descent. Though that case looks more like a regular old mass shooting, it was still done by someone who is the descendant of non-native Germans. 

The attacks make a strong argument against letting in more refugees. Along with the increase of crime and the horrible attacks on New Year's Eve, these refugees have been causing massive problems in Germany. Until now, murder and terrorism wasn't one of them, but that is changing. I have to imagine that something will have to change in Germany. Perhaps they will start deporting people? The Ansbach attacker at the very least had no business being in Germany... 

I also have to point out that these attacks, along with the truck attack in Nice, France shows that if people want to kill, they will find away. The Wuerzberg and Reutlingen attackers used knives. The Nice attacker used a truck, to great effect. The Ansbach killer used a suicide bomb. And the one attack that used a gun as a primary weapon? Ali David Sonboly bought it from the dark web illegally. Gun control didn't stop any of these attacks, even though Germany and France have extreme gun control laws. 

I do wonder about the timing of these attacks. Though I think it is impossible that these attacks were coordinated, I do think there is something going on here. Like it or not, terrorist attacks on western targets have been extremely common lately. In addition to all the terror attacks in Europe, there has also been the attacks on the police in the United States. 

With all the media attention for these attacks, is it possible that people are being inspired to conduct their own attacks? Probably, though I would say that the propaganda ISIS has put out has also helped out quite a bit. But I think ISIS is giving the world a masters level class on how to commit terrorist acts right now. I am not surprised that people are following their lead and coming up with their own attacks. This is a problem I don't know how to fix,..

EDIT: Reuters just said that ISIS has taken responsibility for the Ansbach attack. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Suicide bombers kill at least 61 people at a rally in Afghanistan.

Members of Afghanistan's Hazara minority protest before being hit with the bombings. Reuters. 

Suicide bombers have killed at least 61 people and wounded scores more at a protest rally in Kabul, Afghanistan. Reuters. Members of Afghanistan's Hazara minority, a Shiite Muslim group, were protesting about the route of a power line when the bombing occurred. It is unclear how many people were involved in the attack and how many bombers there were. The protest was putting pressure onto the Afghan government. 

The BBC reports that ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack. Their Amaq news agency said that two of their fighters detonated suicide belts and specifically targeted the Hazara's because they are Shiite Muslims. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack and even went as far as to condemn it. 

My Comment:
Another huge attack by ISIS and I expect the death toll to rise again. The original Reuters article said that only 29 people but they and other news agencies confirmed that at least 61 had died. Though Afghanistan is no stranger to suicide bombings, this is bad even for that unfortunate country. As always with these attacks, the numbers go up as people respond and as further people die during medical treatment. Given how horrible the pictures I have seen on social media are, I expect that 61 won't be the final death toll... 

We haven't heard much from ISIS in Afghanistan lately. Largely because the US targeted their fighters with airstrikes and killed many of their leaders. For once we targeted ISIS before they became established. The do hold some parts of Afghanistan but not anything compared to what they hold in Syria or Iraq. 

Though we may have prevented ISIS from taking and holding large parts of Afghanistan, the terror network is still active in the country. They have carried out several attacks like this and this is just the latest and a bit worse then most. Given how lawless and chaotic Afghanistan is right now, it is no surprise that ISIS has found a place to operate. ISIS thrives on instability and with the war between the Taliban and Afghani government growing bloodier by the day, the terrorists have an opportunity to pull of these kinds of attacks. 

Of course, it is possible that ISIS really isn't responsible for this attack and is merely taking credit for it. Both the Taliban and al-Qaeda are active in Afghanistan as well, but neither of them have taken credit for the attack. Amazingly enough the Taliban condemned the attack. I am not sure why. I never pictured the Taliban of being supportive of Shiite Muslims since they have practically committed genocide against them in the past. Who knows what they are thinking there?

This seems like another ISIS attempt to stir up discontent between Sunni and Shiite factions. That has been their playbook for years, even before when they were called al-Qaeda in Iraq. Not only do they want to eliminate Shiite Muslims, they are hoping for reprisal attacks from Shiites that will force Sunni Muslims into their arms. It is a tactic that has worked before and I could see it working again. We shall see if it works in Afghanistan as well as it worked in Iraq.

I don't really understand what the Hazara's were protesting for. I can see protesting because they are a persecuted minority and because the government doesn't pay enough attention to them, but the reason both articles gave was because of a power line. Though that power line could provide jobs for people and power for others, that just doesn't seem like a good enough reason to protest for me. My guess is that they don't think the Afghan government represents them, which is probably fair. 

I do have to say that if I was anywhere near where ISIS was active, I would not be participating in one of these large public gatherings. We have seen ISIS attack both protests and celebrations on many different occasions. ISIS loves it when people are grouped up this close. It allows their suicide bombers to do much more damage then they would if people were more spread out. It's practically a perfect target for them. Expect more of these attacks in the future. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

9 victims killed in a mass shooting in Munich, Germany. Suspect was an 18 year old German-Iranian.

Plain clothes officers at the scene of the attack. Reuters. 

An 18 year old German-Iranian killed 9 people in a mass shooting in Munich, Germany. Reuters. At least 10 others were injured in the attack. The police had the city on lockdown until the body of the attacker was found a distance away from the McDonald's where the attack began. Early reports of multiple shooters were later dismissed. It seems as though the shooter shot himself in the head. No motive has been released, though ISIS supporters have cheered the attack on social media. The attack comes after multiple terror attacks in Europe, including the Nice truck attack and an incident in Germany where a 17 year old attacked people with an ax. 

Here is video from the scene of the attack:

My Comment:
Yet another mass attack in Europe. It is too early to be sure that this was an ISIS terrorist attack, but given the attacker was Iranian and CNN said that he said "Allahu Akbar" makes me think that this was at the very least an Islamist attack. But there are some things that make the think that this might not be related to Islamic terror. 

First, the suspect was Iranian. He had German citizenship but it also sounds like he had Iranian citizenship as well. Most Iranians are Shiite Muslims. Shiites are much less likely to conduct terror attacks then Sunni Muslims and since ISIS is dedicated to eradicating Shiite Muslims, I doubt that if the shooter was Shiite, that he wanted anything to do with ISIS. Still, there are a few Sunni Iranians and the ones that exist have a very good reason to flee the country and could end up in Germany. 

Second, the suspect killed himself. He was found and it appeared that he had shot himself in the head. That rarely seems to happen in these kinds of attacks if they are related to Islamist terrorists. Sure, there are suicide bombings, but when the attacker chooses a different weapon, they tend to go down fighting. Shooting yourself in the head seems like something a "traditional" mass shooter would do, not an Islamist one. 

On the other hand there are a few things that counteract that. For one things "traditional" mass shootings don't seem to happen anymore. All the attacks in recent memory seem to have been primarily motivated by politics. I think the mass shooter meme has moved away from the "angry kid mad for stupid reasons" to "political terrorist". In America at least, all the non-jihadi attacks have been racially motivated. I think that this has been a major change but who knows if that change has made its way to Europe or not. 

Also, it follows a major stream of terror attacks in Europe. I have lost track of how many attacks there have been, but if a person was looking to commit an act of violence in Europe, they would use something like the Paris terror attack as inspiration. I am thinking that if this 18 year old Iranian had to know that if he did this attack he would be seen as a terrorist. So either he didn't care or he wanted people to think that. 

One wonders how this suspect got his guns. Handguns are extremely regulated in Germany and it would be very hard for anyone to get a hold of gun legally. Though an 18 year old can get a handgun in Germany, it requires a massive amount of vetting. It is possible that the shooter was able to get a gun through legal means, my guess is that he bought them on the black market or had them provided to him by a supporter.

This also seems to support the terrorism angle. If this had been a lone shooter not motivated by Jihad, he probably wouldn't have told anyone about this attack and probably wouldn't have had enough connections to the black market to get access to a firearm. Since he was an 18 year old, he might not have had enough money to buy a gun by himself. My guess is someone helped him get a gun. 

This attack will pour fuel on the fire when it comes to the migrant crisis. Though it seems like the suspect was in the country for a long time, it shows how dangerous the 2nd generation of Muslim immigrants can be. Indeed, they can be as dangerous or even more dangerous then the 1st generation. 

I also think that Europe is falling apart. This level of violence is not something that people will tolerate long term. The pace of these attacks have increased from every couple of months to every couple of weeks. Pretty soon, if the rate of attacks continues to rise it will be happening every day. I also think that people are getting numb to the attacks as well, and aren't quite as shocked as they used to be. Still, people are going to be afraid. 

Though the chances of dying in a terror attack is extremely small, the fear these attacks will cause will be disproportionate to the actual damage done. Pretty soon people will lose faith in their government's ability to protect them. I think this is already the case in France, but as the attacks continue to happen, it could happen in other countries as well. 

As for Germany, they had been extremely lucky to avoid Jihadist attacks so far. Until this weeks knife attack, they hadn't really had much in the way of terrorism recently. Though I would consider the Cologne and other New Years attacks to be terrorist attacks, that certainly doesn't fit the normal mold of terrorism. It seems like Germany is starting to see the same kinds of attacks that have happened in France and Belgium... 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A few thoughts on Ted Cruz's non-endorsement of Donald Trump.

Ted Cruz's official senate portrait. 

Ted Cruz spoke at the GOP convention tonight and... he made an interesting choice. Instead of endorsing Republican nominee Donald Trump for president he encouraged GOP party members to "vote their conscience " this November. He was booed off the stage for it, and for good reason. The GOP convention is supposed to be where the party unites and the wounds inflicted during the primaries are healed. 

Indeed, that seemed to be what was happening throughout the convention. Obviously, many former Trump opponents endorsed him. Some of them were pretty tepid endorsements to be sure, but in the end everyone was getting along. The convention was largely free from #NeverTrump shenanigans and it the fears of discord were largely unfounded. Then Ted Cruz came along and ripped open all the wounds inflicted during the primary season.

Why did he do it? Well Ted Cruz has always stood by what he thought. That's why he's one of the most hated people in Washington DC, he doesn't get with the program, even if it hurts his party. After all he was the one behind the government shutdown which greatly hurt the party. He does what he thinks is right even if it hurts a lot of innocent people. And this will hurt the GOP, especially if it causes Hillary Clinton to be elected. I don't think it will happen but Cruz's actions could hurt Trump's chances in November. It certainly won't help things. 

I think he has personal reasons to be upset with Donald Trump as well. The campaign devolved into a close range knife fight near the end and many personal insults were delivered on both sides. Both campaigns went after the candidates wives, which is a sure sign that neither candidate liked each other. But most damaging of all was the Ted Cruz sex scandal. That scandal was never proven one way or the other but it was not a good moment for Ted Cruz. Though Trump wasn't directly responsible for it, his ally Rodger Stone was involved in the National Enquirer story that broke the scandal open. He's got reason to be mad at Trump no matter if the allegations were true or not. 

But there are professional reasons for Cruz to do this as well. Like I said before Cruz is the guy that "does what he thinks is right" even if it hurts the party. He needs to keep that reputation in the future. I also think that he is trying to set himself up for the 2020 election as well. Either as a primary challenger for Donald Trump or as Hillary Clinton's opponent. If Trump is an unpopular president he can say he never endorsed him and if Clinton is the opponent he can also say that he knew Trump would fail. 

In theory that is a win win for Cruz but I think he just killed his political career. I think that Trump is going to win and be somewhat popular. And even if he doesn't win, people will not forgive Cruz for not endorsing him and helping stop Hillary Clinton. I know that I will never vote for him in an election if he is a candidate. The amount of boos he got from the GOP delegates shows me that I am not alone in this opinion... 

Award winning journalist Pavel Sheremet killed in a car bombing in Ukraine.

Ukrainian police secure the bombed out car. Reuters. 

A car bomb has killed an award winning journalist in Ukraine. Reuters. Pavel Sheremet was working as an investigative reporter in Ukraine and was famous for being critical of both Russia and his homeland of Belarus. He was also friends with Russian opposition leader Boris Nemstov before his assassination in 2015. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko claimed that the attack was meant to destabilize Ukraine. Sherement, who was granted Russian citizenship, said he no longer felt safe in his adopted homeland. He also said that Ukraine needed independent journalists to keep the tycoon owned media outlets honest. 

My Comment:
It's been awhile since I posted anything about Ukraine. The civil war there has largely calmed down and has settled into a stalemate. It's the kind of stalemate where people die all the time, but not one where anything really changes. In short, the situation is nothing like it was during the revolution and civil war, though it's still a dangerous area. I wish I could cover it more, but not enough is really happening to justify it. This attack is an exception. 

This is a major murder mystery but there a few things that should be clear right away. This wasn't a Islamic terrorist attack, that's for sure. They go for high casualty and more visible attacks then this. Plus I doubt they would plant a bomb in a random journalist's car unless he had done something to anger them, like post a cartoon of Mohamed or something. Even though this was a bombing, I don't suspect any connection to ISIS or other Islamic terrorist group.

Second, this was a clear message from somebody. There are much more subtle and safer ways to eliminate someone without using a car bomb. I am sure whoever did this could have made Sheremet disappear without much effort, but they chose this kind of attack because it made a scene. The message wasn't directed at Sheremet, it was directed at the people that would take up his cause. If you do what he did, you end up dead in a very shocking and public way. That's the kind of message that is impossible to miss.

And yes, this attack is shocking. Assassinations of journalists are nothing new, but the method used is extremely unusual and brutal. People are generally outraged when journalists are mistreated and disgusted when they are killed (unless they don't like them politically). That outrage will be increased for this attack since it was clearly done to intimidate others and not just to silence Pavel Sheremet. Since the death of journalists are naturally covered by journalists, expect this story to get a bit more traction then it would otherwise. 

I also think that this was a professional hit by someone allied to a government. This wasn't a rouge player but someone or a team of someones who worked for an intelligence agency. This attack required not only the skills to make a reliable bomb but also the knowledge of where Sheremet was going to be at any given time. My guess is that he had been tailed for weeks as his murderers plotted. That's more then a random psycho or a guy with a grudge could pull off. A large criminal organization might be able to as well, but that is less likely. 

So who did it? Well that's the million dollar question. I think there are quite a few suspects. The first is Russia. Sheremet was a critic of Russia and Putin. People that get into it with Vladimir Putin and his country tend to have a bad time and they have killed journalists and dissidents before. 

Another possibility is Belarus. Sheremet was essentially in exile from the country and he had exposed human rights problems in the country. Perhaps someone from those days wanted revenge and got it? Still, I'm no expert in Belarus so I have no idea what the situation is there today.

It could also be one of the governments in Ukraine. Both the loyalists and the Russian backed rebels might have a reason to want Sheremet dead. After all he was going after the Ukrainian business tycoons. They have ties to both sides of the war and if he was close to something big they might have wanted to get rid of him.

Finally, for the sake of completeness it could be America or Europe that killed him. Yes, that makes little sense but someone is always going to believe it is a false flag to gather sympathy and support for pro-western forces in Ukraine. I think it is a stupid theory but I'll grant it is at least possible. You can take off your tinfoil hats now. 

I do have to say that whoever was responsible should be brought to justice. I never liked the idea of silencing journalists, even if I disagree with them politically. Not that I disagree or agree with Sheremet, but either way it is disgusting that he died like this. Killing a man using the tactics of a terrorist crosses a line that nobody should ever cross. I honestly have no idea who did this, but it shows that there are still people out there that would kill to stop the truth from getting out. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A family of four in France was stabbed by a Moroccan man for being "scantily clad".

A picture of the resort. Breitbart. 

A Moroccan man has been arrested in France for stabbing a woman and her three daughters for being scantily clad. CBS News. The three girls were aged 8, 12 and 14, and the 8 year old was critically injured and fighting for her life because of a punctured lung. The family was wearing shorts and t-shirts when they were attacked. The man, a Moroccan who was on vacation in the Alps. French authorities

Breitbart has a bit more information about this case. They quote French sources that claim the Moroccan man was identified as "Mohammad" and is a 37 year old Muslim who was known to French police but had no known links to terrorist groups.

My Comment:
This story is getting buried and buried hard. Right now the media would rather cover a couple of lines Melania Trump may have lifted from Michelle Obama in a 17 minute speech then yet another attack in Europe. They definitely don't want to cover an attack on a women and her three girls.

Why? Because it is another attack on women by a presumably Muslim man. Though Breitbart isn't the most reliable source, a simple google search shows that 99% of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims. That means that a Muslim man stabbed a women and three children for what they were wearing. Apparently, to this man, normal western clothing for women means that the victims were dressed like sluts and deserve to die.

Obviously, that is an incredibly stupid thing to believe. What a woman is wearing has very little to do if she's a "slut" or not and even if it did, that's no reason to stab someone. And nothing could ever justify stabbing an 8 year old girl. Period. And if wearing t-shirts and shorts is justification for attacking women and girls then almost all of them in Europe could be at risk.

It seems clear to me that France might be going through a massive cultural shift. Remember it wasn't so long ago that women in France would go to the beach completely topless. Now they are getting stabbed for wearing a t-shirt and shorts. It's getting dangerous to wear normal clothing among Muslims now apparently.

If this had been a non-Muslim attacker you would be sure that the usual suspects in the United States would be going nuts over this attack. Feminists have often argued that what a woman wears does not give permission for someone to assault them. They are usually talking about sexual assault but even in this case, it's still a case, to borrow one of their terms, of "slut shaming". For once, I am in complete agreement with them. What a woman chooses to wear does not justify attacking them.

Since we are in agreement, surely many feminists are denouncing this attack right? As far as I can tell they are not. To be fair I don't hang out on the feminist parts of the internet and the news cycle is crazy right now, but you would have thought I would see something denouncing this attack. But, alas, I have not. That could change in the future, but I have my doubts. And I know that the response would be different if this attack was conducted by a white male.

Why? Because according to the left, Muslims are more oppressed then women. I don't know what race or religion the victims were, indeed they could be Muslims as well, but the left has an unfortunate habit of dismissing attacks on women if they are conducted by Muslims. Criticizing Muslims, even if they are attacking another member of the leftist coalition, is considered racist by the left. We saw that with the Cologne attacks on women and the Pulse shooting targeting gays.

I haven't talked about the terrorism factor here. Was this a terrorist attack? I doubt that this was inspired by ISIS or another terror group and the attacker didn't seem to have any links to terrorism. I doubt he was doing this in the name of ISIS or some other group, but it is possible.

 But I still consider this a terrorist attack. Why? Because it was political violence. This Moroccan man was making a political statement with this attack. He wanted everyone to know that women and girls should dress a certain way and if they dress in normal western clothing they can be attacked or killed. That's political violence for sure, so I consider this to be a terrorist incident, even if others might disagree with me.

France has been going through a difficult time for the past couple of years. This attack is just the latest in a long line of horrible terrorist attacks. First there was the Charlie Hebdo attack, then the Paris massacres and then the most recent attack at Nice, with several minor attacks sprinkled in between those attacks. It's getting to the point where I am starting to wonder if their isn't going to be a huge backlash. I have already heard reports of French people booing their politicians while they were commemorating their attacks. I am predicting a change of government soon, hopefully through elections. I think the French people are reaching their limit and they simply won't tolerate these kinds of attacks for much longer. Let's hope whatever happens is a peaceful change of power...

Monday, July 18, 2016

17 year old Afghan refugee attacks people in a train in Germany.

Emergency crews respond to the stabbing near Wuerzburg. Reuters. 

A 17 year old Afghan refugee was shot by German police after attacking people on a train in Wuezburg. Reuters. The attacker, armed with a knife and an ax, critically injured 3 people and slightly wounded a fourth. German officials did not speculate about the motive for the attack. They did note that the 17 year old was an unaccompanied immigrant from Afghanistan who had been granted asylum. The attack comes right after a major terrorist attack in France that killed more then 80 people. German media have reported that the attacker yelled "Allahu Akbar", a common religious battle-cry for Islamic terrorists. Though a center of the immigration crisis, Germany has so far avoided the major terror attacks that have struck throughout Europe. 

My Comment:
The situation in Europe is spiraling out of control. This is fairly obviously an Islamic terrorist attack, most likely inspired by ISIS. Germany is downplaying the accusations but it seems obvious the connection is there. After all this was a kid from Afghanistan who shouted Allahu Akbar. If he had another motive I would be surprised. 

Of course this story isn't really getting the coverage it deserves in the United States. I kind of had to look fairly hard to even see this story. Part of that is because we have our own problems in the United States, since the Baton Rouge attack just happened. Part of it also is because of the GOP convention which is dominating the news. The Turkey coup and the Nice attack in France are also overshadowing the story. In short, the news cycle is insane right now, so some important stories won't get covered.

That being said, I also think part of it is because the attack goes against the "migrants are harmless victims who will never do anything wrong" narrative. This is a clear case of that not being true so I am not surprised that it isn't getting much play in the United States. Indeed, the story wasn't trending on my Facebook feed. It was trending on Twitter for awhile but all it said was "Afghan" without any context at all. That may have changed over time or may be because of my user settings but it is still ridiculous. I am not sure how German media is handling the story, but given their complacency in the past and the government's censorship of anti-migrant viewpoints, my guess is that the story is going to be covered up as much as possible. 

The good news is that the attack largely failed. So far nobody died besides the attacker. I guess it is possible that one of the injured people could still die but if that doesn't happen this attack was a failure. In that the German people were lucky. An ax/knife attack like this has the potential to kill several people and it i was only by luck that nobody besides the attacker died. 

This incident is yet another example of a lone wolf attack. In most cases these attacks end up with just a few people hurt. But we have to remember that the Pulse nightclub shooting and the Nice truck attack were not organized terror attacks either. The perpetrators were lone wolfs acting on their own after the call for these kinds of attacks by ISIS. There certainly is potential for dozens of people to die in an attack carried out by one person.

The casualties caused by these attacks depends on how much resources the attacker has and how smart he is. I am guessing this Afghan boy was not to smart and probably didn't have much in the way of money. This doesn't strike me as an attack that had a lot of planning put into it, and he certainly wasn't creative or efficient like the Pulse shooter and the Nice truck attacker. Still, an impulsive attack like this can have a major impact if the attacker gets lucky. 

I have seen a few tweets from Germans saying that the Afghan attacker should not have been shot and killed. Obviously, I disagree and am amazed that people still think that police should risk their lives by trying to apprehend an attempted murderer. The police knew that he was a threat to others and if they tried to they would have gotten stabbed. It's clearly a case of justifiable homicide. 

Expect more of these attacks. ISIS has always been effective at recruiting people into Jihad. They have shifted focus from gathering new fighters to join them in Syria and Iraq to encouraging these kinds of attacks. They are reaching these people with their propaganda and have successfully encouraged attacks. More are coming and I fully expect more deaths in Europe. 

As for Germany, they have been extremely lucky to avoid the kinds of terror attacks that France and Belgium have had. Many people have speculated on why this is. I think that it has a lot to do with the difference between the Islamic population in Germany compared to France. The refugee and migrant populations in Germany are mostly brand new and haven't had a chance to really establish themselves and gather money and resources. The Islamic community in France and Belgium have been there much longer and have more opportunities to gather weapons and money to pull off these kinds of attacks. Because of this, I am thinking that Germany won't have as many of these major terror attacks for some time, at least until the refugees become more established. They are still likely to have more of these lower scale, less sophisticated attacks though. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gunman who shot and killed three police officers was a black separatist.

Baton Rouge police officers respond to the scene. Advocate.

The gunman who shot and killed three police officers and wounded three more in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has been identified as 29 year old Gavin Long. Los Angeles Times. Long is being described as a "black separatist". No additional suspects are expected to be found but two more were held as persons of interest. All three officers that were killed had wives and children. One of the wounded officers is still in critical condition. The officers responded to a call that man wearing dark clothing and armed with a rifle. When they arrived on the scene the suspect opened fire on the officers. The attack occurs after high tensions in Baton Rouge after the death of Alton Sterling. Black Lives Matter and other protest groups have been very active and four young people were just arrested in a plot that involved stealing weapons from a gun shop to us to attack officers. 

The Daily Caller has more information about Gavin Long after they found his youtube channel. 

My Comment:
Yet another senseless attack motivated by hate. Whatever your thoughts on Alton Sterling, nothing justifies this attack on police officers. This is terrorism, plain and simple. And the stupidest thing is that it is still possible that the officers involved with the Alton Sterling shooting could be arrested. Murder investigations take time and it is possible that the officers will be arrested. I am not saying they should be but this attack means that people are even willing to let the system work. And none of the officers involved, one of whom is black himself, had anything to do with the Sterling shooting. 

Of course, I personally don't think that Alton Sterling deserves any sympathy at all. It was clear to me from the video I saw that the officers were acting in self defense. He was a career criminal with a massive rap sheet who was armed with a gun. Officers reacted to a report saying that he was pointing a gun, at another black man no less, and he was reaching for a gun when he was shot. You can see it on the video showing his death, his right arm was moving as he was fighting with the cops. Though more evidence could come out that calls the officers actions into questions, right now everything I have seen shows that the shooting was a good one. 

But I doubt that the shooting had all that much to do with the death of Sterling. Long may have been angry about his death but what seems to have motivated him was his black separatist beliefs. He was a former Nation of Islam member and seemed to believe that blacks should be separate from the other races. He also said racist things about whites and other non-black people. In short I think he hated white people and cops and would have probably killed someone even if the Alton Sterling shooting hadn't happened. 

He may have been mentally ill in some way as well. On his Youtube channel he posted a video about "gang stalking" a conspiracy mentally ill people often ascribe to. People who ascribe to the theory claim that they are being attacked and stalked by the government. Though often based in delusion, I wonder if Long really was being tracked by the government. I kind of hope that he was considering what he did. If anyone really does need to be tracked by the government it is black nationalists. 

I think it is time to denounce these kinds of black nationalist groups and the ideology behind them. We do the same thing with white nationalist groups such as the KKK. The ideology is basically the same between the groups only with the races changed. They believe that their race is the best one and that all the others are holding them down from reaching their potential. And they also believe that separating the races is the best thing that could happen.  

Unfortunately, this kind of racism coming from black people isn't denounced anywhere near the way the KKK is. Though both ideological groups are two sides of the same coin, only one regularly gets denounced by the media. People are far too afraid to call black people racist under any circumstance even when they are arguing that black people should have their own country. Some even argue that it is impossible for black people to be racist. 

This attack is going to hurt Black Lives Matter. The group was very unpopular to begin with due to their protest tactics and the fact that they were instrumental for the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. But now they are going to be associated with horrible violence, much worse then the riots. After Dallas and now Baton Rouge, people are going to think of these kinds of attacks on police when they hear Black Lives Matter.

Is that fair? In some ways no. Though both of the men responsible for the attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge had roughly the same beliefs as Black Lives Matter, they weren't directed to do what they did by the group. On the other hand, they had essentially the same beliefs as Black Lives Matter. They  did buy into the false narrative about police violence pushed by Black Lives Matter after all.

I personally am disgusted by Black Lives Matter and am very worried that this isn't the end of the violence. Other attacks could occur, either at Baton Rouge or any other city where a black man is shot by the police. The GOP convention starts this week and I am worried there could be violence there as well. 

I am also worried about my friends that are police officers. My degree is in criminal justice so I went to school with many future police officers. I also know other cops from my old job. I don't want anything to happen to them. 

I also worry about things happening to me as well. I'm a white guy who wears a uniform. And though that uniform is that of a security guard and not a police officer, I am worried that there are people out there that don't care about the difference. Nobody should mistake me for a cop but people are so irrational and stupid right now, it might not matter.