Links for 3-24-2017

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  • Someone — possibly a foreign intelligence agency — appears to have hacked commercial cell phone towers in Washington, D.C. and other areas of the country, and they’re using that access to track people.

  • The federal district court judge in Hawaii who blocked Donald Trump’s latest immigration/travel executive order based his ruling on his beliefs about Trump’s motives, not the law:

    Throughout the ruling, Judge Watson concedes there’s nothing about the executive order that would be problematic if not for his interpretation of Trump’s statements made in the months and years prior to issuing it. He repeatedly states his feeling that Trump had a bad motive in issuing the order.

    Judges using campaign rhetoric to infer intent instead of plainly evaluating the law as written is a dangerous development. Also because the public can witness the selective use of this trick, it undermines confidence in the judiciary at a time when the judiciary can’t afford too much erosion of trust.

    These are also good points by @ThomasHCrown:




  • The latest debt limit deal expired yesterday, and the federal government added $1.4 trillion to its debt over the 16 months it was in effect. The current federal debt (not including unfunded liabilities) stands at $19.9 trillion.

  • The U.S. Navy demonstrated firing two SM–6 missiles in rapid succession at a ballistic missile target, which is something they couldn’t do with their previous generation SM–5 missiles. Firing two (or more) missiles is intended as a fail-safe in case one misses.

  • Kevin Williamson writes that the Republican and Democratic parties have swapped roles:

    The Democrats have become what the Republicans once were: the party of the respectable upper-middle class — and of many of those who aspire to it. (The poor are for patronage and vote-farming.) They are, as the bourgeoisie always are, obsessed with social convention and etiquette (If a young white woman in college wears hoop earrings, is it “cultural appropriation”? How ashamed should I be for having watched Speedy Gonzales cartoons as a kid — and enjoyed them?). The Republicans have gone seeking tribunes of the plebs. (Weird thing: Our tribunes of the plebs have an awful lot of private jets backed in Palm Beach.) Up is down, left is right, confusion reigns.

    In neither party’s case does this recent evolution constitute an improvement: It would be one thing if the Democrats had embraced their inner aristocrats with a decent and forthright spirit of public service rather than their current nastiness and stupidity, or if the newly class-conscious Republicans were proceeding as people who are (as Someone once put it) “poor in spirit,” putting generosity of spirit rather than seething resentment at the center of their new concern for those at the margins of modern life. But that is not the case. The Democrats have become ordinary snobs of a particularly embarrassing variety, and the Republicans have become incontinent rage monkeys, looking for someone — anyone — to blame. They are much more interested in afflicting the comfortable than in comforting the afflicted. But there is another approach to life’s losers, a better one, if only they could remember.

  • Congressman Thomas Massie has concluded that voters who supported libertarians and Donald Trump were just voting for the crazies:

    “All this time,” Massie explained, “I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans. But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas — they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along.”

  • Federal and state prosecutors decided they will not charge New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over his campaign fundraising practices.

  • Queen Elizabeth approved the law giving Prime Minister Theresa May authority to trigger Britain’s exit from the European Union.

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD won a parliamentary majority in yesterday’s election, but lost eight seats in the process. One of Rutte’s coalition partners, the Labour party, got blown out (they lost 29 seats), so Rutte will have to build a new coalition. Geert Wilders’ PVV party gained five seats, which is fewer than polls predicted. To win, Rutte and VVD had to co-opt many of Wilders’ stances on immigration, so Wilders did shift the public discussion.

  • Someone sent a letter bomb to the International Monetary Fund office in Paris.

Links for 3-13-2017

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Links for 1-4-2017

  • Daniel Horowitz writes at Conservative Review that Congressional Republicans are planning to repeal only part of ObamaCare:

    The problem is that they plan to repeal only the taxes, subsidies, and Medicaid expansion, but will retain every page of the insurance coverage regulations that are responsible for making insurance actuarially insolvent and depressing the job market. Thus, we are confronted with the worst of both worlds in which the public perception is that Obamacare will be repealed, but the worst aspects — the aspects of the leviathan that are solely responsible for unaffordable premiums and the lack of choice in the market place — will be preserved.

    Kevin Williamson writes at National Review that the bits of ObamaCare that Republicans want to keep aren’t financially sustainable:

    Together, the individual mandate and the preexisting-coverage rule make up the basic policy architecture of Obamacare. There isn’t a feasible way to have the popular preexisting-conditions coverage without the unpopular mandate. In fact, in order to make the system work, we would need to put some more teeth into that mandate: Because the penalties associated with it are very mild, many people, disproportionately young and healthy, prefer to pay the fine than pay a great deal more for insurance. Hence, the pool of newly insured people under Obamacare has been much sicker than insurance companies had expected, which has them squealing. And more than that: It has them pulling out of ACA exchanges and markets around the country, leaving consumers with fewer choices and much higher premiums than they had expected.

    If you want to keep the preexisting-coverage rule — and Republicans say they do — then you are going to end up with Obamacare, or at least a version of it. It might be a slightly better or slightly worse version, but that is what you will have.

    In the meantime M.G. Oprea writes at The Federalist that she’s paying thousands for ObamaCare, then paying for what it won’t cover out of her pocket:

    Rather than go through insurance, which wouldn’t pay for the CT-scan anyway (at least not until I reached my $6,000 deductible), I called around and found the cheapest imaging center. You see, they don’t want to deal with insurance companies either, so they offer an enormous discount if you pay at the time of service. I was able to get a CT-scan for $247.

    At the end of the day, I’m paying hundreds of dollars a month for an insurance plan that doesn’t cover the doctors I need to see and has such a high deductible that I end up paying for most costs out of pocket anyway. And it doesn’t even allow the use of a Health Savings Account.

  • James Simpson argues that the U.S. needs to shut down its refugee programs before we find ourselves in the same position as Germany:

    The most important risk the current refugee program creates is terrorism. Since 9/11 there have been 580 convictions for terrorism in the United States. At least 40 of these were refugees. Just this year, in addition to the knife attacks by Abdul Artan and Ali Mohamound, four other refugees have committed or attempted to commit acts of terrorism.

    Since March 2014 there have been 111 ISIS-related arrests and 60 convictions. There have been nine indictments and six convictions of ISIS supporters in the metropolitan DC area alone. ISIS openly encourages “lone jihadi” attacks, and the State Department now admits ISIS is trying to penetrate the U.S. refugee flow. Some 250 U.S. Muslims from 19 states have either joined or attempted to join ISIS overseas. Many have since returned with little or no oversight.

    Let’s be clear: these are not Mennonite terrorists. They are not Episcopalian suicide bombers. Virtually all 580 convictions since 9/11 were Muslim immigrants or American Muslim converts, and the Somali community consistently supplies such malefactors. Yet the Department of Homeland Security has provided tours of airport facilities to groups of Somalis, including explanations of airport inner workings, security protocols, and databases. DHS redacted some of this information as too sensitive to share with the public.

  • Four Club Gitmo residents are scheduled to be transferred to Saudi Arabia within the next day.

  • President Obama claims his administration has been free of scandal:

  • Turkey is threatening to deny the U.S. access to Incirlik air base unless the U.S. military and its allies start flying ground support missions for Turkish troops in Syria. There’s a good chance the Turkish government is leaning on Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to push the PKK out of Sinjar province — the KRG is imposing restrictions on the movement of goods into and out of Sinjar, which is hurting the Yazidis who moved back into the area after ISIS was expelled. The KRG also shut down the charity Yazda, which has been helping transport Yazidis out of ISIS-held territory and providing survivors with mental health treatment.

  • Kidnapped Iraqi journalist Afrah al-Qaisi was freed unharmed and the property her kidnappers stole was returned.

  • An Israeli soldier, Sergeant Elor Azaria, was convicted of manslaughter by a military court for shooting and killing a Palestinian who was wounded and lying on the ground. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports pardoning Azaria.

  • Mario Loyola wrote a long article for National Review describing a plan for achieving peace in Palestine:

    That includes the U.S. position on Israeli settlements. Settlements are not the reason that the two-state solution is “now in jeopardy,” as Secretary of State John Kerry put it in his mea non culpa speech last week. There is only one reason the two-state solution is in jeopardy, or more accurately dead, and that is Muslim terrorism against innocent Jews. There is only one reason for the harsh security measures imposed in the occupied territories, and that is Muslim terrorism against innocent Jews. There is only one reason for the continuing conflict between Israel and its neighbors, and that is Muslim terrorism against innocent Jews.

  • Russia have decided the Taliban are an ally (at least for now), and they’re working to ease sanctions on the group’s leaders:

    The jihadist group [the Taliban] wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace.