Links for 10-14-2017

  • Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that the battle between Silicon Valley companies and America’s political elite will end badly for conservatives:

    Silicon Valley treats complaints from Western journalists and governments as serious priorities, and its ad hoc responses are inadvertently creating a hierarchy of linguistic freedom on the Internet. Chinese is the most-policed language on the Web, thanks to the Chinese government’s fanatical efforts. But after that, Silicon Valley itself is beginning to get into the censorship and editing game in German and English, though it can’t yet hire enough Arabic and Farsi interpreters to achieve the local cultural understanding that would enable effective censorship in those languages. This means that soon, Silicon Valley will be have overwhelming incentives, business and political, to quickly police speech that annoys important Anglophone liberals — which is to say, speech by Anglophone conservatives and right wingers.

    Later:

    There’s another thing working against Silicon Valley’s companies in their coming battle with governments and the media: While it isn’t strictly illegal to accidentally make the world a worse place to live in, there is a generalized feeling, especially among the richest consumers in the West, that the digital revolution has been a disaster for society as a whole, and for the psychology of most “information workers,” in particular.

    On the political level, the promises of Silicon Valley have been a chimera. Instead of powering young democratic movements in Iran, as promised, Silicon Valley’s social networks allowed Sunni extremists to launch civil wars and tear down authoritarian regimes in favor of Islamism. They allowed ISIS to groom and recruit among the lonely and disconnected in Europe, and send back terror.

  • Andrew McCarthy explains the media freak-out over Donald Trump’s faithfully executing ObamaCare:

    Notwithstanding the many outrageous, mendacious things the president says and tweets, the press is aghast that his “fake news” tropes against mainstream-media stalwarts resonate with much of the country. Well, if you want to know why, this latest Obamacare coverage is why. What Trump has actually done is end the illegal payoffs without which insurance companies have no rational choice but to jack up premiums or flee the Obamacare exchanges. The culprits here are the charlatans who gave us Obamacare. To portray Trump as the bad guy is not merely fake news. It’s an out-and-out lie.

    Later:

    President Obama understood that without reimbursement, the insurance companies would flee the exchanges or raise prices prohibitively. His signature legacy monument would be threatened. To prevent that, he violated the law. In 2014, his administration unilaterally began making non-appropriated cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. Those payments have continued, even through the first nine months of the Trump administration.

    These payments are blatantly illegal. The federal district court in Washington so ruled last year. For what it’s worth, I believe Judge Rosemary Collyer was wrong to grant the House of Representatives standing to sue the Obama administration. The Constitution gives Congress its own powerful tools to confront presidential lawlessness; the Article I branch does not need the Article III branch to do its heavy lifting. That said, Judge Collyer’s decision on the merits is unassailable.

  • U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley drove the strategy that resulted in Donald Trump declaring Iran in violation of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal.

  • Syrian Democratic Forces are allowing the remaining ISIS fighters in Raqqa to withdraw from the city. It’s not clear if non-Syrian ISIS fighters will be allowed to leave.

  • The Spanish government is threatening to take control of Catalonia if regional leader Carles Puigdemont fails to unambiguously deny that Catalonia has declared its independence.

Links for 9-23-2017

Links for 9-5-2017

Links for 9-2-2017

  • Andrew McCarthy argues that it wasn’t former FBI Director James Comey’s decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton before the FBI investigation was over, but Barack Obama’s decision:

    This was the start of a series of Justice Department shenanigans we would come to learn about: Cutting off key areas of inquiry; cutting inexplicable immunity deals; declining to use the grand jury to compel evidence; agreeing to limit searches of computers (in order to miss key time-frames when obstruction occurred); agreeing to destroy physical evidence (laptop computers); failing to charge and squeeze witnesses who made patently false statements; allowing subjects of the investigation to act as lawyers for other subjects of the investigation (in order to promote the charade that some evidence was off-limits due to the attorney-client privilege); and so on. There is a way – a notoriously aggressive way – that the Justice Department and FBI go about their business when they are trying to make a case. Here, they were trying to unmake a case.

    Knowing all these things, as we now do and have for a year, I’m baffled by complaints that Comey allegedly made “his” decision not to charge Clinton before key witnesses were interviewed. The main issue is not that witnesses hadn’t been questioned; it is that by April 2016, restraints were already in place to ensure that witness interviews would be fruitless, and that any incriminating information they accidentally turned up would be ignored or buried.

  • The Obama administration used a loophole in federal immigration law to put beneficiaries of the DACA program on the path to full citizenship:

    The House and Senate Judiciary Committees revealed that more than 45,000 DACA recipients were approved for “advance parole,” which is permission to leave and reenter the U.S. despite not being in permanent legal status here.

    But under a quirk of law, those granted advance parole can then ask to adjust their status and gain legal residence — and eventually citizenship — as long as they have a qualifying relationship.

    The Obama administration had seemed intent on keeping the data secret, refusing to answer requests from Congress. The Trump administration complied.

  • Politico reported that the Department of Homeland Security labeled Antifa a domestic terrorist threat, and at least some of its members are on terrorism watch lists:

    Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as “antifa” had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO.

    Later:

    Previously unreported documents disclose that by April 2016, authorities believed that “anarchist extremists” were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets. They were blamed by authorities for attacks on the police, government and political institutions, along with symbols of “the capitalist system,” racism, social injustice and fascism, according to a confidential 2016 joint intelligence assessment by DHS and the FBI.

    Later still:

    The intelligence assessments focus less on guns than handmade weapons used by antifa, with photos of members brandishing ax handles and shields, often with industrial-sized bolts attached to create crude bayonets. A senior state law enforcement official said, “A whole bunch of them” have been deemed dangerous enough to be placed on U.S. terrorism watch lists.

  • Imran Awan was arraigned in federal court on four felony fraud charges. He asked that his GPS monitoring bracelet be removed in case he needs to “attend to an emergency with his children.” His wife and children are in Pakistan.

  • ExxonMobil began restarting its Baytown, Texas refinery after repairing damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. The refinery is the second largest in the U.S.

  • Donald Trump announced more than 40 nominations on Friday night, including Jim Bridenstine to head NASA and Richard Grenell to be ambassador to Germany.

  • The U.S. and South Korea agreed to amend a treaty that restricts South Korea’s ability to develop ballistic missiles. Donald Trump also gave “conceptual approval” to South Korea’s plans to buy billions of dollars of military equipment from American companies.

  • The “sonic weapon” attacks on American diplomats in Cuba continued through last month.

  • Turkey has taken up the habit of arresting Germans, effectively holding them hostage. Turkey is now holding twelve German citizens on political charges.

Links for 8-26-2017

Links for 8-21-2017

  • The USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore, and ten sailors are missing. Multiple compartments were flooded, and there’s a good chance the ten sailors drowned inside them — the fate of the seven sailors who died on the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a container ship in June. Five sailors were injured, and four of them had to be evacuated by helicopter. The U.S. Navy is calling a temporary halt to operations to focus on safety.

  • The U.S. scaled back its non-immigrant visa operations in Russia, which means it will be difficult for business people, tourists, and students to travel to the U.S. People will have to apply for these visas in person at the embassy in Moscow, which is a problem for a country that spans eleven time zones. The move was taken in response to Russia’s decision to reduce the number of American diplomats allowed to operate in Russia by 755. It will be difficult for Russia to retaliate in kind, since it’s likely Russian business people need to travel to the U.S. more urgently than the reverse direction. Russia announced that Anatoly Antonov will be the next ambassador to the U.S. Antonov is currently a deputy foreign minister, and has been a deputy defense minister. Holding the defense position during Russia’s slow invasion of Ukraine earned Antonov a slot on European sanctions lists. 

  • Andrew McCarthy read the indictment of House IT contractors Imran Awan and Hina Alvi, and discovered it contains odd omissions:

    The indictment itself is drawn very narrowly. All four charges flow from a financial-fraud conspiracy of short duration. Only Imran Awan and his wife are named as defendants. There is no reference to Awan-family perfidy in connection with the House communications system.

    More bizarre still: There is not a word about Alvi’s flight to Pakistan, nor Imran Awan’s failed attempt to follow her there. This is not an oversight. The omission appears quite intentional.

    Later:

    To summarize, the indictment is an exercise in omission. No mention of the Awan group’s theft of information from Congress. Not a hint about the astronomical sums the family was paid, much of it for no-show “work.” Not a word about Wasserman Schultz’s keeping Awan on the payroll for six months during which (a) he was known to be under investigation, (b) his wife was known to have fled to Pakistan, and (c) he was not credentialed to do the IT work for which he had been hired. Nothing about Wasserman Schultz’s energetic efforts to prevent investigators from examining Awan’s laptop. A likely currency-transportation offense against Alvi goes uncharged. And, as for the offenses that are charged, prosecutors plead them in a manner that avoids any reference to what should be their best evidence.

  • Claire Galofaro profiled Aberdeen, Washington, many of whose residents voted for Donald Trump in the hope he’d help turn around their town’s dying economy. Galofaro asks what Trump has done for them in his first six months; aside from rolling back some regulations, he hasn’t done much.

    Now they come to discuss Trump, and their differing degrees of faith that he will make good on his promise to fix the rotting blue-collar economy that brought this despair to their doorstep.

    Many here agree that the thrashing and churning in Washington looks trivial when viewed from this place 3,000 miles away that so many residents have been trying so hard to save. Some maintain confidence that Trump will rise above the chaos to deliver on his pledge to resurrect the American dream. Others fear new depths of hopelessness if he fails.

    Blodgett just prays Trump understand the stakes — because in places like this, there is little room left for error from Washington, D.C. 

    There, he is tweeting insults about senators and CNN.

    Here, her neighbors have been reduced to living in cars.

  • The University of Texas at Austin removed three Confederate statues from its campus in a late night operation. Houston police arrested Andrew Schneck as he was preparing to blow up a Confederate statue in a park. Police and FBI agents found more explosives at Schneck’s home.

  • Spanish police located and killed Younes Abouyaaquoub, the man they believe drove a truck into a crowd of people in Barcelona. Abouyaaquoub hijacked a car during his escape from the scene and killed the driver.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey and Iran are discussing joint military action against the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the PJAK.

  • China is still supplying North Korea with oil.

  • Jim DeMint explains that the federal government will never willingly surrender power, and the only solution available is an Article V convention:

Links for 7-29-2017