Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Real headline: ESPN pulls Asian American announcer because his name is Robert Lee

In a headline that seems like it should be out of The Onion, ESPN has pulled an Asian American announcer because his name is Robert Lee. I don't even know what to say anymore. We have reached a level of stupidity that shouldn't even possible. Robert Lee shares the name of Confederate General and Mexican-American war hero Robert E Lee. That is enough for him to lose a gig.

Robert E Lee is a controversial person of course and there is a discussion to be had about his role in America. I personally think his statues should stay. As a student of history I have found Lee to be an honorable man, but people are free to disagree. He did fight for the Confederacy, which was undoubtedly a bad thing, but there is more to him than that.

But no matter what you think of Robert E. Lee, you have to admit that Robert Lee has nothing to do with him whatsoever. Asian American Robert Lee is not a confederate general, he's a sports announcer. He's not a white supremacist and he isn't even white! He's just a random guy that happens to have someone else's name.

My great fear is that this will continue. What if some jerk does something the left doesn't like and he happens to share my name? Will I be forced to change my name just because a bunch of people are mad at someone else?

Anyways, I don't have much else to say about this, I'm just shocked that this was a thing that happened. People are losing their minds. Regardless of everything that is happening in this country we should at least realize that just because someone has the same name as someone else doesn't mean they should be attacked for it...

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ohio Judge ambushed by gunman, returns fire with concealed carry.

Ohio Judge Joseph Bruzzese. Washington Post/AP

A judge was ambushed by a gunman in Ohio and, along with a probation officer, shot and killed him. Washington Post. The Judge, Joseph Bruzzese, fired five rounds at the attacker and may have hit him after the attacker charged him and opened fire. The attack took place in Stuebenville, the location of the infamous rape case. Shockingly, the attacker, Nathaniel Richmond, is the father of one of the suspects convicted in that case. There doesn't appear to be any link between the suspects son and this case and though the suspect had criminal cases before Judge Bruzzese, it is unclear what the motive was. Bruzzese was injured in the attack but is expected to survive. 

My Comment:
Another example of concealed carry saving a life. Though it is unclear if Bruzzese was the one to take the suspect down as there was a probation officer returning fire as well, it's clear that having armed people around saved this judge. He may have saved his own life, or the probation officer may have, but either way he lived because a good guy with a gun was there. 

It's unclear to me if the probation officer was carrying in the course of his duty or was doing so as a private citizen. According to Ohio state law, probation officers can carry if they pass a safety course (Section C). From what I can gather it's optional but this incident makes a good case that it should be required. 

I am not surprised that a judge would be carrying a gun. They have a job that basically requires them to make enemies. Judges make life changing decisions every day and it's not surprising that a lot of people would be upset with them, just for doing their jobs. Actual attacks on judges are rare due to the respect most of society has for them, but there are a few crazies out there that would attempt an attack like this. 

The suspect in this case has a pretty poor pedigree. His son, Ma'lik, was involved and convicted in the Stuebenville rape case. That case was pretty horrible and was one of the few media cases that actually lived up to the hype in terms of how bad it was. He was convicted because he digitally penetrated a passed out drunk girl.

Still, it doesn't seem like his son's conviction for rape had anything to do with this case. So what was the motive? Unclear. It does appear that he had a few cases under Bruzzese and that might be enough. I don't want to speculate too much but it could have been anything from a ruling he disagreed with to just the fact that he was the judge that was involved in his cases. It's hard to tell without a confession and with the suspect dead we might never know. 

An attack on judges is extremely rare. This is due in part to their popularity. Most people seem to respect judges and very few people have a visceral hatred of them that the police, legislators and the media get. An attack on a judge isn't likely to find any defenders.

The local officials involved in this case compared it to the Alexandria shooting targeting members of congress. I am not sure that comparison is apt. Though both incidents targeted elected officials, the motive in the cases are different. The Alexandria shooting was a politically motivated terrorist attack that was designed as a decapitation attack on Republican leadership. Though we don't know the motivation for the Stuebenville attacker, it seems very unlikely to have been done for political reasons. 

No matter what though it seems clear that concealed carry helped in this case. Had the judge and the probation officer been unarmed there is no question that the judge would have died. And since we don't know what the attackers further intentions were, more people could have died. There is also the possibility that the suspect in this case could have fled if he hadn't been shot. Instead he was the only one to die and we even managed to avoid the expense of a trial. That's a good outcome and the only downside is that the judge was injured in the attack. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A few quick thoughts on Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump. 

As you probably know President Donald Trump is expected to give a major speech on Afghanistan tomorrow night. Afghanistan is, quite frankly, a mess. Afghanistan's government has been taking unsustainable casualties against both the Taliban and ISIS. They have lost wide swaths of territory to both organizations and have suffered several major terrorist attacks. In short, they are essentially losing the war. 

Given how bad things are in Afghanistan you would have thought we would have heard more about the issue in the election season and the first few months of Trump's presidency. But we have not. I hardly remember Afghanistan coming up in the election at all, except for Bernie Sanders completely flubbing an answer on the war. The media briefly paid attention when Trump dropped the MOAB on ISIS, but after that they went right back to ignoring it. The issue just hasn't come up, even when there were major terror attacks there.

Trump is expected to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan. Some people might be a bit disappointed that we are rejoining a war that Barack Obama said we were done with, but I would say that we never really left. And, again, we can't really feel betrayed by Trump's strategy here if nobody ever seemed to ask him what his policy actually was. 

I don't think there are any other options, at least none that would have been acceptable. There were other solutions floated but none of them were good. The first was a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. Though that would avoid further US troops deaths and avoid the sunk cost fallacy, it would be a disaster. Losing Afghanistan to the Taliban, or worse, ISIS, would completely invalidate the sacrifice of all the troops that died there. 

Furthermore abandoning Afghanistan would essentially cause the government to fall back to the Taliban. They are a horrible terrorist group by themselves, but the real fear is that they would allow other terror groups to operate freely and with support. ISIS is probably out, given that they fight the Taliban as well, but there is a real chance that Afghanistan could resume it's role as a terrorist haven and training center. Al-Qaeda isn't dead and given a safe haven they could come back. 

And there is a real chance of ISIS taking over as well. Right now they control quite a bit of territory in Afghanistan and have a decent chance of taking more of the country if the government falls. And it's very possible that an influx of foreign fighters fleeing from Iraq and Syria could use the country as a backup base to regroup and rearm. That would not only undermine our goals in Afghanistan, it would allow our worst enemy to rise from the ashes. 

The other option besides deploying troops was to send in a mercenary army. How serious this proposal was I am not sure, but it seemed like the option was on the table. Using a bunch of military contractors to fight the Taliban and ISIS seems like it would cause huge problems. People tend to hate mercenaries, even when they do a professional and expert job, and there is no guarantee that they would do so. It would be a PR nightmare even if they managed to win. 

I also don't know if there is a contractor out there that can handle a problem as complex and serious as Afghanistan. This isn't the middle ages, we don't have huge mercenary armies just standing around waiting to fight. And even if we did, I don't think that it would be any cheaper that to actually use our own troops. 

That means that we really don't have any good options in Afghanistan. We can't just let them fall and using mercenaries is likely to cause more problems then to solve. That leaves sending in troops. Though the numbers don't seem to be all that many, it might just be enough to keep the Afghani government from falling. It's about the only choice that Trump has so it shouldn't be surprising that he is doing so... 

New video shows Chinese and Indian troops brawling in border area.


Not much to say about this one that I haven't said in previous posts about the China/India border conflict. I just wanted to post this video because it shows how serious this fighting is getting. The previous video I showed from the last conflict was just a pushing and shoving match where it didn't look like anyone could have gotten hurt.

This time the violence seems to have escalated. Though the video isn't clear and is from fairly far away you can clearly see people get knocked over. It also looks like people are throwing rocks at each other as well. Both actions could potentially kill someone. And if that happens, we could have a war...

It's fairly disturbing to see two nuclear armed countries have skirmishes like this. Though I continue to think that war is unlikely, having two groups of soldiers brawl out like this has an extreme chance of causing an unintended death. In short, there's a reason why you don't have your soldiers act like antifa thugs. Let's hope that calmer heads prevail in China and India.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Terror attack in Finland kills two and wounds eight.

A memorial for the victims in Turku. Reuters. 

A terrorist attack in Finland ended with the suspect shot, two dead and eight wounded in Turku. Reuters. The attacker was armed with a knife and stabbed multiple people before police arrived and shot him in the leg. His identity hasn't been released and neither has his motive. Police believe that he was not part of a larger terror cell and acted alone. Finland is a generally peaceful country, but worries about terrorism have increased, due in part to the ramming attack in neighboring Stockholm, Sweden last April. The attack comes a day after the massive terror attacks and raids in Spain. 

My Comment:
Yet another terrorist attack. The Reuters article was very cautious to not say this was Islamic terrorism, but that's just them being careful. There is video where it sounds like someone is yelling "Allah Akbar" and the Finish police have admitted that the attacker had a "foreign background". Though that isn't conclusive proof of this being a terror attack caused by a Muslim extremist, it makes any other option less likely. And honestly, if it wasn't an Islamic attack, what else would it be? Just some random psycho? Seems unlikely.  

The attacker was fairly disgusting in his choice of targets. Other sources say that he stabbed a woman who had a baby with her. I guess there is something to be said for him not stabbing the baby as well, but still, how horrible is that? These attackers have no shame. 

Finland is about the last place in the world where I would expect a terror attack. It's just a country that doesn't make the news very often. I was vaguely aware that they were taking refugees in as well, but my impression was that it wasn't a large number. I also thought that a lot of those refugees left Finland because it is fairly cold and miserable there in winter. 

Still, Finland now joins the ranks of European countries that have had a terrorist attack. this is a minor one but it counts nonetheless. It seems as though any of the countries that participated in the refugee program had to have these kinds of terror problems...

This seems very likely to be a case of a lone wolf attacker. The plot was fairly simple and doesn't look like it had anything in the way of a complex terror plot. There was only one attacker and he wasn't armed with anything other than a knife. That doesn't seem to be a major plot to me. Just a lone guy inspired by terrorists. I guess there is a small chance he was in contact with other terrorists, but my gut says this was a lone wolf attack. 

Given that this was likely a one wolf attack, I don't know if we can call this an ISIS attack or not. My guess is that the attacker was inspired by ISIS propaganda and the various actions that ISIS has taken. I doubt that he had any contact with any larger terrorist group, but if he pulled off this attack in the name of ISIS, I am comfortable in calling it an ISIS attack. 

I would not be surprised if the triggering event for this attack was the massive terrorist attack in Spain. Though that attack only killed 14 people, it was the largest ISIS attack in recent memory. When a major terrorist attack goes down, it's not surprising when the lone wolves come out of the woodwork and launch their own attacks. That doesn't mean that if the attacks in Spain never happened this one wouldn't have, but I do think that this follow up attack was chosen for maximum impact. 

It is fairly disappointing to see an uptick in terrorism in Europe after a long lull. After the London Bridge attack, there wasn't much in the way of successful terror attacks in Europe for most of June and all of July. That good luck was apparently too good to last as the past few days in August have been a disaster. And given that these attacks tend to come in streaks, I would not be surprised if we had more terror attacks before the month is over... 


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Multiple terrorist incidents in Spain.

Graphic showing the path of the Barcelona attacker. BBC. 

Multiple terror incidents have struck Spain in separate incidents in Barcelona and Cambrils. BBC. The main attack involved a truck ramming into a tourist area in Las Ramblas, Spain. 13 people died in the attack and dozens were wounded. The attacker in that incident is still on the run. 4 more people were killed by police in Cambrils who had also attempted a van ramming attack. In another incident a house exploded killing one person in Barcelona. In the town of Alcanar, police raided another home that was involved in producing explosives. ISIS has taken credit for the series of terrorist attacks. 

My Comment:
Yet another incident in the worrying trend in vehicle ramming attacks. This one was a fairly effective one. It seems like the type of vehicle chosen as a weapon for these attacks has a major impact on how many people die. In the Nice attack there were dozens of deaths due to the attacker using an actual truck. In this case the attacker used a heavy van and killed 13 people. In other attacks using cars either nobody was killed or less than ten died. 

The reasons for the higher body counts should be obvious. A larger vehicle has more mass and once it has built up speed it is a lot harder to stop then a car. They are also a lot more able to resist damage and continue moving after hitting people and barriers. I would also expect that they are harder to bring down with gunfire. The only limiting factor is the relative difficulty of acquiring a heavy truck or van compared to a car. 

As bad as this situation was, it seems like greater tragedy was averted. The second incident in Cambrils doesn't have a whole lot known about it, but what is clear that a second attack was averted before it got too bad. It's clear that the Spanish security forces did a good job in averting the 2nd attack. 

The second attack seems, from what little we have seen, to have been a much more complicated and potentially serious incident. The attackers were rumored to have suicide belts. It's possible that those belts were fake, but if they weren't, then dozens of people could have died when they went off. The fact that 5th attacker was captured alive makes me think that they probably were fake though. 

The other incidents look like Spain is cracking down on this particular ISIS cell. It sounds like they found a couple of bomb factories and shut them down. And we know for a fact that this is one of the most significant ISIS cells since the Paris attacks. They were savvy enough to pull off a major ramming attack, a 2nd major terror attack the same day and had what looks like multiple bomb factories. That's not a lone wolf attacker. That's a major terrorist cell with scary capabilities. It's a minor miracle that this attack wasn't worse than it was. 

It's not a good sign that some of these people are still on the run. The attacker at Barcelona is still on the loose and should be considered extremely dangerous. And it is possible that the terrorists have more members still at larger. We have to consider, like the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks, this situation isn't over. 

I do have to say that I am worried about the proliferation of vehicle attacks. Before Nice, ramming attacks were pretty much unheard of. Now they seem to be happening all the time. Worst of all, it's not just Islamic extremists that are pulling these attacks off. Now there are copy cat attackers that have nothing to do with ISIS or other terror groups. People have realized that if they want to kill a lot of people all they need to do is find a group of pedestrians and run them over. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Iraqi forces are bombing ISIS stronghold of Tal-Afar in preparation for a ground assault.

A view of Tal-Afar. Reuters. 

Iraqi forces are bombing the ISIS stronghold of Tal-Afar in preparation for a ground assault to liberate the city. Reuters. After losing the city of Mosul, ISIS has few outposts left in Iraq, with Tal-Afar being one of the most notable and is the next in line to be liberated. The Iraqis are delaying the assault to give the air campaign more time to destroy ISIS targets in the city. Only 1500 to 2000 fighters remain in the city. It is unclear how difficult the battle will be, with the United States saying that Tal-Afar is home to some of ISIS's most dedicated fighters while the Iraqis say the battle will be quick because ISIS is demoralized. 

My Comment:
Tal-Afar is the last major city controlled by ISIS in Iraq. Defeating them there will not be the end of the war. ISIS still has control much of the Syria/Iraq border region and they also control a large area in the Hiwijah area. But ISIS's most important holding remains Tal-Afar. 

Not mentioned in the Reuters report is the fact that Tal-Afar, much like Mosul before it, the city is surrounded and cut off from ISIS reinforcement. The Kurds control all the pathways out of the region to the north while the Iraqis still have control of the area to the south, west and east. There is no escape for the fighters still trapped in the city and no hope of reinforcement or rescue. 

This is another example of Donald Trump and his staffs successful strategy to not let ISIS retreat and regroup. In the past, under the previous president, deals were often made that allowed ISIS to flee cities that were about to be liberated in order to reduce civilian casualties. Though we did have fewer civilian casualties using that strategy it allowed ISIS to bounce back after defeats and then even take new territory and greatly prolonged the war and probably resulted in quite a few more civilian casualties. 

That isn't going to happen now. Much like the fighters in Mosul, the remaining ISIS fighters won't be given the option of retreat. They now have two choices. Surrender or die. 

In the past, most of those fighters chose to die. Some of the local ISIS supporters do indeed surrender, but foreign fighters do not. They understand there is nothing for them to go home to and their only hope is that somehow they manage to defeat the forces besieging them. 

It will be worse in Tal-Afar. The city has a well deserved reputation of being a rough place. The fighters produced in the city are among ISIS's best and most dedicated fighters. They are all doomed of course but they will make the Iraqi forces pay for every inch. 

That's why I think the US assessment of the upcoming battle is correct. It will be a tough fight. The Iraqis are right that ISIS is demoralized, but not so much that they won't fight. The fighters there are motivated true believers that have no love for the Iraqi government. Air strikes and battlefield setbacks won't change that. 

The main difference is that now the Iraqi army is in much better shape. It's a far cry from the broken force that collapsed in Mosul in 2014. Now they are tough, well trained, well equipped and dedicated army. They haven't lost a battle in recent memory and were able to take Mosul after 9 bloody and destructive months. They have been tested by fire and survived. Though Tal-Afar will be a tough fight, it won't be anywhere near as bad as Mosul and the outcome really isn't in doubt. The Iraqis will win. 

The war against ISIS has fallen off the radar from the American news media. They are more focused on trying to take down the president than giving attention to one of his most obvious and dramatic victories. A more charitable interpretation is that our victories against ISIS make for worse headlines then when they were taking cities and executing civilians. But I'm going to do my part to make sure that this very important story gets told... 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Alt-Right vs Alt-Left

As you probably know, Donald Trump, angry at the press for trying to derail a press conference, denounced both the so called Alt-Right with the so called Alt-Left. I think it's important to discuss both groups and what they believe and what they stand for.

Let's start with the Alt-Right. The first time I heard the term was a few years back when reading about Neoreaction. The Neo-reactionaries were/are a groups of right wing bloggers that basically argued that progressiveness had ruined the world and that we should probably return to either monarchy or dictatorship to turn the tide. Neoreaction was always a fringe group and never really made much of an impact other than the creation of the term Alt-Right.

In the lead up to the 2016 election, the term changed. All of a sudden it wasn't just a loose group of mostly ignored bloggers. Instead it basically came to mean anyone on the right that wasn't a neoconservative.

It included groups and people like right libertarians like Ron Paul, conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, Human biodiversity folks, populist candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, media outlets like Breitbart, 4chan, paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan and conservative rabble-rousers and e-celebs like Milo Yianopoullos and Lauren Southern. Gamergate was probably in the mix as well. None of these groups really got along and most of them had very divergent beliefs. I imagine a debate between Steve Bannon, Curtis Yarvin and Ron Paul would not go well, even if they do have some things in common.

Unfortunately, another group latched onto the name to the point that it is too toxic to associate with. That group consists of the dying remnants of the white power movement, like the KKK and Neo-Nazis, and newer groups including whatever the hell Richard Spencer is calling his followers. Once these groups started calling themselves the Alt-Right, everyone else ended up distancing themselves from the term. The media, ever happy to tar the right with accusations of racism, immediately helped these groups claim the term. Now, the Alt-Right exclusively refers to the racist elements in America, even though those groups aren't really conservative and nobody on the right likes them.

Today, Donald Trump suggested that there is a equivalent on the left. The so called Alt-Left presumably consists of groups like Antifa, Black Lives Matter, left anarchism, communists and other various far left actors. These groups have been responsible for an incredible amount of violence and have been responsible for a handful of terrorist attacks, including the attack on police officers in Dallas and, arguably, the attack on the congressional baseball game in Alexandria.

The term is rather new, though I have seen a few right wing news outlets use it before. I don't know if it is well defined either, but that is the same problem with the Alt-Right. I think the main obvious difference is that none of the violent leftist groups really call themselves "Alt-Left" while Spencer and a few other in the racist right do call themselves "Alt-Right".

Other than that I think there is some obvious crossover in their belief systems and even their members. Many on the Alt-right stereotype Jews and evil and diabolical masterminds out to destroy white people along with their useful idiot allies among non-white people, who they consider sub-human.

The Alt-Left appears to mirror those beliefs. In place of the Jews, upper class white males are the diabolical masterminds and the lower and middle class white males are the useful sub-human allies. Instead of attacking white people, in the Alt-Left world, it's people of color, women, the LGBT community and whoever else that could ever conceivably be oppressed that are going to be systemically destroyed by the evil outgroup. In short, the ideologies are essentially the same. Both groups demonize entire groups of people because of their skin color/ethnic backgrounds and at the same time lionize groups of people they feel are "oppressed". The main difference is the colors they wear and which color of people they hate.

Of course, it's important to note, that I find both groups beliefs to be disgusting. I consider both white nationalism and intersectional leftism to be horribly racist and evil ideologies. The idea that wide groups of people should be painted with a huge brush as being completely evil and irredeemable is deeply disgusting. And I think both groups need to be opposed by everyone who isn't them.

But I don't think that were the comparison ends. I think in addition to their beliefs there is a lot of overlap in what kind of people who are joining these groups. It seems to mostly be young males in their 20's who have enough money that they can easily travel and don't need to worry about work. They have a strong desire to look "badass" and enjoy fighting. Obviously the leftists are more diverse and have some women as well, but I think the main thing you can say that the Alt-Left and Alt-Right have in common is that they both like to fight.

And I think that is probably the most dangerous part about both groups. While I think the ideologies of both groups is disgusting, it's their willingness to commit violence that disturbs me the most. I think that both groups are fringe with little popular support, (though, like leftist groups in the 70's, the Alt-Left has institutional support). But they have a strong interest in fighting, and not just each other. This leads to clashes like Charlottesville where, predictably, someone got killed and a lot of people got hurt.

So what can be done about the Alt-Left and Alt-Right? I think the obvious thing is to stop letting them fight each other and throw all of them in jail when they cause violence. Obviously, we have to respect their right to free speech, so if they remain peaceful, we have to tolerate them, but when they cross the line into violence we need to come down on them with the hammer of the gods.

Another problem is that both the more mainstream right and left have little reason to cooperate with each other to stamp down on these groups. Both the Alt-Right and the Alt-Left match the stereotype in peoples minds about what the other side believes are the true beliefs of their opponents. And the nation is so polarized that any unity, even on a critical issue like this, is all but impossible. I think as long as that is true, events like Charlottesville will continue as nobody wants to get rid of the bogymen from the other side...

Monday, August 14, 2017

North Korea backs down, delays descion on Guam attack.

Kim Jong Un. Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has received a report on a potential strike on Guam and said he will watch the United States "a while longer". Reuters. North Korea had said that it was planing to launch four missiles towards Guam aiming at the waters around the island. Kim said that the United States should make the "right choice" to avoid conflict. Tensions have been very high between the US and North Korea due to statements by President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. However, the United States and South Korea have downplayed the chances of war and have continued diplomatic efforts. 

My Comment:
I see this as North Korea backing down once again. I think they understood that they were risking war with the United States by sending missiles to Guam. Though targeting the seas around Guam would probably not be enough to trigger a war, there is a possibility that the missiles could miss and hit Guam which probably would cause a military response. 

Given the pressure they are under it is somewhat shocking that they would back down. North Korea invested quite a bit into making sure that they weren't the ones who blinked first but they just did. That will cause Kim Jong Un and the North Korean government to lose "face" and is a huge embarrassment to them. 

So why did they back down? I don't think they wanted to risk war. They know that they would be annihilated by any war with America. Despite popular perceptions, North Korea's military strength is fairly unimpressive. Any war would be a desperate race for a breakthrough before their military was worn down and destroyed by the superior firepower and technology of South Korea and their American allies. Even with weapons of mass destruction, I doubt that North Korea would ever be able to win a war against America. 

I also think that Donald Trump's "madman" strategy is working. Unlike previous presidents, North Korea wasn't sure if Trump was going to back down. His "fire and fury" comments were widely condemned in the press but I think they may have had an effect in North Korea. They might really think he's crazy enough to go to war with them and don't want to push his buttons. 

What also helps is that Rex Tillerson and the State Department has been utilizing back-channel links to North Korea to negotiate. He has informed them that we aren't interested in anything other than getting rid of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. This is the carrot compared to Donald Trump's big stick. 

I said recently that we have weathered worse storms than the current crisis with North Korea. In a past post I wrote up many of the incidents that didn't result in war. I never really thought that the media panic over this crisis was responsible because both North Korea and the US/South Korea have backed down over more serious incidents than this. I am guessing that this is going to end the same way as those other incidents. Status quo ante with perhaps some diplomatic movement on North Korea's weapons program. 

Avoiding war with North Korea would be a huge foreign policy victory for Donald Trump and America. If we can convince them to give up their weapons programs, we not only protect ourselves and would also avoid the death of tens of thousands of people. Doing so will be difficult but it seems like it might be possible. Trump's new plan of fiery rhetoric combined with back-channel diplomacy is at least something new and may finally break the cycle of outrage and appeasement... 

Ukraine accused of helping North Korea with their missile program.

Hwasong-14 missile, tested last July. New York Times/Reuters. 

An Ukrainian factory is being accused of helping North Korea with their ballistic missile program. New York Times. A new report says that North Korea's stunning progress with their missile program is not due to their own efforts. Experts who have examined the missile launch photos claim that it is obvious that the missile engine design is based on Russian weapons. Only a few sites are capable of creating those engines and the most likely site is Yuzhmash factory in Ukraine. Since the color revolution, the site has fallen on hard times as Russia has canceled contracts with them. The factory and the Ukrainian government denied responsibility. 

The IISS report can be found here.

My Comment:
If this report is true then it is a damning for Ukraine. Though it is unclear if their government knew anything about this or not, it's still a huge problem for them. A company that is based there has helped North Korea with its missile program which is now advanced enough to strike the United States. 

The report also answers a critical question. North Korea's missile program wasn't going anywhere fast. The New York Times report said this was due in part to US sabotage, but I think it had as much to do with them being incompetent. 

Trying to build a missile program from the ground up is difficult to say the least. It's much harder to do so when you don't have access to older designs. North Korea didn't and they had to beg, borrow and steal their weapons designs. Still, that wasn't enough until apparently the Ukrainians helped them out. 

I don't think the circumstances in Ukraine justify what happened here. Yes Ukraine had a revolution. Yes they have a civil war that still lingers after 3 years of fighting. Yes, they lost Crimea. Yes, Russia has been punishing them severely for their treatment of Russian speaking minorities. None of that justifies selling technology to North Korea that can be used to strike the United States. 

I am not sure that The Ukrainian government had no knowledge of this. Ukraine is notoriously corrupt, and Petro Porshanko has proven to be just as corrupt as his predecessor. If the Yuzhmash factory had anything to do with North Korea it's inconceivable to me that people in Ukraine's government didn't know about, if for no other reason that they would want some of the dirty money.

I think there need to be consequences for Yuzhmash and the Ukrainian government. We should put major pressure on Ukraine to arrest and prosecute the people that were responsible for this. If they don't we should sanction them and pull our support from them. We have been providing them training and weapons for some time now and that should end immediately. 

Another major question is if Yuzhmash is supplying other countries with ballistic missile technology. North Korea isn't the only country interested in ballistic missiles. Iran is another huge suspect as they have an active ballistic missile program. And there are other countries that could be buying technology as well. We can not let this technology proliferate. 

As for North Korea, the genie is out of the bottle at this point. They have the technology right now to hit America with missiles. And it also seems as they they have miniaturized nuclear warheads. That's completely unacceptable and if the new sanctions don't work we might have to take military action. If that happens than we need to make sure that Ukraine takes some of the blame... 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Predicting the defense that James Alex Fields will use if the Charlottesville case goes to trial.

As you are certainly aware James Fields has been arrested after his car rammed into leftist protesters and been charged with 2nd degree murder after one of the protesters died. The current media narrative is that James Fields is a white nationalist and that this was a terrorist attack. The first thing is undoubtedly true. But the 2nd? I'm starting to have doubts.

Before I go any further I don't want to make it sound like I am defending Fields beliefs or actions prior to this incident. I find white nationalism repulsive and I do not support him or the leaders of the Charlottesville rally. But even if his beliefs are repulsive, he still is entitled to a fair trial and has the same rights as anyone else. And I think people should know what his defense will probably be at trial, if the case gets to that point. There is a good chance that this isn't what happened, and I am not arguing that it was, but I do think that this is probably the defense Fields will use. Keep in mind though that I am not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice. There is a possibility that I am getting the law wrong here.

In my original post on the subject, I said that the fact that Fields was charged with 2nd degree murder was very significant. Why? Because the ways Virginia law works. Virginia has three levels of murder with 2nd degree being the least serious. 2nd degree murder is a catch-all offense that covers all murders that aren't enhanced to the level of 1st degree or capital murder with special circumstances and doesn't count as manslaughter.

Though there are other circumstances that could elevate it to 1st or capital, the factor that is obviously missing in this case is premeditation. A planned murder or terrorist attack would obviously be charged as 1st degree murder. Since he was charged with 2nd degree murder we can categorically say that this isn't a premeditated attack.

That, of course, doesn't mean that this wasn't a deliberate attack, just not a planned one. But I am starting to think there may have arguably been mitigating circumstances that will be used in defense of Fields. How is that even possible? Well close analysis of the various videos taken during the incident may show that James Fields was under attack by the protesters before the ramming occurred. Let's look at the video:

video

A close examination of the video shows that the car approached at a high rate of speed but then slowed down. I made a screen cap of the car and you can clearly see that the Charger's brake lights were on:



Later in the video it appears that someone hit the Charger with what appears to be a flagpole. This occurs right before Fields rams into the crowd. You can also see that the brake lights are off at this point.


In a second video from a different angle shows that after the crash ended, the protesters were swarming the car and starting to attack it. (GRAPHIC CONTENT)


video

It appears that a counter narrative is emerging. Let's set up a scenario: Fields is trying to leave the rally after a days worth of fighting between antifa and the various right wing groups that made up the rally. He comes a close a crowded road filled with antifa and without any support from either his white nationalist freinds or the police. One of those antifa attackers hit his car with flagpole. 

Fields, no doubt remembering how violent the antifa were being during the rally and perhaps thinking of Reginald Denny fears for his life. He panics and hits the gas, hitting a few of the protesters, killing Heather Heyer. His vehicle comes under further attack, so he slams it into reverse, hitting more protesters who were currently attacking his car. 

You know what this sounds like? Reasonable doubt. Virginia, like all US States has laws on self defense. If this scenario is correct then I think that Fields lawyers will argue in court that he had a reasonable fear for his life. They will argue that he thought he was under attack by the rioters and had a good chance of getting killed. 

What the Jury will decide, assuming he doesn't plead out, is if that belief was justified or not. They also have to decide if the threat against Fields was imminent or not and if he was at risk for serious injury or death. Finally, they have to decide if the level of response was excessive or not. 

What do I think of this possible scenario? It's going to be a real question on if the action was justified even if he was under attack. I think he probably was at risk for great bodily harm or death had those Antifa people had gotten to him. It looked like they were attacking him even before he charged into the crowd. 

The real question is though is if he is justified in running over people that weren't attacking him to get away from the people that were. And for this I am just not sure. Honestly his case would have been stronger if he had only ran over the guy hitting his car, but he didn't do that. This seems more like running over a whole group of people when only one was attacking.  

We also have to consider that Virginia has a "stand your ground" law. It states that you do not have a duty to retreat. That seems to be a huge consideration because there was obviously an escape route that Fields could have used. Instead of charging deeper into the crowd, he could have stopped and hit reverse. He might have still hurt people, but it would have made claims of self defense more palatable to the public and the woman that died, Heather Heyer would likely still be alive. As it stands right now, the fact that he charged forward instead of back shouldn't be an issue, even if it seems like a glaring issue. If he does invoke "stand your ground" expect a media frenzy similar to the George Zimmerman trial, which, ironically enough, never used the defense. 


The question for the lawyers and jurors is going to be whether or not it is justified to endanger dozens of lives to protect yourself from one person that you think might be killing you. That's a legal question that I don't know the answer for and nobody can really predict what a jury is going to do. 

But I don't know what other kind of defense Fields would have. There isn't any question that he was the one responsible for the attack. Insanity isn't a likely defense either, and he isn't likely to get a jury sympathetic enough for nullification. If he has any defense at all, it will have to be self defense. 

There are some other things that could obviously torpedo this defense before anything else happens. If Fields confesses that he wasn't acting in self defense then he is done. If he did something like threaten the antifa rioters it goes from self defense to mutual combat. If he said things online or in person about how antifa and other protesters deserve violence then he is probably screwed. Another question is why he decided to go down to that street. I don't know the layout of Charlottesville at all, so it's very possible that he had no reason to be there if he was trying to leave, though it is also possible he was just lost. 

Still, there is the possibility that this line of defense will work for Fields. All he needs is one juror that thinks that his life was at risk and he's got a hung jury. It's also possible that he could be convicted of a lesser charge, like manslaughter. I will leave the question of whether or not that it should work up to others. 

I will say that the media is, once again, being irresponsible for not mentioning the possibility of this defense. I understand that doing so is politically incorrect and even dangerous, but if the defense is raised and is successful than the reaction will be fury and violence, which could be mitigated if people are informed of the possibility as soon as possible. I think that preventing violence should be a primary goal and we need to explain to people that there is a real possibility of acquittal...

I also want to say that even if Fields uses this argument, it's clear that his judgement was horrible. Even if he was in fear for his life, the correct action wasn't to charge further into the crowd. He will make the argument that it was legally justified under Virginia law, and as the law is written he might have a point. That doesn't mean that he should have done what he did when all he needed to do to escape was put the car in reverse. And if he actually did attack these people intentionally and will raise this defense anyways than he's an utter bastard for refusing to take responsibility for his actions...

Saturday, August 12, 2017

1 dead 19 injured in ramming attack after White nationalist rally broken up.

Photo of the Dodge Charger about to ram people in Charlottesville. CBS/AP.

One person is dead and nineteen more have been injured at a protest in Charlottesville Virginia after a man rammed his car into a group of Antifa. CBS News. The attack came after a far right protest led by David Duke and Richard Spencer was broken up by police. The White nationalists had mostly left but counter-protesters and Antifa were still there, engaged in an rally that had been declared unlawful. The attacker rammed his Dodge Charger into the crowds and then sped away in what police are calling an intentional attack. The suspect was arrested and has been charged with multiple crimes, including 2nd degree murder. The attack has been widely condemned and President Trump has offered condolences for the victims. Two police officers died in a helicopter crash, though that incident was only tangentially related to the protests/riots.

The moment of impact. CBS/The Daily Progress. 

Video of the incident can be found below:


A second video with more clear footage of the attack. Be advised this one is graphic and uncensored and the source appears to be from someone on the far right:



My Comment:
What an absolute mess. This was fairly predictable, sooner or later something was going to happen like this. With Antifa shutting down yet another rally and picking fights with anyone to the right of them, it was only a matter of time before someone got pissed off at them enough to attack them. That, of course, doesn't justify an attack like this. Nothing could and I obviously condemn this attack.

I don't really have sympathy for anyone involved in this. The media are calling the original rally a "White Supremacist" rally. That seems to be fair as Richard Spencer and David Duke were involved. Both of them are accurately described as White Supremacists, though I don't think you can say that everyone involved in the original rally were. The cause they were rallying for was to prevent the removal of a confederate statue. Though I really don't approve of removing statues, it's fairly clear that whatever the cause, there was clearly some bad motives here. These guys are idiots and I don't support them in any way other than stating that they have a constitutional right to free speech that must be respected. Other than that, they are scum and I disavow them.  

That being said, the events were peaceful until Antifa showed up. Last nights rally at UVA was completely peaceful despite using spooky imagery with torches. It was intimidating but the only thing hurt was feelings. Since there is no right to not have your feeling hurt, the rally was legal. No violence happened until far left groups like Antifa, Black Lives Matter and the Black Block showed up today. That, of course, doesn't justify ramming a car into a large group of people, but I am guessing if the counter-protest/riot hadn't happened, nobody would have died. 

I am also not very impressed with the police response in Charlottesville. Though I don't want to bash a department that tragically just lost two of their members, I think that there definitely should have been a larger police presence. From what I have heard, police took a hands off approach to both sides. They basically let Antifa and the far right groups fight. If this attack was motivated by revenge for Antifa attacking people, the attack wouldn't have happened if police had broken up the counter-protest. 

As for the attacker himself, as of this writing his motivation is unclear. The police think the attack was deliberate, but I caution that might not be the case. I think there is a very small possibility that this attack might have been an incident of self defense. I watched a stream that showed another vehicle being attacked by the left wingers and had to flee the area (at around 50 minutes into the video. The end of the video also shows the attack). If something like happened to the driver, than the context is completely different.  Though I don't think that this attack was self defense, without knowing the motivation, we need to keep the possibility in mind. 

There are other possibilities as well. We shouldn't just assume that this attacker was right wing. It's very possible that he was a left winger that thought he was running down right wing people, though that would make him a very stupid person indeed. And we can't rule out the possibility of this being Islamic terrorism, as unlikely as that is as well. Hell, at this point, we can't rule out the possibility that this was just someone that was pissed that he was late for work. The fact that the suspect was charged with 2nd degree murder is significant in that it shows that he was unlikely to have plotted the attack in advance.

I am sure that the truth will come out soon. If it does turn out to be a right wing attack, which is likely, though not proven yet, it will be an extremely rare example of right wing violence. Left wing violence in the United States is common and so is Islamic terrorism, but right wing violence has been relatively rare, outside of the Oklahoma City bombing and a few attacks on abortionists. Conservatives in America are generally peaceful and don't approve of violence the way the left does. It's telling that many on the right condemned this attack, including the president.

Still, I worry that extreme elements on the right might be falling into the cycle of revenge. While it is certainly true that the left has caused massive amounts of violence, including several mass shootings of police in places like Dallas and Baton Rouge, and the attack on Congress in Alexandria, the right has, so far, refrained from striking back. What little violence that has happened has been in self defense as Antifa and other groups have brawled with Trump supporters.

By not hitting back, we on the right had the moral high ground. I think we still do. Nobody on the right likes David Duke or Richard Spencer and the actual following for both is tiny. And I doubt they wanted this attack to happen. Even on the far right, both groups are condemned and many believe that both leaders are under the control of the left anyways.

The media is doing its best to paint this attack as the result of mainstream conservatism. That can't be further from the truth. Donald Trump condemned the entire event, rightly criticizing both sides of this event, while the media is insisting that he ignore the crimes of Antifa and other left wing groups and only condemn the actions of Spencer and his ilk. A quick perusal of twitter and other places where conservatives are common, are openly condemning this attack as well.


The thing is that nobody on the right likes Spencer or Duke and their ilk. Hell, I am not sure that Spencer is even on the right since he supports things like universal healthcare and socialism. The only use that we on the right have for these idiots is as human shields. The extreme far right likes to fight with the mainstream far left and that protects those of us that range all the way from the center left to the non-racist "alt-light". I don't think anyone likes letting the scummy elements of the right tarnish the good name of conservatism, but as long as they are throwing down with the left, there is an element of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

But with Antifa and Black Lives Matter still going strong, what other option is there? Someone has to protect the right to peaceable assemble and the only ones willing to stand up to them is the far right. The police often let the far left run amok and they also have institutional support. The media and many local and state governments protect groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter despite the fact that they are domestic terrorist groups and very racist themselves. As long as nobody else is willing to do so, we end up relying on the scummy racist elements of the far right. It's an obviously poor solution because being associated with these idiots is bad press and sooner or later something terrible was going to happen.

What could change this? A complete crackdown on Antifa and the far left. These people need to go to prison and have their organizations broken up. The right wouldn't have to even entertain talking to people like Spencer if the cops would arrest the troublemakers on the left. They can not be allowed to attack everyone to the right of Karl Marx and they need to be stopped, once and for all. Once that happens Spencer and his ilk will fade into well deserved obscurity. If they don't, we can crack down on them as well if they get violent. And we should look into who is funding both groups and what they have to gain by giving them support...

We also need to put pressure on the media for covering people like David Duke and Richard Spencer. Neither would have any power at all if they weren't given it by the mainstream media. They are useful idiots and their actual support is almost non-existence. What little they have is directly due to the fact that their views are spread by the media to attack everyone on the right, regardless of their actual views. If the media hadn't publicized this event Antifa never would have shown up, no violence would have occurred and nobody would have died.

What I really fear though is that this is the start of a cycle of revenge attacks. Like I said before, the right has largely refrained from political violence, but if that changes we could fall into a cycle of tit for tat attacks with a lot of innocent people caught up between both sides. The situation mirrors Europe where people are starting to target Muslims with their own terrorist attacks in revenge for attacks by ISIS. That is something that cannot continue without eventually falling into civil war... Let's hope that calmer heads will prevail and the nasty elements of both the right and the left will be condemned to the trashbin of history. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

President Trump warns Venezuela, won't rule out a military solution.

From left to right. Sec. State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

President Trump responded to the Venezuela crisis by saying that he won't rule out a military option to deal with dictator Nicolas Maduro. Reuters. The United States sanctioned Maduro after he instituted a people's assembly that left out opposition groups and cracked down on opposition figures. Violence has occurred in Venezuela where 120 people have died in protests and thousands have been arrested. Trump refused to clarify what he meant by a military option saying he wouldn't discuss it. Trump, of course, has other options as well, especially sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry. 

My Comment:
This seems like the media getting worked up about nothing. The exact quote was this: 

"The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary"[emphasis mine]

The key word in that quote is "many options". The media is making it sound like this is Trump's first option when nothing could be further from the truth. He's just stating the obvious. We can, if we want to, utterly destroy Venezuela's government. That is not in doubt. 

Of course, we have other options besides military strikes. The first and most obvious is further sanctions against Venezuela. Venezuela's economy is based on oil exports and the collapse of oil prices and the countries refusal to reinvest in their oil industry has already hurt them. New sanctions against their oil industry would probably completely collapse their economy and then their government. 

Doing so would have consequences. Though Venezuela's influence on the global oil markets have decreased and we are now energy independent (we now export oil), sanctions would increase oil prices. Not only does this hurt the American consumer it also hurts America's leverage with other oil producing countries. This includes Russia, and oil is one of our major areas of leverage against them. 

Sanctions would also have an obvious negative effect for the people of Venezuela who are already on the verge of starvation. Their economy is in shambles already and pushing them over the edge would probably cause chaos and destruction. We would probably get bad press from the international media who have ideological reasons to back up the leftist government of Venezuela. 

Another option is supporting resistance groups in Venezuela. This could be something as simple as giving them money or something as controversial as giving them weapons. There are opposition groups in Venezuela but they don't have the funds or weapons to start an insurgency. One group has tried but they lost half their numbers in a raid that secured weapons.

Doing so seems unlikely though. We have not had a lot of luck in funding rebels lately, especially in the Middle East. Donald Trump especially dislikes this option and has ended most of our efforts to do similar things in Syria. I find it extremely unlikely that he would do so in Venezuela after rejecting the option in Syria. 

Trump always had a point when he criticized our efforts to arm rebels in Syria. In short, we never had accountability where those arms went. Many times they went to Islamic rebels and were used against our interest. Funding rebels against Venezuela might get rid of their far left government but it makes little sense to overthrow it if we get a far right one or another far left one. 

Another option is to contact the Venezuela's military and supporting a coup. This has a long and proud history in South American politics and the CIA has gotten very good at doing so. The problem is that the military is largely supportive of Maduro. The officers have been well taken care off by Maduro and have little to gain by betraying him. Still there has to be at least one that will take that option up if offered, especially if the economy tanks due to sanctions. 

The military option is probably the last and least likely option. Trump generally isn't interested in nation building and I doubt his base would support a war of choice against Venezuela. Doing so would be unpopular and would not gain the United States anything. 

I am guessing that if we were to go to war with Venezuela it wouldn't be much of a war. Yes they have MANPADS, but we have the most powerful military in the world. They wouldn't stand a chance against a conventional war and even that seems unlikely. Instead I see a surgical strike on Maduro himself as that would be all we needed to do. 

But I think that would be extremely unlikely. So why did Trump say that the option was on the table? Well, what does he gain from taking it off the table? The press will still hate whatever he does period, let alone against Venezuela. He won't gain any good press for anything he does, even if he raised the dead the media would bash him. 

I also think it's pretty clear that Trump is taking a page from two other Republican presidents. Richard Nixon was famous for developing the "Madman theory", and Ronald Reagan had used the same thing as well. In short, the Madman theory suggests to our foreign opponents that the president is unstable and irrational, while nothing of the sort is true. That worked for Richard Nixon who was able to end the war in Vietnam in part because the North Vietnamese were terrified of what Nixon would do. 

It's very clear that Trump is channeling Nixon and that should be pretty obvious from his threats against Venezuela and North Korea. Trump always said his foreign policy was going to be unpredictable. It's fairly obvious that he is doing so, but our media just can't figure it out. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Giant inflatable Trump chicken at the White House?




The giant inflatable chicken. AFP. 

What can we conclude about this post based on the title and the picture? It's a very slow news day. Right now both President Trump and congress are on vacation so there is very little political news. Internationally, there seems to be little going on as well, with only the North Korea issue worth covering. Since I have already written two posts this week on the issue and no real developments I don't really have much to add. CNN also continues their descent into irrelevancy by firing one of their commentators, Jeff Lord, for calling Media Matters Nazis... which is hilarious, but not interesting enough for an actual post. I'm also pretty sick of writing about CNN. 

The glaring issue I could be covering is the Google debacle. It should be fairly obvious why I am not covering it though. This blog is hosted on a Google owned platform and Google also owns Adsense, which runs the ads on this blog. Though I don't like the idea of not talking about the issue, I also understand that I shouldn't bite the hand that feeds me, especially after what happened to the guy that was critical of Google. Plus, I think it's fairly obvious that someone using Google for hosting and advertisement is probably biased on the issue. If I post anything further about this, it will be on social media, not here. 

So what does that leave? A stupid story about a giant chicken! Apparently some protester set the giant chicken up as some kind of protest about President Trump. The man who set the chicken up, Taran Singh Bar says Trump is chicken because he won't stand up to Putin or North Korea and won't release his tax forms. 

Unfortunately for Bar, I don't think he is getting the reaction he wants. Trump supporters love the thing and a quick perusal of Reddit's The_Donald show that people are already making memes and supporting the chicken. People think it is cute and funny, not a damning indictment of President Trump. Obviously Democrats and Trump opponents might disagree but if his goal was to make Trump supporters upset, he didn't succeed. 

What's my take on it? Well, it's a slow news day when I have to cover it, but I too think it's awesome. I mean it's a giant chicken president, what's not to love? I don't think it's offensive at all, and I hope that in the future people that don't like Trump protest him like this instead of yelling and punching people they don't like. It's one of the rare things that critics and supporters of the president can agree on since there is something there for everyone! 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Six soldiers wounded in car ramming attack in Paris, France

French soldiers stand guard near the scene of the attack. Reuters. 

Six soldiers were wounded in a car ramming attack in Paris, France. Reuters. The vehicle was parked in an alley and accelerated when a group of soldiers left their barracks for a patrol. Two of the soldiers suffered major wounds while the other four were lightly injured. Officals called the act premeditated and a terrorism investigation has begun. 

AP reports that possible suspect for the attack was arrested on the A16 highway. The arrest was violent and involved gunfire from the police. 

My Comment:
Looks like another "lone wolf" terror attack in Paris, which is something I have had to write far to many times recently. Paris has gone from a city of romance and tourism to a city of terror, and this latest attack is just another in a very long line of attacks. 

Fortunately this attacker was rather foolish in his methods. Though car ramming attacks can be deadly, the way this attacker struck was not smart. He was very close to his victims and instead of being in motion when his attack started he had to accelerate quickly to build up speed. This may have saved lives because it did not allow him to build up enough energy to actually kill anyone. 

The choice of the target might have been the issue. I am guessing that the area where the attack occurred wasn't near a open street where one could gain a lot of speed quickly. Paris is, like most European cities, a very cramped and crowded place with little room to maneuver. But there has to be more open targets that are more vulnerable to attack. We are lucky that this attacker did not choose one. 

Another issue might have been the vehicle chosen as a weapon. Though I haven't been able to find the exact model of the vehicle, most reports describe it as a BMW car. Presumably it was a small one, and that is what doomed this attack. Had the attacker chosen a SUV or truck, he probably would have been able to kill someone, though he may have run into issues due to the slower acceleration. Thankfully, he didn't, perhaps because his BMW was the only car he had access to. 

I haven't seen any reports of the French soldiers returning fire. That surprises me and makes me wonder what their rules of engagement are. You would think that even under normal circumstances a driver running over a bunch of people and then fleeing the scene would warrant fire, if for no other reason but to stop them from continuing the attack. Perhaps the soldiers hesitated because they thought it was an accident but if they were prevented from firing because of the ROE, then perhaps the rules need to be changed. I see little point in deploying soldiers in Paris if they aren't allowed to fire at people that try to kill them.  

I won't comment much on the report of a suspect being captured. Given the nature of Paris, it is possible that the incident was unrelated. Still, it also is a major incident given how rarely European police shoot suspects. I am guessing that even if the man in that incident wasn't responsible for this attack, he was a serious criminal if the French police had to resort to shooting him.

 I hope it was the guy though because this kind of attack is endlessly repeatable. Only two things can stop these kinds of ramming attacks. Either the suspect has to be killed or captured or the vehicle he is driving has to be disabled. And the 2nd out can be reversed simply by stealing a new vehicle, perhaps one with a little more power to it. 

As for responsibility for this attack, I am guessing it wasn't part of a larger plot. Had the attacker gotten any help he probably would have been given funds to rent or purchase a more dangerous vehicle. That doesn't seem to have happened so I am guessing that this attacker was just a nobody that was inspired by ISIS propaganda. I guess it could be some other terrorist group, but ISIS is still the most likely subject. 

I do have to say that despite this attack, ISIS efforts at terrorism seemed to have slipped a bit lately. There hasn't been a serious attack since the attacks in the UK earlier this year, in Europe at least. The United States has remained calm and the big Australian terror plot was broken up. 

I think that the major battlefield reversal in Syria, Iraq and Libya is the main cause of this. ISIS has lost the tax base it used to pay for terror plots, has been cut off from the rest of the world after Turkey close the borders and lost their most important launchpad for attacks in Europe, which was their base in Sirte, Libya. In short, ISIS is losing and because it is losing it can't afford to launch terror attacks globally. Time will tell if this continues to be the case, and we will still have to worry about lone wolf attacks, but I am starting to think that we might have weathered the worst of the storm... Let us all hope that I am right! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Should we be worried about North Korea?


As you may know North Korea has directly threatened the United States yet again. Today's threat is that North Korea is considering attacking US bases in Guam with a missile strike, certainly implying at least that they will use their nuclear weapons. The threat comes after Donald Trump said that if North Korea continues with their threats the United States will reply with "fire and fury". 

This exchange has, understandably, caused quite a bit of panic on social media and media coverage is predictably over the top. People think World War III is about to start and that the west coast of the United States is about to be nuked. 

This seems to me to be an obscene overreaction. We have, of course, weathered bigger crisis's with North Korea. Obviously, we were at war with them once and have been at peace with them since 1953, despite several serious incidents. All of those incidents were much more severe than anything that has happened in recent history, since Donald Trump was elected. 

In 1968, one of our spy ships was captured. No war happened. In 1969 North Korea shot down one of our EC-121's killing 31 US servicemen. No war happened.  In 1976 two US Army officers were murdered in cold blood as they were cutting down a tree in the DMZ. In 2009 two American journalists were captured and imprisoned by North Korea. No war happened. And in the most serious incident since the Korean War, North Korea attacked and sunk a South Korean corvette, the ROKS Cheonan, killing 46 people. Guess what? No war happened. 

The idea that war will all of a sudden happen because Trump said a few words that happened to be a bit more over the top then normal is stupid. Indeed, Trump didn't do anything but use some of the same rhetoric that North Korea has used against us for decades.  If war does come, it's not going to be because of Trump talking to the media. 

The Washington Post.

I do have to say that there is something now that is different than all the incidents in the past. North Korea has greatly exceeded the projections on how long it was going to take for them to get nuclear weapons that can hit the United States. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), North Korea is now producing nuclear weapons small enough to be placed on their missiles. The analysis also says that North Korea now has 60 nuclear weapons, a major increase compared to the past.

North Korea has also made quite a bit of progress on their ballistic missile program as well. They have conducted quite a few missile tests and they have been mostly successful. The last hurtle is a reentry vehicle and they are likely to pass that soon. Once they do, they will have a nuclear weapon that can hit most of the United States. 

The real question then is if that is an acceptable to the United States. Having an unstable regime that hates the United States armed with nukes is not something we will want. Doing something about it is a problem as well. If we attack North Korea we risk them attacking us with their nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. If we don't attack North Korea we risk the same thing with the additional threat of them having the initiative. 

In short, there are no good options at all. The only good outcome is that North Korea gives up their nuclear weapons. Since they believe that those weapons are the only thing that is preventing regime change, plus all the prestige and credibility those weapons provide them, it seems unlikely that they will go along with any deal. 

Still, diplomats have been hard at work at trying to resolve the crisis. As Donald Trump has been threatening the stick against North Korea his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has been offering the carrot. These diplomatic efforts have gone unnoticed by the national media but they have been happening and may give the North Koreans an "out". Let us hope that the Koreans see the light and take the chance they are being given.

All in all though, I am skeptical that war will happen. After all, we have been through this song and dance before. North Korea has long threatened the United States with destruction since the very moment they gained nuclear weapons. The stakes are a bit higher now, but I doubt the outcome is going to be any different.