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:

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  • The U.S. Army identified the soldier who died in an IED explosion in Afghanistan as Special Forces Staff Sgt. Adam S. Thomas, who was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado.

  • Forty-four Afghan soldiers undergoing training in the U.S. have disappeared over the past two years. From the article: “While other foreign troops on U.S. military training visits have sometimes run away, a U.S. defense official said that the frequency of Afghan troops going missing was concerning and ‘out of the ordinary.’”

  • Kevin Williamson writes that you won’t find much about Clarence Thomas in the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture:

    The Smithsonian has opened a new National Museum of African American History and Culture, a long overdue addition to its offerings. And in this version of African-American history and culture, black conservatives do not exist.

    Specifically, the life and career of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas have been — forgive the term — whitewashed from the record. Anita Hill, an obscure functionary who achieved for herself a moment of fleeting fame when she advanced the interests of the Democratic party by smearing Clarence Thomas with lurid, flimsily documented allegations of sexual harassment, is presented as a major figure of the 20th century.

    The scholar and jurist who actually sits on the Supreme Court? Clarence Thomas is an invisible man, so far as the Smithsonian is concerned.

  • Nathaniel Peters wrote an interesting article about young conservatives who feel betrayed by leaders who endorsed Donald Trump:

    It also brings to mind Doug Kmiec, the Pepperdine Law School professor who traveled the country making a Catholic case for Barack Obama. My friends and I thought that secular progressives were not going to take their cues from Catholic thought. Clearly, we were right. For his services, Doug Kmiec was made ambassador to Malta, but President Obama has never relied on Catholic leaders for advice as President Bush did. Before long, the Department of Health and Human Services started issuing mandates, forcing Catholic universities and religious orders to fight for their rights in court.

    Donald Trump’s conservative supporters are the Doug Kmiecs of this election, stumping for a candidate who will gladly take advantage of their support during campaign season, then probably ignore their counsel and betray their cause. Is Malta worth that?

  • Some hospitals are setting up special units to handle babies born to mothers addicted to opioids – the units give the babies time to finish going through withdrawal symptoms before they go home.

  • The Texas Attorney General’s office is investigating a large vote harvesting operation in Tarrant County, which is where Fort Worth is located. This is how it worked:

    The perpetrators order mail-in ballots by forging the names of citizens in target districts. They then hire kindly middle-aged and older women to go door-to-door with those ballots in hand. They knock on the door of the citizen whose ballot they have, and make fraudulent claims as to why they are visiting. They may claim they are gathering signatures for a petition, or beg for a signature so they might “meet their quota” for whatever alleged cause they are soliciting on behalf of. Frequently, it is something like “Republicans are trying to take away the rights of black voters”.

    The citizen then unknowingly signs the yellow ballot carrier envelope that contains their ballot – a ballot the perpetrators have already filled out that supports their candidate.

    In other cases, the harvesters will appear with the citizen’s ballot and ask if they need any help filling it out. As they already have the voter’s historical voting record, they will say something like, “You normally vote all Democrat, right?” – even thought it is usually a democrat primary or non partisan municipal elections which they are “helping” them with – and proceed to fill out the ballot as desired by the perpetrators.

  • Haiti postponed its presidential election in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which killed more than 100 people.

Links for 8-24-2016