Links for 5-14-2017

Links for 5-5-2017

  • A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed fighting al Shabaab in Somalia. Two other SEALs were wounded.

  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee started an investigation of Barack Obama’s Iran deal, specifically looking into whether the Obama administration undermined counterproliferation efforts targeting Iranian weapons trafficking.

  • Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, withdrew his name from consideration. Leftist groups attacked Green because he believes transgenderism is a mental illness.

  • The Department of the Interior is reviewing 21 national and five marine monuments that were created by previous administrations. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be stripped of their status as monuments.

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this to Donald Trump yesterday: “Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children and grandchildren, in a culture of peace.” This is a lie.

  • Kevin Williamson writes that TrumpCare and ObamaCare fail to recognize the economic concept of scarcity:

    We have perfectly functional markets in all sorts of life-and-death goods. They expect you to pay up at the grocery store, too, but poor people are not starving in the American streets, because we came up with this so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea of giving poor people money and money analogues (such as food stamps) to pay for food. It is not a perfect system, but it is preferable, as we know from unhappy experiences abroad, to having the government try to run the farms, as government did in the Soviet Union, or the grocery stores, as government does in hungry, miserable Venezuela. The Apple Store has its shortcomings, to be sure, but I’d rather have a health-care system that looks like the Apple Store than one that looks like a Venezuelan grocery store.

    There is a certain libertarian tendency to look at messes such as the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act and throw up one’s hands, exclaiming: “Just let markets work!” We should certainly let markets work, but not “just.” We aren’t going to let children with congenital birth defects suffer just because they might have stupid and irresponsible parents, and we are not going to let old people who have outlived their retirement savings die of pneumonia because we don’t want to spend a couple of thousand bucks treating them. But we also do not have a society in which everybody is on Section 8 and food stamps, nor do we want one. Developing sensible, intelligently run, reasonably generous welfare programs for those who cannot or simply have not done it for themselves is a relatively small project, but trying to have government impose some kind of political discipline on the entirety of the health-care system — which is as explicit a part of the current daft Republican health-care program as it is of Obamacare — is a different kind of project entirely.

  • The French presidential election is Sunday, and today 9GB of emails from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign appeared online.

  • Russia deployed several units of Chechen and Ingush special forces troops from the North Caucasus region to Syria:

    “I think this represents Moscow’s grudging recognition that it’s stuck in a quagmire,” says Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague. In their hybrid civil-military role, capable of a wide range of operations, these brigades have become a go-to deployment for the Kremlin as it seeks to assert itself in various theaters abroad. Chechen fighters have appeared alongside pro-separatist Russian “volunteers” in eastern Ukraine, and several battalions of Chechen servicemen also entered Georgia during its brief war with Russia in August 2008, occupying the town of Gori. At least some of the Chechen troops deployed in Syria have combat experience in eastern Ukraine, with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reporting that one of the Chechen commanders is Apti Bolotkhanov, who spent substantial time fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in the Donbass.

    But beyond their skill on the battlefield, the brigades are valuable to Moscow for other reasons. Russian society and leadership have proved extremely sensitive to casualties in Syria; the Kremlin has gone to extreme lengths to hide its losses. Casualties are often only publicly confirmed after observers find the tombstones of deceased soldiers in their hometown cemeteries. Moscow’s official figures only account for 30 dead in Syria — with the true figure likely much higher. Using nonethnic Russian special personnel might protect the Kremlin from a public backlash sparked by rising battlefield casualties. Losses incurred by the new, North Caucasian contingent are unlikely to trigger such a response. Russian society carries a deep-seated resentment toward natives of the region, in particular Chechens, after two wars in the 1990s and multiple terrorist attacks since.

  • Russia, Turkey, and Iran defined “de-escalation” zones in Syria and declared that American aircraft cannot fly over them.

  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory published a video of what the Cassini probe saw when it dove between Saturn and its rings:

Links for 5-3-2017

Links for 5-2-2017

  • Jim DeMint is officially out as president of the Heritage Foundation. Heritage’s statement is here and DeMint’s response is here. Mollie Hemingway writes that DeMint’s ouster was a palace coup by Michael Needham, who leads Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) to Heritage’s 501(c)(3). In Washington, palace coups often end up badly for the coup plotters — we’ll see what happens this time.

  • Kevin Williamson writes on the current state of federal separation of powers:

    For decades, the Left has advanced its agenda by using the courts to effectively amend the Constitution without going through the amendment process. Want a constitutional right to abortion? Harry Blackmun will oblige. But there is a Jacksonian version of that: amending the Constitution through obstinacy and demagoguery. In the matter of creating a categorical exemption from prosecution in certain immigration cases, the Obama administration took an action that President Obama himself had earlier argued was beyond the legal power of the president. Donald Trump had insisted that the Obama administration required congressional authorization before making war on Syria, but he quickly reversed himself once the power was his. Those issues remain unresolved: An injunction was issued against the Obama administration’s expanded amnesty, and a 4–4 Supreme Court decision denied the administration a rehearing of the case. The Trump administration’s actions in Syria have not been litigated at all.

    The only thing about any of this that seems to me obvious is that our tripartite government is a tricycle with a wonky wheel — the presidency. Though there are ancient intellectual disputes about such questions as judicial review, a reasonably effective and stable modus vivendi has evolved for relations between the judicial and legislative branches. And there was, until fairly recently, a reasonably effective (though less stable) settlement between the presidency and the other branches. Congress expanded the executive branch, for instance with the creation of the Department of Education, and it constrained the executive branch, too, through legislation such as the War Powers Resolution and the Hatch Act. But the presidency is an opportunistic political organism, and it has grown, for good reasons and bad, particularly during the administrations of Richard Nixon and those who came after. Claims of executive privilege grew to such an extent as to amount to something like immunity from congressional oversight, particularly in matters related to political scandals. The role of the president as “Commander-in-Chief” was inflated to princely proportions. And now, President Trump wants a bigger presidency, too.

    We should not give it to him.

  • Dennis Prager on the Second Civil War:

    In order to understand why more violence might be coming, it is essential to understand that left-wing mobs are almost never stopped, arrested, or punished. Colleges do nothing to stop them, and civil authorities do nothing to stop them on campuses or anywhere else. Police are reduced to spectators as they watch left-wing gangs loot stores, smash business and car windows, and even take over state capitols (as in Madison, Wisc.).

    It’s beginning to dawn on many Americans that some mayors, police chiefs, and college presidents have no interest in stopping this violence. Left-wing officials sympathize with the lawbreakers; and the police, who rarely sympathize with thugs of any ideology, are ordered to do nothing by emasculated police chiefs. Consequently, given the abdication by all these authorities of their role to protect the public, some members of the public will inevitably decide that they will protect themselves and others.

    Later:

    So, here’s a prediction: If college presidents, mayors, and police chiefs won’t stop left-wing mobs, other Americans will. I hope this doesn’t happen, because electing conservative Republicans and not donating money to colleges would be more effective. But it is almost inevitable.

    Then the left-wing media – the mainstream media – will enter hysteria mode with reports that “right-wing fascists” are violently attacking America.

    And that’s when mayors and college presidents will finally order in the police.

  • The State Department is still finding Hillary Clinton emails containing classified information.

  • Former Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights when he shot Scott five times as he was running away. The plea deal means Slager won’t be retried on state murder charges (his first trial ended in a hung jury).

  • The THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea went live.

  • Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny lost 80% of his vision in one eye after someone threw green liquid in his face last week.

  • Rival Libyan governments held talks in Abu Dhabi, and reportedly agreed to hold elections early next year.

  • Brazilian prosecutors filed charges against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff, Jose Dirceu. He’s accused of accepting $755,880 in bribes from two construction companies.

  • A border wall in San Diego dramatically dropped the crime rate and encouraged economic development:

Links for 4-18-2017

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Links for 3-19-2017