Links for 12-13-2017

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Don Willett to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on a 50-47 vote.

  • The FBI delivered copies of anti-Trump text messages exchanged between agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to Congress, which prompted “interesting” questions when Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein appeared before the House Judiciary Committee.

    Strzok and Page referred to Trump as an “idiot” during the Republican primaries, the text messages show. Other exchanges indicate that the pair supported Clinton for president over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Democratic primaries.

    Politico noted a March 2016 text in which Page declared: “God trump is a loathsome human…omg he’s an idiot.”

    “He’s awful,” wrote back Strzok, who also texted that Trump was an “idiot” in another exchange.

    Later:

    “This guy thought he was super agent James Bond at the FBI,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said of Strzok, pointing to texts in which Strzok appeared to see it as his mission to protect the nation from Trump.

  • Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson submitted a court filing where he confirmed that he met with Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr and hired Ohr’s wife Nellie to help with opposition research against Donald Trump.

  • A sensational — and false — media story from the 2016 presidential campaign claimed there were ties between Donald Trump’s businesses and a Russian bank, Alfa. We now know that story originated with Fusion GPS.

  • Ben Shapiro details a lesson from Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama:

    For a year now, there’s been a myth among Republicans: the Legend of Trump.

    It goes something like this. Once upon a time, there was an unbeatable candidate, a world-famous politician whose husband had been president, who received unquestioning loyalty from the media. Then came the Dragonslayer: a real-estate mogul with a toilet of gold and a tongue of iron, who cut the unconquerable evil queen down to size and seized the throne from her. The laws of political gravity simply didn’t apply to him: He could utter any vulgarity, brazen through any scandal, batter down any media infrastructure. And if Republicans followed him — if they lit their torches from his — they too could slay dragons.

    Now, it’s quite possible that Donald Trump was the only Republican who could have defeated Hillary Clinton —other Republicans might have tried to take the high ground with a candidate significantly dirtier than the local garbage dump. Trump has no tact and no compunction, so he was always willing to drag her off her high horse. But Trump truly won not because he was a stellar candidate — far from it — but because Hillary Clinton was an awful candidate. And this means not only that his dragonslaying isn’t duplicable, but also that other candidates with similarly shady backgrounds who attempt to imitate him will end up failing dramatically.

    In other words, the laws of political gravity still apply.

  • Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton designated Lt. Governor Tina Smith as his choice to replace Senator Al Franken. Smith is a former Planned Parenthood lobbyist. And Franken hasn’t officially resigned yet.

  • A House and Senate conference committee says it cut a deal on tax legislation that lowers the corporate income tax rate to 21%. It also eliminates the corporate alternative minimum tax and the fine associated with ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

  • Joy Pullmann argues that instead of taxing college endowments, the federal government should cut the huge subsidies it pays to colleges:

    Currently, federal taxpayers subsidize colleges and universities to the tune of more than $130 billion every year, most of that going to student loans and grants. While some say federal student loans make taxpayers money, the truth is they cost taxpayers money, partially because many self-described students are the equivalent of a subprime mortgage, a situation easy federal money has exacerbated. Federal higher education subsidies have also nearly doubled since 2000, meaning it wasn’t the “old bad days” when we spent much less.

    Further, we now have a consistent set of economic research finding that federal student “aid” actually hurts both taxpayers and students by inflating the cost of college. One of the more recent such studies came from the Federal Reserve, which concluded that every $1 in federal “aid” increased college tuition by approximately 55 to 65 cents. Easy federal money is literally making the college cost problem worse.

  • Denise McAllister writes that the #MeToo movement is destroying trust between men and women:

    The breakdown of trust between the sexes is the tragic legacy of the modern feminist movement, but it has taken on a new fervor with the #MeToo campaign and the growing accusation that masculinity is vile, toxic, and inherently predatorial. Fear of men is legitimized, as accusation is treated as fact. Men are seen as “the enemy,” an embodied deviance that must be remolded into the image of a woman. Their sexuality is assumed to be naturally brutal, a threat to be controlled and reduced for the individual man to be considered “safe.”

    While women’s willingness to hold men accountable for criminal sexual behavior is to be applauded, the scorched-earth approach we are seeing today is destructive because it undermines trust. When anything from a naive touch during a photo shoot to an innocent attempt at a kiss is compared to rape and sexual abuse, we are not healing society but infecting relationships with the poison of distrust.

  • Two men pleaded guilty to operating the Mirai botnet, which used Internet of Things devices to disrupt web sites via distributed denial of service attacks. They also used these devices to conduct click fraud (online advertising fraud).

  • The Trump White House torpedoed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s idea of direct talks with North Korea.

  • The U.S. plans to give another $120 million to Lebanon’s military despite evidence that a chunk of it is likely to go to Hezbollah.

  • Russia is rapidly expanding its nuclear forces, and is on track to have 8,000 warheads by 2026. They’re also working on low-yield warheads that could be mounted on precision strike missiles; this combination elides current arms control treaties.

  • Human Rights Watch claims China has collected DNA, photos, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood type information from the entire population of Xinjiang province. This was done under the guise of a free health care program (“Physicals for All”), but is likely to be used to repress a restive population.

Links for 11-22-2017

Links for 11-17-2017

Links for 11-12-2017

  • Anne Hendershott wrote a great article for City Journal on how most Catholic colleges and universities are no longer Catholic:

    Nowadays, however, rather than embracing the good, the true, and the beautiful, Catholic universities have adopted the same curricular fads as their secular peers, hosting departments of gender studies, black studies, ethnic studies, and gay and lesbian studies. Campus leaders claim that Catholic universities’ “commitment to social justice” differentiates them from non-parochial colleges, but they neglect to mention that they have defined the term “social justice” so broadly that campuses now welcome chapters of the pro-abortion Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who became a celebrity in promoting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, was president of Georgetown’s LSRJ chapter.

    Later:

    Meantime, professors who support Catholic teachings have come under siege on their own campuses, usually with little support from their academic administrations. Esolen’s case was typical. His willingness to criticize identity politics at Providence made him the target of campus progressives, who wanted to move the curriculum away from a focus on Western civilization to an emphasis on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. But the progressives’ goals are broader than that, Esolen believes. “The dirty not-so-secret,” he said before he left the school, “is that the same people who for many years have loathed our Development of Western Civilization program—the focus of curricular hostility—also despise the Catholic Church and wish to render the Catholic identity of the college merely nominal.” That goal extends far beyond the campus of one Catholic college in Rhode Island.

  • A New York Times article claims the leaking of hacking tools and techniques from the NSA has crippled the agency:

    Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the F.B.I., officials still do not know whether the N.S.A. is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both. Three employees have been arrested since 2015 for taking classified files, but there is fear that one or more leakers may still be in place. And there is broad agreement that the damage from the Shadow Brokers already far exceeds the harm to American intelligence done by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who fled with four laptops of classified material in 2013.

    Mr. Snowden’s cascade of disclosures to journalists and his defiant public stance drew far more media coverage than this new breach. But Mr. Snowden released code words, while the Shadow Brokers have released the actual code; if he shared what might be described as battle plans, they have loosed the weapons themselves. Created at huge expense to American taxpayers, those cyberweapons have now been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies.

    Later:

    Inside the agency’s Maryland headquarters and its campuses around the country, N.S.A. employees have been subjected to polygraphs and suspended from their jobs in a hunt for turncoats allied with the Shadow Brokers. Much of the agency’s cyberarsenal is still being replaced, curtailing operations. Morale has plunged, and experienced cyberspecialists are leaving the agency for better-paying jobs — including with firms defending computer networks from intrusions that use the N.S.A.’s leaked tools.

  • Northrup Grumman is adding space to a factory in Palmdale, California and rapidly hiring people to build the U.S. Air Force’s B–21 bomber. This is the same factory that built the B–1 and B–2 bombers.

  • Lockheed Martin won a contract to develop a laser weapon for fighter planes.

  • Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said he would return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia within two or three days, and hinted that he could rescind his resignation.

  • An earthquake in Iraqi Kurdistan killed at least four people and injured dozens; the worst hit area was the town of Darbandikhan, near the border with Iran. An Iranian official said 30 people were killed.

Links for 11-11-2017

  • Liberal lobbying firm the Podesta Group will reportedly shut down by the end of the year, a victim of its entanglement with Paul Manafort, Ukraine, and Russia. The CEO of the Podesta Group, Kimberly Fritts, intends to start a new lobbying firm and will re-hire many of her former employees.

  • For some reason the American embassy in Moscow hired a company owned by a former head of the KGB’s counter-intelligence service to provide local guard services. You’d think such a move would have intelligence implications.

  • Reuters claims to have the inside story on what happened to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri after his plane landed in Saudi Arabia:

    Sources close to Hariri say Saudi Arabia has concluded that the prime minister – a long-time Saudi ally and son of late prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 – had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah.

    Multiple Lebanese sources say Riyadh hopes to replace Saad Hariri with his older brother Bahaa as Lebanon’s top Sunni politician. Bahaa is believed to be in Saudi Arabia and members of the Hariri family have been asked to travel there to pledge allegiance to him, but have refused, the sources say.

    Later:

    Hariri went to his Riyadh home. His family made their fortune in Saudi Arabia and have long had properties there. The source close to Hariri said the Lebanese leader received a call from a Saudi protocol official on Saturday morning, who asked him to attend a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    He waited for about four hours before being presented with his resignation speech to read on television, the source said.

  • The U.S. conducted another drone strike against al Shabaab in Somalia.

  • Happy Veterans Day:

Links for 11-10-2017

Links for 11-9-2017