Links for 12-11-2017

  • Andrew McCarthy asks whether Robert Mueller can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia conducted a cyber espionage operation intended to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. If he can’t, Mueller can’t prove the Trump campaign colluded in that operation.

    The government, the media, and most of the public accept the premise that Russia interfered in the election. But not because this assertion has been proved in court. Instead, it is based on an intelligence judgment by three agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA, announced under the auspices of a fourth, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    All four agencies were run by Obama appointees. The Obama administration had a history of politicizing intelligence to serve administration narratives, and the intelligence judgment in question cannot be divorced from politics because it was announced just as Obama’s party was fashioning a narrative that Russian espionage had stolen the election from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, it is not my purpose here to make a partisan argument. The point is to consider the nature of intelligence judgments — to contrast them with courtroom findings. This dichotomy does depend on which party is running the executive branch.

    The objective of a criminal investigation is a prosecution, not a national-security judgment. In a prosecution, each essential element of the offense charged must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It is virtually certain that Mueller could never establish, to this exacting standard of proof, that Russia is guilty of cyberespionage — at least in the absence of an accomplice witness involved in the hacking, which he apparently does not have despite the government’s 18 months of investigative effort.

  • A Department of Justice official who was demoted for concealing his meetings with Fusion GPS — the opposition research company behind the Trump dossier — had even closer ties to the company than previously known. It turns out Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 presidential campaign, although we don’t know exactly what her responsibilities were.

    Until Dec. 6, when Fox News began making inquiries about him, Bruce Ohr held two titles at DOJ. He was, and remains, director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; but his other job was far more senior. Mr. Ohr held the rank of associate deputy attorney general, a post that gave him an office four doors down from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The day before Fox News reported that Mr. Ohr held his secret meetings last year with the founder of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, and with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, the Justice Department stripped Ohr of his deputy title and ousted him from his fourth floor office at the building that DOJ insiders call “Main Justice.”

    Initially, DOJ officials provided no explanation for Ohr’s demotion. Later, they said his wearing of two hats was “unusual”; still later, they confirmed Ohr had withheld his contacts with the Fusion GPS men from superiors.

  • In the past week, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, The New York Times, and CNN all published false anti-Trump stories:

    Forget your routine bias, these were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, feeding frenzied expectations that have now been internalized as indisputable truths by many. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without the central faulty claim. Yet, there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

    Later:

    The fact that many political journalists (not all) are hopelessly biased is one thing (social media has made this fact inarguable), but if they become a proxy of operatives who peddle falsehoods, they will soon lose all credibility with a big swath of the country. They will only have themselves to blame.

  • John Daniel Davidson visited Alabama and interviewed people to learn why they (still) support Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. If the Democrats had nominated a pro-life candidate (are there any pro-life Democrats left?), they would have had a much better chance of winning this election.

  • An immigrant from Bangladesh who was inspired by ISIS attempted a suicide bombing in New York City. He injured himself and three other people. He entered the U.S. on a chain migration visa.

  • The Secret Service settled a five year old lawsuit with a whistleblower after the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General determined that the Secret Service retaliated against him for complaining about a superior’s alleged misconduct.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince EU foreign ministers to follow Donald Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but didn’t get anywhere. Meanwhile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps digging deeper holes, saying, “ The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands… With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed.”

  • I haven’t linked to a story like this recently, but Turkey continues to bomb northern Iraq on a near-weekly basis. The Turks claim the latest strike killed 29 PKK members.

  • Vladimir Putin visited Syria and said an unspecified number of Russian troops are withdrawing from Syria now that ISIS has been defeated.

  • The Associated Press published the backstory of “Mosul Eye,” a blogger/historian who anonymously documented life under ISIS in Mosul.

  • A Chinese diplomat threatened to invade Taiwan if a U.S. Navy ship ever visits the island.

  • Josh Robin writes for The Washington Post that Washington, D.C. is waking up to “the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds.”

  • The Department of Justice says it has no plans to deport Guo Wengui, who is wanted by the Chinese government:

    Since earlier this year, China's government has engaged in a wide-ranging influence operation, including the use of cyber attacks on American institutions, in a bid to force the United States to repatriate Guo to China.

    The effort has included the use of American business leaders with interests in China to lobby President Trump to return the dissident.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reviewed the case and determined Guo will not be forcibly returned, the senior official told reporters during a briefing at the White House.

    Later:

    Guo, who now lives in New York City, has become an outspoken critic of China's government and a pro-democracy advocate who has charged that senior leaders are engaged in corrupt financial and other activities. He has labeled the ruling Communist Party of China a "kleptocracy" and warned that China's government is working to subvert the United States.

Links for 8-28-2017

Links for 8-21-2017

  • The USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore, and ten sailors are missing. Multiple compartments were flooded, and there’s a good chance the ten sailors drowned inside them — the fate of the seven sailors who died on the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a container ship in June. Five sailors were injured, and four of them had to be evacuated by helicopter. The U.S. Navy is calling a temporary halt to operations to focus on safety.

  • The U.S. scaled back its non-immigrant visa operations in Russia, which means it will be difficult for business people, tourists, and students to travel to the U.S. People will have to apply for these visas in person at the embassy in Moscow, which is a problem for a country that spans eleven time zones. The move was taken in response to Russia’s decision to reduce the number of American diplomats allowed to operate in Russia by 755. It will be difficult for Russia to retaliate in kind, since it’s likely Russian business people need to travel to the U.S. more urgently than the reverse direction. Russia announced that Anatoly Antonov will be the next ambassador to the U.S. Antonov is currently a deputy foreign minister, and has been a deputy defense minister. Holding the defense position during Russia’s slow invasion of Ukraine earned Antonov a slot on European sanctions lists. 

  • Andrew McCarthy read the indictment of House IT contractors Imran Awan and Hina Alvi, and discovered it contains odd omissions:

    The indictment itself is drawn very narrowly. All four charges flow from a financial-fraud conspiracy of short duration. Only Imran Awan and his wife are named as defendants. There is no reference to Awan-family perfidy in connection with the House communications system.

    More bizarre still: There is not a word about Alvi’s flight to Pakistan, nor Imran Awan’s failed attempt to follow her there. This is not an oversight. The omission appears quite intentional.

    Later:

    To summarize, the indictment is an exercise in omission. No mention of the Awan group’s theft of information from Congress. Not a hint about the astronomical sums the family was paid, much of it for no-show “work.” Not a word about Wasserman Schultz’s keeping Awan on the payroll for six months during which (a) he was known to be under investigation, (b) his wife was known to have fled to Pakistan, and (c) he was not credentialed to do the IT work for which he had been hired. Nothing about Wasserman Schultz’s energetic efforts to prevent investigators from examining Awan’s laptop. A likely currency-transportation offense against Alvi goes uncharged. And, as for the offenses that are charged, prosecutors plead them in a manner that avoids any reference to what should be their best evidence.

  • Claire Galofaro profiled Aberdeen, Washington, many of whose residents voted for Donald Trump in the hope he’d help turn around their town’s dying economy. Galofaro asks what Trump has done for them in his first six months; aside from rolling back some regulations, he hasn’t done much.

    Now they come to discuss Trump, and their differing degrees of faith that he will make good on his promise to fix the rotting blue-collar economy that brought this despair to their doorstep.

    Many here agree that the thrashing and churning in Washington looks trivial when viewed from this place 3,000 miles away that so many residents have been trying so hard to save. Some maintain confidence that Trump will rise above the chaos to deliver on his pledge to resurrect the American dream. Others fear new depths of hopelessness if he fails.

    Blodgett just prays Trump understand the stakes — because in places like this, there is little room left for error from Washington, D.C. 

    There, he is tweeting insults about senators and CNN.

    Here, her neighbors have been reduced to living in cars.

  • The University of Texas at Austin removed three Confederate statues from its campus in a late night operation. Houston police arrested Andrew Schneck as he was preparing to blow up a Confederate statue in a park. Police and FBI agents found more explosives at Schneck’s home.

  • Spanish police located and killed Younes Abouyaaquoub, the man they believe drove a truck into a crowd of people in Barcelona. Abouyaaquoub hijacked a car during his escape from the scene and killed the driver.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey and Iran are discussing joint military action against the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the PJAK.

  • China is still supplying North Korea with oil.

  • Jim DeMint explains that the federal government will never willingly surrender power, and the only solution available is an Article V convention:

Links for 5-9-2017

Links for 3-21-2017

  • A special forces soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert R. Boniface, died in a noncombat incident in Logar province, Afghanistan. A Marine, Sgt. Maj. Timonthy J. Rudd, died while in South Korea for joint war games; Rudd was from Post, Texas.

  • Rob Natelson debunks disinformation campaigns that try to scare people about an Article V convention of states:

    Article V of the Constitution provides that three fourths of the states (now 38 of 50) must ratify an amendment before it becomes effective. Before ratification, however, it must be formally proposed—either by Congress or by a “convention for proposing amendments.” A convention is called when two thirds of state legislatures (34 of 50) adopt overlapping resolutions in favor of one.

    The founders inserted the convention procedure so the people, acting through their state legislatures, could propose reforms that Congress would rather block. The founders viewed the procedure as a crucial constitutional right. Without it, the Constitution may not have been adopted.

    Opponents’ disinformation campaign is designed to frighten Americans away from using a convention to bypass the Washington power establishment. In some ways, their campaign resembles efforts to suppress voting among targeted groups. It propagates four central assertions—all of them constitutional junk.

  • The House Republican leadership is done with the ObamaCare Lite bill, and the few changes they made don’t improve it much. The House Freedom Caucus is neutral on the revised bill, but many members say they’ll vote against it. Donald Trump is still threatening to primary them if they do vote against it, but Ben Shapiro argues they have a lot more to fear from voters if they fail to deliver on their promise to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with something that lowers premiums:

    Meeting on the Hill with House members today, Trump said that his crowd size would dissipate if Republicans didn’t pass his bill. “We won’t have these crowds if we don’t get this done,” he said. He turned on the House Freedom Caucus – some of his biggest backers during the election cycle – and said that loss wasn’t “acceptable,” specifically targeting Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) for scrutiny. He added, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done.”

    This is doubtful.

    Actually, there’s a significantly better chance that House Republicans will lose their seats if they vote for a bad replacement bill that doesn’t cut rising premiums, provide more health care choice, or do much to lower costs down the line (which it won’t, since the block grant program to Medicaid is always subject to future Congresses revising the deal). Trumpcare doesn’t even meet with Trump’s directives to increase the number of people with health insurance – a Democratic talking point adopted by Trump for years on end.

  • Owen Strachan argues that the alt-right is what you get when you marginalize men:

    Because it is not friendly to them, many men do not like postmodern society. They have been taught they have no innate call to leadership of home and church, and accordingly have lost the script for their lives. They have been encouraged to step back from being a breadwinner, and do not know what they are supposed to do with their lives.

    They have been told that they talk too loudly and spread their legs too wide, and thus do not fit in with a feminized society. They may be the product of a divorced home, and may have grown up without an engaged father, so possess both pent-up rage and a disappearing instinct. They did nothing to choose their biological manliness, but are instructed to attend sensitivity training by virtue of it. They recognize—rightly—that politically correct culture constrains free thought and free speech, and so they opt out from it.

    But here is where the common narrative of the alt-right and related groups makes a major mistake. Men are disappearing, but they are not vanishing. They are moving out of the mainstream, and into the shadows.

  • The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that people flying to the U.S. from airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco, and Qatar will have to check electronic devices larger than cell phones.

  • Sharron Angle is running for office again, this time for the House of Representatives from Nevada’s district 2.

  • Fox News pulled analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano off the air indefinitely over his claim that Britain’s intelligence agencies wiretapped Donald Trump at Barack Obama’s behest.

  • More than 300 models of Cisco Ethernet switches can be remotely compromised and there’s no fix yet. Cisco discovered the bug when WikiLeaks published an inventory of the CIA’s hacking tools.

  • Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye apologized for her role in the scandal that resulted in her impeachment. She lost her immunity from prosecution when she lost her office, so prosecutors are now questioning her as a criminal suspect.

  • A North Korean official stationed at the U.N. in Geneva claimed North Korea will develop a preemptive nuclear strike capability and the country isn’t afraid of U.S. efforts to impose new financial sanctions.

  • A Tibetan named Pema Gyaltsen self-immolated in Kham province and Chinese authorities responded by arresting around 200 people.

  • Stars and Stripes published an article describing the funeral of an 18-year-old Yazidi fighter, Salam Mukhaibir. He and four other fighters died in a battle with peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan. Many Yazidis fighters are aligned with the Kurdish PKK because the pershmerga abandoned them when ISIS invaded the area around Mount Sinjar.

  • A car bomb detonated less than a kilometer from the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing at least four people.

Links for 3-18-2017

Links for 2-18-2017