Thursday, June 29, 2017

New NRA condemns leftist violence, gets called too violent.

A new advertisement for the National Rifle Association staring Dana Loesch is being condemned by leftists after the video condemned leftist violence. The add shows images of leftist riots and violence against people on the right and condemned fake news. The add also claims that leftist riots are so violent that the only options are for police to do their jobs. In the end, Loesch claims that the only counter to leftist violence is a "clenched fist of truth".

What's my take on this? Well for one, if anything, Loesch downplayed how bad things are on the left right now. There are examples of leftist violence that were left out. The most obvious was the attempted assassination of Majority Whip Steve Scalise and other senior GOP officials by a Bernie Sanders fan. Though that attack has been memory holed by the media, there was no reason for the NRA to do so as well. It was possibly the most important political event since the election of President Trump, but within a couple of days nobody talked about it anymore.

It also ignored the very real and very serious attempt on then candidate Donald Trump's life by an illegal immigrant from the UK. That event too was memory holed, even by the Trump campaign for reasons I do not understand. It was an unsuccessful attack carried out by an idiot that had a bad plan, but it was still an assassination attack that had a small chance of succeeding.

The video also ignored the massive amounts of violence caused by Black Lives Matter, including the attacks on cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Those two attacks weren't directly carried out by BLM but they were committed by people that believed their rhetoric.

Most of the violence that Loesch mentioned was at anti-Trump rallies of all stripes. Those attacks are real and very frequent. Indeed, if you look at the "civil unrest" tag on this blog you will find dozens of examples of leftist violence.

And that violence extends to normal people like me. Though nobody has physically attacked me yet, I came damn close once. I was at a gas station pulling into fill my tank when I saw a guy about to pull out. He had "FUCK TRUMP" written on his truck and when he saw me he looked at me like he wanted to kill me. Why? Maybe it was because I was white. Maybe it was because I was wearing a security uniform because I was on my way to work. Maybe he just saw the disgust in my eye. Who knows? But what I do know is that if I was wearing a MAGA hat or had a vote for Trump bumper sticker, I probably would have had to fight this guy. And that's not counting all the times I have had to block people on twitter for threats, harassment and even one attempted doxxing attempt.

So yes, this video does speak to the reality in America. There are some extremely violent people on the political left these days. Not everyone on the left is violent, to be sure, but enough of them are out their causing trouble. Some of them are organized like antifa, BAMN and BLM. Some are lone psychos like Steve Scalise shooter James Hodgkinson. But very rarely do any of them get condemned by the left. Some, like Black Lives Matter, get massive amounts of support.

Does the video incite violence? I don't see how. After all, Loesch argued that we should fight this using truth, not violence. Fighting people with words is the exact opposite of being violent. Given that this was the NRA, she very easily could have said that people on the right should buy guns to defend themselves and she would be totally justified in doing so. But even that wouldn't be inciting violence as advocating for self defense is completely legal. If she had said something like "and that's why we need to start shooting leftists" then she would have a legal problem but as it stands right now it's not even close.

Indeed, I think this shows how different the standards are for the left and right. Until very recently, calls for violence against the right were celebrated, not condemned. Indeed, even after the Steve Scalise shooting, some on the left claimed publicly that he deserved it and the attack was in "self defense". And there was of course the Kathy Griffen and New York Julius Caeser play that advocated assassination of the president that finally seemed to change things. But until that point actual calls for violence on the left were tolerated and even sometimes celebrated.

More importantly, does the video advance the cause of gun rights? This is by far the biggest problem I have with the video. All of it was true but it's a bad message for the NRA. Why? Because the only message they need is "We are the guys that will protect your gun rights". Violence coming from the left is a huge problem but it's not one that has much to do with gun rights directly. Same thing with claims of fake news. It also has the possibility of turning off independent and leftist supporters of gun rights who the NRA needs to thrive. Also, Freedom's Safest Space is a horrible name for a campaign and implies that gun owners are as weak as college students who need puppy dogs and stuffed animals because someone called them a name on the internet. Poor messaging all around.

I also think the message is going to be drowned out by the controversy. While looking for this video I found dozens of leftist articles bashing it while I only saw a couple of conservative outlets, like The Federalist and The Blaze defending it. It seems to me that this video is only being shared by people on the left, which does little to reach the target audience, right wing gun owners. It will also do nothing to convince those on the left because they aren't going to listen to a video that just attacks them, even if the events described in it are true.

Above all else though I do have to laugh at the irony of people condemning a video for promoting violence when the video condemns violence...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

CNN's bad week continues... Reporter Van Jones calls Russia a "Nothingburger"

 A quick update to yesterday's post about CNN. Their bad news week continues with a follow up video that blunts some of the criticism of the original Project Vertias report. CNN's defenders said that the subject of that report, John Bonifield, wasn't a political reporter.

Possibly sensing that line of attack, Project Veritas released another video that seemingly shows that even the biggest news personalities at the network agree with John Bonifield. In the video Van Jones, a major media personality at CNN and one of the reporters that have extensively covered the Russia conspiracy theory, admits that the story is a "Nothingburger" a common media term for a non-story.

The video doesn't show much more than that. It's fairly short and only depicts a short conversation with Van Jones and the Project Veritas undercover reporter and their conversation is quickly interrupted by someone else. And it's obvious that the short conversation was edited down even more. Unlike the first video, there is a chance that there is some context we are missing. I struggle to think of what context that would be though.

I do have to say that one of the lines of attack on the video is completely wrong. Many people are saying that there is no context to when the video was made. A quick perusal of the video shows that it was taken on Monday, 6/26/17, as seen below in a screenshot from the video:

I do think that the video further hurts CNN. To have one of their top reporters admit that the story that they have been pushing for months is a "nothingburger" is a major blow. Whatever credibility CNN had is now completely gone...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CNN is having a very bad week...

Project Veritas. 

I'm going to skip the normal format for this one. It's been a very entertaining couple of days if you happen to dislike CNN. CNN, once the most respected cable news networks, has lost quite a bit of credibility in the past couple of years due to publishing stupid stories and being incredibly biased against President Donald Trump. Well now the chickens are coming home to roost and they are paying the price. 

First, CNN published a story that claimed a senior Trump adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, was in contact with the Russians and that there as an open investigation into him and President Trump. That story appears to have been completely false and it resulted in a retraction and the resignation of the author of the story and two editors.  

The incident confirms what a lot of us already knew about the news media. They rush stuff out without vetting the sources and when it blows up in their face they print out a retraction that nobody reads. This time though the story was false enough and only based on one anonymous source (Breitbart says it was someone on Elizabeth Warren's staff) that heads actually rolled for it. 

But this is not the only time CNN has been completely wrong. Remember this headline? 

That article, which I won't link too because I don't want CNN to get any money, stated that former FBI director James Comey was going to say that Trump lied about Comey telling him that he wasn't under investigation. How did that work out? It didn't. 

All of this has hurt CNN's credibility badly. But it's not over yet. James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas media company has gotten hidden camera footage of on of CNN's producers saying, well, some pretty damning things. And it is just part one of a series of videos that will continue. Watch for yourself below. 

Though James O'Keefe has his own problems with legitimacy, most notably his constant overselling of the footage he has, the hidden camera footage is hard to argue against. The producer, John Bonifield is in the health section of CNN, but confirmed what a lot of us thought about CNN's constant coverage of the Russia conspiracy theory. 

It's all about ratings. In his own words Bonifield said that the story is mostly bullshit, but that CNN covers it because it makes them money. They drop coverage of other important stories, such as the Paris Climate Accord, because their audience is mostly far left liberals who want to see President Trump impeached. 

So they cover the story that will get Trump haters to watch, even if it means that they have to use crappy sources and put out fake news to do so. That is not what journalism is supposed to be. Ideally the media would cover things objectively and rely less on anonymous sources. But since the media is profit driven they only pay lip service to journalist efforts. 

Finally, I have to say that I watched the 1976 classic Network this weekend for the first time. If you haven't seen it, it's the story of a nightly newscast that gave up on reporting the news after their anchorman loses his mind and starts ranting and raving. The network then gets involved with terrorists and goes so far (spoiler warning), to have those terrorists murder the anchorman after his ratings tank. 

Everything I just wrote could apply to CNN today. Even the part about having connections to terrorists. After all, their New Years Eve Host, Kathy Griffen did her best ISIS impression holding up the decapitated head of President Trump. The whole time I was watching the movie I was thinking to myself, "This is CNN"...

For all those reasons and more I have stopped using CNN as a source here and I have completely stopped watching the channel. I do that even as I have cut back on using other sources, such as The Washington Post and the New York Times, who, while biased, still attempt to have some standards. They may have incredible bias, but CNN has even passed outlets like Salon or Daily Kos in terms of their coverage.  I encourage everyone that is reading this to do what I have done and completely cut them out of your life.. As the president said, they are the very definition of Fake News. Don't give them money... 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Donald Trump's travel ban gets a partial green light from Supreme Court.

Supreme Court building. Public Domain

The Supreme Court has given a major victory to President Donald Trump by partially restoring his travel ban. The Hill. The Court said that preserving national security was an objective of the "highest order" and said that the lower court's ruling that stopped the ban put undue hardship onto the government. The ban effects six countries, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, all of which have links to terrorism. The ban is not a full ban though as it allows certain individuals that have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States to enter the country. That will likely mean that people with family members or who secure a job will be allowed into the country. The Supreme Court will hear arguments this fall concerning a lawsuit against the travel ban. The Supreme Court also ruled that Donald Trump could reinstate his ban on refugees, allowing the same bona fide exception as the travel ban. Though the ruling was unsigned, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the nine justices all agreed that the lower court's ruling was questionable. 

My Comment:
This is a huge victory for Donald Trump. He is finally able to keep one of his campaign promises to prevent people from these countries from coming here until the vetting system gets better. And remember, this is only a 90 day ban, had it not been for interference from the courts, the ban would have expired already! Even the longer ban on refugees, 120 days, would be over now. 

It was clear that this ban's opposition was never about the law. It was always about hatred of Donald Trump. The President has always had control over who comes to the country or not. Other presidents who have banned groups from this country have not faced anything near the opposition Trump has. Barack Obama stopped taking in Iraqi refugees in 2011 after it was reveled that many Iraqi terrorists had entered the country and nobody said a word. 

Part of that was the sloppy way that President Trump enacted the ban. The first round of the Executive Order did not offer an exception for visa holders, which caused a lot of chaos and confusion. It was sloppy but most of the problems were fixed in the 2nd executive order. Still, the order could have been better executed in the first place and if it had been we might have gotten this ruling a much earlier than we did. There probably still would have been resistance, after all if Trump said it was a nice day people would still argue with him, but it would have been resolved much earlier. 

Unfortunately, the 9th Circuit Court decided to play politics with the 2nd order and blocked the ban. The 9th Circuit is notorious for issuing unconstitutional rulings and have been reversed somewhere between 60% to 80% depending on what source you use. It was always pretty clear that the Supreme Court was going to come down on the side of President Trump. The 9th Circuit is an activist court and they often make rulings that are unconstitutional. 

So, will this ban have an effect? At this point I am not sure. I always said that there were some very obvious countries that should have been included in the ban. Iraq was originally included but Trump dropped them after they reportedly improved their vetting. Afghanistan and Pakistan who have major insurgency problems were never included in the ban. And like I mentioned before, the ban was only temporary when it really probably should be long term or even permanent. 

Still, the fact of the matter was that something had to be done. The problem was much, much, MUCH worse than people are aware of. The ABC News report was just the tip of the iceberg... We needed much stronger vetting and if that vetting isn't in place by now, it should be in 90 days when the ban expires. It will also reduce the number of refugees with is also a major victory. 

It is amazing to me how fast this story dropped off of social media. Currently the story is no longer trending on Twitter and on Yahoo it wasn't on the front page. Google News still had it as the top story but it really should be everywhere else. It just goes to show that the media doesn't want to let Trump have any victories at all... 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Voters are getting sick of the Russia vote interference investigation.

A new poll indicates that voters are getting sick of the Russian voter interference investigation. The Hill. The Harvard-Harris poll finds that almost 2/3rds of voters, 64%, think that the investigations are hurting the country while 56% think that Congress should move onto other pressing issues. Though 58% of voters are worried about accusations of obstruction of justice or possible dealings between Donald Trump and Russia, many more want Congress to cover other issues. A whopping 73% say that the investigation has been a distraction, including 74% of independent voters and even 68% of Democrats. 62% of voters also believed that there is no evidence to support conclusion and the same number believe that Donald Trump will not be impeached because of the investigation. 

My Comment:
A fairly damning poll for those pursuing  the Russian voter interference conspiracy theory. It's fairly clear that people are sick and tired of hearing about Russia. This poll looks fairly well made, though without direct access to the numbers you can never really tell. Like most polls it oversampled Democrats, but it had a large number of respondents and was done online. I don't really trust polls anymore but I am guessing that this one is probably pretty reflective of the larger mood of the country. 

I know, for one, that I am sick and tired about hearing about this stupid conspiracy theory. There has been zero evidence released of any wrong doing by President Trump or his current administration. Nothing he has done has been illegal and there is no obstruction of justice. To date there has been zero evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians and zero evidence that any votes were changed by the Russians. 

The whole thing is a gigantic waste of time and money that will accomplish nothing in the end. At least in terms of hurting the Trump administration. The only crimes that I know have been committed are the various leaks to the media of potentially classified information. Whether or not those leaks get punished are still up in the air, but that's the only real possible outcome of this stupid investigation. 

And it's not like there isn't other things going on right now for the government and media to be covering. Islamic terrorism is still a menace, the healthcare law isn't done yet, work hasn't begun on the border wall, I could go on and on. And at least some of the things going on right now could have bipartisan solutions if only congress would do something other than this stupid investigation. But instead, nothing is getting done. 

Indeed, I think that is largely the point. The Democrats intended to use the investigation as a giant distraction, not only from the fact that their candidate lost and lost hard, but the fact that their party is in serious trouble. Right now the Republicans control Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, many many state Governor's offices and legislators and, if the special elections trend continues, grim prospects of reversing any of those situations.

Even worse, the Democratic Party seems to have some very obvious and open wounds. The way Hillary Clinton coordinated with the DNC and the news media to destroy Bernie Sanders chances of getting elected ripped open a massive rift between the progressive/economic wing of the party and the SJW/Neocon wing. Those wounds won't heal anytime soon and the Democrats are desperate to make people forget about it.
Right now it seems like the only plan for the Democrats at all is to try and diminish the credibility of President Trump and use him as a rallying cry to fire up their base. It really doesn't seem to be working at all though. Trump's poll numbers are garbage, but they are still using the same biased samples that they used during the election. Trump's real numbers are closer to 50%, going up or down daily depending on what's in the news. 

I do think that the investigation is having an effect, but it's probably not the one that the Democrats want. The investigation does seem to be firing up their base, which seems to have backfired quite considerably. The actions of some on the left, like the antifa riots and the Alexandria shooting have angered Republicans and turned off many independents, and those events were in part motivated by the Russian conspiracy theory. Plus their credibility is completely shot. 

I can only hope that the Democrats will see these poll numbers and decide to move onto other things. Though they have little they can do right now, I can't believe that there is no possibility for bipartisan cooperation. There has to be something that they can do to actually help the country instead of this massive distraction... 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Terror plot targeting Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque foiled.

Wreckage from the blast after the bomber blew himself up. Reuters. 

Saudi Arabian security forces disrupted a terror attack targeting the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Reuters. The security forces cornered a member of the plot and engaged him in a shootout. The standoff ended when the suspect blew himself up, injuring 11 people as the building collapsed. The incident was part of a larger effort to break up terror cells in Saudi Arabia. Security forces also shot a man in Mecca and also broke up another terror cell, but did not give details. Five militants in total were arrested besides the two killed. The raids come near the Eid al Fitr holiday this Sunday that marks the end of Ramadan. It is unclear who was responsible for the terror plots, but ISIS is a very likely suspect. 

My Comment:
Another major terror plot broken up. Ramadan this year has been bad, but not as bad as it could have been. There have been several major terror plots broken up and it looks like this is one of the largest ones. 

It was broken up in a dramatic way and it is a minor miracle that nobody was killed besides the bomber. 11 people got injured, including six civilians. It seems like the Saudis failed to sneak up on this guy, but given the circumstances, they may not have had enough time to catch him unaware. 

The suspect was cornered and had no way to escape. He probably understood that his plot had failed and there was no real chance of survival. With no way out and no other options he decided to do the only thing that would take a few of his enemies with him. But he failed at that as well and only managed to wound a few people. 

The security forces probably saved quite a few lives. A suicide bombing at the Grand Mosque in Mecca would have probably killed dozens, maybe even hundreds. Why? Because the Grand Mosque is one of the most crowded places in the world and have had several incidents of people panicking and trampling people to death. That would add to the already severe casualties that would be inflicted by detonating a bomb powerful enough to destroy an apartment building in the middle of a crowd of thousands...

So who was responsible? ISIS is the obvious suspect. They have targeted Saudi Arabia in the past and will probably do so in the future. They have had several major successful and unsuccessful terror plots during this Ramadan and it would make sense for them to attack Saudi Arabia as well. ISIS also has a minor but significant presence in Saudi Arabia so they would have the opportunity as well. 

I also don't think any of the other suspects are very likely. Al-Qaeda certainly employs suicide bombers, but they usually don't target religious sites like the Grand Mosque. Same for any Shiite terrorist groups. Though tensions are high between Sunni and Shia, they are also unlikely to target Islam's holiest site. 

Which brings up another question. Why would radical Muslims attack their own most holy site? Well ISIS has long been iconoclasts. They hate art and they hate tombs. The Grand Mosque contains both. And though I am no expert on Islamic theology, I do believe that the destruction of the Kaaba is one of the major signs of the end of the world. Given that ISIS's main goal is to bring about the Apocalypse, destroying the Kaaba would be a major symbolic victory. 

Thankfully this attack failed. But we still have a couple days of Ramadan remaining. I have no doubt that there are more plots coming down the pipeline. Many of them, like this plot targeting the holiest site in Islam, will be broken up. Others of them will be attempted but will fail, like the ones in Flint and Paris. But I am willing to bet that there will be a major attack somewhere between now and Eid al Fitr...       

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My thoughts on President Trump's suggested solar border wall with Mexico.

The end of the border fence near Tijuana, Mexico. James Reyes/Public Domain

I'm going to skip the normal format for this one and comment on a proposal that President Trump made. As a new way to pay for the wall, Trump has suggested that we line the wall with solar panels. The theory is that the energy produced by the solar panels would pay for the wall and, assuming Mexico buys our energy, it would fulfill Trump's campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. 

I think it's an interesting idea to say the least. It has some very obvious upsides. The first advantage is political. If the Democrats try to shut this down or criticize it Trump can hit them on environmental grounds. He can basically say that if the Democrats are in support of the environment and combating global warming they have to support the wall. Given the absolute hysteria on the left after Trump left the Paris environmental accords, it would look incredibly hypocritical for them to oppose this proposal. 

This creates an obvious split between two Democratic party coalition members, environmentalists and immigration advocates. The idea is that the two groups will come to metaphorical blows over the plan. Obviously, the environmentalists will support clean energy and the immigration advocates will oppose any wall on the border.

Will it work out that way? I am not sure. Despite Trump trying to make an obvious gesture to environmentalists, I doubt they will go along with it. Most of them hate Trump and would oppose him even if he caved on every single environmental issue and oppose him on principal alone. Others will notice the same thing I did and will be opposed to it just because they don't want to fight the immigration block, which probably has some crossover as well. Plus, they have tried to block border walls/fences before due to environmental impact on endangered species.

Either way though it gives President Trump a good way to bludgeon the left. He can rightly claim that the Democratic Party both hates him and the wall so much that they won't even compromise on a plan that could help the environment. Even if it only pulls away a few Democratic voters it might still help. It also damages their claims that global warming is important if they won't even support a plan that could reduce our reliance on dirty energy. 

Economically the idea makes sense as well. Turning the wall into a money maker could reduce the costs of construction and maintenance. One of the major criticisms of the wall is the high initial cost of the project and the fact that it will require maintenance. So far efforts to get Mexico to pay for the wall have failed, largely because Trump hasn't decided to tax remittances, the money orders people send to Mexico. Doing this will help defray the costs and if we sell the energy to Mexico, they will "pay" for it... kinda. It also has the added benefit of not completely destroying the Mexican economy, which taxing remittances would do. 

There are obvious job benefits as well. Making the wall in general will create shovel ready jobs, but using solar power will also help US companies specializing in solar energy. It wouldn't be a huge increase, but it would add a few jobs to the US economy. And because the solar panels will need maintenance and someone to manage the power, some of those jobs won't go away after the wall is finished. 

It also gives the wall some insurance. The great fear among supporters of the wall is that as soon as a Democrat wins either the White House or Congress, they could tear it down. Getting rid of an energy source that provides jobs and perhaps even makes money creates a much higher cost in doing so than just a border wall. I am guessing that a solar wall would be popular as well, so getting rid of it would have a large political cost. The Democrats might do so anyways but it would cost them more support than it would with a normal wall.

So will the solar wall happen? Unfortunately it's not up to Donald Trump. Right now he has to convince Congress to pay for the initial construction of the wall and that has been like herding cats. Right now the Republicans in the House and Senate are more focused on health care and the Democrats in Congress... well the less said about their "muh Russia" witch hunt the better. 

Still, I think this is a great idea and a huge win for the Republican Party if they can pull it off. Doing so would greatly please the Republican base, who have wanted more effective borders for a very long time and have been infuriated by the lack of action on the issue. It would also greatly blunt Democratic criticism of the wall and make them look like hypocrites, either on the environment or on immigration. It's a win win for Republicans so I can't imagine that they aren't, at the very least, taking the proposal seriously. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Terror attack in Flint Michigan where a man stabbed a police officer and screamed Allah Akbar.

Police stand guard after the attack in Flint. Flint Journal/CBS/AP.

A Canadian man was detained in Flint Michigan after stabbing a police officer in the neck and screaming "Allah Akbar". CBS. The attacker has been identified as Amor Ftouhi and has been charged with violence in an international airport. He was in the country legally. During the attack Ftouhi allegedly screamed "Allah Akbar" and ranted about Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan before stabbing the victim with a 12 inch knife. The victim survived the attack and was in satisfactory condition. Flint police believe that the threat is over and that Ftouhi was a "lone wolf" attacker. 

My Comment:
I remember yesterday writing that America hadn't suffered any terror attacks during Ramadan so far. I guess I spoke too soon as this is fairly obviously a terror attack. It's a fairly minor one where only one person was hurt, but it was following the ISIS playbook. 

This was probably a lone wolf attack. It wasn't sophisticated at all and it was the kind of attack that almost anyone could attempt. I am not sure what the exact plan here was. It is possible that Ftouhi was trying to imitate ISIS inspired attackers in Europe. There have been several attacks where an attacker tried to overpower a cop or soldier and steal their weapon. If so, this attack failed just as those attacks failed. Ftouhi wasn't able to steal a weapon and was detained right away. 

It's also possible that he wasn't trying to go for a weapon at all and was just interested in stabbing a cop. I've said before that even though ISIS encourages that kind of attack, it's just about the stupidest way to go about things. Not only are all cops in the United States armed, they are trained to fight and do not represent a "soft target". It's a minor miracle that Ftouhi wasn't shot and killed immediately. 

Some will likely ask why Ftouhi didn't purchase a gun. As a foreign citizen, Ftouhi was not eligible to purchase a firearm. He would have failed a background check and I doubt any but the most scuzzy of private citizens would have sold him a gun. Unlike the popular media description, it's not actually that easy to get a gun in the United States if you aren't a citizen. 

I do wonder why Ftouhi attacked the United States instead of his home in Canada. Ftouhi was from Quebec and had multiple targets he could have struck in Canada. And he probably would have been able to acquire better weapons in Canada than he was able to get here. My guess is that he correctly surmised that a terror attack in Flint Michigan would have a bigger impact than any attack in Canada. 

I do have to say that the police response to this attack was fairly impressive. Though part of that is that there are always cops at airports, they were able to quickly able to stop this attacker before he killed someone. And they managed to capture him alive to interrogate him. Good work all around. 

I doubt that Ftouhi had any connections to larger terrorist groups. I suspect he probably read ISIS propaganda and followed their instructions but he had no direct link. If he had I think there would have been a better plan and some kind of weapon or explosive used other than a knife. I think that the threat is probably over... 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Soldiers in Brussels kill a terrorist before he could carry out his attack.

Soldiers stand guard in Brussels after the attack. CBS/Getty. 

Soldiers in Brussels shot and killed a terrorist after he set off a small explosion at the main train station. CBS. The suspect was ranting and raving about Islamic extremism and screamed "Allahu Akbar" before setting of a device in a baggage cart. Soldier shot the suspect soon after and were not able to provide medical treatment because they suspected he had a bomb. Police confirmed that the suspect had an explosive belt and a backpack. The government of Belgium said that the soldiers involved in the situation stopped a terror attack. 

My Comment:
Good on these soldiers for stopping this terror attack. It just goes to show that having people with weapons can help prevent a terrorist attack. They reacted quickly and correctly to the threat and their actions probably saved quite a few lives. If this guy had managed to get onto a train or a crowded area he could have killed dozens. Instead, he was the only one that died. 

That being said, this seems like another example of an incredibly stupid terrorist. I think this guy was watching too many action movies. Instead of being stealthy and making sure to get himself into a place with a large amount of civilians he went on a rant and set off a minor explosion. None of that makes sense. It seems like something the bad guy in a movie would do and like a movie it gave the heroes a chance to stop the villain. Why draw attention to yourself when your goal is to kill as many people as possible? Especially when attacking a defended target like a train station? Not a smart way to go. 

This failed terror attack comes right after another failed one in Paris. In that attack someone rammed a police van despite being armed with a rifle and some handguns. Just like the Brussels attack, the suspect in France would been able to kill a whole lot of people if he had just used some common sense. Part of that is because the security forces in both cases were on the ball, but still, a better plan could have been effective. Once again, thank God for stupid terrorists. 

Another point is that these terrorists are acting like lone wolf attackers but have the weapons of someone with terrorist connections. The suspect in the Paris attack had multiple firearms and the suspect in the Brussels attack had explosives. I guess it is possible that a lone wolf attacker could get his hands on those kinds of weapons, but I doubt it. There have been lone wolf attacks in the past where one guy got a hold of firearms and explosive, but they are fairly rare and I don't think it is likely in this case. 

Still, the level of planning with both of these attacks seem to indicate a less sophisticated style of attack. Instead of actually trying to inflict as many casualties as possible they tried to pull off a terrorist attack in a flashy cinematic kind of way. They seemed to be more focused on style points instead of inflicting casualties. That tells me that both of these attacks were lone wolf attackers, probably inspired by ISIS instead of being directed by them. 

I do think there is a different possibility explaining the Brussels failure though. It's possible that the bomber tried to set off his explosives belt... and it failed miserably. That would explain his actions quite a bit better. If his belt failed he might have tried to set off his secondary explosive and then, when that didn't do anything, he just got shot. That would mean that his bombmakers screwed him over in which case the bombmaker is the one that's an idiot. 

After a hot start, Ramadan hasn't been so bad. This is due in a large part to the failed attacks in Paris and Brussels. There have been attacks outside of Europe, most notably in Mali, Somalia and Afghanistan, but the European attacks have largely failed outside of the London Bridge attack. Still, we have some time before Ramadan is done and we should remain vigilant. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Close call in France as a terror attack fails in Champs-Elysees

A member of the bomb squad checks the car. BBC/EPA

A terror attack targeting a police vehicle at Champs-Elysees has failed as a man with a car crashed into a police van. BBC. The suspect was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns and gas bottles, but was killed in the crash and ensuing fire. No one else was hurt in the incident. Though the attack failed, officials say that the amount of gas in the vehicle could have caused an explosion. No one has taken credit for the attack but the suspect was reportedly on a terror watchlist since 2015 for membership in an unnamed "radical Islamist movement". 

My Comment:
This was a very strange terror attack attempt. I'm forced to conclude that the attacker was probably pretty stupid. If the suspect was armed with a rifle and multiple handguns, why use the car for anything? Wouldn't it have been smarter to just shoot people? 

It's also unclear how the suspect died. I don't know if he just died in the crash, the ensuing fire, or if the cops put him down. If he just died because of his own actions then his plan was really terrible. It's possible that he was trying to set his car on fire to cause chaos and distract cops while he was shooting people, but maybe he rammed the car to hard and stopped his own attack? 

I also don't understand why he would use the ramming tactics ISIS has used so frequently this way. If he wanted to conduct a ramming attack, why target a police van? Why not run over a bunch of civilians? And why resort to ramming at all when you have a bunch of guns? It doesn't make any sense.

If this was a failed car bombing, it seems like an even stupider plan. Though the weapons and fuel in the car could have exploded, it seems like he didn't have a way to activate the bomb or died before he could do so. Either way, this plan didn't work. 

I'm not sure if this is a lone wolf attack or not. The very stupid plan of the suspect kind of makes me think that he was acting alone. If he had help they would presumably have told him to get a better plan. But on the other hand the presence of a Kalashnikov makes me think he had help. AK's aren't exactly hard to get in Europe but you do need connections to the black market gun dealers and that usually implies some connections with terrorism. Plus the BBC said he made Frances terror radar due to membership in an extremist movement, so at the very least he probably did have some connections. 

Even though this terrorist attack failed, it did help ISIS. Even failed terror attacks can frighten people and disrupt the country. This attack didn't kill anyone but it still grabbed headlines and shut down one of the most important tourist areas in the country. Despite the obvious failure of the attack, it still has an effect. 

All that being said though, I have to repeat something I have said many times in the past. Thank God for stupid terrorists. The more attacks that kill or wound nobody but the attacker we have the better... 

Copycat terror attack in London as a man rams into Muslims.

A victim is taken away on a stretcher after the attack. NBC/AP. 

A copycat terrorist has used the ramming tactics so common in recent attacks and adapted them to attack a group of Muslims, wounding 10 people in London. NBC News. The attacker drove his rented van into a group of people who were attending to a man who had collapsed. The man later died though it is unclear if he died due to the ramming attack or to his unrelated collapse. The community then captured and detained the man until authorities could arrive and arrest him. The attack comes on the heels of several Islamist terror attacks in the UK, including two similar ramming attacks and the Manchester suicide bombing. Witnesses claim that the suspect was specifically targeting Muslims. 

My Comment:
Before I get into the meat of this post I do have to say that I obviously condemn this attack. Whatever the issues the UK is having with it's Muslim population, getting into a van and running over a bunch of people isn't going to solve anything. Indeed, it seems like it would be massively counterproductive and may serve to further radicalize Muslims and push some of the moderates out of the fold. It also feeds into the worst tendencies of the political left, who will use this attack as a counterpoint to any criticism of terrorism or the governments response to it.

I also have to commend the heroism of the people on the scene. Not only did they capture the suspect they managed to capture them alive. Considering the circumstances, that was no small feat and it is impressive that they were able to resist the urge to dispense street justice to the suspect. I am not sure if I would have been so restrained. Either way though, I always respect people that put their lives on the line to defend others.

That being said, this was a sad but predictable outcome of the UK's recent problems with terrorism and Islam in general. The attacks that have rocked the UK have been terrible and I was frankly expecting some kind of blowback against Islam after the Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks. Not to mention the non-terror related issues that the Muslim community have been involved in in the UK, like the Rotherham scandal. Indeed, I am amazed that it took this long for something like this to happen.

Why? Because, to the average person on the street, the UK government isn't doing a thing to prevent those problems. The message that the UK government has been sending is that these incidents are just part and parcel of living in the modern world and that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Their main public response seems to have been to crack down on critics of Islam instead of bringing radicals to justice. They preach unity and togetherness but never responsibility and vigilance and have gone so far as to charge people with crimes for expressing their anger with the situation. I am sure that the UK is actually working hard to find and arrest the threats, but the public message seems to be that "Muslims are fine no matter what and anyone that objects to the murder of children is racist and is also going to be arrested".

When the government message is that is it any surprise that someone decided to take things into their own hands? We don't know the background of the attacker but I am guessing that he felt that nothing was being done to prevent these terror attacks and all the other problems caused by the lack of integration of Muslims in the UK and that somebody had to do something. He obviously chose the wrong thing to do by targeting people that are almost certainly completely innocent, but when the government doesn't seem to care that the people they are required to protect are getting murdered, is it even a surprise?

And this is what I am so afraid of. The UK and Europe might be heading into a death spiral of terror attacks. A cycle of revenge could be forming that could destroy the whole continent. Until now the people of Europe have had a tremendous amount of restraint but if the pace of terror attacks continues, there will be more reprisal attacks like this one. You can only push people so far before they start to push back. Remember, the Manchester bombing targeted children and so did the Rotherham rape/human trafficking gang. Once kids are being killed, all bets are off the table. Reprisal attacks were almost a given. Those reprisal attacks will further enrage radical Muslims and may push the moderates into the arms of the radicals. Actions like the terror attack today in London could actually radicalize peopl. If this tit for tat cycle goes on for long enough then it will be civil war. This is, of course, what groups like ISIS want.

Can that be avoided at this point? I am not sure it is even possible anymore. Even if the UK changed course and somehow came up with the perfect plan, it would still take a lot of time and effort to implement it. And in the meantime there will be more attacks and counter attacks. And I have seen no indication that the UK will take the steps I think that they need to take.

What are those steps? Here's a short list:

-Acknowledge that though there are many hundreds of millions and even perhaps billions of normal to good Muslims in the world, there is a major portion of the religion that is violent and dangerous. Not all Muslims are bad, but it's completely stupid to think all of them are good as well. This should be so obvious that it shouldn't be uncontroversial but to say it out loud makes you a "racist" in the United States and a criminal in Europe.

-Make it very clear to the public that the government cares about what happens to all of their people. All so often the press and the government goes on and on about the backlash against Muslims, which in this case was finally justified. In the vast majority of cases though, the backlash against a terror attack isn't anywhere near as bad as the actual terrorist attack. Yes it is terrible when an innocent Muslim gets yelled at for something they had nothing to do with, but it is way worse to be killed or injured in a terror attack. We should condemn the people that actually kill and not the people that are just angry and need reassurance that their lives matter. (This obviously also counts in reverse. The UK government should and probably will offer that reassurance to the Muslim community. The fact that they won't do so for everyone else is the problem)

-Don't crack down on free speech for anyone. Trying to make an idea forbidden is a great way to grow that idea. You can't stop people from thinking things that are inconvenient to you, no matter how much you try. Doing so will just increase the appeal of the idea, especially when the idea is that different people are being treated differently by the government. Let people express their anger so they can deal with it in a healthier way. Anything short of actual incitement to violence should be allowed.

-Provide a counterargument that isn't just faux unity drivel. "We are better than the terrorists" is way better than "we are all united against terrorism, but by the way white people suck and there is nothing we can do about terrorism anyways".

-Make sure to both parties understand that the cycle of revenge is a fools game and one that can destroy everything.

Will any of that happen? I sincerely doubt it. And as more terror attacks happen I am guessing that more people will be fed up with the perceived lack of action and even basic acknowledgement of the problem and there will be more reprisal attacks. Sooner or later the cycle of revenge will turn into actual war. I have thought for years that his would happen in Europe after the massive migration waves and it seems that it may be coming to pass if the trend started by this attack continues. The reaction to this attack and the attacks that I am sure will come will likely be the new status quo. Let's just hope that somehow the United States doesn't fall into the same trap...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Editor's note

I've been fairly busy this weekend and I don't expect any new posts until Monday. It's been a fairly slow news weekend anyways, but I will be away from my computer for much of the day so if something big breaks expect a post from me tomorrow.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Iran's goal in Iraq and Syria? A highway to Lebanon.

An Iranian militiaman firing a cannon against ISIS targets in the Iraqi town of Ba'aj. Reuters.

Iran war plans in Syria and Iraq include a highway that would like up Iran with Lebanon. The Guardian. Iranian backed militias are advancing in both Syria and Iraq in an effort to link up and construct a major highway that would give Iran ground access to Lebanon. They have already taken the city of al-Ba'aj in Iraq to further this goal and construction has begun on the road. Much work is yet to be done as ISIS still controls the two final hubs for the highway, Deir ez Zor and Mayedin in Syria. This effort has led to conflict with US backed forces in Syria who are also trying to advance to the two cities in the hub. Near the site of those clashes, between al-Tanf and Deir ez Zor, forces of the Syrian militias met up with the Iranian forces from Iraq. The connection between the forces is a major new step in the war, and one that will have consequences for the future. 

My Comment:
This is Iran's major power play in the region, and I am surprised at myself that I didn't realize it until now. Creating this land route between Tehran and Beirut must have been a major goal for the Iranians for the entire war and I just didn't realize it until now. And it looks like they are almost successful. It should have been obvious though. Logistics wins war and this looks like a very good way for Iran to shore up their logistics in the region. 

From what it looks like now it seems that Iran already has a potential route between its borders and Lebanon. It's a longer route but it seems as though using Iraqi Highway 1 all the way to the Syrian border and then following Syrian Highway 2 they could almost get to Damsacus. The main problem seems to be the rebels control much of the area by the al-Tanf crossing, and those rebels have US support. 

This explains why the Iranian militias are harassing US backed forces in the area. Their goal is to drive them out of the border area so they can link up both their forces and then move up Mayedin and Deir ez Zor.  By doing so they could potentially open up the longer southern route and get closer to accomplishing their larger goal of opening up the northern route that runs through those two cities. 

So what does Iran gain from this? In the short term they throw a massive monkey wrench into US plans in the region. Our plan was to drive from the north using the same areas that these Shiite militias now occupy. If Iran can block our forces they can  get all the prestige and accolades that taking out ISIS's last remaining strongholds. Doing so would not only be a major punch in the gun to the United States, it would also humble Iran's Russian and Syrian allies in the region. It would make them an even more powerful player in the region if they were the ones that finally took out ISIS, and, even more so, managed to keep America from accomplishing that goal. Letting Iran, or their proxies, be the ones to defeat the main stronghold of ISIS would be a huge loss of face for the United States.

Having a land route, either the northern one or southern one would also have an obvious impact on logistics. Right now Iran is forced to either fly their weapons and reinforcements, or use ships. Having a highway would mean they could move supplies and troops over land with trucks, which would be more efficient than air travel and quicker than by sea. This would allow them to make an immediate impact on the war against ISIS and al-Nusra in Syria.  

Long term though I feel this highway is more a threat to Israel than anything else. By creating controlled and safe highway between Iran and Lebanon, Iran can send weapons, money and support to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. They could even deploy heavier weapons in the region as well. This highway, if allowed to completion, could represent a dagger aimed at the throat of Israel, especially if Iran wanted to deploy WMD's. 

So what do we do about this? My guess is that the three minor skirmishes between our rebel groups and the Iranian backed militias will likely be the beginning. We probably won't allow Iran to have the southern route to reinforce and resupply their forces. Longer term we will likely have to push very hard with the Kurds in the North and the rebels in the South to capture, at the very least, Mayedin. If we were to hold onto al-Tanf in the south and Mayedin in the North, we would completely destroy Iran's plans here. Everywhere else would have to either go through us or the Kurds, who aren't likely to cooperate with the Shiite militias since they are mostly Sunni Muslims.

The question is if we will have to will to do so. Driving to Mayedin and, even worse, Deir ez Zor, would involve attacking these militia groups. Doing so might enrage the Syrians who have only survived because the fact that Iran is backing them, especially if we move on Deir ez Zor which is partially held by Syria. It could also potentially anger the Russians who have their own goals in the region. It will be interesting, to say the least, to find out what our leadership decides to do... 

If we decide to do nothing, then perhaps the Israelis will do something themselves. Though they have no easy way to deploy troops, they could potentially violate Syrian air space to bomb these highways if and when they got built/captured. Doing so would be a major escalation but I don't think they will tolerate the increase of threat and influence this project represents... 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Video shows the Alexandria attack on Republican lawmakers.

 The above video shows the mass shooting targeting Republican lawmakers in Alexandria Virginia. It contains graphic content and language so don't watch if you are sensitive to such things. A few thoughts about the video:

 1. Though I am impressed that the person that took the video was able to do so with such clarity, he really should have realized that concealment does not equal cover. He hid behind a small metal trash bin that looks like it wouldn't be strong enough to deflect a bullet. It might have been the best cover available, but he probably should have found a better spot. Considering that some of the shots seemed like they came rather close to the witness, he may have lucked out.

 2. It is very unclear what the suspect was even aiming at. It seems that everyone that got injured did so during the initial volley of fire. After that he seems to be just shooting at nothing in particular. It could just be where the video is being recorded from but I really couldn't tell who he was shooting at. 

3. Some people have been critical of the protection detail for Steve Scalise after seeing this video. They say that they should have opened fire earlier. I disagree. With the suspect firing wildly and most of the victims of the attack in decent cover, waiting for him to run out of ammo for his rifle was probably the right move. 

4. Speaking of the rifle James Hodgkinson used, it still hasn't been revealed which rifle he used. Rand Paul said it might have been an AR-15. Other outlets said it was a "M-4" which is extremely unlikely due to them being military weapons and fully automatic, which wasn't used in the shooting. Still others have said it might have been a Kalashnikov (AK47). Finally, Fox Business News said it was an SKS rifle. I am certainly no expert on firearms but I do believe that I would recognize an AR-15 or M-4. They have a bit higher pitch popping sound than the rifle used in the attack. To me it sounds deeper and that would make the SKS more likely. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mass shooting targeting Republican members of congress, injuring 4.

The scene of the shooting. Reuters. 

A mass shooting targeting Republican members of Congress has injured four and ended with the death of the shooter. Reuters. The attack occurred at a practice for a bipartisan charity baseball game. The suspect, James Hodgkinson, of Illinois, approached Jeff Duncan (R, South Carolina) and asked him if the practice was for the Democrats or Republicans and when he was told that it was the Republicans he returned to his vehicle and opened fire. He injured Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who remains in critical condition, a congressional aide, a former congressional aide and a Capital Police Officer. The Capital Police, who was part of Scalise's security detail shot the suspect, even after being injured, who later died in the hospital. 

The suspect was a Bernie Sanders supporter who had a very large social media presence. He was members of Facebook groups critical of President Trump and the Republican Party. Some of these groups include "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Terminate The Republican Party," and "Donald Trump is not my President". For their part, the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders have denounced the attack. 

My Comment:
I am late on this story, but when I heard the news this morning I was in no condition to write up anything. This news story has made me more mad than any other news event in recent history. Even the Paris attacks, the Nice attack or the Pulse shooting didn't result in such an emotional response. I was enraged and I decided that it would be better to wait to write something up after I had calmed down and more information was available. 

At the time I suspected that this was an attack by someone on the left done for political reasons. It turns out I was right. The suspect, James Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter and had a very large social media presence filled with anti-Trump and anti-Republican propaganda. It's very clear that this was, if not a direct assassination attempt, a politically motivated attack. Hodgkinson hated Republicans and those of us on the right politically. 

I consider this to be a terrorist attack. This attack fits the classic definition of terrorism. His goal was to silence people on the right and he did so doing violence. Terrorism isn't just something that radical Muslims do, people of all political stripes do so. The far left has a long history of political violence and terrorism and this is just the latest example. 

I also think that the mainstream media and the Democratic party has some responsibility here. The suspect was radicalized by the social media bubble he was in. He was a fan of leftist pundits like Rachel Madow and John Oliver and member of Facebook anti-GOP groups. I have no doubt that he never heard anyone that ever had anything good to say about Republicans.

The left has very openly suggested that it is ok to attack Republicans. Not all of them do but enough that it is making an impact. They have called Donald Trump and Republicans "literally Hitler" long enough that people actually started to believe it. They have encouraged violent groups, like Antifa and Black Lives Matter to attack Republicans. They have suggested that the election that resulted in President Trump was not legitimate and completely falsely implied that he was in collusion with the Russians, literally accusing him of treason. 

And they have even begun to suggest that assassination is an acceptable political tool. Remember, last week we were talking about how Kathy Griffin had held up a fake decapitated head of our President. Her defense was that she was the one under attack, unjustly, after pretending to assassinate the President of the United States. Plus there was the New York production of Julius Caesar that cast Trump as Caesar and then showed him being killed. Though I do respect free speech, it seemed that the message in all these cases was "it's ok to assassinate Republicans because Trump is mean". That's a message that I won't ever defend. 

Is it any wonder that someone caught up in this propaganda picked up a gun and tried to murder a bunch of Republicans? When you convince someone that one party is the party of evil, is it any surprise that they try to take action against them? When you pretend to assassinate Republican politicians, is it any surprise that anyone attempts it? 

For their part, the Democratic Party has denounced this attack. Bernie Sanders himself seemed fairly disgusted with this and many Democratic members of Congress joined the bipartisan condemnation. I think in some cases that condemnation is genuine, and in some cases it isn't. I won't speculate on who falls into which category but I will say that there are voices in the Democratic Party that wanted something like this to happen. Do I think they are responsible for this attack? Not directly, but I do think that the rhetoric probably contributed to Hodgkinson doing what he did. But I don't blame the entire party for this attack and I am happy that the powers that be are finally condemning violence. 

Does the right deserve any blame for this attack? I don't think so. Most of us on the right have been speaking out against political violence for quite some time. Indeed, that's one of the reasons I decided to openly support candidate Donald Trump. I was sick of the political violence targeting him and his supporters. We have very loudly condemned the actions of Black Lives Matter and Antifa and warned that the rhetoric coming out of the left could result in this kind of violence. 

Sure there are voices on the right that are unhinged. I don't really remember too many of them preaching violence though. We do have nutjobs like Richard Spencer, but I don't think even he has suggested violence, and if he has the fact that I haven't heard about it is evidence of the difference. On the right we don't have influential voices like Kathy Giffin or Madonna calling for violence. Everyone that has is already marginalized to the point of obscurity. 

There is a chance that this attack could reignite the gun control debate. It's too early to speculate how Hodgkinson got his weapons, but he probably passed his background check. Background checks don't do anything to stop mass shootings. Period. 

But I doubt the gun control movement will get any converts from this attack. Listening to the news today and the common theme from the GOP politicians is that they wish they had been armed. And you are never going to convince Republicans to give up their weapons when people on the left are shooting them. It just isn't going to happen. Hell, I'm worried that my handgun isn't enough to defend myself anymore and I am considering buying a rifle for self defense. I've publicly stated my support of the President and I think that I could be a target too. If so, I'd like to be prepared. 

I also have to point out that despite the fact that the gunman had a high powered rifle and the cops only had pistols, the only person to die in this attack was the shooter. It goes to show that just being armed with a gun doesn't mean that you will kill a bunch of people. The suspect was apparently a bad shot and might have been further handicapped by his old age. The well trained and heroic Capital Police officers were able to stop this attack with just pistols, showing the importance of training and expertise. 

I think this attack will be a turning point. The question is what kind of turning point it will be. On the one hand this might finally be the thing that stops the left from demonizing the right. People might finally realize that things have gotten too far and that they should distance themselves from the radical voices on the left. Pundits that are responsible for this radicalization could lose their jobs and people calling for violence will be loudly condemned. 

But I am not that hopeful. Indeed, I think things will just get worse. There will likely be more copycat attacks targeting Republicans. The pundits and blue checkmarks on Twitter will double down on their rhetoric and will be embolden, not humbled. Groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter will still have their views and actions tolerated. 

Why am I so pessimistic? Because we have seen this kind of thing before. We have had massive terrorist attacks caused by ISIS, including the Pulse nightclub shooting, and it did nothing to convince the left that radical Islam is a major problem. We had multiple attacks targeting police officers due to Black Lives Matter and nothing changed there either. And nothing will change of this attack as well. 

What I do fear is that we could be heading to a cycle of revenge. I fear more attacks from the left and possible retaliation attacks from the right. If that happens then it could be civil war. Folks, I shouldn't have to say that would be a horrible thing and it should be something that we avoid at all costs. I think people on the right and the left need to get together now and denounce political violence and those who support it. We don't have a choice anymore... 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

As ISIS's de facto capital of Raqqa comes under siege, the last stand for ISIS will likely be in Deir ez Zor

An ISIS photo of Raqqa. Via Washington Times

As ISIS's de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa, comes under seige, the final battle against ISIS will likely happen in Deir ez Zor. Washington Times. As US backed Kurdish and rebel forces have advanced to the gates of Raqqa, most of the ISIS leadership have fled to the contested city of Deir ez Zor and other cities and towns in the Euphrates river valley. The exodus began last may as it became clear that Raqqa would soon be under threat of being captured. US attempts to speed up the offensive to contain and destroy ISIS leadership failed due to tensions between the US and Turkey about arming Kurdish fighters. With Raqqa no longer the main ISIS base, it is now a race between the Syrian government and US allies to capture Deir ez Zor. 

My Comment:
A good article from the Washington Times detailing the current situation in Syria. They also talked about the high tensions between the United States and Iran in Syria. While it appears that both Russia and Syria are abiding by our deconflictation zone, it's very clear that the Iranians do not care at all. The Iranian backed militias are massing near Tanf, which was supposed to be where US backed forces would launch their attacks on Dier ez Zor.

That attack seems less and less likely every day now. Iranian forces are swarming the area and more will likely join after Mosul falls in Iraq. Though the idea of these former rebels taking up arms and defeating ISIS in Deir ez Zor was always a bit of a pipe dream, I seriously doubt that they will be able to advance towards Raqqa. Indeed, it almost looks like the Kurds are in better position to do so. The worry now is less about if they can advance, but if they can survive at all.  

The question of what to do with the rebels in al-Tanf is a serious one. It's pretty clear that the Iranians want them destroyed and that the Russians and Syrians can't control those militias. Our special forces deployed there are at risk from these militias and we have to wonder if it might not be a good idea to just evacuate everyone and admit that we aren't going to be able to use al-Tanf as a long term base. 

I also find the plans for attacking Dier ez Zor as rather pointless anyways. The Syrian government has had control of the airfield and parts of the city for quite some time and have never entirely lost their hold on the area. They have survived the siege their for years and it would make sense for the Syrian government to make the relief of those forces trapped their a number one priority. It makes much more sense for them to be the ones to lead the offensive. 

Unfortunately for the Syrians, they also have major problems. Their rear flank is still threatened by al-Nusra and the few surviving elements of the Free Syrian Army. Most of Idlib province is still under their control and there are a few rebels left in the Damascus area. Even if those pockets of resistance were dealt with, they still have quite a bit of territory to capture between Palmyra and Deir ez Zor. 

With zero hopes of a quick victory in Deir ez Zor for both the US backed southern rebels and the Syrian regime, is there any other force that can take the city? I think there are two other options. The first is the Kurds. Though the Kurds are fairly far away from Dier ez Zor as well, they have been advancing south quite a bit. I personally thought they never would have ventured as far south as Raqqa, but they have, so perhaps they will advance as far south as Deir ez Zor. Using them would further enrage the Turks but at this point that's more of a benefit than a downside. 

The problem with using the Kurds is that the battle plan rests on them capturing Raqqa fairly quickly. Though I have been surprised at how fast the Kurds have advanced to the gates of Raqqa, it seems foolish to claim, as many news outlets have been, that the battle will be over soon. They said the same thing about the battle of Mosul when it began... almost 9 months ago. It's true that Mosul is much bigger than Raqqa and that many fighters have abandoned Raqqa, but I doubt it will be a week long operation like some media outlets are claiming. 

The other force I could see taking Deir ez Zor are those very same Iranian backed militias that are blocking the US backed rebels. They will soon have the backing of hundreds or thousands of fresh troops from Iraq as Mosul falls. Though there are still wide swaths of territory left in Iraq besides Mosul, the main battles against ISIS will not be there. There is little reason for those militias to stay in Iraq after Mosul and I bet that they will throw themselves into the battle against ISIS in Syria. 

Of all the options possible in the final battle against ISIS, the Shiite militias are probably the worst choice. If they are the ones to liberate Deir ez Zor, expect a bloodbath. While it is somewhat understandable that the Iranian backed militias would want revenge after ISIS's genocidal campaign against Shia Muslims, there are, presumably, some innocent Sunnis left in areas controlled by ISIS. If the Shiite Militias are the ones to recapture those areas, don't bet on there being any left afterwards. 

The bigger question is what happens after ISIS loses its last major outposts in Syria and Iraq. Much of the leadership is likely to die, but I am guessing there will be thousands of fighters that will flee and escape to the wider world. Many of the foreign fighters will try to return to their home countries and cause chaos. The remaining Syrian and Iraqi members will likely go under ground and operate as a more traditional terrorist organization, awaiting the opportunity to take and hold territory again. 

They will have plenty of places outside of Syria and Iraq to go to. ISIS has several backup enclaves where they can flee. In Egypt, they control parts of the Sinai peninsula. They have a small enclave in Yemen. Though they have been greatly reduced in Libya and had their main base of power there destroyed, but they still have cells operating in the country. Afghanistan as well has a major ISIS enclave, despite US airstrikes against them. Most concerning, they have stepped up their presence in The Philippines, where the battle of Marawi City continues to rage. All of these places will likely accept fleeing fighters and perhaps even their leadership. 

Even with the destruction and liberation of ISIS's main holdings, they will not go quietly into the night. They will continue to fight, even as their leadership dies and their capabilities wane. They are a major threat and we can't just expect them to go away... 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Megyn Kelly is getting crucified for interviewing Alex Jones

Megyn Kelly. AP.

NBC and Megyn Kelly are facing a massive backlash for having famous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her new program. USA Today. Twitter users have bashed Kelly for "giving a platform" to Jones. Jones is famous for his conspiracy theories, including questioning 9/11, calling the Pulse nightclub shooting a "false flag" and saying that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered. However, most of the outrage was directed at the fact that Jones has stated that the Sandy Hook shooting was faked. Kelly defended the interview by saying that Jones is an important media figure and has a White House press pass and has had President Donald Trump on his program. 

My Comment:
This is fairly hilarious and a very good example on how much has changed in just a few years. I remember back when Sandy Hook happened and leftist supporters were always very happy to have Alex Jones on their shows. Back then I claimed that it was a deliberate attempt to make gun rights supporters look nuts and discredit any arguments for gun control. By booking a conspiracy theorist they implied that all gun rights supporters were like Jones and believed the same dumb things he does. The most notable of these programs was Piers Morgan. Jones went on his program and went nuts, famously claiming that "the solution to 1984 is 1776". I'd link to the video but it was on CNN and I won't support them. The video is easy enough to find though.

(As an aside, hilariously enough, both Jones and Morgan now publicly support President Trump.)

It seems as though the left can't even do that anymore. I don't believe for a second that the Megyn Kelly interview was nothing but a smear piece both on Alex Jones and Donald Trump. Though Alex Jones doesn't have all that much of a reputation to hurt, he is quite possibly the most eccentric and strange Donald Trump supporter and the fact that Trump at least tolerates him could potentially damage him.

Indeed, back when the "Deplorables" controversy happened I said that the only damaging thing about the image was not the fact that Pepe the Frog was there, but the fact that Alex Jones was. He is an extremely controversial person and he is certainly worthy of criticism. I personally am far more offended by his 9/11 conspiracy theories than anything else, but other people have different priorities. I can certainly understand why some people are outraged by him. I personally view him closer to the crazy uncle that spouts stupid things but has some strange charm, but he doesn't have much in the way of credibility.

I tend to agree with Megyn Kelly's argument. Alex Jones is certainly newsworthy and is someone that should be examined. He's got a huge audience and is a major influence in conservative thought. He was one of the few people that were all in with Donald Trump from the beginning and now his news organization, Infowars, has a press pass. I don't want to overstate his influence, but given how close the election was, I am not sure if Trump would be president if it wasn't for Alex Jones. All of these things mean that he is worthy of coverage.

So why is Kelly getting so much flack for this? Well I think it has a lot to do with the tit for tat outrage games that are currently going on. The left and right have been going after each other for years but now people are trying to hit each other where it hurts. The pocketbook. People have been going after advertisers whenever they do things that disagree with. These boycott campaigns started with Gamergate and have expanded to the mainstream.

Lately the right has been winning the outrage games, for at least the last couple of weeks. We have gotten rid of Kathy Griffin after she held up a decapitated head that resembled the president. We also went after admitted cannibal and former CNN host Reza Aslan after he called the president a "piece of shit" and got him fired from CNN. Finally, we have gotten some of the advertisers of a play of Julius Caesar that had someone resembling Trump murdered. I personally was disgusted by all of those things and I am not surprised that there was outrage, but it is surprising that the right has been able to pull this off. In the past we were always the victims of these attacks, and never the perpetrators.

The left needs some scalps now too and it doesn't seem to matter who's scalp it is. It doesn't matter that this report was likely to be biased against Jones and President Trump. It doesn't matter that Kelly was supposed to be the new NBC Golden Girl. It doesn't matter that Kelly hit Donald Trump very hard during the presidential campaign. All that matters is that by giving Jones even a hint of credibility makes her just as guilty as him in the eyes of the extreme left. By their logic, only someone on the right would give someone on the right a platform. By interviewing Jones, she's getting lumped in with the right.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I have to think it's fairly funny that the left turned on Megyn Kelly so quickly. She's hardly been on NBC at all and she is already facing all this backlash. It seems that her career would have done better if she had just supported Trump and stayed at Fox News. I personally dislike the fact that she tends to make her news stories all about her and not about the actual news. In short, I am not a fan and don't really feel sorry for her.

On the other, I do think that this cycle of outrage spirals and boycott movements is highly damaging. And I think that despite all the apt and fair criticism that Kelly deserves, interviewing Alex Jones is not one of them at all. I do think that people should be able to express themselves freely without worry of losing their jobs. I am, of course, worried that someday I'm going to be in Kelly's position. She didn't really do anything wrong here, other than being a typical MSM shill, and if it can happen for her for simply talking to someone with separate beliefs, it can happen to me as well...