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Jane’s Publicizes Isis Alumni

I found a video by the British private intelligence firm Jane’s on YouTube discussing ISIS titled “Islamic State Decline: European Terrorism Outlook”; If I didn’t know better I might think that the video was promoting the skills and expertise of former members of Isis to the recruiting officers of other Jihadi groups with European branches, but that would be silly.

I know Jane’s Information Group ( as the company that publishes guide books on military equipment. They’ve been doing it for years, and are considered to be an authority on the subject; I recall reading about how Soviet military officers valued these books as they did not trust what they were officially told about the capabilities of their issued equipment, which tended to include more propaganda than reliable facts.

These days Jane’s does more than just publish the guides, being essentially a private intelligence firm, but I don’t know who their customers are. I would guess that their customer list would include some national governments, assuming that they are not a creation of the UK government itself. I’m certain they have some sort of relationship with said government, if for no reason other than patriotism. They do have a YouTube channel, which I only just discovered. The first few videos of theirs I saw were interviews with weapon manufacturing reps concerning their companies newest offerings, which affected my state of mind while watching the video about Isis. I point this out to show the state of mind I was in when I watched the Isis video.

Here is a transcription of a section from 2:09 to 4:18, which was the part of the video that I found most interesting. Sorry about the length, but I wanted to put it down in case the video was taken down. I don’t expect that to happen. I haven’t found any other comments about this video, and at this writing I have an audience of 5. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be careful as a video can be removed for any number of reasons.

It starts with the printed question “How will the return of foreign fighter to Europe impact the terrorism threat?” Then a man comes on and says the following (the punctuation is mine);

Its thought that around 5000 European foreign fighters have joined the Islamic State since its inception, but now that the group’s governance project is beginning to falter there’s a high risk that at least a portion of these foreign fighters will seek to return back home. Statistical analysis on historical data suggests that if half of these foreign fighters do return only one in nine will actually present a significant threat which leaves us with the estimate number of around 270 individuals returning with the intention to prepare and to execute for future attacks. Some of these individuals are likely to be on the radar of security services. However, there are also likely to be cases in which individuals do succeed in returning back undetected, perhaps by taking a convoluted route, changing identity on the way. We have seen recent examples of that. Those who do succeed and returning back without being detected intent on engaging in domestic terrorism would likely seek to embed themselves in existing Islamist militant cells and with their connections with their expertise and with their skills they will also increase the capability substantially of these cells for instance militants who have spent significant amount of time on the battlefield will have high levels of planning and operational expertise they can also there also be capable of transferring knowledge on for instance security awareness or indeed the construction of reliable improvised explosive devices to other members of the cell consequently these cells would likely attempt more sophisticated high profile attacks and there be more likely to succeed in doing so it’s no coincidence that the only coordinated multi-site attacks we’ve witnessed in Europe over the past years namely the Paris attacks in November 2015 and the March 2016 Brussels were conducted by cells including returning foreign fighters.

It sounds innocent enough on first hearing it, but look over the words again. Watch a few of the videos from weapons manufacturers talking about their products. Here is a link to Jane’s YouTube channel; They have playlists from a number of different industry shows and expositions. Go and listen to industry representatives up-selling their companies products. Get a feel for the sort of language being used by these reps, or by the editor from Jane’s who narrates a number of these videos. Compare this language to the language used in the Isis video. The British gentleman, who is an editor from Jane’s, is also good, but for this its better to listen to the company rep’s themselves.

Now go back to the above section and listen to how the narrator describes returning fighters, starting at the 3:03 mark. While you are listening pretend that you are either a European jihadi, or even better, the leader or recruiter for a groups of jihadis.

“… militants who have spent significant amount of time on the battlefield will have high levels of planning and operational expertise they can also there also be capable of transferring knowledge on for instance security awareness or indeed the construction of reliable improvised explosive devices to other members of the cell consequently these cells would likely attempt more sophisticated high profile attacks …”

Don’t these sound like the sort of men you’d want to have a chat with if you were one of those militant leaders or recruiters? Those are just the sorts of skills and abilities that your group would need to be the next big thing, sign those boy up today. The video then points out;

“… it’s no coincidence that the only coordinated multi-site attacks we’ve witnessed in Europe over the past years namely the Paris attacks in November 2015 and the March 2016 Brussels were conducted by cells including returning foreign fighters.”

If you don’t buy this product, pick up these guys, you’re not going to be one of the important groups. Only groups with these men in them are going to be important and successful jihadis. That’s what the video seems to be saying at least. Its the same sort of talk the weapons sales reps use when they talk about their products, only to a slightly different audience.

That’s some high quality bullshit there, but its the same sort of BS that the weapons reps tend to say, if using somewhat less technical language. I spent a year as a soldier with the US Army in Iraq, and by the logic of the above statement I should have “high levels of planning and operational experience.” I drove and operated a fuel truck in Iraq, and spent none of my time planning missions. That’s not a skill set I possess. That is what officers do, not enlisted support soldiers. I see no reason why the average fighter for a group such as Isis is more likely than the average soldier to have officer grade leadership skills, much less the knowledge and ability to create reliable improvised explosive devices. Bomb making is a specialist’s trade, and one with a rather dangerous learning curve that is unforgiving of mistakes.

I also wondered about the following line; “However, there are also likely to be cases in which individuals do succeed in returning back undetected, perhaps by taking a convoluted route, changing identity on the way. We have seen recent examples of that.” Which is to say that they’ve detected a number of people returning undetected. I wonder how that works. What does an invisible man look like?


“Poles and Jews …”

I just noticed an odd statement from the Polish Prime Minister that caught my attention. Poland just made it illegal to suggest that they had any part in the Holocaust, which lawmakers there claim was entirely Germany’s fault.

“Death and suffering in German Nazi concentration camps were a shared experience of Jews, Poles and many other nations,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, adding that Poland would never limit debate about the Holocaust.

If you look at that statement it seems that Moranwiecki is implying that Jews and Poles are separate categories, that Polish Jews killed in the death camps were no really Polish. He says that it was a “shared experience of Jews, Poles and many other nations.” Imagine if an American official were to make a comment that that an event was a shared experience of “Americans and blacks”, or “Americans and Hispanics”, or comparing American citizens and any other ethnic or political group. What sort of reaction would that get from people here?

I also like that bit at the end, that Poland won’t limit debate about the holocaust, said in reference to a law that makes taking a specific position in that debate a punishable offense.

Did you know …

I’ve been getting this “helpful comment” every fifteen seconds or so since I got here today.

“Did you know? Sites on the Premium and Business plans can add payment buttons — sell tickets, collect donations, accept tips, and more.”

I guess WordPress is getting desperate for money or something. I know its a free service and all (at least at the lower use levels, such as I am using), but this is a bit of a nag. Yes, after the fifth time I saw that in ten minutes, yes I know.

Hey WordPress, did you know that nagging is not appreciated? Did you know that the more you bother me with something the less inclined I am to have further business dealings with you?

I haven’t been publishing enough to warrant paying for the fancy features, especially since you only sell subscriptions in 1 year chunks; you may have a per month rate, but since you bill yearly that only makes the monthly rate a way to make the fees look smaller. Make it so that I can bill monthly and I’d be more likely to consider it.


Thank You For Your Service (let me show you the door)

I hear the first part of that a lot in public when I mention that I’m a vet, more so when I mention that I’m a disabled vet. Mostly this comes about in casual conversation after I’m asked “what do you do for a living” and I have to admit that I don’t work, haven’t worked for a long time. My last paying job was working for McDonald’s in El Paso in 2010. Between 2010 and 2012 I went to UTEP, mostly to get the living stipend that came along with the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, the one that paid my school bills.

I hear the second part when I ask for a job somewhere. So yeah, thanks for serving, but no we don’t want to hire you. Its nice to know how valuable you are. In my case I guess the people I meet are happy that I was willing to do what they were not, but not so much that they might actually have to deal with me on a regular basis. I guess that gratitude only goes so far, in this case right up to the point where it might cost something. Words are cheap.

The pattern goes like this. I apply for a job. I meet a manager, have an informal interview, which goes great. I return a few days latter as instructed and get told, with the dirtiest look possible, that no I will not be hired. No explanation ever given for why.

The VA has a status called “unemployability”, which means that a disable vet is paid the 100 percent rate even if they are not 100 percent disabled. The fact that I have not been able to get a job does not, for some reason, put me into this category.


Left Handed Computing

I had forgotten why I dislike the computer version of Skyrim until I installed it on my newest computer. I’m left handed. I use my mouse with right handed button settings, but Skyrim isn’t having any of that. Sure, the buttons are changeable, but whenever I go into the menu’s the program reverts my mouse’s settings to being right handed, never mind the fact that even Windows lets me decide. I could just use the right handed settings, but then I’d have to rethink my computer use when I left the program. I could just retrain myself to be right handed and conform to the … but that isn’t going to happen. I’m not changing how I think just to use one program.

This sort of thing messes with my head, having to remember when the keys work one way, and when they work another. Now I select with my pointer finger, now I use my middle finger. Using a computer is supposed to become intuitive after practice, and with this sort of unthinking programming it isn’t, and can’t be. Why did they do this? Having to spend this much thought on the controls distracts from my gaming experience, kills my suspension of disbelief and forces me to split my concentration between the game and the controls.

For that matter, why don’t computer games come with a standard left handed key set up. The standard set up that every game I ever seen comes with works poorly at best if you’re lefty. Skyrim, for instance, has you direct your character’s point of view with your mouse – presumably set to the right of your keyboard – with most of the other keys set up on its left side. My choice is to either use the keys as they are, that is with both my hands hovering awkwardly hunched over the left of the keyboard Quasimodo like. Or to reprogram the keyboard every time I want to use a new program. I play games when I’m tired, and this sort of lack of consideration on the part of game programmers is frustrating.

Some ten percent of the general population is thought to be left handed, and I’ve always thought that among gamers and computer enthusiasts the number is higher, yet for some reason computers and games are almost universally designed with a right handed bias. Try holding a “ergonomic” gaming mouse with your left hand some time. Not very comfortable, is it? I’ve heard rumors of such a beast existing, but I’ve never seen one, just as I’ve never seen big foot. One tech I talked to said he had seen one, which was over priced and poorly made.

If you think I’m making a big deal out of noting much remember that lefties used to be beaten in most schools for writing left handed, much as Native kids were for speaking their native languages. At least we weren’t taken from our families while they did this. Forcing lefties to live right handed caused  psychological damage in many cases, and to this day many of us are sensitive about this sort of thing. In my case make that temperamental.

It might not seem like a big deal, but this is the sort of “do it my way or the highway” thinking endemic in older models of business thinking. It’s a mentality that tells customers to take what they’re given, grateful to be allowed to buy a product at all, and expects them to be happy for the privilege.

Do you remember how PC’s were once called simply IBM computers? Back in the day the main options were to buy an IBM or an Apple. When Compaq introduced the 486 processor it stole the show for smaller manufacturers and changed the market forever. IBM had thought it continue selling 286 processors with its computers. They though their customers would be satisfied with what IBM decided to sell them. The customers bought Compaqs. IBM never did recapture its market share.


The CIA Will Not Obey Future Presidential Orders to Torture

Washington (AP) — The director of the CIA says his spy agency will not engage in waterboarding or other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques even if ordered to by a future president.

CIA chief John Brennan tells NBC News that he will not agree to carry out such techniques because “this institution needs to endure.”

(I pulled this quote from; go there for the rest of the article. Also, Brennan is now the former director of the CIA.)

The practical side of this is that torture doesn’t seem to be all that effective, and does not give its practitioners more information than less repugnant interrogation methods would. Most of the information I’ve seen of torture since 9-11 shows that it doesn’t work. There are some who claim otherwise, but none that I would consider credible. Trump thinks it works just fine, and says he plans to order the practice reinstated if he is voted into office. Since I think the he’s an idiot of the first order with all the common sense and leadership skills of a stunned squirrel on speed, his statements only should be seen as more proof. Torture doesn’t work.

The political side is that the folks at the CIA don’t want to be thrown under the bus again. After 9-11 they were ordered to play dirty and do whatever it took to keep America safe and to hunt down our enemies, specifically the ones thought responsible for the attacks. Once things calmed down again, as was inevitable, some of us started to rethink a few things, the use of torture included.

Who took the rap for that one? Was it the political types who had given the orders? Nope, most of the blame has been with the CIA and military personnel who carried out these orders. And by military personnel I mean low ranking troops, otherwise known as scapegoats. The General who was blamed for the crimes at the Abu Ghraib military prison was likely thrown out as a sacrifice. A soldier I knew who had worked for Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told me that the general had been the target of harassment and abuse from her peers. My friend seemed to think that this abuse was because the general was a woman. Two colonels were relieved of command, but most of the folks who got actual jail time were enlisted personnel, sergeants and specialists.

The politicians who ordered and sanctioned the abuse of prisoners didn’t get any jail time. I should add that generals and admirals are often among the political class, and that their jobs come with a strong political component.


An Armed Society is a Polite Society

That’s something said by the pro gun crown, and to some extent it might be true in some areas. It assumes that manners are derived from a fear that if you trespass on your neighbors they’ll shoot you, and I’m not sure that fear is the best basis for ethics and ethical behavior. I prefer to behave politely towards other people because I think they are worthy of my consideration; their needs are as important to them as mine are to me. Purely selfish behavior is not good for any society as a whole, or to its members. I find it superior than to use fear to avoid harm, as this is a form of violence towards the other that will invite a violent response.