The Crossroads of the West Gun Show

About a month ago I attended the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Arizona state fairgrounds in Phoenix as a guest of Bob Mattingly, Bob the Knife Guy, who is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Bob has been a knife sharpener as a sideline for many years. He is a cousin of the mother of my daughter-in-law.* We met at the Thanksgiving table of her parents four years ago.

He gave me his card and told me to look him up when I moved to Phoenix, so I did.

Bob set up a booth at the gun show. It’s not unusual for men with guns (almost always men) to also carry a knife. Some attending also know in advance that there are knife sharpeners at such events. There was actually a competing knife sharpener besides Bob at the event.

I’ve never held a gun in my hand, and I didn’t start at the gun show. I’m not a pacifist. Just that I feel safe enough as it is. If a robber entered my apartment, I would let him take what he wants. This is safer for me than brandishing a weapon.

I have no jewelry unless you count two vintage watches that are being offered on eBay for $500 each. We’ll see how long it is before they get sold and at what final price. I’m sure that a pawn broker wouldn’t give nearly eBay’s asking price if someone brought them in.

One watch I received at 16 for my confirmation (1967). I wore it until I started carrying a cell phone. As you know, the first display on a phone is the time and date. Very convenient. The second watch was my father’s which he got about a decade after I got mine. I don’t know what he wore before that. I just remember a metal link wristband.

What do I think about gun control? I don’t think that governments are going to be more successful at controlling the ownership and use of guns than they already are.

I advocate a public policy of gun safety. Let owners of guns carry mandatory liability insurance just like car drivers do. Only private insurance companies will know who owns guns. Not the government. Insurers then issue proof of insurance cards, just like they do for drivers, which gun toters have to produce to law enforcement officers and agencies. You own a gun, you insure it.

Insurance companies are likely to require that owners get safety lessons at authorized shooting ranges. Boy Scouts get safety lessons. See their information about safety lessons for shooting sports — which include archery and even BB gun shooting.

Just as failure to insure one’s car is a misdemeanor, so failure to insure a gun will be. This may remove some guns from crime ridden neighborhoods if officers can confiscate guns that are not insured, to be returned with proof of insurance.

But gun criminals don’t buy insurance.

Insurance is a state-by-state regulation, not federal. The insurance market controls premium rates based on actuarial tables of risk. Owners choose to pay up or relinquish their guns. How many gun owners will comply? Aye, there’s the rub.

  • the mother of my daughter-in-law — In Yiddish we have a single word for this relation, one for father and one for mother: m’ KHOO ten and m’ khoo TEN iss teh, respectively. They mean something like “marrieder.”

Islam in Afghanistan

The Taliban rulers in Afghanistan have introduced regulations that conform to Afghan custom of hundreds of years. Little is new in their rules.

Anthropologist Thomas Barfield describes the circular reasoning about Islam in the Afghan mind:

“[S]ince all true Afghans were devout Muslims then all their customs must be Islamic as well, otherwise they could not be good Muslims (which they were by definition). Anyone proposing to change tradition could therefore be accused of attacking Islam itself.”

He continues:

“In other Muslim countries there was debate over responding to the Western colonial challenge by changing old traditions and reforming Islam, but not in Afghanistan.”

Barfield was referring to Afghanistan in the late 1800s, but little has changed in the era of the Taliban.

Source: Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010)

Afghanistan is being terrorized by the Islamic State

October 15, 2021

As I posted previously (“Taliban finds new enemy“), the Taliban have a new enemy — the Islamic State.

The Islamic State is an international terrorist organization that plans attacks against the West and encourages local men around the world to also perpetrate attacks in the West. It also terrorizes local populations such as people in Afghanistan where it settled in to form a local branch.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan is known as the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP *; also Daesh after the Arabic acronym) where Khorasan is an archaic name for the region between today’s Iran and India. Their denomination of Islam is Salafist (Salafi) — a non-orthodox vision of returning to what adherents believe to be “true Islam.” This true Islam is that which was practiced by the desert Arabs of Mohammed’s time as Salafists imagine it. One feature of Mohammed’s Islam was jihad — a holy war to go out to conquer the world at the edge of a sword for Islam. People who they came across had the choice of becoming Muslims or being executed.

Today’s Islamic State Salafists regard the Taliban * as heretics since they won’t engage in a holy war against the Western world. The Taliban are only satisfied with ridding Afghanistan itself of Western armed forces and Western cultural influences. And suicide bombing is not the Taliban’s way of terrorizing Afghans into submitting to Islamic law — Sharia.

IS-KP took credit for recently bombing a packed mosque in the northern province of Kunduz. The ostensible reason for bombing the mosque was that the suicide bomber was a Uygher Muslim, saying that the attack targeted both Shias (Shiites) and the Taliban for their purported willingness to expel Uyghers to meet demands from China.* In addition, the worshipers in the mosque subscribed to the Shia belief system which differs from the belief system of the IS-KP, and IS-KP considers them heretics for their beliefs. The Muslims of Iran are Shias, as are many Iraqis. The other large belief system is Sunni. Both the Taliban and IS-KP are Sunnis. However, we see that subscribing to the Sunni belief system does not make IS-KP brethren with the Taliban.

The Taliban maintain that the Shias in Afghanistan are also loyal Afghans so they should be treated fairly. The idea that the Taliban have committed atrocities against Shias is probably an urban legend according to James Fergusson. See his Taliban: The Unknown Enemy (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2010). As a journalist, he covered the Taliban’s Afghanistan during the late 90s, and then he covered the allied war in Afghanistan during its first decade.

Journalist Samya Kullab from AP explains what the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) has against the Taliban in Afghanistan. See “Can the Taliban suppress the potent IS threat?” from October 12, 2021. However, he also subscribes to the probable myth of Taliban massacres of Shias.

Kullab also surmises that IS-KP’s “immediate aim is to destabilize the Taliban and shatter the group’s image as a guardian of security.” However, “… the Taliban have shown themselves capable of rooting out some IS [Islamic State] cells, using their vast local intelligence-gathering networks…. IS — unlike the Taliban during their insurgency — don’t have access to safe havens in Pakistan and Iran.” Furthermore, some or many of the IS-KP are foreign fighters who are not any more welcome in Afghanistan than the Western coalition forces were.

Whatever we say about the Taliban, I wish them well in defeating IS-KP.

● IS-KP — Some journalists and academics refer to them as “IS-K.” I’ve also seen journalistic reports that call these terrorists ISIS. I do not understand this since ISIS is an abbreviation for ‘Islamic State Iraq Syria’. IS-KP has reportedly received financial support from ISIS, though.

● IS-KP — For more online background about IS-KP see “Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K)” from the Center for Strategic & International Studies. This report is from 2018.

● Taliban – At times they refer to themselves as “mujahideen” — “those who are fighting for G-dly rule” of Afghanistan. The early mujahideen, some of whom were Taliban, fought against the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s. Today’s Taliban fought the Western coalition who were also seen as occupying Afghanistan. I gleaned that they call themselves mujahideen from a Frontline documentary “Taliban Takeover.”

● willingness to expel Uyghers … China – The mosque had no security so it was a soft target. Beyond this, IS-KP considers the Shia sect to be apostates rather than good Muslims. So perhaps this was why a Shia congregation was chosen for the attack. See “IS bomber kills 46 inside Afghan mosque, challenges Taliban” from AP.

● As I write this, another packed Shia mosque was attacked in Kandahar city killing and wounding a number of people. See “Suicide attack on Shiite mosque in Afghanistan kills 37.” AP is likely to update this article as more information comes in.

Taliban finds new enemy

October 7, 2021

Just as the Taliban got their wish that all troops of the United States and its allies would leave Afghanistan, they found themselves with a new enemy. The Islamic State has reared its head.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan is known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP *; also Daesh after the Arabic acronym) where Khorasan is an archaic name for the region between today’s Iran and India. They have found sanctuary in the Afghan province that is just north of the province centered on the city of Jalalabad. So, IS-KP’s refuge is not far north of a major city but in daunting, rugged mountains. Al-Qaeda has long had a base there although it does not get along with IS-KP. Actually, IS-KP and the Taliban regard each other as enemies too.

IS-KP has now turned loose suicide bombers against Afghan civilians. In contrast, the Taliban used suicide bombers sparingly and only against military targets, never civilians (except for one extremist network). In addition, the Taliban has no aspirations to engage in terrorist attacks abroad. Neither do they use social media to inspire foreign attacks initiated by locals as does IS-KP.

The most recent IS-KP bombing of civilians was only several days ago in Kabul. Their bomber set up road-side explosives outside a packed mosque. Several Afghans were killed and a number wounded when the bomb went off outside the mosque’s gate.
(Details vary in the reports that I’ve seen. See “Bomb at Kabul mosque kills 5 civilians, Taliban say” and “Taliban raid suspected IS hideout after bombing in capital” from AP; “Deadly explosion targets memorial service near Kabul mosque” from Al Jazeera.)

IS-KP’s previous attack in Kabul was on August 26th when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gates of Kabul International Airport where civilians who wanted to leave Afghanistan to escape Taliban rule had massed. Several American service members were killed as were 169 Afghans. The American service members don’t seem to have been the target. If they were, the bomber was indifferent to civilian lives.

While American forces were still in Afghanistan, they conducted drone strikes against IS-KP with intelligence from Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS). Without American support — drones and helicopters — the Taliban are left to slug it out with IS-KP on the ground. This reminds us of the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”

If things weren’t bad enough, IS-KP is allegedly getting support from elements in Pakistan’s military, the Pakistani army’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). According to Wikipedia as far as the Taliban is concerned, “The ISI and other parts of the Pakistan military … provided financial, logistical, military and direct combat support to the Taliban.… the ISI in conjunction with the military leadership has also provided some amount of support and refuge to al-Qaeda.” And now it looks like a replay with IS-KP.

(For more about Pakistani support for the Taliban, especially an extreme element, see “Inter-Services Intelligence activities in Afghanistan” from Wikipedia.

● IS-KP — I’ve also seen journalistic reports that call these terrorists ISIS. I do not understand this since ISIS is an abbreviation for ‘Islamic State Iraq Syria’. IS-KP has reportedly received financial support from ISIS, though.

● Books I’ve read on the subject:
Morgan, Wesley. 2021. The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. New York: Random House. The Pech Valley has been where IS-KP has settled displacing al-Qaeda.
Lamb, Christina. 2015. Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World. London: William Collins. Lamb documents how the ISI has collaborated with the Taliban from early times.

Hamas in Gaza gets what it wants

Hamas, the political arm of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, governs Gaza. They’ve engaged in a massive attack on Israel with rockets that reached population centers. They launched roughly 4,000 rockets, without guidance, for 11 days at Israel’s civilian population. Most were intercepted and destroyed in the air.

Hamas says that it wants Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, an end to the blockade of Gaza, a Palestinian state with its capital in Eastern Jerusalem, as well as a return of 1948’s refugees to Israel. But, this is only their rallying cry.

What Hamas and Islamic Jihad really want is fourfold: to terrorize Jews in Israel, to create martyrs, to get international attention and sympathy, and to cause international pressure to bear down on Israel. Each Gazan killed in Israeli air strikes is accorded a martyr’s funeral, and by their reckoning there are 248 dead — 248 fresh martyrs. (Let’s see if there are really 248 funerals.)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have also succeeded in terrorizing Jews in the south and in central Israel, the largest part of Israel’s population. Rockets even reached near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Foreign carriers ceased to fly into and out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, seriously interfering with the tourism industry.

Hamas has gotten international attention. The situation in Gaza has aroused the concern of the United Nations. Egypt and Qatar brokered a ceasefire. U.S. President Joe Biden mildly chastised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

By my reckoning, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have succeeded. They’ve achieved their goals. Israel can’t win. All Israel can do is bide time until the next attack and put up with sporadic rocket attacks that anywhere else would be considered acts of war.

Can Gazans be so irrational? They’re no closer to a Palestinian state than before — even farther away. Is terrorism really an effective tool to get Israel to withdraw from the West Bank? (Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and look at what they got in return.)

But, is it actually irrational to get what you really want?

So you’re planning to take a trip by plane

You’re vaccinated, and the CDC says that it’s safe for you to travel by plane when wearing a mask.

Vaccinated travelers should still avoid eating and drinking on planes, experts say. Robert M. Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, says that when passengers are allowed to take their masks off for meal services, his comfort with air travel goes away, as reported in The Washington Post.

I’m not comfortable either eating or drinking anywhere indoors. You simply have to take off your mask to eat and drink. But the advice from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is for vaccinated people to continue to wear masks indoors and to physically distance six feet.

I’ve been vaccinated, but no vaccine is fully effective. Experts agree, though, that vaccines also prevent serious cases of COVID in the off chance someone is exposed and succumbs. One reason that I wear a mask is to keep other people’s aerosol droplets out of my respiratory system. I’m insulating myself from such aerosols and doing my best to keep from becoming infected.

So no cup of hot tea with sugar on my next flight.

See: “Vaccinated travelers should still avoid eating and drinking on planes, experts say,” The Washington Post, Natalie B. Compton, April 16, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2021.

Bad religion according to Benjamin Franklin

Concerning religion and the state, American Founder and statesman Benjamin Franklin said:

“When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and G-d does not take care to support [it], so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

In Jon Meacham, American Gospel: G-d, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (New York: Random House, 2006) p. 60.

Franklin said it all. Now check out America’s denominations.

So the economy is recovering, or is it?

Perhaps your economy is improving. Maybe it’s as good or even better than before the pandemic. My economy didn’t change. I receive Social Security benefits and don’t pursue a paying job.

But, Politico reports:

The problem for many Americans isn’t getting a job, it’s getting enough hours at decent wages. Our topline numbers obscure that reality.

This doesn’t even look at how many people have given up looking for a job. This figure, if it’s even available (which it may not be), is rarely reported.

Then there is the housing crisis in the United States. Ten million tenants can’t make their rent payments, according to Moody’s Analytics.

So, you’re making your rent or mortgage payments. So am I. The so-called experts are talking about us when they claim that the economy is recovering. But tell that to millions of Americans who are not feeling any recovery.

Ted Cruz’s cheap confession: ‘Obviously a mistake’

The following two articles speak to how U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is out of touch with his constituents during a winter weather disaster. The articles speak for themselves. I’ve only written this post because the event happened just as I was posting the previous entry, “Cheap atonement“.

(Texas, among other states, is experiencing winter weather conditions that they’re not prepared for. Millions have been without power and large numbers have lost access to clean water.)

‘Obviously a mistake’: Cruz returns from Cancun after uproar,” AP, February 18, 2021.

Opinion: Ted Cruz wants to be a populist. But he can’t get it right.The Washington Post, February 20, 2021.

Right now, hot tea with sugar is impossible for millions of Texans.

Cheap atonement

Convicted criminals often apologize and say that they’re sorry. Politicians also get called out on some indiscretion and say that they’re sorry. Do you believe criminals and politicians? (A few politicians actually are criminals, too.)

Consider U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s apologized for ill-advised posts to social media from before she was elected to Congress. She was removed from her committee assignments because she expressed extremist views.

She says, “I’m sorry for saying all those things that are wrong and offensive, and I sincerely mean that.” Sincere?

Do you believe her? Like criminals, is she sorry for what she did or just sorry she got called out or is suffering unfortunate consequences?

(See The Washington Post for its reporting this story — “After losing committee assignments, Marjorie Taylor Greene says she has been ‘freed’ to push the GOP further right,”February 5, 2021.)

Then consider Neera Tanden. She’s a nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget in U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.

Tanden has maligned progressives in the Democratic Party on social media. “Ms. Tanden apologized for hurting anyone’s feelings and promised to take a radically different approach to communicating if confirmed as budget director,” according to The New York Times (“Neera Tanden Grilled Again Over Statements, This Time by Bernie Sanders,” February 10, 2021). She also deleted more than 1,000 posts to Twitter shortly after the November 2020 presidential election. “Ms. Tanden apologized to that committee and said she had deleted some of her tweets because she regretted her tone” (ibid.).

According to The Washington Post, Tanden said concerning her tweets, “I must have meant them, but I really regret them.” (“Republicans criticized a Biden nominee for her tweets. Democrats see a ‘whole new level of hypocrisy,’” February 10, 2021). Hah! Is this sincere or cheap regrets? She stands to gain by disavowing her previous approach to political speech, so …

Do you have to be a cynic to suspect that such apologies and disavowals by Representative Greene and nominee Tanden are insincere? I think not.