Airplane Downed in Ukraine

I’ll pop up from my week off the internets to open a thread on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was apparently shot down over the Eastern Ukraine today, possibly by Russian separatists. I’m not ruling out anything at this stage. We’ll have to see what comes out of this investigation. I’ll just note that I’m puzzled as to why the separatists would shoot down a passenger plane that was just passing 33,000 feet over their area. But given Putin’s attempts to blame the Ukraine for this, it’s looking bad for the separatists.

Stay tuned. This could go a lot deeper than we think.


Less Violence; More Hysteria

This weekend, a couple of anti-government nuts engaged in a murderous act of domestic terrorism, killing two cops and one civilian who attempted to stop them with his own weapon. They claimed the revolution had begun before killing themselves.

As is usual in these cases, the far Left is almost gleeful as they dig through the extremist politics of the killers. They are touting this as indicative of a huge surge in right-wing anti-government violence, supposedly caused by Sean Hannity and Fox News. Today, they are also touting a supposed surge in school violence since Sandy Hook. All of this is bent toward the ongoing effort to morally bully the American people into supporting gun control (and Democrats).

They are also full of it. Jesse Walker, who has written a book on conspiracy theorists:

As I’ve noted before when writing about the militia movement, violence on the far right often comes from hotheads who have been kicked out of the more mainstream militias. (Is “mainstream” the right word? It’s all relative, I suppose.) When actual organizations talk up non-defensive violence, they are often isolated and despised within the larger militia milieu. Yet these divisions are frequently missed in public discussions of the issue, which often lump all the “extremists” together—and, as a result, look in the wrong places for terrorist threats. Even when analysts argue that lone wolves acting on their own are a more likely source of violence than militias acting as groups, there’s a mistaken tendency to treat “radicalization” as the problem and to ignore all the cross-currents within a particular radical community. (J.M. Berger offers some strong arguments against that habit here.)

We are being shown a lot of footage of these two terrorists at the Cliven Bundy Ranch. What’s being ignored is that they were kicked off the ranch because Bundy and his supporters thought they were pushing a violent anti-government agenda instead of focusing on the issues at hand. And the Bundy supporters wanted no part of that.

One last thought: I see The Washington Post is already tentatively tying this to other “slayings…linked to hate movements.” So it’s wise to remember the sociologist Joel Best’s comment that “crime waves” often turn out to be “waves in media attention: they occur because the media, for whatever reason, fix upon some sort of crime, and publicize it.” Shortly after Obama’s election, a flood of stories suggested that right-wing violence was on the rise; a few years later, a study from the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point indicated that incidents of that sort actually declined in that period. So don’t assume that a new age of domestic terror is dawning. The Vegas killers seem to have believed they were the vanguard of an uprising, shouting “This is the start of a revolution!” before they opened fire. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they were wrong.

It bears repeating: violence is way down in our society. Gun killings are down 40% over the last twenty years. Gun assaults down 70%. Our cops are safer than they have been in over a century. School shootings are down, as well, to half the level they were in the 90′s. And no, mass shooting are not “rising” no matter how much Mother Jones tries to cherry-pick the data.

So why is there suddenly all this hysteria about “rising” gun violence? Several reasons. One, people are naturally prone to panics especially when goaded by a media that has no interest in objective reality. One thing you’ll notice about the school shooting map is that these occurs somewhat regularly but the media coverage tends to cluster whenever there is a high-profile shooting

Second, the biggest declines in violence have been in our inner cities and among minorities. This seems to matter less to our media and our commentariat than two vile people shooting up a Walmart.

Third, the current anti-government violence may pale in comparison to that of the past. But that past violence from the Left Wing. So our commentariat are more than happy to sweep it under the carpet to the point where the perpetrators can be … I dunno … friends of a future President. I recently read The Skies Belong To Us, a very good book about the “golden age of hijacking” in the 1970′s. What astounded me was how often even violent left-wing terrorists were hailed as heroes by left-wing media. I defy you to find any mainstream right-winger expressing admiration for right-wing terrorists.

But mostly it’s because these facts do not conform to the agenda. The agenda is that we are in danger, that we are under assault, that we could be shot when we step out of our door and it is all the fault of the evil Republicans, the evil NRA, the evil Fox News and the evil Rush Limbaugh. These are the villains who stand between us and “sensible gun control”. (Well, them and the vast majority of the American people, the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court as well as a body of research indicating that gun control does not curb violence).

Never mind that you’re safer today than you’ve been in fifty years. Never mind that today’s right-wing political terrorism is far less common, far less deadly and far less excused than the left-wing political terrorism of the 60′s and 70′s. Never mind that your child is safer in a school than they are just about anywhere else. You have to panic! Because cracking down on “right wing” groups and seizing guns is something will only happen if the American people take leave of their senses.

Kenya Under Attack

Holy crap:

Sixty-eight dead. At least 175 injured. About 30 hostages still inside, as well as perhaps a dozen gunmen.

Those are the grim numbers, more than a day after Islamist attackers stormed an upscale Nairobi mall on Saturday, spraying bullets and holding shoppers captive.

The tense standoff continued into Sunday night, with sporadic gunfire heard through the day and at least one explosion.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta told reporters Sunday afternoon the Kenyan people had showed resiliency as a nation and would triumph against the attackers.

The tragedy was also personal for Kenyatta; one of his nephews and his fiancee were among the dead.

I’ve been following the story since last night but haven’t found anything to say. This is the work of Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, and, according to reports, they sent all Muslims out before beginning the killing. So far, no Americans are among the dead but some were among the wounded.

Update: At least one American, the wife of a diplomat, is dead.

The Ongoing Threat

Thought I’d throw this out there. As you know, we are under a terror alert:

What started as an unprecedented move to close almost two dozen diplomatic posts for a day has broadened to week-long closures for most of them as the United States mulls the threat of a possible attack.

A trio of factors prompted officials to extend most of its embassy and consulate closures until Saturday: an intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives, the end of Ramadan, and concerns over several major prison breaks in the region.

Originally, officials decided to close 22 embassies and consulates this past Sunday — a day when they would normally be open for business.

But Sunday afternoon, the State Department extended embassy and consulate closures in 15 of the locations through Saturday, and added four other posts — all in Africa — to the list. This brings the total to 19.

There are two interpretations here. First is that the threat is genuine, or least the perception of a threat is genuine. After the disaster of Benghazi and the recent prison breaks that have released hundred of potential AQ operatives, it would be wise to take real threats seriously.

The second is that this is politics — an attempt to deflect criticism of the NSA scandal and Obama’s War on Terror polices in general. This is the interpretation that most Obama critics are taking.

Me? I think it’s likely that there’s some real information here. The significance and danger of it may be exaggerated, but I am dubious that this would be conjured up out of nothing. That having been said, I don’t like the closing of embassies for more than a week. An enhanced military presence could accomplish the same improvement in security without giving into fear.

Let’s hold breath and hope that nothing happens.

Beheading in the Streets

I’ve been tinkering with a post on yesterday’s cold-blooded murder and attempted beheading of a UK soldier by two Islamic men. But what is there to say? It was senseless, pointless, barbaric and brutal — everything we have to expect from Islamism. And while the video of these men speaking is horrific, I’m glad that people will get to see these men literally soaked in the blood of an infidel while they shout Islamic slogans. Maybe they’ll quit pretending Islamism isn’t savagery.