Links for 7-8-2018

  • The soldier who died in a green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan has been identified as U.S. Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel, of South Gate, California.

  • The Trump administration halted ObamaCare’s “risk adjustment payments,” which were basically health insurance company bailouts.

  • Kevin Williamson writes on Democrats’ complaints about gerrymandering and plans to pack the Supreme Court:

    Drawing up new legislative districts is an inherently political exercise; as one longtime legislator told me long ago when I was young and ignorant, it is the most political thing a legislature regularly does. A few progressives lately have argued, following a road-to-Damascus conversion on the issue, that “extreme gerrymandering” makes necessary a move to redistricting by purportedly scientific means employed by disinterested nonpartisan experts, who are sure to be disinterested and nonpartisan in the sense that the New York Times is a nonpartisan newspaper and the American Bar Association is a disinterested seeker of excellence in the legal profession.

    If the control of state legislatures were split 32 to 14 in the Democrats’ favor rather than in the Republicans’ favor, as things currently stand, we’d be hearing precisely nothing about this. Most people who pay any attention to politics understand that, which is why the Left’s efforts to whip up national hysteria over redistricting (or the Electoral College, or the fact that the First Amendment really does protect political communication, after all) have not come to much. Hypocrisy may not count for a great deal in politics, but sometimes it does tamp down the energy associated with a particular issue. People do tend to notice that there is no antiwar movement on the left when there’s a Democratic president.

  • A federal district court judge shot down the government’s attempt to resume its prosecution of Cliven Bundy, his family, and his supporters:

    Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said again in a filing Tuesday that prosecutors “willfully” failed to disclose to defense lawyers evidence that government agents provoked the Bundy family into calling supporters to their defense by acts “such as the insertion and positioning of snipers and cameras surveilling the Bundy home.”

    Navarro said she found no reason to reconsider her dismissal of charges in January against Bundy, sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy and Montana militia leader Ryan Payne.

  • Theresa May’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, resigned, saying he can’t support her business-friendly, “soft Brexit” plan:

    “The general direction of policy will leave us in at best a weak negotiating position, and possibly an inescapable one,” Davis said in his resignation letter to May.

    He criticised May’s decision to maintain a “common rule book” with the EU, mirroring the bloc’s rules and regulations, saying it would hand “control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws”.

    “It seems to me that the national interest requires a Secretary of State in my Department that is an enthusiastic believer in your approach, and not merely a reluctant conscript.”

  • A British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died of Novachok poisoning. Her male friend who was also poisoned is still in the hospital in critical condition.

  • Another critic of Vladimir Putin living in exile in Britain turned up dead. Nikolai Glushkov was found strangled to death on the day he was supposed to appear in court in a case involving Aeroflot.

  • A team of six SAS soldiers credited their Belgian Malinois dog for saving their lives during an ambush in northern Syria.

  • Iraqi police opened fire on protesters near Basra; there are differing accounts of how many people were killed or wounded. People were protesting against “a shortage of jobs, electricity, water and other basic services.”

  • Six members of Tunisia’s security forces were killed in an ambush near the border with Algeria.

  • Turkey’s government fired 18,000 civil servants, half of them from the police force.

  • Judges in Brazil are battling one another over releasing former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from prison. Some people (and apparently some judges) want him to run for president again:

    Appeals court judge Rogerio Favreto, who served in the Justice Ministry under Lula and was appointed by his handpicked successor, ruled earlier on Sunday that the former president should have the same conditions to campaign as other candidates.

    However, the chief justice of the TRF–4 appeals court, Carlos Eduardo Thompson Flores, granted a request from prosecutors to keep Lula in prison, blocking Favreto’s ruling.

Links for 6-17-2018

  • Selena Zito taught 20 Harvard students what the rest of American looks like:

    On a blustery afternoon in April, I filed into a van along with 10 students from Harvard. We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass., where we had chatted with the police chief and his force, the mayor and his staff, small-business owners, waitresses and firemen about their struggles living in small-town America.

    The undergrads were buzzing with their impressions. Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.

    As they settled in, I looked at them.

    “So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”

    None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person who they’d voted for.

    So, I let a minute pass and told them.

    “Nearly every one of them voted for Trump.”

    My students looked stunned, at first. But then a recognition crossed their faces.

  • Kevin Williamson wrote an excellent article on asymmetrical capitalism, the perverse results that emerge when governments over-regulate industries like airlines, banks, credit card companies, and health insurers.

    This pokes people right in their sense of fairness. Fairness is an almost infinitely plastic standard in the wrong hands, but it is nonetheless a big part of the real world’s moral architecture. Progressives look at these situations and conclude that the answer is — more regulation. They believe that the way to achieve fairness is to simply mandate it. This represents some pretty primitive thinking, but primitive thinking dominates politics. Progressives are not alone in their frequent blindness to the ways in which regulation itself is a driving force behind these problems. (It is not the only force, to be sure.) A better answer is more-robust competition, but it is not always clear how to go about achieving that.

    These deficiencies represent what amounts to an enormous tax on Americans. Some of those are direct costs: We pay more for health insurance, mortgage insurance, and Internet services than we probably would in a stronger market. But many of those are invisible taxes, too: American businesses waste billions of dollars a year on unnecessary travel expenses because they cannot count on U.S. airlines to keep to anything like their published schedules, which means they end up having to tack hotel expenses and 48 hours of diminished productivity onto the bill for a two-hour meeting. Many of those costs end up getting passed along to consumers and providers of business services — and to employees, too, to the extent that attaching $200,000 a year in expenses to a $75,000-a-year employee may put downward pressure on wages.

  • Barack Obama’s presidential library is going to cost Illinois taxpayers at least $200 million.

  • The U.S. and South Korea will reportedly suspend “large scale” military drills, which aligns with Donald Trump’s discussions with Kim Jong Un.

  • A car bomb killed at least 26 people at a gathering of Afghan and Taliban troops in Afghanistan. ISIS claimed responsibility. Afghanistan’s President extended the country’s unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban by 10 days.

  • A shootout and a fire in Nicaragua killed eight people and broke the truce between the government and opposition groups. Talks between the two sides are continuing anyway.

  • Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh was injured and his wife was killed in a car crash.

Links for 4-5-2018

Links for 4-2-2018

  • The EPA is rolling back the Obama administration’s vehicle emissions standards for cars and light trucks manufactured between 2022 and 2025. The EPA is also re-examining a waiver the Obama administration gave to California that enables the state to set its own vehicle emissions standards.

  • Every one of the 44 Congressional Democrats who hired Imran Awan and his family to work on their IT systems bypassed mandatory background checks:

    Among the red flags in Abid’s background were a $1.1 million bankruptcy; six lawsuits against him or a company he owned; and at least three misdemeanor convictions including for DUI and driving on a suspended license, according to Virginia court records. Public court records show that Imran and Abid operated a car dealership referred to as CIA that took $100,000 from an Iraqi government official who is a fugitive from U.S. authorities. Numerous members of the family were tied to cryptic LLCs such as New Dawn 2001, operated out of Imran’s residence, Virginia corporation records show. Imran was the subject of repeated calls to police by multiple women and had multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving offenses, according to court records.

  • Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) won’t run for re-election after she failed to adequately investigate her (former) chief of staff, Tony Baker, who was accused of “harassment, threats and violence against female staffers.”

  • A federal district court judge granted the ACLU the right to represent “all pregnant, unaccompanied immigrant minor children who are or will be in the legal custody of the federal government.” The ACLU has been fighting to give pregnant immigrants access to abortions.

  • A federal district court judge ruled that Tennessee can’t withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program. Tennessee argued that the program imposes unconstitutional unfunded mandates on the state: “The lawsuit focused specifically on the requirement for the state to pay exorbitant Medicaid costs or risk losing up to $7 billion in federal Medicaid reimbursements, an amount equal to 20 percent of the entire state budget.”

  • Kevin Williamson’s first article for The Atlantic is on the passing of the libertarian moment:

    The GOP’s political situation is absurd: Having rallied to the banner of an erratic and authoritarian game-show host, evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. are reduced to comparing Donald Trump to King David as they try to explain away his entanglement with pornographic performer Stormy Daniels. Those who celebrated Trump the businessman clutch their heads as his preposterous economic policies produce terror in the stock markets and chaos for the blue-collar workers in construction firms and manufacturers scrambling to stay ahead of the coming tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Chinese retaliation is sure to fall hardest on the heartland farmers who were among Trump’s most dedicated supporters.

    On the libertarian side of the Republican coalition, the situation is even more depressing: Republicans such as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who once offered important support for criminal-justice reform, are lined up behind the atavistic drug-war policies of the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose big idea on opiate abuse is more death sentences for drug traffickers. Deficits are moving in the wrong direction. And, in spite of the best hopes of the “America First” gang, Trump’s foreign policy has not moved in the direction of Rand Paul’s mild non-interventionism or the more uncompromising non-interventionism of his father, Ron Paul. Instead, the current GOP foreign-policy position combines the self-assured assertiveness of the George W. Bush administration (and many familiar faces and mustaches from that administration) with the indiscipline and amateurism characteristic of Trump.

    Some libertarian moment.

  • Dr. Patricia Daugherty attended a national conference for college administrators and found herself in a social justice warrior indoctrination camp:

    The day I arrived at this convention moored in the principles of tolerance and inclusion, I was greeted by a large, laminated poster at the registration tables touting the “ACPA Convention Equity and Inclusion Information Booth.” At this booth one could report any “bias incident … believed to have a negative impact on ACPA members, particularly across marginalized social identity group membership.” So if I asked a question that violated the thought police regulations, I might be reported? Welcome to Communist China.

    It didn’t get any better. Just before the welcoming video and keynote speaker began, a trigger warning flashed up on the screen that there might be “disturbing scenes of activism” in the video. Duly warned, we then listened to Keala Settle’s “This is Me” (a great song, by the way) as pictures were shown, not of happy college students of every background experiencing the many different aspects of life on a university campus, but Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March on Washington. I could have been at an Service Employees International Union convention.

  • Louis Farrakhan personally receives a commission on the money that Nation of Islam members pay to Scientology.

  • The Washington Free Beacon obtained a Communist Party of China Central Committee document ordering stepped-up theft of technical information from American companies beginning in late 2016.

  • Turkey ordered the arrest of Fethullah Gulen and seven other people over the 2016 assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

  • Turkey is holding two Greek border guards without charge or trial. The two guards crossed a heavily forested area of the border during bad weather and have been detained for a month. Greece claims Turkey is holding the border guards for political purposes.

  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won re-election with 97% of the vote:

    The election featured only one other candidate – himself an ardent Sisi supporter – after all serious opposition contenders halted their campaigns in January. The main challenger was arrested and his campaign manager beaten up, while other presidential hopefuls pulled out, citing intimidation.

  • Carlos Alvarado Quesada won the election to be Costa Rica’s next president by promising to legalize gay marriage.

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.

    Later:

    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 2-18-2018

  • Kevin Williamson demolishes the FBI:

    As was reported on Friday, the FBI had been alerted that a particular pasty-faced virgin down in Florida was probably going to shoot up his old school. He had put up social-media posts to that effect, cleverly shielding his identity from the steely-eyed G-men by signing his legal name to those public threats. The epigones of J. Edgar Hoover may not be Sherlock Holmes, but presumably they can read, and some public-minded citizen took some screen shots and sent them to the FBI.

    The FBI of course did what the relevant authorities did in the case of Omar Mateen, the case of Nidal Hasan, the case of Adam Lanza: nothing.

    We could replace these guys with trained monkeys, if we could train monkeys to be self-important.

  • Andrew McCarthy writes that Russia is waging an information war with the U.S., and we’re responding with a puny, meaningless lawsuit:

    To the contrary, we use counterintelligence rather than criminal investigation to thwart foreign adversaries because prosecution is a woefully inadequate response. The point of counterintelligence is to gather information so we can stop our enemies, through meaningful retaliation and discouragement. Generally, that means diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and, in extreme cases, military means. It could mean deploying our own cyber capabilities. The idea is not to invade every rogue nation. It is to respond to provocations in a manner that hurts our rivals — conveying that the prohibitive cost we will exact makes attacking us against their interests.

    That cannot be accomplished by a mere indictment on which no one will be tried.

  • The Washington Post interviewed a former Russian troll whose job was posting comments on news sites.

  • The U.S. is investigating whether Daimler used software tricks to help its diesel engines pass emissions tests.

Links for 12-14-2017