Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gary Johnson is having a rough time. Completely flubs a question on foreign leaders.

Gary Johnson with USA Today staff. USA Today

While on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Mathews, Gary Johnson seemed unable to name a world leader he respected. USA Today. After being asked repeatedly if he had a living leader that he respected Johnson struggled to name one. Conceding that he was having another "Aleppo moment", he eventually settled with the former president of Mexico. When asked which one, Johnson said he was having a "brain freeze" until his VP pick, Bill Weld, suggested Vicente Fox, who has tangled with Donald Trump. Johnson then said that his choice was indeed fox while Bill Weld said that Angela Merkal was his. Johnson's campaign downplayed the gaffe saying that the media is out to get the candidate and took the opportunity to bash Donald Trump.  

My Comment:
I know I am picking on Gary Johnson a lot lately, but that was pretty extraordinary. Gary Johnson has had a string of gaffes like this, and this one looks worse considering it follows his "Aleppo" situation where he totally blew a question about the Syrian city. To follow that gaffe up with this extremely similar one is not good.

And it's not even that this was a difficult question. I am guessing if someone asked me the same question I would be able to answer it in much less time (Off the top of my head, King Abdullah of Jordan, Shinzo Abe of Japan and even Vladimir Putin of Russia). And if my choice of world leader was Vicente Fox, I would remember it, if, for no other reason, because he has been in the news lately for tangling with Johnson's opponent, Donald Trump. That shouldn't be that difficult to remember.

But Johnson totally flubbed it. And his VP pick, Bill Weld, wasn't much help. Though he did come up with the correct answer for Johnson, his own answer, Angela Merkel, is, quite frankly, a terrible one. Though Vicente Fox at least has tangled with Trump, Merkel is a hugely unpopular figure, both in Germany and Europe, for her role in the migrant crisis. Merkel might have been an acceptable answer before all that happened, but it is an insane choice right now.

And before you say "well Clinton and Trump would have flubbed it as well", I think that is just stupid. Clinton was first lady, a senator and a secretary of state. In all of those rolls she met and worked with world leaders. As much as I dislike her, she would not have flubbed this question. Obviously.

Neither would Donald Trump. Though he doesn't have the experience Clinton does, he has been making waves by meeting with world leaders. All Trump would have to do is mention Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or even Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, all of which give Trump foreign policy cred. To say that he couldn't come up with one of those guys for that question is just stupid.

It's getting pretty obvious that Gary Johnson doesn't have either Trump's or Clinton's foreign policy credentials. When he was asked about Aleppo he didn't even know the most important city in Syria where a huge, bloody battle is occurring. And now he doesn't know a single world leader to mention during a town hall, until his VP pick covers for him. It really makes you wonder how a Johnson Presidency would look like? If Vladimir Putin invaded Europe or some other stupid thing, would Johnson just ask his staff "President who?"

Plus he could have covered the error better. Saying that he was having an "Aleppo Moment" was playing into the media's hands. Perhaps the moment would have passed unnoticed if he hadn't done so. He could have also could have played it off as a criticism of Donald Trump. Something like "The Mexican President that got into it with Donald Trump... can't think of his name, Bill, who was that? Oh, Vicente Fox, of course, yeah he's great", would have been a non-issue.

These flubs and gaffes with Johnson also make me wonder about something else. Gary Johnson smokes pot and has done so for years. Though he has recently quit during the campaign, he has smoked it regularly. Doing so could cause memory issues if he was a heavy user. It could also be that he just doesn't know foreign policy that well, but either way, it doesn't look good for him.

I do have to wonder something though. Gary Johnson was quietly ignored through pretty much the entire campaign. Nobody cared about his 10% of the vote until now. Why now though? I think that Hillary Clinton's campaign realized that Johnson's support pretty much exclusively comes from people that might otherwise vote for her. It's mostly former Bernie Sanders supporters and younger millennials, not GOP voters. Johnson isn't taking all that many votes from Donald Trump, for reasons that I detail in this blog post. Since they figured out that Johnson is drawing votes away from Clinton in an incredibly close race, her staff has put the press on notice. If Johnson screws up, they need to cover it.

Which makes me worry, am I helping Hillary Clinton by covering this story? I'm on the record as a Trump voter, so by covering this does that make me some kind of traitor? I don't think so. I do know quite a few people that want to vote for Johnson and I think they deserve to know that their candidate is making mistakes like this, even if it hurts my guy. I can't see most of them voting for either Clinton or Trump, so I guess I am encouraging them to stay home since their candidate is pretty terrible too.

 I'm also on the record as not liking Gary Johnson for the direction he is taking the Libertarian Party. I had way more respect for them when they were right libertarians instead of Democrats 2.0, so I'm feeling so much Schadenfreude right now. It was impossible to resist. I won't forgive Johnson for taking the party to the left on gun control, which was supposed to be one of the party's signature issues. As far as I am concerned he deserves 0% support. Same as Hillary Clinton.

Of course, even if Johnson was at Jill Stein's 2% support, I still think that this particular flub would have gotten coverage. It's fairly extreme to not have a snap answer for a simple question like "who is your favorite world leader?" Almost any politician would have that answer down pat, but for whatever reason Johnson did not. Hell, I can see that question being asked to a small town city council person, and they wouldn't flub it either. Though I doubt many of his supporters will care, it's still a major mistake that might turn off potential anti-Clinton, anti-Trump voters. And the series of gaffes that Johnson has had will probably destroy his goal of reaching 15% in the polls and getting federal funding for the Libertarian Party, let alone his presidential aspirations...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fantasy Football update: week three massacre

I said I was going to take a break from my normal posts for a short bit and I meant it. It's time to update what is going on in fantasy football again. Why? Why the hell not? Plus, it's my blog, I do what I want! My draft recap can be found here and it shows what my team was like when I drafted.

So how is my team doing? Well, for the first two weeks I was doing pretty well. I won both games (not by huge margins) and scored quite a few points. In fact by the end of week two I was ranked #1 in the league both due to win loss record and in terms of points scored. I was feeling pretty good about things. Sure, I lost Danny Woodhead to injury and there were concerns about Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but I was confident going into week three that I had a decent chance to win.

Fast forward to now, and I am now 2-1 and in 5th place, with the 6th and 7th place people beating me on total points scored. What the hell happened? A whole bunch of bad stuff. First, credit where credit is due. My opponent in week 3 did a pretty good job. He scored 126.6 points, mostly due to huge games from Mike Evans and Marvin Jones. If I had reached my projections I would have beaten him, but I obviously didn't. Still, 127 points is a pretty good score that will win you the game often enough in my league.

But my team? My team was TERRIBLE. I only got 83.2 points! Worst still, my bench had more points then my starting line up with 91 points, which includes two players that scored goose eggs. Both Christine Michael and Charles Sims had great games on my bench and even my backup WR's outscored my real ones!

What sent wrong? Well first of all, Philip Rivers did not come through for me. He had quite a few passing yards, but did nothing for me when it came to touchdowns. That hurt quite a bit, but it wasn't a killing blow on it's own. David Johnson was the lone brightspot, but my other starting RB, Latavius Murray had one long play for a TD and pretty much nothing else.

What really let me down were my WR's and my TE. Alshon Jeffery was the best of a bad bunch with 12 points, but man, that was not enough. And the rest of them didn't get that combined! Both Brandon Marshall and Brandin Cooks had terrible games. Cooks really surprised me too, because he had been rock solid in weeks one and two, but for whatever reason he just couldn't get open in week three.

So what could I have done differently? Well I screwed up by starting Marshall. He was coming off injury, so he was a higher risk play to begin with. It didn't seem to effect him that much but his QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, had a terrible day, throwing six interceptions. I don't think you can predict a game that bad, but given the injury concerns I should have started Charles Sims, Chrstine Michael or even Sterling Shepard instead. Doing so wouldn't have won me the game but at least I wouldn't have been as embarrassed.

Still, it's only one week. I think my team is still very strong. Rivers will recover and David Johnson is still rock solid. I also have a very good core of RB's, right now every single one of them is the starter, with Arian "I'm always injured" Foster the main exception. I picked up Isaiah Crowell from waivers as well and though he isn't anywhere near as good as Danny Woodhead, he will be a good bye week or injury fill in. My main problem is who goes into the RB2 slot each week. None of them are bad, but it's hard to predict who is going to go off at any given time. Currently it's Simms, but that could change quickly, espeically if Doug Martin makes his way back to the Bucs.

WR's are still strong. Cooks and Marshall will bounce back and Jeffery is still pretty steady. I also think that Sterling Shepard is one of the better rookie WR's and he will be a good bye week fill in, or could even make it to my flex spot depending on the matchup. John Brown has been a bust so far, and Corey Coleman is injured, but I still think my WR's are good. Coleman will come back eventually and Brown actually showed some small signs of life last week.

As for my TE, Julius Thomas screwed me last week, but other then that, he has been ok as well. I waited too long to get a TE, and it's pretty unlikely to improve at the position. TE is an unrelible position this year so I am not to worried about an occasional bad day from mine.

With all that being said, I am still more confident that this season will be a good one for me. Losing last week hurt, but it wasn't a death blow or anything. I still have a good team and I hope that I got my one bad game out of my system. I also think that going into bye weeks, I am in a stronger position. Right now, almost everyone on my team is worth starting in most situations, and I think the other people in the league will have more problems finding people to fill in when someone is out. Assuming that I can avoid the injury bug (fingers crossed), I should have a real shot of making the playoffs. And maybe winning when I get there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My take on the first presidential debate!

Trump and Clinton at the debate with Lester Holt moderating. Screencap.

I watched the debate last night and as always I have a lot to say about it. First some notes. I live tweeted the debate like I usually do, and you can see what I had to say as it happened (or make fun of my grammar and spelling mistakes that fill me with shame) by following the link to my twitter account here. Also, if you missed the debate you can watch it in the youtube link below:

So what did I think of the debate? Well it was pretty brutal. Clinton and Trump wasted no time and were extremely tough on each other while Trump had a secondary battle going on between him and the moderator Lester Holt. I don't think there was a clear winner in this debate, even though the media has crowned Clinton the winner. She did better then I expected her to do, but I think it was a mixed bag for both candidates. 

Before I say anything else though, I think Lester Holt did a pretty terrible job as a moderator. He had an impossible task and no matter what he was going to get attacked by people, but I think even considering that he did poorly. Not only was he biased in favor of Clinton, there were no questions about her foundation, e-mail scandal or health, he also did a very bad job of controlling the debate. When Trump was interrupting Clinton he did nothing to stop him and he also didn't admonish the crowd when they cheered (except for the first time when they cheered for Trump) even though they weren't supposed to. Again, he had a tough task given how insane people are right now, but he did not rise to the challenge. 

I also think the choice of topics was rather stupid as well. Though I am sure there are a lot of partisan people that enjoyed the seemingly endless discussion on birtherism and other lame scandals, I doubt undecided voters care. I also think that there were a lot of "gotcha" questions lobbed in Trumps direction that were not sent Hillary Clinton's way. Is it an issue that Trump made a non-committal "maybe" kind of answer when Howard Stern asked him if he supported going to war in Iraq? Maybe, but Hillary Clinton actually voted for that war and has much more responsibility for it and she wasn't called out at all. 

With that being said I'm going to take on each candidate individually starting with Clinton. I plan to go through what worked and what didn't work for each candidate. I think they both scored some points last night but they also both screwed things up rather badly as well, with neither side really getting an upper hand.

Hillary Clinton:
The best thing that happened to Hillary Clinton tonight is that she didn't have any health scares. Up to the debate there was a lot of concern that she wouldn't be able to complete the debate without being able to take a break or sit down for 90 minutes. She did so and did not have any signs of looking unhealthy or confused. Indeed, she looked better last night then she has in quite some time. I don't think that the speculation about her health will end anytime soon, but if she did have another episode it would have been a campaign killing blow. That didn't happen and she might have been able to reassure her supporters that she's healthy and capable of being president.

Clinton also plaid to her strengths, which is policy. She focused more on the nuts and bolts of her policies then Trump did. I still happen to disagree with those policies, but I think she did a fairly decent job. She looked like she knew what she was talking about which is always a good thing if you are running for president. I think she did a much better job of explaining her plans then Trump did, even though I think policy was not the main point of this debate.

Clinton also clearly got under Trump's skin. I think her accusations against him really bothered him, especially the last one about his treatment of women. Part of her argument is that Trump is too easily angered and she helped her case when Trump responded the way he did. Trump looked pissed, more so then I have seen him so far this election cycle, and Hillary Clinton deserves some credit for throwing him off of his game. 

But Clinton had some issues as well. By far the worst of these was her response to the question about police bias. Not only did she seem to claim that police are racist against black people, but she went on to say that EVERYONE is implicitly biased against black people. It struck me as obvious pandering and was really quite offensive. The idea has little merit in reality and to even bring it up shows that she is desperate to hang onto the black (and SJW) vote. I consider this a major unforced error and it is a pity that it won't get much play outside of conservative media.

She also made a mistake when she said that she supported NAFTA, which her husband passed during his presidency. NAFTA is hugely unpopular even among Democrats and is an association she would have been smart to avoid. Trade in general is a weak point for her and the discussion on NAFTA and TPP really had her flailing around. Trump deserves credit for hitting her hard here, but Clinton really should have tried to avoid the issue more then she did. 

I also think that Clinton wasn't forceful enough with Trump. It's a fine line to cross, especially when people already dislike Clinton for being pushy, but she really did let him walk all over him during the debate. Though she got her hits in as well, with a great line about "Trumped up trickle down" economics, Trump often talked over her and she didn't do the same thing as he did. You could argue that this made her look more presidential, but you never want to give your opponent an opportunity to dominate the speaking time like that. 

I also think that Clinton came off as mean. Both candidates did really, but Trump has the added benefit of being funny as well. Though there weren't many zingers last night either way, Clinton can less afford to be unlikable. She really needed to humanize herself and for the most part she didn't. Her warm smile, handshake and "How are you Donald?" at the beginning of the debate was probably the closest she came to looking like a normal person. 

Donald Trump:
Trump lost his cool and I think that it hurt him quite a bit. He was rather forceful in interrupting Hillary Clinton and I don't know if that plays well with women. They might see him as being, at the very least, disrespectful and some are going to say that he was sexist. I don't buy that for a minute, but I also understand how it could look to someone who has been talked down to by a man. I know it will play well for those that dislike her, but he needed to play for the voters he doesn't have. 

I also think that Trump was on the defensive most of the night. He ceded control of the topic to Lester Holt and Hillary Clinton. Though he dominated the talking time, he mostly spent that time defending and bragging about himself instead of hitting Hillary Clinton hard. Though he did bring up an attack about Clinton's e-mail server and the DNC leak, he let it go rather quickly and spent way too much time talking about inconsequential things like his Iraq War vote or his hotels. 

Stunningly he did not hit Hillary Clinton very hard on her support for the Iraq War. He did hit her on Libya and Iraq's general state, but when Lester Holt pushed him on his statements on the Howard Stern show he got way too defensive. It was the perfect opportunity to attack both Clinton and the press but he didn't do it. 

I would have said something like this: "You are asking me about a non-committal maybe on a shock jock's radio show when I denounced the war several times after and oh, by the way, Hillary Clinton actually voted for it. Why aren't you asking her about that, huh? Is it because the mainstream media is completely against me and that you are bought and paid for by the Hillary campaign? But no, keep hitting me on the issue instead of asking her tough questions. The American people know who's really responsible for the war and it sure as hell isn't me!" The fact that I was able to come up with that in about the same time he had, shows me that he wasn't prepared for the question and I think this was a major unforced error for Trump. 

Still, like I said before the bar was lower for Trump. All he needed to do is look presidential and powerful and I think he pulled that off. He probably could have hit Clinton more effectively then he did, but he still did a decent job with the attacks that he did pull off.

I also think that he had a few moments that softened his image that may end up playing well. He shook Hillary Clinton's hand and even refrained from hitting her for her husbands sex scandals. He even said that he thought about doing it but though it would be disrespectful for Chelsea Clinton, who was sitting in the audience. Though I do think that the Clinton sex scandals are fair game, there is something to be said about not going there as well. Doing so would have been rather sleezy and I do think he had a point about it being fairly harsh to talk about it in front of Clinton's family. 

I was also rather struck about how passionate Trump was about the plight of Chicago. As you know, the city is having a terrible time with crime and murders. Trump talked about this at length and to me he seemed like the problem legitimately pisses him off and that he cares about what happens there. I didn't get that from Clinton when she was talking about crime, but perhaps that is just bias on my part. The moment plays well since most of the victims in Chicago are black. Trump's outreach to black people might not be 100% effective, but in my mind at least, he made a case that they should support his anti-crime efforts, or, at the very least, he cares about the issue. At the very least he might peel away a few critical black votes if they find him sincere. 

Finally, I think that Trump showed that he isn't going to back down when it comes to the media. His fights with Lester Holt went on way too long and could have been handled better, but at least he showed to his base that the media wasn't going to push him around. Since media bias is a big reason that Trump is popular, it was smart of him to fight back against it. 

I see this debate as a draw. I don't think the polls will move all that much between the candidates. There wasn't anything that I saw last night that will keep people from hating Trump or Clinton. I do think a few independent voters might be moved due to Trump's law and order speech, Clinton's flub on racism and Trumps harsh tone, but the numbers will be minimal. 

I think the biggest effect on both sides will be that their supporters will be assured that their candidates will fight to the end. Clinton showed that her health, though still a concern, isn't going to be the top issue for awhile and Trump showed that he can still dominate a debate at least in terms of speaking time and hit his opponent hard. 

The next two debates have a better chance of ending with a clear victor. Trump will probably learn from his mistakes this time and focus more on attacking Hillary instead of defending himself. I think he will reign in his ego a bit and that it will help him in the next two debates. Hillary will probably keep doing what she is doing. She's good at debates, even if she did make a few errors last night. Her main problem is what is happening away from the debate stage. 

With all that being said, I am looking forward to the rest of the debates. I, of course, plan on covering all the Presidential ones. I will probably watch the VP matchup between Tim Kaine vs Mike Pence as well. I greatly enjoy writing these posts up and also shitposting on twitter while the debates happen, so unless something drastic happens, you better believe I am going to keep doing these until the election in November! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

A few thoughts on tonight's 1st presidential debate!

Donald Trump. Michael Vandon

Tonight is the big night. The first actual presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton happens tonight. It will be broadcast live on pretty much every network and will begin and 8:00 central time and last until 9:30. NBC anchor Lester Holt will be the moderator.

I, of course, will be watching and live tweeting throughout the debate. This is must watch television and only extreme circumstances will cause me to miss it. So if for some reason I am NOT live tweeting the debate, you know something is up. As always my twitter can be found here.

I also hope to have up a reactions post up by tomorrow. I don't think there is any chance of me getting it done tonight, so it will probably have to wait until morning or perhaps even evening if some other huge story comes up, like a massive terror attack. Either way, expect something similar to what I did with the GOP and Democrat debates were I go through the pros and cons of each candidate's performance.

As always I like to make a few predictions before the debate happens. Since it has been so long since a debate happened, I feel a bit rusty. But I am going to write some things that I think might happen and what needs to happen for each candidate:

-Donald Trump will act more presidential and will attempt to take the high road unless Hillary Clinton pushes him too hard. Trump's starting to win because he has counteracted Clinton's claims that he is too scary. He has avoided any stupid fights with Mexican Judges or Muslim parents lately and I think he realizes that has helped him in the polls. That could go away if he hits Hillary Clinton too hard. I think if he goes all out and just thrashes Hillary, it could hurt him. I'd love to see that, but it could turn off moderates. People don't want to vote for someone they think is mean so Trump needs to stick to the facts and lay off the insults. He still has to be Trump, but he can't mock Clinton in an excessive way. Hell, I kinda hope that he starts the night out by saying that he hopes that Hillary Clinton gets healthy and says it in a way that shows he means it. Show that he wants to win, but he doesn't want to win because she got sick. 

-Hillary Clinton will do her best to beat the same drum beat she has been doing for about a year now. Donald Trump is sexist, racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-black, anti-everything. If she is to have any success at all she needs to paint Trump as the next Hitler. Since she has largely failed to do so until this point, I don't know what she can hit him with. Most of the faux and actual scandals with Trump have faded into the background and I don't think just calling him a racist will be enough for her.

-If Hillary Clinton has any kind of health episode at all, she is done. A coughing fit, fainting, confusion, any of it could be enough to derail her campaign. Her fainting episode on 9/11 really hurt her and people don't think she is healthy enough to be president. If she gets flustered she is going to be in huge trouble. She is going to have to stand for 90 minutes, which may be too long for someone recovering from, at the very least, pneumonia. 

-I doubt this will be a debate about facts. Both candidates will put forth their plans and will try to sell them. But I doubt the facts of what they are going to do is really going to convince people. Right now this election is about character. Trump needs to portray Clinton as an unhealthy criminal who is risking national security with her immigration plan and her desire for military intervention. Clinton needs to portray Trump as an unhinged racist, stomping at the bit and looking forward to discriminating against all the various identity politics groups. And they both need to accomplish those goals without looking like an outrageous bigot (for Trump) or a shrill bitch (for Hillary). Neither of those things will be easy, but I doubt anyone is going to be convinced by anything other than an emotional response. 

-Lester Holt is going to be crucified no matter what. There is a great disagreement between Republicans and Democrats this year on debate moderators. The GOP wants them to be impartial, not calling anyone out on issues of fact. They should lead the discussion, not get into a two on one fight. The Democrats are desperate for the two on one fight because they believe that both the media is on their side and that Trump really does need to be taken down. No matter what Holt tries to do he is going to piss off half the country. If he tries to be fair, he will get the same treatment that Jimmy Fallon and Matt Lauer got. Expect many shrill and hysterical leftist hit pieces if he goes that route. If he does hit Trump then everyone to the right of Clinton is going to be furious. It will just confirm in a lot of peoples minds that the media is completely corrupt. He could, of course, try to split the middle, but I think that will piss EVERYONE off. If he fact checks both Clinton and Trump each side will accuse him of bias. It's not a job that I would want that's for sure. 

-It's really make or break time for both candidates. The polls are about as tight as they can be and if there is a decisive blow dealt tonight then one candidate or the other could start to pull ahead. I think the bar is fairly low for Trump. As long as he doesn't put his foot in his mouth he should be fine. Even if he makes a minor gaffe he should be ok since the media will likely blow it out of proportion and then people won't take it seriously anymore. What he can't do is act too mean and too snarky. People need to see a softer side, even though every Clinton hater in the world wants to see her eviscerated. 

Clinton has higher expectations. Even if she manages to fight Trump to a draw she still loses. She's got a lot more practice doing debates and has policy experience, as poor as her record is she does know her stuff, so people will expect her to win and win hard. If she doesn't, she has to face the fact that a non-politician beat her at the one thing she is supposed to be good at. She, just like Trump, needs to keep her temper under control. If she starts yelling like she did in this video, she's toast:

Who do I think will win? Well I think it will be Trump. I'm obviously biased, but I think there is an argument to be made. He has the lower bar and all he needs to do is not put his foot in his mouth. He's done well in debates so far, and he has really toned down the rhetoric. Clinton on the other hand needs to keep her temper, not do ANYTHING that even looks remotely unhealthy, completely outmaneuver Trump at every issue and win big or don't even bother. That's a tall ask and I don't think she is up to it. 

I do think that whatever happens Clinton will be declared the winner by the media. They are in the bag for her this election and I think that if Clinton opened the night by taking a flamethrower to a basket full of puppies while Trump looks on in horror the media will still defend her. If she drops dead five seconds into the debate, which is a remote possibility, they wills still say she won. 

How will we know if Clinton does win? Well the easiest would be some kind of unforced error from Trump, the links of which we haven't seen before. Maybe calling Clinton a slur like bitch or something. If she manages to get all the good lines, that would be a win for her as well. But other then that, the path for victory seems rather narrow... 

It's also possible that both candidates have a terrible night. Both Clinton and Trump have high likability and they both are known for their gaffes. If they both screw up, then perhaps there is a chance for Gary "What is Aleppo?" Johnson and Jill Stein to gain some followers. It's a total long shot, and less likely then Clinton choking to death on a green frog named Pepe live on TV and Donald Trump pulling off a mask to reveal that he is, in fact, LITERALLY Adolf Hitler, both at the same time, but I guess it could happen. More likely, Johnson will lose some more support after people actually pay attention to the candidates seriously for the first time and Jill Stein will remain a rounding error competing with more popular candidates like Harambe and DeezNuts...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bomb detonates in Budapest, Hungary injuring two.

Screen grab showing police respond to the bombing. Reuters. 

A bomb has detonated in Hungary's capital of Budapest, injuring two people. Reuters. The two injured were police officers and was detonated near an abandoned storefront near a busy thoroughfare. The bombing occurred around 10:30 local time. Police haven't released a cause of the attack but photos of nails on the ground and eyewitness accounts suggest that it was a bombing. Hungary has been outspoken about rejecting immigration due to the European migrant crisis, and their prime minister, Viktor Orban has argued that these migrants pose a security threat. 

My Comment:
The media is ignoring this situation. Part of it is due to the secrecy the Hungarian government is exercising in this case. Nobody has officially said this is a terror attack, no matter how obvious it is. I am not sure why they aren't admitting it. The only thing I can think of is that they are trying to throw off the bombers but even that makes little sense.

It's obvious to me that this is a bombing though. You don't get nails embedded into taxi cabs and thrown over the street from a gas explosion. And if it had been a gas explosion the police would have been able to figure it out by now. 

It's also obvious because two cops were hurt in the blast. The article didn't say how badly they were injured, but my guess is that they were specifically targeted because they were cops. I am thinking that there was someone watching these two cops going by and then set the bomb off when they got close enough. I guess it is possible that two police officers could get hurt in a gas explosion that somehow threw nails everywhere, but I doubt it. 

So who is responsible for this attack? Obviously ISIS is the prime suspect. Not only are they active throughout Europe, they also have told their followers to specifically target the police. They are reasonably skilled at making bombs and may want to target Hungary specifically because of the country's opposition to immigration. Immigration is a weapon for ISIS and Viktor Orban and Hungary are one of immigration's major foes in Europe. 

It's also possible that this was a lone wolf attacker that was only inspired by ISIS. I think that is pretty likely. Why? This seemed like a pretty half-assed bombing. Only two injured? That tells me this was either a very small bomb or it was placed very poorly. I don't think a more experienced ISIS operative  would have done such an underwhelming attack. A lone guy downloading bomb plans off the internet? Way more likely.

Either way, Hungary is an unlikely target for an attack. They don't have as many Muslims as other European countries. According to their latest census in 2011, they only have around 5000 total. The migrant crisis has undoubtedly brought that number up, but most migrants only used Hungary as a pit stop on their way to Germany or Sweden. 

In short, there isn't a large population to draw terror recruits from. If this incident really is Islamic terrorism that does not bode well for Europe. If even a country like Hungary, which has very little immigration and a small Muslim population, what chance does Germany, Sweden, the UK, Belgium and France have with their massive waves of migrants and whole communities of disillusioned and radicalized Muslims? Not much, I would have to say...

There are other possibilities that I will include for the sake of completion. It's possible that this was a right wing attack, either as a "false flag" or just a run of the mill bombing. I find that extremely unlikely, if for no other reason, the right wing is already winning in Hungary. Why use a bombing like this when people in Hungary already voted for a leader that wants nothing to do with more Islamic immigration? If anything, people might change their mind if they found out it was a false flag or deliberate right wing attack. I don't think right wing extremists are that stupid.

Finally, there is always a chance that this has nothing to do with radical Islam at all. After all, there have been secular bombings that bomb for their own reasons. It could be some lone nutjob that just wants to kill cops for whatever reason. It might also be a left wing terrorist pissed off about Hungary's immigration policy, or just pissed off in general since communists are never happy with the status quo... 

No matter what though, it is sad to think that Hungary is experiencing it's own attacks. This one won't be much more then a footnote in history, but that's little comfort for the people hurt in the attack. And the people in Budapest have to be on edge right now. Let's hope the cops catch this guy and get him off the streets... if they ever admit this was a bombing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gunman kills five people at a mall in Burlington Washington and somehow manages to escape.

A picture from a surveillance video showing the suspected gunman. Police Handout/AP

A gunman killed five people at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Washington and somehow managed to escape. AP. Four women and one man were killed in the Macy's store at the mall. The suspect was described as "Hispanic" and was scene carrying a "hunting rifle". No motive has been released for the attack and police do not know if more attacks are planned, though they have no evidence that one is. Police searched the mall but found no sign of the killer. 

My Comment:
There is very little information about this case and I don't know if I trust some of the information that the police have released. Most importantly, I don't know if the suspect is Hispanic or not. The picture of the suspect, seen above, is extremely blurry. Though he certainly looks like he could be Hispanic, he could also be white, Arab or even Asian. Police almost certainly have more information then I have, but if you had to ask me what race/ethnicity that guy is, I would just shrug and say I have no idea. 

It is also extraordinary that the suspect managed to escape the scene of the crime. That almost never happens. Police response time is pretty good so very few shooters are able to kill and escape. Very few even try, with most mass shooters either kill themselves when the cops show up or go down fighting them. I am hoping that this isn't the new strategy for mass shooters because if it is, it's a terrifying new tactic. 

Which makes me wonder if this wasn't a ISIS or al-Qaeda inspired terror attack. Yes, the police said he was Hispanic, but he could be an Arab and there have been Islamic converts of every race that have carried out terror attacks. It wouldn't be unprecedented if this was a Hispanic Muslim, as odd as that sounds.  

What's the circumstantial evidence, and this is speculation, of this being a terror attack? The only cases I can remember off the top of my head where mass shooters fled the scene of the crime were committed by ISIS. Both the Charlie Hebdo and Chattanooga attacks involved attackers leaving the area to plan new attacks. I believe some of the Paris attackers did the same thing. Fleeing the scene of the crime so you can attack more people seems like the hallmark of a terrorist organization. It's weak evidence, but evidence nonetheless. 

That being said, there is evidence the other way as well. I have heard reports that the suspect said one of the victims names before opening fire. I don't know if that is true or not, but if it is it makes the terror attack angle a lot less believable. It could be an Elliot Rodgers style attack where the suspect is mad about women in general or one woman in particular. The fact that he killed 4 woman and only one man points in that direction as well. Perhaps he killed his real target and shot the rest to cover up who he really wanted to kill, to further his goal of escape? If so it worked, since it will take cops time to dig into the background of the victims. 

But that brings me around to the Islamic terrorist angle again. The attack occurred at a makeup counter, so that could have something to do with it. I don't exactly know the standard for Muslims when it comes to makeup. It may be forbidden or allowed, but I am guessing either way that they would take a dim view on the people selling it. 

Still, all of this is speculation because there is so very little real information out there right now. One of the only real clues is the weapon used. From the photograph above it's clear that the gunman used a rifle with a wooden stock. It's too blurry to make it out for sure, but it looks like either a Mini-14 or some kind of .22. It seems like the barrel is too short to be a full size hunting rifle, or an old style battle rifle like an M-1 or Lee Enfeild. It's possible that it was and the barrel was cut down, but that seems unlikely. 

Either way, the choice of weapon is unusual. It's clear he was effective with it, even if it was a bolt action rifle, but most mass shooters either go for handguns or the tactical scary black rifles. Of course, if it was a Mini-14 or an old battle rifle like the M-1, it wouldn't be all that different from a tactical weapon anyways, except when it comes to cosmetic differences. My guess is that the suspect only had that weapon on hand so he used it. My guess is that he wanted a handgun or a tactical rifle but couldn't get a hold of one, so he went with this rifle instead. 

The attack does go to show that mass killings will happen even if a total ban of handguns or scary black rifles happened though. Hell, I am wondering if the death toll from this attack wasn't worse then it would normally be if the attacker had chosen a smaller caliber handgun. He shot five people and all five of them died, so he was either very skilled with his weapon, incredibly lucky or was using something a bit more deadly then your average 9mm. 

Finally, though it is way too early in the investigation, I worry that this guy will get away with this. Though I haven't ever heard of a high profile mass shooting where the attacker got away scott-free, it has to happen at some point right? It looks like the cops have very little to go on here and I hope they are holding back a lot of evidence that will point them in the right direction. The idea of a mass shooter getting away with his crime is almost unfathomable, so I am hoping that this guy gets caught and caught soon. Hopefully before he does anything else... 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Editor's Note: Exhaustion edition

As you may have noticed, posting has been a bit lite lately. I have been extremely busy at work. We are understaffed right now and I am doing someone else's job along with my own. It has also been totally crazy. I posted this on facebook, but this pretty much sums up how work has been lately:

Since it has been so busy, I haven't had a whole lot of energy for posting. Part of it too is a lack of things to post about. I thought about covering the latest riots in Charlotte or the bombing of an aid convoy in Syria, but I thought I would just be repeating myself, so I held back. And I didn't really see anything else I wanted to post about.

I might as well say as well, that if you ever see something that you want me to cover, feel free to contact me. Twitter, facebook, e-mail or even a blog comment can be used if there is something you want me to post about. I might not take you up on every suggestion, but I will at least consider it!

The good news is that I have a lot planned for the next week or so. I will, of course, be covering the first presidential debate. As always I will be live tweeting it as well. I may do a predictions post that morning, depending on what I can think of and how much time I have. My twitter account can be found here, and I recommend you follow it anyways if you are on twitter. I often live tweet events or just post random thoughts on twitter. These debates have always been a popular topic for me and I hope that everything turns out well.

I also plan to do another post about fantasy football. After what I am assuming will be an exhausting and draining debate, I will probably want to do something a bit more fun and less serious. My previous fantasy football post did well enough that I will do it again, but no worries, this will not become a fantasy football blog. If you aren't interested in it, it will be very easy to avoid. I am just going to talk about how my team is doing (spoiler alert, pretty good so far).

For now though, I am going to rest. Perhaps I will have a post or two up this weekend, but no promises.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Yet another race riot, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rioters burn cargo stolen from trucks on the highway. Washington Post/Getty

Riots broke out after police in Charlotte, North Carolina shot an armed black man. Washington Post. Keith Lamont Scott was shot by the police. His family says he was unarmed but the police said he had a gun and posed a threat to the black officer that shot him. Protests began immediately, and then devolved into rioting as people moved to Interstate 85 and looted cargo trucks and set fire to stolen goods. Rioters also broke into a local Wal-Mart but were scared off by police. 12 police officers and 11 other people were injured in the riots. 

My Comment:
Once again, Black Lives Matter has incited a race riot after a black man was shot. I won't speculate if Keith Lamont Scott deserved to die or not. There hasn't been any kind of investigation so far. But if he was armed and pointed a gun at a police officer then there is no question in my mind that he deserved to die. If you point a gun at anyone who isn't actively trying to murder you, you are giving that person permission to kill you. The race of the people involved does not matter what bit. Period. I don't know if that is what happened in this case but given the credibility of Black Lives Matter, I would not be surprised at all if that turns out to be the case. Still, an investigation needs to be conducted before anyone makes any conclusions. 

Even if Keith Lamont Scott was an innocent man gunned down by the police, nothing justifies a riot. Nothing can ever justify a riot. Period. It's just wanton destruction and disorder and anyone that participates is simply a bad person. I would go so far to say that I can't comprehend a non-fanciful situation where rioting would ever be justified at any point in history. Armed revolution yes, but attacking innocent people and causing pointless property damage? Never ok. 

The tactics of these rioters are frightening as well. Taking over a highway is almost suicidal and beyond reckless. Simply walking onto a highway is a crime and doing so puts both yourself and any drivers unlucky enough to be around at severe risk of death. An 80,000 tractor trailer rig going 70 mph isn't going to be able to stop if people are suddenly walking around an interstate. I am honestly surprised someone, either a rioter or a driver, hasn't died in one of these "protests".

In this specific case rioters attacked tractor trailers and looted them. They then started fires in the middle of a highway. In the above photograph you can see a bullrack, used to transport cattle and other livestock, in the background. That seems ludicrously dangerous for these rioters as the animals could panic while seeing a fire and could even cause a stampede. Of course, if these people actually cared about their physical safety, they wouldn't be on a highway fighting with police. 

I am starting to worry that this is going to be the status quo from now on. Every time a black person gets killed by a cop, before any investigation can be completed, before any real facts are known, people are just going to riot. That's completely unacceptable of course, but nobody will call out these people for doing this. I'm not saying that cops are right in all of these cases, but I am saying that rioting right after a shooting has occurred without knowing any of the facts of the case is just stupid. 

I also have to think that these riots have very little to do with any actual complaints the black community has. For one thing, it's not exclusively blacks rioting. A lot of anarchists, communists and other leftists ne'er-do-wells of all races, including white people are participating in these riots. I don't know if that is the case in Charlotte, but it was true in Ferguson and Baltimore. So it is unfair to blame these riots just on black people, especially since only a minority of them are actually participating and supporting these riots. 

The rioters are also doing this because they find it fun. Looting and destruction is entertainment for them, and little else. It's an opportunity to destroy, steal and fight. People don't do these things because they are angry about someone getting shot. They do it because they think it is fun and that they deserve whatever they can get away with. 

It is also invoking prejudice. After all, if your community was sick and tired of being called criminals, what would you do?

-clean up the behavior of bad actors in your community and protest in a calm civilized manor and avoid actual violence at all costs
-confirm the prejudices of the people that don't like you right by acting like a living breathing stereotype.

If you choose the 2nd option congratulations, you are an idiot. 

I think a lot of the problem is that the black community doesn't have good leadership right now. We had race riots back in the 60's but we also had respected people like Martin Luther King showing that there were more reasonable voices to be heard. Even some racists respected King, but who is the equivalent today? It isn't hustlers like Al Sharpton and Shaun "I'm actually a white guy" King. And it's not spoiled athletes like Colin Kaepernick. And it's certainly isn't our president. More then ever, we need another Dr. King, but I just don't see one emerging. All I see is people making excuses and nobody condemning the violence as unnecessary, counterproductive and pointless. 

I also don't think the Black community understands how fearful this makes everyone else. If one of these riots were to strike where I live, I would be terrified. If for no other reason I don't want to end up like Reginald Denny. I don't want my cop friends to be attacked, and I don't want my place of work burned down. I just want peace and order, not violence and chaos. Most people want that, and by rioting, these people are completely working against their interests... 

I think the worst part of this is how much damage this is doing to normal black people. The vast majority of black people don't act like this and would never do something like riot in the streets. It's largely an inner city problem, but it' a problem that is going to effect a lot of innocent people due to the prejudice these riots will invoke... 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Suspect in New York and New Jersey bombings, Ahmad Rahami, arrested, charged with attempted murder.

Ahmad Rahami getting medical treatment after being shot by the police. NBC/

The main suspect in the bombings in New York and New Jersey, Ahmad Rahami, has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. NBC News. Rahami was apprehended after he was discovered sleeping in a doorway of a bar. When cops confronted him, he pulled out a gun and shot an officer in the stomach, which was absorbed by the bullet proof vest the officer was wearing. Another officer was shot in the hand. Cops returned fire and then arrested him after inflicting non-life threatening injuries. Rahami has been charged for the attempted murder of the police officers. Rahami is the prime suspect in the bombing in Chelsea that wounded 29 people and failed bombings in New Jersey and New York. Rahami was a naturalized citizen from Afghanistan. Officials aren't sure if there is a link between any terrorist organization like ISIS or if Rahami was part of a larger cell. 

My Comment:
An extremely dangerous man has been taken off the street. It is a minor miracle that Rahami didn't manage to kill anyone in his bombing and shooting rampage. Indeed, it seemed as though the world was conspiring against Rahami when he planned his attacks. Most of his bombs failed to explode and the ones that did didn't kill anyone. And even his attempts to murder police officers failed. 

Some of that was poor planning. I said yesterday that I thought that Rahami was an idiot for where he placed his bomb. Though the street Rahami chose was a fairly busy one at night, there were better targets he could have chosen in New York. Places like a bar, nightclub or even a movie theater would have been a better choice than a semi-busy street. 

He also placed his bomb in a garbage can or toolbox which probably deflected some of the blast. Had he just left it out in the open it might have actually killed some people. Even with his incompetence he still wounded almost 30 people. 

Rahami was very unlucky as well. Many of his bombs didn't work or were discovered before they could detonate. Some of his bombs did succeed in wrecking a couple of police robots but most of his bombs accomplished nothing. It was extremely lucky for us that his plot against the Marine charity run failed as well. Of all his attacks, that one had the most potential to cause harm. But due to problems with registration, the race didn't start on time and Rahami's bomb exploded harmlessly. That kind of unforeseen development completely derailed his attack there, and that's not something we can rely on in the future. 

I also wonder what Rahami's plan was after the bombings. He probably knew that he was being targeted for arrest but he didn't have a safehouse set up. Most terrorists would have gotten the hell out of dodge or gone underground, but Rahami's plan seemed to be "find a random place to sleep". Doing that in a bar's doorway was how he was caught, so it was a poor plan. Hell, it's almost like he wanted to be caught.

Rahami seems to be, quite frankly, an idiot. He was semi competent on making bombs and if he had deployed them a bit better he could have killed dozens or even hundreds of people. But he didn't seem to understand how to deploy his weapons. He also didn't understand how to flee correctly. Almost any place would have been a better place to hide.

Rahami's capture shows how dangerous being a police officer can be. The cops in this case presumably thought they were just going to have to rouse a drunk or vagrant and at worst take him to the station to dry out. Instead they got shot at. It's amazing to me that none of them were killed. Taking a shot to the guts is never a good thing, even if you are wearing a vest. And even a wound to the hand could potentially kill someone. 

It's also fairly amazing that Rahami was captured alive. It looks like he was shot in the upper thigh and possibly a couple of other places. An upper thigh wound can be deadly if it hits a vein or artery, but I guess in this case it wasn't. I doubt the cops were trying to hit him in the thigh, since he was on the ground it was an awkward angle to shoot at, but in the end it's probably a good thing. Now Rahami can be interrogated. 

The big question now is if he has any links to ISIS or any other terrorist organization. My guess is that at the very least he read Jihadist propaganda online. The pressure cooker bombs he used are probably the same ones that were used in the Boston Marathon bombings. The plans for those bombs are easily available on the internet via al-Qaeda's magazine, Inspire. Other sources have posted those bomb plans as well, so I am guessing that Rahami didn't have to look to hard to find these bomb plans. 

It's unclear though if Rahami had any help from ISIS or another terror group. My guess, given how amateurish and ineffective his bombing campaign was, he didn't have much help. He was likely a lone wolf attacker, sympathetic to calls to attack western targets, acting by himself. He's one step above the kind of attacker, like the one that slashed up a mall in Minnesota the same day as the bombing, that just grabs the closest weapon and starts attacking, but his level of planning was not impressive. Had he had help he probably would have been more effective in choosing targets. 

The media and government response to this attack was pretty embarrassing. The mayor of New York embarrassed himself  by saying that he wasn't sure if this was a terror attack. Barack Obama waited until today to say anything about the attack. And Hillary Clinton and the media spent more time bashing Donald Trump for calling the bombing a bombing. At least the local and federal law enforcement officials did their job correctly. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Eight people stabbed at a mall in Minnesota. Attack referenced Allah and asked if people were Muslims.

Eight people were stabbed in an attack at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Washington Post. The man was shot and killed by a off duty cop carrying a handgun. The suspect was wearing a security guard uniform and shouted about "Allah" as he was attacking people. Witnesses even said that he asked people if they were Muslims as he was stabbing. Seven victims were treated and released while one ended up in the hospital. Local officials did not call the attack terrorism and have not discovered a motive. The suspect has been identified by police and had a minor criminal record, but his name has not been released to the public. 

My Comment:
What a day yesterday. It's pretty clear that this was an terrorist attack with Jihadist motivations. Unlike the bombing in New York, this one has a clear link to Islam. The attacker invoked Allah and even asked people if they were Muslims. I guess it is possible that the guy was looking for Muslims to attack, but that seems extremely unlikely. It's clearly terrorism though, even if the local cops don' want to admit it. I doubt there are any international connections but this seems like the very definition of a lone wolf attack. 

I'm a bit concerned about the fact that the attacker was wearing a security uniform. Security officers are supposed to protect people, not attack them. I don't know if this guy was a guard or if he had just used the uniform of one, but either way it's bad. Using a guard's uniform as a disguise could have allowed him into areas he otherwise couldn't have gotten too and may have put his victims at ease before he struck. 

It is also concerning to me that mass stabbings/slashing seem to be on the rise as well. America is known for mass shootings but we seem to have seen an uptick of knife attacks as well. ISIS has called on lone wolf attackers to use any weapon they have on hand, be it knives, hatchets, or even swords. Such attacks probably won't have the casualties a mass shooting or bombing would have, but it still has a psychological aspect as well. Though logically I know it is more dangerous to be shot then stabbed, I fear getting cut with a knife more then being shot. It's so personal to stab someone with a knife and it takes a true believer to stab someone in close range combat. 

A mall is a fairly soft target for an attack. This mall was in a smaller town as well. St. Cloud is to the northwest of Minneapolis and from what I have been able to gather it's pretty similar to the minor suburb that I live in now. If a terrorist attack can happen there, then it could probably happen here as well. That is not a comforting thought for me at all. 

The main difference is that I don't think we have the same Muslim population that central Minnesota has. Minneapolis has long been a destination for Muslims from Somalia and they have long had a problem with people being recruited to Jihadist organizations in the city, like the al-Shabaab terror group. There is certainly a large pool of recruits in the area and a dark undercurrent of radicalism in the area. 

The good news is that a good guy with a gun stopped a mass shooting. The reports say it was an off duty officer, so it's not a straight example of a concealed carrier stopping an attack, but it's pretty close in my book. Had the cop not been there then this attack could have been much worse. As it stands right now it's very lucky that someone was there to shoot the suspect before he killed someone. 

It just goes to show how valuable it is to have armed people in "soft" targets like malls. Terrorists choose these places because they know that there isn't going to be anyone armed with a weapon to stop them. Though mall cops are a thing, they don't often carry guns. The only way this attack was going to stop is if there was a person with a gun on the scene, and having an off duty cop there probably reduced the response time by quite a bit. 

This has been a fairly exhausting weekend when it comes to terror attacks in the United States. There was this attack, the bombing in New York and the bombing in New Jersey. All of those attacks might have Jihadi connections and in two of the cases the suspects are still at large. I am hoping things calm down a bit after this. The great news is that other then the suspect in the St. Cloud attack, nobody died. Let's hope that luck continues.

EDIT: ISIS has taken credit for this attack.

Bombing in New York wounds 29 people. 2nd device found.

A bombing in New York has wounded 29 people as police find a 2nd device. NBC News.  New York City's mayor describes the bombing as an "intentional act" but has not yet disclosed any links to terrorism. A second device was found three hours after the bombing and looked to be a pressure cooker with wires sticking out of it. There is some confusion as to where the bomb was places, with some witnesses saying it was in a dumpster while the police maintain it was on the street. Though 29 people were wounded in the attack, one seriously, nobody has died and nobody is expected to die. There is also no suspected link to a pipe bomb explosion that occurred on the route of a Marine charity run in New Jersey.

My Comment:
This is a very odd terrorist attack to be sure. Though almost 30 people were hurt, I have to wonder why they chose a random street in New York to attack. I checked the area out on Google maps and though the area seems busy to my suburban eyes, you would have to think that there would be more obvious places in New York City to attack. Perhaps not any of the major landmarks with all the heightened security, but there had to be places with more people around right? I'm thinking there were dozens of bars, nightclubs and other soft targets that could have been hit instead and done a lot more damage.

I also find the reports that the bomb was placed in a dumpster or garbage bin remarkable and confusing as well, which makes me think the police are right. After all, what kind of terrorist puts a bomb in a metal garbage can.? I guess if the bomb was powerful enough it could make some shrapnel that way, but it would be much more efficient to leave the bomb on the ground. Putting it in a dumpster makes very little sense.

After all, even though this was a powerful bomb, if it was contained in a metal dumpster, the dumpster would absorb a lot of the force. And if the bomb was loaded with some kind of shrapnel, like nails, screws or BB's, it would be deflected by the dumpster. It's almost like the bomber was trying to limit the casualties.

I guess it is possible that the bomb was placed on top of the dumpster. This would be a wise idea since one of the reasons why the Boston Marathon bombing was ineffective in terms of deaths was because the bombers left the bomb on the ground at leg height. Though the bomb managed to main, cripple and even traumatically amputate a lot of legs, it only killed 3 people. If it had been placed at chest or head level, such as placing it on top of a dumpster, it could have killed a lot of people. Perhaps this bomber learned from that attack and decided to try a different tactic. Maybe this time he put the bomb too high though? Who knows?

It's also possible that the bomber in this case panicked. Picture this scenario: The bomber is on his way to his target. It's not on West 23rd Street but somewhere else. Somehow he gets spooked. Maybe he sees a cop, or notices a camera he wasn't expecting. Freaking out he dumps his bomb in a dumpster and it goes off. His second bomb gets left somewhere else for unknown reasons. Is this scenario likely? I am not sure, but nothing about this case makes sense right now.

Who could be responsible for this attack? Well, the 2nd device, which appeared to be a pressure cooker bomb, points to a Jihadist. The Boston Bombers used a pressure cooker bomb and al-Qaeda's magazine, Inspire, has long recommended pressure cooker bombs as an ideal terror weapon. Of course anyone could look at those plan and use the same weapon, but I think it is circumstantial evidence of possible ISIS or al-Qaeda involvement.

That being said, the, to be blunt, half-assed execution of this attack leads me to think that whoever this was wasn't connected to any real terror group. I would expect that it was a lone wolf or a small group of people without much support from the outside world. They may end up pledging allegiance to ISIS, but given the slapdash nature of the attack and inexplicable target they chose, I can't see this being anyone professional, even if they are skilled at making bombs.

It's possible that this attack had some other motivation. It could be a right wing fanatic. It could be a black lives matter allied person trying to kill cops. Or it could just be some random nutjob. Someone smart enough to build a bomb but dumb enough to completely botch the attack. We might find out more later today but for now it's just speculation.

I do have to say that no matter what the motivation, the outcome was about as good as we could expect. I would rather have a few people injured and nobody killed over a more effective attack any day. One of our great advantages against terrorism is that many terrorists aren't good at their job. We should be thankful that this bomber failed in this attack.

Of course, with no suspect in custody or even an idea of who might be responsible, it's possible that more bombings could occur. It's very early into the investigation, but nobody is taking credit for the attack and the police found multiple devices. If we are unlucky, the bomber may be looking for new targets, assuming he isn't trying to get the hell out of dodge. Perhaps this was even a dry run in preparation for the real attack... Let's hope they find this guy or group before that happens.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

US Special Forces deployed with the Turks to fight in Syria get a chilly reception from rebels.

US troops in Turkey. AFP. 

US Special Forces have been deployed to work with Turkish troops and their rebel allies, but received a cold reception from the rebels. AFP. Dozens of troops were deployed to help "vetted" rebel groups working with the Turks in the fight against ISIS. But the rebels rejected their help, yelling and threatening the soldiers due to the United State's support for the Kurds. Turkey, and their proxy rebel groups in Syria, consider the Syrian Kurds to be terrorists allied with the PKK group that is embroiled in an insurgency in Turkey. US commanders chalked up the incident to a "misunderstanding" and claim that the troops are still in the area and had not been hurt. Adding to the tensions in a separate incident the Kurds flew the American flag over one of their bases, without permission from the United States. Theoretically, the Kurds, Turks, rebels and the United States are all opposed to ISIS and will fight against them. 

My Comment:
Yet another embarrassment in Syria. As you can see from the above video, this was less of a disagreement and more of a riot. These rebels were yelling and screaming at our troops and forced them to evacuate with their tails behind their legs. Keep in mind, these were the people we are supposed to be helping in Syria, and they totally rejected us.

Why? Because these rebels aren't really rebels. They are a proxy army for the Turks. Many of them are ethnically Turkish and their interests are essentially the same as the Turks. They hate the Kurds of course and the fact that we are working with them and giving them weapons does not play well. Given the circumstances it was lucky that the incident didn't end in violence.

The government says that we will go right back to training and working with these rebels, but I will believe it when I see it. If it does happen, I don't think those special forces will be all that safe. We are trying to play two sides of a conflict to fight our common enemy but given how much the Kurds and Turks hate each other, it will be a fine line to straddle.

The Kurds, for their part, seem to be unhappy with the situation as well. Though I am not sure exactly why they would fly the American flag over their base, it does seem to be a message. My guess is that they are trying to remind us that we are allies and that we probably shouldn't be helping their enemy. How they will react in the long term is still to be seen, but I can see the Kurds rejecting our help if we continue to help the Turks.

Which is a shame because I like the Kurds a lot more then I like the Turks. Though the Kurds are way too far to the left for my liking, at the very least they aren't Islamic fundamentalists. They have more western values which would be close to our own if it wasn't tainted by threads of communism that is found in many of their groups. And they are one of the only secular groups in the region with any kind of power at all.

The Turks, on the other hand, have gone further into Islamic fundamentalism then I would prefer. They aren't Jihadists yet, but they are heading in that direction. Tayyip Erdogan is cracking down on western values like freedom of the press and freedom of religion and doing so hard. He's been a terrible ally in the the war against ISIS and I am not a fan of their actions in Syria.

All that being said, if we can somehow balance our alliances with both the Kurds and the Turks we might just be able to defeat ISIS. They are in a very bad position once again. Not only have the Turks cut off their main supply lines to the outside world, they are the primary losers in the cease fire between the rebels and the government. With both sides taking a break from fighting each other, their efforts can be focused on where they belong, ISIS. It's even looking like Russia and the United States will attempt to coordinate their efforts together against ISIS and al-Nusra, which is something I have been calling for since Russia joined the war. ISIS is in a very bad position right now.

Which is why these incidents worry me. ISIS is on the backfoot and about the only thing that could give them an out right now is a major battle between their enemies. If the cease fire fails, and it probably will eventually, they will be able to take advantage of the chaos to recover lost territory. And if the Turks and Kurds go all out against each other as well, then they might even have a chance at a resurgence.

Finally, I think that the Turks have the ability to end the war against ISIS pretty much any time they want. If they were really concerned about destroying ISIS completely they would just send a couple armored columns to Raqqa. They would take casualties, yes, but ISIS would not be able to stand against a fresh and well armed military like Turkey. It won't happen, not only because of the instability in Turkey with the failed coup and Kurdish insurgency, but because the Turks main mission in Syria was never ISIS. It has always and will always be the Kurds...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My thoughts on Tyre King, the 13 year old who pulled a BB gun on a cop and got killed for it.

A BB gun similar to the one that King was carrying. Police handout/Reuters. 

As you may know the latest Black Lives Matter cause was the death of Tyre King. King was a 13 year old who was shot by police who were responding to an armed robbery call. King pulled out a BB gun similar to the one above and got shot for it. The gun looked like a real one and had a laser scope attached to it. Reuters has an article about it here. 

Though I don't have all the details yet and we should always wait until an investigation is completed before we jump to conclusions I do have a few things to say about the circumstances of the crime. This case, like the Tamir Rice shooting before it, looks completely justified in my mind. Again, we don't have all the details right but if the police story is correct and he really did pull a BB gun on the cops, I think this is justified.  Why? Here's a few reasons:

1. BB Guns can look extremely real. I own a couple and one of them looks almost identical to a 1911 .45. Unless you look at it really close you would think it was a real firearm. The only differences is that it doesn't have a detachable magazine and the barrel is a lot narrower. Neither of those things would be obvious unless you had the gun in your hand. Worse, the gun that King had a laser sight attached, which would make it look even more realistic. 

2. Even BB guns can main or even kill. Though dying from a BB gun is extremely rare it is fairly easy to hurt someone severely with one. A (un)lucky shot to the eye could permanently blind someone and if the BB manages to get a little penetration, it could hit an artery or vein. I had a negligent discharge with a BB gun when I was younger and I had to go to the hospital. Preventing yourself from being shot with a BB gun would justify lethal force even if you knew it was a BB gun. 

3. Pointing a gun at another person is an invitation to get shot by them. Pointing a gun at another person is a serious crime in my state and for good reason. I put someone into prison because of this when I served on a jury, even though I sympathized with the circumstances he was in. I don't care if the person you point a gun at is a cop or a civilian but if you do it, then they are morally correct to shoot you dead. 

4. Just because someone is still a child does not mean they are not a threat. Once again, if someone is pointing a gun at you, it doesn't matter who that person is. They are threatening your life and you are justified in killing them. 

5. Cops are never going to use less than lethal force against someone pointing a gun at them. Tazers and pepper spray aren't 100% effective and are not the weapon you want in a gun fight. If you waste time when someone is drawing down on you, you are dead. To ask cops to do this is to ask them to commit suicide. 

6. Kids need to be taught that BB guns are not toys, they are weapons. I know that one of the few times that my Dad really chewed me out when I was a kid is when I was playing around with his BB gun. He read me the riot act saying that I would, in no uncertain terms, never do so again. He explained to me that BB guns look real, and are dangerous in their own right, and that if people saw me playing with it they might get scared and call the cops, who would probably shoot me. Though I don't know if such a speech would have helped Tyre King, it's a conversation that every parent should have with their kids if they buy them a BB gun or even think that they might come into contact with one. If they don't then they are largely responsible for when something like this happens. You can't blame the cop and you can't really blame the kid either if he didn't know what was up. 

With all that being said, it is still too early in this story to really understand what happened. It is possible, though unlikely, that the cops really did screw up here in some way. That doesn't change anything I just wrote, but it could be a mitigating factor and may actually give the protesters some actual grievance. 

As it stands right now, this is a nightmare scenario for the cops. I know no police officer wants to shoot a kid, but also, no cop wants to be shot by a kid. Without evidence to say otherwise, I think the cop was justified in this case, but that doesn't mean that what happened was a good thing. I just don't understand why anyone would pull a gun on a cop, even if it is a BB gun... 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New DNC Leak appears to show pay to play corruption

A list of top DNC donors and their positions. From the DNC Leak. 

The latest DNC leak dropped yesterday and it isn't getting the coverage it deserves. Though the story is trending on twitter and is popular on Reddit, the mainstream media has completely ignored the most disturbing allegation. Instead they are focusing, almost exclusively, on negative comments Collin Powell made in hacked e-mails about Donald Trump and the interim DNC Chair, Donna Brazile, whining about how it's all Russia's fault. 

But the most disturbing revelation in this round of the DNC Leak is the pay to play scandal that appears to be brewing. Nobody seems to be covering the story. Indeed, the most mainstream source I could find on the issue is RT is pretty much Russian propaganda, but I have seen the leaks myself. You can see the evidence right above. 

It seems that a decent number of people have donated thousands or millions of dollars to the DNC are people that were assigned to diplomatic posts. Though it isn't iron clad proof, it certainly implies that they gave money to the DNC in order to be assigned to these positions or after they were appointed. That's the very definition of pay to play and it is obvious corruption. At the very least it has the appearance of corruption. 

Is this illegal? I am not a lawyer so I can't answer that question. I do know that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich went to prison for trying to sell Barack Obama's old Senate seat, so I don't understand why it wouldn't also be a crime to sell an Ambassador posting or the chairman of the FCC. Usually at this point in a political scandal we would have the media telling us if it was a crime or not. But instead they aren't covering it at all.

Why? Because it hurts Hillary Clinton and the Democrats of course. It's fairly obvious now that the DNC has some control of what the mainstream media covers. The DNC leaks have shown that these allegations are basically true and I am guessing the DNC gave marching orders to the media so they would not cover this aspect of the DNC leak. 

This obvious bias is why even though everyone on twitter is talking about the DNC Leak, the media is talking about Collin Powell's comments on Trump. Though his comments were newsworthy, I don't think they match the pay to play allegations at all. And the media is also largely ignoring the negative comments Powell made against Hillary Clinton as well. 

I have seen some people argue that the reason the media isn't covering this issue is because pay to play for ambassadorships is expected and common. That may be true, but that doesn't make it right. If it really is normal for ambassadors to buy their way into the job then we need to change the way that ambassadors are picked. The fact that corruption is common doesn't mean we have to tolerate it! 

The pay to play issue was probably the most shocking issue revealed in this round of leaks but it isn't the only one. There is also more allegations that the DNC screwed Bernie Sanders out of the nomination and even allegations that they dropped his supporters from the voter rolls. If true that's huge but I can't find any reporting on that whatsoever. Once again, the media is biased and won't cover serious allegations if it's against the Democrats.