Links for 8-16-2017

Links for 8-10-2017

  • Donald Trump thanked Vladimir Putin for ordering a reduction in the number of American diplomats in Russia because it reduced the State Department’s payroll (in reality, the diplomats are being sent back to the U.S., and are not necessarily being laid off). This is one of those things that you can think to yourself, but you shouldn’t say out loud. Trump has trouble with this concept.

  • The chattering classes have been discussing the possibility of negotiating an Iran-style nuclear deal with North Korea to discourage a war. John Daniel Davidson points out that Bill Clinton negotiated a deal with North Korea back in 1994 that’s strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s Iran deal. Jim Geraghty adds this:

    As with the Iran deal many years later, the deal with North Korea was not a formal treaty and thus never ratified by Congress.

    Of course, the North Koreans cheated; the U.S. provided oil, two light water reactors, and a new electric grid, altogether worth roughly $5 billion, in exchange for promises.

    Clinton’s deal resulted in North Korea possessing nuclear weapons, and Obama’s deal with Iran will end the same way.

  • A U.S. Navy destroyer conducted another “freedom of navigation” operation in the South China Sea, sailing to within 12 miles of Mischief Reef, one of China’s artificial islands.

  • Two of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s top aides quit: chief of staff Steven Groves and communications director Jonathan Wachtel.

  • In the context of Google’s firing of James Damore for “perpetuating gender stereotypes,” Joy Pullmann argues that it’s time to end all discrimination policies and restore equal protection:

    Since Google is a private company I have no problem with them making unequal hiring and promotion rules. I am all in favor of discrimination — the freedom to set one’s own criteria for making decisions — and free association, for any reason, as individuals’ constitutional and natural rights. If they wanted to be an all-man or all-woman or all-black or all-Asian company, or give preferences to whatever people they feel sorry for at the moment, that’s Google’s business. At the level they’re operating they could be an all-woman company and still have the world’s best engineers, as Harvard or Stanford could since many more qualified people apply than can be admitted.

    The problem is when they promise “equality” then deliver discrimination. It’s this hypocrisy Damore had the temerity to point out, and for which he was fired. It’s the same hypocrisy inside the famous “Animal Farm” slogan for totalitarianism: “All are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

  • For the Democratic Party, abortion is a positive good:

    Lindy West of the New York Times recently, and similarly, insisted that unfettered access to abortion is essential to women’s economic and other liberties. Hers is one of many denunciations, by party activists and progressive journalists, of the Democratic Party’s decision to support pro-life Democrats running in more conservative districts. Pro-choice activists in the past decade made the leap from regarding abortion as a tragic necessity to seeing it a positive social good; West now sees it as the central guarantor of American liberty.

    Later:

    On some level, [John C.] Calhoun and other pro-slavery ideologues recognized that any “right” to slavery would be destroyed the moment the United States recognized that nature’s law affirmed the liberty of enslaved African Americans. Lindy West similarly holds that the human and civil rights of women would be undermined if the rights of the unborn were recognized. Even to question the right to abortion is “to be, at best, indifferent to the disenfranchisement, suffering and possibly even the death of women. At worst it is to revel in those things, to believe them fundamental to the natural order.” For West, abortion is the key to women’s economic, political, and social rights in the United States. If abortion were to be shown to be inconsistent with the natural order, then Lindy believes every freedom gained for women would evaporate.

  • A grand jury indicted Benjamin Roden for bombing an Air Force recruiting office in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Roden is a former member of the Air Force. No one was hurt in the bombing.

  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro affirmed that the new constituent assembly is the most powerful institution in the country, saying, “I come to recognize its plenipotentiary powers, sovereign, original and magnificent.”

  • Cuba reportedly used a “sonic weapon” against American and Canadian diplomats, damaging their hearing. The Trump administration responded by expelling two Cuban diplomats, which seems wimpy.

  • British police broke up a huge child sex, prostitution, and drug ring:

    As a result of a massive ongoing investigation the police have named “Operation Sanctuary,” one British woman and a total of 17 men have been convicted of rape, conspiracy to incite prostitution, and illegally supplying drugs. The men, BBC notes, were from the “Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish communities and mainly British-born, with most living in the West End of Newcastle.”

  • Israel is building an underground wall around the Gaza Strip to prevent Hamas from tunneling into Israel. The wall will extend into the Mediterranean Sea to discourage commando attacks.

  • Tim Tebow shakes a kid’s hand, hits a three run homer:

  • PragerU: College Made Me a Conservative:

Links for 8-9-2017

Links for 8-5-2017

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 8-3-2017

  • National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster fired three National Security Council staffers sympathetic to the Steve Bannon faction of the White House, and he’s preparing to fire more:

    The Trump staffers fired by McMaster had repeatedly clashed with career government staffers and holdovers from the Obama administration on issues as diverse as military strategies for Syria and Afghanistan, whether to tear up Obama’s landmark Iran deal, the controversial détente with Cuba, the U.S. role in confronting Islamic radicalism, and the Paris Climate Accord, according to these sources.

    More purges are said to be on the way, according to multiple insiders who described a list of at least four other senior NSC officials McMaster intends to target. Other sources confirmed the likelihood of more purges, but disputed some details on that list.

    The fired NSC employees opposed Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which McMaster supports:

    NSC officials such as Cohen-Watnick, Harvey, and others had been making the case that Trump should scrap the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal over increasingly aggressive Iranian ballistic missile activity and mounting evidence Tehran is breaching the accord. McMaster, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top Obama-era State Department officials who worked on the deal, have aggressively urged maintaining it.

    McMaster allowed his predecessor, Susan Rice, keep her security clearance despite suggestions that she abused her power to unmask the names of Americans who were caught in the NSA’s dragnet.

  • Transcripts of Donald Trump’s phone conversations with the presidents of Mexico and Australia were circulated among NSC staffers — perhaps including the staffers fired by H.R. McMaster — and now they’ve been leaked to The Washington Post.

  • Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and that grand jury is issuing subpoenas. Mueller also inherited a grand jury that’s investigating Michael Flynn.

  • Four American soldiers were wounded in the suicide bomb attack that killed two soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday.

  • The U.S. Senate approved 65 of Donald Trump’s nominees after Democrats agreed to stop obstructing them. Two of the confirmed nominees, Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr, are headed to the FCC.

  • The inspector general for the Department of the Interior is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over reports that he threatened Senator Lisa Murkowski over her position on ObamaCare repeal. The inspector general is doing this in response to a complaint filed by two House Democrats. In the meantime Zinke and Murkowski became drinking buddies.

  • The Center for Medical Progress asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the gag order that prevents it from publishing additional Planned Parenthood videos.

  • West Virginia Governor Jim Justice switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. There are now only 15 Democratic governors.

  • Actor Robert Hardy passed away at age 91. He played Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small and Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies, among many other roles.

  • Matthew RJ Brodsky writes on the problem with Qatar:

    The list of problem areas is long. Qatar’s financial and political support for such a wide array of militant Islamist movements is unrivaled in the region and has been particularly overt, egregious, and brazen in recent years. Through a combination of the ruling Al Thani family or wealthy Qatari financiers, the oil-rich state backs al-Qaeda affiliates, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Hamas, and others on the Sunni side of the ledger. Meanwhile, they continue to use their state-backed Al Jazeera network as a worldwide loudspeaker to promote the most radical Islamist propaganda, preaching hate and fomenting instability throughout the region.

    This support undermines and unnerves its neighbors, poisons the minds of the next generation of Arab youth, prevents any Palestinian moderation, and lessens the likelihood that Israel will see peace with more of its neighbors, much less in the wider region. Moreover, it serves to nurture only radical Islamist alternatives to take the place of the Islamic State once it is defeated on the battlefield.

  • Venezuela’s state prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into vote counting irregularities during the Sunday’s constituent assembly election.

Links for 8-2-2017