Links for 4-14-2018

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 2-24-2018

  • Axios published a concise list of law enforcement’s failures in the Parkland, Florida shooting.

  • Andrew McCarthy details the web that connects Paul Manafort and Richard Gates to friends of Vladimir Putin, and argues that Robert Mueller is preparing a CYA operation to defend the Department of Justice:

    Second, and more likely, Mueller will want to defend the investigative decisions made by the FBI and the Justice Department — institutions he served at the highest levels for many years.

    Mueller cannot refute every claimed irregularity. There is no defending, for example, the intelligence leaks to the media; the blatantly disparate treatment between the kid-gloves Clinton-emails investigation and the zealous effort to derail Trump; or the presentation to the FISA court of the traitorous dossier allegations, against Trump and his campaign, that had not been corroborated by the FBI. Yet Mueller could be endeavoring to make a record that the FBI and Justice Department acted reasonably, albeit over-anxiously, when they credited the reporting of Steele — a source they understandably trusted from prior experience, who was reporting suspicions that were plausible in light of the Manafort and Gates history. Mueller could be contemplating a report that portrays as justifiable the Obama administration’s use of the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus of government to investigate the presidential campaign of the opposition party.

    In short, the special counsel may be preparing to argue that the Obama officials were acting on rational suspicions, not partisan politics. He may be laying the groundwork to argue that, while political, law-enforcement, and intelligence officials made mistakes, the main culprit was Trump’s judgment in recruiting Manafort and Gates — particularly under circumstances in which the candidate was already publicly flattering Putin in an unseemly way.

  • An al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa, Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, claimed responsibility for the IED that killed two French soldiers in Mali.

  • ISIS used two suicide car bombs to attack a counter-terrorism base in Aden, Yemen, killing 14 people and wounding 40.

  • The Taliban overran an Afghan military base in Farah province, killing at least 20 soldiers.

Links for 2-22-2018

Links for 11-13-2017

Links for 10-29-2017

Links for 10-4-2017