Links for 9-24-2017

  • Donald Trump nominated Trey Trainor to the Federal Election Commission, and Kevin Williamson suspects Democrat Senators are going to find him too Catholic to hold office, a cover for another objection:

    Trainor has been described as a “principled libertarian” by retiring FEC commissioner Lee Goodman, whose term Trainor will complete if he is confirmed. He describes himself as someone who simply wants to see the law implemented. “At the end of the day, the First Amendment says what it says, and there’s a reason it’s the First Amendment: The right of political speech of citizens is of utmost importance if we want to continue to have a functioning republic.” The real debate, he says, is not so much over the content of federal election law but the question of where — and to whom — that law applies. Questions about donations to candidates, campaign committees, and political parties are largely well-settled, but there are live issues involving organizations that have broader missions and that are controlled neither by candidates or political parties.

    The Democrats want to have a system under which the New York Times can engage in political advocacy without restriction but Citizens United is prohibited from showing a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the weeks leading up to an election — the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose method of regulating campaign finances.

    And that is what the campaign against Trey Trainor is really about.

  • At least some of the opposition to Donald Trump’s policies are funded by Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development slush funds that the Obama administration filled via legal settlements stemming from the 2008 financial crisis:

    The Obama administration’s massive shakedown of Big Banks over the mortgage crisis included unprecedented back-door funding for dozens of Democratic activist groups who were not even victims of the crisis.

    At least three liberal nonprofit organizations the Justice Department approved to receive funds from multibillion-dollar mortgage settlements were instrumental in killing the ObamaCare repeal bill and are now lobbying against GOP tax reform, as well as efforts to rein in illegal immigration.

    Later:

    The payola is potentially earmarked for third-party interest groups approved by the Justice Department and HUD without requiring any proof of how the funds will be spent. Many of the recipients so far are radical leftist organizations who solicited the settlement cash from the administration even though they were not parties to the lawsuits, records show.

  • William Jacobson notes that the NFL’s protest rules are a ratchet that only turns left:

    The NFL is as political an organization as there is, now. It picked sides in the culture war, and the side it picked is decidedly left. The NFL refused to allow the Dallas Cowboys to display a decal honoring the Dallas police killed by a Black Lives Matter supporter, yet it is completely supporting the “right” of players to kneel on the sideline while the National Anthem is played, as both a sign of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and an anti-Trump protest.

    The entire Steelers team stayed in the locker room during the national anthem — except former U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

  • A French soldier was killed fighting ISIS near the Iraq/Syria border. Around 1,200 French soldiers are serving in Iraq and Syria.

  • The U.S. bombed an ISIS camp in the Libyan desert, 150 miles southeast of Sirte.

  • The Spanish government is blocking access to internet domains associated with Catalonia’s independence referendum.

  • Rudaw published an interesting interview with Iraqi Christians who were asked what they’d like to see in a new constitution for an independent Kurdistan.

  • Iran imposed an air embargo on Iraqi Kurdistan ahead of the independence referendum, and staged war games along the border.

Links for 9-17-2017

  • The U.S. Constitution was signed 230 years ago today. The Founders’ Constitution is a good resource to learn how the Constitution was written, as is Hillsdale College’s free Introduction to the Constitution class. Mark Meckler writes that it’s time to use Article V of the Constitution to restore it.

  • Bloomberg details how wealthy Chinese people use “visa fixers” to move to the U.S. via the EB–5 program:

    The U.S. hit its annual quota of 10,000 EB–5 visas for the first time in 2014. Eighty-five percent of them went to Chinese nationals. The quota system stipulates that no country’s citizens can claim more than 7 percent of the total EB–5 visas in a year, as long as any other country wants them. But demand from outside China is small—though it’s growing—so in practice, citizens of every other country go directly to the front of the line and Chinese investors hoover up whatever’s left. The most visas ever claimed by a country other than China was 903, by South Korea in 2009.

  • Kevin Williamson writes that Donald Trump wasn’t rolled by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi over DACA, but Trump did roll his voters:

    Trump has run into trouble, mostly as a result of the fact that he does not know what he is doing and is too lazy to learn how to do the job. He has made an ethic of willful ignorance, and as a result he failed to get some relatively easy things done: In spite of what you hear on talk radio and from the talking mouths on cable news, Republicans do want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But that’s a big piece of domestic policy that requires presidential leadership of the sort that Trump is simply unable to offer, having given no serious thought to the question other than to say that he’d prefer a “great” and “terrific” system to the current one, preferably at a lower price. How do get that done without raising taxes to fund new subsidies — while keeping the expensive and market-distorting but very popular preexisting-conditions rules — is non-obvious. Congressional Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, two very fine opposition leaders who so far have not shown themselves to be very adept at governing, were unable to coalesce around a credible alternative to the ACA — or even around a non-credible alternative. End result: humiliating failure.

    Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, lifelong Republicans both, are familiar enough with humiliation. Trump can barely endure it; he care barely endure a critical word from Joe Scarborough without flying into a conniption. And so he was driven by his vanity and his thin skin into the arms of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, desperate for something to put into his “W” column and create the impression that he actually is getting something done.

    Later:

    With no market-oriented health-care reform and no hawkish immigration reform and the prospects of far-reaching tax reform looking shaky — even though Republicans exist for no obvious purpose other than cutting taxes — Trump is still looking for his big win. Even those who were willing to suspend the fully formed adult parts of their brains and give him the benefit of the doubt are coming around to the realization that he has no beliefs and no principles, and that he will sell out any ally, cause, or national interest if doing so suits his one and only true master in this life: his vanity. He didn’t get rolled by Pelosi and Schumer: His voters got rolled by him. That’s the real deal.

  • A woman threw acid on four American women at a train station in Marseille, France. Police say it was not a terrorist attack.

Links for 8-23-2017

  • The U.S. Navy is relieving Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin as a consequence of the all the ship collisions that have occurred on his watch.

  • Ben Shapiro explains that political violence is not OK:

    Words can be awful; ideologies can be evil. But violence breaks a society in half. The Nazis could never have risen without the specter of violent Reds on the loose to fight against. The Confederacy could never have gained steam so quickly without the abolitionist vigilantism of John Brown. Violence — even in the name of wiping away evil ideologies — tends to breed more violence, unless it is a legitimate last resort.

    What’s more, the initiator of violence in the streets tends to offend the sensibilities of those who oppose violence in a civilized society. He thereby creates sympathy for those who defend themselves — even if those who defend themselves are disgusting cretins. That’s because most people in a civilized society agree with Max Weber’s essential dictum that the state’s existence rests on its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. Whoever violates that covenant destroys the state.

  • Helen Raleigh draws parallels between American anarchy and China’s Cultural Revolution.

  • The co-founder of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, refused to tell Senate Judiciary Committee investigators who paid for the largely false anti-Trump dossier.

  • Kevin Williamson writes that Congress should pull the plug on Afghanistan:

    “Killing terrorists,” Trump says. Afghanistan has its share of terrorists, but what it mostly has is an endless civil war being fought among rival tribal interests in a rugged and empty part of the world that mostly has served only to get in the way when you’re marching your Macedonian army toward India. “Killing terrorists” in Afghanistan is not a national military goal with a defined set of conclusory conditions and a working definition of victory — it’s an eternal game of Whac-a-Mole using U.S. forces as the toy mallet. If concluding our efforts in Afghanistan before Islamic radicalism has been exterminated there means handing a victory to the ghost of Osama bin Laden — who is, let’s keep in mind, dead — then we are never leaving Afghanistan.

  • A new national Public Policy Polling survey puts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s approval rating at 9%. In the same survey, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating is 11%.

  • There’s photographic evidence that Iran is using its national airline to transport fighters to Syria, which is a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Links for 8-20-2017

  • The investigation of the IT contractors who worked for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other House Democrats now includes a national security component — the FBI is investigating whether Imran Awan, his relatives, and his friends sold information to foreign governments.

  • Kevin Williamson comments on efforts to drive Donald Trump out of office:

    As Trump prepared to take the oath of office, a group of sundry leftists of the anarchist variety declared their intention to “Become Ungovernable,” and they have made some progress on that front, from the violent protests surrounding the inauguration itself to the riots at Berkeley and on other college campuses. The Democratic establishment and its media allies — the Respectable Left — play a good-cop/bad-cop game with the blackshirts and rioters. The black bloc exercises a heckler’s veto, and the campus administrators and municipal authorities pretend to be saddened that they are obliged to bar conservative speakers from their campuses or restrict public discourse. The nice progressives in cardigans assure us that they deplore the violence of Antifa and similar goon squads, but they know who their friends are — and, more important, who they aren’t. Charles Murray can’t speak on a college campus without being physically assaulted, but the real danger, these progressives tell us, is that the NRA made a recruiting video.

    Later:

    It may be that the investigations under way will turn up something of real interest, but there is nothing in the known facts about the Trump administration that justifies the current effort to drive him from office. He’s a lousy executive, high on rage and none too bright, venal, vain, and vicious, but we knew that when we elected him. America could have had Mitt Romney or Scott Walker if the voters had so desired. They went in another direction. You buy the ticket, you take the ride. In the immortal words of Ed Koch: The people have spoken, and now they must be punished.

  • Spanish police say the terror cell that attacked Barcelona and Cambrils originally intended to drive a truck bomb into the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. The police officer who shot four of the five Cambrils attackers dead is a former Spanish special forces soldier.

  • Iraqi forces launched an offensive to recapture the city of Tal Afar from ISIS. Tal Afar is 50 miles west of Mosul.

Links for 8-17-2017

  • The Telegraph live blog on the Barcelona terrorist attack is here. Thirteen people were killed and more than 100 were injured. ISIS claimed responsibility.

  • Police arrested three more people for helping pull down a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina. All three are affiliated with the Workers World Party, which is avowedly communist.

  • Kevin Williamson writes on the Confederate statue issue and its political context:

    Many of the monuments and statues now being abominated and disassembled were not erected in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War but some years after, often in reaction to such modest advances in the political and social condition of African Americans as the early 20th century produced. Some were nothing short of consecrated shrines to white supremacy erected to Southern political powers in league with such miscreants as the Ku Klux Klan. To the extent that today’s reaction against these monuments is in essence Democrats cleaning up their own mess, there is some justice to it.

    But there would have been some justice to it in 1938 or 1964 as well. The current attack on Confederate monuments is only another front in the Left’s endless kulturkampf. The Left is committed to always being on the offense in the culture wars, and, with Donald Trump and his white-resentment politics installed in the White House and Republicans lined up queasily behind him, the choice of going after Confederate totems is clever. It brings out the kooks and the cranks, and some respectable conservatives feel obliged to defend them. Getting Republicans to re-litigate the Civil War is a great victory for the Democrats, who were, after all, on the wrong side of it as a matter of historical fact. Rather than embrace their party’s proudest and finest legacy, Republicans are now trying to explain away President Trump’s insistence that there were some very fine gentlemen among the tiki-Nazis in Charlottesville. President Trump’s schoolboy forensics is here particularly embarrassing. From Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump: Evolution runs backward for American political parties.

    We should not, in any case, accept the fiction that what is transpiring at the moment is a moral crusade rather than political opportunism.

  • Daryl Davis, who is black, has a unique hobby: befriending white supremacists:

    In his spare time, he befriends white supremacists. Lots of them. Hundreds. He goes to where they live. Meets them at their rallies. Dines with them in their homes. He gets to know them because, in his words, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”

    He also is a collector of KKK robes. He collects them as souvenirs when KKK members decide to give up on racism because of his friendship.

  • Widespread illicit availability of Fentanyl is driving a huge increase in overdose deaths.

  • Matthew RJ Brodsky offers options for ending Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

  • Reuters reports that the Syrian chemical weapons deal was a ruse:

    A promise by Syria in 2013 to surrender its chemical weapons averted U.S. air strikes. Many diplomats and weapons inspectors now believe that promise was a ruse.

    They suspect that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while appearing to cooperate with international inspectors, secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability. They say Syria hampered inspectors, gave them incomplete or misleading information, and turned to using chlorine bombs when its supplies of other chemicals dwindled.

    Later:

    The extent of Syria’s reluctance to abandon chemical weapons has not previously been made public for fear of damaging international inspectors’ relationship with Assad’s administration and its backer, Russia, which is giving military support to Assad. Now investigators and diplomatic sources have provided telling details to Reuters:

    Syria’s declarations about the types and quantities of chemicals it possessed do not match evidence on the ground uncovered by inspectors. Its disclosures, for example, make no mention of sarin, yet there is strong evidence that sarin has been used in Syria, including this year. Other chemicals found by inspectors but not reported by Syria include traces of nerve agent VX, the poison ricin and a chemical called hexamine, which is used to stabilise sarin.

    Later still:

    Syria declared it had 1,300 tonnes of chemical weapons or industrial chemical stocks, precisely the amount that outside experts had estimated. In an OPCW-led operation, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, that stockpile was shipped overseas for destruction with the help of 30 countries, notably the United States.

    But there were two significant problems. First, inspections did not go smoothly. Days after the Ghouta sarin attack, OPCW inspectors heading for the area came under sniper fire. They made it through to Ghouta eventually and were given just two hours by Syrian authorities to interview witnesses and take samples. The team confirmed that sarin had been used.

  • Japan plans to buy a land-based Aegis anti-missile system in response to the North Korean missile threat.

Links for 8-11-2017

  • Robert Tracinski writes that “No One Expects the Google Inquisition, But It’s Coming”:

    Someone followed up by sending further leaks to the media, consisting of photos of internal message board discussions showing that some other Googlers agreed with Damore, at least in part. The obvious purpose of those leaks is to keep up the pressure on Google, to set off an inquiry into how many other horrible, raging, sexist bigots—as Damore has been styled in the technology media—also need to be purged from the company. That’s the clear implication: that Google needs to conduct a thorough investigation to root out any other James Damores who might be lurking there.

    Later:

    This is how an organization gets eaten away by vicious politics. By giving one set of its employees the impression that they can leak to the press to get people who disagree with them fired, Google has apparently inspired another set of its employees to leak information to get the first group harassed. Talk about creating a “hostile work environment.”

    Later still:

    What’s relevant here is that Google now faces a pattern in which its employees are taking internal information and leaking it to the media, against the company’s own rules and safeguards, in order to achieve political objectives. If the wider public starts to figure out that this is happening, they just might decide this is not a company they want to trust with their information or access to their lives.

  • Sabo put up posters near Google’s office in Venice, California:
    Sabo Google poster

  • Kevin Williamson writes that Donald Trump is treating Mitch McConnell as a scapegoat, but McConnell is not the only person responsible for the failures of the Republican-controlled Congress:

    Trump presented himself to the voters as a master negotiator and dealmaker, but that of course was the character he played on television, not the actual man. Trump cannot sit down with congressional Republicans — much less a bipartisan coalition — and negotiate a deal on health-care reform. The reasons for this are straightforward: There is disagreement among Republicans about what policies should be forwarded, and President Trump does not know what he himself thinks about any of them, because he does not think anything about any of them, because he doesn’t know about them. Trump does not do details — he does adjectives. He wants a “terrific” health-care system. So does Bernie Sanders, but the two of them don’t agree on what that means in practice. At least, they don’t agree anymore: Trump has in the past endorsed the same single-payer system that the grumpy little socialist Muppet from Vermont prefers, which he, or whoever writes the books published under his name, described at some length in his 2000 offering The America We Deserve. He pointed to Canada as an example of how health care in the United States should be organized. He might even have believed that for a week or two, but Trump is simply too lazy to do the intellectual work necessary to develop a coherent position beyond his facile superlatives.

  • Comparing Census Bureau numbers with statistics from the Election Assistance Commission indicates at least 462 counties have more registered voters than residents of voting age:

    But California’s San Diego County earns the enchilada grande. Its 138 percent registration translates into 810,966 ghost voters. Los Angeles County’s 112 percent rate equals 707,475 over-registrations. Beyond the official data that it received, Judicial Watch reports that LA County employees “informed us that the total number of registered voters now stands at a number that is a whopping 144 percent of the total number of resident citizens of voting age.”

    All told, California is a veritable haunted house, teeming with 1,736,556 ghost voters. Judicial Watch last week wrote Democratic secretary of state Alex Padilla and authorities in eleven Golden State counties and documented how their election records are in shambles.

  • A second unit of Yazidi women fighters (the YPJ) entered Raqqa, Syria to fight ISIS.

  • Christians are leaving Iraq at even higher rates because their towns are wrecked, aid money isn’t flowing, and Kurdish and Shiite militias have divided up the Nineveh Plain:

    Checkpoints manned separately by Kurdish Democratic Party peshmerga fighters and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) militias make it difficult for families to return. “At each of these checkpoints, we often wait up to two hours,” Markos told me. “Two weeks ago, I was turned back.”

    The KDP and the PMF have established a military Line of Control, effectively dividing the Assyrian Christian and Yazidi Nineveh Plain into two separate zones.

    Towns that used to be just a ten minute drive from each other are now walled off from one another, requiring hours to reach crossing points manned by the warring militias.

Links for 7-30-2017

  • The U.S. responded to the latest North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test by flying two B–1Bs over South Korea. The U.S. also successfully tested a THAAD missile against a medium range ballistic missile.

  • The number of American diplomats being kicked out of Russia by Vladimir Putin totaled to 755.

  • Kevin Williamson compares Donald Trump to a failed, simpering Glengarry Glen Ross character:

    He [Trump] has had a middling career in real estate and a poor one as a hotelier and casino operator but convinced people he is a titan of industry. He has never managed a large, complex corporate enterprise, but he did play an executive on a reality show. He presents himself as a confident ladies’ man but is so insecure that he invented an imaginary friend to lie to the New York press about his love life and is now married to a woman who is open and blasé about the fact that she married him for his money. He fixates on certain words (“negotiator”) and certain classes of words (mainly adjectives and adverbs, “bigly,” “major,” “world-class,” “top,” and superlatives), but he isn’t much of a negotiator, manager, or leader. He cannot negotiate a health-care deal among members of a party desperate for one, can’t manage his own factionalized and leak-ridden White House, and cannot lead a political movement that aspires to anything greater than the service of his own pathetic vanity.

    He wants to be John Wayne, but what he is is “Woody Allen without the humor.” Peggy Noonan, to whom we owe that observation, has his number: He is soft, weak, whimpering, and petulant. He isn’t smart enough to do the job and isn’t man enough to own up to the fact. For all his gold-plated toilets, he is at heart that middling junior salesman watching Glengarry Glen Ross and thinking to himself: “That’s the man I want to be.” How many times do you imagine he has stood in front of a mirror trying to project like Alec Baldwin? Unfortunately for the president, it’s Baldwin who does the good imitation of Trump, not the other way around.

  • This is hilarious: “Republicans on Sunday urged President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff John Kelly to rein in the chaos within the White House on Monday but said the retired Marine Corps general will be challenged to assert control.” If you believe John Kelly is going to rein in Donald Trump, I have a bridge to sell you.