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.


    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 3-1-2018

Links for 2-24-2018

  • Axios published a concise list of law enforcement’s failures in the Parkland, Florida shooting.

  • Andrew McCarthy details the web that connects Paul Manafort and Richard Gates to friends of Vladimir Putin, and argues that Robert Mueller is preparing a CYA operation to defend the Department of Justice:

    Second, and more likely, Mueller will want to defend the investigative decisions made by the FBI and the Justice Department — institutions he served at the highest levels for many years.

    Mueller cannot refute every claimed irregularity. There is no defending, for example, the intelligence leaks to the media; the blatantly disparate treatment between the kid-gloves Clinton-emails investigation and the zealous effort to derail Trump; or the presentation to the FISA court of the traitorous dossier allegations, against Trump and his campaign, that had not been corroborated by the FBI. Yet Mueller could be endeavoring to make a record that the FBI and Justice Department acted reasonably, albeit over-anxiously, when they credited the reporting of Steele — a source they understandably trusted from prior experience, who was reporting suspicions that were plausible in light of the Manafort and Gates history. Mueller could be contemplating a report that portrays as justifiable the Obama administration’s use of the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus of government to investigate the presidential campaign of the opposition party.

    In short, the special counsel may be preparing to argue that the Obama officials were acting on rational suspicions, not partisan politics. He may be laying the groundwork to argue that, while political, law-enforcement, and intelligence officials made mistakes, the main culprit was Trump’s judgment in recruiting Manafort and Gates — particularly under circumstances in which the candidate was already publicly flattering Putin in an unseemly way.

  • An al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa, Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, claimed responsibility for the IED that killed two French soldiers in Mali.

  • ISIS used two suicide car bombs to attack a counter-terrorism base in Aden, Yemen, killing 14 people and wounding 40.

  • The Taliban overran an Afghan military base in Farah province, killing at least 20 soldiers.

Links for 2-22-2018

Links for 2-2-2018

Links for 1-2-2018

  • An American soldier was killed and four were wounded during fighting in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which is on the border with Pakistan. The U.S. is withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan because it harbors terrorists.

  • Mark Steyn’s first post of the new year includes a twelve days of Christmas-style countdown: an eight o’clock curfew, seven sexual assailants, six stabbers arrested, five homes raided, four women gang-raped, three pubs attacked, two police officers lynched, and a canceled New Year in Sydney. His numbering scheme doesn’t handle the 945 cars that were torched in France on New Year’s Eve.

  • Two members of Germany’s Alternative for Germany party are being investigated for violating a new law that makes it a crime to “incite people to commit violence against a certain section of society.” Their alleged offenses were committed via Twitter, which deleted the tweets because the company can be fined 50 million euros for failing to delete “hateful” content.

  • Senator Al Franken (D-MN) officially resigned.

  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) won’t run for re-election. He’s only been in the Senate for 40 years, and he’s 83 years old. Say hello to Senator Mitt Romney.

  • Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) won’t run for re-election.

  • Huma Abedin forwarded emails containing passwords to government systems to her personal Yahoo account before all of Yahoo’s accounts were breached. At least one of those breaches was perpetrated by a Russian intelligence agent.

  • Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re in the midst of an unusual experiment in American government, a rapid switch from far-left to far-right governing at the federal level. He characterizes the Obama administration this way:

    Identity politics, progressive policing of ideas on campus, an end to campus free expression that only empowered hate speech, the politicization and expansion of the deep state, along with open borders and new laxities governing citizenship and voting would usher in new, kinder and gentler race, ethnicity, and gender agendas. A single EPA director, one high IRS commissioner, or a federal-appeals-court justice would now exercise far more political power than any congressional committee. The “law” — in the sense of customary non-surveillance of American citizens, disinterested attorneys general, or a nonpartisan bureaucracy — was redefined as whatever would best serve social justice and equality.

    On the economic side, more regulations, larger government, more entitlements, higher taxes, zero interest rates, and doubling the national debt were designed to redistribute income and “spread the wealth.” The idea that the stock market could get much higher, that GDP could ever hit 3 percent or above, or that industry and manufacturing would return to the U.S. was caricatured as the ossified pipe dreams of discredited supply-siders.

  • The initial narrative on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia isn’t going anywhere, so The New York Times is trying again, this time focusing on George Papadopoulos instead of Carter Page.

    In the Times’ new version of events, it was not the dossier that “so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election.” That, according to the Times, is a false claim that “Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged.” Somehow, the paper omits the inconvenient details that it was the Times that led the charge in claiming that it was Page’s trip to Moscow that provoked the investigation, and that it was the dossier that so alarmed the FBI about that trip.

    In what we might think of as the latest “Russian Reset,” the Times now says the investigation was instigated by “firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies” — Australia. Turns out Papadopoulos was out drinking in London with Alexander Downer, “Australia’s top diplomat in Britain.” Tongue loosened, the “young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign” made a “startling revelation” to Downer: He had learned that “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”


    To say this story has holes in it does not do justice to the craters on display. To begin with, the Times admits that “exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said” to Downer “is unclear.” What we are dealing with here is sheer supposition. And, it appears, flawed supposition.

  • The death toll in Iran’s protests is up to 20, and the government is blaming the country’s unnamed “enemies.” Ben Shapiro writes that Donald Trump has reversed the Obama doctrine on Iran:

    Contrast Trump’s behavior with that of the Obama administration, which deliberately ignored anti-regime protests in 2009, choosing instead to cozy favor with the regime and maximize Tehran’s regional power. The administration even went so far as to give Tehran a legal pathway to a nuclear weapon. Obama stated that while he was “troubled” by violence against the protesters, it was “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” and he hoped “to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”

    The administration would go on to allegedly leak Israeli plans to kill the commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, to the Iranians, lie to the American public about contact with the “moderate” Iranian regime regarding a nuclear deal, and then ship pallets of cash to the greatest state sponsor of terror on the planet.

    This, then, is the irony of Trump’s foreign policy in contrast with Obama’s: Obama jabbered endlessly about American leadership while simultaneously “leading from behind.” Trump actually pursues American leadership while simultaneously claiming the isolationist mantle of “America first.”

  • Iran re-opened two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan.

  • The Washington Free Beacon obtained a document from China’s Communist Party that indicates China offered North Korea increased aid and military support if the country stopped testing nuclear weapons. China’s public stance is that it wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but the document says North Korea can keep its existing nuclear weapons. The Beacon doesn’t say how it obtained the document, but there’s a good chance dissident Guo Wengui was involved.

  • An academic study suggests that Republicans support photo voter ID laws to combat voter fraud, but Democrats only support them when it’s likely that Republicans would be hurt by such laws.

Links for 11-8-2017

  • Kevin Williamson writes on the Democrats’ election victories yesterday:

    So, here’s the math: Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, won nine out of ten votes among Virginians who approve of President Donald Trump. He lost nine out of ten votes among those who disapprove. He lost by nine points.


    Because of the inflation of the American presidency, there often is a countercyclical partisan effect, usually felt in midterm congressional elections. Americans like to complain that Washington never gets anything done, and they have a marked preference for divided governments that help keep Washington from getting anything done. Trump is an unpopular figure, and an obnoxious one. He likes being the center of attention, which means that he is going to be a factor in the mayor’s race in St. Petersburg and the governor’s race in Virginia. If the American electorate continues to have a low opinion of him, then Republicans should calculate that drag into their electoral expectations.

    It is often the case that populism has a short shelf life, after which is ceases to be popular. There is a reason for that: Populism is almost always based on a false hope. Populist demagogues such as Trump arise when people are broadly dissatisfied with the national state of affairs and begin to lose confidence in critical institutions. Along comes a charismatic outsider — or someone doing a good impersonation of one — who offers an alternative. Trump-style populism is an almost entirely negative proposition: “I’m not one of Them.” What happens next is in most cases what’s been happening with Trump: The promise of radical change quickly gets mired down in the messy realities of democratic governance. (If you’re lucky, that’s what happens; absent the messy realities of democratic governance, what you end up with is Venezuela.) The “independent” man, the “outsider,” turns out not to have the experience, knowledge, or relationships to get much done. The savior doesn’t deliver the goods.

  • The Trump administration imposed new restrictions on trade with and travel to Cuba.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook believes his company has free speech rights, but Masterpiece Cakeshop does not.

  • France’s parliament removed Marine Le Pen’s immunity from prosecution in a case where she tweeted graphic photos of ISIS’ handiwork.

  • Authorities in Saudi Arabia are still arresting people as part of the crown prince’s “corruption crackdown.”

  • The Philippines emulated China by starting to build an artificial island in the South China Sea, but they stopped after China complained.