Links for 8-4-2017

  • The Department of Defense released the names of the two U.S. Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday: Specialist Christopher Harris of Jackson Springs, NC and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter of Columbus, IN.

  • American troops are on the ground in Yemen helping soldiers from the UAE and Yemen’s government push al Qaeda out of a stronghold.

  • Tom Nichols writes that we shouldn’t be happy to see so many generals on the White House staff:

    Rather, the problem is that the public’s eagerness to see a general impose order on the White House—with the president’s blessing, no less—represents a potentially dangerous bargain that at least some Americans seem willing to forge with serving and retired members of the U.S. military: we will accept dysfunction in the Oval Office, it seems, so long as there are enough generals ensconced around it as insurance against disaster.

    This is a complete reversal of long-lasting and stable traditions of American civil-military relations. The United States has a civilian commander in chief in order to provide a civilian check on the power of the military, not the other way around. To hope that Kelly and H.R. McMaster in the White House, and Gen. James Mattis at the Pentagon, will somehow restrain the president’s erratic impulses is a terrible development in our history, not because these are not fine men, but because too much reliance on them corrodes a key principle of the American constitutional order.

  • Former members of the National Security Council are trash-talking H.R. McMaster, claiming that McMaster holds views opposite Donald Trump’s on Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and China.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice is stepping up its investigations of the Trump administration’s many leaks, and that it charged four people with leaking classified information.

  • The U.S. drafted a U.N. resolution that would cut North Korea’s exports by a third. North Korea earns $3 billion a year by exporting coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood.

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that the State Department is not removing the term “genocide” from its characterization of ISIS’ actions in Iraq and Syria, but members of Congress are unhappy about the Trump administration’s failure to spend appropriated money to help Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq.

  • A Public Policy Polling survey puts Senator Jeff Flake’s job approval rating in Arizona at 18%.

  • Toyota and Mazda plan to spend $1.6 billion building a factory in the U.S. They’re also planning to cooperate on electric car development. As part of the deal Toyota and Mazda are taking (relatively small) stakes in each other’s business.

  • Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty to cheating on diesel emissions tests. He faces up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $400,000.

  • In Los Angeles County, California there are 144 registered voters for every 100 citizens of voting age.

  • The U.S. military used to be a big advocate for Turkey, but no more:

    There are many problems in bilateral ties, from U.S. cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish YPG, to the Turkish decision to buy Russian weapons systems, to the increasing anti-American, anti-European, and anti-Western rhetoric coming out of Turkey. And this rhetoric should not be ignored because it has been going on for the last 15 years, and it has started to go mainstream because it is being supported by government officials and pro-government media. According to the most recent Pew Center report, whereas other countries are worried about ISIS, global warming, refugee flows, cyberattacks, and economic collapse as key global threats, uniquely among all nations, Turks view the U.S. as a major global threat. No other country polls like Turkey, and this is not accidental – it is linked to anti-Americanism that the AKP has been feeding to its own people since its rise in 2002, as well as issues in bilateral ties. These anti-American sentiments are now quite mainstream in Turkey. That should concern the U.S., and Secretary Mattis is aware of it.

    Later:

    I would say that the people who have the most negative views of Turkey in Washington are, unfortunately, in the U.S. military as a result of a series of events, all of which took place under Erdogan’s watch. Turkey’s refusal to join the Iraq war in 2003, the collapse of Turkish-Israeli ties, the Turkish decision to buy Chinese air defense systems (although they backed down on that), Turkey’s recent decision now to buy Russian missiles, and Turkey’s lax policy in allowing radicals to cross into Syria in an effort to undermine Assad, all of these factors have hurt the relationship. And of course, from the Turkish perspective, the U.S. reticence to fully support Turkey against the Kurdish PKK group over the last decade – as well as the U.S. decision to fully support the Kurdish YPG against ISIS in Syria – has really soured the relationship.

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit tossed the first degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater employee who fired on unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad in 2007, killing 14 people. The court also ordered resentencings for three other former Blackwater employees who were convicted in the same case.

  • Nolan Peterson writes that supplying American weapons to Ukraine would be a huge morale boost for Ukraine’s army.

  • Last month the Australian Federal Police disrupted an ISIS plot to plant a bomb on an airliner. Four people were arrested. They were working at the direction of ISIS operatives in Syria, who mailed them bomb components.

  • Javier El-Hage describes what’s likely to happen with Venezuela’s new constituent assembly, which met for the first time today:

    It is likely that the new assembly, which includes Maduro’s wife as well as Diosdado Cabello (widely considered the No. 2 man, behind Maduro, of chavismo), will attempt to write a constitution like the one the Castro regime imposed on the Cuban people in 1976, putting all branches of government under the control of one party. The new constitution will also likely enumerate rights and liberties, even as it includes a provision similar to the one in Article 62 of the Cuban constitution warning that “none of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to … the existence and objectives of the socialist State, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism” — canceling any real opportunity for a constitutional government.

Links for 7-24-2017

Links for 7-3-2017

  • Mark Steyn writes that bollards are proliferating as a response to terrorist attacks, both in the physical world and in people’s minds:

    So in what sense is Manchester “united”? Zamzam Ibrahim’s view of where she wants British society to wind up is no different in its essentials from the bomber’s. They’re both about the same age; the main difference is that Salman Abedi is in a zillion pieces being scraped off the pavement, and Zamzam Ibrahim will wind up in the House of Lords. And in a democratic age what matters is the disposition of the large number of people who stick around rather than the small number who self-detonate. If the issue is terrorism, Miss Ibrahaim is not a problem. If the issue is whether formerly cohesive societies can survive the mass importation of ever more people with a fundamentally different and incompatible vision of how that society should be run, she is in fact symptomatic of a much bigger problem than the occasional suicide-bomber or van-renter. As I put it the other day, after congratulating that Canadian sniper on his new world record for longest confirmed kill, what’s the point of picking off an ISIS barbarian at 3,450 meters halfway round the globe if back on the home front you keep importing thousands upon thousands who share his world view? Or at any rate incline more to his than to yours, at least when it comes to legal systems, the segregation of the sexes, etc.

  • Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is a lost opportunity to advance his agenda:

    In case you were distracted by something like the Senate health-care fight, the White House just finished a run of four policy-themed weeks (infrastructure, workforce development, tech and energy). This was designed to be the month the White House methodically forced the media and the public to reckon with its policy ideas, all focused on shaping the domestic policy of the future.

    Axios’ Shane Savitsky counted every tweet on @realDonaldTrump during that month and found that of 121 tweets by Trump himself, three related to these policy topics. If you include tweets on his feed that are clearly by aides (include video, pics, hashtags, etc.), it’s 14 for 195.

  • A federal district court judge issued an injunction blocking enforcement of California’s gun magazine confiscation law. California passed a law making it illegal to possess a gun magazine holding more than 10 rounds.

  • Google is donating $2 million to an anti-violence campaign that includes leading gun control organizations.

  • Illinois’ Department of Child and Family Services is requiring all people associated with the state’s child welfare system to enthusiastically buy into a kid’s self-proclaimed gender identity:

    Appendix K is extensive, but the upshot is simple: anybody who comes into contact with a self-identified transgender youth via the child welfare system must support and affirm the child’s chosen gender identity, at all times and without reserve. These kids must be protected from any kind of scrutiny or skepticism regarding their gender identity, or any situation that might cause them discomfort over their gender expression.

    Foster home or facility placements for children that don’t offer unconditional support for all gender identity claims shall be denied contracts. Any DCFS staff who are insufficiently enthusiastic about this approach must be re-educated and, if this is unsuccessful, dismissed.

  • Nolan Peterson’s latest dispatch from Ukraine:

    Prior to my arrival in 2014, I had watched a YouTube video of what had happened at this place during the revolution. The sky was gray in the video, and the trees were bare.

    Snipers hidden in the surrounding rooftops gunned down the protesters one by one as they ascended the street. Some dropped dead in a flash. Others folded to the ground like in slow motion. Eventually, the dead clustered where they had collectively sought shelter in their final moments.

    The protesters were unarmed. They wore motorcycle helmets and wielded shields fashioned out of the top of garbage bins and road signs for protection. As sniper fire cut down one wave of protesters at the top of the hill, their comrades would rush up to drag the dead and wounded away.

    After depositing the casualties in the nearby Hotel Ukraine lobby, the survivors did something amazing. They turned around and went back.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron summoned parliament to the Palace of Versailles and declared that he wants to reduce the number of seats in parliament by one-third. If parliament doesn’t quickly go along with his plan, Macron threatened a popular referendum.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party was clobbered in the Tokyo Metropolitan assembly election. The next election for the House of Representatives is scheduled for December 2018, so Abe and his party have time to stage a comeback, but they’re in a hole now.

  • There were 23 sexual assaults during a music festival in Norrkoping, Sweden, prompting organizers to cancel next year’s event.

  • A suicide bomber dressed as a veiled woman killed 14 people at a camp for displaced people west of Baghdad; thirteen people were injured. ISIS claimed responsibility.

  • Leaders of Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minority political parties met in Turkey and issued a demand for reforms that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani must implement — if he doesn’t, they’re threatening mass protests. All of the leaders issuing these demands hold senior positions in Ghani’s government.

    The group, calling itself the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan, said their aim was to “prevent the collapse of the government, avoid chaos and restore public trust.” They demanded that Ghani devolve power to cabinet ministries and provinces, stop “overreaching” his authority for personal motives, schedule long-promised elections, and obey the constitution and the law. It also called for Dostom’s full authority to be restored and a government attack against him to be investigated.

    Later:

    A variety of political figures and observers reacted skeptically to the news, suggesting that the ethnic minority leaders, all of whom have had differences with Ghani while in office, may be less interested in government reforms than in using a period of public anger and unhappiness to press for political advantage. They also noted that Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, has been criticized for concentrating power in the hands of his ethnic and tribal allies and marginalizing other ethnic groups.

Links for 6-16-2017

Links for 5-30-2017

Links for 4-14-2017

Links for 3-3-2017