Terrorism 101

On September 12th, 2001, I attended work as usual at the offices of the National Rail Enquiry Service to find a note on my desk.  It was a badly photocopied memo with the heading of the British Transport Police, and in it the police admitted that they didn’t know where or when the next security threat was going to come from.  The previous day there had been several terrorist attacks in America, and the whole world was in shock.  What was going to happen next.

A few days later I received a phone-call from a man who claimed that an acquaintance of his had taken a gun onto a train.  I thought back to a previous time when Britain had been under threat from terrorism, and remembered that we had been old to keep the person talking as long as possible in the hope of getting some clues as to what was happening.  And so I talked for several minutes to this man, and when I had run out of things to say I put the phone down.  Moments later the police arrived to take evidence, and they said that they believed the call to be a hoax, specifically from a person known to them.

You see, no one knows where the next threat is going to come from; all one can do is do one’s best to deal with the situation.

By July of 2005 I had moved jobs and was working in the telecoms industry, taking calls from people who had problems with their broadband.  On July 7th, I woke to the news, and in due course switched my radio off.  The radio news at that time finished (and still does finish) at just after 9.00 in the morning.  Had the news programme continued in modern day 24 hour rolling news format I would have heard the breaking news of a terrorist attack in London.  Several hours later, I turned into work and was assigned to an emergency call centre dealing with railway customers who were trapped in London.  (The entire central transportation system was in lockdown until around five in the evening).  I received several hundred phone-calls that afternoon from people asking advice; most people I couldn’t help.  Information was very scarce, and it was constantly changing.

Sadly the callers from London were very well used to terrorism.  The IRA had attacked London on several occasions over the previous few decades.  Indeed, I myself walked past the Harrods car bomb hen on a school trip.  The people of London knew what to do in an emergency.  They invoked the spirit of the Blitz.

Moving on then…well actually, first of all I just wanted to say above that I have been touched (ever so slightly) by terrorism for most of my life. So, I have a passing acquaintance with some of the issues surrounding terrorism and war.

Moving on then, I’d like to talk about what has been happening this year.

I wont bother recounting to the nth degree what has been happening this year.  I’ll just give you a broad outline.  There have been several terrorist attacks in France, and in North Africa (where a former colleague was killed).  And simultaneously with this there has been an upsurge in the number of people fleeing the war in the middle east and seeking refuge in Europe.

This last Friday around eight people engaged in a terrorist attack in Paris that eventually killed over 100 people in a number of different places.  And there has been uproar from the racist far right.

There are a few things I should explain.

The far right have very similar political views to the “Islamic” terrorists currently taking up lots of airtime.  They hate equal marriage, for example, just like the ISIS terrorists.

They feed on fear.  They have said for a while that Europe shouldn’t accept refugees from Syria or other war torn areas, and they have said that if we do then Europe will be attacked by refugee infiltrators.

Most dangerous of all is that they are on “our” side.  And this is where we have problems.  You see, the far-right are happy to hit social media and spread their message of hatred, recruiting fellow travelers as they go.  But they don’t realise that the internet is available anywhere on the planet, and their outpourings of bile are acting as recruiting sergeants to extremist terrorists.

These people call Muslims animals, and call for all of them to be killed, because, after all, that’s what they want to do to us, right?  Er no, if they did then we would know about it.  Muslims make up a billion strong community of people.  ISIS?  Certainly less than a million.  And the far-right see no problem in saying that Muslim people operate in a death cult, and simultaneously call for them to be exterminated.

The plain fact of the matter is that we are fighting a war that must be won, and won’t be until everyone is onside.  At the moment young people have a choice between embracing “Western” civilisation, and turning to terrorism.  And who can blame them from joining the terrorists when they see people calling for them to be exterminated. It’s our job to offer a more attractive option.  And to act better than the terrorists.

Symbols

Here’s a symbol:

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It’s toilet roll printed with the American flag.  I may pick up some death threats for publishing this.

Here’s another symbol:

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If you go to this website, you will find that the company advertises Union Flag toilet paper for sale for “the person who has everything!”  The only way someone would die in this case would be if they laughed their heads off.  It’s considered a quirky, humorous gift.

Back to the American symbol, though.  Americans are very protective towards their flag.  People can get into trouble if they “desecrate” their nation’s symbol.

In this article, there is a cute picture of a baby wrapped in the American flag.  Sacrilege, according to some.

Patriotic hero Sarah Palin has even been accused of flag desecration.

So, in America, at least, it’s best to be careful in one’s use of America’s symbol, her flag.  But in Britain, I’m still chuckling away at that Union Flag bog roll…

In January of this year some criminals in Paris, France, used the desecration of another symbol, Muhammad, as an excuse to kill over a dozen people.  Don’t get me wrong here, that’s no excuse for killing, but at least we can learn from this that some people can get upset when their “own” “symbol” isn’t used appropriately.

So, where are we so far.  In America people can get upset if the American flag is misused, and in the Muslim world there are people who use “symbol misuse” as an excuse for violence.

What on earth, then were some far right Americans thinking of when they decided to hold a “Muhammad drawing competition”?

It ended in bloodshed.

Defenders of the “contest” assert that it was an expression of “free speech”.  They even invited to the event Geert Wilders, a far right European politician who is due in court at some stage on hate speech charges.  Because in America, everything goes.  Except wrapping American babies in the flag, of course.

Anyone fancy buying an American Flag themed doormat?  Only $21…

I’m still chuckling about that Union Flag toilet roll by the way…

Death Threats

This story is in today’s Guardian.  It deals with the subject of online death threats, or cyberbullying.  I’d like to share my response:

I periodically pick up death threats from people in America. The American police response is typically that death threats are an allowable free speech activity. Yes, I’m blaming the Americans, but for a point: America asserts to being a civilised, responsible country and so people from outside America who see death threats on social media think that they are an acceptable form of behaviour. It’s time that the world’s role model, grew up – or perhaps decided that they would no longer wish to assert to being a role model.

Proof: America IS a terrorist state

This week the world was shocked to hear of another plane crash that took the lives of over 100 people, this time in Europe.  (Incidentally, I’d just like to remind people at this stage that air travel remains safe).

Today, details from the cockpit voice recorders came out, and it would appear that the co-pilot deliberately flew the plane into the ground.  At this stage, we don’t know the reasons behind what happened but this hasn’t stopped speculation from the American far-right.

The American far-right (or at least those people commenting on Facebook) have decided that this is a “terrorist” act, simply on the basis that the pilot killed people other than himself.  Let’s think about this:

“A terrorist is a person who kills another person”.

Previously I have described that if you follow the “logic” of these American right wingers through, you end up with a situation where they are calling for all Americans to be exterminated.  According to their “logic”:

“People with the same background as terrorists should be exterminated”.

All this leads to the conclusion that America is a terrorist state because there is the 2nd Amendment which enables a lot of people to have the gear (guns) necessary to kill others, and millions of people support the Second Amendment.  Follow the right wingers “logic”, and it becomes necessary to eliminate both gun owners, and the people who support them.

(On top of this, of course there is the issue over American funding of terrorism, such as the CIA funding of the Taliban (the “grandparent” of ISIS), and the funding of the IRA by American citizens.)

All of this, and the hatred of Muslims that is apparent every time one goes on Facebook, creates a problem.  America is at this time in a half-hearted fight against a criminal organisation, ISIS, and every time someone from the American far-right comments online, airing their “thoughts”, it is quite possible to hear the celebrations from the middle east right here in England – simply by opening a window.  It’s possible to see quite regularly fights over ISISs name (IS, Islamic State, whatever) and there is certainly a problem with the use of the “T” word.  We really need to stop using the “T” word, but instead refer to ISIS actions as criminal behaviour since the “T” word only gives the criminals an increased status that they don’t deserve. (It did occur to me that the right wingers were attempting to devalue the word by using it for every possible action, but frankly, well…).  We also need to get a grip with our use of language, and our “thinking” processes.  Every time a right winger posts a “dumb” comment on Facebook, well that counts as a “win” to the criminals.

YES, gun control works.

During the past week two shootings have once again hit the world’s headlines.  Last weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, two people were killed in two separate incidents by the same man in what is believed to be an attack, yes motivated by religious hatred, but related to criminal, rather than terrorist, activity.

I’ll just stop there and explain that last bit.  I mean that the shooter is not believed to have been a member of, or directed by, a terrorist organisation such as ISIS.

Predictably the American right has been outraged.  The gun lobby has once again trotted out the old arguments about “where there’s a good guy with a gun” and “gun control only allows criminals to have guns”.

The other shooting of note happened when a shooter shot to death three members of the same family; purportedly over a car parking dispute.  Again, the shooter looks to have been motivated by religious hatred.  And again the shooter appears to have been motivated by criminal, rather than religious ends.

One might wonder why the American gun lobby isn’t outraged over that second incident.  Why is it that they aren’t calling for the population to be armed, for there to be a right to own weapons.  The reason is simple:  the second incident happened in America.

Denmark has a relatively small population of 5.6 million, and a low homicide rate.  In 2012 there were 47 homicides, a rate per hundred thousand head of population of 0.8.  In addition Denmark has tight gun control laws. My Danish is very poor, so I am relying on someone else’s research, but the general idea is that guns and their owners are registered on a government database – according to this article.

In spite of this the American right wing press is full of woe over how “dangerous” Denmark is.  Breitbart illustrates my point neatly, although they strangely don’t comment on why America being littered with guns has failed to stop the 13 000 or so homicides that occur there each year.

Over the past couple of years the world’s attention has been focused on gun crime in America, and the American right-wing’s refusal to accept that when you have more guns than people in a country it is inevitable that you will have more violence; more homicides. Recently someone asked on Twitter if gun control actually worked, and in spite of the evidence that fewer homicides occur in countries that exercise gun control he still managed to come up with another excuse. He pointed out that homicide levels were inevitably lower in countries with lower populations, and so of course America would have more homicides. It’s not more “guns = more homicides”, he claimed, it is “more people = more homicides”.

India

So let’s look at India. India has a population of 1.252 billion, or roughly 4 times that of America. According to the Indian government there were 34434 homicides in India in 2012. That makes a rate of homicide per hundred thousand of 2.75 – high, but nowhere near as high as America.

India has quite tight gun controls.  This article highlights the fact that there are only around 40 million guns in circulation.  It also comments that some people feel that the Indian gun control laws leave people defenceless.  In the article it is pointed out that there are around 5000 gun homicides a year in India – but when compared to a country with a smaller population such as America the evidence is clear. Most homicides in America are conducted with firearms, and even though American gun advocates would claim that free access to guns makes Americans safer, the evidence shows that Americans are in fact LESS safe.

In December 2014, following two violent incidents in Australia, I wrote this post. A gunman had taken hostage several people in a Sydney café – leading to several deaths – and a woman had killed 8 children in Cairns, Queensland.

In my blog, I invited people to look at some facts.  For ease, I’m just going to copy that section over:

Australia

In 1996 after a gun massacre in Tasmania the Australian government introduced tightened gun control rules.  Since then there have been NO mass shootings in Australia.

John Howard, the conservative Prime Minister who brought in the legislation thinks that the gun laws are a success. ‘“The gun laws that were brought in after Port Arthur massacre made Australia a safer place,” Howard said.’

In 2012 (hang on, when I come onto America I will post 2012s figures)  there were 297 homicides in Australia, with 1.3 victims per 100,000 population.

And in Queensland, before someone stupidly calls for “knife control” – there is.

America

In America, gun laws are a mess.

In America, there have been frequent mass shootings since 1996 – to cite just one, the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut a couple of years ago.

In America we know that there are a gazillion guns, no-one knows the precise figure since no records are kept.

In 2012 in America there were 14 173 homicides, a rate of 4.8 homicides per hundred thousand head of population.

Before I move on to the in Paris this month, I’d like to look at what happened in America since those events in Australia something like a month ago.  Since there are believed to be more guns than humans in America there has got to have been only a very few homicides, right?  After all, if we believe the propaganda of 2nd Amendment advocates there is always going to be a good guy with a gun to stop any nastiness – especially over Christmas?

2nd January 2015 – 6 year old child dead, and two injured in Montfort.

2nd January 2015 – 3 dead in Modesto.

4th January 2015 – 2 dead and 4 injured in Roanoke.

7th January 2015 – 2 dead in El Paso.

24th January 2015 – 3 dead in Omaha.

You get the idea…

France

So, in France there was a mass shooting where, at the close of the emergency almost two dozen were killed in 3 separate incidents.  And if one were to head over to Facebook then one would find exactly the same arguments laid out by the American right.  That there shouldn’t have been a gun ban in France (there wasn’t) and that guns are good.

Let’s look at some French statistics:

Here we go, I’m prepared to accept Sporting Shooter Magazine as a valid source, and according to that esteemed publication there is no gun ban in France:

“In September of 2013, the French adopted a four-category weapon classification model recommended by the EU, that is a great simplification of the previous eight-category model. This simplification has in itself been a matter for celebration by Frenchmen.

Category A covers military weapons such as tanks, bazookas and machine guns that are not available to the public.

As a system of ministerial permit/‘end-user certificate’, would cover military equipment purchases in transit, and if, god forbid, Germany or France’s oldest enemy England were ever to attempt another invasion, I doubt if the invaders would seek to register its guns in France first! So I can only assume this has been included to cover equipment that still may be lurking for 70 or so years in garages, basements and barns across France.

Category B is for Military Style Semi Automatics (MSSA) such as the Kalashnikov, M-16, handguns, etc. These items are heavily regulated and available only by special permit.

Category C covers sporting shotguns and rifles, including semi-automatics with a 3-5 shot capacity. These are quite easy to get for anyone obtaining a hunting or target shooting licence.

Category D is divided into two categories. Category 1 is for single-shot or double-barrelled shotguns, and black powder firearms. Again, one needs a hunting or target permit for this. Category 2 relates to pepper spray weapons, stun guns, air guns generating energy of 2-20 Joules and decommissioned firearms. One does not need a licence for these weapons, although one must be over 18 years of age. Air soft paintball markers are not regulated, as they fall below the 2-Joule energy category.”

I’ve copied the above over from their website, but feel free to take a look for yourself here.

And now let’s look at homicides, in a country that according to a typical American gun-nut needs more guns to keep crime under control:

In 2012 there were 665 homicides reported, according to this article. That makes slightly over 1 homicide per hundred thousand head of population.

So the 5 countries figures compared look like this:

Australia – 1.3 homicides per hundred thousand head of population

Denmark – 0.8 homicides per hundred thousand head of population

France – 1.0 homicides per hundred thousand head of population

India – 2.75 homicides per hundred thousand head of population

America – 4.8 homicides per hundred thousand head of population.

Conclusion

In spite of the rhetoric by Americas gun loving commentators there is no evidence that more guns = fewer homicides.  Quite the reverse: America is the only country on the globe with more guns than people, and the only “western” country with an obscenely high homicide rate.

Terrorist attacks

Some information regarding the number of terrorist attacks in America, France and the UK can be found here.

This is the little snippet that I would like to highlight:

Between 2004-2013, the UK suffered 400 terrorist attacks, mostly in Northern Ireland, and almost all of them were non-lethal. The US suffered 131 attacks, fewer than 20 of which were lethal. France suffered 47 attacks.

Postscript

Following the shooting in Copenhagen that left one Jewish person dead Bibi Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, called for a mass emigration of Jews from Europe to Israel, apparently over safety concerns.  Israel actually has quite a high homicide rate, certainly higher than that of France or Germany.  Israel has also recently relaxed gun controls a touch.

Israel – 1.8 homicides per hundred thousand head of population.

Why Fox ‘News’ are dumber than a bag of rocks

Fox ‘News’ have done some research (insider.foxnews.com/2015/02/14/report-govt-spends-14-times-more-green-energy-embassy-security ), and come up with the startling statistic that America spends 14 times more on green energy than it does on embassy security.

This has led to some ridiculous comments such as:

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Of course, Fox missed a trick here. Since spending on the military is a gazillion times more than spending on embassies they should have made that comparison instead.

Oh, and I see that Fox have promoted the Benghazi consulate  to the status of an embassy

Chapel Hill: Is Fox “News” culpable in the killing of three Americans?

On January 7th 2015 gunmen attacked the offices of a magazine in Paris, France and killed a total of 12 people.  In the days that followed more people died.

In America the far-right, led by TV station Fox “News” were outraged.  It appeared that these killings were motivated by religion, and the Christian right smelt blood.  In the weeks that followed Fox “News” narrative was that the Muslim community at large were the “enemy”.  A so-called expert on terrorism went on air, and claimed that there were no-go zones in Europe, and furthermore that the city of Birmingham, England, was 100% Muslim.  Within a week Fox News broadcast several apologies. Jeanine Pirro, the Fox “host” who originally allowed those comments unchallenged called for the mass murder of Muslims. She also suggested that people who kill Americans for “religious” reasons are terrorists.

Well, Fox may have gotten their first victims.

This past Tuesday, a man in Chapel Hill gunned down three Muslims in their own home.  We know few details at this stage except for the fact that the man posted messages indicating his hatred of religion on social media.  The “excuse” so far offered is that this was a dispute over parking.

Meanwhile, over on Fox News there is, relatively speaking, silence.  Bear in mind that Fox have called for the execution of a whole group of people.  Bear in mind that Pirro has rather stupidly called for people who kill Americans to be classed as terrorists.  Fox have gone silent.

A couple of points:

Nobody achieves peace by killing people.  That way lies a continuous round of retribution.  And the slaughter of unarmed Americans by criminals.  The rhetoric given out by Fox “News” cannot have helped one iota in this case, and it can’t help in dealing with the criminals in ISIS.

America’s gun culture urgently needs reform.  But, thanks to the American far-right and their mouthpiece, yup, Fox, the reform isn’t taking place.  The current situation is that the gun lobby assert that where there are bad guys with guns there will also be good guys.  Where were the “good guys” in this case?  And they assert that gun owners are law abiding, responsible people.  Taking out a good percentage of one family is responsible? Not in my book.

Postscript:

I got into an argument this morning over someone’s defence of the shooter in this case.  Her full post is here: https://ytcj2013.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/hatred-and-persecution/

But I think that her defence of the killer is this:

“Maybe if our government did something about the terrorism, Americans wouldn’t feel as if they have to take matters into their own hands…”

Do you agree?

Why Fox ‘News’ is dangerous – part 4,867,956 of a growing series…

I have my WordPress app set to deliver me any blog that mentions Fox News, and last night it filled my screen with just one story – this one:

http://menchcrew.com/2015/01/31/naughty-girls-get-raped-according-to-stacey-dash/

http://wiznation.com/2042932/stacey-dash-thinks-naughty-girls-get-raped-were-like-please-shut-your-gorgeous-mouth-video/

And so on…you get the idea.

So, I want to pick apart what she said:

“I just think it’s ridiculous, and I think that for the girls, it’s a good thing, for the good girls–or women–to be told stay home. Be safe. The other bad girls–bad women–or the ones who like to be naughty, might go out and play. And get hurt. But then the other thing about this is that it [they] then blame it on the alcohol instead of the person who over-drinks. So it’s like the same thing with guns. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Alcohol doesn’t get you drunk. You get yourself drunk.”

The other bad girls–bad women–or the ones who like to be naughty, might go out and play.  And get hurt.

Really?  It’s because women are ‘bad’ that they get raped?

It get’s a little worse:

But then the other thing about this is that it [they] then blame it on the alcohol instead of the person who over-drinks.

So the blame is a sometimes laid on the presence of drink now.  Well. it’s a thought. and a better one than ‘thought’ 1.  This article discuses the subject of the use of alcohol as a date rape drug, and half way down it says this:

People don’t get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there — someone who wants to take advantage of them.”

And a piece of personal testimony: I’ve experienced every sector of the drink “craze” – from being teetotal to winding up in hospital with three quarters of a bottle of scotch in me.  And the presence of alcohol has never fooled me into raping someone.

Then she loses it with the usual spurious gun argument:

So it’s like the same thing with guns. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Ok, I’m not going to come out with statistics here, just a broad idea:

I’m currently sitting in one of the biggest buildings in my city, along with hundreds of other people, and I guarantee that there are no guns in the building.  The risk of being shot then is zero.  You can’t shoot someone with a gun you don’t have.

Suppose someone walks in off the street with a gun. The risk of being shot has suddenly gone up – because it is possible to shoot someone with a gun that you do have. The change has taken place; not because the person has walked in off the street but because there is now a gun in the building.  So guns do indeed kill people.

Dash’s gun argument is spurious and nonsensical.

For anyone who has never encountered Dash  – here is her Wiki.

American gun culture

Here’s a link for you:
http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30912656

So,  first things first.  This is a company that sells objects whose sole purpose is to KILL.

This company has taken offence because Neeson has highlighted the fact that kids are regularly and routinely killed with guns in America.  The company draws attention to the 2nd Amendment and ‘cultural ignorance’.  Pardon me?   Highlighting the regular slaughters that take place in America constitutes an attack on America’s culture?  Since when has it been a part of American culture to kill kids?

The plain fact of the matter is that this company is embarrassed that Neeson has highlighted a problem that is unique to America: the fact that tens of thousands of Americans are killed each year with guns – you know,  those things that this company makes its money out of.  The fact as I have repeated endlessly over the past couple of years is that there is no evidence that more guns = less gun deaths.  Quite the reverse.

Is the American far-right and it’s mouthpiece Fox “News” the biggest threat to global security today?

A week ago this very day three gunmen went on the rampage in Paris, France, and killed a dozen people.  I would like to leave a discussion of that, and it’s aftermath in Europe for another day.  Today, I’d like to discuss the response from America.

The response, particularly from the far right, to an attack on civilisation was itself as uncivilised as it could get.  Within hours commentators in America were calling for the extermination of and entire people.  In another post, I reminded the world that there had also been a terrorist attack in America at the offices of the NAACP, and that if the far-right were consistent in their “thinking” they would be calling for every American in the world to be exterminated.  On a personal level, I received a death threat from someone who wished to assert that America was more “civilised” that the Islamic world.  And then there were the miss-informed people who could have done with educating before they were allowed online.  People who asked in all seriousness what Islam had ever brought us that was good.  People with selective memories about America’s own past.  And the plain stupid.

By, I think Sunday, the far-right and Fox News had whipped up the rhetoric to such an extent that the US State Department were warning people to be careful  out there in the big wide world.  And the far right carried on.  A fool went on Fox “News” and stated as a fact that Birmingham, England, was 100% Muslim – and people who knew how to Google (it’s a continuing fascination for me, and a puzzle that someone could answer if they would be so kind: is Google blocked in America?) laughed in derision.

So, we have a whole load of incredibly stupid, right wing Americans poking a basket containing a few hundred criminals.  Are these people trying to provoke a reaction?  I believe that they are.  I believe that the world will never be at peace while these stupid American thugs are allowed free access to the internet.  The criminals are only human, and if you poke them long enough and hard enough they will react.