Links for 4-11-2018

  • Senator Rand Paul endorsing a Convention of States:

  • Confirming rumors that have been circulating for months, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t run for re-election. Denis Ross (R-FL) isn’t running for re-election, either.

  • The Congressional Budget Office broke the law when it deemed the omnibus spending bill’s ObamaCare insurer bailout a net savings.

  • Bellingcat analyzed open source data on the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria, and it looks like Bashar al-Assad’s regime dropped a chlorine tank on an apartment building from a helicopter, and that accounted for the majority of the deaths.

  • John Daniel Davidson toured San Francisco’s homeless camps:

    In other words, San Francisco is rich and beautiful—and it doesn’t care what Republicans think. Like many large U.S. cities, Democrats here preside over a political monoculture. Less than 10 percent of San Franciscans voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and the city hasn’t had a GOP mayor since 1964. The Board of Supervisors (the city council) is technically nonpartisan, but every seat on the board is occupied by a registered Democrat. The top four candidates in the current mayoral race—an African-American woman, an Asian-American woman, an Hispanic woman, and an openly gay man—will all be “firsts,” no matter who wins the special election in June. Also certain: the winner will be a Democrat.

    The absence of any organized political opposition, combined with its vast wealth, makes San Francisco a kind of proof-of-concept for progressive governance. If there’s anywhere progressives should be able to enact their schemes for a perfectly-ordered society, it’s here. A booming tech industry has made vast new resources available to the city: the 2017–18 municipal budget exceeds $10 billion, nearly a third larger than the budget was a decade ago. City government now spends roughly $11,500 per person each year, more than any other city in the country (including New York) and almost double per capita state spending.

    That’s why the housing and homelessness problems besetting the city open it up to more than mere mockery from conservatives but substantive criticism of progressive governance writ large. It’s not just homeless encampments that bedevil San Francisco, but also the flight of the middle class and the emergence of a kind of citywide caste system: the wealthy, the service class, and the destitute. In some ways, San Francisco is becoming something progressives are supposed to hate: a private club for the super-rich.

  • China is developing a nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missile and a modified bomber to carry it.

  • An Algerian Il–76 military transport plane crashed about 20 miles southwest of Algiers, killing 257 people.

  • Saudi Arabia claims it shot down another three ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Links for 3-4-2018

  • The Washington Post detailed one of North Korea’s schemes for “laundering” coal, which relied on help from a rarely-used Russian port. In this case the coal originated in North Korea but ended up in South Korea and Japan.

  • Axios obtained a copy of a grand jury subpoena sent by Robert Mueller’s investigators to a witness last month. The subpoena sought all communications with ten people, including Donald Trump, Hope Hicks, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Carter Page, and Steve Bannon.

  • Kevin Williamson writes on Donald Trump’s lack of knowledge about policy or how the federal government works:

    The formal term for what’s at the root of all this is “rational ignorance.” Many of you will have experienced the phenomenon of the very smart person who has very dumb ideas about politics — and who, if challenged, will immediately retreat into the vaguest of generalities, and often ends up displaying surprising ignorance about the most basic public-policy questions. These are the people who believe that you can walk into Walmart and buy a machine gun, that foreign aid represents half of federal spending, that the CIA introduced crack into inner-city neighborhoods, etc., and who tend not to know things like who their representative in Congress is or how our tax system works. Why are these smart and often very successful people so ignorant about politics? Because they’ve spent their lives getting really smart about a different subject and achieving their success in a field in which political knowledge isn’t very important. This is why Albert Einstein had such batty ideas about politics.

    Later:

    The fact that most people who don’t make their living thinking about politics tend not to think very much or very carefully about politics does not mean that they are not interested in politics or do not care about it. Far from it. But, as Robin Hanson reminds us, politics is not about policy. Politics is about tribe. How we align politically is based for most people almost entirely on how we wish to position ourselves socially and culturally. At the moment, our politics is marked by a kind of inverse partisanship: It isn’t that Trump partisans think the Republican party is so great — they just think those other guys are so awful that any alternative is acceptable. That’s the “But Hillary” defense, a moral get-out-of-jail-free card for right-wing talk-radio hosts and their listeners. Democrats have their own version of that, which is why they don’t argue that Republicans are wrong about tax policy or abortion but that they are racists, misogynists, homophobes, captive to corporate greed, etc. We end up with a political discourse in which both sides are, at their broadest points, heavily invested in their insistence that there is no good-faith disagreement about policy — there is only the eternal conflict between the guys in the white hats and the guys in the black hats.

  • Germany has a coalition government after a five month delay. Members of the Social Democratic Party voted to join Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

  • Slovakia’s President Andrej Kiska is pushing for measures to restore confidence in the government after the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. The president can’t bring down a government, but he is adding to public pressure to bring down Prime Minister Robert Fico’s three party coalition government.

  • Al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims confirmed that French forces killed six of its leaders during simultaneous raids in Mali and Algeria.

Links for 3-19-2016

Links for 9-22-2014