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

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.

    Later:

    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.

Links for 11-5-2017

  • Fox News is updating its story on the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas here.

  • BuzzFeed obtained a tranche of internal Breitbart emails illustrating how the Mercer family, Steve Bannon, Alex Marlow, Milo Yiannopoulos, and alt-right figures promote their narrative.

  • Kevin Williamson argues that what happened between the Democratic National Committee and Bernie Sanders is how political parties are supposed to work:

    As it turns out, political parties are — like churches, civic groups, unions, trade groups, lobbyists, pressure groups, and business associations — part of the secret sauce of civil society. In much the same way as our senators — in their original, unelected role — were expected to provide a sober brake on the passions of the members of the more democratic House of Representatives, political parties exercised a soft veto that helped to keep extremism and demagoguery in check. Anybody can run for president — but not just anybody can run as the candidate of the Republican party or the Democratic party. Third parties face an uphill battle, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot prevail: The Republican party was a very successful third party, displacing the moribund Whigs.

    The denuded political parties provide an important fund-raising and administrative apparatus — along with a tribal identity that is arguably more important — but they do not offer much more than that. Instead, we have relatively little in the way of mediating institutions between candidates and the public at large. If Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are your idea of great political leaders, then you probably don’t see a problem with that. You’re a fool, but you’re a fool who is likely to get his way in the coming years. The difference between a republic and a democracy is that republics put up more roadblocks between fools and their desires.

    The project to make the Democratic party an instrument of the Clinton campaign in order to prevent Bernie Sanders from making it an instrument of his own ambitions was dishonest, corrupt, and possibly illegal.

    It was also exactly what political parties are supposed to do. A little democracy, like a little whiskey, is a good thing — too much and you end up with Ted Kennedy.

  • Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort received federal permission to hire 70 people under H–2B visas for the 2017–2018 tourist season.

  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salmon and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conducted a purge, ordering the arrest of 11 princes, four ministers, and dozens of former ministers and businessmen. The arrests were ordered as King Salmon created an anti-corruption committee chaired by the crown prince. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was among those arrested — he’s a billionaire investor in companies like Citigroup and Twitter.

  • Saudi Prince Mansour bin Muqrin was killed in a helicopter crash near the border with Yemen.

  • The former leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, turned himself in to Belgian police; four associates of Puigdemont also turned themselves in. Spain has issued arrest warrants for all five. Spain’s central government scheduled elections in Catalonia next month, and two polls suggest pro-independence parties could win a majority of seats.

  • A Venezuelan opposition leader, Freddy Guevara, sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas out of fear that he was about to be arrested.