Links for 8-16-2017

Links for 8-13-2017

  • Two American soldiers were killed and five were injured in northern Iraq. The Department of Defense isn’t saying much about how it happened.

  • An American airstrike in Afghanistan killed several ISIS leaders, including one of their provincial emirs, Abdul Rahman.

  • The battle of Charlottesville started Friday night, when police failed to separate white nationalists and antifa groups near the statue of Robert E. Lee that Charlottesville is removing from a park (formerly “Lee Park,” now “Emancipation Park”). The resulting brawl carried over into Saturday, when an antifa-type punched a female reporter for The Hill in the face as she was covering the car attack that killed Heather Heyer. Ben Shapiro wrote an excellent list of things to know about the Charlottesville violence, including: “The Alt-Right Has Been Tut-Tutted By President Trump And His Advisors For Over A Year. Yesterday Was Nothing New.” The other side of the political aisle isn’t covering itself in glory, either, as Virginia Governor Terry McAullife refused to condemn violence by antifa as well as the white nationalists. Rod Dreher makes a good argument that as long as the political left continues to pursue identity politics, they’re going to draw a white nationalist response, and the two will reinforce one another to everyone’s detriment:

    When the Left indulges in rhetoric that demonizes whites — especially white males — it summons the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left punishes white males who violate its own delicate speech taboos, while tolerating the same kind of rhetoric on its own side, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left obsesses over ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities, but ignores the plight of poor and working-class whites, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left institutionalizes demonization of white males in college classes, in political movements, in the media and elsewhere, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left attributes moral status, and moral goodness, to persons based on their race, their sex, their sexual orientation, or any such thing, it summons up the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left refuses to condemn the violent antifa protesters, and treats their behavior as no big deal, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left refuses to stand firm against aggressive manifestations of illiberalism — like we have seen over the past several years on certain college campuses — it summons the demons of white nationalism.

    When the Left encourages within its ranks identification as a victim, and stirs up political passions based on perception that one is a victim of other groups in society, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

  • A suicide bomber killed at least 15 people in a market in Quetta, Pakistan. ISIS claimed responsibility, saying a bomber on a motorcycle attacked a military vehicle.

  • A former al Shabaab leader, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, defected to Somalia’s government. Al Shabbab has been trying to kill or capture him since he left the group in 2013.

  • Chinese companies are increasingly using North Korean labor to manufacture clothes labeled, “Made in China.” As you’d expect, labor in North Korea is cheaper than in China.

    Its flourishing textiles industry shows how impoverished North Korea has adapted, with a limited embrace of market reforms, to sanctions since 2006 when it first tested a nuclear device. The industry also shows the extent to which North Korea relies on China as an economic lifeline, even as U.S. President Donald Trump piles pressure on Beijing to do more to rein in its neighbor’s weapons programmes.

    Chinese exports to North Korea rose almost 30 percent to $1.67 billion in the first half of the year, largely driven by textile materials and other traditional labour-intensive goods not included on the United Nations embargo list, Chinese customs spokesman Huang Songping told reporters.

    Chinese suppliers send fabrics and other raw materials required for manufacturing clothing to North Korean factories across the border where garments are assembled and exported.

Links for 8-5-2017

Links for 8-4-2017

  • The Department of Defense released the names of the two U.S. Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday: Specialist Christopher Harris of Jackson Springs, NC and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter of Columbus, IN.

  • American troops are on the ground in Yemen helping soldiers from the UAE and Yemen’s government push al Qaeda out of a stronghold.

  • Tom Nichols writes that we shouldn’t be happy to see so many generals on the White House staff:

    Rather, the problem is that the public’s eagerness to see a general impose order on the White House—with the president’s blessing, no less—represents a potentially dangerous bargain that at least some Americans seem willing to forge with serving and retired members of the U.S. military: we will accept dysfunction in the Oval Office, it seems, so long as there are enough generals ensconced around it as insurance against disaster.

    This is a complete reversal of long-lasting and stable traditions of American civil-military relations. The United States has a civilian commander in chief in order to provide a civilian check on the power of the military, not the other way around. To hope that Kelly and H.R. McMaster in the White House, and Gen. James Mattis at the Pentagon, will somehow restrain the president’s erratic impulses is a terrible development in our history, not because these are not fine men, but because too much reliance on them corrodes a key principle of the American constitutional order.

  • Former members of the National Security Council are trash-talking H.R. McMaster, claiming that McMaster holds views opposite Donald Trump’s on Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and China.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice is stepping up its investigations of the Trump administration’s many leaks, and that it charged four people with leaking classified information.

  • The U.S. drafted a U.N. resolution that would cut North Korea’s exports by a third. North Korea earns $3 billion a year by exporting coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood.

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that the State Department is not removing the term “genocide” from its characterization of ISIS’ actions in Iraq and Syria, but members of Congress are unhappy about the Trump administration’s failure to spend appropriated money to help Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq.

  • A Public Policy Polling survey puts Senator Jeff Flake’s job approval rating in Arizona at 18%.

  • Toyota and Mazda plan to spend $1.6 billion building a factory in the U.S. They’re also planning to cooperate on electric car development. As part of the deal Toyota and Mazda are taking (relatively small) stakes in each other’s business.

  • Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty to cheating on diesel emissions tests. He faces up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $400,000.

  • In Los Angeles County, California there are 144 registered voters for every 100 citizens of voting age.

  • The U.S. military used to be a big advocate for Turkey, but no more:

    There are many problems in bilateral ties, from U.S. cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish YPG, to the Turkish decision to buy Russian weapons systems, to the increasing anti-American, anti-European, and anti-Western rhetoric coming out of Turkey. And this rhetoric should not be ignored because it has been going on for the last 15 years, and it has started to go mainstream because it is being supported by government officials and pro-government media. According to the most recent Pew Center report, whereas other countries are worried about ISIS, global warming, refugee flows, cyberattacks, and economic collapse as key global threats, uniquely among all nations, Turks view the U.S. as a major global threat. No other country polls like Turkey, and this is not accidental – it is linked to anti-Americanism that the AKP has been feeding to its own people since its rise in 2002, as well as issues in bilateral ties. These anti-American sentiments are now quite mainstream in Turkey. That should concern the U.S., and Secretary Mattis is aware of it.

    Later:

    I would say that the people who have the most negative views of Turkey in Washington are, unfortunately, in the U.S. military as a result of a series of events, all of which took place under Erdogan’s watch. Turkey’s refusal to join the Iraq war in 2003, the collapse of Turkish-Israeli ties, the Turkish decision to buy Chinese air defense systems (although they backed down on that), Turkey’s recent decision now to buy Russian missiles, and Turkey’s lax policy in allowing radicals to cross into Syria in an effort to undermine Assad, all of these factors have hurt the relationship. And of course, from the Turkish perspective, the U.S. reticence to fully support Turkey against the Kurdish PKK group over the last decade – as well as the U.S. decision to fully support the Kurdish YPG against ISIS in Syria – has really soured the relationship.

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit tossed the first degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater employee who fired on unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad in 2007, killing 14 people. The court also ordered resentencings for three other former Blackwater employees who were convicted in the same case.

  • Nolan Peterson writes that supplying American weapons to Ukraine would be a huge morale boost for Ukraine’s army.

  • Last month the Australian Federal Police disrupted an ISIS plot to plant a bomb on an airliner. Four people were arrested. They were working at the direction of ISIS operatives in Syria, who mailed them bomb components.

  • Javier El-Hage describes what’s likely to happen with Venezuela’s new constituent assembly, which met for the first time today:

    It is likely that the new assembly, which includes Maduro’s wife as well as Diosdado Cabello (widely considered the No. 2 man, behind Maduro, of chavismo), will attempt to write a constitution like the one the Castro regime imposed on the Cuban people in 1976, putting all branches of government under the control of one party. The new constitution will also likely enumerate rights and liberties, even as it includes a provision similar to the one in Article 62 of the Cuban constitution warning that “none of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to … the existence and objectives of the socialist State, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism” — canceling any real opportunity for a constitutional government.

Links for 8-3-2017

  • National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster fired three National Security Council staffers sympathetic to the Steve Bannon faction of the White House, and he’s preparing to fire more:

    The Trump staffers fired by McMaster had repeatedly clashed with career government staffers and holdovers from the Obama administration on issues as diverse as military strategies for Syria and Afghanistan, whether to tear up Obama’s landmark Iran deal, the controversial détente with Cuba, the U.S. role in confronting Islamic radicalism, and the Paris Climate Accord, according to these sources.

    More purges are said to be on the way, according to multiple insiders who described a list of at least four other senior NSC officials McMaster intends to target. Other sources confirmed the likelihood of more purges, but disputed some details on that list.

    The fired NSC employees opposed Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which McMaster supports:

    NSC officials such as Cohen-Watnick, Harvey, and others had been making the case that Trump should scrap the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal over increasingly aggressive Iranian ballistic missile activity and mounting evidence Tehran is breaching the accord. McMaster, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top Obama-era State Department officials who worked on the deal, have aggressively urged maintaining it.

    McMaster allowed his predecessor, Susan Rice, keep her security clearance despite suggestions that she abused her power to unmask the names of Americans who were caught in the NSA’s dragnet.

  • Transcripts of Donald Trump’s phone conversations with the presidents of Mexico and Australia were circulated among NSC staffers — perhaps including the staffers fired by H.R. McMaster — and now they’ve been leaked to The Washington Post.

  • Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and that grand jury is issuing subpoenas. Mueller also inherited a grand jury that’s investigating Michael Flynn.

  • Four American soldiers were wounded in the suicide bomb attack that killed two soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday.

  • The U.S. Senate approved 65 of Donald Trump’s nominees after Democrats agreed to stop obstructing them. Two of the confirmed nominees, Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr, are headed to the FCC.

  • The inspector general for the Department of the Interior is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over reports that he threatened Senator Lisa Murkowski over her position on ObamaCare repeal. The inspector general is doing this in response to a complaint filed by two House Democrats. In the meantime Zinke and Murkowski became drinking buddies.

  • The Center for Medical Progress asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the gag order that prevents it from publishing additional Planned Parenthood videos.

  • West Virginia Governor Jim Justice switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. There are now only 15 Democratic governors.

  • Actor Robert Hardy passed away at age 91. He played Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small and Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies, among many other roles.

  • Matthew RJ Brodsky writes on the problem with Qatar:

    The list of problem areas is long. Qatar’s financial and political support for such a wide array of militant Islamist movements is unrivaled in the region and has been particularly overt, egregious, and brazen in recent years. Through a combination of the ruling Al Thani family or wealthy Qatari financiers, the oil-rich state backs al-Qaeda affiliates, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Hamas, and others on the Sunni side of the ledger. Meanwhile, they continue to use their state-backed Al Jazeera network as a worldwide loudspeaker to promote the most radical Islamist propaganda, preaching hate and fomenting instability throughout the region.

    This support undermines and unnerves its neighbors, poisons the minds of the next generation of Arab youth, prevents any Palestinian moderation, and lessens the likelihood that Israel will see peace with more of its neighbors, much less in the wider region. Moreover, it serves to nurture only radical Islamist alternatives to take the place of the Islamic State once it is defeated on the battlefield.

  • Venezuela’s state prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into vote counting irregularities during the Sunday’s constituent assembly election.

Links for 8-2-2017

Links for 7-31-2017

  • Psycho troll Anthony Scaramucci was fired as White House communications director.

  • Over the weekend Donald Trump threatened to end Congress’ illegal exemption from ObamaCare; this is actually a good idea, if only for the rule of law aspect. He should also end the unconstitutional “cost-sharing reduction payments” that subsidize insurance companies.

  • Congressional IT contractor Imran Awan was “frantically liquidating multiple real estate properties” the day he tried to leave the U.S. for Pakistan and was arrested by the FBI.

  • Democrats on the House Ethics Committee are stretching out the investigation of Congressman Devin Nunes’ alleged disclosure of classified information to keep Nunes out of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.

  • Paul Vitz and Bruce Buff write that adolescents need to recover religion:

    In America, the transcendent dimension of life has historically been expressed primarily through the Judeo-Christian tradition, whose decline in recent years has created an enormous vacuum in meaning. This vacuum has been “filled” by postmodern nihilism combined with the “deconstruction” — aggressively taught in the academy — of belief in objective truth, goodness, and beauty. Moral relativism now eclipses transcendent meaning. The fragility of many young people — often termed “snowflakes” — shows their emotional vulnerability. They interpret ideas that challenge them as unbearable acts of aggression, and they use harsh and even violent measures to silence disagreeable opponents. In short, the prevalence of political correctness is a clear sign that belief in higher meaning and rational discussion has ceased to function in much of our higher-education system. Furthermore, political correctness is itself a symptom of the unstable mental condition of those who insist on it.

    Countless young people now live in a world without any real meaning; they feel there is nothing for them to believe in. Emotional numbness is one of the consequences. They no longer value themselves for their inherent worth and dignity as created by God; they no longer find self-worth in their efforts to lead lives based on truth and love. Instead, many of our young people look outside themselves for validation — to material goods and social feedback. But many find these superficial, transitory, and empty. In addition, the decline of religion has resulted in sexual relations becoming trivialized and deprived of any greater meaning. The “hook-up” culture leaves many wounded young people in its wake.

  • For some reason Los Angeles is happy about the prospect of losing billions by hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics.

  • Theresa May and her government are bungling Brexit:

    The rosy-eyed version of Brexit — in which Britain negotiates an amicable deal with its European counterparts and through the magic of bilateral free-trade deals weathers the exit with little economic damage, all while reclaiming control over immigration and parliamentary sovereignty — is no longer on the table, and perhaps it never truly was in the first place. There are thus two realistic scenarios for Britain’s eventual exit from the EU.

    The first is cataclysmic. This is the “no deal” option, in which Britain and the EU fail to arrive at an agreement by March 2019 and Britain simply crashes out of the union with no parachute in place. Britain’s trade with the EU would revert to World Trade Organization rules; a hard border would return to Ireland; goods would pile up at Dover and Calais and chaos would reign as confused agents apply customs checks and tariffs to which they are thoroughly unaccustomed; perhaps even flights between the U.K. and EU operated by British airlines would be unable to run. That scenario is bad enough that — surely — avoiding it would inspire sufficient action to negotiate some sort of deal, even a relatively punitive one.

  • There’s evidence that North Korean submarines may be preparing another missile launch.

  • ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on Iraq’s embassy in Kabul.

  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in an election for a “constituent assembly” that will re-write the constitution; this outcome was preordained. In response the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Maduro.