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.

Links for 10-8-2017

  • Last week a Turkish employee at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul was arrested on charges of being connected to Fethullah Gulen. That prompted the U.S. to stop issuing visas to Turkish citizens, and the Turkish government responded in kind for American citizens.

  • The Turkish military sent scouts into Syria’s Idlib province and later shelled the area.

  • The Trump administration sent Congress a 70-point immigration enforcement plan:

    But the plans break serious new ground on the legal front, giving federal agents more leeway to deny illegal immigrants at the border, to arrest and hold them when they’re spotted in the interior, and to deport them more speedily. The goal, the White House said, is to ensure major changes to border security, interior enforcement and the legal immigration system.

    Later:

    All told, the list includes 27 different suggestions on border security, 39 improvements to interior enforcement and four major changes to the legal immigration system.

  • Kevin Williamson explains the nature and origin of the Second Amendment:

    Put another way: The right to keep and bear arms would still be there without the Second Amendment. Like the right not to suffer political or religious repression, it exists with or without the law. It is an aspect of the human being, not an aspect of the governments that human beings institute among themselves. The state does not grant the right — the state exists because the right exists and needs protecting from time to time. The state protects our rights from criminals and marauders, and the Constitution protects our rights from their protectors.

    No doubt that sounds like a lot of crazy talk to many of our progressive friends. “Rights from God! Imagine!” That is a critical failure of our most progressive institution, the schools, which consistently neglect — or decline — to provide our students with even a rudimentary education in American civics and the history of the American idea. It isn’t that the modern left-winger is obliged to accept the intellectual and philosophical basis of the American order, but he ought to understand that things are the way they are for a reason. The idea that the Second Amendment could simply be repealed —that’s that! — isn’t only an attack on the right to keep and bear arms: It is an attack on the American constitutional order per se. That our progressive friends often are so pristinely ignorant of the moral order underpinning the American founding is one of their great intellectual failures. They do not understand the American idea, and, as a result, they do not really understand their own ideas, either.

  • The New York Times published an exposé on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment, which the political left is conveniently ignoring, including our newly self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong, the progressive late night TV comedians. Even Saturday Night Live avoided commenting on Weinstein. Today the board of directors of The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein, effective immediately.

Links for 9-28-2017

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.