Links for 8-8-2017

  • The Department of Defense released the names of the three Marines killed in the MV–22 crash off Australia: First Lt. Benjamin Cross, Cpl. Nathan Ordway and Pfc. Ruben Velasco. The Osprey crashed as it was landing on the USS Green Bay — it hit the ship’s stern and landed in the water. The Green Bay is an amphibious transport dock.

  • An Iranian drone approached to within 100 feet of a U.S. Navy F/A–18 as it was preparing to land on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

  • Someone attacked a group of Shiite militia and Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighters near the border between Iraq and Syria, killing 36. The militia blamed the U.S. for the attack, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said ISIS was responsible.

  • The Washington Post arrived late at the story that North Korea has miniaturized its nuclear warheads to the point that they fit inside their missiles, but since the story was published by the Post it garnered more attention than it has before.

  • The New York Times broke the story that the Department of Justice is investigating “race-based discrimination” in college admissions, but spun it to make it look like the DOJ is protecting white applicants. In truth it’s Asians who are actively discriminated against in college admissions, and several Asian groups have filed lawsuits claiming as much.

    Not many people, including many Asians themselves, knew how hard they had to work until Princeton University published a study, titled “Admission Preferences for Minority Students, Athletes, and Legacies at Elite Universities.” The study uses the term “bonus” to describe how many extra SAT points an applicant’s race is worth. The study shows African Americans received a “bonus” of 230 points, and Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points. But if you are Asians, 50 points were deducted. So for an Asian kid to have a shot at an elite college, his/her SAT scores has to be several hundred points higher to make up for the penalty of being Asian. Obviously, Asian kids are punished for their successes.

  • Connor Mighell believes the U.S. should repeal the Seventeenth Amendment:

    Regardless of how it came to be, the Seventeenth Amendment savages the balance of power inherent in the constitutional structure. The Constitution created a system of checks and balances not only at the federal level, but between federal, state, and local governments. This system is fundamentally based on balancing self-interest.

    States are interested in exclusively maintaining as much power over health, safety, and welfare policy as possible. They naturally desire to prevent federal intrusion into these areas, and would work to shield their citizens from federal overreach. However, the Seventeenth Amendment deprives them of the ability to do so.

  • The state of New York confiscated a Vietnam veteran’s firearms because a hospital mistakenly labeled him “mentally defective”:

    On the advice of his lawyer, Hall began to contact local hospitals in an attempt to get them to certify that he had not been treated for any mental health conditions. At one hospital, Hall told the paper that a clerk “turned white as a ghost” when she read him a file with a matching name but slightly different Social Security number. Hall said that matched a mistake he noticed with the Social Security number listed on the confiscation order police showed him.

  • Former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami argues that the Kurds deserve an independent state in the form of Iraqi Kurdistan:

    But the Kurdish community in Iraq, represented by the Kurdish Regional Government, has a real shot at statehood. The KRG is a quasi-sovereign entity overseeing an efficient military and an independent economy. Although it is plagued by corruption and cronyism, like every other political organisation in the region, the KRG represents the only truly functional government in Iraq, presiding over the country’s most peaceful and stable areas.

    The strength of the KRG’s position is not lost on its leaders. The ruling Kurdish Democratic Party plans to hold a referendum on independence this September. Yet even a resounding call for secession will not be enough to achieve success. For that, the US must throw its weight behind the pro-Western KRG and offer resolute support for the independence effort.

  • The European Commission is threatening to invoke Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union against Poland, which would strip Poland of its voting rights in the EU Council.

  • Mazda plans to ship compression ignition gasoline engines in 2019. These operate on the same principal as diesel engines and are therefore more efficient than conventional gasoline engines, but they emit fewer pollutants than diesels.

Links for 8-7-2017

Links for 8-6-2017

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 7-15-2017

  • The U.S. killed the latest leader of ISIS in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed.

  • Walter Russell Mead on Trump scandals and our inability to focus on what’s important:

    Too many Democrats think that the Trump scandals, pushed to their logical conclusion, will bring an end to troubles that have seen the party sink to its lowest national ebb since the 1920s. By personalizing the problem, by thinking of Trump as a uniquely unscrupulous, uniquely insightful, but also uniquely incompetent demagogue, Democrats construct a reality for themselves in which his impeachment, or at least his humiliation, will leave upper middle class technocrats back securely in control of the regulatory state, the haute educational establishment and the media that really count. The rebels, abashed at the demonstrated unfitness of their leader, will disperse, the districts will demobilize, the Hunger Games will relaunch, and life in the Capital will go on as before.

    Perhaps unfortunately, life is not that simple. The problem the Democrats face has never been the Republican Establishment, the Tea Party, or the Trump insurgency. The Republican disarray of 2017 is nothing new; Republicans do not know how to fix health care or to solve the fiscal problems of local and state governments without raising taxes or cutting services anymore than Democrats do. What drives Republican success isn’t public confidence in Republican policy ideas, but a public belief that given a choice between a party committed to the status quo and a party open at least to reforming it, dumb reformers are a better choice than clever custodians of the status quo.

    Later:

    Meanwhile, we note with alarm that more and more of America’s energy goes into the endless process of two year presidential campaigns immediately followed by nonstop relitigation by scandal. We now cluster around our screens to catch the latest scandal mini-scoop the way we used to look at Iowa polling numbers before the caucus. Our intellectual and political energy is being consumed by the ephemeral at ever greater rates even as we run low on time to address genuinely vital issues. We are thinking about horse races, not the historic challenges that the United States faces at home and abroad.

  • American immigration officials left an Australian-run immigrant detention center in Nauru two weeks early, raising questions about whether the U.S. will accept the refugees staying there per an agreement with Australia’s government: “U.S. officials halted screening interviews and departed the Pacific island of Nauru on Friday, two weeks short of their scheduled timetable and a day after Washington said the United States had reached its annual refugee intake cap.”

  • Businesses in Bar Harbor, Maine are hiring Americans because the H–2B visa program reached its annual cap. They’re even offering higher wages to entice people to work. Who would have guessed that a domestic labor market could actually work?

    The shortage is so acute that companies are sweetening incentives for local workers. Searchfield says some businesses are offering flexible schedules that might appeal to older workers who might be interested in working only a day or two each week. And other companies have gone so far as to offer higher wages to entice locals.

  • The Social Security Administration’s trustees reported that the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds will be completely depleted in 17 years.

  • An academic study suggests that independent redistricting commissions gerrymander districts about as much as state legislators do.

  • One of the Israeli police officers killed on Temple Mount was the father of a weeks-old son. The other police officer had an engagement party scheduled for next week.

Links for 4-11-2017