Links for 12-13-2017

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Don Willett to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on a 50-47 vote.

  • The FBI delivered copies of anti-Trump text messages exchanged between agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to Congress, which prompted “interesting” questions when Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein appeared before the House Judiciary Committee.

    Strzok and Page referred to Trump as an “idiot” during the Republican primaries, the text messages show. Other exchanges indicate that the pair supported Clinton for president over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Democratic primaries.

    Politico noted a March 2016 text in which Page declared: “God trump is a loathsome human…omg he’s an idiot.”

    “He’s awful,” wrote back Strzok, who also texted that Trump was an “idiot” in another exchange.

    Later:

    “This guy thought he was super agent James Bond at the FBI,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said of Strzok, pointing to texts in which Strzok appeared to see it as his mission to protect the nation from Trump.

  • Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson submitted a court filing where he confirmed that he met with Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr and hired Ohr’s wife Nellie to help with opposition research against Donald Trump.

  • A sensational — and false — media story from the 2016 presidential campaign claimed there were ties between Donald Trump’s businesses and a Russian bank, Alfa. We now know that story originated with Fusion GPS.

  • Ben Shapiro details a lesson from Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama:

    For a year now, there’s been a myth among Republicans: the Legend of Trump.

    It goes something like this. Once upon a time, there was an unbeatable candidate, a world-famous politician whose husband had been president, who received unquestioning loyalty from the media. Then came the Dragonslayer: a real-estate mogul with a toilet of gold and a tongue of iron, who cut the unconquerable evil queen down to size and seized the throne from her. The laws of political gravity simply didn’t apply to him: He could utter any vulgarity, brazen through any scandal, batter down any media infrastructure. And if Republicans followed him — if they lit their torches from his — they too could slay dragons.

    Now, it’s quite possible that Donald Trump was the only Republican who could have defeated Hillary Clinton —other Republicans might have tried to take the high ground with a candidate significantly dirtier than the local garbage dump. Trump has no tact and no compunction, so he was always willing to drag her off her high horse. But Trump truly won not because he was a stellar candidate — far from it — but because Hillary Clinton was an awful candidate. And this means not only that his dragonslaying isn’t duplicable, but also that other candidates with similarly shady backgrounds who attempt to imitate him will end up failing dramatically.

    In other words, the laws of political gravity still apply.

  • Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton designated Lt. Governor Tina Smith as his choice to replace Senator Al Franken. Smith is a former Planned Parenthood lobbyist. And Franken hasn’t officially resigned yet.

  • A House and Senate conference committee says it cut a deal on tax legislation that lowers the corporate income tax rate to 21%. It also eliminates the corporate alternative minimum tax and the fine associated with ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

  • Joy Pullmann argues that instead of taxing college endowments, the federal government should cut the huge subsidies it pays to colleges:

    Currently, federal taxpayers subsidize colleges and universities to the tune of more than $130 billion every year, most of that going to student loans and grants. While some say federal student loans make taxpayers money, the truth is they cost taxpayers money, partially because many self-described students are the equivalent of a subprime mortgage, a situation easy federal money has exacerbated. Federal higher education subsidies have also nearly doubled since 2000, meaning it wasn’t the “old bad days” when we spent much less.

    Further, we now have a consistent set of economic research finding that federal student “aid” actually hurts both taxpayers and students by inflating the cost of college. One of the more recent such studies came from the Federal Reserve, which concluded that every $1 in federal “aid” increased college tuition by approximately 55 to 65 cents. Easy federal money is literally making the college cost problem worse.

  • Denise McAllister writes that the #MeToo movement is destroying trust between men and women:

    The breakdown of trust between the sexes is the tragic legacy of the modern feminist movement, but it has taken on a new fervor with the #MeToo campaign and the growing accusation that masculinity is vile, toxic, and inherently predatorial. Fear of men is legitimized, as accusation is treated as fact. Men are seen as “the enemy,” an embodied deviance that must be remolded into the image of a woman. Their sexuality is assumed to be naturally brutal, a threat to be controlled and reduced for the individual man to be considered “safe.”

    While women’s willingness to hold men accountable for criminal sexual behavior is to be applauded, the scorched-earth approach we are seeing today is destructive because it undermines trust. When anything from a naive touch during a photo shoot to an innocent attempt at a kiss is compared to rape and sexual abuse, we are not healing society but infecting relationships with the poison of distrust.

  • Two men pleaded guilty to operating the Mirai botnet, which used Internet of Things devices to disrupt web sites via distributed denial of service attacks. They also used these devices to conduct click fraud (online advertising fraud).

  • The Trump White House torpedoed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s idea of direct talks with North Korea.

  • The U.S. plans to give another $120 million to Lebanon’s military despite evidence that a chunk of it is likely to go to Hezbollah.

  • Russia is rapidly expanding its nuclear forces, and is on track to have 8,000 warheads by 2026. They’re also working on low-yield warheads that could be mounted on precision strike missiles; this combination elides current arms control treaties.

  • Human Rights Watch claims China has collected DNA, photos, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood type information from the entire population of Xinjiang province. This was done under the guise of a free health care program (“Physicals for All”), but is likely to be used to repress a restive population.

Links for 12-11-2017

  • Andrew McCarthy asks whether Robert Mueller can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia conducted a cyber espionage operation intended to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. If he can’t, Mueller can’t prove the Trump campaign colluded in that operation.

    The government, the media, and most of the public accept the premise that Russia interfered in the election. But not because this assertion has been proved in court. Instead, it is based on an intelligence judgment by three agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA, announced under the auspices of a fourth, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    All four agencies were run by Obama appointees. The Obama administration had a history of politicizing intelligence to serve administration narratives, and the intelligence judgment in question cannot be divorced from politics because it was announced just as Obama’s party was fashioning a narrative that Russian espionage had stolen the election from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, it is not my purpose here to make a partisan argument. The point is to consider the nature of intelligence judgments — to contrast them with courtroom findings. This dichotomy does depend on which party is running the executive branch.

    The objective of a criminal investigation is a prosecution, not a national-security judgment. In a prosecution, each essential element of the offense charged must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It is virtually certain that Mueller could never establish, to this exacting standard of proof, that Russia is guilty of cyberespionage — at least in the absence of an accomplice witness involved in the hacking, which he apparently does not have despite the government’s 18 months of investigative effort.

  • A Department of Justice official who was demoted for concealing his meetings with Fusion GPS — the opposition research company behind the Trump dossier — had even closer ties to the company than previously known. It turns out Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 presidential campaign, although we don’t know exactly what her responsibilities were.

    Until Dec. 6, when Fox News began making inquiries about him, Bruce Ohr held two titles at DOJ. He was, and remains, director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; but his other job was far more senior. Mr. Ohr held the rank of associate deputy attorney general, a post that gave him an office four doors down from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The day before Fox News reported that Mr. Ohr held his secret meetings last year with the founder of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, and with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, the Justice Department stripped Ohr of his deputy title and ousted him from his fourth floor office at the building that DOJ insiders call “Main Justice.”

    Initially, DOJ officials provided no explanation for Ohr’s demotion. Later, they said his wearing of two hats was “unusual”; still later, they confirmed Ohr had withheld his contacts with the Fusion GPS men from superiors.

  • In the past week, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, The New York Times, and CNN all published false anti-Trump stories:

    Forget your routine bias, these were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, feeding frenzied expectations that have now been internalized as indisputable truths by many. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without the central faulty claim. Yet, there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

    Later:

    The fact that many political journalists (not all) are hopelessly biased is one thing (social media has made this fact inarguable), but if they become a proxy of operatives who peddle falsehoods, they will soon lose all credibility with a big swath of the country. They will only have themselves to blame.

  • John Daniel Davidson visited Alabama and interviewed people to learn why they (still) support Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. If the Democrats had nominated a pro-life candidate (are there any pro-life Democrats left?), they would have had a much better chance of winning this election.

  • An immigrant from Bangladesh who was inspired by ISIS attempted a suicide bombing in New York City. He injured himself and three other people. He entered the U.S. on a chain migration visa.

  • The Secret Service settled a five year old lawsuit with a whistleblower after the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General determined that the Secret Service retaliated against him for complaining about a superior’s alleged misconduct.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince EU foreign ministers to follow Donald Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but didn’t get anywhere. Meanwhile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps digging deeper holes, saying, “ The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands… With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed.”

  • I haven’t linked to a story like this recently, but Turkey continues to bomb northern Iraq on a near-weekly basis. The Turks claim the latest strike killed 29 PKK members.

  • Vladimir Putin visited Syria and said an unspecified number of Russian troops are withdrawing from Syria now that ISIS has been defeated.

  • The Associated Press published the backstory of “Mosul Eye,” a blogger/historian who anonymously documented life under ISIS in Mosul.

  • A Chinese diplomat threatened to invade Taiwan if a U.S. Navy ship ever visits the island.

  • Josh Robin writes for The Washington Post that Washington, D.C. is waking up to “the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds.”

  • The Department of Justice says it has no plans to deport Guo Wengui, who is wanted by the Chinese government:

    Since earlier this year, China's government has engaged in a wide-ranging influence operation, including the use of cyber attacks on American institutions, in a bid to force the United States to repatriate Guo to China.

    The effort has included the use of American business leaders with interests in China to lobby President Trump to return the dissident.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reviewed the case and determined Guo will not be forcibly returned, the senior official told reporters during a briefing at the White House.

    Later:

    Guo, who now lives in New York City, has become an outspoken critic of China's government and a pro-democracy advocate who has charged that senior leaders are engaged in corrupt financial and other activities. He has labeled the ruling Communist Party of China a "kleptocracy" and warned that China's government is working to subvert the United States.

Links for 12-1-2017

Links for 11-30-2017

Links for 11-23-2017

Links for 11-22-2017

Links for 11-17-2017