Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A few thoughts on why three unpopular incumbents just won primary challenges.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's official congressional portrait. 

There were two states that had important primary races yesterday and in all three cases the incumbents won despite unpopularity. In Arizona, John McCain fought off an insurgent campaign against him and won with 52% of the vote, while his main opponent, Kelli Ward got 39% of the vote. In Florida ousted DNC head and congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz won 57% to 43% over her opponent, a Bernie Sanders backed Tim Canova. Finally, also in Florida, Marco Rubio trounced his only primary opponent, Carlos Beruff with 72% of the vote. 

This continues a recent trend of very unpopular/out of touch politicians wining primary battles that they probably shouldn't. Remember, it was just a little while ago that Paul Ryan won his primary election as well. Ryan at least has the excuse of being extremely powerful, but the rest of these people? I don't see it. 

The election result that makes the most sense to me here is Marco Rubio. Though Rubio is often thought as a lazy senator that skips out on a lot of votes, he had the least resistance. Most of his primary opponents immediately dropped out when he announced that he wasn't quitting after all. Though he ran a pretty pathetic election campaign, he's still marginally popular, and despite his flaws, he will probably win in November. 

John McCain makes less sense to me. He's 80 years old for crying out loud! He may be a powerful senator and a war hero, but does he really need to be working at 80 years old? In six years will he even be alive? Hell, will he make it one year? He's also completely out of touch with his party and I lost a lot of respect for him because he isn't supporting the Presidential nominee, Donald Trump, with the kind of zeal that a man of his stature should be doing. 

Most baffling of all is how on earth Debbie Wasserman Schultz survived her primary challenge. From what I understand, her opponent didn't get much help from Bernie Sanders, but that is no excuse after what she and the DNC did to our elections. And I say that as a Republican. Remember, she was caught, red handed, fixing the election for Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that her role at the DNC was supposed to be neutral. This didn't happen all that long ago either, did everyone just forget? 

The fact that all three of these people won their primary challenges just shows the power of incumbency. You can be lazy like Marco Rubio, ancient like John McCain, or even completely corrupt like Wasserman Schultz, and still have a decent shot of winning your seat back. I would not be surprised if all three of these people hold onto their seats. I'd be ok with that for Rubio but McCain and Wasserman Schultz should be gone, even though that has little chance of happening. 

So why do people keep voting like this? Well people don't like change and they also like their hometown people. Approval for congress is always rock bottom but people tend to like their representatives. If a rep can bring home the bacon, then who cares if they are lazy, old or corrupt? Other then the people outside of the state/district that have to deal with them... 

I don't think this will change anytime soon. It's clear that people are angry, but it never seems that people get mad at the representatives that they can actually hurt. If people want change, why not vote for it? Kick the bums out if they are like Rubio, McCain and Wasserman Schultz. 

I also think that there should be term limits for both congress and the senate. We don't need these people to have job security that is only limited by how long they are going to live/stay healthy. As far as I am concerned there is no reason whatsoever that any public servant should serve more then 8 to 10 years in one position. But term limits is dead on arrival, congress isn't going to vote to limit their own power... 

I am hoping that people don't get to discouraged from this. Even though everyone won their primary this time around, shockers can still happen. Just because it didn't happen here, and didn't happen with Paul Ryan, doesn't mean that incumbents are invulnerable. It just takes a lot more work to take them down... 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top ISIS terrorist planner and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is killed in US airstrike.

ISIS leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Reuters/US government handout. 

Top ISIS terrorist planner and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani has been killed in a probable US airstrike. Reuters. The US said that they targeted al-Adnani while he was traveling in a vehicle in the Syrian town of al-Bab. ISIS's news agency Amaq confirmed the death. Adnani was not only a major spokesman for ISIS and one of the most famous members of ISIS. He was also in charge of directing overseas terrorist attacks, including the ones in France, Belgium and Turkey. Adnani was apparently in Aleppo province to supervise and boost morale of the troops fighting in the area, which has come under pressure from multiple different forces. Adnani is one of several high ranking ISIS leaders killed in US airstrikes, including their minister of defense and the caliph's top deputy. 

My Comment:
This is a huge blow to ISIS. al-Adnani was a huge asset for ISIS and one of it's founding members. Losing him will hurt their operations. Al-Adnani was the public face of ISIS and one of the terror groups most well known members. Though he wasn't the leader of ISIS he was one of their most prominent members. Losing him is the equivalent of us losing a Vice President or a Secretary of defense. 

Adnani was a propaganda figure as well. He was responsible for many of the propaganda videos released by the terror group. Given what those terror videos have shown, that alone meant that he was deserving of death. His death means that there is going to less of those videos, which is undoubtedly a good thing. 

More importantly though, Adnani was in charge of terrorist attacks overseas. That role merged with his propaganda role because he was calling for lone wolf attacks across the world. Things like the Pulse nightclub shooting and the various knife attacks in Europe are at least partially his responsibility. 

He was also greatly involved in plotting attacks such as the Paris attacks, the Brussels bombing and the various attacks in Turkey. Killing him not only brings him to justice for these attacks but also may help prevent more attacks in the future. 

Still, how important is the death of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani? In the long run, it probably hurts ISIS quite a bit.  I think that for now ISIS has plenty of other people that can rise up to take his place. But ISIS can't keep losing their leaders like this. Losing one guy is survivable, but they have lost many of their highest leaders recently and even al-Baghdadi himself dodges death on a regular basis. Leadership is important and if ISIS keeps taking these kinds of casualties they are going to run out of people to replace their losses. 

This is doubly true due to the situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq. The battle of Mosul looks like it will actually happen and if and when ISIS loses the city, they lose most of their holdings in Iraq. In Syria, Turkey's intervention has largely cut off their last supply line to the outside world. Turkey was the main route for new recruits coming in and terrorist flowing out. The fact that their route for new recruits is cut off means that their leadership problem is even worse then it would be otherwise. 

The fact that al-Adani was in al-Bab is telling as well. Al-Bab is close to the front lines and a somewhat dangerous place for a leader to be. It's also close to Dabiq, the most important site in Islamic prophecy. The city is being threatened by most of ISIS's enemies, who all have troops in the area. The Kurds, rebels, regime and even Turkey are in the general area. Losing Dabiq in anything other then an apocalyptic battle will do huge damage to ISIS's credibility. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Anthony Weiner gets caught up in another sex scandal while his wife, a top Clinton aide, leaves him.

Anthony Weiner's official congress photo.

Disgraced former congressman and husband to top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner has been caught up in another sex scandal. Politico. Weiner, who had already had to resign in disgrace because of sexting scandal, sent another text to a woman that was not his wife according to  report by the New York Post (link not safe for work/sanity). Amazingly, the picture showed him in a lewd state while his young child was in bed with him. His wife, Huma Abedin, top aide and personal friend of Hillary Clinton has announced that she is leaving him. Trump praised Abedin's descion but condemned the fact that Weiner was able to get so close to the Clinton campaign saying that Weiner was a security threat. Trump has had a long history of attacking Weiner ever since his original sexting scandal broke out.

My Comment:
This is typical politician behavior, so why cover this case? Well for one thing it's great proof of the concept of nominative determinism. The guy was named Weiner and showed his wiener to people, again and again. If your name really does effect what you do in your life then Weiner is great proof of that concept. At the very least he will be the go to example when people are trying to explain the concept of nominative determinism.

As for the scandal itself, it's pretty clear that Weiner is a sick guy. Even if you disagree with Trump, you have to admit that he was right about Weiner being a pervert. Let's look at the circumstances here. Your wife is in the middle of the most important campaign in her life and you are desperately trying to improve your image so you can go back to having a political career of your own. Your wife is politically unpopular target of the other party and you have even made the candidate from the other side hate you. You have already gotten in trouble for sexting someone in the past, which has caused untold damage to your career and marriage.  What do you do?

1. Keep a low profile and out of the news.
2. Text a woman who is not your wife pictures of you in an aroused state while in bed with a small child.

If you chose #2, congratulations, you are Anthony Weiner and a complete idiot. I can't imagine how Weiner thought that this was a good idea. There was very little chance of him getting away with this, especially since the GOP is gunning for him and his wife.

I don't really buy the idea that anyone is compelled to do things like this. Weiner obviously got something out of texting photos like this, but I doubt this was an issue of him being compelled to do this. I don't buy him as being mentally ill. Instead I think he is just a guy that wanted to be with a lot of women and may have become a politician just so he would have access to them.

As for Huma Abedin, I am not convinced her marriage was anything but a sham in the first place. The Politico article certainly suggested that it was a sham after the first scandal.  My guess is that she married Weiner for political reasons, besides whatever else she felt for him. They might have been in love, but there were political considerations as well. At the time she was less powerful and famous then Weiner was. She stuck with Weiner after the first scandal because she, and the Democratic Party, though he could be reformed. He hasn't and now she is dumping him, especially since her role is now more important then anything Weiner has ever done.

Will this have an impact on the election? Well, I probably wouldn't be covering it if it didn't have one right? First, there is the obvious impact this is going to have on Huma Abedin's job performance. Getting a divorce is a difficult prospect when you aren't a media and political target working in the most divisive and insane political campaign in recent memory. Abedin is likely going through hell right now and is probably dying of embarrassment. I can't imagine she will be doing her job as effectively as she could be. As much as I dislike her personally and hate the campaign she is working for, I actually do feel sorry for her here.

Other then that does this scandal hurt Hillary Clinton directly? Yes, but only slightly. Right now Hillary Clinton's name is being attached to a perverts name and that can't be good for her. But do I buy Trump's argument that it showed bad judgement to let Weiner become so close to the campaign? Not really. He's her top aides wife, and didn't have a direct roll with the campaign. And if the Politico article was correct it was a sham marriage in the first place. I doubt he had much opportunity to provide a security risk, other then for potential blackmail. With everything out in the open now even that shouldn't be a problem anymore.

More importantly though, the Weiner sex scandals will probably draw comparisons to Bill Clinton's own horrible sex scandals. Indeed, when you compare what Weiner has done to what Bill Clinton has been accused of doing, it's not even close. Weiner is a pervert but Clinton has used and abused women throughout his political career. Anything that draws attention to that fact, and this scandal probably will, is bad for the Clinton campaign. My guess is that the media will downplay the obvious comparisons, but the attack ads write themselves.

As for Weiner himself, his career has to be over now right? People will forgive a lot but I don't think he can recover from this. Cheating on his wife yet again is pretty terrible, but sending a picture to someone that shows him in an aroused state while his kid is right next to him is incredibly bad. I'm not suggesting that he is a pedophile or anything, but that does push this over the line from a simple sex scandal to borderline child abuse. Remember the old saying about politicians getting away with anything except being found in bed with a dead woman or a live boy? Well he just did the 2nd one. His career is done. Hopefully we never have to hear about this loser again after this election is over with and hopefully that child is going to be in a better environment with him not around.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Turkey is greatly increasing operations against Syrian Kurds.

A Turkish APC returning to base after raiding Syria. Reuters. 

Turkey is greatly increasing offensive operations against Syrian Kurds after launching their cross border attacks last week. Reuters. Turkish F-16's have launched airstrikes against the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces as well as Islamic State positions. Turkey has admitted that their cross border attacks have as much to do with fighting ISIS as it does fighting the Kurds. The Turks have claimed that one of their tanks was destroyed in the fighting and that one soldier was killed and three more were wounded. Separate rebel groups, one backed by the Turks and another part of the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces were battling near the city of Jarablus, which was just liberated from ISIS by the Turks. Officially, the United States is allied with both the Kurdish rebels and the nation of Turkey. 

Anti-Turk forces destroy a Turkish tank near Jarablus.

My Comment:
Well, this is going about how I predicted. ISIS was never the primary target for Turkey. It was always about the Kurds. More then anything else Turkey wants to push out the Kurds from the Jarablus region and keep them from hooking up with their western enclave. ISIS was always a red herring. Though it was good that they were kicked out of Jarablus, the battle was never really against them in the first place.

The Turks are going a bit further then I expected them to go though. Not only are they attacking the Kurds, they are also targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Though the Kurds are the senior partner in that alliance, they are also targeting the junior partners, the Arab rebels, as well. They are also sending their ethnically Turkish rebels to fight the Arab rebels. You may remember the Turkish rebels as the charming fellows that murdered a Russian pilot after Turkey shot his plane down. 

This puts the United States in a rather awkward position. Officially we are allied with both the Turks and the Kurds. We spent a lot of time and money training the SDF and have sent a lot of equipment to the Kurds. Now that equipment is being used against the Turks, our NATO ally. In short, our friends are fighting each other, something that would be comical if it wasn't so deadly and pointless.

It's also pretty clear which side the United States is coming down on, and as usual it is the wrong side. Despite being a junior partner in the war against ISIS and doing way less then they should be against the terrorists, we are backing the Turks. To be fair, their membership in NATO goes a long way and we would be risking that alliance if we didn't back them. 

But this seems to me like a massive betrayal of our Kurdish friends in Syria. They have been the backbone in the fight against ISIS and we have spent a lot of money training them and their Arab allies. And now Turkey is bombing them and we aren't doing a thing to stop it. That seems like a huge betrayal to me. The Kurds aren't perfect, far from it. Many of them are far to the left, to the point of being Communists, but at least they are going down the radical Islam route that Turkey seems to be on the path to. I'd rather support them then the Turks, misgivings aside, but it's clear that won't happen.

At this point it isn't surprising. Our efforts to find allies in the war in Syria against ISIS and al-Nusra/Jabah Fatah al-Sham have been a comedy of errors. Our attempts to train rebels have all ended in disaster with groups getting wiped out or even laying down their weapons to the enemy. The Kurds and the SDF were the best allies we had, and now we are seeing them fight our other major ally.

I can't imagine we are going to keep getting rebels and other fighters to support our efforts anywhere if this keeps up. Can you imagine what a young Syrian fighter is going to think about this? It's clear that we won't back our allies in their time of need and that means that people on the ground will search elsewhere for allies. Right now that means Russia, and I am guessing there are probably some rebel groups that are going to cross back over to the regime because of our gutlessness when it comes to backing our allies. It's clear that we don't keep our promises and only the most foolish rebel groups would back our efforts now. 

Not that there is a whole lot we could do to stop the Turks. We can't really sanction our ally or pull out of Turkey. We could threaten to kick them out of NATO but for various reasons that will never happen. The most we could really do is send them a diplomatic protest but again, we won't be pissing off the Turks anytime soon, especially since they are already mad at us for our supposed/suspected role in their recent failed coup attempt. 

I said before that this attack was very bad news for ISIS. I still think that is true, Jarablus was a critical city for them and they couldn't afford to lose it. But it has to help them that another major force just curbstomped their most determined enemy in the region. That is, of course, mitigated by the fact that the Turks really are targeting ISIS as well. Everything I said in my last post about ISIS in Syria still holds. They need these border regions badly, and even if the Turks and Kurds are fighting each other, they are still losing out. The need to find a way to take advantage of the chaos, but I don't think they are up to it right now. 

I also have to wonder what the fate of all the Westerners that are fighting with the Kurds is right now. I always had great concerns for those fighters, especially the American ones. I pointed out a long time ago that there was always a chance of Turkey coming in and destroying the Kurds, which would put those fighters in a very awkward position. The vast majority of those western fighters are there to fight ISIS, not the Turks, so I wonder where their loyalty will be if this war expands further. All I know if I was one of those fighters, I would be getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

ISIS releases video showing yet another execution using children as the murders.

ISIS children about to execute Kurds. Video Screencap via The Daily Beast. 

ISIS has released another video which includes, among other atrocities, another example of using children as executioners. The Daily Beast. The video shows five children executing five Kurdish prisoners using handguns. One of the children was a white child from the United Kingdom. The rest were a Kurd, an Egyptian, a Tunisian and an Uzbeck, and all of them are presumed to be children of adults that joined ISIS. The video was released during a time of turmoil for ISIS as they are being pushed out of the border region with Turkey. The video is also meant to show ISIS still has many supporters from across the world.

My Comment:
I watched the video online. I won't link to it because it is extremely graphic and horrifying, and I kind of wish I hadn't watched it. The article left out quite a bit. There was a lot more two the video that they didn't talk about. The children weren't the only executions shown in the video. There was also a more standard mass beheading using normal ISIS fighters, who inexplicably killed the last guy by shooting him in the head. In another scene, several old unmasked men also shoot prisoners in the head. Finally, there was some more general "war porn" scenes of dead bodies, including children, presumably killed by airstrikes or artillery as well as another execution video where a bunch of men were killed in a trench using rifles. Bizarrely enough none of the violence was censored by ISIS made sure to blur out the men in the trench because it looked like they weren't wearing shirts. 

As horrifying as all that was, the children committing the execution was by far the worse. You could tell that at least a couple of kids were scared shitless and none of them really looked all that happy to be there. Both the white kid and the one on the center left looked like they were barely able to keep themselves from crying. In the end though, all of them went through with it. One of them seemed to enjoy it though, since he could be seen smacking one of the prisoners in the back of the head as a final humiliation. 

I can't imagine the psychological toll this has on kids these age. If any of these kids were over the age of 13 I would be amazed. Being forced to murder someone at such a young age must have a huge impact, and I wouldn't be surprised if these kids end up with PTSD or other psychological ailments. If by some miracle these boys are rescued from ISIS and aren't killed in the war, they will need years of therapy and deprogramming just to have a chance. It's more likely if they survive they will be true believers until they die. They may very well believe that they have crossed a line and will never be allowed into regular society again. And they might be correct about that. 

I wonder what the parents of these kids think of this. I wonder if they would have flown to Syria in search of a more spiritual life if they new that their religion would be used as a justification to make their children execute unarmed men. I know that if I was those kids parents there is no way that I would let ISIS do this. But perhaps these kids weren't volunteered. It's very possible that their parents were threatened as well, assuming that they are even still alive. I am hoping that some of them at least realize what they have done. 

ISIS hasn't been as steady at releasing these kinds of execution videos. It probably has a lot to do with their propaganda wing being hit hard by US airstrikes. Some of their more famous executioners have been killed by these airstrikes. I noticed that the normal ISIS wore masks while the children and old men did not. Even that is calculated. The US would have no problem attempting to kill the normal ISIS fighters if they could identify them. But that won't happen with children and probably won't happen with a bunch of old men. 

I still don't understand why anyone ever surrenders to ISIS. The best case scenario is that you get ransomed. You have a decent chance of that, but there is also a very good chance of ISIS executing you in a brutal and creative way. I know if I had a choice of being drugged and having my head cut off on video to be seen by thousands or even millions of people or dying in a pool of blood and a pile of empty brass, I would choose the latter. I'd keep one grenade with me at all times to blow myself up and take one of them with me. I'm just glad that I don't have to make that call... 

There is some speculation about the identity of the white child that was in the execution video. I don't really want to contribute to that speculation. The fact that he is a white Brit doesn't change the fact that he was just as horribly abused as the other children. I do have to say that it is inconceivable that a white family could be so easily radicalized that they would travel to ISIS lands and then allow their child to be used this way, especially if they weren't long time Muslims. It doesn't make much sense for the children from Muslim countries, but they at least have the excuse of there being radical networks in those countries. 

These are the kinds of posts I hate to write the most, and I have had to do them too frequently lately. I really don't like seeing images of children coming to harm. But I also think it is very important to spread the word about what ISIS is doing to their "cubs" and "pearls". Far from cherishing their children, they are abusing them horribly. I consider it among their worst crimes and I hope that someday the people responsible for these executions are brought to justice, one way or another. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A few thoughts about the alt right.

Pepe the frog, looking smug, an common meme used by small factions of the alt-right. 

As you may know, Hillary Clinton gave a speech today blasting Donald Trump because he has supporters that are members of the "alt right". In doing so she failed one of the most basic rules of the internet. Don't feed the trolls. Hillary Clinton, losing her advantage in the polls, decided that she needed to shake things up. Instead of trying something new she did the same thing she has been doing since the convention, by implying Trump and his supporters are racist. 

So what is the alt right? Good question. It really depends on who you talk to. I consider the term to be rather useless because it encompasses so many things, at least according to the liberals denouncing it today. It includes things like chan culture, weird political movements like Neoreaction and even more mainstream places like Breitbart. Committed troll and conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones was specifically brought up. Not mentioned was his scathing criticisms of George Bush. Either way it's not a very useful definition being used by the Clinton camp and journalists.

My definition, and the one that I have heard the most in the past before today, would be anyone on the right that isn't part of the ruling neoconservative class. This would include just about everyone on the right these days, with the exception of leading republicans like Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush and John McCain. Ted Cruz would count as the alt right and a case could even be made for Marco Rubio. Given the fact that Cruz and Trump got way more votes then the establishment this year, I think it's pretty clear that the alt-right, by this definition, isn't really alt-right anymore. It's mainstream since neoconservatives are dead in this country. They just don't know it yet. I'd say that by this definition I am alt-right, even though I would argue against it because it is such a loaded and unspecific term.

Typical alt-right beliefs include a rejection of political correctness, criticism of leftist causes like feminism, multiculturalism and acceptance of Islam and the general belief that mainstream Republicans don't fight when it comes to fighting the left. There is also a massive amount of disgust with mainstream media. Other then that, their political beliefs are all over the map, ranging from left libertarian all the way to neoreaction, with a lot of stuff in between. The only really definition I can think of is everyone on the right that isn't a neocon. 

I think that the Democrats and Hillary Clinton want people to believe that everyone in the alt-right is a raving racist. They want to make anyone that isn't part of the elite easier to dismiss by associating them with racist trolls on 4chan and twitter. I don't think it is useful for people trying to understand the alt-right to do so. The alt-right is way more then just chan culture, and to denounce everyone on the right that isn't part of the neocon mainstream is a huge reach. Chan culture is part of the right, but only a small part of it. 

I don't really want to get into what makes up chan culture. I think I know more about it then most journalists these days, but that doesn't mean I would get it right. Chan culture changes so much and so rapidly that it would be inevitable that I would get most of it wrong. And getting things wrong about 4chan and 8chan is a good way to get their attention, which is never a good thing. If you really must know what chan culture is like, you could go visit one of the boards, but I would not recommend it, especially if you are at work or are sensitive to gross stuff. 

But are there racists on the alt-right? Sure. Some of them, like those that post on Stormfront, are literal Nazis. Are they common? Not really. There are a lot of people on the alt-right that originated on 4chan. That board is all about triggering normal people so a lot of people pretend to be more racist then they actually are. That doesn't mean that they aren't racist, but it does mean that the actual threat is being exaggerated greatly. 

And it also depends on how you define racism. People on the right are so used to being called racist by the left for stupid reasons, it's hard to see real racism. Will you find real racism on alt-right sites? Sure. But you will also see a lot of things that are called racism by the left but really doesn't count. Things like being opposed to black lives matter or being critical of Islam aren't really racist, no matter how much the left wishes it was. 

You have to remember, people have been on the right have been denounced as racist for about a decade now, the word has lost most of its meaning. When someone like Donald Trump is denounced for racism because he criticizes immigration, it makes it a lot harder to take accusations of racism seriously. even when there is something there. Hell, John McCain and Mitt Romney were called Adolf Hitler by the left and they were even more mainstream then Trump! If you wonder why the people in the alt-right don't get rid of the racists, that's why. For us, racist=an unfounded accusation of being evil from the left.

A lot of these people are trolls. It also makes it seem like there are a lot more of them then there actually are. The whole point of trolling is to make your target upset using whatever tactic necessary. And what better way is there to troll people then to challenge them on racism and politics? I'm not convinced that all of these trolls actually believe the terrible things they are saying. Some do, undoubtedly, but not all of them or even most. They just see weakness to be exploited. 

Was this a good idea for Hillary Clinton? I would say, in no uncertain terms, that it was a terrible idea. Beyond terrible. Though most people on the alt-right aren't part of chan culture, this will probably give sites like 4chan and 8chan a boost. I checked 4chan's political board /pol/ today and they seemed both excited and worried. On the one hand they were mad that "normies" were coming to their site and were concerned about "Hillary Clinton shills". But they also think that this is a great opportunity for them to "redpill" the masses. 

And that is probably the biggest mistake about Hillary Clinton's speech. She didn't mention chan culture directly, but a lot of the news articles released today did. People are going to go to these sites wondering whats up. Many will be repulsed but a few will sign up for their ideas. The chans are very good at propaganda, much better then the left is, so I wouldn't be surprised if they get new recruits from this. Even if it is just one in ten that start visiting these sites regularly, I think that is a loss for leftism. I mean, everyone on the left already things everyone who has ever even thought of voting for the GOP is a raving racist grand wizard of the KKK. This isn't really going to change anyone's mind other then a few independents, some of which will probably go on the join the right. 

The other problem for Clinton is that she just denounced a lot of completely innocent people. Is the twitter troll harassing journalists a racist? Maybe, but you can't argue that every single one of Donald Trump's 11.1 million twitter followers, including me, is racist without pissing people off. As I have mentioned, even mainstream conservatives are so used to being called racist by people on the left, the word has lost most of its meaning. I know that I will vote against Hillary Clinton just for the insult, though to be fair I was never going to vote for her anyways.

Does this hurt Donald Trump? I don't think it will in the long run. Very few people saw Clinton's speech and given the dislikes I saw on the stream, most of them were the very trolls she was complaining about. Even if this doesn't blow over in a couple of days, like I said before, most people on the left have already made up their minds on Trump. People on the right won't care and I doubt many independents are even aware that this is an issue. Those that do will probably go visit more mainstream sites like Breitbart or Reddit's The_Donald and wonder what all the fuss is about.

I also think that people are generally aware that guilt by association isn't going to cut it anymore. And it, of course turnabout is fair play. If Clinton can bash Trump because of the actions of trolls on twitter, then he can denounce the actions of far-leftist groups that are attacking his supporters. Given that one group of people is just trolling on the internet while the other is actually physically hurting real people, I think that Clinton made a tactical error here. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Attack on Kabul's American University in Afghanistan ends after two gunmen are killed.

Afghan police on scene at Kabul's American University. Reuters. 

A terrorist attack on the American University in Kabul, Afghanistan is over after two gunmen are killed. Reuters. The attack is confirmed to have killed one security officer and wounded 21 people, six of them critically. The attack started with a car bomb and then gunmen entered the university. Over 500 people were rescued by Afghan security forces. Students reported hiding in their classrooms or jumping out of 2nd floor windows to escape from the terrorists. The gunmen were able to enter the University despite armed guards and watch towers. No one has taken credit for the attack but both the Taliban and ISIS are possible suspects. The university has been targeted in the past. Two teachers there, an American and an Australian were abducted on August 7th.   

My Comment:
I followed this story this morning and I have to say that I am relieved. From what it sounded like then, I thought this attack was going to result in way more then one death. We have seen these kinds of terrorist attacks before and they usually end in a blood bath. It's a tragedy that one person was killed and 21 more were wounded, but I was expecting way worse. Still, those numbers could be preliminary in nature.

EDIT: Shortly after posting this the Afghan government released updated casualty figures. 7 people are dead in total, with 30 wounded. That's way worse then was initially reported, but still not as bad as I was expecting. Hopefully, the casualty figures don't go up again. 

Radical Islam has had a long history of hating western style education. They tend to see schools and universities not under their control as indoctrination centers. There is a bit of truth to that, but that doesn't justify the hatred that radical Muslims have for education. Remember, there is a terrorist group who's very name, Boko Haram, means that western education is forbidden/a sin. 

I'm not sure who is responsible for this attack. The typical suspects are al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. I think we can dismiss al-Qaeda. Their operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been greatly curtailed and they are a shell of their former selves. It is possible that they are responsible but I think it is very unlikely. I only include them for the sake of completion. 

ISIS is another possible choice, but again, I don't find that too likely. For one, they do not have that many forces in Afghanistan. ISIS's attempts to gain ground in Afghanistan have largely failed. Also, I think if it was ISIS, the death count would have been way higher. ISIS doesn't screw around and if they were going to attack a target like the American University, they would have killed dozens. 

That leaves the Taliban. They are obviously very active in Afghanistan and have taken back much of the country. They have also conducted attacks like this before. The Taliban have a long history of targeting schools and universities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also tend to have some standards and don't go all out when it comes to terrorist attacks. ISIS is way more brutal then they are, so given the low casualty count in this attack I think it is likely that they are the ones responsible. 

Afghanistan itself is kind of a basket case these days even without this terrorist attack. The Taliban has taken back much of the country and ISIS is at least trying to expand there. But the media coverage there is largely non-existent. I'm as guilty of that as anyone else, but in my defense, I use the American and Western media to find my sources. If they don't cover it, it's hard for me to do so.

Why is this the case? Well for one, there are other, larger wars going on right now. Syria, Iraq and Libya have more things going on and have the added bonus of contributing to the massive migration crisis that Europe is undergoing right now. Afghanistan is involved in that as well, but not to the same extent. ISIS is getting all the headlines so the Taliban's advance in Afghanistan is going to be ignored.

Another major factor is that the presidential election is dominating the news cycle. Amazingly enough, Afghanistan never seems to come up even though we have troops still deployed there. One of them even died this week, but I didn't hear any of the candidates talk about it. Indeed, I have watched the election since coverage started and the only time I remember anyone talking about it was during on of the Democratic debate when Bernie Sanders was asked about Afghanistan. He totally flubbed the question and looked like he forgot that we were even still in Afghanistan. To be fair to Sanders, it seems like everyone has forgotten about Afghanistan... 

Turkey crosses the border in Syria, vows to clear out ISIS holdings near the border.

Turkish tanks and APC's cross the border to attack the Syrian city of Jarablus. Reuters.

Turkey has sent their military, including tanks, special forces and jets, over the border with Syria to attack ISIS forces. Reuters. At least 9 tanks were spotted attacking the Syrian border town of Jarablus, a key ISIS stronghold. Turkey claims the operation will target both ISIS and the PYD, a Syrian Kurdish group. The attack is the first major military operation after the failed coup and comes after a major suicide bombing hit Turkey. Syria has condemned the cross border operation. US fighter jets and bombers are participating in the assault and have dropped bombs on ISIS targets in the area. Jarablus is a critical outpost for ISIS and capturing it will deny them a major smuggling route. Capturing will also deny the city to the Syrian Kurds. For their part, the Syrian Kurds have also condemned the cross border attack. 

My Comment:
Well, Turkey is finally doing something semi-positive in the Syrian Civil War. Instead of making things worse, which is what they have done since the war started, they might actually be able to make things better. At least when it comes to fighting ISIS. There may be other consequences but it's clear to me that this will be a major blow to ISIS.

Jarablus is a critical city for them. It's one their main smuggling routes across the border. They have a few other outposts but if Jarablus falls, they will be largely cut off from their supply lines. New recruits won't be able to get in and their terrorists won't be able to get out. They will also lose quite a bit of funding because they also smuggle oil through the border regions. Plus the prestige loss will be rather bad as well.

I can't stress enough how bad it will be for ISIS once they lose this border area. The need contacts with the outside world and once they lose the Turkish border area, there really isn't anywhere else they can go. They don't control any border regions in Iraq. They do control some areas in Syria to the southwest near Jordan and Lebanon, but those areas are completely cut off from the main ISIS forces. Once they lose Jarablus and the other border towns, it might be the beginning of the end for ISIS, unless they manage to go on the offensive and find a new border to exploit. 

I don't think there is any doubt that Turkey will win here. They have a modern professional army with good equipment and the backing of the United States military. It's true that the country itself is in chaos due to the failed coup, and they ended up locking up a lot of their commanders, but even so, this should be a reasonably easy battle for them, especially since they also have Syrian rebel allies. 

I expect ISIS to make a fight of it though. They probably weren't prepared for this and they are outgunned and out-manned but they also know how critical Jarablus and the other border cities are for their goals. They also aren't afraid to die and they will fight. I also expect them to pick up the pace of terrorist attacks inside of Turkey. Any sleeper cells they have left in the country will likely be activated, since there is never going to be a better time for them to act. 

All that being said, ISIS is really just a red herring. Yes Turkey wants some payback against ISIS for the recent terror attacks, but I really don't see that as the main reason for attacking. Once again, it all comes down to the Kurds. Turkey just hates the idea of independent Kurds, and the Kurds in Syria are essentially independent already. The idea that the Kurds could threaten to take Jarablus next is probably an existential threat to Turkey, at least in their eyes.

Why does Jarablus matter? Well we need to look at what the Kurds hold in Syria. The Kurds control two separate pieces of territory in Syria, that are not connected right now. First there is a large eastern chunk of the country that extends from the Iraqi border all the way to Kobani. Another smaller enclave exists around the city of Afrin, to the northwest of Aleppo. Jarablus is right in the middle of these two parts of the Kurds territory. If the Kurds would control Jarablus they would have pretty much accomplished their goal of an independent Kurdish nation and would be able to coordinate better since there would not be as much distance between the two pieces of territory. Yes there would be some other towns and cities that they would have to capture as well, but the goal would be much closer to being accomplished. 

And it is clear that the time for the Turks to move was now. The Kurds, along with some of their Free Syria Army allies, just took the city of Manbij, which is directly south of Jarablus. Though they were not supposed to extend any further then the Euphrates river, and were supposed to withdraw from Manbij when the captured it, neither happened. Indeed, the Turks have threatened to force the Kurds out of Manbij, which would be rather awkward for the Americans. 

Which makes me wonder if we haven't thrown our Kurdish allies under the bus. The Kurds have been the best ally against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria and we have come to rely on them in our fight against the terror group. If Turkey does come down to Manbij, and I think there is a decent chance that they will, I doubt that we will protect the Kurds that are stationed there. 

To me that seems like a rather terrible stab in the back to one of our most dedicated allies on behalf of quite possibility our worst one. It's very clear to me who has helped America's interests in Syria more, and it's not even close. The Kurds have been great to us and it is sad to see them treated this way. But it was probably inevitable... 

As for what is next, there are quite a few questions about what the future could hold. Will Turkey stay in Syria or is this just a limited raid that will be handed off to the rebels? Is it just Jarablus, or will they take other border towns as well? Will Turkey go down to Manbij? Will the Kurds fight the Turks? If they do, what happens to the Americans and other foreign nationals that are fighting ISIS with the Kurds? Will this be a killing blow to ISIS, or just another bloody nose for them? How will the Syrian government react? How about Russia? For now, we will just have to wait and see what the future holds... 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

US deploys Marine Super Cobra attack helicopters to Libya to fight ISIS.

USMC AH-1W similar to the ones uses in Libya. US Military photo.

The US has begun using Marine attack helicopters to attack ISIS in Libya. AFP. The deployment of AH-IW Super Cobra's comes after the US joined the campaign to retake the city of Sirte from ISIS. The attack helicopters will be used in a precision close air support role. The Super Cobra's are based off the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship which is also the home of Harrier jump jets that are also attacking ISIS. The US forces in the country are their at the request of the Government of National Accord, (GNA) one of two competing governments in the country. Though no official ground troops are on the ground in Libya, the US government admits that there have been some special forces in the country. 

My Comment:
Very interesting deployment in Libya. It's clear that we are pulling out all the stops to win the battle in Sirte against ISIS. The problem is that I thought ISIS had already been kicked out of Sirte. From what I understand that most of the city is under the control of GNA forces. That has been true for a couple weeks now. It seems as thought the battle has stalled.

ISIS has also been very active in sending raids and bombings into the city. Sirte is pretty much their last stronghold in Libya so they are fighting hard to keep it. I have said in the past that if ISIS loses Sirte, they pretty much lose the entire country. Sirte is the last major city they had control off. They still have troops in Benghazi and a few smaller towns in the coast, but other then that, they have lost most of their possessions in Libya. 

This is, of course, a very good thing. ISIS has been using Libya for their goals for far too long. They have staged multiple terror attacks out of Libya. Most of those attacks targeted the neighboring country of Tunisia. But there was also fears that ISIS would use the Libyan migrant route to send infiltrators into Europe. They may have done so already, but with ISIS's power base in Libya dissolving, that option may no longer exist.

The next question is what happens after ISIS is defeated in Libya for good. Sirte is basically their last stand and once they are completely out of the city they will essentially have lost the war. But even after that happens, ISIS won't be gone completely. They still control some minor areas and could also go underground. 

If ISIS does go underground in Libya, it will be a preview of what will happen in Iraq and Syria. My guess is that ISIS won't go away completely. They will still launch raids and terror attacks and they will also bide their time. Libya is not a stable country and given that they have two competing governments as well as several different insurgencies, it is very possible that ISIS could rise again from the ashes. 

Indeed, their Nigerian affiliates, Boko Haram, have done the same multiple times. The ISIS affiliate was essentially defeated to the point where they didn't control any cities or towns. But they still launch raids, commit terror attacks and kill many, many people. And they have somewhat reversed their losses. 

I do have to say that I don't think the government is being completely honest about there not being troops on the ground in Libya. Why? If they are deploying attack helicopters that means that they probably have forward air controllers on the ground. This is an absolute requirement for close air support. If you don't have FAC's you risk killing the very troops that you are their support. My guess is that we have troops on the ground to direct their helicopters and attack jets. 

I am not sure how much these strikes will accomplish. Airstrikes make for a good force multiplier and morale boost but they can't win the war by themselves. That falls onto the troops on the ground. I don't know what the quality of the GNA's soldiers are, but it's going to be up to them to win the battle of Sirte. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton's scandals are getting so severe that even the mainstream media is covering her.

Hillary Clinton's official senate picture.

Hillary Clinton's campaign is reeling after the release of more e-mails showing apparent corruption between her aide and the Clinton Foundation. Politico. One of the e-mails showed that Clinton's aide Huma Abedin acted as a go between between Clinton Foundation chair Doug Band and Crown Prince Salamn of Barharin while Abedin was working at the State Department with Hillary Clinton. Roughly 750 more e-mails from Abedin was released by Judicial Watch, who may have more emails to release. A Federal Judge has also ordered an investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Clinton is under withering attack by Donald Trump and other Republicans for the Clinton foundation, especially the fact that the foundation took massive amounts of money from foreign governments. 

My Comment:
Very bad news for Hillary Clinton. After the convention she got a nice boost in the polls, which was due to the Democratic Convention, a few unforced errors by Donald Trump and the fact that the polls were being rigged in her favor. But that bump seems to be over. Trump has caught up to her in the polls, even passing her in a few outlying ones.

Why? Well this scandal isn't going away for Clinton. It's clear to me that we are going to see a steady stream of e-mail releases up until the election. Many of these emails are going to show the same kind of graft and abuse of power as the ones showing Huma Abedin's actions did. The Clinton's have a lot of skeletons in their closet and a lot of them are being exposed for the first time. And amazingly enough, even the mainstream media is covering the story. The article I used as a source was Politico, a news outlet that has been in the the tank for Clinton since the start of her campaign.

The real problem for Clinton was never her e-mail scandal (though her recent blaming of Colin Powell for it didn't help). It's the Clinton Foundation. The foundation has always acted less as a charity and more as a slush fund for the Clinton's. It also shows how much influence foreign governments have over the Clinton's. The fact that Clinton's top aide was still shilling for the Foundation while she was employed at the State Department also shows that they weren't above breaking the law. 

Still, none of the emails in this latest release are going to stop Hillary Clinton. People are used to the Clinton's being corrupt. None of the e-mails released so far are so beyond the pale to damn her in the eyes of the Democrats. I think they are pretty severe and disqualify her from the presidency, but I am not a typical Democratic voter. I am guessing without a smoking gun, most of her supporters will continue to do so.

So does that mean Trump is doomed? Not so fast. Like I said, he is catching up in the polls. These scandals do hurt Hillary Clinton because even if they don't convince die hard Clinton supporters they do hurt her with independent voters and people who hate Trump. Trump may be a blowhard but he is pivoting to the center, and though he consistently puts his foot in his mouth, none of his faux scandals come close to the things that Hillary Clinton has been accused of doing. People may be able to stomach him over Clinton, or will vote third party or stay home. 

I also think there is a wild card that the Politico failed to mention. That wild card is named Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks. Assange was never a friend of Hillary Clinton. She has called for his arrest and she generally has a world view that is incompatible with Assange's beliefs.

But I get the feeling that it is personal for Assange. Though I think the Seth Rich conspiracy theory is still far fetched, I do think that he was Wikileaks source for the DNC Leaks. Rich turned up dead and many people believe the Democrats killed her. I think Assange believes that Rich was killed by the Democrats and he takes that very personally. Expect him to release more devastating emails, timed to do the most damage as possible. 

Plus there is this:

I am thinking that Assange will see this as an attempt to intimidate him, even if it was something unrelated. I also don't think that it is likely that it was anything else. Assange is probably feeling paranoid and he knows that Hillary Clinton is his enemy. If he gets too scared he might just dump everything, and I mean everything, that Wikileaks has collected over the years.

I think there is going to be a major October surprise for Hillary Clinton. I think that Assange will release what he has on the Clinton's, including the e-mails she deleted. And Judaical Watch and the State Department investigation may uncover even more. There is also even the possiblity that other outside hackers, like Gucifer 2.0, could release even more.  And even though the media is in the tank for her, they will have to cover it, just like they had to cover the DNC Leaks. Will it be enough to let Trump win? Very possibly, especially if he can avoid any stupid scandals. If Trump also wipes the floor with Clinton at the debates, which I expect him to do, then Clinton will lose for sure.

Still, I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. The Clinton's have survived scandal after scandal. They have proven to be very resilient, and it is possible that they have something up their sleeves as well. And it is also possible that Trump will make some kind of huge mistake, though that seems unlikely. I still think that Clinton will probably lose, even after the couple of bad weeks that Trump has had, but it's still a few months until November. If history has taught us anything, it's that a lot can happen in a couple of months...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

ISIS uses a child to suicide bomb a Kurdish wedding in Turkey, killing at least 50 people.

The aftermath of the bombing in Gaziantep. DHA/AP

An ISIS suicide bombing in Turkey killed at least 50 people, including the child they used as the bomber. USA Today. In addition to the 51 people that died in Turkey's worst terror attack this year, 69 more were wounded, 17 of which were wounded critically. The bomber was believed to be a child between the ages of 12 and 14. The city that the bombing occurred in, Gaziantep, is near the border with Syria and is populated by Kurds. The attack risks further destabilizing Turkey, which just repelled a coup last month. It occurred during a wedding celebration. 

My Comment:
Another disgusting attack by ISIS. And a fairly effective one as well. This attack will have a major impact on Turkey and it seems as though ISIS had a good plan here. Not only did they target a wedding, which wouldn't have much security, they also used a child to pull off the attack. Children are perfect suicide bombers, if you can get over the pure evil that is using them for that purpose. They don't draw as much scrutiny and nobody expects them to be carrying a bomb. The wedding was also a good target because it had a lot of people packed in close together. They pulled off a very brutal, but very smart attack.

Of course it is horrifying and disgusting that ISIS used a child or teenager of this attack. It takes a special kind of evil to brainwash a kid into carrying a bomb for you. It's even worse when you know that the child will not survive. That's about as evil as you can get.

Until now I haven't heard many reports of core ISIS doing attacks with children. Their Nigerian affiliate, Boko Haram, has done this sort of thing many times in the past. Still, I thought that ISIS still had some standards but honestly, why should anyone be shocked with what they do at this point? After all, ISIS has used children as executioners before, why wouldn't they use them as suicide bombers? (as an aside, the video of those executions in Palmyra remain the most disgusting thing I have ever seen on the internet). 

One wonders what the long term psychological effects this will have on the children controlled by ISIS. They call them their cubs and pearls, but they treat them in ways no one should ever treat children. I can't imagine how damaging it is to a child to be forced to murder someone. And I doubt that Syria or Iraq will be functional enough to deprogram these children if and when ISIS is defeated. There will be an entire generation of kids that have been raised on murder. The threat they pose as suicide bombers is sadly not the worst thing about the children of ISIS. 

As for Turkey, this is the last thing they need right now. The country is still very unstable after the failed coup plot last month. Their military and government are in disarray and people are angry. Though the people mostly backed President Erdogan, one wonders how they will react to more attacks like this. It's never good for the stability of a country if the government can't protect their people. In an already fragile country like Turkey, this could push them over the edge. 

It also seems that the gloves are off for Turkey. There was a time when Turkey was spared ISIS attacks, in exchange for trade in oil, weapons and passage for fighters. This was a win win for both parties because ISIS got money, weapons and a pipeline for fighters to join them. Turkey got cheap oil and destabilized their enemies in Syria, including the Kurds and the regime. 

Those days are long gone. ISIS has been stepping up the attacks in Turkey and most of them have been rather impressive. The attack on the airport in Istanbul was especially deadly and this newest one is even worse. Indeed, it seems that Turkey is one of the more dangerous places for terrorist attacks in the world right now, just below active war zones like Syria and Iraq. 

As ISIS loses territory in Syria, Iraq and Libya, they have stepped up terror attacks globally. Pundits and the US government tries to paint this as a sign of ISIS's weakness, but I am not sure I agree. Though it is true that they have been pushed back in almost every country that they are extremely active in, I think that ISIS would be stepping up attacks regardless.

Remember, there is a prophetic strain to ISIS thought. They think they are in the end days and they have very specific beliefs about what they need to do in order to bring about the end of the world. One of those beliefs is that they need to have 80 countries (or banners) fight them in Dabiq, Syria, so bringing as many people into the war as they can is a major goal. 

As you can see from the above propaganda video, ISIS has religious beliefs about how they have to wage war. They have a deep spiritual need to bring in as many countries into the war as possible so they can have their final battle at Dabiq. Sending terrorists as young as 12 will increase the outrage and may even encourage more people to fight ISIS. And ISIS doesn't care if they win or lose. Indeed, their prophecy says they lose and retreat to Israel and then Jesus will come to destroy the forces of "Rome". It's because of those religious beliefs that I don't think ISIS is going anywhere soon. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Close encounter between US F-22 fighters and Syrian SU-24's over Hasakah

Kurdish civilians load up a vehicle to flee the fighting. AFP. 

US and Syrian jets had a close encounter in the skies above Hasakah after new fighting between the regime and the Kurds. Wall Street Journal. Two US F-22 Raptors were deployed to intercept a pair of Syrian SU-24 Fencer attack jets. The SU-24's were in the area after the United States had beefed up patrols after Syrian jets bombed Kurds on the ground. Control of Hasakah has been split between the Kurds and the regime for a long time and US forces were positioned in the city. Fighting between the Kurds and the regime is extremely rare and airstrikes against the Kurds are unheard of. The United States used their "de-escalation" line with Russia to ensure that Syrian jets did not approach US forces on the ground. 

My Comment:
This is a worrying development. To this point the Syrian regime and the Kurds have been de-facto allies. Fighting between the two groups is almost unheard of, so I am rather shocked that the regime is bombing near Hasakah. I really think the report is leaving some things out about how unprecedented this is. Consider the following:

1. Hasakah is pretty far away from the front lines with ISIS. There was a point when ISIS was threatening the city but they have been pushed back and it has been rather safe for awhile. Whatever is happening in Hasakah is likely unrelated to the fight against ISIS.

2. The Syrian regime is currently fighting a life or death battle for the city of Aleppo. That is probably the most important battle happening right now and is perhaps the most important battle of the war. If the regime wins in Aleppo, the war is essentially won. The secular rebel groups will be knocked out of the war and the extremists like ISIS and whatever al-Nusra is calling themselves these day will be greatly weakened. Sending these two jets to strike targets as far away as Hasakah seems like an insane waste of resources.

3. The Kurds and Syrian regime have had, until now, no reason to fight each other. They were decent allies during the battle for Hasakah and they helped each other save the city. They have also assisted each other in many other battles. To attack them seems like lunacy because they are throwing away an ally, even if they are allies of convenience. 

4, They sent in the bombers anyways even knowing that there was a risk of a US response. I am sure that the Russians told the Syrians that there are Americans in the general vicinity of Hasakah, and I bet the regime has their own sources as well. They risked getting two of their planes shot down (critical and hard to replace planes at that) and forcing a response from the US. That's not something you risk for stupid reasons.

So why did the Syrians do this? It seems unlikely that they would be willing to send in airstrikes for minor skirmishes between the Kurds and their troops. Though I am sure the troops on the ground appreciated it, they should have been able to easily hold out against any attacks by the Kurds. I guess it is possible that they would do so, or even more unbelievably, that they didn't know any Americans were in the area, but I sincerely doubt it. It is also possible that these skirmishes are a lot worse then we have been led to believe, but I don't see the evidence for that. 

Again, what to the Syrians gain from doing this? Well let me answer that question with another one. Why are the Kurds and Syrians fighting now, after years of relative peace? Nobody seems to have a good answer for that. Some people are saying that it's the regime getting angry at the Kurds for fostering relationships with Russia and the United States. The Syrians don't want federalism. That's the Kurds take on it, but they are obviously biased.  

Another possibility is that the United States was whipping up the Kurds to fight the regime. Though I have zero evidence of that whatsoever, I do have to question what US troops were doing in Hasakah. At this point in the war, Hasakah is backwater. There aren't any enemies to fight in the area... unless you make the Syrian regime into your enemy. This could be a message from the regime to the United States informing them that they know what is up and are not going to tolerate it if possible. The problem with that theory is there seems to be little reason for us to do this. I know our strategy in Syria is dumb, but it isn't that dumb right? 

Finally, we have to consider the possibility that it wasn't the Kurds idea to attack the regime. Though the bulk of the forces in Hasakah are Syrian Kurds, there are other minorities as well. There are a handful of Assyrian Christians but critically, there are also a lot of Sunni Arab rebels as well. These Arab rebels may be branching off from their Kurdish masters to start their own conflict with the regime. The more I think about the more likely this possibility seems. The Kurds and the regime have little reason to fight but the Sunni Arabs certainly do, especially with the situation in Aleppo.

I am glad that the incident between our F-22's and the Syrian SU-24's ended peacefully though. The SU-24's are primarily ground attack aircraft and though they are often equipped with air-to-air missiles, I doubt they are much of a threat to our F-22's. Still, a shootout between US and Syrian jets would not be good for anyone involved, including the Russians.

Not only would there be a loss of life, there is a chance that the situation could spiral out of control. The last thing we need is a shooting war with Russia over Syria. Though that still remains a remote possibility, the chances get a little higher every time one of these incidents occur. My hope is that Syria won't send any more strikes and if they do, that we don't shoot down their planes. Still, given the way things are going in Syria, anything is possible. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016 will officially be shut down after being bought out by Univision.

Gawker founder Nick Denton. AP.

Beleaguered gossip site will be officially shut down after being bought out by Univision for $135 million. LA Times. The site had been in operation for 14 years. Univision did not provide a reason as to why it was being shut down but many thought that Gawker could not be rehabilitated after the bad press from the Hulk Hogan lawsuit. Hogan sued Gawker for $140 million after they published a sex tape staring him. His lawsuit was funded by Peter Thiel, a millionaire who had been outed as gay back in 2007. Gawker's other properties, including Gizmodo and Kotaku will likely survive the buyout. Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, has gone bankrupt due to the lawsuit. 

My Comment:
Before I say anything else... 

Since that is out of the way, let's talk about this. I've written about Gakwer in the past. They have always been a terrible company of gossips and scandalmongers posing as 'journalists" with nothing in the way of ethics or professionalism. They are a terrible company and the only bad news is that some of their properties, notably Kotaku, aren't being shut down as well. 

So what has Gawker done that is so bad? Well let's start with the sex tapes. They had no problem with posting sex tapes for people like Hulk Hogan or other men. But when a bunch of hacked female celebrity photos leaked they called anyone that looked at them "sexual predators" and even "rapists". They were massive hypocrites. 

How else were they hypocrites? Well Paul Denton is gay. He's supposed to be a progressive liberal who supports gay rights and other gay people. But what he did to Peter Thiel shows that he does nothing of the sort. Outing a gay person isn't news, especially if that person is a private citizen. And Thiel wasn't their only victim. They also "outed" David Geithner, brother of Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. David was a private citizen and I put "outed" in quotes because the "evidence" was just a bunch of easily doctored texts and the rantings of a crazy person. 

Gawker was also a major player in the Gamergate scandal of a couple of years ago. The whole thing was a mess but Gawker and their staff did a lot to fan the flames. They insulted everyone that had ever played a video game and called everyone that disagreed with them misogynists. Sam Biddle, even went so far as to say that bullying should make a comeback because of the scandal. Indeed Gawker lost a lot of money to the scandal after video game fans contacted their advertisers and got a large number of them to pull their adds. It may have left them weak enough that Hogan's lawsuit was able to finally kill them. 

Gawker was also made up of unapologetic leftists. They made no secret of their political affiliation and did everything they could to make conservatives look bad. They are far leftists and they believe that anyone to the right of them, even other liberals, are sexist, racist and bigoted, regardless of the facts. That's fairly standard for news media these days but at least other outlets pretend to be objective. Gawker didn't even try. 

Some people in the media are whining that Hulk Hogan lawsuit was an affront to the 1st amendment. (Not that Gawker cares about the constitution. They published the names and addresses of New York gun owners so they clearly don't care about the 2nd amendment). I completely disagree. Libel and slander laws exist for a reason. You can't make up things for no reason and you can't just post things that invade people's privacy. There was no benefit for letting people watch a clip of Hulk Hogan having sex. Nobody gains anything by that. 

Given how biased and disgusting the media is right now, I hope that Gawker's fate will be remembered. I want journalists to thing about things like ethics and lawsuits when they are deciding to publish something. Given what they are saying about the GOP this year, I don't think it has set in yet, but I think people will be more willing to sue the media when they make things up out of whole cloth or post gossip with no news value. Even unsuccessful lawsuits can hurt news outlets like Gawker. 

I hope that other news outlets go the way of Gakwer. So many of them right now are just making things up, implying things that never happened. or even out and out lying. The worst thing is that people are still buying it up. I mean, even after everything that happened, people were still reading Gawker. As people keep buying what the media is selling, literally and figuratively, nothing will change, even if Gakwer has gone down in flames... 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What are we doing in Syria? US backed rebels give ISIS troops safe passage out of the recently liberated Manbij.

A man walks among ruins of Manbij. AFP.

US backed rebels give ISIS fighters and vehicles safe passage out of the city of Manbij. USA Today. ISIS fighters were allowed to surrender during the siege of the city. The US backed rebels, in the first such agreement with ISIS, allowed them to leave. ISIS was using human shields and the agreement was made to save those civilians. A convoy of 100 to 200 ISIS fighters were allowed to leave. A US drone followed them out of the city. US commanders agreed to not destroy the convoy. The surrender is unusual for ISIS. Most of the time they fight to the death, and this surrender may damage their reputation. On the other hand, they are desperate to preserve their numbers and most definitely needed to keep those experienced fighters alive.

My Comment:
This was an odd descion to say the least. Though I would have a problem with going back on the deal and striking these fighters after they left the city, it makes little sense to me to let these fighters live. We probably shouldn't have made this deal with the rebels. ISIS is desperate for fighters right now and losing 100 to 200 more fighters would be crucial. Letting them go seems like a very bad choice.

Once again, I think people are bit too worried about civilian casualties. Though it would have been bad press to destroy ISIS along with their hostages, it would probably be the best thing. Not only would this kill the ISIS fighters, it would discourage ISIS from using the human shield tactic. What's the point of taking hostages if they don't stop attacks? 

Of course, that probably won't ever happen. People really hate when civilians are killed in war, even if it is inevitable. Imagine the outrage if the United States had bombed the ISIS fighters along with the civilians? All the usual suspects would be up in arms. So even though destroying ISIS is probably the correct move strategically, it's politically impossible. 

Still, there were probably other options. We didn't have to let these fighters go. There is a spectrum between this solution and destroying ISIS along with the hostages. We could have starved them out or ground out an offensive. There would still have been civilian casualties but not nearly as many as the full destruction option and it would have killed these fighters. 

An even more obvious solution would be to take these fighters prisoner. Though I doubt the Kurds have major prisons available, they should at least have the capability to take 100 or so fighters. That is what would usually happen when an enemy unit surrenders, they are taken as prisoners as war. The POW laws might not apply because ISIS isn't really a traditional army, but that's not an argument against taking them as prisoners. Just letting them go is crazy because they will just return to the battlefield. 

My worry is that ISIS will be encouraged to use the hostage/human shield tactic in the future. They know that the United States is squeamish about causing civilian casualties. And they also learned some lessons from Fallujah. In that battle they lost many of their fighters in the fighting. When they finally decided to retreat their massive convoy of troops and vehicles was utterly annihilated by US airstrikes.   

ISIS would probably like to avoid the kind of defeat they had in Fallujah. Losing the city was bad enough but the casualties they took there are not sustainable. They will need fighters to survive and losing as many man as they did in Fallujah will result in ISIS falling. Using hostages will allow them to retreat in peace and preserve some of their fighters. They can also use human shields as ways to keep airstrikes away from their convoys. I always thought that ISIS should keep their leaders and most important positions staffed with large numbers of hostages. They fact that they haven't done so outside of Manbij is shocking to me.

It's kind of amazing to me that ISIS hasn't tried this until now. While they have used human shields in the past, they haven't used them to force terms when they are surrendering. If they had done so in the past, they may have minimized the losses they suffered in both Iraq and Syria. They would be in a much better position if they had done this in previous battles. They would probably still be losing, but they would have a lot more fighters. 

I also have to say that ISIS would have never allowed their enemies to surrender like this. Though ISIS has occasionally released prisoners, most of the time they were civilians they couldn't care for. When it came to troops that ISIS captured, they showed no mercy. In many cases they executed people in horrible and creative ways. Though I don't want a wholesale slaughter of ISIS fighters, it does anger me that they are getting a free pass when they have done much worse to the people they capture.