Links for 7-21-2017

Links for 7-19-2017

Links for 7-16-2017

  • Tim Arango writes for The New York Times that Iran stepped into the void the U.S. created in Iraq:

    When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.

    From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.

    In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.

    Later:

    Perhaps most crucial, Parliament passed a law last year that effectively made the constellation of Shiite militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s security forces. This ensures Iraqi funding for the groups while effectively maintaining Iran’s control over some of the most powerful units.

    Now, with new parliamentary elections on the horizon, Shiite militias have begun organizing themselves politically for a contest that could secure even more dominance for Iran over Iraq’s political system.

  • Israel’s government opposes the ceasefire the U.S. and Russia implemented in southern Syria because it empowers Iran.

  • Among this weekend’s shooting victims in Chicago: an anti-violence activist named William Cooper. A nine year old boy died in a shooting this weekend, too.

  • Four Pakistani soldiers died when Indian forces shelled their vehicle in Kashmir.

  • Two Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese waters near two islands off Kyushu.

  • Students in Washington, D.C. support socialism but can’t define it:

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 7-14-2017

  • The latest version of the Senate’s health insurance bill contains hand-outs for states intended to persuade the senators from those states to vote for the bill. Here’s an example intended to buy off Lisa Murkowski:

    Section 106 of the bill includes new language—page 13, lines 4 through 13, and page 18, line 12 through page 19, line 4—dedicating one percent of the new Stability Fund dollars to “each state where the cost of insurance premiums are at least 75 percent higher than the national average.” As a Bloomberg story noted, this provision currently applies only to Alaska, and could result in $1.32 billion in Stability Fund dollars automatically being directed to Alaska.

  • A federal district court judge in Hawaii again took it upon himself (again) to re-write parts of Donald Trump’s “travel ban” executive order.

  • American and Somali special forces troops killed several al Shabaab fighters during a raid in southern Somalia.

  • Three gunmen killed two Israeli police officers on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The gunmen, who were Arab citizens of Israel, were killed by other police officers.

  • An Egyptian man stabbed two German tourists to death and wounded four others at Red Sea resorts. Three gunmen on a motorcycle killed five Egyptian policemen at a security checkpoint south of Cairo.

  • A high ranking member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Seyed Mohsen Dehnavi, was caught trying to enter the U.S. while posing as a cancer researcher. Dehnavi was deported back to Iran.

    “Here are the facts: Mr. Dehnavi is a high-ranking member of IRGC’s Basij, has been involved in the IRGC’s military research programs, has played a key role in oppressing dissidents, and Iran’s Supreme Leader has given him his own keffiyeh as a gift,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, a prominent Iranian dissident and regional expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told the Free Beacon.

    Other media outlets have independently identified Dehnavi as a top Basij member who was involved in efforts to suppress dissident and reformist voices in Iran.

  • New reporting from Raqqa indicates the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliate in Tunisia actively recruited young men to fight for ISIS in Syria.

  • Young male Afghan refugees in Europe are in the habit of sexually assaulting women:

    But there was one development that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up—no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers. As the incidents increased, and because many of them took place in public or because the public became involved either in stopping the attack or in aiding the victim afterwards, and because the courts began issuing sentences as the cases came to trial, the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.

  • 38 North, a think tank that monitors North Korea, believes that thermal images of North Korea’s main nuclear site suggest the country has reprocessed more plutonium than previously thought.

  • Hong Kong’s High Court stripped four opposition lawmakers of their seats in the legislature because they refused to (correctly) take an oath when they were sworn in.

  • Jeff M. Smith wrote a good summary of the border dispute between China and India at the point where China, India, and Bhutan meet:

    First, the de-facto border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), is a magnet for standoffs between Chinese and Indian border patrols. Unlike the turbulent Line of Control with Pakistan in Kashmir, however, an elaborate series of bilateral mechanisms has kept the LAC free of any fatal exchanges for decades. Only once since 1962 has a standoff turned bloody. That’s the good news. But there is also bad news: That fatal exchange, the Nathu La incident of 1967, unfolded near the site of the current crisis.

    Second, the peace that has prevailed at the border masks a disconcertingly ambiguous tactical situation along select portions of the LAC. Not only is the roughly 3,500-kilometer border unsettled and un-demarcated, there are roughly a dozen stretches along the frontier where the two countries cannot even agree on the location of the LAC. These are the source of hundreds of relatively innocent “transgressions” by Chinese border patrols annually. (China doesn’t publicly track Indian transgressions). On occasion, these devolve into more serious “intrusions,” as witnessed in 2013 and 2014 when the People’s Liberation Army spent several weeks camped across the LAC in the Western Sector.

Links for 7-10-2017

  • A C–130 crashed in Mississippi, killing five people. It’s not clear if it was a U.S. Air Force plane or a National Guard plane.
  • A U.S. Army soldier named Ikaika Kang was arrested and charged with providing material support to ISIS.
  • The Trump administration is continuing an Obama administration policy of illegally routing ObamaCare tax revenues to insurance companies ahead of the Treasury:

    In addition to paying insurers up to $20 billion—repeat, $20 billion—between 2014 and 2016, the law also required those assessments on employers to fund $5 billion in payments to the Treasury, offsetting the cost of another Obamacare program. For whatever reason, the employer assessments the past three years have not yielded the $25 billion needed to fund $20 billion in payments to insurers, plus the $5 billion in payments to the Treasury. In the event of such a circumstance, the law states that the Treasury should be paid before health insurers.

    So what did the Obama administration do? You guessed it. They paid health insurers first, and gave the Treasury—taxpayers like you and me—the shaft.

    Later:

    So, it seems, has the new administration. The report on reinsurance included not a word about making payments to the Treasury Department, reimbursing taxpayers the billions they are owed under the law. Nor did the report mention potential actions to sue health insurers to reclaim funds they received that are rightly owed to the U.S. Treasury.

  • Mitch McConnell plans to bring TrumpCare up for a vote in the Senate next week, and the bill will reportedly lack the Cruz-Lee Consumer Freedom Amendment that would allow insurance companies to sell policies that don’t comply with ObamaCare regulations.
  • Mitch McConnell is using his super PAC and companion 501(c)4 group to defeat House Freedom Caucus member Mo Brooks in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate. McConnell favors Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat but faces a contentious primary election to keep it.
  • The Hill reported that James Comey’s memos about his conversations with Donald Trump are government property and half of them contain classified information. This implies that Comey may have leaked classified information, which could put him in the company of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus.
  • A new peer-reviewed study indicates that “‘nearly all’ of the warming shown in current temperature datasets from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Met Office in the United Kingdom are the result of adjustments made to the datasets after temperatures were recorded.”

    “The conclusive findings of this research are that the three GAST data sets are not a valid representation of reality,” the authors wrote. “In fact, the magnitude of their historical data adjustments, that removed their cyclical temperature patterns, are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever — despite current claims of record setting warming.”

    “Nearly all of the warming they are now showing are in the adjustments,” meteorologist Joe D’Aleo, who co-authored the study, said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Each dataset pushed down the 1940s warming and pushed up the current warming.”

  • Luma Simms writes that Islamic activist Linda Sarsour is “inciting sedition from Muslims in America”:

    I am a Christian immigrant from Iraq. We know what Muslim agitation and radicalization looks like and where it leads. Sarsour knew full well how what she said would affect the particular community she was speaking to. This was no women’s march, this is a talk to the Muslim community, in which she chastises those who would accept our government peacefully.

    Later:

    Underlying this entire speech is a fundamental assumption: The American government is oppressive and it is our duty to resist and fight against it. Anyone inside and outside the Muslim community who assimilates, who sides with American government, is an oppressor and should be resisted. This is warfare mentality; it is agitation and incitement. But will the Muslim community heed Sarsour?

  • Mike Newall wrote a fascinating account of Philadelphia’s shuttered Ascension of Our Lord cathedral, which is now a shooting gallery for heroin users:

    So Father Murphy and Sister Raymond walked the few blocks to the church that long was the jewel of the neighborhood, until it wasn’t. They stepped through a window, glass crunching underneath their feet.

    In the half-light, they could make out thin forms. Some shot heroin in the pews, some laid half-naked on mattresses. Others stumbled past in their stupor, not noticing the priest and nun in their presence.

    Father Murphy did all he could think to do. He began to bless them.

  • Illinois’ first budget in two years is full of holes:

    To address the state’s nearly $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois depends heavily on borrowing. Lawmakers approved $6 billion of 12-year bonds to raise money for repayments. But State Representative Greg Harris, the House Democrats’ point person on the budget, has acknowledged there is only enough revenue to support half of that borrowing amount.

    Illinois will also borrow up to $1.2 billion from various state accounts that have accumulated cash for specific purposes, while “sweeping” cash from other accounts –a government version of looking under couch cushions that is expected to yield $300 million.

    Illinois’ $130 billion pension liability is one of the largest in the nation, and the new budget takes only small steps to address the structural underfunding of Illinois’ five retirement systems.

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Mosul.
  • Siemens said two of its electricity-generating gas turbines were moved “against its will” from Russia to Crimea. Siemens claims that it will “initiate criminal charges against the responsible individuals,” but it’s not clear how you do that in Russia.
  • North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile can reach Australia, and they don’t have a missile defense system.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Iraqi Kurds shouldn’t hold a referendum on independence.
  • On Sunday, Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) staged a huge protest against Erdogan in a suburb of Istanbul.
  • Israel’s head of military intelligence, Major General Herzi Halevi, confirmed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is building advanced missile manufacturing facilities in Lebanon. Hezbollah would use these missiles in its next war with Israel, and if they have enough of them they could overwhelm Israel’s missile defense systems.
  • The deputy head of China’s state asset manager, Zhang Xiwu, was arrested on corruption charges. China’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission is the world’s largest controlling company.

    There is more than meets the eye to the case of Zhang Xiwu, who once regulated more than 150 Chinese companies and their one trillion dollars in assets. Zhang is the latest crony of Zeng Qinghong, the former Chinese Communist Party vice-chair and number two member of an influential political faction, to run into trouble in recent months, and Zhang’s fall suggests that a case is being built against his political patron.

  • Julie Borowski believes the “Fight for 15” will be a huge help to introverted consumers:

Links for 7-7-2017