Sunday, December 31, 2017

Predictions for 2018

As always, my New Years tradition is to make a series of predictions on the upcoming year. Near the end of that year I look back at those predictions and give myself a grade. I enjoy the accountability and seeing whether or not I'm right in the end. 2017's predictions can be found here.

These predictions are presented in a percentage format with 0% being impossible to happen and 100% being certain it will happen with 50% being a toss up. Next year I will give a grade based on how many of those predictions I got right, with half credit for answers that were partially right. For example, I said that Donald Trump had a 66% chance of being banned from Twitter. Though his account was briefly terminated, it wasn't an official action and was not permanent. Let's get started!


-Donald Trump will remain president through 2018. 95% (would be at 100% but i'm accounting for age, as sad as that would be)
-Despite that, there will continue to be efforts by disgruntled Democrats to remove him. 100%
-The left will attempt again to resurrect the sexual harassment accusations against him yet again. 95%
-Despite their best efforts, Trump's approval rating will either be higher or remain the same as the current 45% approval rating (as of last Friday from Rasmussen). 80%

-The 2018 midterms will essentially be status quo ante without any major changes in control of the House and Senate. 66%
-My senator, Tammy Baldwin, will lose re-election. 66%
-Any senate defeats will be in states controlled by the opposite parties. 75%
-Major systemic voter fraud will be discovered, either in the 2018 elections, the 2016 elections or the 2017 special elections. 40%

-There will be another major incident of violence directed at an elected official, like the Steve Scalise shooting or the Rand Paul attack. 85%
-Violence will be directed towards a Republican. 75%
-Violence will be directed towards a Democrat. 55%

-Another major sitting politician or one running for office will be taken down by sexual assault/harassment allegations. 95%
-There will be a major sexual assault/harassment scandal with a woman being accused in politics. 66%

-Despite the major threat of midterm elections, Congress will fail to accomplish anything on the scale of the Tax Bill. 75%
-CCW reciprocity will pass into law. 75%
-The wall will have more preliminary work done but will not begin major construction in 2018. 66%

-The Robert Muller probe will end early in 2018 and will not result in any major indictments (ie top level advisers or campaign officials or members of Trump's family) beyond what has happened now. 80%
-There will be 2nd special counsel investigating the FBI scandal and/or the Hillary Clinton campaign. 80%
-There will be an indictment for a major member of the Barack Obama administration or the Hillary Clinton campaign. 70%
-Despite being debunked, the media and the Democrats will continue to talk about Russia throughout the year. 100%

-There will be no major war in North Korea. 70%
-There will be some minor military action on the Korean Peninsula but no full scale war (like targeted airstrikes or a border skirmish). 55%
-Kim Jong Un will still be in power in 2018. 90%
-North Korea will have another nuclear test in 2018. 75%

-ISIS will still exits in Iraq and Syria in 2018 and will be able to conduct raids and terror attacks despite not controlling much territory. 90%
-ISIS will continue to control territory in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. 70%
-The war in Syria will continue, but with major Syrian government victories. 80%
-US and Russian forces will remain in Syria through 2018. 95%

-There will be terrorist attack in the United States that will kill and injure 10+ people. 95%
-There will be a major terrorist attack in the United States that will kill and injure 100+ people. 75%
-There will be a major terrorist attack in the United States that will kill and injure more than 500 people. 40%
-ISIS or someone inspired by ISIS will be responsible for a terrorist attack in the United States. 99%
-There will be another major domestic terrorism case in the United States done for non-Islamic political reasons. 95%
-Canada will experience an ISIS/Islamic motivated attack in 2018. 75%

-There will be terrorist attack in Europe that will kill and injure 10+ people. 100%
-There will be a major terrorist attack in the Europe that will kill and injure 100+ people. 85%
-There will be a major terrorist attack in the Europe that will kill and injure more than 500 people. 55%
-Australia will experience an ISIS/Islamic motivated attack in 2018. 75%
-There will be an attack committed by ISIS that is connected to the core organization instead of being a "lone wolf" attack. 70%
-Al-Qaeda will attack a western country. 33%

-Ukraine will largely remain a low scale war with the status quo continuing. 85%
-The Mexican Drug War will continue to be violent with a number similar (ie no huge increase or decrease) to the 23,000 killed this year but will get very little coverage internationally. 95%
-The United States will not get involved in another major conflict involving deploying troops. 95%


-The #MeToo scandals will continue to rock the entertainment industry. 90%
-A major celebrity will be exposed as a rapist or child molester in 2018. 95%
-At least one woman will be accused of sexual assault, harassment or child abuse in 2018. 66%

-The NFL anthem protests will continue into 2018 with no major action to stop the kneelers. 75%
-The NFL will continue to have major attendance issues and will face poorer ratings. 75%
-The Super Bowl will be one of the lowest rated ones in the history of the game. 70%

-Targeted harassment campaigns will continue to be a huge problem in 2018 for both sides of the political spectrum. 75%
-The "adpocolypse" will continue and online outlets that cover political stories, including this blog, will continue to be hit hard. 70%
-A major news outlet will go out of business. 70%

-Black Lives Matter will continue to be politically irrelevant and will not be able to rally attention to much of anything. 80%
-Antifa will continue with more criminal behavior and riots but will not be as relevant as they were in 2017. 66%
-The Alt-Lite and Alt-Right split will continue with both sides interacting with each other less. 75%
-Race relations will continue with status quo ante. 85%

-Hollywood will have another tough year in 2018 with box office numbers down for anything that isn't Comic Books or Star Wars. 90%
-Another movie will flop due to heavy handed political messages, either in the movie or by the people that made it, like Ghostbusters in 2016 and Mother! this year. 85%
-A major celebrity will pull another Kathy Griffen style scandal and will actually be arrested for it. 75%
-A major celebrity will become so deranged about politics that they will actually commit violence. 60%

That's it for now. I am hoping that I am wrong about some of these predictions and right about others. Though my predictions are rather bleak, I do think that they are more optimistic then they have been in the past. I do feel like 2017 was a much better year than 2016 ever was and I sincerely hope that 2018 is even better! I, for one, wouldn't mind being proven wrong on my negative predictions and right on my positive ones!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Iran rocked by anti-government protests.

Iran has been rocked by a wave of anti-government protests. BBC. The protests began against high prices but have expanded to include dissatisfaction with the government and clerical rule. A small number of people were arrested in the capital of Tehran and the protests began in the 2nd largest city in Iran, Mashad. Protests have rapidly spread to other cities. Protesters are critical of bad behavior of  Iran's clerics also protested the deployment of Iranian troops to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. It is unclear how extensive these protests are with reports in various cities showing numbers up to 1000. 

The White House and State Department has condemned Iran's response to these protests and is supporting the protesters. They have condemned the arrests. It is possible that the reaction to these protests could endanger the nuclear deal put into place by the former US president, Barack Obama. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. BBC/AFP.

My Comment:
Something to watch. I don't expect much from these protests but it is always possible that this could bring down the Iranian government. Nobody expected that the Arab Spring protests would take down so many governments and cause so many wars, but it happened anyways. At this point it could go that way, or it could be harshly put down or the Iranians could offer concessions. 

Still, we have been down this road before. Iran was rocked by major protests in the wake of the Arab Spring but they were put down by the Iranian government in 2011 and there were protests in 2009. Both of those protests failed and many protesters were arrested.

I think there is a major difference this time around. We have a new president now. Though Obama publicly condemned Iran's harsh put down of the former protests, he essentially supported the Iranian government. His major goal was better relations with Iran and wanted the nuclear deal to be part of his legacy. He was willing to look the other way if it meant getting what he wanted. Even if it meant that a lot of protesters got arrested. 

Donald Trump has different priorities. Trump doesn't want to support Iran and he is looking for any reason he can get to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. Trump's government publicly supports the protesters and may be doing stuff behind the scenes to help them as well. That could be the difference between success and failure. 

Still, I am not 100% sure that doing so is a good idea. Though Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and a US enemy, removing them from power, even via these protests, could have a major impact. We supported the protesters and rebels in Syria and it led to two huge wars, the rise of ISIS and the refugee crisis. The same thing could happen in Iran. That could cause massive problems in the long term. 

On the other hand, Iran is a destabilizing force in the region. They are funding the wars in Syria and Yemen and support terror groups like Hezbollah (who were also supported by Barack Obama). Getting rid of their influence would likely result in a safer and more stable Middle East. Doing so would also help our Sunni allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia. 

Either way though, it's going to depend on the protesters and the Iranian government. If they are able to crack down effectively than the whole discussion is moot. Since they have done so twice in the past few years it is likely that they will be able to do so again. Anger over Iran's wars and their strict religious laws might be enough to change the tide. We will just have to wait and see. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A quick thought about the certification of the Alabama Senate race.

As you may know, Alabama has certified the senate election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones as a victory for Doug Jones. This isn't surprising but I did want to mention the fact that Moore had sued due to allegations of voter fraud. That lawsuit was dismissed and the state government has found no evidence of voter fraud.

I'm of two minds on the issue. On the one hand Roy Moore was a uniquely bad candidate with some serious baggage. Even without the sex scandal he was hugely controversial in Alabama and many people legitimately hate him. And though I still consider the allegations against Moore to be a politically motivated witch hunt it had to have hurt his campaign.

That being said, I do have to wonder if there wasn't voter fraud. Though some of the accusations were debunked, including the famous video of a man saying he came from a different state to vote. That man apparently was registered correctly, but I would not be surprised if there was voter fraud.

Why? Because Alabama is as safe of a red state as it possibly can be. Even with all of Roy Moore problems he never should have lost there. And it makes zero sense that the African American community would come out in such numbers for a guy like Doug Jones. Jones is a milquetoast white nerd but somehow he got a better turnout than Barack Obama? It stinks to high heaven.

Whatever the truth is though, we aren't likely to find out now. I doubt there will be any additional investigations. Such an investigation could only be positive. Any voter fraud could be found and if none existed then we could have more faith in our elections. As it stands right now though, I still am not sure if Alabama was on the level or not...

Donald Trump criticizes China for illicit oil sales to North Korea.

Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to reporters. Reuters. 

Donald Trump has criticized China for illicit oil sales to North Korea. Reuters. China has denied claims from a South Korean newspaper that showed pictures of Chinese and North Korean ships transferring oil and coal. Oil sanctions have been put into place after North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile tests. Sanctions have little effect if they are bypassed by countries. 

My Comment:
It's pretty funny that the Chinese are denying these reports. I've seen the satellite photos and they are fairly undeniable.  It's clear that Chinese ships are transferring oil and other valuables to North Korean ships. It's only for plausible deniability that the Chinese are making these claims.

So why would the Chinese stab us in the back on this issue? Part of it might just be plain old greed. Though North Korea doesn't have that much money they still have enough to pay for oil and coal. Sanctions hurt both the North Koreans and anyone who does business with them, including the Chinese.

I think there is more too it though. Though North Korea has long existed as a vassal state to China it's clear that the regime represents a threat to them as well. North Korea's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons could be used against China and would cause untold casualties.

China also fears that North Korea could collapse if it doesn't help to prop it up. Though Kim Jong Un is largely an incompetent leader China fears if he falls, the resulting refugee crisis would be a disaster for them. They probably look at what is happening in Europe right now with their refugee crisis and see that as something they obviously want to avoid. China can ill afford to either provide for those refugees or pay the political and military costs that preventing them from entering would cause.

Will China continue to go behind our backs? I am not sure. Trump and President Xi have a fairly good relationship. They rolled out the red carpet for Trump and Trump impressed them on his trip to Asia. Indeed, though this is a step backwards I don't think our relations with China are that damaged.

Still, nothing about making this public changes what I wrote above. China has very good reasons to avoid these sanctions. As long as those downsides are greater than the upsides they will likely continue to prop on the North Korean regime. I have no doubt that they are still pressuring Kim Jong Un into giving up their nuclear weapons but as long as they stand to gain economically and politically from propping him up they will likely try to avoid sanctions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Explosion in St Petersburg wounds 10 people.

Police stand guard next to the scene of an explosion in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

An explosion in St. Petersburg, Russia ripped through a supermarket wounding 10 people. NBC News. No one has taken credit for the attack so far. The bomb used 7 ounces of explosives and ball bearings. The attack comes after a major ISIS plot was disrupted due to intelligence sharing between Russia and America. Seven suspects were arrested in connection to that plot. It is unclear if this attack has any link to that plot or to any terrorist groups. 

My Comment:
It seems very lucky that nobody was killed in this attack. From what it sounds like the location of the bomb might have been the reason why. Instead of being set out in an open area with a lot of people around, it was put into a storage area for customer's bags. That probably reduced the casualties significantly. 7 ounces of explosives and ball bearings is a very effective bomb and it is very lucky that nobody was killed. 

The bomb indicates to me that this is a more sophisticated plot. It's pretty hard for a "lone wolf" attacker to create and plant a bomb. Generally it requires support from a dedicated bomb maker. That generally means a larger plot. It is possible for a lone wolf attacker to create bombs but that indicates a higher level of attacker. 

If I had to guess this was probably an ISIS attack. Not only are they fairly active in Russia, they just had a cell busted up in St. Petersburg. My guess is that this attacker was the bomb maker for that group or someone else associated with that cell, or even a 2nd separate cell. It's possible that this was a lone wolf attacker or even someone with a different motive, but I consider that unlikely.

ISIS has a strong motivation to attack Russia. They have the general reason to target them, the fact that they aren't Sunni Muslim, but given Russia's participation in the Syrian Civil War, it's even more personal. Russia was a key factor in ISIS losing their holdings in Syria so it makes sense that they will target them with terror attacks. 

This situation is extremely dangerous. The bomber is likely still at large and could plant more bombs. Given the fact that New Years Eve is coming up, he could potentially target those celebrations if he has any bombs left or hasn't fled. St. Petersburg authorities need to be on high alert for any other attacks. There is a decent chance of another attack in a situation that is already volatile. 

Still, this attack was mostly a bust. Again, the choice of targets was the main reason this failed. If they had placed this bomb in a more open area it could have killed quite a few people. On the other hand planting the bomb where he did probably lessened chances of discovery. A package containing a bomb is a lot less suspicious in a place with a lot of bags and purses then it is in the middle of a store. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Accountability time. How accurate were my predictions for 2017?

Last year I made some predictions for 2017 and I think it is time to go threw them again and see how accurate I was. I did a fairly good job for 2016, but will my record hold for this year? Let's find out. I generally think this is a good exercise for anyone and I wish the mainstream media would do the same thing. Accountability is important and even if I make mistakes I want to know about it.

As for scoring, I will give myself full credit for any prediction that was completely right. I will give half credit for predictions that were partially right and zero credit if I was completely wrong. I gave my predictions in percentages with a 100% being a sure thing and 0% being impossible with a 50% chance being a toss up. I apologize in advance if my math is bad, if I was better at math I'd be a scientist, not a blogger. 

I'm just going to copy past the old post and type my answers in red text. 


-Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th without incident. 90% Correct
-There will be some controversy, real or imagined, that will be pushed by the media in the wake of the inauguration. 99% Correct, the inauguration crowd size was the years first stupid controversy
-I won't be able to watch the inauguration. 66% Wrong! I was able to watch it.
-There will be some kind of terror incident or civil disruption on the inauguration. 5% Half Credit. There were widespread protests and some minor violence. That being said it wasn't very bad.
-Some other kind of disruption will happen during the inauguration (IRL trolling or something similar) 5% Correct, the actual inauguration went off fine.  3.5/5

-Donald Trump will have some preliminary work done on the wall (not counting the border that already exists). 85% Correct, prototypes have been erected. 
-Trump will also push through some action on immigration before the year is out. 99% Correct, DACA for one, travel bans
-Trump will begin deportations, in addition to deportations that are happening now. 80% Correct
-Trump will reverse the Obama administration rules on immigration from Muslim countries and will overhaul the refugee system. 80% Correct
-In addition, Trump will at least temporarily block immigration from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 66% Correct
-Trump will not take any action on immigration, breaking his campaign promises. 1% Correct

-After being confirmed, Jeff Sessions will reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server and the Clinton foundation. 75% Wrong, at least publically
-Someone in the Clinton camp will be arrested before the year is out (Clinton family or someone high up in her campaign, like John Podesta or Huma Abedin.). 66% Again, wrong as far as we know. Arrests look likely though.
-Barack Obama will pardon Hillary Clinton and/or himself before his term is up. 66% Wrong
-Wikileaks will release more information damaging to the Clintons, Barack Obama, or the Democratic Party. 75% Wrong again

-Donald Trump will nominate a conservative SCOTUS nominee, who will be confirmed. 75% Correct, Neil Gorsuch
-There will be major action against gun control laws. Expect 50 state concealed carry with reciprocity. 90% Half credit. It's passed the house but hasn't been signed into law yet. Same with the silencer acts. 
-All of Obama's executive orders on gun control will be repealed. 85% Not sure if I should give half or full credit here since Trump did repeal most of them, but I haven't been able to tell if he has gotten all of them. I will give myself half credit for now. 

-The media will continue the hysterical coverage of Donald Trump. 66% Correct
-There will be a brief honeymoon period between the media and Trump. 33% Correct
-Trump will continue to bypass the traditional media and will use outlets like Twitter and more friendly right wing publications to reach the public. 95% Correct
-Barack Obama will not go quietly into the night and will be the most politically active former president in recent memory. 90% Very correct to the point where he's practically a 2nd president. 


CULTURE: 12/15
-Social Justice will remain the core of the left in the United States. 75% Correct
-The culture will shift to the point where Social Justice will be a punchline. 60% I'd say it is correct, but others might disagree. I know anecdotally that I have heard a lot of people speak out about it. 
-Shaming campaigns will continue unabated but will be less effective when launched by the left and more effective when launched by the right. 75% Half credit. I was right about it being way more effective by right wing sources, such as the NFL boycott, but left wing shaming campaigns still seem to be strong. 2.5/3

-Movies and TV will still continue to push SJ and diversity for the sake of diversity, but more films like Ghostbusters will fail. 95% Correct. MOTHER! was a big one and some say this is why Star Wars The Last Jedi did worse. 
-A major liberal MSM outlet will go out of business. 66% Wrong.
-The media will be held accountable, legally, for the lies they used during the presidential campaign. 20% Correct, they faced no legal consequences so far.

-Twitter will start banning conservatives from their platform including celebrities and politicians. 75% Correct
-Twitter will ban Donald Trump himself. 66% Half credit. His account was banned by a disgruntled employee temporary. 
-Twitter will ban me personally, or will shadowban me again. 40% Correct, as far as I can tell
-Facebook will have controversy as well, but will be seen as more tolerate of conservative voices then Twitter. 90% Correct.

-The MSM will stop talking about fake news after the term has been redirected against them. 90% A reduction, but they still do so. Half Credit
-The MSM will continue to lie in such a way that even the most basic of fact checking or looking at primary sources will prove them wrong. 100% Correct
-The tone on US/Russia relations will remain hysterical even after the inauguration. 66% So very correct...

-Race relations will improve in 2017. 75% Half correct. Seems like status quo ante. 
-Black Lives Matter will lose quite a bit of influence. 60% Correct. They seem like a spent force when it comes to protest and has been overshadowed by Antifa. 

-ISIS will still exist as a terrorist group and as a state that controls territory by the end of 2017. 90% Correct
-ISIS will lose Mosul in Iraq before the end of the year. 85% Correct
-ISIS will not lose Mosul until Fall or Winter of this year. 75% Wrong, it fell in July
-ISIS will still hold some small territory in Iraq by the end of the year. 85% Correct but just barely. No major towns or cities but they still hold some areas.
-The Mosul Dam will collapse and render all the rest of these predictions moot and will end the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. 25% Correct

-The Syrian cease fire put into place in December will hold and peace talks will be successful in ending the war between the non-Jihadist rebels and Syrian regime. 60% Wrong
-Al-Nusra and ISIS will continue fighting regardless. 99% Correct
-ISIS will still hold Raqqa by the end of the year. 75% Wrong, Raqqa fell in October
-ISIS will lose even more territory in 2017 then they did in 2016. 70% Very much so

-US/Russian relations will immediately recover after Trump's inauguration. 99% Wrong, unfortunately. There was a recovery but not enough for me to say anything other than this was completely wrong
-The US and Russia will begin joint military operations in Syria. 75% Half credit. We cooperated but haven't done anything formal
-No actual evidence of Russia hacking the election or being responsible for the John Podesta and DNC leaks will ever be found. 95% Correct
-Russia will make no new moves in Eastern Europe and it will be status quo ante in Ukraine. 90% Mostly correct, with the exception that we are selling weapons to Ukraine. Half credit. 

-ISIS will continue to conduct major terror attacks throughout the world. 100% Correct
-There will be another major terror attack in Europe that kills at least 10+ people (The Istanbul attack on New Years Eve will be tossed out for this and the following predictions since it's only technically Europe and it happened before this post). 99% Correct
-There will be another major terror attack in Europe that kills and wounds more then 100 people. 90% Correct. Both the Manchester bombing and the Barcelona attacks count
-There will be a terror attack in Europe that will kill and wound more then 1000 people. 40% Correct

-There will be a major terror attack in the United States that kills 10+ people. 90% Debatable. If you consider the Las Vegas and Texas Church attacks to be politically motivated then yes. If not, than no but just barely. I'm going with full credit because I believe that the Texas attack counts
-There will be a major terror attack in the US that kills and wounds more then 100 people. 66% Half credit. I still believe that Las Vegas was politically motivated in some way but without proof I can't give full credit
-There will be a terror attack in the US that kills and wounds more then 1000 people. 20% Correct, though the Vegas incident came too close for comfort
-Canada will experience a terror attack. 66% Correct, the Edmonton attack. 

-Lone wolf attacks by those inspired by ISIS will continue frequently in 2017. 95% Correct
-Ramadan will be a bloody mess again this year with at least one major terror attack and several lone wolf attacks inspired by ISIS. 90% Very correct
-Al-Qaeda will continue to be largely irrelevant and will not pull off a major terror attack in Europe or the United States.  75%  Correct
-ISIS will attempt an assassination of a major political or religious figure in Europe or North America.75% Yes, the plot against UK Prime Minster Theresa May
-There will be at least one non-Jihadist related terror attack in the United States in 2017. 90% Correct, several sadly

-Right wing populism will continue to grow in Europe and will result in more elections for right wingers there. 80% Correct

-Relations with China will continue to cool. 75% Wrong, Trump seems to have a good relationship with President Xi. 
-North Korea will test another nuclear weapon. 85% Correct
-NATO will continue to exist and member states will start to contribute more. 66% Correct

TOTAL 52.5/68 77%

Not a great score if I am honest. Last year I managed 83% correct. What killed me this year was generally underestimated how quickly ISIS was going to fall. I figured they would still be holding on in Iraq and Syria but they have already been largely defeated. I wasn't optimistic enough that having Trump on board would change things. 

I was also wrong about us getting alone better with Russia. Though we have occasionally cooperated, relations are still chilly to say the least. I was naive in expecting that the damage Barack Obama and the Democratic Party did with our relationship could be undone quickly. 

I do think that I was very right about terrorism and presidential politics. I was unfortunately very correct about the amount of terror attacks we would suffer and if anything I wasn't pessimistic enough...

I also want to say that some stuff is still up in the air. I really think that things are moving rapidly and we may soon see action against Obama administration officials and Clinton campaign members. Things could rapidly change that would make my predictions wrong or just a few months early.

I always enjoy doing these things and I expect to write another post on New Years Day or shortly after. Expect predictions for 2018 very soon!    

Monday, December 25, 2017

Fantasy Football: Final update!

As you may know I play fantasy football every year. Even though this year I haven't been watching any games, I have been playing fantasy football. Usually my teams are mediocre to sad but this year was a totally different story. 

This year I ended up winning the entire league. In the past our league has been dominated by two players (our league commissioners) but for the first time in the history of the league someone other than them won. Considering how seriously the members of the league take it, it's a fairly impressive accomplishment to win. 

So how did I end up winning? Well for one thing, we have to point out how much dumb luck it takes to win. My team was very lucky this year. I did have a few injuries but none of them were in critical areas. For example I lost RB Chris Thompson and QB Josh McCown but I was able to easily fill in for both. Had it been someone like Larry Fitzgerald or Travis Kelce that got hurt I would have been in serious trouble. I know what it is like to have your team crippled by injuries and even saw it a couple of times this season as well. Not losing anyone critical is pretty much pure luck and not something you can really mitigate. Yes, you make back up plans but if you lose one of your talented players for good it's very hard to make it up.

I also was extremely lucky that our league uses a bye week system for the 1st round of the playoffs. To be fair I earned the 1st seed by having an 11-2 record, but my performance in the 1st round was horrible. My team only scored 94.2 points and would have been beaten by everyone else in the league that I could have gone up against. Everyone else in the playoff bracket could have beaten me that week! The fact that I had that goose egg during a week that it didn't matter at all saved my season. The players in my league are extremely good and it is very rare you aren't punished for that magnitude of a bad performance. It was largely due to losing Josh McCown but even still, I was extremely lucky to survive that week. 

Still, I do deserve some credit for my teams success this year. I had a very good draft and I think my draft strategy was sound. This was the 1st year we have used the 2QB format and for the draft I didn't change my strategy that much. Others in the league reached for QB's while I waited until the middle of the draft to get mine. This allowed me to become ridiculously stacked at RB, snagging LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordan and Mark Ingram in early rounds. 

This strategy didn't hurt me much because I still ended up with Kirk Cousins as my starting QB. My other initial QB, Marcus Mariota was a bust but I was able to replace him on waivers with Josh McCown, who ended up being a sleeper breakout before he got hurt. I also managed to snag Travis Kelce who was a huge help, and Larry Fitzgerald who quietly had an amazing season. 

I also had some lottery tickets payoff. Anyone who drafted him ended up reaping a windfall from Alvin Kamara. Unlike most people who drafted him he stayed on my bench for much of the year but he was a huge help during the playoffs. Chris Hogan and Chris Thompson would have been solid lottery tickets as well if they hadn't ended up hurt. Thompson especially helped me during the early weeks of the season. 

I also made some great waiver pickups this year. Several of my best none-RB positions I managed to pick up on waivers this year. Josh McCown was probably the most obvious but when he went down I managed to replace him with another great QB in Nick Foles. Funny story with that, we have $1000 of fake money to pick players up off of waivers and in the end I had the most left. I wanted to make sure that I picked up Foles in the playoffs so I simply outspent more than the player who had the 2nd most money left to ensure that I got him. I ended up overpaying for him by quite a bit but I still thought that was a fun strategy and it's not like I needed the fake cash. My team would have won both rounds regardless, but I thought that extra little edge was a nice touch. 

Picking up the Jaguars D/ST was a coup for me as well. Though they blew it this week against the 49ers, they still ended up with many games with more than 10 points and a few with 20+. For a position that often yields negative points that was a huge win for me. Had I stuck with the Vikings D/ST I would have been ok, especially in the post season, but having the Jaguars probably won me a game or two, which is great for a position I filled via waivers. 

It wasn't a perfect season though. I never did seem to find a solution for the WR2 slot. T.Y. Hilton ended up being a huge bust, despite a couple of big games and I probably stuck with him for too long. Chris Hogan was decent before he got hurt but after that I didn't have much, with Rishard Matthews being the best of a bad bunch. Had this been anything other than a blessed year that weakness at WR could have killed my chances but I lucked out and it didn't hurt me much. 

Will I play again next year? I don't see why not. I may be pissed at the NFL, but I still enjoy fantasy football and it wouldn't be right of me to not let the rest of the league get a chance to beat me after this season. I don't expect a repeat performance of this year but I do think that I learned a lot this year and should at least be in the hunt for a championship! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope everyone has a great Christmas. Personally, posting might be down for the next couple of days as I celebrate the holiday and, of course, work. Posting should be back to normal by Tuesday at the latest.

Friday, December 22, 2017

ISIS Christmas terror plot targeting San Francisco's Pier 39 disrupted by FBI.

San Francisco's Pier 39. LA Times. 

A plot to commit a Christmas terror attack by an ISIS sympathizer has been disrupted by the FBI and the plotter arrested. LA Times. Everitt Aaron Jameson was arrested after communicating with an undercover FBI agent who Jameson believed was a senior ISIS figure. Jameson requested arms and explosives for a plot to target San Francisco's famous Pier 39. Jameson was a former Marine who was discharged after lying about having asthma. His plan was to use explosives to "funnel" people into the sights of his gun. Jameson worked alone and there is no reason to believe that the plot extended beyond him. 

My Comment:
This was a fairly serious terror plot that was thankfully disrupted by the FBI. Had Jameson been able to pull off his plan dozens could have died. It wasn't a bad plan, all things considered. He knew that a combined bombing/mass shooting would be extremely effective. It would also greatly delay police response and it would take a long time for them to get things under control. Using the panic of a bombing, Jameson would have had free reign to shoot people. If he did it right he would make sure that there was no escape for the people caught between his bomb(s) and his rifle.

Thankfully it seems as though Jameson was a bit of an idiot when it comes to trusting people. He should have known that operational security was the most important thing. Talking to some ISIS guy he met on the internet should have been a huge red flag for him. Had he just kept his mouth shut he probably could have pulled off some kind of attack. He might have had trouble getting explosives but he still could have easily chosen a mass shooting or vehicle ramming attack instead. 

Indeed, it seemed like he had everything he needed except a bomb. The FBI reportedly recovered firearms from his house and he could have used what he had to kill. It's unclear what those weapons were but he had guns so he could have pulled off an attack. He even had fireworks which can be rigged into explosives if you know what you are doing. Had he just gone for it without trying to contact ISIS he probably would have killed at least a few people.

I've always said that the real danger isn't from the huge terror plots that take months and years to plan. Generally speaking the bigger the plot the more likely it is for someone to screw up and for police and intelligence agencies to get a whiff of it. Once that happens your whole plot is done, but terror groups love the complexity and are always going for high impact events. The mastermind terrorists do occasionally pull something off but more often than not these plots are disrupted.

 Much more dangerous are the guys that gets a gun or rents a truck and just attacks right away on impulse, like the attacker in Melbourne yesterday. Those guys are almost impossible to detect and they always have a chance of pulling the attack off. Had Jameson been a member of the 2nd group and not the 1st he may have killed quite a few people. 

One wonders where Jameson got the guns he had. The LA Times report said he was discharged from the Marines due to lying about asthma. That could mean that he got a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge which would make him ineligible to own firearms. Still, I am no expert on military law so I don't know if lying about a medical condition is enough to get a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge. His wife seems to have some issues and if she is a felon he might be barred from having firearms in the house from that as well

I am not surprised that Jameson was a white guy either. There are a lot of white Muslims, especially in Eastern Europe, though I doubt Jameson was one of those. He's got a western name and red hair so my guess is that he is of Irish descent. That leads me to believe that he is a convert. We shouldn't be surprised when we see white Muslims but I am guessing people still are.

Unfortunately he fit the pattern of many converts. He wanted to prove his devotion to his new religion by both killing and dying for it. For whatever reason that seems to happen fairly frequently and I don't really understand why. You would think a new convert would have doubts but it doesn't seem to work that way.

I don't think there was really all that much danger. It seems like Jameson got caught pretty early on and was left on the line for a bit before the FBI set the hook. Had he just got up one day and decided to attack the FBI would have picked him up. Once they knew who he was and what he wanted to do it was pretty much over. When that happened Jameson essentially stopped being a danger as it would take a massive failure from the FBI and local law enforcement to lose him at that point. Anything is possible though.

Still, I just said yesterday that we might have more terror attacks around Christmas. Had Jameson never contacted the undercover FBI agent I would have been right, unfortunately. And it is still very possible that we will see an attack either on Christmas or New Years. We can't count on all terrorists being swept up by undercover FBI agents...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ramming attack in Australia not linked to terror?

The crashed vehicle used in the attack. Reuters. 

The driver in a ramming attack in Melbourne, Australia does not appear to have any links to any terrorist groups. Reuters. 19 people were injured as the driver rammed into pedestrians with 12 still in the hospital. The attacker is a 32 year old from Afghanistan. Police claim that he was hearing voices but they also admit that he said that the treatment of Muslims motivated his crime. The attack also occurred near the site of another vehicle attack in Melbourne last January that killed 4 people and wounded 20. That too was not ruled a terror attack. 

My Comment:
The ruling that this was not a terror attack is dubious at best and a deliberate lie at worst. The suspect admitted to political motives for this attack, the treatment of Muslims, so by definition this was a terror attack. That doesn't change if the suspect doesn't have a direct link to ISIS or any other terror group. That just means it is "lone wolf" terrorism, not organized. 

It alsodoesn't matter at all that the man may have been mentally ill. If you hear the voice of God, or whoever, telling you to kill for political reasons, you are still dong it for political reasons! Being mentally ill does not change the motivation of the attack if he is admitting he did it for political reasons. If he said he did it because everyone was actually an alien in a skin suit and he needed to stop them from taking over the world, that would be something. But he's saying he did it because of the treatment of Muslims. That makes it terrorism, even if the voices in his head egged him on. It doesn't matter if he was radicalized through propaganda or through his own illness, he was still radicalized. 

So why not just admit that this was a terror attack? My guess is it is for political reasons. Australia, like most western countries, doesn't want to admit that there could be a problem with letting in Muslim immigrants. Though the Australian immigration system is tougher than most they still have 2.6% of their population made up of Muslims, a number that is increasing. 

If the attack is because of mental illness Australia gets to avoid the implications of a terror attack. Instead of debating immigration people can instead talk about better mental health and other such distractions. It lets them avoid the elephant in the room. 

And, of course, even if he was mentally ill, he appears to be an Afghan immigrant. The Reuters article was unclear about if he was an immigrant, a citizen or a tourist but it doesn't really matter. It also doesn't really matter what his motivation was, the fact of the matter is that if he wasn't allowed into the country in the first place he wouldn't have been there to commit the attack. 

This bears all the hallmarks of an ISIS inspired attack, even if there are no direct links to the organization itself. The attacker mimicked the strategy that has been used so often lately of taking a vehicle and ramming it into pedestrians. Such attacks are so common now that they are becoming less noteworthy, but it is undeniable that the Nice attack, committed by ISIS, was what proved the concept. It has spawned many copycat attacks including this one. Not all of those attacks were committed by ISIS members, and indeed some were not even committed by Muslims, but it's clear that the attacker was using a tactic spawned by them.  

I also have to point out that I don't believe that the target was an coincidence either. It was very close to the same location of the last major attack in Australia, which was another ramming attack that was ruled to be non-terror related. I'm guessing this attack chose this target because of that fact. 

It appears that Melbourne had taken some steps to eliminate these kinds of attacks by deploying traffic bollards that would wreck a vehicle doing one of these attacks. I've seen these in other places, including in person in Las Vegas last spring. This attack shows the limitations of those defenses. The attacker simply chose a site that didn't have any. Bollards can help but they aren't a perfect answer to this kind of threat. 

We are lucky that nobody has died so far in this incident. The SUV that the attacker used looked heavy enough to do some damage but it seems that the lighter the vehicle is the fewer deaths there will be. Nice was such an effective attack because it used a full sized truck and trailer, giving civilians little chance of survival if they got hit. Getting hit by a big SUV isn't much better but you do have a decent chance of making it through if you can get medical attention. 

Finally, I have to point out that this attack comes on the eve of the holiday season in the west. Christmas is right around the corner and ISIS and other terror groups like to strike this time of year. New Years is also coming quickly and is a prime target for any attacker. Let's hope this holiday season ends up a safe one, but it pays to be vigilant... 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

North Korea may be fitting its ICBM's with biological weapons including anthrax.

A North Korean missile being tested. Yahoo.

North Korea may be attempting to modify their ICBM's to accept warheads loaded with biological weapons, including anthrax. Yahoo New UK. Officially North Korea is a signatory of the Biological Weapons Convention and is opposed to developing them but unofficially it is an open secret that they have been developing them. Right now the North Koreans are reportedly experimenting to see if anthrax can survive reentry on their ballistic missiles. 

My Comment:
An interesting report. I am skeptical that the North Koreans can pull this off. They are still very early into their ICBM program and may not be able to modify their warheads yet. Remember, they barely have effective missiles that can even hit targets yet, let alone carry specialized warheads. It isn't clear if they can even load nuclear weapons on these missiles yet, let alone biological ones. 

It's a tougher challenge to do so. Anthrax or any other biological weapon isn't like a nuke. They are living things and they have to be able to survive not only the low oxygen of the upper atmosphere and space, but they have to survive reentry as well which involves quite a bit of temperature extremes on both ends of the spectrum. Having to do so is a technical challenge that I doubt the North Koreans are up to defeating. 

If they manage it though it is a gamechanger for them. North Korea only has limited nuclear weapons but they can mass produce anthrax and are only limited by how many missiles they have. A launch of a few nukes mixed in with a large number of anthrax or other biological warheads would make intercepting them much harder. It would also potentially allow the nuclear weapons to pass through our defenses as there is no way to tell apart a nuclear missile from a biological one. 

A ICBM attack on a major city armed with biological weapons would be horrifying. The actual deaths would likely be low. Anthrax isn't that deadly, with a mortality rate of 20 to 80% depending on what kind it is, and can be treated with antibiotics. But it would almost certainly cause a panic and would cause the economy to come to a halt. And if a more deadly pathogen, like Smallpox or Ebola were to be used it could get way worse. It would be better than a nuke going off, yes, but not by much. 

I am not too worried about biological weapons on ICBM's from North Korea. I am much more concerned about them using biological weapons through other means. Short range missiles would be much easier to adapt and so would artillery shells and bombs. There is also the possibility that they could use special forces behind enemy lines to infect South Korea's civilian population. That is the real threat from North Korea's biological weapons program. The ICBM threat is far off and not likely for the time being but we still shouldn't discount it. 

Rosie O'Donnell tweets out that she would have paid $2 million each to two senators in exchange for a no vote on the tax bill.

Famed anti-Trump actress Rosie O'Donnell may find herself in hot water over a tweet she posted yesterday that offered $2 million each to GOP senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins in exchange for a no vote on the tax bill. This, obviously, is a very serious crime and there is a chance that Rosie will be prosecuted for it. It looks like she attempted to bribe two senators, which is totally unacceptable. 

I don't know what Rosie was thinking here. Even if Flake and Collins were on the fence, they would come under scrutiny if they had voted no after seeing this tweet. They would have to officially reject this offer in order to not fall under suspicion. I am not a fan of either senator, but they are not stupid and neither of them would have accepted this offer. Even the dirtiest senator ever would not have accepted such an obvious bribe. It would be the height of stupidity to do so when the offer is out in public! 

Rosie also seems somewhat deranged. Shes willing to commit a major crime in order to derail the tax bill because it will let the "SUOER RICH" (sic) kill Americans? I'm not a huge expert on taxes but I am pretty sure doubling my standard deduction isn't going to kill me. But it seems that Rosie literally believes that this bill will cause people to die. If that's the case then perhaps she will get off if she is prosecuted on a plea of insanity! 

Speaking of prosecution, will it happen? I don't know. I'm not a lawyer but it really does seem like Rosie attempted to bribe two public officials. I'm pretty sure that if she had walked into the office of a Senator with a briefcase filled with $2 million and said the same thing if the Senator had turned her in she's be in chains right now. 

But since the offer happened on Twitter, publicly, Rosie might be able to claim that she wasn't serious and it was just a joke. The text of the tweet kinda shoots that defense down since she said "no shit 2 million cash each". I wonder though since she didn't tweet at them directly if she might have some defense. There is no evidence that either senator follows Rosie or would see her tweets, despite them being public. That might save her from prosecution.

All that being said though, even if Rosie isn't prosecuted what she did here was disgusting. Even if she was joking, and I don't think she was, bribery of public officials is not something you joke about. And if the offer was serious, then she tried to subvert the will of the people in order to stop a tax bill authored by the majority party. That's the exact kind of corruption that everyone on the left always complains about but this time it's out in the open for everyone to see. It is not ok and if there aren't legal penalties for what she did, there should at least be some kind of retribution. I don't usually support boycott movements but in this case one should happen immediately. 

Finally, this probably stems from Rosie O'Donnell's long standing feud with Donald Trump. They both have hated each other for years and Rosie has long stated that she wants Trump gone. It's pretty clear that Rosie has let her hate for Trump consume her totally because she put herself into legal danger just to attack a piece of legislation he supports. Whatever you think of Trump you have to admit that he's really good at causing his enemies to make unforced errors like this just because they hate him so much... 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

F-18's encounter UFO?

The US Department of Defense released the above video and acknowledged that they had a program tracking UFO's for quite some time. The program was shut down in 2012 due to a lack of funding but this is one of the things they investigated. It shows an encounter between an F-18 and an unknown object. It's a fairly convincing video from an official source. I'm a little late discussing it, but whatever, I want too!

What do I think of it? There is obviously something there and if pilots are correct it seems like the object was in controlled flight. It also seems to make some very strange maneuvers. I also think that it doesn't seem at all aerodynamic. I don't understand how something shaped like that is even flying, especially when if flips over on its side.

What could it be? The most obvious possibility is that it was some kind of drone, foreign or domestic. I doubt it is anything from our government because I doubt the government would release footage of one of its drones. It is more likely from a foreign government. Perhaps it is an unknown Russian or Chinese drone, or even a civilian one. Still, it doesn't look like any drone I have ever seen and it doesn't seem to be flying in a conventional way.

Another possibility is that it is simply debris. It could be junk falling from space which would explain why it was flopping around like that. The problem with that is that it doesn't appear to be falling at all and also doesn't seem to be burning up. Seems unlikely.

Obviously the craziest theory is that it is some kind of non-human technology. I'm extremely skeptical of that. After all, I doubt that aliens advanced enough to make it to Earth would have drones so easily spotted. Indeed, I tend to think that if alien life is out there and knew we were here, they wouldn't bother with spying on us. They would just kill us as we could potentially be a threat.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Major terror attack in Russia averted due to tip from CIA.

President Trump and President Putin shake hands at the G-20 summit. Reuters. 

A major terror plot in Russia targeting a cathedral in St. Petersburg has been disrupted thanks to a tip from the CIA. Reuters. The CIA tip allowed Russian security forces to arrest the plotters before they could carry out their attack. The Kremlin claims that Vladimir Putin personally called President Donald Trump to thank him for sharing the intelligence. The plot would have targeted Kazansky Cathedral and other high value targets in St. Petersburg. Russia has detained members of ISIS for the plot.  

My Comment:
The Reuters report seems to be downplaying how complex this attack could have been. It sounds like the cathedral was only part of the attack, other tourist locations may have been targeted as well. A major car bombing at a busy church would probably kill dozens of people and if there were other attacks coming the death toll might have reached triple digits. It sounds like President Trump and the CIA saved quite a few Russian lives here. 

It shouldn't be surprising that we are willing to work with Russia on the terrorism issue. Though we have our differences, we share a common enemy on ISIS and fighting them together makes a lot more sense than trying to fight them separately. ISIS can only survive if the worlds great powers don't cooperate so this was a welcome move. 

I would hope that even during these days of Russia hysteria that people will recognize that this was the right move to make. I can't imagine that people hate the Russians so much that they would be willing to see a bunch of them dead, but given the political climate right now I would not be surprised of there weren't a few voices out there condemning this move...  

The only way this could have been a mistake is if it jeopardized our sources in Russia. That doesn't seem to be the case but even if it was, I think that it was still probably worth it. We have a lot of sources in Russia but not too many chances to prevent terror attacks. Plus we probably got quite a bit of good will from the Russians by disrupting this terror attack. 

I am not surprised that it was a cathedral that was targeted. ISIS has long targeted Christians and for them it is idolatry to have a cathedral. Killing dozens of worshipers and tourists is a main goal for them and their choice of target reflects that. Much like their attacks on Christmas markets and their destruction of historical artifacts, ISIS considers Christians to be fair game. 

A brief perusal of the various media reports covering this story makes little mention of the fact that ISIS was targeting a church. And it is an important one to the Russian Orthadox faith and an important symbol for the city of St. Petersburg. This was an attack on the faith of many Russians and I wish the media would point that out. ISIS has always been religiously motivated and have targeted Christians for genocide. They hate Christians and it shouldn't be politically incorrect to point that out. 

I hope that this event helps Russia-US relations recover a bit. I'm actually fairly impressed that Russia is willing to talk to us at all, given how insane our media is and how much the Democratic Party has demonized them. From the way they talk you would think that Putin was eating babies or something. This incident might help us get back on the right track with Russia.  

Don't get me wrong, we have some major obstacles with Russia even during the best of times. Ukraine seems to be the main sticking point. Our government wants them to give Crimea back to Ukraine while Russia doesn't want to give it up. As long as both of those things are true there is going to tension, but we don't need to make things worse. Helping them prevent a major terror attack is a step in the right direction. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Weekend movie night: Star Wars The Last Jedi


It's time for another movie review. For once I actually watched a movie, in theaters, right after it came out! Amazing right? And it was worth the trip, The Last Jedi is a good movie and one that I do not regret seeing at all. There will be spoilers in this review for both The Last Jedi and the Force Awakens but I will keep them after a line break. The initial part of this review is spoiler free. 

I am kinda surprised at the reaction the film is getting. The Last Jedi is critically acclaimed and is making a lot of money for Disney but there is a subset of fans that are furious with the film. Right now on Rotten Tomatoes critics have it at 93% "fresh" while the fan rankings is at a much more humble 57%. Other sites user rankings are better but it seems there is a vocal minority of fans who dislike this movie. 

What's my take on it? I think it's a good, but not great entry in the Star Wars saga. Here is where i put it in my personal rankings of all the films:

Return of the Jedi>A New Hope>Rouge One>Empire Strikes Back>The Last Jedi> Revenge of the Sith>The Force Awakens>The Phantom Menace>Attack of the Clones.

I put it right in the middle. It's not one of the best of the series but it certainly an improvement on the Force Awakens and it is better than any of the prequel trilogy. However, I don't think it's on the same level as the original trilogy and last year's Rouge One, which I really enjoyed. 

Before I get into spoilers, I will say that the movie had some high points and some flaws. All of the battles were impressive and I really enjoyed the Rey/Kylo Ren story line. The film was beautifully shot and well acted all around. The scenery alone was worth the price of admission. And there is a lightsaber battle that ranks among the best in the series. 

Still, there were some problems with this film. The most obvious is how long it was. And I feel like there was an entire storyline that could have been cut. At two hours and 33 minutes this film was pretty exhausting and it suffered from a few pacing issues in the middle. I also felt that the film wasted a few characters. I will go into that in more detail below. 

There was one thing that I was worried about and that was the Porgs. Those dumb puffin like things were rumored to be the new Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks on steroids. Thankfully, they weren't that bad and were only in a few scenes, some of which were pretty funny. The humor of the film was ok and the film seemed quite a bit more whimsical than the other two Disney helmed Star Wars movies, despite the darker tone of the film, even compared to last years Rogue One. 

Over all though I enjoyed the film. It had a few flaws and it probably could have been trimmed down a bit but it was by no means a bad movie. Indeed, I liked a lot of it and I hope that Disney can keep up this level of quality for the new Han Solo movie and Episode 9. I recommend seeing it if you like Star Wars or soft science fiction. 


On to specific complaints. I did not like the Finn/Rose subplot where they went to the casino planet, Canto Bight. The entire subplot could have been cut from the movie and not changed much of anything. All we get from it is a bit of development between Finn and Rose and the introduction of the little boy at the end of the movie that can use the force and the stuttering hacker, DJ that turns out to be a jerk. Other than that it doesn't add much to the film and slows the story down quite a bit. Had they simply had Finn and Rose sneak onto Snoke's destroyer it would have worked just as well and would have trimmed down the movie to a more digestible run time. 

 Indeed, I was reminded of Attack of the Clones, where Anakin and Padme screw around in Naboo for a long time accomplishing nothing. The pacing doesn't get anywhere near as bad as it does in Attack of the Clones but it does slow the story down considerably. This is by far my biggest complaint about the movie and it's what keeps it from being among the truly great Star Wars movies. It's not even that Finn and Rose aren't good characters, it's just that the entire Canto Bight subplot doesn't go anywhere. The rest of my criticisms are much more minor, but this is my biggest problem with the film by far. 

I do think that we wasted two pretty good villains in The Last Jedi. Both Snoke and Captain Phasma are killed off. Snoke was killed off in spectacular fashion and it was a very good scene but I kinda feel like we never got to know anything about him. We went into this film knowing that he was an extremely powerful force user and that he corrupted Ben Solo and after the film we know exactly as much. We still don't know if he was a Sith, a fallen Jedi or just some random dude and perhaps we will never know now. Plus, Andy Serkis was so over the top and evil in this film it almost ranks up their with Papa Palpatine himself, it seems like a waste to not have him in Episode 9.

Captain Phasma also seemed wasted. She actually got to do something this film but we really didn't get to understand her motivations or who she was. From what I understand she's got an extensive background in the expanded universe, but in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, she's just the female stormtrooper in chrome armor. And her final battle doesn't last very long. 

One villain that doesn't get wasted is Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. Adam Driver put his all into this role and it really shows through. Solo goes from a whiny kid into a terrifying villain. He kills his master, almost kills his mother and kinda sort of kills Luke Skywalker. He carries the movie and I was very impressed. 

Speaking of Luke, I wasn't surprised that he was killed off. I was surprised in how he died though. I assumed that he would be killed in combat. Instead he essentially transcended after his duel with Ren, where he force projected himself across the galaxy. Still, I figured that he was going to die and I think his death was handled in a way that respected the character.

I do wonder how the next film is going to handle the death of Carrie Fisher. She was the last leadership left for the Resistance. The Republic was decapitated in the last movie, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are dead and the rest of her command staff, including Admiral Akbar, are gone too. With all the potential leaders gone and Carrie Fisher no longer with us I wonder where they are going to go with the story. 

The film really foreshadowed her as being the Obi-Wan figure for Episode 9 but with Carrie Fisher tragically gone the character will likely die with her. That leaves who exactly? Chewie? C-3PO? That Nien Nunb guy that looks like a pancake face? Let's hope that Disney figures it out. 

Space battles have always been a favorite part of Star Wars and I think this one was a mixed bag. My main problem was the design of the B/SF-17 bombers that were in the opening scene. They were going a little to hard for the World War II bomber era and it kinda didn't make much sense for them to attack the way they did. This is space and these fighters only seem to operate on two dimensions. The bombing run paled in comparison to the Y-Wing attacking the Star Destroyers in Rouge One. 

That being said, the rest of the space battles more than made up for it. The dogfighting was great and the First Orders attacks on the rebel cruisers were handled in a good way. It also finally justified the use of space fighters by showing that they can get by shielding that the big capital ships can not. 

I also liked the sacrifice of the cruiser near the end of the film. Sending a 3 kilometer sized cruiser at the speed of light into an entire fleet was one of the more impressive things I have seen in a sci-fi film and it was very cool. My only complaint is that it probably should have been Admiral Akbar that made that sacrifice, not Laura Dern's new Admiral Holdo, but that's not a huge deal. I just think that Akbar's actual death wasn't as noted as it should have been considering his memetic value and the major role he played in Return of the Jedi. 

All in all though, I think this was a good movie. Not a great one. It has its flaws and its strengths but overall it's a decent entry into the series. Perhaps in the future I will change my mind. Indeed, my opinion of  The Force Awakens has changed over time with it just not holding up compared to the other ones. But I don't think I will ever call it a bad movie. And I also think that the people that are doing so are wrong. Despite it's flaws it's fine and I may even see it again soon. 

Arms supplied to Syrian rebels by America and Saudi Arabia often ended up in the hands of ISIS.

An Iraqi soldier holds a captured ISIS flag in Mosul. Reuters. 

A new report says that arms provided to Syrian rebels by the US government and Saudi Arabia often found their way into the hands of ISIS. Reuters. The Conflict Armament Research group found that while many of the weapons used by ISIS were captured locally, some of the weapons were ones that were provided in support of rebels fighting against the Syrian regime. They documented 12 cases of weaponry that were purchased for those rebels by the United States that ended up in the hands of ISIS. Those weapons were either captured or were given to ISIS by the very same rebels who received them. Saudi Arabian weapons were also found in the same way. America, Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria all broke contract clauses by providing those weapons, made in the EU, to the Syrian rebels. The vast majority of weapons under control of ISIS were of Russian or Chinese manufacture and were captured by ISIS on the battlefield. 

My Comment:
This isn't really surprising at all as one of the major criticisms of our handling of ISIS is how many of our weapons ended up in their control. It was always infuriating to me to see ISIS fighters using US made weapons and vehicles on the battlefield. 

To be fair, many of those weapons and vehicles were captured during the fall of Mosul and other major military defeats in Iraq. When Mosul fell ISIS captured hundreds of vehicles and thousands of weapons and given the fact we were the major arms supplier for the Iraqi military, that wasn't surprising. Given how horribly Iraq was defeated during the early days of the war, it isn't shocking at all that ISIS got a hold of so many US made arms and armor. It is also not surprising that many of the weapons were of Chinese and Russian manufacture given Russia's involvement in the war against ISIS and the fact that both countries supplied Syria.

However, this report shows that we, along with the Saudis and Bulgarians, made things way worse than it would have been otherwise. Many of our weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS because we were supplying Syrian rebels with our weapons. Those weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS, including anti-tank missiles. Those weapons certainly helped to prop up ISIS and allowed them to last as long as they did. And given how many atrocities ISIS has committed, it means that we were at least partially responsible for how horrible Syria and Iraq turned out.  

People forget how much of a mess our training program for Syrian rebels was. To say it was incompetent would be an understatement. Our efforts to train rebels failed miserably, which is not surprising. We spend billions of dollars in Iraq and Syria and other than Kurdish forces and the Iraqi military we have very little to show for it. The Syrian "secular" militias we trained accomplished very little for the cost we paid and they were not able to hang onto our weapons. 

Why? Well the simple fact is that many of them were wiped out completely. Our efforts to train fighters did not work because we put restrictions on who they could fight. Very few people in Syria wanted to join an army that was only going to fight against ISIS and not the Syrian regime or other extremist groups like al-Nusra. That left us with tiny units that got wiped out quickly. Others surrendered their arms to terrorist armies in exchange for their lives. We wouldn't and couldn't support these rebels without risking a war with Syria so they were left to be destroyed or disarmed. 

More disturbingly is the fact that we often didn't vet these groups very well in the early part of the war. Indeed, there is evidence that the Obama administration knew that ISIS would likely get some of these weapons but did it anyways, thanks to Wikileaks. Many of those rebels did indeed turn over their arms to ISIS or took them with them as they joined them. 

I also have to say that I would like to see a similar report on who provided the weapons for the other insane army of murders and thieves operating in Syria, the al-Nusra Front (or whatever they are calling themselves these days.) Many of the cases of our rebels being disarmed or destroyed were not at the hands of ISIS, but at the hands of al-Nusra instead. Al-Nusra also likely received direct support due to their slightly more moderate views and I would be very interested to know who their backers are as well...

No matter what though, I think this new report shows the danger of providing arms to rebels in a situation like Syria. Even if we do a better job of vetting and protecting our rebels, like we did with the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq, there is a very good chance that those weapons could fall into the wrong hands. And when we don't even bother to do that than we will for sure have to reap the consequences... 

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...