Friday, December 15, 2017

Lawyer offered six figures to Donald Trump harassment accusers.

President Donald Trump and California Lawyer Lisa Bloom. The Hill.

California Lawyer Lisa Bloom offered two Trump sexual harassment accusers six figures in donations. The Hill. New York City makeup artist Jill Harth, who had sued Trump in 1997 before dropping her case, said that Bloom had arranged a payment of $30,000 from an unknown donor and had also received $2300 from a Gofundme page. A 2nd accuser, who ultimately did not decide to come forward, was offered up to $750,000 dollars by Bloom, which was refused by the accuser. The 2nd accuser also said that Bloom was more interested in damaging the candidacy of Trump, who she still supported over Hillary Clinton, than getting the truth out. The 2nd accuser said that Trump made an advance on her but backed down when she declined and she only wanted to tell her story to help her friend, Jill Harth. Both accusers also said that Bloom had demanded a 33% cut of any payments received from media appearances.

My Comment:
Very good long form article from The Hill. My summary doesn't do it justice so read the whole thing. They detail one of the main reasons why I do not trust the attacks against Donald Trump and Roy Moore. It's because of the involvement of lawyers like Lisa Bloom and her mother Gloria Allred. Both of them are glory seekers who want more attention and fame instead of justice. They are also both far leftists. Sure, they occasionally represent people that have actual valid complaints, but they are more often than not motivated by fame, money and politics than actually seeking justice. Indeed, a pretty good rule of thumb when evaluating a sex scandal is the involvement of those two lawyers. If they are present you can safely assume that it's a phony scandal. 

I also have to say that I am not surprised that this kind of thing was going on. Everyone suspected that these women were being paid off. Indeed, I am guessing a lot of Trump haters think it is just fine to do so since it obviously isn't fun to become part of a media circus. They think that people should be rewarded for "telling the truth" even if people disagree with what that truth is. 

The problem is that now all of the accusations against Trump are tainted. He can point to this article and others like it and say "hey, these people are being paid to accuse me" and be 100% right. Though the accusers said that they hadn't been influenced by the money and that they were telling the truth anyways, it's hard to deny that it looks horrible. What is the difference between someone who tells the truth for money and someone who lies for money? Not much. The involvement of money taints the whole thing and makes the accusations very hard to believe. 

 And when we are talking six figures of income that is huge reason for someone to lie or bend the truth. That is a life changing amount of money and could motivate an otherwise honest person to lie. Even something smaller, like paying off a mortgage, would be a huge deal. I recently paid off my car and it is a huge deal for me to have that car payment gone each month. Getting rid of a mortgage would be even more meaningful. Not only are you getting rid of the debt, you are also getting rid of a major expense. That means it is a good financial descion if all you have to do is lie or bend the truth...  

It also shows how desperate people like Lisa Bloom were to get these stories out there. She was able to secure $750,000 for the 2nd accuser who didn't ultimately come forward. The 2nd accuser didn't say that Trump raped her. She said that all Trump did was ask her out back in the 1990's. She said no and Trump backed down. That's evidence of Trump being an adulterer, depending on when it happened since he was married for most of the 1990's but not all, but everyone already knew that about him anyways. Bloom and her donors were willing to pay six figures just to get another story out there about Trump attempting to cheat. If that doesn't show how politically motivated they were, nothing will. 

I also think that even though Trump made a pass at the 2nd accuser and even though she was offered six figures to hurt his campaign and almost accepted, she STILL thought that Trump was a better choice for president than Hillary Clinton. I've said myself that Trump could have attacked me and I would have done the same thing. Just goes to show how unpopular Clinton was/is and how popular Trump's policies are, even if the man himself isn't. 

Things certainly are changing about what the left considers acceptable behavior. The 2nd accusation seems about as harmless as one can be. Sure, he may have attempted to cheat, but that's not a crime and nobody has any right to complain about that besides his wife and wife's friends and family. Trump certainly isn't the first powerful man to attempt to cheat and won't be the last. 

But what disturbed me is the fact that the attempted adultery wasn't what people were upset about. Instead it seems like they were angry that he even asked her out at all. The idea that an "unwanted advance" should be in the same conversation as "sexual harassment, assault and rape" is utterly disgusting. Sure Trump might have been in a position of power but that's always going to be true with a man of his stature. He was and is a massively powerful man. 

Indeed, it seems like the far left wants it so that any man who ever makes a pass at a woman and is rejected should be treated with the same amount of contempt and disgust as you would if the person was a rapist or child molester. Not only is that wildly disproportionate to the actual harm caused, ie a tiny bit of discomfort, it will have repercussions throughout society. Even now I hear stories of men and boys that are too scared of being labeled a creep to ask out a woman, even if they think the answer will be yes. That is unsustainable and could have horrific consequences for both men and women. 

Finally, it seems that the "Russia Russia Russia" hysteria has died down yet again. That investigation was going nowhere and the mainstream media is desperate to not talk about the FBI scandals involving the Russia story and the bias of Muller's investigation. That leaves sexual harassment as their only recourse and since that strategy has been successful in taking down Roy Moore, along with many other figures in politics and entertainment, they are emboldened. 

Will it work? I doubt it. I have a feeling that big things are coming that will completely overshadow this current media blitz. Like I said, the FBI/Muller probe scandal has legs and once the OIG report comes out there is a good chance that people won't be talking about anything else. Time will tell, but given that this story has come out and Bill O'Reilly claims to have similar allegations that he will be releasing soon, I am guessing that this media circus will die down yet again. Plus, it didn't work last time either... 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Picture of North Korea's first a-bomb?

An enhanced screencap shows what could be North Korea's first atomic bomb. BBC/Korea Central TV. 

The BBC has an article up about something they noticed from a munitions conference in North Korea. The 30 minute video shows delegates walking past a serious of photographs but one stood out. It appears to show former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il with what could have been the countries first atomic bomb. 

It's not completely sure that is what is in the picture. It is fairly blurry and without much detail but it seems to show Kim Jong Il with a round object which matches designs for atomic bombs. The photo is also similar to pictures taken of Kim Jong Un with the North Korea's first hydrogen bomb. 

Kim Jong Un with a supposed Hydrogen bomb. KCNA.

I am kind of surprised that this is the first time this photo has shown up. The above photo with Kim Jong Un was all over the news but this one with Kim Jong Il did not. It's possible that they wanted to keep it secret but you would have thought that they would have released it for propaganda purposes. 

I have little doubt that the image is real though, even if they bomb might not be authentic. I always thought that the 2nd photo with Kim Jong Un was a mockup since I doubt he would take the risk of even being in the same room as a nuke, but that's just my thought. It's very possible that both photos are authentic. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Editor's Note: Winter Vacation

For the next 11 days I will be off work. I'm not traveling anywhere but I will be out and about and posting may slack off a bit. I will still try to cover anything major but I will likely be posting less and at different times. As always you can see updates on my twitter page.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Roy Moore loses against Doug Jones in the Alabama special election.

Doug Jones.

The Alabama Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones has been called with Doug Jones winning. To say this is shocking is an understatement. The polls had Moore up by almost double digits, other than a few outliers, in the past week. Right now it looks like Jones is going to win by less than 1%. 

It was a very close election and that alone is surprising. Alabama is an incredibly safe red state where Trump won in a landslide. Yet Roy Moore was not able to win. From exit polling it seems as though GOP turnout was down while Democratic turnout was way up, especially among black voters. 

So why did this happen? Obviously the accusations against Roy Moore hurt him and hurt him badly. It didn't matter that they were largely innocuous. It also didn't matter that one of the worst accusations, that he had molested a 16 year old, was debunked when the accuser admitted to faking the evidence against him, a yearbook signature. I think a major problem is that debunking happened very late in the election and wasn't covered in the national media at all. Still, enough people believed the accusations that it probably kept Moore out of the senate. 

I think it was also a major factor that the Harvey Weinstein scandal exploded near the same time. Right now sexual assault and harassment is a major issue and the coverage is almost hysterical. This likely motivated the Democrats and depressed turnout for Republicans, especially when ads were released saying that anyone who voted for Roy Moore might be publicly exposed. This voter intimidation likely worked as people probably had a legitimate fear of getting Brendon Eich'ed. To say that voter intimidation was disgusting is an understatement but in such a close election it might have worked. 

Money probably had a role in this election as well. Doug Jones had a lot of money pouring into the state from the Democrats and various celebrities. Roy Moore had to deal with the fact that the national Republican Party cut off his money. Moore was outspent and the Democrats very wisely spent their money on get out the vote measures. I am loath to give Democrats credit for anything, but I will say that they played to win. 

Moore also made a major mistake in not campaigning as hard as he could have been. Moore did not spend much time on the road and he was never able to make the race about his policies instead of his personal life. There was a reason why Moore won the primaries and it was because his policies were front in center. Had he been able to focus on that he would have won. 

The GOP deserves a lot of the blame for this as well. Had they backed Moore from the start he probably could have won. Right now the margin is about 10,000 votes and I am guessing that could have been made up if the GOP had put any effort into getting Moore elected at all. At the last minute there was a push but it obviously wasn't enough. I am hoping that there are repercussions for people like Mitch McConnell who refused to back Moore. Indeed, for much of the race it looked like the GOP leadership wanted Doug Jones to win.

Trump's descion to back Luther Strange in the primaries makes a lot more sense now. I am guessing a GOP candidate with less baggage than Moore would have won and won easily. Strange, or even Mo Brooks, likely wouldn't have had the media circus that sunk Moore. It makes me wonder if Trump didn't know this attack was coming before hand. 

So does this race have an impact outside of Alabama? I don't know. The media would like to think so but I think it is far too soon to tell. Moore was a special case and had been accused of horrible behavior, whatever the veracity of those claims. The vast majority of Republican candidates won't have that much baggage and will have support from the GOP.

Still, it is very disturbing to me that the false accusations against Moore worked. Democrats will likely try this again and there is a chance that any Republican will be accused of things that happened 20 to 40 years ago. They have no shame at all and have no problem with lying to people. Anyone without a completely unimpeachable record will be attacked. Anyone not following the "Mike Pence" rule will be vulnerable...

EDIT: I have corrected the age of the Roy Moore accuser, Beverly Young Nelson. She was 16 when the alleged assault occurred, not 14. I regret the error. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Failed suicide bomber in New York City attack was inspired by ISIS.

Police and workers near the scene of the bombing. LA Times.

The failed suicide bombing in New York City was committed by a man inspired by ISIS's calls for Christmas attacks. L.A. Times. The suspect was a 27 year old immigrant from Bangladesh named Akayed Ullah who arrived in 2011. He was a "chain migrant" who used the status of his family to get into the country. He is accused of setting off a bomb attached to himself that injured four people including himself. No one was killed in the attack. ISIS has released threats targeting New York City via messaging apps. It appears that the suspect was only inspired by ISIS and was not part of a larger cell. 

My Comment:
Scary situation in New York. This attack could have been much worse. Had his bomb actually worked people could have died for sure. We have all seen the damage suicide bombings can do and this could have been much worse than it was. It's a minor miracle that nobody was killed in this attack and only four people were wounded, including the would be suicide bomber.  

So why did the attack fail? My guess is that Ullah just didn't have the experience in bomb making needed to create a bomb that would actually work. Bomb making isn't an easy thing to do so it's not surprising that one guy working alone failed. As always, I'm very happy that there are so many stupid terrorists out there. 

Indeed, it seems that lone wolf attackers that attempt a bombing tend to fail much more often than when they choose a different method of attack. Even when the bombs work they often don't do much damage because the attackers choose poor targets. Last years bombings in New York and New Jersey is a good example. Despite the threat, it is generally a better thing for everyone when lone wolf terrorists then when they go for a mass shooting or vehicle attack. This is not true for more organized cells that have a dedicated and experienced bomb maker. 

It's not surprising that ISIS was what inspired this attack. Even though ISIS has been defeated on the battlefield they still command respect and have called for further attacks. It is also not surprising that this suspect acted alone. With ISIS's infrastructure destroyed and their coffers empty they do not have the ability to support many terrorist attacks. ISIS can still inspire attack even though they can't seem to launch too many of their own. 

I do have to note that this is one of the only suspected suicide bombings in the United States. There have been other plots yes, and you could probably count the attacks targeting airliners as well, but there hasn't been a real suicide bombing in the United States. We have thankfully avoided a successful bombing this time around but sooner or later someone will pull it off.  

We should continue to remain vigilant. ISIS has always liked to strike during the holidays and they are calling on their supporters to commit more attacks. Though the threat is much higher in Europe than it is in the United States, I would not be surprised if we have a major lone wolf attack before the end of the year. It could be a mass shooting, a bombing or even a vehicle attack, but I am thinking something will happen, either here or in Europe. Indeed, I would be surprised if there wasn't at least another attempted attack before January 1st. 

Much has been made about the fact that Ullah used "chain migration" to enter the country. I think it is fairly obviously true that he wouldn't be here without that problem. There is no reason to allow one person in and then allowing everyone else related in as well. Had we evaluated people on their merit instead of their relationships with people already here it's likely that Ullah would not have made it into the country. 

It's unclear if Ullah was radicalized here or in Bangladesh. Bangladesh isn't the first country you think of when you think of terrorism. They are majority Muslim and they have had some horrifying terror attacks but in general they aren't as big of a threat as other countries. Still it's very possible that Ullah was radicalized there. However, it's not like we don't have radical mosques and recruiters in America as well. And with ISIS's propaganda machine it's very easy to self radicalize. We will just have to wait and see when more information comes out. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept documents how horribly CNN, CBS and MSNBC screwed up last Friday.

The e-mail in question that started it all. The Intercept.

Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept has a very good long form article about the fake news story put out by CNN, CBS and MSNBC last Friday. In it Greenwald points out how horribly wrong the news media got the story and how far they have fallen in terms of credibility when it comes to Donald Trump.

As a recap, last Friday CNN, CBS, MSNBC and a few other outlets all claimed that Donald Trump Jr. had received the above e-mail concerning Wikileaks dumping e-mails considered damaging to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. They said that the e-mail had been sent a week before Wikileaks released the information publicly but it was later revealed that they were completely wrong about the dates and the e-mail was sent, by an unknown person, after the e-mails had been released by Wikileaks. It is, quite frankly, a completely false story and a great example of fake news. I covered it on this blog already but I think Greenwald did a great job explaining why this is such a big deal, even if you don't like Trump. 

Keep in mind that Glenn Greenwald is a hugely liberal person. He does not like Donald Trump to say the least. That being said he does understand that his profession is supposed to have standards when it comes to integrity and commitment to the truth. Last Friday the media did not meet those standards and they haven't been doing so for months and months on Donald Trump and Russia. 

Greenwald also argues that the whole story reeks as a political hitjob. He pointed out that three separate outlets were fed false information from their sources about the date of the e-mail. And now none of those outlets are outing those sources even though they lied to them. Since it is widely suspected that those sources are Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee it just shows how biased these news networks are. 

I don't have much else to add, other than I think that this was the best long form write up of this situation that I have read so far. Greenwald is a good journalist and a person I respect even though we have obvious political differences. Read his post and make sure you understand what he is trying to tell you. When it comes to Trump and Russia, the media is not being honest and you should always either wait for the fact checkers to weigh in or do your own research because the media can't be trusted on this issue at all... 

Friday, December 8, 2017

CNN report falsely linking Wikileaks to Donald Trump Jr. called out by Washington Post.

Donald Trump Jr. Washington Post/AP.

A CNN report claiming that Donald Trump Jr. was emailed in advance information from Wikileaks has been called out as false. Washington Post. The email was sent to Trump Jr. as well as President Trump and had a link to a huge file dump by Wikileaks. The CNN report falsely said that the e-mail was sent September 4th, long before the info was publicly available. The Washington Post report corrects that claim and shows that the e-mail was sent after the information was available to the public. The sources of the e-mail, two members of the House Intelligence Committee leaked the e-mail to CNN, knowing that the e-mail was after Wikileaks had released the leaks and knowing that Trump Jr. had never responded to it. 

My Comment:
Credit where credit is due. Washington Post did some actual journalism here. They were able to figure out the general source of this report (though not the specific persons involved) and the date of the e-mail. Doing so proved that CNN hadn't done their jobs in verifying their reports. I am no fan of the Washington Post but when they do actual journalism I don't have a problem with linking to them. 

CNN just showed its bias here and it's fairly obvious that they are completely anti-Trump. They didn't even bother to confirm the date of the e-mail and falsely implied that Trump Jr. and Wikileaks did something wrong. That's the exact opposite of what a journalist is supposed to do. Sure, they can trust their sources but they are also supposed to do some fact checking. And CNN did not do so. 

It's important to note that CNN wasn't the only news outlet that got this wrong. CBS also got it wrong and Julian Assange called them out on it. He also bet them $100,000 that the story was false. CBS didn't take the bet and shortly after the story fell apart. CNN is getting most of the blame but we have to point out that they are not alone here. 

This report just goes to show how damaging shoddy reporting is. CNN and CBS blanked the internet with the fake accusations. Many people did not see the follow up that disproved the reports so now a large amount of people think that Trump Jr. and Wikileaks coordinated with each other during the election. This damages the reputation of both Wikileaks and the Trump administration. And neither news outlet is doing enough to punish the people that got this wrong.

One thing they could do is punish or fire their reporters and expose their sources who lied. There needs to be consequences for people who lie about things so obviously. After Brian Ross lied about the Michael Flynn situation, he got suspended for four weeks by ABC and was banned from reporting about Trump. So far there is no indication that CNN and CBS will punish anyone for this. Doing so wouldn't salvage their reputation but it would at least prove that they cared about basic journalistic standards...

Roy Moore accuser admits to forging his handwriting and lying about it

The signature in question. The accuser forged the portions in blue ink. Fox News/AP.

Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Senate candidate Roy Moore of assaulting her, has admitted that she forged some of the writing in her yearbook that supposedly proved that she had a relationship with him. Fox News. Nelson admitted to ABC News that she added some of the writing in the yearbook, including a date and other identifying information. Nelson previously said that Moore had written the entire thing. Moore has long denied any relationship with Nelson and has, correctly, called the signature a forgery. 

My Comment:
This was expected but I am surprised that it came out before Tuesday's election and not after. As it stands right now it looks like all of the credibility for the accusations against Roy Moore have been destroyed. That's not saying much since they weren't all that credible in the first place. Considering that this was one of the only accusations that actually detailed wrongdoing, as opposed to trying to date legal aged teens, it's fair to say that Moore has been vindicated.

It seems very obvious that Roy Moore was a victim of a politically motivated hit job. Why else would the people behind these accusations forge evidence? You would think that if the accusations were real they wouldn't have to forge a signature on a yearbook. Since they did it's very easy now to dismiss all of the accusations against Moore. That's probably not fair but this is what happens when you forge evidence.

Indeed, I never thought the yearbook signature was anything important in the first place. The accusation was that Moore assaulted Nelson, not that he knew her. He did indeed deny knowing her but that doesn't prove that he attacked her. It wasn't evidence of much of anything in the first place.

I also have to point out that people on the right called out the obvious right away after the press conference. It was obvious that the yearbook had been written in two different colors of ink. It was an obvious forgery but the media never followed up on it. The media also didn't question why Nelson's attorney, famed feminist Gloria Allerd, wouldn't turn over the yearbook for forensic analysis. It just goes to show how biased the media is. They didn't want to investigate Allerd and Nelson because they liked them and wanted to believe what they were saying.

This revelation won't likely have an effect on the election. Roy Moore was winning anyways. Most people didn't believe this accusations before this came out and this new proof of maleficence won't change that. Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, has been running a terrible campaign and has been denounced as a racist for an anti-Moore advertisement and even had a deceptive ad banned by Google for implying that voting records are public and that voters could face consequences for voting for Moore. It was very unlikely that he could have won even if the accusations against Moore were 100% true.

Still, this incident could push the election from "kinda close" to "landslide". People are going to be furious at the media for this and the Democratic Party for supporting it. I don't even like Roy Moore that much since he's more of a Christian conservative and I'm not all that religious, but given the attacks against him, if I lived in Alabama I'd be spending the weekend campaigning for him. It's just so disgusting that people lied about him that I will support him even if I don't like him, just to teach the people that did this to him a lesson.

The whole situation against Moore, and Donald Trump as well, has eroded the Democrats credibility on caring about sexual assault. The one thing that everyone agrees on is that the worst thing you can do in a case like this is make up evidence. Doing so not only immunizes the target from all future accusations, it also damages the credibility of real cases. Sooner or later there will be a case blamed on a Republican that is real but won't be believed because of what happened with Moore and Trump. And Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fantasy Football update: Playoffs

I haven't given an update about Fantasy Football in awhile and since I haven't found anything else to write about today, I might as well do so now. The playoffs start this weekend and my team made it. Indeed, it did really good. My record was 11-2 and my team finished first. This is a huge improvement from last year where I was 5-8 and didn't make the playoffs. 

I only had two losses. The first was in week 4 where my 116 points wasn't anywhere near enough to win. The 2nd one was a shocker though in week 12 where my team only scored 91.7 points, largely because I started the wrong players. My opponent did ok so I might have lost anyways but that's a game I would like to have back. 

As for the playoffs itself, I am not sure how I will do. My team has been mostly unstoppable this year and my opponents will have a tough time beating me. I've topped 200 points a couple of times this season and that's almost impossible to beat. But given my week 12 performance it's very possible that my team could lose. Any given week you can lose in fantasy football and it's very possible that I could lose and be eliminated. I am helped by the fact that this week I have a bye so if my team does suck it will be fine. 

So why was my team so good this year? I had a great draft. Unlike pretty much anyone else in the league I was beyond stacked at RB. At one point I had five top ten RB's, which is unprecedented. Chris Thompson's injury knocked it down to four and tonight's injury to Alvin Kamara could knock it down to three, I STILL have Mark Ingrahm, LeSean McCoy and Melvin Gordon. It's hard to lose when you have that much RB depth. I made very choices this year, the best of which was picking Alvin Kamara in the 2nd to last round, a huge deal considering how many points he has given me. Ingrahm was also a steal considering where I drafted him. 

I was also very smart to draft a TE early. Travis Kelce has been great for me and has won me games just by himself. Last year I waited super late to draft a tight end and it killed me. Having someone reliable in that slot is critical and it felt so good to have someone there that actually did work. I also passed up some other TE's to pick Kelce specifically. Had I gone with the injury prone Jordan Reed, I would have been very disappointed

I did pretty good on waivers as well. Picking up the Jaguars D/ST was a coup for me since they have been getting me around 10-20 points a game. Pretty good for a position that can be a liability if you choose wrong. I got some flack for using so much of my free agent budget for picking them up, but I think they paid for themselves many times over. 

I also made a decent pickup when I grabbed Josh McCown. McCown very quietly became a solid QB2 and is actually ranked 9th for QB points in our league. Pretty crazy when you consider that the he plays for the Jets. One of my biggest mistakes though was not realizing sooner that McCown was a more reliable play that Marcus Mariota, who has been disappointing. 

Part of it is luck thought too. In a desperation play last week I picked up Jermanie Kearse due to injures and the fact that T.Y. Hilton has been so boom or bust this year. I was expecting just a few points but even he exploded when I plugged him into my lineup last weekend. Sometimes you just get lucky. 

Indeed, luck is a major factor in fantasy football. I can take credit for having a great draft and making some good waiver moves, I was so lucky to mostly avoid injuries. I did lose Thompson and have had issues at WR2, but I didn't have any injuries that would have crippled my team. No matter how good your draft is or how  many waiver moves you make, if you have the injury bug, you are screwed. Given how my league makes fun of me for losing RB's to injury (well not THIS year), I know only too well how badly things can work out for me. 

No matter what happens in the playoffs I have to say that I accomplished my goals this year in Fantasy Football. I originally had only hoped to get a 7-6 record, or at least a 6-6-1 record. I wanted a winning record and even if I didn't make it to the playoffs I could say that I at least I had a winning record. Considering I only lost two games during the regular season I think that no matter what happens for the rest of the season I will be happy. 

Photo gallery link: Southern California wildfires.

A man runs to save his pets during the fire. Mashable/Los Angeles Times/Getty. 

I'm not a huge fan of Mashable, but they have a very good photo gallery detailing the Southern California wildfires. All of them are fairly impressive and gives a good indication on how bad things are in Southern California right now. I don't have much else to say, just wanted to share what I found. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

High profile Democrats taken down by sex scandals. Don't call up what you can't put down.

Former representative John Conyers. Official congressional photo. 

As you may know two very high profile Democratic politicians have been taken down in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein #MeToo scandals. John Conyers, the longest serving member of congress and a huge leader resigned in disgrace in the wake of a sex scandal yesterday. Today, dozens of membesr of the Senate have called for Al Franken to step down as well after yet another woman accused him of assault. Franken is expected to step down tomorrow, though he denies that a final descion has been made. 
 Whatever happens with Franken I have to say that this seems to have been an inevitable result of the Democrats platform and them attacking Donald Trump. How does that follow? Well it all started with their coordinated assault on Trump where a bunch of women accused him of sexual assault. Most of those accusations were quickly debunked and dismissed and obviously didn't help take Trump down.

But Democrats are living in a bubble. They never heard that the accusations were either unfounded, he said she said or so innocuous that the never should have been bought up in the first place. This pissed them off quite a bit and suddenly it became very important that politicians be held to the standards that Democrats set up themselves.

And those standards, which were once limited to the Woman's Studies departments of liberal colleges have leaked out into the real world. No longer would sexual assault just be considered crimes like rape, but it would count as virtually any unwanted sexual approach or contact. Make a pass at a woman who doesn't like you? Sexual harassment. Misread a signal and make a move and get rejected? Sexual assault. Have consensual sex while drinking? Rape.

That isn't to say that there isn't a real problem with sexual assault and harassment in America today. All the accusations against celebrities and politicians show that there is obviously a problem. With that being said, it's pretty clear that had the new standards not been adopted a lot of these people would not have gone down.

From what I have seen, the accusations against Al Franken are not that serious. The picture of him groping a women was pretty horrible but in earlier times it probably would have been dismissed as him being a comedian making a joke at the expense of someone. Not anymore.

What is happening is that all of a sudden male Democrats are being held accountable by their own standards. Anyone who has done anything questionable may very well be purged. Franken and Conyers could be the beginning and more celebrities will likely go down.

The problem is that these standards are only getting enforced on Democrats. Donald Trump and Roy Moore have both been accused of similar things and the right has mostly dismissed the accusations. Why? Well because they obviously seem politically motivated for one. That isn't to say that the left hasn't gotten a few scalps on the right for this witch hunt. Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes both went down for sexual harassment issues before Ailes died last May. But those remain the only scalps as Trump remains unaffected and it looks like Roy Moore will win his election.

Why aren't Republicans getting effected that much? Well for one the accusations that have come up have been less believable than the ones on the left. Also, the right has never really adopted the left's ideals on sex and aren't likely to do so anytime soon. Indeed, one of the things Trump has done is roll back the crazy standards on college campuses, rescinding Barack Obama's "Dear Colleague" letter.

Finally, it just seems like the left has more skeletons in their closets than the right. There just seems to be a lot of perverts on the left compared to the right. Sure we have our share as well, but there seems to be more of them on the left. Suddenly the feminists complaints about "rape culture" make a lot more sense because that really does seem to be the status quo in places like Hollywood and Washington.

So this is essentially all the Democrats fault. They brought something up that they can't put down and a whole lot more of them will go down for it than Republicans will. In the end, they may end up saying it is worth it, and to be honest I don't think they are wrong. Getting rid of all the bad actors in the entertainment and political world is undoubtedly a good thing.

But it is going to come at a high cost. They have already lost one of their most prominent congressmen and a Senator that was a possible candidate for the election in 2020. And more will go down as well. And the Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Islamist plot to kill British Prime Minster Theresa May foiled.

UK Prime Minster Theresa May. Sky News. 

An Islamist plot to kill British Prime Minster Theresa May has been foiled. Sky News. Two men were arrested for the plot and are scheduled to appear in court. The plan was to detonate an explosive device at 10 Downing Street and then stab May to death in the ensuing chaos. The plot is the latest terror plot in the UK that has been foiled. Nine other plots have been disrupted in the past year but several others, including attacks on the Westminster bridge and the Manchester arena. British Prime Minsters have been targets for terrorist plots before and have quite a bit of security. 

My Comment:
A very serious plot disrupted by the Brits. I don't think it was going to be successful, but that's fairly irrelevant. Even if the plot failed in its goal in killing the Prime Minster, it would have likely caused quite a few deaths. Setting of a bomb at 10 Downing Street would have caused a huge amount of chaos and could have killed quite a few people. And the emotional impact of having a world leader targeted, even if it failed, would be huge. 

Was the Prime Minster in any danger? I don't doubt it. While Theresa May is well protected there is no predicting what could happen during a major terror attack. It isn't very likely but it is possible that these guys could have gotten extremely lucky. She very well could have been wounded or killed. 

Still, it seems fairly unlikely that she would have been killed unless she somehow got caught in the initial blast. May has armed guards and there are gun units protecting any major government building in the UK. Two men trying to charge the Prime Minster would likely get shot before they got anywhere near her, even in the aftermath of a major bombing. And that's assuming that they could find where she was, which is no sure thing. It's even possible that their attack would happen when she wasn't there. 

It is unclear if these terrorists were working for a larger group. If they were I bet this was an ISIS plot. It is possible that this was al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group, but I find that unlikely. ISIS has long considered world leaders a legitimate target and have made threats against them before. Most famously during the Paris attack, one of the terrorist targets was French president Francois Hollande. That attack only failed because the attackers couldn't get into the stadium that he was in. 

I do think that this was probably part of a larger plot and not a lone wolf attack. Generally speaking when explosives are involved it's pretty rare to have a lone wolf. Explosives are not something that is easily obtained anywhere so you have to have connections to get them. A lone wolf attack is possible but I find it unlikely. If this was a lone wolf attack I am guessing trying to secure explosives is why they were caught. 

I have long predicted that ISIS would eventually attack a world leader. I personally thought it would be the Pope, but I am not surprised it was Theresa May that was plotted against. Her country has a huge problem with Islamic Extremism and attacking here would be a propaganda coup for ISIS or any other terrorist group. I doubt this will be the last plot targeting a world leader and I would not be surprised at all if one eventually succeeds. 

I also don't know how far along this plot was. It is possible that this was just the initial plan. The attackers may have eventually realized that their plan was a bit over ambitious and picked an easier target. That has long been a problem with terrorists. They often go for spectacular attacks that are much easier to detect and prevent. Had these guys simply used knives to stab a bunch of people there is almost no chance that they wouldn't have at least hurt someone. Instead they are heading to jail having accomplished next to nothing.  

I do have to say that it seems as though the UK has their priorities backwards. Recently they have been furious with Donald Trump for tweeting out some anti-extremist videos. Those videos were just actual records of bad behavior by Muslims (one of the videos is disputed) but the UK treated it as a international incident. Trump famously told May that she should focus on terrorism and extremism. It seems as though Trump was pretty obviously right. Whatever you think of his tweets, he was right when he said May should focus on terrorism since she was a direct target of a foiled attack... 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Internet issues.

I've been having intermittent internet issues throughout the day. It seems to be working for the moment, but I am not sure if it will continue to be screwed up. It's been going off and on all day and has been, quite frankly, very annoying. If it continues tomorrow I will try to call my cable company, so if I don't have a post up for awhile, that's what happened. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Did Yemen's Houthi rebels launch a missile at a nuclear reactor in the United Arab Emirates?

The United Arab Emirates Barakah nuclear power plant. New York Times/Emirates News Agency. 

Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to have launched a missile at a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates though the UAE denies these claims. New York Times. The attack was claimed by Houthi rebels and was motivated by the Saudi led blockade of Yemen which the UAE supports. The UAE denies these claims and said that even if they had their anti-missile defenses would have destroyed the missile before it hit. Houthi rebels have launched missile attacks in the past but it is unclear if this attack was genuine. 

My Comment:
Disturbing story out of Yemen. Regardless of the truth of the story, the fact that the Houthis are so openly targeting a nuclear power plant is not a good thing. And I am certain that the Houthis have the capabilities to launch missiles that could potentially hit the Barakah power plant. They have several ballistic missile launchers and there are rumors that the Iranians have provided them with more. They are one of the only rebel movements in the world to ever launch a ballistic missile strike on their enemies and they have hit the Saudis with them several times. 

What would happen if one of those missiles hit a nuclear plant? Nothing good. From what I understand the project isn't complete but two of the reactors are ready to go and presumably have nuclear fuel in them. I do know that nuclear power plants are well protected to withstand impacts but I don't know if this plant is rated for a ballistic missile strike. I don't know if that would have even come up during the design phase. 

Still, even if the reactors took a direct hit, it wouldn't result in a nuclear explosion. A fusion or fission reaction requires quite a bit of precision in the design of a weapon and that can't happen just from a missile hitting the core. We don't need to worry about this turning into a nuclear blast. 

What we do need to worry about is a meltdown. My guess is that a direct hit would be worse than Chernobyl. Any containment leak would escape into the atmosphere would greatly endanger anyone having to deal with the fires and rescue operations. A lot of people would get sick and die if containment were to be breached. And the radiation would spread throughout the region making a lot of people sick or even killing them. That's the worst case scenario and thought it is unlikely we have to consider it a possibility. A slim one, but real one. 

Still, it's not like there aren't defenses. The reactors are resilient and it would probably take a direct hit to break containment and even then it's no sure thing. And a direct hit isn't that likely. The type of missiles the Houthis use are a variant of the Scud Missile called the Volcano H-2, or perhaps the Iranian Qaim-1 missiles. Scuds and their variants aren't exactly known for their accuracy. My guess it that it would take a lucky hit to even threaten the nuclear reactors. 

The UAE also has a robust air defense system that can intercept these missiles. The Saudis have used their systems to shoot down one of the missiles that had been targeting their King Khalid airport in Riyahd, so we know that they can at least try to shoot them down. It's not a completely secure system, like the UAE argues, but it will help if the Houthis try this again. 

But did the incident in question actually happen? I am not sure. This is a classic case of he said he said and both sides have a plausible sequence of events. I do think that the Houthis are lying about the strike being successful but it's very possible that they launched a missile. It's also possible that they are lying about doing so since they want to intimidate the UAE. It's also possible that they really did launch a missile but it missed, failed or got shot down, and the UAE is keeping quite. Without proof of either sides claims it's not really easy to tell, but all of the options are at least possible. 

In the end though, it doesn't really matter either way. The fact that the Houthis are capable of launching such an attack is more concerning than if they have actually tried to do so. It's fairly clear that the situation in Yemen is out of control and that the Saudis really need to do something to change that, along with their allies. Sooner or later one of these missiles is going to get past their defenses and hit something important. It might not be the nuclear power plant but it could still be a critical incident that kills a lot of people. 

Of course the elephant in the room is Iran. The Saudis are claiming that the Iranians are providing these missiles and I tend to believe them. The Yemenis had Scud launchers before the war but they were a priority target and I am guessing the vast majority of them have been either destroyed or used up. The Iranians are likely providing these weapons to the rebels as part of their proxy war against the Saudis. 

The question is how? The Saudis have a large and effective blockade set up against Yemen to the point that even critical food aid doesn't get in. Yemenis are starving in the streets but somehow these missiles are getting in? There must be a major smuggling operation going on if that is the case and the Saudis need to get that under control as soon as possible. If not this threat is only going to get worse over time. It might not end up with a Chernobyl in the UAE but no good will come from it... 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A few thoughts on the Michael Flynn plea deal.

General Michael Flynn circa 2012. Defense Intelligence Agency photo. 

I'm a little late to the party on this one but former National Security Adviser and General Michael Flynn has plead guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with Russia during the presidential transition. Critically, the indictment has nothing to do with the election, but instead covers Flynn's actions after it. The plea comes after an indictment from Robert Mueller's special counsel. Flynn has not been sentenced but the general consensus is that he won't serve much time, if any. You can read the indictment below. 

I have a few comments. The most obvious is that Flynn's indictment had nothing to do with the so called Russian interference. Flynn was indicted for lying about talking to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. That's right, it happened after Trump had already been elected. Furthermore it appears that this contact was authorized by the White House.

Also, keep in mind that it is standard procedure for incoming presidential officials to meet with foreign dignitaries. Indeed, it's a critical part of the transition phase. Both the new administration and the foreign governments need to know where the other side is coming from. Those that are trying to make this into a big deal seriously expect new administrations to go into it "blind", which is just absurd. Flynn didn't do anything wrong by talking to ambassador Kislyak.

What Flynn did do wrong is lying to the FBI. Why he did so is a mystery for me. His contacts with Kislyak were cleared by James Comey right before he lied to the FBI, so it makes zero sense for him to do so. My guess is that he just wanted to "muh Russia" scandal to go away and thought he could help things by lying to the FBI, as well as VP Mike Pence and apparently Donald Trump as well. That's the only way his actions make any sense, otherwise this just looks like a colossal screw up by Flynn.

 He probably pleaded guilty because he knew he screwed up and just wanted the whole situation to end. Flynn may have some problems but he is a patriot and he does care about his family. The Mueller probe was doing damage to both his country and his family so it's not surprising that he wanted it over.

There was some noise made yesterday that Flynn will testify that he was ordered to talk to Kislyak by Jared Kushner. This also makes little sense because he didn't do anything wrong by doing so. Neither did Kushner by ordering him to talk to Kislyak. Again, it's not a crime to talk to the Russians. That wasn't even true back when they were communists, why would it be true today?

Media coverage of this event has been dreadful, as expected. ABC News reported that that Flynn had been indicted for actions he took during the campaign, not during the transition period. Since that made Trump look like he did something wrong, it caused a panic and even caused the stock market to dip for a bit. They retracted it later but the damage was done.

Indeed, the reporting by ABC was so bad I wonder if it wasn't done on purpose. They knew that this indictment wasn't very important and didn't support the Russia narrative so they had to lie about it to get more attention. It's possible that they were just incompetent instead, but still, that's a huge mistake to make especially since the indictment was very clear about when this happened. And people wonder why trust in the media is at historic lows...

As for the Mueller probe, it looks like it is wrapping up. Flynn was always expected to go down, but most expected it to be for something worse than this. Indeed, even I thought that he had a chance of getting into trouble for his links to Turkey, but that didn't happen. Instead he plead guilty to lying, which was stupid, but had nothing to do with election interference. Considering how much other stuff he was accused of, it has to be a huge disappointment to the enemies of Donald Trump.

Most of the major players in the Mueller drama have already been investigated and either cleared or in Flynn and Manafort's cases, indicted. There really isn't much left to do. The only glaring example of someone not having to answer for anything is Tony Podesta. The Podesta group was knee deep in Manafort's scheme and if Tony doesn't go down with him you know that this was a politically motivated witch hunt. If he does that you know that Muller is a white hat, or at least a grey one.

Still, either way, I don't expect anymore major revelations from the Muller probe and I expect it to be done either by the end of this year or shortly into the next one. Indeed, that's what the White House itself believes the same thing, with Mueller's interviews expected to be done very soon. Far from the silver bullet that takes down Trump, it has proven to be a big nothing burger. Trump's not going down and only a few minor officials have gone down, none of which went down for anything that had to do with the election. I will be very happy when we put this all behind us.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Shocking verdict in Kate Steinle case. Illegal immigrant acquitted of everything but gun charge.

Kate Steinle and Jose Zarate. Fox News

In a shocking verdict, the illegal immigrant accused of killing Kate Steinle has been acquitted of most charges. Fox News. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found guilty of possessing a firearm but was found not guilty of 2nd degree murder and assault with a weapon. The case ignited a firestorm about immigration because Zarate had been deported before but was in the country because of San Francisco's sanctuary city laws. The jury did not hear any evidence about Zarate's status as an illegal immigrant. Zarate claimed that the incident was an accident and the gun went off after he picked it up, ricocheting off the ground and killing Steinle. 

My Comment:
Awful result in this case. People are furious with this verdict and with good reason. Zarate should have never been in this country and should have been deported a long time ago. Indeed, he should still be deported now, after he serves his time for the gun crime he was convicted with. 

It's unclear why the jury gave this verdict. I think there are a couple of possibilities. First, this may have been a case of jury nullification. The case made national headlines and was a major part of Donald Trump's campaign. People in San Francisco like their sanctuary cities laws and despise Trump. Though I am sure the jurors were screened for knowledge of this case it would only take one jury with a grudge against Trump to convince the others that an acquittal here would be a middle finger to Trump. 

Such acquittals have happened in the past but if that is what happened here than it is fairly disgusting. Whatever your thoughts on Trump it shouldn't have any effect on this case. Just because of who Zarate was and who Trump is doesn't mean you should let him off. If this case turns out to be jury nullification than we will need to have a major discussion about the role of juries. The idea that people could hate Trump so much that they would let a murder walk free is beyond the pale. 

It's possible that something else is going on though. I guess it is conceivable that the jurors could have bought the defenses argument that this was nothing more than a tragic accident. Doing so would extend more charitably that I am willing to grant at the moment, but it is certainly possible the verdict wasn't politically motivated. In California 2nd degree murder requires "malice aforethought" which means a truly accidental murder would not count. Believing this to be a tragic accident is possible I guess, but requires quite a bit of faith in the defendant. 

I think the prosecution made a major mistake in not charging Zarate with manslaughter as well. Manslaughter doesn't require intent and the defenses argument would have had no merits on a charge of manslaughter. If the jury really did believe that this was an accident, at least Zarate would have gotten some justice. It would be a hollow victory but it would be better than Zarate getting away with only a gun charge. I know many prosecutors like to avoid including lesser charges to force a longer sentence but this is the risk you take. People would still be mad at a manslaughter conviction but not nearly as mad as they are now with an acquittal. 

Speaking of guns, I think the general ignorance of firearms may have played a role in this case. Even if you buy the argument that this wasn't intentional, which I don't, Zarate was still breaking all the rules of gun safety. He shouldn't have had his finger off of the trigger and not been pointing the gun anywhere near people. The fact that he didn't shows that he was criminally negligent at the least and acting in malice at worst. Also, I doubt that Zarate was so unfamiliar with guns that he didn't know this. 

I think this will become a rallying cry for the anti-immigration right. Steinle was already regarded as a martyr by the right, even if her family wasn't quite comfortable with that role. I am guessing there will be a lot more pressure on sanctuary cities to back down and start sharing info on illegals. Already there is talk about boycotting San Francisco, though I would say that most people who disagree with sanctuary cities are already doing so. 

I am hoping that this pressure will allow something to happen on immigration. Though the push to punish sanctuary cities has failed due to activist judges, the wall could still happen. I am guessing a lot of people are going to be calling their representatives and pressuring them to fund Trump's wall. Hopefully it will be enough to get funding passed for it. Something good has to come from this...  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Egypt's President Sisi calls for ISIS to be defeated in Sinai in three months.

Egyptian President Abdel Fartah al-Sisi with his Minster of Defense. Reuters. 

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has called on his army to defeat ISIS in the Sinai in three months after the massive terrorist attack that killed 300 people. Reuters. Though ISIS has not taken credit for the attack, an ISIS flag was found at the scene. ISIS has a strong presence in the Sinai Peninsula and they have conducted several terror attacks and raids in Egypt. Sisi has said that his forces are allowed to use any "brute" force necessary to defeat militants in the Sinai. Egypt's military has had difficulty battling the ISIS fighters in Sinai as their army is better suited to conventional warfare as opposed to counter insurgency. The Sinai is one of the few remaining ISIS strongholds after their defeats in Syria, Iraq and Libya. 

My Comment:
I didn't get a chance to cover the horrible terror attack in Egypt that killed 300 people. I wasn't around that weekend but I can at least cover the follow up from al-Sisi. 

This is exactly what needed to happen in Egypt. ISIS has been running amok in the Sinai for far too long. They have mostly been battling the local security forces but they have conducted some spectacular terror attacks as well. The latest one, the one that targeted a mosque and killed 300 people, was the most spectacular but hardly the only one. ISIS in Egypt has targeted many Coptic Christians, has executed a westerner and even destroyed a Russian jetliner. Indeed, ISIS in Egypt is one of the most dangerous ISIS affiliates and is well known for pulling off major terror attacks. 

The terrorism threat is reason enough to target the militants in the Sinai, but they are also a backup base for ISIS. With their holdings in Syria and Iraq mostly liberated, ISIS needs new bases to operate from. Given that the other options, like Afghanistan and Nigeria, are quite a long way from Syria and Iraq, Egypt may be one of the major destination for Jihadists. And since Egypt has many thousands of Western tourists and can threaten Europe and Israel as well, it is not a good thing to have them running around in the country. 

ISIS cannot be allowed to regroup in the Sinai, but so far Egypt has failed to destroy them. Why? I think part of it is that their military is poorly suited for counterinsurgency. They are mostly a conventional force and they don't have much experience in fighting rebels groups and insurgents. 

A conventional force is largely limited in what it can do against insurgents, especially those like ISIS that has some support from the local civilians and can blend in with them well. A less conventional force can integrate with the civilians but the Egyptian Army doesn't seem to have that option. Sending an armored column into a village isn't the best way to win hearts and minds.

That explains al-Sisi's comment that he is authorizing "brute force". That's about all they can do. Instead of counter insurgency, they will likely just blow everything up. That's a simplification of course but essentially all they can do is just attack everything without much worry about civilian casualties. 

Such a strategy can work but it has some very serious downsides. The most obvious is that high civilian casualties is very bad press. Though the national news media probably won't care, the crackdown might not play well in the international press. 

Second, a crackdown can backfire due to the impact on the civilians themselves. Obviously if a crackdown starts killing civilians, those civilians might join up with ISIS under the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" theory. ISIS has a long history of trying to gain the hearts and minds of civilians in areas they capture, despite their brutality. If ISIS can get social services up an running in territory they control in Egypt, they might make the civilians switch sides. 

That being said, going the opposite way with it has major downsides. That was our policy in Iraq and Syria against ISIS and it failed pretty miserably. Critically when Trump was elected we switched our policy and not very long after ISIS was routed. If a country only sticks to trying to prevent civilian casualties then they can't win on the battlefield. 

It's hard to balance between saving civilian lives and actually trying to win a war. Through most of history nobody cared about civilians but the western powers at least have swung the other way. I don't know for sure which side of that balance Egypt is going to come down on, but I hope ISIS is defeated either way. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Has the tide turned in Afghanistan?

Soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan. The Hill/Getty.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US general in Afghanistan has said we have turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban. The Hill. He touts a change in leadership and additional international participation in the war against terrorism. In addition he says that the raids targeting Taliban opium production is working and has already cost the group between $7 and $10 million in revenues. 3000 more troops will be sent to Afghanistan, including 1000 combat advisers. Such claims have been made in the past 16 years. 

My Comment:
I am not as optimistic as General John Nicholson. We have been at war with the Taliban since 9/11 and we haven't won yet. They have been very tough to defeat and have proven to be very resistant and strong. I don't see what changes that, at least in the short term. 

And the general consensus is that we are losing in Afghanistan. The Taliban have taken back much of the territory they have lost over the past 16 years. They have also inflicted unsustainable casualties on the government troops in Afghanistan. If something doesn't change it's very possible that the Afghan government could fall and 16 years of war could have been all for nothing. 

The Taliban have also been helped by the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan. Though ISIS and the Taliban have fought each other as well, most ISIS terror attacks have been directed at the Afghan government. Those attacks have killed hundreds of people and greatly weakened the Afghan government. 

The Afghan government could barely handle a war against the Taliban, let alone a 2nd war with ISIS. Until now ISIS has been our major priority as well. We have been targeting them extensively but they still exist. And now that ISIS has been largely defeated in Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan may be their new base of operations. Despite our attacks against them, they aren't going away and will allow the Taliban to become stronger by weakening the Afghan government. 

So is there any reason to hope at all? I think there might be. The new strategy of targeting the Taliban's economy is very smart. It helped to destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq by targeting their oil fields. Doing the same in Afghanistan with the Taliban's opium production might cripple them. Costing them a huge amount of money will weaken them and could change the outcome of the war. 

Still, it's a tall ask to defeat the Taliban economically. Afghanistan is a tribal country and right now the Taliban have quite a bit of tribal loyalty. Money buys some of it, but you have to wonder if that money is cut off that the tribes will automatically support the Afghan government instead. The fighters are tough and motivated as well, though nobody wants to fight for free.

At the very least it seems as though we are finally taking the war against the Taliban seriously. We never really tried to defeat them. In the first phase of the war we were more focused on getting al-Qaeda instead of them, and once Iraq happened it was always the major focus. More recently we have focused on ISIS and other terror groups. Perhaps now that we are targeting the Taliban directly we will actually accomplish something. I'm not hopeful, but I do think this change of course might at least preserve the status quo if nothing else. We were headed to total defeat in Afghanistan and right now even a stalemate will be an improvement...

Senator Lindsey Graham says war with North Korea is possible if things don't change...

Senator Lindsey Graham. Politico/AP.

In the wake of yet another ballistic missile test, Lindsey Graham claims that war with North Korea is possible if things don't change. Politico. Graham says that every nuclear test brings North Korea closer to war and that President Trump won't tolerate much more. Graham says that he hopes Kim Jong Un will back down but if he doesn't and there is war it will be his fault. The United States is unlikely to allow North Korea to have a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States. South Korea launched missiles of their own to remind the North that they are capable of response as well.

My Comment:
Lindsey Graham is one of the biggest warmongers in the Senate and he hasn't met a war he doesn't like. The man seemed like he wanted to go to war with Russia for crying out loud, so it's no surprise that he wants war with North Korea. He just wants to fight for some reason. 

So should we listen to Graham? Is war more likely? I am not sure. I do know that the relationship between Graham and Trump has been repaired. They used to be bitter rivals during the presidential campaign but recently they have both made overtures to each other. The might not be friends but they are at least civil to each other now. 

Part of this is that Trump has been fairly aggressive with North Korea. He hasn't gone as far as Graham would have gone, we would be at war with North Korea if he was in charge, but he hasn't ruled out war with North Korea. That will make Graham happy. 

But is war likely? I still maintain that war probably won't happen. We have had much worse crises with North Korea before and we have always avoided war. They have had skirmishes, terror attacks, assassinations and even sinking of ships but diplomacy has always succeeded. I doubt that these missile launches will be enough to start one now. 

There is a difference now though because North Korea could potentially send a nuclear weapon our way. That hasn't really been true before since they didn't have the missile technology to hit the United States. Still, it's not like their nukes weren't a threat before now. They always had the potential to hit South Korea and if they used unconventional tactics they could have hit the United States as well. I don't think that much has changed. 

I still think diplomacy is the name of the game and Trump's Asia trip was a big part of it. He was able to improve relations with local powers including South Korea, Japan and, most importantly, China. These countries will put a lot of pressure on North Korea and I am guessing they are starting to worry. 

I generally think that these tests and threats from North Korea are a sign of weakness, not strength. They are feeling the pinch from all the sanctions and have to understand that their only ally in the region just let out the red carpet for Donald Trump. They see the writing on the wall and realize that they are probably screwed. These tests are just a last ditch effort to get the United States to back down. And they know it won't work. 

My guess is that North Korea will probably back down. They don't have much of a choice. These statements from people like Graham and Trump show that they may face even tougher consequences if they don't. Kim Jong Un is a loser and a jerk, but I don't see him as someone that wants to die. If he doesn't back down he probably will. 

I do have to say that our previous president did a lot to encourage Kim's behavior. Ignoring all the times he backed down to North Korea alone, he also showed what could happen if a regime gave up its weapons. Muammar Gaddafi famously gave up Libya's WMD's programs but it didn't save him from an US led intervention. Seeing Gaddafi get raped to death by rebels will likely give Kim Jong Un pause for giving up his nuclear weapons. Obama and Clinton will have a lot to answer for if a war comes with North Korea...  

Monday, November 27, 2017

A sign of the times. Germany decorates anti-terror barriers protecting Christmas Markets

Gift wrapped security barriers in Germany. DW. 

I don't have much time for a normal post but I wanted to share something I have seen in a couple of outlets. Apparently in Germany, they have taken measures to protect their famous Christmas Markets by using large barriers. This is necessary because of all the jihadist terror attacks that have rocked Europe. ISIS has threatened these Christmas Markets and has attacked them in the past. 

None of that is surprising. What is surprising to me is that these barriers have been decorated in Christmas paper and other decorations. It really seems that Germany is just trying to normalize the reality they live in. They are trying to downplay the fact that there is a major threat for German citizens and that their is a high chance of an attack on these Christmas markets. It just goes to show how far Europe has fallen in just a few years. As little as five years ago such security measures would have been unthinkable. But now they are so common place that they need to distract their citizens from them. 

The threat is real though. ISIS is likely driven to conduct a major terror attack in Europe. They did have the huge one in Egypt but even that one won't have the impact that an attack in Europe would have. These Christmas Markets are a major priority for them and I wouldn't be surprised if there was some kind of attack this year against them. They need some kind of win after their de facto defeat in Iraq and Syria. 

These security barriers will probably work to prevent any ramming attacks, even if they are decorated. They will be able to slow or completely stop all but the largest vehicles so a ramming attack is probably out. But they would do nothing to stop a mass stabbing, shooting or bombing. 

It's really sad that it has come to this though. Had Angela Merkel and the other European leaders had a different reaction to the refugee crisis these barriers would have never been necessary. Had they just not let any refugees in, none of this would have happened... 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Al Franken vs Roy Moore. Is it hypocritical to support one over the other?

Al Franken's Senate Photo.

The current leftist rallying cry is that Republicans are all hypocrites for supporting Roy Moore while condemning Al Franken for their respective sex scandals. I would say that right away there is a large flaw in their argument. Many people on the right have condemned Roy Moore and Al Franken alike. Others think both accusations are false or not a big deal. Finally, there are even a few that support Franken and condemn Moore. I don't have numbers for each group but I have seen Republicans that fall into each group. There are also others who don't have an opinion either way or refuse to pass judgement on cases that have never been brought to trial. Some people really believe that "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" is something worth defending and we shouldn't just get rid of it for political reasons. 

 I would say that the "neither side is wrong" camp is probably larger than people realize. There is a large group of people that are suspicious of all political sexual assault and harassment claims. After all, the attacks against Trump were widely seen as an obvious hit job and more than a few people remember all the recent scandals, like the Duke Lacrosse team, the "Rape on Campus" debacle and "Mattress Girl", all of which fell apart under proper scrutiny. These people see the accusations against both Franken and Moore to be not credible because the media has lost all credibility pushing scandals that turned out to be false or at least contested. And there all also others that believe the claims but don't think they actually did anything all that bad. 

But what about those of us who do condemn Franken and not Moore? Are we hypocrites? There is certainly an argument to be made if the only reason for doing so was the respective parties of the candidates. Al Franken is of course a Democrat and Roy Moore is a Republican. 

And it is certainly easier for the left to condemn Franken that it is for the right to do so with Moore. Franken is in a safe blue senate seat. If he were to resign, and he won't, he would just be replaced by another Democrat. His replacement might lose election, but so might Al Franken if and when he runs again. Moore, on the other hand, is in a critical red state and him losing would cost the GOP control of the senate. If his opponent were to win, we would be stuck with him for 6 years with no hope of him being removed. 

That being said, there are non political reasons to support Moore over Franken. The first and most obvious is that Franken hasn't contested the claims. He does say that he never kissed his victim but there is photographic proof of him grabbing her breasts and, to his credit, he admits his behavior is wrong. There is little doubt in the facts of the case in the Franken situation. You can argue that he may have consent to kiss the victim and may not have been touching her actual breasts, but there is no doubt that something happened and that Franken shouldn't have done what he did. 

The claims against Moore are contested, to say the least. He denies everything and there is very little evidence on either side. It really has been a "he said she said" situation, with no real eyewitness accounts or physical evidence. 

The main physical evidence, a signature in a yearbook, has been hotly contested and widely denounced as fake. Gloria Allred won't let outsiders examine it to confirm it is real, which is evidence enough to disregard its value as evidence.  And even if it is real, all it shows is that Moore knew one of the accusers, not that he did anything inappropriate with them. Other than that it's just Roy Moore's word against the words of the alleged victims, with only hearsay and innuendo to back up their claims. 

There is also the fact that much of what Moore has been accused of was and is legal in the state of Alabama. Most of the accusations against him were of him dating teenage girls. Not rape or sexual assault, just dating, with only two cases saying he did something more. That's completely legal in the state of Alabama as long as the girls are 16 or older, especially considering that the alleged encounters were all consensual and mostly non-sexual in nature. One of the girls was even 18, which is legal everywhere! Sure, a lot of people think it is wrong for an older man to date someone who is under the age of 18, including myself, but we can't punish people for something that is legal. If people have a problem with it, they should change the law. 

We also have to consider that the person that has been pushing the Roy Moore accusations, Gloria Allred, is a notorious leftist woman's rights lawyer. She has a long history of taking cases where the facts were in doubt and has targeted conservatives before. She was involved with accusations against Donald Trump (well her daughter, Lisa Bloom was), Herman Cain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, all Republicans, and has a long history of taking up controversial cases for the sake of publicity. Nobody on the right trusts her at all. If there was ever someone that people would think would make up facts of a case from thin air, it would be Gloria Allred.

I don't think it is hypocritical at all to believe the admitted wrongdoing of Al Franken while disbelieving the contested accusations against Roy Moore. If you do so just because of the (D) or (R) after their names, you can be. But if you look at the evidence and agree in one case and disagree in the other you shouldn't be considered a hypocritical. The  two cases aren't that similar and even if they were, there is a world of difference when one essentially admits wrong doing and the other vehemently denies it. 

As for myself, I tend to believe the accusations against Franken while dismissing the ones against Moore. One seems like a substantiated case and the other seems like an obvious political hit job. It's not a political thing either, I completely believe the accusations against George H.W. Bush, for example, while at least having an open mind about some of the Democrat's scandals. I just don't think the evidence is strong enough to condemn Moore while it is for Franken. 

I'd also like to say that even if the accusations against both are true, I don't think either of them should be removed from office. I think that should be reserved for people who are convicted of crimes, not merely accused. If criminal convictions occur than by all means kick them out, but not until then. If all of the allegations are true, I would support the resignation of both, but only after any current elections. Otherwise, we still need to keep the standard of "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" standard, even if there is evidence of wrong doing. We can still condemn bad behavior but we shouldn't punish people without giving them a day in court.