Sunday, October 22, 2017

Keep an eye out for over-hyped news stories.

As you are probably aware there is a new kind of problem we have all been experiencing lately. Though we are all aware of fake news, I think there is a new issue rising. I'm talking about the over-hyped news story. Instead of a totally false story like fake news, these are stories that are built up to be earth shattering expose that will totally change everything forever! And then the story is released. Most of the time something really happens but it's not nearly as big as it is hyped to be.

It's very obvious why this kind of thing happens. Journalists want to build up hype so people actually read the story when it comes out. They also tend to believe their own exaggerations and greatly overestimate how much impact any kind of story that they have.

We need to keep any eye out for these stories and realize that oftentimes when people promise the moon they don't have much. Sometimes those stories are actually very important but when people are expecting earth-shattering they get disappointed with just a huge story.

I think some of this is just people expecting too much. For example there was the recent Uranium One story. It's a major news story that accuses Hillary Clinton of serious wrong doing and also implicates other members of the Obama administration of wrongdoing. But people are disappointed with that? Why? I guess they wanted something so powerful that no one would ever want to be a Democrat again. What that could be I don't know since I think people would still support Clinton even if she was caught on camera sacrificing babies to Moloch, but the point remains. If you want the one thing that ends Democrats forever (or Republicans for that matter), you are probably going to be disappointed.

So what are some signs of an over-hyped news story? People saying things like "tick tock" tends to be a huge red flag. People saying that their story is a "gamechanger" or that it will change everything is also a very bad sign. Generally, you shouldn't trust anything that is telling you what you want to hear.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Video: Japanese pilots flee from burning airplane.

A pilot escapes from the burning F-4EJ. 

In dramatic video footage, two Japanese pilots escaped from a burning F-4EJ Phantom II before takeoff. Daily Mail. The accident occurred at Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki prefecture. The two pilots escaped without injury. It is thought that the fire was caused by a malfunctioning landing gear. Japan has grounded their F-4EJ Phantoms to make sure the problem doesn't occur again. The F-4EJ Phantom II's are old jets first introduced in the 1960's and are due to be replaced by F-35's. 

My Comment:
Scary moment for the Japanese pilots. They were very close to being burned alive, which is horrifying. They were very lucky that nobody was hurt. You can see the video in the link above or on Youtube below in case you don't want to support the Daily Mail (or Youtube for that matter).

What is most surprising to me is that the Japanese still use F-4 Phantoms. These planes are almost five decades old now. America retired our last combat jets in 1996, though we kept them on for non-combat roles. Japan is one of only a few countries, including South Korea, Turkey and Iran. Yep, the F-4's are so old that the pre-date the Islamic Revolution in Iran. 

Japan still has three combat squadrons but they aren't in a front line role and are due to be replaced. The reason they haven't been is because the delays with the F-35 program. Those new F-35's, with as many problems as they have, are now desperately needed for Japan. Right now their F-4 Phantoms are no longer reliable. 

Given how high tensions are that is a very bad thing. If a war were to break out between North Korea and everyone else the Japanese might not be ready now. I don't think these F-4's would have a large amount of effect, but it would reduce Japan's strike capability. Very bad timing for these F-4's. 

President Trump's statement on the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS.

President Trump released a statement about Raqqa today and I thought I should post it here. I don't have much to say about it other than what I have said in Tuesdays post but I thought it might be good to post what the President had to say.

President Trump indicates that he is likely to release the last JFK assassination files.

Marker outside of the birthplace of John F. Kennedy. Reuters. 

President Trump indicates that he is likely to release the last files concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Reuters. The long classified files are scheduled to be released next week but many news outlets said that Trump was not going to authorize their release. The JFK assassination remains mired in conspiracy theories despite the official story being that Lee Harvey Oswald committed the crime and acted alone. Intelligence agencies have argued for withholding these files with the justification that they may endanger intelligence operations and practices. The files are not expected to have any bombshells but may shed light on Oswald's travels in Cuba and Russia. 

My Comment:
Once again the mainstream media got the story wrong. Politico had written an article saying that Trump was not going to release the documents less than a day before Trump tweeted that he was indeed going to release them, subject to review. One wonders if Politico was just making things up or if they were led on a wild goose chase but either way they got this story wrong. It now seems very likely that Trump will release these documents, barring a major change of course.

What is going to be in them? Good question. The Reuters report speculates that these documents have information about Oswald's travels to Russia and Cuba. Oswald was a defector to both countries but returned. He was also a dedicated communist and certainly had contacts with both governments. That information is publicly known but there could still be some details we are missing.

Is it possible that there is some kind of bombshell here? I think there is. I have always considered it a possibility that Oswald was in fact an agent of the Russians or Cubans. That doesn't mean they ordered the attack, but if it had been revealed in the 1960's that Oswald was a spy it could have resulted in a world war. It's very possible that a deal was reached with the foreign governments after our government determined that he wasn't acting on orders. There is also a slim possibility that he was acting on orders and if that is true that will rewrite history. 

I don't know how much I buy the intelligence agencies argument that sources and techniques could be compromises. Most of the people involved in the intelligence game from the 1960's are either dead or long retired and our intel gathering has grown enough that many of our old techniques are out of date. My guess is that there is probably some embarrassment for these agencies in these files. That and the obvious inertia there is for intel agencies to release anything if they don't have to.

Still, I don't think there will be much here. I am convinced that if there was something earthshaking left to learn about the JFK assassination we would have learned it by now. Someone would have leaked something and it would have happened decades ago. I think people would be wise to seriously temper their expectations about what these documents will reveal. It's not likely that there is going to be a smoking gun.

I have never been convinced with the traditional JFK assassination theories. I think most of them are stupid and even the more thought out ones are fairly far fetched. Indeed, the only one I give any credence at all to is the "Oswald was a Russian and/or Cuban spy" theory that I mentioned above. And that is one of the more unpopular ones.

It's my sincere belief that Oswald acted alone and he did so because he was a devoted communist that wanted to kill that anti-communist John F Kennedy. I doubt he had any help and I doubt he did so under orders. There was no second shooter and there was no further conspiracy. Barring some absolutely unprecedented info released in these documents I don't see my views changing anytime soon.

I also don't think that anyone else's minds will be changed either. People believe what they want to believe about the JFK assassination. New evidence, even if it supports a conspiracy angle, will not convince them that their pet theory is wrong no matter how strong it is. Everyone who lived through it made up their minds long ago and the new generations were born into the conspiracy theories.

Of course this whole post could be moot. Trump still has time to backpedal. He may well decide that he doesn't want to release these documents after all or could release them with so many redaction that they are completely useless. Doing so would probably be a political mistake because I think people will be really excited about this, but I think it is possible. I won't speculate on why he would tweet this out and change his mind as it would seem to be very out of character for him. My only guess is that it could be used as leverage against his enemies, but even that seems a bit "tinfoil hat" for me.

My guess is that these documents will come out and nothing much will come of them. The might shed some new light on things but they will do nothing to stop the conspiracy theories. In the end I think people will never give up on the "Who killed JFK?" question...

Friday, October 20, 2017

Another Gold Star family member releases audio showing Donald Trump offering condolences.

The above video is from the Washington Post and shows the conversation President Donald Trump had with Natasha De Alencar who is a Gold Star wife. Her husband, staff sergeant Mark De Alencar was killed in Afghanistan by ISIS militants last April. He left behind his wife and 5 children. 

Just watch the video and then tell me that Congresswoman Frederica Wilson is telling the truth about Trump disrespecting a Gold Star family. I saw nothing but respect in that video and it seemed like Trump was really trying to connect with De Alencar. 

The media has, of course, tried to make this thing about race. But obviously in this case this was a mixed race Hispanic/Black family and Trump acted with nothing but respect. Indeed, that's what De Alencar said herself and she was very impressed that Trump took the time to call her and learn a little about her family before he called. 

I have to say that I am fairly disgusted by this whole scandal. It's clear to me that Trump did nothing wrong here and he should be commended for taking the time to call the family of these people. That a ghoul like Fredercia Wilson would use this as an opportunity to attack the president is just disgusting to me... 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

John Kelly has the final word on the Niger phone call controversy...

The above video is moving stuff. It's Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, John Kelly, explaining how presidents contact the families of dead soldiers and how the current controversy erupted. If, somehow, you don't know what is going on, a congresswoman, Fredrica Wilson (D), claimed that she listened into a phone call that Trump made to one of the four soldiers that had died in a terrorist attack in Niger. She claimed that Trump had said that "he knew what he signed up for". 

Of course the statement was taken completely out of context and was made to imply that Trump didn't actually care about the fact that a young man had died defending his country. John Kelly destroys that narrative with his moving speech above. He's the one that explained to Trump what he should say that would comfort people and he wanted Trump to point out that anyone who joins the military does so under their own volition and are heroes for doing so.  

I always knew that this as a faux controversy in the first place. For one thing I don't trust anyone in Congress to ever say anything true when it comes to politics. I also don't trust any scandal that the media promotes because the vast majority of time it is a faux scandal. And I especially don't trust any scandal that targets Donald Trump. So many of them have fallen apart in the past that my prior is that any scandal targeting him is, at the very least, missing context. More often than not, it's a completely false narrative. 

Also, I never understood why saying "he knew what he signed up for" was a bad thing. I guess if it was the only thing you said it might be a little cruel, but within context it makes a lot of sense. John Kelly pointed this out and he makes it pretty clear that Trump meant it in a complimentary way. Nobody has to join the military and anyone that does knows that they can die in combat. That's why they are brave. They know that they are risking death to serve their country and do so anyways because that's what they signed up for. I can't think of higher praise. 

It seems very clear to me that there is a huge gap of what kind of person President Trump is and the kind of person the media and leftist portray him and actually believe he is. It's fairly obvious that Trump, at the very least, cares as much as previous presidents about the troops. You would know that if you listened to him and it is even clearer if you listen to people who he has visited or talked with in the wake of previous tragedies. But the media and the Democratic Party seem determined to portray him as the ultimate evil who isn't capable of any human emotion. So they take what he said, strip it of context, and then use it to make him look bad.

The truth of this matter is if people like Fredrica Wilson or the news media had granted Trump any charity at all this scandal would never would have happened. The only way anyone could think "he knew what he signed up for" as hateful is if you twist the words and take them out of context. Either because you are lying or because you are so disconnected from reality that you can't even admit to yourself that Trump isn't a monster even when he does something obviously human. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Should Donald Trump visit the DMZ between North and South Korea?

VP Mike Pence visited the DMZ last April. Washington Post/AP. 

The Trump White House is considering a visit to the DMZ that lies between North and South Korea. Washington Post. The visit has been a tradition for sitting US presidents and already Vice President Pence has observed the DMZ last April. However, some are worried that a President Trump visit could inflame already high tensions with North Korea and could even put Trump's safety at risk. The South Koreans do not want the president to visit but many advisers, including ones from the former Bush and Obama admins say that he must. Trump has not released the schedule of his upcoming trip to Asian nations. 

My Comment:
Very interesting situation in North Korea and I can see both sides to the argument. I do think that if Trump doesn't visit the DMZ, the media, at the very least, will attack him for it. They will attack him for going as well, but the attacks that will come if he doesn't go will be much more harsh. 

It will be seen as weakness if Trump doesn't go to the DMZ. And not just by the anti-Trump mainstream media. North Korea will take it as a sign that Trump is afraid of them and could encourage them to continue on their nuclear path. Their propaganda would claim that Trump was "scared" and our media would agree with them. 

That being said no matter what we do we will anger the North Koreans. A Trump visit to the DMZ is essentially a middle finger to the North Korean government. If the goal is to ratchet down tensions, now might not be the time to inflame them. It really depends on what Trump wants to accomplish. If he wants to demonstrate strength and attempt to intimidate the North Koreans he will go. If he wants to ratchet it down tensions he might not go. 

We do have to worry about Donald Trump physical safety. There is a real possibility that the North Koreans could attempt to attack him. Doing so would almost certainly result in a war even if the attack wasn't successful so no rational leader would try doing so. 

But we have to wonder if Kim Jong Un is rational. After all, he should now that threatening nuclear war with the United States is about the stupidest thing you could possibly do but he is doing so anyways. He obviously isn't in his right mind so he might think an attack on POTUS is a good idea despite all the evidence that it isn't. 

Still, I think that Donald Trump will go. He doesn't seem like the type that will back down from a controversy. After all his tweets and arguments with people I sincerely doubt that he will be intimidated by the North Koreans. I don't think he cares about potential higher tensions and I doubt he's concerned with his safety. 

Trump also doesn't want to be the first president since Reagan to not visit the DMZ. Though George Bush 41 didn't visit as president, he did visit as Vice President. Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all visited and even Mike Pence has gone. Trump doesn't want to be the odd man out. I would be shocked that before his 1st term is up that Trump doesn't go at some point, unless war breaks out making the whole issue moot. 

I do think there is a chance that his advisers could convince him to not go. If they really fear a terrorist attack or that a visit could completely derail diplomacy, he might not visit. It will be a hard sell for his advisers as Trump does not want to appear weak. But I also think that if the consequences are bad enough he might stay home. I don't find it that likely though. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Raqqa falls! ISIS capital liberated by Syrian rebels.

An SDF fighter waves her flag in Raqqa. BBC/AFP.

Raqqa, ISIS's de facto capital in Syria, has been liberated according to US backed rebels on the ground. BBC. The Syrian Democratic Force has captured the last ISIS strongholds in the city, which were the hospital and the stadium. Major combat operations are over but work clearing out landmines and booby traps, along with any stray ISIS fighters, will continue. Raqqa fell to ISIS in 2014 and was the first provincial capital captured by the terror group. Since then it has served as ISIS's capital for it's Caliphate.

My Comment:
This is a historic and massive victory against ISIS and very likely spells the end of the idea that ISIS is a state. They have lost so much in the past year or so. They lost almost all of their holdings in Iraq, including their grandest prize in the city of Mosul. Now they have lost their capital itself. This is incredible news and this post is one that I have been looking forward to for years now.

There are a lot of people that can take credit for this defeat. Most obviously, the fighters in the Syrian Democratic Force deserve the lion's share. They were the ones that took the fight to ISIS and they are the ones that not only liberated the city but also the region. Without them Raqqa would still stand under ISIS control today. This is a huge victory for them and they deserve praise.

The United States and our allies deserve some of the credit as well. We obviously supported the fight against ISIS and our troops put their lives on the line training and fighting with the SDF. Four of our service members have died there while others have been wounded. Without our help the SDF might have won but it would have taken much longer and came at a much higher price.

I think President Trump, and to a lesser extent, President Obama, deserve some credit too. Though Obama's record on Syria is poor at best, he did at least help to train and fund the Kurds and other rebels that did the fighting. President Trump was the game changer though. His new strategy of bombing the hell out of ISIS while at the same time adopting a surround and destroy strategy against ISIS is a huge reason why ISIS was never able to recover. ISIS would have been defeated eventually anyways but without Trump's plan it would have taken much longer and many more people, especially civilians, would have died.   

As loath as I am to admit it, Turkey changed the course of the war as well when they joined the fight against ISIS after long being a de facto ally. Once Turkey closed the border and cleared out the northern reaches of Syrian territory of ISIS fighters, ISIS was doomed. They were cut off from their supplies of new recruits and lost one of their main sources of income from selling oil in Turkey. The Turks did this for selfish reasons as their intervention had as much to do with punishing the Kurds as it did to do with retaliating against ISIS terror attacks, but we have to admit that finally coming down on ISIS helped end the war much quicker.

ISIS is essentially done as a state and no longer have a real claim to being the Caliphate. They still control quite a bit of territory but it is a rump state compared to their height. The only major city they have major forces left in is Dier Ez Zor, and that city is under siege by the Syrian government and their Russian allies with the SDF closing in fast as well.  They control a series of small towns and cities on the Euphrates river but none of them are major and all of them are now under pressure. They still have holdings in both Syria and Iraq but they are rapidly losing control and will shortly lose those holdings as well. 

I am now predicting that many ISIS fighters will go underground to continue the war as a guerrilla and terrorist army. I don't see them openly controlling areas like they did before but they will  conduct raids and terrorist attacks. They still have quite a few fighters and some will be missed by security forces in the aftermath of the battles. ISIS won't just lay down and give up just because they lost their capital. They will continue to fight even if the strategy is less about taking and holding territory and more about causing chaos.

We also have to realize that ISIS is a global phenomenon that won't simply go away because ISIS has largely been defeated on the battlefield. Even if every "official" ISIS member in the world dropped dead tomorrow there would still be thousands of radicals willing to take up the cause of Jihad. These people will remember that even though ISIS lost their capital they were still able to accomplish some, quite frankly, unbelievable things. The Caliphate may die but those who support it won't just go away. They will continue to kill in the name of the Caliphate even as the Caliphate collapses.

And even though ISIS has been routed in Syria and Iraq, they still have cells and holdouts throughout the world. There is evidence they are beginning to regroup in Libya and they have never really been defeated in Egypt. They are also infesting Yemen, Afghanistan and various places in Africa. Most alarmingly, they have popped up in The Philippines. The battle of Marawi City, which also came to a close today if we are to believe Rodrigo Duterte, took everyone by surprise. ISIS may have had their main power base broken but they are not defeated.

I am also worried about where things go from here. Until now a fragile kind of peace has reigned in both Syria and Iraq. Well, peace is probably the wrong word for it, but many of the diverse factions in Syria were working together against ISIS or even just staying out of each others way. That may change and change quickly now that ISIS is on the run. My hope is, at the very least, America and Russia can continue keep out of each others way.

Still, the cracks are already appearing in Iraq. I wrote yesterday that the Kurds and the Iraqi government got into a few skirmishes over Kirkuk. That kind of thing could happen in Syria. The state is already filled with factions that hate each other and without the common threat of ISIS it could devolve into the massive disaster that it was for years. ISIS losing Raqqa won't bring peace to Syria. Not by a long shot.

I also have to wonder how much of a role the United States should continue to play in Syria. Obviously ISIS still has a presence there and as long as that is true we should have a presence there. But what happens when ISIS loses it's last strongholds? Right now we are kind of running out of things to bomb and what little is left risks possible conflict with the Syrians and Russians.

My instinct is to say that we should just leave but the major question then is what is to be done with the other evil army of Jihadi madmen running amok in Syria? I am, of course, talking about al-Nusra. Though they are not as bad as ISIS, they are still evil men that could very well expand into another global terrorist organization. The Syrian government and their Russian allies should be able to handle them but if they can't than perhaps our mission in Syria is not over yet... 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Iraqi government and Kurdish forces clash over Kirkuk.

Kurdish fighters. BBC/AFP

Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have clashed over the oil rich city of Kirkuk. BBC. Peshmerga fighters fled from the city as Iraqi troops have captured the K1 military base, oil fields and a oil companies offices. The retreat was mostly peaceful, but clashed have broken out between the Kurds and government fighters south of Kirkuk. The Iraqi operation is seen in response to the independence referendum that passed in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Information is lacking but it does seem clear that people have died in the clashes and military equipment has been destroyed. The deployment of Iranian backed militias have complicated the situation further. 

My Comment:
Fairly disappointed in both sides of this conflict. The Kurds and Iraqis were brothers in arms for most of the war against ISIS and it is sad to see them throw it away so quickly. I think both sides bear responsibility for this conflict.

First, the Kurds did not have to hold their independence referendum so soon. ISIS isn't even defeated yet and they still control some of the countryside. Iraq isn't stable right now and the Kurds needed to realize that pushing for independence now wasn't ever going to fly. They should also realize that the Iraqi military is not the broken force it once was. It is now a professional, well armed, well led and well motivated fighting force. Pushing them around with this independence vote was a very bad idea. A better time would have been when ISIS was at it's peak and the Iraqi government was too weak to respond.

But it's not like the Iraqi's are innocent here either. They shouldn't have pushed so hard to regain control of Kirkuk. Doing so has only intensified the conflict. Instead they should have gone to the negotiating table. They didn't have to give the Kurds independence but they could have at least stalled for time. The war against ISIS isn't over yet and they last thing they need is to open up another front in the war.

Speaking of ISIS, I have long said that the only chance they have is another major conflict to erupt that could divide the forces arrayed against them. Certainly an all out war between the Iraqis and Kurds would do so nicely, especially if that conflict spreads to the neighboring states with Kurdish minorities as well. Both military forces are powerful now but a major conflict between them could weaken them both enough that ISIS could make a resurgence in Iraq. It's still a longshot given how completely devastated ISIS is, but they are still getting an opportunity if war does break out.

The United States probably isn't happy about this. We have long supported both the Iraqi government and the Kurdish fighters in their war against ISIS and they have been our best allies throughout the war. Not only does this work against our purpose against ISIS, it undoes much of the progress we have made in the Middle East.

The enemies of the Kurds in the region are probably thrilled. Obviously ISIS counts, but the governments of Iran, Syria and Turkey are also happy. Iraqi's aren't the only people afraid of an independent Kurdish state. With large Kurdish minorities in all three countries, they are happy that Iraq appears to be making an example of the Kurds.

Why did Iraq go for Kirkuk though? Well they had to abandon the city during the war against ISIS. The Kurds stepped up and took the city and defended it against ISIS even though it wasn't their territory. Now that the war against ISIS is winding down, the Iraqis want the city back, even though the Kurds fought for it.

Why? Because of money. Kirkuk is in one of the most fertile oil producing areas in the country and Iraq desperately needs that oil money to help rebuild the country. It's a massively important strategic asset and they can't let the Kurds keep it under any circumstances.

Finally, is war likely? I honestly don't know. You would hope that the two groups that fought side by side for most of the war would be able to get over something like this. But on the other hand, wars have started for stupider reasons and it's not unreasonable that Iraqis would fight to keep control of Kurdish territory and that the Kurds would want their own country. I fear that war may indeed be coming and if it does it will be another dark chapter in the already depressing story of Iraq... 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Editor's note

Just an FYI, I've been extremely busy this weekend. I'm working OT tonight so no time for an actual post. Things should be back to normal by tomorrow. Hopefully.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fantasy Football update: Week 6

My current roster. 

As you may know, I am pretty into fantasy football. Though the difficulties with the NFL has kept me from actually watching games, I still have been playing the fantasy version of football. Fortunately, it's always been possible to play without watching the games. 

Last year I covered the first few weeks of the season but then my team fell apart. This year my team is doing much better. I am 4-1 and in third place in a tight three way tie with the tiebreaker being points scored. I'm a bit behind the other two teams in points scored but I am also doing much better than I was doing this time last year. 

So why am I doing well? Well for one thing I got really lucky. Week 1 my opponent had a bunch of Tampa Bay and Miami players and that game got canceled due to Hurricane Irma. This knocked out two of his QB's and his best RB as well and left him without any options. Though the game was still somewhat close, I managed to win a game I probably should have lost. 

I have also had a couple of games where my opponents teams just did horrible. These guys didn't have bad teams or anything, just bad luck. How bad was their luck? One guy scored 46 points against me due to a one week collapse and the other lost despite the fact that I had a similar situation where I couldn't field two QB's due to Maroita being out and Cousins being on a bye week. My team came through in both occasions, doing well despite tough circumstances. Both weeks my teams scored way more points than they should have. 

So what can I take credit for outside of my luck? Well I have insane depth at RB. As far as I am concerned I have 5 starting RB's. Picking up 3rd down receiving backs was a very good choice because Chris Thompson and Alvin Kamara are great. And both Kamara and Ingram got a boost in value due to the Adrian Peterson trade. Drafting Chris Hogan turned out to be a major win as well, giving me a bit more depth at WR. Taking Kelce was a major win as he has been fairly good. I also just picked up the Jaguars D/ST this year who have been amazing and were still on waivers for some reason. They have only had one bad fantasy day this year and if they keep it up they could end up winning me some games. 

Still, my team does have some problems. Though I have 3 good WR's and one serviceable one in Rishard Mathews, I don't have anything else on the roster. If more than one of those goes down to injury I could be in trouble. And if I lose one of my QB's or Kelce, I might be screwed because in a two QB league it's very hard to get a good QB if one goes down. Kelce is irreplaceable outside of trading as well. And I never seem to be able to pull off trades...  

I also have a tougher schedule coming up. My next two games are against the other 4-1 teams and they are scary. I am slightly protected by the bye weeks and the fact that Ezekiel Elliot had his suspension upheld, but there is a real chance of me being 4-3 by the end of it. My schedule gets easier after that, but it's not like the rest of the league isn't scary as well. 

Still, this is the best team I have had in years. It would be very surprising to me if I didn't at least make it to the playoffs. I might not make it very far once I get in, but it would take a total collapse for me to not make it there. I've got 5 really good RB's at this point along with three pretty damn good WR's and the 2nd best TE. My QB's are decent and I have a very good D/ST now. If my team can stay healthy and productive I should make it to the playoffs. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Recordings of the "sonic attack" targeting US diplomats in Cuba


The above video is the first known recording of the sonic attack that has caused a diplomatic row with Cuba and has injured several US and Canadian diplomats. The sound is horrible, high pitched and extremely annoying. It also gives us few clues as to what is going on and seems to raise more questions than it answers. 

It's important to note that this recording might not be an accurate representation of what is happening. I doubt that the audible frequencies were the ones that did any damage. My guess is that acutally damaging frequencies were ultra or infra sonic. They were either too high frequency or too low frequency for human ears to hear. 

I will say that it is very good that these recordings are being released. Even if the attack is ultra or infra sonic, these new recordings will be used as a warning for those under attack. They won't be able to sense the non-audible frequencies that are doing the damage but they should be able to hear this and take measures to protect themselves. This should hopefully decrease the injuries suffered in these attacks. 

We still don't have a whole lot of clues as to what is happening in Cuba. A sonic weapon seems far fetched but there seems to be little other explanation for what is happening. I doubt this is a natural phenomenon or some kind of industrial accident due to the fact that Cuban citizens aren't being effected as well. 

That leaves this as a deliberate attack. Since Cuba isn't really known for non-communist terrorist groups, it probably is the Cuban government. State level resources are probably necessary for the development and deployment of this weapon... whatever it is. 

This is horrible behavior by the Cubans. One thing you don't ever do is attack diplomats. Doing so is hugely counterproductive since diplomats are the only people that can defuse tense situations. Though it is obvious that relations between Cuba and America were going to get worse after Trump was elected, the Cubans have escalated things beyond anything reasonable. They will pay a heavy price for their actions. 

American/Canadian family rescued from the Taliban in Pakistan.

Catlin Coleman and Joshua Boyle with two of their children. NBC News

Pakistan has secured the release of a family captured by the Taliban. NBC News. American Catlin Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, along with their three children, are now free. Coleman and Boyle were captives of the Taliban linked Haqqani network, who captured the couple in 2012 in Afghanistan. Coleman was pregnant at the time and gave birth to three children in captivity. Pakistan retrieved the family in an "intelligence based mission". The release comes after criticism from the US government who claimed that Pakistan wasn't doing enough to fight terrorism and extremism in the region. There are hopes that US-Pakistan relations will improve after this operation. 

My Comment:
Very good news out of Pakistan this morning. Though I doubt that the family was in real danger of death, they were still being held hostage by a group of terrorists/criminals. The Haqqani network is somewhere between a gang, terrorist organization and religious group and they are not nice people. They might not execute many hostages like ISIS does, but they do hold them for ransom, separating them from their families. You may remember that they held SGT Bowe Bergdahl after he deserted the military. He was released after a very controversial prisoner exchange.

Thankfully that didn't happen here. It seems as though the Pakistanis launched a military raid to secure the freedom of this family. There doesn't seem to be much information on that raid. The NBC report didn't mention much and neither did any other article that I have seen. I have seen no reports of causalities or even conflict, at least at the time of this post. Still, such an operation is dangerous and I am glad that the family was rescued safely. I'm very impressed that the Pakistanis were able to pull this off, but I wouldn't be surprised if we helped them with intelligence. 

I do have to say that I can't imagine why these people were in Afghanistan in the first place. I don't think I would be comfortable traveling there alone, let alone with a pregnant wife. Afghanistan is a very dangerous place and given how many terrorist groups that are active in the country this family was very lucky that they were kidnapped by a group more interested in ransom. Some of those groups may have loved to execute an American or Canadian hostage. 

Bad judgement aside, it must have been horrible to have to raise young children in that environment. I don't know where these people were being held but I am guessing they had to live a life of constant movement and travel. They couldn't stay in any one place for too long due to fears of the hostages being rescued. That would make it very hard to raise kids. Those kids will have a better life now that they are back home. We can all be thankful for that. 

This seems like a major goodwill gesture from the Pakistanis. Under President Trump, relations with Pakistan have suffered. Trump has been extremely critical of Pakistan for not doing enough to fight terrorists, and with good reason. Pakistan has long been a base for radical groups and is often used as a staging area for attacks on US forces in Afghanistan. His criticism stung and our relationship with Pakistan suffered.

This raid is a gift and a way to make up for the bad blood between the two countries. Obviously America was very eager to get these people home safe, but there is also political concerns as well. This will be a minor victory for Trump, and may encourage him to work with the Pakistanis. He's already praising them and saying that the move shows respect to him and America. 

Will it last? I guess it depends if this is a one off thing. Pakistan still has a lot of work to do in the region. The Taliban still use their country as a base and so do other criminal and terrorist outfits. If they do start to pressure these groups, I see no reason why Trump wouldn't want to work with them. At the very least, this incident can be used as an opening for both sides to try and work together for their common interests. It might not be a panacea but it's a start. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trump wins against the NFL. Roger Goodall caves and releases memo saying players should stand for the anthem.

A Donald Trump supporter at a Steelers game. Washington Post/AP.

It what is being seen as a major victory for President Trump, NFL commissioner Roger Goodall has released a memo saying that NFL players should stand for the national anthem. Washington Post. Goodall sent the memo to the owners of the NFL teams and it leaked immediately. Though the anthem protests had never really died down after Colin Kaepernick left the league, Trump reignited the issue at a rally for failed Senate candidate Luther Strange. Trump said the NFL should fire the kneeling players. Trump doubled down by rescinding an invitation to the NBA championship team and his Vice President, Mike Pence, left a Colts/49ers game when players their knelt during the anthem. Trump caught a lot of flack for his stance from the media, but he and his fans were able to put massive pressure on the NFL. The NFL has been declining in ratings and Trump was considering investigating tax breaks for the NFL. Though Goodall himself has capitulated, it is unclear if the players will continue the protests. 

My Comment:
I said a couple of times that I knew that Trump was going to win here. It was fairly predictable after all. Donald Trump has always had good instincts on what middle America is thinking and he knew that people were more upset about these protests then they were letting on. He tapped into that anger and let a boycott movement that hit the NFL right in the pocketbook. There was little doubt in my mind that the NFL would lose, my only question was how long it would take. Three weeks was pretty quick...

Though we don't seem to have good numbers on how effective these protests are it seems like they had an effect. Ratings have mostly been down for the NFL, but that has been a trend for awhile now. Certainly there was polling data that said ratings were down and that people said it was because of the protests, but we won't be sure how much is due to other factors as well. 

But I think we can confirm that the protests were working in some way. After all, Goodall had no other reason to capitulate. He doesn't want a fight with his players and he doesn't want to anger the liberal sports media who are most likely going to crucify him for being spineless. He'd have to have a very good reason to do this and my guess it was the survival of the league itself. I think he knew that his ratings were tanking and people weren't buying tickets or gear anymore. And given how many franchises were on the brink in the first place, he had to do something. 

I have to say that the NFL bungled this entire situation from the start. They never should have allowed Kaepernick to continue his protest in the first place. Perhaps they didn't have to fire him, like Trump had asked for, but they could have taken action against him for kneeling during the anthem. Had they done so, the issue would have died last year. They might have faced a liberal backlash against them, which they probably will get now as well, but considering where the NFL's money is made, that isn't a big deal. 

When Trump brought the issue back to the forefront they could have stopped the controversy again by releasing this memo right away. Instead they had whole teams kneel or otherwise protest the anthem. Critically, they didn't seem to understand why fans were upset. When some of those protests were moved from during the anthem to just before it, fans still booed. 

Why? Because it wasn't just the disrespect to the flag that fans hated. They also hated the fact that the NFL was allowing the game to be politicized. One thing that I have heard repeatedly in this controversy is that regardless of the politics, people were getting pissed that they had to think about politics during the games. For many, the NFL was supposed to be a place where you could get away from politics for awhile and these protests took that away. 

People also didn't like what the players were originally protesting about. Kaepernick started as a way to support Black Lives Matter. BLM isn't popular in the first place, but to have the protest come from a bunch of rich and powerful athletes who have more money that the vast majority of Americans and who aren't oppressed in any meaningful way. It reeks of hypocrisy and the fact that they were bashing the country that has given them so much at the same time made these protests hugely unpopular.   

Though I think Donald Trump deserves some credit for an obvious political win here, we also have to acknowledge that he had a lot of help. Had the people not rallied around him this would have blown over soon. It was normal everyday Americans that made the NFL cave. Trump rallied them and encouraged them but if it wasn't for people contacting advertisers, burning their gear, or even just tuning out, the NFL wouldn't have ever capitulated. 

The question is how many fans did the NFL lose permanently? I know that I personally will probably go back to watching football as soon as these protests end. I am guessing that will happen in the next week or so. But I do think that the NFL probably lost a few fans that won't ever be coming back. What they did in this situation caused a lot of open wounds and not all of those wounds will heal just because the protests end. Some of those fans are gone for good. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

New timeline for Mandalay Bay Las Vegas shooting.

Stephen Paddock. 

Police have revealed a totally new timeline for the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas shooting. In a dramatic turn around, police have now revealed that Stephen Paddock shot at a security guard 6 minutes before opening fire on the crowd. This is massively different than the previous story where Paddock shot security officer Jesus Campos after the guard interrupted the attack. They had claimed that Campos' action is what stopped the attack but now they have no idea what stopped the attack. 

I have to say that this seems to be pretty standard for this investigation. We haven't been told much but much of what we have been told has now been revised. And this new revelation just leaves further questions. 

-Why did Paddock stop shooting and killed himself if he didn't think the cops were going to breach his room? He had plenty of ammo and firearms left and there were still hundreds or even thousands of targets he could have shot. And with the guard chased off, he wasn't being threatened. Why give up? 

-If the guard was shot 6 minutes before the attack started, why didn't cops respond quicker? Was he unable to contact the police?  

-Why did Paddock shoot the guard in the first place? From what I understand he was just investigating an open door, not Paddock. Sure, he was about to attack, but the guard wasn't much of a threat. He could have just waited a few minutes for him to go away. 

-Why didn't he finish Campos off after he shot him? The biggest threat to Paddock was people figuring out where he was shooting from. He should have been a priority target after he opened up on him, why not track him down and kill him? 

I don't have much else to say at this time. I'm just extremely frustrated that we don't seem to be getting any clear answers about this case. We still have no info on the motive and this new revelation doesn't bring anything close to clarity. It's still a huge mystery and I am sick of it.

 And I think the police and the FBI know way more than they are saying. They probably have a good idea what the motive is and who, if anyone, helped him. They aren't releasing it. Part of that is just normal police procedure but I think there should have been more transparency in this case... 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Is the NFL going to cave? Mike Pence puts the pressure on.

Colts players kneeling during the National Anthem. Reuters. 

As you are most certainly aware, Mike Pence made the news today for walking out of a Colts game after several players knelt during the National Anthem. As expected this was huge news and was essentially a giant middle finger to the NFL. Doing so will put an enormous amount of pressure on the NFL to change course. 

I'm fairly sure that this was a planned stunt by the White House. That's fairly obvious given that Trump hast taken credit for the idea. That being said, as far as stunts go, this is a highly effective one. By walking out, Pence has kept the issue alive and reminded millions of American that they should still be boycotting the NFL.

I think there are signs that the NFL is starting to cave. A few teams have prevented players from kneeling and even Colin Kaepernick, somewhat pathetically, has said that he will stand again if someone gives him a job. It seems very clear that they want this issue to go away.

And I think the NFL is probably paying a high price for this continued protest. It's hard to get good numbers on the tv ratings. I have seen that some ratings are up and some are down, with the night games especially being hard hit. More importantly though NFL sponsors are threatening to pull out. Individual players have lost promotion deals and some of the bigger sponsors are putting pressure on the NFL.

As for me, I haven't watched a game since the issue returned with a vengeance a couple of weeks ago. In the past I averaged 2-4 games a week but since the kneeling began I watched less and since the scandal revived, I haven't watched a single game. The only reason I even pay attention to the NFL at all is because I still play fantasy football and to pay attention the political aspect.

I also think that the NFL is in a very difficult place. It's very clear that Trump and Pence aren't going to let this go. But I also think that if they force players to stand or forbid protest during the games they risk losing their more liberal viewers and making an enemy out of both the mainstream and sports media. And they have to consider that many of their viewers aren't coming back regardless of what they do. Though I would likely start watching again if the protests were to end, I think there are enough people out there that won't.

Still, I don't think the NFL has much of a chance of gaining back their viewers unless they put a stop to the anthem protests. And they are not only going to lose the people that support the president, they risk losing non-political fans as well. Like I said before, the NFL was supposed to be where Americans could go to get away from politics and that is no longer possible...

A few thoughts about the Harvey Weinstein scandal...

Harvey Weinstein. Washington Post/AP.

As you are surely aware of by now, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is involved in a major sexual harassment scandal. The story originally broke in the New York Times and detailed how Weinstein reportedly sexually harassed multiple actresses and other women including Ashley Judd and how he had settled multiple lawsuits. 

Now, Weinstein has been fired from his own production company. The Weinstein Company has fired Weinstein because of his behavior. He had previously taken a leave of absence, perhaps hoping the scandal would not last on the headlines. The scandal did not go away. 

So why care about this at all? Well I think it just goes to show that Hollywood really is a disgusting hellhole of degeneracy and evil. We have all heard rumors of the casting couch and even before this scandal broke, it was fairly common knowledge that Weinstein was scum. There are so many pictures of him touching and manhandling actresses that it was already a major joke that he was attacking them. There is a very famous series of photos where Weinstein is with Emma Watson and she looks terrified... 

Hell, considering the rumors we have all heard about Hollywood, it's fairly surprising that what took Weinstein down was a fairly minor sexual harassment scandal. That's not to downplay what he did, but there are really much worse rumors about Hollywood. There are major allegations of sexual misconduct against kids and rape. People like Corey Feldman and Elijah Wood claim that pedophilia is common. In comparison to that, what Weinstein did was fairly minor. 

I was fairly disgusted with how Weinstein reacted to this. Though he did release a statement saying he was sorry for what he did, he immediately tried to deflect attention by attacking both Donald Trump and the NRA. This is a classic distraction tactic and it is pretty clear that it didn't work. Even among the news media, Weinstein's remarks were condemned as a fairly obvious attempt to regain the good graces of Hollywood. 

Speaking of Hollywood, I am not buying the outrage against Weinstein. His actions were long tolerated by the elites there and even the victims didn't complain because he was so powerful. People didn't care how he treated women because he raked in the cash and Oscars. They didn't care that he harassed women because he made so much money. Even the victims didn't come forward because they knew that he was powerful enough to blacklist them if they went public. 

But that started to change. Hollywood has long faced a downturn in revenues due to lower ticket sales and ballooning costs and Weinstein's films in particular weren't making any money. Hell, I don't even think that this was even because he sexually harassed women. It's because he wasn't making money and people wanted him gone. With his power mostly gone, it was fairly easy to take him down. 

I do have to say that behavior like Weinstein's goes a lot to explaining why so many women in Hollywood are raging feminists. I don't think it is a coincidence that Ashley Judd was sexually harassed by Weinstein and is now a far left feminist. To be air, it's not surprising that women who are harassed this way would latch onto an ideology that rejects this behavior... 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Some context for Donald Trump's latest North Korea tweets.

Just a quick note about Donald Trump's latest tweets on North Korea. Many in the media are, predictably freaking out. That is typical as they would freak out if Donald Trump said the sky was blue, but in this case is it more justified? After all it looks, on the surface, that Trump is arguing that diplomacy won't work with North Korea.  Does that mean war will happen?

I seriously doubt it. For me it was always obvious what Donald Trump was doing. He's taking a page out of Richard Nixon's playbook. During the Vietnam War, Nixon used the "Madman Theory" to force the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table. Nixon allowed the media and his government agencies look like he had a screw loose and that he was irrational in order to intimidate the Vietnamese into believing a major escalation is likely if they don't negotiation. He backed that up with several large bombing campaigns that convinced the North Vietnamese government that they had to come to some kind of settlement.

And the thing of it is that it worked! The Vietnamese were scared of Nixon and they did decide to agree to our terms. We still lost the war but that had everything to do with Nixon resigning and Gerald Ford not keeping Nixon's promises.

I think it is very clear that this is what is happening now. While Trump is posting things like the above tweets and cryptically warning that this is the "calm before the storm" his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson is working hard to open up communications with North Korea. America clearly isn't abandoning diplomacy and even though Trump is tweeting like this, I don't believe for a second that he isn't doing anything besides trying to convince the North Koreans that they should listen to Tillerson.

So is this strategy working? I am not sure. There is some evidence that the North Koreans have no idea what to think of President Trump, even going so far as to try and get in touch with GOP organizations to get a handle on him. That tells me that they are negotiating from a position of weakness and will probably cave eventually. They don't really want to risk a war either and I doubt they can take the risk that Trump really isn't using the Madman Theory as likely as it is.

On the other hand, that reading relies on North Korea being rational. My reading is that all of their actions have been rational as well and they are going with their own version of Madman Theory, trying to intimidate Trump and his foreign allies. But given how sheltered and spoiled Kim Jong Un is, there is a chance that he really is crazy, in which case things could go bad.

That being said, I think the saber rattling on both sides is exactly that. It's a lot of sound and fury that doesn't signify much while the real work is being done by the diplomats. Both Trump and Kim Jong Un know exactly what they are doing and the only real difference now is that nobody is used to having such an assertive US president. I would still put money down on their being no actual war with North Korea anytime soon...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

ISIS driven out of their last major outpost in Iraq

Iraqi Army and Shiite militias near Hiwija. Reuters. 

ISIS has been driven out of their last major outpost in Iraq leaving only a few border towns near Syria under their control. Reuters. The town of Hiwija in northern Iraq has been liberated by a combined force of Iraqi Army units and Iranian backed Shiite militia Popular Mobilization force. Hiwija was the last area ISIS controlled in Iraq outside of a small strip of land on the border of Iraq where they are also in retreat. With Hiwija in Iraqi hands, all eyes are now on al-Qaim and the area surrounding it.

My Comment:
Not a whole lot to say about this that I haven't said before, so I will keep it short. It's obviously a good thing that yet another city ISIS controlled has finally fallen. There was also little doubt that this was going to happen. ISIS has been completely demoralized and destroyed. They really had no chance against the combined forces of the Iraqi Army and the Iranian backed militias. They were completely surrounded and had nowhere to flee too. 

We are in the wind down phase of the Iraqi theater in the war against ISIS. ISIS has very little left in Iraq and will be pushed out the country soon. At least in terms of controlling territory. I have little doubt that ISIS remnants will continue to conduct terror attacks and, if given an opportunity, they will take over territory again as well. The Iraqi military will need to keep vigilant to prevent that from happening. 

I have to say that I am fairly amazed at the quick turn around there has been with the Iraqi military. It wasn't that long ago that they completely broke at Mosul. They were in retreat everywhere and were falling quickly to the ISIS onslaught. The military was essentially destroyed. The Iraqis, with quite a bit of American help, were able to completely restore their army and forge it into a competent and effective fighting force. I think that alone means that ISIS won't be able to come back in Iraq. 

This also explains why ISIS has collapsed so quickly in Iraq after the battle of Mosul wrapped out. Sure, part of it was the new "surround and kill" strategy that the Trump White House has come up with has helped. Unlike past efforts under the Obama administration, ISIS was never given a chance to retreat, regroup and counter attack. That was a major factor of course.

But we also have to consider that the Iraqi Army is in much better shape as well. They are a modern military force now with quite a bit of power. They have an army of veterans, skilled and well trained special forces and battle tested officers. Even if things hadn't gone horrible for ISIS, they still would have lost against the reorganized and reformed Iraqi military. It just would have taken longer.

Speaking of ISIS, I think they are in their dying days. Pretty soon they will hold no territory in Iraq and their outposts in Syria are greatly reduced. Though they have regrouped slightly in Libya, they have lost their major outposts there as well. They still control parts of Egypt and Afghanistan and they haven't yet been kicked out of The Philippines, but they are a shadow of their former selves compared to their peak. 

The e-mail MGM Resorts is sending out after the Mandalay Bay attack in Las Vegas

As you may know, I took a trip to Las Vegas earlier this year and stayed at the Monte Carlo, which is owned by MGM Resorts, who also own the Mandalay Bay casino. Since I am on their mailing list, I received their e-mail letter thanking both the community, their customers and their employees. A nice gesture during a tough time. E-mail is below...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Will bump stocks like the ones used in the Las Vegas attack be banned?

GOP Senators John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham may support a ban on bump stocks. New York Times. 

There are signs that bump stocks, which were used in the Las Vegas attack, could be banned by congress with some GOP support. New York Times. Bump stocks are a weapon modification that allow fully automatic fire on normally semi-automatic rifles. They do so by using the recoil of the rifle to bounce the finger against the trigger which allows the shooter to fire rapidly. At least four GOP senators, including John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Orrin Hatch have said that they are willing to consider legislation on bump stocks. The NRA hasn't commented on the issue yet but Gun Owners of America, another major gun rights group, opposes the ban. 

My Comment:
I'm conflicted on this issue. On the one hand, I oppose all gun control in principal. The left has demonstrated time and time again no matter how many laws that are passed it is never enough. The goal has always been total gun confiscation and any new gun law gets them one step closer to that goal. That alone makes any gun control law a non-starter for pretty much anyone in support of gun rights. 

I also think that the use of bump fire stocks didn't help the shooter kill more people in Las Vegas. A semi automatic weapon would have worked almost as well. The shooter was in an elevated position and shooting into a very crowded area with little cover and almost nowhere to escape too. The attacker sacrificed accuracy over volume of fire. If he had fired his weapon semi-automatically, he could have aimed better and would have likely taken a similar number of lives, depending on his skill. 

I think we have to admit that this case was extraordinary as well. No matter what the law, Stephen Paddock had the resources to bypass them. Paddock was a millionaire and had the resources to purchase fully automatic firearms. Had he obtained a class 3 license, and there is no reason to believe he wouldn't have been able to since he passed every other background check, he would have been easily able to afford fully automatic weapons, despite their prohibitive costs. Dropping 20k for a fully automatic rifle would have been chump change for Paddock and given his wealth he could have afforded several of them. Indeed, I don't know why he would go for bump-fire stocks when he didn't need to use them with all the money he had.

He would have also easily been able to modify his rifles in other ways. It's not that difficult to illegally convert a semi-auto if you have access to a machine shop. It's expensive and you have to know how to work metal, but if you are at all competent, you can do it easily. And of course, as rich as Paddock was, he could have easily bought illegal weapons from the black market. All the gun control in the world wouldn't do a damn thing to stop the black market availability of arms, especially when there is a lawless failed state called Mexico is on our borders.

Bump fire stocks are also pretty bad for mass shooting. Paddock was very smart and worked hard to mitigate the disadvantages that bump stocks cause. A normal shooter wouldn't have his advantages. Firing a semi-automatic weapon automatically is generally very bad for a gun that isn't designed for it. Doing so can cause jams, misfeeds, overheating and will eventually destroy the firearm. That wasn't an issue for Paddock who had a massive and expensive arsenal kept in a secure location, but for your typical mass shooter, you can't just switch  out your gun for a new one when it fails. Normally, using a bump stock in mass shooting will just end your spree quicker. 

Indeed, bump fire stocks are pretty useless for everything. They are dangerous for the user too because shooting a weapon automatically that isn't designed to do so can hurt you due to misfires and overheating. Your barrel will warp eventually and get so hot that you can get severe burns just from handling it. 

I generally considered bump fire stocks to be a rather stupid range mod and one that will probably get you kicked out of most gun ranges. Due to the damage they can cause to your weapon, I don't really respect people that use them even if they just do so to have fun on the range. I think their legitimate purposes are pretty stupid an even though the massive downsides they have for illegitimate purposes are obvious, they are also capable of carnage in the perfect situation like the one Paddock created. 

So should they be banned? Very tough question. I really, really, really don't like the idea of banning any firearm mod because the gun control lobby will see it as a victory. If there is any group that doesn't need a victory it's them. I consider them evil and against the most basic human right. Self defense. We shouldn't ever have to kneel down to these animals and should fight them at every turn.

But I also don't think that bump fire stocks are, well, good for anything. They are bad for range fun, they damage your guns and even in a mass shooting they will cause you to fail. I wouldn't trust my life to one in a self defense situation and even in a civil war 2 situation, I'd much rather have a semi-automatic over a bump fire modified one. I think that there is a good case for restricting them on a user safety basis. 

Even though compromise is a dirty word in the gun rights lobby, I think we might be able to have one here. I don't think we should completely ban bump fire stocks. If a few misguided souls want to use one and wreck their guns they should be able to. But make them have a class III license. Regulate them the same way we do for SBR's, machine guns and destructive devices. Make people undergo background checks for them and make them pretty expensive. 

In return we can demand something from the gun control lobby. If they are bound and determined to have restrictions on bump fire stocks, we should make them pay a price for it. The SAFE act has been tabled by that coward Paul Ryan but I think we can get suppressors legalized if we exchange them for bump-fire stocks. Unlike bump-fires, suppressors are literally a safety feature and would help protect the hearing of hundreds of thousands of gun owners. And they have no use in a mass shooting situation as they aren't "silencers" and are still really loud and would wear out quickly in a situation like Las Vegas. 

That kind of grand bargain might be worth the cost in the long run. Though the gun control lobby would be energized instead of demoralized, the general public would be happy and probably wouldn't demand any other kind of legislation for a long time. And it is a damn shame that suppressors are regulated so draconianly to be de-facto illegal for most gun owners.  

On the other hand we would still be giving up a critical liberty and risk building momentum for gun control. That's not a risk anyone in the gun rights community can take and we all understand why. We don't trust the gun control lobby at all and even a good faith compromise with them would likely be met with betrayal. We know that their final goal is a total gun ban and any compromise with them will be used to advance that goal. Just like ISIS, any deal with the gun control lobby is temporary and is guaranteed to end in betrayal. 

In the end though, it's going to be up to the politicians. I don't know if they are going to go for a ban or not. With the NRA not weighing in yet, and little reaction from the gun community, it's hard to predict what they will do. If there is massive opposition to a ban, which I think there will be from gun rights groups and citizens, then I doubt anything will pass. If not, there might be. Knowing the gun rights lobby and the gun control lobby, I doubt any compromise will be reached and in the end nothing will happen. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dramatic footage reportedly shows Yemeni Houthi rebels shooting down a US drone.

Yemeni civilians gather around the engine of a drone. Reuters. 

Yemeni Houthis have claimed that they have shot down a US surveillance drone. Reuters. The US has conducted surveillance on the conflict that involves the Sunni led government who is backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, and the Shiite led Houthi rebels who have the backing of Iran. The drone is reported to have been a MQ-9 Reaper. The drone was shot down around 11:00 AM local time in the capital of Sanaa and no casualties were reported. 

My Comment:
This story is a couple of days old but given all the other dramatic news stories that happened the past few days it got buried.  Normally having a drone being shot down in Yemen would be a top news story, not a footnote, but these are the times we are living in... 

It's fairly dramatic footage as well. That drone was pretty well destroyed by the Houthi rebel's missile. It spun in and crashed causing a major fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. It's pretty rare to see a US drone get shot down and for nothing else the videos are worth watching, though the 2nd one has an age restriction on it for some reason. 

I do have to say that the Houthi rebels seem to be suspiciously well armed. I wasn't able to determine what kind of weapon they used to down it, but I would put money on it being a shoulder launched missile, aka MANPADS. A Stinger or the Russian or Chinese equivalent. That's a lot of hardware for a rebel group. 

Of course the Houthis have always been well armed considering their status as a rebel group. They have SCUD launchers and have launched multiple ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia which is far beyond the capabilities of most rebel groups. 

With access to MANPADS and ballistic missiles one wonders if the Houthis are getting more help than people realize. They are sponsored by Iran but supposedly their supply lines have been cut off by the Saudis and their allies. Still, you would have though that the Houthis would have run out of weapons by now if they were just relying on weapons stolen from the Yemeni government.

I mention this everytime I cover a story out of Yemen, but it really is the forgotten war. We never hear much about the war there even though it's a major one involving regional players. We are also fairly involved trying to make sure that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS don't gain too much territory. We are also helping the Yemeni government and their Saudi allies spy on the Houthis which was probably what this drone was doing. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Still no motive for the Las Vegas shooting.

Stephen Paddock (right) in 2002. Social Media. 

As you are surely aware, no motive has been released for the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 60 people and wounded 500 more. The attacker, Stephen Paddock, is a mystery and very little seems to be known about his life. He didn't release a manifesto and had little to no social media presence. With no information available all we have is speculation. So that's what I am going to do. 

Perhaps that is irresponsible but at this point what else can we do? The man is a ghost and we have no idea as of this hour why he did what he did. We do know a bit about his background, but even that doesn't tell us much. He was rich and retired and gambled, but we don't know much about his politics. So let us go through some possibilities, with the acknowledgement that I could be totally wrong. I don't really find any of these possibilities likely to be honest. 

1. He just went nuts. I find this extremely unlikely given how premeditated this attack appears to be. Very few people just wake up one day, mentally ill, and decide to go out and kill people. None of them wake up one day and then plan for months spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours planning an attack. It's possible that he's mentally ill, but I doubt that this was any kind of mental break. The attack was way too organized to be the product of a sick mind. It was almost professional in its execution. 

2. It's right wing terrorism. I also find this unlikely, based on the choice of target. If you were a neo-Nazi or KKK member, why would you target a country music festival? It's full of white people, the very people that you think are superior. Plus Stephen Paddock had some kind of relationship with a Filipino woman, which is frowned upon, to say the least, by white supremacists. I just can't picture this attack as one perpetrated by a white supremacist when he targeted an event populated by mostly white people. 

3. It's left wing terrorism. This seems a little more likely even though there is zero proof of this as well. Again, just because of the choice of target. If a radical leftist wanted to kill a large number of right wing people, a country music festival is about as good of a target as you can get. That said, there hasn't been any evidence that Paddock was politically active in anyway. Indeed, he seems like of the last people in America who isn't political in anyway.  

4. He was just a nihilist that wanted to kill a bunch of people. I mean I guess it's possible. Some people really do hate everyone and want to make the world burn. If that was the case you would have thought someone would have picked up on that and said something to the media by now. 

5. He had some kind of grudge against Las Vegas in general. There are media reports saying that he was a heavy gambler and if he lost a ton of money to the casinos he might be pissed off at them. But if that was the case why did he attack the music festival instead of the casinos itself? If he was mad at MGM, why didn't he target them directly instead of attacking a bunch of random folks at a concert? It seemed he used Mandalay Bay as a tool for his attack and not as his target. 

6. He converted to Islam and joined ISIS. This is the only one that has any kind of evidence for it, though that evidence is very weak. ISIS has claimed credit for the attack via their media network, Amaq. That doesn't mean much because ISIS has claimed things that they didn't have much to do with. On the other hand, those have been mostly smaller attacks and nothing this major. 

There is also the fact that his wife/girlfriend/whatever she was is Filipino. She apparently traveled to Dubai and is from a country where ISIS is active. She might have been radicalized and may have radicalized Haddock. 

Still the ISIS connection has some major holes in it. First of all, it's extremely unlikely that someone in his 60's would convert to Islam out of nowhere. Second, the FBI hasn't found any links to terrorist organizations. Finally, Paddock didn't leave a video or a message saying that he was joining ISIS, which is pretty standard for ISIS attacks. 

Those are the most likely options and even they have a lot of holes in them. There are other possibilities as well, but we would be quickly veering into conspiracy theories. It could be anything from the North Koreans or Russians or whatever but that would make even less sense. Right now though there is so little evidence available to the general public, your guess is as good as mine.